Parenting: feeling control in out of control times

Like many parents, one of my most important roles as a mother has always been to help my children feel safe and secure in the world. I took those first few months especially seriously as I tried to be in tune with my babies’ needs. Whether that meant nursing, soothing, swaddling in cozy blankets, or lots of hugs and kisses, I tried to build within them a sense of trust.

I have always believed that routine was essential and made sure our children knew very early on that they could expect every night, well almost every night, to have bath time, book time, song time, hugs and kisses before I said goodnight and left their rooms.

It was my job to help them feel secure when I dropped them off at school. Even though for some of my kids there were many tears during those first few weeks of school or camp, at some point they learned to trust that when I said goodbye in the morning, they knew I would be there a few hours later to pick them up and bring them home.

But somehow all that planning, scheduling, and secure parenting didn’t prepare our family for the most recent change in our lives: our decision to leave our warm, safe, familiar home and city we love, New Orleans, to the Maryland area where my husband grew up.

My husband and I knew in our hearts of course that the decision was the right one for our family, but quickly learned how difficult it was to try and make our kids feel secure when we felt anything but….

We left on July 29th to live with my in-laws temporarily until we found a house in a nearby neighborhood, where my husband’s job was and where our children would go to school. We actually tried to find a home for the three months leading up to the move, but were not successful. We put all our ‘stuff’ in a storage unit that we packed so tightly we knew we wouldn’t have access to it until we moved into a new home.

We were most blessed to be staying with family in a place where our kids could feel some semblance of order, but it has still been hard… our usual routines were hard to keep with the kids now sleeping in the same room and living out if bins and boxes. Still difficult to hear Liat (age 2) tell us daily that ‘I ready to go home’, clearly confused and clueless that the place she called home was no longer ours. Hard for Adi (age 4) to miss her dolls every day and for Elyon (9) and Itai (7) who ask every day if our new house is ready since they want to be able to invite their new friends over to our home. And not to mention hard for my husband and I to not have any relaxed “couple” time.

And there was the new school experience… the kids loved their new school from the beginning, but often felt overwhelmed by the change coming from a small school in New Orleans to a big school in Maryland.

Over these last few months, I’ve struggled with how to respond to my family.  Telling the kids not to worry or that it would things were going to be ok felt forced. During my weak moments, those words didn’t even feel real.

During this move, I’ve had days where I’ve felt overwhelmed just figuring out how to get to the nearest gas station and missing my old community in New Orleans. And there are other moments that I’ve felt completely in control navigating new streets and figuring out which pediatrician practice will actually take new patients.

It’s been three months since our move and we are definitely not settled. It finally makes sense to me why moving is among the top three hardest transitions up there with marriage and death. When you move and leave all that is familiar, it’s quite scary to settle in a new place, make new relationships, and feel grounded.

And it’s not like anything is so terrible. In fact, everything has been a blessing. We have only met warm, inviting, and welcoming people and have found a great house we will hopefully move into soon. Not to mention the fantastic school our kids attend daily. What a blessing.

It’s just hard because adults, like kids, want to feel safe, settled, and in control. I guess I could choose to smile and tell my kids it will all be great just to put them at ease. But I think what’s been helping them the most and is the more honest response is teaching them how to express their anxieties and validate how hard big changes are, even for adults.

I want my children to know that we will continue to adjust together, as a family, even if it takes a while.

survival and traveling with four children… alone.

I made it! I flew by myself from Maryland to New Orleans… with four children… 18 months to 8 years… alone. I have to admit that I was hoping to have a crowd of people cheering for me when we all exited the plane in nola holding up signs that said “Way to go!” or at least handing me a gold metal for the marathon that I just completed.

I also have to admit that I was completely full of anxiety when my husband and I decided that he needed to go on an important work related trip, which meant that I would have to fly back from Thanksgiving vacation by myself with our four lively children. I have never flown with more than one child alone, which as we all know can be a challenge in itself. I had flashbacks to one plane ride where I flew with our daughter Adi, seven months at the time, by myself; I remembered the challenge of trying to hold a crying baby, a diaper bag, and a carry on and the shock that no one offered to help.

My anxiety about flying affected my whole Thanksgiving trip. I imagined my 18 month old screaming and throwing food and toys on the plane, my 8 year old teasing his siblings without remorse, and my other two hitting each other until everyone on the plane questioned my credentials at being an effective mother entirely.

And then there was getting through security…

I had many comments throughout the weekend that were all meant to be supportive remarks such as “You can do it!” “You’re capable” “You’re a great mom!” But there were no encouraging words that actually pumped me up for the experience.

It wasn’t until the plane ride home that I realized I had it all wrong. It wasn’t about whether I thought I was capable of going on a airplane alone with my four strong-willed children. I knew that I’d survive this stressful situation like I have with many others. It wasn’t until mid-flight when I looked at all my peaceful children (well, for that moment) and realized that it wasn’t about believing in myself at all (although I should have more faith). Rather, it was about believing in my children that would help me have the strength I needed to get through the rest of the flight.

As I stared at my kids, I realized that I often become anxious or irritable because I am not looking at and appreciating my children’s strengths and believing in their unique abilities to face life’s challenges. And if I didn’t believe in them enough, how could I possibly expect my children to have the confidence to believe in themselves and their own capabilities. After all, if I would have taken the time, I could have focused on how much I love Elyon’s (age 8.5) eagerness to always want to help, Itai’s (age 6.5) ability to make his siblings laugh, Adi’s smile and joy of life, and Liat’s easy going nature.

As I sat there on the plane, I decided to try to make it a priority to express more often to my children my confidence in who they are. And I hope in my next moment of angst, that I allow this knowledge, of each of their beautiful qualities, to give me strength to face whatever challenge lies in front of me, as a more relaxed mom.

What surprises have your children afforded you lately?

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