Remembering My Kids are Different

I’m over at the Kindred Mom blog today, writing about our family’s culture. It’s still a work in progress and I’m learning that what works today may not work in a month. But, this is where we’re at right now. Here’s an excerpt – I hope you’ll go over to Kindred Mom to join the conversation!

annie_postA couple years ago, this same daughter and I were in the midst of the classic “threenager” drama. I remember sitting on our upstairs landing one day after yet another power struggle—in tears—wondering why on earth I had been chosen to be the mother of this strong, opinionated, passionate girl. I felt incompetent; like such a failure.

Suddenly, a book flashed through my mind. When we were first married, a friend lent us The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I knew he had written one about children and that evening I picked up a copy. As I read about how our children respond to love and discipline, I saw how I could improve our family culture.

After reading the descriptors, it was clear that my daughter is a classic “physical touch” kid. When she’s frustrated or upset, she stamps her feet and throws toys. When she feels unsafe or tired, she snuggles in and needs to be held. When she’s content and wants to talk about her day, she does it sitting in my lap. When she snuggles, every single part of her body has to touch my body.

This is not at all how I’m programed. My love language is “quality time,” in which I don’t need the close proximity that my daughter loves. With this insight, I set about to rewrite our interactions. I looked for small, natural ways to incorporate her need for physical touch before she became desperate.

Of course, nothing is magical and we still experience our share of misunderstandings and power struggles, but when I can start our day with a snuggle and a book rather than rushing around, it sets the tone for a better morning. Read the rest over at Kindred Mom!

Do you have any parenting books that have shifted your perspective? Any tricks that have stood the test of time?

It’s the Man’s Job to Deal With Mice

When we moved into our new house, we went from a tiny little ranch with only an extended one car garage for storage to a space with two full size storage rooms. We decided to only use one – we still don’t have enough overflow stuff to take up the space and I’m not organized enough to remember where everything is spread out.

The second space is right off our basement stairs, so we keep our wine and home-brewed beer in it since it’s convenient and cool. I used to think nothing of going downstairs to grab a bottle for dinner until one day I came across a dead mouse.

I abandoned my wine mission and ran shrieking upstairs. Frank dropped his dinner prep and came running – I’m usually not so easily freaked out. When he found out the commotion was about a mouse, he got a twinkle in his eyes. Frank loves playing into the traditional “male” roles – opening jars, moving heavy furniture, and taking care of icky rodents.

Last week, I wrote about wanting to raise daughters who open their own doors. And, I do. But not so much out of pure gender equality (though that’s part of it.) I want to raise kind, considerate humans who help other humans because they need help. Not because of their gender. I appreciate doors being held for me, especially when I’m loaded down with babies and groceries or books, but from anyone – old, young, men, or women. I appreciate the help because we all need help sometimes.

I appreciate that my daughters are being raised in a home where Frank is the chef – he loves cooking and experimenting and makes sure to include Bea and Elle as his sous chefs. I cook, too, and the girls see that, but they see that both of us contribute to our family’s nutrition. We try to emphasize the fact that each of us do certain things because we’re good at them or enjoy them, not because of a gendered prescription.

I still don’t like going into the “mouse room,” as our storage room is now called. It will always be Frank’s job to deal with rodents in and around our home. And, I’m ok with my girls seeing that. I want them to know that when mom can’t do something, dad helps. But, I don’t want it to stop there. I want them to see the reciprocity of our relationship and the acknowledgement that we each have strengths and we all need help.

For me, that’s the key in raising strong, independent women. It’s not teaching them to never ask for help or to be too proud to accept help. It’s raising them to know how and when to ask; how to be gracious when help is offered; and how to say no when they truly don’t need or want help.

What is something you hate dealing with on your own? What areas are you most likely to ask for help?

My Daughter Can Open Her Own Door

The problem with raising strong, independent girls is that they’re, well… Strong and Independent.

The other day, on the way into preschool, Bea got in an altercation with a little boy who wanted to hold the door. She wanted a turn and was grumpy that he wouldn’t move. The grandma looked at me and said, I’m just trying to raise gentlemen. She should say “thank you.” I half smiled and replied, And we’re trying to raise independent girls.

On our way out of preschool, we happened to leave at the same time as this same boy and his grandma. And again, he opened the door for us and refused to pass it off. This time Bea flipped out. I had to carry a screaming, independent girl to our car.

What I wanted to tell this grandma was that she’s not raising a gentleman, she’s raising a chauvinist. If he’s only holding the door because we’re women, that’s not ok. If he were a real gentleman, he’d recognize Bea’s feelings and share.

We got home and processed how to respond to situations like this. On the one hand, I told Bea that we have to take turns – that’s life. (And ultimately, for the kids, that was at the root of this interaction. They each wanted a turn.)

But because of the grandma’s comment, we also delved into how we respond to boys raised to treat girls as people who need to be helped. We talked about how, if a boy wants to do something for us that we don’t want or don’t feel comfortable with, we say no.

In hindsight, we should have pulled aside and let the boy and his grandma leave. It may have meant waiting a bit longer to leave school, but what do I ultimately want the lesson to be? I want Bea to retain her independence, to feel empowered to help her family, and to not feel pressured to thank a “gentleman” for something she didn’t actually want.

It may seem like a small thing and, again, the root of the issue was more the inability to take turns. But, I also recognize that if I don’t seize these opportunities to empower Bea, I’m losing to the chauvinists. If this little boy is hearing at each door that women need him to open it, then I need to counter that with allowing Bea to open it herself.

By making this choice, I’m probably inviting more screaming exits. But I’m also inviting more opportunities to discuss how to handle these situations. Hopefully I’m inviting my daughters to gracefully decline help they don’t need.

Moms of Boys, Do you teach them to hold doors for women? What’s your perspective on this?

Beautiful

Being the mom of a two-year-old daughter, I don’t have to worry too much about where Bea gets her perception of femininity and womanhood. I am her main role model, along with family and her friends’ moms. (Who are, at this stage, my friends. So, no worries there – all amazing women!) I do think about the day when TV characters move beyond Super Why and Daniel Tiger’s buddies and we step into the world of tween pop stars and girls finding their way into adulthood under the limelight. Until then, I’m trying to surround my daughter with strong, courageous women to help build a foundation of who she is and who she can become.

Looking around my Mothers of Preschoolers group, I see strong, confident, spirit-filled women. I see women in boots-over-jeans with a fashionable scarf draped carelessly and I see women in yoga pants and sneakers with a ponytail thrown up in hindsight. I see women who build absolutely necessary workout time into their schedules while others are still hoping the baby weight will somehow disappear, years later.

I see moms who put their children in daycare so they can work at getting a degree. I see moms with Master’s degrees, now staying home full-time. I see moms struggling to find a work-life balance and moms who question if they’re now obsolete by stepping out of the workforce.

Mostly, I see moms who care deeply for their children. Moms who laugh quickly and cry easily. (Tissues are never far from reach at our meetings.) I see moms taking risks and speaking Truth into each other’s lives.

I’m realizing more and more as I venture into this mothering journey that I cannot do this alone. I need other mothers to model parenting for me. I need other mothers to love my daughter on the days when it seems hard. I need other mothers to laugh with me in the middle of a meltdown at the museum. And, I need Bea to see these other mothers, working and playing with their own kids. I love that they are apart of my daughter’s life and I get to be part of their kids’ lives.

These women I’ve met (seemingly) randomly through MOPS come each week with successes and failures. As we laugh and cry and do life together, I am grateful for such a diverse support system. And when I think about the kind of woman I wish for my daughter to become, I think of these women. I think of a bit disheveled, beautifully loving, amazingly strong women and I hope they form her definition of femininity and beauty.

Do you have a parenting support system?

Linked with SheLoves Magazine’s monthly theme: Beautiful.