I’m a city girl at heart.

Last week I found myself thinking about my friend, also named Jenny, who is an Army wife and preparing to move to Germany in the next month or so.  Jenny and I were fast friends when we met in grad school in Hawaii.  She is a spunky, firey redhead with an Alabama accent, and we share a mutual disdain for stupidity.  She is perfectly snarky and sarcastic, and upon meeting her I knew she was my spirit animal.  We spent most weekends (and many night classes) together for the entirety of our grad school program, and our husbands ended up being good buddies too.  When I think of my time in Hawaii, she is one of the best memories I take away.

Of course, as a military wife, you quickly learn that even the best friendships are forced to separate in just a few short years.  We moved to Washington, and she moved to the desert of California with her husband, and had a baby boy a couple years before I had Claire.  Anyway, we always stayed in touch and talked about meeting up somewhere in the country ever since we moved apart from one another.  This last Christmas, we did end up meeting her and her family in Orlando for a quick but wonderful Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios.  The park was great and our inner Harry Potter nerds were sufficiently pleased by the trip, but the best part was reuniting with our friends, babies in tow, and picking up right where we left off, as if we hadn’t not seen each other in almost four years.  Those are the kind of friendships you know will last.

Flash forward to last week, as I was thinking about Jenny moving, and a wild and crazy idea popped into my head.  As they are currently stationed in upstate New York for another month or so, I texted her late at night asking if she’d be free for a girls’ weekend in New York City – one last hurrah – before her big move.  I have a TON of airline miles burning a hole in our bank account.  The more I thought about how amazing a weekend like that would be – no kids, plenty of time for girl talk, leisurely meals at fabulous restaurants, no toddlers trying to run free around the place or nap times to worry about – the more excited I became.  I waited almost a whole day in agony before she texted me back and accepted my proposal!

So in two weeks’ time, I will get to fly (in a plane….by myself) to the Big Apple, see a Broadway show, eat at delicious restaurants, and walk and shop the city with one of my best friends.  I am absolutely ecstatic.  Sean volunteered to take a day off of work, and will stay home with Claire so I can have an escape, and I am so grateful.  I know he would love a few days in New York too, but he knows what a hard time I’ve been having lately, all the sadness I’ve been working through, and I just feel so lucky to have a compassionate and supportive husband… who is going to let me go party in the big city without him!

This will be my first time away from both my husband and my daughter since… well, since my daughter was born.  I know I am SO ready for some time away, but I also know I will miss them both.  I’m just not good at being away from Claire.  Do you know any moms who seem to be so good at being away from their kids?  Who don’t ever seem to have a single worry when they are apart from their little ones, and can let loose and be themselves?  I envy those moms.  I don’t have that gene (yet).

Don’t get me wrong, I love nap time – it’s my favorite time of day – and I have a lot of interests and hobbies I try to indulge in when I have time to myself, but as for being able to be away for days on end, or even daycare situations, I haven’t gotten good at relinquishing her to the care of others.  I worry.  And I feel guilty.  And I count the hours until I can pick her up.  And I convince myself it’s good for her, even if she cries and I feel terrible.  Which, for the record, I know it is good for her, but I still feel terrible about leaving her in someone else’s care when she cries for me as I walk away.  Does that ever get easier??

I ran into a mom friend last week who has a daughter a month younger than Claire.  We were talking about the Mother’s Morning Out program that I’ve written about before, and she asked me if I had enrolled Claire in the pre-(pre?) school program for next school year.  I just looked at her blankly and said no, I had no idea what she was talking about.  It’s basically a preschool for two year-olds a few days per week.  I walked away from that conversation feeling kind of stupid for not knowing that Claire should be in preschool already, and confused as to why she should be in preschool already because she is only 20 months old!  For crying out loud.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was definitely not ready to put Claire in anything remotely resembling a “school.”  While the alone time would be nice, I can still use the Mother’s Morning Out program without having to enroll her in a school at two years old.  If I am going to stay home with my daughter while she is so little, I want her to be home with me for most of that time at least.  There is so much time ahead of her where she will have to be in school, probably even starting the following year, that I can’t bring myself to be ready for that stage yet.  She’s still my baby.

Motherhood is a constant inner struggle of feeling guilty for literally everything, wanting freedom and your old life back, and also wanting to keep your babies close to and dependent on you, forever.  I’m always tired and confused and wanting “me time,” and then when I have it, I miss my baby.  The old me would not recognize the new me, I am sure of that.  But I’m also cool with that, because despite the exhaustion and constant struggle, motherhood is simply the greatest gift.

So, in two weeks when my inner Big City Girl is basking in the one true Big City, I will remind myself of the gift that this free time is, and force myself not to feel too guilty.  Life has been a bitch lately, and I deserve some rooftop cocktails and shopping in Soho.  Hell, I may not ever come back.  🙂

 

On sadness, change, and grief…

I took a break from blogging last week, because my husband was home all week and because I’ve been going through a rough time.  Let’s just say an event brought up a lot of feelings to my surface, and my cup runneth over.  I’ve had some sleepless nights, some good cries, and some real talk with my husband.  The reality of this move is still settling with me, but yet it does not feel settled at all.  I’ve realized I’m mourning the life we left behind – the one I didn’t think I’d have to leave – and I’m not ready to let that go yet.  They say that the depression stage is the final one before acceptance, so maybe I can hope this is progress?

In all my wallowing, I’ve realized just how much I’ve taken my husband for granted.  And so today, I sat down and this letter to him just poured out of me.  I’ll post it here as a mode of self expression.  Perhaps I will say all of this to him in not so many words.  The military lifestyle is not for the faint of heart.

Dear husband,

I know I haven’t been the most pleasant thing to be around lately.  I have been quiet, and sad, and a little selfish by wallowing in my feelings.  I have been short with you, maybe a little too reliant on you for help with the baby, maybe even a little mean at times.  And at other times, I have required you to be up late with me because I can’t sleep, or hold me while I cry and pray that you can figure out what to say to me to snap me out of the funk I’m in.

I know you have feelings, too.  You work so, so hard.  Long hours, short nights.  You never stop when you get home, either: take the baby on a walk so I can cook dinner in peace, take her outside and push her in the swing, feed her the dinner I cooked.  Every other night it’s your turn to give her a bath, read her a story and then we both put her to bed.  And then you do the dishes from the meal I cooked (although usually we do this one thing together).  After the kitchen is cleaned, either you or I (lately it’s often you) have to make your lunch for the next day, set the coffee, wipe down the countertops.  Maybe we have an hour to veg on the couch, but then it’s time to get ready for bed.  Lock up the house, check on the baby, brush teeth, get all of your clothes out for work the next day.  Sometimes lately I don’t let you sleep as much as you need, because I am lost and need help.  And then it’s morning, and you are gone before I am awake, and everything starts all over again.

And then I am home all day with our daughter, with mostly my thoughts for company (toddlers aren’t very good at empathy).  And I feel sad.  Because I don’t have any friends really, in this new place.  Because I’m lonely all day, and I don’t like this new town we moved to, and I miss my home and my family so incredibly much that sometimes I feel a small hole in my heart.  And I’m sad because I don’t want to wish away this time, when our daughter is so small and snuggly and sweet.  When I feel the last years of being truly young playing out to true adulthood.

My mom says I am grieving for that life we had but chose to leave behind.  It was a risk, we said, and risks can have big payoffs.  A big promotion, a big bonus, new opportunities.  But the only opportunity I want open to us is the one we left behind.  I want to go back.  I would still go back.  I’m not sure my mind will change on that.

But I know we can’t go back.  We can only go forward, and I still don’t know how to do that yet.  This is not the town for me, the people, the lifestyle.  I am lonely and not confident anymore, like I was where we used to live, where everything made sense.  Where made sense.

What will become of me now?

I am sorry for my selfish sadness right now.  I hope it won’t last long, but the truth is I just need to be selfish at the moment.  I need you to be there for me, even if I can’t be there for you in the same way.  I need you to tell me over and over and over again that it will be okay, that this time is a blip on the radar of our life together, that life will go on and I will find happiness.  That you will lose sleep with me sometimes, and let me cry, and help me through this.

Life isn’t always supposed to be easy, and I get that.  This is a difficult time in my life, in our lives, but I don’t want it to be wasted.  Maybe I can embrace the difficulty, pray about it, and let it build me up even stronger.  Maybe.  But I don’t feel my strongest these days.  I feel sensitive and sad.  And I need you to see me through to happiness again.  And I promise that if you can do that for me, I will one day do it for you, too.

This is where I’m meant to be, because this is where I am

Happy Monday!  I’ve been cooking up some great things in the kitchen this week that I plan to share once I get all my images loaded, but in the meantime I thought I would share this post I wrote a while back, as I continue to deal with accepting my lot in life these days.  I know many, many military spouses or anyone who has had a huge life change can identify.  I’d love for you to share your thoughts…

On Friday I received some perspective from the most unlikeliest of sources.  Seriously, I never would have expected this person to offer me some food for thought that would actually leave a lasting impression on me, and that I’ve been thinking about ever since.  It led me to some pretty profound conclusions I am making about my life, namely the acceptance of what my life is, despite my willful denial.

My husband had this boss back in Washington who was always a bit of a challenge for him.  They had a constant personality clash and while they got on and worked together fine, Sean was never quite sure how to read his boss.  I was friends with his wife, as we had babies about 5 months apart, and several things in common such as a graduate education and professional jobs/goals.  Still, I was never able to feel close to his wife for much the same reason that my husband was never in his boss’s club of favorites.

Anyway.  This former boss of my husband’s was in town for work, and we were chatting at a social function.  I think Sean had informed him that I was having a hard time settling in here, because one of the first things he said to me was “So you know, there are a ton of fun things to do here in Florida.”  I sarcastically replied, “Oh really?  Are you sure?” (I’m snarky like that).  And then he went into all the fun things he and his wife used to do when they lived here a while back.  I appreciated the input and really do plan to make the most of this place, when I’m ready, but I also told him I just really belong in Washington and I hope we can go back there soon.

To which he replied with the aforementioned profound perspective that I was not expecting.  He said to me, “The way I see it, you guys moved back ‘home’ to Washington after being in Hawaii for five years, and that really pressed ‘reset’ on your life as a military family.  You got all settled in close to your family and everything familiar, and moving to Florida was like ripping you out of your comfort zone again and reminding you that you actually are a military family.  It will just take time to realize that.”

Mic drop.

Jaw drop.

I played it cool and acknowledged that that was indeed true, all of it, and that I was sure I’d get used to it in time.  But as we left that evening, I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said.  This guy had maybe said three sentences TOTAL to me in the past 3.5 years, and here he was giving me some advice I had never heard from anyone, and which had directed my thinking in a completely different direction.  I like to say I am so much more than a military wife, and I am, but I have to acknowledge that being a military wife is part of me too, and I am who I am today in large part because of the last eight years of my life.

sunny-person-woman-sitting

It was easy to acknowledge being a military wife in Hawaii: I was a newlywed, living in paradise, and therefore excited and proud to be living that lifestyle.  But I also had just graduated college, and had goals that had nothing to do with being a military spouse.  And I met a lot of spouses who seemed like their only goal in life was to be, well, a military spouse.  I was married to the man I love who also happened to be in the military, I wasn’t in love with a military man.  If that makes sense.  Then when we moved to Washington, I was back home.  Everything was familiar and comfortable, and though Sean traveled constantly, my life felt like it went back to normal and it was easy to forget that I was even a military spouse at all.  Heck, all my family lived three hours or less away.

And then we moved to Florida.  And all I do is complain about my life.  And everything is an adjustment again, this time with a small toddler in tow.  And my goals have changed a lot since then, many of which can not be achieved while we live this lifestyle.  And all my family is 3,000 miles away.

And so I struggle.

So I’m having a long and hard think on all this.  I appreciate the perspective and admit it was deeply profound, but it also doesn’t make the transition any easier.  My stepmom, who is a mindfulness coach, explained to me a few weeks ago that this is where I am meant to be, because this is where I am.  Sounds pretty zen, doesn’t it?  But maybe that’s the simple truth of it: despite my wishing I wasn’t here, it is indeed where I am.  I am here with my husband who doesn’t have to travel for the next 2.5 years, my sweet daughter, and sunshine.

So much sunshine.

Maybe that will have to be enough for a while.

Jumbled thoughts from a jumbled mom-brain. Sounds about right.

I need to wake up earlier in the mornings, to get my thoughts into writing more often.  I hate how I wake up, get in the shower and have all of these thoughts and ideas during the day (does that happen to you in the shower?  It’s like Owen Wilson says in “Midnight in Paris” – you get all those “positive ions flowing” in the shower.  For me, anyway), and then by the time I put Claire down for her one nap and sit down to write, my mind goes blank.  She exhausts my brain so much some days that I literally go sit in my bed, pull a blanket over me and I stare at the ceiling for a good twenty minutes before telling myself to get up and exercise.  Or clean.  Or eat.  You know how it goes.

I love my morning time to myself, and almost on a daily occurrence I tell myself that I should wake up earlier tomorrow, so I can sit and drink some coffee in bed, take a longer shower, and do more blog posts.  Usually I get up in just enough time to get a shower and put half my face on and sip some coffee for maybe 10 minutes before I hear the inevitable fussing on the monitor.  Time for the day to start!

idea bulb

Anyway.  That being said, I had a bunch of inspired ideas this morning and can maybe recall two of them?  So I thought I’d bullet point them today, to get them out of my brain.  I’m going to start carrying a notebook around with me wherever I go.  You know, for science.

  • I’m starting to meet some other SAHMs through Claire’s activities at the library and Kindermusik.  It’s really been nice.  This morning Claire was driving me nuts with asking for things, and saying things over and over (and over and over) again until I acknowledge what she says (if I don’t she starts to scream at me.  It’s just a phase, right?) that I was starting to get a little short with her, which always makes me feel like mom of the year.  So I finally stuff her into the car seat and get to music class, and she is her usual painfully shy self among all the other littles.  But I started talking to the other moms a lot more than normal today, and it felt so good to have some adult conversation!  So it made me think, maybe (probably) her little baby activities are as much for me as they area for her.  I found out about a few more weekly activities through these moms, and at least one of them includes me dropping her off for three hours while she plays and mommy gets some sanity time.  I’m scared Claire will freak out judging by how she acts at music class, but with time I think it would be good for her.
  • My dad is coming to visit us this weekend – in fact, my husband will be picking him up at the airport in about 2 hours, so I better finish cleaning.  He and Sean are going to build Claire a playset this weekend, and I just know she will love it.  I am not loving spending all the money on it (have you ever shopped around for one?  Insanity!), but we got some donations from the grandparents so hopefully that softens the blow a bit.  Which brings me to:
  • We have had a lot of expensive things happen to us ever since – and just before- the big move.  Crazy expensive car fixes, the cost of moving, buying a new oven in our new home because the one we got with the house decided to die, various home repairs, and a couple of repairs at our home that we own and lease out in Washington.  We have always been good savers so it hasn’t ruined us or anything but it is so hard to watch our money go to stuff like that.  I’m hoping our bad luck has almost run its course, but this year has taught me that Murphy’s Law is in full effect so I better be careful not to talk in absolutes.
  • For that reason, I am starting to look a lot more closely at our monthly expenditures.  I feel like we have a comfortable monthly budget, my husband makes good money, yet we always feel like money is tight.  So I started looking at what we spend money on every month, and I realized after just a quick analysis yesterday that I am spending a TON of money on groceries.  Groceries!  The last thing I thought money was being wasted on.  It’s true that I am always experimenting in the kitchen, and that our daughter is an eating machine, and that we rarely eat out anymore because we have been trying to reign in our spending, but even given all of that we are spending too much.  Maybe I should become one of those crazy couponers.  Thoughts?

coins-currency-investment-insurance-128867

  • How I wish I had time to post about the home/design projects I’ve been doing around the house.  Nothing major, but little touches can make such a big difference.  I have several (dozens) of photos in my phone and on my fancy camera that I am dying to post on here, but I never feel like I have the time to do it justice.  I need to have Sean keep Claire occupied for a few hours on the weekend so I can sit down and do it!
  • Lastly, we have started talking about trying for another baby.  We only want one more, and I’m starting to feel like we should start trying and then I don’t have to think about when to start trying anymore!  Sounds weird but I don’t want to wait forever- for the most part I feel like we should just have a second baby (God willing) and then our family is complete and we can move on from that phase of life.  I kind of feel like I’m in this in between limbo period of raising a family, and I literally think about it every day.  These days of just me and Claire have been and are so special, and I do cherish every single one of them.  But I feel like a year or so from now would be a good time to welcome another blessing (again: God willing), and that gives me another year or so alone with Claire.  That, and I’m surrounded by military wives who seem to be baby factories and I kinda think it’s rubbing off on me.  Help.  When do you know when the time is right??  I really don’t want to rush on this.

I better get back to cleaning before my dad arrives.  Pray for me – we haven’t always had the best relationship, but in the last year or two he has really tried to be a part of my life and so I have tried hard too.  It might be a little awkward at first.  I promise to report back.

À bientôt.

 

 

 

 

 

The plight of staying home

The truth is, I’m struggling lately.  Not with accepting our new home, or dealing with the emotional trauma of moving across the country (although yes I am still working on accepting these things as well).  I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis lately, and I’m just not sure what I’m doing with my life these days.

I know, I know.  I’m a mommy, and that’s no small feat and it’s certainly not “nothing.”  But I’ve been asking myself for some time now whether that’s all I want to be doing right now.  And I’m still not sure.  Some days, I feel so happy to be home with my daughter, soaking in every moment with her, developing that bond that I’ve always wanted to have with a little girl of my very own.  I am so blessed to even have the option to be able to stay home with her.

But on other days – not as often, but still with some frequency – I feel like I need more.  I need mental stimulation, I need to be working toward some goal, and I wouldn’t mind some extra money in my family’s bank account.  But the very thought of finding a job, and the routine that would necessarily follow that – waking Claire up super early, getting her fed and out of the house, dropping her at daycare where she would have to vie for attention with a room full of other toddlers, and then only seeing her for a few hours in a day after work before she goes to bed – scares me, a lot.  I know TONS of moms who do it every day, and I know it’s totally possible and sometimes scary and hard things are worth it, but I don’t know if I want that something more that much.

And I don’t know how to figure it out.  Part time work maybe?  Or do I just need to utilize a babysitter more often?  How do I achieve that balance in my life where I feel like I have time to myself or where I’m thinking about something other than my daughter, even for just a little bit?  Does anyone ever feel like they’ve achieved that balance?

alexander-solodukhin-4394.jpg

On that note, my husband and I did have a triumphant moment last night.  We haven’t found a steady babysitter since we moved here, and I’ve never had anyone but a grandma put her to bed while Sean and I went out for a date night.  A couple of weeks ago we met some neighbors on our street who are former military and have a sixteen year-old daughter.  Long story short, we met their daughter who is sweet as can be, they invited us out to a honky-tonk bar for live music and drinks (when in Rome, right?), and I was so flustered and in such desperate need for a break that I decided I just had to go for it and hope Claire behaved for a babysitter.  And guess what?  We did it!  Claire played with her sitter and went to bed relatively easily, we had a great time with our new friends, and I had a few too many drinks which was exactly what I needed after a very busy week.  And the best part is we now have a babysitter two houses down from us and we have decided a once per month date night is in our future.  That’s definitely a step in the right direction…

Sometimes I think (hell, I know) I take life too seriously.  I worry over everything.  Am I interactive enough with Claire?  Is she learning everything she should be at her age?  Does she know how much I love her?  I take her routine too seriously and I never embrace chaos.  Chaos is my enemy.  But as I’m learning how to be a mom and accepting what my life has become these days, I feel like I want and need more chaos in my life.  More than that, I want to not be ruled by fear of everything that could happen.  I need to do right by myself and let Claire figure out how to be away from me from time to time because it’s good for her and it’s very good for me.  Sean and I hadn’t had a date night in ages because finding a sitter and hoping Claire doesn’t freak out while we’re gone and worrying over if she’ll go to bed ok without us literally scared me away from even trying.  But I have to try.  I have to go for things because otherwise I get in a rut and I’m unhappy and dying for a break that I won’t allow myself to have.  I have done and been through some seriously difficult things in my life…More than I even care to list here.  So why is allowing myself to be away from my daughter every so often feel like one of the hardest??  Life is so weird.

So if you need me, I’ll be browsing the job ads and trying to decide what I really want for myself… More of a regular break from the daily grind?  Some sort of job where I can use my talents and skills more frequently?

How do YOU get yourself out of a rut?  I’d love to know, especially from moms who are home with their littles all day.

Decreasing anxiety, increasing purpose

I realize it’s almost the new weekend, but I’ve had some thoughts from the previous long weekend I wanted to share.  I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and churn out a post this week because I have a very cranky and irritable little girl who is pushing out a molar…Not fast enough.  On top of that I’m fighting off another cold so yet again this household is a bit of a mess.

Anyway, last weekend was super productive for my little family.  We are continuing to let all the dust settle in our new house.  I don’t recall it taking as long to feel this way when we moved last time, but that was probably because last time we moved “home,” and this time, well, I hate Florida.  I know, news flash!

Here’s a confession of sorts: I have literally painted the walls of every home I’ve ever lived in with my husband (and really as a kid, too).  I hate painting, but love the effect, and so I do it.  I painted walls in our crappy military issue house in Hawaii that had no natural light and no backyard, just to cheer myself up about being lonely on a small island while my new husband was deployed.  I painted the walls of our second Hawaii home because it was a lot nicer and I wanted to make the space feel like a real home.  When we moved to Washington, I went crazy and painted a ton of walls and even did a striped wall in the first home we ever purchased.  And now in Florida, again to cheer myself up and because I’m more experienced and know the house needs some warmth and depth, I’ve started the process over again.

After taking several weeks to decide on a color, and investing in four different sample colors and painting them up on our wall (which I NEVER do- I usually have an exact color in my mind and when I find it, I go for it! Not this time), I finally painted an accent wall in our bedroom.

master-wall1
I went from two paint choices…
master-wall4
To four…
master-wall3
After a week of staring at them, I still wasn’t sure so I had to paint a bigger square of the one I was thinking about picking…
master-wall2
And I picked it!  Boy do I hate painting.  Just looking at the room like this stresses me out.  A necessary evil, I tell ya.

Our bedroom is quite large, with a big beautiful picture window that looks out onto our backyard, and vaulted ceilings with crown molding.  The walls were the builder grade “greige” (grayish-beige) color they were when the house was built fourteen years ago.  I know for a fact this home has had two owners, and I can’t understand why no one would want to paint this big, plain, blank slate of a room.  It really is a pretty space but needs a little warmth and a little dimension.  And because I don’t have the time or energy to paint the whole thing, I painted the wall behind our bed as an accent wall.  Voila!

finished-master-wall

Painting the wall the bed sits against really anchors the room to this one feature wall, and draws the eye to it.  It is a warm, muted gray from Lowe’s called “Bleached Shadow,” and I just love it.  I also love the contrast of the wicker wall decor (that I spray painted from a bronze color once upon a time #crafty) above the bed, as well as the light upholstery of our headboard against it.  I am now in search of some more wall decor because I’ve realized this wall is HUGE and needs some subtle art to really show it off.  I’m also on the hunt for new lampshades, as I’ve had the current ones forever and I’m on a crusade against beige these days.  But despite the improvements I still plan to make, thanks to the painting I feel like the room has more purpose.

The process of painting really helped my anxiety, too.  Lately I’ve been having spells of anxiety where my chest feels super tight and I have a hard time taking deep breaths, and though I realize my life is still in upheaval despite my best attempts to settle into our home, I can’t pinpoint one specific thing that would cause me anxiety.  So last week I started working out a bit again, and I also knew that there were several things I wanted to do around the house that have been nagging at me for a WHILE, so I decided to throw myself into a project since I didn’t know what else to do.  And this week I have to say, my anxiety has been a lot better.  Maybe I was just yearning to express myself creatively in this house finally.  And also maybe I really needed to workout.  Like really.

Now I’ve got the bug again and have several little projects I plan to do:

  • Hang bathroom shelves in the master bath room (I already did this promptly after finishing the wall but am saving that for my next post)
  • Finish hanging wall decor
  • Rip out the much hated vertical-blinds and slowly replace them (that will be its own post too- I can’t wait to describe to you how much I truly hate verticals.  Like a lot).
  • Paint sun room and create a true play room for Claire
  • Add curtains to sunroom- if you don’t know what to do with a room but feel like it’s missing something, I beg you to hang some curtains.  You don’t have to spend a fortune, and it adds instant drama and warmth.
  • Paint kitchen table and chairs- I have chalk paint and materials at the ready, I can’t wait to get started!
  • Plant bulbs in planters and cheer up the front and backyards with Spring flowers.

Who knows, maybe we will cross some of these off the list this weekend!  Until next time!

 

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!