Diaper nostalgia

Effie2 (2)I thought I kept my car clean and tidy…until my husband walked in the door, waved a diaper in the air and said, “Hey, look what I found in the trunk!” It was quite a surprise — with our kids being 10 and 7 years old, the diaper era is long gone for us.

I placed the diaper on the kitchen counter. I stared at it and felt a sense of relief and a hint of joy. Memories started to flood my mind, and I thought, Boy, how I don’t miss those diapers. How I don’t miss the sleepless nights. I used to joke around and say that my babies had a unique “no sleep” gene. It was a period of five years that my nights were occupied by breastfeeding, changing diapers, rocking babies, monitoring fever, cleaning vomit and such — basically, constant interrupted sleep.

I then felt a tug in my tummy and other memories started to stream into my mind: Aww…how I miss the warmth of their little bodies next to mine. How I miss opening my eyes in the morning to the sight of their beautiful, peaceful faces. How I miss their sweet baby scent, their glowing smiles and their innocence. How I miss the monumental milestones that engulf a parent’s heart with pride and joy.

A few days earlier, my husband and I went on a rare road trip with just the two of us. After about an hour of an unusual quiet drive, he looked at me and said with a tone of concern in his voice, “Wow, soon the kids will not want to spend the weekends with us. What are we going to do?” It was a startling realization. I replied that I didn’t know and added that we will figure it out and maybe we should just do what we used to do before we had kids.

A part of me felt a sense of liberation. My husband and I made countless memories traveling and exploring away in our pre-kids days. Recapturing those days sounded appealing.  Another part of me felt very sad and nostalgic: I couldn’t imagine our weekends not revolving around our kids. I could only imagine how much I will miss their constant presence.

A few days later, I found myself staring at the long lost diaper. It was a stark reminder that the only constant in life is change. It is the essence of life. Clearly, we witness our kids grow, develop and change right in front of our eyes. The challenges, the rewards and the joys of parenthood never cease to exist. They only change.

Today, with the exception of infrequent nights occupied with worry or our nocturnal pets keeping us up, our nights are quiet and restful. Gone are the sleepless nights, the separation anxiety and what at times felt like suffocating dependency. Nowadays, hovering around are challenges of a different kind: Discipline, sibling bickering and school. Today’s priceless rewards include: observing our kids become independent and confident beings, watching them foster their own unique personalities and forge strong friendships, and most of all, I marvel at their ability to face their own challenges, strive and overcome.

Every age and every stage bring a unique set of challenges and blessings. Much like a rose, with all its beauty and blossom, it has thorns. I am facing the challenges comforted by knowing that they too will pass. I am experiencing the blessings and rewards recognizing that they will likely be nostalgic in the future.

The one constant frame is the unconditional commitment and love that comes with the role of being a parent. And, possibly if I can embrace it all, I can endure and treasure the present as well as the future with all that it has to offer.

The mother’s ‘guilt cyst’

Effie2 (2)I suspect that for nearly all women, soon after our first-born makes the exit out of our bodies and into the world, a “guilt cyst” begins to grow inside us — metaphorically speaking, that is.

When my first child was born, I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. That decision came as a surprise to me, but it felt right at the time.

However, once the overwhelming feelings of immense responsibility and sheer exhaustion subsided, guilt started take over. I felt guilty for my lack of financial contribution to our household. With me not working — in the “professional sense,” that is, because we all know that stay-at-home parenting is work! — we lost 50% of our combined income.

A few years later, another nagging feeling started to creep in: I missed having professional ambitions and a career. I felt guilty for not being a career woman.

One afternoon at a friend’s house, over a nice glass of wine, my friend Heather and I had a heart-to-heart conversation. Heather is a sweet, shrewd businesswoman. She is married, has three kids and a live-in nanny. She confided in me that she envied me and our stay-at-home mom friends. She explained that, unlike her, we get to spend time together and we are able to dedicate a lot of our time to our kids and attend their school activities. She added that she felt guilty for spending so much time away from her kids while her nanny spends a lot of time with them.

I responded that I envied her for having a career, for being able to drink a cup of coffee while it’s still hot and for being able to walk around without a “shadow” following her every move. I added that I felt guilty for not working and I was wondering whether I provided my little girl with a good example of what a strong, independent woman should be like.

We went on and on until I tired of our kvetching. “Listen to us!” I said. “We are different women who made different choices for ourselves and our families. Why can’t we just accept our choices and live with the pros and cons, whatever they may be for each one of us?” We toasted to that and decided to move on.

I tried to move on. I thought I found the perfect solution in quest for more balance: I became a work-from-home mom!

I used to pride myself on being an excellent multi-tasker. It didn’t feel that way anymore.

Some days, I found myself drafting a work email, making dinner as I tried accommodating each of the family members’ often very different ideas for what should be served on their plates, helping my kids with their home and answering my husband’s texts, often responding to the dreaded message “What’s for dinner?” — all at one time!

At the same time, the thoughts and feelings circulating in my mind were along the lines of: I am underpaid for my contributions and skill set at work. I am depriving my family of a nice, elaborate dinner. I wonder if my kids sense that I am not fully present; I am certain they are feeling my agitation. I hope my husband is not thinking I am neglecting my “wifely duties.” Hey, I’m doing my best here!

I felt like I was doing so much, and I wasn’t excelling at any of it.

Then, I heard TV news anchor Barbara Walters say: “You can have it all — marriage, kids, career — just not at the same time.” That hit a nerve. I found it to be my truth. Nowadays, I am a stay-at-home mom, contemplating on the next chapter of my career.

More importantly, my “guilt cyst” subsided and is under control. I suspect I will never completely rid myself of it, but I am at peace with its existence. I attribute this acceptance to the support of my friend Heather and my growth as a being.

This subject of mother’s guilt over working or not is one that has been debated for many years and will be debated for as long as we have choices as mothers. I now decide to focus on how wonderful it is that we have choices.

Second child adjustments, and judgments

Effie2 (2)As I heard the voices grow louder and the confrontation was escalating, I approached my 9-year-old daughter’s room. She exclaimed at her younger brother: “Ugh… You are so annoying! How is it possible? How am I even related to you?” I was startled by the harsh words.

I understood her frustration. It seems as though her brother, almost three years her junior, has made it his mission in recent weeks to get under her skin. And he succeeded! But I was not pleased with her choice of words. I explained that I understand her frustration and suggested she use other words to express her feelings.

As I turned and walked away, I shook my head and chuckled. She did have a good point: My daughter and her brother were conceived from the same genetic pool and are raised in the same household, yet their personalities are so distinct. I was reminded of the realizations my second child blessed me with.

My daughter was a high-needs baby. Then, around the age of 2 1/2, her fussiness seemed dissipate as she blossomed into a content, independent and cooperative child.

In comparison, my son was an easy-going baby. I thought I had “conquered” parenthood and found the perfect balance between nurturing and discipline. But my son put a deep dent in my thoughts around the age of 2. While my daughter was a determined toddler with the typical tantrums, my son took determination and defiance to a whole new level. He was also physically aggressive. Communicating was not an issue as he used sign language by the age of 6 months and spoke at an early age, so I believe the difference was due to innate tendencies.

Nevertheless, I was not prepared. The parenting approaches that worked so well with my daughter were not effective with my son.

In response to my son’s aggressive manners, my sister said that if she didn’t know us, she would assume that we are aggressive, even physical, in our home. That comment turned on a light bulb for me and I wondered, Are these the kind of judgments people make about my family?

I wasn’t troubled by other people’s opinion of me or my family; I had already endured ample criticism about my parenting style. What bothered and embarrassed me was the notion that I may have been guilty of judging other parents. What I learned is that I ought to reserve assumptions and judgments of other parents. We are all facing challenges and have unique situations.

In nursery school, at a parent-teacher conference, I inquired with my son’s teacher if she witnessed any aggressive behavior. Her face displayed a sense of confusion as if she didn’t understand why this question was brought up. If I could read her mind, she may have thought: What child are you talking about? She responded that he was gentle and never showed aggression toward another child.

Another light bulb turned on: I understood that our parenting approach at home was not effective as his behavior at school and that we had to make changes to see a difference in my son’s behavior at home. We implemented different strategies at home, emphasizing more consistency, boundaries and encouragement. We are still trying to strike the “perfect” approach with our son.

This insight was valuable when my son started Kindergarten, where it was even more evident that my kids’ learning habits, skills and interests are as distinct as their personalities.

Today, when I disclose to my friends who know my son well that he was very physical as a toddler, they display a familiar confused face. This time, that expression puts a smile on my face. I treasure the realizations he led me to:

  1. As parents, we should know better than to cast judgments on other parents, as we are not aware of the situations and circumstances other families are facing nor do they really matter.
  2. As parents of multiple children, we need recognize and embrace that each child has his or her unique personality and needs to be engaged accordingly.

Happy Birthday, my daughter!

cupcakes-1163242-mMy Shelly,

So many thoughts and feelings have been circling my mind the past few weeks as my daughter will be reaching a new milestone: She will be turning 10 years old, I have been looking for the perfect birthday gifts for her for a while now.

As cliché as it may sound, it feels like just yesterday you merged into our life. When you arrived to this world, you were tiny at 6 pounds and 17-3/4 inches. Your size didn’t reflect the impact you would make on our lives.

I remember vividly bringing you home from the hospital. Daddy and I walked through the door, carrying you in your car seat, and brought you to your new room. We labored so hard to design it and custom-paint it, just for you. We placed the car seat in the middle of the room and looked around. You made it complete.

Daddy and I shared our life together 9 years before you joined us, and after many challenges, obstacles and one big triumph, you arrived! We couldn’t imagine more love and more light was possible, but you showed us it was.

Saying that “I love you from the bottom of my heart, with every fiber of my being” doesn’t adequately capture how I feel about you as my feelings are far beyond that. I love you not only as my child — my daughter — but also as the being that you are: the beautiful soul that resides inside your body.

For my daughter’s birthday I made her a wonderful cake. Thankfully I took a cake decorating class and learned a lot of tips and trick for that day. I was the best gift I could give her, she loved it.

You remind me of what it was like to be a child. You remind me of my own beautiful childhood. You remind me of what it’s like to have your entire life, your future ahead of you. It makes me want to push harder to achieve my goals — I want to show you it’s all possible.

I want you to be proud of me as your mother, as a woman.

I love that you are so confident, not in the arrogant sense, but in your core. You are content. You are comfortable in your own skin. That’s a gift most people strive to achieve throughout their entire lives.

I love that your heart is always in the right place with good intentions and actions for those around you.

As frustrating as it may be for me, I love that you lose your patience so easily at times when things don’t go your way. It reminds me of my own faults. It makes me look inside and want to improve.

I love your shy, crooked smile. You are not one to seek attention as you are quiet and humble.

I love that you are mature and responsible beyond your age. You make it easy for me to be your mom.

I love that you enjoy spending time with me, just the two of us sharing quiet, precious moments together.

I love that your imagination and creativity run wild. You have a passion for writing and art, and I adore seeing your world through it all.

Effie2 (2)My beautiful girl, you are 10 years old! How privileged and grateful I feel to be your mom.

I know that as the years will pass, we will face many challenges together. You may not always agree with me. You may not always like me. And I may not always be right. I wish that through it all, we will remain close, open and honest with one another. I hope our bond will always prevail and show us the way. My hopes and dreams for you, my girl, are that you will share your inner beauty and talents with the rest of the world, spread your wings as far as you can and always know that you are loved.

I love you — and beyond! — always and forever,

A lesson in approachability and honesty

Effie2 (2)I returned home after a night out at a friend’s house. It was late. The house was dark and quiet. My husband and kids were asleep. I was looking forward to taking a hot shower, to complete my relaxing evening with friends — a rare treat I promise to repeat more often in an effort to claim more “me” time and which is possible now that my older child is approaching a double-digit age.

As I entered the shower room, I noticed the towel placed on the floor was very wet. I figured the kids certainly enjoyed their shower time. I also found a pair of wet scissors and a bunch of hair on the tub. I wasn’t sure if it was my daughter’s or my son’s hair. I looked in the trash to see if there was more evidence to explain what happened, but there was none. So I put the scissors and hair away and took my shower. Then I kissed the kids goodnight, inhaling the sweet smell of their moist, shampooed hair and went to bed.

When my husband and I woke up in the morning, naturally I asked him about last night’s shower scene. “I noticed a pair of scissors and a bunch of hair in the shower. What is that all about?”

“I don’t know,” is what he said.

“Really? Interesting,” I replied and left it at that.

My 9-year-old daughter was next to wake up. I asked her to come to our bed and cuddle with me, and as we were cuddling away, I asked how she slept and we exchanged a few words. I then said: “By the way, I noticed a pair of scissors and a bunch of hair on the tub. Do you know what that’s about?”

She answered right away. “Oh, Mommy, when I took a shower last night, I had a knot I couldn’t get rid of, so I cut it.” I told her that was fine but encouraged her to ask for help next time.

orange-bar-of-soap-731884-mAt that point, my husband turned around suddenly. “What? That’s how the floor got so wet?” He wasn’t so much angry as surprised. “Last night, you told me the floor got all wet, because the soap slipped out of your hands and you came out of the shower to get it so nobody slips on it. You made up this entire story?”

Our daughter offered an innocent smile and admitted a “yes.”

I asked her why she didn’t tell her father the truth: “Did you think he would get upset?” And she replied that she thought he would.

Throughout the day, I kept thinking about the events of the morning. My daughter is very much “by the book.” She always plays by the rules and sticks to the truth no matter what. Such a blunt, off-the-cuff lie is unlike her. The event itself appears to be of little significance: Big deal that she cut her hair and instead told a story that she dropped the soap. But the implications are significant: She felt the need to be dishonest to avoid an anticipated reaction.

This lesson hit me hard that day.

We have to find a way to let our kids — at any age, any stage — feel free to come to us, to talk to us, to tell us what troubles them with the comfort of them knowing that we will listen, not get upset with them. Yes, we may not always agree with them or support their decisions and actions — it’s our job as parents to be their compass — but they should always feel they can come to us and tell the truth. Or they may end up lying to us and turning to someone else for guidance.

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