Tag Archives: kids

How were you brave?

I’ve seen some posts floating around Facebook (like this one) about conversations to have with your kid every day. There are a few different versions, but they generally focus on the questions the authors have decided to ask their kid each night and how it helps the relationship and yada, yada, yada. I’m a sucker for those kinds of things and, admittedly, the concept seemed pretty decent. (It’s also a condensed version of the “30 questions you can ask your kid instead of ‘How was your day?’” articles. I can’t remember 30 questions; I’ll get overwhelmed and inevitably revert back to “How was your day?” I can remember four questions).

I decided to start asking Linnea the four questions I liked the best from the various versions I’ve read:

  • What was your favourite part of your day?
  • How were you brave today?
  • How were you kind today?
  • What could you have done better today? (I liked this better than the “How did you fail today?” version in the post I linked to above).

Now, she’s three. So the answers I get tend to be a bit random and often don’t make much sense. But every once in a while, she throws a good one at me. And I like that we’re starting it now so she grows up thinking about these sorts of things, particularly the “kind” one because, let’s face it, kids can be pretty awful. And eventually, these conversations can be really meaningful.

I was telling my dad about it the other day and he reacted a bit to the “brave” one. His concern was that it’d encourage daredevil behaviour. I pointed out that “brave” doesn’t have to be physical – which he agreed to – but, that said, in that moment, neither of us could come up with a good example of brave that wasn’t about doing something that scares you. I solved that problem today, even if I didn’t mean to.

Arne-Morten has been away on a work trip for a couple days, which means I’m at home with both kiddos. I’ve also recently started school again, working on a Master’s degree online. It’s busy. And I normally work on my school stuff while Arik naps. Linnea, however, doesn’t nap anymore and she’s used to a lot of activity during her day while at preschool. These past two days, I’ve generally turned “The Magic School Bus” on for her while Arik napped so I could do at least a bit of school work. Today was no different, but I didn’t manage to get nearly enough done and was feeling stressed about it. I also, nutter that I am, decided today would be a good day to get started with some Christmas crafts (get ‘em outta the way early!) while both kids were awake (because, you know, crafting with a baby is so easy!)

I pulled out the paints and our tin full of popsicle sticks (yep, we save ‘em for just such a purpose, even though this will be the first time in three years we’ve actually made anything with them) and started setting up. Painting smock on, I asked Linnea which of the sparkly paints she wanted to start with. Colour selected, she started painting one of the sticks. Well, crap. The damn paint (which was NOT cheap cuz this is Norway) is basically translucent. It’s not doing much on the popsicle stick. I grumbled a bit and then handed Linnea some paper to paint on while I went about painting the popsicle sticks white first, so Linnea’s paint would actually show up. Of course, we had to wait for the white to dry and randomly running your brush across a blank page is only interesting for so long for anyone who isn’t a professional artist, let alone a pre-schooler. She was getting bored. I had a Eureka moment then: grabbing some of the paper, I set about drawing some shapes and outlines that Linnea could fill in with paint. She loved it!

That lasted until it was time to get Arik down for a nap again, at which point, Linnea wanted to watch some more “Magic School Bus.” No problem, I’ll get some school work done.

Once more, I didn’t get enough done. I was still working on an assignment and the time to get Arik up was fast approaching. Linnea’s episode of “The Magic School Bus” had ended and, rather than just putting another one on for her, I said it was time to turn it off. But then I had a bored toddler on my hands as I was trying to finish up that laaaaaast liiiiittle bit of work. Bad combo. She’s jumping about, insisting I look at her, and asking random questions. I snapped at her several times to “just wait,” but again, she’s three. Finally, I really snapped at her. She looked at me, hurt. I sighed and asked if maybe she would like to paint again? “Oh yes!” Good, that’ll buy me a bit of time. I got her set up once more and went to complete my assignment reminding her not to bother me for a little while. (Yes, I said it like that. Insert hindsight cringe here). Assignment finally out of the way, it was time to get the baby up (his calls across the monitor were starting to sound distinctly less patient…) Of course, Linnea chose that moment to tell me she was out of shapes to paint. {sigh}

I started drawing more shapes for her. She insisted she wanted a heart – just one heart, no little hearts inside it. I asked if she wanted several, single hearts, of varying sizes. She was excited about that, so I drew a bunch of hearts. I should have stopped there.

Thinking it would keep her busy, I also drew several other shapes for her to paint. As I was bringing the paper over to her, she noticed that. “I didn’t want a sun,” she whinged. “Then don’t pain that one,” I responded, as calmly as I could. “Mamma, you drew a heart with another heart in it!!!” She looked disgusted. “Yes, but I drew a bunch of single hearts, too. Linnea, you don’t have to paint the ones you don’t want to paint. If you only want to paint the hearts, just paint the hearts.” At this point, the baby is starting to holler over the monitor. My daughter’s lower lip protruded to extreme lengths. “I didn’t want that one, Mamma.” I stifled a scream. “Linnea, for pete’s sake! Just paint the ones you want to. Leave the rest alone, I really don’t care!” (More baby screaming). “I have to deal with your little brother now. You sit here and paint. Or don’t. Whatever.” And with that, I stomped downstairs to deal with the baby who, by this point, was in hysterics.

I had invited my brother over for dinner and asked him to help me with the munchkins. While I was nursing Arik, I heard him come in and exclaim over Linnea’s painting. I also heard his response to her complaining about the heart within a heart. He said it was no problem, they could just paint the whole thing black, so you couldn’t even see the little heart inside. Problem solved.

When I came upstairs with the baby a little while later, Linnea was still staring sullenly at the paper while her Uncle was filling in the heart, trying to get her to get involved. It was the only thing on the page that had any paint on it. “Linnea,” I asked gently, “didn’t you paint while I was downstairs?” She shook her head, her little lip quivering. “It’s ok!,” Uncle said cheerfully, not knowing the back story. I asked him to take the baby. When he did, I stood looking at my girl for a moment. She wouldn’t look at me. “Baby,” I started, once again gently, “are you ok?” She waited a moment before nodding her head yes. She clearly wasn’t. “Are you sad that Mamma was irritated?” She sat so still, trying desperately to control those big emotions, but it was too much. Those beautiful little eyes filled up with tears and my heart broke. She’s three and I spent the whole day, casually snapping at her. It was all I could do not to cry myself.

Of course, I comforted her. And I explained as best I could that I’m just very tired these days and so I’m not as patient as I should be. I told her that I’m not frustrated with her, I just get frustrated in general and sometimes, that leads to me saying things in a mean way when I don’t intend to. I assured her that I’m proud of her, that I love her and told her how sorry I was for making her sad. After some serious snuggles, all was well again. And I cut the section of paper with the single hearts away from the rest of the drawings, so she could paint just the hearts. Problem well solved. (And she went on to paint the other things, too).

Linnea had a fun evening with her Uncle and he was the one who eventually got her into bed. I was doing the dishes as he came back upstairs, chatted with me a bit and then headed home. Normally, I would go into Linnea’s room after Arik was in bed and ask her those four questions. I had been thinking to skip it tonight since it was already way past her bedtime and she ended her day on a high note with Uncle. But then it occurred to me: this was a golden moment.

I went into her room and asked if she wanted to talk. She did. I asked her if it would be ok if I told her about my day. She was surprised, but eager. I then asked her if I could start with the “What could I do better” question. Again, she agreed. So I told her about losing my patience and how I wasn’t proud of that. I told her that I don’t mean to make her sad or to say things in a hurtful way and that I’m going to try very hard to be better about all of that. I said that I would definitely make mistakes, but that I would try to be better. We went through the other questions (“Favourite part of your day” – seeing her awesome painting. And “How were you kind?” – drawing the shapes for you to paint and putting on “Magic School Bus”… twice!”) And then we got to my favourite question; the one that’s often so hard to answer. “How were you brave today?”

I told her that I was brave by admitting my mistakes.

It’s not easy to admit when you’re wrong (at least, I don’t find it easy) and, sadly, it’s often even harder to admit to our children when we mess up. They look up to us. They idolize us (at least at the age of three) and, well, we’re “the boss.” But if I want my kid to admit when she’s wrong – if I expect my daughter to say she’s sorry – I damn well better be able to do it myself.

So I did.

She makes me better

I have not been blessed with the virtue of patience; it’s never been a strong suit of mine. And while I’m much more patient with my kids than I am about most anything else, I still tend to blow a gasket far more often than I’m ok with. Especially when I’m tired. And these days, I feel like I’m most always tired.

The one who bears the brunt of this is my daughter. That amazing little person who’s just being a normal kid, a normal (actually, to be honest, much better than normal) three-year-old. I’m not proud of it and I regularly tell myself that, “Enough is enough, I’m going to be better about this.” And then I’m not.

Editing our annual family photo album today, I came across pictures of Linnea helping her Pappa and Uncle change the tires on our car. And I wonder, how did I get so lucky? She’s such an amazing kid. And once more, I wish I was better. I wish I was more patient. I wish her constant barrage of “Why?” didn’t drive me up the fucking wall. Because she’s a kid. She’s supposed to ask all these maddening questions, it’s how she learns about the world. Still drives me nuts.

When I start to feel guilty about these sorts of things, it’s easy to fall into the trap of tallying up all the things I’ve done wrong; the things I could do better. And that list is long. But then I look at those pictures again. I look at that happy face – that truly HAPPY kid. And I know we’re doing ok. I know I’m doing ok. Yeah, I screw up on the regular, but I’m raising a couple of awesome little people and I’m not doing half bad (if I do say so myself). And here’s the best part: they make me a better person. Those little people. They drive me crazy and, yeah, I lose my shit far more often than I’d like. But more often than not, I reel myself in. Or, at the very least, I apologise. And my kids see a human. And when my girl listens seriously as I explain that Mum messed up and “I’m sorry,” and then tells me “S’ok, Mamma!” and gives me a hug, a part of me I didn’t even know was broken heals a bit more.

munchkin

If the trailer’s a rockin’…

…don’t come a knockin’

No, seriously. Don’t knock. We’re probably rocking the baby to sleep and if you wake him, well, to quote Russell Peters’ dad, “Somebody gonna get a hurt reeeeeal bad!”

Combining my maternity leave with the generous Norwegian vacation time, we had planned on taking a long holiday in Canada this summer. We made the plans, signed Linnea out of barnehage (preschool) for several weeks and started dreaming about dumping the kids off with my parents for a couple of night and spending our five year wedding anniversary holed up at a winery. And then life happened.

Given certain family circumstances, a long trip to the other side of the world just wasn’t in the cards for us this summer, particularly not for Arne-Morten. So we resigned ourselves to the idea of a staycation. Three weeks straight at home with the kids. Day in and day out. In the Norwegian summer (ie, rain. Lots of rain.) Oh joy.

While hanging out at home with my mom and my fussy baby one afternoon, I got a message from my husband: “I bought this.” This being a camper with an add-on tent (the “we can’t afford a cabin, so here’s the next best thing” option for would-be cabin owners) permanently stationed at a campground a couple hours south of us. Oh. Umm… hmm… ok. So it seems my husband’s going through an early midlife crisis. Good to know. Kinda wish he would’ve talked to me before acting on it, but alrighty, let’s roll with this. I don’t recall exactly how I responded, but it was tentatively positive. Turns out, however, that he was just kidding. Phew! We had a good laugh about it and then moved on. Sort of.

The more I looked at the ad, the more I liked the idea of a trailer by the sea.

Long story short, we joked about it a bit more and then came to the realisation that we were both interested in such a vacation home. Initially, we thought that it might be something for “next year” or “when the kids are a bit older” (seriously, who goes camping – or even glamping, let’s be real here – with a baby?!?! Crazy people, that’s who.) But the more we joked about it, the more we searched Finn (Norway’s version of Craigslist, but better) for “our” vacation home. And soon, it was very real. A week or two later, we were the proud new owners of a camper-with-tent-glamping-extravaganza vacation place in Sweden!

So here we are. Glamping in Sweden with a toddler and a baby. (Crazy people, I’m telling you). In many ways, it’s awesome. We’re at a camping resort of sorts that’s absolutely made for families. It’s pirate themed (kitschy, I know, but it’s brilliant for young kids) with all kinds of entertainment: outdoor swimming pools, mini golf, several playgrounds, a mini train that you can ride for free every day, and even a small amusement park. Plus, there are a lot of other families with young children here, so there are built-in buddies for our kids. (Arik just doesn’t know it yet.) Within our first weekend stay, Linnea became good friends with a slightly older girl, Selma, whose family has the spot right across from us. We send them toodling off to the playground together and there is actually peace to be found in life once more!

There is, however, a downside to all this. Yeah, that’d be the camping (ahem, glamping) with the baby. The baby, I might add, who sucks at sleeping. Granted, it’s not all his fault; he had a rough first few months and it’s made him extra needy and super clingy to his mum. This kid fights naps like nobody’s business unless he strapped into the carrier and smooshed up against my chest. (Then, he sleeps like a champ.) And although he sleeps a bit better at night, he’s still waking up every 2-3 hours to be nursed. (Which, given our struggle to get him breastfeeding at all, I’m actually thankful for, even if I’d reeeeeally like to get a full night’s sleep again one of these days.)

I can handle the fairly frequent nursing – even though it entails wiggling myself into the bottom bunk of a camper bunk bed not made for adults – but this needy kid has decided to step it up a notch. The other night, he decided that 2-3 hours would just not do. Nope. No, sir. Every hour, thank you, Mum. And if that wasn’t rough enough on my needs-sleep-grumpy-as-all-get-out self, he decided that HE would no longer accommodate me in the slightest, including not turning his head to nurse. I had to prop myself up so I was literally hanging over him, my nipple dead centre over his mouth. Slightly to the side and that kid screamed bloody murder. And the little shit had me up NINE times that night. Needless to say, my shoulder is shot. And I was the grumpiest jerk you ever did see the next day.

Something had to give. I was leaning towards cutting our vacation short, heading home and spending the next couple of weeks sleep training. But as Arne-Morten pointed out, we could just as well do the sleep training here… You’re welcome, fellow campers!

So last night, we embarked on our sleep training journey. (Side note: if you are adamantly anti-sleep training, go ahead and stop reading. Do not bother lecturing me about it; I really don’t give two shits if you think I’m a horrible person. Really. You raise your brats, I’ll raise mine, MmmK?) Thankfully, I have a really supportive husband who’s not afraid to be “the mean dad,” when necessary. (He makes up for it by being the world’s best dad on the regular. Seriously. That man was born to be a parent; he makes it look easy.) We got Arik and Linnea to bed at their normal time. Linnea, that little rockstar, quickly fell asleep. Arik fussed a bit more and seemed more than a little bit put-out that I was sitting on the floor beside him rather than lying next to him, but eventually, he, too, nodded off. Enter a few hours of precious Mum ‘n Pappa time! Several hours later, as we were getting ready to call it a night ourselves, Arik began his usual “it’s been three hours, woman, where is that boob?!?!” song and scream. I got him out of bed (my shoulder was NOT up for any more of that hovering nipple shenanigans!), nursed him, and then put him in the bassinet part of his stroller, beside the camper table. (We decided to spare Linnea as much of the grief as possible and engage in the sleep training on the other end of the camper from her. Cuz, you know, those paper-thin walls really keep things quiet…)

At first, it seemed like it was actually going to go alright. Arik chirped to himself for a bit and then went quiet. We foolishly thought we had won. The cries started small at first, as if he was warming up his vocal cords for the big show. Gradually, he amped them up. “Don’t go to him. Give him five minutes, at least.” My husband is more immune to those cries than I. After a few minutes, I whispered, “Maybe I should talk to him so he knows he’s not alone?” We agreed I should try that. “Arik, baby, I’m right here. Mamma’s here.” Rookie move, mom, rookie move. Full. On. Wails. That kid was never worried he was alone, he was testing the waters, seeing if I’d take his bait. The second he heard my voice, it was anger time. He started caterwauling as only a pissed off baby can. Arne-Morten dutifully got up and “plugged the baby.” (Gave him his soother.) That only pissed him off more.

And so began our hour of “ok, another five more minutes.”
We let him holler for five minutes at a time before Arne-Morten would go and re-plug him. If he still had his soother and was howling around it, Arne-Morten would take it away and give him three minutes to find his thumb instead, before giving the soother back for another five minutes. This went on for a little over an hour before Angry Baby finally decided he was done with our nonsense and went to sleep.

Arik woke up four hours (!!!) later for another feed and then fell asleep fairly easily again. Three hours after that, he was ready for more. I was hoping to get another couple hours in (greedy, I know!) but ‘twas not to be. Big Sister had woken up from a nightmare at this point – a little before 6am – and needed to climb in with us. Of course, “climb in with us” does not mean more sleep. It means whispers that are louder than “inside voice” and a constant barrage of chatter. Soon, we had two little punks in our bed and ain’t nobody sleepin’ at that point. So our day started – a little earlier than planned, but a helluva lot better than the one before. Bring on night two of sleep training!