Don’t take a break from your kids

I’m not going to deny it. Some days being a parent can feel like someone drilling a jackhammer into your skull. With no off switch.

But it is some days. There are those nice moments, too.

Often you won’t get a break from your kids. And, I say this with a big sigh, you really shouldn’t want one.

I don’t mean one of those 10-30 minute “me time” breaks. We all need those. And by need, I mean like a how fish needs water.

When I say break, I mean turning off the “parent” switch and being “you” again. Once you are a parent, and blessed with a little one, you are always a parent. You can switch gears, change the topic, enjoy a new hobby, but you will always be Mom. Or Dad. Or Mama. Or Baba. (Fill in with your name of choosing).

Should one really want to turn off the “parent” switch? Some might argue, but I was “me” first. I should be able to enjoy those simple things and hobbies without a diaper falling out of my purse or finding play-doh in my shoe.

Yes, I see your point. But once you had a child, this new duty fell into your lap and to embrace it with dignity is your responsibility. To complain and run from it, is really quite immature.

I know that for my kids I am the person (along with their father, of course) responsible for turning them into healthy, well adjusted adults. Do you really want to throw that away?

I see some parents who have to work and when they finally come home, they want nothing to do with their children. In essence they want a “break.” That’s fair enough.

But what about your kids? Isn’t it fair for them to want their mom or dad to play with them? To love them? To snuggle with them? To be there for them?

Instead of taking a break from our kids we need to start considering children our priority and putting our hobbies/work/leisure activities on break.

When tired moms and dads come home from work, each should give the other a 5-10 minute space to regroup before resuming parental duties. There should not be a “blame game” or “who worked the most hardest today?” competition.

These kids are ours and a gift from God. Today they are 2, tomorrow they will be 12 – do you really want to think back to their toddler years and only remember how you stuffed food down their throats so you could send them to bed so they could wake up early for daycare?

It might seem like you have no options, but there is almost always an option. It might take some sacrificing on your end, but there is always an option. It takes some real meditation and prayer but more than anything, it takes honesty. Be honest with yourself/your spouse and your family.

Yes, we have been ignoring each other. We have been ignoring the kids. We have been ignoring our home. To build a successful society we need to realize that our future generations are here ready to be groomed. Where are we? Why are we lost behind making money and making appearances?

The children we have are in the here and now. What they will become is how we raised them while they were young. How much attention we gave them, how much love we showed them, how much time we spent with them. I know I have been guilty of not slowing down for my children, but I realize now that if I don’t make it a priority, I will lose this time in an instant and regret it for the rest of my life.

Please take a moment and really think – what matters to me? What would I do if it was all gone?

Nothing beats Nano

Mothers are such a blessing. You never really think about it growing up, and you certainly don’t think about it when you are busy in your life. It’s sad, really, how sometimes we only think about our parents and how they raised us, when we become parents, or when we, unfortunately, lose them.

Through God’s mercy and love, my mom was recently able to come and visit me. We are really enjoying her company, and my kids, of course, are over the moon. My eldest, especially, is quite close to her Nano. While I worked (full time, and then part time) during the first two years of FZ’s life, my mom was the one who took care of her.

Once I moved away from home, away from the constant pop-ins, and caretaking… it really hit me how much my parents bring so many blessings into my life and home.

Where something simple as a “dropping by to see how you are” can be (at one time) taken as: “Again? I am really busy,” to “I really, really wish I could see my mom and dad. I miss them.”

I can safely say that moving away was the wake-up call I needed to appreciate my wonderful parents. Now I don’t take anything for granted. Every minute I can speak to them or see them (thank you FaceTime), I cherish it. I really, really miss those pop-ins and casual evenings.

Now that my mom is here, though, even my kids know Nano means business. She only has to say something once. And I am learning so much more about how to be a good mom. How to approach this issue differently with this kid, because she’s more sensitive. How to organize this part of my life so I am not so burdened. Plus, she takes them out on walks. My mom is the bomb.

Dear Allah, you are so truly merciful for giving me another chance to serve my mother, learn from her, and to have her presence in my home and with my kids. I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity. But I am so grateful.

Just a small bit of advice: Please, please don’t ignore your parents’ presence. If they are near you, you are blessed. Look at them with kindness, and you will be reap the benefits. Treat them with gentleness, and you will be rewarded. Sure, parents get old, it gets hard, but tuck a small reminder in the back of your mind of those days when you were just a small, ball of flesh and bones, and your parents did everything so you could live. Just think about their lives; they aren’t getting younger. Try to help them, ease their problems. You won’t regret it. 

 

The power of prayer

Sometimes you forget as a parent that there are many things out of your control. You just kind of get used to being the one feeding, cleaning and comforting, that when other issues come up and you can’t solve them, it just breaks you.

I thought I would have the handle on parenting now. I mean I have three, so it should just come naturally, no?

My last two have a 2-year gap between them – exactly two years. And they have been a handful, to say the least. My eldest always wanted to please and had an easygoing nature. Meanwhile, my second daughter is sassy and stubborn, and my son is clingy and well, a boy.

At one point I was dealing with changing two in diapers, two having tantrums, two wanting to be fed, two who needed naps, etc. Sigh. I was exhausted and always losing my temper. (Well I still lose my temper, but I am working on it.)

And when the going got tough, when I felt like just hanging it up and calling it a day, I never thought about God. I consider myself a person of faith, but I am sad to say that at times I lost hope. Sometimes we really underestimate the power of prayer. My husband would see me during these trials of mommyhood and say, “Why don’t you pray?” And I would respond, “I’ve tried. It’s not working.” But that was because I wasn’t really praying. I was complaining.

So then I prayed. I prayed like my life depended on it. I prayed not for potty training success, but rather, patience during potty training. I prayed not for an easy weaning, but for calm in my heart during the difficult days/nights ahead.

It worked. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I know God has power over all things, but I just couldn’t stop thanking Him. In two weeks I potty trained my stubborn daughter and weaned my clingy son. Sure, there were accidents and rough nights, but the monster within had disappeared. It’s as if God knew my weaknesses and therefore made the process somewhat easier so that I wouldn’t lose my patience or be as frustrated.

Thank you God. Thanks for helping me up when I felt like a lousy mom. Thanks for giving me those little wonderful moments to remind me that mothering isn’t all about discipline, dirty diapers, and tantrums. Most of all, thanks for giving me hope that things will get easier if I just be patient and calm.

Now, excuse me while I break up a fight with a smile.

That understanding nod

Recently we were traveling by plane and had the wonderful experience of waiting at the airport (our flight was delayed), while one kid was sleeping in the double stroller, one had a diaper leak, and one was hungry/tired/bored.

Finally as time comes to board the aircraft, we lug past business class with our bulging backpack, a diaper bag hitting every seat, plus a sleepy-now-awake-and-angry-and-also-throwing-a-tantrum toddler. Did I mention another kid was now also sleepy/cranky/screaming?

And as I plop into my seat, I couldn’t help but think about the faces those business class passengers were making at us. Definitely not like the understanding nods that fellow parents give you as you tote around your kids and their seemingly never-ending necessities.

Ahh, business class. Sharp dressed men and women with no toys or huge bags around them, maybe a laptop propped comfortably in front of them. Or swiping on a tablet they don’t have to share. Or reading a newspaper. A newspaper!! I remember those… I used to work at a newspaper and have an unexplainable love for flipping through the pages and getting ink on my fingers.

You want to know the last time I read a newspaper? When I spread them out on the floor so my kids could paint and not get the floor messy. Yes, it was an old edition and yet, I still kept reading…..

The last time I looked at a tablet? I only get a minute of tablet time anyway, just enough time to scroll through the news headlines on the lock screen before a kid comes to me grabbing it and wanting to play some game involving making a pizza or feeding a cat.

While we sat squished in coach, I told my husband to let’s travel business class when the kids get older and we are able to enjoy having our tray table down without a kid banging on it. He gave me a weary smile.

And I think flight attendants never have children. Or it seems that way. Because they will always give you anti-kid friendly directions, like, “Please put away that LeapPad until after the plane takes off,” (cue crazy child screaming).

Or the best one is when your toddler is trying to run down the aisle and you are trying to contain him, and the flight attendant comes by with those wonderfully attractive child seat belts. Yes, I can see my child will now certainly calm down for this.

As I wrangle with my son to get the belt on him, the lady next to me sees my son flailing about, she brushes off the flight attendant and says, “Just put it around him so it looks like it’s on.”

I smile at her and do exactly that. (Disclaimer: Yeah, I know it isn’t safe. But I had my son with me under my belt.)

It felt nice to finally have someone understand me and what I was going through. This nice lady didn’t grunt when I accidentally dropped my shawl onto her seat, or groan when I bent down for the 10 millionth time to pick up a pacifier from around her feet.

Even as we departed the aircraft and made our way onto a bus to get to the terminal, the odds were still against us. I had a toddler now sleeping on my shoulder and no stroller. My husband had a 3-year-old sleeping on his shoulder, and he was practically dragging our 6-year-old who was also sleepy. With my bag hanging in the crook of my elbow, I just leaned against the side of the bus and prayed to get home NOW.

God must have heard my prayer, because all of a sudden a woman traveling with her mother motioned to me and gave me her seat. I thanked her with my words and my eyes, and every fiber of my being. Her mother asked me how many kids I had, and she smiled this smile that said, “Oh yes, I’ve been there.”

It really makes a difference when you sympathize with people. We all have been in different life situations. Whether it is dealing with children, spouses, parents, neighbors, coworkers, certain health issues, etc., we have all been there. It just takes a smile and an understanding act of kindness to show that yes, I am also human. I understand where you are coming from.

Isn’t this why God put us all on this Earth together? To learn from each other. To learn to live with each other. And more importantly, to become selfless people who care for one another.

So, so hard

Some days seem so hard. You know those days when you pound the dough just a little bit harder and mutter more under your breath.

But it’s because you don’t want to lose your cool. Because as a mother there is nothing worse than letting out a barrage of anger-filled words only to regret it later.

Does that mean that a good mother never gets angry? I doubt it. I doubt that mother exists. Just like the mother who never lets her kid watch TV doesn’t exist.

Sure we get angry. We get frustrated. We lash out. And then we cry. Well, I do anyway.

I wonder when it will get easier. I wonder when M will get potty trained. I wonder when Moose will stop throwing things at my head. And I know those of you with older kids will all tell me – “Oh but it will get easier! Don’t worry!”

But you see, right now I just see the hard things. Not the easy things. And this, I know, must change.

I must see beyond the toy throwing and see my boy with two hands.

I must see beyond the relentless questions and see the girl who is able to communicate.

I must see beyond the potty accidents and see the toddler who can put on her own pants and shoes.

Then I no longer see problems, but instead I see the many beautiful faces of my children. Their soft smiles, the way they share, and the way they call on me.

Once I see past the hard stuff, I become grateful for the many blessings I do have, and this makes it easier.