Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 29: So This is a Tantrum

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

Holy. Crap. I thought we had seen Jackson's first tantrums, but apparently that was just child's play. This was the real thing. There was no gentle fall to the floor in protest, no loud complaints, no statement of his need. Instead it was like he was possessed; nothing coming from his mouth was coherent, the screams were louder and more violent than anything I have ever heard from a human being, and he physically fought me so hard I finally had to throw him over my shoulder with no jacket and trudge through the wind and snow to the car just to save everyone in the chiropractor's office from enduring the rest of it.

Here's the kicker: It was all my fault.

This isn't just the mommy guilt talking. This is the reality. I started us down the path toward this tantrum before breakfast, and instead of hitting the breaks, I accelerated through it, causing even more damage. Here's what happened:

I gave myself a free pass on the detox diet Saturday because we had friends over for food and drinks, and I've been exhausted and irritable since. Today was no exception, and on top of it Jackson decided to get up an hour early. I managed to keep Max asleep which meant the living room was off-limits for the morning. Of course that means it's the only place Jackson wanted to be. So I spent the morning hushing and herding him and, I'm sure, making him feel unable to do anything "right." I had set the tone for the day and it reeked of resistance.

We decided to go to a friend's house before our chiropractic appointment, which may sound like a positive turn to the day, but actually made things worse. I should have been realistic about how long it would take to get ready and not scheduled anything in between. I'm not capable of being calm, patient or responsive when I'm rushing to get us out of the house; I know this about myself and should just avoid putting myself in the situation.

We had a power struggle over going potty before we left and with each minute that ticked by I got more aggravated. In hindsight, I think Jackson was showing me with his refusal to pee and incessant request to play with me upstairs that he needed a calm day at home with no appointments, but I ignored it. Instead I got mad and read him the riot act about "not listening" (aka not doing exactly as I told him with no questions asked regardless of his current feelings or needs or how unloving I was in my request). Let's just say it was a bad morning full of things I'm not proud of. We didn't get going fast enough to fit in the play date, so we headed straight for our appointment.

The car ride provided me with enough "alone time" to calm down and compose myself. I apologized and told him how much I love him, but was met with silence, which was really strange. So when we got there I reiterated those things as I was getting him out of the car seat and gave him a kiss, but he still seemed pretty quiet. I saw a problem and didn't take the time to address it.

When we got in he went to the toy box like usual and chose a basket of pretend food to bring in while we all got adjusted. But he wasn't moving fast enough for my liking (God forbid anyone have to wait a minute or two because I allowed my child some transition time) so I grabbed his hand and started toward the room. He protested loudly and said he needed the bread. Fortunately he found it right away because I had no intention of waiting - that's how far out of my mind his needs and feelings were today.

As our chiropractor opened the door for us Jack started saying something about squash (can you tell how closely I was paying attention?), shook his food basket and finally threw it on the floor and started yelling and crying when I turned and brought Max into the adjustment room. He knew I wasn't connected, he knew I had been resisting him all morning and treating him with disrespect, now I wasn't even listening to what he was saying and even walking away from him and he had had enough. 

He cried and yelled as Max and I were adjusted and refused to come into the room. All I could think about was what the other person in the room was thinking about my "lack of discipline" (strange passers by are one thing, but when you know the philosophy of your audience it becomes exponentially harder to ignore them and focus on what you know your child needs). I nursed him for a minute in the changing room to try to calm him down, but for some reason felt like we just needed to go. Again, not taking into account what he needed at that moment. I threw all the fruit back into the basket and shoved him out of the room crying. When I tried to get his jacket on things really escalated. By this point I was so far beyond frazzled I didn't know what to do, so over my shoulder he went.

At the car he wouldn't get into his car seat so I tried to physically force him. He got angrier than I've ever seen a person get and made sounds I've never heard before. All the while poor Max had been along for the ride, but now he was starting to get scared and cry. I was feeling absolutely desperate to stop the tantrum, but somehow I was totally disconnected from all the things I know and believe and I kept grasping for ways to externally control him instead of meeting his needs. 

Was I ever going to get him home? Was he going to freeze to death before I could get a handle on the situation? Was the screaming ever going to end? Were people passing us in the parking lot going to call the police? In an almost out of body experience I found myself trying to force him into his seat with my hand over his mouth, his eyes wide with fear and rage. Oh no! How did we get here!? I finally woke up. I took him in my arms and started bawling. We sat in the front seat together while he calmed down enough to get a few words out. I asked what he was so angry about and he replied, "Because Mommy wasn't treating me very nice today." Devastated doesn't begin to describe how I felt then or how I feel now. This isn't one of those times I can chalk it up to a learning experience; there's no bright side. I flat out failed all of us. And I am completely ashamed of myself.

His every movement had been critiqued and controlled from the moment he woke up, and I had been short, impatient, and disrespectful all morning, meanwhile expecting the opposite from him. I was putting all that on his little two-year-old shoulders and it was too much weight for him to carry. On top of that, I ignored all the signs of distress along the way and even failed to "show up" for his tantrum. It was not his fault, it was mine.

Rather than feeling a desire to meet the need he was showing me, I was feeling angry that I couldn't stop him and mortified because everyone in the office had a front row seat. Rather than loving him, comforting him and helping him through his intense feelings, I tried to smother the symptoms while I fueled the fire. In every way, I was more concerned about the people around us than I was about us - more importantly him.

In hindsight I know the severity of the situation was because of his own detox process and probably my cheating on Saturday. For the second day in a row he woke up from his nap drenched in sweat and his mood and self control are definitely tied closely to what's happening in his body. But none of that changes the seriousness of my poor choices. 

So if you want authenticity, here it is! You've just been invited into the worst day of our two and a half years. I'm trying to be gentle with myself (and I hope you will be too!), but I figure I might as well ride the failure train into self-beating station for the night. Breathe in...breathe out...It's over and I can't change it. I can only move on and thank God for a new day up ahead.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 28: Husband...What Husband?

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.
Jackson seems to be revisiting the climbing and home exploration stage. He's been traveling the house with his chair as a step stool, getting into anything he can safely assume is off-limits. Last night's project was to retrieve candles - our unity candle and the two taper candles used to light it at our wedding - from the living room shelf. The activity that followed was drenched in symbolism, so much so that all I could do was smile, take a picture, and write about it.

We had a few child-free friends over, and Jackson was enjoying moving into the room to share the pretend coffee he had made, then out when he'd had enough commotion for a little while. During one of his excursions away from the group, he grabbed the candle unnoticed. When he re-entered, candle in hand, he was quite excited about this new treasure he had found. I weighed the joy he was getting out of it, the time it would take to talk through putting it back, and the fact that it was a fifty cent candle from a craft store. I explained that if he bonked it on things it would break, then let him go ahead and play with it. Needless to say, the candle ended up broken in several places.

My husband apparently thought that this was no reason to get rid of the candle, so it made its way back to its holder where I noticed it this morning. Although in his defense I'm sure he was just scared that throwing away something from our wedding would be met with disapproval. 

This picture couldn't be more fitting: The carefree engagement pictures pushed to the side and our broken wedding candle in the background with Jackson front and center. A picture really is worth a thousand words!

I never thought I'd be the mom consumed by her children. I was so madly in love with my husband that there was no way anyone could take his place. Then I actually became a mom. I found out that I was biologically programmed to fall hopelessly in love with this little person who, though a product of our loving marriage, threatened to intrude on it. I found out that this tiny being needed me so intensely, and rewarded me so wonderfully when I responded to those needs that caring for him became my sole focus. I found out it wasn't as simple as I had thought it would be to prioritize my marriage over motherhood.

Two years and another baby later, I'm still madly in love with my husband - and still struggling to put us first. He can feed himself, clothe himself, bathe himself, even go potty on his own. He doesn't need me like they do. But that doesn't mean he doesn't need me.

Ultimately, there's nothing my children need more than to be part of a loving, secure family, and our marriage is what provides them that. By loving my husband, I'm loving my children, and by prioritizing our marriage, I'm meeting their needs and ours. This is hard to remember and even harder to put into practice, especially when I already feel like there's not enough of me to go around for just the two kids! But I know that being connected to my husband energizes me and makes us a better team, so expending energy on him comes back to me (and the whole family) ten-fold in the end.

So I will plan date nights; Max will survive a few hours without me. I will greet him with enthusiasm when he comes home, no matter how long and hard my day has been. And I will stop dominating our conversations with kid-talk so that we can connect on other non-parent levels. He's every woman's dream and for some reason he chose to be with me. The least I can do is love him well in return.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 27: Yes I Can!

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

What you think of me, I'll think of me. 
And what I think of me, I'll be.
 This is a quote that was given to me by our dear Teacher Ellen at the completion of our first ECFE class when Jackson was just a few months old. As of recent, I've had the chance to really refocus on this concept.

I've been finding myself telling Jackson more often what he's not capable of: 
"You're showing me you can't control your body, so I'm going to help you." 
"If you can't stay by me, you'll have to ride in the cart." 
"You can't stack the DVD cases because you showed me you couldn't leave the discs in the case."
"We're going to put the microphone away because you showed me you weren't capable of keeping the cord out of your mouth." (Interesting side note: As we've started to take care of the candida, he's stopped chewing on everything!)

It seems innocent enough, but it's a game-changer. The more I tell him he can't, the less I see him showing me how capable he really is. I've tried to be very conscious and careful about outright labeling him, (You're shy...You're sensitive...), knowing that doing so puts him in a box that he may not break out of. But in focusing on the can'ts instead of the cans, I've been doing exactly the same thing. I'm deciding for him what he is and isn't capable of, and he's living up to those expectations. Why try when Mom has already decided I can't do it? 

It takes a lot of fortitude to prove someone wrong. Proving someone right, on the other hand, is an easier challenge to meet. So if he's going to prove me right, I  better give him the right thing to prove! The more I tell him he is capable, the more he'll feel capable. The more capable he feels, the more capable he shows me he is. Today I saw it in action. 

The coop has mini carts, and Jackson loves to feel like he's shopping independently. The only problem is that in the past, he's had too hard a time keeping his hands on his cart. It's not exactly a kid-friendly place: Scoops and bulk bins right at his level, tongs and fresh foods within reach - it's a whole foods playground in his eyes. Don't get me wrong, it's adorable when he holds up a jar of maple syrup to inspect the label and make sure it has green-light ingredients before adding it to his cart, but it's been impossible to keep him close and stop him from filling his cart with things we're not buying.

I've dealt with this by putting a ban on the shopping cart and wearing him on my back, but he still asks for the cart every time. Today when he asked I gave him the usual, "You've shown me that it's too hard to stay close and keep your hands to yourself so we're not going to use the cart." But as I started to put the carrier on I had a moment of clarity. It was time to practice what I'd been preaching to myself. 

I got down on his level and said, "Jackson, I changed my mind. I know you are capable of staying close and keeping your hands to yourself. I'd like to give you a chance to show me how capable you are." For 30 minutes we shopped together. He was all smiles and I could see how proud he was of himself, how responsible he felt. He needed a few reminders (which were all phrased positively, "I know you're capable, please show me.") and a little extra guidance by the end, but he really rose to the occasion. In fact he did so well that one of the other shoppers asked him, "Are you always this good at staying with Mommy?" He beamed when he said, "Yes!" 

Of course there isn't anything magical about this. It's not a tool to manipulate his behavior, nor is "hands to yourself" the goal. The goal is to instill confidence, to show trust, and to inspire him to fulfill his potential and grow. But if in the process the behavior happens to fall in line with what makes my life easier, I'll take the bonus!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 26: Nobody Likes Consequences

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

 Natural or not, consequences suck. Because of my desire to save my children from anything that sucks, I think I may have been unintentionally shielding Jackson from natural consequences, and in doing so depriving him of important learning opportunities. Since I started this project, this has been one of the major shifts. Today we got some practice.

We went to "school" (parent-child classes through the school district's ECFE program) today, and as usual Jackson was very excited to see friends, teachers and toys. We got out of the house without a hitch and were only reasonably late, a great feat for us considering class starts at 9am. 

When playtime turned into circle time with songs, Jackson struggled with the transition and leaving toys behind. He struggled with waiting to use a bucket of tools his teacher was saving for a special song. He struggled with leaving the tools to wash up for snack time. Through these transitions, I tried to give him as much freedom as was appropriate within the structure of the classroom, trying to model and enforce respect for the teachers and other families. And we made it.

The final transition before heading home is moving from the classroom to the gross motor room full of tricycles, climbers, slides and swings. In the winter, it's one of very few places he can really expend some energy. Needless to say, I wanted to go to the motor room. And he wanted to go to the motor room, but the transition came too quickly for him. He wasn't ready to give up his "front end loader" complete with policeman driver and farmer in the bucket "because that's his favorite place to sleep." 

I explained that in order to go to the motor room, we had to help everyone clean up, then go potty. This is not new as we've had the same routine for almost a year at school. His response was, "I just want to stay here and play with my bulldozer." So I explained further, "By not putting the truck away you're showing me that you're choosing not to go to the motor room today, and we will go home instead." Which was met with what I hear all too often: negotiation. Slowly moving away he declared, "I do want to go to the motor room. I'm just going to finish playing with my bulldozer, then go to the motor room." I clarified at least three more times, emphasizing that by not following the classroom requirement of cleaning before we climb, he was showing me his choice to skip the motor room and go home. 

Finally I had to close negotiations. When I got down and put my hands on his waist to talk to him, he started to resist me and complain. I told him it wasn't my job to hold his body up and gently let him fall to the floor. This was the moment of truth. We were either going to have a massive meltdown or he would recover. Hopefully he didn't see the fear in my eyes. 

In the brief seconds he was on the floor, I could actually see him processing his options. He chose self-regulation. He stood up and I helped him put the truck away. Of course in his world truck on shelf meant boy in motor room. So I took his hand, talked through the choice he had made, and nonchalantly added, "Okay. Let's go home." Then I braced myself while I bundled him up and got Max in his car seat, just waiting for the backlash. It never came.

He reiterated that he wanted to go to the motor room and I asked why he couldn't. He talked about his choice and added, "I can try again next time." He got it! It clicked that there was a window of opportunity that he had chosen to pass up. And I got the chance to tell him he was experiencing a consequence - something that happens because of a choice we make.

It was tempting to let him off the hook, especially since he's been having such a tough time through the candida detox process (as evidenced by the previous transition difficulties of the day). But I would have let a significant teaching moment pass us by if I had. And this one lesson is going to bring us so much peace in the near future, that risking a few moments of disappointment and sadness was well worth it.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 25: SpongeJack Copy Pants

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

You've heard it before: Children are like sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear. Everything. And just in case I ever forget, Jackson is happy to remind me. Take the food-meets-floor stage around 12 months. I watched him throw a pea to the ground, look me square in the eye and say, "Dammit, Jackson!" Whoops! Guess that one was slipping out pretty frequently, huh? Impressive language skills, but not quite what I was going for.

Or how about this morning when Max was yelling and he went over to him, squatted down to his level and said with a straight face, "Max, I can't take any more whining and complaining." *Facepalm* Not exactly the message I want him to take in, and certainly not what I want him regurgitating on other people. In fact, I don't even remember saying it to him, but since I'm the one he's with every day, we all know the buck stops here.

For all the things I'm conscious of modeling, there are so many more that slip under my radar. Being Ms. Negative means I dwell on the examples of my failures. But today I thought I'd squeeze into the telephone booth, lose the pessimistic lenses and try on some new tights. 

Happier than a mom at nap time. More optimistic than Mahatma Ghandi. Able to leap to positive conclusions in a single thought. Look, coming out of the darkness. It's a zen master. It's a swami. Dun-da-da-dunnnn...It's Captain Bright Side!

Okay, okay, so I don't exactly have optimistic superpowers. But I do, now and then, try to see the world through rose colored glasses, and today just happens to be one of those day. Literally every moment I'm with my children, I'm modeling. They see everything from the way I interact with people at the grocery store to how I treat their dad, and even how I treat myself. And they're picking up more good things than bad. I see the way Jackson respects other people and rules set in other places, how he comforts Maxwell when he's upset and asks his dad how his day was, and I know it's because he saw it, not because I taught it.

When I toss a book onto a pile and he very seriously tells me, "Mommy, do you think you should be more respectful with the library's book?" I can be proud that he has soaked up the value of taking extra care with things that aren't ours, not to mention the value of respectful communication. When he walks up to a little boy at school who's upset and hands him a toy saying, "Here, will this make you feel better?" I smile and know that he has learned to take care of other people by watching me do the same.

Sure he throws something when he gets mad sometimes (who knows where he got that one *looks around nonchalantly whistling*), but he also gains composure quickly, talks through the problem and spontaneously apologizes. He may be picking up a few *ahem* less-than-positive things from me, but he's also getting a mountain of valuable tools and traits at the same time. The more I focus on those, the more I will consciously and unconsciously show them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 24: Don't Screw it Up!

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

There's a reason Mom is the topic of discussion on every therapy couch (and by the way, if I thought the couch really existed, I would start therapy just to get a break and take a nap!). As a mother, I am the most influential person in the lives of my children. That's a pretty huge responsibility, one that I take very seriously. Maybe too seriously...

It's true that the way I communicate with them and others will be their model for communication in every relationship to come. Yes, what I show and teach them about self-respect and self-worth will be the foundation of their own self-image someday. Of course, the way I feed them will form the basis for their future nutritional choices. No question, the way they see me manage emotions will provide the blueprint for what they do with their own emotions. Without a doubt, the values I show them will be the building blocks of their integrity. And why wouldn't the way I discipline them shape the way they interact with the world and even parent their own children some day? For better or worse, I am the most significant influence in their lives present and future.

All of these things and many more add up, and I start to feel pressure, immense pressure, to perform perfectly or else. Because if I don't, I'll "screw them up," right? Well, yes, if you consider the fact that we're all screwed up! But not quite, when you look around and see capable and compassionate adults from homes that were anything but perfect. I'm lucky that Dad, an almost equal second in the race for life-altering influence, makes up for my shortcomings. But even that isn't the reason I won't screw them up.

My children didn't come to me as blank slates. Nor did they arrive as shapeless mounds of clay to be molded into any form I please. They came to me as whole human beings, with personalities and temperaments already in place. They are malleable, not mutable. Whatever influences come their way, who they are at the core will remain unchanged. What a relief!

So instead of seeing myself as "the shaper of small people", I should call myself "the setter of small persons' defaults." This job is of equal significance, but with consequences less grave. The shaper is responsible for inputting all data, thus everything that comes out is a result of what she put in. The setter simply works on the system already in place. The product is already complete, but capable of accepting downgrades or improvements. I give tools, model values to the best of my ability, and leave the rest to the God who created them and placed them in my care.

Some of my defaults are obstacles, others are blessings. Either way I have a choice every day to live out who I was created to be or who my defaults say I am. My children will have the same choice; the same opportunity to improve on the things I've modeled and taught them. I'm an imperfect influence, but they know they're loved and cherished. Everything beyond that is a bonus.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 23: You Say Weak, I Say Strong

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

Moms spend a lot of time thinking about energy (remember when I had some?), talking about energy (or lack thereof), and experiencing the effects of energy (too much or too little) in our children. But this is generally a one-dimensional look at a profoundly multi-dimensional entity. I am slowly learning to look past the surface to recognize, appreciate and utilize the other aspects of energy.

Our trip to see Amanda Alvord at The Natural Source for EDS was supposed to be straight forward. We were simply looking for a definitive answer about a sensitivity to casein. We got that answer, but also much more.

She greeted us in the lobby, got some toys for Jackson and brought us to her office. She was in Jackson's presence for two minutes at best and had only exchanged a few words with him when she told me, "He has an Earth energy." She went on to explain who he is at the deepest level. All the things I've spent two years learning about him, she knew instantly.

She talked about him seeing the world as connected, seeing the oneness of things, and how this quality made separation a challenging experience for him. This couldn't be more true. He is the most naturally inclusive little being I've ever encountered. He always wants our whole family together and has a hard time understanding why sometimes one of us has to be gone to work or meetings. It's like his world isn't right until all four of us are under the same roof.

She said because of this connectedness, he's extremely sensitive - even has difficulty separating his own emotions from those of the people around him. And if you've ever been in a room with him you know how dead on this is! Everywhere we go he talks about how people are feeling. If there's a baby crying at the mall, his face falls serious and he says, "Mommy, that baby is sad." If he hears people in another aisle laughing, he lights up and says, "Mommy they feel happy!" When we're at school and a mom isn't responding to her child's cry, he looks frantically between the two, trying to figure out why she's not helping and what he can do. Of course being sensitive means he's also very tuned in to his own emotions, and being the chatter box that he is always talking about how he feels.

She also told us that this Earth energy meant that to feel good and be balanced and healthy he needed to be surrounded by...well, earth. He needs to be outdoors, playing in the dirt and soaking up sun. She specifically mentioned that playing with rocks is an important thing for keeping him balanced. And wouldn't you know, all summer long he played in the neighbors rock bed. It makes so much sense that he's unbalanced right now since he's cooped up away from all these things that bring him peace and well-being.

Reaffirming these things about him was really helpful. To hear it from an outside source confirmed that I do know who he is and what he needs, and gave me a way to focus on that more intently. But the most important thing she did was to validate my view of him: The things that everyone else sees as Jackson's weaknesses, I see as his strengths.

He's not "too sensitive." The fact that he's into animals and flowers instead of trucks and superheros doesn't make him less of a boy. Engaging in creative play - cooking, cleaning, being Max the bunny, and even being Cinderella in her glass slippers - instead of roughhousing doesn't make him weak. These are the things that make him intelligent, compassionate, empathic and kind. These are the things that are going to make him a spectacular husband and father. These are the things I will help him develop, not squelch to mold him into some one-dimensional definition of "boy."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 22: Flippety Flop

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

I think if I hear one more contradiction from Jackson I'm going to lose it. He pushes his plate away saying, "I don't want my food." As soon as I comply and take the plate he yells, "I DO want my food!" I let him decide what we were going to do today and he chose the mall. Then as I'm trying to get his coat on: "I don't want to go to the mall!" So I tell him we won't go and start taking the coat off only to be met with: "I DOOOOO want to go the the mall." Aaaaahhhh! 

Sometimes it's a delay tactic, sometimes he's just trying to avoid a step he doesn't want on the way to what he does want (i.e. jacket on to get to the mall), sometimes I think he doesn't know what he wants, and other times I'm pretty sure it's an ingenious plan to drive me out of my mind. And it's working.

I try to give him as many choices as I can through the day so he feels like an active participant in our day - like he is in control of his life instead of life happening to him. Sometimes this makes this easier, sometimes much more difficult. I'm so glad he feels confident to ask for what he wants and make decisions for himself, I just want him to ask for what he actually wants!

I struggle with finding a balance between allowing natural consequence and allowing him to change his mind. I want to honor a genuine change of heart, because we all change our minds sometimes. But I can't allow the back and forth for fun to continue because it's a serious disruption to our day and a serious annoyance that I can't cope with indefinitely. 

I'll look at this as a good opportunity for him to experience natural consequences at low cost. I will give him the same opportunity to make choices, confirm that choice, then follow through with it regardless of the instant cry for the opposite. This won't be easy, because anything that makes him less than happy is hard for me, but it's important to learn these lessons now on a small scale so that I can save him from the big lessons with greater cost later in life. Investing in the future is never simple because it usually makes the present more challenging, but it's always worth the effort. Hopefully he's make the connection quickly and relatively painlessly! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 21: Attached or Trapped

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

I was away from Max last night for about two hours and he was not all too happy with me when I got back. He wouldn't allow me to be more than two feet from him the rest of the night. He refused to go down by himself, so he had to stay up until I went to bed, and he woke more frequently, even complained a little in the night, which he never does. His world had clearly been shaken by my absence. 

The thought of how seriously he responded to such a minor separation started to become a little overwhelming. My negative side started to feel trapped by this. Will I ever get to go on a date with my husband again? Will I ever meet up with friends without a baby on board? How can I ever leave if I know it upsets him so much?

I was very conscious about creating a secure attachment with Maxwell. He was in my arms almost his entire first three days. In five months, he's never had a bottle, and I don't intend for that to change. Every feeding of his life has been with me. Every nap and every bed time has been with me. As he grows, those things will change, but for now this is the life I've chosen and I wouldn't go back and do it any differently. 

I'm so glad he and I are this in sync. Mothers and babies were designed to be as one until baby grows ready to venture out, and I'm proud of myself for respecting that biologically predetermined need in my children. I know that investing in this attachment now means I'll have a very self-assured and independent boy in the future. And I know that it's temporary. The sacrifices I make to foster this attachment are minuscule in comparison to the joy I get from seeing him health, happy and secure. 

Slowly non-baby outings will increase and he'll have the opportunity to learn that when I go, his needs are still met (albeit in a different way by a different person) and that I always come back. I will work on finding a balance between protecting our attachment and allowing him certain growing experiences, and we will get there. But for the time being, instead of trapped, I choose to feel honored to be loved and needed so intensely.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 20: Testing, Testing

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

Tests have always been my thing. Multiple choice, fill in the blank, short answer, name it, I'll ace it because I love answers. A test has a perfectly defined beginning and end, and with the end comes a sense of accomplishment and completion. Just talking about it makes me nostalgic for my college days.

Well, school's over and testing has taken on a whole new meaning. In fact, I don't think it's even fair to call any part of life or parenting a "test" because there is no end and there are certainly no answers. My favorite thing about school has become my least favorite thing about parenting. I'd like to say I've been acing the tests coming my way recently, but I'm not sure what a passing grade looks like.

In the past few days, Jackson has been experiencing tantrums. This is new and so out of character for him that it's really quite traumatic for all of us. It's very clear that they're coming as a result of his body's detox process, but that doesn't make them any easier to deal with in the moment. It's obvious he's feeling out of control, confused and conflicted when it happens, and don't I know none of those feel good. He'll ask me to leave, then scream louder when I move toward the door and beg me to stay. He'll say he wants to be held, then when he gets into my arms, he'll fight his way out, screaming. His body and brain are just saying "no" to everything and all he wants to do is say "yes" and feel calm. If the test is helping him find a way to calm down, I'm failing

This has led us to his first public outbursts. For the first time, I'm the mom with the kid lying on the floor of the store. It feels worse than I imagined. When it happens, the whirlwind of thought going on in my head is dizzying. It's hard to focus and get a grip on myself or him. If the test is avoiding a public scene, I'm failing.

 I'm acutely aware of each person walking by and watching, and I even find myself saying things to him that I'm hoping they hear: "Jackson this isn't appropriate behavior in the store. I want you to be respectful of the other shoppers. Do you see all these people? Your yelling hurts their ears and your body is in the way." If the test is tuning out the world to focus on him and the need he's expressing, I'm failing.

As the stress builds and the desire to avoid external judgment squeezes down on me, I find it harder to be patient. I start to physically remove him, which only makes matters worse because a lack of control over his world is what caused the ruckus to begin with. If the test is helping him feel powerful and in control of himself, I'm failing.

Eventually I'm able to talk him down. Maybe we identify something he wants or wants to do, then draw the connection between leaving the store and getting there. Maybe I identify what he wanted in the first place and can accommodate that need or find a suitable substitute. If the test is stopping the tantrum, I fail because time was up before I could finish filling in the little circles.

But If the test is surviving and even loving him through the storm, I think I'll give myself a passing grade. If it's acknowledging and allowing him to express the extreme unrest and discomfort that are accompanying his body's healing process, I'm pretty sure I'd get the credits. And if it's standing strong against the temptation to use fear, shame, bribery or punishment to manipulate him, I think I am acing it.

I'm teaching him that I really do love him unconditionally. He's seeing first hand that he is secure, that nothing could ever make me abandon him. And, although his little brain might not process it to the full extent, I'm showing him that he matters to me more than the shopping, more than the passersby, more than our schedule, and more than my own feelings. Because let's face it, it's embarrassing. And it would be easy to prioritize that feeling over your child's need for acceptance and support through a tantrum.

I may not like this new kind of test, especially since no one has the answer key, but I'm doing my best to rise to the challenge of living in the answer-less world of parenting. In the end, it'll probably be my kids who get to hand down the grades, and I can only hope that the work I'm doing to build a healthy relationship with them now will pay off when that day comes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 19: Eat it or Else

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

Sometimes I wonder how I end up so far from where I want to be...

Jackson has been amazing through all the diet restrictions and we're equally amazed at the healing his body is undergoing already. My sweet boy doesn't incessantly ask for bananas or granola, not even toast, which was a favorite. He happily chooses between brussels sprouts and collard greens for supper (greens won tonight) and eats mashed cauliflower as if he didn't miss mashed potatoes at all. 

Overall, things haven't been so bad on the food front. He's adjusting perfectly. I on the other hand, have struggled to keep up with some changes. One of these is a significant reduction in the amount of food he's eating. And I've let it become a power struggle. It's one that doesn't need to be fought and no one wins. 

I've always believed that he was the only one capable of knowing when he was hungry and full and that he should never be forced to eat or restricted because of that. I simply want him to listen to his body's cues. Up to this point that has meant watching him consume mass quantities of food. But now that his body is digesting properly and he's absorbing more of what he eats, he doesn't need to eat as much. 

But watching him so dramatically reduce his food intake so quickly made me nervous. Then after a few successive small meals, I got anxious. First it was, "Just a few more bites." And before I knew it, "You're not getting out of this chair until you eat five more bites." What I got instead of peace of mind about getting 'enough' food in his body was a screaming little boy who couldn't understand why I was taking away his power to decide what his body needed. Duh.

Fortunately, the screaming jolted my brain and brought me back to a state of conscious parenting - parenting based on trust not fear. So I utilized one of our "tools" and decided to start over. Fortunately, Jackson is quick to forgive and we moved on with our day.

I wish I hadn't had to stray so very far before I came back to center, but I'm thankful that I have a little boy who won't allow me to make those mistakes unchecked.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 18: A Little Validation Goes a Long Way

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

If you know me, you know I'm very confident in the choices I make for my family. And if you've met me, you've probably witnessed or heard something "crazy" because nearly all of the choices we make are well outside of mainstream. What you might not know, is that even I appreciate a little validation now and then. 

Don't get me wrong, my kids validate me every day. Every time Max nuzzles in closer to me at night or gives me a milky grin, I'm validated. And when I see Jackson communicating and relating to us and his peers (better than some adults I know!), I'm validated. But no matter how firm you are in your beliefs, your parenting philosophy, or your sense of self-worth, at some point a little external validation feels good. If for no other reason, then because it's a break from standing strong against all the criticism - spoken and unspoken. 

Outside of the political realm, there is no job that draws as much scrutiny as mothering. Everyone has an opinion about how your child should act and what you should do to make it that way. And if at any given moment you don't live up to those standards (God forbid someone's tired, hungry or having a bad day), your job performance in its entirety is called into question. 

You'd think it would go the other way - that when the behavior meets and exceeds standards, we would get accolades - but that's rarely the case. I can't count the number of times I've been told how "lucky" I am to have a healthy kid (yah, no thanks to his natural birth, two and a half years of breastfeeding and counting, or perfect nutrition) or a sweet kid (you're right, I taught him absolutely nothing about kindness, gentle communication, or empathy, nor did I give him emotional stability) or a bright kid (nope, must not have had anything to do with the 3 million books I read him, the constant narration and communication through our day or the time I spent playing with him).

The beautiful thing that has come to my life out of all this negativity is a community. There has never been a time in my life when I've been surrounded by so much loving support, probably because I've never needed it so much as I do now. No one can stand alone, not even me. And I have so many wonderful women (and children!) in my life now because all that scrutiny led me to seek out like-minded moms at La Leche League and Holistic Moms Network. When the weight of criticism, external expectations or just being a mom gets to be too much to carry on one set of shoulders, we all share the load.

With these women I feel understood and validated - something I don't get anywhere else. We don't all do things the same way, we don't even necessarily share the same philosophy, but we do share values. We value our children above all else (even outside approval) and we value our critical role in their lives. 

In a society that says mothering has no value because it's not a "job," we remind each other that what we're doing has infinitely more worth than anything else we could choose to do with our time and energy. That the lack of recognition has nothing to do with whether or not the job is important. And that someday we'll see the fruits of our labor, even if no one else acknowledges that they were a product of our efforts.

So I'll take the sideways glances and disapproving eyebrows, because I know without doubt that I'm doing is right for my kids. But more importantly, because without them I wouldn't have these meaningful relationships. It's truly a privilege to be part of such a supportive community.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 17: Cheater, Cheater, Chocolate Chip Eater

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

I'm home all day with no one but my kids. And all day the giant bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips stares at me through my see-through cupboards (damn see-through cupboards!). All day they talk to me: "Remember how delicious we are? We know you want us!" And all day the candida talks to me: "FEED ME! I don't care if you have to give up your first-born, just eat those chocolate chips!!" No one's one will know...But my body knows. And my kids' bodies know.

Our terrible day yesterday actually went pretty well, all things considered. I stayed calm, helped Jackson even though I felt frustrated and we had a pretty peaceful evening after his body settled down. Today, after indulging in a generous handful of chocolate chips, is quite a different story. I've been short tempered and trying to control his behavior. He had to help me calm down twice. That's right, my two year old had to help me, his parent, calm down. It's very sweet and kind of impressive that he knows how, but I'm totally ashamed that he ever has reason to. 

First, when I was getting angry about him dragging toys all over the house and leaving them on the floor (unfair expectations, maybe??) he put his finger to his lips and started blowing out pretend birthday candles - something I taught him to help him breathe through big feelings. Then, when I was upset that he wasn't going to the potty when I told him to (without providing my physical presence, which he needs in order to help him follow through without distraction) he walked slowly toward me with arms outstretched, compassionate eyes and the calmest body language I've ever seen and just put his hands on me, then hugged me. Talk about a wake up call!

I feel like I should be on a Public Service Announcement: "This is your brain. This is your brain on candida." If you've never felt it, you probably think the cravings are crazy and the post-sugar behavior doesn't make sense. But this absolutely solidified the correlation between food, body and mood for me. So back on the diet I go. Strictly. And with a good attitude and optimistic outlook...expecting success.

I could easily use cheating as an excuse to give up and say I can't do it, but my kids deserve more than that. If I can't do it for my health or for how liberated I'll feel when the cravings and sugar-possessed behaviors have passed, then I'll do it so I can be a better mom to my two little men. They deserve better from me, and I intend to give it to them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 16: At Least I Showered

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

When showering is your moral victory for the day, you can pretty much bet it was a tough one! Although to be fair I did also concoct a candida-diet-friendly "sushi" roll with nori, brown rice, olive oil, avocado, raw garlic, and lots of cayenne. Yum! 

I woke up feeling weak, shaky and feverish. Jackson was his usual self. He paid money to Mr. Coyote while I rested in between reading books to him. But fast forward a couple hours and all of a sudden it's mayhem! The diet is proving to be a little too much for Jackson. He's coping beautifully with the restriction, but his body isn't coping well with the load of toxins being released. Time to back off a little, I think.

He spent almost two hours crying, nursing, crying some more, eating some almonds, crying again, drinking some "lemonade", and of course crying...He just kept saying he was sad, but he didn't know what he was sad about. It was heartbreaking, and if I'm honest, really irritating. It's not just the grating sound of his cries that gets to me or the fact that it sends a chaotic feeling through the every part of my body. It's that every cry is like a reminder that I'm failing. I can't get myself past the insane idea that success is a happy kid. 

No one can be happy all the time, but somehow Jackson was for most of his first two years. When Max came around, life changed for both of us. I couldn't meet his needs all day every day anymore, and I didn't take the time or dig deep enough for the patience and energy to continue parenting him consistently the way I was, with loving communication dominating our day. Add to that the emotional explosion that happens in a tiny brain that turns two and you have a recipe for some upheaval.

No matter how many times I tell myself it's crazy, I still operate under the premise that I can and should create an ideal world for my children, one in which there are only rainbows, butterflies, and smiles. It's unrealistic and self-defeating. And even if I could accomplish this, it would be harmful, not helpful for their development! So every time someone is less than cheerful, I take it personally. No pressure, kids! And the worst part is that the feelings of failure and frustration crowd out the compassion and understanding that would actually bring them back to peace and contentment faster. You can see why I call it crazy.  

So today we'll have a pear, maybe even a date or two, and trudge through. I will do my best to comfort him and alleviate all the emotional or physical pain I can, but instead of seeing this as a failure, I will see it as an opportunity for him to develop resilience and trust in his own ability to see himself through trials and my ability to help him. And let's not forget, it's an opportunity for me to practice a much-needed skill.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 15: You Can Lead a Baby to a Cozy Bed...

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.
...but you definitely can't make him sleep! 

Maxwell's poo strikes again. Usually I can get Max to sleep just before I put Jackson down for his nap. It provides me with 30-90 minutes of uninterrupted time, which, as my fellow stay/work at home moms know, equates to about 6 hours of kid-present time in terms of getting things done. And today the list of "have-to's" is long, so what better day to struggle with naps! 

After a couple potty opportunities, he wouldn't fall asleep while I was reading. He wouldn't fall asleep nursing on the bed. He wouldn't fall asleep with a pacifier. Are we seeing a trend? His eyelids were heavy and he clearly wanted to, but he couldn't fall asleep. It was interrupting my usual one-on-one time with Jackson, stirring up those it-will-be-like-this-forever feelings, and just downright annoying me. I never stopped to think about how frustrating it must be for him.

I finally just let him fuss for a few minutes so I could finish getting Jackson down. (Don't worry, he was just complaining, not crying; it's more like he's reprimanding me than anything - won't that be fun as he gets older!) We tried the potty again to no avail, and we tried to sleep again, also to no avail. The more I tried to make things the way I wanted them to be instead of the way they were, the more frustrated I got. So I quit! 

I let it go and accepted "what is." I got him up and he played on the floor next to me while I worked. I got all sorts of smiles and giggles, and I got to watch him try out all his new spinning, scooting, grabbing, and push-up skills. It actually made my day. And lo and behold, after 40 minutes of playing, he was ready to poo...and sleep! Boy did this all feel better than resistance.

I'd love to say that this is where the story moved on to me getting loads of work done. But, without exaggeration, the moment Max fell asleep, Jackson woke up crying (something I suspect will continue to happen as the candida die-off makes things worse before they get better). I stood and whispered, "No. No. No! This can't be." And I had to take a full minute to get myself to a place where I could walk into his room without resentment - thinking about him and his needs, rather that me and my list. 

I've never before been successful at getting him back down once he's awake, but today we nursed, cuddled and compromised on letting him "rest" with a pillow and blanket on the rocking chair. Over an hour later and he's still asleep!  

I know all of us are exhausted and on-edge from the anti-candida process, and I'm proud of myself and them for finding ways to make it manageable today. I'm looking forward to the near-future when my no longer refluxy, gassy, and fatigued children can sleep the way we all want them to. Law of Attraction, right?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 14: Toddlers Don't Like Diets

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

We all took the homeopathic nosode for candida yesterday and Jackson woke up with the healthiest skin he's had in a year. Yay! But part of the process of banishing the yeast from our bodies is abstaining from all forms of sugar (even fruit) and most carbs, even starchy vegetables. Boo! The "okay to eat" list is not very long. I can personally attest to the fact that this is NO fun, especially when you still have intense cravings for bread and sugar. And I can only imagine how much worse it is when you don't even understand why.

All of a sudden all of Jackson's favorite "green-light foods" (foods that are good for our bodies) are off-limits. This is more than a little confusing, I'm sure. So I'm doing my best to explain...over and over and over and over. Doing this for at least a week could go one of two ways. It could get easier because he'll adapt and stop asking for the things he's missing, or it could get more and more miserable each day as the frustration over not having those things builds. I'm trying hard to assume the best, but I'm prepared for the worst.

I'm using this as an opportunity to be very thankful that my two year old is able to comprehend our explanations, and that he's the kind of person who looks for reasons to be happy, not upset. He's also incredibly flexible, and even capable of watching other people have things he can't without throwing a fit. Sometimes that's a stretch even for adults! I'd like to think this is because he's got superior cognitive skills or because I've given him the right tools to cope with situations like this, but it's probably more likely that he's just an agreeable little person (thank you to Daddy's genetics).

As we head into this week, I'm trying to mentally prepare. When candida dies off and releases toxins, some pretty nasty symptoms can arise: fatigue (check), headache (check), irritability (check), nausea (oh, I hope not), abdominal pain (no, thanks). And that's to say nothing of how crabby I'll be every time I look at a piece of bread or pass a brownie in the bakery aisle!

The goal is to constantly keep in mind that he's struggling as much as I am and to give him room to feel however he needs to feel about this. I am the adult. I am capable of the kind of patience it will take to handle all of this gently and lovingly, without expressing my own frustration. I will focus only on the things that will help us survive this week, and let go of any extras that will add pressure or drain my patience. I will help him find the positives in this, like all the avocado you can eat and something new: "lemonade" (lemon water, but don't tell him!) just like Max and Ruby drink.

The phrases I will latch on to this week: This is only temporary. Life will be back to a better version of normal in a few weeks.

Instead of being bummed about what I can't eat, I will be excited about the healing we're all undertaking and how great life will be when everyone is healthy. Okay...I'm still going to be pretty bummed about what I can't eat. But at least I can add the positive spin, right?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 13: The Bright Side of Thrush

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

We look like a really healthy family. My kids have never been to doctor, have never had an infection, rarely even a cold. They're bright and happy - healthy, right?. But I have a different view of health. Health isn't the absence of illness, it's the body (physical, mental, and emotional) functioning in balance and at its full potential. By my standards we have not been fully healthy.

It all makes so much sense now. To borrow from Oprah (never thought I'd do that), I've had an Aha! moment. Every point of weakened health the boys and I have experienced leads us back to Candida. I believe this is our be-all, end-all.  

I always knew Jack's eczema was a result of not having enough beneficial bacterial flora to pass on to him during his pregnancy and birth, but I never thought about the obvious consequence of that: Candida. I knew that all three of us were sensitive to dairy because of insufficient flora lining the gut (aka leaky gut), but I never thought about the obvious implication: Candida. I knew my mood swings were not normal postpartum feelings (I'm a big-feelings Mom, but this was ridiculous!), but I blamed it on hormones anyway and never thought about the obvious alternative: Candida. I felt literally possessed by the ghost of cookie monster, unable to stop myself form eating any form of sugar in sight, but I never thought beyond my love of food to the obvious: Candida.  I knew the emotional distress I was seeing in Jackson from time to time was not normal for him or any kid - fear, bad dreams, insecurity about us leaving even though we never leave, fear of falling and downward motion - but I missed the glaringly obvious cause: Candida. I knew my boys' gassy bellies were not just "normal" for babies, but I never thought of the obvious: Candida. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.   

Side Note: For those interested in the science (like I am!) here's some explanation: It's always present in the body, and a healthy bacterial flora stays dominant, keeping candida under control. When that balance is thrown off, candida can take over and grow out of control systemically. It causes the gut to leak particles into the bloodstream leading to food sensitivities and disrupting normal digestion causing bloating and gas. It feeds on sugar, so it triggers intense cravings. As it continues to grow, it releases toxins that affect the brain causing a general fog, fatigue, and very specific emotional symptoms. 

I missed all of this and never put the big picture together until one bright red nipple showed up! I looked down the other night and thought, "Huh, that looks like thrush...(wait for it)...Holy Crap! We've all had Candida all along!" All of a sudden the neurons started firing (through the yeast toxins) and one thing after another fell into place. 

If I were to default, I might beat myself up over not recognizing this sooner. I might dwell on the fact that I made an irresponsible, uninformed choice to blindly follow my OB's advice and take an unnecessary, harmful round of antibiotics in my first trimester with Jackson. 

Instead I'm going to make a conscious choice to forgive myself. Jackson's pregnancy was a catalyst for the biggest life change I've ever undertaken. The mistakes I made drove me down a different path, and I am infinitely grateful for that. My values are different, my perspective is different, I'm informed and empowered. And none of that would have been possible without the mistakes along the way. 

We will kick Candida's ass and restore balance to our bodies, but those lessons we learned along the way will stay with us forever. I will choose to focus on that, not on the past or the difficult road we have ahead of us to tackle this.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 12: PJ Money

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I will choose acceptance over resistance.
I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive me nuts.
I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.

PJ Money, while it sounds like a flashy hip hop persona, was really just a reminder to try to see the world as he sees it. I've gotten lots of these recently. I'm learning to ask why he's doing something before making a judgment about whether it should continue or whether I should be bothered by it. Nearly every time he's got an explanation that makes perfect sense, and it usually involves his imagination.

Back to PJ Money. Jackson was up from his nap, Max was still sleeping. When this happens, I find it's best for Jack to be in a non-adjacent space. Not necessarily because the noise will wake Max, but because it keeps me from turning into a crazy person shushing in Jack's face every few seconds (still working on transforming that resistance into acceptance!!). So we go to the basement or upstairs playroom or stay in his bedroom when he wakes up. 

Six books in to the large stack of books he wanted to read, we landed on one with caricatural drawings of wacky pets - an elephant, a giraffe, a huge snake, a coyote. Mr. Coyote became is playmate for the rest of the afternoon. They had deep conversations about life, shared a few laughs, and for some reason Jackson had to pay him money. He revealed at bed time that this friend he was so enthusiastic about was actually scary, so in hindsight maybe it was a bribe to remain uneaten by Mr. Coyote.

Whatever the case, it was very important to pay Mr. Coyote his money. That money just happened to be in the form of pajamas. I don't know about your family, but in our family, Grandmas love to give PJs. There are a lot of PJs. And all of said PJs were methodically ripped, pair by pair, from the neatly folded piles in the dresser. 

I watched in horror. All I could think about was the time it was going to take to re-fold them. By pair three or four, when it became clear that Mr. Coyote was not going to be satisfied until he had Jackson's every last cent, I started to say, "Jackson, I think he has enough money. I don't think we need to take any more pajamas out of the drawer." He gave me a confused look. Mr. Coyote's fee was clearly more than four pair of pajamas. We were at a crossroads, and as always, I was driving the bus. I got to decide how this interaction played out. 

Focusing on my own need for neatly folded PJs and a two year old who never takes or leaves anything out of place (HA!) could end in a cinema-worthy bus explosion, flames shooting out from the windows. Prioritizing his need for freedom to engage in imaginative play would bring us all safely to our destination singing "wheels on the bus" as we went. Hmmmmm...what to do, what to do...

Fortunately I took off the me-shades and put on the we-shades. What was best for all of us was for me to see the world from his eyes for a moment. To cherish the beautiful and sophisticated creative play he was allowing me to witness. The joy on his face when I explained that I had changed my mind, that he could go on paying Mr. Coyote in PJ Money, was all the payoff I needed to make up for 10 minutes of re-folding. 

Soon the drawer was empty, but still Mr. Coyote was not satisfied. So Jackson did the next logical thing. He filled the drawer with books and went on with the transaction, all the while chatting away with his new friend. We were both captivated, he by Mr. Coyote, and me by him.

I could have stolen this experience from both of us, maybe even chipped away at his desire to see these infinite possibilities in the world around him. I may have damaged his spirit by rejecting the way he was expressing himself through play, forcing him into my adult world instead. Sometimes that's necessary, and it is, of course, part of how children eventually learn about the real world, how to fit into and function in it. But so is this type of creative play! The times when I'm able to give him freedom to get fully lost in the wonder of his childhood, I hope I will. The real world will always be there waiting for him; his childhood is going to quickly pass us both by.