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There was a time when I was not capable of being happy for others, particularly when they were expecting a baby. I tried my best and pretended I could be happy for them, but I was so darn broken inside it wasn’t possible to feel anything other than pity for myself. I couldn’t see beyond my own pain.
In hindsight, I can now see I went through a period of serious depression. It lasted about two years following our miscarriage. I felt very little emotion, least of all happiness or joy for others.
I’m so relieved to discover that this has changed. I can congratulate others for their accomplishments in an authentic way. I can be genuinely happy when I learn of a girlfriend’s pregnancy, or when I meet a new work acquaintance who says she’s just back from maternity leave.
This past weekend, I nearly shocked myself when I found myself hugging and kissing our friends’ kids. It was completely spontaneous and joyful, but sadly, I’d never done that before. I wasn’t capable.
The whole notion of happiness is an interesting one. As children we are taught to strive for whatever we want and it is implied that we shouldn’t be happy until we achieve it. We see what others around us have and assume they are happier. We believe that filling a certain void will solve all problems and automatically make us happy.
It’s not necessarily true. I’ve discovered some scary truths about being a first-time mom and trying to maintain a solid marriage. I don’t know if other mothers talk about this, but I want to say, for the record, our first year with baby, while one of the most joyous events of my life, also brought immense misery at times.
I’m referring mostly to my marriage. We’d managed to hold things together throughout the bumpy ride – and therapy certainly helped us see the important work we had to do to continue to honour each other and not let resentment get the best of us.
But the therapy stopped not long before our daughter surprised us with her presence. We haven’t been back. I remember the therapist saying, “You will be parents one day and I hope you’ll continue to come see me then, because there will still be issues you’ll need to work through, including parenting an adopted child.”
Boy, was she right. It’s been a tough road. I don’t think either of us know what the root of our problem truly is. We ignore it until it explodes, then we acknowledge it and try to change. Then it creeps back up. Repeat.
I want to fix it but I don’t know how. How do we get back to happy? How can I be so deliriously happy to be a mother and so fed up with my husband at the same time? It’s really frustrating.
In other news, we’re meeting with birthmother today!
When my husband and I wrote our “Dear Birthmother” letter, we joked about how I would be the mess-maker parent while Daddy would be “the cleaner”. That has pretty much held true. I love it when our baby girl jumps in mud puddles or recklessly attempts to paint with a paintbrush. I usually reserve messy activities for when Daddy is not around, just to save him the anxiety.
But there’s a difference between messy play activities and the every day messes that now encompass our daily life. Now that our little monkey is 16 months old the messes are getting bigger and sometimes destructive. Baby girl now KNOWS the difference between messy play and unacceptable messes…but thoroughly enjoys the latter. I’ve created a monster.
Some of her favourite recent activities include:
- splashing in dog’s water dish
- emptying dresser drawers
- testing markers on the sofa
- dispersing as much water from bathtub as possible
- smearing food into hair
- unwinding toilet paper roll
But rather than getting frustrated by her new level of exploration and expression I took a step back and realized she is really just avoiding her old toys, which she barely touches. She is bored. It’s time for a new round of activities which will redirect baby’s need for stimulation.
I took to the web for some inspiration. I’m now addicted to the many wonderful sites and blogs dedicated to creative play and artfulness. I’ll list a few favourites in a moment. In the meantime, here are some ideas we’re trying this weekend:
- Funnels and squeeze bottle – I bought a set of 3 funnels and a squeeze bottle at the Dollar Store and introduced them at bath time. Baby was so enthralled she didn’t even touch her other toys. Not a single drop of water left the tub.
- Plastic farm animals in a tray – Also from the Dollar Store, I picked up a bag of little farm animals (cow, sheep, duck, pig, cat, etc) and a little sorting box with a cover (one you’d use for beads). I’ve watched her sort the animals into the compartments and dump out the box more than 30 times already. Her old toys sit next to her, untouched.
- Rice tub – I haven’t tried this yet but I’m going to take a large bag of white rice and put it in a low-sided container. I’ll give baby her funnels (multi-purpose!), some little scoops, a spoon and a bottle and let her work away at rice production. I’m just waiting for the weather to improve so we can go out on the back deck. Yes, even the mess-maker parent can predict the outcome of said activity indoors…
- Mud painting – when Mother Nature serves you nothing but rain, you make mud pies. And what better way to share your mud pies than by spreading them on a canvas with our hands? Yep, this is gonna be a fun one.
I’m really looking forward to trying some other imaginative play ideas and art projects this summer. There are some really amazing parents out there in blog land who have helped me get my creative juices flowing. Here are a few of the sites that inspire me!
What sites inspire you? What are your favourite creative/entertaining activities? I’d love to hear about them!
Whatever your weekend activity, I hope it’s joyful. Time to go make more messes!