Gratitude for my Parents

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


I talk about my parents occasionally on the blog, but their presence is in every post. It shines through the help my parents provide to make each post possible. My mother is especially supportive, she provides many of the pictures seen on the blog and the time watching Jai so I can write.

So for today, I wanted to express my gratitude for my parents who are huge cornerstones in my life. I find writing posts such as these to be extremely difficult because it’s hard to encompass all that I love and appreciate about my parents in a succinct way. The English language is flawed in many ways because there aren’t proper words to express the depth and breadth of my appreciation.

I will try my best despite this shortcoming.

My Mother

My mother is my biggest fan. She’ll be the first to tell you that. Which I think tends to be the case for a lot of mothers. I know that I am a fan of Jai and when he starts doing cooperative group activities, or activities in general, I will be one of his greatest fans.

Her mantra for me growing up was that I could do whatever I wanted to do, so do what I love. I stumbled along the way, my diagnosis catching me off guard and I took a couple of detours, but I am finally doing what I love: writing on a near-daily basis for an audience.

The only reason why I am able to do this is my wonderful and supportive mother. Jai is a handful now that he’s a toddler and sitting down during my peak energy hours to do my writing is near impossible because it coincides with his most active play time. She makes the journey several times a week to watch Jai for a few hours while I write, do extra work, or clean without worrying about him getting underfoot.

Some days just having her with me helps keep me from feeling lonely or depressed, so her presence is soothing to me even as an adult.

But that’s not the only thing I appreciate about her – without her, I do not believe I would be successful in my health journey. She is my running and accountability buddy. On the days she is unable to make it out to meet me for a run, I am not motivated enough to go by myself. I know I need to work on that, but I really enjoy meeting up with her in the mornings to chat about all sorts of things. I find that I look forward to these runs, even if we’re doing the really long one for the week.

She’s always been my inspiration for a variety of things in my life: she went to college while I was a teenager, so I was inspired to go; she started running many years ago to get healthy, so I decided I could do it myself; she’s showing what it takes to be an awesome grandparent to Jai, so I hope I can follow in her footsteps if he starts his own family someday.

My Father

My dad and I are alike – we look similar, we have very similar personalities, and we have the same sense of humor. Because of this, we have that unique connection that comes from parents with children who are little clones of themselves. I understand him and he, for the most part, understands me.

Growing up I have a lot of fond memories of time spent with my father. We would go to to a local lake and stick our feet in the water for fish to nibble our toes. When he had a motorcycle, I remember him taking me on mini-day trips around the state where it was just the two of us.

He encouraged me to climb the trees in our yard, helping me get started on one particularly difficult tree and the two of us spending time up in it chatting away. We would wait until my mom would come out and check on us and then play pranks on her while she was on the ground. She did not appreciate it, but the two of us giggled until the tree shook.

As adults, we aren’t climbing trees anymore, but I enjoy the days where we sit on the back porch and sip Scotch while grilling or having a fire in the firepit. In those moments we can talk about everything and anything – and I enjoy hearing how much he loves spending time with Jai when the topic comes up.

I appreciate how seriously he takes being a grandfather to Jai. I knew he would love being a grandfather, but it’s a lot of fun seeing how he plays with Jai. I have very similar memories of play with my father when I was younger, so it’s like watching the past. Jai adores my father and always asks to see him when he’s gone more than a week without seeing his Grampy.

 

I recognize how lucky I am to have both of my parents in my life, especially now that I am getting older. I know that having one or both parents is a luxury at my age and I try to not take that for granted, especially considering how supportive they are in my life. It’s hard for me to demonstratively express my gratitude and appreciation for them, as I feel embarrassed sometimes over such things, but I am trying to be more active so they are aware of my appreciation and Jai learns that showing gratitude for those closest to us is important.

Because of how things worked out this year, I will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my parents and I hope to express the gratitude shared in this post with them over supper.

How have your parents helped you grow as a person that you are grateful for? What would you say to them if given a chance? Leave your stories and thoughts in the comments.


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Featured photo credit: Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash


Celebrating Motherhood: Month’s End

We’re at the end of Motherhood month and I am grateful for all the wonderful mothers who participated in my posts about getting pregnant, pregnancy, newborns, and toddlers. Reading their responses made me realized I know a lot of wonderful, strong, and amazing mothers. A lot of role models for me to look up to and ask questions from as I raise Jai.

I was also surprised at the emotional impact, for myself, in writing about my struggle to get pregnantJai’s birth story and my decision to extend Jai’s breastfeeding. I realized I have some unresolved concerns about the healthcare I received postpartum and I want to make other mothers-to-be aware of possible concerns or risks. Western care still has a long way to go in how it treats mothers.

Most importantly, this month reaffirmed for me the diversity in parenting styles. Everyone parents their little one differently and as long as the little one is safe, it doesn’t matter how different from my style of parenting it may be. I believe in being non-judgmental to other mothers’ approach because there may be something in their style that I hadn’t considered adding to my own.

I think it’s important to embrace other parents and listen to what lessons they might share rather than criticize what they do differently. I want to maintain this attitude and roll it over to all aspects of my life (and hopefully pass acceptance on to Jai).

I hope you all enjoyed reading these posts as much as I did writing them and that they were helpful or brought comfort in a time of need.

Happy June, everyone!


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Featured image credit: Arlene Farms Art 

 


I Wish I Knew: Toddlers

This is the final part in my series  “I Wish I Knew.” Read about what I wish I knew relating to pregnancy, birth, and babies in parts onetwo, and threeThis post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for more information.

Culturally speaking, toddlerhood is equal to teenage years when it comes to least favorite times to be a parent. Toddlers throw tantrums without regard to location or convenience, refuse to move, refuse to eat, and are all around terrors. Add a hundred more pounds and you’ve got a teenager.

The narrative is this: when someone asks how old your little one is and you answer somewhere between 1.5 and 3 years old, you get that look of “may God have mercy on your soul,” and the question of “so how bad are they? they must be going through their terrible twos?”

I had a neighbor make a comment about Jai’s age yesterday when he was mad I wouldn’t let him put all his sidewalk chalk in water. He whined a little, but soon got distracted by the neighborhood cat who came to visit.

What I Wish I Knew

I am at the very beginning of the “terrible twos” stage so I still have a lot of naiveté when it comes to how Jai is handling the whole situation. But something I wish someone had told me?

It’s really not that bad. It’s not easy, definitely not saying that it is easy, but it isn’t as bad as I’ve been lead to believe.

My mother told me that parenting is only as hard as you make it out to be, so if you don’t take the necessary steps to help foster certain behaviors you want and help them manage the behaviors you don’t, then there’s a chance you will end up with an unmanageable child. There are other factors at play in this scenario: means, temperament, and patience.

Lots and lots of patience.

There were things I wish my parents did or did not do when I was growing up, so I am making adjustments to my parenting to reflect what I think might have made a positive difference in my life and therefore in Jai’s life. I am hoping to remain flexible enough that when I see something isn’t working I can adjust it.

Because I am currently involved with this developmental stage, I wanted to offer my thoughts on the questions I asked other mothers as well.

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I Wish I Knew: Newborns & Babies

This is the third part of my parenting series “I Wish I Knew.” Read about what I wish I knew relating to pregnancy and birth in parts one and two.

We’ve all heard it before: I wish children came with manuals.

There are plenty of books out there with information on how to raise a newborn, websites with troubleshooting tips, and professionals on the daily morning news cycles citing the latest studies on raising children. Each helps in their own way, but sometimes the noise can be a bit much for new parents, particularly sleep-deprived parents.

For myself, I appreciate looking to friends and family for their experience and advice. I kept my ears open when I was pregnant and filed the information away when I spent time with other mothers about what I would do once I became a mother.

What I Wish I Knew

I am not an expert at parenting, and I will never consider myself one, but I actually felt comfortable with how I would parent Jai in the first year. Beyond the newborn/baby stage? It would be one baby step at a time.

My main goal was to keep Jai fed, clothed, diapered, and entertained throughout the first year. I wanted to approach it with a relatively casual attitude, something I picked up from several other mothers, and just go with the flow.

There were a couple of approaches that I wanted to start almost immediately but scaled to Jai’s ability or development level:

  • Frequent bathtime
  • A bedtime routine
  • Taking time to explain something or giving him a quiet moment when he needed a break. That way it would be a habit for me when I needed to discipline him as a toddler

My thought process was that if he was used to each of these concepts when it came time to actually enforce them he would also go with the flow and minimize everyone’s stress level.

Something I didn’t know about was shift-sleeping. I mentioned this in a previous post, but when I commented to an acquaintance about the emotional and physical strain from lack of sleep I was feeling, they pointed me in the direction of working out a sleep schedule with Ash.

The idea is this: each partner takes a 6-hour shift at night to watch the baby while the other one sleeps during that block of time. When the time comes, the partners switch so each partner gets 6-hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. This gives each partner a chance to catch up on the sleep deficit and handle caring for a newborn better.

When Ash and I adopted this method of sleeping, it forced me to place a lot of trust in Ash’s ability to handle Jai without me for 6 hours at a time. I believe it helped Ash and Jai bond faster because while Ash wasn’t Mommy, he was another capable caretaker like Mommy.

This method was one that required my milk to come in and have enough stored for Ash or use formula to supplement, but I wish we had known about shift-sleeping from the beginning. It would have saved Ash and myself several weeks of tension and frustration. Some of the negative feelings came from my postpartum hormones, but I found that once I started getting a solid night’s sleep I was able to manage my emotions better.

Shift-sleeping fits in perfectly with my desire to go with the flow and because it forced me to trust Ash’s abilities, we were able to co-parent from the beginning. Once Jai started sleeping in his crib, we used a bassinet in our bedroom for the first month, we were able to resume sleeping on the same schedule in the same room. I know not every parent has a partner or even a supportive partner, so I acknowledge that this advice won’t help everyone.

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Extended Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a controversial topic. I will admit that I participated in the controversy before getting pregnant.

A couple of years ago, I saw a mother allow her two-year-old lift up her shirt and feed on the playground. I was appalled, not by the public feeding – I was all for normalizing breastfeeding, but at the age of the child and the perceived lack of discipline on the mother’s part. I swore I would never allow my child to breastfeed past a certain age, especially in public.

And then I started doing some research on the matter.

I will admit this before going further: I completely changed my mind on the matter and became more open to the idea of breastfeeding a child past the recommended 6-12 months and didn’t care when the feeding happened. If a child is hungry or in need of comfort and I wasn’t bothering anyone, then I will take care of my child.

My (old) Personal Hangups

I hold many Western notions closely in judgment for a lot of things, especially concepts that make me seem prudish. I blame growing up in New England. Before getting pregnant, breastfeeding was right up there.

When I saw women breastfeeding toddlers or read articles about women who extreme breastfed, I thought something Oedipal was going on, particular mothers of boys. It seemed inappropriate to be breastfeeding a child, a son no less, past a certain age where there was the potential for them to remember and cause psychological issues.

I thought that mothers were setting their children up for a lifetime of emotional stunting because breastfeeding past the age of one was massively inappropriate. I kept my thoughts to myself whenever I encountered a stranger breastfeeding, but I may have made faces and commented out of earshot to Ash or a companion.

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