Category: parenting (page 1 of 29)

My Girl

She and I, well, we fight. She points at me from across the room and says, “Don’t talk. Don’t talk, Mommy. Don’t. Talk.”

I tell her I’m not saying anything, but she gives me a look, or yells all the louder, “DON’T TAAAALLLKKKKK!!!”

She likes her space. And she’ll tell me that, too, just like that: “Get out of my space!” or, “No, Mommy, sit over there!”

Sometimes, she will look me straight in the eye as she does exactly what I told her not to do. Classic.

And it’s happened more than once that she has run the length of the subway car, with me hot on her heels, saying, “No Mommy, stay over there! I don’t like you!”Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

It is, most of the time, hilarious. I have to keep myself from smiling or laughing out loud. I have to remind myself that this is real, that she isn’t joking, that she is sincerely upset. But when our arguments are about things like our hard-and-fast rule about wearing underwear at the dinner table, or whether or not she can have a potty treat, it is probably about as endearing as it is exasperating. How can I be truly mad at her when she’s buck naked and/or stuffing forbidden chocolate in her mouth?

But it’s hard not to imagine what this will look like in 10 years or so, when stakes are higher, when emotions are higher, when I can’t distract her and win her heart back with a couple of chocolate chips or gather her in my arms and kiss her little face and hold her until we are playing instead of fighting.

That prospect scares me. Just a little bit. I worry that I’ll get tired of fighting, that she’ll find her own space that I don’t even know about, that I won’t be able to keep up as she runs away. I worry that it is starting right now and that she really means it when she tells me to not talk and to sit over there.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetThen again. At the end of the day, when she’s tired and just can’t sleep and she’s lying on the floor in front of her door, her voice echoing out from the gap, who is she calling for?

“Mommy! Mommy! Mama Heiselt! I need you. I need you Mommy.”

When she’s fallen off a chair for the third time this week, who does she reach for?

“Mommy! Mooooommmmmmyyyyyyy!”

And what do I hear when Micah comes to her rescue in the middle of the night after she has wet the bed and is naked and crying, waiting for someone to help her find some new jammas?

“NOT YOU! NOT YOU! I WANT MOMMY!”

And that’s how I know that even though we fight, and she yells, and she tells me that she doesn’t like me, she is also looking to me to teach her how to be—that for all the cries to “Get out of my space!” she really wants me close.

She sits on the counter and finds a way to help me cook dinner. She hands me my mascara after my shower (and insists I brush some on her lashes too). She climbs into my lap at dinner time, and story time, and nap time and  prayer time. She is usually the first to recommend that maybe we should have just a small taste of chocolate.

She’s my girl. I’m holding on tight. And I’m staying right here.Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

The Complexities of Holding Hands with a 7-Year-Old

We were getting off the train. It was a couple of months ago. It’s crazy, after school sometimes. So many people. My kids trying to wiggle their little bums into any exposed piece of bench, no matter how narrow the space between passengers. Me, trying to listen, trying to see, trying to make sure my dreamer (Manchild) and my slowpoke (Squish) and my Little-Miss-Contrary all get on before the doors close, and trying to make sure my little people don’t annoy any/all of the other passengers.

Can I be forgiven, then, for almost missing our stop? It was a frazzled moment when I stuck my hands out to my kids sitting on the bench and said, “Hands! Let’s go!” And it was another frazzled moment when Manchild was the first to grab my hand and I said, “Not you!” and dropped his hand and grabbed his sister’s. She was, after all, the one I was most worried about getting lost in the crowd.

We did make it out of the train on time, but boy oh boy if I didn’t make an enemy of my eldest child in the process. Manchild was not happy. All, “Humph!”s and teary eyes as we made our way up the staircases and the escalator to wait for the next train. And as we got on the train. And off at our stop. And down the ramp and across the street to our building. And up the elevator. And into our apartment.

“I didn’t mean I didn’t want to hold your hand!” I told him as we made our winding way to our apartment. “I knew I could trust you to get off the train!” I told him. I went on and on about how he’s more responsible, he listens better, he knows the stops. Plus, I only have two hands! The other kids, they might get lost if they’re not holding on to me.

He didn’t buy it. Or maybe he did, but it didn’t ease the hurt of having his mom throw his hand back in his face like a dirty rag. My guts were sufficiently wrenched when the frazzle-panic died down and I realized what I’d done.

I’d forgotten that he’s still a kid. That he still needs closeness. That even if he is inquisitive and precocious and determined to be independent, he still needs help tightening the elastics on his adjustable-waist pants.

He may always be in his head, where he morphs stuffed animals into magical creatures and flies around in inventions powered by magnets and laughs loudly as he relives the favorite parts of the comic strip books he doesn’t understand. And I don’t get to go there with him. But even while he’s soaring through the clouds in his imagination, physically he still needs my hand to hold onto. He’ll let go when he’s ready.

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(And until then I’ll have to work on growing a third hand.)

Some Predictions for 2015, Inspired by an Albino Squirrel

I saw this squirrel on my run the other day and decided it was a good omen for the year. I’m feeling particularly confident about that, which is why I decided to go ahead and look into the future to see what this year will bring . . . . IMG_0205.JPG

I predict that in 2015 I will eat more chocolate than I did in 2014. That’s the hope, anyway.

I predict that my kids will have real bedding by the end of the year. You know: two sheets+quilt+pillows+pillowcases. I also predict that they will be completely puzzled and have no idea what to do with them.

I predict more cake baking in my kitchen.

I predict that some of those cakes will actually look good. (But only after lots and lots of practice.)

I predict that I will still be really bad at getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

I predict Manchild will lose 5 teeth. And begin to look more like the grown up he already is on the inside.
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I predict more difficult conversations with the kids. Some brought on by happenings around the world. Some by our own family and individual trials and triumphs. They may never be easy to talk about, but talking them out will be easier—and better—than keeping them in.

There will be goodbyes in 2015. Some of them welcome (like Manchild’s baby teeth). Some less so. How many of our Brooklyn friends will be elsewhere a year from now? After The Great Exodus of 2014, it feels like we don’t have many left to lose.

There will be hellos as well. Lots, I hope. Big, important ones.

Squish will maintain his rightful place as cutest kid in the class into his first grade year. He will also ease up on his “I only play with girls” rule.

Some things that have worked for a long time will no longer work. Some things that have worked for a long time will still work, but we will change them anyway. Just for something new. Like, maybe, our breakfast menu.

Speaking of food/cooking, I predict that I will build upon the success of 2014 and become even better at vegetables.

The kids will get to color in a new state on their “States I’ve Been To” map. (But first they should probably color in all the ones they’ve already been to.)

Running will make a comeback as a source of inspiration/place of peace for me—and it will continue to be the thing that always makes me feel like I accomplished something—even if the rest of the day is a mess of frustration, dead ends, and unfinished (and probably unstarted) business.

There will be more music in our house this year. (It’s bound to happen: we have a e-piano now.)

There will be more dancing, too.
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Our downstairs neighbors will have more reasons to complain, but we’ll be too busy having pillow fights and jumping off beds to care. (Okay, probably not, actually, but can I just pretend for a minute?)

There will lots of trying. Some failing. Some trying again. And some letting go and moving on.

“Let It Go” will still be on heavy rotation at our house. Always and forever. After all, Little Miss has claimed it as her own.

I will learn to let go of some of the hopes and dreams, some of the emotions and possessions I’ve been holding onto for a long time. And while I will probably pine for the “ghost ship” I could have been on long into the future, I hope that, for the most part, I see that the ship I’m on is pretty great.

Because it is. I can see that pretty clearly from right here.

Talking Holiday Stress on HuffPost Live

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“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas . . . .”

Last year I wrote a piece for Babble about how I didn’t mind the busyness—and the stress—of Christmastime because, well, it’s important. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a time of giving and traditions and being together as a family and making memories. But that wonder and those traditions and those memories come because a lot of people are working really hard to make them happen.

In my little family, Micah and I work really hard during the holidays to give our kids the opportunity to feel the magic, to make lasting memories, to serve and to give and to think of others. There have been times when the effort has been almost overwhelming, or when it has felt as though everything were falling apart, or that the world was intent on turning our best intentions into a mess of tantrums and frustration. (Mostly mine.)

But every year I continue to feel that it is worth it. It’s worth the late nights making gifts, the lines at the post office, the busy streets and bracing cold and dragging the kids along for the ride. I can see that my kids love it. They are learning and feeling that this is a special time of year, and that there is something magical about the fact that Christ was born, that He lived, that he loves them, and that they can learn to love and serve and give (and forgive) as He did.

Over time Micah and I have become more organized. We have established a rhythm of sorts. We have learned what is important and meaningful and what is just meaningless stress. We are still developing traditions and looking for opportunities to help our kids feel that magical feeling of giving, of sharing, of thinking of others—and of being loved and shared with and thought of.

Tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 5) at 12:30pm ET I’ll be joining a panel on HuffPost Live to talk about holiday stress and how to handle it and other such things. You can (I believe) view it here. The panel should last about 25 minutes, they tell me. I hope you are able to watch, and if you do, I hope you are able to excuse me if I make a fool of myself.  :)

Sisters in Beauty

I get a little bit annoyed sometimes at how focused we are on beauty. I mean, can’t we go a little deeper than that? Can’t we get beyond appearances to the meat of who people actually are? But then again, I am as much a sucker as anybody for someone telling me I’m pretty or that they like what I’m wearing or that my hair looks nice.

As much as I hate to admit it, it matters. It really does.

And I got to see why yesterday when I went to Dove’s Self-Esteem Weekend kick-off. I listened to teenage girls from the Girl Scouts, from Girls Inc. and from The Boys and Girls Club talk about beauty and confidence and how they can influence each other to feel good about themselves. Dove’s focus this year is on your beauty legacy — how others feel about themselves because of you.

I know that I have a lot of responsibility for my kids (and for my daughter especially), but one of the things that stood out to me was the sisterhood of the whole endeavor. “Confident people encourage others” was one of the takeaways of the event. Once you get to a place where you are happy with yourself — with who you are and what you can do — you are not threatened by others. You can bring out the best in them because you recognize the best in you.

Too often girls (and women) are so catty because they feel like if anybody is pretty or smart or talented, it means they are less pretty or smart or talented. (Guilty as charged!) And we bring each other down when we could be moving up and beyond the basics and actually getting stuff done.

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And that, I suppose, is as good a reason as any to focus on beauty. Because maybe if we master it in ourselves, we can help our sisters find it in themselves. And then maybe we can relax a little bit and see what we really have to offer.

My Cup Runneth Over

20140912-232146-84106104.jpgEverything is a song these days. And we’re singing it out. Whether it’s “Can You Hear the People Sing” from Les Mis or the cheer the boys came up with to celebrate the occasion of finding a license plate from one of their favorite states (Ohio!), we’re belting it out and it makes my heart sing right along with them. Even after hours. Sometimes, after we’ve put the kids to bed, we hear what sounds like Manchild singing the triumphant national anthem of a distant country. Where did he learn that? Oh, right. It’s the national anthem of Paraparaparaparafeetland, a strange and funny country which Micah has been telling the boys about at random times over the past few months. Each addition to the story leaves Manchild red in the face and nearly doubled over with laughter. Micah knows just what buttons to push to get that kid rolling in the aisles — or singing in the top bunk. Neither of which are bad places to be.

But if we’re not singing, we’re talking. Mostly Little Miss, who seems determined to get this speaking thing down. She follows along when I read stories to her, saying what I say, testing out the words. Micah and I can’t help but say what she says right back at her. Her little voice is irresistible and begs to be heard again and again — even if our efforts are a poor imitation. It’s especially amusing to hear her talk about Pokemon or Shaun the Sheep — two of her brother’s favorite things. Sure, they fight and argue and wrestle and drive me nuts, but they are also really happy to be together and share things with each other.
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With school starting, however, Little Miss is a bit on the outs. Sometimes she cries when the boys leave in the morning without her. But she and I have been spending more time together and that’s a treat. We’re learning the ABCs, matching mama animals to their babies, and chanting, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” (well, she chants, I man the controls) as we ride the bike to pick the boys up after school. And at pickup she isn’t afraid to lay her claim: last week she practically chased Squish’s class down and invited herself to be part of it. Squish held her hand as the class walked down the ramp to the meeting spot. Heart bursting

The start of school also means more running. The kids and I managed to get out about once a week during the summer: Little Miss and Squish rode along in the stroller, Manchild pedaled his own bike. We stopped at playgrounds and took water breaks. It was hot and hard and slow and not frequent enough for me. But it worked for the summer, and now it’s just me and Little Miss, cruising around almost as much as I please. We can get more miles in and do it faster and I’m starting to feel like running is part of my life again after a 3-month lull.

And here’s one last thing to share before I wish you a happy weekend: I loved this story by Peter Sagal about what to do if you’re going through hell. Give it a listen. I think there’s something to it. ;)

Collecting My Kids, Collecting Myself

Just the other day I was riding the kids around on the bike. All day long. Picking up shoes and socks for soccer practice after school. Rushing Squish across the bridge to get to kindergarten on time. Pedaling all three back to Brooklyn in the blazing heat — and wondering why some random guy decided he needed to pick on me and call me a “f#*%ing whore” several times. Apparently having kids on my bike was extremely offensive to him.

It was lonely work. I was so focused on getting to our first day of soccer on time that I didn’t hear a single thing the kids said the whole trip. Well, right up until Squish wondered why we were in the park instead of at home and I just about died because hadn’t I already told them half a dozen times that we were on our way to soccer practice?! And then after soccer we were back on the bike, slugging through the heat and up yet another hill.

I had thought that the loneliest years of motherhood were the early ones, the ones in which you spend all day waiting for a baby who can’t speak to wake up so you can go outside and make sure the world is still spinning. It felt very lonely for me, anyway. I imagined that once the kids got older, learned to speak, and were more mobile I’d have plenty of company.

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But I was wrong. Or maybe I’m doing it wrong? I’ve just noticed so many times lately that I’m on the outs, not able to join in the fun. Micah and the kids will be watching a show, playing a game, relaxing. And I’m making dinner, catching up on e-mails, rushing around, hovering on the outskirts — not really there.

It’s tricky though. I mean, we do need to eat. Chores need to be done. When I see a little block of time in which nobody is going to climb into my lap and steal my pen or co-opt my phone or keyboard, I have a hard time not taking advantage of it. I’m almost always planning events, checking schedules, putting the stars in alignment — and then moving on to the next thing while the plans go off without me. There’s not a moment to lose, after all, when I’m managing everybody else’s life as well as my own. It’s hard not to feel detached and unconnected at times like that. Like Mom is always around, but she’s never really there.

A few weeks ago I read a great book, Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. The authors talk about why it’s important to build a strong relationship with your kids — so that you are the person they are attaching to and trying to be like — and how to do it. One of the simplest things to do is to “collect” your kids after you have been apart, like when they wake up or get home from school or even when they’ve been angry with you and you’ve been emotionally distanced. I’ve been working on it: giving my kids hugs, looking in their faces, getting them to smile or interact with me for just a second.

Another time to “collect” is when you are pulling them away from something else. Moving them from reading to dinner, from tv to homework. Instead of calling from the other room to tell them dinner is ready, you go and sit next to them, figure out what is going on, engage them in what they are doing before telling them it’s time to do something else. I’ve been working on that, too, and I’ve noticed a difference in how responsive they are when I come to them first, before asking them to come with me.

As I’ve taken those few moments to “collect” the kids — to sit down with them and watch the show while sitting next to them, rather than from behind them while I make dinner, or to get them to smile first thing in the morning — I have felt a difference in how smoothly these transitions go, and how responsive they are when I ask them to do something.

But as important as these little “collections” are to keep them attached to me, I think they may be even more important for me to be attached to them. When I sit down and watch the show for a minute, when I step into their world instead of acting so much like the puppet master — distant, alone, unable to see things from their perspective — I’m not so lonely any more. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on all the fun, or that I have to be the responsible one while everybody else gets to play. I’m part of the team again, out on the field, seeing what they see and enjoying it.

Last week, as we finally pulled up to our building after riding around the brutally humid streets of New York, I was in that lonely, separate place. We hadn’t even discussed the mean man who had cussed me out on the bridge and I wondered if the kids had noticed. What I really wanted, if I was going to feel so lonely, was to actually be alone. To read a book, to do what I wanted to do without having to take care of everybody — or anybody — else. But then I saw the ice cream truck and thought that if there was ever a time to chase him down and make memories, now was it. I signaled the driver and he pulled over. Three cherry dipped cones, please, and then we sat on the steps — together — and licked and dripped and followed Micah’s progress on my phone as he rode home from work.

I didn’t sit back and watch them. I didn’t retreat a few steps up to observe. I was on their level, engaged in what was happening, excited about what they were excited about. I even licked their cones when they were about to drip so no calories were wasted.

It worked. I wasn’t lonely any more, and I didn’t want to be alone. I was with my people. I’d collected them. Or maybe they’d collected me.

Unapologetic Delight — On an Airplane

Manchild, on the plane back to Brooklyn, sat laughing loudly, spontaneously, and completely unselfconsciously at the movies playing from the seat-back screen in front of him — oblivious to those sitting around us who might not care to be interrupted by his full, untempered delight.

I sat next to him, glancing around occasionally, holding tears back, willing myself not to feel or make a fuss over the movie playing from the seat-back screen in front of me. It’s just a movie, just a story, I told myself.

Yet even while I struggled to remain stoic, my heart swelled to see him so overflowing with joy. I love to see that fullness of emotion in anyone else — to know and see and feel that they are touched, delighted, pierced, moved. I feel closer, safer, knowing that they are not afraid of being open and alive and vulnerable.

When my movie ends, I turn to watch Manchild instead. He is chewing his arm, biting his fingers, jumping, wiggling, giggling along with the show. He is fully immersed. I can’t help but reach out and touch him, smile, and enjoy his enjoyment.

When we hit some rough air, he looks out the airplane window, curious but unalarmed. He wants to see the plane going through the clouds. I, on the other hand, look away, look in, try to ignore the pitching of my stomach along with the pitching of the plane. Again, I admire his fearlessness. Or is it ignorance? Youth? Inexperience? Perhaps a cleaner, more direct view of the world? Should I be envious?

But as I watch, I wonder why I guard myself so heavily, why I fight so hard to not be seen. Wouldn’t it be nice to be more open, so that people, when they see my emotions written all over my face, connect and see a real person — not just another stoic, expressionless face?

How would it be to immerse myself so fully and unapologetically in life’s emotions and experiences? To feel like a child: unhurt, unscarred, unblemished, unrepentant, undisguised, perfectly amused and amazed. Full to overflowing so that other passengers on the flight can’t help but turn and look — and smile or scowl as their own hearts dictate.

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Partying Under Pressure

I’m somewhat paralyzed by the task of writing anything these days. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing. I’m afraid of saying nothing. I’m afraid of saying too much. I’m afraid what I write will not do justice to what is happening in my mind and my heart.
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But then again, I have so much to say that I might as well just spill.

So, here it goes: I’ve been really stressed about all the interest and attention I’ve gotten because of my essay about Manchild. Obviously. Nobody expects that kind of reaction. And I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been caught deer-in-the-headlights when something like this comes barreling out of nowhere.
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I’ve cried about it, I’ve joked about it, and Micah and I have talked a lot about it. Our conclusion is that we should have fun with it. Have fun with the TV interviews, anyway. Don’t worry about what they may or may not do for my career. Just go and say what I need to say, enjoy the experience, remember it for the family history. But then really go for it with the writing.
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The first part has been pretty easy. I’ve done two more interviews, a live one at 3am last Wednesday morning for The Lorraine Show in the UK. Micah and I went up to the studio while my sister slept on our couch in case the kids woke up. I sat in a tiny room, looked into the camera with a microphone clipped to my dress and a speaker in my ear, and talked about how I felt that I was empowering, not endangering, my child. (Here’s a link to the clip. I haven’t gotten the video to play, but let me know if you do!)

The second was for the CBS show The Doctors. Manchild and I flew out to LA for the taping. He wound up sitting in the dressing room at Paramount while I went through wardrobe, hair and make-up, and a couple of pep talks to hold my own and feel free to jump in and speak my piece. Which I did and it felt good. Maybe that’s what a pair of borrowed shiny black heels will do for you. (Ha!) The show won’t air until later in September, so watch this space for details.
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So that’s it for the fun. I don’t have any more interviews lined up. However, we are staying with my sister for the weekend, so maybe there is still fun to be had until Monday.

After that, no pressure, but I really want to write something good.

My Cup Runneth Over

The magic is in the noticing, I read recently. Having enough is in being with what you have. Happiness comes from being happy, not in what happens to you. So this is me, filling my cup with whatever joy and happiness and love I can find.

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*****

Last week, when all this craziness over my essay about Manchild being able to stay home alone for short periods of time was just beginning and I was having a hard time seeing past the nose on my face, my friend Amy grabbed me by the hand and took me shopping so at least I’d have something to wear when I was on Good Morning America.

Amy — who has three kids of her own,  who just moved to a new apartment, who is hoping to go back to school and finish her education, and who tirelessly finds opportunities to share her talents and solve problems with everyone she meets. I am humbled and blessed to know her and to call her my friend.

She’s been a mentor and inspiration to me since we met nearly 7 years ago. And I hope with all my heart that she gets to go back to school, finish her education, and share her talents with even more people. (Check out her video here, help her out if you can!)

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And then there was Sharra, who first invited us over for cake and ice cream on Monday night, putting an end to my “case of the Mondays” and then reminded me that Tuesday is a great day to get up early and go for a run.

She’s right. There are few things better than slipping out the door before the kids are awake and running in the sun before it gets too hot. Sharing it with a friend is one of those things.

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Yesterday we went to the carousel at Prospect Park. It’s free for kids on Thursdays this month, so we rode it twice. Squish was adamant that he didn’t want a horse that went up and down. Little Miss waved at her adoring fans (me) for half the ride. And Manchild kept an eye on his sister as he rode the horse next to her. It was the first time all week that I’d been there, where my kids were, seeing and enjoying and loving.

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falling

This morning, Little Miss drew all over herself with marker. Arms, face, feet. She took a cheese stick from fridge without asking and ate it ostentatiously in front of me. She spilled a newly-opened quart of maple syrup on the floor. She climbed on Manchild’s bed and tried to raid his treat box. She took 63 photos and videos with my phone. And then she asked to be put down for a nap. I can’t help but feel lucky that she’s mine — even after everything she’s done to me. Maybe because of everything she’s done to me.

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It’s been a hard week. I can’t pretend it hasn’t been. But I also can’t pretend that there’s a lot to be happy about and a lot to be grateful for. My cup runneth over.

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