every mother has a tool belt filled with tricks of the trade that can switch her children from singing “everybody hurts” to “walkin’ on sunshine.” sometimes we gaze at each other’s tool belts and wish we had the tool our neighbor has, but who knows if her tool would even work on your kids. this tool belt is tricky because sometimes you find just the right tool and then you figure out that you have forgotten how to use it.
what you learn as your kids get older (and by the logical laws of nature you too are getting older- see how i tried to cushion that blow with science) is that at times the old tools don’t work and you need to expand your repertoire. and if you have more than one child than you know two minutes after they’re born that each kid requires different tools. what worked with one cannot work with the next because that junk was written on the walls of the womb, “i call hot cocoa and coloring as a happy place. find your own, sis. ps it’s really cold out here brace yourself.”
when asked what she’d like to be when she’s grown up, my oldest will now answer to be a pop singer. if the older “wiser” human in this scenario asks for a back-up profession in case that one doesn’t pan out, she answers without skipping a beat that she’d like to be a professional dancer. she is like a fish in water when she is on a stage. MC’s happy place is when she has composed a song, dance, play, or “presentation” and she gets to perform and we are watching not only with both eyes but our whole body, with zero attention given to phones. this can take anywhere from 5 minutes to a good solid hour, but for my first little cherub, the one who made me a mom, she wants to see you seeing her and delight in your response to what she has created.
now Hazel is different in that her assumption is that you should be watching her as well as listening to a steady stream of words about all the things at all times. this means you turning and giving her full attention is simply the world returning to what it was created to be. So although she is quite happy to have you watch her in all of her splendor, what she most desires is “snuggle time.” we learned at a fairly early age that if hazel basil was acting sour it could very well mean that she needed a snuggle. i would say “oh my, it seems like your snuggle tank might be running low. do you need a hug?” and she would say yes and we would snuggle for a good long while and then smiles and laughter would resume and the world would breathe a collective sigh of contentment.
i’m going to be honest here, i am not yet sure what nora may’s tool is yet. i am still in the research phase of this particular project and, even as i try to avoid having my kids cope with food, right now the evidence points to the most effective tool being a doughnut. nora may loves to laugh, she likes to read books with you and her blanket, and she loves outings to marbles (the local kids museum) and the library, but i have not yet discovered what her happy place is. she is at most peace when everybody is home and can hang out together so it may just be quality time together. who knows?
the assumption is that as a mom you will know exactly what is needed for each and every particular kiddo in your bouquet of awesome and that you will know it from the get go. i think this is a bunch of malarky. when you really like someone you watch them and you collect their data. their likes and dislikes, what makes them smile, laugh, and cry, and you seek to meet them there. i really like my kids and my intention is to help them discover the intricate ways they have been created and help guide them towards what makes them most themselves.
as i turn forty on tuesday something i know in my heart of hearts is that i need help raising these three beautiful ladies. let’s share our ideas of what tools work best. they will change as they grow older and maybe you’ve survived the phase i’m entering with flying colors. would you sit with me and help me have an educated guess as to what lies ahead? instead of saying “this parenting way is best and if you choose differently you hate all children ever created” let’s give honesty a go and say “each kid is sooo different and different things work with different kids, but here’s something that worked with one of mine.”
who wins if you’ve figured out the magic formula? you’ve only figured it out for your tiny group of humans and [spoiler alert] they are different than my tiny group of humans. my hope and prayer is that you get the tools you need for the kids you have and are honest about the challenges that come even with the right tools. let’s care for each other on this journey. help moms in the data collection phase and do not give tips unless asked AND you actually know the kids of who you are speaking to. you have to know both that someone is looking for input and that they know the kids we are trying to care for. this means the drive-by-judge-their-parenting-feel-better-about-how-much-awesomer-you-are-at-this-gig-than-they-are scenario is blasted right out of the water and we can all join hands and fight for our kids together.