8 Life Lessons I Learned From My Toddler

DSC_0403 (2)I now have a three year old!  I can’t believe it!  Sometimes I feel like I am looking at someone else’s life. I honestly was never the girl that dreamed of the kind of kids she would have, and even if I would have kids. I never thought about what kind of mother I would be. I honestly really never liked kids, and if I’m being honest, I’m still not crazy about other people’s kids (I do like most of my friends’ children, most of the time). Sometimes I wonder if I am a good enough mother. Sometimes I’m lazy. Sometimes I get impatient or frustrated and yell or say things I shouldn’t say. In spite of all that, I believe I am the perfect parent for my children. And more and more, I understand a little of the unconditional love our heavenly Father has for us.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

God has a plan for me and for my children, this I know. I have to remind myself almost every day. There are days when my beautiful Sophia is very tiring and challenging and exhausting. She is headstrong and fiercely independent. (I can’t imagine where she picked up that personality trait!.. Must be from her daddy. 🙂 )   She has taught me so much in her short 3 years of life!

Lesson 1: Sometimes you need to just be silly.

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Sophie is a jokester. We used to ask her, “What color is this?”  For awhile, the only thing she would respond with was “Orange!”  She knew the colors! That was her 2 year old self teasing us!  Another joke she says, “I’m BeBe”, or I’m “Uncle Matt”, and then now she follows it with “You’re Daddy”, or “You’re Max” (Max is our dog!)  She has a mischievous little glint in her eye while she’s saying these things too. Sophie loves to be tickled. She loves being thrown up in the air, loves hide and seek. If we can’t go outside, she will run in circles around our dining room table. She makes me laugh.

We need to let ourselves laugh. We need to remember what it was like to just be silly.

Lesson 2: Be Persistent!

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This past summer, we made the transition to a big girl  bed. Now that she can get out of bed freely, she will literally knock or bang stuff on the door. It’s really quite funny and difficult to not go back to her room. She is a world champion at bedtime stalling!  I have to give her props for creativity. “I need some water!” “Lie down with me!” (with big blue pleading eyes!), “I need to put my babies to sleep”. “I need to read” . She even uses prayer time as a means to stall her bedtime. If we have taken away story and song time because she is not listening, then she pulls the prayer card. She knows mommy wants her to pray!

The point is: While we don’t need to  give in to our children’s every demand, we can learn from their persistence.  If you want something, keep trying! Don’t let a few no’s (or a few hundred) stop you from pursuing your passions or dreams.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you just need to let it out!

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Oh, we have had our share of tantrums and fits!  Screaming in a restaurant, screaming in the store, you name it, we have had it.  How about the time she laid down at the train station, no wait, the cell phone store, no, the consignment store, and just had a textbook tantrum and sit down!  Oh, yes, my Sophie has a temper.

And talk about drama! Once, after a trip to the community pool, Sophie fell and scratched her knee while walking back to our car. Drama central!  After the drama settled, she wanted a Dora band aid, but when I tried to put it on her knee, she screamed. Then she just held it the whole ride home.

Okay, so maybe you and I are past the tantrum phase, but don’t you want to just let it all out and scream and stomp your feet and cry sometimes?!  Well, maybe we can’t scream and stomp our feet (unless you are completely by yourself, then I say, go for it!). However, it is  probably not the best example to teach our children in order to launch them into functional adults.  However, it is okay to accept a hug or want someone to kiss your hurt away. It’s okay to dry your tears on someone else’s shoulder. The point is: Stop being so independent! It is OKAY to ask for help. It’s okay to cry.

Lesson 4:  Sometimes a girl just needs to look good.

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Sophie  loves trying on shoes. I can’t tell you how many times I would walk in her room after nap time to find shoes and clothes, and toys EVERYWHERE!  She would take hair bands and use them as necklaces or for awhile she was attached to hats. She would wear them constantly, even sleeping with them.

Sometimes you just need to dress up a little. We should dress up, not to impress others, but just to remember how beautiful we are.

Lesson 5:  Life is about what happens everyday in the little moments!

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For all of Sophie’s challenges and tantrums, there are more than enough sweet moments. Like the time when she handed me my tucks during my pregnancy with our son (both embarrassing and sweet), or how she is with her baby brother, constantly loving on him, kissing him, and helping me mother him. Or when she spontaneously gives me a kiss or “helps” with chores (she can help unload the dishwasher and put clothes in the dryer! Sometimes she even sweeps! She loves to hold the dustpan for me!). Or how she “cooks” with her pretend food. How she loves to make baby brother laugh and share stories and tummy time with him. Or how she tugs at our heart strings every time she asks us to lie down with her. Or the times when she asks for a “big hug”.  Once, after I gave William his  bath, I turned my back for one second, and next thing I knew Sophie was bathing her baby dolls. All Ican do sometimes is laugh.

For all the bad moments there are 10,000 more good ones. We  can learn from the bad moments, but we need to cherish the good moments. After all, people don’t usually take pictures of the bad moments (although I think that is warranted sometimes!). Our pictures are of the happy moments. You don’t usually remember the tantrums and attitude between the pictures.

Lesson 6:  Life is Messy!

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Life is Messy.  From throwing up in the doctor’s office and in the car and all over me. (all three of these happened last year!), life is messy. From snotty noses and ear infections, life is messy. From spilled drinks and dumped over cheerios, life is messy. (thank goodness for dogs!). From tear stained faces to skinned knees and new scars, life is messy. From emptying out all the drawers to emptying the toy boxes, life is messy.  Life is Messy! Let it go and keep making messes!

Lesson 7:  Celebrate the little successes!

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My Sophie finally went poo in the potty! It has been a long time coming! I dare say, we may be done buying pull-ups! (at least day time ones) If you are a mom, you know how exciting this is! It was all I could do to restrain myself from posting it all over social media! I did text almost all my close friends and family! We celebrated this feat with ice cream and a toy.

That’s how toddlers are, they celebrate little things, like putting their shoes or pants on all by themselves. Or finally figuring out how to open the doors! Or putting that last puzzle piece together. Let’s take a lesson from our toddlers and celebrate the little successes. Like doing prayer/bible time even once or twice a week. Or maybe it is making it somewhere on time! How about getting noticed for a job well done. Picking up a few pieces of trash (that’s one less piece of trash!) Or finally learning to parallel park. Perhaps, it is making one person smile. Or making it to bed on time. Or making it through the day without killing your children.

Little successes add up to make a big difference!

Lesson 8: You are capable of so much more than you realize!

Do you know how many times Sophie has done things  I didn’t think she knew how to do?  Like the time she opened our screen door and walked outside, BY HERSELF with the dog! (we have no fence and we live on a steep hill!) Or the time she started drinking out of a regular cup.  Or  the time when I walked into her room and she had figured out a way to pull off items from the top of the dresser!  They are capable of so much more than we give them credit for!

And so are you!  Don’t sell yourself shot. Believe in yourself!

 

Yes, this year has taught me so much. It’s taught me that this parenting stuff is hard, that life is hard, and marriage is hard As the cliché goes, anything hard is worth doing!  I said at the beginning that I didn’t really like kids, but I LOVE my children. I love my Sophie and everything she is and everything she stands for. I love her just because. She is a gift. One that I do not deserve.

To my Sophia: rbp-42

I love you and everything you are and everything you have taught me, and everything you stand for. You have taught me so much more about love and life than I ever imagined.  You are uniquely wonderful and beautiful. God has a plan for you! I don’t know what it is yet, but it will big! Bigger and more wonderful than I or you daddy can imagine!

 

What are some lessons you have learned from your life experiences? I would love for you to share your stories!

Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, don’t forget to share!

 

 

 

 

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For the Love of Chocolate

DSC_0197I LOVE chocolate! Just about any kind, with nuts, without, with peanut butter, caramel, whatever. If it has chocolate in it or around it, I will eat it and be bribed by it. One of my favorite kinds of chocolate is Dove chocolate, every flavor. I even love the little sayings that come in the wrapper. Now, I’m sure the Dove manufacturers did not intend to provoke profound thinking on their wrappers. And often, I just read them in passing. Some are cute, some are downright stupid (sorry Dove), and some are sweet. But one recently did have me pondering deep thoughts (maybe it’s the breastfeeding hormones).  “Do all things with love.”

Do ALL things with LOVE. Really?? Do ALL things with LOVE? Am I supposed to potty train with love, change diapers with love, eat, feed my children, fold laundry with love? While these things seem trivial, are they? What if we did everything from the lens of “Do ALL things with LOVE“.

Would that make the mundane things a little more enjoyable, or just increase the pressure of being a parent? After all, as all moms and dads know, toddlers and infants are exhausting (as I’m sure any age can be).  Between taking my two year old to the potty for the millionth time, cleaning the floor and sheets from pee and poo (I am happy to report that we are now almost completely potty trained!, just trying to get that #2!). Between  begging her to go # 2 on the potty and bribing her with a new toy and ice cream (which has not worked), and just short of forcing her on the toilet (which I realize does not work either!).  Between nursing every few hours to soothing a fussy baby at all hours, the last thing I  think about sometimes is love. I think about sleep and rest and peace! I think about being able to sit down with my lunch and not have little hands grabbing at my plate demanding at that instant to eat, even though they may have just eaten or just said they were done! I think about drinking HOT tea or coffee. I want to read a book in its entirety and in one sitting. I want to finish writing this post without interruption. I want to be able to eat my chocolate without having to hide it or share it with my child.

Maybe that is the point. Parenting is not glorious work. But neither was Jesus’ work . Did he want to constantly be traveling and speaking and healing? How many times did he get interrupted while praying or having a meal with his friends. How many times did he get woken up by cries and whines? How many times did he just want to spend time with his Father without having to break up an argument or soothe somebody? He did those things out of love and with love. Do ALL things with love.

“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16: 14

What if, instead of lamenting our days away we said the following instead:

How amazing is it that my two year old is learning to go to the bathroom all by herself? How awesome is it that I can see my baby boy growing right before my eyes?. How extraordinary are all those dirty and wet diapers, for they are a sign that he is healthy?

While not the most glorious acts, these are all opportunities to show love. Show our love in discipline and teaching and learning. And even though this season of my life with young children seems to be dragging by at times, I know this too shall pass. Will I look back and say I did all things with love and that my children knew they were loved? At the end of the day, ask yourself:  Did I have a heart filled with love or was my heart weary and weighed down with the tasks and to do lists of the day?

I want to make sure my children know that they are loved. I don’t want them to remember a clean house, every meal being at 6:30, or an organized playroom. While there is certainly nothing wrong with, and I do aim for those things, my point is this:

I want my children to remember the laughter we shared, coloring and building blocks together. I want them to remember me baking with them and taking them to the park. I want them to have love filled memories.  I want them to remember that I loved them, just as they were. And, perhaps, I will share my chocolate. 🙂 (Sometimes…)

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to share!

Be sure to follow me for weekly encouragement from the realities of my ordinary life!

WHY I HAVE TO PRAY TO SURVIVE PARENTING

Here my toddler lies on the floor right before the classic tantrum position. (I didn't get a picture of that)

Here my toddler lies on the floor right before the classic tantrum position. (I didn’t get a picture of that)

I honestly do not know how people parent without having a nervous breakdown if they don’t pray. For me, the task of parenting is so daunting and overwhelming, I have to pray, for fear of completely messing up my child. I’m not saying I pray everyday ( I am a work in progress), But sometimes, make that all the time, I feel like I have to pray to make it through my day, even if it is a simple ” Please God help me not kill my child today”. When I really start to think about what it means to be a parent, it truly does overwhelm me. I am completely responsible for this little being that God allowed me to bring into this world. If she becomes a burden on society or a blessing to society, it all comes back to the parents. I worry I don’t play with her enough, that I don’t let her play by herself enough. I don’t read enough, too many toys, not enough. The list goes on and on as I am sure many of you can relate. Then there is this task of  teaching her about God!  I don’t know anything about God, how on earth am I supposed to teach someone about God?! And you love these little beings so much, that it literally hurts.

I  start thinking about God and Jesus, father and son, and how Jesus was sacrificed for me and thus completely separated from his father. I don’t know if I could ever do that. I could sacrifice myself for my child, but to have my child die for others is unspeakable,. It is unfathomable. I guess that is where the necessity of the cross comes in to play, for my sinful heart. I have to pray, for fear that I will be swallowed up by my anxiety and panic. It calms me, and reminds me that I cannot control everything, that I have to trust God.  For however much you love your child, God loves them more. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  John 10:10 states, “That they (we) may have life and have it abundantly.”

Isn’t’ that just it?, That we may have life and live it to the fullest? We don’t have to worry! God is enough!. There are so many different schools of thoughts on every topic, from breastfeeding to free range parents, to helicopter parents. You name it, you can find a book on it. (trust me, I have looked. ) Those things are of course important and I definitely have opinions on all the above.  But the thing I feel is most important is that we teach our children what it means to be loved and what it means to love. To love without condition. That in and of itself would be an anxiety producing task, if it wasn’t for our heavenly father being the perfect example.  “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

One of my favorite stories to read to my child is “God Gave Us You”, by Lisa Tawn Bergren. It is a beautiful story about how this bear cub was a gift from God. It reads:

” Every night, I prayed for you, my special child, I prayed that your bones would be straight and your heart would be strong. But most of all, I prayed that someday you would love God.” “I love God,” Little cub said proudly. “I know,” said Mama. “I do too.”. Mama lowered her voice. “And then we took you home. And it was just us. Our family. We just stared and stared, wondering at the miracle of incredible you.” “Because why?” “Because God had given us you. Then little Cub asks “Did you ever want a different baby?… “Never,” Mama said. “Never, ever, ever. Your papa and I wouldn’t trade you for the world….Because God gave us you. Because God gave us you”

The first time I ever read that story I had to hold back my tears to finish the story. Even now. two years later, I still have to hold my tears back. Perhaps that is how God feels; he has to hold his tears in check, because he chose us. Chose us to love , so much so that he was willing to give his only son to be sin for us. “…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Imagine if your child was taken to prison and given the death penalty, for a crime he or she did not commit. I would be in anguish, infuriated!! Perhaps that is a  sliver of what God went through, except Jesus received the death penalty for thousands and thousands of crimes he did not commit.

I am no expert on parenting or things of God, but my prayer for you is the same as my prayer for my family:

Dear Father,

Please help us show your love to our children, in all our words and actions. When we make mistakes, turn our mourning into gladness, for you are merciful and good.

Amen

Matthew 5:16 (ESV): In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.