Monday, February 13, 2012

Let Go! (and Stop being a perfectionist): A new lesson I have learned as a parent

It seems like forever since I have posted here, and...well, um...I guess nine months is a long time. But I am back!

Over the past couple of months my daughter (almost 6 years old now) and I have been working on some projects. We made Christmas presents and ornaments, her birthday party invitations, and daddy's Valentine's Day present as well as a few other smaller ones. It struck me today how different it is to do a project now that she is interested in "helping" me. Gone are the days when I come up with an idea, plan it, and execute it with my own sense of style and perfectionism. They have been replaced with the imperfect cutting of the card stock, uneven placement of the pieces, big splashes of paint where I would have only put a shimmer, and another person's perspective on what would look "beautiful" or "perfect" instead of just my own, etc, etc, etc.

She, being my daughter, has strong opinions and a voice with which to speak them...loudly! I can hear my mom's thoughts as she reads this, "I told you that you would regret patting that big pregnant belly and telling her to be strong-willed! Didn't I?"

No, I do not regret it!

I am happy that I am raising a self-assured being with strong opinions and convictions. I am proud that she has her own sense of style, her own creativity, and a desire to participate in our "shared" projects instead of just watching! I even like that she wants to cut out, glue, and paint the details on in her own way and...in. her. own. time. however. long. that. might. take........

The only problem is that before today, I had missed that it was time to let go a little. I can plan the project, I can buy the materials, and I can explain the plan to her. BUT when it comes time to execute the project, if I want it to be a truly SHARED experience I need to LET GO of the result and just enjoy the process.

Who cares if the lines aren't straight? I will always remember her biting her lip as she concentrated, carefully and slowly cutting along the lines I had traced.

Who cares how much extra glue she used (and got all over)? I will always remember the silly look on her face when she had glue all over her fingers and they kept sticking together!

Who cares if her invitations aren't perfect? I will always remember the pride in her voice as she tells people the parts that were her job!

Who cares if something that could have taken me mere hours turns into a two week long project? I will always remember the giggles we shared as we went (and will plan it ahead a little more next time).

Who cares if that paint is smudged? It makes it that much more memorable that she actually participated!
Today I let go of my need to have perfection in the finished product and decided to find the perfection in the experience and in allowing her to have a feeling of accomplishment!

I guess this can really apply to all of our parenting experiences. When you stop worrying about the little things you have more time to enjoy the bigger ones. Thanks for this important lesson my little love!

I hope your days are filled with messy hands, uneven cut-out lines and lots of love!
Emily Filmore, Author

http://www.withmychildseries.com/
blog.withmychildseries.com

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How the world around us affects us

This has been an interesting spring in Missouri. It seems we have had unrelenting rain and severe weather. Every time I turn on the news...scratch that, I've stopped watching it...mainly because I get so emotional about all of the negative news.

I notice I hug my daughter just a little bit tighter, I miss her more when we are apart, I look past her "annoying" little habits just a little bit more easily, and I cherish our shared moments a little more deeply.

In other words, I am even more thankful for our health and safety today than usual. My heart goes out to families struggling with loss. Their grief must be unspeakable.

Hug your babies and show them your love!

Wishing peace and healing to those affected,

Emily Filmore, Author
http://www.withmychildseries.com/
blog.withmychildseries.com

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Having a baby become a big girl

It seems I blinked and suddenly three months have gone by since my last entry. It is not as though I haven't been writing (a lot!). I have been working on my other project in which I am now the main writer (http://www.cwg4kids.com/). This work is so fulfilling that I can write for hours and not notice the passage of that time. But now that site is now up and active so while I will still be writing for it monthly it will not be so all-encompassing and I can return to working on other things...I have been wanting to get back to my blog, so here I am!

Today I will write about my daughter's birthday (well actually about her growing up) and the fact that she has turned five...5?!? My, how time really flies. Please excuse the philosophical nature of this entry, I just find myself struggling to grapple with how fast life is moving.

I can still feel her kicking in my belly. I know that sounds crazy, right? But I can. If I close my eyes, put my hand on my stomach, and think long enough - I can feel it. That is part of why her turning five seems so outrageous to me. I can think back and remember nearly every day of her life...thanks in part to my camera phone, my regular camera, my facebook page, my calendar entries, etc. (how funny how much we document our lives). But until I sit and think directly about the number of years she has been alive, I do not really know how OLD she is. Do you know what I mean? It is kind of like when you look at pictures and even though you see a person every day you do not notice the changes in them until you line up the pictures in chronological order...

That is what my mind has been doing to me in the last 2 weeks since her birthday - lining up my memories of her life in chronological order.

Being a parent is so all-encompassing. I now measure my life as BK and AK (before kid and after kid). I look at her growth over the last 5 years from helpless infant to self-sufficient, intelligent, funny being ready to begin Kindergarten and I wonder where the time has gone. She has turned into such a sweet, loving little person  and she is clearly not a baby anymore! She is strong-willed, assertive, and sometimes difficult to deal with - and I love every minute! Her language has begun to lose that baby edge to it. Recently my husband and I decided to start gently correcting her speech. When she says Pian-yo we say, do you mean piano? When she says I put the doll clothes on she - we say do you mean her? Very quickly, she has caught on and has started using correct verb tenses, pronouns and pronunciations. But at the same time that I know it is good to help her learn the correct way to speak, I am mourning the end to yet another part of her baby-hood.

For a couple of weeks prior to her birthday she would tease me (yes even at four to almost five years old she recognised her mommy as a helplessly emotional sap!) about how I was going to be the mother to a five year old. She would giggle with delight as I would squirm and say "it is not possible, you still have to be my baby!" This playfulness is yet another clue to me of how grown up she really is. GRR!

I look at the last five years with awe and gratitude and I look forward to watching her continue to grow. I love her zealous way of attacking me and hugging, kissing and otherwise showing her exuberant love at the funniest moments. I wouldn't trade one second of her life so far or her current state of being - she is an infectiously happy little/big girl who brings great joy and light to my days...But for just one moment I would love to hold five hour old Sage in my arms again. I would listen to her breathe, soak in her smell, touch her soft skin, and hold her little tiny body to my heart.

Too bad I didn't bottle that feeling!

Emily A. Filmore, Author
http://www.withmychildseries.com/
blog.withmychildseries.com

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Big questions

Last week on our way to ice skating, 4 year old Sage asked me a mundane question: "Why does the post office have to close at 6pm?" I began explaining that workers need to go home to their families, businesses are only open when they can make money, blah blah blah.

Apparently my answers were not extensive enough because she said, "Well Mommy, maybe I will ask daddy tonight because he will probably know."  "Ok," I replied. "Daddy, may know the answer - go ahead and ask him." "Well mommy, daddy's that go to work in office buildings are way smarter than mommy's who stay at home." SCREETCH!!!!

Calmly: "What do you mean Sagey?" "Well, if daddy is smart enough to work in a building then he must be smarter because if you were smarter, you would go to work in a building."

Hmm>>>> Breathe, how am I going to answer this? My ego is rearing up. I am a lawyer, I am an author, I am an artist, I am equally as intelligent as my husband, I take care of you, I am an accomplished, educated woman, I, I, I... How am I experiencing sexism/work vs. stay-at-home elitism from my 4 year old child?!?...I can't say any of that to my child, I cannot make her feel like she asked a bad question, I will not make her feel ashamed or guilty...think - quick!

Again, calmly: "Well honey, there are lots of different ways people have intelligence. Daddy is a great lawyer and works very hard at his office and mommy is smart in different ways...." I am grasping for the right words here - can you tell?

"Oh, mommy, I see...like how daddy doesn't know girl stuff; like how to do hair, and cook and stuff?" (Now on the latter I cannot argue since he tried to cook falafel by himself two years ago and nearly burned our house down - true story!!)

"Well Sage, actually, daddy is better at putting in your ponytails them I am. And anyway, there are no jobs that boys can have that girls can't have and vice versa. Boys and girls can be equally as smart as each other, but just may choose to LEARN about and become EXPERTS in different things." I am not about to let her look at daddy with any amount of sexism either.

[She then ran down a list of "girl" jobs and "boy" jobs].

I interjected, "No Sage, boys and girls can do anything the other can do, they can like anything the other can like. There is only one thing a boy can do that a girl can't do and only one thing a female can do that a male can't."  If you know me and know my daughter, you probably realize I am about to step in IT in a MAJOR way.

"What is that mommy?"

OH POOHEY... "Well you know boys go potty standing up. Girls really cannot do that. And girls can carry babies in their tummies, and well, boys cannot do that." (Did I really just open this can of worms? Man what is wrong with me?)

"Why is that mommy? Actually, mommy why do boys' private parts stick out anyway? And where does the baby grow in the mommy's tummy?"

I tried to answer short answers and then divert the conversation to talking about how mommy and daddy decided together that I would stay at home because we didn't want to have her in babysitting all day every day....but to no avail, she asked a couple of follow-up questions and then was back to the pee pee/baby carrying question.

We, thankfully, arrived at ice skating and got out of the car as I HEAVED a great sigh of relief.

But as soon as we were buckled back into the car after her lesson I heard it...the statement I had hoped she would not make. "Well mommy, now we can finish our conversation about why boys have pee pees that stick out and why girls carry babies."

After a number of false starts and attempts to not disclose too much, I admit it. I failed in my own eyes. I skirted the issue and refused to give her a straight, coherent answer; I said I (honestly) really didn't know HOW to answer her questions. Then I gave up and said boys are made that way so they can stand up to go potty and girls carry babies in a place inside, like your stomach where your food goes, but this place is made only for babies. (BTW this was after I tried to explain a bag-like area in your tummy to which she asked how you can get plastic in there when you aren't supposed to eat plastic.)

I was holding my breath, hoping her next question wouldn't be how the baby got there to begin with (which by the way she asked about 6 months ago when I walked right into IT on a different question).

She seemed a little confused and not sure she understood, but thankfully satisfied for the moment with my incoherent, non-committal answer. I love that she is so inquisitive and intelligent. I love that she asks hard questions and keeps me on my toes. But oh wow. I am not looking forward to the next time she brings this up. I am sure I will be more careful about which cans of worms I will open up. Maybe I'll tell her to ask daddy!

With my foot in my mouth,

Emily Filmore, Author
http://www.withmychildseries.com/
blog.withmychildseries.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Teaching her to eat healthy foods comes back to bite me...

I have mentioned before that we have been on a mission for the last few months to clean up our eating habits. We have eliminated High Fructose Corn Syrup, hydrogenated oils, and food coloring from our household. We have also gone what we are calling "home vegetarian" in an effort to reduce our meat consumption and increase our reliance on veggies. It is going really well and while we are serious about it, we are also realistic that there are times when you have to cook meat for a family gathering, or when schedules dictate a trip to a fast, and unhealthy, food drive up. Under the theory that we eat SO clean at home that we can have some wiggle room when we are out, we allow ourselves to eat what we want when we go out - but we do try to limit how often we go out.

I have curbed my own fast food habit drastically in the last few months, and the truth is, it doesn't really taste that good to me anymore. But the mental desire for that kind of food hasn't completely left me yet. I am a work in progress!

As for Sage, we have managed to teach her wonderful eating habits since day one. She requests veggies over sweets, has never had more than an accidental sip of soda, and more recently...and here's the part where the student becomes the teacher...has started to monitor my eating habits and admonish me for my bad choices.

It is not that I try to lead by words and not example, I work very hard to eat as I want her to eat, but again, lifelong addictions to caffeine, and fast food are hard to break.

It all came to a head last night. Tired from working on a sewing project together all afternoon, I suggested we run up to the local drive-up restaurant for dinner. She quickly began telling me all the reasons we should not eat it. When I suggested that she could choose to eat the fruit and walnut salad or something else on the healthy end of the spectrum she began quizzing me on what I would make for my choices. When I answered I was in the mood for a burger and fries she about lost it. "Mom, how can you choose to eat that 'isgusting food? Why can't you eat fruit and walnut salad too? Why can't we just go somewhere healthy?" "Sage," I said, "we do not eat badly that often, it is ok to have it every once in a while." "But mom, that food is not good for your body and it can make you sick...you don't want that do you?"

Wow, what a punch to the gut! My four-year old just turned my words back on me and I had no escape without undoing all of my hard work at loving healthful, clean eating. Don't get me started on her opinion about my diet soda habit...

We made soup and sandwiches at home for dinner :-)

Emily Filmore
blog.withmychildseries.com
http://www.withmychildseries.com/

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wow, a month, has it really been that long?

...well I guess they do say time flies when you are having fun - and fun is what we are having! Our adventure-filled life seems to have been put into hyper-drive over the last month. I really thought when I signed on to write a blog entry it was going to have been 2 weeks since my last post.

What I want to talk about today really goes along with losing track of time. It has to do with reaching out, hugging your child and treasuring every moment together...even when those moments include running errands, going from one activity to another, hurried grocery store trips, post office stops, and the occasional visit with outside family and friends. I've made no effort to hide that I am a very emotional person: I choke up easily at the sappy commercial, tear up at the sweet scenes of Disney movies, and sob when watching the news when families face unbearable tragedy. And as I have admitted to before, I do all of these above things, sometimes, just at the mere sight of my daughter enjoying a play date, learning a new skill, giving me a special unexpected hug.

It is in these moments that I allow time to stop. I forget about my pressures of the day and embrace, both the nothingness and the ALL-ness inside those special little moments. I don't mean to get so philosophical but I guess Thanksgiving has reminded me of all of my blessings.

At the dinner table on Thursday, Sage decided to emcee our family's tradition of each person saying what they are thankful for. She took great pains to give each person their cue (exact same wording from person to person) "Mommy (or daddy, nana, uncle, aunt, etc) what are you thankful for on this Thanksgiving?" She patiently let each person talk and then said "thank you" and moved on the the next person, and so on around the table. By the time it was her turn, her own list was very long, repeating many of the same things the grown-ups had said as well as throwing in a few of her own special thankful thoughts. Instead of saying "hurry up so we can eat" we all stopped and breathed in the gratitude in the air. We all soaked up the innocence and love of this four year old. And for a few minutes we all enjoyed the space between the moments and just allowed ourselves to just BE: to be a family, to be thankful for our safety, to be thankful for our health, to be thankful to be together, to be thankful for such a little girl with such a big heart who could stop the world and remind us what it really means to be thankful.

I am going to try to keep that thought as I go through the next few weeks filled with hectic activity. I am going to stop, breathe and remember to enjoy the moment instead of getting caught up in the activities of the moment. I hope you can do the same!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Emily Filmore, Author
http://www.withmychildseries.com/
blog.withmychildseries.com

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Doing a Fall Collage Project Together

Sage is a "Fall Fairy Fairy" for Halloween. That means we have spent the last few weeks being obsessed with fall. The colors, the cool air, the changing from summer to winter and the LEAVES! She loves leaves. Every time we are outside she stops to find the prettiest leaves. Yesterday she asked if we could make a fall project, so we went on a nice little walk through our yard and found lots of "pretties" for her Fall Collage. We also added an appropriately purple colored feather from her ballet costume because she thought it just HAD to be there and I work hard to never squelch her creativity - no matter how silly.

It was so fun! All we needed was a big piece of paper, glue and a marker. I loved watching her painstakingly glue each rose petal in place. I loved seeing her plan and revise where to put different elements for the best presentation. But mostly I loved seeing the happy pride on her face when she showed her daddy the finished product when he walked through the door! Kids love to create, they love when you take part, and they especially love when you appreciate the outcome of their hard work!

I highly recommend taking 30 minutes to help your child explore nature, and your relationship, in a similar way.

Here's hoping love falls on your family like leaves fall to the ground!

Emily Filmore, Author
http://www.withmychildseries.com/
blog.withmychildseries.com