Choose Joy

I half drafted a post about how it’s been a rough time in the Engineer’s household, and some of the lessons I’ve learned. It wasn’t really a negative post by the end, but I got halfway through, and realised that I’m sick of only writing here in the hard times. I think it’s important to share those hard times, and will continue to do so, but at this rate everyone is going to think it’s all hard times here, and that I’m not enjoying this parenting thing. That is definitely not the truth, so today I’m going to focus on some of my favourite things about life with The Engineer’s Baby.

image

This age (nearly 15 months if you’ve lost track, which wouldn’t be surprising with my posting (in)frequency) is so much fun, but my favourite thing is the babble. She doesn’t really speak any English yet, but her babble is fairly communicative and totally adorable. She adds sounds and syllables and babbly-phrases every day, it seems, and I love it.

We get on just fine, her and I, but she is absolutely crazy about her Papa. When she hears his car roll up, she gets the biggest grin on her face, and rushes to climb her chair and look out the window. It’s the cutest.

image

Every so often she completely surprises me with what she understands. I’ll say “I’ve got a sore head”, and she’ll point to her head (and it’s repeated, so I don’t think it’s coincidence). Or I’ll ask her to get a cloth, and she actually does it. The other day she cleaned up her own spill with only instructions from me. It’s pretty astounding to me that babies can go from little newborn blobby cuteness to following verbal instructions in just over a year.

I love watching her play. She’s all over the place, of course, but every so often she’ll really focus in on one thing. Opening a container, getting a shoe onto her foot, pulling her buzzy be around, stacking her stacking rings. Her little focus face is adorable.

image

She’s gone from a barely-cuddly baby to a really great hugger. Big around the neck cuddles, head resting on chest, the whole nine yards. Each night before The Engineer takes her through to bed, we have a last snuggle, and it’s just lovely.

This isn’t even the half of it really. There is so much joy in parenting a toddler. Sometimes it’s a little hidden behind some very real challenges, some not quite so real challenges magnified by sleep deprivation, and a whole lot of mess. But it’s there. And today, at least, I’m choosing to shine a light on it.

Advertisements

For the days that just suck

When you’re raising a tiny human, there are days that suck. If anyone says otherwise, they either have the perfect unicorn child of which we all occasionally dream, are ridiculously well adjusted, or they’re flat out lying; most likely the latter.

If you don’t watch out, it’s very easy to get bogged down in the relentless day to day hard stuff that is a big part of parenthood. The more you allow that to happen, the more you forget about the magical joyous stuff that is the other big part of parenthood. And before you know it, days that suck can turn into weeks that suck.

I had a patch of days/weeks that sucked at around the six to seven month mark. And I’m just now at the veeery edge, about to tip into another patch of them if I don’t watch out.

Unfortunately, I’m not very good at watching out. The coping strategy that comes most naturally to me is to withdraw, and to basically quit adulthood as much as I possibly can. I spend way too much time on Facebook, avoid all possible chores, pick fights rather than being open about what I need, and generally become pretty difficult to be around. As you can see, it’s not really a coping strategy at all; if it weren’t for the amazing Engineer, this strategy would be a complete and utter flop (I am ridiculously fortunate that he is willing and able to pick up the slack).

image

So, today I’m going to attempt to break this not-so-fun cycle and to avoid the pot hole that is right in front of me by creating a new strategy. This strategy is pretty tailored to me. Your mileage may vary!

1. Put down the phone.
No really, put it down. Don’t look at it. Don’t get sucked into it. It’s too easy, too available. If there’s anything you really need to do, there’s always the computer.

2. Set boundaries for yourself.
This is a good idea every day, but particularly important when you’re struggling. It doesn’t matter exactly what these boundaries are, whether it’s finding 20 minutes to do some yoga, 5 minutes to meditate, or simply enough time to go to the toilet alone. You know what you and your small person can manage.

3. Take a minute to breathe.
It’s so easy for your breath to get shallow and uneasy. A minute of slow deep belly breaths several times a day does wonders for your mindset.

4. Do at least one thing each nap time and each awake time.
This one depends a little on your schedule, but for us (two naps/three awake times) it strikes a nice balance. Getting five things done in a day isn’t overwhelming, but can still feel productive. They don’t need to be big deal, important items off the to do list, they just need to be something. 

5. Watch and find joy.
It’s easy on the hard days to feel like every moment was difficult. Some days I feel like The Engineer’s Baby has whined literally all day, when in reality it’s probably only been an hour total over the day. There is almost always something good or funny that happens, even on these sucky days. Make an effort to watch and appreciate that thing. Aim for five good things. Write them down if necessary.

To be honest, that fifth point is the kicker. All the others are mainly there to facilitate that happening. On the good days, joy is easy to find. On the hard ones, it’s buried a little deeper, and you (I) need a bit more support to dig it out.

To be even more honest, this list is mainly for me. If it helps someone else, that is wonderful. But I’m putting it here primarily to have a reference for myself. A reference I might need for the next few days… Wish me luck!