Small Wins – A Parenting Victory

I don’t have to tell you that this parenting gig is hard. Like, really hard. Most days, I feel like parenting a toddler ranges anywhere between blissfully strolling through a field of wildflowers on a sunny day and being run over by a train carrying 4 billion tons of coal to the North Pole for your child’s Christmas stocking. Rarely is it one extreme or the other – it’s almost always both. At the same time. Times 1,000.

More often than not, I feel like a complete failure as a mother, co-parent, wife, friend, and person in general. But on occasion, I’m reminded that even though I may not feel like it, I’m doing a pretty decent job raising a tiny human being. Sometimes it’s a big thing, like the pediatrician telling us we made the right call to bring him in (because he does, in fact, have strep throat) or watching my son offer up a few of his unopened Easter eggs to a little girl who arrived late for the egg hunt at school.

Other times, I’ll take a step back and notice some of the smaller things that make me think that maybe, just maybe, his dad and I aren’t doing too bad. This post is dedicated to those times – the seemingly insignificant things that often get overlooked, but deserve a round of applause – because some days it’s really hard to get up after that dang train hits you.

The internet says that “Success is a series of small wins.” So here are a few examples of small parenting wins that deserve a pat on the back. This list is really just a few of my own motherhood victories. Share your own in the comments – you never know who may be fighting the same fight. And we could all use a little glimpse into someone else’s wildflower field.

  1. He can hold a fork correctly. Let’s be honest – nobody wants to be at a business lunch and look across the table to find a colleague shoveling food into his mouth like a caveman. Table manners are good, but without proper table ergonomics, manners are just frosting on a fruitcake. If your child can get the food from his plate to his mouth using the eating utensil of his choice, he’s on the right track.
  2. She remembers that you told her she could have a cupcake after school…last month. You may see this as a negative because of the major meltdown that ensued when she realized you ate the last cupcake for breakfast weeks ago. But that long term memory is going to serve her well throughout her life. Also, this means you’ve taught her to hold others accountable for the things they say and promises they make. Well done!
  3. He doesn’t smell like a foot (all of the time). Getting a child to bathe is no easy feat. Remembering to make them is sometimes even harder. So if you accomplish both of these things at least once a week, high five to you! (Bonus points if you also get them to brush their teeth on the reg. I’m hoping nobody is counting how often my child goes to school with “stinky fish breath”)
  4. YOU don’t smell like a foot. Let’s face it – when you are in the grunt of parenthood, personal hygiene is often the first thing to go. Plus, showers are a lot less enjoyable when you have an audience that is eye-level with your lady parts. Let’s all be thankful for deodorant, mouth wash, and dry shampoo!
  5. You and your partner* still love each other. Kids are innately going to love you and vice versa. An adult relationship, on the other hand, takes work, time, and desire to keep going – all of which are hard to come by when you have a 3-year-old that has never slept in his own bed for a full night and still poops his pants. If you and your partner can keep it together long enough to come out the other side, I hear it can be glorious. (*Partner refers to anyone that loves you and is part of the village helping you raise your child – spouse, parent, sister, friend, neighbor, stranger you met in the grocery store, etc.)
  6. Your child is breathing. Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s all you can do as a parent to keep your kid alive. If you child screamed bloody murder when you suggested he wear his camouflage underpants instead of the dirty ninja turtle ones he pulled out of the laundry basket, count it in the win column because you kept your child alive yesterday. Yay…

So here’s to you, parents. I know you think you’re screwing everything up and you worry that your child is too spoiled/anti-social/busy/shy/slow/talkative/stinky/etc. But I want you to know that you’re doing something right. Everyday. It may be as simple as getting your kid to dress himself in the morning. Or maybe it’s that you locked yourself in the closet to check your Facebook in peace for 5 minutes instead of giving in to the constant urge to run away to a beach somewhere and live like Tom Hanks in Castaway (but let’s be real – the lack of internet on a remote island was the real deal breaker here).

Being a mom or dad can be so hectic that you may not notice all the small wins, but rest assured that your kid does. And every single day, he sees you trying to be the best parent/person you can be. And you know what, he’s going to be just fine.

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Date-iversary

Today is mine and Adam’s 9 year date-iversary. Yes – we still celebrate the anniversary of our first date. Not because we are super-sappy, uber-lovey kind of people. But because, at least for me, it is the date on which I can look back and say “That. That is when you changed my life.”

Saturday, March 15, 2008, began as a typical morning. I woke up in the little farm house I was renting in Bolivar, MO and perused my closet for something to wear. I was working a double shift for maurices that day: half of the day at my store in Bolivar and half of the day at the store in Springfield. I needed to wear something comfortable and fashionable, but it also had to be green and a little sassy. I had a date that night and we were going to the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl (at my request – I was one classy broad back then).

I settled on wide leg, pinstriped black pants and a green tank peeking out beneath a tight black tee, accented with a green bead necklace and black ballet flats.

I was unsure of what to expect when it came to my date. We had met 2 weeks prior at a birthday dinner for my friend Rachel, and he had contacted me and asked me out via MySpace – pause for reaction. Yes, my husband asked me out on MySpace. I logged into my account* the other day to see if I could find the messages, but they were no longer available. If they would have been there, you would have seen an awkward exchange about barking dogs, lack of sleep, and my love for pub crawls. We exchanged numbers and agreed that I would meet at his house before proceeding downtown.

(*turns out it still exists and yours probably does, too. The messages were gone, but the pictures, posts, and my Top 8 were still just as I had left them all those years ago)

After a grueling 15 hour work day, I walked up to his door and rang the doorbell. He invited me in and offered me a beer. Great start! (although I’m pretty sure he offered me a Miller Light which went against my strict Bud Light only beer palate back then) I sat down and instantly knew I wasn’t getting back up. My feet hurt so badly that there was no way I was going to be able to stand/dance/party all night at a pub crawl. Instead, we sat on his couch and tried to find something to watch on TV.

We started talking, looking through pictures from his time in Europe, and sharing stories from various aspects of our lives. We’d occasionally look up and decide we wanted to watch something else, so we’d change the channel. I distinctly remember watching part of The Gremlins movie and at least one episode of Full House. Before we knew it, it was 4am and we were still sitting on the couch completely enthralled in each other.

He offered to let me stay, rather than driving all the way back to Bolivar. I had disaster-date planned and had a bag packed to stay with a friend anyway, so I agreed. He left the room while I changed into PJs and crawled into bed. When he joined, he rolled over the other way and said “Good night.”

The sun glared into the room at 9am, and being a morning person, I was wide awake and ready to get the day started. There was just one problem. I was pinned against the wall with no way out of the bed without waking a guy I barely knew. I hadn’t asked whether or not he was a morning person, so I erred on the side of not and stayed put. He eventually woke up (at 11) and took me to lunch.

We both had things we needed to do that afternoon, but agreed to meet back up for dinner. After dinner, we feel right back into conversation on the couch and before we knew it, it was 2am. He again offered for me to stay, and I again accepted. This time, when he crawled into bed, he rolled towards me and kissed the back of my shoulder before saying “Good night.” He woke up first the next morning, having to get ready for work and be there by 8am. I didn’t have to be at the store until 1pm, so he let me sleep in and told me just to lock up when I left.

When I got up to use the restroom, I found a clean towel on the counter  with a note: “Good morning – I hope you have a great day” topped with a couple of purple grape hyacinth flowers tied together with a blade of grass. He sure was smooth! After spending almost 56 straight hours with this guy and waking up to that, I was hooked.

From that fateful first date forward, he has continued to woo me. He continues to surprise me. He continues to fight for me. He continues to make our relationship a priority. He likes me. He loves me. He tolerates me. He doesn’t stay up late watching TV with me anymore, but I think I’ll let him off the hook for that one.

Happy date-iversary, my love.

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Pushing buttons

Ever wish there was a remote control for life? The past 10 days, I’ve never wished for anything more. I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions, from the high of spending a weekend with family to the low of my father’s death and just about every level of emotion in between.

If I had a life controller, here are the buttons I would use:

Record: Oh how I wish I could have recorded the laughter and stories from my Grammy’s 85th birthday party last weekend! With all my cousins and their families there, it was an afternoon that I would gladly watch on repeat for years to come.

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Queen for a day!

Rewind: I would give just about anything to rewind the clock and go back to the days when I spent my evenings curled up in my dad’s lap. Or to go back just a few days so I could tell him I love him one last time.

Mute: Every loss results in the “would have, should have, could have” thoughts from loved ones. An untimely one makes those thoughts even more loud. Even though I know it won’t bring him back, these things are drowning out any other thought in my head.

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Pause: Boy, this one would get used A LOT. In terms of last week, I put my Whole30 on pause. I could have stayed the course, but since I was staying with my sister and eating with family every night, I didn’t want to add any more stress or burdens to the situation. I’m back on the wagon this week and plan to keep it up until vacation.

Guide: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just flip through the guide and pick what aspect of our lives we want to focus on right now? Change the channel when the one we’re on isn’t entertaining us anymore? Or use it to see what’s coming next? Lately my brain seems to be constantly channel surfing and I can’t control where it lands. I’m back at work, trying to get my house back in order, and mothering a toddler on the verge of his terrible two’s. The scattering of my brain is making these tasks almost impossible.

As the days go on, I’m sure the grief and sadness will subside, but I’m not sure I’ll ever stop wishing for these buttons. I don’t know that I would use them if they were available, but sometimes I think it would be nice.

I’m sure many of you have been through similar times in your life. What buttons would you use (or not)?