Saturday, August 08, 2009

Parent's Vacation -- Please don't decide to hate me until you've read it

For the first time in six years, Adam and I were childless for a few days. We had left Emma for ministry reasons on occasion and never had left Chloe for more than a few hours. But this time, the trip was simply to let the girls spend time with their extended family and to give Adam and I time to spend together alone. So, this was a switch for us. On Friday July 24th, we met my parents and sister at Six Flags in Atlanta and played a little and handed the girls off. We went out to eat a couple of times at places that serve big people food, slept in a few days, Adam got some school work done and though it would take me a year with no children to do all that I want to do around the house, I was able to catch up on a few things. They spent a couple of days with my mom, and then a couple with my sister. We met my sister in Montgomery on Thursday July 3oth and got the girls and went to south Alabama for Wynn's first birthday party. I must admit that it was nice to be free of some responsibility but by the time we got back to them, my heart was beginning to ache a little. We were in Alabama for a couple of days and then we left Emma with Adam's parents and came back home. On Thursday, we met Lynn back in Atlanta to get Emma. We are glad to have everyone back in their rightful places. And, Emma and Chloe are learning once again how to share our attention (not a fun lesson for any of us).

The following e-mail was sent to me by my sister. I was very hesitant to post it because I feel like the easiest way to make sure your children are little monsters is to brag about your parenting. But, it seems as if just my sister doing it has caused them to be little monsters because we've had a few rough days here lately.

Please read my commentary on my sister's "guest post" before you decide to stop being my friend.

Dana, I would like to do another guest blog post for you. I know that it is hard to brag on yourself but I just want everyone to know what a great time I have had with my nieces and I know that most of the enjoyment is due to you being such a great mother! I will be awfully hurt if you do not post this, it is very important!!!

First, I want to point out that I asked Dana if I could do another guest post for her blog. Then I told her how hurt I would be if she did not post it. Everyone who knows Dana knows that she would not blatantly brag on herself. For that matter, I am not sure if she even fully knows what a wonderful mother she is! I think that it is very important to acknowledge the accomplishments of those that we love and doing what she does every day, I have found out, is quite an accomplishment!

Emma and Chloe came to spend several days with my mom and me recently. Now, I have a 20 year old son and even though I teach 5 and 6 year olds all day, it has been quite a while since I have had any little ones full time by myself, so you might imagine that I wondered how this would all go down! Well, it went of seamlessly, I believe, in thanks to my sister’s wonderful parenting.

The thing that I was most worried about was bedtime. If you have ever had a toddler off a schedule, you know that bedtime can be difficult. Well, not so with this toddler! All I had to do was tell her that it was bedtime and put her in the pack-n-play. She immediately stuck that hiney up in the air, I put a blanket over it and that was the last I heard from her! How many two year olds can you do that with? I chalk that up to good parenting! There were several nights that she ended up in bed with us but even then, she laid right back down and went right back to sleep. (and Aunt Denise enjoyed the snuggling anyway!) On the same note, Emma went straight down when told also. Even though it was apparent that she might not be quite ready, she has been taught not to argue, so she obeyed and got a good night sleep so that we could play all day the next day!

I think that it is important for Dana to know that her girls have great manners, obey very well, and are the sweetest little ones that anyone could ever meet. Even when they are told “no” they take it well. Emma has a little pout (which looks an awful lot like Dana at that age) that might show up for a split second but she recovers very quickly. When Chloe gets upset, she also recovers very quickly. For a two year old, she seems to understand and accept explanations quite readily. Another sign of good parenting! And the manners of these girls! Both very sweetly say “please” and “thank you” and even when Chloe has her nose wrinkled up and is refusing something, she is saying “no thank you”. You would have to see this one to believe it.

I have seen so much more that could illustrate what great parents Dana and Adam are but I know that you have other things to do. So I will just say that I am very proud of my little sister and the role she has chosen. She has definitely found what she does best. Being a stay at home mother is often a thankless job. But I can tell you that even though Dana makes it look easy, it is NOT! I would take her girls anywhere without a second thought and I can do that because of her talent for being a mom!

So today, my dear sweet sister, I salute you! Please know that you are doing a tremendous job with your two girls and I love you!

P.S. I don’t want to leave Adam out. I know that he is an excellent father and provider and should be commended for his part in the upbringing of these wonderful children. Maybe I will write about that at another time. Love you too, Adam!

Okay, so yeah, that was uncomfortable..

I had to laugh when I read this because I opened this e-mail just after I had lost my temper and yelled at Emma. Honestly, I was surprised that they behaved so well while they were away from me. I was concerned that since they are with me all the time, they wouldn't be able to behave without me (the enforcer). So, this was very good news to me. I think it's way too early to judge our parenting. We still have the hardest ahead of us. Emma has started to show signs of developing some of the character traits that we hope will follow her into adulthood. But, for the most part, at this point, please forgive me for referring to my children as dogs but, they are pretty much like trained dogs. Not to say that having a trained dog is a bad thing when that is the thing that works. Do this, there are bad consequences, do this, good consequences. Going to bed easily is the result of "On Becoming Baby Wise". I realize that that book is almost as controversial as the bottle/breastfeeding or the stay at home/working mom debate. I just want to say here that if you let your children sleep in the bed with you or if you rock them to sleep or do anything differently than I do, I don't think that makes me a better mother. In fact it very well might mean that you are a better mother than I am. My children go to bed in their own beds because after a long day of having children hanging on me, I need space. Plain and simple, it was because of my needs, not theirs that we decided to use that system. If I had slept better next to them, that's where they would be. And as far as Chloe not throwing fits... This is just a part of her temperament. I know that it isn't because of my parenting because Emma did throw fits. BIG ONES. In fact, that was what sparked me starting this blog. It was my therapy. If you were to go back to the beginning, which was four years ago, you wouldn't find that my very first post was titled "Terrible Twos". Besides, Chloe isn't even two yet, I may still have it coming. My prayers is that one day, I will see my children determine the choices that they make based on what is right, not what is easy. And then, I will feel like I have succeeded as a parent.

I do think there is something very important that can be gleaned from this e-mail from my sister. I needed it.. I had started to question myself. In a world with lots of opinions, I often find myself interacting with people that believe corporal punishment (spanking) is wrong. This is another one of those topics that contribute to those political labels that make me so angry. Somehow, caring about the environment makes me a liberal hippie but, the fact that I "spank" my children makes me a staunch conservative.. I really don't see what either of the two things have to do with politics. Anyway, I don't believe that there is only one way to parent a child but for us, using corporal punishment along with other types of reinforcement works best. But, I had noticed that I had slacked off on disciplining my children when we were around other people (not that I spank my children in front of other people. My goal is not to embarrass them) because of the current debate about this subject. It left me feeling helpless and even violated.

Anyway, reading my sister's e-mail helped me to see that the best thing to do was to consistently stick with our course of action. You see, if I have done anything right in this parenting thing, I owe the gratitude to my supportive family. All of the people that are important to me are incredibly encouraging and supportive. That keeps me able to be confident and consistent. If you are a person that doesn't have great support from your family, I'm not saying this to try to make you angry or to make you feel bad. Shame on them!

But, for those of you that have a mother in your life, I can guarantee you that she not only desires but she needs your support. And if you love the child of this mother, the best thing you can do for that child is to support that mother.

And to our families, I owe you a debt of gratitude. Yes for taking our children and giving us a chance to focus on each other. But even more for your love and support. For my dad for teaching me the importance of work and dedication. To my mom for being the mother I want to be. To Lynn for teaching her son how to love me. To Keith for teaching him how to be a daddy and for our sisters for being unconditional best friends.

I feel confident that because of God's and your love and support, I will one day become the mother that you insist that I be.

And here are some pictures from the trip.