The Morning We Had an Epic Dance Party

The school year is back in full swing, and I now have two in Elementary school (and one close behind in preschool!).  Our evenings come with spelling words, activities and decent bedtimes.  The Little Years are quickly coming to an end, and I find myself in this whole new stage of parenting without even realizing I’ve entered it.

During the Little Years, the days are long and often times exhausting.  You’re depended on for every little thing.  You need to kiss owies, get more Goldfish and help them learn not to throw themselves on the floor when they don’t get the things they want.  Your days are consumed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and wondering if you’re doing enough.  You’re worried about if they’re walking on time and if they are learning to share and be kind.  You’re working hard to make sure they learn manners, their letters and numbers, and are respectful of others.  The Little Years are full of challenges, and for the last several years, that’s all I’ve known.  But these last few weeks, I’ve realized just how much my Littles are becoming Big Kids.

Ever since the school year has started, Wyatt has inevitably forgotten something at school.  Whether it be his jacket, his lunch box or his KIT binder (which contains his spelling words and weekly Bible verse!  He always seemed to forget this on Fridays too so we were scrambling over the weekends!) something was always left behind.  My frustration was starting to grow.  I’ll be honest, my instinct was consequences.  Take away his Kindle time if he forgets his binder again?  Lose some of his monthly allowance?  I was still mulling this whole situation over.  Then on a Thursday morning, I went to get his snack bags to get his snacks ready for the day…and they were not in his backpack.  That’s it! went through my mind.  What can I do about this?!  But then I had this huge realization: if I didn’t write things down in my planner, I’d forget pretty much everything I need to do.  How can I punish my child for something I struggle with myself?!  While Wyatt was brushing his teeth that morning, I got out a sticky note and wrote “Do you have…” along with a list of the items he needed to bring home each night.  We took the sticky note to school and his teacher taped it to his desk where he can see it every single day.  Guess what?  He hasn’t forgotten a thing since that day.

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Isaac has been having a rough transition to full day school.  He went Tuesdays and Thursdays for full days in pre-k last year, but now it’s full time.  Monday through Friday.  That’s been tough on him.  The first week was great.  It was exciting and new.  The last few weeks, not so much.  He’s cried most mornings because he doesn’t want to go to school, and when you ask him why, he says “It’s just so long!”  We had a discussion about how if he doesn’t go to school, Mommy and Daddy get in trouble with the police, and it’s not really an option.  That seemed to help… for about a week.  Yesterday when I woke him up for school, it was the worst meltdown yet.  My heart broke for him.  I tried to talk to him, but my emotional Little Bug, when he gets that worked up, there’s no talking to him.  I racked my brain.  He was getting help with schoolwork and handwriting.  He was making new friends.  When I picked him up from school, he was happy and excited and went on and on about his day.  The issue was only in the morning when getting ready for school.  So at dinner (when we weren’t in the middle of a meltdown), I asked him again, “Hey Buddy, how come you don’t like going to school in the mornings?”  His response (and yes it took all of me not to laugh) “I just need something to get me pumped up and excited for school in the mornings!”

So this morning, I woke him up.  I told him to hurry up, make his bed and get dressed then come upstairs for breakfast because we were going to have a dance party!  I had an entire play list of upbeat songs just for the kiddos.  When he came upstairs, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was blasting from my phone, and I was dancing up a storm.  Isaac giggled,  Logan busted out some preschooler-hip-hop moves and Wyatt gave me the “you’re-weird-mom” look (yes, we’re entering that stage), but had a smirk and was soon picking songs with the rest of them.  Music played all through breakfast.  The Boys were ready in record time for school.  All smiles.  No tears.  It was awesome!

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As I thought about the whole experience this morning, I realized my parenting role was slightly changing.  My role isn’t so much to fix things for them any more, but to help them figure out how to deal with obstacles and situations.  Wyatt didn’t need consequences to help him remember to bring his things home each night.  He needed me to help him figure out how to remember to bring his things home.  There may still be underlying issues with Isaac and school (that we are working through with Occupational Therapy), but he needed me to help him figure out how to have a positive attitude and get excited, even when it’s not something we necessarily want to do.

I want my Boys to be respectful, kind, caring men.  I want them to learn to process and deal with their problems and obstacles, not blame them on others or expect others to fix them.  I want my boys to learn that when they work hard for things they want, when they finally get them, they are so much sweeter.  I want my boys to take responsibility for their actions, to help others out the of the goodness of their hearts and always have a positive attitude.  And these are the years to instill those values.  Right now, when their problems are little, and I can help them solve them.  Right now, when their biggest obstacles are forgetting lunch boxes and not being a morning person.  Right now, before the problems get bigger and harder and more complex.

I have thoroughly loved the Little Years, and I’m clinging to Logan’s last one like nobody’s business.  I will forever wish my Babies were little again and will forever wish I had rocked them one last time.  But I’m also realizing that these Big Kid years are just as rewarding.  They are reading and learning new skills.  They can rationalize and start naming their emotions.  They still have the innocence of the Little Years, and just like I’m soaking up every last bit of Logan’s last Little Year, I’ll cling to these Big Kid years too.

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Because more than anything, I want my Boys to know I love them unconditionally.  I love them with the fierce love that my Savior has for me.  I want them to know that their little feelings of not wanting to get up in the morning matter so much to me, that I will throw an epic dance party to help them start the day right.  I want them to know that I can help them solve forgetting their binder at school so that they trust that I can help them solve bigger problems when the time comes.

The world is full of complex issues.  Real-life problems are so much harder than a simple sticky note, and it’s our job as parents to prepare them for that.  So we start small.  We start with giving them confidence in the little things so that when they face the big ones, they feel adequately prepared and know that we are always there to help navigate those issues…and have an epic dance party if needed.

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The Day We Skipped Baseball.

I feel like it needs to be said right from the get-go that Greg and I are firm believers that if you commit to something, you see it through.  Wyatt finished out his summer soccer season last year even though he strongly disliked it after the first week.  Baseball would be no different for Isaac.  Now Isaac doesn’t necessarily hate baseball…he’d just rather play in the dirt than pay any attention to what’s going on.  But, he wanted to play baseball, so we signed him up (and paid the money!), so he will finish the summer season out.

This morning though, this morning as I was drinking my coffee having some quiet moments with Jesus (because my house was still quiet at 7:30am!), I started hearing this whimpering that escalated to wailing.  I wandered down the hall to figure out which Little needed consoling so early in the morning.  (Let’s be completely honest here- I was mildly pretty darn irritated that I was already having to deal with a meltdown.  I mean, no one had even come out of their room yet!)  I figure out it’s Isaac, go into his room, ask him what’s up and get… “I don’t want to to go to baseballllllll today!” We chatted (or I tried to chat, he continued to whine at me about not wanting to go) back and forth for a minute before I just turned and walked back to the living room, leaving him to whine.

You see, I had this conundrum going on.  On one hand, I didn’t want him to think that by whining about something so atrociously, he would get what he wanted.  On the other hand, I’d noticed all three of my kiddos had been acting out lately.  Way more than normal kids being kids things.  (Last night, we ran errands and it…was…awful.)  Even at home, just the general disobedience and attitudes had escalated in the last week or so.  Isaac seemed to speak in an incessantly whiny voice.  Wyatt was pushing buttons and picking on his brothers.  Logan was literally losing his cool over every little scratch he got.  Consequences had become more frequent and stronger.  My patience was wearing thin.  My Mama-soul was tired.

But yesterday I read this post by an acquaintance of mine on Facebook.  She and her husband have adopted three of their five children.  The adopted Littles were adopted from overseas and spent some agonizing time in orphanages.  She had written a post about how one of them reverts to his behaviors that stem from his orphanage trauma every once in a while through no fault of his own.  This particular day, this had happened…and she had wanted to punish him for his unacceptable behavior- have a time out, lose a privilege, something!  Instead though, she took him for some one-on-one time.  She loved on him.  For him, it was quality time that showed him unconditional love.

There is much, much more to the story than this short little blurb, and I can’t pretend that this even remotely relates to what that sweet boy goes through, but Jesus used that post to speak to my mama-heart in a very real way.  I realized these last two weeks, we’d been running a lot which means I’d been having to squeeze work in in-between all the running.  My stress level was higher which means my patience was thinner.  All day yesterday, I thought about that post.  All day it was on my heart.  My quality time with my Babies was lacking, and they were letting me know the best way their little hearts could.

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So today, we skipped baseball.  While the boys played, I secretly packed up a lunch.  We made a stop at the Welcome House to drop off some milk, sugar and bread we had picked up the night before which led to an amazing discussion on serving others whenever we can.  Then, I surprised them with a day at the zoo.  I mean, the entire day.  And we went at their speed.  Every section of the zoo became a world they “battled” their way through in some imaginary game they had started at home.  We made multiple trips back to the bathrooms which led to going through the same exhibit multiple times.  We had lunch by the camels.  We rode the train.  We had ice cream.  I let them run.  I let them have their adventures.  And I will never forget when we’d been there a few hours.  The boys were playing on the playground, and Wyatt came running over to me and put his arms around me.  He just sat there like that for a while, turned and looked at me and said “I love you, Mom” and then he was back to looking for some gopher (bad guy) that had gone into his hole by the swans.

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Mamas, don’t blink!  Our time with our Babies is so, so precious and so, so fleeting.  Don’t underestimate the simple things.  It doesn’t have to be a big spectacle or a meticulously planned vacation.  It just needs to simply be.  I know we hear this all the time, but I feel like the more we hear it, the more it begins to fall on deaf ears.  Since losing Clara, I’ve made conscious efforts to be with my kids more and to cherish that time.  I’ve made it a point to use my time more wisely so that I don’t miss out on these little years with my Babies.  While there are times the days seem so, so long, these days are also such precious gifts.  These are days we are blessed to have.

I needed that quality time just as much as they did today.  Today I saw the best behavior, the best attitudes, the best listening I’ve seen in weeks.  Today  had the most patience I’ve had in weeks.  I wasn’t annoyed by the little stories I’ve heard over and over…and over.  Today my tone was softer.  Today I didn’t worry about work, finances, life.  Today I was present with my boys at the zoo.  Today I watched from afar as the three of them played on a bridge, and my entire soul smiled.

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Today was one of the best days ever.