Raise Kind Humans

My husband and I intentionally chose to raise our family in the Utopian bubble of Davis, because people here are generally good and write Nextdoor posts about rescuing an injured bird in the street, or offering to help an elderly woman by installing a ramp up to her front door. There is a lot of ugliness in the world, especially lately, and being in a community that cares makes the intangible list of parenting responsibilities feel a little less daunting. No pressure parents, but the abstract concepts are the ones that shape their insides—like encouraging them to be inclusive of others, where compassion is always the answer, to use language that is caring, and above all, we are responsible for raising kind humans.  

When June arrived from China, our best friend’s daughter with Down Syndrome, despite being a former special education teacher, I still wasn’t sure I’d explain correctly how June having an extra chromosome caused her to struggle with language and so when I asked Allie her recommendation, she suggested to just let the kids be kids together and they will approach us with questions or observations independently. This is exactly how their relationship transpired and they shared a perfect moment together where June blew bubbles and my girls giggled as they popped them. In the car on the way home, Maddie shared, “We love June. She can’t talk, but she blew bubbles so big!” Children don’t need words since they can speak together in the universal language of bubbles.

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I don’t always do it right and neither do my girls. One time at Farmers Market my daughters were dancing near a gentlemen with special needs and he was moving his arms around wildly. They laughed and tried to approach him. I immediately intervened and his elderly mother stopped me and thanked me for stepping in. I apologized on my daughters’ behalf and told her, they weren’t trying to be mean spirited, I believed they wanted to dance with him, but the music was loud and they had already moved on to another activity. I promised this woman that I would speak with them later about the importance of being kind and she thanked me genuinely and squeezed my hand. From a mother to a mother, we were both doing our very best.

A parent reached out to me from our former preschool that her foster daughter, we will call her Suzy, requested my daughter’s presence to celebrate her birthday with swimming, pizza, and cupcakes at their home. My girls had spoke of her often, coming home to tell me that Suzy didn’t really talk, like June, but she played on the monkey bars with them and they were envious of her gold teeth.

After the girl’s swam they went upstairs to play together in Suzy’s room, where later Charlotte explained that she needed us to paint her room rainbow and we should get real bunkbeds and I learned a little more about Suzy’s past. When she was placed in their home, she was nonverbal and recovering from significant trauma. Since being in their home for almost 6 months her language has increased exponentially and her happiness radiates from head to toe. I marveled at the goodness of this family. Her foster mother had clearly rehearsed the process of the birthday song, asking her thoughtful questions like what happens when I bring out the cupcakes? Her birth son and daughter chimed in and expressed the importance of Suzy making a wish before she blew out the candles. Just before Suzy did, her foster mom kissed her sweetly on the top of the head. The magnitude of this moment was not lost on me; that my girls and I, besides their family, were the only ones chosen to celebrate Suzy on her day. To be surrounded by so much love and beauty of the human spirit it filled me with such gratitude, I felt like I was basking in the warmth of the sun.

There is no lesson plan for teaching tenderness and often times we will get it wrong—the important part is that we don’t ignore these opportunities, but rather make them teachable. We won’t always have the words and neither will they, but thankfully none are needed to exchange laughter and kindness.

Just

I am no longer familiar with how to live simply. Children, without intention, drastically complicate everything. The other day, we were going about our business and out of no where one of my daughters got hit with a 103.5-degree fever. While I was patting her down with a wash cloth because, to her, a bath sounded “too wet”, my oldest was sobbing uncontrollably over never being able to grow a mermaid tail, which initially was hilarious and then stopped being so at about the 7-minute mark. This was just a Tuesday.

On Mother’s Day I decided to take a bath in our jacuzzi tub for the first time ever, since we moved in 2 years ago. Our bathtub is about 2 feet from where I keep our laundry, and so I managed to just sit for about 20 minutes before I noticed that the last of the baby swaddles was dirty. My husband, having read my previous blog, followed it so completely, he stood guard at the top of our locked stairs, so no tiny humans could sneak past into our bedroom. Because for me to just take a bath, he needed to be the troll at the drawbridge and I needed to teleport our tub to a place free from laundry. This is the point I am trying to make, with kids there is no just. Just taking a bath, just quieting your to-do list; let alone your mind. You’ve become one of those circus performers that is riding a unicycle, twirling a plate, and the kids keep tossing you flaming bowling pins in the form of: fevers, vegetable aversions, and tiny fists of each other’s hair.

See, your children aren’t trying to overwhelm or knock you off balance, because they aren’t even aware that you even exist outside of them. Why would you possible need to use the bathroom if that’s the exact moment they need a sandwich? Just make a sandwich. Except right when you place the plate before them, they have already decided they no longer like bread. Every day of motherhood is one long metaphor for the premise of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. Don’t get out the finger paints unless you are looking to mop the kitchen and give them a bath.

 

But if we see the glass as half-full--the opposite can also be said, that there is never a dull moment. A trip to Target is an opportunity to: sing carpool karaoke, run into friends, and strengthen their immune system when they eat unwashed produce off the floor. I no longer mourn the loss of the just; in this season of life I cannot just put on my shoes and go. See, after one child, let alone three, moments are no longer simple they are full, and that’s just fine with me.

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The Mother of all Days

Every day in our house is Mother’s Day. I feel celebrated by my husband and children on a regular basis. Sometimes out of no where my husband will send me a text saying, “I appreciate you” or Maddie (typically when I offer her a popsicle after dinner) will tell me, “You’re just the best Mom” and then plant a cold wet kiss on my lips.

During Charlotte’s first six months of life I could count on one hand the number of hours I was away from her. Not days, hours. With the arrival of Josephine, I’ve learned that time away from my kids can actually be just as necessary and beneficial as time spent with them. It is not about quantity, but quality. I read somewhere that 71% of moms of young children want alone time on Mother’s Day, which means the other 29% must not have understood the question. This is why on Saturday we can plan for a family picnic at the park, but on Sunday I want to sit on a throne of solitude while my kids play happily nowhere near me.

I joyously revel in my role; but I am constantly in a state of meeting others’ needs that are not mine and so when my husband lovingly asked what I wanted for Sunday, besides some homemade-glittered-crap from the girls, I told him I wanted a day that is entirely my own. In order for it to be special and truly unique or, excuse the pun, the Mother of all days— it would need to be a day where: I make food that is only for me, sleep according to my body’s needs, exercise without pushing a stroller, read a book where the main character doesn’t live on a farm and most importantly, when someone calls out for Mom, only Dad will answer.  

Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere, especially my own.

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