Naptime with Theo and Beau: Just in Time for a Sweet Valentine

Naptime with Theo and BeauI would imagine, if you spent any time online in the last two years, you have seen at least one picture of Theo & Beau. Jessica, of Mommas Gone City, hit the parenting jackpot when she adopted a puppy at the same time she was raising a baby and they both happened to love napping at the same time.

She decided to record her lucky naptimes and the pictures in all their heart-crushing glory quickly spread from instagram to morning news to every online publication imaginable. Now, lucky for all of us, Theo & Beau and their naptime antics are forever captured in a beautiful book. Each and every picture is better than the last and both adults and children alike will fall in love with this adorable puppy & boy combination.

Naptime with Theo and Beau is available now for preorder on Amazon and would make an excellent gift for the puppy lovers in your life. If you place your order before February 3rd, you can send your receipt into the publisher, and you will get a free signed bookplate by Jessica Shyba with  a special message from Theo and Beau.

Of course, you can also follow Jessica on Instagram for even more Theo & Beau (and new baby Evvie too!) Jessica’s pictures are beautiful every day. She has such a gift for capturing the beauty in every day life. Her personal warmth and love for her family show through every single photo. Don’t miss out.

Passing Down the Unmentionables: An Inspired Post

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At dinner the other night, the kids and I were talking about what traits of theirs The Husband and I recognized as our own. In other words, what have we passed down, for better or worse, to our kids?
It turned into a funny conversation about my reactions to noticing certain behaviors in my kids. The Middle One recalled a time when he was so mad at a friend he told his sister about his wishes to do bodily harm to the boy.

My response was that I was glad I didn’t know about said incident because I would have inevitably started google researching how to identify sociopathic tendencies in a seven-year old. Yep, despite knowing how gentle and kind my kid is, that one utterance would have sent me over the edge with worry that his simple, angry turn of phrase meant deeper, darker mental health issues on the horizon.

Irrational? Yes, but worry always is for me.

My youngest, who has spent the better part of the year trying to unearth the mystery of his behavior issues at school, said to me in that moment, “So, mom, I get my crazy from you.”

Oh. Dear.

Let me be clear, my little man is not crazy. We just throw that word around more than we probably should in a politically correct house anytime we’re talking about our quirks. What we do know about the youngest is that he has a tendency to extrapolate pretty far and deep in the name of fear. He has extreme reactions to any and all incidents that cause him concern and many incidents cause him concern. Sound familiar? (Hint, see above google research reference.)

It seems my boy (and I) has some difficulty regulating the size and scope of his worry and that worry and the deeper fears that cause it, can sometimes cause him great strife.

For a long time I, of course, worried about the worst with him. Would he become so difficult at school, he’d require home instruction. Would home instruction then mean never wanting to leave home. In short, I went to the deep, dark place of his future as and agoraphobic paranoid because of my own fears.
Then he pointed out he gets his crazy from me and I sure couldn’t argue.

Strangely, this realization gives me hope. No, I don’t recognize the intense anger that seems to be a symptom of his fear, but I do recognize the fear, frustration and shame that comes with that fear. And of course, I see how the frustration and shame just make the whole vicious cycle worse. I am intimately familiar with the building blocks of anxiety and shame that can often threaten to stack into an insurmountable mountain. Thankfully, so far, there has been no mountain I can’t climb with a lot of work, both mental and physical. Yes, there are nights the swirling thoughts keep me up all hours, and of course my browser history will point to an ongoing tendency to prepare for the worst, but so far I’ve always been able to beat it all back before it gets too much so that I can go forward the next day and live a pretty great life.

I have managed the thoughts that love to spin far into the dark and twisty and trained them to remain just thoughts, not suffocating realities. As my baby fights the same tendencies of worry and shame, here’s hoping I passed on the strong parts of myself too, not just my crazy. Because with my strength (or maybe just his own) he can manage the thoughts and the worry and live a pretty great life with me.

 

This post was inspired by the novel If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie. It is about a boy who’s never been outside, because of his mother’s agoraphobia, but ventures out in order to solve a mystery. Join From Left to Write on January 22nd as we discuss If I Fall, If I Die. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Parenting Lessons…in Driver’s Ed?

This weekend The Girl and I attended a safe driving class at a Toyota Dealership. I know, she’s young, but the opportunity presented itself and it seemed right so we went. I argued that she’s still young enough to listen to me, so I better strike while the iron is hot.

She resisted so much that I almost cancelled and other than her crashing the car during the simulated driving experience, I’m not sure she’d tell you she had fun, but I was so glad we went. It turned out to be a nice day together and I learned a few things about parenting that I thought I already had covered but saw instead that I needed a little work.

I need a little more pixie dust in my toolbox.

I need a little more pixie dust in my toolbox.

We did an exercise where we had to list qualities of a great coach and then rate ourselves.  The Girl, never one for conforming, wanted us to rate each other instead. I got high marks in things like patience and fairness (kinda surprising, actually) and low marks in consistency, predictability and encouraging. The first two surprised me and when I talked to her about it afterward it turns out we had different definitions for those traits. She agreed that as far as routines, rules and expectations I was both predictable and consistent (phew!) but she rated me low because she said I  sometimes I do goofy things or change plans to add in fun which was neither predictable or consistent. I’ll take low marks if it means she thinks I’m fun!

The score that was low that, sadly, didn’t surprise me, was for  encouraging. I know I ride my kids too much sometimes and I have high expectations for each of them. I try to tailor those expectations around their individual strengths, but it turns out high expectations aren’t enough.  I’m not doing enough cheerleading when they reach them and that can be discouraging.

I know this. I’m painfully aware of this but until now I thought I was compensating enough that I was the only one who noticed.

In a conversation that followed, my girl, close to tears, admitted it’s hard sometimes when people just expect the best from you and never congratulate you when you get it. Now, I’d argue the “never” part of that statement, but no matter what I think, her perspective hit me loud and clear-she doesn’t feel like we celebrate her enough and that plain stinks.

It’s not just at home. She’s feeling it at school as well, where she sees the kids who act out getting out of being in trouble while she’s feeling pressure from teachers to perform 100%, yet some of them can’t even get her name right. It seems her predictability and consistency has her feeling like she’s blending into the background. And The Girl hates nothing more than blending.

I can’t control the school environment and I told her that and coached her a bit in how sometimes you work with and for people who aren’t outward encouragers and  you just have to find validation elsewhere (I would know.). I can’t change school but I can change my own behavior. I have to, she’s flat out asked me to.

I am not a cheerleader. I hung up those white Tretorns in the 8th grade and buried any bit of rah rah I had left in me.

I am strong. I will fight for my children like a mama bear when I need and as witnessed by my girl, I can be goofy and fun. But encouraging? Clearly, I need to work on that. I know I say every night that I love them and am proud of them. I even try to point out one thing from the day I am particularly proud of. But she’s not hearing any of that at a time when she needs it most and I have to do something about that.

I am totally certain there is no way I can match her level of enthusiasm. The Girl has life-spirit in spades. But I can try to point out more that is great. I can try to celebrate her more. I can try to encourage and cheerlead. I can stretch totally out of my even-keeled, middle of the road, consistent and predictable comfort zone and pull some rah-rah out for my kids.

After all, they’re telling me they need it and I better listen while they still hear me.

The Other Side of the Table

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Alex, Dan and Luis. Those three names and the boys that go with them are forever etched in my memory. They were second graders in my classroom when I was a first year teacher. Alex came from a chaotic household. Mom was trying her best, but there were many mountains for them to climb and school, with its rules and structure and challenging work, was not a place that Alex wanted to be and he let me know, daily, with fits of rage that got so physical I often came home with bruised shins from kicks landed just so.

Luis was also in my second grade class but the age, height and weight of a fourth grader. He had arrived at the home of his father and step mother from the streets of El Salvador mere weeks before the start of school. He had physical disabilities as a result of the of surviving either scarlet fever or polio, no one was ever quite clear with me which it was. Regardless, he limped and held his arm up and close to his body, making him a topic of conversation as he gleefully chased the other second graders around the playground hoping to join in their game while they ran away, unsure if they wanted him to. Luis also spoke only three words of English: please, yes and no. The no usually came in repeated succession when he was lying, prone and starfished, on the floor of the classroom and it was clear the “no” was a plea for all the madness in his little world to stop.

Then there was Dan. Blond-haired, blue-eyed Dan from the suburban family with two parents and a little sister. He was smart, funny and everyone in class loved him. He was my star student, the one I could count on to just keep working through the chaos of that second grade room. Dan was fantastic and for one solid year his anxiety levels were so high that he chewed through the collars of shirts at school and in the safety and calm of his home broke down for his mother enough times that she came seeking help too.

I sat across the table at Child Study team meetings with the parents of Luis, Alex and Dan multiple times throughout second grade, looking for answers to the problems we all faced trying to safely and effectively educate them in a low-stress environment.  Each kid presented differently. And each kid, no matter their profile and what we thought could, should or might be the presenting issue, surprised us with evaluation results, encouraged us with progress, or left us feeling useless in our inability to make their life better. I loved those kids with a ferocity I had never known. I wanted the best for them and was willing to do whatever I needed to make their days better. Continue Reading