How do we as parents create a bond with our children? There is not a simple answer to this question because a bond with your child is something that is built over time through many experiences and even challenges.
During one of our MOPS meetings, there was a discussion question asking us to think of a time when we had to help our child deal with a fear which brought us closer together. This question was so perfect for me because both of my children have gone through a difficult time this spring. All kids will have their challenging times. We as parents have to remember that their bodies and minds are growing at a fast rate and they are learning so much about the world and people around them. It should be no surprise that they would have emotional challenges along the way as they try to make sense of themselves in this world.
I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old and they both seemed to go through an emotional challenge at the exact same time. This caused a lot of stress in our family, but at the same time it caused us to connect with each other daily. It caused me to be more mindful of my boy and girl and see the world through their eyes. It challenged me as a parent and caused me to step up my parenting game on many levels.
I want to encourage all parents today to not fear the challenges that your kids will endure. These challenges will be an opportunity to bond with them and it will grow you as a parent. Being able to be there with your child through a difficult time is what grows trust in your relationship. This is why God has entrusted this child to you, to guide them through life's difficult journey and to rejoice all the way to the other side!
Roman and T-Ball
Roman's challenge came when he started T-ball in February. He had played t-ball in the fall and loved it! We were so excited to start again in the spring. We switched to a bigger league hoping he would get more games. Little did we know, spring season is MUCH busier than fall!
Adjusting to this new league and team was a lot harder on Roman than we expected. Though his first practice went well, his first game was much harder. It was a crowded morning at the fields for team pictures and opening ceremonies. Roman was frantic when it came time to take pictures. He did not want to be separated from us. When the tears ended, they started up again when it was time for his game. The photos below are from his first game.
It took a lot of talks from me and dad but eventually he got in the game and made it through. He was happy by the end, but this was not the end of his struggle.
Roman has always had some social anxiety in certain situations but nothing like this. For his next two practices and two or three games he had the same breakdown. It would start in the car, saying he didn't want to go to baseball. He would beg for us to go with him on the field. It was tears in a tug of war with my little boy who had a strong desire to NOT play T-ball. And it came from no where I could understand. It worried me to see my son so distraught over such a simple and fun activity. He had a great coach, great kids and we were right with him. I went over and over in my brain what could be causing this. I dreaded games and practices. Eventually I realized to stop focus on the why and focus on the what. What could I say or do differently to help him through this T-ball season?
Thankfully, I took the advice of my mother, an elementary school counselor. She said to keep encouraging him to go and not give in to his behavior. It was fine to talk with him to try to calm his behavior but to stick with getting him on the field with his coaches and teammates. She suggested we talk with him before games and practice to make sure he knew what was expected of him. We also needed to hold to disciplining him for disrespectful behavior. All the way around we tightened up are discipline and routine at home. We wanted him to feel safe and secure by being able to have a predictable life at home but also for him to know there would always be consequences for his actions.
Putting all these things in place took a lot of time and sacrifice. The last game where he shed tears was a much smoother transition. He adjusted much faster and I knew that day, he was again happy to play T-ball. Now he asks everyday to go to his game and he's proud to tell me he will have a good attitude when he's there!
I almost threw in the towel. It was hard to see my child have such a hard time and not act like himself at all. He was was angry and scared and all he needed was me to help guide him through it. There are times our child needs a little extra from us and it's not always easy, but so rewarding. To see what he has learned through this experience and seeing his growth makes the hard times totally worth it!
Mila and the T-Guard
Mila's challenge came when Albert and I decided to take a more active approach to her finger sucking. I was worried that it might cause her fingers and teeth damage. Her pediatrician said not to worry but to start reminding her to take her fingers out of her mouth. But that was adding an extra stress for me and I didn't want to feel like I was constantly nagging. No one wants to be that parent!
I saw a little girl at the library, with a silicone guard on her thumb. Her mom said it was a program for ending thumb sucking. I decided to look for one for fingers and the same company, T-Guard, makes a Finger Guard. Although I was ready to start potty training with her I decided to give the guard a shot first. If you'd like to learn more about the T-Guard for thumb or finger sucking you can learn more here.
The instructions for the guard did a great job of preparing us how hard breaking this habit would be for our little girl. They educate you on the fact that this is an addiction and will take time to break and will be very uncomfortable for the child. I didn't realize how much Mila has used her fingers for comfort, especially to sleep.
It is advised that the parents co-sleep with the child the first few nights to make sure they do not try to take the guard off and so that we can provide the support and comfort to our child in place of her fingers. I was so glad Albert was out of town that first night. After an entire afternoon of Mila whining and pulling at the guard, the real tears started that evening.
It was one of the hardest moments of parenthood for me. And I realize there could be worse things happen to my kids, but at this point in my parenting journey, this was the most heart-wrecking. Mila kicked and screamed for 3 hours straight. I could feel so much pain in her cries and my heart broke every time! I didn't know what to do and the worst was that I knew there wasn't anything I could do. I held her, talked to her, sang her songs. She would stop for 30 seconds and start again. When we were both exhausted, I realized all I needed to do was pray. I prayed comfort over her. I prayed to her strength, that God would bring her peace, and both of us strength. And I rejoiced! I thanked God for this little girl and this opportunity to love her fiercely with all of my heart. To help her and guide her and to witness her growth! I knew if we could make it through that night she would beat this!
And she did it! That night she fell asleep. She woke up once with a few more tears. And woke up early from her discomfort. That week we skipped her naps so she would be more tired come bedtime. She cried on night two while I sang and prayed and was asleep after 30 minutes. Come night three she only whined for 10 minutes before her slumber came.
By the fourth day she was gladly going to sleep and each day she was excited to switch out her band and put her guard back on! Her cheerful, social personality was back and seeing her spark back, I knew this program was going to work!
After wearing the guard for 30 days she was done and has never looked back to those fingers!
Again, like with Roman, I almost threw in the towel and took off her band that first night. But hearing her pain, assured me that she needed this treatment to break this dependent habit. I'm so glad we stuck with it. I am very thankful for the T-Guard. It can be purchased here.
I no longer want to run from the challenges that are presented to my family. I have realized that it is these moments when we not only bond closer to our loved ones but it also prepares us for harder times ahead. I don't want an easy life. I want a life full of growth and love. What further amazes me about this time of challenge, which lasted only about 6 weeks, was that I happened to have very little work at the time. At first this worried me. I only had one session in March and now I realize the blessing it was to be able to focus on my kids and give what they needed from me.
My kids are past this difficult season in life. And there will be more ahead. But knowing we can face them together brings me strength and comfort. At the moment it seemed so hard but as I look back I realize it could have been worse. So I want to encourage all parents out there, challenges will come but they don't last forever. Stay the course, find support and LOVE on your kids. Know that all the sacrifice and energy it takes will bring a great reward, making you and your family stronger than before, able to take on anything!