Mama tries to take a break

Once You Turn Mama, You Can Never Go Back: A Tale in Memes

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Like many stay-at-home moms, I associated pre-school to a few hours of me-time.

And so a few weeks ago, even before L1 started her full day classes my heart was starting to brim with giddiness.

Suddenly, every travel and restaurant article was mentally bookmarked. Lunch plans started getting imagined. Undiscovered playgrounds suddenly discovered. And most importantly…

Blog posts actually got written.

Or so I imagined.

I was still holding on to that dream a week into L1’s full day pre-school life when a small voice suddenly came squeaking out of nowhere. The voice was initially soft, gentle even, and still quite ignore-able. Ignore-able, but strangely familiar.

But then, the words came often, and very much clearer.

Blogging is fine, said that voice, but late nights aren’t a good idea anymore. Sleep early so that you can wake up early. Wake up early so that you’re not so cranky when you wake the kids up. You’d be angry less if you were sleeping more. Blog when L2 is napping, but when she’s awake please put your cellphone away. Using your cellphone while you’re next to her teaches her to pay more attention to her cellphone than you. So on and so forth.

The voice. It. Wouldn’t. Stop.

It’s 6AM. No don’t go back to bed. Get up. Fix yourself. Done? Journal for a bit. Done? Prepare their morning stuff. Done? Put on a smile, ’cause you gotta start the day happy. Pull open the blinds. Open the door. Where’s the hubby? Turn on some music. Dance with the hubby. The kids not awake yet? Joke around with the hubby. Someone’s bound to wake. Oh the littler one’s awake. She jumped on L1. Oh they’re both awake! Okay, got lots of time. Enjoy the morning. Take it slow but don’t be late. Book your cab. Out the door—fast but without stressing them. Have fun. Laugh. Smile. Laugh.

Oh wow, it said. Good job! Now that you’re in school, read to L2. Now read her age-appropriate books. You focused too much on the big sister, and now it’s little girl’s time to get some attention. Look up—yes, up that bookshelf! She’ll love that. Now reach. I SAID REACH. Go go go!

I remember this voice.

NOOOOOO.

It was mine. My voice! But the me from all those years ago when I was still a somewhat workaholic teacher. During my jump-squeal-bounce-hyper ESL teaching days.

The teacher in me saw an opportunity to come out, and though my fingers itched for the keyboard the nagging teacher had other plans and orders suggestions for this mama.

And every time I thought my to-do list was done and I was already imagining myself drumming away at the laptop, that tiny nagging voice would come back, asking me are you really really reaaaally done with eeeeverything? And if L2 was awake, the voice would somehow coax me away from my beloved work table and towards the L2 and her play area. The hands that itched to type instead found their way to building blocks, books that should have been read to L2 long ago and unopened coloring pens.

Oh boy. It was a struggle at first, especially since there was just us two. I’ve been tempted so many times to do what I wanted to do while she played on the mat by herself. 

But that nagging voice wouldn’t stop, so often I found myself putting away my cellphone and my laptop and observing her a bit more. 

As the days passed, I discovered that paying her more attention brought about a few changes here and there.

The changes were subtle at first.

Not unlike before, unwanted books still got thrown around. But that’s when I noticed which ones didn’t end up getting thrown. Which ones actually stayed on her lap for at least a minute. Sometimes two. Paying more attention meant I knew which ones she liked better, and that she was fed up of reading her older sister’s books. (She loves books with songs, by the way).

Our time alone together also meant I began to notice her limits more now than I did before. For example, instead of taking a cab home we now take the bus. We talk about the things we see along the way, which excites L2. But I’ve also started to notice when she feels overwhelmed with all the sights and sounds. 

I’m amazed at her endurance, although I’ve learned now not to abuse it. There are days when she can walk from L1’s school all the way to the bus stop without complaint. On other days, the first ten steps towards the bus stop are ten steps more than she could handle.
I also discovered that she remembers words better when taught in songs. She still doesn’t like books, unless they’re sung to her. Or when she’s trying to impress her big sister.

I also learned that she likes exploring probably just as much as I do, and she learns words faster when she sees them in real life and not just in books.

I guess another way to put it is that I understood her learning style a bit more than before.

And, more than before, I can feel she really enjoys my company more now. She really enjoys our alone time together, be it at home or in a new place.

Do I still crave for free time? Of course I do! Every stay-at-home-mom does!

But there’s a pride swelling in me at the things my littler one is now able to accomplish just because I decided to use my free time on her. The former teacher in me just came at me from out of nowhere, just when I thought I was finally blessed with some free time….err, kinda.

Because did you know that a child needs to hear a word at least thirty times before he or she remembers it? (Within that one class session.)

And did you know that a child can hear a word once and remember it for a long time, especially if there’s something special or unique about that moment you said it? (This is why you need to be careful with cuss words and why songs help children remember words better).

Did you know that showing exposing your young child to too much TV can alter their brain circuits? But this can be “avoided” by choosing more appropriate shows. Tips for those with kids under 3: avoid commercials, if possible show them a series of songs or a few shows that are 5-10 minutes long per show (5 is best though). I read and watched from a few sources from long ago that shows that are more interactive with children like Dora and Blue’s Clues are perfect for young kids, although I don’t know if I agree considering the Dora shows I’ve found are mostly almost thirty-minutes long.

I can go on. And on. And on. But if you ask me for proof, I can’t give it to you right now. I don’t have the sources, just the experience from teaching other people’s young children. ‘Ya know, from my ESL days.

Fingers crossed, I hope that all goes well. Exciting days are ahead—but admittedly not all of them might go on paper.

I would like to end this post with this beautiful meme that more or less illustrates my current #momgoal:

Thank you for reading everyone! And here’s a last one for my fellow mamas out there:

P.S. Leanna from All Done Monkey wrote this wonderful post about Seasonal Living with kids, which is basically connecting with and being more observant of nature and our environment. Check out her inspiring list of ideas here.

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