The final countdown

It’s one week until we leave for our three-week vacation, and I have about a month’s worth of things to do.

I love to plan, and I love to execute those carefully laid plans, but I never seem to do any of it in a reasonable measure of time. I’d like to think I thrive under pressure, even though my husband might refute this, but either way it’s how I roll. Panic is my greatest motivator. It’s not that I don’t want to prepare, pack, or suspend our paper delivery. I’m excited to do all those things, because it means our vacation is right around the corner. I’m just not that motivated to do those things until we’re rounding the corner at full speed and our vacation smacks me in the face.

Say you have six major tasks on your list of things to do, and each task will eat up about half of your day. Would you leave all six tasks until the last possible minute? Yes? Ok, great, we can be friends.

The satisfaction of having everything done in an orderly fashion with time to spare just isn’t enough for me. I like the thrill of being spurred. Others may refer to this as procrastination, but I prefer to call it thrill-seeking. (Oh dear. If doing twelve loads of laundry in a day is my adrenaline equivalent of BASE jumping, maybe I do need to reexamine things.)

I wasn’t always like this. I remember packing for short weekend getaways weeks in advance. Our hospital bag was ready to go before I even felt my first baby kick. I’m not sure why it happened or when it did, but somewhere between baby one and baby three, my pre-meditation motivation waned. There’s just no point in cleaning our house the day before a guest arrives. Unless I tidy ten minutes before we have a visitor, our house will be a disaster. There’s no point in dressing our kids for a Christmas concert an hour before curtain call. When it’s go-time, we line our girls up at the door and yank their dresses down over their heads, like a frill factory assembly line.

Our vacation will be the same. The last 48 hours leading up to our departure will involve a lot of laundry, a lot of packing, a lot of cleaning and a lot of stomping. (Stomping is how I get around when I’m in full panic mode.) I plan to spend the next five days thinking about how much I will have to do in those last two days before we leave. I’m almost looking forward to it.

We always make it. I’m reminded of a quote by Lorne Michaels, often attributed to him by his Saturday Night Live alum. Lorne says, “We don’t go on because we’re ready. We go on because it’s 11:30.”

We’re going to get the kids in the car. We’re going to board that plane. Whether our bags are carefully packed or our empty house is left dustless and gleaming, we’re going on vacation. The only thing that really matters is how lucky we are to have this time off, and how lucky we are to spend it together.

And my daugther’s blankie. Dear God, we cannot forget blankie.

Things that make you say ommm…

Life can be stressful. I’m always searching for new methods for dealing with stress, especially since becoming a parent. Parenting isn’t my only or even biggest source of stress, but when you’re caring for kids, you can’t afford to live in a broody, anxious state all the time. Because when the milk gets spilled and you don’t have balance, you’re probably going to blow.

My first big encounter with being overwhelmed was in university. I can remember my last few weeks of my undergrad like it was exactly 10 years ago. I was over-loaded with exams and assignments and organizing grad week activities for my fellow classmen. I had just been accepted to grad school with no idea how to pay for it, and I was saying goodbye to my roommates and dear friends. At the time, I was big into list-making. It was the best way to help me cope with stress and get things done. I can laugh now at what my seemingly stressful list of tasks must have been:

  1. Hand in final essay
  2. Pack for Cuba
  3. Find a summer job? (Note the question mark. Oh, to be 22 again.)

Flash forward a few years, to my first pregnancy. When I discovered I was pregnant, I had what some might call a mini (mega) meltdown. My new husband and I had just sold our home in Nova Scotia, left our cushy jobs and moved across the country to Calgary. We were still living in a hotel when the little blue line appeared on the stick. I had no career, no permanent place to live and unrelenting nausea. List-making just wouldn’t do.

So I tried yoga. It wasn’t the first time I’d done yoga, but the first time I stuck with it on a consistent basis. Yoga helped me pre and post pregnancies, and even though I deeply disliked pigeon pose I always looked forward to class. Especially Shavasana. (How could you not be relaxed in something called corpse pose?)

Since then I’ve dabbled in all sorts of other stress-relieving activities. Some good (mindfulness, meditation) and some not-so-good (retail therapy, Ben & Jerry’s). Recently, exercise has re-entered my life in a big way as one of my go-to coping methods. Even though I’m usually moving in slow-motion (speed has never been my strength) running is one of the quickest ways for me to get some relief.

Then there’s writing. I write almost every day, and each time it brings me a sense of peace. It’s tempting to think about where my writing might eventually go, but the truth is I’m totally happy to focus on the act for now, as opposed to the outcome. Because it’s just one of many outlets that help me stay balanced and buoyant. And without them, I’d probably be drowning in spilled milk 😉

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming

I’ve been so busy counting down the days to summer vacation (and the end of pick up, drop offs, practices and programs) that I forgot to consider one important thing. What are we going to do with all this free time?

Before our kids started school, summer vacation was exciting (better weather, BBQ, our annual pilgrimage home to Nova Scotia) but otherwise meaningless. Back then, my countdowns surrounded my jailbreak from work for maternity leave and then my subsequent jailbreak from maternity leave to return to work. When our third daughter was born and I left my job to stay at home full time, we enrolled our oldest in pre school. We embraced the September to June calendar from that day forward, until the end of time. Or at least the next seventeen years.

Now that the final days of June are creeping hastily upon us, I should probably consider our game plan for July and August. Our family thrives on routine. I’m assuming most do. Although our schedule is sometimes grueling, it also fuels us. When I know I have to be here and there at this time and that, I can do it. We’ll probably arrive missing a shoe and a little bit late, but we will be there. I rely on our crazy schedule to keep me from going insane.

Having a routine also benefits our kids. (As long as they’re not over-scheduled. I try not to overdo it.) While shuffling from A to Z can get tiresome at times, their weekly activities burn their energy, stimulate their developing brains and provide some order in the busy, bustling business of growing up.

So again. What are we going to do when we have nothing to do?

Well, a big chunk of time will be our vacation within our vacation. To say that we’re excited to visit Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in a few weeks is the understatement of the summer. And then there’s the week or two leading up to the trip, which will probably be filled with prepping and packing. And then the days following our return to Calgary, which will be hours and hours of laundry and apologizing to our dear, darling dog who won’t be accompanying us this year. (She will be in good hands.)

That brings us to mid-August, when our daughters will attend a summer science camp where they fully plan to concoct a shrinking potion (I think I wasn’t clear enough when I read them the brochure). Then it’s basically back to school preparations. Somewhere in-between I promised the girls plenty of visits to the water park, the zoo and visits with their friends who have air-conditioned homes.

All of a sudden it’s September again. (Did I just hear a leaf drop outside?)

I’m sure there will be plenty of boredom and breakdowns, but hopefully there will also be lots of impromptu fun. Which I will schedule in whenever I can.

10,000 stumbles

The other day my husband forgot his beloved pedometer on the bathroom counter when he left for work. For the last month, he’s been tracking his activity with this wicked little wristband. He fawns over his daily, weekly and monthly step charts like a newlywed fawns over her wedding photos. He’s become even more proud of his unbroken record of 10,000 steps per day than his ability to grow a formidable ‘vacation beard’ each summer. (Men are weird.)

I noticed his prized pedometer on the counter when I woke (much later than he) and thought little of it. I’m even less inclined to become obsessed with steps per day than I am to appreciate good facial growth. But then I had a thought. How hard is it to reach 10,000 steps per day? I’m a busy person. I’ve always thought that my days are more active than not. My daily routine must reach at least 10,000 steps. Easy.

So I put it on. My husband was all for it, since my sub-in might maintain his perfect record. The little display on the wristband gave an encouraging blink of light and I was on my way. By one o’clock, I had walked to the bus stop, strolled the aisles of the grocery store, picked up my daughter from Kindergarten and taken the stairs more than 20 times. And I was less (much less) than half-way to 10,000 steps. Even more to my surprise, I had zero active minutes.

I made a decision. I plunked my two youngest girls in the jogging stroller and strapped a helmet on my five-year-old. Even though it was a blistering 30+ degrees Celsius outside, we went for a run. My oldest girl peddled ahead on her bike. About half-way into our jog, we sought some shade to picnic and rehydrate. While my two little ones sipped, I asked my oldest daughter how she was doing.

Earlier that day, she had greeted me at the double doors of school after class with a flushed red face and a breathless message: “My teacher wants to talk to you.” (Like me, my daughter doesn’t just blush when she’s embarrassed, her capillaries actually burst into flames. I used to hate the crimson colour of shame that would creep upon my cheeks, but on my daughter I find it endearing.) The teacher eventually found me to say that my daughter was a little too chatty in class. I nodded and offered my most serious parenting face and thanked the teacher for letting me know.

Sometimes it’s hard to notice your kids growing up while it’s happening. It’s almost always a realization in retrospect, like “When did you get so big?” But during these last few weeks of our daughter’s formative first year of school, we’ve witnessed weekly (almost daily) growth in our oldest girl. And we couldn’t be more proud. This has been a big year, and June is a tough month. My daughter is tackling a cruel schedule of year-end activities, tempting summer weather and a big dump of schoolwork that must be completed by the end of the year. She’s growing out of her clothes and some of her child-like comforts. On top of that, her many friendships are changing. Some are blossoming while others buckle.

So sitting there in the shade we chatted about how this all feels. It wasn’t a long conversation, and I left the ‘advice’ to my husband when he eventually tucked our girl in later that night. (He borrowed a nugget of wisdom from his dear, departed Nan, who used to tell him, “You aren’t the first Cleary to get in trouble at school. And you won’t be the last.”)

When my husband got home from work I tossed him his pedometer in a dramatic “Be gone with you!” gesture of my arms. That was enough fitness tracking for me. But I do wish there was a way to track our parenting steps (and missteps), so we could gauge, adjust and (hopefully) fawn over our successes in a neat little chart. (And use it as quantitative evidence of our parenting skills when our children turn on us in their teens.)

I suppose that’s not how it works. Nothing is ever that easy. And I’m not sure if our little chat helped my daughter in any big way, but at least our jog together got us talking. It also got me to 10,000 steps. So I guess that’s something.

Peace and quiet (and waffles)

My siblings and I used to groan when we would ask our mother what she wanted for her birthday, because her answer was always the same: “Peace and quiet.” This was her wish list for birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, anniversaries and any other day that celebrated her in any way. What did she want? Peace and quiet.

Over the years, we interpreted this request in many ways. Gift cards, clothing, spa sessions, jewelry. She always seemed grateful and happy regardless of our gift highs (an anniversary trip to Italy, all credit to my father) and lows (a garment steamer, which I maintain was also my father’s idea).

This weekend I celebrated turning 32. As I’ve mentioned before, May kicks off a celebration binge in our family due to a coincidental cluster of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and four family birthdays. By the summer, we’re buttercreamed-out. So for my big day, we forewent birthday cake and dined out on birthday waffles instead. Our kids were (shockingly) well-behaved in the restaurant as they proudly presented me with my elegantly wrapped gift.

I’m the beneficiary of many things from my beautiful mother. I love when people say I look like her and I find myself acting more like her everyday. But there are a few traits that have skipped a generation, and I’m embarrassed to say that chief among them is her graciousness when it comes to receiving gifts.

I love buying gifts for people, but I don’t love getting gifts from people. I’m terrible at it. Not because I’m unselfish and altruistic. It’s because I’m… hmmm… what’s the word? Oh yeah. A brat. People hate buying gifts for me. My husband sees it as a challenge, and although he often triumphs, most have given up. I’ve grown up enough to know to be ashamed of it, but I haven’t grown out of it.

It’s not that I turn up my nose at someone else’s taste. It’s just that I prefer to pick things out for myself, by myself. With all the time, energy and money that goes into raising our family, it’s hard to justify accepting something just for me. I feel tremendous guilt when I spend money on myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want things. So when excuses like birthdays or Christmas roll around, not only would I like something, but I’d like the (dare I say) permission to take time, energy and money to pick it out myself. That’s the gift.

So this weekend, I unwrapped my birthday gift lovingly presented by little hands with the knowledge of what was already inside. I had spent a blissful evening shopping for myself the night before, without guilt, and was sincerely thankful for everything life has given me (and the new shoes).

I’m not exactly sure what my mother meant when she used to ask us for peace and quiet. Maybe she did want a day at the spa. Maybe she wanted a little respect and validation. Or maybe she just wanted to be left alone. What’s funny about it now that her four children have grown up and moved away, all she wants for her birthday is for everyone to be together.

I’ve come to appreciate my mother even more since becoming a mom myself, and maybe one day I can adopt her gracious attitude towards receiving gifts. Because it truly is the people who surround us who matter most of all.

(That said, if someone ever tries to give me a f***ing garment steamer for Christmas, they’re dead to me.)

Gender robes

Every morning, when I walk into my toddler daughter’s room at the break of dawn, she pre-empts any thoughts I might have for her outfit of the day with one word: “Princess?”

This is her word for dress. I’m not sure how it started, maybe there was a time she was twirling in tulle and my husband or I called her a princess. The connection stuck. Now, her daily demand is that she wears something, anything, princessy.

We’ve been through this before. Our two-year-old has two older sisters, who’ve bestowed a closet-full of twirl-worthy dresses and robes. As expecting first-time parents with no sneak preview of our baby’s gender, my husband and I bought everything “gender-neutral.” (Which was funny to me, since the options were a very palette-pleasing mix of primary blue, green, red and yellow… or pink.)

We would have never put money on a family full of girls. And we really had no expectation that it would resign us to a lifetime of pink. But, whether it was pre-determined or prescribed (inadvertently by us and blatantly by toy manufactures) our daughters have all been lured by princesses and pastel hues.

I don’t mind living in a world of dresses and dress-up, as long as it’s a choice. (Although I do die a little inside when my daughter objects to wearing her grey pea coat because it’s a “boy” colour.) I think it can be creative, valuable and fun for kids of both genders to explore their personal style, and if that involves wearing nothing but dresses, I’m all for it. I never want them to feel ashamed of their choices. But how, in this world of not-so-subliminal messaging for girls and boys alike, do you know that it’s a choice? Or are they just fulfilling the gender roles as prescribed by some very successful marketing?

Obviously, not all young girls adore the adorable. While there is no shortage of girls in my daughter’s Kindergarten class who are pretty in pearls, her very best friend greatly prefers Bruce Lee to Barbie. This doesn’t seem to hinder any interaction between them, and I secretly love that my princess-loving daughter gets exposed to the world of superheroes, video games and street hockey from her best girl friend.

And it’s not all pink, all day, every day. Our daughters do plenty of things that have nothing to do with society’s idea of a girl or a boy. Like most kids, they follow the fun. They do what feels good. We just want them to know that playing with dolls doesn’t make you a girl any more than riding a blue bike makes you a boy. And neither one is a bad thing to be.

Perhaps the most important role is our role as parents. It’s up to us to help our kids navigate this tricky world of gender notions so they have the freedom to paint their own pictures. And if that picture happens to be pink? So be it.

Screen queens

Ok. Be honest with me. How many hours per day do your kids spend staring at a screen? One? Two? Eight?? (If it’s zero, I’m not sure we can be friends.)

I’m embarrassed to admit that the answer in our house is way. too. many. I don’t even want to put a number on it, because I’m afraid that if I actually calculated the combined total screen time in our house, my eyes would spontaneously combust. It’s like looking at your bank account. Do you really want to know what your ‘occasional’ coffee run costs you each month? Do you really need to know what you spend on the vet-recommended dog food you’ve been guilted into buying? (Most people would say, yes, I do, because budgets. Maybe I’ll address my dreadful but improving budgeting skills in another post.)

When our first daughter arrived, my husband and I were resolute about the type of parents we would be. (Sanctimonious, even, which is a parenting trait actually included in the first-time-parent package upon discharge from the hospital, along with the baby blanket and a pamphlet on lactation. Luckily, it’s quickly eroded by an overwhelming sense of in-over-your-headness.) Nope, no TV, not for our precious papoose! That was easy for the first twenty-four months, and then our second daughter was born. By that time, I was begging my teeny toddler to zombie-out to Treehouse while I unsuccessfully attempted to soothe her colicky sibling.

Then came baby #3. Then came tablets. Then came denial.

Whenever I see an article or hear a newscast about the affects of screen time on those tiny eyes and developing minds, I wince. And walk away. Just as I do when I hear about sugar intake, UV damage, fatty liver disease… Denial and I are old friends. We go way back. We meet up every now and again for a cup of coffee (or six).

You don’t have to look far to find facts on screen time. Research is published in spades about the era of phones, tablets, computers, gaming and the digital natives who will come of age knowing nothing else. I’ve already been left in the dust when it comes to technology. My daughter’s Kindergarten class interacts regularly and expertly with their classroom smart board. Kids not much older than mine are already fluent in the wizardry of the wired world. I have yet to master the DVR.

Yesterday my youngest daughter woke before the sun rose with a nasty little stomach bug. I decided to keep everyone home from school, assuming that by noontime we would all be cradling toilet bowls. My oldest daughter was disappointed to miss a special day at school, but I evaded her tears with the promise of an all-day movie marathon. By the afternoon, I felt wretched. Not just because my stomach was rumbling, but because the credits were rolling on our third animated feature and we hadn’t seen the sun for hours. Luckily, my husband arrived in time to crack a window and take the girls outside for some air.

It’s not every day that we’re screening triple features, but we could do better. I could do better. Because let’s face it, I’m the one who’s controls the access. I have all the passwords, I pay for the Wi-Fi, I’m the one who buys some peace and quiet with pixels and Pixar. I probably can’t eliminate screen time in our house, but I can do a better to regulate it. There, that feels good to say.

Now. Be honest with me. How many teaspoons of sugar do your kids consume in a day?

Old yeller

If there’s one thing I’d like to change about my parenting ways, it’s yelling. If someone were to scroll through my internet search history (please don’t scroll through my internet search history) it would read like a cry for help: how not to yell at your kids, stop yelling at your child, how to remove poop from grout. (That last one is only indirectly related to yelling.)

First, I want to be clear. I never belittle or blame. Although I’m not sure this makes me any less threatening than when I bellow from the bottom of the stairs that it’s time to go!!!, I still want to make that distinction.

I try every week to avoid the eruption of rage and frustration that happens when I’m, frankly, overwhelmed. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by tasks, other times I’m overwhelmed by thoughts, but most of the time it’s by an overall sensation of not being in control.

We’re approaching the end of the school year and things are piling up and on. I feel like we’re ramping up to summer at the same time that we’re winding down our regular routine, and this puts extra pressure on our time and energy. My kids are restless and also spread too thin. I’m juggling commitments and dropping the ball. This all makes me very anxious, which combined with the inevitable morning tantrum, sibling fight or back-to-back-to-back evening events makes me ripe for a blow-up.

I wrote a post a few months ago (at the beginning of the school year, when we were ramping up to September and winding down our summer vacation) about controlling parental rage. I can feel a tirade swelling inside me like an oncoming sneeze, so I try to use some of those tips to remain calm. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. And each and every time I simmer and eventually boil over, I feel terrible.

Yelling at my kids makes me feel awful. Worse still, it makes my kids feel awful. They’re nervous, confused, sometimes ashamed and hardly ever (never, really) motivated to change their behavior. Yelling just doesn’t work. It’s bad all around.

It’s very tempting to be hard on myself, to punish myself for yelling or call myself a bad parent in my worst moments. But that doesn’t work either (I still do it, but it doesn’t help). My kids are getting older and I’m trying to become more mindful during our moments together, especially since this precious toddler stage is timer ticking down. I don’t want to waste it by morphing into a menacing green monster every time the carpet gets stained. (Our trusty carpet guy will be here in 20 minutes for his third visit of 2015. I’m thinking it might be cheaper to either replace the expensive, cream-coloured carpets we foolishly installed or to invest in my own machine.)

Sigh. In the meantime I’ll try to calm down, slow down and adjust my expectations. I’ll try to attempt to remember to meditate. And ask for forgiveness when I make a mistake.

If nothing else, my kids will at least learn from me that no one is perfect. Not even mom.

Shocking, I know.

I’m guilty, Your Honour

I’m sure this isn’t a phenomenon unique only to me, but ever since I became a parent, I carry with me a tremendous sense of overwhelming, all encompassing, sometimes crippling guilt.

It usually surfaces, unsurprisingly, when I surface. That is, when I emerge from the clutches of stay-at-home momness and leave kid-less for whatever errand begs my attention at the moment. Whether it’s buying groceries alone, shopping alone or (like last night) getting a pedicure alone.

My trip to the salon was supposed to be a restorative mini-retreat for my soul (and callous heels), but despite my attempts to be mindful and zen, I was a jittery, guilty mess. I felt terrible that the dishes from dinner were left undone on the counter, I felt guilty that this was the second night in a row that I had met my husband and the door after work and left him to fend for himself during bath and bedtime, and I felt guilty for the time and money I was spending on my toenails when there are a million other things that could use my attention and funds.

When my solo errands are a little less me-centric, I can usually mitigate the guilt with the relief that productivity brings. I can do ten times the errands alone in the time it takes to caravan the kids around town grabbing groceries, mailing packages and depositing cheques. (More likely withdrawing cash.)

But when my nights off or weekends away are all about me (i.e. pedicures, hair cuts, very necessary and very painful swimsuit shopping) I find it hard to justify my absence from home. I worry about the state of the house, the stock of food in the fridge, the mood of the kids and the sanity of my husband who I’ve left solely in charge. I sometimes judge myself so harshly that it makes it impossible for me to enjoy my few minutes of freedom.

But this is where things get ridiculous, because as my co-parent and legally binding partner often reminds me, he is perfectly capable and totally happy to do this. He loves it. He’s an awesome dad, and the kids usually prefer their fun Daddy-time to the hours of hustle and shuffling of Mommy-time.

And this makes me feel every more guilty.

It’s no secret that during the day, parents who stay at home with their kids have shit to do. There is very little time to relax and connect with your kids, and when those wonderful moments do arise during the daytime hours, you have to be very mindful of them or you will miss them. When my husband gets home from work, this should be the time when I can clock-out of the housekeeping, bookkeeping and kid-keeping and enjoy my time with the kids. This is what my husband tries to do.

But lately, instead, I’ve been zipping out the door to try and tackle the mounting to-do list that accompanies this time of year, this stage of parenting and this mom’s attempts at maintaining sanity.

Yes, I know these private moments away are good for me. I know that I’m a better mom and partner when I’m feeling restored. I know that these feelings of guilt are not only useless and unnecessary, but a little destructive. I know the sky will not fall.

And I guess I can reluctantly admit that I love my new toes.

(In a shade called Lobster Roll, because obviously.)

The evolution of anxious parenting

I’m sure most people are familiar with the concept of birth order (although I’m sure less people have experienced anything close to an orderly birth). While it’s easy to find studies to support the theory that our personalities and predilections are prescribed largely by the order in which we exit the womb, it’s just as easy to find convincing scientific evidence to the contrary.

Whether you prescribe to the theory or not (I’m on the fence), it’s hard to deny that we parent differently depending on the birth order of our children. This is out of necessity, first and foremost, because most children are not carbon copies of each other and you learn very quickly that what worked for your firstborn (say, sleep training) will in no way, no how, it’ll-be-a-cold-day-in-hell work for your colicky second born.

It’s also out of natural progression. We get better at parenting. (Or, at least, we become less anxious.) With your firstborn, your body, mind and hormones are still vibrating from the trauma and upheaval of entering this new territory of terror and teething that you cannot possibly be a rational person. You’re not irrational all the time, but when binky falls on the sidewalk half-way through your very orchestrated afternoon walk, you will need a blow torch and a Hazmat suit before that thing is placed back into the mouth of your precious papoose. By baby number two, you just dust it off and plunk it in with little to no thought (unless someone is watching).

By baby number three, you don’t even realize your baby had a binky until you look down and see one in her mouth. Maybe that’s why that other baby was crying at Starbucks when you were waiting in line for your latte, extra hot, which you will now sip precariously over your soothed baby’s head while she sucks contently on her stolen goods in your loosely tied Moby wrap. Oh well. C’est la vie.

This is where we are with our third born. She’s now two, and I can already see the affects of our … relaxed … parenting style evolution. (I’m not sure if relaxed is the right word, as this implies that our blood pressure isn’t always sky-high. I guess you could call it wilted attentiveness.)

I couldn’t count the number of times she’s fallen down or the number of bruises she’s accumulated due to our wilted attentiveness. Up until the time she was 18 months, I had never lost a person before. (That’s a sentence to engrave on my parent-of-the-year trophy.) I feel the urge to explain myself, but really there’s no way to look good here. My husband and I actually lost sight of her on a soccer pitch last summer in a crowd of hundreds of people, while we were engrossed in a conversation with another parent about whether or not we’d ever have a fourth kid. (Luckily, our daughter was immediately found, unharmed and under the impression she had just kicked our butts at a hysterical game of tag.)

I’m sure in some ways she benefits from our hands-off approach. We’ve stretched ourselves too thin to muster up the same level of irrational worry for all of our kids. Now, all three are left very much to their own devices. We’ve learned that two of our children (our oldest and our youngest) thrive off of this independence. Which leaves us a little extra time to attend to our middle girl, who thrives very much off of cuddles and reassurance (like her mother).

I’m not sure what the right approach is, if there is one, and I can’t say for certain that our parenting style won’t evolve once more, or again and again. I’ve got plenty worry left in me for the tween and teenage years, and a few more for adulthood.

One thing I do look forward to, though, is seeing my daughters fret and frazzle over their own firstborns. While I stuff their children’s tummies with chocolate. Because that’s what grandmas are for.