Tag Archives: tweens

The Payoff

It’s not always easy to be a parent, and it’s really not always easy to try to be a good one…

  • At 3 a.m. when you have finally gotten to sleep and your child comes and wakes you because she’s had a nightmare (for the fifth time this week)…
  • When your four year-old has a meltdown at the state capitol and you have legislators from a dozen states giving you the skunk eye as you patiently sit and discuss the unfairness of life on the steps…
  • As your child goes through some stage that everybody has advice about and you patiently wait even longer for it to pass, having faith (almost completely) that eventually she’ll be able to pee alone or talk to strangers or sleep in her own room or whatever it is that is her personal quirk…

It’s super easy to be a great parent during the light of day when you’re well rested, everything is going perfectly and your kids are being fabulous.  That’s cake.

But the tough days and nights are where the payoff lies.

Those are the times when we don’t know if we really have it in us, but somehow we do, and later they come back to make it all worthwhile.

I am getting to that phase in life where I am gaining wisdom and wrinkles.  I’ve made it through phases that I thought would never end, to the point where now I almost forget that once they made me crazy.

I am lucky enough to still have little children but also lucky enough to have big ones.  Every day I see the payoff… the fears that have been resolved, the needs that have been filled and gone away, the phases that ran their course and the happy, healthy kids who have remained.

It’s sometimes bittersweet for me to have my little girls growing up so fast.  I’m not all together ready to be done with fairy wings and princess gowns.  Like it or not, I have preteens and am inches away from a full-fledged teenager.

But I am loving more and more the adventure of having big kids.

My daughters and I are taking part in some college courses given by international students at a local college.  Victoria and I are learning German, while Anna, Victoria and I are all learning Spanish.

There is something magical about sitting in a college class with my daughters on either side of me.

My once-shy Annalee, who hid behind my skirts when she was two, now is the first to answer some questions about how to conjugate a verb in a college Spanish class.

And Victoria, who changes on a minute by minute basis, has mostly decided that I am awfully fabulous to be around and wants me to come with her everywhere.  (Okay, sometimes I’m still absolutely terrible, but I’m happy to at least mostly rock!)

So I’m here to say hang in there… to those of you in the early years that try so hard to exhaust you, to those of you who have been plugging away with your good mama hats on and wonder if it matters at all, to those of you being told by all sides advice that goes against your heart… hang in there.

I’m not naive enough to think that the hard days are behind me.  Boy oh boy do I have a lot of crazy-making mama moments in store for me, I know.  But it is so nice to have come through enough to realize that I seem to be at least going in the right direction.

Here’s to the hard work of parenting, and to the little people we’ve created who are worth it.


It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
~Frederick Douglass


Nothing you do for a child is ever wasted.
~Garrison Keillor

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Crazy Hat Girl

Victoria has been in the Wilder Pageant for 6 years now.  Every summer, she dresses up in an old fashioned dress, pinafore, braids and bonnet, and helps reenact life from the time when the Ingalls Family lived nearby.

Until this year.

This year, she is wearing an old fashioned dress, pinafore, braids and… this hat.

She wasn’t supposed to.  Her dad brought it as a possible costume change since he plays two characters, and she seized it and wore it for fun during dress rehearsal.  The director told her to go ahead and wear it, much to her delight.

This came as a surprise to many of the other bonnet-clad girls, who repeatedly asked her if she was really going to wear that hat.  She would tell them yes, sometimes they’d give her a look, and that would be the end of it.

Except for one girl.  This girl (whom I’ll call Pageant Girl) just could not get over the fact that Victoria was really, truly going to wear that hat in the Wilder Pageant.  She asked Victoria about it repeatedly.

The conversations went like this…

Pageant girl:  You’re not really gonna wear that hat, are you?

Victoria:  Yes

Pageant girl:  But you can’t wear that hat!

Victoria:  But the director said I could.

and later…

Pageant girl:  You’re not really wearing that hat though, are you?

Then the next day, after the first performance, when Victoria did in fact wear the hat…

Pageant girl:  Why are you wearing that hat?

Victoria:  Because the director told me to.

and later…

Pageant girl:  Why are you wearing that hat?

Victoria:  Because I want to.

and later…

Pageant girl:  Why are you wearing that hat?

Victoria:  Because it’s so awesome.

Pageant girl:  But it’s not awesome!  It’s weird!  And it doesn’t look good on you!

Victoria says, “We were next to The Bench of Teenagers and they all stood up and said things like It’s okay and It’s a cool hat and Hey, she looks fine.”

But still, later on…

Pageant girl:  That hat looks so weird.

Victoria:  Thanks.

Pageant girl:  I feel sorry for you, because there’s no way I’d wear that hat!

Victoria:  (Jumping onto a bench)  I feel sorry for you because you’re not daring enough to!

I have grown to love that crazy hat — and my kid for wearing it.  :)


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Limited Time Only

I am running out of little girls.  I am so aware lately of how little time I have left for dress-up and potions and imaginary things.  Victoria is nearly twelve and my baby Annalee is ten.

Ten-to-eleven can be a crazy age.  Kids get moody, clumsy, sensitive, confused, irritable.  They want to be big, then they want to be little.  Mothers can become the enemy, even when they were faultless up till now.

I know it’s coming.  I’ve been through it once and have seen many other beloved ten-to-eleven year-olds start on that roller coaster.

Annalee has never been a boring child.  She has been emotional, dramatic, sensitive, energetic, talkative and exuberant since birth.

She has also always been childlike.  Where Victoria was born with an old soul, Annalee was born with a brand new one.

She relished being babied when she was a baby.  Where Victoria had no time for rocking and fussed if I tried a lullaby, Annalee delighted in being snuggled, dressed up, sang to and otherwise mothered.

She was the quintessential little girl when she was little.  She loved princesses, dress-up and make believe.  Everything was pink.  Everything was frilly or feathered.  There were ponies and dolls and sparkles (though not one to be typecast there were also soccer balls, jeans and a perplexing love for math).

And now, at ten, Annalee is still my little girl.  She spent much of yesterday hanging upside down from a tree so Victoria could try out her new camera accessory.  She made up a circus show in the back yard, complete with posters advertising free admission.  She is still crazy about all things Harry Potter.  She still calls me “Mama.”  She still asks me if we can do a craft, please, just the two of us.

I don’t want to misrepresent her — this child can drive me to the brink like none of my others.  She can push buttons, throw fits, take on attitudes and make me nuts.  She is no superchild.  But she is a super child.

Today, Annalee brought me a gourmet egg dish she invented herself (“fresh, local eggs,” she told me, “with chives I snipped fresh from the garden”), watched her little brother, washed walls, scooped the cat box, drew me several pictures, organized her father’s sockets, carried branches, posed for her sister, comforted Alex and ran errands — and most of it she volunteered for without even being asked.

She is a sweet little girl.

Little.  For not much longer.

I am so aware of the ticking of the clock.  I know how little time there is left of this particular girl before she is replaced with an older, wiser, more grown up girl.  She will be just as fabulous, but she will not be this child.

She can only be little for a little while more.

Someday soon, Annalee will outgrow Harry Potter.  Before I know it, it will be time for training bras… dating… college classes… In ten short years, her childhood will be a distant memory.

Tomorrow, Anna says she’s going to wake at 6:45 so she can make Daddy a special egg for when he wakes up.  I think I’ll wake up early too, and maybe do that craft.

“The days are long but the years are short.”
(Anonymous)

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Lessons From Victoria

Victoria is 11 but sometimes I forget she’s not 17 or so.  Or maybe 34.  Victoria was one of those babies that people always said had an old soul.

Look!  At one day old, she was already deep in thought.

Over the years, we haven’t parented Victoria (or any of the kids) in a strictly mainstream way.  I’ve never been that big of a fan of mainstream things, and when it came to parenting I preferred to follow my heart.  I also followed the advice of lots of other mothers I admired and read an awful lot of books, but I picked books that followed my heart too.

Along the way, I got a lot of advice that I didn’t ask for, and I pretty much ignored every bit.

Somehow, despite my parenting all wrong as far as at least a few relatives were concerned, she completely skipped any terrible two’s, did learn to fall asleep in her own bed, did not in fact test her boundaries and has pretty much been a terrific kid every day of her life.

Best of all, I thoroughly enjoy being her mother.  We sit and have long talks.  We teach each other things (she’s already way better than I am at anything computer related).  We crack jokes.  She reads my blogs and asks my advice.

And yes, I give her chores and math problems (we homeschool) and have some rules that she’s not entirely fond of, but she has a say in all of that too and she doesn’t seem to mind any of it too terribly (other than the math problems).

Tonight we sat and read through an heirloom seed catalog from 2005 together.  We read some of the cool stories of the plant varieties and I talked about what qualities to look for in plants for our area and we made plans for summer gardens.

Almost every night, we have talks like that.  I love them.

People tell you all the time that you should parent this way or that way or some dire thing will happen.  People care an awful lot about how other people parent, I have to say.

I think the biggest parenting lesson I learned from Victoria is that there’s a direct correlation between how much time you spend just hanging out and enjoying your child, and how great your child will turn out.  Not just being around each other, but really talking and connecting.

And that it’s always a good idea to follow your heart.

Or it could be that she just has a great head on her shoulder.  ;)

And yes, I thoroughly enjoy the other 3 children too, but that’s another post for another day (and I don’t have pictures of them with snowball heads on their shoulders).

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101 Things To Do With an Old T-shirt!

I love some of the ideas from Hide Your Armsabout all the ways you can customize and repurpose an old T-shirt!  Make a cloth diaper, a cool scarf, a dog tee, a bracelet, yoga pants… What a great way to spend a rainy day with kiddos.  :)

   

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Shine

Magical Mama Sharon passed on this wonderful little mini movie that is actually a Thai commercial.  She wrote:

I just love your blog and know how strongly you feel about encouraging your children to be the best.  I think you will love this inspirational video.  It’s actually a Pantene commercial although I’m not sure what it has to do with hair.  But I love the message it sends and I shared it with my daughter and her friends.

 
It’s beautiful!  What a wonderful little story and the music is moving too.  Thanks Sharon!

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One Child Short

Victoria is once again down in Nebraska, staying with our wonderful friends Tiffany, Rex and kiddos.  They are like family, only more fun! 

This is day four or so of our oldest child being gone.  We miss her, but we’re glad she’s got the opportunity to do neat stuff like this. 

Last time Victoria was down in Nebraska, she had reached her infamous all-grown-up, who-needs-Mom stage.  I am pleased to report that she outgrew that and now misses me quite a bit. 

Is it wrong to be happy about this?  :) 

Not that she’s miserable and not that I’m gleeful about it, but she calls frequently and wants to just talk and talk.  She says she wishes I were down there with her. We talked for 59 minutes just in one call.  Thank goodness we got unlimited long distance!

I’m glad my little girl is growing up, but I’m also so glad that she once again cherishes Mama time.  Eleven was just too young to give her up!

I hear she’s having a wonderful time, though.  She’s made new friends, helped babysit a toddler, gone on walks, played Wii and Nintendo and an invented magic dragon game, gone to the great big library they have (that’s a big deal to Victoria!), took a roadtrip to Kansas and even got to go to the (gasp) mall.  Yes, malls are big deals to us out here too.  We’re 90 miles away from the nearest real one! 

We’ve been trying to have extra fun around here with the younger kids.  I know it’s hard to watch their big sister get to go off on adventures with friends they all love too.  We’ve been on some neat field trips and had fun little treats.

Sometime in the next week, we’ll head south and meet up somewhere to pick Victoria up.  For now, she gets to play at having a funny British mom who makes wonderful tea, a take-charge dad who spoils everybody and a much neater, much quieter house with lots and lots of pets and fun new siblings.

And I still can’t wait to get her back.  :)

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