Sunday, December 9, 2012
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Today was a great lesson/reminder about one of the realities being a full-time dad: I do not have the luxury of going off by myself to spend 20 or 30 minutes recovering from a rough start to the day. I was in the midst of writing a blog post and was deep in thought. On top of that, I have a cold and am exhausted despite getting nearly seven hours of sleep for the last three of four nights in a row (more like nine hours last night). So when I heard Mary Jane's footsteps I went straight into reactivity…"No! Not again!" But as much as my mind was screaming "No!" there stood Mary Jane, wide awake and in a happy disposition <curveball #1). I was able to get her to take a shower with mommy about 20 minutes later and so, I thought, I would have a little time to finish up my blog post. And then I heard Rebekah rustling and cooing over the monitor <curveball #2>. So much for that idea!
When I picked Rebekah up I found that she had pooped so I had to both change her diaper and, since we now use cloth diapers, spray the poop out of it <curveball #3>. By the time I was done spraying the diaper Maaike was nearly ready to go. And so yet another day begins without me getting to finish my blog post...or do email...or…
To say the least, I was quite upset about the morning not starting "right." A fact that pissed me off because I am working on accepting reality as it comes (read: "I should have perfected accepting reality as it comes" by now). But there was no time to deal with my piss-off (or so my mind was telling me) because it is already after 7 am and we have to be at the doctor's office at 9:30. And then we go straight to Target for Mary Jane to make her first purchase with money she earned. So I stuffed my feelings down as best I could and worked hard at being calm and loving and caring and not PISSED-OFF! All-in-all I did pretty well with it...but it is exhausting to work that hard at suppressing my feelings.
Mary Jane did a great job waiting at the doctor's office and being patient as I calmed Rebekah and gave her a bottle after receiving her shots. Then it was off to Target. We went straight to the Barbie doll area so Mary Jane could pick out her Barbie and then went up to the front for her to pay for it. As a special treat we then went into Starbucks and opened the Barbie so she could play with it while we did the rest of our Target shopping. Again, Mary Jane and Rebekah both did very well. And still, it was getting harder and harder for me to contain the building pressure and frustration as the morning went on and I began to get tired <curveball #4> and as MJ began to reach the end of her patience with being at Target <curveball #5>.
Of course, Mary Jane's focus was on getting home so we could "play dollies" with her new Barbie. And when we finally did get home, that is all I heard about from her. "Can we play dollies?" "Let's play dollies, daddy!" "Daddy, play dollies!" <curveballs #6, 7, and 8 or more…> Of course, from a clearer perspective it is obvious that Mary Jane was simply very excited about her new Barbie and she wanted me to play with her and her new Barbie...but that wasn't so obvious to me at the time because I was too focused on containing my piss-off. Now, it just so happens that Rebekah is in the midst of a growth spurt so she is very hungry and very tired. So while Mary Jane is trying to get me to play dollies I am trying to make us lunch and tend to a hungry, overly tired 5 month old <curveball #9>...oh yeah, we think she is about ready to cut her first tooth, too <curveball #...well, you get the idea>. ...and the pressure builds.
The icing on the cake is that the more reactive (short and obviously frustrated) I became, the more Mary Jane and Rebekah would follow suit. Round and round we went building on each others' reactivity and agitation. I cannot recall what exactly it was that woke me up to what was going on. What I do know is that I suddenly realized that much of the frustration and many of the little battles from the day were largely due to me not recovering from the way the morning began.
Like it or not, the reality is that in day to day life I do not often have time to go off and figure out why I am being so reactive. What I can do, however, is choose to recover in real-time. I can choose to stop long enough to take some breath and to notice my reactivity and then to choose my next step. Some days I may need to do this several times and others not at all. Either way, what I am seeing is that I always have the choice to recover and I also have the knowledge and ability to do so. And the good news is, it is never to late to recover and start fresh. After all, each minute is a fresh start.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I am "trying" to get myself into a routine of getting up at 5 AM so that I can have some time to be on the computer to write this blog, catch up on email, manage/post pictures, etc. It is "my time." As I write this I realize that am quite protective of "my time" and that, in my head, "my time" is from 5 to 7 AM. Which helps to make sense of why I tend to get frustrated when one of our children wake up before 7 AM.
"Doesn't she realize that this is my time and that it is important for me to have my time?" I can hear myself protesting. "There is so much I need to get done. So many things that I have to take care of! And if I don't reply to all those people then <enter catastrophic scenario here>!" With this running in my head, it is no wonder I get so ticked off when Mary Jane comes up stairs rubbing her eyes and squinting against the light...at 6:15 AM. Of course, the fact that she is crying and calling for mommy (who is at the pool for a swim work out) doesn't help. Nor does the fact that she doesn't want me to even look at, let alone console her.
If I am honest with myself, I can see that the truth is I am not upset with my daughter. I am upset with myself. I am upset with myself for staying up too late, again; for using "my time" to manage pictures this morning rather than to write; for continuing in this pattern of just doing any the things on my to do list rather than purposefully choosing what I am going to do with the time I have. Of course, being this honest with myself also means that I am putting responsibility for how I spend my time on...me.
"Whoa there, tiger. Let's not get crazy now…" says the voice in my head. Wow! I really do not want that responsibility! As I write this I can literally feel myself squirming inside trying to find a way out of taking responsibility. This points to another, larger issue: that I have a big fat "NO!" to my limits! Apparently, I hold a belief that I "should not" have limitations. I "should" be able to function on five hours of sleep. I "should" be able to stay mentally and emotionally clear at all times. I "should" be able to make the right decision about how to respond to my children/wife/friends/etc. at all times. I "should" be able to keep up on email. I "should"… And the reality is that I do have limits and these limits are different as a full-time dad than they were when I worked outside our home. My heart is racing. This is a big one for me. What I am seeing is that when I refuse to accept my limitations I do not allow myself to be present in the moment. And so I do not get to have what is happening right now. Today is a wonderful example.
It was a full day. We met up with my friend Darin and his son Ethan for daddy-kiddo day today at Como Zoo. The zoo was a hit, no question. Getting ready to go to the zoo was a challenge on several fronts including that Mary Jane woke up at 6:15 AM…45 minutes "early." Hearing Mary Jane cry for mommy at 6:15 AM was a reality I was unwilling to accept and so a seed of frustration was planted. And then Rebekah woke up at about 7:15 AM which is at least 30 minutes earlier than usual...with a leaking poo and pee filled diaper. So now her bedding needed to be changed and washed along with the other four loads of laundry. Did I mention that our washing machine is broken? Yeah, I have to manually switch it from cycle to cycle. As I changed Rebekah, and tried to keep her from touching her pee and poo soaked jammies, I was thinking about the list of things I "needed" to get done today: feed me and MJ, feed Rebekah, start laundry, make and pack lunch, do laundry, go to the zoo, do laundry, have rest/nap time, do laundry, reply to people I've meant to reply to for several days, do laundry...and my frustration built. By the time we got back from the zoo Mary Jane and I had had several little battles including one that ended in a time out right after we got back home. "Finally," Rebekah was asleep and, quite atypically, Mary Jane fell asleep watching her rest-time movie. So I sat for a little while and then did a couple things. I was just about to watch a documentary I'd been wanting to see when Mary Jane woke up crying. I picked her up and sat on the couch with her...and she fell back asleep. So there I sat on the couch, holding Mary Jane...and thinking about all of the things I could be doing, if I weren't trapped under this sleeping child.
I could feel the full weight of my 3 1/2 year-old sleeping on me. I could hear her soft breath and feel her peacefulness as she slept in her daddy's arms. That's when it hit me: this is why I am here. All that other stuff is secondary right now. I am here, at home, to be with and support my children. And I have been missing it. Being "trapped" under the weight of my sleeping preschooler gave me freedom to remember what is most important to me and to choose to be present in that moment.
What if I choose to see all my limits as revolutionaries? As freedom fighters whose goal is to set me free? What would that change in perspective do to the quality of my life? Perhaps this the year for me to find out!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I believe it is important to help the girls learn about thinking through their decisions and to learn about consequences. I also believe it is important to take care of our possessions so that they last a long time. I often put these ideas together as I talk Mary Jane through why it is okay, or not okay, for her to take a specific action. We had an interesting opportunity on this very point this morning.
We had been playing for awhile and Mary Jane was already dressed for the day. Well, dressed and then somewhat undressed - she will often pull her shirt up as if to take it off and then leave it at the top of her head like a turban. She then pretends that her shirt is hair...and she LOVES doing this. It was time for me to take a shower so I asked her if she would like to shower with me or keep playing. "Yeah, shower with you," she replied. I headed off to the bathroom to start getting the shower ready. About 30 seconds later Mary Jane came into the bathroom and said, "I changed my mind. I want to shower by myself." Now, I have learned how to tell when Mary Jane is planning to do something that she thinks I will not approve of and I could tell that there was something behind her change of mind. "Why do you want to shower by yourself?" I asked. With eyes turned toward the floor and half turning away Mary Jane sheepishly said, "I want to shower with this on," referring to the shirt on her head...her 'hair.'
At this point my mind went straight into parental teaching mode. "You can't let her do that," I heard my mind say. "That isn't being responsible. And if you let her do it today then you set a precedence and she'll want to do it every day and you will have to fight with her to keep it from being an every day occurrence." All fine and seemingly valid points. But before I spoke something inside me, something deeper within, urged me to ask a follow-up question, "Is that why you want to shower by yourself? So you could shower with your shirt on your head?" She nodded . Again, my mind jumped to action, "See, she is being deceitful and manipulative. You have to take action to show her that she cannot trick you into letting her get her way."
As my mind told me what I "had" to do I could feel that sense from deeper within coming up again. It is a softer urging, in terms of volume, than is the demanding chatter of my mind. At the same time, though, this deeper sense is stronger, less forceful and more confident...knowing. I paused and asked, "Why do you want to shower with your shirt on your head?" Mary Jane smiled and said quite matter-of-factly, "'Cause its fun." My heart nearly exploded with love and joy as we laughed together. "Okay, Mary Jane," I said, "you can shower with your shirt on."
Today Mary Jane reminded me that sometimes "'cause its fun" is reason enough. What would my life be like if I did more things 'cause they're fun? Just asking that question excites me and gives me a sense of freedom and joy. Imagine a life lived outside the boundaries of justifications and air tight reasoning. Imagine the freedom of simply choosing to follow my heart and do! I have both excitement and trepidation around this.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Sometimes I struggle to remember that Mary Jane is only 3 1/2 years old. This is an example of why that can be so hard for me.
It is about 3 PM Friday afternoon and I am rushing around the house trying to get everything ready for us to leave for a four-day trip to Iowa to visit Maaike's family in Pella. We've already had a fun and big morning going to Cinidi and Rowan's house to visit them and Nicole. Then off to Friday Playgroup at Heather's house. Lots of time with good friends and fun kiddos. We got home about 12:20 PM and "all" we had left to do was to eat lunch, feed Rebekah, pack my clothes, pack Rebekah's clothes, make and pack snacks, do dishes, pack up all the "stuff," feed Rebekah again, and load the car...by 3 PM.
Maaike is off work at 3 PM on Fridays and we wanted to hit the road as close to then as possible so we could miss traffic and arrive in Pella (about a 5 1/2 hour drive without small children) at a reasonable time. As I said, it is now about 3 PM and everything is done except feeding Rebekah the second time (and she is REALLY hungry now), doing the dishes (not many) and finish loading the car. At this point I am working quite hard at keeping my stress level and drivenness in check. I send Maaike a text to let her know we are running behind and then give Rebekah her bottle. As I am holding Rebekah to feed her I am distracted, thinking about what is left to do, how to do it most efficiently and how to enroll Mary Jane into staying focused on getting us ready to leave.
Rebekah finishes her bottle by about 3:20 and I put her in the bouncy while I do dishes...a decision/situation that is less-than-desirable to Rebekah. So now I am doing dishes, playing peek-a-boo with and singing to a crying Rebekah, and reminding/encouraging Mary Jane to pick up her toys and finish getting ready to leave. By the time I finish doing the dishes Rebekah has gotten herself quite worked up so I pick her up to calm her and change her diaper. I hate to see her upset and crying like this and I don't like leaving her in the bouncy to cry. What's more is that, with the dishes done, all that is left is to pack the car. Which means putting Rebekah in her car seat or back in the bouncy.
Then it hits me: I am not alone. Mary Jane is here and Rebekah adores Mary Jane, and Mary Jane adores Rebekah. So I put Rebekah in her car seat and set her down close to the back door with everything else that needs to go out to the car (including Mary Jane who is already wearing her coat and boots). "Mary Jane, will you please be with Rebekah while I load the car?" I ask. "You want me to rock Rebekah? Okay." Keep in mind that I asked only that Mary Jane "be with Rebekah." As I am picking things up for the second, and final, trip to the car I see Mary Jane bent down gently rocking the car seat and saying in a sweet, tender voice, "You're okay, Rebekah. There is nothing to be worried about. Mommy is at work and daddy and big sister are right here."
My tendency, my "drama," is to take everything on myself; to believe that I have to carry the entire load by myself. This morning Mary Jane showed me once again that I am never alone and I can always ask for help.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I was scheduled to be on a conference call this morning at 6 am. Mary Jane woke up at 5:30 after having a bad dream. Theoretically, Mary Jane sleeps until about 7 am and so a 6 to 7 am conference call would be just fine. Hearing her scream for me from downstairs was a lifeshock and my immediate response was, "No, I have a conference call and I don't want to have to entertain a 3 1/2 year old while also participating on the call!"
So rather than collecting my thoughts, and myself, from 5:30 to 6 I sat on the couch and talked with Mary Jane about her scary dream. As a side note, given the space and attention, a young child can tell you a great deal about her dreams...and this one sounded pretty spooky to me! A few minutes before the call was to begin I asked Mary Jane to pick out the paper or coloring book she wanted to color on. She picked a coloring book...Hello Kitty, of course.
So there we sat, six o'clock in the morning at the dining room table. I had my computer in front of me and Mary Jane on my lap. She had her coloring book in front of her with her crayons at the ready. And there we sat for the next 50 minutes - until the end of the call! As a 3 1/2 year old Mary Jane needed to sit still and quiet for 50 minutes (or more accurately, I wanted her to) AND SHE DID IT! This experience could have been restrictive for her, it could have been horrible and long and and and… Instead Mary Jane created some beautifully colored pictures. And she did so with much pride and joy!
This morning Mary Jane taught me, again, that it is entirely possible to find joy within limits. Imagine what life would be like if I chose to find the joy within the limits of my life! The possibilities are amazing - and freeing!