It’s not okay.

This post is going to be short and to the point.
There was an incident in Florida that made it to the news a few weeks ago. I was discussing it with some other mothers, and we all came to the same conclusions.
First, here is a link to the article. If you don’t feel like clicking, I’ll sum it up for you.
According to her father, a 12 year old girl had apparently gotten into a violent argument with her sister. His reaction was to call the police and have them supervise while he struck his daughter four times with a wooden paddle. He claimed that the police needed to be present so that his daughter couldn’t claim that he was abusing her.
This is disturbing on several levels.

Number one.
She was an adolescent. This is the age when girls start having “boyfriends”, when they get their periods and start discovering more of their sexuality. How mortifying to be hit in a sexual area in front of two grown men, one of which is a total stranger. I don’t believe this was the fathers intention, but to hit a girl in a sexualized area against her consent, that’s borderline sexual abuse. If you don’t think that spanking an older girl can be sexual, google the word spank. I just did it and 80% of the links were porn. I believe that’s proof enough.

Number two.
The father described his daughters confrontation with her sister as violent. I’m assuming he felt that the situation was out of control. Instead of regaining control through peaceful means, he instead used violent means. I wonder where his daughter learned her relationship skills. Teaching a child not to hit, by hitting doesn’t work. It doesn’t even make sense. Children act out what is modeled in front of them. If you want to teach your children not to hit, don’t hit.

Number three.
This point was brought up by another mother. Her exact wording was, “If you feel that you need a witness to do it, should you really be doing it? There is such a gray area within corporal punishment. The general consensus among pro-spankers is that it’s ok as long as it doesn’t leave marks.
So what is a mark? A bruise, redness, something that lasts for a few days? Everyone’s definition is different.
I think deep down we all know that hitting is hitting, and the argument not to leave marks is an attempt to justify hitting children.I think deep down that father knew how quickly what he was doing could escalate and get out of control. I think he knew that hitting a teenage girl with a piece of wood just didn’t seem right.

Number four.
Every nine seconds a woman in the US is assaulted or beaten. Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
The father definitely taught his daughter a few lessons. But the lessons that will stick with her won’t be that she shouldn’t hit others.
The first lesson that she learned is that men can hit women. That women can do things that chalk up to them “deserving” to be hit. What’s more, those men that hit those women do it because they “love them”. The only difference between a man slapping his wife and a father spanking his daughter is a social construct.

Number five.
This is my final point. It was also brought up by another mother, and with her permission, these are her words.
“I recently read an article about institutional betrayal being more damaging than familial abuse. For example, a girl is molested by a youth pastor, a child is abused in a daycare center. The abuse is swept under the rug. Not only is the victim traumatized by the act, but they are re traumatized by the failure of the government body at large to protect them.
Now this girl knows that if someone wants to hit her, the police aren’t going to care anyway.

Let me end on this.
Is it ok to hit a spouse?
Is it ok to hit a friend?
Is ok for a boss to hit an employee?
Is it ok to hit a mentally disabled person?
Is it even ok to hit a dog?
Most people would (rightfully) answer no to all of the above questions. So is it then, ok to hit a child? The answer is also no. It is not ok. It is never ok to resolve a situation through violence. It is never ok to hit a child in any way. Children deserve the same rights as everyone else.

Statistics provided by http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/

More than just a mommy

Ever since Kim Kardashian decided to “break the internet” I’ve read a slew of articles defending her nude photo shoot. Most of the articles are based on the premise that just because she’s a mom doesn’t mean she cant continue to be the same person she was before North.

Unfortunately that person has built a career more off of her constantly naked or semi naked body, than who she actually is – but I digress. While I clearly don’t agree with her photo shoot, I do agree that on some level every a woman should continue on as she did before.

I don’t mean that her children take a backseat. On the contrary, being a mom does change a woman and who she is forever. Once a mother, a woman’s children become her top priority. However, I do believe that there is always more to a mother than just being “mom”.

When I think of a mom, I think of mini vans, PTA, out of style clothes, soccer practice, washing dishes, and slowly giving up on the idea of wearing make up. I think of a tired woman who isn’t anything more than doing those things. I don’t think I’m alone in that (erroneous and archaic) view of motherhood. It’s just a knee jerk kind of reaction.

Before motherhood I loved to dress up. I’m talking obnoxiously wearing full make up to the gym kind of dress up. I loved to read, to day dream about traveling, I loved to constantly try new things, I loved to DIY and repurpose things. There’s a million more things about myself I could list here.

Motherhood has changed my life forever. It has changed who I am, but it hasn’t taken away who I am. Being a mother is not the entirety of my existence, it’s a facet of my existence.

It’s makes me sad to even think about it, but one day I won’t be changing diapers anymore. My house will empty itself of toys and and tiny little shoes. Babies will turn to children, children to teenagers, and teenagers to adults who move out.

While I’ll always be a mother, the dynamics of being a mother will change. My whole identity isnt wrapped up in the care taking aspect of motherhood. Motherhood is a relationship, a journey, a chapter of life that changes with time.

I think it’s important for my daughters to see that outside of being their mother, I’m still my own person, just as much as they are their own persons. I want my daughters to love me as their mother, but I also want them to love me for who I am outside of the diaper changing, the clothes washing, the dinner cooking, and all of the other tasks that I now have as a mommy.

I want my daughters to believe that they can still dress up, be beautiful and sexy (and by sexy I don’t mean showing their hooha to the world) have hobbies and be interesting women when they become mothers. I don’t want them to think that motherhood relegates a woman to a life of sweatpants and weekly walmart trips (though I have developed an affinity for Walmart and sweatpants, I still try to find the time to over dress) I want my children to see that motherhood doesn’t take away from a woman, it infinitely adds to a woman.

Children are like mirrors

The past two months have been tough for me as a mom. I have been ridiculously stressed and short on patience. I think my feelings have definitely rubbed off on Laila, in addition to the fact that her molars are coming in, making for an extra cranky little girl.

One day we were having a really tough nap time. I had things to do and I just wanted Laila to go to sleep. Every time I thought I had her asleep and was clear to sneak out of the room, she would wake up crying and the process would begin again. Finally I lost it and stormed out of the room in frustration.

My husband was home that afternoon, so he took over nap time.
Once Laila was happily asleep in his arms I began ranting to him about how tired and frustrated I was.

I kept telling him over and over that I was just exhausted! I complained that something was constantly making Laila angry, there was a tantrum nearly every hour, that it had been that way for weeks! I started crying and telling him that I missed the old Laila, I missed the days when I loved being a mom and that I was so aggravated that I didn’t even want to be around Laila anymore.

I immediately regretted that last sentence. I felt like such a heartless mom, I may not have wanted to have been with Laila that afternoon, but she desperately wanted to be with me. She’s so little, her mommy is her whole world.

Then I realized that Laila wasn’t the problem at all, no matter how cranky she’d been over the past few weeks. I was the problem, my attitude towards her was the problem. I was so focused on getting things done, that I had disconnected myself from her and her needs. Instead of being empathetic and looking for a relationship from her, I was looking for convenience from her.

Children aren’t about convenience. Children have needs, constant needs. Parenting is 24/7 work. It’s about consistently putting some one else’s needs ahead of your own. I read an article entitled tough love the other day that really sums up the self sacrifice and compassion that parenting requires.

Sometimes it’s really, really hard to be patient, to look at things from a child’s point of view and empathize with them. It’s really easy to expect children to behave like adults, to be annoyed when their needs have to be met before your own.

I once read a quote that said children are like mirrors. What you pour into a child is what comes back out. That really couldn’t be more true. This week I’ve really dedicated myself to putting Laila first. I’ve worked extra hard at being patient, at getting up and dedicating time to playing with her even when I’m tired. The more love I pour into her, the more love I see her returning to me. All relationships are two way streets, we can’t be impatient, quick to anger, and demanding with our children and expect them to in turn be patient, slow to anger and easy going.

Now that Laila is nearing her second birthday I remind myself every day how fast the time has gone by, and to enjoy every minute with her that I can, because I will never have this time again. I know that this is the time of life that I will always look back on and smile.

Why we don’t do “date night”

I was just thinking today, how close Sabrina’s due date is to my birthday. I don’t like to take my babies out – except to see family- before the six week mark, so I will most likely be spending my birthday cuddled up in bed with my husband and my girls. Am I disappointed that I’ll be passing my birthday with a pizza and a redbox instead of dressed up in a nice restaurant with my husband? Not in the least. We gave up on the idea of date nights a long time ago, and honestly I haven’t missed them at all.

It’s amazing how much my views on parenting have changed since I had my daughter. When she was first born, I thought a date night was so important. I mean, that’s what everybody else was saying. We were told we needed to have our bed to ourselves, we needed time to ourselves, basically we needed a break from the “responsibility” not the gift of parenting. I remember the few date nights that my husband and I went on were spent mostly talking about Laila and how we missed her. I started questioning the idea that marriages wouldn’t be successful without alone time.

When Laila was about four months old, I read a great article on children and marriage that really changed my mind. It was written by a woman who had several children, and had been married for nearly 20 years. She said that because she and her husband had spent all of their time with their children, they had received several comments asking how their marriage would stay strong if they didn’t make time for each other. Her reply was so perfect, What about all the memories we made together with our children? Werent we both together these past 18 years building a family together? Exactly.

Even before Laila was born, I thought date nights and alone time was so important. I really believed our relationship would become mind numbingly boring and fall apart if we didn’t have constant entertainment. That’s really what date nights are – entertainment. Now there’s nothing wrong with a date night itself, but entertainment isn’t what builds a marriage. Thinking that we need time away from our children when they’re small and they need us – that’s not doing anything to build a marriage.

The other night Laila was sick. She woke up around one in the morning and threw up all over me, the bed, the pillows, and herself. Eder had worked a grueling day, he left the house at 5 am that morning and didn’t get home until ten, yet without question he got up and immediately cradled his sick little girl in his arms and comforted her while giving her a warm bath. Seeing my husband as a selfless, attentive father does so much more for our relationship than small talk over dinner ever could.

Since Laila’s arrival Eder and I spend a lot less time together than we did before. But our relationship is so much better. I mean a thousand times better. We don’t fight often, I spend a lot less time thinking about myself, and a lot more time serving my family, the same is true for eder.
We’re totally broke, he works crazy hours, I’m always finding something that needs to be done in the house and in between, were playing with Laila, changing her diapers, and holding her through the meltdowns that she has more frequently. Our life doesn’t look like much fun on the outside, but we are so happy. At the end of every day we curl up in front of the tv, and we know that the love we have for each other isn’t a superficial infatuation based on having fun, it’s a commitment to work at something together.

It’s sad to say, but kids won’t always be little, they won’t always want to hang out with mommy and daddy 24/7. If you think time flies, wait until you have kids. I don’t want to miss a minute of this magical, precious, but so very short, childhood. I treasure every sloppy kiss, every mispronounced word, every runny nose, everything. And so does my husband.

It’s hard not to notice how our society is so incredibly selfish. Most of this selfishness is increasingly glorified. I read a quote in time magazine, “focusing on your own pursuits over other people isn’t selfish, it’s revolutionary” I literally can’t wrap my mind around that. It’s so sad that everyone seems to be convinced that putting yourself first is the way to be happy when it’s the exact opposite. Whatever happened to “it’s better to give than to receive?”

The more I spend time with my family, the more value I place in building my home, the less time I have to sit around and compare my marriage to a Nicholas sparks movie. A lot of unhappiness comes from focusing on ourselves. Saying that a date night is what keeps a marriage strong is like saying that a marriage can’t survive without “me” time- and that children and all of their inconveniences are in the way.

I know that one day when we are retired, we’ll be playing with our grandchildren, and well reminisce about our own children. When our children are grown we’ll have plenty of time just the two of us, and our relationship will be so much deeper because of the time we spent together as a family. Children don’t stand in the way of a marriage, they enrich a marriage.

A letter to my daughter – The last days as an only child

Laila,
It’s been nearly two years just you and I. I remember when you were just two pink lines on a pregnancy test. The first thing I did was put my hand on my stomach and whisper the name Laila. Even when you were just the size of a mustard seed, I knew you.

My pregnancy with you was one of the most special times of my life. I will never forget watching you kick and respond to your daddy’s voice every night while he rubbed coco butter all over my belly. We were so excited for you.

It felt like forever waiting for you to come, even though you came only one day after your estimated due date. We went to the hospital at 7:30 am, and at 9:42 pm you were born. It was amazing. You didn’t even cry, you just looked straight up into your fathers eyes, and then mine. You were the most beautiful little girl, you even had green eyes for the first few days. The way you would look into my eyes and put your little hand across my chest melted my heart every time.

You’ve grown into such an incredible little girl. I just adore your personality. You are tiny, but if another kid pushes you or hits you, you take care of yourself just fine. You have no problems with the word no, and you know how to let me know exactly what you want. You are so serious, yet so playful. You’re the sweetest, cuddliest little girl who showers me in squishy hugs and sloppy kisses, yet you have a temper to rival your mothers. You’re so very independent, bringing me my laundry from the dryer each laundry day, and laying in bed and scratching my back on the days I’m sick, you’re my favorite little helper. When I run out of patience with you, you’re quick to forgive. I know you’ll be such a smart woman one day, because you already choose to read books over watching tv. I look forward to all of the books well read together over the years.

I’ve held you close each night since the night you came into this world, but soon I will be holding another little newborn baby, your sister. These are your last days as an only child. In just a few short weeks you’ll have a little playmate and a best friend.

Our relationship is going to change, but I hope you will always know how much I love you. You are my whole world. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you. Every moment I’ve had with you is an irreplaceable treasure. You’re the most amazing gift that God could have given me. I’m so honored that He chose me to be your mother. You make my heart so proud just by being you.

I’m not a perfect mother, I’ve made mistakes and I will make more, but I promise that I will always strive to be your protector, your best friend, your confidant, and the best mother that I can be to you.

You changed my life, and I know for every lesson I can teach you, you will have one to teach me as well. It may not just be mama and Laila anymore, but you will always be my special girl. I can’t wait for the days of mama, Laila, and Sabrina. I know you will be just as amazing of a sister as you are a daughter.

Love,
Mama

Building a home in each other

After two and a half years of hardcore saving and budgeting, hubby and I are finally in the process of buying our first house, and just in time for baby Sabrina!

Up until this point, I think we’ve moved enough times to be classified as semi nomadic. The thought of having our little home for us to spend years in making memories is more exciting than I can say.

Although we’ve moved around several times, we’ve always had a home. By home I don’t mean a house. Home is an immaterial thing. Home, is the love and security between family members. There is a quote, and I forgot by who, but it says that it doesn’t matter where a child is going, as long as they are attached to the parent, they will never feel lost. I couldn’t agree more.

Sure, Eder and I will be painting our house, redoing floors and all kinds of other little Saturday projects that we’ve already planned, but that doesn’t constitute the building of our home. Our home is already built. In fact, we started building that home together on our first date.

The foundation of our home is our marriage. I believe our relationship really sets the atmosphere of our home. We work hard to have a balance in our relationship. I’m a huge believer in opposites attract, and we are definitely opposites!

While most of the time it results in us balancing each other’s personalities, it can also make for some major arguments. It took us a while to learn to compromise, and really listen to the other persons point of view. But the more we get that communication down, the better can display it for our children, and bring a better sense of togetherness to our home.

We’ve definitely chosen an alternative style of parenting, but we’ve both done our research, and had some deep conversations about every decision we’ve made.

For me those decisions are a big part of what makes our home. Our marriage doesn’t have one person who gets to make all of the decisions, so neither does our family. Our children will always have their say so as well, because a family is a team, not a hierarchical system. A successful team requires, honesty, trust, open communication, and strong relationships, and that’s what Eder and I want for our family. We don’t want to be the Because I said so parents, we want to be the kind of parents who actively teach our children to reach solutions through compromise – not force, even if it takes more effort on our part. When we compromise, we are respecting and valuing the other persons point of view. Because we respect our children’s point of view, we don’t want to be the My roof, my rules parents, because it’s our roof, that we all share. Our home isn’t something that any one of us owns, it is a safe place that any one of us can come to when we need relaxation, peace, understanding, and friendship.

Whatever roof my husband, my children and I are under is just a roof. Our home is the love we have for each other, the traditions we share, the memories we make, and the things we learn from each other – and I say from each other because kids can often teach just as many valuable lessons as parents can.

Bath time blues

Laila loves the water. When she was about six months old I used to take her to the pool. I had bought her the cutest Minnie Mouse boat that I thought she would just adore. I pictured myself easily pushing her around the pool, arms free of holding a baby, maybe even free to swim a little myself.

20140521-092122.jpg
Nope, Laila tolerated the boat long enough to take that picture and that was it. Sigh*, maybe Sabrina will use the boat.

Laila, however, has aspirations to swim! As a baby she splashed and swung her chubby little legs tirelessly with a huge grin on her face. Now as a toddler she flips herself onto her stomach, kicks with her legs, pushes with her arms, and is undeterred if any water gets in her face. I can’t tell if this is just an instinct in babies or if I’m an overly proud mother convinced my child is a prodigy. Either way, swimming lessons are definitely on the horizon.

Now with how much Laila loves the pool, you’d think that bath time is the best part of the day right? Wrong. Laila has a love hate relationship with bath time. This has been a lifelong love hate relationship, so my hubby and I have been able to come up with several solutions. In the beginning Laila only enjoyed the shower if she was held the entire time. I tried to hold her while I showered, but at the ages of five to six months, she just saw my boobs and thought it was time to eat. This made for a lot of wasted water and not much showering, so we ended up letting her get in the shower with daddy, and nurse with mommy after bath time. This was a two person job, but it worked!

Around one year (Laila had been walking since about ten months) Laila was confident enough to stand up in the shower herself. This made showering so easy! Within about a month she would even walk into the water and rinse herself off.

Then came a day that she suddenly hated showers. She didn’t want to be held, but she didn’t want to be on the ground either. I decided maybe we could find a way to make showers more fun. Enter the bubble bath.

Laila loved the bubble bath, she would lay on her stomach and pretend to swim. Some mornings she’d stay in the bath for thirty minutes. This was actually perfect. I was in my first trimester, so mornings were the worst. Every morning I could just plop Laila into the bubble bath, and lay in my bed (My bed was directly across from the bathtub) and rest while I watched her play. When she was done she would stand up, balance one leg on the tub and announce “ahh dun”

The bubble bath was great, but all good things come to an end. As the eighteen month leap set in, Laila came to hate baths, so we went back to the shower. Now she will shower, but only if she has plenty of toys and I sit down in the shower with her. It will be interesting to say the least to see what happens when little sister gets here.

Another factor in Laila’s bath time routine is her eczema. We discovered it at about three months of age. Our doctor recommended that we bathe Laila every other day. If she really doesn’t want to take a shower, I’ll let her go one more day. At this age, she’s really not dirty anyway. More importantly I want to teach her that I respect her body, and that she does have a say so with her body. If she’s having a flare up I let her go two days. Warm water can make dry skin worse, so I give her lukewarm baths. Perfumes also irritate the skin, so we use all free and clear detergent and very gentle soaps. I’m also one of those shampoo free people for the most part.

With all of Laila’s quirky little preferences, bath time can either be a huge battle, or it can be an opportunity to serve Laila and show her that I care about her preferences, that they’re not an inconvenience, and I will always do my best to accommodate her within reason. I can make it a part of the day that Laila dreads, or I can make hygiene a fun and regular part of our routine. I choose the latter in both cases. There are no “battles” in our house because Laila and I are on the same team. With bathtime, or anything else, neither person gets to have complete control, we work together, and because I’m the parent, sometimes I have to take on a little more of the work. That’s ok, that’s what true leadership is, and that’s how I want Laila to view leaders, as people who take on more responsibility in an effort to serve, not to control.