The Joy of 3 Little Ones

Today I have 3 napping children and some time on my hands!

Meet the newest member of our family:  Theresa Jane who was born February 19th and will be 4 months old tomorrow!  She’s tiny and weighs less than 11 pounds right now, but super happy and smiley.  She enjoys cooing loudly, rolling onto her tummy and has been sleeping like a champ- about 10 hours straight.  My hope is that this continues and she’ll be my first baby to actually sleep at night.

Loved by her big brother and sister

Adored by her big brother and sister

Sometimes they like to copy her

Sometimes they like to copy her

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Everybody asks me how life is with 3.  And to my complete surprise, it’s been beautiful.  My expectations of these early months have been exceedingly surpassed. After the painful first month and the sleep deprived first 2-3 months, Theresa has become a very sweet and wonderful baby who brightens up her whole family’s lives.  The kids and I get out as much as before with playdates, the zoo, museum and playing outside with neighbors.

I thought for sure I’d have some form of depression as I did after my first two; but so far, no signs of it.  It seems we were  in survival mode only a brief time and have already begun thriving.

The title of my blog is about searching for freedom. Over the past several months I have finally taken some baby steps in this direction and have some experiences to share, but I’ll save that for another post.

Here’s a few more pictures of what we’ve been up to  since Theresa was born.

Theresa a few hours old

Celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary

Celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary

Leo's 4th birthday party

Leo’s 4th birthday party

Celebrating Leo's 4th birthday with a train ride at the zoo.

Celebrating Leo’s 4th birthday with a train ride at the zoo.

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The Beautiful Twists in Time

Time is passing all around.

It passes with the sunny wind

and the rain on my roof.

It whispers in my ear…

My children are fighting gravity, growing up, up.

Their eyes grow brighter, their mouths smarter.

A little baby kicks in my womb.

The circle of life, going round again.

My God takes care of me.  He knows every corner of my heart.

I praise Him for these gifts I was once reluctant to take,

and for this life I didn’t think was right for me,

is more beautiful than I’d imagined.

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An update before I settle back into writing.

Well, I took quite a hiatus from blogging.  I think that before I jump back in to thoughtful posts, I need to fill you in on my ever-changing life to give you some perspective on my experiences.

Real quick like:

-It’s been a potty-training summer, but success with both of my toddlers

-Leo turned 3

-Silvia turned 2

-We’re having another baby in February (already halfway there)

-I’m working for my friend a couple days a week as a nanny.  I bring my 2 kids.  And her 3 kids are all younger than Leo, so it’s a crowd of miniature people.

Those are the biggest changes, but here’s some photos:

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Leo’s 3rd birthday party!

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What we did on Silvia’s 2nd birthday.

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At a baseball game in July

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Indiana State fair in August

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Last night we finally got a babysitter and went out for dinner on our anniversary.  A beautiful evening

Our 4th Anniversary in June

Moments to be Grateful For

How blessed I feel to be spending these days with my children.  We’ve been getting out of the house almost every day on an adventure together.  We’ve gone to the zoo, the park, a coffeehouse (which has toys for kids), a walk to the market, partly around the 100-acre woods, the splash pad, friends’ houses…and more.

Trying to climb into the polar bear's lair

Trying to climb into the polar bear’s lair

Yesterday morning, I had plans to go to the zoo with my friend and Joe said he was jealous.  There was a time when I was jealous that he got to get out of the house and go to work.  Times have changed, and the kids have grown and gotten easier to take on outings or play by themselves in the yard.  I know that I am so lucky to be home with them.

Children's museum

Children’s museum

One afternoon this week, it was a beautiful sunny day and we were in our backyard when the storm clouds appeared.  We went inside to change into our bathing suits and then the three of us went back outside to play in the rain.  They threw rocks in puddles and I showed Silvia how fun the slide is when it’s wet.  We went inside and I gave them a bath and when they were done, it was hailing balls about a 1/2 inch in size!

rain, rain, it's ok.  you can stay for just today

rain, rain, it’s ok. you can stay for just today

She was walking away, but every time I said "smile", she would walk back and get in the camera's face before the picture would take

She was walking away, but every time I said “smile”, she would walk back and get in the camera’s face before the picture would take

Today, I had to catch up on dishes and make a big lunch, so the kids played outside by themselves for a long time.  I would check on them every so often, and they’d be crouched down making a mud pile or playing with rocks.  When I came outside, I found the broom from the front porch on the outside of our front fence.  Leo must have tossed it over.  When they came inside, they put blankets over their heads and walked around, bumping into things.  Leo kept saying “hewoh (hello) ghost guy”, since they were pretending to be ghosts.  Then they spun themselves around in circles until they were dizzy and laughing and falling over.   I told them to tell each other night-night before their naps, and they gave each other a kiss.  Leo frequently asks if Silvia can nap in his bed with him, but we say she’s not old enough yet.

Leo spinning Silvia's chair and saying "baby go wost (fast)" and "hold on tight"

Leo spinning Silvia’s chair and saying “baby go wost (fast)” and “hold on tight”

Thankfully, my little beauties are napping well today 🙂

 

Mothers with Young Children Need Help! Let’s Talk about How

For the past couple months, life with my 2 1/2 year old and 1 1/2 year old has seemed….pretty manageable.  It’s to the point, where I’m like….should I have another baby?  Because I should just be jumping back on the crazy train as soon as I’ve caught my breath, right?  I’ve started reading more, writing more, cleaning more, and just lounging more.  And then I got the urge to volunteer my time in some way.  Rather than sitting around, enjoying how easy I have it and thinking about me, me, me; I wanted to figure out a way to help others, with my 2 little ones in tow.  Near and dear to my heart is helping other mothers who are buried deep in the trenches of motherhood.

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Back when we had a 15 month old and a newborn.

I have some friends who have just had or are having their 3rd baby and their oldest is 2 1/2 or younger.  I can only imagine how challenging and tiring that would be. That could’ve been me had God not taken pity on my sanity and given me time to figure out NFP without another surprise during the confusing early months when Silvia was a newborn.  I respect my friends and their sacrifice to faithfully practice or attempt to practice NFP even with children so close together, and I want to help.  I want to be God’s hands, cleaning their houses, making them dinners, and keeping their older kids busy.  I know that God won’t give them more than they can handle and that He will carry them through the difficult times, but maybe God wants to use me to physically carry them through.  In this very manageable season that I’m in, maybe it’s my turn to reach out and help.  Also, I already have my own help.  My two neighbor girls, aged 11 and 7, are answers to my prayers for help that I cried out years ago.

Today, I brought my kids to my friend’s house and the four toddlers played together while she and her husband took their newborn to a doctor appointment and then did a little housecleaning.  I did my best to help clean, too. I could have stayed all day and cleaned (cuz I’m weird and actually enjoy it), but alas, there were 4 toddlers to help take care of.  I’ve made plans with her to make this a weekly event for a while.

I’m still brainstorming ways to help all these moms that need help.  In our modern world of isolation, I want to build communities and networks that have each other’s backs.  We and many of our friends don’t have family in town.  It can be so difficult to get help without paying your left arm for a babysitter.   When a crisis pops up and the babysitter isn’t around, it’s important to have a safety net of people you can turn to.

I’ve thought about something like a co-op daycare, where moms could drop their kids off for a few hours while a couple of other moms babysit together; and then they all switch babysitting duties the next time.  In busy seasons, where moms have newborns, they would be exempt temporarily from babysitting duties, but could still drop their kids off.

My friend thought that moms should just swap babysitting and/or cleaning with another mom.

Also, what we need is more “big” kids to help out like my neighbor girls.  They are at an age where they love little kids and find them so adorable; so they like to play with them.  Leo loves big kids because they run around with him, play hide and seek and push him on the swing.  They don’t take his toys like the other toddlers do.  They are kind of like older siblings and they can be mommy’s helpers at home while she cooks,cleans, works on something or just relaxes.   My little sister babysat (without charging) for a large family for several years.  She started when she was in middle school and continued to babysit throughout high school.  The mom would work from home on her business or do housework while my sister was there.  I see now what a blessing she was for that family.

Do you have any ideas on how to help moms with young children?  Or how to build up communities?  I’d love to hear them.

 

Part 2: Modern-Day Parenting in America: Unintended Consequences

True to being a Sociology major, I got interested in the topic of narcissism and rented the book “The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement” from the library.  The book talks about many aspects of narcissism like entitlement, seeking fame, the mortgage crisis, celebrity obsession and parenting practices to name a few.  I’m going to focus on modern-day parenting.

I was born in the late 80’s.  So mostly, I grew up in the 90’s and 2000’s.  There was (and still is) a growing self-esteem movement which caused practices like “participation” ribbons and trophies.  I remember getting 5th place, 6th place ribbons and “participation” ribbons, which I threw away.  Why is that anything to be proud of?  Also, the first year that I entered high school, a new rule declared that students would not be told their class ranking.  We were told if we were in the top 10% (although an error caused them to keep track of the top 20% instead; they didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the students they’d accidentally placed in the top 10%.)  I can only assume the point of this was so that students wouldn’t feel bad if they weren’t in the top of the class and also to eliminate friendly competition (which seems like a good motivator to me)??

Why did this change occur in my school? Was it that teachers and principles felt they needed to protect the students’ self-esteem?  Or was it helicopter parents trying to shelter their kids from the reality that a lack of effort typically earns a bad grade.  helicopter parentingMaybe it is embarrassing for the parents to have a child who fails at something.  I’ve noticed the trend that parents seem to want “bragging rights” about their child, as if their child is a trophy to be shown off. (Like the stickers on cars: “My child is an honor roll student”).  Consequently, if their child does slack off or fail, the parents still want the child to receive special treatment and be forgiven their faults, which does not help them learn from their mistakes.  My personal theory as to why parents have placed so much of their own self-worth in their children is that we are a people who are lost.  More and more, we are turning away from religion, but what are we turning to?  I think many of us are adrift (including myself much of the time).  I love this quote by Walker Percy: “You live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.”   Maybe parents are clinging to their offspring and trying to live vicariously through them or to show everyone how successful they are because their kids are successful.

There is a lot of pressure on teachers to give theirs students good grades.  A teacher friend of mine said that she’s had parents who were perfectly sweet to her face, but then wrote nasty emails ordering her to give their child more chances to turn in homework or to receive extra credit.  explainAnother friend of mine doesn’t want to go back to teaching in part because of the parents she had to deal with.  Children need to fail so they don’t become fragile adults who cannot cope with the real world and all of its’ hardships and rejection.  Also, children who are protected from failing often take less risks because failure is an unknown and scary idea.  One can’t go very far in life without taking some risks.  All of the great names in history tried and failed many times before they gained success.  They learned the most from their mistakes.

Grade inflation is a phenomenon that I noticed while I was in high school.  It seemed to me that the average person was not getting a “C” anymore.  Students today get better grades for doing less than their counterparts from the 1970’s.  This teaches kids that they don’t have to work very hard to be successful, which does not meet reality or prepare them for the real world.  In a study, children did better when praised for working hard because they could repeat that behavior or improve upon it.  Children were afraid to try again if praised for being smart because they might fail the next time and no longer be “smart”.

This obsession with self-esteem is harming our children and we can already see the effect of it in my generation and the kids of today.  Society and parents are overpraising children, overpraisingeven for the littlest achievements or poor performances.  Kids are told throughout their childhood how special they are.  They come to expect praise for every effort they apply and are not equipped to handle failure.  They grow up feeling entitled to success and are shocked when they get out of college and find that a job is not waiting for them on a silver platter.  In fact, some have never worked a job before they graduate from college, because their parents wanted them to focus on their academics.  Now these  jobless graduates do not have the perseverance or the understanding that they need to apply to 150 jobs before they get an interview.  Instead, they settle back into their parent’s house and play video games while tossing up a job application or two, all the while blaming the economy or their bad luck.  Americans have passed up the not-so-glamorous jobs like trash collectors, lawn maintenance and house cleaners because rather than get a mundane job to support themselves or their family, they feel they deserve better and won’t settle for less.  In reality, it would make more sense if they worked any job and also kept their eyes open and applied hard for jobs they’re interested in.

Self-esteem should come after success.  Self-esteem does not cause better grades, test scores or job performance.  Americans have higher self-esteem, but perform worse on standardized tests than many other countries.  Within the U.S., Asian Americans are the ethnic group with the lowest self-esteem, but they achieve the highest academic performance.  Self-admiration is not promoted as much in other countries.  Many other cultures focus on self-criticism and working on one’s weaknesses as the key to success.  Mothers and grandmothers in Taiwan both agreed that self-esteem is not very important.  Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese do not even have a word for the concept of self-esteem.

Americans seem to have an inflated sense of self because their self-esteem was always boosted and protected despite their average or poor work.  Kids are special to their parents, but not to the rest of the world.  It’s not helpful for parents to teach their kids that they are special and deserve special treatment, because they will never be treated as special in the real world.  Even if they are above average in some area, they should be taught humility because no one likes an arrogant jerk.  This seems to be counter-cultural at the moment, but parents and society should be teaching children that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  Sadly, all the of the TV shows targeted at kids, the commercials, the advertisements and so on are teaching the opposite.  (“If you use this product you’ll be special.”  Or “Buy this! You deserve it!”)  A quote from the book: “Compared to earlier generations, we’re emotionally closer to our kids.  They confide in us more, and we have more fun with them.  But we’re too indulgent.  We give our kids too much and demand too little of them.”  Overindulged children lead to outcomes like the 7 deadly sins: pride, wrath, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust and greed.

No generation has ever done parenting perfectly.  It’s important to recognize the cultural tides and fads in parenting styles of our generation so we can take a step back and decide if these are the values we want to pass on to our kids.  Most likely, we’re in the same battle, so together let’s take up the fight against our increasingly narcissistic culture.  Materialism, narcissism and entitlement are all things I hope to avoid passing on, despite the constant bombardment of these things all around me.  I’m not going to worry about my kids’ self-esteem.  I’m going to focus on whether they are serving other people enough….whether they are grateful for what they have…..whether they are working hard and building character….and how well they are loving those around them.

You can read Part 1 here.

Parenting in Modern-Day America

Parents with younger kids: Do you worry if you’re stimulating your kids enough?  Do you wonder if you should be doing more crafts with them or reading more books to them?  If you’re giving them enough attention?  Feeding them super healthy? Do you worry you are screwing them up based on the parenting philosophy you’ve chosen?  Parents with older kids:  Do you worry if you are giving your kids the best education?  Do you worry about their future careers and if they’ll get into a good college?  Their self-esteem and their success?  Their safety? Their health?

CALM DOWN!  (And I’m saying this to myself, too)

If you compare the lives of kids today with those throughout the history of the human race, we have thankfully come a long way.

Basically, throughout time, children were looked at as little adults.  They “came of age” young and began apprenticeships or worked little jobs to help feed their families.    saggar_ladsIf they didn’t work outside the house, many worked around the house and weren’t able to attend school regularly.  Many didn’t learn how to read or write. Girls were married off young, even before the teenage years or adolescence.  There wasn’t much of a childhood.  I suppose I’m thinking mostly of the poor or working class, but that was the majority of people throughout time.

Today, our children can’t get a formal job until they’re 15.  Education is mandatory.  Deadly diseases are not seen as a huge threat to children. They have a long childhood full of play and stimulation.  kidsAs long as we parent them with love, we need not stress and obsess about all the details. Kids are incredibly resilient, despite what some modern “experts” say in laying guilt upon us.  I used to think I might damage my kids by letting them “cry it out” and that they wouldn’t learn to trust me.  I’ve come to realize that these are just small details in their lives and if they grow up in a loving family, these details aren’t going to be more significant than all the other millions of details of how we talk to them each day, how we discipline them, how we hug and kiss them.  I have opinions on what is a preferable way to raise kids, but I’m realizing that kids will be just fine in thousands of different scenarios and who am I to judge what other parents are doing if their kids are not being abused or neglected?

Whether or not parents keep their kids at home or send them to daycare and public school.  Whether or not they cry-it-out or are rocked to sleep.  Whether or not they eat organically or a basic healthy diet (junk food, GMOs and other non-real food is a modern problem, I’ll admit).  Whether or not they can read by age 4 or by age 10.  If they never go on a vacation or go 20x while growing up. If they go to college or not.  If they become a trash collector or a CEO.  These are mostly first world worries.  And they do not define what we should really be concerned about.

 My biggest concern for modern children is that they run a higher risk of becoming spoiled or entitled or narcissistic.  These are the attitudes that cripple them and prevent them from living happy, free and successful adult lives.

How many toys or gadgets do they have?  Do they feel they are owed these things or that they deserve these and other shiny things that catch their eye?  Are they learning the importance of helping around the house as young kids and developing a good work ethic as older kids?  Do they think they are special and deserve special treatment?  Will they be able to live independent adult lives or will they be babied their whole lives and always taught to rely on their parents for phone payments, a car, someone to harass the teacher about a grade on a college paper.  (This helicopter parenting has actually reached college.  Aside from the stories I’ve read, my sister, a college professor, has even dealt with parents trying to complain or advocate for their “child’s” grade!)

This post is part 1 in a series relating to modern parenting.  The next post will be on the book The Narcissism Epidemic:Living in the Age of Entitlement.

Previous Older Entries

The Art of Making a Home

Finding that elusive thing called freedom

Our Family's Blessings

Finding that elusive thing called freedom

Camp Patton

Finding that elusive thing called freedom

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because moms have eyes on everything

janyceresh

If sarcasm and self deprecating humour were an Olympic event I'd definitely qualify.

Simple Life Happenings

Finding that elusive thing called freedom