Maybe all is not lost!

This is going to be a really fun post to write.  It’s not often that you get positive feedback like this.

I have noticed lately that I am entering a new stage with my kids.  We had 5 kids in a pretty short time span.  So, for quite a while our lives have been a flurry of activity, and it has really felt like we are in survival mode most of the time!  When kids are really young, you are worried about getting them to eat solid foods, and then making sure they don’t choke on them.  You try to keep them from falling down stairs or running out in the street.  Then there’s the really fun times, like the diaper ‘blow outs’ (if you don’t have children, just use your imagination, and it’s probably at least as bad as you are thinking!), and the middle of the night puking.  At the end of the day, you are happy if they survived, you survived, and everyone’s basic needs are met.  

I don’t want to mis-represent this, there is a also TON of fun in here.  And I mean irreplaceable fun, the kind with a depth that you really can’t even imagine before you have children.  Hearing you child say their first words, and watching them take their first steps is an amazing experience.  Watching them learn to write their letters, putting them together to form a word that loosely resembles their name, it’s priceless.  They help you to remember that the days leading up to, and the morning of a birthday are causes for great anticipation and celebration.  Then, hearing them tell you that they love you for the first time, and you can tell they understand what they are saying, well, I have just sat here for a very long time trying to put that one into words, and I simply can’t.  It’s fulfilling to a level you never knew existed before.  There’s also the snuggling.  I simply love snuggling, a whole, whole lot.  (I only have a short time left for this with my youngest!)

While everything is crazy busy, and nobody can do really anything on their own, it’s an amazingly exhausting but incredibly simple, pure, and innocent time.  But now, I can see it’s coming to an end for me.  Since I am a little older, I won’t miss the parts like getting up constantly in the middle of the night, but I will really, really miss so many aspects of this phase.  Mostly the childlike innocence and wonder.

Now, I am entering the next phase.  I think it will be just as much fun, although entirely different.  But, I also think there’s a lot more at stake in this phase, and I am scared to death.

Keeping my kid’s alive, and fed, and in bed at night during the first phase, while utterly exhausting some days, really wasn’t that difficult to chart out.  Feed them, clean them up, change a diaper, play, feed again, another diaper, clean again, yet another diaper, nap (during which you perform the pointless effort of picking up the house), diaper, read, feed again, clean up, play, read and bath time, followed by bedtime.  You just put yourself on auto-pilot, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Now, they don’t need me nearly as much.  They can dress themselves, cut up their own food, read the words themselves.  They can perform a lot of the survival portion on their own.  My role is now shifting to guidance.  How do they handle the situation at school where friends are suddenly starting to treat them meanly?  How do they handle it when the group they are in makes fun of someone else?  What values do they even have?  Will they stand up for them?  They are all girls, so what do they do with all the changes happening and hormones that are flowing right now?  If their friends try to influence them to do something wrong, how will they respond?  Will they join the herd of mindless consumers, pillaging the world?  Will they do the right thing, if no one is watching?  This is some heavy stuff!  How do I chart out a path for this?  They are all drastically different personalities, and in different situations.  IT’s overwhelming just writing this!

I could just stay on top of it, and with militaristic precision, make darn sure that they follow the rules I set.  Forcing your children to follow your rules is, well, just not all that smart at all.  Why?  How can I say this?  Well, it can get results while you are there with them.  But it’s your rules they are following, only due to your threats, so when you are not there to enforce them, they are probably not going to follow them.  So, what would be better?  Getting them to buy in to the rules, make the rules their rules too.  If the rules are also their rules, then they are going to follow them, whether or not you are looking over their shoulder.  We try to explain to our kids most every decision we make.  We don’t say ‘We don’t have the money’.  We explain how the money is indeed sitting in the account, and we could make that purchase.  But, we are choosing not to make that purchase, and here is why.

So, this is where I lay out how I have been successful, and show you how you can too.  Or, if you have been reading this blog at all, you realize I don’t have all the answers.  In reality, I don’t even have all that many of the answers, let alone all of them.  I make mistakes constantly, getting shorter with my kids than I want to be, less patient than I should be.  I apologize to them every time.  It’s important that they see that I am not perfect.  My love for them is incredible, you may be able to tie me, but you cannot beat me, I just love them that much.  However, they need to know that I make mistakes, and it’s how I deal with the mistake that is important.  I often feel lost on how to chart out these next years.  Am I teaching them everything that I should?  Am I modeling everything that I should?  What am I missing?  What else do they need?

Wow, a lot of blabbering on here.  What brought this all up?  A letter that I received today.  I letter my daughter wrote at school, to herself.  I need to hold on to this letter, and then give it to her in 10 years, when she is 21 years old (not sure I figured out the logistics on that one yet …..).  As I stated above, I feel lost a lot about doing the right things for them as we are entering this next phase.  It’s not often I get a little confirmation that all is not lost, but I did.  I will share it with you now:

Yup, that’s some pretty solid device, written by an 11 year old.  Maybe I should make sure I follow it myself!

14 thoughts on “Maybe all is not lost!

  1. Hmm, I’m not there at the phase you’re entering with my kid. Since he’s only a year and a half. The first phase has mostly gone though because yeah I still change his diapers and feed him; but it’s nowhere as much physical work and the sort of “on-call” type situation that it used to be when he was pre-1 years old. I think the first 6 months were so physically draining. I can see the predicament for when that role changes to more of a “guidance” type role. Don’t beat yourself up. No one’s perfect. I think kids see that too. As long as you’re consistent with your own beliefs and it coincides with what you’re teaching them. I think that’s the most important.

  2. Aww the letter is so cute. We have a toddler, and he is growing fast. While I’m happy he’s growing, part of me still misses those days when he was still a little baby.

    Every phase of a child’s development has its pros and cons. I’m just trying to enjoy the pros and not worry too much about the cons.

    1. Ms. Frugal, I love how you put that. ‘I’m just trying to enjoy the pros and not worry too much about the cons.’ That’s really good advice for all of life!

  3. Great article, very insightful!

  4. Aww that is heartwarming! And so reassuring that they ARE listening to you all these years. And boy I’d better be watching my mouth because they ARE listening… JuggerBaby’s 2.5 and I’m still charting monthly updates on the blog because ze is changing so much but I feel like mentally I’m already shifting into this worried mentality as ze becomes incredibly independent before ze can be trusted not to run out into the street. (Ze can’t, ze tried running out into the street just last week.)

    And the snuggling! No one warned me that the voluntarily snuggling would end at 8 months – now I can only get a snuggle if JB is sick. Alas.

    1. Revanche: You are right, they are really listening! They are sponges at an early age, so as Bob comments, I have to be an example. While I have lost the snuggling on 3 out of 5, the last 2 still like it! I am going to hang on to it while I can. Thanks for reading! Hang in there, 2.5 is a tough age, they are mobile, but like you said are too young to understand what they should and should not do, even for their own safety! But just like those first 2.5 years have flown by, so will the next 2.5 years, and they will be out of that phase.

  5. I love your daughter’s insight from following God #1 to working hard.

    I also think it’s incredible that she values travel at such a young age.

    Having been to Alaska your daughter in definitely trying to travel to the right spot. It’s beautiful up there.

    Great post

  6. Joe

    Truthfully, I’m afraid of that phase. Right now, our kid is still small and he mostly listens to me. It can already see that it will be a lot harder when he’s a teenager. Being a dad is a tough gig. Nice letter from your kid, btw.
    Happy Father’s Day!

  7. What an awesome letter! Love the idea of giving it back to her someday. Sounds like you are doing a marvelous job of parenting, with mistakes (something we all do!) and all. Happy Father’s Day!

    1. Amy, thanks for reading, and the nice comment! Obviously parenting is full of unknowns, so it’s nice to get a letter like that. I am far from perfect, buy maybe laying some of the right foundation with them. Thanks again!

  8. Haha go to Alaska. THat is definitely on my bucket list. I’ll probably do one of those ALaska cruises.

    1. She doesn’t like the heat, she ALWAYS wants to go to Alaska. I hope I get to take her there (or Iceland!).

  9. Bob

    How do you provide the best guidance? By your own example. You and your wife have been doing an incredible job with that. No, you aren’t perfect, but that’s okay. It’s okay for your kids to see that, too. Because you admit your mistakes and show that you correct them and do better. That’s the best guidance. You guys are awesome! Great post!

    1. Bob, well, first you are the best! Thank you for the reminder, I need to be reminded how important the example of my every day actions is. Thanks for reading, and hang in there with your teaching. It seem quite intense, but you can out last/love those kids (even if they push your buttons)!

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