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The Howe To Blog

Parenting Advice from the Unqualified

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happiness

Love at 21 vs. Love at 42

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I haven’t written anything in a long while; in fact, this is the first time I’ve opened my laptop in over a month for anything non work-related. We’ve had some significant life changes in our family, one of which I’m not quite ready to write about. The other was moving to a new home. It’s been rough–roughest, perhaps, on our barely 5-year-old who doesn’t understand what’s happening or why everything has changed and all her grown-ups aren’t smiling as much as they used to, and she’s launched into a behavioral nosedive of some kind. But this, too, shall pass, and we will get through it with the same love, support, consistency and gratitude that we try to apply to our family life in general.

These types of stressors can often drive a wedge between husbands and wives, but the mister and I have actually grown closer these past couple of months, spending most evenings after the kiddo has gone to bed checking in with the other, supporting one another and discussing ways to help ease our family through these transitions. We remind each other that the marriage we’ve worked so hard to build these last six years provides a sturdy foundation to carry us through any challenge we face together.

As we talked, I got to thinking of something I did when I was 21. One night in college while sitting around with girlfriends and bemoaning our romantic lives, one friend announced that if we made a list of all the qualities we were looking for in a mate, then put that list in a Bible, said perfect mate would show up on our doorsteps, or in our O-Chem classes or at Coffee Bean, somewhere, anywhere, and soon. After a few pints of Guinness, and who knows what else, everyone thought this was the best idea ever. As a former Catholic school girl, this might as well have been witchcraft, but I had a Bible on my bookshelf, so I was in! We got out some pens and notebooks and wrote furiously. I put my list in the Bible and I didn’t look at it again until I was about 30 and I came across my Bible during a move.

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Worry: The Parenting Common Denominator

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I started this post intending to write “Five Things Parents of Only Children Know,” but got stuck about two paragraphs in. I looked at my title and looked at what I had written and realized everything on the page applied, more or less, to all parents. I could have crossed out the “Only” in the title and written the same post as “Five Things Parents of Children Know.” Whether we have one child or four children, our kids are the centers of our worlds, and as such, most of what we feel as parents is universal. The hardships and struggles, the joys, the fears, the guilt, the pride — these are the feelings that permeate the parenting experience. Perhaps parents of only children worry about the development of their child’s social skills more than a parent of three, and perhaps that parent of three worries about giving equal attention to all of his or her children, but at the heart of it, we all worry about our kids. Worry. Yes, worry is the proverbial sidekick to parenting. When I was discharged from the hospital after having my little one, I was given an infant CPR DVD, a rented breast pump and a book about newborn care. But nowhere in my newly acquired arsenal of parenting information and supplies was a manual on how to manage the worry that comes with raising a child. Now that would have been useful.

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Let’s Look to the Kids When We Don’t Know the Answer

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Lately I’ve been intrigued by the people I meet who seem to be less emotionally cluttered than the rest of us–the straight-talkers among us, those who can rise above the fray, the men and women who never appear to be in a hurry because they know nothing is really that important. Somehow, they just get it. But how do they do it? I wonder. How do they buffer themselves from the swirling chaos and grind of modern life in 2016? As I play armchair psychoanalyst to these people, I’ve noticed some similarities between the way in which they approach their lives and the way children approach life. I suppose we all enter this world emotionally uncluttered, and while we do need a certain amount of emotional sophistication beyond that of childhood in order to function in this society, I think we also absorb so much noise along the way–stress, anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, boredom, short attention spans, jealousy, fear, exhaustion and so much more. If we looked to our children for the answers to unburdening ourselves of much of this emotional baggage, could we achieve the joy that is so evident on our children’s faces and so lacking among adults?

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It’s December. I’m Supposed to be Happy, Damn It.

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I suffer from what my husband calls “a tendency to be dramatic.” I also suffer from what psychiatrists call a “high stress level.” Occasionally, these two traits collide and send me into a funk of epic proportions, the kind that makes me put my hand to my forehead and very dramatically and in the most obnoxious way declare, “The world is too much for me!” in the spirit of Greta Garbo or Gloria Swanson or some other old-timey, fabulous actress.

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My 4-Year-Old Dresses Herself: A Photo Essay

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Our daughter has insisted on dressing herself this summer, and since I’m a pick-your-battles kind of mom, I let her go for it. There was only one time, the time she put on see through tights with no underwear underneath, that I vetoed the outfit. Otherwise, I’ve let her express herself in clothing and accessories (accessories are very important to her), but rarely in shoes. The girl is anti-

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Life with a 4-Year-Old…in Slow Motion

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I’ve always had somewhat of a fluid relationship with rules, ideologies or general life credos; they change for me as often as I change addresses, which is to say, frequently, because I have a vagabond-like lack of attachment to place. But I do have a few guiding philosophies that have stuck with me through the better part of adulthood: 1) Sharing is for suckers (much to the chagrin of most everyone who knows me, especially my husband, and yes, I know this makes me a terrible person); 2) Beware of anyone who doesn’t curse or drink (recovering substance

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When Night Terrors Turn Into Night Happies

20150707_063743“Goodnight, my love. Close your eyes and dream of beautiful things.” With these words I tuck my daughter into bed every night.

Hailey has suffered from night terrors since she was about two, and although they don’t happen frequently, they are scary and usually a sign that she is overtired or anxious about something. So whether it helps or not, my habit has been to remind her, right before she closes her eyes, to think of something beautiful before she drifts off. Occasionally, she’ll tell me of her pre-slumber thoughts — bunnies, kittens, the beach, swimming, Minnie Mouse, her Papa — but mostly she’ll just smile peacefully and roll over, and I say a silent prayer that nothing frightens her awake. Night terrors are unnerving for all involved — picture sleepwalking without the walking. The child seems awake, is often crying or screaming, sometimes is even having a full on conversation, is frightened, but is definitely not awake and will not wake if you try. Hailey’s night terrors have clustered around stressful events — moves, starting school, or changes in bedtime routines or mom or dad’s work schedules — but, thankfully, she’s having far fewer the older she gets.

Last night, though, we worried that they had returned. She had been asleep for a couple of hours and Josh and I were watching a movie in our room when we heard her talking really loudly. Wait, not talking, laughing. Hysterically. Cracking up, in fact. Was she asleep or did she sneak the iPad into her room and turn on something incredibly funny? We tiptoed into her room and found her sitting up in her bed, giggling with such pure happiness that Josh and I started laughing too. We inched closer to see if she was awake or asleep, and looking into her eyes we could tell she was still asleep (when she has a night terror her eyes are open as well, and she appears awake but dilated pupils give an unmistakable “lights are on but nobody’s home” look).

“Why are you laughing, silly?” Josh asked.

“Because of all the love,” she said.

Then she threw her legs in the air and giggled some more, finally settling back onto her pillow, all the while laughing and laughing, then closing her eyes and drifting back off with the hugest smile on her face.

We sat on her bed digesting that moment for about 20 minutes.

“That just made my whole world,” Josh said.

I just put my hand over my mouth and silently wept with pure joy.

I cried because it wasn’t terror that woke my daughter this time, it was happiness.

I cried because she was filled with such raw bliss on an unconscious level.

I cried because my daughter felt so loved and so much love.

I cried because all the love made her giddy.

I cried because, sitting in her dimly lit room, all pinks and purples, I had no worries or anxieties for the first time in years.

I cried because my daughter is fundamentally happy.

I cried because, someday, not long from now, the world will start to chip away at that fundamental happiness.

I cried because I so desperately want her to hold on to that joy for as long as possible.

I cried because of all the love.

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