Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Out of the House

Eliza is a very loved little girl.

Nathan and I have done our best not to spoil her, but the reality of the situation is that she certainly has a number of things that she wants. I love a good yard sale, so I have amassed quite the wardrobe of princess dresses, princess shoes, puzzles and books for her. Additionally, Cheryl, my mother, and Eliza's great-grandmothers love to give her little things.

I realized last week that I often buy Eliza presents because it is the way I show love to others. If you have ever heard of the book, 5 Love Languages, you will know that "gifts" are one of the ways people express love. I am one of these people. If I am feeling sad that I have spent all day nursing/playing with/loving Ezra and Elliott and slightly neglecting Eliza, I will often try to smother my little girl with "gifts" like chocolate milk and a lollipop. I'm horrible, I know.

I realize more and more that the relationship between Eliza and me isn't what I want it to be.  She is certainly loved and played with during the day, but it usually isn't me that is taking her out on walks and jumping on the trampoline. Perhaps it is due to nursing (and low iron?), but I constantly feel weak and tired, so I usually volunteer to do the things that require less energy. We color, bake cookies, play dress up, and talk to the babies. Nathan and Eliza do all the running and jumping outside, and Nathan is always actively engaged with her. They laugh, they tell jokes, and are downright silly. I realize I am not the "fun" parent, and I want to change that. Although Eliza and I enjoy singing and reading books together, I have wanted to do more than our indoor activities lately. I'm still weak feeling, but now that the boys are sleeping, I definitely have more energy. I decided it was time to work on developing a few of the other love languages.

Like I said earlier, there are five love languages. These are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and gifts. While the concept of love languages was originally created to apply to marriages, the author, Gary Chapman, has also written that these five methods should be ways we show love to our children. He encourages parents to use each language "fluently." He says that a well-adjusted child becomes a well-adjusted adult. If a child is showered with all five types of love, he/she will grow up and recognize love in any form. Obviously, this will be a great thing for future relationships.

Nathan and I talked and realized we try to show love to Eliza in all five ways already. Additionally, we see how she already responds so well to each type. She loves hugs and when we play with her hair. She lights up when we tell her how proud she makes us or congratulate her on completing a puzzle. When we help fix a broken toy, mend a ripped princess dress, or cook her favorite meal, she cannot stop thanking us. Without a doubt, she appreciates gifts. And lastly, she comes to life when we spend quality time with her. I know quality time is the area I need to work on regarding my relationship with Eliza. Of course, I spend time with her, but I would like to change our scope of interaction.

I decided she and I would have a fun date--quality time with just the girls. Between Nathan and I working opposite schedules and the children's various naps, it was tricky finding the perfect time. I knew all we had was 10:00-12:00 (when Ezra and Elliott nap and before Eliza's nap). I fed the boys, did our nap routine, and planned an escape to the pool. I hurriedly put on her swimsuit, applied sunblock, and ushered Eliza into the minivan. She was so excited.
Of course, I had told her that we were going swimming and played up how much fun we were going to have. As we made the short trip to the community pool, she was laughing and singing songs. It felt so good to make her happy without buying her anything. All she wanted was time with me--doing something other than reading!

Walking hand and hand, we went toward the pool. As we approached the main gate, one of the lifeguards said, "Oh, we aren't opened until 12:30. Sorry. It's swim lessons for intermediate swimmers and then lap swim after that." I don't think I said anything.  I turned around, still holding Eliza's hand, and tried to quietly explain what was going on to her.

I felt crushed. We wouldn't be able to come back most likely (due to work), and I didn't have the heart to tell Eliza we weren't swimming. I wanted to tell the pool the schedule was ridiculous for allowing families to swim only 5 hours of the day. What kind of policy is that!? As soon as Eliza saw we were headed back toward the car, she began to cry. It was a real cry of utter disappointment. The tears were huge, and I almost cried myself.

She sobbed the entire ride home and yelled, "You told me we were going to go swimming! You said we were!" She was devastated (like a two year old would be), and all I could say was, "I'm sorry" and "We'll go again, I promise." I began to think about how much I wanted to protect her and make her unhappiness go away. I wanted to solve the problem immediately, although there was no good solution.

I knew I could have a pity party and join Eliza in crying or I could take control of the situation and turn things around. I decided I wouldn't let this deter me from having fun with Eliza. We were going to spend quality time with one another one way or another. I continued to talk to her and then rearranged our schedules in order to return to the pool. We decided to defy nap time for the boys, and our entire family went swimming. Nathan left early and took the little guys home while Eliza and I played for 30 minutes together. I know 30 minutes doesn't sound like much one-on-one time, but it was amazing. She definitely enjoyed her alone time with me, and it felt good to know I can easily give Eliza the attention and activity she certainly deserves.

At the end of the day, the initial trip to the pool was long forgotten. It wasn't even a bump in the road in Eliza's eyes. All she remembered was swimming with mama and going under the water for a second. I hope this is the first of many trips to the pool this summer.


  1. Oh Celia, this is the sweetest thing. I know just how you feel. And Noah starts swim lessons next week! I was just telling Ben that I'm a little concerned about how he'll do. But you're right, we need to let the tough things happen sometimes, and help them through it. Ack, being a mom is heartbreaking sometimes! I love the Love Languages stuff; it's so interesting to think about. After learning about it in a parent-baby class when Noah was tiny, it helped me realize things about my parents and Ben. That stuff sounds cheesy but it really is helpful for relationships.

  2. I think it's wonderful that you are wanting to cultivate a better and closer relationship with Eliza. It shows how great of a mom you really are. Again, Othello has shown just how ridiculous and "small town" it can be. I'm glad that it ended up all working out in the end.


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