For Cecelia

I completely and wholeheartedly love being a mom.   I love everything right down to the complete exhaustion I feel at the end of a very, very long day.  I know this sounds crazy, but I  try to soak up all the moments I have with my child because I want to remember them for as long as I possibly can.  Why, I wonder?  Why is motherhood so fulfilling, so satisfying, so completely wonderful?   Why do we, as women, get to a point where we want to mother something?  Why am I able to push myself as hard as I do and still come home to simply do it all over again and be content with that?  It’s because I’m feeding and tending a beautiful garden of life and I get to be a part of watching this garden of loveliness grow into a beautiful young woman.  And at some point, if I’ve done my job well, she will enter the world and the world will become a better place because she is in it. 

I cherish the thought that every single day I get to teach her, love her, share with her, dream with her and show her how to be the woman I know she can be.  It’s not a simple task; it’s complicated and time-consuming, but the reward is so great that its difficult to put it into words.  There are times when I feel as if I might have failed her or myself, but then, miraculously, she does something that makes me realize I am indeed doing things right and she is listening.

There really isn’t anything else in this world that gives me the same kind of satisfaction as watching my child exceed at life.  I watch her navigate through troublesome teenage dilemmas, learn how to manage her time, pursue her dreams, develop friendships and gain confidence.  It’s not easy allowing her to do things on her own, I guess its normal to want to do things for her but I force myself to let her be and let her discover her true abilities and reach her potential.  Sometimes she interprets this as my lack of interest in her life but I know deep down I’m doing what needs to be done; making her test her wings so that someday she will fly on her own.

I’m writing this mostly because I’ve been reflecting on motherhood quite a bit in the past week.   Someone I love lost a very special mother and my heart is hurting from the inside out.   I sat silently and watched closely, through my tears, as each of her children paid tribute to her; their rock, their center.  One by one, the memories were recalled as they came together and remembered her strength, her love, her care;  they knew, they had each become the people they were today because she was their mother.  She gave the world nine of the most beautiful souls on this earth and she was delighted by each one of them every single day of her life.

So tonight, as I recall her sweet face and the love in her eyes every time one of her children called or came to see her, I’m inspired.  Inspired to be the kind of mother Cecelia was to her children.  The kind of woman who understands the gift she has been given and the responsibility of it all.  The kind of woman who counts her blessings and appreciates the goodness of the children she raised and the lives they chose to lead…because she was their mom.

  

It was as if she was an angel that landed here on earth

Her eyes sparkling with a mischievous light

And her laughter full of mirth

A gentle spirit with a loving firm hand

A wise woman who loved a good man

Who gave her all that he could give

And showed his love in the courageous life he lived

A home full of children and warmth she did bring

Nine smiles and nine faces of happiness ring

Through her love shining in the lives of her nine

Their goodness and success her sweetest wine

An angelic smile and gentle ways

Her love of life, her hope to stay

As strong as she could forever be

To watch it grow, her family tree

She was a mother, first and foremost

Her heart with each one and her voice always close

She will be greatly missed but loved again and again

And all will listen for her wings in the wind.

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Mommy’s “Hug Me” Time

Since I posted “H” is for Hugs a few days ago, I’ve had a few mom’s ask me for specifics about the “Hug me” time that I created for my daughter and myself. 

The very first step in the H.A.P.P.Y. Plan is “Hugs” and lots of them because they are so very healing.  Here are a few quick steps to helping you create your own “Hug me” time with your child: 

“Hug me” time should be anywhere from five to fifteen minutes in duration. 

Step 1:  Try to complete your child’s daily tasks.  

It’s important to have everything completed so you and your child do not feel any stress or pressure.  Your “Hug me” time is valuable and it’s important to be able to get the most out of it.  So, finish dinner, homework, bath time, bed time rituals like brushing teeth or combing hair, etc.  You may have to finish the dinner dishes, balance the check book and return emails later. For the next several minutes, focus on making sure your child’s world calm and settled with all loose ends neatly tucked in.  

Step 2:  Create a quiet environment. 

Be sure to turn off the television, game consoles, computers, Ipods, etc.  Don’t answer the phone, text message or email.  As difficult as it may be, simply cut yourself off from the outside world for a few minutes. 

Step 3:  Create a sleepy environment 

By this I mean turn lights down low, close blinds or shades making it easy to relax and eventually fall asleep.  Play soft music if it tends to calm your child. 

Step 4:  Find a comfortable place to hold your child. 

I used a rocking chair but it can be a sofa, a cuddly place on the floor with lots of pillows and stuffed animals, or if they’re older and too big for your lap, you can sit beside them on their bed and put your arms around them.  Just be sure everyone is completely comfortable. 

Step 5:  Tell your child this is our “Hug me” time and try to keep things very quiet.  If they talk, let them, but keep it soft and low so they feel relaxed.  Sometimes I would softly sing a song or hum a tune if I felt my daughter was having trouble settling down.  

It would be optimal to repeat this exercise at least three to four times a week or more if your schedule allows.  If you have more than one child, the key is to assign everyone their “Hug me” time and stick to it.  If you can’t squeeze everyone in on one evening, than assign each child their “Hug me” day.  Ex: Alex has Monday, Amelia has Tuesday and Max has Wednesday.   For a busy working single Mom, I realize this seems like added pressure to your day, but you will find once you make time for this exercise, you will look forward to it as much as your child does. 

Our “Hug me” time was without a doubt one of the things that helped my daughter and I through the initial stages of divorce.  It allowed me the opportunity to reconnect with my child after having been in crisis mode for such a long period of time.  Crisis mode is fine for a while, but it takes its toll on you and your child especially if you can’t seem to move on from the crisis.  It’s imperative to get back to a point where you can once again focus on your child’s emotional needs.  It will not only make your child stronger, it will make you stronger as well.

Enjoy your “Hug me” time and feel free to send me some feedback!

The H. In H.A.P.P.Y.

 

H is for Hugs!

aubreywillowLots and lots of hugs!  Hugs are such a wonderful way to show your children, or anyone really, how much they mean to you.  Have you just sat and thought about how a big hug from someone you love makes you feel inside?  We call it having the “warm and fuzzies” at our house.  I love warm and fuzzy and our kids do too.

Here’s an example of how something as simple as HUGS has affected my life and my daughter’s life:

I love the outdoors so when my daughter was old enough to hike with me, I would take her to a state park close to our home and spend the afternoon hiking the mountain.   It was like Heaven…in the fall we would see glorious shades of red, orange and yellow peppering the sides of the mountain.  In the spring it was as if every wildflower in the universe had suddenly popped up out of the ground.  I loved those hikes and so did she.  I would say to her during these mini hiking excursions, “look at the beautiful trees or the lovely flowers, it’s as if God is giving us a great big bear hug today!”  She would stop and look all around her, taking in everything her little eyes could see and imagine.  I wasn’t sure she understood, but I liked saying it to her anyway.

When Aubrey was nine, I took her on a kayaking trip on the Indian River, just near Vero Beach, Florida.  It was her spring break from school and we were looking forward to a few days off.  We set out on a four-hour kayaking journey and along the way; a very large mother manatee and her baby swam alongside our kayak until we made it to our half-way resting point.   It was one of the most spectacular sites I’ve ever experienced and Aubrey was equally as thrilled by this magical moment.  When we made it to shore, she jumped out of the kayak and exclaimed, “Mom! God just gave us a ginormous bear hug!”   It was then I realized she had soaked in all of the moments we had previously discussed and now she completely understood the beauty of a “hug”.

We all need hugs but our children really need hugs…hugs are healing, hugs are inspirational, hugs make us feel secure, alive and confident.

After my divorce, I began seeing a family counselor to help me navigate this new chapter in our lives. I was so nervous about going to see a “professional” and couldn’t afford much at the time. It was incredibly difficult for me to admit I needed help but I knew I had to find someone objective and skilled to talk me through this. In the end, it was one of the best decisions I made. It was a healthy and healing experience and I came away with tips and tools that I would’ve never thought of using.

One of the most effective pieces of instruction the family counselor gave me was a nightly ritual of holding my daughter. Not just giving her a hug goodnight, but really sitting down and holding each other.  I decided to do it and I put my own “spin” on it creating a “game like” approach to the nightly holding; it ended up being the best part of our day.  We called it our “hug me” time.

Every evening before bed we’d finish our “bedtime rituals”, brushing teeth, reading a book, etc. and then I would hold my little girl in our favorite rocking chair.  She was a small five, almost six year old, so I held her cheek to cheek so she could lay her head down on my chest or shoulder.  I would wrap my arms around her and simply rock.  I told her this was our “hug me” time and it was very special.  It was such an awesome experience for me and for my daughter.  The benefits were displayed in her ability to sleep all night, wake up in a good mood and seem well adjusted to her new surroundings.

I found, very quickly, that when I made the time to follow through on our “hug me” time she was much better-behaved and seemed happier.  She responded to my instructions, seemed to do better in class; it was a delightfully surprising result.  It was also good for me.  I didn’t realize how much I benefited from these 15 minutes each evening.  I would tuck her in and kiss her goodnight and I felt so good that I didn’t even mind cleaning up from the evening. I continued the nightly ritual for about two years.  After that, we found new ways to spend “hug me” time.  Sometimes it was as simple as laying on her bed and making up stories about fairies and angels and made up places that she desperately wanted to see.

My daughter is a teenager now and she learned a long time ago how to identify when she needed a hug or needed to be held.  And although she’s too big to hold on my lap for 15 minutes every night, she still, on occasion, comes to me and says “mom, I really need some hugs”.  I love that she knows when she needs to be held tight and I love that she still asks me.  It’s a bond I will forever treasure.