Dear Mama, Who Wonders why Kids are like This

Always. Kids seem to need to talk and cuddle the most when you are just trying to get something simple accomplished. When you’re trying to get them dressed, get them out the door, or into and out of the car, they seem to think it’s family time. If they aren’t directly asking for a hug, they’re asking for the attentions that require the most effort. They melt down when your limited time clashes with their emotions of the moment. Trying to get them to eat or get ready for bed feels like paddling upstream (up-river, at times) when they chatter for eons and beg for little nothings. Why do these little people have to be so difficult?!

I think they are designed for it.

 “Hear, O Yisra’ĕl: יהוה our Elohim, יהוה is one! “And you shall love יהוה your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your might. “And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be in your heart, and you shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up,”

‭‭Deḇarim (Deuteronomy)‬ ‭6:4-7‬ ‭

Though selfishness might need discipline according to their age in these moments, children are designed to draw closer to you at these times. When you’re waking, going to sleep, coming and going, or sitting to eat, I believe these are the perfect times to instruct our children in the ways of our Creator. It’s actually a blessing, when you think about it.

I haven’t mastered the practical applications as of yet. So far, I am making a point to remember these words when I feel rushed, and making time to communicate at these junctures. If this is the time I am supposed to teach my children about our Heavenly Father, do I have the proper attitude to facilitate that responsibility? I wonder if the children are seeing the Fruits of the Spirit in me, or just another grumpy whiner. Am I behaving as a leader, or as a fellow tantrum thrower? This frame of mind can cool my temper in a hurry. Currently, I am making habits to communicate love first thing in the morning and at bedtime. I pray blessings over each child, give a hug and greeting just for them, and ask questions.

One night, the toddler couldn’t get to sleep. Frustrating as it was at first, I took a moment to hold her and wondered how to tell her about the One Who loves her most and never leaves her alone. A star glittered outside her window, so I showed it to her and told her about the One Who put it there. She may be too young to grasp my meaning, but she calmed down in response to my attitude as I spoke of something reverent, loving, and secure. Kids pick up on our words faster than we can realize, so I think it will be good to practice conversations like this beforehand.

So that is my thought. Why do kids demand attention at these times? It’s by design, and for good reason. So let’s take advantage of this stage while we can, Dear Mama.

This post is one in a series titled, “Dear Mama.”

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Dear Mama, Who just Gave Birth

I’m sorry that you can’t go home soon enough, that your baby can’t be discharged yet, that everyone is demanding answers from you when you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, that your labor didn’t go as well as hoped, that breastfeeding and pumping are hard, that you don’t have much support, that you aren’t bonding as you had hoped, that someone didn’t treat you kindly, that you are in pain, that your hormones are whacked… whatever has saddened you after that initial joy of birth, I’m sorry.

Even if a lot of bad things did not happen during birth, post-partum recovery can still stink. After my first successful pregnancy and birth, it seemed like everyone else was enjoying my new bundle while I was left to endure misery on my own. I told myself, and others told me, that a healthy baby is all that matters. That may be the most important thing, but mom’s blues matter, too. Perhaps no other human will understand your emotional and mental state right now.

The heart knows its own bitterness, And no stranger shares its joy. Proverbs 14:10

‭It is very difficult to talk and find someone who will only listen to your feelings without interrupting or explaining your needs away. Though they mean well, your loved ones may make you feel as though your feelings don’t matter…that you don’t matter.

It hurts.

However painful, though, this is the fire that will temper your strength for the years to come. You will need to tend to many of your needs by yourself, now. Your healing will be up to you. So keep taking care of yourself physically and the feelings will eventually heal, as well.

With a little one depending on you, it is important to take care of yourself first. They say that if there is an emergency on a plane, adults must first put on their own oxygen masks, so that they can remain conscious and help their children with their masks, too. For baby’s sake, please take a few minutes to freshen up every day. Then you will have the sanity to tend to baby’s needs for those continuous hours.
What does taking care of yourself look like? This is my self-care regimen that I do after the first daylight feeding and before “bedtime” at night. Whether I feel normal or down, am pregnant or recovering from surgery, I do these things daily to be sure I am cared for, before I face all the other needs clawing for attention.

  • Wash your face. Grime, sweat, yick, be gone. I splash water over my face, flush the dirt and germs out of my eyes and nose (prevents frequent colds and allergies), and pat dry. This takes ten seconds.
  • Brush your hair. Simply running a comb through and refreshing your ponytail helps you feel more put together.
  • Brush your teeth. If you’re an attachment mom, it’s still okay for baby to whine for two minutes while you take care of your oral hygiene. You might need to spend your money on baby’s braces someday. Don’t waste cash on your own dental issues, when you can simply prevent damage with a toothbrush. I recommend fluoride-free toothpaste.
  • Apply deodorant. I prefer Thai Crystal spray, because it has no aluminum.
  • Take medication, vitamins, and/or apply oils. This, I have to do to manage my thyroid issues. RAW Garden of Life vitamins help me feel much better.
  • Put on something that makes you feel good. Whether it’s a favorite pair of earrings, a nice lotion or perfume, a pretty scarf, or a quick dab of makeup, find something you like and use it. I put on some lip balm or gloss.
  • Sticky notes on my mirror remind me to do these things every day, saying, “face, hair, teeth” and “balm, oils, deodorant.” When establishing a routine, these written reminders are vital.

I don’t worry about getting dressed when we first bring baby home. We mamas need some upkeep, but staying in pajamas for those first days gives your unconscious mind permission to nap at any moment. Visitors tend to behave more gently when they see you in sleep clothes, too. Then after a while, it will be time to apply a tad more maintenance to stave off the blues.

When I get to two weeks post-partum, I get dressed “down to shoes” every day, so I can be ready go or do anything at a moment’s notice. Need something out of the car? Is a dog trying to play rough with another critter outside? Do you have a moment’s notice that you can hitch a ride to town for groceries today? Dress for  the unexpected every day, and the unexpected will be powerless to stress you.

Keeping these habits has gotten me through college days; establishing my own household; recovering from a stillbirth, a vaginal birth, and a C-section surgery; and having my twins in NICU for five weeks. I mean it. Take care of yourself for a few minutes daily, and you can get through a lot.

Ultimately, my Heavenly Father carried me through every transition and crisis. Self-love alone does not help anyone much. By prayer, love of my Maker, caring for the body and soul He gave me, and loving my neighbors as myself, I got through. Though they aren’t my savior, these self-care routines have been instrumental in keeping my spirits high and my attention focused on the One Who matters most.

Well, Mama, I guess I’ll be talking to you again in about a week. You have done a good job, helping your little one grow and make it to the outside world. Now, take care of yourself!

*Thanks to Marla Cilley, the FlyLady, for her constant encouragement and inspiration.

This post is the first in a series called “Dear Mama.”