One of my big secrets to having a good Monday is reading my Ripples email for the last 10+ years. The Ripples Project was started by this guy, Paul, who I heard speak at a college conference. Right now? I have no idea what about that talk inspired me, but it did. The concept he ‘preaches’ is that everything we do has a wide reaching impact. You might toss a stone into the water, and see the first few rings pop up, and walk away, but what you may not realize is that those ripples go and go until they reach the shore. The lapping water makes an impact on the ground all around the body of water. You’ve just made a difference–and it’s the same with life. I try to live my life in the same manner, being aware of what I do and what impact it makes on the world. It’s why I always take the extra time to return my grocery cart to the corral, why I offer up the diaper coupons I get in the mail to people who will use them (on my 44 cents), and in a way, it’s also why I blog. Maybe one day, something I say will strike a chord with someone and it will change their lives. Even if it’s for an instant, that’s all it takes to make an impact. My pebble, so to speak. If you’re interested in the emails, or you need a quote for something, this is a great place to find one: http://theripplesproject.org/.
The emails have a pebble, a boulder, and a ponder. The first two really hit me today. You see, a lot of times I wonder about Keeley. I’m sure she’s just a typical 2 year old (I can only say that for another week, eek!), but she’s been throwing a lot of tantrums lately and it makes me wonder about her future development. Is how we (and let’s face it, I, since I’m with her almost 24/7) are/am dealing with it ‘okay’? If I do the wrong thing is she going to end up a horrible person? Being a mom, especially a full time one, is a REALLY hard job. No one ever goes out of their way to say you’re doing a good job, the thank-yous are few, and no one throws you a party once a year for keeping the family on track, or gives you bonuses, or fills out an evaluation telling you where you could improve. Every child is different, and so you’re just flying blind the whole time. So basically, you’re just left with your own thoughts to mull over when you wake up in the middle of the night to take your kid pee so they don’t wet the bed. Because they might not wet the bed, but, hell, you’re awake anyway, and you’d rather lose 2 minutes of sleep and not have to run another load of laundry, right? But what about waking them up, does that stunt their growth? Will it affect their mood the next day? Do I have myself to blame for her crankiness- just to save some chore time? Yes I actually worry about this crap. Anyway…
A bird doesn’t sing
because it has an answer;
it sings because it has a song.
-Maya Angelou, submitted by Judy in Carbondale, IL
I’m not sure why this one affected me this morning. I guess because I’m always feeling like there’s no ‘big answer’ to all my questions about what I’m doing– but maybe the answer isn’t the point, maybe it’s WHAT we’re doing every day that matters, not WHY we’re doing it. Maybe the fact that I’m taking her pee makes her feel better in the morning because she MIGHT have been wet, so she is happy when she wakes up dry. It doesn’t matter that I’m avoiding laundry, it matters that she feels good. The answer isn’t important, the daily living is.
It is essential
to our well-being,
and to our lives,
that we play and enjoy life.
Every single day,
do something that makes your heart sing.
This helps with another thing I’ve been pondering. Work. At this point, I have no desire to return to the grind. Say what you will about women’s lib and freedoms and what everyone fought for, I heard they fought for CHOICE, and right now, I choose to be able to stay in my jammies with my girls if I want. What about fulfillment, though? It goes back to the evaluation thing. Am I doing a good job at my chosen profession? My house is dirty, but if I’m a ‘homemaker’ am I failing at that? What does my husband really think? I’ve asked a few times, and he just seems to be frustrated with the conversation. He wants me to go back to work at some point. He’d like me to find ‘a calling’ — read: a job that makes a ton of cash so we have more/better stuff. He’s not completely material, but he WANTS more than I do. Consequently, he’s had to sacrifice more than me, because I don’t want much. He thinks if I work then we’ll have more and do more. I think we’ll just buy more and we’ll do less, because we’d have to adjust two work schedules versus one. Obviously, this is pretty far off, but it does make me wonder about the future. Which makes me think about the present, of course. Am I doing a good job? Is my daughter being happy (in general or happy with me) a sign of a good job? Reading this quote makes me realize that my girls (even Brennan!) smile every day. Yesterday Keeley looked at me, looked at the bag of candy corn, looked at me, and said ‘mommy? I’m hungry for candy corn’. Which cracked me up. I grabbed a hold of her and pulled her down for a huge hug and said ‘you’re my girl aren’t you?’ We laughed a lot. And yes, I gave her some candy corn. It was a bonding experience. We bond over more than candy, of course. The tantrums and ‘I don’t like you’ aren’t the be-all end all of her personality. They may be strong right now, but she also says a prayer before meals. She sings ‘you are my sunshine’ off key, and say that each member of her family is a sunshine to her and to someone else in turn. No, Brennan is your sunshine, no mommy you are MY sunshine, daddy is my sunshine, etc. She says ‘thanks for making carrots mommy’, ‘thanks for grilling daddy’, etc. She stops and wipes up her messes, she pretends to read, she randomly sorts things out (I found her blocks in different colored bins this weekend, all the blue ones in the blue bin, and I’ve never had her sort by color before), but she also sorted Brennan’s diapers. The yellow ones went in the yellow bin, the pink one with the red, and when there was no purple bin? She put it in the blue bin that already had a purple blanket in it. I was shaking my head in wonder, but she was HELPING! She was figuring things out for herself, and she was learning, and absorbing that information and using it later. MONTHS ago I told her pink was close to red in color– let’s face it, that’s a hard one. Pretty much all yellows look yellow, but pink doesn’t look very red, you know? Every day her heart sings, every day what I do matters. Every day I see some impact I’ve made come out. Sure, she may have some negatives, but the positives are SO good two. She’s a kid of 2 extremes. She’s either extremely happy and sweet, or extremely b*tchy and hateful. She’s working it out. I hope she makes the choice to be happy more often. I try and praise the happy times, and tell her during the bad times the she can choose happiness. Maybe she’ll learn that lesson eventually. Maybe it’s something I need to do, take my own advice. Just be happy. Just sing my song and hope that singing my own song helps her find hers. Maybe when she finds hers, she’ll teach Brennan that song, too.
It’s the song that matters. My song matters. Now if I can just remember this every day.
Part of the job of being two and three years old is defining yourself and your place in the world. That excercise can take a lot of different forms, including pushing boundaries and trying mommy’s patience to see just how far you can go. The fact that she smiles and laughs and sings and helps means you have a good balance there. The tantrums will back off – she’s just checking to see what she can get away with.
My son is, at 12 years old, having his second toddler-hood in that respect. He’s been very comfortable with himself and our structure for a while, but as he enters those scary teen years, I’m seeing shades of the three-year old (his twos were easy) under those freckles. He talks back some. He scowls and acts sullen sometimes. I look at them as teen tantrums. But he also hugs and laughs and leans on me and we enjoy our time together – even if it’s not always easy or even pleasurable.
I think it comes in waves. First recognition of self as a separate person with personal tastes, opinions and choices first shows up at two to three, then that’s settled for a while until the world demands more from you and you have to test again to see who you are and how to become more independent. I imagine there’s yet another wave that comes shortly before they leave the nest for good. So far, I’m weathering this second wave okay. You’ll get through the first just fine too.
You are not alone!
There are days when I feel like I’m doing everything wrong….and then days where I feel like I’m doing okay and great. Yes, you are going to make mistakes. Sometimes your house is going to be messy. Sometimes you will lose your temper at your screaming 2 year old. Working moms do the same thing. Do what is working for you and your family. If you feel something is wrong, then try a different approach. (and don’t worry too much about the messy house, because guess what – it isn’t going anywhere. You can clean it tomorrow!)