Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The First Shall Be First...Or Not

So, Zane is walking. I don't even know if you could call it walking, because he basically skipped walking & went straight into running. I think "Batman" was the wrong superhero selection for this dude because "Flash" is much more fitting. One second he will be sitting so sweet & quietly playing with a toy or something right there on the floor & before you know it he's just bouncing around upstairs, dumping out drawers, climbing step stools trying to get the toothpaste so he can suck it from its tube, trying to get himself a snack from the pantry, or attempting to give the cat a big fat hug.....& his list of new interests goes on & on. He truly is so much fun though. Trying to take in every sweet moment while it lasts even if some days have a few more "sweet moments" than I would like LOL. I will take them & I am thankful for him!

Well, before I begin this post let me just say that I am not just passionate about this topic because I am not the 1st born, lol. My passion for this topic has definitely intensified the more children I have had & the more situations & feelings I have gotten to observe in action.

Its just a fact, oldest tend to get to do things first & stuff tends to happen to them first. They have simply been on this planet longer than their siblings & sometimes it is just kind of how things work out. They will get to go to school before their other siblings, they will lose a tooth first, they will probably get to experience their first slumber first, get new clothing first, watch a big kid movie first, & be the first for a lot of other things in life. While this is great & some "firsts" can't be avoided being handed to the oldest child, I do think that as parents we need to be very careful that the oldest never develops an attitude of entitlement & the younger children don't develop a sadness or defeated feeling as they begin to notice this about their oldest sibling or even a resentment (and YES they will start to notice).

As I stated earlier, the oldest is going to get a lot of stuff first, its pretty much unavoidable, but I also think it is a good idea to help them realize that their other siblings are just as important and sometimes they will be the ones who get the opportunity experience things first. Everyone deserves a chance to shine & learning to be happy for others is a big deal & a part of good character. Will it always be easy? No. But trying your best is what matters. We are owed nothing & the more our children grasp this fact the better. Modeling this ourselves & nurturing an attitude of gratitude in all of our children is a huge deal. Even youngest can be very susceptible to an entitled attitude. A lot of times they receive less harsh consequences & just get away with much more because they are the last, the baby. But creating as even of a playing field as possible is important. Is life going to be completely fair? Absolutely not & it is important for children to learn this also. But as parents if we go in being aware that the playing board is already starting out extremely uneven one way or the other, we can do our best to even it out just a little.

Some small things to be aware of as a parent is the tendency to take more video & pictures of the oldest children. Lets be honest, it just gets harder & harder to keep up on that stuff as more children come along, but the younger children will notice. Often feeling more hurt than angry about it. Austin & Adley in particular just stop everything when they hear me say I have a picture of them or a video to show them of when they were an infant. The joyful expressions that run across their faces when they realize at one time they were THE BABY is so sweet. I am so glad I took the time to capture those moments for them. Am I as on top of printing them out as I was for the oldests, not yet? But I am trying & at least I have them.

Extra curriculars. Now when I had just Aidann & Asher, it was so easy to have them involved in absolutely everything. I had so much more time & money to do it all. They did dance, cheer, t-ball, soccer, Gymboree, swim, & everything else under the sun. Anytime any enriching event or show popped up, we were there in a heartbeat-first in line. Fast forward to so many years & children later, I still try my very best to expose the younger ones to lots of different experiences & have them involved in lots of activities. Is it harder? YES, much harder. Now our money, time, & energy is split 6 way instead of just 2, but I see the value in it.

Just recently we decided to put the two youngest girls in cheer. The older 2 did it for one season & it was overall just a great experience for them that I am so glad we did. Fast forward to now, let me be real, getting them to practice some days is a big pain in the butt. Loading all 6 kiddos up in the car in the middle of summer to get to just a 45 minute cheer session!?! BUT I have seen such huge benefits. I think it is so good the younger 2 girls get a chance to shine on their own, because it is often about the older 2. The oldest are also presented with the opportunity to be happy for their lil' sisters & "cheer" them on. Adley was already loud, but man that lil' firecracker's confidence has bloomed even more during this process & Austin gets a chance to really play the role of big sister & lead.

A few other small steps you can take as a parent to help combat any entitlement issues or jealously issues in any of your children is by "messing up the order". On purpose I try not to always let the oldest do things first, but I change up the order of things whenever I can. We take our children on individual dates throughout the month, I try to make it random who gets to go first. Even giving the "middles" a chance to experience going first. When a chance to experience something new for my kids comes along, I think it is good sometimes to pick one kid to go & give them that special opportunity to come back home & share with their siblings the special experience they had (not in a bragging way of course). Aidann recently went to Firehouse Subs for the first time & it was so cute to hear her comeback & try to describe it to her siblings & they were all so happy for her. Adley gets all the cutest hand-me-downs in the world from her sisters, but just recently we decided to take her to Carters & let her pick out some new clothes & shoes that she wanted. The pure joy on her face as she went down the aisles & made her special selections was everything. It was a small gesture to let her know she is super special & sometimes it can be just about her for a moment. Also, when it comes to birthdays I encourage all the kids early on to start planning for that sibling on what we should do, saving their money to help buy them a present, make a big deal about making their siblings a birthday card. Again, I want my kids to know that YES sometimes it will be about you, but other times it is about others & we need to try our best to be happy for them even when at times it may be hard.

The primary focus of this post just touched the very surface on trying to combat any of your children feeling inherently deserving just within your family, but I do realize it stretches so far beyond that in a society that is so focused on self, wants, & things. Baby steps.

-M&M Momma

Monday, June 27, 2016

Nurturing Their Strengths

The last week has been so interesting. The older kiddos were in VBS every afternoon so it was just J, 2 kiddos, & myself pretty much. SO ODD. We did our normal bi-weekly grocery shopping trip. It was so quick & easy. All my kids are honestly really well behaved, but just having to push 2 kids around in a cart who need no bathroom breaks & who's lil' bodies allow us to fit all the groceries into just 1 cart-amazing. When we ran some errands at "The Red Store" on the last afternoon before picking all of the kiddos up, my husband & I just had a deep epiphany. So, this is what it feels like to have just 2 kids or this is a similar feeling to what it would be like if our children went to public school. We truly did get so much done & it was just easy breezy (and a lot more quiet). But I will tell you right now, I will take having all 6 children any day. It was a fun & different experience for a week, but that's all. Getting to experience having 6 children sun up to sun down is just more our speed. Such amazing lil' humans that add so much to our lives & each others'-filled with laughter & love!

Well, moving on to tonight's post-Nurturing Their Strengths.

Children are so different, if you have at least more than one I am sure you can testify. I have 6 different flavors & there has yet to be one child AT ALL like another. Its a beautiful thing! Each child is blessed with different gifts & talents & as parents I think it is so important that early on we discover those talents & gifts they have been blessed with & not only nurture them, but protect them as well.

As I child I loved art, dancing/gymnastics, singing, sports, acting, super friendly & fun once I warmed up to people, & so forth. And I am telling you, very early on the attacks on those strengths began. I was literally 5 or 6 years old when I remember my mom sitting us all down for a coloring project & I started to notice my older sister's looked "so much better than mine". My parents didn't say this, my sister didn't even say this, but I just noticed how perfectly her coloring remained in the lines. I recognized how she colored in perfect patterns while I was a lil' more...creative & carefree with my work. As a 5 year old I didn't stop & think "Well, my sister is a significant amount older than myself & has had many more years to perfect her artistic gift" or "We are just different from each other. She does things 1 way & I do things another way & they are both great because they are so different". My whole life my singing ability was under attack. Once again my sister had a phenomenal voice & was much more bold with it than myself, my vocals were a tad deeper than most girls so I thought something was wrong with my voice & sang less & less. I had different singing leaders make different not so constructive comments about my voice that eventually brought me to a place where I never knew if I would let out a single note again. And the list goes on. My parents did a great job, but my biggest enemy over the years has undoubtedly been-MYSELF. Lack of confidence & perfectionism almost stopped me from fulfilling so many of my dreams & almost robbed me of my destiny. Now, myself a parent, I realize just how important it is to help your children realize their gifts & help nurture them!

My oldest, Aidy, absolutely loves to help. I mean LOVES to help. You know what, that is awesome, but man sometimes so many things would just be so much easier if I could just quickly just do them myself. BUT I have to stop & recognize that passion in her & facilitate it when I can before I unintentionally snuff it out. She also has a huge passion for dancing & early on has set goals for herself to make it to prima ballerina. I want to help her get there, but I am also preparing her that she is her only "competition". She doesn't need to compare herself to others' skill levels or body types. She needs to just be the very best her she can be & try her best. Continually challenge herself to reach higher & further every day. I also want to make sure that she know she is NOT ballet. That does not need to be her identity, it is just something she does. Focusing on her character & keeping her eyes attention on the things that really matter first & foremost will help to make her the best ballerina she can be in the long run.

Asher, my second born, is completely opposite from her oldest sister. Not just in looks, but in personality & passions. Aidann loves to put herself out there & make friends right from the get-go, while Asher is a lil' more quiet & observant in the beginning. Both ways are perfectly fine & neither approach makes one child better than the other. Since they could talk I have always asked them, lets say I was talking to Aussie:

M: "Does mommy want you to be Aidann?"
A; "No"
M: "Does mommy want you to be Asher?"
A: "No"
(and on down the list until finally...)
M: "Who does mommy want you to be?"
A: "The very best Austin I can be!"

Its something so simple, but I hope it starts to help to combat early on comparing themselves to their siblings or resenting their siblings. Refraining from saying "Why can't you be more like....(insert siblings name)?" is also SUPER important.

As a parent I think that actually taking the time to sit down & write out each child's name & listing possibly 4 talents/gifts you have noticed in them & want to help facilitate is an awesome idea-Just being intentional with your parenting & making a conscious effort daily to help start them off in the right direction in life. I even pray over them.

With younger children it will probably take a lil' longer to see their strengths begin to unfold, but even listing just 1 or 2 things you see is a great start. Zye is only 2 years old & I have definitely seen a large desire in him to help & he has a tender & loving heart for others. The lil' things I currently do to try to help facilitate his passion for helping is by having him assist me with the more simple tasks that go into making meals daily, he helps me "hold" the trash can when it needs to go outside, sometimes he helps in getting his lil' brother dressed, & the list goes on. To nurture his heart to give & love on others I have had him help us in collecting stuff for those in need, when someone falls I encourage him to ask if they are "okay?" & help them up, & the list goes on. Just simple things.

Lastly, I want to note that there are some strengths that can be seen as positive or twisted to a negative view as well. The biggest one is probably the "strong willed" trait. A lot of my kids have glimmers of "strong willed" in different areas, but Aidann & Zane take the cake for sure. Now some can try to put negative labels on this trait early on like "sassy", "stubborn", or "difficult". But as a parent you can notice the tendency in your child have a stronger will & directing them towards being a "confident" child, a "determined" child, or a "committed" child. These are all more positive ways to direct a child's tendency to be strong willed. Now I am not saying to just let them do whatever they want & command as they wish in hopes of not dampening their spirit, but fining a healthy balance is a great thing. Let them know there are rules & limits, but when there is a situation that gives them the opportunity to lead a little bit & make decisions, go for it! Facilitate that gift in a positive direction.

Being tender-hearted is another gift that some can try to label negatively. They may see it as more of a weakness than a strength. If you notice this trait in your child early on, I encourage you to embed in them that their big heart is a GREAT THING. Aidy has the most tender & fragile heart I have ever seen. As a parent it actually makes me a lil' leery, because I know how harsh people out there can be. I definitely have been focusing in on her confidence in who she is as a person & her character. When people say things or do things to her that hurt her feelings, the best thing I can do for her is to help her realize that they don't determine your value. They only have as much power as you let them have. She has so much compassion for those out there who are hurting & lost. As her parent, I try my best to provide as many opportunities as I can for her to get out there & really help. "Red Nose Day" this year was a awesome experience for her because she really grasped the true meaning behind it. She is already making big plans for what she wants to do next year & how she can be an impact right now. This sweet gift in her can be used to impact the world & I just want to help in anyway that I can!

Each child is so special & unique & they were put in this world to do some pretty awesome things & make an impact-They are the future! As parents we need to do our best to spot these strengths early on & help to start cultivate these giftings & get them started in the right direction. We also need to try our best to give them the tools to protect these strengths so they don't let themselves get robbed of their potential, destiny, & dreams. I like what my mom teaches her students in Sunday school. "Know who you are, you are a S.T.A.R.! SPECIAL! TALENTED! ABLE! RIGHTEOUS!

-M&M Momma