Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Open Letter to my daughter, as she becomes a teenager

My sweet baby girl,

I know you're probably rolling your eyes (because by this age you have perfected that so well) at the fact that I just called you that, but that's exactly what you are.  My first baby.  And that's exactly what you'll always be.  I can't believe that my sweet little baby, that I brought home nearly 13 years ago is now entering into her teenage years.  And when you enter those adult years, and become a mother yourself, you will still be just that.  My baby.

I remember bringing you home after two weeks in the NICU, wondering how your life would be.  Wondering if you would even make it to 13, for that was so uncertain at the time.  Wondering if you would struggle more than most.  Wondering if you would have friends, or boyfriends.  Wondering how this big, mean world would treat you.  I had so much anxiety for you for these upcoming years.  Everyone always talks about, and it's no secret, the fact that middle school can be the toughest years of your childhood.  God, I was scared.  But guess what I have figured out?  Your teenage years are going to be freaking awesome!  Because that's exactly what you are... Awesome.  You will approach them with your contagious smile, your amazing sense of humor, and those big blue eyes, taking it all in, just as they have done since the day you came into this world.

While I know that you will take these tough years and make the best of them, like you do most situations, I also want to warn you that you will be facing some tough times ahead.  No one makes it out of these years unscathed, sweet girl.  Even the most ideal of childhoods produce less than ideal memories from this age.  You will fight with your friends, have your first boyfriend, break up with your first boyfriend, lose people you love, experience your first heart break.  And I will be there to hold you as you cry during all of this.  As long as I am walking this earth, I will always be a safe place for you to fall.

I am prepared for the fact that as you grow older, and your social life becomes more important, that movie and snuggle nights with mom will become less cool.  I am well aware of the fact that my opinion won't matter quite as much as it did a few years ago.  I am somewhat prepared for the fact that there may be a time where "I hate you" or other terms of endearment are thrown my way.  Why am I so sure these things are bound to happen?  Because I was 13 once too.  But just as I know they will happen, I also know that some day, you will chose to drive home from college to see me "just because".  I also know that you will beg me for a girls night or weekend.  I also know that you will someday call, crying telling me you're sorry for all of the times you told me you hated me, because you now realize how much I have loved you when you look in the eyes of your own children.  Why do I know this?  Because I have been there too, sweet girl.

The first time I ever held you in my arms.  A moment frozen in time
As each day closes in, I know that you are closer to becoming an adult, and you may not "need" me quite so much.  But I also know that you will some day replace that need with a want.  The more and more independent you become, you will need me less, for a time not want me at all.  But then some day, that pendulum will swing, and you will want me back by your side.  But we aren't there yet.  Right now we are in that transitional period that so many moms have warned me about.  The teenage years are supposed to be as trying, if not more, than the toddler years.  You were a very easy toddler, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that these teenage years don't break us!  But when you get to the point, and you feel broken, know that I am always here to help put those pieces back together.  Know that I will never let you completely fall apart.  Know that I love you with my whole entire heart.  Know that the first time I held you, was the first time my heart ever felt whole.  And it has been whole every since because of you. 

Please, go easy on me these next few years.  Remember, you are my first child, so being a mom to a teenager is all new to me too.  Let's forge this road, just as we have done all the others: Together.  Remember baby girl, It's us against the world.  Let's take it on.

Love,
Mommy


From the most precious little baby...
To the most spirited young woman I know,
Happy birthday baby!












Sunday, January 3, 2016

What you have to know when raising a strong willed child, coming from one herself

I got spoiled with my older kids.  They were so easy, although I didn't realize it at the time.  Last but not least, came Breckyn.

For the past 4 years I have said if B would have been my first child, she would have been my only child.  Being the youngest of four, she has definitely been my challenge, and I guess many would say, my payback.  Time after time since she has been born, I have heard it said that she acts just like me.  And while many days I have felt like I want to either rip my hair out or overdose on happy pills, I can also say that I get her.

Being a very strong willed "child" myself, I can remember some of the frustrations of being a little
Here we have a ruffled sleeve shirt,
some Nike shorts,
and some ballet flats. 
Who says this doesn't go together?
person that has so many rules to follow.  Some of the most common fights can be avoided with her by simply picking my battles.  I have learned I can't put too many restrictions on the choices she gets to make.  One of the most common battles we have had is our morning routine, and deciding what we are going to wear.  I battled this for so long with her, until I finally just gave up.  I remember being younger, and laying out my clothes for the next day and hearing "No Cora, pink and red don't go together", and I've found myself saying very similar things to B in the mornings.  Then I remembered how frustrated I used to get by that.  To me, it didn't matter if it matched, I like the pants, I like the shirt, and I wanted to wear it together.  And today, many times I have heard my sister say that she never would have thought an outfit I bought looked good on the rack, but once I put it all together, she loved it.  Maybe in her mind, B is doing this too.  So one day, I let go.  I just let her wear it.  And the most miraculous thing happened, we had a good morning.  So I decided that's how it would be.  As long as it's weather appropriate, she can wear it.  Who cares if she looks like one of the kids that came out of a Gap Kids ad?  She's happy, and "expressing herself".  She's not hurting anything at all by wearing a pair of rain boots with a Christmas dress.  As of lately, we have been wearing our swimsuits to bed, and guess what?  The world is still on its axis.

I HAVE to answer her.  If  don't, she will just keep at it.  Fighting for her place among 3 siblings, sometimes I think she just wants to know she is important too.  I can't get away with just telling her to wait a second, or ignoring her until I get done with what I'm doing.  She needs to know, and she needs to know now.  It doesn't take that long for me to simply look away from what I am doing and give her an answer.  I don't have to give her exactly what she wants right then, but I do need to give her an answer and acknowledgment of what it is she is saying.  It may not always be the answer she wants, but I have learned that if I at least answer her, the meltdown lessens. 

To piggy back off of that, she needs explanations.  Simply saying "No" won't cut it for her.  It wouldn't have for me at that age, and it still doesn't work for me.  I want to understand reasoning for things.  If there is a reason I should or shouldn't be doing something, I want to understand why.  She is a little person, growing every day towards adulthood, so why shouldn't I help her understand things?  No, I don't cater to her, or bargain with her when she doesn't like the answer, I simply explain why it is the way it is, and most of the time we can just move on.  She simply wants to understand the way of the world, just like most of us (though little does she know, we will never fully understand how most things work the way they do).  Another thing that I can attest to from first hand experience, is that most of those famous Breckyn meltdowns come from frustration.  I know, because I had them, and sometimes still want to!  Strong willed kids are so black and white, that they just don't see why it can't be the way they want it.  You have to take the time to explain things to kids, and that some times things just don't go as planned.  I used to be that mom that would say I didn't understand why people would sit there and explain things to their kids after they had said no.  NO means no, right?  Why sit there and debate over it?  Don't let your kids be in control.  Tell them no, and let that be the end of it.  Well, for some kids, that's enough, but for B it isn't, and it helped me remember that it was never enough for me either.  Explaining isn't letting your child be in control, it's YOU taking control of the situation, and avoiding a meltdown, potentially in a very public place. Help them understand, and remove the frustration.

Pick your battles.  Every once in a while, you just have to give in.  You/I may be busy cleaning house, or getting caught up on binge watching Netflix, but it won't kill to me to stop and put in a Monster High DVD and watch it with her for a few minutes.  Besides, soon she will fall asleep because she has been going a hundred miles a minute all day, and some day, hanging with mom won't be cool.  When she is "bugging" me, hounding me about putting that movie in, what I really need to understand is that she is asking me for a few minutes of my time.  While she might be doing it in a very demanding manner, she is simply wanting me.  The laundry can wait.

On the flip side of that, you also have to be consistent.  You have to stand by your words.  If you say no, for whatever reason, don't go back on that.  If they aren't allowed to play outside for the night, don't give in just because they are pestering you about it.  If you give in once, they will see that, and never forget.  You will forever be pestered about changing your mind, because you've done it before.  Trust me, I know.  I did it.  They can be stubborn, but you have to be more stubborn.  You can win this battle!

My mini-me and I, having the time of our lives
Let them be them.  Don't dampen their spirit.  That strong willed nature, or stubbornness if  you will, will carry them through some down right hard things in life.  That nature may be what gets them through certain things that other people would give up on.  Very rarely will these kids take the easy way out.  They're
going to do something, or finish something, simply because people thought they couldn't.  They are going to try their hardest to prove everyone wrong.  And because of this, they are going to do great things.  These kids grow up to be leaders.  That can be good or bad, depending on how we shape them.  So mold them into something amazing, and they will do their very best to make you proud!