I’ve always known that a big part of being a parent is teaching your child. Each day presents new opportunities to teach both big and small lessons. Everything from teaching him right from wrong to how to hold a crayon is a learning experience. The part that I didn’t expect was that he would teach me so much in return.
Brooks, being the full-blown toddler that he is, is definitely a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute he is squealing in delight and literally the next he is screaming and throwing himself on the floor. Last week he was particularly mad at me when I went to put him down for a nap. He tried repeatedly to smack me in the face when I picked him up to take him upstairs and his melt-down continued until he used the back of his head to full-on head-butt me. It struck me with such force and such shock that I literally started crying. My first reaction was to be mad. I thought of yelling at him, putting him in his crib, and storming out. Luckily, I got myself together. I explained that he hurt me and that it wasn’t nice. I asked if he was sorry and he replied with a soft, “yeah”. I asked for a kiss and afterwards he put his head down on my chest for longer than he ever has before.
I wish that I could say that I’ve dealt with all of his moods with such grace. Truth is that I haven’t. I’ve yelled at him. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve slapped his hand. None of these things seem to work but more importantly they make me feel horrible.
I’m certainly not advocating not disciplining our children. I believe discipline is an important and necessary job as a parent. The difference how I’m reacting to his tantrum. Chris and I recently had this discussion. Brooks is still too young to know how to regulate all of his emotions. Being the parents and the adults, we should be much better at this. Unfortunately though, this doesn’t come easily to me. Losing my temper and my patience with every tantrum he throws isn’t beneficial for either of us. Even worse, I found myself getting pissed when he was acting out and then holding on to that anger.
I’ve always admired Chris’s ability to forgive. He can get over something almost instantly. I, on the other hand, usually stew over things. I have to think them through and then make my peace. Brooks, with his rollercoaster of moods, is slowing teaching me how to instantly and whole-heartedly forgive.
Patience is another one of my short-comings. My mind races a mile a minute. I’m thinking about my next task even before I’ve completed my first one. I love to-do-lists, checking off tasks, and feeling accomplished. These days I don’t write as many to-do-lists and the ones that I do write get checked off much more slowly. Actually everything in my life now takes longer. I used to think I would rock at that Super-Market Sweepstakes show. I can take down a grocery store in no time. That; however, is now only when Brooks isn’t with me. Slowly I’m learning that I don’t have to rush through all of my daily activities. Yesterday after I picked Brooks up at the gym day-care we headed up to get a smoothie. After hanging out for a while enjoying it we started making the long trek down multiple flights of stairs to the parking garage. Brooks wanted to walk and even though it takes a lot more time and the steps are border-line scary (obviously while holding my hand), I let him walk the entire way himself. Multiple people passed us and a few commented that we weren’t getting anywhere. While we were getting nowhere fast, it didn’t matter. Brooks was happy and so was I.
As an adult my parents have often told me how much I’ve taught them. I suppose I saw this from an egocentric point of view. I thought it was because I had so much to offer ( feels ridiculous to write that but it’s true). I realize now, that it is another wonderful gift of parenting. As long as we are open to the lessons, each day allows us to improve upon something in our lives that we aren’t so good at. I’m certainly not healed of my many flaws, but Brooks is helping me reevaluate things and make small changes for the better. I’m sure he will teach me many lessons in life. Unconditional love is certainly at the top. As for what’s to come, I guess we’ll see.
Last night my husband and I had dinner with a very successful entrepreneur and her boyfriend. She and Chris talked a lot of shop throughout dinner which was to be expected. To her credit, she was also very thoughtful throughout dinner and made sure to ask about Brooks and include me in the conversation whenever possible. Still, at the end of the night, I left feeling insecure about myself. Being a stay at home mom carries a certain stigma. I feel that others look at me like I’m not intelligent, driven, or even interesting. Often in our society, your worth is measured by the status of your position and the amount of money you make. I remember when I quit my job doing medical device sales and started doing personal training I felt slightly the same way. I suppose people may feel the same way when they retire. Like it or not, our identity is tied to what we do. I often find myself wanting to tell people who I just met that I had a successful career in sales prior to being a mom and a personal trainer. When I discussed the matter with my husband (with tears of course), he pointed out that the issue is actually the way I view being a stay at home mom. In his opinion people don’t view me any differently, I just think they do. To be honest, I don’t totally believe this but I do think he has a point. Why do I need validation from other people (especially people I hardly know) that I’m smart and interesting? Why don’t I have enough confidence in myself to know that I’m both and that I’m also a really good mother? I remember when I was doing medical device sales and I was at the top of my game, I still told one of my co-workers that at the end of my life I didn’t feel that my success at work meant anything. I didn’t want people talking about how I was really good at sales at my funeral. I realized at that point that even though society may have thought more of me because I was making good money, my value in this life comes from who I am, not what I do. Funny now, because that’s not entirely true. I do believe what I do each day is really important. Sure, I’m not going to cure cancer, but I hope to raise a kind, loving, intelligent son who does good in the world. What I spend my days doing now is more important to me than what I used to do. On top of that, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I want to be the one to teach Brooks his first words, to pick him up and kiss his boo-boos, and to teach him to say “please” and “thank you”. So why even after I know all of this, do I feel so small sitting across from a self-made successful business-woman? I guess I just need to remind myself each day that even though I may not have a glamorous job, I have an important one and the only one that I want right now. At the end of my life, I pray that people will tell my children that they had a really good mother, that I loved them with all of my heart, and that I loved raising them. And, I hope that as people say this, my children will already know all of this to be true.
I’m sitting in the kitchen as we speak watching Brooks rearrange my cupboards. So far he has put his pear in the drawer where the pans are and the prunes have a new home under the oven. I’ve been thinking a lot these days of what it means to be a mom of a toddler. I continue to amaze myself by the things that I will do for this child. I’m not talking big stuff…of course I would do anything to keep him safe and healthy. I’m talking the day to day stuff. A little over a month ago, we flew to Ohio and Brooks was eating the complimentary little bag of pretzels. Well actually he was eating the salt off of the pretzels and then taking the soggy pretzels out of his mouth and putting them into mine. Obviously they were disgusting but I still ate them. About a week ago, Chris and I were putting him to bed. He had just gotten out of the tub so he was walking around his room in his birthday suit. I was trying to get lotion on him and he bent over right in front of me and farted in my face. Chris and I died laughing. He is definitely the only person in the entire world who can get away with this. Having a toddler means eating the crust on the pb&J even though I hate the crust. It means giving him the last bite of whatever I’m having, holding him until my arm feels like it’s numb, wiping his nose with whatever I have on hand including my hand or sleeve (gross, I know). It means dragging myself out of bed in the morning with only enough time to pee and brush my teeth. It means being covered in food, drool, and occasionally snot. As I watch Chris come down the stairs looking very GQ as he leaves for work, I’m painfully aware of what I look like. Usually though I have Brooks in one arm and a spatula in the other, so I’m too busy to care for long. I have gotten crazy good at doing things with one hand. The other day, I was holding Brooks on one hip, talking to Chris on the phone, and kicking a ball to Brooks’s delight to my brother-in-law. None of these skills would get me very far in corporate America but in my day to day life, they are becoming quite useful.
As I write this I’m only half with you. The other half of me is keeping an eye on his every move. Brooks is very energetic, curious, and busy. He’s into everything and really only occupies himself without my help for a few minutes at a time. Some days I find this exhausting. Today, I find it amusing. Days like today I want to have a handful of Brooks running around the house. There are other days when I can barely find the energy and the patience to survive until nap time.
Last Saturday, Brooks took his first nose dive down two stairs at the park. He succeeded in skinning his forehead and nose and screaming bloody murder for quite sometime. Yesterday, he gave his forehead a new bruise when he banged it on our dining room table. In both instances, I was less than two feet away from him. I have caught him about a thousand times so I guess the odds are against me. He’s bound to fall and fall he does. Often I feel like a helicopter mom, hovering over his every move. I have no idea how much space a toddler needs but I don’t feel like I give much to Brooks and yet his face still looks like he lost a fight at the playground.
I suppose I’m rambling. Most of my posts have a point or some advice or whatever. I definitely don’t have any advice in this one. Fact is that each day brings something new. Brooks is figuring out how to explore his world and I’m figuring out how to get him through.
Regardless though of how crazy some of our days get, or how frustrated I get when his new “thing” is repeatedly hitting me in the face, I also love this age. Everyday he learns something new. Seeing the world through his eyes is both exciting and challenging. With a coffee cup in one hand, I welcome the challenge.
This past weekend my husband and I went to a wedding down in Key West. We first flew to Ohio to drop Brooks off at my parents house. We had a really great time at the wedding and it was honestly nice to have some adult time. Still, I was really excited to get home to see Brooks. Three days was a good amount of time to be away from him. Tuesday was the first morning that we were home. Brooks woke up about 6:45 and I was excited to go and see him. I opened the door to his room and he looked at me and literally crawled the opposite direction in his crib. I went and picked him up and he was immediately irritated. I won’t go through all of the details but essentially what continued was the worst temper tandrum I have ever seen him throw for the next 5 minutes. He almost succeeded in throwing himself off of the diaper changing station and at the end of the melt down he purposely grabbed my face in an effort to tear it apart. It was at that moment that I cried. I cried not because he physically hurt me but because he emotionally did. He was mad at me for what I assume was for leaving him over the weekend and he was making me pay for it. I cried because I felt guilty for leaving him. I know in my mind that it’s fine that I did. He was in good hands and I’ve left him overnight only a few times in his life. I know he was fine, but still. He was obviously having a hard time adjusting and I felt bad for that.
Guilt seems to me to be one of the many things that all moms share. I’ve talked to other mothers who feel guilty for working, guilty for not nursing longer, guilty for feeling like bad mothers, guilty for not being able to give their kids more. For me, I feel guilty when I’m not there when Brooks wakes up from naps. I feel guilty for not having more stored breast milk when I can’t get him to drink anything else. I feel guilty for spending so much time working out. I’m a stay at home mom because that’s my choice and it’s what works best for our family. I spend a lot of time with Brooks but still…if I’m not with him every waking second there is a nagging thought in the back of my mind that feels like I should be with him.
I honestly have no idea of how to get over this guilt. My Mom says to just let it go. “Guilt never did anyone any good.” I believe this. I also believe that I’m a good mom. I believe we are all doing the best we can and there is no reason for us to feel guilty. Still, it is easier said than done.
This morning when I got Brooks up, he looked at me again and crawled the other way. He woke up in a fowl mood. Today, I accepted it as just that. I didn’t take his moodiness personally. For today at least, I didn’t feel guilty about it. As for tomorrow, well, we’ll see…
I’m feeling tired but also a bit sentimental. Brooks and I are in Ohio and have been since last Friday when the three of us (Chris included) drove to Catawba Island to spend the weekend with friends. I was really excited about the weekend and I had a wonderful time. On Sunday when we drove to Cleveland to see my parents, I was feeling very blessed. We have so many wonderful people in our lives. I’m so lucky to have a handful of really great girlfriends. I’ve figured out over the last few years how special true friends really are and how they are difficult to come by. Of course, like any relationship, they take time and attention, but to have even one or two true friends is an amazing gift. Meanwhile, I’ve spent the week at my parents house which is only a mile from my brother and his family. Seeing Brooks play with his cousins makes me so happy. Since we live in Chicago and our families live in Ohio, it always worries me that Brooks won’t know his family. Seeing Brooks crawl up to my parents or other family members and raise his little arms to be picked up, warms my heart. It is the small moments in life that truly seem to be the most special.
People always tell you that everything changes when you have a baby. While I don’t think that everything changes, I certainly do think that your priorities and outlook on life change. Time becomes much more precious and the people who were always important become even more so.
Tomorrow Brooks and I will pick Chris and his cousin up from the airport and head to Youngstown where we will spend the rest of the weekend with family. We are celebrating Brooks’s first birthday on Sunday and we are expecting 50-60 people. While some may say that is ridiculous, I can’t help but be grateful. We have a lot of love in our lives and for that I’m eternally thankful.