Parenting Pauses January 2004
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Here are my entries from January 2004.

January 5, 2004 -- A new day, a new learning experience.

I have made it a point to try to teach Jennifer something new every day. Of course I'm trying to keep it all simple, focusing on colors, shapes, numbers, letters and the names of things. I am also working with her in learning to sign and say things in a complete sentence. I know this may seem like a heavy load for a 2-year-old, but I'm not cramming everything into one day. One day, we work on counting. (She can count to 6 so far.) The next, we work on shapes. She also does other skill-building activities such as putting together a puzzle or putting something else together (like a toy that falls apart).

Jason keeps telling me, "She is only two." And even as I am well aware of how old my child is, I think it's important for her to start her learning experience now. At least when she goes to preschool, a structured learning environment won't be so alien to her. It's never too early (or late!) to learn something new and as I am on a daily quest to learn something new (or try or taste something new), I want Jennifer to have this experience, too. Yet it is not limited to learning something she would learn in school. I want her life to have a learning experience in all aspects of living so I try to expose her to new tastes, sounds, sensations and sights every day. I let her hold fall leaves in her hand and let her feel and hear what happens when it's crumbled, I'll put a new food item onto her snack plate to let her taste something new (although she'll usually just poke at it) and I'll refrain from being the "solver of all problems" to let her have a chance to figure out a solution on her own.

Just because she is young, it doesn't mean she can't learn. I am sure that there are other 2-year-olds out there who probably already know the alphabet or can read a favorite book. If she is capable of ordering for herself at a restaurant (as she recently did), I don't see how it could hurt her to learn something like colors or shapes. I don't expect Jennifer to automatically be some kind of Einstein and I take her learning experiences really slow. For now, I am happy with the chance to help my daughter on a new path of learning and experiencing everything new that we can.

And as she is learning something new, I think I'm learning a little something more in my role as a mother/teacher, too.

January 26, 2004 -- The great scream of 2004.

In a currently unpublished essay, I write about how becoming a mother has meant having to deal with a messy house. Toys are everywhere and the baby has absolutely no qualms about making this mess worse. In the essay, I wrote, "I still grapple with this fact, biting my lip every time my daughter empties a box of toys onto the floor to play with."

Yet it seems that lately, I have gotten into the habit of biting my lip so much, it bleeds.

Jennifer is basically not a messy person. She does have a tidy side to her. But, she is a child, and all children are inherent mess-makers. These are the same people who like to play (and sometimes eat) mud, after all. I know that she can be neat and tidy, yet, for the most part, she can be messy. Very messy!

I have made several attempts to get the house in order after Hurricane Baby swept through. And every time I finished cleaning the house, my smile of satisfaction is quickly replaced with a grimace when I turn to see that Jennifer has once again pulled all of her books off of the bookshelf, poured her box of toys out just to get the single toy she wanted or how she messed up my bed playing "mommy" with her baby dolls. (Apparently, she has yet to understand "play with your own bed.") And no matter how many times I take a book, magazine or article I've written from her hands with a "this is Mommy's" reminder, it just never gets through.

Everything in my house is a target for her disaster-making plans. I wish she was old enough to play outside by herself. I am grateful that anyone who visits and sees books and toys all over the floor understands that the mess is courtesy of my child, yet Jason is not taking it so well. He has tried to get Jennifer to pick up after herself (and all she does is stand there, looking at him in confusion) and also told me to "stop her" the next time she makes a mess. Well, of course I stop her, but what am I supposed to do when she tries to make another mess and then another?? My house can't stay clean!!!

I was raised to have a clean house. And while Jennifer does indeed try to "help" me when I clean (usually doing more harm than help), it seems that she has yet to outgrow her messy side. There have been many times I've grabbed my hair and screamed because it is almost impossible to make the bed, vacuum the floor or mop the kitchen because Jennifer has made my job harder thanks to a brand new mess. Anyone passing by the house outside and hears my daily scream of frustration might figure out that a house-wrecking toddler lives inside.

It seems that the only way I can get this house completely clean (and make sure it stays that way) is if Jennifer is in chains or moved out.

I would like to write more here, but for now I must go. My pride and joy has decided to take the bowl of chili she fooled me into thinking she would eat and "paint" the table with it. Ah, motherhood.

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