Eleven…and all that comes with it

Eleven years ago I became a mama. It was a crazy time – a total whirlwind that felt like a blur at the time and even more of one looking back on it now.

I had always wanted kids – dreamed of being a mother – and in all of those dreams I had a little girl. So when my first little girl arrived in her dramatic and unexpected way – I was so relieved. This was my literal dream come true.

And having one little girl (and then two!) has been a joy. It has lived up in so many ways to my lofty ideals. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses of course…but for the goods have far, FAR outweighed the bad.

Now that little girl of mine – the one that first made me a mother – is officially a tween and well on her way to full teenager-hood. And I find myself unprepared.

Not so much for the fact that puberty is on the horizon but for the fact that she is no longer a child. It feels like it happened in an instant.

She gets things now that she didn’t use to. She understands nuances and subtleties in conversation that oh so recently went right over her lovely little blonde head.

Our conversations are much more profound and complex. Her friendships are evolving and changing and emotions are running high.

Boys factor in.

She feels things so deeply and wounds so easily. Her ego is growing faster than I am able to try to temper it.

She is making decisions now that could affect the rest of her life. She is making choices that have much longer reaching implications.

I remember turning eleven. I can remember my school and my house and my friends and my interests. What I don’t remember is feeling any more mature or grown up. I don’t think I even realized that it was a time of great change and evolution for me.

But it was of course. Just like it is for my girl.

And while I am loving the woman that I can see her becoming and feel great pride in the fact that I have helped to mold and shape her…I can’t help but feel like stopping time.

To go back to when she was just a little girl, climbing into my lap with a book, snuggling into me with her lamby and blankie in hand and saying “read to me mummy.”

For now I will just enjoy the fact that she still holds my hand out in public and says “I Love You” in front of her friends at school.

Letting them learn the hard way…

Last night I asked my youngest daughter for the 400th time if she had done EVERYTHING on her bedtime checklist (knowing full well she hadn’t) and as she confidently nodded and climbed into bed…I felt myself start to lose it.

She saw it too and quickly scrambled out of bed to consult the checklist that hangs conveniently on the bathroom mirror – where it has hung for almost a year now – and figure out what she had missed.

“Sorry mummy…” she called from the bathroom. “I forgot to pick out my clothes for tomorrow.”

And then she proceeded to happily pick out an outfit, lay it on the end of her bed and climb back in. Smiling at me sweetly as she settled her head onto her pillow – her pink blankie clutched in her hand – not a care in the world.

“That’s one mark off for you.” I said and immediately her face changed into a mask of rage.

“That’s not fair!” she yelled.

A “mark” means a dollar off her monthly allowance. Losing just one seriously impacts her ability to add to a growing pile of annoying little Shopkins.

“Of course it’s fair,” I responded in a voice that was much more calm and composed than I felt. “If you don’t do your jobs you don’t earn your allowance.”

The argument that followed was not epic by any standards but she was certainly passionate about her defense. Which was that it was obviously all my fault for not reminding her enough to do her jobs.

And that brings us to the real issue. How many chances should kids get?  How many gentle reminders?  How many helping hands?  How long until we let it go and simply let them learn the hard way.

Because I know deep down that letting them learn things the hard way is important. That letting them fail and face the subsequent consequences is a valuable lesson…

“oh you forgot your gym shoes (after I reminded you 8 times to pack them!) well I guess you have to sit on the bench and watch your friends play without you.”

“You didn’t hand in that field trip permission form in time (that I signed 2 weeks ago and put in your planner for you!) I guess you can’t go then.”

“You didn’t eat your yogurt tube (again!) and now I have to throw it away (again!) so no dessert for you tonight.”

This last one – not eating the healthier parts of the lunch – has been a battle I have waged with both my girls for years. I hate the waste so much that I immediately go code red. They beg me to let them eat it now instead. They argue that I packed them too many things in their lunch so it’s my fault.

Then they cry and look at me with such betrayal and resentment that I feel myself start to cave. Because it just feels wrong – like against my nature – to not swoop in and rescue my girls from themselves. Even knowing it’s the right thing to do doesn’t make it any easier.

Because as important as the lesson is and as much as I know they must learn this for themselves – I hate how real the tears are. And how deeply they feel the anger and frustration – even though they have brought it on themselves.

I know every battle scar will be worth it in the end. But that doesn’t make each one hurt any less…

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My little bookworm

I remember when I was a kid I always had my nose stuck in a book.

My reward for being good while we were grocery shopping was an Archie comic not a chocolate bar.

And my desk always had the biggest stack of books on it when the scholastic book order came in.

I love to read. And I am so happy that I have passed on that love of reading to my girls.  Both of them love books but I see so much more of myself in my oldest.

This is a pretty regular view of her these days…

the other day I bought myself a book on how to write and publish your first novel. It went missing off my desk and I couldn’t find it anywhere.

I should have checked her room first…

Clearly if I don’t get serious about my own writing soon…she’s going to get published first!

Maybe I should see if she wants to do it together…

Milestone Moment: Holes in the Ears

Today – after weeks of (seemingly endless) discussion and debate – my 9 year old decided she was ready to get her ears pierced. 

It was a big moment…for both of us. Because these are the moments that mark the passing of time. That mark her growing up.

I remember getting my ears pierced. I was 8 and it was a tremendously hellish experience.

My “ear care professional” was new…didn’t know what she was doing…and managed to get the “pain free” ear piercing gun stuck on my left earlobe.

And it hurt like a son of a &%@!#. I don’t actually remember how they managed to get the 2nd ear done but I suspect my mother had a hand in that black magic.  I picture myself unconscious on the chair…the offending gun still hanging from my left ear while my mother took matters into her own hand and finished the job herself.

Anyways…I digress. Luckily my daughters experience was quite the opposite of mine.

We went to Claire’s and I searched through the staff until I found one that looked closer to my age than my daugther’s and whose name tag had the word “Manager” on it.

She walked M through the steps and asked her to choose her earrings. After she chose her April birthstone it was over to the stool in the window.

The whole process was over in about 10 minutes – start to finish.

One of the things I love is that they do both ears at the same time. M knew what was coming when they tried to distract her with questions…but I think she was even surprised by how quickly it was done. 

The smile didn’t leave her face for hours after we left the mall.

When we were done with the piercing we took full advantage of the discounts Claire’s offers when you get your ears pierced. All their stainless steel earrings were $5 – so M got 4 pairs for when she is able to swap them out.

I have to say our experience at Claire’s was really fantastic. They have great information on their website about after care – including a video that my daughter really found helpful.

Mark another milestone down in the books…these moments just keep coming.

I’m not sure I’m ready for them…but I don’t seem to get a say anymore.

Raising Girls: Building a solid foundation

When I was pregnant the first time I was desperate to have a girl. I tried convincing myself that it didn’t matter. That I would love a boy just as much as a girl. But oh how I longed for a daughter…and for so many reasons.

I wanted the same relationship with my daughter that I had with my own mother. I wanted to do all the girly things with her. I wanted to be her best friend. I wanted to see her have her own babies.

So cue my overjoyed enthusiasm when my little girl arrived. And it was double the joy when my second lovely daughter was born 3 years later.
 
 
 

And now…as the mother of a 6 and 9 year old girl…I’m in a bit of a panic really.  Because I realize that I have to guide them – carefully and lovingly – into womanhood.  And that means we have to go through the teenage years first. What if my girls turned into “mean girls”?  Or what if they fell victim to the “mean girl”?  I know I can’t keep them from getting their heart broken – and wouldn’t want to – but how do I help brace them for when it does?

I’m honestly not sure I’m prepared for that. Not that I was a terror of a teenager – on the contrary really. I was the 12 year old that spent Saturday’s clearing up her room and packing up old clothes to donate.  At 13 I got my first job and worked steadily ever since. I got good grades, stayed away from the “wrong” crowd and generally made my mother proud.

But the world that my girls will have to live in is so very different than the one I did. I don’t understand today’s youth. I find the majority of them to be lazy and entitled and just plain rude.

I know that’s a terrible generalization but I just can’t seem to prove it wrong. And so I know that I have some work to do in preparing my girls to be strong and independent and successful women but also kind and loving and caring to those around them.
So I’m starting with instilling these basic principles now:
  • Be kind 
  • Keep your promises 
  • Clean up after yourself
  • Be polite and respectful of others
  • Say you’re sorry and accept sincere apologies
  • Do your best 
  • Never give up

I look at that list and I feel pretty good about it. Confident that I am giving my girls a good start in the world. Building the foundation for them to be respectful and kind. But I know it’s not enough.

Because this is list could just as easily apply to boys. I need some girl specific tips. Some golden nuggets of advice just for them.

These are the things I want to teach them.  What I want to make sure they know… 

Love yourself.

You are unique and beautiful from the day you are born.  Don’t let society change that about you. Don’t base your self-worth on a dress size. And don’t base it on what anyone else says to you. Be healthy. Be happy. Be active. Be yourself. 

Love deeply.

Doing this means you will get your heart broken. You will think you have nothing to live for without “him” in your life. But you do have something for live for. You have the next ‘great love’ to meet. Judy Blume had the perfect quote for this:  “You can’t deny they ever happened. You can’t deny you ever loved them – love them still – even if loving them causes you pain.”  You said it sister. 

Don’t be a sheep (but try not to be the black sheep either)

I feel like I got through high school relatively un-traumatized because I existed on the fringes of all the “cliques” I wasn’t a princess or an athlete or a stoner or a brain or a weirdo (my kids will totally not get the Breakfast Club analogy…) but I had friends that were all of those things. I hope my girls do the same. That they befriend others for the person they are not the company they keep. 

Listen to your parents.

I know this might come across as a little self serving but I want my girls to know that not only am I capable of giving good advice but I also have their best interest at heart. Even if they don’t always like what I have to say.

Trust your instincts.

I expect this bit of advice to be tough for them to follow through on because I am only just now learning how to do this myself. But it’s important that we understand that sometimes the best advice comes from within. There is no one that knows us better than we know our own self.

This list will evolve and change over the years I am sure. Because as I see my girls grow I will (hopefully) see what areas need more work and which ones are working out fine. 
 
For now…I’m going to let these stand as my guiding principles. And hope that I can help my daughters grow up to be young women that I am proud of. Based on these early years I have high hopes that will be the case.