Small celebrations that are worth so much more

Today was a big day for the sleepless Knights. Today, my babies learned how to ride their bicycles without training wheels. Sure, this is a fairly common right of passage that virtually every child will experience at some time in their development. And sure, this is way more their accomplishment than mine. But it feels like a huge accomplishment to me too.

As of late, I  haven’t had much reason to celebrate. I haven’t found a lot of reasons to smile, to relax, to sit back and enjoy this wild ride we call life. No, for me lately, life has been a bit of a struggle. Stress, work, exhaustion, worry, stress, arguing with children, bad behavior, did I mention stress? Yeah, it’s been a rough last couple of months for me. To the point where I woke up one day and realized that I had lost my joy in life. Completely lost it. And that’s a sad realization, when you have the blessings that I have, and you have lost sight of a way to appreciate and enjoy them.

I think it can happen to any of us, especially moms who are constantly running in a million different directions during these crazy and chaotic early years. It was definitely happening to me. And since realizing this, I have been working to take better care of myself and focus more on the positive. Let go of the negatives and the worry, and just do the best I can. It’s still a struggle, but I am trying.

So fast forward to today. We dropped Connor off at school and set off to the skate park to give “sans training wheels” another try. It’s something the boys and I have been working on for a couple of weeks now, here and there. And to be honest, they were both very resistant and I was very frustrated. (Read: just another area where Mama is failing at her job).

The logical side of my brain said to let it go, stop pushing so hard and let them learn when they are ready to learn. But the side of my brain that has been struggling with everything else lately… well, that side really just needed a win. Any win. You know? And I knew the boys were on the verge of having it figured out, that they just needed a little more practice and a little more confidence to make things happen.

I stayed up last night, researching different teaching methods. Because, yes, I am that mother. The one who runs to the Internet and pours over article after article after article, on whatever current issue might be affecting my children. I armed myself with a number of tips and tricks, and a whole lot of positive attitude (because at the end of the day, that’s what the boys really needed from me the most), and it worked!

Ben was the first to master it. And when he did, well, I whooped, I hollered, I jumped up and down, I made the random guy skateboarding on the other side laugh out loud at me… but dang it, I was thrilled!!!! I felt joy, real joy, for the first time in a long while. I felt Ben’s excitement. I felt his pride. I felt his relief at finally figuring it all out. His celebration was my celebration, and it felt incredible.

Alex almost had it figured out this morning too, he did ride a very short distance successfully on his own, but he was tired and cranky, and we were quickly deteriorating into a battle of wills. So I let it go, and we tried again after dinner, with Daddy and big brother now there to cheer him on. And he got it!!! And again, the pride, the excitement, the relief, it all came rushing through me. I just felt so….. happy. Happy for my babies. Happy for myself to have been able to help them. Happy that for once I could let everything else go, and just focus on the good happening right in front of me.

I am so proud of my babies, and their big milestone today, and I don’t want to take any of the credit away from them. They are the ones who had to figure it out and keep trying, no matter how many times they fell down. I’m just thankful that I was able to truly enjoy this exciting accomplishment with them, and feel a happiness that has been absent for far too long now. I want this happiness. I want this excitement. I want this joy. Not only for myself, but because my boys deserve to have a happy mama too.

So we are going to keep celebrating the milestones, each and every one of them, no matter how big or how small. And we are going to keep jumping for joy. Now that I remember how to.

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Exploring sound waves

It started simply enough…. we were leaving the mall today and decided to exit through a long hallway I don’t normally use. The boys and I quickly realized that the acoustics inside the hallway created an incredible echo, something they had never really heard before. And that’s when things got interesting…

I love how inquisitive my boys are. They are constantly questioning and challenging the world around them. And we always do our best to answer their questions in an intelligent manner, but also in a way that they will be able to grasp, in a way that is age appropriate. So I searched my brain, (keep in mind I haven’t taken a Science class since the 11th grade), and came up with an impromptu lesson for Connor on sound waves and how echoes are created.

Fortunately we had just recently watched an episode of Curious George that dealt with sound waves, okay, I had a starting point. So we talked about how waves travel through the air. Then we talked about how those same waves can bounce off of hard surfaces, like ceilings and walls, creating an echo. Then we discussed how softer surfaces, like carpets, can absorb the waves. I could tell at that point the discussion was getting a little confusing, but I had an idea…

I grabbed one of the boys’ bouncy balls, and Connor and I created a little “experiment.” First, we bounced the ball on the hard kitchen floor, and watched it bounce a dozen more times as our “sound wave” bounced off of the hard surface, creating an echo. Then we bounced it on the carpet, and watched as the ball gave just a few measly bounces before coming to a rest. The soft, cushion of the carpet absorbed the “sound wave” without an echo. And then, like any good almost 4-year-old, Connor took off to play with his bouncy ball, something he is typically not allowed to do in the house…. and our lesson came to an end.

And yet tonight, as we all sat down to dinner, I was treated to a recap of our science experiment, as Connor explained what he had learned to Alan. It worked! He understood! I was so proud to hear my little scientist explain how echoes work, in his own way. I mean, how many kids his age can grasp the concept of a sound wave? I was truly impressed with my young scholar.

The feeling of awe and wonder as you watch your child learn and explore the world around them…. it never gets old. I sincerely hope that Connor (and Benjamin and Alexander for that matter) will always possess this intense love of learning, for I know I love having the opportunity to teach him.

Lesson Learned…

I am always looking for good “teaching moments” in life, wherever we go, whatever we do. This particularly applies to Connor, of course, though I’m starting to do more with Ben and Alex too as their ability to comprehend grows. But today’s story is all about my eldest. Connor.24May2013

Yesterday we met up with a friend at the mall to play. There’s a great play area there that is enclosed, so I can let the boys run free, always a plus. There’s also a collection of those coin-operated rides there, which Connor loves. Granted, he won’t let me put any money in them to turn them on, that scares the you-know-what out of him, but he loves to climb into the rocket ship or racecar and pretend to drive. The rides were our last stop of the day, after the play area, a quick shoe shopping trip, and a quick lunch. I let Connor play for a few minutes, but I knew we couldn’t stay long as my two other angels were starting to fall asleep in the stroller.

As any parent knows, that moment when you tell your child it’s time to go is always a tricky one. I’ve used everything from trying to gain sympathy for tired brothers, to flat out bribery. Amazingly, this time the sympathy worked, and I was so thrilled when Connor came away willingly! So thrilled in fact, that I didn’t see him leave his blue sippy cup behind on the ride. We headed out to the car, I began loading up kids and gear, and that’s when I noticed I was short a cup. Sure we could have turned around and gone back for it, but the babies were tired, I was tired, and I had had enough of navigating three kids through the mall. So I decided to write it off as lost.

But I was also pretty annoyed with the situation. I had just bought new cups, and living on a tight budget, we can’t afford to be wasteful. I decided now was a great teaching moment, if you will, to learn about responsibility for your belongings. So I made it clear to Connor that I was disappointed we had lost the cup and that he needs to be more careful with his things, so that we don’t lose them, because now we could never get the cup back. It was a little bit of a guilt trip, yes. And it was a big mistake.

Like a light switch flipping on, the next thing I knew Connor was sobbing. He was beside himself, devastated that his cup was gone. He cried hysterically the whole way home, continued sobbing as we got in the house. I tried to calm him down, tried to reassure him that it wasn’t really the end of the world, that we had other cups, it was not a big deal… but to no avail. He was so upset that he took himself upstairs and to bed for his nap while I stayed downstairs to nurse the twins, and I could hear him crying in bed on the monitor. This from the child who will fight against his naps until he is blue in the face…

After I got the babies to bed, I went to talk to Connor, still crying in bed. I decided I would track down the cup after all, and I told him as soon as he went to sleep I would call the mall’s lost and found and get his cup back. This helped a little, but he still fell asleep a very unhappy boy. I headed back downstairs and got on the phone. I called the mall, got the number to security, called them. Nope, nobody had turned in a cup. So then I called my amazing and incredible husband, who fortunately hadn’t taken his lunch break yet, and asked for a huge favor… I quickly explained the situation, and could he please swing by the mall over lunch and see if he could find the cup?

Daddy saved the day! He found the blue cup, right where we had left it, and promised to bring it home with him that night. And it’s a good thing too because the second Connor woke from his nap, he asked me if I had called the mall. I’m so glad my son has inherited my ability to obsess!

Well lesson learned… but for me much more so than Connor. Next time, I will be taking a much more gentle approach in my reprimanding. Or better yet… I will double check the status of our cups before we leave!