Help, my toddler needs social skills.

I am taking on a new endeavor in my life as mother, and indeed in Claire’s life as toddler (though I am loathe to admit she’s a toddler yet): socialization.  Ah, the perils of being a stay at home mommy, and therefore, a stay at home child.  Especially when you’re the first child and have no other play companion than mommy (reason enough right there to try for two kids, if you ask me…).

It became abundantly clear to me last week that Claire needs to be around other children, and yes, away from mommy.  I signed us up for Kindermusik classes, which I had heard good things about and since Claire is obsessed with nursery rhymes and loves to try and sing along with me, it felt like a natural choice in activities for her.  I knew I needed to get her (us) into something to get her out of the house and maybe even meet some other moms for me to befriend.  I said before that even though I’m a mil spouse, I like to make my own friends on my own terms, not always because our husbands happen to work together.  But that’s a topic for another day….

kmusikbanner

We arrived for the music class and it was adorable and full of babies exactly Claire’s age.  The other kids had obviously either been to these classes regularly before, or maybe had siblings or something, because they were running around the room, dancing and playing their little musical sticks and chasing each other.  It was really quite cute and entertaining to watch all their different littler personalities.

But not Claire.  Nope, she was stuck to me like super glue and had this wide-eyed look of being completely overwhelmed.  The poor thing had no idea what was going on, and wouldn’t lose touch of me for one second.

Towards the end of class, which I spent encouraging her to stand up and wiggle, play with her little instruments or sing the nursery rhymes I knew she knew, she warmed up a little bit, but was still very silent and wouldn’t wander far from me.  I considered it a success when she walked up to the basket (many steps away from me) with all the other littles to put her toys away.  She was also upset that I wouldn’t give her her snack cup, because she’s used to getting that any time we are out, which I now realize is something I need to work on not doing (but hey, it keeps her content so mommy can shop.  Feel me?).

story-time
Stock photo – not my class but this was very similar!

So after this experience, I have my new mission.  We are going to Kindermusik every Thursday, and because it’s a little pricey and I don’t want to pay for any other activities, we are starting to go to story time at the local library every Tuesday morning as well.  This is a similar experience, except far less structured, but full of other babies nonetheless, which is what she needs.

It’s so funny that I never considered that being social will take some work and lots of exposure on her part, because she is so silly and full of personality at home.  When we are around other people though, she turns into a clam!  I know it will just take time to get her comfortable, and I’m glad I started doing this now, because I don’t know how long I plan to stay at home all day with her, and I don’t want going to day care to be a huge shock to her system.  Besides the possibility of going to work, I also want her to be used to being cared for by someone other than me or her dad so that we can have date nights that start earlier than after her bedtime.

On that note, I found a very inexpensive gym just down the street from me that has childcare that a friend told me good things about.  I think this is a good way to expose her to a new caretaker, while also learning to be around other babies.  Plus I have been yearning to get back into working out, so it’s a win-win (I hope).  I told my husband that I was really reluctant to do the gym thing because just the thought of leaving Claire at day care and knowing she will panic and be upset at first stresses me out so bad, and he pointed out that I am already stressed and full of anxiety lately anyway (partly due to the fact that I haven’t been exercising, so there you go), so I may as well have something to actually stress about, if I’m going to do it anyway.  Huh.  Maybe he’s right.  I know she needs this, and I know I need an exercise routine to deal with my anxiety, so I gotta do it.  But I’m scared.

Either way, it is hard exposing my daughter to things I know will stress her out a little, but I also know it’s very important to do so in small doses, because it will make her a more well-adjusted child.  I also realize this is only the beginning of teaching my daughter to grow in healthy ways, and it will only get more difficult from here!  So I try to put that into perspective when I think about dropping her off at the gym day care and the melt down I assume will ensue shortly afterward.  No matter, I’ll go sweat out my anxiety in spin class.

If you like the sound of Kindermusik, you should know they are a nationwide program!  You can find one in your area by going here.

Here are some other ideas for activities for little toddlers, if you’re dying to get out of the house and want someone else to entertain your child for a bit.  I plan to try a few in the near future, too:

  • Gymnastics class- check your local gymnastics studio for “mommy and me” classes for toddlers.  There is one near me and that’s next on my list to check out!
  • Story time at your local library (FREE)- I may hate Florida, but the library here is great and has a huge children’s section with separate rooms for story time and activities.
  • Swim lessons – back home we had a phenomenal YMCA that we were members of, and they offered swim lessons as part of the membership.  Here, not so much.  I have heard of infant survival swim classes that teach babies how to float, etc. in case they fall in water, plus it’s never too early to start basic swim lessons!  At Claire’s age, most of them are “mommy and me” which would be a fun bonding activity to do as well (or send dad to the pool and you go get a pedicure.  Both are excellent options).
  • MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers- usually FREE) – this is a Christian-based mom’s group for women to meet up and socialize/bond over being a mom of little ones.  I have never been to a meeting but have heard great things.  They are also a national organization, and you can find a group here.  If there’s not one in your area, you can even start your own!
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Monday musings

Mondays are always rough for me, and I assume most stay-at-home moms?  After a weekend of having help with the baby, or at least having a second set of eyes so I can detach myself a little bit from whatever my little is getting into (and don’t forget letting my husband make the baby breakfast, essentially giving me one morning off), it’s hard for me to jump back into our weekly routine with no other help.  Today I feel like there’s not enough coffee in the world to make me feel fully alert.  I really need to go to bed earlier.

On a typical Monday like today, I try to plan out my week and get organized with my goals.  I think about what shopping I need to do (this week: all of it), what errands I need to run, what I need to do around the house (all the bathrooms, Lord help me), and what activities I want to do with Claire so she is happy and entertained.  My mental lists are starting to include this blog: what I want to write about, what’s on my mind, what projects or recipes I should share, etc.  I realize I haven’t shared any projects and just one silly recipe so far, but I know I’ll get there.  It is obvious through my posts that my life has been chaos lately, and currently my blog is my way of venting my frustration.  Once my chest feels lighter, the creativity will come…. I actually did a project yesterday that I’m excited to share here, but I’m too tired today, so this is yet another journal entry, if you will.

So, as I’m organizing my thoughts for a blog post, I realize they (my thoughts) are all over the place.  Here are some things I’ve been thinking about, for your reading pleasure:

  • Ever since I was sick last month, for the entire month, I’ve been taking Emergen-c vitamin packs, and I think they have made a huge difference for me.  Not only do I feel well again, I have a lot of energy throughout the day.  That is probably partially due to the difference in energy levels when you are sick vs. healthy, but I think it’s also the extra boost of vitamins.  Instead of reaching for that third cup of coffee in the morning, I throw back a full glass of water with vitamins and I feel instantly better.  Try it, you’ll like it!
  • This weekend we drove 1.5 hours to Eglin Air Force Base, which has the biggest military exchange around.  There is something so weirdly comforting to me about military exchanges – they are literally exactly the same on any base, anywhere in the world (I’ve been to many), and they all sell the same brands.  They even smell the same.  And you are around families just like you- everyone is most likely far from home, living this crazy nomadic lifestyle.  Plus everything is tax free, so there’s that.  I bought new sunglasses because I lost my beloved Raybans while chasing Claire through Target a couple weeks back.  I am not surprised to report that because I am the pickiest of sunglasses picker-outers, I took a pair home that I will promptly return this week.  Meanwhile I am squinting in the perpetual Florida sunshine until I find the perfect pair (probably by next year).
  • On Thursday Claire and I start a Kindermusik class that I am excited about.  She is OBSESSED with the Baby Bum nursery rhymes on YouTube lately.  Literally, we listen to them every time we are in the car (otherwise she screams, the little dictator), and sometimes while she eats in her highchair.  I kid you not, she is starting to learn the abc’s and can count to five thanks to them.  And she has learned a ton of words too!  She is only 17 months!  Try them here.  But I warn you: I am pretty sure these songs have been etched into my brain for the rest of time- they are CONSTANTLY stuck in my head, never to be fully free of them.  Anyway, she loves music so I’m excited to see how she does in the class.  I’ll share more after Thursday.
  • I need a break.  My husband and I discussed, before we were both sick for the last month, giving me one day per week as a break from mommyhood.  Not the entire day, but enough time for me to go out and get my nails done, or run some errands kid free, or do a little shopping.  OR stay home and enjoy a quiet house while he takes Claire somewhere.  I didn’t get that this weekend, but we’ve decided next Saturday morning will be my “me time.”  I’m thinking a morning yoga class, followed by a pedicure my toes have been screaming for for over a month, and maybe a trip to the book store, as I desperately need something new to read.  Which leads me to:
  • I’m thinking about volunteering and/or getting a little weekend job.  I really want to do something and help those less fortunate, as I am acutely aware of my blessings lately (despite how much I like to complain here), and feel that because I don’t work, I need to do something that makes me feel like I contribute to society.  My husband likes to remind me that raising a child is exactly that, but I need more I think.  I also like the idea of a little Saturday job for some spending cash for me.  Hey, I like to shop.  No shame in my game.
  • Now that I am feeling myself again, I am bursting with creative ideas to turn our new house into a home.  It’s taken me 3.5 months to feel this way, mostly because I know we only will own this house for 3 years max (maybe only 2), so I don’t want to do anything major or sink a ton of money into it, but I have a long list of small projects I want to do, which will make me feel like I’ve left my mark on this house.  I’m anxious to get started and share them with you all here!  Stay tuned!

And lastly, I think I’m figuring out a narrower direction for this blog.  As much as I hate to admit it, and as much as I don’t like to talk about it (honestly, I am so much more than just a military wife), I am realizing everything about my current situation is because I am a military spouse… I know, duh, right?  I am far from home, have no family around, and am basically second priority for my husband due to the fact that the government literally owns him.  All the things I feel lately, all my worries and anxieties and frustrations are due to this one simple fact.  So maybe that’s my niche.  I blogged about it a few posts back, but all of my design ideas and repurposing of things and money spent on new things because not everything fits nicely in this house like it did the other house, etc., is due to our military lifestyle.  I am constantly reinventing our little habitat (not to mention, job, credentials, goals, etc.), which has spurred the inner creative in me but which I also constantly try to deny.  So there you (I) have it- my blog is becoming a tool for the fellow military spouse who also has to reinvent her life here and there, even if they don’t want to.  And, you know, it’s also good entertainment for you normal people whom I so envy, who get to stay in place for as long as they want.

With that, the creative juices are flowing a little faster.  I’ll be back in a day or two to extrapolate on some of my Monday Mental List.

I’m pretty sure I’ve failed as a mother today.

Days like this always seem to come out of nowhere, have you noticed that?  After Claire went to bed last night, my husband and I were talking about how good she had been all day.  Pleasant, happy, charming, playful, and ate up all her dinner.  I woke up this morning, got my shower, and came out of the bathroom to the sounds of her crying on the monitor.  I should have known then that it was going to be a day.  She almost never cries when she wakes up anymore.  She will spend anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes babbling away happily in the morning before she gets a little fussy and I go and get her up.  And yeah, my kid likes to sleep in.  Usually I don’t get her up until around 8am.  This morning she was crying in bed at 7:30… Not complaining because I know plenty of kids who are bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6am, but it’s fair to say this is unusual for Claire.

No fever, no runny nose, no telltale signs of being ill.  I’m guessing it’s teething, as she has a few incoming teeth, but even that wasn’t obvious.  She was just pissed off.  Cried over having to wait for me to make her pancakes, cried over the Cheerios I gave her while she waited, cried at the fact that I was trying to address an envelope to stick in the mail while she ate said pancakes.  God forbid I don’t give her my full attention while she eats her breakfast.

Now here comes the part where I failed today (as a sidenote, I am in major PMS mode, so my level of patience is at an all-time low right now.  I’m not in a bad mood per se, but I’m also not feeling like a saint at the moment).  I couldn’t take all the crying, as Claire continued throwing a fit after I let her out of her highchair.  So I went into our spare bedroom, closed the door and sat on the floor; I needed a time out.  Claire is yelling “mommy!” “mommy!” throughout the house, and after about two minutes I open the door and let her come in.  She sits in my lap and snuggles me for a minute, and my heart melts and I feel instant guilt.

Until she throws tantrum #376 about fifteen minutes later.  As soon as I’ve gotten myself put together enough for the day, with an almost-toddler at my heels incessantly pulling at me and fussing while I do my best to ignore it, I decide we should go for a walk.  As I get Claire changed and out of her pajamas, fill up her little snack cup, get the dog’s collar and leash on, my dear child follows me around the house screaming and crying at me.  I can’t take another minute of it again, so I go into the laundry room, shut the door and sit on the floor.  Mommy needs another time out.  While I take deep breaths and try to count to one thousand (I made it to 11 I think?), I hear “momma!” “mommy!” “momma!” on the other side of the door.  Jiggle jiggle jiggle goes the handle.  I count to twenty.  Open the door.  See a very mad and upset baby looking at me.  I don’t say anything but walk through the baby gate, get the dog ready for the walk, get us all into the garage and we take off for the walk.  Claire doesn’t utter a single peep the entire time, so I keep walking.  And walking.  And walking.  And because I live in Florida, I start to get hot after a while and finally head home.

Luckily it is 75 degrees and sunny out today, so we played in the backyard until her nap and that also seemed to distract her from her crappy mood.  And I have to say, enjoying my back porch this morning helped to calm me down too:

backyard

Now you might be thinking, that doesn’t really sound like a parenting failure to me, but believe me when I say inside I felt like an utter failure.  From pretty much the moment my daughter woke up, I wanted to bring her to her dad at work and take myself to the nearest day spa and pay for the most expensive mani/pedi I could get.  I keep envisioning handing her off to her father when he gets home so I could go shut and lock the bathroom door and take a bubble bath, or, you know, just lay on my bed staring at the ceiling and doing absolutely nothing.  I’ll be honest and say I wanted to scream a couple of times this morning, which made me feel like a monster.  Sometimes being a parent is just so, so hard.  And other times it’s the greatest gift, on days like yesterday when Claire was an absolute delight.  Ok, being a parent is always a gift (I still can say that even today), but it doesn’t always feel like it.  Let’s be real.  Today just feels like I need a solo vacation, with cocktails, spa sessions and absolutely no one that depends on me to feed them (that includes my husband).

So while I sit here typing this, eating my daughter’s Gold Fish crackers on my lovely back porch and praying Claire takes a three hour nap and sleeps off whatever funk she woke up in, I’m going to count to fifty (thousand) this time and push “restart” on the rest of my day.  If all else fails it is socially acceptable to start drinking in about four hours.

Major mommy breakthrough

 

Before I start, let’s just take a big collective deep breath in……..and out.  And another…..Here’s a little sunset photo I took this week to help.

sunset

That’s better, isn’t it?  After being sick for three weeks, and whining about it plenty on here, my husband and I did something we hadn’t done in over a year and a half.  We got a hotel room, and had over 24 hours to ourselves.  It was heaven.  It was perfection.  It was a giant deep breath in…and out.

We had cocktails at sunset, with no mini me screaming for her goldfish and blueberries, asking to get down and run around like a drunk person, or demanding a bite of anything on my fork.  We just…..talked.  And sipped.  And ate unpasteurized meats and cheeses.  AND LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT.

drinks
Champagne cocktails, and a water glass I seriously considered stealing. My conscience won out.
meat
#Charcuterie

You see, it was my first night away from Claire…ever.  Sean has had plenty (collectively he’s spent months away from her because of his job), but for me, I’d never spent more than 8 hours away from my baby.  And everyone asked me how I felt, and how it went, as if they were waiting for me to say that I had a nervous breakdown and demanded we drive home immediately.  Boy were they wrong!  I loved every second of it!  I had cocktails, wine, yummy food I didn’t have to share, a bubblebath, we went shopping and took our sweet time in whatever store we wanted.  It was magic!

Don’t get me wrong, we talked about Claire plenty, and I felt myself wishing I could check in on her at night, but after the last four months of moving hell, holidays away from home hell, being sick hell, I was SO READY for a break from reality.  It couldn’t have come at a better time.  And did I ever relish my little sanity break.  A lingering cold couldn’t keep me down; I threw all my cold aid paraphernalia in a bag and hopped in the car.   And the best part?  By the time we got home the next afternoon, I was so excited to see my little nugget and felt more energized than I had in a very long time.  So, please forgive any griping I may have done about my mother-in-law coming to visit.

dessert
Dessert and coffee. Which we took our sweet time eating, because we could. And I only had to share with my husband. Bliss.
binbed
And breakfast room service. A total splurge, but when would we get this chance again? Worth it.  (I also refrained from stealing the water glasses again, somehow)

When I think about my friends in my hometown who still live there, along with their parents, and realize they can just drop their kids off with grandma on any random Saturday or date night, I turn green with envy.  Sure, we can hire a babysitter, but that obviously gets expensive.  And not practical for an overnight.  So now that we had this little retreat, I’m realizing that they will only come around every six months or so.  Next time I’m thinking several days away might be in order…. in Vegas?  A girl can dream.

I’m learning a valuable lesson in mommy guilt.  From day to day, I feel guilty if I don’t play with Claire enough if I have things to do, or that we didn’t read enough books together, or that I didn’t take her to any activities to engage her, etc.  I feel guilty that she doesn’t have many opportunities to socialize with other babies yet.  And when I put her down to bed, I think about how good of a sleeper she is and feel guilt about the cry it out method we used, which was hard (as they all are) but has produced the best sleeper a parent could ask for.  I reflect on the day and wonder what I could have done more of, or better, or different.  It’s exhausting.  But I’m getting tired of feeling that way, and so when this opportunity to get away came around, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to feel guilty about it.  She was happy at home with grandma, and Sean and I needed some time alone together.  And for once, I listened to my inner self and I enjoyed every damn second.  And guess what happened?  Claire was happy as a clam for her Nana and was happy to see us when we got home, but was completely unfazed from us being away from her.

Lesson learned: get out more.  For your own sanity!

 

Monday poetry

A little about this poem I just wrote, before I share it…

Every time I see Claire follow me around the house, dragging her treasured “papie” (blankie) and her morning milk, my heart lurches with love.  This tiny human, so cozy in her footie pajamas, ready for snuggles in the morning, is mine.  She loves me, because I am her mama.  And it is the greatest gift of my life, motherhood.  Impossibly difficult, frustrating and demanding as it can be, being her mama is the single greatest honor of my life.  And it sounds dramatic and almost cliché to make such statements, but I really do think it every single day.

I originally wanted to write a Haiku.  My friend Kate writes the most beautiful Haikus and I thought that would be a lovely, short and sweet sentiment.  But as evidenced by all the writing I just did leading up to the debut of the short poem you’re about to read, I’m just too wordy for a strict syllable-driven poem.  I digress.

 

Mornings with Mama

 

Softest blankie, sippy cups

Your feet in jammies,

Don’t grow up/

Eyes expectant, I know what for

“Elmo,” snuggles,

You implore/

I scoop you up

And hold you tight.

And think, “I love you,” with all my might/

My greatest gift, the honor is mine.

To be your Mama for all of time.