Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Being the example isn't so easy

There are some things that a child learns through a heart-to-heart conversation in which the parent
shares a life lesson with the child and the child hears and understands. There are other things that a child picks up just from watching and listening to people. Our daughter loves to try the things she sees. She is perfectly content to play on the kitchen floor with a stock pot and a wooden spoon, or her baby doll and a pretend bottle. She likes to brush her hair and her teeth, and to do laundry. Her favorite things to do are things she sees in real life. She watches us to learn what to do. As much as I love the way she talks now, I want her to learn to speak properly, so instead of mimicking her "baby talk," I give her the proper pronunciation of the words she is trying to say. It really makes me think about my day to day actions and just how hard it is to be a good example with certain things.

I think about my hopes for our daughter's behavior, particularly in the areas where I fall short. Here are a few thing that come to mind.

I am a bit of a picky eater, but I want our daughter to be more flexible than I am when it comes to food. On the other hand, I don't want to force her to eat something that she detests. I do want her to try new things and branch out from cheerios, bananas and prunes. The other day, I was trying to feed my daughter some pre-packaged pureed mixed vegetables that we had been given. Our daughter was spitting it out and turning her face away instead off eating it, but she did try tastes of it, over and over again. To show her how tasty it was, I turned the spoon and tried a bite myself. It was all I could do to keep it in my mouth, and I am certain my face showed it. I love vegetables, but her baby food was disgusting and didn't taste anything like peas, carrots, and spinach. I couldn't make her eat it. Content that she had at least tried it, I dumped the rest. The following week, we were invited to supper at our friends' house. They were having smelts for supper, which are tiny fish that you traditionally eat with bones intact. I was hesitant to try bite into a smelt, but in order to be a good example I had to at least try it. It took me a few minutes to work up the courage to bite into it, but when I did, it tasted like an extra-crunchy fish stick. After that first bite, I chose to remove the bones and enjoyed a few more smelts with my meal. I am glad a tasted them. I recently read a study that kids that smell or taste new foods are more likely to eat and enjoy them. It isn't rocket science that you need to try something new in order to know if you are going to like it or not, but following through isn't easy either.

If I want our daughter to feel comfortable talking to us, we need to listen to her when she talks and encourage open communication with her and each other. If I want her to be polite and wait until I am done talking instead of interrupting me, I need to be demonstrating that. When I hang out with my grandmother, mother, aunts, and sisters, we all talk over each other, laughing, interrupting, talking and listening to each other. In the proper context, I don't feel that this type of layered conversation is rude or disrespectful, but their are times when it would be extremely inappropriate. It can be overwhelming to someone who isn't accustomed to it. I have a distinct memory of staying with my aunt at her in-laws' house when I was a teenager. I noticed right away that they never interrupted me or each other and they truly listened and responded when I talked. Over and over again, I caught myself interrupting them and they would stop and listen to me. They were showing me respect and I was being rude, over and over again. During our stay, I learned to keep my mouth shut until there was a sufficient pause in the conversation. I didn't get to share every thought that popped into my head, but I was learning to show respect and to really listen and respond to what was being said. I want to be polite and respectful in conversation, and it takes practice. Now I am painfully aware when I interrupt someone.

I want her to be brave, but also sensitive. When I get hurt, I don't always know how badly I am hurt until a few seconds or minutes have passed, and I tend to yell out in pain, which really scares our sweet baby girl, and she immediately screams as well. I am trying really hard to control my reactions when I stub my toes or bump my head. When our daughter falls down, sometimes she is legitimately hurt, and sometimes she isn't. I have seen some parents who react to react to every little bump as if it were a life or death situation, and other parents who take the opposite extreme of never taking their children's pain seriously. I want to be somewhere in the middle. A wise friend once told me that she usually waits to see her child's reaction before she either ignore it or springs into action, because her children will often look to her for a reaction if they aren't hurt, to gauge what their own reaction should be. If they are hurt, they will cry out right away, regardless of what she does. Sometimes it is obvious that our daughter really is hurt, like this morning, when she tripped and bumped her mouth hard on her high chair, and her teeth cut her lip. Other times, it is harder to tell how hurt she is, so I wait for a reaction from her before I react.

I want her to be loving, so I need to show her loving behavior. It is easy to love people, and easy to show love, when things are good. When I am annoyed, it is more difficult to treat my family members and cats in a loving way, especially my husband (who I am absolutely crazy about, by the way). I try to be careful not to argue with him in front of her, but she is smart and I am sure she'd catch on. She will know what's going on even if it isn't in front of her. I want to show her healthy ways to disagree with someone without being unfair or unloving. I don't want her to yell, so I try very hard not to yell, regardless of whether she is with me or not. Similarly, I don't want to desensitize her to yelling. I want to save yelling for emergencies, like a child running in the road or a fire. If I yell frequently, she won't know or care if something is an emergency versus a regular event. By treating her and others gently and quietly, I have something to work up to if necessary.

Getting in the habit of being a better role model is hard work because consistency is important, but impossible. Being a good role model is far from easy because we aren't perfect people. I am far from perfect. I need to admit when I am wrong or have made a mistake and ask for forgiveness, modeling humility. If I lose my temper or overreact to something she does, I need to apologize to her and ask for her forgiveness, regardless of her age. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but realizing that children often mimic behavior they see and become like their parents is motivation for me to sit with God and take another look at my life.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

First Birthday- cake, ice cream, and presents for a one-year-old!

Our sweet baby girl turned one this month. She started walking, mimicking several words and giving great kisses. I called my mother to ask her for advice in picking out presents for a one-year-old. I know what she likes to play with now, and what she is capable of doing now, but I have no idea what she'll be able to do six months from now. Mum recommended something for her to push while walking, like a shopping cart, pretend lawnmower, or doll stroller. I picked out a doll stroller online and it arrived about a week before her birthday. It was so hard not to give it to her right away!

I made her a new dress for her birthday (the blue one). I took some photos on her birthday, and the following weekend we celebrated with family, pink balloons, a homemade vanilla cake, vanilla ice cream, and presents.

We started with presents, mostly because I couldn't wait any longer! She tore the paper open with enthusiasm, right to the last gift! She received:

  • 1.2.3. Playmobil farm set, which she loves. The barn folds shut with all of the other farm pieces inside and has a handle on the top. The box says that it is for children ages 3 and up, but the pieces are large enough that she won't choke.
  • Triangular crayons and a pad of paper were a big hit. Triangular crayons can't roll off the table and are easy to hold.
  • Mini Boba baby doll carrier. She isn't really old enough for this yet, but she loves her babies and she loves our real Boba, so I think she will be crazy about this child-size doll carrier later on.

  • A duplo farm set. We haven't opened this yet, because she doesn't quite seem ready yet. These are like jumbo legos and there are lots of pieces.
  • She also got a Jenny Jump-up, which technically she has outgrown because she can walk, but she hasn't met the weight limit yet, so we use it in the doorway to the back porch and she loves it.
  • She is not big enough to play with the bubbles she got alone yet, but with help, she loves them.
  • The play dough she received is also a little too advanced for her right now, but she'll be ready before her next birthday, I am thinking.
  • She received a Hape Wooden Alphabet Puzzle - capital letters. I chose this puzzle because the pieces can stand up to spell words.  I took a close-up so you can see how thick they are.
  • We gave her a Nalgene water bottle, but as it turns out, it is too hard for her to drink out of at this age. She certainly likes it though.
  • She received a pop-up castle that she can play in, like a play tent. It folds into a case. She hasn't used it yet.
  • Finally, she received a doll jogging stroller, which is awesome, by the way. She was able to push it around by herself. It has a sturdy metal frame with removable fabric, and the entire thing folds up. Pushing the stroller around really gave her a sense of confidence when it comes to walking.
  • She also got a new applecheeks size 2 reusable swim diaper and some swim floaty armbands, but she hasn't used them yet.

I am trying to avoid giving her preservatives, artificial colors, fake sugars, and artificial flavors. We decided that a homemade cake would be the way to go instead of a boxed cake mix. My talented sister whipped it up for her the day of the party, along with some homemade white buttercream frosting. I had seen an idea for a cake when I was on Pinterest. It had balloons on it, using water balloons and skewers. It seemed like a great idea, but I couldn't get the balloons to stay upright. My husband figured out a way to tape the bottoms to get them to stay up on the skewers. I purchased a candle in the shape of a 1. When my husband lit the candle, the balloons started popping from the heat! He shielded the balloons from the heat until she was ready to blow out the candle. She tried hard, and the candle flickered, but she needed some assistance to blow it out completely.

She was very tidy when she ate her cake. She ate crumbs, with dainty little fingers before squishing the cake and frosting in her hand. She loved vanilla ice cream. It was a great night. I can't believe she is one already, but I am really looking forward to this year!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Baby Steps and Giant Leaps

Tomorrow morning, my sweet baby girl will be a year old.  I knew that the first year or two would go fast, but I had no idea that it would be this fast. Over the course of the past month, our daughter has changed significantly. Not only has she begun walking and talking, but she has grown from a baby into a little girl in a way that leaves me wondering where the time went and when exactly she grew so much...I mean, I was watching her the whole time! At the same time, I love it. I love seeing how she changes and the new things she can do. She is able to interact with us more and more. Her personality is really shining through!

She isn't the only one who has grown and changed over the course of the past year. Being a parent has made me a more patient teacher. Each of my students is someone's baby, someone's pride and joy. I think I smile more. I can definitely do more things with just one hand and carry a lot more at once. I can wake up in the night and function half-asleep more easily. Also I learned how to resist sneezing at inopportune times, which is a very useful skill (breathe in through your mouth and blow out hard through your nose a few times). I have become more brave, like squishing spiders myself (sometimes, when they are coming at my daughter). Okay, maybe I am still not very brave. Parenting in general has given me greater respect for other parents I know, and has humbled me. I look at the Proverbs 31 woman and wonder how she does it all! I have learned to appreciate each day more.

I have also grown much closer to my littlest sister over the past year. She sacrificed nearly a year of her busy teen life to move 2 hours away several days a week to watch my baby while I work and practice hymns on my out-of-tune piano. She is 17 and absolutely amazing. She will be a phenomenal wife and mother someday. On the days when my sister can't be here, my friends have graciously stepped in. I am so thankful that I was able to leave my daughter with family and friends - it truly gives me peace of mind when I am working.

I have also grown much closer to my husband. He is a wonderful father and our daughter is crazy about him. There are so many times that I need to hear his voice of reason when I can't think straight about what to do.

So, tomorrow is a milestone. We'll have her party on the weekend with my family, but we will do something special tomorrow evening too. It is strange to think that at 3am last year, we saw her sweet little face for the first time...

And yes, I know that she will be getting married before I know it...but there's time enough for that!

Quite possibly the last snowman of the year - in May.