Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: kids (page 1 of 11)

Leaving the Homeland

Remember when I wrote about how we need to live and work not just according to our strengths, because those other places will eventually need strengthened? Well, this is why: Soccer season.

This year the biggest 3 decided to play, which many people would celebrate and I at least pretend to. But now the reality has set in, and I’m delivering children to a soccer field every night of the week during the prime of Jr. High football season, rendering JJ useful only to other people’s children.

I know this is no new news to most people with a child over the age of 5. This is the way the world of big kids works. You shuttle, you shuffle, you keep lawn chairs in your trunk and you beg your mother-in-law to help ferry children about in exchange of promises of the best nursing home someday. (A long time away, someday.)

And I know most people can roll with this climate. They do not understand why I would have an existential crisis over knowing when to feed my children dinner. Ah, but they are not raised in the Wingfield Way: Making simple decisions challenging, since, forever.

If I ask three Why’s (which continues to be one of the best bits of wisdom for getting to the actual issue), it’s not about dinner or time in the car, or even the pace at which our August and September is charting. I’m staring down at newness, and a little bit of grief.

After a million years of experience having a thousand little ones in my home, day after day, my life is shifting significantly this year. While I dance in celebration of a few days of peace to get actual work done, this new land of bigger kids is foreign. You’re asking a mom with top notch sippy-cup filling experience to know how to consistently arrive on time for pick ups and drop offs, which is the equivalent of asking a music teacher to take over the phys ed program. Of course it can be done, but not without practice and patience and instruction and a bit more patience.

In a million ways, I love Big Kid Land. The oldest two are a whole lot of fun right now; I love seeing their personalities and interests and the way they see and experience the world. I love that they want to try new things. I don’t bemoan the next stage. It’s not bad, it’s different. The newness is still so shiny, I can barely look at it directly.

But there’s something about the place where you began, in little kid world. I see mamas nursing babies and think, awww, me too! only to realize it’s been four years since I’ve had to unsnap at the sound of a whimper. I’m not actually in that place anymore.

I’ve been shipped to a new land, and I only speak small phrases of the language, and “donde esta el bano” is “which field are we going to?” My native tongue is only useful in small neighborhoods around me. Now I must learn a new language, new customs and ways of interacting with society. I get messages from coaches saying, “this is a travel team. We have home and away games, as far as Arcadia,” and I feel like I need a translator.

Growing up is terribly hard, and I think it only gets more challenging as we get older. Growing up as an adult is simply the worst. We’re not as flexible as we used to be, we have our habits and our ways which can be helpful but also can slow us down. But if we’re living, we’re growing. Sameness shouldn’t be our goal, for we will be sorely disappointed and miss out on new beauty with our narrow direction.

Here’s to us, mamas (and daddy’s), learning and growing beside those we’re raising. May we have grace with ourselves. May we have an openness to the new and unknown. May we receive the blessings of a new stage and a new land with gratitude and joy.

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The blessing of the youngest

The youngest’s birthday passed without much remark due to circumstance; we spent the day like the previous 4 and the following 2, at the beach and in the pool with the family. We had celebratory (GF) brownies and he managed to get everything he asked for throughout the day. The following morning he attempted to extort something from his papa, and he was informed that it was no longer his birthday, so he couldn’t have everything he wanted.

This didn’t compute for the little guy, mainly because most of his life he gets what he wants.

These babies of the family . They’re something else. And I argue there’s a mathematical equation that relates the number of children in a family to the yountest-ness of the youngest. The baby of two simply doesn’t bear as much youngest-ness as does the baby of nine. I’m sure someone has written a thesis about this. And while someone with a Ph.D. can argue that the trend exists, I’ll pontificate on why it tends to be, at least as it has grown from my own experience.

As parents continue to have more children, we have to open up our hands (and our hearts) a bit more to make it all fit. So, naturally, we let go. Those firsts, we hold tightly.  The voice of our duty to love and protect rings in our ear. We want the best; we strive for it. We take in everything we can as we learn along the road of parenthood. We see things sitting along the side of the road and we put it in the garage “in case we need that someday” because we just don’t know what is coming along next. It’s likely we’ll parent our firsts all the way through in this manner.

As our youngests grow, we get more familiar with the terrain. We learn what we might need and what just gets too heavy to carry along. It’s like comparing our first trip to Disney last week, our backpack filled with all the “essentials” to my cousin, who makes multiple trips per year, and walks through the gate empty handed. He knows exactly what he’ll need in a day, and where to find it so that he doesn’t have to carry it along.

So in the experience of parenting our youngests, things get lighter. We still have the same desires to make things right and good for our children, to offer them the most opportunity and help them become the best humans they were created to be. Yet we also recognize that lugging along a spare of everything “just in case” won’t be what makes it happen. The day won’t be ruined because we didn’t bring a second tube of sunscreen, it will be ruined when we loose sight of the fun that exists without trying damn so hard.

And so goes parenthood. We won’t ruin our children because we didn’t do X, Y, and Z. I think our chances are much higher that their childhood becomes a negative experience when we carry the baggage of the shoulds, the musts, and the if-we-don’ts.

So, the baby of this family gets more of what he wants. (And let’s be honest. The little guy deserves to get a few privileges to make up for the the massive amounts of hand-me-downs he has had to, and will continue to, endure.) Now it matters less what he believes to be true when he gets to pick his own spoon rather than use the one I’ve given him. That’s a power struggle I no longer need to win, because I don’t carry the fear of being “wrapped around his finger.”  I’m making space to carry the parenting essentials for all of these children and the if-we-don’ts won’t fit in my pocket anymore.

Essentially, I fear less with the youngests. Fear is tiresome, and it has robbed me of too many beautiful moments with my firsts, and I don’t want it to get the best of my youngests.

I read an unattributed quote the other day that said, you can do things out of love or you can do things out of fear; but you cannot serve two masters. My parenting approach has shifted with more babies and much of this is because what I mistook for love was actually fear. And honestly, as I keep parenting my oldests, it continues to be the case. These unknown trails of raising humans are wrought with fearful moments and places. With every new developmental stage and age, I remember, once again, that I have no idea what I’m doing. (And I’m getting better of remembering that no one else does, either.)

As a human being, I’m wired for fear, to protect myself and my species, so there’s no shame in that. The gift of these youngests lies in familiarity, remembering that I need not to be afraid all of the time. Now I get to live – and parent – from a different place.  Instead of traveling with constant concern of what lies behind the bushes, I now get to walk the path of raising children with a bit more reverential beholding of the beauty of it all.

 

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Imperfect Parenting and the River of Goodness

One of my greatest parenting successes has been convincing my children that a trip to IKEA’s “Smaland” is barely a step down from COSI. We treat it like a museum or McDonald’s PlayPlace – an event designed around their fun. (Little do they know, mama is accumulating a cart full of garlic presses and organizational bins.)

So on the Random Friday With No School, I decided a trip would be the best use of our time. JJ was off to other productive work, so all 4 kiddos and I headed to Canton. The lady working Smaland was less than excited to see me (she tried to exclude both my youngest and my oldest, but we easily fell within the height requirements on all fronts), probably because we take up 2/3 of the available kid allotment. They had fun not jumping in the balls, and I found the necessary non-brass light fixture. The kids opted for lunch in the Ikea cafe, so we headed upstairs.

Prior to walking through the line, we had a team meeting to clarify expectations: once food was ordered and on a plate, there was no changing of the minds. Everyone executed.  The line was a tad tricky, and we made it through without tears until we sat down and the youngest discovered that french fries had not come with the meatballs he requested. Mama was going to share, but there was no convincing him of anything. Trading plates of meatballs didn’t work. I couldn’t just take the other kids’ food – I’ve learned this the hard way. You just end up with more tears. The other kids were looking at me, waiting as patiently as possible for ketchup while the baby of the family melted into a puddle on the chair. And in my arms.

It was clear there was nothing I could do to save the day. I was powerless until he actually put some food in his belly and overcame the Hangry. I couldn’t leave him to get the ketchup. I couldn’t get him to settle down.

And then, the oldest took a handful of his fries and laid them on his brother’s plate. The other two kids followed suit. They dished off food until the tears stopped. We were finally able to fetch the condiments without nasty looks.

While I had maintained most of my composure during The Episode, I know my Bigs felt the energy of my defeat and frustration. For the rest of the meal, my oldest was beyond helpful, refilling water and ketchup without being asked. He hugged me no less than 4 times.

In the midst of their mama’s powerlessness, my kids stepped up. They realized that to make the best of the situation, they would all have to come together and help one another. This is a lesson they could never learn if I were to continually make the problems go away.

I can preach to them that we belong to one another or tell them to serve and love using more than their words. These will be quotes on a printable until I give them opportunity to put on shoes and take the ideas for a run. Without the chance to do it, they may never know what it feels like to live their values, which we all know is a whole lot different than simply believing something.

I’ve never felt like a perfect parent, and I’m confident my kids are aware of my flaws, so “imperfect parenting” isn’t just about me and my shortcomings. I’ve heard other parents talk about how in our mistakes we can show our kids grace and the need for forgiveness. But I think accepting our imperfections has wider implications.

To parent imperfectly means to stop filling 100% of the holes for my kids and let them learn how to clean up a leak. I think we should give them a chance to let their heart whisper “hey, go get a towel!” and then allow them to feel the sense of goodness that comes from doing a good thing that has grown from their own place in the world.

What if kids learned to trust their ability to do what is right and good?  What if they learned they actually have the capacity to change a situation, even if it’s only in the enjoyment of a meal as a family? Isn’t that still something worth doing?

Goodness is like a stream running throughout the universe. Sometimes we’re swimming in it, and sometimes we’re not. But I’m not sure the Goodness River is something that you can toss your kids into; they have to learn to jump. As a parent, the best thing I can do is to dive in as often as I can, and assure them that they’ll float when I see them standing on the banks, contemplating a swim. And, as they come up from under the waters, greet them with a smile that shows them how proud you are that they’ve decided to take the plunge.

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