Monday, July 13, 2015

Learning. A LOT.

I am so incredibly grateful for every experience in my life, for each one educates me and molds me into a more refined and stronger person. I am far from the refined, yet powerful, woman of faith I dream of being, but I feel like I am taking baby steps in the right direction. I can feel God guiding my life and that is truly a good feeling.

Every phase of life is so very different, but right now I'm in one of my favorites. I'm learning to enjoy the little moments with my boys. To drop the rush and stop in the middle of the grocery store and grab Jude's cheeks and say "I love you baby. You are Jude James Mulder and there is no one better than you." (That's what my parents would always tell me.) Finding a perfect balance is something I'm far from but I've seen myself finding more of a balance in my life. It's ironic but when I used to stay home a lot more, I wouldn't get hardly anything done. It's when we get up early and go to running group and go to the zoo and do things like that, I accomplish so much more in general. I know I am happier and I know the kids are happier. I have changed myself immensely over these last few months and I can see a change in Jude, as well. He is very attentive to me and as faithful to me as the day is long. Since I have become more relaxed, energetic, fun, spontaneous, and productive, I have seen him grow in these areas as well. It's quite true (and quite alarming!) that so much of who our children become depends on the behaviors they learn through us. So much more often through observing us than the words we say.

I had a friend inquire about the day to day changes I have made that have helped me in this "great change of heart" I have had. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down and read the post "letting go and living!") I am doing those things I mentioned in that post (although I do catch myself saying "hurry up" still). So here is my attempt to formulate and articulate some things I am trying to do!

I get out almost every day and exercise outside, with or without my children. It does worlds for my attitude. 

I have become a much more no-nonsense mother. Looking back, I feel like my children controlled me more than me controlling them. I have stopped tolerating the bickering and bargaining. (He still does it, but I don't engage.) I do not tolerate whining and am trying to implement "the naughty step" technique I learned from reading Jo Frost's Supernanny. Although I don't have to do it often. I try to be the most loving mother I can be, yet also the most hands-off. It sounds contradictory, but I love my kids with a fierce passion and we are constantly laying together and hugging and kissing and playing and holding hands, yet also realize I don't need to constantly intercede and help them up when they fall. We are surrounded by "helicopter parents" in our society and I think we could all agree it's exhausting. To watch and to do! I try to show my kids I trust them by giving them as much freedom as possible and letting them work through conflicts, struggles, falls, frustrations or whatever else it may be, on their own. I used to think a good mother was one who was constantly self-sacrificing. I didn't ever consciously think this, but looking back I realize I prided myself on being tired from "taking care of my kids." Like the more I "sacrificed" my own time, interests, and health even, the better of a mother I was. Every mother sacrifices. It's just part of the territory. But I've realized the best gift I can give my boys to be truly HAPPY and to enjoy life. I'm doing them no good by feeding them nutritious meals but being tired all the time and not nearly as happy as I could be because I don't take time for myself. I realized I had to be my own advocate. I am obviously the kid's advocate and that's really my life's purpose, but I was letting my own needs dwindle. I took charge of my own happiness and said a stern, unapologetic goodbye to guilt. I go out with my friends in the evening without an ounce of guilt for letting Dan put the kids to bed. When I go out, I try to leave my motherly duties behind and have fun. I bought lipstick for myself that I love and I wear it boldly. I'm a mother and a wife and I love it but that doesn't mean I'm not going to wear a saucy dress and some bright purple lipstick and look good doing it. I sometimes feed myself BEFORE I get the kids food ready if I am hungry. I usually always wait until the point of cranky starvation, but they usually have eaten more recently than I have and they are capable of waiting.

I stopped trying to solve all my kids problems and prevent them from frustration. I used to think a good mother prevented her children from crying and being frustrated. A good mother calmly went over to her child and helped talk him through the problem or get the zipper unzipped or broke up the fight or gave the stolen toy back. I've realized a good mother, in my opinion, oftentimes does NOT intercede. I will let my kids cry and be frustrated and 95% of the time they work through it themselves, or even better, help each other work through it. I show them I trust them and believe that they are capable of working through frustrations by not jumping at their every need. If I am having a conversation, they can be respectful and wait until I'm done to receive help. As much as it really does, my children do not need to feel like my life revolves around them. That is unhealthy. They need to realize there is work to be done and responsibilities that ey have as members of the family. 

I try not to let the judgments (assumed or real) affect the way I care for my children. If we are out in public and my child wants a snack but I know we will be eating lunch or dinner soon and he doesn't need a snack, I'm not going to give him one just because he is crying or throwing a fit and I don't want people to think I'm ignoring my child. I know what is best for my kids and as I consistently show them the way, they will learn it and realize whining and crying is not going to get them their way. And the whining will lessen.

I used to think I had to be centered around my children from their waking hour until the closing of their sleepy eyes at the end of a long day. I have realized I need to fuel myself through reading, dancing, music, or whatever else it may be throughout the day. If I want to read (and my children are taken care of, obviously) I will sit and read and let them play and do what they want to do. It's okay for me to say, "I'm reading right now, honey. You can talk to Abraham or yourself, but don't talk to me right now. I'll be done in a few minutes." Imagine that! It is so good for children to see their parents pursuing their own hobbies as it instills in the a desire to have their own hobbies and get their own work done.

We don't play any electronic games or iPhone, iPad, or computer games and Jude watches about 30 minutes to an hour of TV or movies a week. I have always been this way, besides a few lapses, and really feel like it has benefitted everyone. They are very good at entertaining themselves and do not feel the need to be entertained. They can wait, sit through grocery store visits, etc and find a way to entertain themselves without an electronic device clutched in their chubby little fingers. This benefits them greatly and it is why I originally did it, but I did not realize how much it truly benefitted them and myself. And I'm sure the benefits will continue to be made known as time progresses. This seems like something that would make my life more difficult instead of easier, but it truly makes my life easier in that they can entertain themselves effectively in various situations and do not expect to bee entertained by either myself or an electronic device. Also on this topic, I don't bring toys to the park or store or other places. I want my kids to be able to be amused with the outdoors themselves or observing people and things at the store or in the car without always having toys or books, etc on hand.

I spend quality time with Jude every day reading and doing our "lessons." I feel that he is more able to play on his own and not need me all the time because I have given him undivided, quality time. (They both still pretty much are rarely more than two feet from me!) 

I don't worry about germs (and safety!) as much as you probably do! I worry about food a lot due to allergies, but when they are outside, they can eat all the dirt and bugs they want and I don't stop them. (They're not bug-eaters, though!) I obviously am concerned about safety as much as I need to be to keep them from harm, but I don't prevent every tumble. Since Abraham was just learning to move, have done this (unless it would have really hurt him) and he has learned very fast because he knows no one will miraculously catch him. I try to give them as much freedom as I can so they can learn for themselves. If they do fall, I do not run to them right away but I give them time to work through it and 80% of the time they get back up and don't need me at all. I do not use cart covers at the grocery store. I don't sanitize anything ever except after public bathroom encounters. (Which are very rare because I avoid them at all costs). I RARELY stop Abraham from putting things in his mouth unless there's a choking hazard. Even in an airplane he gnaws on the magazines and seats and everything else! I know you are totally grossed out, but I was the opposite with Jude and he has a weak immune system so I figured I'd try the opposite approach with Abraham and it is working! He has gotten sick a few times, but very rarely and he recovers very quickly. I know there are many factors that can contribute to this, but I truly do feel this has helped. I don't worry immensely if Abraham is taking another child's toys or grabbing a strangers leg or grabbing a friend's purse (all within reason). I know I wouldn't mind if another child was doing that to me and they usually don't mind. Children take toys from each other and I think it's good for them to learn how to deal with it. If your child takes a toy from my child, don't go get it and give it back to him! He is fine and will learn to overcome this trial! I constantly say, "he is fine!" because he is! Motherhood is ridiculously difficult and exhausting, let's not make it harder than it has to be!

I did not know what I was going to write about but that's what came out! These are the things that have made my life EASIER as a mother and over the last few months, have completely changed me. I am more relaxed. I am happier. I am more energetic. I enjoy life more. I enjoy my children and my husband more. I am enjoying life more! I hope we can all try to just enjoy motherhood more. Judge less and embrace and support each other more. We are ALL trying our best and although we all go about it in different ways, we all really are trying. Our journeys can be so much more enjoyable if we walk together, lifting and be lifted along the way.