There Should Be More Here

This year is getting away from me. I look back on what I’ve written this year and I am sad because it’s not more. There should be more. More Eddie being a 2nd grader and saying amazing things. More Charlie being in preschool and transforming before our eyes. More of Miss Alice,our last baby, doing toddler things.

Eddie continues to show that he has a soft heart for others. He is my little activist. He worries about kids who might not have food, shelter, or warm coats this winter. He wonders out loud about the kindness of our country and world leaders. I find things like this in his massive stack of doodle and “crafts”:

That is a football they are tossing around, by the way.

When I found a pile of winter coats, hats, and mittens that don’t fit Eddie or Charlie anymore, Eddie wanted to find kids who needed them and just give them. He didn’t want them to have to buy them at Goodwill. Because of that idea of his, our family has decided to collect winter gear at church and donate all of it to the our local Community Action House who will get them straight to people who need them most.

Yesterday I was giving Alice a bath and Cortney and Charlie were downstairs. It was very quiet in the living room; all I could hear was the TV on the news. Because I didn’t want to leave Alice alone in the tub, I called out, “Eddie?”

“Yeah?”

“Whatcha doin’?”

“Watching the news.”

“Is it boring?”

“No. It’s interesting.”

This kid. Interested in the news, caring about others, and just this month he was awarded his Duty to God awards, a hiking beltloop, and some prizes for selling so much popcorn for cub scouts. I’m just so proud of him. And he treats his little sister like this:

I was nervous about how Charlie would do with preschool. He has such a temper and a penchant for, um, stripping when he is super mad at us. But this fall at parent/teacher conferences, his teacher told us that he is a “quiet leader” who is always first to sit nicely on the carpet, follows directions to a tee, and listens so well he always has the right answer. I just sat blinking.

His tantrums have slowed considerably–in fact we only see them when he is really tired or hungry or we are rushing him. He likes to do things at his own speed, in his own way. If he is left to himself, he is incredibly mature for a four-year old.

He proudly folds towels and cleans the boys’ bathroom downstairs. He helps with food prep when he can, and picks up without being asked if you leave him to it. He also works hard to make his little sister laugh and smile.

He has become my cuddle bug lately. It almost feels like he knows he’s growing up, so he wants to keep as much little as possible by tucking himself next to me as much as he cane. He is so proud of what he accomplishes, but still wants to stay my littlest guy.

Unlike Eddie who will talk all about what kids did at recess or what kids are singing on the playground, Charlie will rarely tell me about the kids in his class–but he knows all their names. He will tell me what letter he worked on, what he learned, what station he got to do that day. He will be quick to tell me if he was able to be a helper–his favorite.

He also never wears socks if he doesn’t have to. If he comes in your house, shoes come off, but so do the socks. Every time.

My baby girl is shedding the “baby” more each day. She is definitely finding her voice around here. When her brothers are wrestling around or being loud, she puts a little hand out and yells, “TOP! BSS! TOP!” (Stop, boys! Stop!)

She asks for “milky” and “bankie” (blankie). She calls her pacifier a “boppy” just like Charlie did.  She can ask for “buks” (books) and “babees” (babies). She delights at seeing herself on video. She waves “hi” and “bye” and when the phone rings she said, “heh yo.” (hello).

She calls for “MOMMA MOMMY MOMMA MOOOOOMMMAAA!!!” which her brothers never did at this age. She has figured out how to say “Dad dee” quite regularly though too and it’s adorable the way she makes Cortney melt all over the floor with her little voice saying “hi dad dee. hi.”

My favorite thing is how her bedtime routine with me is right now. We rock and she likes me to sing. But she doesn’t know how to say “sing” so she just cuddles in and softly says, “peez, momma. peez,” and that is my cue to start singing. When I finish one song, if I don’t go directly into another (or repeat that same one), she will say, “peez,” again. Even when I think she is completely out, she will whisper, “peez,” from behind that little green pacifier of hers. When I pause and don’t get a “peez” I know I can kiss her and lay her down without a fuss.

She is our hugger, our kisser, and our fancy girl. She loves babies and dresses and pretty bracelets and necklaces and purses. She loves to imitate her brothers and her dad and especially me.

Other than her love of being close and cuddly, it’s sort of like she doesn’t know she’s little. She bosses people and demands things, but she does it with a little “peez” and hands out, you just can’t resist her! I’m doing my best not to spoil her, but my goodness! Look at that face!

These kids are keeping us so busy…maybe that is why I have not written enough. But I do regret it. I have this space and I want to fill it.

Our lives are full: Eddie is busy with scouts, I am busy with scouts as the Religious Emblems Coordinator, Cortney is busy with bowling and consistory (he’s a deacon now). Charlie and Alice are busy being little. Eddie is crazy busy getting older and more dependable. School keeps three of us busy. In fact, I just registered to (re)take the GRE (because it’s been over 5 years since I last took it) so I can apply for a PhD program next year.

But I don’t want to be so busy that I forget to post here.

Because we also have snow days like today, when Eddie made his very first snow man all by himself:

Stuff like that deserves to be recorded because look at that face! And Eddie is cute too!

like me

“He is so much like me…it worries me,” I said to my therapist at my appointment last week.

I was talking about Eddie.

I talk about him a lot in therapy.

Being a mom is hard for me.  His being placed in my arms didn’t do that thing that I thought it would do.  I thought it would transform me into a crying emotional ball of love and gratitude for the perfect being that I grew in my tummy.

But instead I was left confused. And tired. And depressed. And anxious. And resentful.

I’m still confused.

And tired.

Our relationship is like nothing I have ever experienced before.

I suppose that should be a given…that it is obvious.  But for some reason it surprises me daily, hourly even.

It’s a strange thing seeing a tiny version of yourself walking around in the world.

And Eddie truly is a small version of me in almost every way possible.

I watch him play and think out loud to himself and I can remember doing the same thing when I was small.  He has trouble falling asleep when there are things on his mind just like me.  When something bothers or worries or puzzles him he needs to talk it out, just like I do.

He also worries.

A lot.

He thinks about big things that seem too big for a 3 year old to worry about.

Like the idea of “forever” and “death” and “heaven”.

He asks questions I don’t know the answers to for my own mind let alone how to put something into words that will soothe the worry of such a small little guy.

“I worry about him turning out like me.”

“Is that bad?”

“I just don’t want him to…end up…here,” I say as I look around my therapist’s office, “you know, no offense or anything.”

He is emotional. Dramatic. Worrisome.

He is me.

He wears his heart on his sleeve and cannot tell a lie.

He is me.

He gets excited about the smallest things and cries over even smaller things.

He is me.

But…he is also Eddie.

He is NOT me.

He is Eddie.

He loves me fiercely…and I love him madly.

And I hope I am enough for him…

so he doesn’t end up like me.

Ok, maybe he can be a little like me.

listening ears

Today’s Sluiter Nation Recruit is sort of different.  And special.

Twitter_PhotoToday Dr. Deborah Gilboa of Ask Dr. G is here answering a question I have about Eddie’s behavior.

“Dr. G is a board certified family physician, mother of four, and a professional parenting speaker and writer she follows 4 basic principals when guiding parents from toddlerhood to young adulthood – Respect, Responsibility, Responsiveness and Resilience.”

I was so excited when she contacted me about being here today.

I have talked about Eddie’s “listening ears” before, and many of you commiserated with me about having similar problems with your 2-4 year olds.  So, Dr. G is giving us some advice today!

Here was the question I posed to her:

Eddie ignores us.  Even though he knows there are consequences.  And then, when the consequences inevitably happen, he acts shocked and surprised and scream-cries every. Single. Time.

How can we get better listening ears the FIRST time we tell him to do something?

And here is her response:

Well, Sluiter Nation, this is not unique to your land! Or, at the very least this is something our two home countries have in common.

Let’s talk about “ignoring.”

To an adult, ignoring is what is happening if I ask my child to do something and he doesn’t look at me, say “Sure Mom, I’d be happy to drop this fun thing to do that super-annoying and pointless thing you want without any complaint” and then get up and do it. Immediately.

From Eddie’s point of view, he is not ignoring you!  He is (take your pick) playing, thinking, listening to something else, imagining, building, wrestling, resting, “reading” or any number of other really important-to-him activities. AND, you can only consider yourself ignored if you know he heard you.

Here are three tricks to actually getting a kid’s attention:

  1. If you don’t have eye contact he can’t hear you. So don’t start talking until he is looking you in the eye. The part of his brain that can actually attend to your words is not engaged if he is focusing on something else. Some kids can’t hear you until they have put down the toy, even if they’re looking at you.
  2. Don’t make your request until he’s participating in the conversation. Set you and Eddie up for success (defined as asking only once). Do this by calling his name or tapping him or shooting of a flare gun until he looks at you and answers you. “Yes Mommy?”
  3. If you have to repeat yourself, get quieter instead of louder. The instinct to escalate our volume when saying something for a second time is almost inescapable! Unfortunately, as volume rises, so does blood pressure and frustration. If you get quieter he will attend to your words better.

Once you have his attention you have to make a quick assessment. Ask yourself, “Is there a good chance of him doing what I’m asking?”

  • An easy one: “Please put on your shoes to go to the park.” Good bet that he jumps up!
  • Something that could use a reward: “Please put down the Legos and wash your hands for dinner. First time please so that we have time for a puzzle together after dinner!”
  • Something that might need a consequence: “Clean up that game and thank your friend for the playdate. We have to go, and if I need to ask again we won’t be able to stop at the library on the way home.”

The last tip I want to leave you with is this: If you have to repeat yourself sometimes you didn’t fail. Do you do everything you’re asked the first time? I sure don’t. Just ask my husband, or my kids for that matter! Keep in mind that Eddie is old enough to have his own “agenda” about his day and that, though your way is better for him, you are throwing a wrench in his plans! You’re (of course) in charge, but we can have a little empathy that our kids don’t really get much decision-making power about their schedule.

Happy communicating!

*************

 

Thank you, Dr. G for this great advice!  Cort and I have already tried this and we get a WAY better response when we get eye contact from Eddie FIRST before telling/asking him what to do.

Find more Q&A on Dr. G’s blog and follow her on facebook and twitter (love interacting with her in both of these places!  She is ALWAYS available to answer questions!)

Bring Dr. G to come speak at your school or church or work or university.

 

Big Boy Steps

I spent hours folding tiny boy onsies and sorting burp clothes and bibs and receiving blankets in the nursery

I vacuumed and cleaned and vacuumed again.

I placed each item with love:  the small blue and white lined wicker basket full of board books, the giant teddy bear, the fire truck.

I set up the changing table with a soft, polka dot changing pad cover, a cozy hand-knit blanket, and a small basket filled with wipes, lotion, a tiny comb, two different thermometers, and butt cream.

I filled the diaper holder with teeny tiny swaddlers.

I read all the books out loud to my growing tummy.

I hot-glued ribbon to white wooden letters: E D D I E and hung them on tiny hooks above a perfectly made crib.

And then I put a teeny tiny baby in the room and it was a complete nursery.

Today I moved the trucks that have collected on the floor into a traffic jam-like arrangement in front of the toy box that is over-full with trains piled on top.

I put a puzzle with missing pieces on the nightstand next to the unused baby monitor.

Melissa & Doug foods were shoved under the crib and Little People were thrown into an empty diaper box in the corner.

Books have over taken the small wicker basket and are lying all over the floor and on the monkey bean bag chair.

The crib mattress is as low as it goes and now has a pillow and blankets in it like a regular bed.

All the tiny things are shoved into the closet to make room for the toddler clothes that I have to shove into the changing table drawers.

Today’s shirt and shorts are hanging out of the laundry basket where chubby toddler hands threw them when asked to put the away.

This room is not a nursery anymore.

But it’s not a Big Boy room either.

Very soon it will be time for another big step.  It will be time to pack up the toys and clothes and shoes and books and move.

To make this into a nursery again.

For the next teeny tiny baby.

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