“I bet there’s a rainbow around here somewhere,” I told Collin as we drove west toward the farm.
“Where?” he asked.
“I’m not sure yet,” I told him. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
The conditions were just right. A brief summer shower an hour before dusk. The sun and clouds competing for air space.
As we headed east, back toward our house, I spotted it – a faint spectrum across the dark gray sky.
“There it is,” I told Collin. “Right near that house Mommy wanted to buy.”
I’d fallen in love with the place, four bedrooms, three baths, a nice yard, plenty of space for our growing family – all nestled in a little nook a stone’s throw from the farm and for a price we could afford. It was everything I wanted in a home, but I’d learned earlier in the day it was under contract. Besides, we were neither ready nor able to make that purchase.
I sighed and decided to distract myself from my covetous state.
“Hey, Collin,” I began, “Do you know why we have rainbows?”
“Why?” he asked, in true four-year-old style.
“Because they’re a sign that God keeps his promises to us.”
I proceeded to tell him the story of Noah’s Ark.
One time, God looked at the world he had created and he was sad with the way it was. He didn’t like the way most people were acting, but he saw good in a man named Noah.
“Noah?” Collin asked, referring to his cousin.
“Not that Noah, but another man named Noah. Our Noah is named after him.”
God told Noah to build a great big boat, called an ark, and to gather two of every animal, one male and one female. So Noah built the ark, and loaded it with all the animals and his family before the rain came.”
“Friends and family,” Collin said, referring to our family prayer in which we ask God to protect all of our friends and family.
“No. Just his family,” I said.
It rained and rained and rained and everything on the earth was destroyed except for Noah, his family, and the animals, who were all on the ark.
When it stopped raining, Noah sent out a dove to try to find dry land. One day, it came back with an olive leaf in its mouth, which is a sign of God’s peace.
When Noah and his family got out of the ark, they saw a beautiful rainbow, which was a sign that God keeps his promises. He asked Noah to build the ark and gather the animals, and he did, so God protected Noah and his family.
“Pretty cool, huh?” I asked Collin. By now, we were close to home, the rainbow seeming to point directly to our house.
“What else?” Collin asked.
“That’s the story,” I told him.
“Tell me more about rainbows,” he said when we got home.
I obliged and gave him a mini science-lesson on prisms, refraction, and our good friends ROY G BIV. He responded by bringing me toys of every color, which he would name for me.
The toys are now all over the living room floor in our cramped living quarters. I’d love for us to have a house with a designated play area, but I should be grateful that I have a home for my children to demolish. God kept His promise in giving us this home, and somewhere, someday He has another place in mind for us.
July 30, 2013 05:03
By Robyn Barberry
I stumbled upon these gems at Target in the stationary section and had to get three – one for each of my children (blue for the boys and pink for the baby, who for awhile I swore was going to be a girl).
The journals allow you to write a sentence or two to mark every day for five years. It was a little pricey – each book cost $16.95, but for the quality of the cover and pages, as well as the structure it offers, I succumbed to the splurge. Plus, it will account for 1,826 days of my children’s lives.
Each page of the journal contains the date with five sections below. The year is written in a box in each section, along with a brief memory of the day.
It could be a fun expedition, such as our trip to the Mason-Dixon fair on Wednesday.
It could be an interesting or funny quote. Frank keeps saying “done” and “ah, ah, ah,” while Collin told me, “I’m leaving you and going back to where I belong” after I asked him to put his books away yesterday.
It could also be an observation, like how Frank’s eyes keep getting bigger and bluer and that Collin is the tallest one in his playgroup at the gym.
For the baby’s book, I document pregnancy woes and joys along with the dreams I have for him or her. I know that soon enough, the pages will be full of coos and gurgles, turning over, crawling, and a lifetime of firsts.
What you write is up to you, the trick is to do it every day. It only takes me five minutes to record a few lines in each journal before I fall asleep. If you happen to be a morning person, you could do it when you wake up.
I’ve found that if I forget to write for a day or two, it’s harder to remember the details that make each day special and end up writing something generic. Therefore, the books will be accompanying us on vacation where extraordinary memories are sure to occur.
My Aunt Anne told me to write down the things that the boys say and do or else I might forget. I’m hoping this project will help me to remember little snapshots of them as they grow. It will warm my heart to go back and read what they did one, two, three, four, and five years ago as I complete their daily entries in the not-so-distant future.
One-Line-a-Day Five-Year Memory Books are available at Target, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.com.
July 13, 2013 12:00
By Robyn Barberry
Puzzles and video games can be fun, but parenting is the ultimate challenge.
Your object: to raise a happy, healthy child of sound moral character. It sounds simple enough. But, just when you think you’ve mastered one level, you’ve entered another chaotic stage, seemingly harder than the one before. You try and you err; you panic and you pray. You can only hope you’re winning.
I found myself thrown into my most recent round of the mom-athalon at 3:30 this morning when Frank woke up screaming. He’s been sleeping through the night for almost six months, so I was no longer used to being startled awake 90 minutes early. But, as parents, we are on duty 24 hours a day and must report to the battlefield immediately when summoned.
“Aww, Frankie,” I sighed as I lifted him to my shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Still he wailed.
The challenge at this level of the game is that the child in need of our help can’t tell us what it is that they need to be happy. And so, we must guess.
Frank hates to be wet, so I changed his ever-so-slightly damp diaper.
Still he wailed.
“Let Mommy hold you,” I told him, taking him with me to my bed.
Still he wailed.
How presumptuous to think that he’d want me. “You want some milk?” I asked him. “Let’s go get a bottle.”
I’d left my glasses in my car, so I cautiously crept downstairs, a discontent baby Frank shedding tears on my shoulder. I poured the milk as quickly as my weak eyes would allow and handed Frank the bottle, expecting him to accept it with the gratitude of a lottery winner receiving a giant check speckled with zeroes.
He pushed it away and wailed even harder.
By now, I was growing frustrated, not with Frank, who didn’t ask to be here in the first place and was visibly miserable, but with my own incapacities as a mother. Why couldn’t I make my baby happy? I prayed that God would send relief.
Frank, the unclaimed bottle, and I returned to my bed, where an awakened and confused Patrick asked if everything was okay.
Over the screams, I told him I didn’t know what to do.
Patrick turned on the TV. And thanks be to God that Nick Jr. shows cartoons at 4 a.m. Frank began to sniffle and rub his eyes. He let out a giant sigh, grabbed his bottle, and drifted back to sleep.
We’d won another round of this game called parenting, but there are plenty more challenges ahead. And we can overcome them all with patience, determination, love and God. (Late night cartoons might come in handy, too.)
Hey, readers! I’m curious to hear your victory stories from the parenting trenches, too.
June 15, 2013 08:00
By Robyn Barberry
Part 2: Trust
What do online shopping, dining in restaurants, and taking trips by bus, train, and plane have in common? They’re all things that make our lives easier and more pleasurable, but at a heftier cost than many realize.
We could refuse to buy online, and only pay for things at the store with cash, but then we’re limiting our options. Online shopping offers us greater selection and lower prices without having to leave the house. This is especially beneficial for moms of young children, like myself. I always say that if I can’t find it on Amazon, I don’t need it.
We could (and should) cook at home instead of eating out, but every once in awhile, it’s nice to be waited on, to eat something prepared by someone whose full time job is to create delicious food and not to have to argue over who cleans up the dishes.
Most of us spend ten hours a week or more in our car, so it’s a pleasure to use time en route to catch up on some reading when the opportunity presents itself to be chauffeured. Let’s not forget the time you buy yourself when going to New York by train or to Orlando by plane. At twice the speed of your car – or more – and not a minute spent in traffic or at rest stops, you will have more time to spend relaxing and sightseeing.
Online shopping, fine dining, and letting someone else take the wheel may make life a little more convenient, but they wouldn’t be possible without the second secret to happiness – trust.
In writing this, I’m trusting that you already trust in God. You know that He has a plan for you and as long as you listen to Him, everything will work out just fine.
Trusting God isn’t the problem for most people. It’s trusting each other that we need to work on.
Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of human development theory describes a crisis for each of eight life stages. The first stage, infancy, centers around the conflict trust vs. mistrust. Babies who receive appropriate adult attention when meeting their many demands will learn to trust, while those whose needs are ignored will grow to see the world as an inconsistent place where others cannot be trusted.
When I talk to other people, particularly those who follow the news a little too closely, more seem to fall into the mistrust category, which is unfortunate, considering the many gifts a little trust can send our way.
When we shop online, we are trusting that the company we have provided with our credit card information will deliver the goods we’ve purchased in a timely manner and keep our sensitive financial information secure. (It would also be nice if they didn’t flood our inboxes afterwards.)
When we dine in restaurants, we are trusting that the establishment is clean, that our server is in good health and has our best interests in mind, and that the people who have prepared our food did so in a safe and sanitary manner with every intention of pleasing our palates and nurturing our bodies. Does “dirty food” happen? Sometimes, but it’s rarer than you think.
When we travel in something other than our own car, we are trusting that the driver, conductor, or pilot is sober, conscientious, and knowledgeable of our route, that the vessel transporting us is in good repair, and that we will arrive safely at our destination.
I won’t even get started with the amount of trust it takes for parents to send their children to school, but you get the idea. Many things that bring us happiness begin with us trusting that the end result will be worth relinquishing some control over our situation. It’s almost like a cloud, the invisible barrier between us and the entity we are trusting in many cases.
There is rarely a person at the other end when we shop online – it’s a computer someplace else.
The kitchen is seldom visible in a restaurant, so we don’t usually see the chef who prepared our food.
The cockpit on a plane is sealed off from the passengers, who may get a nod from the pilot and a peak at the controls upon deplaning.
As a high school teacher, I can attest that I have met face to face with less than ten percent of my students’ parents. They mostly know me as a name next to a (preferably passing) grade on a report card that will have a (preferably positive) impact on the future. And that’s okay. I can automatically be trusted to look out for my students’ well-being when they’re in my care in addition to teaching them. It’s my job.
We don’t even see the people into whose hands we are putting our money, our mouths, our lives, and our children’s lives, but we trust them to care for them properly because it is their jobs.
When we trust, we are blind, being led to happiness by an invisible force we wholeheartedly believe to be benevolent. Sound familiar? It should.
As Christians, we are led by God because of faith. Trust is like faith. The difference is that faith is believing without seeing and trust is believing in someone or something else despite what you may have heard.
You may have seen a news story about someone who had their identity stolen because of online shopping and decided that you’ll only buy in stores. You may have chosen not to eat at a particular new restaurant because a friend of a friend told you the food was terrible. You may be terrified to fly because of a plane crash you heard about years ago. If this sounds like you, you could be missing out.
Seek out online shopping sites with secure checkouts and shop away. Other people’s opinions are important, but in the case of food, you can’t always trust someone else’s tastes. So, decide for yourself if that new restaurant is up to par – and tell them if they’re not so they can get better. Book that flight to someplace fun.
Not everyone loves his or her job, but most people want to be good at the job they do have. So, trust them to do it so that you don’t have to.
Take for instance, the Bay Bridge, a staple for most Marylanders’ Ocean City trips. Some people are afraid to cross it, but not me. I trust that the engineers who built it are way better at math than I’ll ever be. The bridge is that leap of trust that car travelers must take without having to leave the state in order to reach their sand, waves, Trimper’s rides and Thrasher’s fries of happiness.
Is everyone trustworthy? Unfortunately not, but that’s the most beautiful thing of all about trust. God gave us a conscience and intuition to send us that uneasy feeling when something is not right. Develop it. Use it. Above all, trust in God. Then, trust your gut. Then, you can trust others more.
Did you read Robyn's first secret to happiness? Find out what it is here.
May 01, 2013 09:18
By Robyn Barberry
This week in art class
, we created reverse animal portraits with white gouache on black board. Patrick painted his favorite animal, and I painted Collin’s.
Everyone has a favorite animal. Mine has been the polar bear for nearly twenty years, when I saw one maneuver through an enormous tank at the Seattle Aquarium with fluidity and grace that defied its species. Patrick has been a loyal fan of the penguin since reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins in elementary school.
Patrick's painting of a penguin
Fortunately for both of us, our beloved beasts from opposing poles can be found right here in Baltimore at the Maryland Zoo. I took Collin there this past fall. I was so excited about introducing him to animals from faraway places, especially his favorite at that time, the elephant.
To my dismay, Collin didn’t seem interested in looking at or learning about the zoo’s exotic residents. Something else had caught his eye.
“Mommy, look at that silly squirrel (pronounced “squway-rul”)!” he said, pointing to the aforementioned bushy-tailed rodent as he bobbed in and out of a trash can.
“Collin, we can see squirrels at home,” I said. “Now, look at how long the giraffe’s neck is!”
Over the next few weeks, Collin told everyone we talked to about all of the squirrels we saw at the zoo. He continued to study the squirrels around the neighborhood and point out the goofy things they did, like run into each other or dangle from a limb like a gymnast.
Robyn's painting of a squirrel
For the first time in my life, I began to notice squirrels rather than ignoring their existence until they run out in front of my car. And Collin
was right. Squirrels actually are pretty funny.
The eyes of a child often help us to see life in terms so simple, they are profound.
We seek. We seek. We continue to search for something better. Seldom do we realize that what we’re looking for is right before us. It just needs to be seen through other eyes. We can always explore beyond our boundaries, as well, so long as we never lose sight or let go of what’s right in front of us.
Patrick and I continue to be penguin and polar bear fans, and will return to the zoo to see them when it gets a little warmer. Collin cannot wait to see the squirrels and their elephant friends again. Frank will probably point at everything, but maybe he’ll teach me something.
One more thing about squirrels: I play a game with my students where you replace the word “girl” in any song with the word “squirrel.” For instance:”I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May. I guess you’d say, what can make me feel this way? My squirrel.” Hope you have fun playing my game!
March 14, 2013 11:47
By Robyn Barberry
This year my husband and I have boldly decided to give our son the most taboo of Christmas presents: a drum set. Are we crazy? Perhaps. We blame love.
After we deliberated about said drum set, our reasons for giving in selflessly to the desire of our young son’s heart outweighed our own personal preferences.
Drums are present in just about every culture because they enable people to express themselves physically and emotionally. In America, the heart of any successful music group is the drummer, tucked away in the back, like the Wizard behind the curtain punctuating every phrase with booms, taps, and tings.
But good drummers are hard to find, because most parents are quick to shove “forgiving” and “quiet” instruments into their children’s hands rather than drums. Drums are loud, especially in a small house with thin walls like ours. But drums are important, and we’ve pushed our children away from them for too long. I almost did.
Collin first discovered the drums on Thanksgiving at my cousin’s house. He calmly approached the set, picked up the sticks and instinctively knew what to do. He was having so much fun, giggling, banging, and crashing, that I knew what was coming next.
“Mommy, can I get drums?” Collin asked.
Oh no, I told myself. How do I get out of this one? So, I went back to the old Christmas copout – “Why don’t you ask Santa?”
Since then, we’ve attended Beatlemania Again and Archbishop Curley’s Christmas Concert . Both shows were fantastic all around, but Collin zoned in on Ringo and the Friars’ percussion section, nodding his head, bouncing, and tapping his foot to the beat. His plea, “I want drums,” grew stronger and louder.
I spoke to a music teacher, a church choir director, a friend who drums in a local band, and a high school student to determine if drums would be good for Collin. I was met with a resounding “yes,” and advised by all parties to consider the First Act brand because it’s inexpensive, durable, and authentic.
Finally, Santa said yes, but only if Collin’s mom and dad would pick it up for him. “I can’t believe we’re really doing this,” I told my husband as we loaded the miniature drum set into our Toys ‘R Us cart.
“He’s our little drummer boy,” he said.
And he is. Collin doesn’t know how to make beats and keep rhythm yet, but that’s what lessons are for. Fortunately, we have a few drummer friends who have offered to teach him and the patience to allow him to learn out loud. (There are also headphones).
He may only be 3, and I have no expectations for him to be the next Ringo Starr, but an introduction to drums is an important way for Collin to begin to understand the rhythm of the world, its rises and falls, its sudden intrusions, and the things that never change.
I made the decision to never silence a happy child awhile ago. To do so is ignoring a gift from God. I’m just glad for every moment I have with my children, no matter how much ruckus that might entail. Psalms 100 and 150 tell us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord and praise him with the loudest of instruments. And that’s just what Collin will do.
December 19, 2012 02:34
By Robyn Barberry
Collin was just seven months old when the 2010 Winter Games were held in Vancouver. Now, at the age of three, I feel obligated to explain the Olympics to him. So, I let him take a long nap on Friday so he could stay up to watch the opening ceremonies with me. (Relax – it’s only every two years!)
I’ve only ever played on one sports team in my life (a disastrous tale for another time) and visited two countries other than my own (though I hope to change that). But, you don’t need to be an athlete or a globetrotter to appreciate what the Olympics symbolize.
In explaining the meaning of these international games to Collin, I discovered some truth for myself.
Truth 3: Good sportsmanship takes effort
The Olympics have also been a great opportunity to teach Collin about the importance of eating right and exercising. I point out the muscular physiques of the Olympic athletes and tell Collin that he can grow up big and strong like them.
Fortunately, he loves all fruits (especially bananas) and vegetables (except lettuce). Unfortunately, like most 3-year-olds, he has a thing for macaroni and cheese and was recently introduced to candy. Showing him positive, athletic role models may help him to choose healthier foods as he grows.
Exercising has never been my favorite activity, but I know that if I want my children to be physically fit, they have to see me incorporate regular work-outs into my life. Like Phelps, I’ve found the pool to be a great place to leave my troubles behind. After my cardio and strength training, I unwind by splashing around with Collin, and soon enough, Frank.
Toddlers get plenty of exercise playing actively during the day. Yesterday when I picked Collin up from my parents, my dad said that he had been running around the basement chasing a ball for almost an hour.
As children get older, and school dominates their lives, their physical fitness needs change. Team sports are the route many parents take to ensure their kids stay active, but playing together as a family at home, outside, at a park or at the gym is a good way for families to reinforce fun fitness.
Our bodies are a gift from God. Maintaining our health is an obligation we have to Him. We certainly don’t need to be Olympians to take care of our bodies, but we can look to many (though not all) of them as positive role models for taking care of our bodies in the right way.
My husband is the athlete in our household. If our boys take after him, I’ll be delighted to cheer on their teams. A little competition is a good thing, but it’s more important that Collin and Frank learn to be “good sports.”
Glory and defeat should be shared amongst teammates. We shouldn’t celebrate the ball-hog or chastise the kid who missed the big play. We should shake hands with our opponents the same kind way after beating them or being beaten by them. We should apply the ideals of 1 Corinthians to our love for the game and for our teammates.
If Collin and Frank are the clumsy, artistic type like me, we will still ensure they have some physical routine and plenty of opportunities to learn the value of being a team member.
Being a part of a goal-oriented group teaches kids the value of cooperation, communication, and overcoming obstacles together. Collin used to like a show called “Wonderpets” about three classroom pets who work together to save animals around the world. They sang a little song which went as follows:
“What’s gonna work?”
Now, Collin sings the song whenever we work together to solve a problem. He may have even belted it out during the 200 meter relay …
Anyone who knows me will tell you that following the rules is not my greatest strength. I think it’s partially because I never chose to play sports, where the importance of obedience is often learned.
In sports, there are immediate consequences if a rule is broken during the game. More often than not, disobedience impacts the entire team. Foul shots in basketball can help your opponent earn points. Losing yards in a football game means negative progress for the team. If a player or a coach is carded or ejected, everyone else must adjust accordingly.
Sports rules also have many positive aspects. Rules are what make games worth playing. If every player is operating under the same parameters, anyone can win. Cheating happens, but seldom goes unpunished.
God’s rules for us are what make life worth living. If we don’t follow His rules, we are punished. If we obey his Commandments and teachings, we always win.
August 09, 2012 02:37
By Robyn Barberry
People have always been obsessed with preserving memories, moments, feelings.
It’s why cave paintings once acted as mounted eight point bucks for our ancestors. It’s why the Bible exists as our guide. It’s why my mom is our family paparazzi. She’s behind her camera, snapping away at every moment, no matter mundane. (We tease her for it, but the truth is we’re grateful.) It’s why I wish I had hired someone to film my wedding. It’s why I write.
Even now, as I watch Collin run, speak in complete sentences, and play, it’s hard for me to remember him being as cuddly, quiet, and small as Frank.
Parents, in particular, wish to document every little moment of their children’s lives and make keepsakes of things others would view as garbage. (If you are a mom and you are reading this you know you’ve stashed away a hat from the hospital and/or a snippet of hair.) We want our children to grow up happy and healthy, but we want to keep them little forever. It’s a paradox as old as time.
As Frank rests beside me, I want to etch this moment in my memory forever. His tiny body sinks into a pillow that would disappear if I lay beside him. His belly rises and falls with every breath, a tiny smile and sigh periodically interrupting that rhythm. (He’s talking to angels, as my mother says). The soft, white sleeper dotted with blue and green elephants and butterflies that belonged to his brother not so long ago. That sweet,sweet newborn baby smell that could propel Yankee Candle past McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Apple if only it could be contained.
“Enjoy it while it lasts.” “It flies by pretty quick.” These are just a few of the comments new parents hear the most. I used to get annoyed when strangers would approach me and baby Collin with that advice. But now, when I compare my two sons (don’t judge – it’s inevitable and in no way leads to a diminished love for either child), I see exactly what they meant. I can only hold Collin when he’s fast asleep, and even then, just for a few minutes.
Frank rolled over at five weeks. I told him to slow down. Collin will be three tomorrow. It’s official; he’s no longer a baby, but a little boy.
At every stage of my sons’ lives, I’ve told them, “I wish I could just freeze you and keep you like this forever.” But, that’s not God’s plan. We are designed to grow and change into adults and establish ourselves as independent beings.
This is particularly difficult for mothers. We carry our babies within us for the better part of a year, then in our arms for as long as we can thereafter. But, eventually, we have to put our babies down. They aren’t meant to be ours forever, no matter how hard we try to prolong it.
Think about the progression of our sacraments: we bring our baby to the Church in our arms; half-way through elementary school, we invite them to join us at the table alongside us; in high school we ask them to accept our faith for themselves; and as adults, they can choose to start a family of their own by marrying into the Church or can choose a vocation. We celebrate as our children grow in faith, even if it means they are drifting further from us.
God eases the pain of child development by offering something new to enjoy for every joy we must relinquish. Frank is just discovering his world, which is exciting to watch. I hold him up to the mirror and he stares at the baby looking back at him. Right now, he doesn’t recognize his face, but the moment he does will be an important step in the formation of his identity. Lacking the power of speech, as Frank gazes into the mirror, he can’t entertain me with comments Collin makes, like, “My face is growing,” or “Can you make my hair happy?”
We also gain and lose parenting frustrations at every stage. Collin helps himself to the healthy snacks I keep at his level in the refrigerator and pantry, while Frank wails until I feed him. But, Frank can’t disappear in a store or run out into the street the way his big brother can. As our children gain independence, we are selfishly relieved that we can gain back some of our own time and space, only to find ourselves worrying more.
I know the teenage years can be especially rough (I’m a high school teacher, after all), but even this trying time has gifts to offer. Watching your child performing on the sports field or the stage, creating paintings or poetry, building engines – all of those hours you spent playing catch or dress-up, finger-painting and reading stories, and stacking blocks have come to this. Summer jobs. College acceptance letters. Prom. Graduation. These are all enormous steps toward adulthood that should reassure you that you’ve raised your child well.
If you’re a parent of a teen, you may be dismayed by your child’s utter lack of respect for you and everything you stand for, but have faith. I can’t tell you how many of my students’ parents are amazed when I describe the teen they see as rude, defiant, and lazy at home as being polite, compliant and hardworking.
It’s a teenager’s job to drive his or her parents crazy. It makes going away to college and moving out on their own far less painful.
When you wonder what happened to that sweet little person you so loved, pull out that baby album and remind yourself of the times you thought it was easier. Back when your child’s universe revolved around you. It’s hard to let go, but think of what you’ve gained. A few pounds, maybe. Sleep (except when they’re out late on the weekend). Confidence. Independence – yours and theirs. Warm memories. And – I hope – faith.
“Write down everything they say and do that makes you smile,” my aunt told me awhile ago. “You forget,” she said. I didn’t and I have. I must change. I will.
I try to document as much of the boys’ lives as I can. Being a writer helps, but also gets in the way. The best thing to do is be present in that moment, truly experiencing it from every angle, rather than trying to replicate it in the future.
This time around, I’m enjoying the little things, especially the ones I found frustrating when I first adapted to parenthood. Skimping on a few hours sleep every night for several months isn’t worth getting cranky over. Rather than thinking of feeding time as an interruption to my schedule, I see it as a chance to be truly present in bonding with my bab y… because sippy cups, water bottles, and pint glasses aren’t too far away.
July 20, 2012 02:41
By Robyn Barberry
I’m happy to announce that I had a happy, healthy, beautiful baby on May 25. While I get acclimated to my new family situation, I’m proud to introduce one of my former English 101 students as my guest blogger. The fabulous mother of five, nursing student Naidia Carter will share the differences between raising girls and boys. Next week, you’ll find out whether I brought home my first batch of sugar and spice or a second dose of snips, snails and puppy dog tails.
It’s Friday morning and I have been awakened by the interchanging sounds of both my cell phone and the house phone. As my husband jumps up in an attempt to answer one of them, I barely lift my head up off of the pillow and focus in on the time displayed on my alarm clock. It’s 7 a.m. and I have to get the kids up, dressed, faces washed, teeth brushed, fed and in the car by 8:30 so that they won’t be late for school. That might sound easy to some but believe me it’s not.
First it’s off to the girls’ room. I only have one girl to wake up this year because my 4-year-old Rayne is still in p.m. pre- k, thank God. I only have one fashion diva to deal with this year, Rylie. Rylie is my 7-year-old, who may I mention has picked out her own clothes since the age of 5. Not because I wanted her too, but because if I didn’t she would throw a temper tantrum so major that the whole house would be upset for the rest of the day. “Wake up, Rylie,” I gently call out to her, being careful not to wake my 4-year-old up who is fast asleep in the bottom bunk just below her. “It’s time for school get up so that you can pick out your clothes,” I say.
Then I’m off to the boys’ room. “Ryan, wake up. It’s time for school.” Ryan is my 6- year-old who could care less about what he wears. His only motivation for waking up in the morning is waffles. I pull out jeans, a cool shirt, and socks lay them over his bed; but not before mentioning if he hurries up and gets dressed then he will have time to eat breakfast. Before I’m out of his door Ryan is down off of the top bunk and passing me on his way to the bathroom.
Rylie, on the other hand, is still in the bed. I yell, “Get up or I will pick out your clothes for you!” Then her morning begins.
As I am getting dressed all I hear is, “I don’t have anything to wear ... My socks don’t fit right ... Can I wear sandals?”
“Um no!” I respond. “It’s raining.”
“I don’t care.”
“Well I do! Pick something else out!”
A few minutes later Rylie storms into my room, half-dressed and whining. She is looking for the perfect-fitting pair of socks and can’t seem to find them in her drawer full of socks, that might I add are an array of every color, design, and size that you can imagine. I calmly walk out of my room. By now I’m irritated and know that she has just come into my room to further irritate me. I walk right past her not responding to her foolishness, down the steps to make breakfast. By this time, Ryan is fully dressed and follows behind me. I hear Rylie hit the floor.
“It’s not fair! He only has one pair of shoes to pick from. I have too many.”
“You need to get rid of some of them.” Ok, I thought this was a fall out over socks not shoes? Call it what you like but this happens every morning without fail, it’s always something with that “girl” of mine. Ryan, for the most part is always calm and cool.
So I ask the question is there a real difference in raising a boy versus raising a girl? Is raising one sex harder than raising another? From a mother's perspective there clearly is a difference between boys and girls but as a mother of five, three boys and two girls, I have come to realize that it’s not just a matter of harder versus easier it’s just different! While both girls and boys have very different social behaviors, personality traits and physical differences, they both require the same amount of love and affection from their parents. Every child whether it is a girl or boy is an individual. I believe that it is his or her innate personality that should guide us in the way that we as parents deal with our children; and help us to make decisions in rearing them not their sex. As you will see below I have very briefly described based on my own personal experiences, some of the major differences and similarities of both girls and boys. I’m no expert so I’m inviting you to be your own personal judge on who you believe is harder or easier to raise.
I quietly watch my children as they are either playing out front of our house with their friends. It amazes me that even thought they have been raised all of their life by the same parents and are very close in age, the way that my girls behave socially either with their family and friends is very different from the way my boy’s socially behave. For instance my girls love to play school, dress up, do crafts, play with sidewalk chalk, and just talk. They cling to Daddy, even though I am their primary care giver. They are very chatty; love to talk about their day at school, their friends and what if anything they are upset about. On the other hand, my boys will play with side walk chalk or dress up for a while, but not before eventually stomping on the chalk and turning a dress up skirt into a superman cape. My boys would much rather physically interact with each other. They love to play fight, wrestle, play tag and play some type of contact sport. They cling to Mommy a lot more than the girls do, and when they are upset they usually hide their feelings. Getting my boys to talk about their day is like pulling teeth. Whenever I ask the question, “What did you do in school today?” I always get a response of “nothing.”
Despite the fact that girls and boys seem to socially interact very differently from one another, they still do enjoy a lot of the same activities. For instance I have seen girls enjoy physical activities such as basketball or tag and I have seen boys enjoy doing crafts and playing school. Although my boys are “Mommy’s” boys and my girls are “Daddy’s” girls we both still serve our very different but necessary roles in their lives. As far as their verbal communication is concerned the girls definitely communicate better than the boys.
If you really look at it girls and boys both like some of the same things for the most part even though the way that they socially communicate is very different. It’s just the way we as parents have to handle them that makes the difference.
When it comes to personality, girls are bursting out of the seams with it. Little girls seem to have a natural motherly instinct. It amazes me how they just naturally feed, protect, and care for their favorite baby doll or stuffed animal. Little girls also have the natural ability to accessorize and properly match clothes. If you don’t believe me just come to my house and watch my 5 and 7-year-old girls work. They can pick out an entire outfit from head to toe, and accessories too, perfectly. I ask their advice when I’m getting dressed to go out somewhere. Who would have known? As far as all the getting hurt stuff is concerned they usually learn the first time around. If they get hurt doing something once nine times out of 10 they won’t do it again.
As you can see girls and boys are different when it comes to personality. Both have their own very unique personalities. Whether it is their natural ability to accessorize or a fun and sparky attitude, I personally believe personality has nothing to do with sex and all to do with each girl or boy as an individual. The truth is they both cry when they are hurt, both come to Mommy to kiss and make their boo-boo’s feel better, and in amazement to some, both are equally just as sensitive when they get hurt.
Besides the obvious, girls and boys are also much different physically. Some may argue that physically girls can do everything that a boy can do and sometimes better. While that may be true in some instances, girls seem to be a lot calmer than boys and are able to focus on a quiet project much longer. Girls do not naturally have as much body mass or muscle as boys, at least not my girls. Although my 5-year-old girl weighed more at birth than her 6-year-old, as they both grew, he now far outweighs her in size and muscle; she is actually quite dainty while he is naturally very muscular. The average little girl, with a typical activity level is physically weaker than the average little boy her age, regardless of his exercise habits. Boys are naturally more active than girls; it is harder for them to sit and focus on one particular project as long as girls. Boys usually have to be physically engaged in a project in order for you to have their undivided attention. For the most part the average boy weighs more than the average girl in his same age group. I learned this from taking my kids to the pediatrician. Growth charts demonstrate consistently larger sizes for boys than girls.
Despite the clearly defined social, personality, and physical differences that separate girls from boys these facts still remain. Both need attention, both get scared and need someone to comfort them; both require the same amount of love and affection. I guess the bottom line is no matter what girl or boy, we as parents should be thankful and appreciate the little miracles that God has placed in our lives.
June 05, 2012 02:14
By Robyn Barberry
“After you left this morning, he did something that broke my heart,” said Cynthia, the sweetest, most gentle daycare lady in the world.
My first thought was that my son had hit one of the other kids – that inescapable Irish temper. But what she said next was totally unexpected.
“He just stood at the top of the steps staring out the door for several minutes before I called him over. Then, he crawled into my arms and cried and cried for you.”
For many parents, this separation anxiety is a daily occurrence. At almost 3 years of age, this was the very first time my son cried because I wasn’t around. My son is Mr. Social; he will strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, at any time, which is scary in and of itself. But, because we are pulled into work so often, he’s also used to being cared for by adults who aren’t my husband or me (but thankfully are usually his wonderful and devoted grandparents) The time we spend together as a family is always special, but unfortunately not as quantitative as any of us would like.
A rush of competing feelings came over me. First came the pity. How awful that the sad little boy missed his mommy! Next, I felt a sort of relief and, though I’m ashamed to admit it, even slight gratification that my child loves me enough to miss me when I’m gone. The final emotion that struck that afternoon was the most painful: the guilt of my long hours, and especially of the ever-nearing arrival of our second child.
It had to be the baby, I decided. We’ve just about finished decorating his or her room with creamsicle paint, an alphabet bedding set, and pages of our favorite story books. The swing which once soothed my son as an infant is set to repeat its service in the living room. Tiny clothing waits to be folded, while my own shirts and dresses appear painted on my giant belly. We’ve been reading "I’m a Big Brother Now" every night before bed. Complete strangers tell me I’m about to pop (as though I weren’t aware). At the later end of age 2, my son is wise enough to realize his whole world is about to change forever.
When I dropped my son off at daycare the second day, I had to witness separation anxiety in the flesh. Any “good” feelings I had about the tears my son shed for me in my absence were washed away as he clung to me and told me not to leave. Within a minute, I was crying, too, along with Cynthia and her niece, Tasha, who also looks after the children.
“He never cries!” Tasha sobbed. And we cried some more. Finally, my son climbed into Cynthia’s lap and after hugging and kissing him goodbye, I left, my heart heavier than it had ever been.
How could I cause my child so much pain? Does he think he’s being replaced by his brother or sister? What can I do to make this easier?
Obviously, I’m not the first person to bring a second child into the family, but as parents there are some experiences we must endure that challenge our internal strength. I’ve talked to numerous friends and family members about how they prepared their children for the arrival of a new baby. The most significant thing I’ve learned for sure is that every situation is unique. Every family handles things differently, as does every child.
The age difference between children certainly has an impact on how the transition from only child to sibling will occur. My brother and I are 16 months apart, so I didn’t really know what was going on when he joined our household. My husband is five years younger than his sister, who was eager for a live baby, rather than a doll, to dress up and play with. My aunt and my father are 18 years apart, so she’s always been a second mother figure for him. One of my former students who babysits my son from time to time told me that her three nieces, all of whom are between two and three years apart, went through a similar experience to ours every time her sister was pregnant with another child. The good news: once the babies came home, the separation anxiety all but disappeared.
Gender differences also play a role in how older children will take to a new baby. Girls tend to be more excited, as they are both genetically and socially wired to nuture. Boys, like mine, are more likely to cling to their mothers and exhibit jealousy.
Some children dislike any disruption to their daily routines, while others celebrate novel experiences. My son falls into the latter category. He’s inherited the adventurous spirit my husband and I share. Children who do not like or aren’t used to change usually have the toughest time adapting to a new baby in their house, but even those who are accustomed to a dynamic day-to-day life can struggle with such a major upheaval.
When I woke up this morning, “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks was stuck in my head. I’ve always loved the song, but the lyrics really spoke to me today. The impact that earth-shattering change can have on our relationships tests our faith and our fortitude, but it also causes everyone involved to grow. As parents and children, God built us to withstand these and all circumstances.
If I can portray the addition of our new family member as the fun and exciting experience it’s supposed to (and will) be, hopefully big brother will climb on board. As we count down the days until baby’s arrival, there are special sibling stories to read, “Big Brother” shirts to wear with pride, stuffed animals for our little helper to practice diapering and feeding, extra hugs and kisses, and many, many prayers to be said.
June 01, 2012 05:17
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By Robyn Barberry