Part II – “Not As Much Success”

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Yes, I’ve been super busy in my little world – so much that I’ve spent the first part of this week just catching up on reading my friends’ blogs.  I’m always thankful that many of you haven’t posted in several weeks like me!

What have I been up to?  We have been up to our eyeballs in paint, ceiling scraping, and general home improvements in an effort to sell our house soon. Anyone interested in a wonderful 3 bedroom , 1.5 bath house that is full of great memories? In one month’s time, we have completed some huge tasks as well as finished up about 5 or more projects that were 90% done, but still needed that last coat of paint, or a few more knobs put on, a little touch-up here or there. 

I’ve come away from this improvement adventure with two things:                                                                                                                                   1. Why do I wait so long to do these things? I procrastinate terribly thinking the projects will take forever, but the reality is that each project took so little time (well beside scraping ceiling and repainting livingroom, hall, and kitchen) that I should not have put them off for so long. I keep saying: I want this to develop a new mindset to just get things done.

   2. Why do I get 90% done and never seem to finish up? Of course, with 4 kids, life has to keep moving so the finish-up sometimes comes a while after the initial start, but now I hope to have adopted another mindset which is to finish one project fully BEFORE starting a new one. We’ll see if these new ways of thinking stick!

Okay, so on to Part II  – the “Not So Much Success” part of the story, well in a minute. This story has to do with my Brooklyn.  I thought since, I focused on Jocelin in the last post, I would do a post focusing on each child and give you a little insight into the sweet people who make up our family. So join me on a side-bar about my third-born. Keep reading, I’ll get to the story, I promise!

My little Brooklyn: she is the most unique combination of personalities. I’d need a book to explain just how complex she is, but I’ll try to give a hint of what she’s like.

I was smitten with her from the first time I saw her. Baby 3 was so fabulous for me; I didn’t have all the apprehensions that come with Baby 1, mainly, how in the world do I raise a child. Or the apprehensions that come with Baby 2: how do I raise another child, I hope they like each other, etc. So Baby 3 was pure enjoyment for me. I knew what to expect with late nights, nursing, sleeping, etc. Brooklyn’s first months were such a blessing to me; I drank her in. Looking back, I can see how the Lord was knitting my heart to hers then, because I was going to need it for her toddler years!!

To sum it up: Brooklyn is very strong-willed (it’s a mystery where that came from!). Most of the tricks to deal with toddlers and the developmental quirks that come at that age do not work with this gal. I knew this before she was even 1-year-old. For example, all my kids got to a point where they would fuss when I was changing their diaper and getting them dressed.  Thanks to my Mom’s elaborate tool-belt, I knew that singing always helps; you know, “One foot in and then the other,” … “This is the way we put on our clothes”… “It’s time to change a diapey” (to the tune of Veggie Tales, “Oh Where Is My Hairbrush,” a Bradley original!).

Well before most kids even know how to throw a fit, Brooklyn would start fussing on the changing table, I’d start singing and she would arch her back, stiffen that body and scream, scream, scream. The more I sang, the louder she got. It was like she was saying, “Listen lady, that distraction biz will not work on me. Too bad, so sad.” Honestly, I eventually began to sing, usually the first worship song I could think of (or just the name of Jesus), just to keep my sanity. I was no longer singing for her, instead it was just for me so the screaming wouldn’t get to me as bad!

If I give Brooklyn the choice of A or B (a great tool for helping a toddler with their need for independence) she will always choose C – even if she really wants B; she’ll choose C because she will not fall for any of my pansy-parenting tricks. She requires the Big-Guns Tool Belt!

Can I be honest here for a minute – just keepin’ it real – I literally didn’t like to be around Brooklyn for most of a year (or more). My Mom would have her for a few days and tell me how sweet, adorable, and fabulous she was.

This is the version Nana always sees!

Really, I couldn’t believe it; we had to be talking about two different people. Then two Christmas’s ago – I saw it. My family was with us for several days in my home and Brooklyn was an angel: super sweet and a total cutie pie. I could not believe my eyes. At that point, I thought that side of her personality was a myth. Now I realize I’m being funny about it now, but that’s really how I felt then.

This is more like the Brooklyn I was with!

That experience was so helpful to me. No, she didn’t stop exhibiting her will all over me, but I knew she wasn’t broken – that I hadn’t screwed her up, ruined her for life to be destined to tell everyone off, only have things her way, etc. (Note: all those who know me well can see the irony in the previous statement. Yes I do like things my way and I don’t mind expressing my mind, but hopefully I’ve learned a little tact and balance over the years!?)

I say all these things to encourage those of you with an uuber-strong-willed babe! If you don’t have a strong-willed child, you will probably be rolling your eyes and not believing that a mom would actually admit these things about her own child. If you have one of these challengers in your brood, you totally get what I’m saying. Take heart, they can be parented, they don’t stay like this forever, and they really will make great adults.

Now, just because Brooklyn is challenging, doesn’t mean she isn’t the greatest thing ever. The way I began to make it through was to count the blessings of her uniqueness:

So this little gal, who wants things her way or the highway, will, at random, do things like put herself down for nap. Literally, she will potty, get a book or two and her blankie, hop up on sister’s bed, read for a few minutes, and be asleep before I know it. Now this is not the norm, but on a Sunday afternoon when we are all vegged out on the couch, she’ll go back and do her own nap time. It is awesome.  None of my other kids ever did this.

She loves to clean – and is good at it. Usually anytime she asks to help, I’ll let her because she actually helps – you know instead of making even more mess to clean up. 

She has the softest skin in the whole wide world (that’s what I always say to her). I guess the way my genes combine with Bradley’s, we produced 3 out of 4 kids that have bumps on their arms, legs, and cheeks: the kind many people have on their upper arms that are harmless but make the skin feel bumpy. Well, Brooklyn is the exception to this inherited feature and her arms, cheeks and legs are like velvet! 

She has the cutest laugh where she breathes out and sucks in, giving her laugh a donkey-like flavor. I tell Bradley often that I hope she laughs this way all her life; it is awesome and always makes us laugh too!

She is beautiful. The Lord has gifted her with gorgeous eyes, the longest eyelashes, silky blonde hair, and a twinkly smile.  We will have to teach her to use her beauty for His glory and not her own, and get Bradley a very large bat for her teen years to keep her admires at bay!

She already has a great sense of style and can put together a cute outfit that matches.

She has some great words: Rabinoli (ravioli), Stawberry Cortcake, Santha, ABCDEFGHIKK, eleventeen

She answers to the following nick-names: Brook-a-look, Br-br, Brookn Danielle, Sister, and Sissy – per Emerson, Pip-em-Squeek-ems (she was our smallest baby at birth, so little and dainty, so I immediately called her a pip-squeek, Bradley has since adapted the name to its current status).

Okay, so now onto the story when my parenting missed the mark – you still with me?

Let me set this up … We had been really working with Emerson (the 18 month-old at the time) not to say, “Oh my gosh” because it is so close to “Oh my God”. I can remember that phrase as a child was one of the ultimate no-no’s for my Mom, the other being the word, “fart”- ick. My mom hated that word, and now I do too! So, we have passed these teachings along to our babes.

The other thing we work on, all the time, is to not tattle. Well a few months ago, Brooklyn ran to me while I was in the garage changing laundry and said, 

“Mom, Emerson said that word she’s not supposed to say.”

To which, I replied, “Brooklyn, it is not your job to tell on her. If she is not in danger, you don’t need to tell me.”

“But Mom, she’s not supposed to say that.”

“I know Brooklyn, I’ll correct her when I hear her say it, you don’t have to come tell me when she says it.  The thing you can do is to not repeat it.” Good job Shawn, excellent explanation: you told her what not to do and since she wants to be involved, you told her what she could do to help. Nice work.

So, as I head back into the house, laundry in tow, I see Brooklyn whispering in Emerson’s ear and get close enough to hear that she’s saying, “Emerson, say, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Now let’s take a moment here to acknowledge how absolutely clever this is. Her thought process might have been: Okay I’m not supposed to tell Mom when she says this word, Mom just told me that she will get onto Emerson only when Mom hears Emerson saying it, I love justice and don’t like for other people to get away with breaking the rules either, so, if I can get Emerson to say “those words” in front of Mom, then it will be a victory for everyone. Great idea, let’s put this into action.

Pretty brilliant if it weren’t so cunning.

Immediately, I firmly said, “Brooklyn!” That was enough for us to lock eyes and for her to actually realize what she just did. She was heart-broken, and crying instantly – all the way back to her bed for her own correction.

. . . Well, Shawn, looks like that wasn’t the parenting victory you thought it was, back to the drawing board. . .

Last thing: Brooklyn just got a hair cut and donated her hair to Locks-of-Love

Before

 

After

A Frightened Child

As I sat down to continue working on this post this morning, I realized that my post about being scared coincides with Halloween. That was not planned – I’m not that mindful or that cheezy. Well I guess I can be that cheezy, but I was not meaning to be in this case!

This post is in reference to a comment from my new friend Danielle: Okay, what do you do with a child that has a tendency to develop fears or phobias. The first one we noticed was the deathly fear of stick horses, screamed every time she saw one. Next she hates her sister’s infant bath. Cries during her bath time “Move Jessie’s bath”. She doesn’t like her bath-time anymore, stays in long enough to get washed. We have tried moving it, hiding it, ignoring the problem, reasoning with her, singing songs hoping they would distract. She still cries. Also it’s the dogs when they bark and the cows when they moo and oh we can’t forget thunder. Hates them all and cries. I am pretty sure she cries more than my two month old. She finally got over the stick horses when her friends started playing with them. Any input?

First of all, it is important to note that this is super normal for Audrey’s age (18 months – 2ish). Everything is new to them and so they can get scared of things easily – especially if they became scared once before by the specific thing or something similar. So even though it doesn’t seem rational to have a fear of a stick-horse or an infant bath (both of which are too cute to me but probably not as cute to you anymore!), your sweet girl probably has a rational reason for being scared.

It seems like you are doing the right things.  If you aren’t already, I suggest  talking about the “scary” thing before it happens.  For instance, before you head into the bathroom for bath-time, you can talk to her about it. Say something like: “Audrey, we are going to go take a bath, I’ve put Jessie’s bath away and so you don’t need to cry, you’ll be just fine and Mommy’s here with you.”

My next thought on what you can do when your child gets scared: watch your reaction. I had a friend over to my house the other day with her sweet boy and a baby that she watches. In the time they were visiting, both the toddler and the baby fell down and got a bump and her reaction to them was fantastic.

I saw/listened to her go to both of them calmly, not rush quickly to them as I usually do, and with a super-chipper tone, just simply said, “You’re okay.” And that was it. She didn’t say, “oh did you fall” (which is what I usually do), she didn’t rush to them panicy, she just calmly tended to them and they were okay in mere seconds.

It was in watching these children calm down so quickly that revealed to me that she was doing something right, and I was not doing that thing since my girls will literally cry for a full minute if they get a scratch that is so small I can’t even find it!! So I assessed myself for a few day and realized that I tend to:

  • focus on the boo-boo and say “what did you hurt” or “oh what happened”
  • run quickly in to swoop them up
  • make a bigger deal out of it than I should – So now, my girls do the same: they overreact to any minor ouchie.

What my friend did right was to:

  • reassure the child that she was there
  • offer comfort but not over-do it (even just rubbing their back put not picking them up)
  • keep herself upbeat and calm so the child knew they were okay by her reaction

The other thing I realized, a few years ago,  was that I used the words “scared” or “afraid” when I was directing my kids to do something: “Sit down, I’m afraid you’ll fall.” “Don’t touch that, I’m scared it will break.” etc. Now, this may seem trivial, but what I noticed was that I was using these words out of context.  I was not fearful they would fall/break something, I just didn’t want them to do what they were doing; but I was teaching them that I was scared quite a bit instead of communicating what I meant in reality.  So I changed my phrasing: “Please sit down, I don’t want you to fall.” And I took “scared” and “afraid” out of my vocabulary as much as possible.

I know changing your words can seem very minor, but I do fully believe that the tongue has the power of life and death. I just didn’t want to go on speaking fear into so many situations of my kids lives.

On a different note, Danielle, in your specific case, it seems like Audrey is sensitive to sounds. Watch her reaction to loud noises to see if this holds true. So maybe the sound of the bath filling up is too loud for her and that is what she doesn’t like – easy fix: fill it up before you take her in there. Now, you can’t fix each loud-noise situation, but if you are aware of her tendency, then you may more understand why she cries or gets scared.

When Mason was around this age, we were at a stoplight when an ambulance came through and honked their horn SUPER loud. We all jumped but he started scream/crying instantly.  We live close to a fire station and every time he would hear the fire trucks, he would scream/cry – even if he was asleep.  He probably did this for a year and it finally donned on me that it stemmed from the initial encounter with the ambulance.

Brooklyn, as she entered this age, also became scared of the sirens, so I started telling her, “That’s just the fire truck, it’s ok.” But then I realized that I never said anything else, so to her, a fire truck only meant something loud that came by our house a lot and scared her. So then I started telling her, “That’s the fire truck, they are on their way to help some one and they are telling everyone to move over so they can go help quicker.” Once she realized they were going to help someone, not just drive by our house and make loud noises, she didn’t seem scared any more.

So, you might see if there is a way to add some explanation to the scary situations so that she might more understand what they are actually for – not just to frighten her.  Good luck with the explanation on the mooing!!

Now, Danielle, I have no idea if these suggestions will be useful in helping Audrey. Whether it applies to this specific situation or not, I thought these things were worth mentioning for all the parents reading. Just watching my friend with her two little ones certainly changed they way I react to the everyday bumps and frights that my little babes encounter. I can’t wait to hear more about cute Audrey and her freedom from phobias!

“Use Your Words”

This post is in response to the following comment:

Okay, so Eva came to me this morning with a good question: what should she do when she is playing with something and another kid takes it away. I don’t want to teach her to be a tattle-tail but I also don’t want to teach her to just let people walk all over her either. What should I tell her to do in a situation like this?

These are my ideas on this comment in general. Most of these concepts can be used with a child 18 months (or even younger), but some of them are for children a bit older: 3-4 years and up.

One of my mantras is, “use your words.” (I begin saying this when my child starts grunting at something or screaming at someone.) At our house, we have plenty of occurrences of someone taking another person’s item.  What I teach my kidos is to “use your words.”

This means:

  • First they should try to work it out themselves with words. I help them learn what to say for a while: “May I have my toy back please?” “I was playing with that, may I have it back?” Of course the tone of the words is a key in this process too.  I say, “You have to use kind-sounding words.” In my world, the tendency is to say, in a whining/mean voice, “Give it back!” So my reply is, “How could you say that in a better way?”
  • Also, if they just try to pull the toy away, I say, “Instead of taking the toy, what should you do if you want to play with that toy?” Teach them to say, “May I have a turn please?”

(Applicable for around 3+ years) If my kids try to work it out, on their own, and still can’t find a solution, then they may come and ask me for help.  To help with the tattling issue, a good idea is to have the child needing help to come and say, “I need your help getting my toy back,” instead of “He took my toy!”

Sometimes one of my children will come to me saying sibling-A did this or that.  The first thing I say is, “Did you try to work it out?” If the answer is no, they have to go back and try to work it out themselves.

And if you hear them doing it the right way, you run in with praise-galore.  “Great job. I like how you worked that out. That is excellent!” Always, always, always praise good behavior.  Praising good behavior is a huge key to keeping the bad behaviors at bay.

A side-note on tattling:

  • If two of my kids come in tattling on each other, I stop them and then they are only allowed to say what they did, not what the other person did.  I usually have to remind them of this a few times as they are recounting the details.  So this is what it might be like: “Mom, he hit me.” Then I say, “Ok, tell me what happened, what were you doing when he hit you?”

The reality is, you will not be able to help them solve every problem so you have to teach them how to deal with the situations on their own. So, to keep your child from telling on every wrong that happens to them, you can teach them to try to work it out themselves and if a kid/sibling is still being unkind, then your child should just walk away and go find another toy or someone else to play with.

If after trying all of the tools they know of, a child still is causing them trouble, they may go and ask for help (again not tattling on what the other person did, but asking for help).

Remember, this is a process that will take time to teach your child(ren) and my kids still need reminders about the correct way the majority time.  They do get it right on their own sometimes though!!!!

Now, I am no expert on tattling and still feel like my family needs much work in this area, so for those of you who have some good no-tattling techniques, please share!

Sibling Play/ Siblings vs. Friends

Here is a comment from my friend Amy:
I have two boys who are two years apart. The youngest adores his brother and wants to be right on his heels. The oldest gets annoyed by the youngest and shows it by yelling, pushing, or saying mean things. Or he refuses to play with him at all. He also joins up with his neighbor buddies (who are older than both my boys) and tells his younger brother that he’s a baby. So, the youngest comes in crying because he’s not being treated fairly. ONGOING CYCLE!!!

Okay, so I have a few random ideas on this subject, but no example of like, “oh, my kids do this same thing; here is what worked for me.”

1. We have a rule around our house that sibling treatment is most important.  I feel like some kids can be tough enough to get along with; a brother or sister should not be a part of that group.  At our house, we talk about not joining up with a friend to gang up on a brother or sister.  If we see that action, it is instant removal from the friend/situation.

2.  I also do not think it is fair for a sibling to be required to play with his/her siblings all the time.  So Amy, in your example, maybe Isaac gets to play with the boys down the street for 15 minutes, or so, alone, while Josiah gets some quality time with you or something fun to do during that time.  Here’s my hypothetical example, “You (Isaac) can go play with the boys down the street for 15 minutes.  When that time is up, Josiah will be coming to play too.  You can treat him with kindness and let him be a part, or you will be done playing and come home.”

3. I think this same concept of independent time can also be so great at home too. Allow each child time for alone-play.  This can be scheduled into each day – or maybe weekends since that is when school kids are all home together.  We like to have room-time (I’ll make another post for a full explanation of room-time soon), or sometimes, if I just see the need arise, I’ll just tell everyone to go to their room and play by themselves for a certain amount of time.  I usually set a timer for 15-25 minutes.

My Jocelin (the oldest) likes to play by herself the most (maybe it’s a 1st child thing). So sometimes I tell her that I’ll set a timer and she can play alone for that time. After the timer goes off, she needs to be ready to play with her brother and sisters.

4. General comments on sibling relationships:

  • Specifically in my home, we have to work a lot on not delighting in the pain or irritation of a sibling.  I am frequently saying, “You may not be a bothersome (or pesky) brother.” We also talk about the heart issue if you are glad someone is hurting at your expense.

How could this sweet boy be pesky?!

  • I believe that siblings can be loving and kind to one another – in general of course. Relationships with siblings are such good practice for so many other relationships.
  • And, of course, the golden rule is so appropriate here too.  I say often, “How would you feel if you were the one being made fun of or the one being left out?”, etc.
  • I try to think how I feel about my relationships: I like to have quality time, one-on-one with my friends from time to time and I most definitely need time to retreat and refresh all by myself.  Now, finding that time with 4 sweet kidos is a whole different issue, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t need it!

Okay-so hopefully this will give you some ideas.  Let us know what you try and what works.

Also, for the other moms who have found some good ways to encourage sibling play, please give us your suggestions.

Thank You Brooklyn

This category of “Keepin’ It Real” is intended to capture those parts of parenting that we aren’t necessarily proud of but show the actual reality of life at home with little ones.  I am certain many of the entries will qualify as “too much information,” including the following.  Read at your own risk!

My Sweet Brooklyn Danielle

My 3-year-old, Brooklyn-bear (as a friend calls her), will provide frequent material for this category. 

Two days ago, she called me into the bathroom and said, “Mom, look, a cross.”

“You see a cross? Where?” I said.

“My poo poo,” she said.

“Your, poo poo?”

“Yeah, look,” Brooklyn replied. 

Yep, there is was: a fecal resemblance of the cross.  

What do you say to that?  I guess God is honored that she is thinking of the cross?! I just had a sense that Jesus had to get a chuckle out of that.

For all those who find this offensive, my apologies, I’m just “keepin’ it real!”

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