Friday, March 30, 2012

Lately I am noticing little aspects of J's personality emerging.  I see him do things and they make me so proud of who he is and confident in the person he will become.  At least, I hope what I am seeing is the foundation of the good hearted, kind person I hope he is as a man.

One thing I noticed recently is that J is very kind to smaller kids.  He ADORES his cousin Anna (age 18 months) and has always been very patient, considerate, gentle and kind with her. He has recently started calling her his "sister" and asks about her every day.  I have always been impressed with how he treats her (because patient, kind and gentle aren't often words that can describe three year old boys).  But, recently, I saw him around another child of the same age. J was so sweet to this little girl.  There were many children playing and jumping around, but J made sure to look after her.  The kids were taking turns jumping off a ledge onto a huge beanbag.  J helped this little girl onto the ledge, took her by the hand and then they jumped onto the bean bag together. When bigger kids came around, he made sure they weren't going to land on her and that she had room to jump.  He shared his toys with her and they got along exceptionally well. I hope this is a trait he never loses. I hope he always looks out for the little guy. I hope he always makes sure that people who are littler, slower, younger or whatever are watched out for. Because to me, a big part of a person's character is how they treat "the little guy".

                                                        Jackson and "sister" Anna
I have also noticed recently that J has the tendency to be a daredevil. He likes to try things that make my heart leap into my throat when I see them. He doesn't see things as too hard or seem to be intimidated out of trying them.  But, I also noticed that he doesn't throw caution to the wind and just dive into dangerous things either.  He is very methodical about testing the limits of what he can do.  Again, I hope this translates to the rest of his life. I hope he always has the desire to try things that might be intimidating or daunting to him, but that he does so responsibly. I also hope that he never looks at something and thinks, "That looks hard or risky, so I won't try it." Instead, I hope he says, "That looks hard, but I think I can do it. I won't know until I try."

                                           Downhill racing. We don't have a bike helmet yet, so this
                                                                           Was J's solution (lol).  

                                                 The next Evel Kneivel? Maybe if he grows a little.

Also, J has recently started being able to sympathize with people and will apologize without us making him.  That may seem silly to a lot of people, but that is important to me. A good example of this was a few weeks ago. J dropped something on his dad's foot and it very obviously hurt his dad.  Ryan left the room to let off the steam and J was visibly upset that he had hurt his dad. I have told him before that it is up to him whether or not he says sorry, but that when we hurt someone (no matter why) we should say sorry. This time I didn't say a thing.   His dad returned and with no prompting, J said ,"sorry daddy" and gave his dad a big hug. Why does that matter to me? Because it shows empathy. And because it was sincere. J could understand that his actions hurt someone. It also shows an understanding that an apology isn't just for wrongs we MEAN to do, but for those that are accidental too.  I want J to always to admit when he made a mistake be quick to offer a sincere apology.  Too many people don't value empathy and sincerity anymore. It is a small example, but I hope it is the first stop on the path to a man who does value those qualities.

The last trait I see emerging in J is gratitude. I love to hear him thank people for things. Especially when I don't have to prompt him. Obviously, it is good manners, but I hope it goes deeper than that. I hope he realizes that people are being generous to him and that he appreciates it.  And I hope he in turn will be generous to other people.  A while back J received an unexpected gift. It wasn't a big, over the top gift, but J loved it.  Upon receiving it, he said to me, "mom, these cars are awesome, I need to write a thank you note." Hallelujah! All those cards we have written may be sinking in! I hope that J is always thrilled by any gift given to him, no matter the size. I hope the surprise of someone acting kindly to him never goes away and that any time someone is kind to him, he continues to say, "thank you, thank you, thank you!" with that smile on his face and twinkle in his eye.  And I hope he only continues to grow in his desire to give to others. I love it when we are at the store and he sees an item and says, "you know who would like that? Daddy. Let's get it for him!" I want giving to be as exciting as receiving for my son. When J gets a new toy, we have a rule  that he has to pick one toy to give away.  The last time he got a new toy, I reminded him to pick one out to donate.  Without a single complaint, he said, "yeah, because some kids don't have toys and they might like playing with one of mine". 

                                                 This is the smile and the eye twinkle I was referring to!

Kids are obviously works in progress. Adults are too. We all need to learn and grow and be reminded to be kinder, more understanding and more generous.  Seeing J start to "get" these concepts helps  me to be mindful of these things too. And it reinforces to me to keep on him about those things because he does get it. Even when I think he doesn't.  Hopefully, he continues to impress me!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Things No One Tells You (Part I)

I have been thinking lately about the things no one tells you when you embark upon parenthood.  I am titleing this part I because, let's face it, J is only 3.  I am certain there are going to be infinitely more things that I encounter that will make me think "How come no one told me about that?" Because clearly these are things that every parent knows. When you talk to friends and tell them of a recent experience, they shake their head in a sympathetic way because they have been there too. Yet, they don't warn you.  Well, I am putting it all down here. Whoever reads this will have fair warning!

The first thing that no one tells you is that not all children sleep through the night.  To hear other moms tell it, their babies reached 6 or 8 weeks of age and began sleeping from 7pm to 7am with not even a whimper in between.  But, there are other moms that don't tell you that you could get a kid like J. (Maybe they don't share this one because they don't want to send frazzled new mothers into a tailspin .) J is the world's wost sleeper. I always said he was a happy baby and easy going to make up for the fact that he never slept.  That was the trade off. Happy baby, bad sleeper.  He was one before he made it for an all night stretch.  It is not uncommon for him to have nights where he wakes up 4-5 times (always for such incredibly important reasons such as "my socks hurt" or "I want toast".) And in an everage week, if he sleeps all night 4 of the 7 nights, I am happy. I am also happy if he stays in bed until 6a.m. That is the rule. Now that he knows numbers, he isn't allowed to get up until he sees 6:00 on the clock (although, this morning, he laid awake whispering loudly: 5:44, 5:45, 5:47 so the 6:00 rule didn't really pay off there!).

You also don't get told that everyone will judge how you parent. Yup, everyone.  And it is super frustrating! Although, I have concluded that this one is all about karma. Because before you had kids, who hasn't thought, "Man, that kid is acting up, seriously can't you control them?" or "Seriously, get that screaming kid out of here!".  And then you have your own kids and karma gets ya!  No one warns you of the extreme embarassment you will experience. But, they also don't tell that you that EVERYONE'S kids have meltdowns. Mine is no exception. And eventually, they all do it in public.  And when it happens, the young women look at you like you are the worst parent on Earth because they don't have kids yet and haven't been through it. The moms with older or grown kids do the same because that same hormone that makes you forget how painful labor is apparently also makes you forget what little nincompoops your kids can be. The only ones who understand are the other moms who are abandoning their full grocery carts in the middle of the store to take a screaming kid out to the car. 

And to follow that one up, no one tells you just how hard this parenting thing is!  Sure, you hear people say it is hard. But, no one tells you the nitty gritty, down and dirty truth. It is ridiculously hard.  You juggle your job, your child, what passes for your social life, your home, your marriage.  You function on the already mentioned lack of sleep and cram more into one day than you ever though possible. You will be tired, stressed and overwhelmed.  Your heart will break when you have to discipline your child or take them to get their shots.  You will be sad when their feelings are hurt or they are mistreated. You will be frustrated because, darn it, this kid just won't behave! But the flip side of this reality is that when that child hugs you and says, "I love you mommy" or crawls in your lap and says, "I'm cold, warm me up", you will know happiness and contentment that you could never imagine.  The truth is also that you will have moments that take your breath away. You will experience happiness, pride and love like you never thought possible.  So, I guess the basic warning should have two parts: you will be closer to losing your mind than you ever have been before, but you will be so in love with that child that you won't care.  I think that sums it up!

Also on the list of top secret mommy info is the fact that you will never feel like you are doing a good enough job with your child. You don't get a nice pamphlet entitled: Mommy guilt: You Are Not Alone.  No one tells you that you will lay awake in bed  debating whether or not to run your sick child  to the ER, which formula to use, which diapers to buy, did you give them enough time, love attention etc.? Or that you will agonize over whether or not to send them to Kindergarten or wait a year. Or that you will obsess about just about everything they do all the time.  I don't know if there is an adequate warning for this.  But here it is: WARNING: You will lay down to sleep each night and think, "was I a good enough mom today? Could I have done more or been better? Do I have everything ready for tomorrow?"  Honestly though, the fact that you are thinking that, means you are one darn good mom.

And to end on a light note (since this got heavier than I thought it would!), no one ever tells you that boys are gross (maybe some girls too!). It is as simple as that. They are nasty :)  They think fart and poop jokes are funny from the moment they learn to laugh.  It is hard wired. They will touch things that make you cringe. They will run around in dirty, smelly clothes and not care one bit.  They will eat things off the ground and wipe their noses on you. They just can't help it. It is a DNA thing.

There you have it. Installment number one of "Things No One Tells You." Stay tuned.  This kid is full of good material :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Dells

This past weekend, our family ventured to the North for a short get away. I had never been to the Dells, but have heard that it is a must-do for families.  J likes the water and swimming, so we figured this would be right up his alley. After, packing enough stuff for a trek to the South Pole (seriously, I over pack so badly it is ridiculous!), we headed out on Sunday for some water park fun.

The ride to the Dells was much quicker and smoother than expected. Anticipating boredom, I packed everything I could think of to occupy J during the 2 1/2 hour ride (crayons, books, tractors, trains, my ipod stocked with new games and enough snacks to feed a small nation). Turns out, we really didn't need much of that stuff. J was a car-riding rock star! He was happy playing "I Spy" type games and commenting on things we passed. Or he amused himself with silly made up games like "Hiding under my greenies". He did ask "Are we there yet?" every time we slowed down or stopped along the way (Roughly 732 times, I would guess).  And he commented that the ride was "long" and that "I am waiting forever and ever to get there!". But, that was the worst of it. Upon arriving, he once again asked if we were there. Ryan and I happily said"YES!" to which J replied, "Oh.... well, that didn't take very long."

Our hotel was the Wilderness Territroy, which I highly recommend. It has three attached water parks and a huge 4 story play area for kids. There is an arcade, indoor mini golf, laser tag, pottery making and all kinds of outdoors stuff we couldn't try on this trip, but will certainly try in the future (To the Wildernss Hotel group- you know where to send payment for this endorsement).  Plenty to keep an active 3 year old and his parents very busy.

We checked in and I pack muled our stuff to the room (husbands and kids mysteriously disappear when there is heavy lifting to be done). We quickly donned swimsuits and were off to the water park. Our first stop was the Water Dome. A huge glass covered area where the main attraction was a huge wave pool. I didn't think J would be into the idea of a wave pool, but I was so wrong! He LOVED it! And not just gently riding the waves. He preferred to have waves breaking in his face, submerging him. He laughed his hilarious little laugh the whole time.


 We stayed for a couple hours before J got too cold and we headed back to our room.  We ordered pizza and hung out before we turned in.

The next morning, we were up, suited and waiting for the water parks to open (my only complaint is that nothing opened before 9a.m. and that is a lot of time to kill when you are up at 6!).  We started out at the wave pool again, but this time, the glass dome ceiling filtered in a ton of sunshine and it felt like a day at the beach.  After we stopped for a snack, we mosied over to the Klondike Cavern Water Park. 

Once there we set a new world record for longest time spent floating on a lazy river (okay, Guinness hasn't confirmed this, but I suspect it is true!).  J loves to people watch (just like me!) and was satisfied floating around watching people on the slides and seeing the 1,000 gallon bucket dump water all over.  We rode the river until lunch.  We followed that up with a family nap (hooray!) before hitting the third water park, the Wild West Town.  This was a lot more J's speed. More geared towards little people with smaller slides.  After that we cleanedup, put on respectable clothes (no swim suits for dinner out!) and hit the town for supper.  We all fell into bed exhausted, but happy.

On our final day, we opted to spend the morning in the 4 story play area.  We figured more water park would mean a soggy, uncomfortable ride home. J was okay with this arrangement as he had a blast in the play area.  It was equipped with every kind of slide, crawl space and climbing apparatus you can imagine.  It also had air cannons that shot nerf balls.  J was more into gathering up "ammo" in the totes provided that he was shooting them, which worked out well because his dad was waging war on some 8 year olds and needed a steady supply of nerf projectiles.  There is something so wrong about seing a 39 year old trying to snipe a kid using a gun shaped like a rodent.

Once I tore Ryan away from the guns, we crawled around with J for a couple hours.  (Coincidentally, it was that long before Ryan could walk totally upright again following all that crawling around.) 

The play area wore us out and did J in too.  We got in the car and he promptly fell asleep for part of our ride home.

It was a very nice break from reality for all of us.  I got to be "off duty" for two whole days (no cooking, no cleaning, no work!!!), J got lots of fun time with mom and dad and a good time was had by all.  I must also say that J was nothing short of angelic the whole time.  He really made the trip enjoyable and I appreciated his good humor each time we encountered a child in a nuclear melt down.  We will most definitely be returning to the Dells!