Monday, June 17, 2013

Best Mom Tip #182: Lavish them with love

I am fortunate to be the daughter of two very loving people.  My mom and dad told us we were loved every single day and every time we left the house.  My brother and I were (and are) adored by our parents who always made sure that we knew how proud they were of us.  So this one is relatively easy for me and a lesson I began to learn from birth.  Even in our times of major illnesses and stress growing up, I never doubted that my parents loved me or each other. That knowledge was an anchor in the storm for me and it is one that I want to give to my children.

The other night, our 4-year-old son came into our bedroom around midnight.  He stumbled in with bleary eyes and said he needed "to snuggle."  Generally, when he wakes up in the middle of the night it really means that he needs to use the bathroom, not snuggle, so after a trip to take care of business we let him climb into our big bed and snuggle in between us.

Jay and I smoothed his hair and gave him kisses and told him things we like about him.  "I am so proud of how kind and generous you are to other people.  You always offer to share your toys."  "You are so brave when you try to put your head under the water at the pool." "I am so impressed with how hard you work on learning your words and letters and how to read." "I will love you forever and there is nothing you can ever do that will make me stop loving you."

We went back and forth like that, one comment from me then one from Jay, for about 10 minutes.  With each word of praise his sleepy little face lit up with pride and joy--eyes closed, giant smile, and awesome little boy all over.  We try to be specific in our praise--"I'm proud of your effort at school" instead of "You're so smart"--in order to reinforce characteristics he can control and that we want to encourage rather than just complimenting an inborn gift.  I think it gives our compliments more credence, especially once our children get old enough to realize that we are totally biased in their favor.

I don't even know if he remembered our time together the next morning-I didn't think to ask.  In the night, Jay gave him one last giant hug and then carried him back to his own bed.  But I like to think that the words soaked into his little mind and soul.  He is a lionhearted kid who wanted to fight Osama bin Laden (he overheard me talking to my sister-in-law when bin Laden was killed) and tells me that he can't stay little because he has to grow up to be "a police" so he can protect me.  One day, when he's standing in the gap for me and the rest of the general population, I want him to carry a heart that is confident in his abilities and secure in his values.  Not because he's infallible, but because he is loved and admired by people he respects.

What kid couldn't use more of that?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Best Mom Tip #181: Reminisce for a while

Today is my 15th wedding anniversary. It feels like both a minute and a lifetime since Jay and I said our vows and started our life together. On the anniversary of major events-our wedding, the births of our children-we like to play "what were we doing right now x years ago today"?

Fifteen years ago today I had my hair and makeup done by two different people who were not me.  I carefully took a nap while wearing a veil that I draped over the back of a chair and no one interrupted my sleep.  I wore the most expensive outfit of my life. I had a moment waiting for the ceremony to start when I thought "oh my God, what am I doing?  This is forever!"  And then I remembered that I was marrying Jay and that didn't sound overwhelming or scary at all.  It felt right and it made me smile.

We repeated our vows and when I said, "with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you" I realized that I was committing not just to love and to cherish, but to respect and support and encourage. I was promising to put my husband above all others in my life.  And Jay promised the same to me.

Today was not like that.  I took Baby Jack to the ENT way across town and it took 2 1/2 hours for 15 minutes with health care professionals. I took the kids to Chick-fil-A because we came home from vacation yesterday afternoon and there was nothing to eat in our house.  Also, we hadn't been in over a week and I figured they missed us.  I took four kids to the grocery and bought random things because I didn't have a list.

I took the kids swimming and changed them into their suits and sprayed them with sunscreen and packed snacks.  I was trying to wear them out because they are jet lagged and staying up late giggling, but I overshot and my 2-year-old just fell asleep in the car on the way home and then stayed up until 10.

My "getting ready" involved a shower and scrubbing the chipped polish off of my big toes because it had already come off of all the other toes and looked rather sad.  I did put on some makeup but couldn't find several different items and mostly just gave up and went with the same stuff I wear every other day I have to look like a grown up.  It was not particularly romantic.

But at 5pm, on my way home from swimming, my children all started singing along with the radio.  The oldest two did pretty well, the third one sang the words one line behind the others, and the baby used a sing-song version of his "ahahahahahah" talking sounds. It was loud and off key and made me think of how much better this was than having pictures taken before our wedding.

At dinner tonight the power went out and we ate by candle light and talked about what our 21 and 22-year old selves would think about our lives if we could have foreseen this.  I think we'd be surprised that we have 4 kids and that I stay home with them.  I think we'd be pleased at the trips we've taken and the places we've seen.  I think we'd be grateful and excited that we are so happy and that there is so much love in our house.

My cup runneth over.  Fifteen years ago today was a good day, but it was not as good as today.