Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reality check

My daughter is 10.
In my mind, she's the little girl who writes stories about imaginary creatures, and plays for hours on end with Beanie-boos and Barbies. She believes in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Elf on the Shelf, the Tooth Fairy and mischievous leprechauns.

She wants nothing to do with boys and makeup or fashion. She doesn't understand puberty and wouldn't mind taking a bath with her 6 year old brother while they play super heroes--even though we long ago ended this ritual.

She's innocent and sweet and naive and clueless, or so I thought.

Then, I found this.

I wasn't snooping. I swear. I just happened to be cleaning up her desk. She had been home sick the day before and there were tissues and cough drop wrappers everywhere. But, then I found this---an entire artist's pad full of before and after drawings of people who had apparently undergone a sex change or "gender swap." There's Belle and Elsa becoming boys and Penn and Teller becoming women. There's Aladdin and Prince Charming and Cinderella and Snow White. All undergoing gender transformations. 

What the heck?? Seriously, what the heck is going on? What does this mean? 

I wracked my brain trying to think when she would have even heard the term. Had she been watching the news about Caitlyn Jenner? Or was it something she found on her own? 

Then I freaked about what she might have googled or found on YouTube. Both kids are allowed an hour on Saturday and an hour on Sunday of iPad/laptop time. During the week, they only use technology for school work. So, it's not like they have been spending countless hours online. 

But, apparently that was enough. Along with the Barbie videos she watches on YouTube, Julie found some "shows" about Disney characters and gender swaps. Basically, there were cartoon renderings of how different characters would look if they were the opposite sex. 

So, not as awful as I thought, but still a little bit more information than I was willing to cover with a 10-year-old. Of course I know our kids can't stay sheltered forever, and I know that this is the real world. There are all different types of people, and of course I want our kids to know that and be respectful and tolerant and kind. I get all that and we aren't raising our kids to hate or judge.

But, some topics are just too hard to explain, and I'm not ready. I'm just not. Somehow 10 years crept up on us, and we have an obviously curious little girl who knows more about the world than we realized.

From this little revelation, two things have occurred: No more YouTube. (That's just asking for trouble.) And, Scott and I are determined to be more inquisitive and tuned in to the kids, and not just assume that everything is right and innocent in their little worlds. I recently read a blog by a mom who said just because children are quiet doesn't mean they aren't feeling or thinking certain things.

I think that's what I've learned from this. While our kids may be so innocent in so many ways, there are so many things they are learning and feeling and experiencing every day. All we, as parents can do is be loving and open and listen. Just listen.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Taking her time..

On Tuesday this little girl turned 14 months.

She just started walking, and she doesn't say much other than "Hi!" And she says that to everyone and everything....including pictures and stuffed animals.

This sweet little girl is just so quiet, and I'm stuck here feeling guilty that maybe she's left behind a lot of the time. As a baby she was just so go-with-the-flow that I toted her around everywhere and she barely made a peep. To play dates, and Girl Scouts, to the park and karate practice.

Of course we played with her and read to her and there was plenty of snuggle time, but compared to her older brother and sister, her babyhood was much different.

When Julie was a baby, I was a bit neurotic. I think maybe I was trying to prove myself as a stay-at-home mom. But I was obsessed with her learning everything. At her 1 year appointment I proudly informed the doctor that Julie could say 73 words that we could understand. The doctor, unimpressed didn't play into my psychoses. By the time she was 18 months, my Julie could identify every letter of the alphabet, shapes, colors, numbers, and by 2 years old she could say all the letter sounds and had been talking in sentences for a while. And, yes I was one of those annoying moms who delighted when her kid showed off her skills in public. "Look my toddler knows every letter in the alphabet!" Sorry to whoever I knew back then.

Anyway, when Johnny came around, and he was only saying a couple dozen words at 15 months, I freaked. What was I doing wrong? I called an early intervention agency where we lived in Pennsylvania. After an evaluation, they assured me my son was "normal" but they agreed to visit us once a month and work with him for free. Though he wasn't as verbal as his big sister, Johnny, I soon discovered, was an excellent puzzle solver and builder, and he loved to put things together.

He's almost 7, and of course he's talking just fine. In fact it was only a couple months after that first visit, that he became almost as chatty as Julie. That experience made me realize how kids grow and learn so differently and at different paces, and they each have different strengths.

With Josie, our third baby, I know I just have to be patient and let her develop at her own pace. Though I've matured and chilled a bit, I still have a bit of neurotic mom in me. Am I doing enough? Does she need help? In fact I called the local early intervention agency to evaluate Josie just in case she does need help. Of course when I told Scott, he just rolled his eyes. See...he knows how I am!
Deep down, I do know she's fine. She's just taking her time, and I have to be OK with that.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

He came back.

It was the bracelet sitting on my nightstand.
Two tiny heart charms dangling from a wiry gold string, held together with tape.

I hadn't noticed it earlier in the day, but there it was as I got in bed, and I realized the day had been filled with sweetness from my 6 1/2 year old little boy. He was the "old Johnny"--the boy who held my cheeks in his hands and told me he loved me. The one who crawled in my bed early every morning just to snuggle. My best buddy who wrote me love notes every day or made me jewelry and crafts.

That boy hasn't come around too much lately...he started to come around less and less after his baby sister Josie was born.

I have no one to blame but my sleep-deprived, 37-year-old self. I pushed him away too many times to count. He would try to climb into bed early in the morning like he always had, but I'd scuttle him back to bed, telling him it was too early. He'd ask to play Legos, but I was too tired. He wanted to dance to music, but I'd tell him he was too loud.

And now a year later, when I'm not so sleep deprived and I wouldn't mind a morning snuggle or a rowdy afternoon dance  party, he's not here.

He wants to play at his friend's house, and he has his own Lego world where I'm not invited. He'd rather rush down early in the morning to sneak in more iPad time, than to snuggle with his mommy. I can't help but feel that I blew it--I lost that sweet little boy.

But, last Sunday, I had him. He was all mine and he was just the way he always was. We played golf and Legos and danced in the dark. He wrote me love letters and made me a holder for Valentines out of toilet paper rolls and a plastic cup. And then there was the bracelet sitting there for me to find.

He came back and I'm not letting go this time.