The Kind of Parent I Want to Be

No ever thinks about what kind of parent they want to be when they’re younger, at least, I never did. Even when you talked about what you wanted to be when you ‘grew up’, I’m sure if or when you said like mommy or daddy you really didn’t know what those words meant. I don’t think we really think about what kind of parent we want to be until we actually become parents. Yes, you more than likely talked about it with your future spouse before marriage. You shared how you grew up, how your parents were, things you liked and didn’t like and maybe even gave your own thoughts about how you would parent. When you got engaged, you talked about becoming a family and how that would change your twosome. Feelings of excitement and nervousness filled your body about the possibility of a ‘mini’ you or your husband. And then when you got pregnant, you thoroughly prepared yourself for your new role, envisioning what it will be like and trying to plan for it all. Then reality sets in and it hits you. It hits you HARD. And just like that, you’re officially a parent. There is no slow motion in parenting (despite how many moments we wish we could). The minute you become a parent it’s as if someone threw you in the ocean and just as you stand up, SMACK! you get crushed by a giant wave. You fight to get up again and you’re pretty out of breathe when SMACK, you’re hit again this time even harder. But now… now you know what’s coming so you’re prepared for this big wave….you get up, get your bearings and…nothing. Ahh, time to relax……SMACK! Parenting doesn’t stop. And even when you think you have the hang of it, everything changes.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of parent I want to be. Sometimes, it keeps me up at night. Sometimes, it leaves me in tears. Sometimes, it fills me with so much anxiety and fear that I start to panic wondering if I’m doing the right things. Am I doing the right things? Am I doing anything right?! Am I being the kind of parent my kids deserve? Because let’s face it, our kids deserve everything. And I don’t mean that in the entitlement kind of way, I mean that in the parenting kind of way. They deserve to get everything they can from us because it’s going to make them who they are one day. So shouldn’t we give them the very best of us? Is that even enough? If your parents are Baby Boomers like mine, then you probably grew up hearing ‘I only want the best for you’ or ‘I want you to have more than what I had’ or ‘I want to give you more than I was given’. Our parents always wanted more for us. They just wanted to give and give and give. They never stopped giving. You don’t understand that kind of ‘give’ until you’re a parent. You just don’t. There is nothing like it. When you’re a parent, you give until there is nothing left to give, and then you give more.

We want to see our children grow and succeed and become the best possible versions of themselves but being a parent nowadays isn’t easy. In fact, it’s almost nearly impossible. I don’t know how my parents did it. I really don’t. To try to keep up with a job, a marriage, children, a house, cooking, cleaning, school, school activities, sports, extracurricular activities, homework, meetings, church activities, volunteering and all the other things that come along with life as a parent seems completely unmanageable! And on top of that, now everyone gets to document it. Now everyone gets to show off what ‘amazing’ parents they are. This is not meant to insult anyone at all. I’ll be the first to say, I love sharing pictures of the fun things I do with my kids, who doesn’t? And I know almost all moms would agree with me that in the middle of one of your child’s meltdowns, not only is there no time to share it, but it’s such utter chaos that the thought of sharing it doesn’t even enter your mind. Yes, we share the best parts of parenting and it’s great, but sometimes it makes life seem a little less real, don’t you think? That’s when I personally have to step back and ask myself, why am I even on here? Why do I care about what other people are doing? I need to be spending time with my kids!

So here’s what I’ve decided. Here’s the kind of parent I want to be.

I want to be the kind of parent that one day, my kids will thank me for all the things I did, the things I taught them and even the times I was really tough on them. I want them to have the best memories of their childhood and look back upon it with fondness, joy and love. I hope that fondness fosters future memories for them with their children. I want to be the kind of parent that doesn’t give up….EVER….and always tells my kids I love them, no matter what they may say to me. I want to be the parent that teaches my children not only how to pray but to KEEP praying, because God hears your prayers (even if you don’t get the answer that you want). I want my kids to know I pray for them every single day (usually more than once!) and that will never stop.

But right now, I want to be a yes mom to my kids. No, that doesn’t mean I will give my children everything they want, but it means I will say yes to the things that I know one day they won’t ask me for. Yes I will play with you, yes I will lay with you, yes I will color with you, yes I will run around the house and chase you, yes I will read you that story again, yes I will spin you around for the hundredth time, yes I will make silly faces with you…YES, YES YES! I need more ‘yes’ moments. I need to give my children more ‘yes’ moments, because these are the ones you can’t get back.

Listen, I am far from this parent. I know that I can write these words so much more easily than I can put them into action. But this is an aspiration for me. This is me saying, YES I CAN DO THIS! Yes, I can do this on the days I run out of patience and it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. Yes, I can do this on the days I’ve been yelled at, slapped, smacked, bitten, peed on, spit up on and been thrown food on. Yes, I can do this when the house is a mess AGAIN, no one is listening or eating or doing anything they should be! Yes, I can do this because in the end, THIS is all you have. The days might be exhausting and unbearable and even downright miserable at times, but it’s the little moments, the little glimpses of pure joy that make it all worth it. The moments when I’m running around with my husband and our kids on the lawn in the middle of summer having a water gun fight and laughing so hard it hurts. The moments when you almost forget where you are and what you should be doing because you’re just enjoying those precious moments with your kids. Find your ‘yes’ mom and cherish those moments. I know I will.

To My Sweet Children…

I watch as you both grow and I want to slow down every second. I want to pause these moments because I know they are slipping through my fingers like sand and there is no getting them back. I want to capture each memory we make in my mind with perfect vividness so that I can close my eyes and relive them when you are grown and no longer need me the way that you do now.

This world is a crazy and beautiful place. I want to protect you from everything I know to be wrong with it. I want to make sure no one ever hurts you. I want to make sure you are strong enough to survive the evil that will surround you more than once. I want to teach you all that I know to be right so when faced with tough decisions, you can look back and remember the things I’ve said. I want to instill in you the values that were instilled in me.  I want to give you every opportunity that I can to help you grow, flourish and succeed. I want to show you what unconditional love is and means. I want you to always feel safe at home (and part of me never wants you to leave!!!). There are so many things I want, wish, pray and hope for when it comes to the two of you.

But for now, I want you to be little. I want you to stay little (some days, I want that to last forever!). I want to see that love you have for me in your eyes each and every day. I want to feel that needy, pure and raw love you have for me. That love which flows from your hearts and melts mine. Your neediness gives me purpose, even if it does make me a little crazy at times. It keeps me in check. It humbles me. It makes me complete. It reminds me why my life has purpose…you, are my purpose.

I won’t lie to you, some days are tough…really tough. The kind of days that make me want to pull my hair out, hide anywhere that I can’t be found, scream at the top of my lungs, rip out my ears just to not hear ‘mommy’ again for the thousandth time and run away just to have a moment of silence to myself. But then I have to remind myself that you are only little for so long. There will come a time when you won’t need me the way you do right now. You won’t want me to pick you up, hold your hand, lay in bed with you, read you stories or rock you to sleep. This change is inevitable, but I just can’t bring myself to accept that yet.

So…my sweet children, I will cherish you in these moments. Even in the hardest ones, I will do my best to cherish you the way that you deserve. I will give you endless and unconditional love expecting nothing in return. I will continue to repeat the silly things you love hundreds of times throughout the day, play with you whenever you ask me to, tell that story one more time, watch the show/movie again and just give you all the attention that I can because it’s all I can do. It’s all I can do to show you how much I love you. And when this time passes, I will look back with joy in my heart for all the things we got to do, even if it does break my heart a little, for nothing will ever be more precious then your sweet innocence and love for the simple things in life which you have right now. And no time will ever be more important than this. I love you both.

Moms: Let’s Stop Apologizing

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As moms, it’s in our nature to apologize. We apologize for our children’s behavior. We apologize to family, to friends and even to strangers. We are constantly apologizing for what our children are doing. Why? Why are we apologizing? Because our kids are misbehaving? Because we’re embarrassed? Because we feel like it’s the ‘right thing to do’?

Well I say it’s enough! Moms, let’s stop apologizing. I went to Target solo the other day and had a mom apologize to me on the way out. She was with her four children all under the age of 6 and they were taking some time getting out of the store. “I’m sorry,” she said looking exhausted as she tried to hustle them along. “Please, don’t apologize,” I told her and smiled as I waited for them to get through the automatic doors. I know she felt the need to apologize but she didn’t have to, she shouldn’t have to.

We shouldn’t need to constantly apologize for our kids behavior because guess what, they’re kids! They’re going to dawdle, whine, cry, yell, throw fits, run where they shouldn’t, touch things they’re not supposed to and do a lot of things that we can’t always control but THEY ARE KIDS! Don’t get me wrong, I will never condone behavior that warrants apologies because certain behaviors are unacceptable and do require reprimanding (purposely hitting, smacking, biting, etc.). But let’s just stop apologizing for everything else, okay? Let’s stop feeling like we as moms have to be sorry for how our kids act at times because face it, we’ve all been there. Those of us who have children understand. We UNDERSTAND and we ACCEPT. We accept because that’s what we do as moms. We don’t judge. We don’t condemn. And if we do, then shame on us because one day we might be there!

Prior to kids, I was the ‘please don’t be a screaming kid on this flight’, eye roll to the child crying in the restaurant followed quickly with a ‘when will that kid stop crying’ comment, person turning around to see the yelling child in church and scoffer at the kids melting down in any store. Yep, that was me. I was completely unaware of what it took to be a parent and how difficult it can be to travel and do something as simple as going out to eat (especially with a toddler!). I am embarrassed to say I was judgmental. I didn’t understand why kids acted up or why their parents couldn’t get them ‘under control’. Fast forward to life as a parent and now I know. I cringe for my previous ways of thinking. I am a mom now, and I get it. I get how hard it is to keep your children entertained with public places. I get how hard it is when you’re trying to grocery shop and your children are completely losing it because they want to goooooooo, can’t touch anything and are wiggling (and sometimes physically trying!) to get out of the shopping cart! Kids at a young age are not easy, but they are also incredible to watch with their inquisitive minds, constantly learning and exploring this new world.

So moms, let’s unite together and take a stand. Let’s stop apologizing for our kids being kids. Let’s stop apologizing when we feel embarrassed. Let’s stop apologizing when we feel judged or as if everyone is looking at us and our kids. And let’s especially stop apologizing to other moms who get your struggle. We are not perfect. Our kids are not perfect. And it’s OKAY!

Maybe if we all worked a little harder to live in a more accepting and understanding world, it would be easier as parents not to feel like failures so often. We wouldn’t feel so judged and insecure. We wouldn’t get little or large amounts of anxiety going into public places. And for individuals without kids, please know we realize our children may be an inconvenience or even annoyance to you. We get the looks…but we’re just asking to maybe consider a more empathetic approach to our parenting struggles. Because no matter who we are (parents or not), we are all facing our own personal battles each and every day. Spread the love, find the patience and give the acceptance.

You Made Me a Mom

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Three years ago you made me a mom. I never thought time could go by so fast. There was a time when you were so dependent on me. I cradled you in my arms, you fell asleep on my chest, you cooed and gave me that first smile. You began walking ten days before your first birthday and now here you are, little miss independent, running and jumping, peeing in the potty and telling me, ‘look mom, I did it all by myself and I didn’t even need you’ which while I was so proud, I also felt my heart break a little.

You are doing so much on your own. You are so incredibly smart that you amaze your father and I each and every day. You make us laugh. Your little personality and gentle sweetness make you such a special little girl. I never thought your birthdays would be so hard on me, but they just remind me that you’re getting older, you’re constantly growing and changes will only continue. You’ll eventually go to school, make friends, maybe play sports or an instrument or dance or all…you’ll come across great challenges and great accomplishments, your first crush and first heartbreak and all the things that make growing up so exciting but also a little scary.

But one thing that will never change is that you made me a mom. I will forever be your mother and I will love you with every ounce of me. I love you into the depths of my soul. I love you with a love that only a mother understands. So as you turn another year older, I will try not to cry too hard as I remember the little one you used to be. You will always be my baby girl and you will always be the reason I am so blessed that God made you my daughter and me your mom. This song says it all and every year as your birthday draws near, I listen to it and smile (but mostly cry). You made me a mom and for that, I am forever grateful.

Why Kids Are Mean

Let’s face it, we hear the saying all the time “kids are mean” or “kids are cruel”. But why is that? Has anyone ever stopped to think about it? We say it like we condone it, like it’s okay. But it’s not…it’s not okay. And it’s time someone spoke up. 

Why are kids mean? Because their parents are mean. Because their siblings are mean (who also got it from their parents). This shouldn’t be shocking to anyone. It’s just never talked about. Ever seen Mean Girls? Well they grow up and eventually become mean adults and mean parents. And it’s not just women. Men are mean too.

I know, I get it. Parenting is tough. I struggle daily with it. But our children are sponges and if we don’t stop to think how we’re acting or what we’re saying then we shouldn’t be surprised when we see them doing it. A month or so ago my husband asked my daughter to come help him change her brother’s diaper. She told him no so he asked her again trying to coax her a little this time. She looked at him and said, “Daddy, I can’t do everything”. I couldn’t even keep it together. I thought it was the funniest thing ever. Later I sat and thought about it. She’s heard me say this to my husband and she’s picked up on it. At that point, it no longer was funny but actually frightening. 

If we yell at our children they are going to learn that yelling is okay. Maybe I’m getting an eye roll now but hear me out. I’ve yelled. And now I watch my daughter yell. She yells when she’s mad because she’s seen me do the same thing. It breaks my heart. Because I didn’t and don’t always have self control in some moments, my daughter has now learned when she’s mad she can yell because I have. 

What are we teaching our children? Are we really thinking about the things we say in front of them? Do we know when we think they’re not listening or can’t understand they actually are and really do? 

Bullies don’t create themselves. Mean girls don’t just wake up mean. It’s behavioral. It’s a learned behavior. And it starts at home. 

I’m tired of the excuses or the lies. “Oh my child isn’t mean.” Denial. Get out of denial! You don’t think your child is mean because you yourself don’t know you’re mean! Self awareness is crucial.

Don’t confuse me here, I understand about discipline but I also understand there are better ways to do it. I’ll be the first to admit my flaws, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trying like crazy to be better. We all must be better. We must be better parents for our children. We must be better for our future. 

I want to stop the vicious cycle. I want to stop the mean parents and the mean kids. ‘Love thy neighbor’ is one of the Commandments for a reason.

If you’re a parent, I hope you really stop and think how you act in front of your children and the things you say. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but let’s try to teach our children to love and never hate, to accept and never judge, to speak kindly and respect one another. But most of all, let’s show them. To see change, we need to be the change.