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.

Daily Life, Parenting

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

It's An Ordinary Blog

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!

 

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.

Daily Life, Parenting

My Toddler Loves The Water (And I Don’t Blame Her)

From swimming to bath time my two-year old daughter is obsessed with the water. This isn’t shocking at all to me as a mother because I was the same way when I was a little girl. Since my husband is generally the one who facilitates C’s bedtime routine (he works during the day so they spend time together every evening) I don’t often get to experience the joys of bath time with my daughter. Every so often my husband has work responsibilities that leave him unavailable in the evenings. This week was one of those weeks.

I remember bath time as a little girl. I thought that tub was huge and it could easily turn into a swimming pool or a deep, vast sea with just a flicker of imagination. I’d almost forgotten how it felt in those moments until I saw it through my daughter’s eyes. She was so excited for bath time, the opportunity to go “swimming”, to create waves, and to just enjoy the warm water before bedtime.

As the memories from my own childhood came flooding back to me, I quickly grabbed the camera (don’t worry, it was in the next room over and only took me a couple of seconds to get) and decided to snap some pictures for the scrapbook. I want C to be able to look back on these someday and remember her love for the water as she grows. Take a look:

Toddler Bath Time

Toddler Bath

Toddler Water

Toddler

Toddlers Love Water

Two Year Old Bath Time

Culture, Daily Life, Health & Wellness, Parenting, Society

The Importance of “Me Dates”

Me Dates

 

To say that my daughter was challenging would be an absolute understatement. It doesn’t help that our household has been plagued with some sort of freak virus this week and we haven’t been able to go out for playdates or stick to the routine that we’ve established over the last few months. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked by C’s behavior, a mix of cabin fever, not feeling well, and perhaps the “terrible twos” created the perfect storm.

At one point, she threw herself on the ground and was kicking and screaming and crying so much that I wasn’t even sure what was going on anymore. Was this really over blueberries, or wanting a different cup at the table, or getting upset because I had to use the bathroom, or because she didn’t want to take a nap, or because the dog came too close to her, or any of the other things that set her off yesterday? I get that, because toddlers don’t have the vocabulary to verbalize their wants and needs to adults, they’re going to vocalize their frustration through temper tantrums but even with that knowledge, it doesn’t make dealing with that behavior any easier.

For that reason, it’s so important for parents (those who stay at home full-time in particular) to take some time for themselves. I’m not talking about that five minutes once a month that we get to use the restroom by ourselves…I mean some actual “me time” or, what I like to call, a Me Date. You have date nights with your spouse so that you can keep that fire alive so why should taking time for you be any different? Last night I decided to do something I’ve never done before…

After the husband came home from work, I got ready and decided to head out for my “Me Date”. Part of me felt guilty (welcome to the world of being a mom, right?!) for leaving the house because I felt like I was escaping the day but I knew it was something I had to do. I drove over to Target to pick up a few things that we needed around the house and then took myself out to dinner. I have never, in my life, eaten at a restaurant by myself. It was a strange feeling and I’ll admit that it was uncomfortable at first but armed with my Sudoku book and a pen, I took on the challenge and discovered that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually really nice.

For an hour and a half last night I didn’t have to worry about anyone but myself and even though it was something so simple as running an errand and grabbing a bite to eat, I felt that it was exactly what I needed and so I wanted to encourage you to do the same. I know it isn’t easy to set aside time for just you (because there’s always someone else you could be spending time with) but it really is important and, at the end of the day, it sets a great example for your children. I’m not sure when my next “me date” will be or what I’ll do (maybe I’ll try watching a movie) but I know that it’s something that will happen again and I’ll try not to wait until we have a bad day at home to do it.

How do you set time aside for yourself?