Being #mama to my Girly Wild Child

When I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, I was TERRIFIED that we were going to have a girl. I have never been girly and was sure I wouldn’t know how to be a “girl mom.” I envisioned pink bows and glitter strewn about the house. I pictured prim lace and gracefully crossed legs. I dreaded day long tea parties and whining about dirt. I thought of princesses and unicorns and mourned neglected dinosaurs and trucks. The list went on. And because I had all these thoughts, I knew in my deepest heart that I was for sure going to end up with all girls. Ridiculous, I know. I logically understood that there was a 50/50 shot, but I knew I would have girls.

Sure enough, that gender revealing ultrasound confirmed my fears- we were having a little girl. Now, those fears almost instantly dissipated once we heard, “It’s a girl!” because let’s be real, I was already in love with that little girl. But I was still a bit apprehensive. I saw the #girlmom attached to all the sweet, pink posts and the #boymom attached to all the high energy, adventurous posts and wondered how I was going to make it. I told myself over and over that I would be ok- I knew how to braid hair and was prepared to let my little girl be whatever version of “girl” she wanted to be- even if that meant tea parties in princess dresses all day long.

That was 4 years ago. And I wish I could tell that pregnant mama that she had nothing to worry about. I wish I could tell her how incredibly cool her girls – yes, plural – would be. I wish I could tell her that in four years, she would look around her house and see pink bows on the counter and glittery sequences stuck to the floor that had fallen off of a cheap Ariel dress-up costume — and she would love it. I wish I could tell her that along with the pink bows, she sees helicopter toys in the toy box and dinosaur stuffed animals on the couch. I wish I could tell her that the 3.5 year old practically lives in princess dresses and tutus, but wears them while running full speed everywhere, daring the world to tell her to slow down. I wish I could tell her that tooting and burping and an obsession with the word “booty” were all in her future despite the lack of sons. I wish I could tell her that the words “calm” and “prim” would never be used in the same sentence as her first-born’s name. I wish I could tell her that the daycare teachers would comment on the mixture of leadership and empathy they saw in that ringlet-headed little girl. I wish I could tell her to hang on tight because that Mama had no idea what was coming in the form of that 9lb 11ozs of pure baby girl.

I think back to that time and chuckle at the stereotypes I was worried about, even though I didn’t fit them myself as a kid. I chuckle because many of them are half true in our household, and it is so much fun. I also chuckle because I can’t tell you how many times people tell me once they know I have two girls (3.5 and 1), “Aw, two girls! Girls are so much calmer and sweeter than boys.” Or even, “Girls are a lot easier than boys.” And maybe those assumptions would withstand a wide reaching, randomized research study, but it doesn’t hold true in our house. It doesn’t apply to my 110% energy filled, adventure seeking, dirt loving, snail collecting, sister hauling, FIESTY little girl.

I proudly wear the label #girlmom, but I know from experience what an all-encompassing title that really is. I smile when I see #girlmom on the tea party posts, because my little girl does love herself a tea party. But I also smile when I see the #boymom posts about finding toy cars in the dryer or bugs in pockets, because to me, that also falls under my #girlmom status. And I think that is so so cool. I think my precious girls are so so cool. And mostly, I think it is so so cool that God made them exactly unique, and exactly in His image.How fun that the Creator of all things thought to give me, tom-boy turned #girlmom, a blond, curly headed little girl who loves to wear her batman jacket with built in mask over her pink tutu on ballet day.

How fun that He knew I would be the best #girlmom to that boisterous little human who puts snails in the pockets of her dress then stands up and straightens the tiara perched upon her head.

Whenever I wonder if I’m up to the challenge of raising a “girly wild child,” I think about this and it gives me confidence and strength. Confidence to be the #girlmom that our Creator created me to be for these specifically unique little girls.

I hope it gives you confidence too, fellow Mama. Because whether you are a #girlmom, #boymom or #momofboth, your children just know you as #MAMA. And that is so so cool.

Advertisements

Composing a Childhood Soundtrack of Love

As I sit here drinking my late night decaf coffee, munching warm delivered cookies that I definitely sent to myself as a treat while my husband is out of town on a work trip- I’m listening to James Taylor playing softly through the house as my girls sleep.  I told Alexa to, “play James Taylor” and she obligingly replied, “shuffling James Taylor on Amazon Music” and has proceeded to play song after song of the calming music that has been somewhat of a soundtrack to my life.   

I sing along, with nostalgia and a conditioned feeling of safety and joy welling deep inside, to “Copperline”, chuckling to myself when I hear James say, “one time I saw my Daddy dancing, was a moving like a man in a trance,” because I’ve been told countless times that my daddy would twirl me around the room as a baby/toddler, no doubt in his infamously hilarious bodily movement that I guess we can call dancing, to Copperline. Holding me close and making me giggle with glee, earning my childhood nickname of “Chuckles cheeks.”   I hear the intro to “Down in a Hole,” and am transported back to the childhood days of top bunk slumbering when I got to pick the music my sister and I listened to at night to fall asleep, knowing it was song number 2 on my favorite CD, of which I was usually asleep by the end of song number 3 or 4.  I unconsciously freeze every time James’ soothing voice mentions the frozen man that, now that I think about it as an adult, is a bit creepy and terrifying- reminiscent of my sisters and I making exaggerated freezing movements in the back of our trusty minivan as we drove from San Diego to Denver biannually.  My heart swells and eyes tingle as I hear the promise my Dad and I danced to at my wedding that has since become the lullaby I’ve sang countless times to both my baby girls,

“Well the sun is surely sinking down, 
But the moon is slowly rising
So this old world must still be spinning 'round
And I still love you.”

These songs are ones that I put on CDs I’ve made throughout the years for roadtrips with college friends, the CD I made and listened to every single day for 6months of my first pregnancy just in case I really could influence my unborn baby’s taste in music (it didn’t work…there were no Moana songs or Veggie Tales on that CD and yet, what does she want to listen to over and over??), my wedding playlist, Pandora Station at work, and I’ve rotated between the songs when singing softly to my babes as I’ve rocked them countless hours.  If you are familiar with James Taylor’s music, you might be thinking of some of his lyrics wondering what exactly I am whispering to my children at night (I don’t sing the Traffic Jam song, don’t worry) but it’s not really about the lyrics (although I am definitely learning to appreciate his actual lyrics and meanings/stories behind them now).  

Every song, it seems, is paired with a memory or feeling of warmth that goes beyond James Taylor’s obvious talent as one of the best. I think I would be sitting here in the kitchen listening to Led Zeppelin songs while gobbling cookies if my Dad had played those songs on his guitar instead of “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve got a Friend” when I was a kid.  Or possibly Cyndi Lauper would have been my road trip companion had my mom popped her CD in while we drove to swimming lessons in the summer and library trips year-round.  Music has always worked like a real life Pensieve for me (and actually there is real science that links music to memory because the brain is so cool).   I hear a song and get sucked back to the feeling or place in time I heard it.  

James Taylor’s music reaches out its melodious chords and tenderly wraps them around my heart, floating me back along the melody to my childhood.  My childhood that was filled with security and fun and acceptance.  My childhood that was not just filled, but overflowing, with love. I know I am fortunate. I have always known how fortunate I am to have the parents I have, who gave me the childhood I had, and continue to be an ever-present source of support and love in adulthood. These types of parents are rare, and I know this.  And I think the reason I sit in my rocker and sing about a cowboy who, “thinks about women and glasses of beer” to, “rockaby my sweet baby May,” is because I want so bad to make sure my girls grow up and know by just hearing that first strum of a guitar, that they are oh.so.loved.

I hope and pray and work and strive to create a childhood filled with living room dance parties with my husband twirling one girl, and I the other; a childhood filled with 1000 “I love you”s a day; a childhood filled with tickle fights and lazy Saturdays exploring nature with each other; a childhood filled with car ride talks and adventures; a childhood filled with Bible Stories and Story Stories before bed; a childhood filled with learning to care for others; a childhood filled with messy, real playing; a childhood filled with the musical notes and cadences of a love so deep it cannot be forgotten no matter the years or miles.  A childhood that allows for my sweet little girls to mature into strong, confident young ladies in adulthood who sit at their kitchen table, listening to James Taylor, indulging in a treat and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that the lyrics they hear that calm voice singing,  

“You just call out my name
And, you know, wherever I am
I'll come running,”

might as well be coming out of their Dada and Mama’s mouths because they know they are so very much loved- now and for always.

A childhood that has been composed to the soundtrack of love.

You Can Close Your Eyes

Well
the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
And this old world must still be spinning 'round
And I still love you
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
Well
it won't be long before another day
We're gonna have a good time
And no one's gonna take that time away
You can stay as long as you like
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
So
close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it's all right
I don't know no love songs
And I can't sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I'm gone
  • – James Taylor

Restful Chaos

The past three and a half years have been one long busy season. Busy as in: working full time with one baby, then adding full time graduate school, then hubby getting a second job, then getting pregnant with baby #2, then buying and remodeling a house/living with friends until a couple weeks before baby 2 was due, then having baby 2 and continuing with full time graduate school and work (while nursing and pumping this past year), while being Life Group leaders and Sunday school teachers at our church for 2 of those years. There was little sleep, lots of mac n cheese, and many moments of pure exhaustion.

When I was about 6 months pregnant with baby girl 2, our oldest was 2 and we were in the middle of our house reno/living with gracious friends phase, there was a 2 week period that the exhaustion was at it’s peak. At the beginning of one week, we were at the ER with our 2 year old, and in the middle of the next week we were back at the ER in the middle of the night for my husband. I remember getting home with him, taking a quick shower, getting dressed, taking our daughter to daycare, working from home while watching over the hubby, picking our daughter up, dropping her off with a friend to watch her while I was in class that night, and stopping by Starbucks for some much needed caffeine on the way to school where I would be seeing counseling clients that night. I sat outside on the bench in the Texas February sunshine with my iced coffee thinking, “This is crazy. I can’t function like this much longer.” I opened my Bible App, and looked at the plan I had started maybe 2 days before- called “Finding Balance in Life.” It was a plan that utilized an app called “Abide” (which I fully recommend!) where there was a meditative like devotional that you listen to. I sat there in the sun (which in and of itself is one of my self-care mechanisms) and listened to the trained-to-be-soothing voice of a man saying, “Are you tired? When Jesus asks us this it makes us stop and think. Are YOU tired? Do you wake up tired?” I chuckled to myself as the perfectness of the timing of this particular daily devotional was not lost on me. The voice proceeded to repeat Matthew 11:28-29- “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden. And I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

It was read in different versions, and when it read the Message version (which is usually not my fav), it translated the verse like this, “Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” And that was what I needed. I didn’t need a vacation away from my busy life, or even for the busyness to end or slow down. I needed to go to the One who could give me rest in the midst of the worldly busyness that this season came with. And you know what? After that quick twenty minutes in the sun (which I 100% believe is of the ways I enter into the presence of God- enjoying and marveling at His creation), with fresh caffeine flowing through my body and the promise of rest that goes beyond 8 straight hours of sleep (what even is that?) – I did feel refreshed. Refreshed by the grace and strength of a God who loves his children. I was able to walk into my counseling sessions ready to pour into my clients with the mental energy, empathy and attention that I did not have an hour previously.

I wish I could say that throughout the next year and a half until I graduated this past month, I faithfully abided in the One who could give me the rest I so desperately craved – during midnight feedings with a baby who, despite all efforts to sleep train with allll the different methods, still wakes up at a few days from being a year old; or after a day of 8 clients back to back; or during the late nights of studying for my licensing exam that started after the girls went to bed; or during the monthly trips to the pediatrician or urgent care for chronic ear infections- but I am human and so my Bible app stayed closed many days and I tried to manage on my own. Let me tell you, those days of trying to be strong on my own, while I managed to physically do it, were not restful. But the days that I did at least try to enter into the restful presence of the ultimate Counselor, while I still felt the physical tiredness that comes from little sleep and lots of expelled energy, my mental/emotional fatigue was lessened significantly.

Jesus didn’t say, “come to me and feel ready to run a marathon” or “Pray and all your troubles and responsibilities will go away.” He doesn’t even say that he will give us physical rest- He said, “Learn from me and you will find rest for your soul.” For your SOUL. Often the stressors of life, even good stressors like babies and opportunities to pursue a career you feel is using the talents and gifts given to you, go beyond physical tiredness and cross into “soul exhaustion.” This “soul exhaustion” is what Jesus promises to help carry and alleviate- and all we have to do is go to Him. I think that going to Him looks different for all of us. For me, it means spending time meditating on the Word, listening to calm music, going for walks with the family, laughing with (at) my goofball husband, basking in the sunshine, or spending late hours at the local ihop with good friends who Jesus uses to pour into my soul. These are things that God used during these 3 years to help my soul find rest while I did hard things that I’m proud to have accomplished, but am glad are over.Since I graduated a few weeks ago, I’m done with night classes and homework assignments, and after next week I’ll be done nursing/pumping (which seriously takes a lot of time and energy!). This means that the busyness of the past 3-year season has diminished significantly. However, I’ve still got a marriage, a very spirited toddler, a baby who still wakes up at night, church responsibilities and a full time job. So, I’m going to continue to do my best to find a new balance in life while abiding in the One who can help me stave off the soul exhaustion that threatens to creep up in the busiest of seasons as well as the everyday chaos that is what we call Life.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”- -Matthew 11:28-29

Chalky Free Time

“What are you going to do with all your free time now??”

I’ve heard this question several times since graduating from grad school a couple weeks ago.  And it gives me pause. Coming out of a 3-year season where all our days and most of our nights were full of work, school and various other responsibilities- this has been my normal.  It was normal to leave the house at 7am and return at 9:55pm.  Normal to start homework or studying at 8:30pm after the girls went to bed.  Normal to realize David and I hadn’t been out by ourselves in at least a month. Normal to know that Saturday was the only day of family time we had, but it was also the only day we could run errands or try to be social.  Normal to blink and see that our newborn was 4 months old and our 3 year old could tie things. This was normal.  So now that I’ve graduated and no longer have night classes, or homework, or just the mental knowledge that there was something else I should/could be doing for school- there has been an adjustment to a “new normal.”

A new normal of going to the same job every day and coming straight home afterwards with time to play before dinner.  A new normal where Friday night movie nights do not end with me studying.  A new normal of being home for all bedtimes. A new normal of being able to write for fun on a Saturday morning while the baby naps and Dada and Brynn are out riding bikes with friends. A new normal of being able to hang out with our sweet sweet foster nieces and nephew and their incredible parents.  A new normal of prioritizing date night at least every other week.  So when people would ask during those first couple days/weeks what I’m going to do with “all my free time” there was a little voice inside saying, “should I be doing something else besides working full time and actually spending my evenings coloring the sidewalk with chalk and attempting to actually cook some dinners?”  Should I pick up a hobby? Should I enroll Brynn in a community dance class? Should I join a gym (ok, I probably should exercise)? Maybe I should volunteer more?  Should I start driving for Uber to make some extra money? People kept saying I had all this new free time so clearly I should be doing something more…right?

One day David said something to me out of blue along these lines, “Don’t feel like you need to rush into picking up something new now that you’ve graduated..” I forget the exact words, but I realized it was true. I needed to give myself permission to laugh when people asked me that good intentioned question and respond with, “oh you know…keep working full time and being a wife/mom.”  Give myself permission to enjoy this “new normal.”  To enjoy my kids being little. To enjoy laughing with David at the craziness that comes with parenthood.  To go to Costa Rica for a week with no kids purely because we can and we want to. To go see friends on a weeknight. For David to be able to go see friends on a weeknight. To build forts in the living room. To catch caterpillars and watch my girls’ faces light up with wonder when they pop out of their chrysalises as butterflies. To make silly houses of straws. To have dance parties DJ’d by a toddler-controlled Alexa after bath time. To cuddle with a Mama-infatuated baby, not to spoil her, but to cherish this time where she still wants to cuddle with Mama.

My parents were visiting a couple weeks ago and my Dad said, clad in his famous proud-dad face, “You should be proud of all you’ve accomplished these past few years, Kiley. It was hard and you did it.” And my mom said in her experienced Mom voice, “And now, you can experience being ‘just’ a working mom, instead of a working, going to school Mom. You really haven’t experienced that before.” And they both were so right. I have been taking inventory and reflecting on the past few years and dang it- I AM proud of what I did. What our little family did. I am very proud.  But I’m also so very glad that season is over.

And I am so very excited for this next season of Motherhood. 

So very excited for this season of creating memories dusted in sidewalk chalk and love.  

Sweet Baby May, Don’t Forget Your Mama’s Heart Song

My Sweet Baby May,

As I rock you to sleep, I feel your soft, still squishy cheek pressed against my chest. I feel my heart beating rhythmically inside that same chest and imagine the sound waves bouncing soothingly off your eardrums in a familiar sleep inducing pattern.  It is the same pattern that composed the soundtrack of your creation.  From the time you were just a tiny cell, my heart beat was there, pulsing with nutrients and blood, giving you life.  When your little ears couldn’t yet hear, my heart beat was vibrating in the fluid cradling you, lulling you in a cocoon of safety and love. As your tiny ears started working, my heart beat was the first and constant song playing in your head. 

Your Mama’s heart song, playing for you.

Oh my love. Do you remember that song now as you lay sleeping?  Does it still comfort you now that you have officially been out in this great big world longer than you were held in my womb? Now that you have heard many songs and rhythms more complex and loud?  As you learn to scoot and crawl, I see you look back at me as if questioning if it is ok that you are moving further from me. Are you listening for my heartbeat little one? Seeing if it will reach you as you cautiously venture further away?  Is it what causes you to reach your arms up to me when I walk by? Is it what compels you to cry out for me in the night?

Are you finding your song, my love?

I think you are.  I think you still remember and still feel the song within you. I can tell by the way you look at me in that special way that is just for your Mama.  I can tell by the way you fall asleep fastest when it’s me rocking you.  I can tell when you reach your little hand up to feel my face, eyes still closed, while you nurse in the middle of the night. I can tell by the way your face lights up when I walk in the room, and by the wails of despair when I walk out.  I can tell when we cuddle in the rocker and your eyes flutter trustfully.  And I think, when you pull your head in close for snuggles after daycare that you are checking to see if your song is still playing for you.

And oh, is it playing.

Your song will forever be playing, sweet one.  Long after your soft pudgy cheeks have thinned and you no longer press your ear against my chest to fall asleep.  It will still be playing when you no longer look back but bravely venture full force into the world.  I know there will come a time when you no longer remember how much it comforted and surrounded you in the early months of your life- both inside and out of the womb, but it will still be playing.  I know there will be a day that snuggling with your Mama is a thing of the past, but it will still be playing on that day.  You see little one, your song is my life force.  That heart beat keeps me living, just as it kept you alive when you couldn’t survive on your own.  So my sweet girl, while you will grow up and forget the lyrics of your song, I hope you will not forget the rhythm of love it has been beating for you from the beginning.  I hope you will know that no matter how big you get or how far you venture, those sound waves are reaching out for you from inside my chest.  I hope you feel the vibrations of safety and love surrounding you even when you are far away.  And when you feel down or troubled, I hope that rhythm of your song is what plays in your head and in your heart.

And oh sweet baby May, know that for as long as I live, your song and the memories of us listening to it together will be playing on repeat in my heart.  Know that your Mama will always be here playing your song, welcoming you with open arms to come have a listen.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

“Because I am a woman and I will show you.”

I wrote these words when I was 19 weeks pregnant with Brynn and had just found out she was a girl (you can read the full post here). I was scared and excited and determined to raise a strong, independent little woman- with zero knowledge about what the heeccckkk was about to happen. I had no idea just how strong and independent that little girl would be at the tender age of 3 ½ or that there would be another little woman arriving on the scene in 2.5years.  I wrote about being the primary female role model for my little girl but had no idea just what implications came with that. I mean, I knew…but I didn’t know.  I wrote about allowing her to wear tutus and bows but didn’t know my living room floor would be perpetually littered with a variety of tutus in different colors and material with batman action figures nestled between them.  I wrote about not letting her win at games but didn’t know just how many games of Disney matching I would be playing or how often I would legitimately be losing to a 3year old. I wrote about letting her fall down, but didn’t know just how hard that would be for me (#enneagram6).  I wrote about putting Band-Aids on scraped knees but didn’t know how many Band-Aids I’d be putting on toenails because a “tiny piece was falling off and getting caught on the purple blanket” in her bed. I wrote about maintaining confidence and modeling that to her.  But I didn’t know that there are some days in Motherhood that shake even the firmest of confidences.

I. Had. No. Idea.

But mostly- I didn’t know what strength and independence that little girl and her future baby sister would teach me.

I didn’t know I would find a physical strength inside myself I didn’t know possible when I pushed out a 9lb11oz baby and then an 8lb14oz baby (without the epidural that time!).  I didn’t know I would experience probably the lowest my confidence has ever been when nursing was so painful and so frustrating, only to become one of the things I’m most proud of myself for sticking with. I didn’t know the physical, mental and emotional strength required for months (years because my kids hate sleeping) of nightly night feedings/soothings.   I didn’t know the amount of independence that would be required to ask for help and support from friends and family.  I didn’t know the kind of strength it takes to maintain a semblance of professionalism at work and grad school when your baby girl was up screaming all night so you slept on the floor next to the crib.  I didn’t know about the independence forced on you and strength forced from you when you take a newborn home from the hospital to a toddler who still needs your attention and a routine to be maintained.  I didn’t know how much strength it takes to remain patient and calm while a toddler is throwing a tantrum and a baby is screaming from gas pains. I didn’t know the kind of strength it takes to apologize to a 3 year old and ask for forgiveness for not remaining patient and calm.  I didn’t know the independence it takes to defend your choice to work and go to school instead of stay home with the kids.  I didn’t know the kind of strength required to feel like you have no idea what is going on, but realize you are somehow now the adult in charge.

I didn’t know the strength and independence that comes from being broken and wrung raw.

I didn’t know about Motherhood.

So today I say to you, my sweet baby girls:

Because I am a woman, I hope to show you what I’ve learned from being your Mama.

I hope to show you it takes strength to ask for help.

I hope to show you that you will fail, but you can try again because you are strong.

I hope to show you that plans will go awry, but you can use your independence to be adaptable and grow.

I hope to show you that your body will not be perfect by society’s standards, but it is strong and it is yours.

I hope to show you that confidence is important, but humility demonstrates strength of character.

I hope to show you that compassion and strength are not mutually exclusive but rather dependent on one another.

I hope to show you that there truly is strength in numbers – find your people and stick with them.

I hope to show you that it takes strong determination and hard work to reach your goals.

I hope to show you that your dreams and goals are worth fighting for with every bit of strength for the sole reason that they are yours.

I hope to show you that you have options in this world but it will take independence and strength to assert your yourselves in some of those options.

I hope to show you that without God’s strength, you will flounder, but with it you will soar.

I hope to show you self-compassion is a strength that will help you through hard times.

I hope to show you both so many things. So so many things.

Sweet girls, I know you are watching.  I know because I hear, “when I’m older I’m going to put cream in my coffee” after I pour creamer in my coffee in the morning.  I feel your little hands pet my hair while you announce, “when I’m older, I can have hair long long like yours and braid it like yours.”  I see your little eyes watching my hands as I demonstrate clapping and see concentrated focus while your chubby baby hands lurch towards each other in an attempt to mimic my behavior.  The gravity of these simplistic statements and movements is not lost on me my tiny loves. I feel the weight of my responsibility as your Mama and so I am trying my best.  Trying my best to demonstrate strength and independence in all forms because I am a woman and what I show you will inform your concept of what it means to be a woman.

What a weight that is.

Oh, but what an honor.

Mama loves you both, my little women.

“I know, Mama”

3 year olds are a trip.  Vocabulary is exploding, energy is endless and emotions are intense.

B has been surprising us daily with her use of words recently.  She’s always been ahead of the developmental curve in terms of cognitive ability- but recently we’ve been marveling.  The other day in the car, she was saying something (she is always saying something- like literally, unless she’s asleep, she’s talking….) and neither David nor I could understand one of the words.  (She has this nasally pronunciation of certain letters going on that makes it difficult sometimes.)  She kept repeating it over and over and I kept hearing “red” but it was clearly not the word she was saying.  In the past when this has happened, she would start crying out of frustration that we didn’t understand what she was trying to tell us.  However, this day she said “No, not red. ‘wet!’ .. like rain!”  I know it seems basic, we do it all the time, using context to get our point across, but it seemed so advanced for our little tiny 3 year old.  Later that same week she was trying to say something that we once again couldn’t understand- something that sounded like “call” or “mall”.  She said, relatively patiently- “No, like little. Not big, but little- ‘SMALL.’”  Small. She was describing, using synonyms and antonyms, the word small.   It’s amazing to me to think that just 3 years ago, she was a 3 month old baby who couldn’t do anything but eat, sleep, poop and smile.

With this blossoming of vocabulary, she is better able to demonstrate her understanding of concepts and express her desires more effectively.  This has diminished significantly the amount of frustration tantrums and general amount of crying.  It’s also allowing us to get to know her as the unique person she is becoming. She tells us great imaginative stories about her and her baby sister escaping jail with the help of nice monsters.  She cried indignantly, “My teeth are too sharp! WHY DID THEY DO THAT TO ME? I DON’T LIKE IT WHEN THEY DO THAT TO ME!” after biting her cheek for the first time a few weeks ago (side note: I was laughing so hard I couldn’t console her as she cried. Good thing David was there). She makes up games to play with hidden coins and shirt sleeves.  She “reads” her books to her sister while occasionally pausing to stroke her face and say “I love you.”  She tells strangers on the street about her love of ballet and demonstrates with no self-doubt her ballet moves she’s learning “Fridays in ballet class.”  She dances with abandon at Zoo light show and tells us in no uncertain terms that she “dances better” than us.  Her teachers constantly tell us how quickly she learns and grasps concepts and how they are sure she is going to be CEO or president of something someday.

I love it. I love her big personality and flair for the dramatic. I love her sweetness and desire to share constantly. I love her love to be around people and her constant chatter about her little best friends. I love her facial expressions that are starting to look a lot like mine and her concern for others that looks a lot like her Daddy’s.  I love her growing knowledge of Jesus and the Bible. I love her desire to learn and constant spelling of her name and Mama’s name. I love it all.

I love it all because I love her. And I love her simply because she’s mine.

And you know what? It makes me proud.  Proud of who she is and who she is becoming.  Proud that I get to be her Mama.  And- yes- proud of the job I’m doing as her Mama.

Don’t get me wrong, there are pleennntttyy of days I’m not proud of her behavior – or mine for that matter.  Her booty has a comfortable spot in the timeout corner and I threaten to unplug her purple lights or turn off her music at bedtime more often than I’d like. She bit her best friend at school out of the blue a few months ago (having no history of being a biter) and guys- I. Was. Mortified.  With her expanding use of words and knowledge of concepts has come the innate human tendency to lie and use that intellect for sassing.  Her strong independence I prayed for when she was in my tummy was granted and is now being demonstrated with glares and “hmmphss” and “That’s not fair!” and “I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A NAP! I’M NOT *yyaaaawwwnnnn* TIRED!”.  Also… did I mention she’s three?

So yes, sometimes I apologize for B’s outbursts or joke about how cray cray she is because she is at 100% energy All. Of. The. Time. But actually- I feel like her Daddy and I are doing a pretty good job at this parenting thing.  When I think about  my childhood- I don’t remember the times I’m sure my parents were embarrassed with a tantrum I had.  I don’t remember my parents holding the door shut to my room because I wouldn’t take a nap (supposedly this happened but who knows for sure 😉 ).  I remember being put in “VTO” (“Verbal Time Out”- how the heck did they get this to work?) but I don’t have negative emotions attached to those memories.  Because my parents did/are doing a heck of a job as parents.  And by that I mean they made sure we understood the most important concept a child should learn from their parents– I knew I was loved.  I knew I was loved no matter what. No matter what I did or said or broke. No matter how much I disobeyed or talked back.  No matter what.

I knew I was loved. And I still know it to this day.

So, when I say I think David and I are doing a pretty good job at this parenting gig? I don’t mean that I don’t have to sometimes apologize to my 3 year old and ask for her forgiveness for reacting poorly to her disobeying.  Because I do.  I don’t mean that I sometimes let her watch a movie just because I am done and tired and want her to stop talking for a minute.  Because I do.  I don’t mean that I feed her vegetables and make her eat them all before leaving the table every night. Because I don’t.  I don’t mean that I am 100% consistent with discipline. Because I’m not.  I don’t mean that I never give in to her whining and toddler demands. Because I do.  I don’t mean that sometimes more time passes between baths than it should. Because it does.  I don’t mean that sometimes I snap with my own sass at the little girl who is testing the limits. Because I do.

I don’t mean by any stretch am I a perfect parent. Because I am far from it. But I do think I’m getting the important message across.

Because as we snuggled on the couch during that extra TV time that probably should have been filled with books or something, I leaned over and said “I love you” and she said “I know, Mama.” And after I got done pinning her to the ground to squeeze pus out of a staph infected boil on her booty while she shrieked in pain and yelled “Don’t ever do that again!”, I said “I’m sorry, I don’t like to do this either. But I love you.” She said sniffling, “I know, Mama.” And after every timeout as we talk about why she was in timeout I say “I love you” and she says “I know, Mama.” And for the nights we do make her eat her vegetables and she gags on them because she hates them so much- I say (after exchanging covert eye rolls with David at the drama) “I love you” and she says “I know, Mama.” And when we are getting ready for bed and I go back in her room for the 3rd time to tell her to stop kicking the wall so she doesn’t wake up her sister- “Good night, I love you.” I hear her little voice say from the million blankets, “I know, Mama.”

And after I saw her little face break into tears and saw her shrink back against the couch after I got mad at her- I pulled her close and said “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I was mad because you hurt me, but I shouldn’t have reacted that way. You know mama loves you right?” she looked at me, clutched me tight and said “I know, Mama.  A lot.”

And I believe her because she does know. Her little words demonstrate big understanding.  My little girl knows I love her.  And that means I’m doing a heck of a job as a parent.

With it being the beginning of a new year, I’m seeing all these posts about resolutions with #NewYearNewMe attached to them.  And sure, I have goals I’d like to work towards and growth is always something to strive for.  But when it comes to parenting, overall- I look forward to 2019 and all the “I know, Mamas” I’m going to hear by being the same ol’ Mama that loves her babies fiercely.

#NewYearSameMama

 

(Lest you think I’ve forgotten my sweet (almost 7 month old :O ) Baby M- there is no doubt she too knows Mama loves her- she is 100% Mama’s girl 😉 )