Parenting Is Like Jenga

Parenting Is Like Jenga

Playing the unpredictable game of stay at-home parenting
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"Must be nice to stay at home." Do you know how many times stay at home parents hear that? As a stay-at-home mom, let me tell you, I’ve heard it more times than I can count. Sometimes it’s being said from someone who genuinely means it. Usually it’s the older generations who say it from the heart because they stayed home with their kids as well. Sometimes it’s being said from a working parent, who’s checking their phone every five seconds for a very important email, while barely paying attention to the conversation being had. Then sometimes, it’s coming from the person who doesn’t have kids, who doesn’t understand how exhausting being a stay at home parent is.

As cliché as this might sound, I didn’t choose the life of being a stay at home mom, it chose me. Our youngest has an immune system that just couldn’t handle being in daycare. In a span of four months, the amount of time I actually worked outside of the home, our youngest had hands, foot and mouth disease that lasted two weeks, strep, pneumonia for two months straight, the flu, RSV, multiple ear infections, many spells of throwing up and various other illnesses. At the end of that four month span, the very last day that I worked and our kids attended daycare, our youngest ended up with a staph infection from a public changing table because her immune system couldn’t fight it.

Between doctor visits, ER visits and having to stay at home with our sick kid, it became obvious that I couldn’t keep working and our precious daughter deserved a better childhood outside of antibiotics and steroids. We did not come across this decision lightly. We weighed everything from finances and my sanity to the social and educational impacts of not being in a daycare. We slept on it, we prayed a lot and struggled with the decision, but ultimately I feel like we made the best one. That isn’t to say that being a stay home parent is easy.

One of the biggest issues we face as me being a stay at home mom is surviving on one income. There never seems to be enough money. In the four months of me staying at home, we have blown through our savings just to make it. Some weeks we have only enough money to pay groceries and diapers, other weeks we get to pay a bill before it’s due. I have learned how to grocery shop for two weeks worth at a time just by buying what the store has on sale. Our oldest, now three years old, has pretty much mastered potty training and in turn we have almost gotten rid of one diaper expense. I limit where we go throughout the week by limiting ourselves to one tank of gas. We also like cheap or free activities that are nearby.

While there are many more issues involved with having a single income, another issue is that I have to be the referee of two girls constantly. Some days aren’t as bad as others. Sometimes they figure out how to share and play while other days it is seriously like stepping into a ring trying to figure out which one is going to throw the first punch. Most days, our three year old throws the first punch and that often puts our one and a half year old out of commission the rest of the day. A lot of times I find myself in the corner, secretly rooting for the younger one. That probably sounds mean, but if you’re ever in the same situation, you’re going to find yourself rooting for the underdog from time to time too.

Not all days are spent being the referee. Some days it’s learning to play Jenga like a boss. There are certain things I’ve learned to let slide and certain things that simply cannot be. I’ve learned to pick my battles. Raising kids is much like the wooden block game of Jenga. Removing one block could bring the tower tumbling down, it could buy a couple of more moves, or sometimes the game goes smoothly and you win. I have spent an embarrassing amount of hours trying to convince our oldest that it is not acceptable to wear rain boots, sweat pants and a princess dress in 80-degree weather. She won that game. She ended up wearing that horrid outfit in public. My husband, embarrassed when I told him she wore it in public, said that she is that kid and I am that mom. The fact that she wore it in public didn't embarrass me. What embarrassed me is how much time I spent trying to convince her not to. If you ever see a kid in public wearing their princess dress or Halloween costume, try not to be judgmental towards the parents and definitely never say anything negative to them. Until you find yourself on the bathroom floor crying with your kid, begging her to put something on other than the princess dress, you may never understand that parenting Jenga to the fullest.

Despite all the bad issues, there are a lot positives that help balance being a stay-at-home parent. One positive that instantly comes to mind is that I never missed a single first with our youngest. I witnessed all of it. Her first word, her first time eating food, first time rolling over, literally all of her firsts. It is a continuous blessing to be able to see her transform from a tiny seven pound baby to a petite 30-pound almost 2-year-old. While I did not get to witness all of our oldest’s first, I am seeing a lot of them now. The first time she counted to twenty all the way through, her ABC’s all the way and one of her most recent firsts, correctly naming all the shapes, even the pentagon. There are a ton more firsts that have yet to come and I plan on trying to catch them all.

Another positive is that I have joined a mom group that helps keep me sane. Through this group I have made very wonderful friends, some of which I could not do this without. Their children have become some of our girls’ best friends, and I can seriously see them doing everything together in a few years. We have set up play dates throughout the week, met other moms and have serious conversations about how challenging this stay at home parent gig really is. It has become a support system of family, not even friends at this point. Sometimes we make plans, but because the life of a toddler is such a struggle, those plans don’t always work out. Together, we all face the life of being a stay at home parent and overcome many obstacles.

There are days I don’t get to finish my coffee before I have to pull out my referee shirt and determine how to handle the situation. There are other days that are spent crying in the floor because our kids are really just a hot mess of emotions that cannot explain how they feel or what they’re thinking. But then, on some rare days, all of the planets align and we end the day with our Jenga tower still intact. Those are the best days. They are far and few between, but they make all of our struggles worth it. The next time you see a stay at home parent, think of something different to say other than, “oh, it must be nice.” Offer them words of encouragement or simply say they’re pretty. We appreciate it, we really do.

Cover Image Credit: Brooke Nicholson Photography

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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Taking A Step Back From My Sport Allowed Me To Be Able To Work On These 3 Things

Sometimes you need time away to appreciate the things you love.

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Since the age of nine, horses have been my whole life. Before college, I never had your typical teenage experience. My weekends were spent driving two hours one way to train with a top show barn. My mom and I lived out of our suitcases during the summers, traveling from one show to the next.

The only glimpse of the senior prom I got was through Snapchat's my friends sent of them having the time of their life, while I was going to bed at nine to make sure I had plenty of sleep to compete the next day. I even graduated early to go work for a show barn in Florida for five months. I missed out on a lot, but it never felt that way because of how passionate I was about the sport. I was all in, I loved the thrill of competing, the early mornings, the long days, and most of all: the horses. If you would have told me that I would be here writing about feeling burned out a year ago, I would have laughed.

Going away to college and having to put a bit of pause on my athletic career allowed me to take a step back, breathe, and realize there is so much more than horse shows and blue ribbons to this world. If I could instill a piece of wisdom to my younger self it would be that taking a step back at times is the best thing you can do for yourself. Here is what I learned:

1. Mental health

As many of you know, the pressure of succeeding can put a toll on anyone. I have always been extremely hard on myself, but when I was showing almost every weekend I really started to notice that I would feel upset more than I felt happy. I could win the class but still, come out of the ring criticizing myself over every little thing that went wrong. Because of this, I went into the ring nervous and doubtful. It wasn't fun anymore.

After taking a step back, I have realized that there will always be ups and downs in any sport. I now go into the ring much more confident and I come out smiling- even when it didn't go as planned. There will always be another chance.

2. Physical health

Like any sport, riding takes a toll on your body. After working in Florida for five months, riding up to 12 horses a day, I really felt like something was wrong with my back. However, I pushed through the pain, convincing myself of the quote "no pain no gain". I continued to ignore it, until one day it was unbearable.

I went to the doctor and sure enough, I had herniated my L5 disc. He told us this was completely preventable if I would have rested or taken an hour out of my day to ice and stretch when the pain started. After months of healing and being on a first name basis with my chiropractor, I have realized just how important it is to put my wellness first.

3. Relationships

Taking a step back has also allowed me to develop better relationships with myself, family, and friends. Before, I had such a narrow mind frame and would allow my performance to dictate how I treated people that day. Now after a rough day, I am much better at putting it behind me and not dwelling on it.

I have also realized that I need time to just be "still". Practicing yoga, or meditating for five minutes has made a world of a difference in my relationship with myself (yes, that is a thing).

While packing up to go to school this past August, knowing I would be taking a step back from the sport I love, I felt as though I would never ride as well as I did when it consumed my whole life. But I couldn't have been more wrong. I am now going into the show ring with a clear mind and leaving with a smile on my face.

To my surprise, it has been more than me starting to have fun again- I am riding better, and getting more consistent results than I had before. So, to all those athletes out there that fear to take a step back from their own sport, I am here to tell you that it may just be the best thing you can do for your performance and yourself...

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