Tag Archives: parenting

Let Them Go Outside

As modern day parents, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of it all. It’s easy to find ourselves stuck inside all day, frantically trying to check off endless tasks on our to-do list while our little ones simultaneously undo our progress. There are days I find myself quickly shuffling from one activity to the next and come to realize that the only outside time my kids have experienced is the mad dash from the car to the door.

But when I make the simple but purposeful choice to let us enjoy the outdoors, it is a literal breath of fresh air that feels both rejuvenating and revolutionary. I need it. They need it. From tiny infants to busy teenagers, the call of the wild beckons, inviting their presence and igniting their growth. We don’t need a bevy of toys cluttering our house to let our children learn and play and develop, we simply need the natural wonders that lie just beyond our doorway. So open the door, and let them go outside.

Let them lie on the ground. Let the grass be their blanket and the clouds be their entertainment.

Let them crawl with the feel of the earth supporting their small but mighty strength.

Let them toddle over uneven natural terrain.

Let them run through fields and race through forests.

Let their toes feel the tickle of grass and the squish of mud.

Let them jump off logs and jump in puddles.

Let them climb up trees and climb down creek-beds.

Let them get dirty. Let them come running back to you stained and smiling.

Let them feel the change of the weather. Let their skin tingle with the warm embrace of sunshine, the sweet kiss of a raindrop, and the thrilling chill of a thousand snowflakes.

Let them listen to the beautiful background noise of songbirds chirping, wind rustling through leaves, water trickling in the distance.

Let them find stillness and stimulation, wisdom and wonder.

Let them inhale fresh air and exhale adult expectations.

Let them know their own strength and find their own confidence. Let them dare and let them dream.

Let them discover. Let them learn. Let them explore.

Let them be free. Let them be wild. Let them be alive.

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It Starts With Us

In the wake of the unsettling and all too common sexual abuse scandal of yet another famous figure, and the #metoo campaign that entailed, we’ve been forced to face the harsh reality that sexual abuse, lack of respect for others’ bodies, and ignorance of physical consent are rampant problems in our society. As the mother of two girls, this issue both frightens me and and gives me pause. I pause to think – how did we get here, and what can we do about it?

If you ask ten different people, you would likely receive ten different answers to these questions. There are many reasons, multiple hurtles, and, hopefully, a bevy of solutions. Where I am in life, though, I look at the issues through the lens of a parent. I look at what we are teaching our children and how seemingly innocent actions can inadvertently reinforce unwanted behaviors or ideals.

When it comes to parenting, and life, I’m learning that it’s the seemingly small choices that, over time, add up to life lessons. What we model for our children in our day to day decisions regarding respect for their bodies and others’, as well as the notion of physical and emotional consent, are the ideals they will carry with them when they face crucial situations in the future.

There are many ways to teach these lessons and empower our little ones by respecting their bodies and boundaries. I am no expert, and I by no means wish to claim that my way is the “right” way. I’m aware that, to some, my ideas might seem extreme, or a little too over the top. That’s fine. We are constantly refining what works for our family and our children, just as each parent has to do for their own.

Yet, I write this as a reminder to my children, as well as myself, that each day I will strive to respect their bodies and their right to consent, so that they can carry these notions forward in the future.

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Dear Fierce Daughters,

I grew your beautiful bodies in my own, and for that reason I want to both protect and empower you. As you will always be a part of me, I promise to treat your body and spirit with the same care and respect that I would want others to treat me. In doing so, I hope to teach you to do the same.

I will respect your preferences to be held and touched only by those you know and love. I will not pass you off to others when you look at me with quivering lips and tears in your eyes. I will hold you close and embrace your desire to be near your safe haven.

I will not shush you and tell you it’s ok, stop crying, be quiet, when in your world it so clearly is not ok. I will listen to you, between the words, to discern what your little body is telling you. I will comfort you the best way I know how, allowing you to trust your body and express your emotions.

I will give you space when you need it. When you push me away I will remain by your side, but I won’t force words or actions from you. I trust your tiny heart to know how to remedy a tough situation. I will lead and guide, but allow you the space to choose how to use your physical and verbal affections.

I will not force affection from you. I will not tell you to hug or kiss grandma or a friend or a stranger you’ve just met. Or even myself. Even when it breaks my heart that you won’t give me a goodnight kiss when I tuck you in at night. Even if all I want to do is squeeze you at the end of a long hard day. It’s your body and your choice. And it feels so much better to receive the affection you give willingly, filled with love and joy.

I will not tickle you until you laugh so hard you can’t breathe or mutter stop. I know tickling will make you laugh, that’s the point. But I also know that the laughter that comes from tickling can shadow your true feelings and ability to tell me no.  I will work harder and choose different ways to gain your giggles.

I will not stand idly by while others, unaware of our ways and just trying to have fun, tickle you. I will put myself in the awkward situation of having to tell a well-meaning friend or family member that we don’t do that. Hopefully this will help you avoid awkward and uncomfortable situations to come. Hopefully this will teach you how to use your own words to stand up for your own body, even and especially if it’s awkward.

I will try at all costs not to force your body into places or positions or clothing that you don’t want to go. When possible, I will respect your choices and your timing. When it’s not possible, due to safety or time or circumstances, I will strive to always handle your body with calm and your emotions with gentleness. I am listening, even when I can’t always accommodate.

Your voice still matters. Your choice always matters.

Love your fierce advocate,

Momma

I write these words to my daughters because, at this time, I only have girls. Yet, if I one day have sons, I believe it will be equally important, if not more so, to instill these same values in them. In order to change, our world needs girls and boys who know what it means for their bodies to be respected and to respect in return. We need young women and men who grasp consent because they’ve always been given a choice and a voice.

It starts young. It starts with us. It starts with the seemingly innocuous choices we make for our children everyday. So maybe, hopefully, it can end with us too.

Teaching Kindness and Training Warriors

As a momma-to-be, there are already so many things I worry about for this sweet child I’m carrying. Am I eating the right foods to help her grow big and strong? Am I picking the right bedding, toys, and accessories so that he’ll be safe, secure, and happy? How do I prepare for the unknown worlds of birth, feeding, and tireless newborn care?

My biggest worry, though, is the overall prospect of bringing this little one into a great big world that is so bright and beautiful, but can also be harsh and mean and scary. For a while she’ll be protected by the cloak of babyhood – being constantly supervised and surrounded by people who offer nothing but kind words for this tiny new being. But in a brief few years she’ll grow up and go out on her own – at pre-school, at the park – and someone will say something unkind to her or another child. And the thought of that shatters my heart…

So how do I teach my child to embrace kindness even in the midst of a sometimes unkind world? How do I let him know that, no matter how strong meanness may seem, kindness will always win? How do I encourage him to face each day, brave and strong, as a warrior fighting for kindness for all those around him?

With small daily acts and beautiful inspiring words.

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Fortunately, my lovely sister-in-law, Katie Moore, has recently published an incredible children’s book on exactly this topic. Her book – You Are A Warrior – tells a beautiful, whimsical, and truthful tale of a little girl who is doing just that – being a warrior by fighting back against bullying with seemingly small acts of kindness that yield huge results. What makes Katie’s book even more special are the delightfully happy illustrations that are a compilation of her four talented children’s artwork combined with her own wise words. Without a doubt, this is an inspiring book and a meaningful message for adults and children alike.

Since I’m fortunate enough to know this witty and wonderful author, I asked Katie a few questions about the book in hopes of absorbing some of her awesome, love-filled wisdom:

What was your inspiration for writing this book?                                                               

My inspiration for writing this book was to give my kids something to hold and read and know that they contributed to a real book. Something tangible that they helped to create and build and feel that they could put it in their hands and say that they were a part of. I’m working on a novel that is aimed for an adult audience so it was important for me to get this one out first. Also on my blog I write a lot of things that are adult humor that I would never (ever) want them to come across, but a book that is for kids helps confirm that their momma really is a writer. It gives me some street credit. Plus (and most importantly) I am a huge fan of children’s books that send out a positive message. I want my kids and kids everywhere to be kind and aim for good every single day.      

As a mother of four (incredible) kids, why do you think this is an important book and message for children?                                                                                                                 

I think that it is desperately important that children realize that small acts can make a tremendous impact on this world. Bullying is rampant in schools, playgrounds and probably the most detrimental of all, on all sources of media. Kindness isn’t a slight thing, costs nothing and has the potential to bring hope to every generation. Children of all ages have the power to bring change.

I love the artwork in the book! Can you tell me more about your process for creating the beautiful and inspiring images?                                                                           

Thank you! I am in love with collage work with mixed media. I wanted to create something whimsical with my own kids’ artwork and add some words and light to bring each page its own type of faithful magic. The process is really glue, hope, glue, repeat. Roll with the mess and the mistakes… perfection is overrated.   

What is the number one lesson that you hope anyone reading – both children and adults – will take away from your book?                                                          

Show up. Be kind. That really would be a dream if that was the takeaway. Oh and have fun too. Warriors are rockstars.                                                                                                                                                                            

Thank you dear Katie!

There is still time to get the perfect Christmas gift for kids of all ages (including those grown-up kids who may need a little kindness reminder) by ordering Katie’s book on Amazon: You Are A Warrior.

While you’re there, be sure to pick up a copy of her lovely inspiration journal – Dream a Bigger Dream – to spark your own creative potential.

For more of Katie’s wit, humor, and wisdom, check out her blog, The Naked Momma, at www.thenakedmomma.com.  Or get her daily dose of inspiration and fun on Facebook and Twitter @thenakedmommakt.

PS – it just so happens to be Katie’s birthday today, so share the love!

What small but mighty acts of kindness have you seen or done this week? Leave a comment below with ways to share some joy this season and beyond, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of You Are A Warrior – a beautiful gift just for you! Happy kindness spreading friends!

It’s A…

With all the traveling and moving and settling in and exploring we’ve been doing the past few months, it’s hard to believe that just four short months from today is when our little one is expected to make his or her entrance into this world! Now that we’re over halfway there (eek!), without a doubt the most common question we get is: “Are you having a boy or a girl?!”

Well, since inquiring minds want to know, it’s a…

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Surprise!

Yes, we decided we’re going to do things the old fashion way and wait and be surprised when we meet our sweet babe for the first time in the delivery room.

Since deciding to wait to find out the gender, I’ve found people’s responses incredibly amusing. Of course there are those that made the same choice and encourage you, proclaiming: “Waiting and being surprised is the best!” Others are supportive and admiring, saying, “I wish I was patient enough to just wait, I think that’s so great.” But then there are those who so obviously disagree with your choice that it’s comical. Their reactions range from confused and incredulous looks to flat out stating, “You’re crazy!” Though most of these have come in good humor from great friends, I’ve found it funny that it actually seems to annoy people that they can’t know the gender of the baby.

Then there are the questions…

“How will you know what to buy?”

“How will you pick a baby name?”

“But if you can find out, then why wouldn’t you?”

Our reasons for not finding out our baby’s gender are both personal and practical. First there’s the obvious – the element of surprise. In this modern world of information overload, there are so few great surprises left in life. I’ve always loved surprises; never wanting to know the contents of my gifts before Christmas morning; insisting that Andrew not tell me where we are going on dates. So what greater surprise could there be than finding out whether we have a new son or daughter in that miraculous moment when we bring him or her into the world. The greatest gift of all.

From a practical standpoint, we’re hoping that keeping the baby’s gender a mystery will help cut down on what we acquire both now and in the future. It keeps me (and others) from going out and buying every pink or blue outfit, blanket, and accessory in the store. Instead we end up with a few carefully selected gender neutral items that we really love. And since we are hoping to have more children (perhaps of different genders), we don’t want to stock up on gender specific major items – carseat, stroller, nursery decor – only to have to re-buy everything the next go round. Besides, our style doesn’t lean towards the pink ballerina girl or blue sports boy. We prefer a mix of colors and styles as unique as our child – regardless of gender.

Additionally, not knowing the gender may just help keep unwanted opinions and assumptions at bay. It seems that one answer leads to so many more questions: “What are you going to name the baby?” “Do you think he will be into planes like his dad?” “Do you think she will like to read like her mom?” Rather than trying to define this little person with a name or personality before her or she even takes a first breath, we’re glad to let our babe spend these last few months in the warm womb relaxing without the opinions or expectations of the world. There will be plenty of time for that in years to come.

Our final and most important reason for deciding not to find out the gender of our baby is not really a reason at all. The fact is, it really doesn’t matter whether our child is a boy or a girl, we are going to love him or her just the same either way. It’s a baby, and its needs are the same regardless of gender – love and nurturing, attention and affection. Our lives are going to be turned upside down in wild and wonderful ways no matter what. So we are embracing the unknown that is a necessary part of parenthood.

There are so many reasons behind each personal parenting decision, and by no means am I trying to claim that others should make the same decision with their child. But for us, with this child, it’s what felt right.

I’m curious – if you’re a parent did you find out the gender of your child beforehand? Why or why not? 

The Blessing of Babysitting

The last couple weekends, I have spent my rowdy evenings babysitting. While this would be a burden to many people, for me it’s an absolute blessing.

You see, I’ve always loved babies and children. Through the years, as my family and friends thought (hoped) this fascination would fade, it’s remained constant. Just last weekend, as I was proclaiming my philosophy on cloth diapering, my aunt remarked, “Well I guess you never really got over that baby thing did you?…”

Nope, not one bit. And while I don’t yet have children of my own, I have been so incredibly blessed over the years with the many many children I’ve gotten to care for and their kind parents who trust me with this task. As with ones own children, of course I don’t have favorites – each child and family is wonderful and unique and has taught me something different. But there is one family, one set of boys, who will always hold such a special place in my heart, for they were the first ones for whom I really truly babysat.

And today is a big day in our intertwined lives, because this happy little fella, Parker, the very first child I babysat, is turning sixteen. Sixteen!

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While it does make me feel old, it also makes me feel so very proud. So proud to see him grow from baby to boy to amazing young man, and so thankful to be a part of it all.

Our relationship started early. Shortly after Parker was born, I would wander over, a shy ten-year-old, to my new neighbors’ house and hesitantly ask his parents, “May I hold Parker?…” They never turned me away or told me I was too young; they welcomed me into their home, trusting me with their first sweet little baby. My visits became more and more frequent, often daily, and as time went on, his parents eventually began paying me to watch Parker. I was simply amazed that someone would actually pay me to do the very thing I loved most in the world – watch over little ones. I would, both then and now, happily do it for free. Yet, the fact that they paid me, that it was a real job, brought with it responsibility. So while I was watching over Parker as he grew, I hardly realized the growing I myself was doing. How this little boy was shaping the adult I was slowly becoming.

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When I graduated from high school, Parker’s momma, Julia (who has become a dear friend), wrote me the kindest note that said, among other sweet sentiments:

“You’ll know what you’ve meant to me when you have children of your own. When that time comes, I hope that you are lucky enough to live next to a ten-year-old girl just like yourself.”

Though that is the most amazing thing to hear, I already consider myself the lucky one. Lucky to be part of such an incredible child and family’s lives. Lucky to be trusted with the most sacred task of caring for their babies. Lucky to be taught so many invaluable lessons on life and parenting that only a child can impart.

So thank you Julia, Taylor, and all you other wonderful mommas and poppas who have blessed me over the years with taking care of their children. I am forever grateful for the the blessings and joy that you and your lovely little ones have brought to my life.

And happy birthday Parker – you rock!