It was obvious from an early age that Linnea is an empathetic person. We’ve tried to foster that natural tendency, but it definitely has more to do with her own personality than anything we’ve done. Even before she was verbal, if she noticed someone was upset, she’d do what she could to comfort them; laying her little head on a needy shoulder, gentle little hand pats and snuggles offered freely. Yet even with the knowledge that she’s like this, she still manages to take me by surprise with just how empathetic she truly is. This evening while I was getting her ready for bed, I was seriously struggling with her hair. She’d requested a French braid and it just wasn’t working for me. I was tired and sweaty after dealing with double bath time since her little brother had pooped in the tub... again (he’s decided this is an excellent game), so that didn’t help my mood. After my third attempt was getting me nowhere, I threw in the towel, muttering a curse word as I pulled out the disaster of a French braid and informed Linnea that, “Normal braid is all I can manage tonight.” She looked at me calmly in the mirror as I disgustedly wiped sweat from my forehead and upper lip, glaring at the offending hair. “Ok, Mum.” I felt guilty and more than a little immature. “I’m not mad at you, bug. I’m just tired and I can’t seem to get the braid to work, so it’s annoying me. But I’m not annoyed with you!” “I know, Mum. It’s ok.” So I set to work, pulling her hair into a ‘normal’ braid (that still didn’t look all that great, but would have to do). As I was finishing up, Linnea said to me, “Mum, you’re doing a good job.” Oh. I looked up at the mirror and those intelligent eyes watching me through it. She offered me a smile that showed she meant it, every word of it. “Thank you, baby.” I smiled at her and tried to will my eyes not to well up. Seriously, how did I get so lucky? After a moment, I said to her, “You know, Linnea, it’s things like that that make me so proud of you. You are such a nice person, a kind person. That was a very nice thing you just said to me and it made me feel really good. You make me so proud!” And she does. Every, single day, that kiddo makes me proud. Sure, she does some not-so-great things on occasion; she’s human. And sometimes, she drives me more than slightly batty (not that I need help with that…) but more often than anything else, she makes me glad I became a mom. Because even if I do nothing else to make this world a better place, it’s better because she’s in it.
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).
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.
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.
…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!