Monday, February 24, 2014

What to Expect ...

I have a few friends who have recently become mothers. They were so cute during their pregnancy with their little pregnant bellies and their trendy maternity clothes. They oohed and aahed over their chic diaper bags that coordinate with their ergonomically correct strollers which are a perfect compliment to their swanky infant sling that has some kind of unpronounacable european name. They went to prenatal classes, pre-joined mommy groups, studied infant massage and read up on what to expect once they had baby in hand. Boy, did they read!

They bought books, read blogs, googled and googled some more. They became experts on what to expect but, seriously, they had no idea what they were in for! Even now, months later, with countless sleepless nights, innumerable puke stains on their strollers and a funky smell inexplicably coming from their once beautiful diaper bag, they still have no concept of what this motherhood journey is really all about. And those of us with tweens and teens laugh at them. And those with older teens and young adults laugh at us.

As I look back over my nearly 14 years of motherhood, one thing has become glaringly obvious; those first few years, the years I had studied for, planned for and read up on, those years were the easiest years of this journey ... the easiest by far. I am, by no means, discounting the adjustment, the stress and the feeling of utter inadequacy that new motherhood brings. I remember well struggling through colicky nights and unexplained fevers and rashes. And I also remember the moment by moment decision to just keep moving forward even though post partum depression was calling me to a dark, isolated place. I remember. I remember.

But what I've come to realize is that there were aspects of those days that were so easy. It was easy to create a bubble in my home. It was easy to pretend the world outside of our four, finger printed walls didn't exist. It was easy to be the gatekeeper of who and what affected our lives. Caillou was annoying so we didn't watch it, Raffi's songs gave me a headache so we didn't listen to them. Veggie Tales made us laugh so we sang those songs. Colouring was fun but play-doh was messy so we spent hours colouring and the giant box of play-doh collected dust on the shelf. Nothing existed in our world that we did not allow in.

Then came Kindergarten and everything changed. Our Wee People began to mix with other Wee People. And they learned from each other. Most of it good but some of it not so good. And that exchange of information went both ways. Fast forward a few years and you'll find me longing for simpler days.

Sure, I'm still dealing with funky smells but this time they are coming from my teen age son's room and not the diaper bag. But more than that, we're dealing with influences that can't be easily shut off or turned down. Our everyday life is filled with the unexpected, and mostly unwanted, drama that occurs when you pile 500 hormonal, impulsive teens and tweens into a building for seven hours a day, five days a week and expect them to learn.

So, to my pals with infants and toddlers, I'm going to pass along some wisdom that a few of my friends who are further along in their motherhood journey passed along to me ...

What to Expect After You've Expected

~Develop a good poker face.
     Your kids will say shocking things, do shocking things and ask shocking questions and like the old commercial says, "never let them see you sweat." Whether your kid is saying and doing to shock you or they are coming to you, looking for answers, with genuine curiosity don't let your shock/horror/confusion/panic show. Keep your wits about you and at least appear to be stoic. Keeping your emotions in check will keep the door open to future conversations. If you don't wig out, your kid is more likely to come to you first when they need advice, information or a soft place to land.

~Be honest.
    If you don't know the answer, it's okay to say you don't know. If your feelings are hurt, it's okay to tell your kid. If you're having a tough day, it's okay to let them know. Your kids don't need all the details to your life's struggles but they do need to know that disappointments, hurts and ...well, life ... happens to us all. They need to see that you can come back from a rough day, that you can be appropriate in your anger, that you can grieve, forgive and make mistakes without it being fatal.

~Being good is good enough.
     One of the best, and most freeing, things ever told to me was that I didn't need to be an exceptional mom to raise exceptional kids, I just needed to be a good mom. As moms, we can easily stress ourselves out, trying to keep up with what we perceive other moms are doing. All you need is five minutes on pinterest to convince yourself that you are an inadequate parent because you don't make baby food from scratch, you aren't 'going paleo' and you bought valentines instead of hand making them. We set unreasonable expectations for ourselves and then flog ourselves when we don't meet them. Your kids don't need the world's best mom, they just need you ... you are good enough.

~Be intentional
     If you want your kid to know something, you are actually going to have to teach them ... repeatedly. When your Wee Babe was first learning how to walk you didn't talk to them about it once, help them to stand once and then expect them to know what they were doing from that point on. You let them see you walking. You held their hand as they walked. You caught them when they stumbled and you helped them to stand again. You walked along side them. You called them to come to you. And you celebrated when they finally could walk on their own. You understood that it was a process. You understood that in order to teach your baby to walk you were going to have to model, practice, coach and be intentional with them. That process never stops. Anything that's really important, anything that is worth teaching your kids, is going to be a process. You are going to have to be purposeful when you teach them to persevere, to be selfless, to be brave, to be authentic, to be kind. You are going to have to walk them through with baby steps. You are going to have to be patient. You are going to have to be intentional.

I'm sure there's more to this sequel of What to expect but these are the chapters I'm stuck on. These are the ones I have to read over and over again before they truly sink in. These are the ones I study so that I can make it through this phase of motherhood. These are the lessons my children are teaching me. And, as hard as they are to learn, I thank my kids for having the patience to teach them to me.

There's no such thing as ready. You just jump on a moving train and you try not to die.
~Vic, What to Expect When You're Expecting

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