Culture, Daily Life, Parenting

Parenting Without Faith

I want to preface this by mentioning that this is not an easy post for me to write. Although I’ve been documenting my life as a parent online for well over a year now, it isn’t often that I share intimate details of my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. What I want to discuss tonight is something that’s been weighing heavily on my heart for well over a month and I hope that you’ll allow me the rare opportunity to be vulnerable with you without judgement.

Last month, I had lunch with my incredible friend Bethany. She’s someone I’ve been close with for several years and I was happy for the chance to spend some time with her while she was back in town. As we were eating, we witnessed a father and his young son at a table near us. Before they began eating, they sat together and prayed. It was really moving. But it was also heartbreaking, for me. Heartbreaking because that’s not something that I can share with my own daughter. We’ll never (at least not at this particular moment in our lives) share a moment like that together because I am parenting without faith.

Having grown up in a Christian household, been a leader in my youth group during high school, and active in my religious community during college, I am no stranger to what it means to have faith. While attending undergraduate studies with a major in a religion and culture so vastly different from my own, I began exploring other faith based systems. My journey, thus far, has led me to a place with a lot of unanswered questions. When my husband and I had a child of our own, coming to terms with the fact that we simply don’t know, was even more difficult to accept.

Fast forward to last week when my little family of three was sitting together in the kitchen. My daughter, now almost three, asked my husband (after he let out a loud cough) if he was okay. He replied, without thinking, “I think I’ll live.” Without missing a beat, my daughter said, “I want you to always live. And mommy.” Speechless. As the tears pooled in my eyes, I found myself thinking back to that father and son last month and how I wish, more than anything, that I could provide that same comfort and promise to my own child that this stranger was undoubtedly able to offer his son.

You see, parenting without faith (at least for me and my spouse) is not simply a choice that we’ve made for our family. I want, more than anything, to be able to provide my daughter with answers to life’s biggest questions (Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?) but the truth is, I can’t. We’ve flirted with the idea of attending some sort of religious institution for the sake of giving her a foundation of faith but, for us, that would be disingenuous to where we’re at in our journey and what we believe about life. There is comfort in religion – a comfort my family does not have.

For now, we’re teaching our child that the World is a beautiful place. That life is a precious, precious gift that we should cherish, respect, and enjoy. That we should treat this planet and all of its inhabitants with love and compassion. That people have all sorts of beliefs, ideas, and differing answers on life’s biggest questions and that it’s okay. One day, when she’s old enough, we’ll encourage her to explore and find her own path…wherever that might lead her. While we certainly can’t make any promises about what tomorrow may bring, and as heartbreaking as that may be for us, we’re forced to simply focus on today.

I think it’s important for people to understand that we’re not parenting without faith because we reject God or because we somehow are apathetic or indifferent towards having beliefs. I wish, more than anything, that I could be certain that I had answers. But that’s not my life. We’re not parenting without faith because we don’t care about our child’s future or her (perceived) eternal salvation, we simply don’t have the answers. Parenting without faith doesn’t make us immoral people and it certainly doesn’t mean that our child will grow up to be any less respectful, loving, or compassionate towards herself, others, and the World around her. Our goals, our hopes for our child (and any other subsequent children we may have later on down the road) are the same as yours.

So, please, don’t make assumptions about our lifestyle and don’t assume things about the way we raise our child. I may not be parenting with faith, but I’m still parenting with love.

Culture, Daily Life, Parenting

Mommy & Me Date Ideas

Mommy and Me Dates

When my daughter started her part time preschool program this Fall,  I knew I wanted to do something special each week that just the two of us could enjoy. Having been home together full time for the previous year, I found that I was really missing having her with me all day every day. To be entirely honest, I still miss her but I know that giving her this opportunity to explore and develop in a learning environment is an experience that’s unbeatable and I feel fortunate that we’re able to provide that for her. One of the things that I worried about when we made the decision to enroll her was the closeness we have together that I feared would start to fade. Even though I still get to spend two full days a week and every afternoon at home with her, it isn’t the same as it was before (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). So, once a week, we go on “Mommy & Me Dates”.  We take some time after school one day a week to do something for just us.

When the weather was nicer, we spent some time outdoors (thanks for the free entertainment, Mother Nature) going to the park or just taking a long walk together. As the weather has shifted and the cold, winter air has started to settle in across the Kansas City metro, we’ve had to find indoor activities to enjoy on our “Mommy and Me Dates”. Even if you’re not a mommy (Dads can do this, too) and even if you don’t work outside the home, I still advocate getting out of your normal ‘zone’ to enjoy some time away with your little one in an environment that’s special. I wanted to share some of the things we do with all of you in hopes that it might inspire you to do the same.

5 “Mommy And Me Date” Ideas (That Dads Can Use Too!) Winter Edition

KidsCoffee Starbucks

1. Quiet Time 

My husband and I are both coffee drinkers and some months ago, our daughter started to catch on. Every once in a while (okay, all the time) she would ask for a ‘sip’ of our coffee (which, for those of you without kids, always means the whole thing). I think that’s why our occasional visits to a local coffee shop are so special to her. Starbucks had child’s sized hot drinks available for about the same price you would pay for a milk at just about any of your local fast food chains making ‘coffee dates’ pretty affordable. Going to these coffee shops is also a great learning opportunity. The first time we went, I had to explain to my daughter that people go to coffee shops for a lot of reasons. Some people go to work, some people go to read, and some people go to enjoy quiet conversations with their friends. I was surprised at how well she understood that it’s okay to talk in coffee shops but we have to keep our voices low and stay in our nice, comfy seats (which wasn’t a problem at all).

books

2. Story-time

Nothing compares to the feeling of sitting down with your child and reading a story together. Books have the amazing ability to take us to kingdoms far, far away where we encounter dragons, knights, princesses, talking animals, and all sorts of fun journeys that only exist in fairy tales. Watching the look on my daughter’s face as we navigate our way through a captivating book is priceless. Also priceless (in the literal sense of the word) is enjoying story time together. Our local library provides lots of opportunity to enjoy books right there in the building. With seating available in the children’s area, it’s a great way to enjoy reading in a setting a little different than your own home. If sitting at the library isn’t your scene, most Barnes and Noble stores have seating in their children’s book sections as well that you can use to read to your little one.

Cat Room SPCA

3. Cuddle Time  

I know there will inevitably be some readers who will cringe at my next suggestion but your local animal shelter is a GREAT way to enjoy some time with your little one. Spending time with animals is wonderful not only for children (who learn about being gentle, being compassionate, and responding to an animal’s cues) but it’s also beneficial for the animals who don’t often have enough human interaction. We’re fortunate in that our local SPCA animal shelter has rooms where the well behaved cats are free to roam around. Even better, our local animal shelter welcomes visitors and allows people to explore the cat rooms freely for as long as you’d like.

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4. Play Time 

We are lucky to have several fun spots that offer open gym time around Kansas City and, as my daughter gets older, I’m finding that she enjoys that kind of activity more and more. While attending open gym isn’t always the most conducive for spending quality time together, it does grant me the rare opportunity to watch my child test out her abilities. It also offers me the chance to teach her that I’m always there for her whether that’s through encouraging her to jump into the foam pit or lending a hand as she works on the balance beam, she knows that I’ve got her back. No matter what. Many places offer open gym time for reasonable rates (ranging from $2 to $8) and kids get to expend all of that excess energy that’s been building up indoors during the colder months.

Be All There

5. My Time

Maybe it seems ridiculous that an hour of completely undivided attention is something to consider ‘special’ but the fact of the matter is that we live in a society where we’re constantly faced with distractions. Many of us take the world with us wherever we go in our pocket or purse. We’re so constantly connected to everything around us that it’s hard to step away and just be connected with the little person who matters most. My favorite “Mommy and Me Dates” are the ones where I’m giving my child my full attention. Even better is that she gets to pick the activity. Sometimes we paint nails together, sometimes I do her ‘makeup’, and sometimes we just play puzzles or have a dance party. I know that whatever we end up doing on these dates is going to leave a lasting impact on her memories of me from childhood and those are moments I hope we can still share together whens she’s an adult.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your child? 

Daily Life, Parenting

More On Parenting The Strong Willed Child (Plus a Few Tips)

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Several months ago, I wrote about electing to view parenting a strong willed child as a gift rather than a challenge.  I would encourage you all to go back and read my post here, if you haven’t already.  While every word that I wrote back then still holds true today, I’m learning (as a parent) how I can help alleviate some of the day to day stresses associated with raising a highly independent individual.

I have the luxury of holding a job that I love and am able to do out of the comfort of my own home and so I spend a couple of days each week and every afternoon at home with C.  It’s a great balance between being a ‘working mom’ and a ‘stay at home parent’ and it works for me.  But it’s not always sunshine and roses.  My daughter, who will be three years old in February, attends a Montessori preschool part time.  If you’re unfamiliar with how the Montessori philosophy works, it’s geared towards allowing children the individual freedom to learn at their own pace in ways that are best suited towards their style.  It’s such a wonderful program and I’m happy that my child has this experience.  The only problem is that we don’t have a Montessori home.

I try to be somewhat organized in my parenting style…making sure to pick out clothes for the next day before bed each night, ensuring that toys are put up before new ones are taken out, and other things of that nature (read: mommy might be slightly OCD).  My parenting style doesn’t always jive with my child’s personality.  She wants to be independent, to pick out her own clothes, to have the freedom to do the things she wants to do when she wants to do them and it’s hard finding the right way to make both of us happy.  I want her to learn boundaries but I also want her to feel free to be the person that she is.  Most days, I fluctuate from feeling like I might be a contender for the “Mother Of The Year” awards in my household to feeling like a complete menace when things aren’t as perfect as I’d hoped they might be.  But I’m learning.  I’m learning to let go of the things that don’t matter and to focus on the things that do…like teaching my child responsibility,  compassion,  respect and love for others and the world around her, and how to try new things and explore all while allowing her, in the best way that I can, to be herself (a sweet, energy filled, independent toddler) in her most natural state.

I wanted to share some of the things that we’re doing in our home to encourage our child’s independence.  I’m finding that, more often than not, when I’m more organized (for her) many of the stresses we were experiencing before are no longer issues.  I’ll keep you updated, as I try new things with my toddler, as to what works for us and what doesn’t.  In the meantime, I hope that you find these ideas useful in your own life.  Enjoy.

1. Give Her Options

One of the biggest struggles I face in parenting an independent child is balancing her strong desire to decide for herself with my own will for her. I’ve discovered that if I pick a few options that I would be okay with before presenting something to her (like clothing options, food at a restaurant, etc), it makes situations that might otherwise be stressful feel like a breeze. It’s a win-win. She has the freedom to pick something for herself and I’m happy with any of the choices she has to make.

2. Stay Organized 

You might think that being organized for your own sanity is a no brainer but it took me a long time to figure this out on my own. Living with a child that is picky, changes her mind about things, and won’t let it go when she decides she needs something can be a struggle. Having a space for everything (extra blankets, stuffed animals, certain towels that she loves, etc.) has been a tremendous help in avoiding some of the issues we used to face.

3. Remain Calm

Even when I give my child options and I stay organized, we still have frustrating moments with our daughter (who doesn’t, am I right?!). The best advice I can give when your strong willed child throws a fit is to stay calm. Stay calm. Stay.Calm. Take a deep breath, count to three, do whatever you need to do to prevent yourself from getting worked up because, believe me, it does absolutely nothing to help the situation. When C is being a monster having a moment, I have to take a step back and realize that the best thing I can do for both of us is to help calm her down. How? Breathe, stay focused, give her a hug and tell her it’s going to be okay…in a moment or two, she’ll start to calm down, too and all will be right with the World.

4. Drink Wine

Okay, maybe this last part is sort of a joke (but not really). After a long day or a hard, stressful battle with your child, take some time out for you to relax. Spend an extra few minutes in the shower before bed, drink a glass of wine, read a book, do whatever it is that you do to rejuvenate yourself. Above all, let it go. Let all the stresses from the day go. What’s the point in carrying them with you anyway, right?! 

Always remember that you’re raising a child. You’re raising an independent person who will one day grow to be an adult. You’re helping to shape the future of this planet. I’m pretty sure that makes you a superhero. 

 

Daily Life, Parenting

Potty Training: We Did It! (Plus Some Helpful Tips)

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As you might remember, we’ve been working on potty training our two year old daughter. Several months ago, I had it in my mind that we were supposed to be aggressive when it came to potty training. Now that I look back, I’m glad that my (somewhat) relaxed parenting style overshadowed my internal desire to push my child into potty success. A few weeks ago, something just clicked and she got it. It was one of those incredible, amazing moments where you’re immensely proud and completely blown away by the small child that lives with you. She’s so smart and allowing her to lead the way (with our help and encouragement) was one of the best parenting decisions I’ve made to date.

You might remember my post about utilizing a potty chart as incentive to get your child to use the restroom. While I still advocate the use of sticker charts to help motivate young children (we use a sticker chart for ‘daily activities’ that C is expected to complete and she loves it), I’ve also learned that sometimes children will figure things out on their own in time. Some children might prosper having that ‘push’ for potty training but, in observing my child’s behaviors, I learned that she is more motivated by independence than she is by my encouragement. I found myself asking her, time and time again, until I was almost blue in the face, if she needed to try and use the potty and she never seemed to want to…on my time. So I stopped. I wasn’t going to make her feel guilty for eliminating in her disposable pull up and I wasn’t going to punish her for not sitting on the potty. Eventually, I knew if she wanted to try to go…she would. And she did.

About a week into it, we abandoned the potty chart (but we still used a chart for daily activities) and decided that we would take a break and re-visit potty training when C seemed to be more ready. Fast forward a few weeks when we toured a preschool that we were interested in part time. One of the stipulations for enrollment is that the child must be in underwear. So I sat down and explained to her that if she was big enough to attend preschool then she must also be big enough to use the potty and not wear pull ups anymore. Not wanting to push her too hard, we tried again.

We took the leap of faith and simply stopped putting her in pull ups. Much to my surprise, the transition into underwear was really easy. We didn’t try giving her an absurd amount of juice. She didn’t run around naked. We didn’t make her sit on the potty all day. She just got it. We had a few accidents the first day, a couple the second day, and one or two occasionally ever since. My husband and I are always encouraging of her, almost to the point where we embarrass ourselves when we’re in public with the “Wow! You did it! Good Job!”  and the “You went POTTY?! AWESOME!” but I am so proud to announce that my child, at two years and seven months old, is fully potty trained and it was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done with her. Hooray!

horray

I wanted to share a few things that I learned in our potty training experience with you…

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff 
  2. Give it time
  3. Children should never be made to feel guilty for accidents
  4. S#it happens
  5. Celebrate each accomplishment

More than anything, I want you to know that potty training doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be enjoyable and it can be simple. Knowing your child, stopping when something’s not right, and letting your child lead the way are the best things I’ve learned in this process and they’re things that I will take with me in other parenting adventures down the road. If you’re preparing for potty training, I wish you the very best with your little one!

 

Culture, Daily Life, Parenting, Society

Happy Mother’s Day

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Three years ago today was a little difficult for me. My husband and I had been trying, unsuccessfully, for five months to get pregnant again after experiencing a loss in November 2009. I’ll always remember the feeling I had on June 22nd, 2010 when, after several positive pregnancy tests, we found out that we were going to be parents. It was a feeling of pure joy. I felt it again, a little more intensely, on October 4th, 2010 when we found out that the baby growing inside me was a little girl. Both of those moments were trumped with C’s birth in February 2011. I felt  (and still feel every day) so incredibly blessed. Motherhood is my greatest joy, my biggest passion, and my most precious gift.

I was surprised yesterday afternoon with an early Mother’s Day gift. After playing outside for a little while, my husband had me go inside before he and C did. When they walked through the door, flowers in hand, my daughter came up the stairs and said, “Happy Mother’s (Day) Mommy!”.

I’m not big on commercialized holidays but I do think it’s nice to honor the special people in your life on their respective days (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, etc) and hearing my daughter wish me a Happy Mother’s Day (along with a hug and very thoughtful flower presentation) was the best gift I could have gotten. It brought me to tears. Today was wonderful. We slept in (until 9:30!) and then got up and had a nice breakfast together as a family. We ran errands, got the supplies for C’s new big girl room (more on that later), ran some errands, and then enjoyed a nice Lunner (lunch/dinner) at McAlisters. Tonight we’ll watch the season finale of Survivor on CBS before C goes to bed for the night. I literally could not have asked for a better day. Thanks to my husband and my amazing daughter (who can’t read this yet) for making this day such a special one for me. I love you guys to the moon and back.

To all of the wonderful moms out there, including my own mom (hi!): Happy Mother’s Day.

I hope that this day has been a great one for you. 🙂

 

Daily Life, House & Home, Parenting

I Think It’s Time…

I will never forget the first time that my child climbed out of her crib. We had one of our friend’s children over for the afternoon and the window of opportunity for nap-time was closing in so I put C down and walked away (thinking that she would settle down and eventually fall asleep). Much to my surprise, a few minutes later she came prancing into the kitchen, smiled, and said, “Hi, Mommy!”.

We probably should have switched her to a toddler bed right then and there but I wanted to wait to see if it happened again. It didn’t…at least not for a while. Within the last couple of weeks she’s become a lot more confident in her climbing abilities which is both amazing and a little nerve wrecking at the same time. On the bright side, I no longer have to worry about her being too afraid to go down a slide at the park but, on the other hand, I now have to face the challenge of moving her to a toddler bed.

I’m not sure why I’m putting it off. Maybe it’s because I’d have to admit to myself that she’s not a baby anymore. As with anything in life, though, it’s going to have to happen eventually and I think it’s time. I’ve been trying to think about how we can best transition her into a toddler bed (meaning she’ll stay in bed during bed and nap times) and I’ve come up with an idea that I hope will work. We’re going to give C a big girl room! I plan to explain to her that she’s going to get a pretty big girl room and her new room comes with big responsibilities like staying in bed when we’re supposed to be sleeping and telling mommy and daddy when we need to use the potty (more on that later).

I’m not naive enough to believe that this will work like magic but I’m hoping I can use the big girl room as leverage for tricking getting her to follow the rules that will come with her new bed. Plus, maybe the added incentive of getting to decorate her room will make it easier on me to get her out of that crib. Today, while we were out shopping at JoAnn Fabrics, I found the perfect inspiration for C’s new room. Take a look:

Big Girl Room Inspiration

These two boxes are perfect! Not only are they ridiculously adorable but they were also on clearance! CLEARANCE! Whoo hooo! That is music to my ears (I just love decorating on a budget) The small box (on top) was marked down from $5.99 to $1.97 and the bottom box was $3.97 marked down from $8.99. They have a larger box at the store but I want to wait until I can drag my husband in to take a look at it before I convince him that we need to buy it.

In the coming weeks, I plan to share the before and after pictures of her bedroom transformation as well as our journey from the crib to the toddler bed. Wish me luck!

Daily Life, Parenting, Society

The Strong Willed Child

| Difficult | Stubborn | 

There are a lot of labels we put on individuals in life. Perhaps accurately. Perhaps unfairly.

But I don’t believe in labels (unless, of course, your label for me is awesome).

It's An Ordinary Blog

My two year old is amazing. Being her mom is, hands down, the greatest joy in my life but not every day is full of puppies, rainbows, and glitter. The “mean mommy voice” surfaces far more than I’d like and I often find myself saying things like, “You need to be ALL DONE!” and “Your behavior right now is UNACCEPTABLE!”. Parenting, for me, becomes a balance of lessons and love. (Read my post “Walking the Line”: On Parenting). My child, like many other others, enjoys doing her own thing. She likes to make her own choices (even when they don’t fall in line with what my husband or I want), and she isn’t always receptive to change. Maybe it’s just a phase that she’ll grow out of, maybe not. As frustrating as that can be, I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing.

If her personality at two is any indication of how she’ll be as an adult (maybe minus the crying at nap time and the difficulty sharing with friends), I am confident that she’ll go on to do amazing things. She’ll march to the beat of her own drum. She’ll be confident enough to do what she thinks is right instead of following the crowd. She’ll set goals and work hard to achieve them. She will have a vision for her life that is uniquely her own and she will work hard to make her dreams come true.

No matter what she does or who she grows up to be, I will always love her.

I will always be proud of her. She will always be my little lady. 

So maybe the world views raising strong willed children as a challenge but I view it as an opportunity to grow the kind of human being who will one day go on to make great differences in the world around them. In the meantime, we’ll continue setting boundaries, teaching her lessons about life, and loving her each and every day.