Thursday, April 23, 2015

TBT -- the early years

I have been feeling particularly reminiscent lately as we prepare for Max's graduation.  I have been going through old pictures and gathering old memories.  Makes me so glad I have written down many of them here on the blog chronicling life through the years.  I love to go back and think about what I have learned and how I have changed...how WE have changed.  My kids love it too.

Life is swirling around me lately and I have put most of my blog ideas on the back-burner for at least a little while so I can "be there" with these kids right here and right now and enjoy where we are.  But the other day I had an idea.  I know that so many readers of this blog are young mothers who may like to see old posts, and I want to read old posts, so I'm going to try out having a "TBT" for a little while every Thursday until graduation to free up time and reminisce.  

And even though it's already 9:50 p.m. this Thursday, I didn't want to let this idea slip away one more week so here you go...a Q & A from a while back:

I have begun to try to categorize the questions that come in that go together. This post includes a bunch asking about what life was like for us with little toddlers. I thought they would be appropriate this week in light of this post and how my heart has been so nostalgic about the early days lately.

Please add in advice or ideas because I certainly don't have all of them and I know I have SO much to learn! I'm putting old pictures in this post so you will really believe that we were once in that stage :)

I am a young mother (ages 4, 2, and a baby) and I would LOVE to hear what life was like for you when you were in that stage. How did you handle the constant craziness? How did you discipline? (Time outs, spanking, ???) Sometimes my kids go to bed and I think "today was a total FAIL!" Any other general advice for this stage would be wonderful! Thank you. :)


There are a lot of questions like this in this post and it has made me step back and wonder: How in the world did I get here: from there?? ...and how did it happen so quickly?

How in the world am I not a "young mother" anymore?? I mean, I was just there. My friends and I were just gathering once a week letting our toddlers play while we made wreaths or wrote up drafts of our motherhood book we dreamed of writing together. (That was our kitchen in our rental home in Virginia. Isn't that lovely linoleum? See Max in the maroon on the right? And Elle's right behind them. I'm probably totally pregnant taking the picture.)

I swear I was just barely making a schedule for meeting all the neighborhood moms at the pool or for doing babysitting-swaps so we could get an ounce done without toddlers crawling all over us:(Gotta love those pants.)

I swear we were just at the farm together discussing diaper rashes and how to get our babies to nap better during the day.We would go "garage-sale-ing" on Saturdays to find the best board books and gently-used toys for our babies and we would strap our kids in the car and go to the Gap to get sale prices for clothes for our kids to wear the next season.(yes, I think that really might be drool...)

How did it happen so quick that there are no longer cheerios crunching under my feet on the floor nor toothpaste to clean up in the bathroom?I was just barely the one incredulously asking this question to older friends, "so how is it having a kid in high school?"

And now suddenly this boy:...is the one in high school and is millimeters from passing me up in height. I am six feet tall for crying out loud!

It really does baffle my mind.

I felt so busy as a mom of toddlers in such a different way than I feel busy now. It was constant physical drain from vacuuming out the mounds of laundry detergent someone filled the dryer with to bawling while sweeping up piles of beautiful hair my two-year-old just cut off of her head.

It was, like you said, constant craziness, and there were many nights I went to bed thinking "today was a total failure."

But then I remembered to do what honestly got me through those years: I went and watched my babies sleep each night. I would linger over their beds every single night, but for longer on nights following particularly harrowing days. There was something magical about those long eyelashes resting so gently on those chunky baby cheeks that got me every time. Made my heart fill up with gratitude instead of feeling like the end of the world was on it's way.

And then I prayed my heart out that the next day would be better.

As for discipline, I did spank my kids a couple times but I don't believe in that at all. I'm a firm believer in "time-out." But it has to be "emotion-free" on the part of the mother for it to be effective. If you stick a child in time out while you're hopping-mad it's just giving them the attention they want...toddlers will take any attention they can get, even if it's the negative kind. I love the "Love and Logic" tactics where you say stuff like, "I'm so sorry you chose to do that because it means you will have to spend some time in time-out. I hope you will make a better decision next time." I swear even toddlers "get" this.

Another thing I think helped so much through the toddler phases was that I always had a parenting book on my bedside. See below for more about which ones I'd recommend...

What I need to know is how you got through those real early years. [see above for answer to that part] I have a 4 year old a 2 year old and a six month old...that doesn't sleep! I am so tired and feel bad because I am not being the mommy I want to be. I can't get my little guy to sleep and I don't believe in letting him cry it out. But I also feel bad for my girls because I am a cranky mama. These early days pass right? Haha.

Oh I am such a believer in letting babies "cry it out!" That may sound horrible to you but they were all healthy, big babies at four months and I knew they could make it through the night just fine without me. I read a book (maybe "Baby Wise"???) that talked about how you go in and soothe them for a little bit and then gradually go in less and less until they just make it through the night.

It was one of the most horrible things to go through for everyone involved for two to three nights. I could only do it when Dave was out of town because he couldn't handle it. I stayed up and cried all night silently in the hallway while they wailed away in their crib. But in the end it was so worth that agony for a few nights because it made life amazing again and I could really enjoy my babies. There is something so miraculous about getting to sleep through the night again after so many sleepless nights.
Yes, these early days pass.

Much, much too quickly.

I've just started on my parenting journey (5 mths & 2 1/5 yr old) and was wondering what books you would recommend that have helped you through your own parenting journey?
My all-time favorite is I Didn't Plan to Be a Witch by Linda Eyre (who happens to be my mother). In fact I need to dust that puppy off and read it again. I know I'm biased but it is the best book ever for mothers to put their role in perspective and to take joy in the journey. A Joyful Mother of Children is also up there on the top of my list (also written by my mother). Teaching Your Children Joy sure makes you think too and is linked with "Joy School" which I am incredibly grateful I had the chance to do with each of my children (aside from Lu who I'm still working on). There's a Joy School link on my sidebar if you want more info. on that.

Post edit note: I cannot believe I forgot to mention "A Mother's Book of Secrets"!!! (One of my personal favorites:) The exciting news is that it has recently been reprinted and is available again here.

I've also read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk multiple times. It has had a big impact on how I talk to my children, and how I listen to them as well.

As far as traditions go, we did simple things. We went on a walk as a family every Sunday afternoon. We had Family Home Evening. Dave told the best, most imaginative made-up bedtime stories about Prince Max and Princesses Elle and eventually Grace. We talked about "Mirror Land" a lot. We read book after book after book after book. We kept things simple out of necessity, and it worked.

I have four children, ages 5, 3 year-old twins and a 20 month-old. My question is, did you have a routine when your kids were young? I feel like we're just getting out of the craziness that came with having the twins and our little one so close together and am struggling to find some sort of balance for our days at home. I know your kids aren't all that far apart and just wonder if you had any ideas on how to make our time at home productive, but relaxed and definitely fun. Thanks so much for all you share and how you mentor complete strangers like me through this blog! :)

I think every mother has to go through thousands of different phases of "routine." It changes each year whether there is a new baby or new extracurricular activities or a job change or even when you just want to pull up your bootstraps and get more organized. I have gone through phases where I have one day for laundry, one day for cleaning, one day for organizing dinners for the rest of the week. I've gone through years with colicky newborns who had reflux when just staying afloat was the only "routine" I had. I can only imagine how twins would most likely throw you in that category. I think every situation warrants different means of routine. We just have to make time to step back and evaluate what is most important at each stage.

Very most importantly, I think it's essential to realize as a mother of young children, (especially when those children are close in age), simply "being there" for them is enough. It's so easy to get down on ourselves that we didn't happen to save the world on any given day along with wiping off runny noses and kissing scraped knees. But we must realize that in doing these very seemingly insignificant tasks we are changing the world. If those little people entrusted in our care feel love and value it beats any other accomplishment in my book.

I'll just leave this rather lengthy post with two thoughts:

1) Have someone take pictures of you with your babies. I was looking through old pictures for this post and it made me sad that out of the thousands of pictures I have, I can count on one hand the pictures I have with my tiny babies. That makes my heart ache. I wish I would have captured the love I had for them a little bit better.
2) You may think your children will be in this stage forever:But they won't.

They'll grow up before you can blink.

Yes, it's a crazy time with toddlers getting into mischief and babies spitting up all over everything within a three-meter radius of themselves. But it passes too quickly and it will make you cry when you look back even if you take full advantage of having it there while it is in front of you.

My favorite quote:

“Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach. T. Berry Brazelton. Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with ‘Goodnight Moon’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.” Then she goes on and talks about some of the mistakes she made while raising her babies. “…the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make…I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of [my children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

--Anna Quindlen


How I hope I can remember to enjoy the "doing" a little more than the checking off "getting it done."

Because before I know it I'll be missing the teenage years just like I miss those baby years now.

14 comments:

  1. I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing your advice & insight with us!

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  2. I'm also (just) done with the baby years and while, of course, you're right we feel nostalgic for those days and those babies I also think it's important to acknowledge that while it's important to appreciate the wonderful, awe inspiring moments taking care of young children is grueling, boring, messy, sticky, often isolating, and always exhausting. Especially if you're doing it all day every day. Let's not let the "rose colored glasses" of nostalgia take away from the fact that this phase can all be, simply put, highly unpleasant.

    Totally agree with you about getting more pics of mom + baby!

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  3. I love this idea, TBT! I am living the early years right now (6yrs, 3yrs and 7mos) and I struggle with living in the moment and can hardly even imagine not being in this phase (especially because I may want one or two more), but it will pass and my baby won't be a baby anymore and I know I will miss it. Being a mother is such a gift. Thank you for the reminder to live in the moment and know it won't always be this way. I draw so much from what you share on your blog and want to thank you for helping me with ideas to shape my family. You are truly inspiring!

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  4. Currently deep in the "trenches of motherhood" and whilst I love it, as I read your post I realized: There will come a day when I don't clean up toothpaste in the bathroom???

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    1. I'm sorry you're facing infertility right now. I've gone through it twice, and it's awful. :( I'm beyond thankful every day for the children I do finally have. It doesn't make it an easy job, though! I hope you get a miracle soon!

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  6. "I can't think of another career more challenging and satisfying than to pour my energies into the daily task of making order out of chaos, music out of noise, communication out of babble, purposefulness out of purposelessness, pointing chubby little wayward feet gently toward the Path, lighting ignorance with knowledge and confusion with understanding." Brenda Sawyer, a mother

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  7. This was a beautiful reminder to me to enjoy my little ones right now. Thank you for posting this. You have a wonderful family.

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  8. I love this. The picture of you and Max back to back is so adorable. You can see the expression of how proud/excited he is that he is finally as tall as you-- and your eyes and smile say it all. Love that one! Maybe it's because my only boy is turning 16 on Monday. My oldest will be graduating and off to college this year. The years and time sure fly by way too fast! Lisa

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  9. First, I absolutely LOVE your blog and especially this post. WOW! Shouldn't all of us mothers' read this before we step out of bed each morning... I have to admit (after a colicky baby and another with constant ear infections) I dreaded certain days of motherhood and fell victim to the idea of "I can't wait till they are such and such age" then my life will get better. My background as a pharmacist who loved and craved order and organization now turned SAHM cringed and I admit internally (and sometimes externally raged) at the chaos, disorder, and just plain messiness of motherhood. I've spent numerous wasted hours re-picking up toys and messes just to do it all over again and again and again rather then spend quality time with my children and accept, embrace or just let go and be in the moment. I even fell into the trap of watching youtube videos, pinterest, instragram spending more time watching others' lives than living my own. Since Powers of Mom, reading "Deliberate Motherhood, doing the Mind Organization for Moms, and reading this blog have I recently changed my perspective, attitude and expectations of motherhood! This is totally a process but I must say I am growing and improving everyday. I'm really trying to be deliberate and intentional in enjoying all these messy wonderful chaotic years of motherhood each with it's own wonder and challenges. It's women like you all that help me to see the light beneath the dust and hopefully raise children who known how much they are loved.

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  10. Have you heard from Charity yet. Please let you readers know when you can. Praying they are ok.

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  11. I am also thinking about Charity and Ian. Praying for them and hoping they are okay.

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  12. Hi! First time coming here and what can I say, I love your writings!

    ps.searching for BBS made me coming here. Med students research tho. Hehe. Nice to read more and more about you and your family! :)

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