Some things never change. I once was at a Mothers Of Preschoolers(MOPS) meeting and the mentor mom there was sharing with us. She was encouraging us that some things, some personality traits, come installed. She showed us her three children's kindergarten and graduation pictures. Each revealed a personality, and interestingly, each child stayed consistent. One child had a confident look in Kindergarten and in Senior year. Another one I remember clearly is the class clown. The wry smile on this boy's face was exactly the same. It has been at least ten years since I have been at a MOPS meeting (except for one that I shared at) but this stayed with me.
Today I celebrate my middle daughters 14th birthday. As I look back she has changed, of course, but there are some ways, that are essential to her that have not. When she was a toddler, we would visit my grandmother, and Grammy never failed to say “such a smiley kid, I never saw such a smiley kid!” When you meet her today most times you will see her contagious smile. She has a way of putting people at ease and she knows real empathy. She is better at hospitality than anyone I know and better at planning a bookclub or dinner than I am. She has been making place cards since she could write.
I do not remember when she started baking but her passion for it has never ended. She aspires to be a baker one day and she will ask several times a week if she can bake something. I believe the thing that gives her the most pleasure is that her creativity could make people happy. She has always been the family cheerleader. When I was sick, she would do whatever she could to cheer me up. I still have a drawing in my room that encourages me which says what I do that makes me "the best mom." This is what she has always done. Many will site birth order, she is a classic middle child. But I can attest that these traits were in her from the earliest times. As a toddler she was like this, I always had dandelions in a vase because they were “so pretty” and I needed them to cheer me. She could never go anywhere without a card or handmade present for whoever we were going to see.
Why am I telling you all this? Am I just wanting to brag on my child? Well, there has also been a timid nature to her too. She was so painfully afraid of being the center of attention. In group settings, she would be hiding in the back of the crowd. The more I prodded her to step out in confidence the further back she would hang. She had to be comforted, allowed to know she would not be forced to do anything. If I used that tactic, she would often try something she feared. I have another daughter I had to, for example, put on the merry-go-round, she would love it after but I could not let her think about it. Clearly I am not writing this to brag. Many a time I had a crowd looking at me as I was trying to calm a daughter who was crying and clutching at me, begging me not to make her do the thing she feared. It took me a while to realize too that middle daughter needed a different tack than the first. Not my brightest mom moments.
I am writing this to remind you that you are your child's best detective. Intuitively, you know what is best for your child and with a little trial and error you can know the best ways to encourage growth and acceptance in your child. Acceptance, of the personality that they came pre-loaded with and maturing of the qualities and skills you see. Allowing my little baker to experiment in the kitchen has led to some flops and those have been her greatest learning experiences. There is a purpose for each child and you are perfectly matched to help them see some of the good purposes that God has planned for them.
Your child is different from every other child in the world. They do not have your neighbor's child's temperament nor their exact situation. You may live in the same place, go to the same school and have the same cultural background but each of your children have such unique qualities. SO DO NOT COMPARE! Temperament, that is another good thing to touch on quickly, a great example of this bedtime for this middle girl of mine. She did not need much sleep, apparently. I put on soothing music and I would not hear from her and I expected to see her asleep, I would peek in and there was her little round head peeping up over the crib-rail. Never upset, always smiling at me, which was less endearing at 3 am. She still is a night owl. Temperament changes very little in my experience, the circumstances that the child brings her temperament to will but she will come at everything with that temperament.
Remember my MOPS mentor mom. Even her children's school pictures showed this consistency. I suggest you focus on the qualities and temperaments that are lovely and useful and encourage those. These will be the things that they bring to bear on the world. Encourage the God-given stuff that will promote His good purposes for them and for His kingdom. Happy 14th Birthday, SUNSHINE!
Language development was both easy and hard for me as a parent. I know that doesn't make much sense but still it is TRUTH! What I mean is that talking all day long is both a simple task and extremely fatiguing for me. I am an introvert and lots of “peopling” makes me need a quiet recharge. ERROR** Quiet recharge and toddlers are not compatible without “tribe” plug-in. If you know you are introverted you will have to ask for help to get the recharging you need. Extroverts proceed.
So though introverted, I still value teaching my children how to communicate. I learned from several sources, positive and negative that the best way to build language in children is to use it. Now this may seem elementary but it really isn't. It especially can be hard for someone who either is in her own head a lot or the other extreme, someone who really doesn't know herself well. But this is another opportunity to grow relationship and your own character. Sacrifice is so very evident in every part of motherhood isn't it. But my dears, joy is so close behind it.
So here are the best ways for both introverts and extroverts to foster language in all ages and stages of children:
All aboard! Who doesn't sometimes hang out in procrastination station. It is a sketchy place where thieves lurk stealing time and energy from unsuspecting visitors. It smells of laundry and dishes and garbage. I have been hanging out here for a bit too long and I know exactly what is stamped on my ticket. Expectations.
Not ones that you, gentle reader, have imposed but expectations of my own making. Because helping new moms to find joy in motherhood is such a passion of mine and because of my INFJ Meyers-briggs personality type, meaning is tantamount. I must have meaning. The flip side of this search for meaning is that if it is really, really, really meaningful in my mind, I cannot move forward easily because I am afraid I will mess it up. Someone else can do a much better job, Lord, send them. I think of Moses saying, I am slow of speech. Exodus 4:10 in the Old Testament. It sometimes makes me feel as if everything that surrounds this is an uphill battle because of my thoughts.
I have had this feeling in my mothering too. I felt a level of confidence in caring for a newborn. All my childcare and family experience paved the way for that but as the children grew older and started needing guidance I didn't know how to do that. I had grown up thinking that emotions were terrible things you got rid of as fast as possible. So dealing with a toddler melt down, wow! But how God used that to grow me! I was eventually able to see guidance as a way to help the girls be able to feel feelings and then deal with them appropriately and in each girls right timing. It grew my relationship with them and with God.
So what does this have to do with expectations? We have a certain idea, especially before children, that we will be a certain type of parent or that we have certain skills under our control. When a different personality comes to bear in your home, you may not get that control you thought you had. Your expectations of how you knew would care for your child may be challenged. Sometimes the first one is compliant with your expectations but the second child is very different. All the tools you used with the first one may not work at all with the next.
From birth, your job, with the help of God, is to be a detective. As a baby, nursing may not have come as easily as you expected. Try different holds or latching techniques to see what works. As a toddler, the way you expected to discipline might have the opposite effect. For example, sending one child to his room feels crushing because he thrives on interaction but for another it is a reward because they can play alone. Each stage will bring new things you have to sleuth and you will be challenged daily. What a blessing that God knows us and our children inside and out!
He can help you figure out why you are procrastinating. Are you feeling that someone else would do better with the child so opposite your personality? Are you suppressing your feelings of inadequacy or overwhelmed by the tasks required?
True confession time: I have many more ideas for blog posts. I am hoping God will pick someone else for the job of writing them. But I am pushing through today because I don't really want to miss the blessing of walking through this with Him.
I want to encourage you, the dividends of caring for your children's needs, emotional, physical, spiritual, will be paid. It may take a while but when, for example, you start to see your young ladies being praised in church for serving, as I have recently, it is beyond joyful. I made so many errors and really did not know how to promote healthy emotions but I kept learning in love and God is filling in all my gaps. What a wonder too, my ladies see my efforts and feel loved even when I make big mistakes.
Each mistake is a great opportunity to grow closer. Drop the negative feelings of expectations and look for the positive moments of growth. I'll keep practicing too.
Welcome beautiful Momma! I'm so proud of you for caring for your baby, inside or outside the womb.
Come sit with me, tell me what is troubling you today about this daunting journey of motherhood.
I think that most of our troubles as moms come from a very deep lack of support. We have a baby and we isolate ourselves at home to prevent germs and because face it we are freakin' tired. This is a relatively new way of bringing home a baby. In the past and in other cultures that are not America 2018, the family consisted of extended relations and often your family or your husband's or both lived in very close proximity, maybe even in the same house. Yikes!
Now, in some ways we might have it better now, medicine and sanitation have made it the best time to have a healthy baby, but emotionally it maybe the worst for the mom. Many women can give birth without ever having held a baby before. This can be very stressful when you have no experience and someone places this new life in your arms and expects you to be responsible for it. No matter if you have a baby in this way or through foster or adoption, you now have a new set of challenges ahead of you. Isolation may feel safe at the moment but in day three when baby won't stop crying and your hormones are trying to figure out what just happened, you are in deep.
Isolation may be the norm but we need help for this very wild ride called Motherhood
A few years ago I discovered that my family was a key part of the founding of Brooklyn! I discovered that one of the houses that my great (x12 or something) grandfather built was still standing and I was excited to cross the bridge and step back into history. The Wycoff house looks so funny on a triangle of land in between car dealerships and check cashing places. I stepped into the old stone building and though it was a chilly fall day I felt warm and light. There was a very simple dutch style hearth.
There was no fire in it, it would never meet safety codes today since it is simply on the floor. But suddenly I realized the connection I had with this family from the founding of this country. Motherhood. There were pots and fires and cooking and caring done right here. There was a major difference that I couldn't help thinking about. She had come from a village to a colony. She had sisters from church and family members who knew how to welcome babies. She had support to become the warm center of the household, just as that hearth was. She wasn't alone to figure out how to care for the children who would eventually lead to my dad and then me. She had people to care for her and answer her questions.
SO what do we do today, we have options. Postpartum depression is chemical and hormonal but studies show that mothers with support recover more quickly or can even prevent the symptoms. If the depression does show up, moms with support get help faster and worse scenarios of moms hurting themselves or their babies are prevented. So here are your three ways to help prevent Postpartum Depression:
1. Before birth and after, read and watch ENCOURAGING things from people who parent like you hope to. Writers who tell you to follow your intuition and articles that refrain from complaining about how hard it is, unless they follow up with ways to have joy in motherhood.
2. Call on your village to help. Most moms no longer have family living with them but you may have some nearby, or a church family, or your good friends who want to see that baby. Find yourself a group of women who can guide you or even who you don't mind seeing your dirty undies. If you can get some women who will sit with you and fold your laundry while you share what is hard right now, that is your colony, and it is priceless for emotional support.
3. Trust that you know what is best for your baby. This might not be right away, you might need guidance and some trial and error but I assure you,babies are really resilient. There may be 100,000 ways to do a bedtime routine or feeding schedule but you will know when it is right, for you, and your family and your baby.
You are the warmth at the center. Your baby will know he or she is safe in your arms and heart.
I am excited to say I am finally ready for a regular blog post. Blogging has been on the to-do list for a while but Mommy life got in the way. This month I am doing my research so I can bring you some great content on life new babies and other littles. I cannot wait to go deeper with you all. I look forward to a great spring with you. Look for me to spread my wings as a momma blogger very soon as we relaunch the Tenderhearts blog right here. "stay tuned"
Paula is a single mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula