I pulled my coffee out from under the espresso machine and poured some milk in the glass. My iced latte swirled into a caramel color. A loud thud vibrated above me. It was the glorious hour of quiet time where I could sit with my second cup of coffee of the day and have a moment to myself while Lici played in her room. Though it was quiet time, she still can’t help but jump around. I went upstairs and opened Lici’s door. She laid on the floor legs up and made eye contact with me upside down. “Hey mama.” she said.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“Oh yea, I was just being a jaguar catching a crocodile.” She curled her fingers as if they were jaguar claws.
“I see.” I nodded. “Well it is quiet time, so rest your body if you’re feeling sleepy.” I told her. She giggled and said, “Ok.”
Felicity right now is a glowing ball of energy. A strong, courageous girl. I long to nurture that but sometimes, sometimes it can be hard. Sometimes I just want her to listen. Sometimes I want her to do things my way because that seems like the right way or rather it seems like the respectful way. But she is so much different than I am. Oftentimes that thought process only ends in frustration. Felicity has been able to catch on and learn how to do so many things for herself and helpful things around our home. She takes great pride in her capabilities but gets frustrated when she is unable to do something on her own. We started by telling her to take 3 deep breaths and that usually calmed her down enough to talk or accomplish whatever task she was having trouble with. But somewhere along the way she was sick of being told to take breaths. She wanted to do what she wanted to do and being told to breathe through it wasn’t helping anymore.
Meltdowns were happening more frequently and we were spent trying to figure out what was going on. During this time she was transitioning away from her nap. With less sleep she was learning what it meant to have quiet time mid day instead of sleep. We realized as it usually goes with children, sleep is key. We moved her bedtime up a half hour and that helped her a ton.
I bought this picture schedule on Etsy and put my laminator that I got for Christmas to use. All kids I believe crave structure but more so than structure this provided Felicity with another thing she craved. Choice. With the new schedule she would know what was happening each day and have the opportunity to look forward to events. Each day I give her a choice of things she’d like to do. When I first set up her schedule I let her look through the cards. She excitedly reached for the beach card and said, “Oh I wanna go to the beach, then tomorrow the zoo, and..” I put the cards back in the basket and laughed.
“No, no no. That’s not how this works.” I said. I gave her a few to cards to choose from. “Do you want to play games this afternoon, ride your bike, or take Bingley on a walk?” She excitedly chose to ride her bike. She’s very into her bike right now.
I found these calming cards from the same shop and showed them to Lici. “From now on when you are feeling angry or frustrated I need you to tell me what you would like to do to help you calm down. You can stretch, take deep breaths, count to 10, pray, or ask for a hug.” She has truly flourished with this technique. Before, I was frustratingly telling her that she needed to listen. She needed to calm down. She needed to be obedient. She needed to have good behavior. Though those are my ultimate goal there was totally a better way to get there. To her I believe she felt like I wasn’t understanding what she was going through. Why she was angry, upset, or frustrated. I wasn’t helping her to understand her feelings and I wasn’t helping her to calm down and make better choices. It’s always helpful to think about how your own behavior affects another’s behavior. How was my current behavior affecting Felicity’s behavior?
I was completely shocked the first time that I knelt down beside her during a meltdown and asked her what she would like to do to help her calm down. I listed the things off, but before I could finish she quietly said, “A hug” and reached her arms out toward me. I pulled her close. She was mad because she couldn’t manage to pull her flannel nightgown on on her own. She was disappointed in herself and embarrassed that I witnessed her unable to complete a task she knew she could typically do.
Typically I’d want to say either, “Let me do it for you”, or “Felicity you’re being ridiculous and overreacting.” Or lots of other insensitive things. But this time, I held her close. “I know that you can do this.” I told her. “I’ve seen you get dressed on your own and you’re such a big girl for getting dressed on your own. Your nightgown is a different material than your other shirts. Feel it.” I pressed her hand on my cotton shirt and then her flannel nightgown. “This material is silly. It’s so cozy and warm but it gets stuck to itself!” She giggled. “I’m going to open it for you and you can try again.” When we worked together she was calm and relieved. “I’m really proud of you for asking me for a hug. Did that make you feel better?” She nodded. “It’s ok to have help and it’s easier to do things when we’re calm. Asking for a hug can help you calm down.” I told her.
Since we started this practice 9 times out of 10 she asks for a hug. “She needs an out.” Brandon said. Similar to me when I’m frustrated I find it difficult to flip a switch and think rationally again. 1 time out of 10 I just start praying out loud until she chooses something or eventually calms down on her own. “Lord help Felicity to find the right words to explain why she is upset right now and place your hand on her to help calm her body down.” You see sometimes we both need the prayer. The prayer keeps me from lashing out and adding to the noise and it keeps us both calm. She is 3 after all and there is no perfect solution to the emotional chaos of a 3 year old.
Ultimately a hug is a way to show unconditional love and I believe that’s why Lici loves it so much. I applaud you for listening to a really long and silly story about a flannel nightgown and for putting up with me telling you how I’ve figured Lici out FOR NOW.
But truly, I brought all of those stories up today for some context. Today I want to tell you about a very special dandelion.
Earlier this week I was feeling particularly irritable. Lici wanted to ride her bike on the road but more cars than usual were coming through which caused her to have to pull off the road multiple times, since she’s not great with her brakes. I told her we should just play in the yard and she wasn’t thrilled about it. Then she wanted to put Bingley in her playhouse and she got mad when he jumped out the window of the playhouse. When I tried responding to a message my sister had sent me two days prior Lici interrupted me again and again. It was close to dinner time, my mind already distracted, began to think of the steps I needed to take to prepare dinner. “Go!” I told Lici. “Leave Bingley alone, and just go play or swing.” I got up from the chair outside and opened the back door. “I’m going to start dinner Lici. Stay in the yard where I can see you.”
I came inside and placed two defrosted chicken breasts on a cutting board under the kitchen window. Lici opened the back door, huffed and tossed her helmet on the bench by the door and shut it again. She went into her playhouse and sat down for a couple minutes. As I sliced the chicken into cubes she walked out of her playhouse and began picking dandelions in the yard. I heard the back door again unexpectedly. I looked over at Lici walking towards me with a dandelion in her hand.
“Mama I think you just need a hug, and you need to talk to me and I got you this flower.” My daughter, she completely struck me. I dropped to my knees. My daughter gave me a taste of the unconditional love I’d been showing her. She recognized that I was frustrated and what I’d taught her to do when she was frustrated was to find a way to calm down. Obviously she felt like asking for a hug worked for her so why not mama too? I felt loved in that moment, forgiven and like I had a huge mom win! “Thank you baby,” I said to her after we hugged. “Mama did need a hug. I feel alot better. I was just frustrated because I wanted to talk to Titi and it was almost dinner time.” Then we of course talked about how maybe Bingley is too big for a kids playhouse and we should say excuse me before we interrupt someone.
I asked my wonderful friend to take these mommy and me photos during a time that I felt like Monster mom, before we found these calm down techniques. Every day we were having a battle of wills as I called them. Not only was I not a fan of Lici’s behavior but I wasn’t a fan of my own. I didn’t like the mom that I felt I had to be. I wanted to stop and take a moment for Lici and I. I wanted to pause and reflect on our relationship, to let go of being the kind of mom I thought that I had to be. I wanted remind myself of what being a mother means to me.
A word that I have always felt came straight from the Lord during the early days of my motherhood is Sanctuary. A safe place. I’m not a monster. I’m human. A woman, full of emotions and hormones raising another woman. Would my daughter have any respect for me if she knew that I saw myself as a monster and did nothing about it? What example was that teaching her about managing her emotions? Sometimes I question if I was supposed to be a mother at all. That’s something I think most woman who struggle with infertility may feel at times. But these little dandelion moments, these photos, are a sweet reminder that any woman can become a mother. But what does it mean to be a sanctuary? A safe place for our children to learn and bloom? Now that’s something.
This story about a dandelion is written here for my Felicity. She has reminded me that it’s ok to be frustrated sometimes but we mustn’t stay there. We must ask the ones we love to remind us of who we are and to help us along the way. To my Lici for showing me love greater than I show myself sometimes. To my Lici for being a beautiful dandelion in my life who will grow and just as quickly as she blooms be blown away onto her own journey. May I be granted the strength to lead you in the best way I know how and may God fill in all of the gaps.