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!
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#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

#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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#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.

#68 Know That It Is Okay To Say “No!”

In three days you will be two, but if you ask me — you have been two for a while now. Part of being a two year old is exerting your independence, and right now you really love to do that by professing just exactly what it is you won’t do. The word NO is common from you and while at times I have to bite my tongue to keep my thoughts on your independent mind in check – I hope you always know that sometimes it is okay to say No.

It is okay to say no when you’re tummy is full and you don’t want to eat anymore.

It is okay to say no to the dog who won’t stop licking your face.

It is okay to say no when tempted to make fun of the outcast in class.

It is okay to say no when you are sad or mad and someone asks if you feel alright.

It is okay to say no when you feel pressured by friends to dress in a way that doesn’t suit your style.

It is okay to say no to alcohol, cigarettes, or other physical and mind altering substances that are offered to you by people posing as your friends, coworkers, or role models.

It is okay to say no to a social invitation if you don’t feel comfortable with the location, you need some alone time, or you have a test to study for.

It is okay to say no to joining a new club, being in the school play, or joining a sports team when you feel your schedule is already full enough.

It is okay to say no to boys, girls, or any adults who ask to see or touch parts of your body that makes you feel queazy, insecure, or unsafe.

In a world where people have so much pressure to say yes to all of the above things and more. I just want you to always remember that sometimes it is okay to say no.

#67 Don’t Ask A Question If You Aren’t Ready For The Answer

You aren’t four years old yet — but my experience with four year olds is that they ask a LOT of questions. You know what I like about them though? They ask all those questions and they truly want the real nitty gritty answer. It is often the parents or adults who feel awkward about the question asked, and skirt their way around answers when most four year olds I know could more than handle the truth. I wish I could say the same for adults.

Life is full of questions- tough questions at that. Where do babies come from? Where does my dog go when it dies? Am I proud of the person I am becoming? Why did I not get the job I applied for? Now that I have this job WHY did I apply for it? Does he love me? Do I love him? How are you? No REALLY how are you? Do I go to college? Where? Is it time to put mom in a nursing home? Will I be able to retire one day?

You get the point.

I’m making you a promise right now that as you begin to face life’s questions –simple and complex– I will always do my best to be honest with you. To give you the straight answer, and if I don’t know the answer I’ll help you find it. Please be prepared though, because I do not promise to give you the answer you would like, hope for, or desire to hear — if it would be telling you a lie. Don’t think you want an honest answer? Then don’t ask.

I want you to always inquire, to desire to know more about the world around you and yourself. However, the world doesn’t need any more people asking questions who don’t have a thick enough skin to handle the truth. I’m not saying that the answer to every question is something bad or grotesque or discouraging, I just want you to be prepared incase you find out something you weren’t expecting. Ask questions–learn–be pleased with the good and struggle your way through the bad. Just make sure that when you ask, you have your ears and heart ready for the answer.

#66 On a day-to-day basis..keep the makeup simple!

Though I don’t even come close to wearing it every day — I love makeup. I think it is fun to apply and play with. As you grow I’m sure you will discover it to some extent as well.  My number one advice to you is that no matter how much makeup you have on, keep it simple. I understand that there are times where you might get a bit “edgier” — with purpose — but looking like this:

Photo from fork.com

Is rarely conducive to one’s professional development or every day life in general. You are young and you are beautiful. Use your make up to accent the features you have that you already love. Never use it as a way to cover up the beauty God gave you naturally. You won’t be wearing makeup for quite some time but when you do, make sure to take a moment to look in the mirror. Make sure that under that layer of lipstick or eye shadow that you still see YOU. If you ever come to me looking like a clown instead of my beautiful and fresh faced kid/young lady — I will be the first to let you know! Leave the clowns at the circus.