I'm watching as moms all around me are weathering little squalls with their tween children. It's not anything any of us cannot handle, but still--we ask one another almost daily, "If it's like this now, what will it be like then?"
Well, there's no way to know and no way to guarantee the future, right? The best we can do is pursue connection right now and cultivate our trust that our children can stay close to us in their hearts, even as their developmental tasks ask them to take a little time here or there to be more independent and sometimes pull away.
Here's my stay connected strategy for the in between years:
Follow her lead. Each child has her own way of reaching out; your willingness to take the invitation will carry you both a far way. While it's easy to overlook Madeleine's constant invitations to "come here and see this!" as an annoying interruption, the truth is, she is including me in her interests and world. By saying yes as often as I can, I'm meeting her where she's happy to join me.
Stay on the lookout for new openings. New interests provide new opportunities to connect and discuss what's going on from a slightly different perspective. One of the most delightful things about watching my kids grow up is realizing that each new development challenge always carries with it a new opportunity to reconnect. Carter now enjoys reading to me, for example, where the ritual used to be me reading to him.
Take charge. Kids aren't responsible for staying close to you; it's your job to remain a constant available resource to them. If you're struggling to make a meaningful connection, take the initiative to create the environment where something can happen. Long car rides, new outings, asking for input, trying new foods, inviting kids to help you mastermind logistics or scheduling--all these things can really open doors for easy breezy conversations that can take you somewhere fun and new.
Don't apologize for your desire for connection. All kids go through phases where they want to assert their independence and pull back a little. Don't let this fool you into thinking that they need you any less. By continuing to state your desire to be with them, to spend time together and to hear their thoughts, you keep the door open and release them of the burden of making up the difference during developmentally trying times.
Be affectionate. I'm determined to keep the love flowing over here--even though Madeleine feigns disinterest in my cozy displays of affection. I know her well enough to understand that there's a lot of security for her in knowing I will reach out--even when she's moody and appearing indifferent per her tween age script.
How are you staying connected to your kids during difficult parenting times?
Jen and I headed to the National Book Festival on Saturday to celebrate our shared love of books with thousands of others. We ran into a few of our PBS friends while we were there.
I was missing Ethan especially, but Sid said, "Hi Ethan! I hope to meet you one day."
I was beside myself to get a chance to talk to Tony DiTerlizzi, the author of The Spiderwick Chronicles. I was so excited I forgot to get something signed for Josiah but I think the interview was almost as cool.
Wandering the mall all day I was struck but how much excitement and buzz literature still has over people. How authors can be rockstars, kid's faces lit up connecting stories and hearing them read. You can learn more about the Raising Readers program here. It gave me all kinds of ideas to help my kids dream about offering their own ideas and art to the world.
Are you concerned about reading? Wondering when and how it should start?
Learn how kids become readers and writers here.
Look for more interviews soon too! Did you go to the festival this weekend? How's the reading going at your house these days? Are you sick of reading that same board book 1,000 times? What books are your grade schoolers devouring at the moment?
Check out more pics from the festival here.
This weekend we traveled for work. We stayed 25 miles away from our destination in order to stay in a more affordable hotel with enough beds and space for everyone. You see, some people want to sleep together, some people need to sleep alone, some people need the light on, some people need complete darkness, some people barely sleep and some people sleep forever.
The time we were in a hotel and Nathan screamed from 12:30-2:30 in the morning is still fresh in our minds. We probably should just camp rather than ruin the sleep for everyone within two hotel rooms.
This time we played musical beds. Because of the long car ride, everyone ended up falling asleep in the car at 5:00 p.m. Can I tell you how much my heart stopped at that point. By the time we got to our destination, everyone was ready to go. Sure enough, it was 10:30 p.m. and everyone wanted to party like a rock star. We finally gave in and split the kids. The baby cried in his crib and the boys both chatted from their respective beds. I fell asleep in Nathan's bed in the middle of him describing something in great detail. I don't remember what it was.
Nathan kicked me in the head at 2 and I moved him to his own bed. Mason woke up when I moved Nathan and I brought him to bed with me. Ethan heard the ruckus and crawled into bed with Derek, who had moved out of Ethan's bed after he fell asleep. Derek put Ethan back into his bed. I put Mason back in his crib.
This went on for the next 5 hours. There really is nothing quite like your own bed, is there?
Everyone is all a twitter over here, especially Josiah. When I told him Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black were going to be at the National Book Festival, I think he almost peed his pants. The idea that he could actually meet the team who wrote The Spiderwick Chronicles was just so exciting.
Jen and I will be hanging out in the PBS Raising Readers Pavilion with our favorite, Mr. Steve!
Don't forget Elmo and all your other PBS Kids favorites. Truth be told, I'm just so excited that I will not be in labor this year! That's right, same day last year Lyra was born! So come down, say hello, stay for the biggest book birthday celebration for a one year old ever.
We would love to see you!
Alternate Title: How I will be tortured by another PBS Kids show.
Ethan: Momomomomomomomom. We have to watch Dinosaur Train.
K: Mmmm. Okay, whatever.
Ethan: PLEASE, Mom!
An hour later after watching the show he was on the computer, asking incessant questions about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. For the next four hours. In his defense, how cool is it to be able to see a dinosaur's x-ray?
I hate to be a PBS commercial but this one is a big favorite in my house and now small children are speaking in minimums of three syllables. You can't knock that. Check your local listing and check it out.
Remember me, the mother who was waxing eloquent about the dawning of the conceptual age where children will cherish their Kindles and Zelda just as much as their books?
This diatribe was followed by this episode with Carter who cried buckets during his last bedtime reading session (something that rarely happens now since he discovered Calvin and Hobbes) because he'd unearthed a copy of Go, Dog, Go.
Go, Dog, Go would not be on my top list of books that make children love books or reading, but evidently I am mistaken.
Carter (sobbing): I just love this book so much.
Me (reading on automatic since there is no real plot or narrative arch to this book whatsoever): Buddy, are you okay?
Carter (wiping the snot from his tear-streaked face): I used to read it when I was a kid.
Me (because I can't resist asking kids ludicrous questions like this): Are you missing your childhood?
Carter (still quietly weeping): Mom, don't worry. They're just tears of happiness. Because I love this book sooooo much.
So books aren't dead after all. Who knew? What books are your kids loving at bedtime at your house these days?
It started with a sleepover. The brothers returned home after one of the best nights ever to a task they had been dreading. After weeks of avoiding it and one million legos on the floor later, the time had come for them to clean their room.
Maybe it was the exhaustion from so much fun the night before or the magnitude of the job, but Josiah was pacing and looked very overwhelmed. He wandered in the kitchen, buried his face in his hands and started to bawl.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Life is so hard, ya know?" he said through heaving breaths.
"And as I get bigger, it just keeps getting harder." He went on.
I sighed and agreed, it is so true. I asked what was feeling big today.
"School is harder and my room, just everything, I feel so overwhelmed." he said.
The second week of school is always the kicker. It is the time when everything sinks in, revealing what is before you, all you have to learn. In a way, I have felt like I am in my own personal development academy. I can very much relate to feeling overwhelmed by all life is putting before me to teach me.
We sat together for awhile, reminding each other that we only have to do a little at a time and take it moment by moment. I suggested a break so we climbed in bed, he read books, I surfed the internet. Tomorrow is another day and our work will be waiting for us, but today we are just in life together.
Supersister tip of the day: Looks like third grade is a kicker of a year.
Are you hitting the second week wall at your house? What do you do when your kids feel overwhelmed? Or even better, what do you do for yourself?
I was feeling guilty enough for being at a fast food restaurant, let alone letting my kids play in the ginormous playland which could double as a petri dish of disease. Having gone so far over the edge, I broke down and bought them a kid's meal. Because it really means the world to them for their mother to buy the toy car for $4. I was so exhausted that I didn't notice they had taken their cars to play on the slides, which is always a recipe for disaster.
Ethan came over crying a few minutes later.
E: Momomomomomomomom. I sent my CAR down the SLIDE and now this BOY has it.
Oh, I can do crisis intervention. I turned around to see which surly child had deprived my precious son of his most prized possession. There was a little baby walking around with the car in his hand. His face said, "I can't believe this car fell right into my hands." Or more accurately, "CAR!!"
He was only about 15 months old. I told Ethan that this was just a baby with the car and that I would get it back. With Mason balancing on my hip, I went over to the little boy.
K: Hey, buddy. Can I get that car back? It belongs to Ethan.
He toddled away, completely oblivious to me. It was a classic boy moment. Look, shiny!!! I reached out with my flat open hand, trying to talk him into giving me the car back. He wasn't having any part of it. Because he was a baby and didn't understand. I toddled behind him with the open hand, trying to get him to offer it up. It was downright comical. I was busy trying to figure out what I could offer him to get the car back and I just kept offering my hand to get the car back. Suddenly his mother stormed up. And I do mean stormed.
She snatched the car from her son and slammed it in to my hand.
"You should have just ASKED ME AND I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN IT FOR YOU."
I was stunned. I stuttered back, "I was just asking him kindly for it." She slammed out of the restaurant with her poor child who hadn't even noticed what had happened because he saw a balloon painted on the window.
It's not like I screamed hysterically and yanked the car out of his hand. It's not like she used it as a teaching moment ("here, buddy, let's give this car back because it isn't ours), if you can even teach a BABY like that. It's not like I put him in time out or called Fast Food Security and reported a theft.
No less than 20 kids were in that playland. I'm sure there are some people that think I should have identified his mother (who was clearly not paying attention) to obtain this corrective action. I didn't because I didn't think I needed to. I was pretty sure I could get him to give the car back willingly. No harm, no foul, no big deal. I don't think I should have to ask a parent if I can ask their child for my son's toy back. If he hadn't given it back, we might have been in a different situation. I think that we have all gotten just a little too self-important and if our baby needs such protection, we should probably avoid fast food playlands in the future. It seems to me like this is a trend in parenting that heads down a wrong path.
Is it really a good idea for your mother to refuse to allow anyone to question you, even when you are a baby? I'm thinking if you feel that way when your baby is a baby, you probably won't be veering far off that program when your child gets older. The problem is, when you grow up, your boss isn't going to call your mother to ask her to break it to you gently that you have done something wrong or you could do better.
Although come college application essay time or salary negotiation for the first job, I'm sure she is going to be the best mom around to have.
Having a meltdown? We mean you, yes, kid meltdowns are to be expected. Read this lovely honest essay about why breakdowns can be a good thing--especially if you're a mama who wants to get down to the heart of the matter.
Wondering how you can stay calm when your kids are sending you over the edge. Watch this nice clip from Zen Mommy complete with some tips about how to stay connected no matter what the chaos running rampant in your house.
Need a little dose of silly to brighten your mood and make your kids laugh? Bring this song along the next time you need your kids to play along while you're making dinner. If chicken is on the menu, your kids will be especially delighted.
The babies have always stayed close to me, really close. Jorge took them to snuggle on his chest, change a diaper, or hold in the crook off his arm but I was still their primary source of nurture and nutrition. Around the age of one, the parenting worlds start to shift and the guy who was just around making goofy smiles becomes the parent of choice.
We went apple picking last weekend and I watched it happen before me. Lyra sat in his lap eating apples and playing flirty games all day. Her back stiffens and eyes light up when he walks through the door at the end of the day. She makes her way to him with a book in tow insisting that he reads the same page over and over because she keeps turning the pages back. He is thrilled to be coming in to his time, the time when she is now a papa's girl.
Nothing is more charming than a man and his baby. And I watch all the love and chant in my mind, "No more babies, no more babies, no more babies..."