Parenting an Angry Child

Let me start at the beginning.

I was so excited to have another baby. Soon, I would have two baby girls! My second child was my first natural birth. She was tiny! She opened her eyes and looked right into mine, and I fell in love right away.

At six months old, she would close her fists and her face would get red with anger if she didn’t want to be put in her carseat. I joked that she had the fiery temper of her Latina/Italian heritage.

She grew into the incredible, intelligent, strong 5 year old girl she is today. Long blonde hair, big brown eyes that turn into laughing half moons when she is happy. My beautiful girl whose name means “light of God”; Liora.

But, her anger has only grown with her age.

I have felt helpless, hopeless, desperate, and depressed. I have felt insecure, inadequate, and incapable.

I have held her strong little body as she flung her fists at me, raging at me until she collapses into a heap of sobs.

It could be smiles one moment, and rage the next. Playing one moment, hurting the next. Toys have been hurled at my head. Her finger nails have broken my skin. Her words have sunk into my heart like a knife; “I hate you”, “your not my real mother”, “you don’t love me, nobody loves me”.

Of course, I know it isn’t true. I know that she needs me more than she can express. I know she hates her explosive anger more than I do.

Lately, she has described her anger to me like this;

“My anger is a person who holds me down and wont let me walk away.”

“My anger is like a remote control.”

She wants walk away. She wants to be in control. She comes to me in tears after the anger flees her body and her true self is back in control; sorry. So sorry.

It impacts her big sister, who cries to me about why her sister isn’t nice.

It impacts her little sister, who is starting to imitate some of her behaviors.

We have gone to therapy, and tried many different things. Right now, we are focusing on being loving and firm. She needs those limits. She needs to understand that she cannot hurt people, even when she is really angry. But she also needs to know that she is LOVED.

It impacts her self image. Somtimes, she sees herself a bad kid. She thinks God doesn’t love her, neither do her parents. That breaks my heart more than any little fist she has thrown at me.

It is this impossible balance of love and discipline. It is this terrible fear of “am I doing the right thing for her?”

Raising a child who has explosive anger is a path I did not plan to walk, but here I am.

In my nightmares, she doesn’t get better. In my nightmares, she is 15 and hates me.

But, in my dreams she overcomes her emotions. She is strong and powerful, but gentle and kind. Despite her anger, she is deeply sensitive and loving. I believe in her, and I will never give up helping her.

For now, it is one day at a time.

Shalom.

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Letting Your Kids Get MESSY

Winter is winding down, slowly warming up for the newness of spring. Here in New Jersey, we had 6in of snowfall followed immediately by warm weather. Our backyard changed from a pile of snow, to a sheet of ice, to mushy mud galore.

So, what does a homeschooling family do when the weather magically turns from stuck-inside-freazing to welcome-spring-warm? Get MESSY of course!

Put those workbooks away kids, it’s time to play in the mud!

Some sad, unfortunate barbie mermaids were abandoned outside since summertime, the girl decided they needed a soapy bath.

Markos joined in the fun, playing with water and mud.

Everyone got a nice bath afterwards!

The joys of springtime are near 🙂

L

6 Awesome Things About Homeschooling

So, it is January 2018, and with the start of a new year comes renewed focus on our homeschooling goals. Although grade levels are basically irrelevant to us, I am currently schooling a 1st grader, kindergartner, and preschooler. Here are some of the awesome things that homeschooling has given to us this week.

1.) Bowling with friends counts as school-

We had some Hump Day fun with other homeschooling families at the local bowling ally. It was the first time my daughters played an entire game without loosing interest. If they went to public school/private school, we would not have been together in the early afternoon. I loved watching their excitement at hitting the pins, and it was nice to take a little break together. (The moms also had time together!)

2.) This is the age for art-

One of my beliefs about early childhood education is that art is just as important as any traditional subject. Children learn so much when given materials to create and explore with color. Imagination is important in our home! I think it’s awesome that I get to watch them create their masterpieces, rather than have them handed to me at the end of the school day.

3.) Dance like nobody is watching-

Similar to my conviction that art is extremely important for learning, I love taking my younger two daughters to dance class. It gives me time to hang out with my 1st grader and baby, while the middle two learn some new moves!

4.) Learning at their own pace-

My almost-7 yr old and my 5yr old girls are on the same reading level, but it really does not matter. At home, neither is behind or ahead, they are simply where they need to be. We can go further in some subjects, and take longer in others, according to their individual needs. Nobody gets left behind in homeschool, and nobody gets bored either!

5.) Sibling love-

I think it is really awesome that my children get to spend so much time together. They have a deep love for one another. Yes, they do fight sometimes! But, they are also best friends. One of my greatest desires as a mother is to see them maintain close friendships as they get older. I believe homeschooling helps foster that!

6. Freedom!

As a homeschooling family, we have a lot of freedom when it comes to how we learn, when we “do school”, and what tools to use to get there. I love being able to shape what our weeks, months, and years look like without being tied to a schedule that I did not create. I relish the educational and time freedom that homeschooling gives our family.

I Have FOUR Children, and I Know What Causes it!

“Do you know what causes that?”

“Wow, your hands are full!”

“Are they all yours?”

Lately, I have noticed more of these kinds of comments when I’m out with my four little darlings. Maybe it’s because school is in and we homeschool so our family stands out even more during morning trips. Maybe it’s because my youngest is getting close to 1 year old, and causing mayhem. Maybe it’s the line of three little girls behind me like ducklings!

In any case, I hear it often now. People are genuinely surprised to see four children together with their mother. The fact is, most of the women my age who I grew up with do not have any children yet or at most 1 or 2. I have a veritable gaggle of kids compared to most 2 kid families these days. There isn’t anything wrong with a small family. but my little team raises eyebrows!

We went to the YMCA this week (just me and the kids) and we went swimming. After we swam, and I herded all the kids into the dressing room, an older woman stopped me my exclaiming “ALL YOURS?” My oldest at 6 years old piped up “Yep! All of us!”

The woman then offered to hold baby brother so I could more easily assist the girls in getting out of their wet suits and into dry pjs (easy for bedtime!). She was very kind, and helpful. She didn’t hide her amazement but it wasn’t meant in a negative way. Not all people who express their shock over our family are negative about it!

I think four is the magic “big family” number. It tips the scales in our society. Going out for pizza becomes too expensive with four. Your minivan gets full with four carseats/boosters. Four kids make you want to cry at your grocery bill. Four is..four! A lot.

Yet, it doesn’t always feel like a lot to me. I am an only child, and I always loved how it felt to be in a big family home. I loved how there was always something going on and people around. It felt safe and comfortable. The girls are very good with baby brother, and are already asking for another boy.  I told them that I can’t pick a boy or a girl, much to their disappointment!

Maybe I should start to coach the kids on hilarious comebacks to the “hands are full” and “are they all yours” comments. All in good fun, of course!

In the end, I love our family size and can’t imagine it any other way; weird stares and all!

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Homeschooling While Going to College

This week marks the start of the homeschooling year and, I am back in college to earn my A.A in nursing. I’m going part time but the classes are difficult! After this semester, I have 2 more classes before I officially enter nursing school (that is when life will get even crazier).

On the home front, we have a 1st grader, kindergartner, preschooler and baby brother who tags along babbling at his big sisters and eating crayons!

We do traditional workbooks, but given their age and our lifestyle we are still pretty relaxed about homeschooling. I want our children to have the freedom to play and be creative for most of the day. I have seen our oldest, who was struggling with reading, really learn a lot from a class I put her in over the summer. It was the right move, because she gained the confidence she needed to start this school year off right!

As far as how I will be getting MY schoolwork done, that isn’t as easy. It comes down to the super powers mothers have to “just find a way”. You know you have it too! Whatever it takes, it gets done. My dream of becoming a nurse is still 3 years away, but if I can survive my addiction and thrive despite my mental illness, I can do anything.

The four little faces starting back at me give me all the motivation I need!

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Can Moms of Small Children Still Follow Their Dreams?

Can moms of small children still follow their dreams?

I often hear from fellow mothers of small children that they are overwhelmed and stressed out. I nod my head in agreement, I feel ya. We are doing a lot, every day, and without much time to ourselves. Many days, we are lucky to be able to pee alone. So, it would be outrageous to suggest that we can follow our dreams, right? Right? Wrong!

We do not have to put our passions on the back-burner. We do not have to sacrifice our time with our small children either. Finding that balance is key, and it IS possible!

I am 29 years old, and I have been slowly taking college classes for a decade. I didn’t begin college in earnest until two years ago, but it has been a long journey. I have four children, ages 6 years old thru 10 months. I also choose to homeschool them, so I do not have a break during school hours. I am following my dreams of becoming a nurse, midwife, and doula professional.

If I were younger and childless, I would have gone to college full time years ago. I would have been done much faster. Instead, I have taken only two classes each semester and I took one semester off because of the birth of my fourth child. I could have gone back to school, but I wanted to spend time with him and help our family adjust to the newest member. I will enter nursing school in exactly 17 months. I’ll take night classes, so I can homeschool during the day. My husband will work during the day and watch the kids at night.

Will it be easy? No. Will I ever sleep? Unlikely. Are my dreams worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely!

I have had to evaluate for myself, what is most important to me? For me, being home often with my children and homeschooling is not negotiable. It is extremely important to me. In the past, I focused solely on being a stay at home mom, and my career and passions took a backseat. Now, I am learning how to navigate both. It is important to me that I further my education, pursue my passions for women’s health and birth, and have my own career and business. It matters to me as a woman to do all those things.

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I have learned to have my heart at home and follow my heart for my own dreams. It can be done. I also have another dream; that mothers would come together in encouragement and support for one another. It truly does take a village.

Yes, we are exhausted. Yes, it is at times daunting and difficult. But yes, we can follow our dreams while nurturing our small children. I look forward to the incredible things we will do for the world, through work and through raising our children.

What is your dream?

My Mother Thinks Homeschooling Will Ruin My Kids

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Anatomy is fun!

It is February and we are more than half way through our first homeschooling year. My oldest child will be 6 years old next month, kindergarten age. My second child is 4 years old but she is using kindergarten curriculum. Then, I have my 2.5-year-old and my 4 month old baby. It has been a learning experience for us all. Home based learning is an adventure; difficult, wonderful, and filled with messy fun.

I sometimes place pressure on myself, especially since my kindergartner is struggling to read (and frankly, not very interested). Sometimes I push her when my instinct says to let it go, allow her space to lead. I am aware of the eyes on me, watching and waiting for me to mess it all up. I take a breath. I stand tall. I remember that I am her mother, and I know what my child needs.

It is hard to remember that because of my own mother. My mother is highly involved in our lives, in a good way. She is a young and active grandparent “Nana”. My girls adore her! She adores them! It is beautiful. Yet, my mother is also opinionated and stubborn. She believes that homeschooling is the worst thing I could ever do to my children, and I am not exaggerating.

She has told me bluntly that I am setting my children up to be failures. According to her they will be uneducated, socially awkward, and have barely a fighting chance in the world. These are her words. The words of my own mother. They cut so deeply—hurt so badly.

How can she say that to me? Does she think I am so incredibly incompetent? Am I so stupid that I would not realize my children aren’t doing well? Am I so oblivious, or do I care so little? How can she believe these terrible things?

Why must my children sit in a brick and mortar school with 25 other kids in order to learn anything?

Why must they have recess and lunch in order to socialize?

I can’t wrap my mind around her utter disdain and absolute disapproval. I could understand if she preferred public school. I could understand her having some worries. But to insist that my children will suffer and not learn anything, that I cannot comprehend.

I can’t even speak to her about it anymore. She seems so angry about it. I am so close to my mother besides this point, which makes it hurt even more.

I want to talk to her about the activities we are doing. I want to share the joy of watching my girls learn something new. I want to involve her in my girls’ education, just like she is involved in other areas. But I can’t, because she will explode with hurtful words like arrows into my heart.

I am not sure how to manage this with her, but I am sure that I will do what I know is right for my family.