Sometimes it is all about me

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons” as Attachment Parenting International celebrates with an inspiring series from May 7-11. We hope you are enjoying your Mother’s Day and find time to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

Jillian AmodioThis year’s theme for Mother’s Day at APtly Said is “Life Lessons.” We were asked to reflect on what we have learned since becoming a mother. Well, I think the easier question to answer would be what haven’t I learned since becoming a mother?

Motherhood changes you so deeply. Every aspect of your life is transformed to reflect your new role — no part of your old life or old self is left untouched. This is simultaneously wildly exciting and unimaginably overwhelming.

If I had to choose the most prominent life lesson, the one that has most profoundly affected my day to day living, it is this: Sometimes it is all about me.

What I mean is this: In order to adequately love my children and my family, I must first love myself. I cannot give from an empty tank. When my personal reserve is depleted, there is nothing left to give to those I love.

As mothers, it is our natural desire to serve, love, and protect our family. We tend to put our needs and our desires on hold in favor of tending to the needs of those in our care.

While this may seem admirable, noble, and selfless, it can also be self-destructive and disadvantageous to our well-being and consequently the well-being of our family. Our children’s need for us is undeniable. But they also need us at our best — they don’t need us stressed, broken, tired, and consumed…although those are sometimes unavoidable.

They simply need us.

We don’t need to be “the best” — we just need to be our best. In order to be our best, we need to take time for ourselves. This can seem like it is easier said than done, but once you commit to taking time for yourself, it becomes a part of your schedule and fits seamlessly with day-to-day living. The Iron Samurai is your solution to all things fitness. More importantly, having been given time to re-fuel and compose our self physically, emotionally, and mentally, we are better prepared to provide for the needs of our children and partner. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, giving ourselves breathing space and time to decompress is one of the most selfless things we can do.

When parenting stops being enjoyable and starts to become a chore, that is a sure sign that you are burnt out and in need of a little “me time.” Whether it is a simple shower in solitude, 15 minutes of meditation, a fitness class on HealthEd Academy, a contemplative walk, or a much-needed nap, taking time for “me” is essential to our personal well-being.

Personally, I love yoga. I love to teach yoga and I love to practice yoga. Several times a week, I make it a point to get this time to myself. Other times, I simply go to the grocery store alone, and while I am fulfilling a task for my family, I am also getting some much-deserved and much-treasured down time.

There is nothing I love more than being a wife and a mother, and there is no one I love more than my children and my husband. But sometimes, just sometimes, it is all about me. And that, my friends, is perfectly okay.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Attachment Parenting doesn’t make me a perfect parent

Attachment Parenting doesn’t make me a perfect parent. It makes me an involved parent, a loving parent, and well… an attached parent, but certainly not a perfect one.

*****

jillian_amodioIt sneaks up rather quickly. It consumes my thoughts and drags me deeper and deeper into the same vicious cycle. All seems well, and then out of nowhere, it launches an attack on my psyche. It plagues my subconscious mind more than I care to admit. I’m sure it has an effect on the way I parent and the way in which I interact with my children. How can it not?

What is this mysterious thing that infiltrates my parenting and causes me such distress? Guilt.

Guilt over not spending enough time with my children, spending too much time on housework or not spending enough time on housework. Guilt for having a gassy baby. Guilt over not giving as much attention to my husband. Guilt for taking a nap rather than doing something “productive.” Guilt for not working outside the home. Guilt for losing my patience and not being creative enough, fun enough or energetic enough. Guilt for allowing screentime. Guilt for not allowing screentime. Guilt for wanting me time…

Now don’t get me wrong. Overall, I am happy. I adore being a mom. It is my calling, my purpose. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t difficult, and that doesn’t mean that I’ve got it all figured out. More often than not, I’m clueless. I’m learning as I go. But for some reason, learning from my mistakes often results in feelings of failure.

After having my daughter, my first child, I was burdened with more guilt and sadness than I had ever known. There she was lying in my arms barely 24 hours old, and I sat there covering her with tears of guilt. I sobbed, feeling like a failure for having a Caesarean section when she went into fetal distress. I sobbed harder when I found breastfeeding to be one of the most difficult and confusing things I had ever tried to do. I had just begun my journey as a mother, and I already felt like a failure. For months after her birth, I would call my mom crying, telling her that I wasn’t good enough.

I remember almost dropping my daughter the first day I was home alone with her while trying to get the stroller out of the car so we could go on a walk. I sat in the parking lot out front of our townhome and sobbed, clutching her to my chest telling her how sorry I was. A few minutes later a jogger came by and asked what he could do to help. I handed him my phone and said, “Please just call my mom. I can’t do this.”

More often than not, I cried myself to sleep. Once I finally did fall asleep, I would dream of my baby crying or wake up in a panic thinking that something was wrong with her. One night, my eyes popped open and I was drenched in sweat. I kept screaming at my husband that something was wrong. I was convinced that my daughter’s soft spot had caved in. I was inconsolable. He had to grab her out of the bassinet and place her in my arms to get me to believe that she was OK.

This kind of self-doubt continued throughout her infancy — and quite honestly has yet to disappear completely. I was always anxious and worried. What if we get into an accident? Was her car seat fitted right? Did she have the right toys? How early is too early to start music lessons? Was she getting enough milk? Was my diet to blame for her being fussy? Should I supplement with formula? Should I feel guilty about even thinking of supplementing with formula? Was my house quiet enough during her nap? Should I have classical music playing in the background? Am I providing enough stimulation for proper cognitive development? The questions were endless, and I was completely overwhelmed.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but after doing research for a book I was working on, I began to realize that I was most likely suffering from some degree of postpartum depression or anxiety.

While still anxious and often guilt-laden, those feelings began to decrease in severity as time went on. Then along came our second child, my sweet boy.  This baby is the calm that I desperately needed. He is mild-mannered and snuggly.

Even so, I could feel that same vicious cycle starting again. Even while pregnant, I worried if I would bond with him and adore him the way I adore my daughter. I felt guilty for not being able to focus on each week of gestation with the same intensity I had with my daughter. After he was born, the tears and feelings of guilt and inadequacy began to surface even more. I felt guilty over having a Cesarean section for the second time. I felt guilty about having less time with my daughter. I felt guilty about being tired. And I wanted so desperately to be perfect for both of my children.

This time however, I recognized the warning signs. I read an article written by Birdie Gunyon Meyer with Postpartum Support International. Several things stuck out to me:

  • “Depression and anxiety occur frequently, affecting 1 in 7 women.” I am not alone…
  • Some symptoms of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders include “frequent crying, sleep changes, …feelings of loneliness, sadness, or hopelessness, …anxiety, panic, excessive worry, feeling overwhelmed…” Check, check, check.
  • “If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms beyond 2 weeks, it’s not just the blues anymore.” It might be time to get help.

It has been more than 2 months since the birth of my son. I am slowly starting to feel like myself again, but this time, I know that these lingering feelings are not normal. They are not founded on any basis of truth. I have opened up to friends and family and have been seeing a counselor. I am learning to be confident in my role as a mother and to not be so hard on myself.

My point in this is, that while being a mom is a great honor and brings me much joy, it’s OK to not be perfect. Seeking perfection is setting myself up for failure.

Above all else, there is no shame in asking for help. Motherhood is hard, and I just want all moms to know that I’m rooting for you. We all need to support each other and let each other know that “Hey, I’ve been there. You’re not alone.”

Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders don’t need to be taboo. They need to be talked about. It’s the only way any of us are going to feel better. And when we feel better ourselves, we can better love our children. Happy moms make happy littles, and that’s really all that matters.

If you think you may be experiencing a perinatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorder, don’t hesitate to get help. Postpartum Support International connects mothers and their families with volunteers, support groups and other resources, many of them at no cost.

Messy motherhood

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

Growing up, I was one of four kids. Three of us were triplets. My mom did home daycare, and at any given time, we could have up to eight other children in the house. We lived in a four-bedroom home — well, three bedrooms with a converted garage. Space was limited…

…Love was not.

With a house as full as ours, we generated a lot of clutter. I remember, when I was young, having a difficult time sleeping if my room was not in order. As long as I could see the floor, I felt like I had enough space and my room was clean enough that I could relax, thanks to my mom that always got help from  a Dubai’s Trusted Agency.

I was not the cleanest child, but I liked things to have their place. I never fully understood the trials my mom had to go through to keep our household simply functional — that is until grew up and had a home of my own. Now, my childhood home sure wouldn’t be winning a spot of the cover of Better Homes & Gardens, but you better believe my momma worked hard making sure we had clean clothes, comfy beds, good food and space to play.

When my husband and I bought our first home, we had been married for just over a year. I vowed to make that home shine. Every inch of my house was going to be perfectly planned, color-coordinated and sparkly clean.

I did OK, and by OK, I mean I vacuumed when company came over, I kept the bathrooms clean enough and I made sure our laundry basket never overflowed, or if it did, I just dumped it in the basement laundry room. One weekend a month, I would spend all-day Saturday scrubbing the floors and really giving the house a good, deep clean.

I expected to feel a sense of accomplishment or a blossoming sense of happiness. After all, wasn’t this what I always wanted — a clean house? What I really felt was fatigued and mildly irritated that even with all this hard work, the house was just going to be dirty again in a day or two. Dirt seems to follow me.

Life is messy! And so is motherhood.

When my husband and I had our first child, I felt overwhelmed with trying to keep the house clean and the baby content. My first baby was rather difficult. I was a nervous mom, and she was therefore a nervous baby. In time, I came to realize that a clean house wasn’t going to make me happy. It never really had. What did make me happy was caring for my family.

I had confused caring for my family with being their maid. It wasn’t doing any of us any favors.

I stopped caring if my house was showroom-ready and decided instead to be content with happily lived-in. I spent more time playing and less time worrying. Now, of course, I don’t want my family living in filth, so I keep up with the dishes and make sure laundry is regularly done even if it does sit waiting to be folded for half the week. I vacuum up the dog hair and am very well known for my far-reaching talent with a bottle of Febreeze and a can of Lysol.

Things have their place in our house, but if they sometimes have trouble finding their way back there, it’s not the end of the world.

I actually find it funny that often times when I suggest a play date with some friends of mine, they ask if we can have it at my house. “You don’t mind the mess,” they say. It’s true. I think nothing of giving the kids a bowl of dry ingredients like rice, beans and pasta and filling a pot with water so they can make soup. I don’t mind them baking cookies and decorating with sprinkles, even if the majority of them end up the floor. I don’t mind them painting the bathroom walls — tile, of course — with colored shaving cream. We love to make jewelry, paint pictures and play with play dough. We like to do all kinds of science experiments and pretty much do anything messy. Check out these argyle jewellers in Brisbane like this on this website.

My daughter and I went to a play date one time where each child could only have one toy out at a time. Snack had to be eaten quietly at the table and feet had to be thoroughly cleaned before walking on the carpet. We both left there feeling anxious and nervous. Kids are messy, not because they want to make life difficult, but because they are exploring all that life has to offer.

My home is lived in. My home is loved in. And my home is where memories are made.

So this year’s Mother’s Day, I thanked my momma for making life fun. Thank you for a happy childhood full of memories. And thank you for teaching me that a lived-in, and sometimes messy, home is a happy home.

A sign of affection

jillian_daughterMy beautiful 3 year old, like most I would presume, is a rather emotional breed.

Juliette knows not only what she wants but can also quite effectively articulate why she wants it and why we should appease her wishes. Sometimes I joke that she is a lawyer in the making. She is clever, intelligent, determined and oh so independent.

While these qualities are all incredibly wonderful and make her the amazing kid that she is, they also tend to be what causes us to get into battles of the will.

I have learned long ago that arguing with a child leads to frustration, hurt feelings and even more conflict. Finding ways to communicate effectively with my strong-willed daughter when we have a difference in view can be trying but, when done well, is incredibly rewarding.

The other morning Daddy was getting ready to leave for work. We were sitting down to a quick breakfast together at the breakfast bar to spend a few minutes of family time before he rushed out the door, just as we do every morning.

Juliette decided that she wanted her second cartoon — she gets to watch two each morning — prior to eating breakfast. We calmly explained that while we could not force her to come eat breakfast as a family, we would greatly appreciate if she would come spend some time with Daddy before he had to leave.

She quickly switched into defensive mode and began to argue why we should see her point of view: “Breakfast will be there after my cartoon…” “I have only watched one…” “You and Daddy can come sit with me…”

We explained once again that if she did not wish to come sit with us, that was fine, and placed her plate on the counter for when she was ready. We also explained that she would still need to wait until we were done with breakfast for us to put another cartoon on.

A tantrum ensued. The best insults a 3 year old can muster were hurled at us like bullets, tiny clenched fists full of frustration flew into the couch cushions and tears of anger began to flow.

Rather than getting angry or letting the intensity of our emotions match that of our daughter’s, my husband and I sat calmly at the breakfast bar drinking our coffee. This is not the norm for our morning routine, so we didn’t think much of it. I let her release her frustration for a few minutes.

Rather than getting upset or doling out an unnecessary punishment, we waited until our daughter was receptive and offered a simple, affectionate gesture to let her know that we were here when she was ready. When she had calmed down and made eye contact with me, I signed “I Love You.”

Ever since my daughter was an infant, Juliette has been fond of the use of sign language to communicate. We have graduated from simple baby signing to occasional sign-language classes, ASL videos and countless ASL books and flash cards. It is not uncommon for her to speak in full sentences and use accompanying signs simultaneously.

My simple act — a “sign” of affection — brought my daughter back to a calm state of mind. Without a word she climbed off the couch, walked over to us and laid her head on my lap. “I’m sorry. I love you, too, Momma,” she said.

My heart melted. This was definitely one of those moments you treasure and hold dear in your heart.

She climbed up on her stool, and we finished our breakfast together. When Daddy had kissed his girls goodbye, Juliette and I snuggled on the couch for her second morning cartoon. All was well. Peace had been restored.

Strong-willed kids have strong emotions and strong reactions to situations that they either don’t understand or don’t feel are fair. I have found that when we meet these emotions and reactions with support, love and patience, rather than anger, frustration and punishment, we are far more likely to diffuse the negativity rather than exacerbate it.

While I am sure we will have many more battles of the will, this is one that I am actually quite thankful for. That moment of connection with my daughter was like magic, and I will treasure it dearly.

Teaching the art of giving

I have such fond memories of my childhood Christmases.

I remember the emotions and feelings of warmth, love and happiness more so than the bountiful supply of gifts we eagerly unwrapped each year. I want my 3-year-old daughter to have the same kinds of cherished memories that I have stored so lovingly in my heart.

My daughter’s favorite traditions are probably the Christmas countdown chain and the 12 Days of Christmas tree, which both help to give a tangible reference to the amount of time left until Christmas day.

We have also started many Christmas traditions this year, including a kindness manger, where acts of kindness are written on pieces of hay (paper) and are placed in a manger (shoebox), to create a bed of love and kindness for baby Jesus to be placed in on Christmas.

While my daughter will certainly get gifts that she has expressed interest in or requested, I do not want the receiving of gifts to be what she equates with Christmas, nor do I want it to be the cause of most of her joy surrounding the season. Instead I want her to hold most dear the traditions we partake in as a family: the art of giving and the act of charity.

We talked about how great it feels to give someone a gift that lets them know they are loved and thought of. I flipped through an Oriental Trading catalog and decided to have Juliette choose a craft that she would like to make herself to hand out to friends and loved ones at Christmas this year. She is quite the creative soul and will spend hours with whatever craft supplies she can get her tiny hands on.

mittensTo my delight, she flipped through the catalog with the same enthusiasm as though it were the advertisements for Toys “R” Us. She settled on a mitten craft, which could be turned into ornaments. It was perfect — inexpensive, easy enough to do herself and something that could be cherished year after year by family and friends.

When the supplies arrived, she frantically tore open the package and begged to start creating her gifts right away. She cannot wait to hand out her own gifts this Christmas exclaiming, “Family is going to be so happy!”

bulbWhen I suggested creating simple gifts for our neighbors, she was more than happy to help put those together as well. We filled plastic ornaments with red and green M&M’s and attached a Christmas poem. She is just as excited to walk the neighborhood and hand out these gems as well.

Juliette is a very curious child. My husband and I love the questions she asks and how inquisitive she is. When she asked what the word “charity” meant, I decided to show her rather than to simply explain its definition.

We talked about the meaning of charity and what it means to help and serve others. She decided she wanted to help babies, so I spoke to the staff at Gabriel Network, an organization where I have done volunteered in the past and arranged for Juliette to do a projects that would benefit the moms and babies who rely on Gabriel Network’s services.

snowmanJuliette helped to design footprint snowmen cards and sold them for $2. The money she raised was donated to Gabriel Network. Not only did she enjoy doing yet another Christmas craft, but the look of joy and pride on her face as she handed over her donation and explained that she wanted to help babies in need was priceless.

Children may be small, but they still have much to offer.

Messy, glorious motherhood

They say when you become a mom, you change. I am sure just about every one of us has experienced that. It is awe-inspiring to come to the realization that just as our actions shape our children, our interactions with our children also continue to shape us.

My heart loves more deeply, my mind works more creatively — albeit a little slower at times — and my life seems all the more vibrant since embarking on my journey as a mother.

The other day, I had a revelation of sorts.

No mother likes to see her child suffer. A sick child is like a stone upon the heart of the mother. Her heart becomes heavy, and their pain becomes hers. Even as I type this, my child lays sleeping next to me after another night of unrest. It is cold and flu season, and this is nothing new. However, my perspective is.

I have come to find that, even in the most unpleasant of parenting moments, my heart is still full and the moments are nonetheless glorious. Now don’t get me wrong — I hate seeing my child not feeling well, but there is undoubtedly still beauty to be found even when the situation is of less savory nature.

jillian_amodio_-_cosleeping_picYesterday, for instance, I had just gotten my 3-year-old daughter down for a nap. She had slept poorly the night before, and I lay next to her softly stroking her hair, preparing to drift off myself. I said a silent prayer of thanks that she was able to get some much needed rest. I lay there, inhaling the sweet scent of baby shampoo that I have come to love so dearly.

She had been sleeping for no more than five minutes when she began another violent coughing spell. I rubbed her back and whispered words of comfort, hoping it would be over soon and that she would drift back to sleep.

In a matter of seconds, however, I found myself sliding my arms underneath of her and throwing her over my shoulder as she began to vomit from coughing so much. Her eyes filled with tears, she began to sob out of fear and vomit slowly poured down my back onto the freshly changed sheets.

We sat a few moments…both scared and shaken. I rocked and consoled her and then cleaned her up before carrying her to the couch for cuddles and cartoons.

What struck me so vividly in that moment, however, was what it felt like to be so loved and so needed that for a minute: I was all that mattered to this precious child. Her love and need for me is so much that even though my presence may not be able to physically make things better — I can’t take away her cough or her fever — in that moment it was all she needed…to know that because I was there, everything was going to be fine.

What a privilege it is to mean so much to someone.

As she looked up at me with those big blue eyes, arms still clasped around my neck, she said, “Thank you mommy, I love you.” And with that, I knew that this was a moment to be treasured.

Despite the fact that I was covered in vomit and that I had just washed the sheets, I never once thought, “I need a shower,” or “Well, this sucks.” I simply thought how lucky I am to be the one holding my child. How lucky I am to be the recipient of such pure love. How lucky I am to be a mom.

Motherhood is messy, motherhood is hard, motherhood is challenging but motherhood is so very GLORIOUS!

The Llama Book and Why I Still Sing My Daughter to Sleep

Ever since my daughter was born my favorite part of the day was bedtime (and not because it provided me with much needed rest.) I loved to rock my sweet baby and listen to her breath start to steady and slow as she drifted off to sleep. The fingers she had so tightly wrapped around locks of my hair would loosen and my heart would nearly burst with love as I looked down at those beautiful half-moon eyes closed so tightly.

I swear in the moment that a child drifts off to sleep, they become an angel. Nothing on Earth is more angelic than the face of a sleeping child.

Now as my daughter has grown, our bedtime routine has shifted and changed more times than I can count. My daughter is going to be two and a half next month and while she still ends up in our bed at some time around 3:00 am, she generally likes to sleep in her own bed where she can stretch out. One thing is for sure however, she loves to have her Momma and Daddy put her to sleep and we are more than happy to do it.

When friends come over and I excuse myself to put my child to bed and go missing for 45 minutes or when I schedule evening outings late so that I can be the one to put my sweet angel to bed before having a family member come over to stay with her, I often find myself once again justifying why I don’t just teach my daughter to put herself to sleep. The short answer is I am against sleep training and quite frankly I don’t want her to feel forced to put herself to sleep. She wants her Momma and it’s my job (and my pleasure) to be there for her.

Here is a more lengthy explanation which began when my daughter and I sat down to read Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. Now before I continue, my daughter and I both like the Llama Llama books and don’t see anything inherently wrong with these books, I just tend to disagree with some of the practices that are displayed in the story line.

Picture this…

My darling curls up on the couch as bath time approaches and says “will you read to me Momma?” The answer is always yes and I told her to go pick a book. She came back to the couch and handed me Llama Llama which had been given to us by a friend. We were both excited to read a new book and we settled ourselves on the couch for some pre-bath snuggles. I began to read.

“Llama llama red pajama reads a story with his mama.” So far so good.

As the book goes on however, my heart aches for baby Llama, and for all of the sweet babies who are left to put themselves to sleep.

As the story continues, Llama calls for his mama who says she will be up soon but then busies herself with dishes and an unexpected phone call. Llama begins to get increasingly upset.

When we got to the page that depicts baby llama softly crying and feeling alone and abandoned, my daughter began to get upset. “Why is he crying Momma? Where is his Momma?” she asked sympathetically. I explained that not all mommy’s sing their babies to sleep and reassured her that I would continue to do so as long as she needed me to.

The page that really broke me was when baby Llama began to fear that his mother might never come back.

Now some may find this comical or gloss over it without a second thought. But the fear associated with feelings of abandonment at nighttime are very real to a great number of children. This truly made me sad for all children who feel this way while being sleep trained.

Now once again, I am not condemning parents who do not stay with their children until they fall asleep completely. Some children don’t need them to, and some parents simply don’t realize the feelings of fear, abandonment, and panic that their children often experience.

As we continued to read, my daughter was very happy when Llama llama’s mama finally came upstairs to tend to his needs once more, but we spent a few extra minutes cuddling before bath.

At bedtime that night, I was ever more grateful for the privilege of helping my baby girl fall asleep. As she lay on her belly, I rubbed her back and sang “Tiny Bubbles.” She held on tightly to two of my fingers and 15 minutes later as her grip softened and she slept soundly, I kissed her once more on her forehead told her how much I loved her, and slipped quietly out of her room.

My baby won’t need me to do this forever. Every day I bear witness to the fact that she is growing more quickly with each passing day. She is such an independent, curious, brilliantly imaginative child. I can feel these moments slipping away and there will come a day when she won’t want me to sing to her and hold my hand each night, so I am going to be sure to enjoy and treasure every moment of it while it lasts.

Childhood is a fleeting gift. Life gets too hard too fast. I love being her mom and I adore the opportunity to be there for her whenever she needs me to.

A Tangible Approach to Time

Parenting is the most rewarding yet most challenging job there is. Children change so quickly. What worked yesterday may not work today, and what works today may not work tomorrow. Being creative in our parenting is practically a must.

Each child is different and needs to have her needs met in a way that works for her. Honesty and communication can ease anxiety and help a child to understand the world around him. Finding ways to explain certain concepts, ideas or situations to young children may take some creative thinking but is far better than dismissing a concept as being too mature for a child to comprehend.

My husband has a wonderful job that he excels at. His career and hard work allow me the privilege to be home to raise our daughter. My daughter and I have endless amounts of fun together every day, and we are certainly just about as close as mother and daughter can be. While our little girl definitely enjoys her mommy time, she is undoubtedly Daddy’s little girl. She stands watch at the door when she knows he is on his way home, loves to play with him every evening, and looks forward to family time on weekends.

My husband’s job does require a certain amount of travel. Since becoming parents, we have been rather fortunate that there has been minimal travel, usually not amounting to more than a few days at a time. The last time my husband had to go out of town, our daughter was a little over a year old and didn’t entirely understand the concept of him leaving. She was happy when he was returned home but didn’t seem to be too affected by his absence.

This past business trip, however, required my husband to be out of town for two weeks. Two weeks is a long time for us to be apart from our favorite person.

While technology has made it much easier to keep in touch during the absence of a loved one (Face Time has been our family favorite), time can still be a difficult concept for toddlers to fully comprehend. Our daughter is two and understands pretty well the meaning of yesterday and tomorrow. Explaining to her the concept of Daddy being gone for two weeks, however, was not an easy task. I decided to make a tangible representation of two weeks for our daughter in the form of a countdown chain.

At the end of each day, after a Face Time session with Daddy, I had our daughter tear off a link in the chain. Each link represented a day that Daddy was gone. At the end of the chain was a circle with the words “Daddy is Home!”

This method worked brilliantly. With each paper link she tore off, our daughter would happily say, “We are one day closer to Daddy!” While our little girl certainly missed her daddy, she found it much easier to understand when he was coming home with the help of her countdown chain.

Children are far brighter than we sometimes give them credit for. Just because they are not able to fully understand a concept in the way that an adult might, it doesn’t mean that they are unable to understand that very same concept when put in terms that they can relate to.

All it takes is a little creativity and a whole lot of love.

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