Lessons in Being a Pillow

Some parts of parenting come to us naturally. For me those parts were a joy of snack and maintaining a regular napping schedule. Food and sleep are two things I can naturally get behind and support. Other things (pretty much every other thing) have come with a learning curve. Sometimes it is more along the lines of a learning punch in the gut.

My five year old is an emotional creature. I keep thinking maybe next  year she will ‘grow out of it’ but I’ve come to accept that she may always be much like a pinball in regards to emotional highs, lows, tears, and exuberant laughter. That’s only covering five minutes of her normal day.

I will be the first to admit that my natural instinct when someone comes at me with an emotional charge is to be like a brick wall. When something is hurled at a brick wall TYPICALLY one of two things happen. The item bounces back, often times with surprising momentum – anger for anger, tears for tears, and excitement for even more excitement. I kind of tend to match and bounce back what is given. For some this is a good thing. They like the feed back, the like the ability to reflect on their actions as a result of mine. This is to true for Karrigan. It sends her reeling. The other thing that can happen when something is thrown at a brick wall is that the object hits it and shatters, breaks, collapses. I think of this as those moments where two minutes of whining all the sudden become a complete and total sobbing melt down and where neither my child or I walk away feeling like things went well. The wall. That’s what I am naturally.

It has become increasingly apparent that is not what my child needs. What my oldest needs (the other two are yet to be determined) is a pillow.

Man how I wish I meant that in a physical sense. Dairy Queen here I come! Just making sacrifices for the kids and trying to be more pillow-like.

No, what I meant is my child needs an emotional pillow. She needs a mom she can yell at and who gives back a whisper. Have you ever yelled into a pillow? That’s essentially the same affect.

She needs a mother who absorbs her tears, and doesn’t do much more than that. She doesn’t want or need to me fix things. She doesn’t need me to explain her feelings. She just needs a mom who wipes her cheeks and absorbs the tears because that makes them go away faster.

She needs a mom who offers a cuddle when she is frustrated and who doesn’t press and pry for a story to fit with every feeling she has. Sometimes my daughter needs me to just –be.

Quiet. Still. Soft.

Those words don’t describe me naturally but you know what will make those words fit me? Love.

Love for my daughter. The desire to be what she needs, even when my original mold wasn’t created that way. It’s not easy. I raise my voice in response to hers. I tell her to “toughen up” more than is logical. I exclaim “Why are you crying AGAIN?” at least twice a day. Still as parents we strive and we try and lately when I’ve been at my wits end I’ve been taking a look at my pillow and thinking…What would you do big fluffy? Then I try to do that.

The funny thing is …it works.

Oh and being a physical pillow as mentioned before? I’ll always be that, any time her little head needs a place to rest. That’s the best kind of pillow to be.

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Karrigan using Baby Sinclaire as a pillow before her arrival a few years ago!

#76 Realize That Your Life Is Bigger Than The Box You Will Be Buried In

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Hey Girls,

The above picture is what physically remains of my grandpa, your great grandpa. He passed away last month as peacefully as anyone could hope with your Ba (Grandpa) by his side. He was cremated and packed neatly in that box for burial. At the funeral I commented to your father that it was strange to think that all that was left on earth of someone who was just living, now fits in that box. However, I was wrong.

Your Great Grandpa might have had his physical presence with us diminished, but he is still here. He is here in the way that your Grandpa is so extremely generous. The way he values family over money and loves all sorts of sports.

He is still here in the fact that somehow his pet Dachshund still lives with your Nana and Ba. He always owned one of them for as long as I can remember.

He is here in me – in the way I love to take walks on beautiful days and enjoy sitting around a campfire like I did with him when I was much younger.

He is here in you – the blue eyes, the goofy personality.

I hope that as you grow and live your life you will realize that who you are, and your impact here on the earth will reach beyond your life and beyond your death. Your ashes can be packed and put on a shelf or in the ground, but your life and the choices you made, the family you did or didn’t raise, the people you touched with your actions, they will all live on. Your life is bigger – so much bigger – than your physical existence. Don’t be limited by the box, because you certainly don’t have to be.

This post is to you Grandpa and all the living you still have left to do in the hearts of those who love you!

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Meeting Sinclaire 2014
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Meeting Karrigan 2011

#75 On Loving Villians

This isn’t so much a piece of advice, as it is something you (Karrigan) have taught me.

I love Disney movies. The vast array of lovable, hilarious, sometimes inappropriate, and often brutally honest characters that fill their movies leaves me intrigued every time. Karrigan, you love them too – but with a twist.

You, my sweet daughter, are in love with villains. Those of us who love you came to this realization slowly. It started with you quoting villains, singing their songs, and then continues with us having to repeatedly explain that you can’t act out the scene from The Lion King where Scar announces that he killed Mufasa while mock choking another child. Other parents don’t find that funny. For good reason.

You are the only child who watches the movie The Lorax and then proceeds to sing the 10 seconds of villain lines in the final song that go “Let it die, Let it die, Let it shrivel up and die…” in regards to a defenseless Truffula Tree  repeatedly or who sees Gaston parading around in chauvinistic glory and states enthusiastically, “I LIKE that guy!”

To say that this revelation left me a bit disturbed..is an understatement.

Then I began to study the villains in our movies. Some of them are downright hideous. They are sly, have self serving motives, and know how to raise a raucous. However, there is something else I noticed.

These characters are passionate. They are driven. They are focused. They are bold. They are perfectionists. They are emotional. They don’t change who they are because someone simply tells them they should. They are goal driven – and so my dear daughter..are you.

You have a passion that burns in you brighter than almost anyone I have ever met. You throw yourself fully into everything you do. Temper tantrums included.

Despite their off-kilter motives, their ruthless tactics, and their shenanigans..the villains you feel so drawn to have a lot of killer (pun intended) qualities. Things that I want my daughters to have. Skills that will push you ahead in life. Skills I’m proud that you can recognize in someone else, even when they aren’t designed to be the most lovable person in the world.

What I’ve learned is that you have an amazing ability to see past the bad (seeing past murder as in the case of Scar, might be a bit extreme) and into the good. To find the pieces of yourself that are hidden in others and to latch on to it.

You love the villains because you relate to their boldness, their extremes, their passion. Life will give you plenty of time to learn to hate them – and right now I’m just going to enjoy you sharing the love of some the brightest, show stealing characters in film.

Here is to the villains who have shown you what it means to passionately pursue a goal, to express emotions, and to live on the wild side.

(I would like to say that we both agree that Cruella D’Ville is plain crazy.)

Karrigan’s movie crush

#74 Speak Only Words You Wouldn’t Mind Hearing From Someone Else

Our words have a way of getting the best of us. It is easy to say things we don’t mean and even easier to say things we do mean in the wrong way. American’s thrive on gossip – it is part of why celebrities stay so famous. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again..and again..and again. Choose your words carefully.

I’m not telling you that you have to be Miss Positive Statements Only. I just want you to hear the things you are thinking about saying BEFORE you say them. Especially when they are about someone else. Would you want someone saying the same thing about you? If you are about to speak about someone who isn’t present – would you say the words you are about to speak if they were standing right in front of you? If the answer to those things are no, then I highly encourage you to use restraint.

It has been said that your thoughts become your words, and your words become your actions. If you are thinking hurtful or rude things it is only a matter of time before you are saying them. If you are saying hurtful and rude things it is only a matter of time before you are doing them. If you are doing hurtful and rude things – then you aren’t living up to the person your mom knows you are able to be.

Listen to your own words in your head – see how they sound to your ears – revise if necessary – then speak.

Here you are having a chat with dad at the Pumpkin Patch this fall.

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#73 Tease your sibling a little – and love them a lot!

It is now officially official Karrigan – you will be a big sister in July! I wish I could say at this point you are excited but truth is you really have no idea what’s going on and when you do figure it out you are still in the “denial” phase…you fervently assure me that I will  NOT be having a baby and you will NOT be a sister.

I hope you warm up to the role a little. I’m assuming you will.

One thing I already know about you is that you have a giant heart. You know how to give really sticky slobbery kisses that burst with love and hugs that could strangle a python. You also know how to throw a punch. I’ll be the first to admit I know absolutely nothing about being a sibling – I don’t have any. What I do hope though is that when this little one comes along and you both grow to be not so little, that you will love each other.

I want you to be siblings – that means I understand that you won’t always like each other – that there might be an argument or 30 to settle. I even know that at some point you will probably tease your younger sibling without the mercy I would like you to show. All I ask is that in return you love them. You can get mad when they break your toy, or read your private messages to friends, or borrow something of yours without asking. You can roll your eyes when they say something you think is “childish”. You can even be upset when heaven forbid they get to do something fun and you don’t. Through it all please love them.

Love your little sibling enough that when they are scared of something you comfort them. Love them that when they get picked on at school you stand up for them. Love them enough that when they beat you at something you have always been the champion at, you can tell them good job. Love them enough that you build more bridges in your relationship than walls. Love them enough when they infuriate you that you learn to truly forgive.

Know that when it feels like you have run out of love for them – you can come to me and borrow a little of mine – because I promise I have an overflowing amount of love for BOTH of you already.

Yep..it is me at 14 weeks with #2…I don’t know how to smile and take my own photo at the same time.

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*A Note*

It serves to be said that I have been rather “un-bloggy” lately. I’ve been wanting to revive my blog for some time but never knew what was missing. I’m still not sure I know. What I do know is that we recently announced we are adding a member to the family! I’m not sure how that will be reflected here but I’m sure it will. I’ve missed this blog,  I’m sure that some day my children will have wished I stopped with the advice at the last post. To Karrigan’s younger sibling – the previous posts were written with her in mind but I’m sure they apply to you too😉

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#72 About That Day In 2nd Grade..

I was speaking with some of the smartest people I know — camp counselors– about advice they would offer you after having gotten to know you these past few weeks. They came up with a good one.

Almost every little girl has that day..usually sometime around 2nd grade..where they come home feeling as if they have not a friend in the world. I’m not sure if it happens to boys–but having worked with girls I KNOW it does happen to them. When that day comes, please know that you DO indeed have friends. That the friends you have in second grade are going to be different than the ones you have later in life (Even if they are the same people, they will change in personality over time). That when your friends seem to have abandoned you, that you have a family that always has your back.

They also want you to realize that a friend is more than someone who likes all the same things you do, who agrees with whatever you say, and who you never argue with. A friend is someone who you can bounce ideas off of, whose shoulder you can cry on, who you CAN argue with but accepts your differences and loves you anyways. A friend is someone who will tell you if your make up causes you to look like a clown more than a person (but isn’t too embarrassed to be seen with you either way). A friend doesn’t need conversation to feel comfortable and a friend is something you will always have if you just know where to look.

Right now you are lil miss independent. You like friends but if you have to go it alone at something you are fine with that. You play by your own rules. When that day in second grade comes, and I hug you and my heart breaks a little as  I feel your lonely ache–I promise to remind you of how awesome you are, to encourage your independence, to not hate the girl (or boy) who made you cry –especially when you are “best friends” again the next day, and I promise to be a good first example of real friendship and rest peacefully in the confidence that one day you will realize that even in your loneliest moments you had friends in the wing. You just had to be willing to look.

 

#71 It’s Not Always What We Say..It’s How We Say It.

Since you are my daughter (and also your father’s daughter for that matter) I’m sure we will have many discussions about HOW to say things the right way. “Yes Mom” with a smile means a little something different than “Yes Mom” with an eye roll and a sigh.

You need to realize that life isn’t all about what we say. I agree that you should certainly choose your words carefully. Foul language doesn’t sound good coming from anyone. Rumors, lies, and mocking words can make direct blows to your relationships. However, even saying something nice in the wrong tone can really limit the strength of the words you have chosen.

Times that you particularly need to be watchful of this effect are when you are feeling hurt, angry, and sometimes even sad. Yelling has a time and place. If I am about to do something life threatening without realizing it, I certainly want you to yell a warning to me. That is the point of yelling, to grab someone’s immediate attention–to make them hesitate. However if you go around yelling all the time, whenever you get upset, soon your yelling is not only less effective..all the words you say lose their meaning behind your noisy front. The same goes for whining, mumbling, and even talking really fast (which I often do). All of those tones and speeds we use when talk reflect on what we are saying. They all serve a purpose but you need to be choosy in how you use them.

Before you speak–especially in less than calm situations–I want you to hear in your head how your words are going to sound. Are you nervous? Take a deep breath so you can speak slowly and clearly and be understood. Are you angry? Not only is it important to not say words you will regret, its important to speak the ones you choose as clearly and directly as possible. Do you need something? Can you make the request without dragging out the end of your words in a whiney tone?

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#70 Be Present-Be There

At my work lately we have been talking about “being there”, or as some would put it, being present. Daughter, I challenge you to  be consistently present in the moment. In right now. I know that you are young and the future stretches out before you like a rolling green field just waiting for you to run through it. It’s a bright future. One that I want you to get to enjoy–but there isn’t nearly enough that can be said about the power to be happy, present, aware, and appreciative of the exact moment you are in.

I am telling you this because it is something that I personally have always struggled with. As your mother I tend to get caught up in what will be happening tomorrow, next week, next month, and so on. I often get so focused on the things that are coming up I don’t get to enjoy what I have right now. Then the moment is gone.

Thankfully, you and all your toddler awesomeness has begun to help me stay in the moment. At two years old you are so observant of everything. You don’t even have the real ability to worry about the future, only the ability to live for right now. It’s beautiful. It’s eye opening. It is a trait I want you to carry with you as you grow. There will be times where you must plan and think ahead but I want you to guard that section of your heart and mind that has the ability to take the current moment and live in it, to be present and making the best out of the very minute you have. Enjoy now, trust God with the rest.

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#69 Be Willing To Make The Assist

There has been some major college basketball watching going on in our house this last month. Triumphs, failures, and even a pretty nasty injury have been televised along the way. One thing that always makes the highlight reel are the slam dunks. It would be hard to deny that a good slam dunk is a great sight. As you move through life I definitely want you to have a few of those take it to the bank slam dunk moments. Moments where you are in charge and in the lime light. Who doesn’t want that for their child? (Ok, maybe a few people).

However, one thing that is even more important to note is that many of those jaw dropping slams and critical three pointers would never have happened without a great and often overlooked teammate assist. To be a successful person in almost any field it is just as important to be able to make the shot as it is to know how to make a great assist. If you want people to back you up during your moment in the spotlight–you have to be willing to return the favor. A great assist can be the difference between a win or a loss, a triumph or a failure, life or death. As you go through life and start being involved in more and more things please don’t be afraid to go in for the assist.

In case you doubt that a great assist can be both amazing and helpful I would like you to watch this video of Steve Nash–king of the NBA assist and multi-time MVP as well as Hall of Famer.