Finding butterflies and rainbows

You know it’s going to be one of those days when it’s barely 8am and you’re already ready for the day to be over! That was me today… I bawled after dropping my oldest off at elementary school this morning. No, not because of the separation or the fact that she is growing up Way. Too. Fast. I cried because I felt as though I pretty much failed this morning as a mom, and dropping her off after a rough start to the day just broke my heart.

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Not every moment is a perfect one!

Let’s back up and start at the beginning. My husband often travels or has early morning meetings, which leaves me getting myself and three young children ready in the morning without an extra set of hands. This morning was no different (though throwing on a pair of yoga pants and a zip up sweatshirt doesn’t really count as getting myself ready). I thought I had it all together based on last night’s successes… I picked and laid out the kids’ clothes the night before. I got them into bed (and asleep) 30 minutes earlier than their regularly scheduled bedtime. I set my alarm for extra early to get up and exercise (and set a back-up alarm in case that super early one was just too ambitious). Last night’s preparation made me believe that today would be off to a good start.

Ehhhh. No. Wrong.

I slept through both alarms and their related snoozes. After sleeping through the night (hooray!), the baby  needed to nurse for extra long this morning. My oldest woke up and started getting herself ready, with some tinkering and stalling along the way. And the threenager (yes, three going on thirteen), wanted nothing to do with the morning. Even when given a warning that the lights were going on and she would need to get up in five minutes, she hid under the covers and exclaimed “it’s too bright!” as soon as I turned on the lights, and promptly refused to get up.

So, between me oversleeping and a series of “three kids, five and under” missteps, we quickly went from having it all together to definitely late and I blew my lid. All my frustration bubbled up and I lost it. Big. Yelling. Stomping. It was ugly. And it didn’t help anyone. But it happened and I felt awful. So I apologized, took some deep breaths and got the kids out the door….

And into the pouring rain. Oy. Into car seats in the rain. Soaking wet because who can hold an umbrella and harness a carseat at the same time? Super late, yet again, to get to school. Once we got there, I made a quick decision to take my eldest to the drive through drop off where parent helpers wait to take your kid out of the car and walk them to class. But the parent who greeted me scolded me for taking too long to get her out and letting her out on the wrong side of the car (which, had I obliged with the side the helper wanted, would have gotten the baby soaking wet!). I felt bad enough not walking my five year old to class, especially after our rough morning, but then being told I was doing it wrong was icing on a not-so-sweet cake.

And so, between being late, yelling at my kids, and messing up the rules of drop off, I couldn’t hold it back. As I drove away from the elementary school and toward preschool, in between rounds of playing “I spy”, I let the tears stream down my cheeks. Tears of exhaustion and stress. Of being frustrated with my kids. Of being angry at myself for how I reacted. Of being annoyed that the lady at drop off couldn’t sense my stressful morning and give me a break. Of knowing I was making a mountain out of a molehill and being too hard on myself. Of wishing I could have a do over (which I do…tomorrow).

Parenthood isn’t all butterflies and rainbows (even on this rainy day). We try so hard to be good role models, to be patient and calm, to be a pillar of good parenting. And yet, that isn’t always realistic. Because to be a parent is to be human. The good thing is that life is full of teachable moments and when we have a misstep we can role model how to get back on track. Do I want another morning like today? No, thank you. But I know that today’s series of events is an anomaly, not our norm, and showing my kids remorse and apologizing is also an integral part of role modeling. It is important for us to remember that it’s okay to be human. We are all doing our best as parents, for better and for worse, in good moments and in bad. Isn’t that a butterfly and rainbow itself?

Finding the freedom to slow down

Have you ever seen that scene from Family Guy where little Stewie says to his mom, “Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mom. Mommy. Mommy. Mom. Mama. Mama. Mama. Ma. Ma. Ma….”? When his mom finally acknowledges him, he replies “Hi,” then giggles, and runs out of the room.


Before becoming a mom, I thought this was an exaggerated comedic rendition of young children’s speech patterns and quests for attention. Now I know that it’s not an exaggeration. It’s actually eerily accurate. And, the comedic punch of it loses some power after the same “mommy” cycle happens multiple times a day.

“Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mom. Mommy. Mommy. Mom. Mama. Mama. Mama. Ma. Ma. Ma,” my three year old chirps happily. Sometimes I can take the stammering of the same word over and over and over and over and over again (sometimes it’s not “mommy.” Sometimes it’s “um” or “hey mommy” or “I just,” to name a few). Other times I want to respond to her the same way the mom on Family Guy does – with an exasperated “WHAT?!”

But before I turn into the cartoon version of myself, I hold my breath and remember that my little one is learning to communicate and that the story she wants to tell me about the dream she had where a dinosaur came into her room and read her the Three Little Bears book that she refuses to let me read to her is the most exciting story she’ll tell all day. Her brain is working so quickly that she just. can’t. get. it. out. So, instead she goes into overload and just repeats the same word or phrase a few times before finishing her thought.

beach ballThis exercise in patience – in holding my breath and catching my words before finishing her sentences for her or getting frustrated – has been a good practice in more than just the recounting of our days. It is also effective in the inevitable moment (moments) throughout a given day or weekend when we are running late and I have to tell my kids to “Hurry up!” On plenty of occasions when I tell my kids that we are running late, the older one responds, “I very don’t like being late,” though she doesn’t entirely grasp the concept. Even still, it breaks my heart every time she says it. She has no control of her schedule, and yet has already developed an understanding that she doesn’t want to deviate from it. Yes, there are times that they need to be reminded to keep moving, and teaching punctuality is important. But in a world driven by being fast, where information is literally at our fingertips and day planners (or Google calendars) are full of appointments, meetings and places to be, sometimes keeping moving and punctuality are not always the priority.

The juxtaposition of me looking at the clock while my kids look at the shapes in the clouds is a good reminder that kids have no concept of time. Like, none. (This becomes unbelievably evident every Saturday when we’ve been awake since 6:30am but still can’t seem to get to the 9am swim lesson on time!) So, in those moments I have to make a choice between the hands on a clock or the moments at hand.

It’s in those moments that I try to remember to slow down and take it all in. It’s in those moments that I remember to enjoy the morning cuddles while watching Elmo for five more minutes before jumping out of bed and starting our regular routines. And in the moments when I allow my daughter’s imagination to steer us, literally and figuratively. And in the moments when we’re already late and another two minutes to watch the snail cross the sidewalk isn’t hurting anybody (unless someone steps in the wrong place, and then it’s hurting the snail!)basketball

Time goes by so quickly. I don’t want to rush my children growing up, and I don’t want them to feel like they had to “hurry up” just to get from point A to point B, when there’s a lot to see in between. Sometimes, I just want to feel the freedom to slow down and enjoy the moment.

How do you remember to slow down? What are the moments you enjoy most?

Finding patience

I always thought I was a patient person. Then I had kids, and my patience was tested…daily. Patience with myself. With my husband. With my kids. With the world. Patience has taken on an entirely new definition over the past three years, and with each moment that pushes my patience to the breaking point, I strive to remember that “this too shall pass.”

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Chocolate is her favorite food group.

My older daughter is a smart, opinionated three year-old (well, actually three and a half – she’ll be the first to tell you that). Dinnertime with her goes from “more please” to “I don’t like that!” The pendulum can swing within a single meal… multiple times. My philosophy with meals, particularly dinner, is to create a balance of food she’ll like with new flavors, while hiding nutritious items in hopes that she’ll eat some semblance of a healthy meal. It’s much harder than I could possibly have imagined. (Just for reference, her younger sister would eat the plate if I’d let her.)

Tonight was the prime example of how quickly this pendulum can swing, and how intensely my patience can be tested. Before leaving for work, I set the crockpot to make a delicious (and surprisingly easy) Hawaiian chicken dish I’d seen on Pinterest. When I got home from work I roasted some broccoli and garlic, made quinoa, and (because I had a feeling that wouldn’t go over well) used some leftover rice and veggies to make a quick fried rice for the kids. As predicted, the little one loved the entire meal. And her big sister… well, not so much.

After a negotiation with my three year old about what she had to eat to be allowed to leave the table, we settled on a measly five bites of the fried rice (plus her fruit on the side). I gave her a solid combination of positive encouragement and tough love, and in the course of five bites (and 30 minutes), she gave me the following litany of excuses:

My finger hurts.
I need a bandaid.
I want to give you a hug.
I need more milk.
I need a minute.
I want to give my sister a hug.
I need you to be patient with me.
Can I just have a banana?
I don’t really feel like eating right now.
I’d rather eat later.
I thought you said three bites.
I want another hug.
I need more milk.
I need a tissue.
I need to pee.
My eye hurts.
My other eye hurts.
Can I put a bandaid on my eye?

When she (finally) finished her five bites and I took a few deep breaths (while thinking “She did it! I did it!”) and gave her another healthy dose of positive reinforcement, I took a step back to reflect on the less than awesome mealtime we’d just had.

The reality is that “this too shall pass.” One day it will be me begging her to take five bites with us before running off to meet her friends. And while yes, if it’s not this, it will be something else, I’m realizing how important it is to dig deep to find my patience so that I truly can enjoy every minute of this wild ride (and tolerate those that drive me too nuts to enjoy!).

How do you find your patience?