My daughter and I had a glow up weekend. She arrived at daycare today a different person. Her eczema is nowhere to be found. Her hair smooth and beautifully braided. Her teeth brushed. A gorgeous matching outfit. And last but not least, she is grounded. She came to daycare with a resilient sense of self.
Because her mama saw her all weekend. Her mama put in the quality time, and she felt seen and heard. This simple act can be seen on the outside, but it started on the inside.
When Oliver came along, I didn’t see how I could be there for my daughter and a newborn at the same time. I spent a lot of time with her before her brother came along. When Oliver arrived, I was still spending time with her, but this time was different. It was not the same amount of time, and she was not getting quality time. She didn’t feel seen.
Not feeling seen left her emotional, like she had done something wrong. And so started her rebellion. The rebellion was a cry for attention. A cry for this pain to stop. The pain she felt because she did not feel seen by her mama. Now looking back, I wasn’t always the most present mom, but where she had my undivided attention and capitalized, was at bedtime. And with the new baby, she was not getting bedtimes with mom. Bedtimes were totally on her dad’s shoulders. I felt so much guilt every time I didn’t spend bedtime with her. When bedtime would roll around, I was spent. My anxious mama energy was overstimulated from tending to the needs of two kiddos during the day, plus caring for myself postpartum. I did have help, but it wasn’t the same. The second time around you are a pro at the baby stuff (kind of true… I guess once makes you an expert). But I was not a pro at juggling two kiddos. I was not a pro at giving my daughter the attention she needed and deserved in less time. I wasn’t a pro at making meals, with two small humans demanding your time. The sleep when the baby sleeps was not as accessible. So, the lack of sleep (day and night), juggling two toddlers, feeding everyone, loving everyone... Come bedtime I did not have it in me to be there for my daughter. I would head to bed with Oliver and close my door for the night. Leave bedtime every night up to her dad.
So, it left Hazel feeling lost. Bedtime was her time to have her mom’s undivided attention. She felt seen and heard when her mama tickled her before bed, sang her songs, read her books, rocked her to sleep or laid with her until she was asleep. At the time I knew her heart was breaking and so was mine. But I didn’t know how to mother two babies. I didn’t know how to care for myself, care for a newborn and find enough time to connect with my first born. I knew what I was doing wasn’t enough, but I could see no logical solution. The answer in my mind was more time with my daughter and I couldn’t see how to create more time with a newborn demanding so much of me day and night. I knew she was upset because mama was dividing her time. But I had no idea how to give her more time. How to be there for her. All I could see was the loss in time. Not realizing that it was the loss of QUALITY time.
A few months into her rebellion I was desperate for change. Where did my beautiful and easy-going daughter go? She was pushing limits and was testing her dad’s patience on the regular, usually leaving him mad at her and her crying. I wanted this to change and sent out a cry for help. I asked the universe to make this better.
The next day (the universe can work fast when you are ready) I was scrolling Facebook and there was an advertisement to stop the yelling in your house. A free one-hour webinar. Normally I wouldn’t sign up, but I was desperate for change. Now based on my understanding of driftwood, that the universe is always sending you solutions, you just need to stay open for the signs. One hour later I was convinced this course was the answer. Scott and I needed to take this Positive Parenting course. I signed up and we started to learn a new way to parent.
This was a game changer as it brought to light the importance of a child feeling a sense of belonging and significance. There were a lot of positive strategies in the course. The one that has had the most beneficial impact, the one major tool, the one I needed to hear the most, what I recommend to all busy parents, is “‘Mind, Body, Soul” time. This is where you spend 10 minutes solo with your child doing whatever they want. In those 10 minutes it is just you and that child. So, we started to implement “Mind, Body, Soul” time. Each night I would spend 10 minutes (just 10 minutes) playing with Hazel. There was no correcting, no parenting, I just got down on her level and played. What we did together was her choice and we had fun.
This was huge and moved the dial considerably when I was consistent with it. Just 10 minutes a day playing with my daughter stopped the constant fights, made her more agreeable and helped my connection with her.
Fast forward two years and I have not been consistent. Struggling with my own challenges of finding balance yet again of my perceived responsibilities (mind stories) compared to my desires. Letting my mind stories lead me down a path of “shoulds” has left me drained and feeling like I had no time or energy for consistent “Mind, Body, Soul” time. Instead, I would default to picking my baby boy first when I had pockets of energy to give. Hazel would consistently pick her Dad because he was consistently putting her first and therefore the easy and safest choice. Mom may or may not put me first and she didn’t want to take that chance, because it hurt when her mama would put her brother first. I knew the solution, I needed to make the time for her. But when you come home buzzing day after day from work, stress 5+ out of 10 on the stress scale and not sure how to easily dissipate… you default to what is easy. Working to repair my relationship with my daughter did not feel easy. When I had more time I would put in the energy, but the inconsistency would have her open up and then close back off. I let things slip so badly that it was work to get us back on the level and that was energy I didn’t consistently have.
But I am winding down, this week is the start of my leave from work. The past three weeks I have been home with sick kids, so I have hardly been at work. A back injury about two weeks ago asked me to find a different pace. This slowing down meant for the first time in what feels like years, I came into a weekend with nothing to do and energy to give. My husband was present and supportive all weekend. And so, I capitalized. We rearranged the kids' rooms, and with Scott around to keep Oliver occupied, I spent hours of “Mind, Body, Soul” time with Hazel. And I was there for every bedtime with Hazel.
She just wants to feel seen and heard by her mama. Consistently seen and heard. And I will try my darndest to stay consistent because life will challenge her, but if she feels filled up from the love of her mom and dad. Seen by her mom and dad. It will build her resiliency and help her to develop a solid sense of self. So today a new girl went to daycare. She went with her cup full. She was even hit with some adversity when we arrived at daycare and instead of her melting down, she took it in stride. Trusting I will help later, and her belonging and significance bucket is so full, this small hiccup was not a monstrous reminder of how her mom constantly forgets about her and doesn’t have her back. She is trusting this is the new normal. God it is beautiful and fueling as a mama to see those positive changes. And to see how quickly those changes can make shifts in everyone.