Finding risk

Photographic proof of the fall.

On the day my niece was born, I was responsible for babysitting my then two year old nephew while his parents were in the hospital. He and I had a great day playing together until the moment that he tripped in his living room, bumped his face on some furniture and got a little scrape on his nose. I was only steps away from him but it happened quickly and I couldn’t catch him from falling. Though the tears that followed the bump were fleeting (and the rest of the day continued to be fun), the memory of the bump will live on forever, thanks to the nice scab easily noticeable in every photo of him meeting his sister later that afternoon (not to mention the relentless teasing from my family).

I asserted then, and continue to assert now, that kids get hurt. They get scrapes and bumps as they explore the world around them. It’s a natural part of childhood. However, no amount of defending myself from the “scrape heard round the world” prepared me for this morning, my first Monday as a stay at home mom, when my 7 month old daughter fell and, yes, bumped her nose and got a little scrape. Call it karma, call it a coincidence, call it what you will… I call it a quick way to stir up a mother’s guilt. Though I was only a couple steps away, she fell fast and missed hitting her head by only a few inches. Being a stay at home mom is off to a whopping success…

I do everything I can to protect my kids and shelter them from harm, sometimes to an anxiety-ridden fault. But the truth is, they have to fall. Because if they don’t fall, they can’t pick themselves back up and see that they’re okay. They can’t experience the pride in trying again and succeeding. They can’t feel the comfort of my hug and reassurance afterward.

Just as my kids have to go through this natural part of childhood, I have to go through the parallel part of motherhood. I have to know when to let them take a risk. When to let them push outside their (and my) comfort zone. When to rush to their aid and when to hang back to see how they’ll respond. It’s not just about letting my kids fall down and pick themselves back up; it’s also about calculating the risk and adding a buffer zone for safe exploration, even when minor risk is involved. It’s not easy, and honestly, I’m not always very good at it, but I understand the value of it, too.

Proof of today’s bump.

Luckily, so far most of my kids’ scrapes and bumps have been minor and easily treated with ice, a bandaid and a big hug. For the record, the baby was fine for the rest of today. And I managed to help my oldest with a Lego project and make a pretty nice dinner. But, if ever I need a reminder of the calculated risks kids need to have, I captured a picture as evidence of today’s bump, though something tells me I won’t forget about it anytime soon.

Finding the humor in bedtime negotiations

with girlsAnyone who has ever said that bedtime should not involve a negotiation has clearly never tried to put a four or two year-old to bed. I always imagined bedtime with my kids would be a serene time when we would reflect on our days, read books and sing songs… and then they’d drift peacefully to sleep. But then reality set in.

Truth be told, evenings in our house can be chaotic. Because my husband and I both work, our nights are a jumbled mess of picking up the kids from daycare, scrambling to make dinner while Peppa Pig keeps the kids entertained, and playing for a few minutes before we eat together as a family and start the delicate (or clunky) bedtime dance.

No matter how successfully the dance goes, though, the stalling that begins soon thereafter is an entirely different story. Last night was one of those nights. Actually, most nights are “one of those nights.” Between our two year-old learning that “no” is her favorite, and a somewhat effective, word, and our four year-old getting out of bed every five minutes or so in hopes that one of her many excuses would stick, bedtime has become a comedy routine.

Here’s how last night’s litany of excuses shook out (each with a five minute interval in between where our four year old went back to bed, presumably to think of her next attempt at delaying bedtime)… and my internal dialogue at each twist and turn:

I need a hug. (How can I resist that?)
I’m lonely. (Alright, one more snuggle.)
I heard something outside. (There’s nothing outside.)
There’s a bear in my room. (There’s not.)
There are two bears in my room. (We don’t live in the forest. There are no bears in our house.)
I just feel sad. (She’s tugging at the heart strings again.)
I want a hug. (Fine, last one.)
I need a Band-Aid for this boo-boo I got two weeks ago. (See my previous post about the healing power of Band-Aids.)
Not the Dora Band-Aid! The Doc McStuffins Band-Aid! (Ugh, whatever works.)
This Band-Aid is hurting me. (Okay, so take it off!)
I need a tissue for my boogers. (Done.)
I need more baby dolls in my bed. (Any more baby dolls and we’d be running an orphanage.)
Ten babies will make me feel not lonely anymore. With only five babies I still feel lonely. (Ah, rational thinking by a four year old.)
It’s hot in here so I took my blanket off. (Okay.)
It’s cold in here. Will you put my blanket on? (Ugh. Okay.)
I need to go pee. (So go!)
I need to go poop. (Okay, now I have to come wipe your tushy.)
I have to take off all my clothes while I poop. (Again, there’s that rational thinking.)
I need help putting my clothes back on. (Of course you do.)
I need my blanket on. (Right.)
Not that blanket! The other blanket. (And one more time with the rational thought.)

And so it goes. We negotiate back and forth – sometimes giving in, sometimes staying strong, and always just trying to get to the end result of her tiring herself out enough to fall asleep. I’m sure someone is reading this thinking “stop giving in to her!” Clearly, you’ve never met my strong willed daughter who will not let up. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Now, when I get particularly frustrated with her and become a mom I like less (the one who has lost all her patience and is flabbergasted by the ridiculousness of it all), I try to remind myself that this is actually precious time where my daughter is stalling because she wants my attention and my snuggles. In the blink of an eye, these negotiations will stop being about getting back in bed and putting a blanket on, but will instead be about whether she can borrow the car to stay out past curfew or have another $20 for some material object that everyone else has.

So I put my foot down now but also give in slightly. I figure for now I’ll give her that hug, I’ll tuck her back in and I’ll make her feel safe so that in the future, when she doesn’t want to be hugged or tucked in, she’ll still feel safe and assured knowing that she is loved and that we are there for her. And hopefully, no matter how old she gets, the negotiations will keep us laughing.

Finding the healing power of bandaids

I wouldn’t say that I lie to my kids. But I would be lying if I said that I don’t stretch the truth. Sure, you can judge me and drop your jaw incredulously, but we all do it. Sometimes it takes a little white lie to make everything in their world better. It starts pretty simply – “Here, let mommy kiss that boo-boo and make it all better.” Then it escalates a bit – “This is special fairy potion that I will spray in your room to keep the monsters away.” (Yeah, it’s water with a drop of lavender oil in it.)silly girls copy

In general, I do think it’s important to be honest with my children, as it plays an important role in teaching them right from wrong. But sometimes a stretch of the truth is easier and more effective than the hard facts. The perfect example of this: Band-Aids.

My kids fully believe in the healing power of Band-Aids. Maybe that’s because I’ve told them over and over again that a Band-Aid will make their boo-boo all better. They don’t need to know that a Band-Aid actually has no healing power whatsoever, and actually a Band-Aid causes more pain when we have to take it off. Nope, those facts are better left unsaid. If one of them gets a boo-boo, no matter how big or how small, all it takes is me asking them “Do you want a Band-Aid?” and suddenly their world that had become overrun by tears and devastation is righted. More often than not, they wear it for about 30 seconds and then suddenly whatever boo-boo they had is all better.

Of course, this is not a cheap habit since no kid wants the plain and boring beige colored Band-Aid. No, we have to have Jake and the Neverland Pirates Band-Aids. And, when those are not available, good ol’ stand-ins like Doc McStuffins or Dora or the occasional princess themed ones will have to do.

But the truth is that if all it takes is a Band-Aid to make my kids’ pain go away, I’ll take it. And, I’ll continue to stretch that truth as long as it works because there will definitely come a time when healing my kids wounds will take much more than a brightly colored bandage. Raising two girls already makes me aware that the “mean girl” stage is bound to come into play sooner or later. And, while I would never wish them to be the subject of a mean girl’s tormenting, I also can’t stand the idea that they could become mean girls themselves. Sometimes my older daughter comes running to me at the park to tell me about another girl who was mean to her on the slide. We talk about what it means to be a good friend and treating other people the way that we want to be treated, and about making sure that even if somebody is mean to us that we still show respect to them.

I know there will come a day that they will go running to their friends for help instead of asking me and I can only hope that at that point I’ve prepare them well. I can only hope that the Band-Aids of today become the teaching tools of tomorrow because when that day comes, it won’t be as easy as kissing the boo-boo and sticking a Band-Aid on it to make it all better…though a mom certainly can dream.