Monday, February 24, 2014

Oh the Phases We Go Through

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and fills many hours of my thinking time -- the phases and stages of childhood. We all know the famous stages-- the terrible twos, the torturous threes. Coming into parenthood, I don't think you're really aware of the distinctness of childhood phases. I know I wasn't it. And I certainly didn't realize that there were so many of them. Sometimes it has seemed like a wall was actually erected in the center of my time. One day, my daughter is a two and the next day, a three with all news skills, habits and challenges.

That's not an exaggeration at all. You would think that you would see a child develop skills but often times it doesn't happen that way. They just wake up and those skills are there. And it happens so frequently too!

I remember a specific day when Maddie was three months old. Actually, it was this day:

It was about midday. I had been with her all day, giving her my full attention. And then I set her down in a bouncy chair. Maybe it was the way the light hit her or the angle I was looking at her, but I thought, 'She's not a newborn anymore. Now she's a baby.' And every so often after that, the same thing would happen.

I always considered myself to be predisposed towards motherhood. It's pretty much all I've ever wanted to do with any constancy. I read all the books when I was pregnant and have always enjoyed parenting books or other sources of learning more. I've never really felt clueless and have always adored playing with kids of all ages.

But the phases have been my one tripping block. The rapidity of change and the stubbornness of it all. (Mine or hers? Maybe a little of both!) There's something in my Type A personality that calls out to be in control and a phase really just juts you right out of that well-worn path and into the rough. It sneaks up on you like it's a problem to fix. I know there have been many a time when I have said to my mother, "We're having a problem with x or y behavior." And then a few months later, I have the epiphany, "That wasn't a problem that Maddie was having. She had changed! She was a bigger kid with different views, different needs, different skills. And I was still treating her like she was younger."

This popped up just a few months ago when I was finding that she was having tantrums for the first time ever. I searched for answers online, looked for parenting books on the subject, asked my mom for advice, puzzled and puzzled to find a solution. I started thinking about "What to Expect When You're Expecting." But what I'd like to see is "What to Expect When You Have a Four-Year-Old." Well, ta-da! They have those -- just by a different publisher. I quickly ordered "Your Four-Year-Old" and as I read the first chapter I discovered my problem was typical behavior of fours and surprise, surprise -- a phase. I was very tempted to order the whole series straight through until Your-Eighteen-Year-Old. But, I stuck with just the one book for now.

Though Maddie really does change phases on the actual day of her birthday (no kidding, I should have noticed this trend sooner and saved myself a lot of frustration), I am going to linger a little bit longer over the four-year-old phase. Somehow as she has gotten older the phases are stretched out more -- or perhaps, I've just gotten used to the idea of change.

I have found myself really struggling with this most recent phase. There's so much frustration involved in being a four-year-old! Everything changes about the way they play. I used to lead the way and plan out activities and experiments. Now Maddie will ask for a project but the truth is, she has her own in mind. (It's a wonderful change to have on my hands!) That's the reason that I have been blogging less and less. I've been flummoxed. I won't deny it, I've been struggling to find my parenting groove and done less educational play than I would like. Because I've been flummoxed (and also maybe mindless as I noted in my previous post!)

But this phase is also a great divide. When babies grow into toddlers and toddlers into preschoolers, there is such a flow to the transition. Because they are still your baby. Alas, preschooler to kindergartener seems to be a chasm. I may not be ready to jump just yet.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Balance, Mindfulness and Other Catch Phrases

Have you heard of the 'new' practice called "Mindfulness"? I had heard about mindful parenting and mindful self-control. Last summer, I was at the playground and heard a mother tell her gymnastics-practicing son to be "mindful" and thought that was lovely.

None of these references really had any depth for me. Meanwhile, I have found myself struggling for balance in my life. There's a great deal of time imbalance that really weighs upon me. A job that is part time but requires a lot of nights and weekends. Extra work that carries over into my off time. Maddie's schedule and needs taking first place in our lives. Struggling to find a date night between Rob's work schedule, my work schedule and working Bingo at Maddie's school. (Sadly, we've had one date night in two maybe three months?) and did you notice what's missing? Time for me. Yeah, I forget about that one, too.

Then in recent months, I've been very creatively energized. I'm trying to get some craft inventory built up so I can start selling my "Heart Felt Crafts." I'm driven to write lately, but really haven't been able to. And sadly, it's been about two weeks since I picked up a book. My recent date night to see Monuments Men just reminded me that I've gotten very distant from my love of art and history. Lots of interests fighting for time in my mind...

In writing my New Year's Resolutions, I struggled to find the solution to all of these things in my mind. I ended up writing my resolutions for organization and focus. Time management came in a close runner up.

Then I saw Time magazine.

Reading the cover article on mindfulness was like an aha moment for me. This is what I'm missing! If you've had a conversation with me over the past few years, you know this because I cannot speak without interrupting myself or going off on tangents!

All of a sudden, the mere concept of mindfulness has given me great peace. Mindfulness, or concentrating on being in the moment, seems a noble pursuit to me. Though there are apparently lots of mindfulness professional trainers, I believe I'll be going it on my own. I had previously seen the Headspace app for teaching meditation. Truthfully, I've always stayed away from meditation because I get distracted by my own thoughts. Now I'm also looking at this book:

as a means of really embracing what I hope may be the key to peace of mind. Anybody else delving into the world of mindfulness? I'd love to hear your thoughts!