Embracing the “Lasts” of Childhood

I was driving the munchkins to school yesterday when we got stuck in a mile-long traffic jam, thanks to a broken-down train. The road we were on happened to be near a park we used to go to regularly when they were younger. C looked out her window at the empty swings, slide and spinning-thingy and remarked, “It looks so small.”

I laughed and replied, “That’s because you’re bigger now.”

This truth is something I’ve been chewing on lately as a mama. My kids are bigger now, so big that one of them is getting too tall to be my chin rest. They’re heavier now so that when I try to carry them—with one arm under their head and the other under their knees—I can only manage to stay upright for ten seconds. They’re also outgrowing a lot of the activities they enjoyed before: going to the park or playground, holding my hand when we cross the street or having me read them a book (or three!) at bedtime.

As parents, we always look forward to the firsts of childhood: a child’s first word, first step, first time pooping in the potty, first day of school, first performance … the list goes on and on. But what happens when some of these “firsts” start becoming their “lasts”?

I used to complain about reading to them before bed. I was tired, blurry-eyed and, quite honestly, looking forward to my alone time after the family fell asleep. The last thing I wanted to do was crack open a book and narrate it in my most dramatic voice. Just between you and me, I may or may not have only borrowed reeeaaalllly short books from the library to shorten the reading time. 😉

There came a day when the munchkins were in bed, waiting for me to take a shower, so I could read to them afterwards. Except that on this night by the time I was ready to read, they were already asleep! And the same thing happened the day after and the day after that. By the third night, other than realizing I could’ve taken longer showers (haha!), I started to wonder if my job as a bedtime book reader was coming to an end. Maybe the munchkins didn’t want me to read to them anymore?!?! :O Noooo!

That’s when I decided reading to them at bedtime wasn’t such a bad thing. It’s something that takes time and effort, but it’s also a great privilege and—sniff, sniff!—a temporary one.

As much as we long for our kids to grow up, it’s hard when it actually happens. It’s hard to accept that your baby doesn’t need you the same way he did before, but trust me, it’s a good thing. Before you know it, your little one won’t need you to brush their teeth for them. They won’t need you to wipe their bottoms or their noses. There will come a morning when she will shake her hand free from yours when you reach the school gate. An evening when he won’t ask you for another bedtime story. And maybe even a day when your child will be the one showing you neat shortcuts on your phone that you had no idea existed. And it’ll be okay. Because their growth and their independence is our reward. It’s a sign of a job well done. 🙂

So, let’s celebrate the “firsts” of our children, embrace their “lasts”, but most of all, enjoy all the in-betweens.

Here’s a beautiful rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” sung by Voctave, from the movie Moana. Just think, one day we won’t be bombarded by Disney songs (unless of course you choose to be)!

What childhood “lasts” have you learned to embrace?

Life Lessons from a Wannabe Strawberry Plant

Remember my post a few weeks back (you can read it HERE) about how munchkin #2 waited 72 (I repeat, 72!) days for her strawberry plant to sprout? Here’s part 2 of this epic saga. Saga is the correct term because it means “a long story of heroic achievement”.

So thanks to a green-thumbed friend of mine who saw a photo of C’s plant on my Instagram, we learned the strawberry plant was in fact not a strawberry plant, but more likely a dandelion. When I broke the news to C, her whole body slumped as she wailed, “I’ve been growing a WEED?!”

Poor C. My disappointment was only a smidgeon of the shock and despair she was feeling. In that moment she wanted to give up. She was ready to hand over her bright green shoot of long, spiky leaves and have me take care of it. And quite honestly, I didn’t blame her.

I took a deep breath and racked my brain, trying hard to come up with something redeemable about the situation. I rubbed her back and said, “Sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect them to. You didn’t grow a strawberry plant, but you did grow something! You did a great job watering and taking care of it every day for so long. Now you know what it takes to grow a plant.”

Her answer? “I’m growing a weed!”

Yup. Such is life, my dear. 😛

I wish things were different. I wish one strawberry seed had made it so C could have something to show for her hard work and patience (because to an 8 year old, 72 days is like an eternity!). But in the midst of all our disappointment, I appreciated the life lesson this wannabe strawberry plant reminded me of: Things doesn’t always turn out the way we expect, but that doesn’t mean these experiences were for naught. The disappointments we face, the unexpected detours and U-turns we make, the epic failures we go through—they are what make us strong and resilient and persistent. Nope, they’re not fun or pleasant, but they build something precious and desirable: they build character. And the hard times are what make success and victory sweet.

This experience taught C so much, and I can see how her perspective has changed. Just this past weekend we decided to start a small garden in the backyard. C jumped at the idea and we all went to the store to buy seeds to plant. While C was browsing, she turned to the back of the seed packets to look for the number of days it would take before the vegetable could be harvested. Several times she remarked, “52 days? 66 days? That’s so fast!” I had to keep myself from laughing at her reaction. This was the same girl who had moaned and groaned for 72 days while she waited for her strawberry/dandelion plant to grow. But now? She’s become a pro at waiting. 🙂

So, I want to say thank you to the random dandelion seed who flew into our house and found the perfect place to land. You may be a weed, but you’re a wonderful weed. Thanks for the life lessons you taught my munchkin. But whatever you do, please don’t spread your seeds into our backyard. 😉

Here’s a picture of C’s weed. Next to it is some lettuce she’s growing, too (which is super easy to do; go here for instructions)!

Here’s an oldie but goodie, Wilson Phillips’ song “Hold On”, that talks about holding on through the hard times.

How have disappointments and failures shaped you?

Why Mother’s Day Isn’t for Moms

I’ve been blessed to be a mama for a decade now and the one thing I’ve learned as a mom is that you need to go in to Mother’s Day with the right expectations. 😉 Why? Because I used to think that this one day of the year would be an actual day where I could get away with sleeping in, having breakfast in bed, and generally speaking, not having to lift a single finger the whole day. How did I ever get this crazy idea in my head? Because I was led to believe that Mother’s Day is a day designated to celebrating moms. And when you’re expecting to be treated like the VIP that you are (wink, wink), you look forward to this day the same way that you look forward to going on a tropical vacation: You say “bring it on!”.

Well, soon after I experienced my first Mother’s Day, reality set in. Nope, I did not get to sleep in (because babies don’t understand the concept of sleeping in), I still had to change diapers and wipe little behinds, I still had to feed people, I still had to do whatever request a munchkin asked me to do because as moms all know, you’re the only one special enough to do such a request. 🙂 Dishes still piled up in the sink, the laundry baskets were still full and the bathroom was still the one place I couldn’t go alone.

I got to the point where I decided the best way I could enjoy Mother’s Day was to prepare myself for it. By prepare I meant doing the laundry (washing, drying and ironing) a day early. Vacuuming and mopping the floors earlier in the week. Making sure the fridge was stocked and would last us through the weekend. Doing any other things that needed to be done before Mother’s Day, so I could do what I was supposed to do on Mother’s Day: enjoy Mother’s Day. Pretty silly, huh? 😉

I came to the realization that my expectations were all wrong. I had set the bar so high for this one particular day. I didn’t want to do any housework. I didn’t want my kids to ask me to do anything for them. I wanted to be wined and dined (even take-out would be fine!) I just wanted the whole day to be perfect (is that too much to ask?!) LOL. I was essentially asking to not be a mother on Mother’s Day.

I’ve finally come full circle on this whole Mother’s Day issue. I now accept that Mother’s Day is not for me. 😉 It’s for my kids. It’s a day for them to look forward to as they wake up excited in the morning to bring me breakfast in bed. It’s a day where they have the chance to present me with a gift they made with their own little hands or bought with their own money. It’s a day for them to give me hugs and words of appreciation because they honestly think I’m one of the most important people in the world. It’s a day to marvel at their unconditional love for me just for being their mom.

It doesn’t get better than this! 🙂

So I’m good with Mother’s Day. I may even be looking forward to it this year. 😉 I hope you are, too. And if you’re still hoping for that one day a year where you don’t have to lift a finger and everything is perfect? There’s always your birthday. 😉

Here’s wishing you and your family a very happy Mother’s Day! Thank God for moms!

Celebrating Our Sweet 16 (Years of Marriage)

Hubby and I will be celebrating 16 years of marriage tomorrow. Yup, we chose May 5th so it’d be an easy date for him to remember. 😉 (Fun fact: He has trouble remembering his own parents’ birthdays.) As we approach our sweet 16, the one emotion I feel is that of gratitude. I am so thankful because I know I married the right person.

Recently, hubby came back from work to have lunch with me. After our meal, we decided to go to Peet’s (coffee for him, tea for me), and on our way there we saw a man sitting outside on a bench. He held up a handwritten note on a piece of torn cardboard, asking for help. Hubby and I exchanged a quick glance as we passed him. Inside the cafe we placed our order and he went to the restroom. While I waited for him, I took my wallet out of my purse and checked if I had any cash. I rarely do, but that day I found a few bills and placed them in my pocket. I then picked up our order and met hubby as he came out of the restroom. I watched as he also pulled out his wallet to look for cash, and that’s when I knew … I had married the right guy.

“I already got some money—”

“You did?” he responded in surprise. He paused his search and took the cash I handed him. “Oh, good.”

We left Peet’s and handed the money to the man outside.

I don’t tell this story to brag about our “good deed”, but I do want to brag about my hubby. 🙂 In the time I’ve known him, I’ve learned that he is a generous person with a soft spot for people who would be considered underdogs. He is generous with his money (guess who’s the saver in the family?), but it’s because he understands that money is a tool which can be used for good. Even though he can never wait to get the latest and greatest gadgets, he is patient where it counts the most: with people. He makes time for the munchkins and showers them with daily “I love you’s” and kisses (in private of course, never at school!) and also forgives quickly. I still remember the time munchkin #1 accidentally dropped his precious Nikon SLR camera on the floor. He winced for a split second, but his love for his kids soon replaced any other emotions he could have had in that moment. As a husband, he has been my biggest fan from day one. He walked by my side as I finished grad school, let me squeeze his arm during labor contractions, and supports me daily as a stay-at-home mom. Even though he has yet to read any of my books (he doesn’t like to read, haha!), he encourages me to write and proudly tells his coworkers that his wife is an author.

Hubby is the more generous, gracious and giving spouse in our marriage, and quite honestly, my better half. And because of who he is and his care for our family, I have learned to be more generous, gracious and giving. The reason I wanted to give money to that man outside of Peet’s was because I’ve seen hubby do the same time and time again. The fact that we both opened up our wallets that day showed me that the past 16 years of our marriage have molded and shaped us. We started out as two very different individuals, and while we still are opposites in many ways, we have also influenced one another for the better. Our viewpoints and interests are more aligned. We see eye-to-eye on the bigger issues in life and let the minor ones fall to the side. Rather than a state of coexistence, our relationship has become one of communication, cooperation and companionship. And would you believe it, our marriage has also become more fun. 🙂

If you’d asked me early on in our marriage whether or not I’d married the right person, I don’t think I would have been able to answer with a firm yes. But now? I’m certain I married the right man. Because this man makes me want to be a better woman.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the Lord and our family and friends for supporting us through our marriage! And our munchkins for bringing so much joy (and white hair) to our lives. Happy anniversary, Honey! I love you. 😀