Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Finding the joy

We have reached the point in Genevieve's development where things that were part of our established routine (getting in the car seat, the high chair, having a diaper changed) no longer go smoothly in our previously well-practiced routine.

We still have good days, where she's cooperative, cheerful and a complete joy to be around.

Snuggling and watching Sesame Street while I lean on an ice pack.
And then there are days like today, where she's testing boundaries. It is incredibly challenging; balancing being firm with kindness and empathy. Most of all, trying to model good problem-solving and patience without losing my temper.

I take a lot of deep breaths, but I'm not perfect. I can tell you about the guilt I have, because I'm not what I think a perfect mom should be- far from it, but that's not helpful.

I realized that it's days like today, where you have to consciously, mindfully, stop, breathe, and find the joy in the moment.

Where you let go of the bad feelings, let the sun shine on your face, and take in your toddler twirling in the driveway. Listen to her delighted shrieks when you unload the groceries like a dinosaur. (This involves a lot of roaring.)

Make faces into the camera, because she thinks it's funny. Watch her do her crazy toddler run and make the Hamburglar noise.

Tight hugs because she loves being squished a little. Attack kisses during a game of peek-a-boo.

It's all there. The good with the bad. It's just that - upon reflection - there are so many good moments that they deserve to outshine the bad. They've earned it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Magic words

On the list of "important things to teach Genevieve", good manners are at the top. I've mentioned before that we have been doing a little bit of sign language with her, and using a Costco-sized container of raspberries (and a trip to Costco, coincidentally), Mom and I got Genevieve to consistently sign "more, please".

Positive reinforcement is an amazing thing.

She said "walk, please".
She wants a sip of water? Please. A toy? Please. Another chorus of "Ten Little Monkeys"? Please. She asks for things that are - generally - totally fine, and we insist on the "please" to get her used to saying it. (Truth be told, I'm a habitual please-and-thank-you-er. Old habits die hard. Or last on and on indefinitely.)

What Genevieve has learned is that "please" opens doors. All she has to do is say "please", and she gets what she wants- especially from Grandma and GrandpaDahling. (As it should be, said every grandparent ever.)

Since her language is developing at a rate that is slower than she'd like, Genevieve will take her grownup-of-choice's hand, tow them to what she wants, and sign "please?" If nothing else, it keeps our days interesting.

A couple of weeks back, after dinner, she was taking GrandpaDahling for an informational tour of the house ("That? That?") when she reached for the bathroom door. Normally, we have an open-bathroom door policy (two dogs and a toddler; the math is simple), but not so much with guests (or my dad) in the house.

Genevieve reached for the doorknob, and GrandpaDahling said, "Nope; you need to wait until your Mommy is ready for you."

Two which she gave him the Biggest. Eyes. Ever. and signed "Please?"

What could my father do? He was powerless against the cuteness. And the manners. He sent Genevieve in, and explained simply, "She said 'please'."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lookin' good, Daddy-o

We were at a graduation party (for LittleJ) last Sunday, and Mahvelous Margot mentioned that fatherhood looked good on Andrew.

Baby press-ups: good for the body, good for the soul.
I couldn't agree more.

I mean, who else would think that doing pushups with their baby facing UP would be so much fun?
Andrew is a phenomenal father. He sings, he dances, and he uses Genevieve as his own personal home gym. That's frugal, responsible, AND stellar parenting.

He wants to be an involved father, so there isn't much that he *doesn't* do, including learning how to brush hair (without pulling on the tangles), and executing a fantastic set of pigtails.

Hair by Daddy
But it's more than that. Being a good parent is about being engaged. He's outdoors-y and adventurous when it's appropriate, and quiet and cerebral with Genevieve when it's time to calm down.

Andrew, I love how you follow her cues, letting her lead you to what she wants or needs. You are a great listener, even when the cues are (mostly) nonverbal.

Like today, when Genevieve wanted to play in the pool. She got her swimsuit and swim diaper, towed you to the changing table, handed them over then said, "Daddy?"

Like any Daddy worth his salt, you melted where you stood, and then got her ready to go for a swim.

I hope that as Genevieve grows up, she never stops thinking that you're the greatest guy in the whole world, and that she never stops looking at you like this:

Best. Daddy. EVER.

Happy Father's Day, Monkey. You're the best Dad a kid could ask for.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Toddler telephone

Genevieve is going through a helpful phase. She wants to do what we're doing, and more than anything, she wants to be helpful. I hope this phase lasts FOREVER, because as her skills develop, I am LOVING having her as my right-hand Mouse.

Right now, Genevieve loves to take things off of shelves and counters and put them away. (Thank goodness one of us does.) The first time she did this, we discovered an excellent game.

"Can you go and get Daddy?"
She pulled a protein shake out of the box in the kitchen, and Andrew asked her to bring it to me (in the bedroom). Genevieve toddled it over to me, handed it over, and awaited her next set of instructions. I handed her *something* (probably an empty protein shake bottle) and asked her to please, take this to Daddy.

Back and forth and back and forth, the patter of enthusiastic toddler steps was sweet music echoing throughout the house. The sound of happy toddler feet is like no other; it's my third favorite toddler sound, after her laugh and her voice.
It doesn't matter what she's relaying, Genevieve LOVES this game. We call it "toddler telephone"- where we send her with an item (or a task, like bringing someone to the dinner table), and she's off on a mission.

Most recently, I was looking for something in my office, and handed her paper to take to [her] Grandma to put in the recycling bin, one piece at a time. The more paper I sent with her, the more enthusiastic she was about relaying the delivery.

It's a great way of keeping her busy AND getting things done, albeit slowly. Tiny feet take little steps, and learning takes time. We are more than happy to oblige her, because we're investing in all of our futures.

She is learning how to work with the rest of her family towards a larger goal; how to sort, how to follow directions, and she gets the satisfaction of a job well done. She also gets her wiggles out, which is a win all around.

And someday, when she has kids of her own, she'll appreciate the genius. And hopefully pass it on.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Saving Private Bert

Some days are rough. Teeth are cutting, naps are interrupted, and Genevieve is growing at a rate that boggles the mind. Growing pains are a real thing. So, we rock the routine and roll with the punches.

And roll literally, in the stroller. The fresh air does us both good, and it gives her a chance to decompress while she has her snack. We take a toy along for the ride, and the toy gets to model good behavior.

We had One of Those Days last week- parenting fail, after parenting fail, after parenting fail. I decided to try a walk to reboot our afternoon, and that day, she picked Bert as her ride-along buddy.

Bert loves to go for walks.
To add to my challenging day, I had made the mistake of reading a thread on Facebook in which an acquaintance's friends were opining as to what is the *best* way to raise children. Then the opinions turned into an argument that has no winner, with both sides digging their heels in and shouting "I AM RIGHT, AND YOU ARE WRONG! YOU ARE A HORRIBLE, SOCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE MOTHER!"

There is really nothing as incendiary as discussing parenting choices.

I stayed out of the discussion, but my stomach was churning over the whole mess, and taking a quiet walk helped soothe my troubles, too.

As we wrapped up the walk and came home, I went to pull Genevieve out of the stroller to find Genevieve... but not Bert. I had stopped partway during the walk to tuck my jacket into the basket underneath, gave Genevieve a kiss, and Bert had been there. And now he was noticeably absent.

In my mind, I saw Genevieve's heart break over the loss of a favorite toy. The tears. Not understanding WHY Bert was gone. Worst of all- how would we tell Ernie?

Obviously, at some point, Bert had gone overboard, unnoticed. I turned the stroller around, intending to retrace our steps, and I realized that (based on the timing of the last diaper) Genevieve - likely - needed to be changed. We went inside, I asked Mom to change her and keep an eye on her for five minutes while I took the car on a recon mission.

I knew, intellectually, that if I couldn't find him, it would be simple to replace Bert. But it wasn't about that. It had been a horrible day, and if I could save Bert, I could have gotten at least that part of the day right. No toy left behind.
Dramatic re-enactment.
As I drove the route, I found Bert on the sidewalk, undisturbed. He was 1/3 of a mile from home, and I could see him from the street. I (safely) pulled the van over, leapt out, scooped him up and returned home VICTORIOUS. I had SAVED Bert!

When I came home, I didn't quite get the hero's welcome I had expected. Genevieve didn't really seem to care much, or notice.  It didn't matter. I brought Bert home.

You can add "Special Ops Mom" to my resume. Officially.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Positively yes

I am so unbelievably lucky to have a (mostly) happy, (mostly) easygoing kid. She is funny, she is kind, and every day she's learning more and more.

I alternate reading Zombie Apocalypse Books with books on child development and parenting. (This is my idea of balance, in case you were curious.) I'm reading Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, and Dr. Nelson emphasizes the need to think beyond "no" when it comes to discipline.

Children need boundaries, yes. But they also need to know that there are other possibilities, and that there is are options other than "yes" and "no". At my last job, my entire world was predominantly "Yes" and "Let's try something else," with only the occasional, "no". Our lives are structured (at least in part) by language; hearing "no" all the time creates a limited worldview.

We certainly say our share of "no"s ("No knives!" "No scissors!"), but this way we're not all "no" all the time. The "no" train runs both directions, which is why we're working on our language choices. I like to think of it as an exercise in creative, on-your-toes problem-solving. (My favorite is when Andrew says, "Let's redirect!" to Genevieve.)

I find myself saying things like, "We need to be kind with our hands/feet/teeth," and "We sit on our bottoms in chairs," and "Plates stay on the table." I'm telling Genevieve what she *should* be doing, instead of what she *shouldn't*. 

Despite our drastic reduction in "no"s, a serious downfall with raising Genevieve multilingual is that we have gotten "NO!" in not one, but THREE languages (Mom's favorite being the angry "NEIN! NEIN! NEIN!"). Even so, we get WAY more "yeah"s, which I really and truly believe is because we're able to say it freely, and you know. Mousie see, Mousie do.

"Do you have a wet diaper?"
"Yeah." (Sometimes this isn't true. She's only 17 months old.)

"Would you like some cheese?"

Hearing "yeah" from a toddler is like a choir of angels, and cuter than a litter of puppies sleeping in a pile. I'll admit to asking her questions just to hear her answer in her tiny little voice.

"I love you. Do you love me?"