Supporting Children For Who They Are (not who we think they should be)

Leaving Target yesterday, another mom said to me, “I like his nails,” referring to Miller’s fingernail polish. “Thanks,” I responded smiling. “He likes having them painted.”

“My son was the same way,” she said gesturing to a boy who looked to be around 9. “He still likes getting pedicures.”

I’ve witnessed only a few people chide Miller for wearing polish, because “it’s for girls”, to which I smile and say, “He loves it, so that’s what we do.”

My goal is not for Miller to conform to all of the labels reserved for boys – it’s to raise him to be confident in who he is, however that winds up looking.

One of the biggest gifts we can give our children is to support them for who they are. Not who we think they should be, not what society tells us is acceptable, but for who they’re showing us they are.

To the little boys who like wearing nail polish and the little girls who play with cars and trains. To the girls who prefer short hair cuts and to the boys who enjoy pedicures. Keep showing your true colors.

To the adults in these little ones’ lives, whether you’re the full-time caregiver or a perfect stranger in a parking lot, when they show up, show them love. Not disapproval or ridicule, but love. Again and again and again.

It’s the simplest thing we can do for them…and it’s everything.

Fingernails

Skunk or Skunk Weed: “What’s That Smell?!”

Skunks. They appear in many a children’s book and television show.

“Mommy, what does a skunk smell like?” Miller asked a few weeks ago during an episode of Paw Patrol featuring a skunk.

“Stinky.” I answered. “The next time we’re in the car and I smell one, I’ll point it out to you.”

One week later…

We were in Milwaukee, in a parking lot after playing at a park. My friend Molly asked, “Do you smell that?”

“Yep,” I answered.

Weed. Pot. Reefer. Cannabis. Marijuana. Mary Jane. Wacky Tobaccy. The Ganja.
Take your pick.

The stink intensified as we walked to our cars.

“Mommy, what’s that smell?” Miller asked with a stank face.

*lightbulb*

“That’s skunk Miller. That’s what a skunk smells like.”

“Mommy, that’s terrible!”

His eyes were watering from the stench by the time we reached the car. “Mommy, I want to get in,” he pleaded.

Turns out a group of teenagers was hotboxing two parking spots down from us.

Turns out Miller doesn’t like the smell of skunk. Or weed for that matter.

That’s right folks, in one swift decision I taught the smell of a skunk and turned him off from weed. Let’s hope he remembers this when he’s in college.

In the meantime, I’m ready for that Mom of the Year award.

One week later…

Skunk

Miller picked out this Mother’s Day card for me.

Yes, that’s a skunk.
Yes, I bought it for myself.
Yes, he colored inside of it for me.

And yes, I accept it as my Mom of the Year award.

The Limitless Love of a Child

I watched Miller and Mark playing outside today in a huge puddle. Despite the cold temps and blowing winds, they were happy as can be. Well, Miller was anyway. I was too, as I watched from the warmth of the living room.

Not too long ago, I would’ve forced myself to join in. Out of guilt, I would’ve gotten up, put on some layers, and stood in the cold to watch Miller splash around. I would’ve done it because “they grow up so fast”. I would’ve done it out of worry that Mark might become the favorite parent.

Miller is our one and only. He is equal parts sun, moon, and stars for both his father and me. Then there’s the fact that I spend the majority of time with him as a stay at home mom and can become territorial with routines and daily norms. Add to that Mark’s desire to make his son happy at all times, and, well, let’s just say Miller is well cared for, tended to, and loved.

Something has changed in me. I’ve stopped trying to prove myself to myself. I’ve stopped trying to be there for every single experience with Miller out of fear that I might miss something. I’ve let go of worrying about whether he likes me or his dad the most.

I’ve started backing off while the boys have father/son time. If I’m within observing distance, I can now watch Miller love his dad without interfering or being insecure.

I used to see their joint happiness and feel threatened by it. But what if he likes his dad more than me? Well, sure, he will at some point, and at some point, he’ll like me more. There’ll also be times when he dislikes both of us equally. Like a few nights ago when neither of us let him chew four sticks of gum at once. How dare we.

Now, when I see their bond, I soak it up.

Sometimes parents vie for a child’s love as though there’s a limited quantity. There’s not. Love is infinite. It’s vast. It surpasses space and time. So if you see your child having a really wonderful moment with the other parent and you’re “shoulding” yourself into joining or telling yourself that you’ll be liked less because you aren’t the one doing fun things with them, stop. Stop.

It’s okay for them to have fun with the other parent. It’s okay for them to shine that huge smile or belly laugh with them. It’s actually more than okay that there’s another person on the planet with whom your child can experience love.

It is an experience, you know, to love. An experience to connect with another person, to share happiness, to create a memory that only exists between two people.

I’ve reconciled with knowing that I won’t be a part of all of my son’s memories, happy or otherwise – that I’m not the only person he loves, and I won’t always be the person whom he loves most.

Previously, that menacing combination of guilt and insecurity would’ve gotten me out of the warmth and into the cold to be a part of today’s puddle play. Today, this newfound self-assurance carried me to the window where I watched a dedicated dad stand in the rain as a smiling boy pushed a toy through the puddle again and again.

Drain Puddle

Miller caught me peeking at them through the windows. His smile grew even bigger. “Hi Mommy! Mommy, watch this!”

How silly of me to act as though Miller’s love is limited, to try to hog it for myself. His love is not mine to contain or maintain. It’s really not even mine. It’s his, to do with as he chooses, even at this young of an age.

Debunking Mom Guilt

Yesterday evening, Mark and Miller walked out the door to go to the park. Normally, I’d have gone with them. Last night, I gave myself a pass to stay home.

As the screen door closed, I heard Miller say, “Daddy, I sure do love…”

Mark responded, but my own guilty conscious was louder than his distant murmur.

In my mind, I heard Miller profess his love for his dad for doing fun things with him and taking him fun places while lame-o mom stays at home and misses an opportunity to make family memories.

I cut off those thoughts and focused instead on how much I love that Miller loves his dad. I love that Mark takes him fun places and does fun things with him. I love that they get one on one time together.

When the boys returned, I said, “Mark, how sweet was that when Miller told you how much he loved you as you walked out the door?”

Mark gave me a questioning look. “That’s not what he said. He said, ‘Daddy, I sure do love mommy,’ and I said, “Me too buddy.”

Mom guilt. At best it’s a misconception. At worst it’s a flat out lie.

Shoulds, feelings of not doing or being enough, that battering ram insisting More!, and a terrible little critic called comparison? They’re all mom guilt’s cronies. Find a way to stop those bullies as quickly as possible. Don’t fuel their falsities.

I stayed at home yesterday evening. I also made a new family memory. Take that mom guilt.

Super Duty: A Potty Training Tale

Once upon a time, as a college student, I noticed a certain truck in front of me at a stoplight: the Ford Super Duty.

“What a ridiculous name for a truck,” I laughed. “It sounds like a term for taking a dump.”

As a little girl, my mother used to refer to Number Two as a “Big Job”. A Super Duty is clearly in the same realm.

Inspiration struck. I decided right then and there that, when I had a child, I would create a Super Duty cape and use it for potty training. It would be the reward of all rewards saved especially for pooping on the toilet.

Equal parts genius and hilarious, I know I know.

Fast forward well over ten years to last summer when I found a superhero cape at a local kids/gifts store.

“This is it. This will be the Super Duty cape,” I smiled feeling victorious.

For all you know he’ll hate wearing it and the whole idea will backfire on you, interjected Snarky.

I purchased it anyway and stashed it in the closet til the time arrived for potty training. But then, an unexpected occurrence. The night before Halloween, I went rummaging through the house to put together a last minute costume for Miller and found the cape.

“Perfect,” I thought to myself. “This’ll give me a chance to see if he even likes wearing it.”

He loved it. The Miller Man was born, and Halloween was a hit.

A pair of boys briefs cut and hemmed into undies layered over girls leggings. Last minute ingenuity.

The next morning, Miller wanted to wear his cape again. My plan was unfolding beautifully. I explained the terms, “When you go poop on the toilet or your potty chair, you can wear the cape again.”

He mean mugged me and went back to playing with his cars.

In the four plus months since, I’ve personalized the cape, talked numerous times about getting to wear it (as has my mom and some of the sitters), and still, it hangs in the closet.

The boy can tell me when he’s going to go. I let him streak naked around the house, and he’ll tell me when he needs his diaper. If I suggest the toilet, here come the tears. It’s not worth a meltdown, which helps no one, least of all the cause, so I don’t push it.

One of these days it’ll happen. In the meantime? F it.

img_2496

Look at what I earned today!

The adventures of Super Duty…to be continued.