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New Days and New Starts

I love seeing all the first day of school pictures. This is a tradition I remember from my childhood. I can remember looking through the photo album that had each of us lined up in age order and trying to remember what it felt like to start each new year.

This year looks different because we are starting the school year with both kids at home. Sam and I have enjoyed using our teachers’ brains again and working on a daily schedule, units of study, and weekly activities that would be engaging and fun. (The two pups are going to work on not stealing snacks during snack time 🙂 This might take all fall!)

I have to admit the whole concept of homeschooling was overwhelming. This Spring during virtual school, I found myself stretched thin as we tried to keep our four-year-old connected to teachers and classmates as well as figure out the online learning system.

Today, I was just excited. We took our first day of school pictures like we have the past two school years. We took a morning walk, which serves as “our commute” to school, and then we started our school day. At this age, kids really need to learn to play and explore and discover but having things like calendar, circle time, and specials is grounding. It’s grounding for me as a parent because it distinguishes school day and school times from other times of the day and from other days of the week.

It also creates space to ask questions, to read new books, and to learn new things. For me as a parent/teacher, this is what I am most excited about. I am most excited to ignite my creativity, research crafts, and find books about each area of study. I am excited to learn alongside my kids and to play the role of facilitator and interst sparker rather than a disciplinarian.

It really amazing what we have learned about each other over this time at home. I am so thankful for a partner I get to teach alongside again and for the flexibility to try new things.

“Did I do it right?”

As we were on our morning bike ride and walk, our four-year-old stopped just up ahead and of me. He waited until I caught him to him and then looked at him with a glint in his eye, “Did I do it right?” he asked me. I waited unsure of what he was talking about until he explained that he kept his eyes on the road, he stayed to the side and when he glanced back and saw that he was getting too far ahead he stopped and waited. I smiled and affirmed, “Yes, yes you did. Good job, buddy!”

These are all the things we have been talking about over the last six weeks as we have transitioned from walking together to walking and bike riding together. These are all things that have caused redirections when he didn’t do one of these things as well.

I can’t help but wonder if his question today, is really a question that most of us parents are asking ourselves: “Did I do it right?” Should I have enrolled my child in school? Should I have homeschooled instead? Should I have provided more space or more boundaries?

The back and forth and constant mitigation of risks is exhausting. The collective grief of hearing story after story of people dying because of the global pandemic is overwhelming. We are all functioning on too little sleep and too much stress.

“Did I do it right?” will be a question that we can continue to ask ourselves as we continue to understand more about this virus and about how living with this virus is changing the way that we parent, work, and educate our children.

As you are trying to balance it all, I wonder if the words that I offer our four-year-old when he doesn’t do it right might provide some peace, “Tomorrow is a new day and we will try again.”

 

What if…

I found this on Instagram posted by a teacher friend and immediately felt a wave of relief wash over me. I quickly posted it to my stories and followed @miles_of_pe who shared it. (If you know who created it originally, I’d love to give credit!)

After I posted it, I received so many comments and responses from fellow parents. Parents who have been worried about sending their children anywhere because they aren’t sure that it is safe. Parents who don’t have a teaching background wondering if they are engaging their children enough or whether they are falling behind. Parents who have made the decision to keep their kids home for the fall. Parents who are planning to send their kids to school in the fall and are worried that the stint of e-learning last Spring caused them to fall behind.

What if…it’s enough?

What if…our very concern over the well-being of our children is enough to help them know that they are loved and seen? What if…our sleepless nights and early mornings fitting in work before they get up and after they go to sleep is enough for them to understand that we are doing whatever we can to make sure they have time with us? What if…all those walks and outside time and playing in blow-up pools in the backyard is actually they’re absolutely favorite thing to do even though they have done it every afternoon?

What if, dear parent, you are not just enough…but more than enough?

Entering Eastertide: Don’t Lose Heart

Just this week, I talked to many parents about how this new life has impacted our kids. Some days the changes are positive and promising. Siblings are developing deeper relationships. Learning and imagination have time to flourish and expand. And we are all noticing the way nature is growing and changing all around us.

Other days the changes are challenging and disheartening. Tempers flare. The question, “but why can’t we?” and “when will be able to go?” seem to start every sentence. We as parents don’t have the answers for ourselves much less our children.

The up and down and back and forth carries us along the same path of gratefulness and hopelessness. The emotional roller coaster we are all riding leaving us whiplashed and exhausted.

The epistle lectionary passages for this Eastertide have come from the 1 Peter. At the heart of 1 Peter is the idea of suffering. The audience: a group of strangers in a strange land who are trying to keep their faith and hold onto hope. I can’t think of a better text for this Eastertide.

Here are the words of encouragement from 1 Peter 4:8-10:

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

In the midst of this season of uncertainty, maybe what will be left is the reminder to love each other through all of the ups and downs and to be hospitable to one another understanding that we are all in this together and acknowledging that our actions do indeed impact other people.

May God grant you the grace and love for today in all of moments of gratitude and all of the moments of challenge.

In the Midst of the Hurrying

“Get your backpack please,” I said for the fourth time as we were trying to get out the door.

“But mom,” I heard from our four-year-old. He wanted to tell me something about the dream he had where there were all kinds of cars and he got to see Jackson Storm and Lightning McQueen really race. As we were walking down the steps, I just had grabbed his backpack to speed things up, he found a dandelion and started to say, “Look, mom, look!”

In my mind, I know the minutes are clicking away. The minutes that mean we might hit the train and be late for school. The minutes before the 11-month-old gets so sleepy that she falls asleep in the car rather than in her crib. The minutes that can change the whole morning and if I am honest can alter my mental state all day long.

But he doesn’t care about the minutes. He would welcome being stuck by the train and counting and naming the different kinds of cars that speed by. He would love to see his sister fall asleep and report that she was asleep to me.

And so I stop for in the midst of the hurrying and explain that when he blows the dandelion, the white tufts are seeds that might grow into new dandelions.

“Blow them towards the bushes and then we can check and see if new ones grow there,” I say.

His eyes light up because in the midst of the hurrying, I have entered his world and stopped the hurrying that pushes him around morning after morning.

 

In the Midst of the Magic

Over the holidays, all of us were sick. We didn’t take turns but overlapped in the spreading of coughs and runny noses that happens when there are multiple kids and multiple schools. There were tissues all over the place and water cups and our counters were lined with cough syrups, antibiotics, and saline sprays. We made it all the way until our youngest was ten months old before we started spreading things back and forth and then this.

I have to be honest and say that I didn’t have the best attitude in the midst of all the sickness. When you don’t feel well, it’s easy to see the gray that is all around you instead of seeing the bits of sun shining through promising warmth and light.

And it’s hard when you don’t feel well to take care of mini-humans, especially when they feel well and you don’t. They still want to go and do things and see things and learn things. They still want to explore and discover the magic that’s out there in the world.

It was on one of those days that we ended up at the playground to get some fresh air and some sunshine. Our park has an incredible walking trail that makes you feel like you are hiking through the woods and we almost always end our time at the playground with a nature walk around the loop looking for messages and magic.

This is the one we found on our first nature walk of the new year: “You are awesome.” I like to pretend I don’t need these messages. These are messages for our mini humans who are still developing their sense of self and their self-worth. These are the types of messages that we need to flood them with for the times when they encounter failure and frustration.

On this day, I needed this message. I needed to stand in the midst of the magic of someone taking the time to write this on the nature trail. I need to stand in the midst of the magic of our four-year-old discovering a secret message on a nature walk. I needed to stand in the midst of the magic of our four-year-old finding and using a walking stick. I needed to stand in the midst of the magic of an almost one-year-old laughing at her brother every chance she found. I needed to stand in the midst of the magic of a free park maintained and cared for by a community who want to encourage people to be outside.

I needed to stand in the midst of the magic and remember I am but a bit of stardust in this great cosmos of mystery.

Looking Inside

Our plans were changed because of bad weather on the weekend we were planning to carve our pumpkin. By the time we were able to carve it, let’s just say it had been with us for a while. I had this feeling that once we got inside, we were going to find something besides just the seeds and pumpkin guts. As I worked to pull off the top, just as I had expected, there was a big spot of rot (see where the pumpkin top looks like it has a bite out of it?).  Although I expected that there was something not quite right with our pumpkin, I didn’t really know what was going on until we took a look inside.

The same holds true for our own lives. We might look orange and pretty on the outside, but if there is something that is eating away at us, a broken relationship, unresolved conflict, fatigue or exhausation, slowly by surely that one spot will grow bigger and bigger until what’s going on inside leaks out.

This is what self-care is: taking a look inside. Cracking open the top to see deep into the parts of ourselves that have hold all the seeds. The seeds of our past. The seeds of our hurts. The seeds of our hopes. The seeds of our passions. The seeds of our calling. The seeds of our fear. The seeds of our worries. The seeds of who we are.

When we don’t take the time to look inside or take a look at whether those seeds nestled within us are getting enough water and light and space, then rot begins to grow, comprising all those seeds of possibility.

Maybe you’re like us, the time that you meant to spend in self-reflection or self-care got rained out of stormed out by the fierce urgency of now. Maybe you think that you can’t make up that time or that the time has passed. What we discovered was that once we got inside our pumpkin, even though it was a little worse for the wear, we were able to scoop that rot out. We were able to clean out the part that was threatening the rest of the pumpkin and we were able to transform our pumpkin into a new creation.

See how happy our pumpkin is that we took the time to look inside!

Slow Down

In the past couple of months, our three-year-old’s legs have grown just long enough that he can pedal himself on his tricycle. The afternoon on the porch was like any other post-school playtime. He got on his tricycle using it more as a scooter than a tricycle. I said the same thing I’ve said for the past two years, “Hey buddy, try to use the pedals.”

Except for this time when he did, he was able to pedal all the way around propelling the tricycle forward. His face immediately lit up. He started singing our song of accomplishment, “I did it, I did it, I did it by myself.” As I watched I felt the smile stretched across my face. I don’t even know the number of times that he has tried without being able to pedal or how many times we have walked behind him with his feet on the pedals.

There was no way of knowing that this afternoon would be the afternoon that his legs had grown long enough, he felt enough confidence to try something that he had failed at so many times before, which made the accomplishment even more miraculous.

Right now, he is slow and steady, but I feel like we are on the verge of a season where what we are crying is not “try something new” or “try again,” but rather “Slow down!”

It’s easy to forget the vast number of things we are able to do without thinking. The things that took us so many failed attempts to master. The things that tried our patience and our resilience, but watching someone else in that moment of mastery reminds us that whatever we are facing we can get back on the bike and try one more time.

On the Road Again

On our trip back to Asheville, the kids and I noticed the smell of a skunk. Our three-year-old loves to point out when we smell a skunk because one of his favorite episodes of Curious George has George getting sprayed by a skunk multiple times. He has to take a bath in tomato juice, which is very silly to a three-year-old.

I didn’t think much about it. Smelling skunks along the road as you travel is something I remember from my childhood travels as well. It is a part of traveling in the south.

But then, we noticed a second skunk. This was within an hour of the first on we smelled and my antennae were up. Since beginning the journey towards reconnecting to my intuition, I have begun to notice when the cosmos repeats sights, smells, and occurrences. Smelling one skunk was not unusual. Smelling two skunks in the course of such a small distance was unusual.

I asked our oldest to look up what it meant to smell or encounter a skunk. Although she wasn’t sure why I was asking, she looked it up and we both discovered this:

Skunk symbolism is presenting you with the perfect opportunity to become more confident in your interactions with others. In other words, you must realize that you can meet life’s challenges with a calm and peaceful heart.

We were on our way to take our oldest girls back. The first weekend trip we had done since the long visits of summer. To be sure, I needed this reminder, this wink from the universe to meet the challenge of sharing children with a calm and peaceful heart.

Sometimes when we open ourselves to being present and to being a part of the deeper work of being connected to yourself and the world around you, you get the reminder that you need at just the right time.

Jumping Into the Deep End

Right as summer was winding down this week, our three-year-old surprised us by saying he wanted to jump off the diving board. First he wanted to jump with his swim vest on and then he surprised us even more by saying that he wanted to jump off without his swim vest.

As I watched him on the edge of the board, I thought about how far we had come in regards to swimming. Memorial Day weekend, I dragged him into the water because it had been a year since we had been in the water and because he had a healthy sense of fear about the water. And now three months later he is jumping into the deep end using his courage and his strength to keep himself afloat.

I watched him jump over and over again and marveled at his confidence and his courage.

Why does that disappear as we get older? Where does the self-doubt enter and change our ability to say, “I am going to jump and I am going to swim by myself?” Perhaps it’s because we have lost the feeling of sheer excitement and anticipation of standing on the edge of a diving board ready to be immersed in a new experience. Perhaps it’s because we have lost our sea legs and allowed the stiffness of routine to set in.

Whatever the reason, watching that smile creep across his face as he leaped into the air reminded me that we are never too old to jump into the deep end and never too old to be courageous.