Mom Lessons: Eye Color & Buts vs Ands

I’m continually reflecting on the things I learn from being a mom, so I decided I’m just going to start calling these posts: Mom Lessons, with the corresponding subject. I’m sure there will be a lot of these.

When I was the mom of one kid, my mom commented multiple times about how patient I was with Easton. That stuck with me because I didn’t feel patient, but I tried my hardest to show it, so was appreciative of her seeing it because I hoped my little guy saw it that way too.

And then… child #2 entered the picture and EVERYTHING CHANGED.

I can’t tell you how often I scold myself over and over again for my lack of patience. It’s like thinking about how life was before kid number one, we constantly asked, “What did we do with our time? We had SO MUCH time!”

Now with two children instead of one, I’m asking, “What did we do with our time? We had SO much time when we only had one child!”

I fear I no long exude patience- not even fake patience- as much as I wish I could.

Life with two kids- especially an infant and toddler- got crazy busy. There is always so much to do. Also, suddenly the little free time I have when I’m not meeting the basic needs for the kids- feeding & diapering- becomes a constant fight. Literally, the five to ten minutes it should take to empty the dishwasher now takes twenty-five. Because these kids dislike when one boy has my attention more than the other; but they HATE it when my attention isn’t on them at all.

Several months ago, I noticed I stopped making eye contact. My eyes were always on the things that needed to be done. And I think a part of me was scared to make eye contact because- well, for the same reasons you wouldn’t want to make eye contact with a predatory animal in the wild- I didn’t want to show my vulnerability and in a way, it was as though I was trying to be invisible, staying as low as possible under the radar so they wouldn’t demand more, or eat me alive.

For the record, avoiding eye contact does not make you invisible. It only teaches the kids not to make it as well. It also prevents you from making true personal connections with other human beings. So basically- I wouldn’t recommend it.

At dinner one night a few months ago, I finally looked into the eyes of my toddler and was taken back. When was the last time I looked into those eyes? I mean, really looked into them? When was the last time I stopped my to-do list to acknowledge his existence in a “my attention is 100% on you” way? I dropped to my knees, and held his soft little cheeks in my hands and said, “I see you.” Because he NEEDS to be seen. He needs to know he’s an important component of this world. It’s too easy for people to fade away, and as his mom with him in my protection for the first eighteen years of his life, I see this as my time to instill how essential his life is. There are too many people and opportunities in life that have the potential strip that idea way as he gets older, and I know this.

So that’s when we started our new game: what color are my eyes? your eyes? his eyes? her eyes?

And he enjoys it- he likes telling me what color other people’s eyes are.

Not only is it important for me to look at him, but also for him to look at me and everyone else around him in the eyes. He’s around me more than anyone else right now, and it’s crucial that I reflect these values. Life is busy, but there are so many more important moments than getting those items checked off my to-do list each day. Recognizing another person’s eyes is one of them.

We’re also going through some challenging times with my toddler, who is now three years old. This is ongoing, though- the cycles, that is. I used to always chalk these up to SOMETHING because there always has to be a reason for the bad things happening, right? Teething, lack of sleep, adjusting to new changes, etc– but the truth is, kids’ moods are cyclical. His new cycle just started again in the past week. After several great weeks, he’s now sliding back into the difficult attitudes. Needless to say, these are my least favorite times.

I’m constantly talking to him about his behavior, trying to help him understand where his HEART is in all of this and what’s propelling him to act out. That’s such a difficult concept for a three-year-old, but I know it’s important to lay the foundation now. I catch myself starting many of our disciplining conversations like this, “You know I love you, BUT…” or “I know your heart is in the right place, BUT…”

This is such a tiny word, and maybe the effects of it really aren’t huge at the toddler age. But it is for an adult, right? If my husband told me, “You know I love you BUT you drive me nuts.” All I would hear is that I drive him nuts and anything that may have sunk in from his declaration of love would have been canceled out by the BUT. Because “but” insinuates that love could be a lot greater if I would simply stop driving him nuts.

I don’t want my toddler to get confused by that. I love him no matter what. His heart is in the right place no matter what. Whatever it is, I need to stop using “but” and remember to use “and” instead. Or heck, even just make it two separate sentences. Again, in a toddler’s mind that seems to always grasp the bigger concept of each statement, maybe such a focused part doesn’t make a difference.

Regardless, it’s a wise change for me to make in how I talk to everyone- not just my toddler. So this one is a little more than just a mom lesson, but a life lesson as well.

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