Tag Archives: empathy

Exactly What I Needed to Hear

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I tend to let my emotions rule my world. When I read, see or hear something really sad, whether real-life or fictional — i.e. spouses dying, children with terminal illnesses, child abuse, sexual assault, people battling with addiction — I sometimes can’t shake it for weeks. It stays on my brain. Sometimes I’ll even avoid reading or watching something because I know it will affect me for longer than I would like.

And thank God Extreme Makover Home Edition isn’t on the air anymore. Husband really liked that show and for the last several years I’ve refused to watch it with him. Within two minutes of the show starting I can’t stop crying. It’s just too sad.

I’ve always been an emotional person. I have high highs and low lows. I get really excited about things. My friends tell me that I’m always the first person they call with exciting news because they know I’ll be so excited for them.

I also take some things to heart more than I should. Is it possible to have too much empathy? It’s something that I’ve managed better as I’ve gotten older.

In my life today, I think my biggest challenge is not getting too emotionally caught up in certain aspects of motherhood. What mother doesn’t always want to do the “best” or “right” thing for their kids? After reflection, I think my subconscious fear is that one “mistake” or one single decision is going to impact my kids’ lives forever. As if I only have one shot. As if the one day (or 20 days over the course of their childhood) that I go out of my mind with anger is going to be their only memory of their childhood.

Honestly, it’s not a real fear; it’s not something I think about on a daily basis. But I think my personality and temperament of:

a) wanting to control

b) wanting to do everything “right,” and

c) getting overly emotionally invested,

Sometimes leads to this “all or nothing” subconscious fear.

So anyway. Not only am I realizing that this isn’t realistic, I’m also realizing I need to cut myself a break. There needs to be more of a margin for error (for me and the kids). We are human, after all. People get mad. Sometimes really mad. It’s not the norm in my household. I feel terrible, I apologize to my kids and we move on.

I need to just let it go instead of hanging onto it and feeling terrible for days.

In my last post I wrote about how frustrated I was with Bean and her typical terrible two behavior.

I was venting, and over-the-top, and being dramatic, and not at all objective because I was getting out the culmination of all my pent-up frustration over the last several months. And we had had a rough morning.

(I also was trying to be funny with my quip about my mental image of her “running away” from bad things like drugs, peer pressure, etc., when she’s quite literally running away from me because she doesn’t want to do things. I think it’s kind of funny to see her naked butt in my head.)

It’s not that I don’t trust my gut, or trust my instincts, sometimes we just need to vent. And sometimes another perspective is helpful.

Sometimes when you’re in the thick of things you lose sight of the overall perspective. The “can’t see the forest through the trees,” sort of thing. Being an emotional person, this is the type of thing I struggle with when it comes to myself — I can console another mom (or person) all day long, but then I’m really hard on myself.

You would think that with Bean being my second child I would remember that these are phases, and they pass. They just really suck while in you’re in them.

After the last post I had two friends share this message with me (“I Don’t Want to Raise a Good Child”) about raising spirited kids, and it was exactly what I needed to hear.

In particular, this part:

“I don’t know what mama needs to hear this today. But let me encourage you from the bottom of my heart with three simple mothering perspectives you must hang on to:

1. Don’t take too much credit for their good.
2. Don’t take too much credit for their bad.
3. Don’t try to raise a good child. Raise a God-following adult.

You have no idea how much this meant to me: “I don’t know what mama needs to hear this today.” I felt like God was speaking directly to me.

It’s exactly what I needed to hear.

Oh, and one more thing. If you haven’t been introduced to Momastery yet, please, let me introduce you. Because I started reading Momastery in January, and once again, I felt like it was God (via Glennon) speaking directly to me.

All four of these posts came in a span of one week. Every single one of them spoke to me.

I. LOVE. HER.

The greatest thing that I took away from her addiction post was that when you don’t know what else to do, pray to God and alternate between “Thank you” and “Help me.”

I think everyone can use that advice.

Another thing that was exactly what I needed to hear.

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A Different Kind of Terrible

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I started this post over two months ago and I never finished it. Initially I entitled it “Way More Terrible.” And it’s about Bean. And her terribleness compared to Monkey’s. But rather than being way more terrible than Monkey’s foray into the terrible two’s, I’ve realized that she’s already mellowed some after only two months, and that she’s really not way more terrible. She’s just different.

Monkey is high energy. I can handle high energy. I can do high energy all night long standing on my head. I rock high energy.

When Monkey was in her “terrible twos” I remember thinking she was pretty terrible.

In retrospect, she wasn’t that bad.

Because Bean is high energy. Bean is busy, busy, busy, combined with extreme willfulness and independence. Emphasis on extreme.

She’s just not easily distracted. She is unusually focused and determined. And we could see that about her even when she was a little baby.

As an infant she could be very difficult to console. While it took awhile for her to get worked up, when she did, she was MAD. She was just very intent on being really p*ssed off!

I distinctly remember being totally bewildered during these intense crying fits as she continued to scream her head off even after I picked her up, shushed her, swaddled her, bounced her and showed her a stunning and magical array of blue elephants. Finally, I would be like, “Dude, I’M HOLDING YOU. Do you SEE ME, holding YOU?” Which didn’t work either.

Honestly, she’s been like this since the SECOND she was born. Literally. She was born, she screamed, I got to hold her for a minute during which time she was stunned into silence … and then commenced screaming again. And then the nurse took her to clean her off and she SCREAMED the entire time. I think it took that nurse like 20 minutes to do the APGAR, handprint and footprint her, and then even after I got her back, she continued to cry and cry. Major. Stress Hormones.

So yeah. The whole introduce a new toy to distract her from the toy you just took away? Didn’t really work for her. Needless to say, the whole introduce a new activity to distract her from the activity you don’t want her doing works equally well. That sofa she’s bouncing on? That chair she’s climbing? You’re gonna have to physically remove her from the room and lock her up somewhere. Because when you ask her nicely to stop what she’s doing, she looks at you and nicely responds back, “No.”

And that very specific toy that she’s looking for? Well another pink plastic toy pacifier will just not work. She doesn’t want the HARD PLASTIC one, she wants the SOFT PLASTIC one. WHY DO YOU KEEP SHOVING THIS CLEARLY INFERIOR HARD PLASTIC TOY PACIFIER IN MY FACE? Excuse me while I lay crumpled and sobbing on the floor.

I’ve learned that I just need to let her go. When she’s reached that point I don’t try to console her because the more I try to talk to her, the more angry she gets. She’ll just continue shouting “NO!” at the top of her lungs. If I try to empathize with her? Forget it. If I offer her a hug when she’s angry? She doesn’t want any of that either. She’d rather turn her back than look at you.

Monkey in general was (and still is) more amenable to compromises, and hugs and empathy. And reason.

She is doing less hitting and throwing when she’s angry. I think timeouts and ignoring her has really helped. Thank God too, because it’s the awesomiest thing when we’re in a public place and she starts hitting you.

Her ability to listen and follow directions is still up for debate. Some days she’s great. Other days? Not. At. All. Sometimes I feel like trying not to tell her what to do because I know she’ll just do the opposite of what I want.

And when we try to pick her up and make her do what we tell her to do — like don’t run away from me during Monkey’s school performance, don’t run away from me in the library, don’t run away from me down the hall —  she usually cycles her legs and flails her arms all around in an effort to get us to put her down.

Maybe I should just let go. 😉

That “Okay we’re leaving now,” trick where you walk out the door and leave her? Yeah, that totally doesn’t work with her. She’s completely unphased.

Two weeks ago she didn’t want to leave the neighbor’s house so Husband, Monkey and I walked out the door and stood there watching her through the window as she continued to play. She didn’t even look around for us after we left. After a Christmas parade last weekend we started walking away from her on the sidewalk and she just turned around and walked the other way. And when we were leaving my cousin’s in-laws’ house (people Bean literally sees 2-3 times/year) we said, “Okay, we’re leaving now. Are you staying here?” And she said, “Uh huh,” and started unzipping her coat.

Little sh*t.

Monkey definitely seemed to listen more. And that leaving trick TOTALLY worked with her. Hysterical sobbing usually would ensue with Monkey. Monkey’s still shy and Bean generally is not.

Monkey also is more prone to emotional outbursts. She’s a more emotional person. So while we had more frequent, but shorter tantrums with Monkey, we have fewer, but longer ones with Bean. Not necessarily more terrible. Just different.

I think the first four months of Bean’s life were so peaceful and easy because God knew how terrified I was about having a Toddler Tornado and a newborn.

Guess we were in for a surprise. I can’t wait to see how these traits manifest themselves in future years.

Where is His Mama?

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So Monkey has this thing about mamas. Everyone needs to have one. Whenever we’re reading books, she’ll notice if the character’s mama is not mentioned or present. And it concerns her. So much so, that she finds it necessary to assign another character in the book to be the “mama,” even if clearly, that character is not the mama.

This type of thing has happened before when we’re out in public, like at the grocery store. She’ll see someone who’s middle-aged and ask me, “Where is her mama?”

Or the time that she was sick and we let her lay on the couch and watch Finding Nemo. (Thank God I remembered the movie well enough to fast forward through the beginning when the mom and all the other babies die, unlike when I did not remember The Little Mermaid’s scary shark scene at the beginning and did not fast forward, and now Monkey is afraid of sharks in her room at night). Right away Monkey picked up on the fact that there was Nemo and his dad, but no mama. Believe me, I was NOT going to explain where that mother was.

And then last night we were reading a Care Bears book about Thanksgiving. It was called “A Very Grumpy Thanksgiving,” and Grumpy was very grumpy and unthankful. And immediately Monkey said, “Where is his mama?” I stammered and hesitated, because honestly, I wasn’t sure how to explain that I didn’t think Care Bears had mothers, and she got teary-eyed and started to cry!! She then declared that Cheer Bear was the mama, and I just agreed.

This “where is the mama” thing has been going on for at least a year, and honestly I don’t know what to say! Every explanation I come up with in my head is more traumatizing than the last!

I don’t know how to tell her that some day, sooner than I’d prefer to think about I’m sure, she’ll be grown up and she won’t need me like she needs me now. She won’t need me for physical comfort and security. She won’t need me to help her get dressed or go to the bathroom. She won’t need me to prepare her food or play with her.

Even worse, how do I explain to her that a character in a storybook just plain doesn’t have a mama!?? Or what about real kids, not in a storybook, who don’t have a mama around? Obviously I’m not going to tell her that now, but at some point I’ll have to.

At her tender age of 2.5, it’s incomprehensible that not everyone has a mama with them practically all the time. It’s just not something that exists in her perception of the world. To her, child/baby = mama.

It breaks my heart to think about her worrying over whether someone has a mama or not. It shows her vulnerability, her compassion, and most of all, how much she needs me. It makes me want to scoop her up and squeeze her tight and never let go.

It breaks my heart to think about a time when she is old enough to understand that children are not with their mamas all the time, and that eventually they do go out into the world — alone.

I know she’ll always need me — to help mend her broken heart when friends or boyfriends treat her poorly, to listen, to offer advice and guidance when asked — but she won’t need me like she needs me now.

And maybe I’m a little heartbroken because that time is kind of incomprehensible to me too.

Two weeks ago Taylor Swift, the one with whom I am infatuated, released her Speak Now album and I can’t stop listening to it. One of the songs is called Never Grow Up. I think this is my new favorite super sappy song about children and parents. This is the song that I’ll cry to when my babies go off to college, just like my mom cried to Suzy Bogguss’ Letting Go.

Never Grow Up (Taylor Swift)

Your little hands wrapped around my finger
And it’s so quiet in the world tonight
Your little eyelids flutter cause you’re dreaming
So I tuck you in, turn on your favorite nightlight

To you, everything’s funny
You got nothing to regret
I’d give all I have honey
If you could stay like that

(Chorus:)
Oh darling don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh darling don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
It could stay this simple
I won’t let nobody hurt you
Won’t let no one break your heart
No one will desert you
Just try to never grow up
Never grow up

You’re in the car on the way to the movies
And you’re mortified your mama’s dropping you off
At 14, there’s just so much you can’t do
And you can’t wait to move out
Someday and call your own shots

But don’t make her drop you off around the block
Remember she’s getting older too
And don’t lose the way that you dance around in your PJs getting ready for school

(Chorus:)
Oh darling don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh darling don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up

It could stay this simple
No one’s ever burned you
Nothing’s ever left you scarred
And even though you want to, just try to never grow up

Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room
Memorize what is sounded like when your dad gets home
Remember the footsteps, remember the words said
And all your little brother’s favorite songs
I just realized everything I had is someday gonna be gone

So here I am in my new apartment
In a big city, they just dropped me off
It’s so much colder than I thought it would be
So I tuck myself in and turn my nightlight on

Wish I’d never grown up
I wish I’d never grown up
Oh I don’t wanna grow up
Wish I’d never grown up
Could still be little
Oh I don’t wanna grow up
It could still be simple

(Chorus:)
Oh darling don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh darling don’t you ever grow up, don’t you ever grow up
It could stay this simple
Won’t let nobody hurt you
Won’t let no one break your heart
And even though you want to, please try to never grow up
Don’t you ever grow up
Just never grow up