I’m a wanna be free range parent

I love the idea of kids running amok without a care in the world. I love the idea of kids riding bikes with no destination in sight. The feeling of sweet freedom and independence blowing through their hair.

But my babies carry a piece of my heart with them when they’re out of my sight. And sadly, when my heart walks out the safety of my sight, news headlines cloud my thoughts.

My 7 year old practices lock down drills every few months in Elementary school. The thought of those precious babies, huddled together in the dark of a bathroom, breaks my heart. The worst part is that these young ones know the reason behind these practice drills.

I’d love to be a free range parent. I’d love for my kids to be able to spend their days running freely around down the streets, climbing trees and playing tag. All without me hovering down their neck.

And I know they’d love that too.

But as much as I’d love to be a free range parent, my fears convince me otherwise.

I’d love to be a free range parent, but instead, I’ll keep them in my bubble as long as possible.

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Years ago, I started something special in my house. What seemed so simple to me at the time, has become an annual tradition in my house that makes an appearance on the Eve of each of my babies’ birthdays. While they sleep, turning one year older, my husband and I blow up balloons and sneak them onto the floor of their bedroom. We wanted the first thing they lay eyes on when they wake to be excitement.

Growing up, I remember silly little traditions that I knew I could count on with my mom. We moved around a lot, but no matter where we were, she made it special. From the goofy song she made up to celebrate Fridays to the Guns N’ Roses song she coined as “ours,” to the homemade Christmas tree skirt that made an appearance each and every year.

The great thing about traditions are that no matter what’s going on in life, the ups the downs, the beautiful and the messy. Sometimes, traditions are one of the few things we can count on, and look forward to with a smile. The best part is that traditions don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be expensive. But there is always thoughtfulness behind them.

It’s true that sometimes the simplest acts of kindness, mean the absolute most to people. The way my sons’ light up on the morning of their birthday is simply priceless. It’s cheap fun. It takes less than 5 minutes to prepare, and even though it is completely expected and not at all a surprise, they wake up THRILLED at the sight of them.

My heart swells at the thought of that memories out living me long after I’m gone. Something that my boys will remember with a smile each year on their birthday, long after the tradition fades in my home. Maybe they’ll continue it with their own kids, in their own home, maybe not, but the pure joy on their faces is what makes traditions so special.

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I’ve never understood the saying boys will be boys. I mean, are we talking about anatomy here or the high activity level of toddlers or the puppy smell they seem to bring into my kitchen after playing hard outside?

Every time I see this phrase written, every time I hear this strange bit of advice or tip or whatever other observation you’d like to call it said about little boys, it baffles me (cue boy mom eye roll here). It’s typically said to excuse a boy’s hyper, emotionless, or other negative behavior.

But I’m here to tell you that boys will be boys simply doesn’t make sense. And after birthing three boys from my lady parts, I’d like to claim to be a semi-professional boy expert. So one thing I know for SURE is that each one of my boys are COMPLETELY different from the brothers on either side of them. The real definition of boy reads so differently from one boy to the next, I have no clue how “boys will be boys” can sum anything up at all.

So let me tell you a little about the things boys will actually be . . .

Boys will be noisy. They will speak, and sing, and laugh at decibels that make a rock concert sound like the ballet.

Boys will be quiet. They will listen, read silently, and tip-toe.

Boys will be emotional. They cry when they are hurt, scared, worried, or mad. They scream, they kick, they need their mamas when they’re tired. They are capable of empathy and kindness.

Boys will bounce back quickly. They forgive in an instant, and can make a quick turn from screaming and tears to smiling and laughing. They go from fighter to lover faster than an apology can be given.

Boys will love fiercely. They will treat their mamas like gold, and be loyal friends.

Boys will be rough. They will wrestle, hit, and kick.

Boys will be gentle. They will hug softly, stroke their mama’s hair, and pat someone softly on the back when they’re coughing.

Boys will be arrogant. Boys will tell you they’re great, and believe it.

Boys will be humble. Boys will hate to be the center of attention or be praised for their thoughtfulness.

Boys will be athletic. They will score home runs, and earn metals at swim meets. They will run fast and throw hard.

Boys will be artsy. They will paint and color and create.

Boys will hurt feelings. They will be unkind, and say things they don’t mean.

Boys will be kind. They will hug a friend, sit by the new kid in school, and give compliments.

Boys will be high energy. They will jump off bookshelves, and climb on the top of the couch, and want to bike race a moving car.

Boys will be still. They will be your best snuggle partner in a movie theater.

Boys will be smelly. They will sweat a lot. Their shoes will smell ungodly, and the bathroom will smell terrible when they leave it.

Boys will be the sweetest smell on the planet. There’s something distinct about the smell of the small areas of a boy’s temples.

So how can any one person ranging the whole spectrum be summed up by being simply a boy? My name isn’t Webster but “boy” is not a definition for one stereotypical behavior, but is actually defined as “a male child from birth to adulthood”. That definition hardly prepared me for how to parent three boys. It told me nothing about their level of activity, or emotional state, or any number of things I’ve learned from being a mom of three drastically different boys.

So do us boy moms a favor. Tell me anything else. Anything at all. Tell me boys will be hyper, or mean, or loud, or kind or smart, or funny.

But please, for the love of my sanity, stop telling me boys will simply be boys.

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8pm bedtime in our house is not just for the kids. If I’m being honest, and I’m always brutally honest, bedtime is more for me than the kids. By 8pm, I’ve been in mom mode for over 12 hours and I. AM. DONE. I’ve gone nothing left to give. So once the teeth are brushed, books have been read, heads have been kissed, lights have gone out…I breathe a sigh of relief as I walk to the quiet of the living room.

And then.

Not 5 minutes after I’ve snuggled each and every love bug into bed, it comes.

“Mama, will you snuggle me?”

I’ve told myself I’ll never answer that question with a no. But most nights, for a half a second, I sink because I. Just. Want. To. Sit….Alone. Without anyone talking to me, or touching me, or needing me. I want to let my brain rest and my arms fall without holding anyone else up.

And then.

I remember that they won’t always ask for this. Tomorrow could be the day they’re just too cool to snuggle mom. What if I missed my last chance? What if I missed the extra kisses and sweet one-on-one conversations that are next to impossible during the craziness of the day?

And then.

Pushing that hesitation aside, I say, “Of course I can. Always yes to snuggles”

And guess what. Those extra snuggles, they cure my tired and weary heart. They give me extra energy when I thought I couldn’t go any longer.

Each night, even when I’m exhausted. Even when I want to be alone.

“Always yes to snuggles,” will always be my answer.

I don’t feel sorry for my middle

I can’t tell you how many times people have warned me against leaving our kid crew at an odd number. “One will always be left out”, they warned. “The middle always gets over looked,” they’d say. They worried that middle children often don’t know where they fit. They’re not the oldest, paving the way. Yet, they’re not the baby gaining all the attention.

They all felt sorry for my middle.

But, I’m here to tell you. My middle is anything but overlooked. And I don’t feel sorry for him in the slightest. His middle child status is a gift I’ve given him. He loves getting the honor of being both a big brother and a little brother. He thrives at playing both of those roles. What some may see as a downfall, to be squished in the middle of the big and the little, he sees as a great privilege.

He owns that middle child status with pride. He is feisty. He is super stubborn. He give me a run for my money in the parenting departing. Every single day in fact. But that doesn’t mean he’s deprived of anything in our family.

I don’t feel sorry for him.

Yes, He’s different than his brothers. He has taught me that there is no such thing as one size fits all in discipline department. He challenges me. He makes me step up my game as a mom. He is often my hardest kid to discipline, but often makes me laugh the hardest too. In true second child fashion, he is constantly defying all the middle child stereotypes.

No way does he fall for the myth that the middle child is an outsider. He wouldn’t dare let that happen. He’s assertive. He often will tell you exactly what he wants, and he’s not afraid to fight for it.

But sister, that’s not a bad thing.

I actually want these qualities for my kids. And if he need middle child status in our family to gain these qualities, than man, I’m a rockstar parent for giving him this giant gift.

Life would be boring without middle children pushing the boundaries and laughing at the world for trying to fit them in the normal mold.

When he was born, he needed me for comfort, warmth, and food. He needed to me to rock him when he cried, and sing until he fell asleep. He needed me to keep him dry and clean. He needed me to be his advocate and his safety net.

As he grows he needs me less.

But as a toddler, he still needs me for comfort and food. He needs me to tuck him in at night, and his stuffed animals too. He needs me to kiss his forehead when he falls, and clean his scraped knees. He needs me to be his advocate when he is sick, and his safety net when he feels scared.

As he grows he needs me less.

But as a kid, he still needs me for comfort, and a laugh when he was sad. He needs me to teach him how to bake cookies, and how to tie his shoes. He needs me to remind him to brush his teeth and use shampoo. He needs me to cheer on the sidelines at soccer games, and be silent as he learns from his mistakes. He still needs me to be his advocate at school, and his safety net when friends hurt his feelings.

As he grows he needs me less.

But as a teenager, he will still need me for comfort, and to lighten the mood when things get heavy. He will need me to mend a broken heart, and teach him how to drive. He will need me to show him how to shave his face. He needs me to remind him of his manners and to use shampoo. He will still need me as his advocate during the awkward stage, and his safety net to prove unconditional love is real.

As he grows he needs me less.

As an adult, he will still need me for comfort when he worries. He will need me to listen as he falls in love, and to remind him to be careful with their heart. He will need me to cheer on his dreams and watch him reach his goals. He will still need me as his advocate, and his safety net. He will need me to always welcome him home. He will still need to know I will be in his corner always.

Because once a mom, always a mom. They may grow, but they never grow out of their need for us.