Where We're At: Alexis

 Little Lexi is quickly growing up! She's in first grade and 6 1/2 years old.

Alexis continues to be a thoughtful and kind child. She thinks deeply about her choices, her abilities, and how her actions effect others. More often than not, her first reaction is always one of kindness. Of course, she isn't perfect, and can lose sight of others in the midst of her emotions, but her instinct is to be kind. 

Most of the time, she works hard at all she does. If it's homework, she wants it not only to be done correctly, but to also be neat and pleasant to look at, as well. If it's yard work, she works right along side of her dad digging, feeding electrical wires, picking up rocks, or whatever the chore may be. If it's cleaning the house, she doesn't complain about doing her fair share. In fact, she initiated her own chore chart, and spontaneously helps around the house to try and ease our burden. One morning, she had made her bed and put away all of the laundry (for herself and her two sisters) before I even got out of bed. 

Lexi is goal oriented, and likes to please others. For example, her class utilizes a color system to reward good behavior. Every one starts on green and can either move up or down every day, depending on their behavior. Red is the highest color and hardest to achieve. The fist day of school, we made it a goal for Lexi to get on red as often as possible. She got on red in the first few weeks and felt great joy in achieving that goal. If you present Lexi with a goal, she will almost always try to meet it quickly.

Without prompting, Lexi does little things to try and make others feel important. She draws her teachers pictures and turns it in with her homework as a way to show her appreciation for their hard work. One morning, she seemed to be having a tough time choosing what to wear for school. I asked her about it and she said, "I'm trying to look nice for Grandpa Bob's birthday." It was, indeed, Grandpa Bob's birthday, and we were heading out after school to meet him for ice cream. She thought he would appreciate her looking nice for the occasion.

She's playing her second season of soccer this year. I'm her coach which so far has been an okay arrangement for us. I'm a very intense personality. Lexi appears not to be (and sometimes it kills me to patiently coach her). However, Lexi's intensity is mostly internal; not external. A while back, I asked her to help me remember to play her as an offensive player in practices more than I had been. She told me she didn't like to play offense. She explained, "Offensive players are supposed to score goals, and I'm not good enough to score all the goals our team needs to win the game." Lexi had thought about her skill level, and the team's desire to win. She'd made an honest assessment about her abilities. She was matter-of-fact about it; there was no whining or crying. I thought that was pretty introspective for a 6 year old. Any tentativeness we'd seen was actually a manifestation of the decision making she was doing on the field. She was so worried about doing the wrong thing, she was slow to the ball. We talked it out a bit, and since this talk, she's improved quite a bit.

Another talk we had about soccer showed me how concerned Lexi is with choosing the right. She explained to me that she felt like the other players stole the ball when she tried to score. I told her that stealing the ball from the other team was one of the main goals of soccer. Her response was a shocked, "But mom! Stealing is WRONG!" I told her she was right; that in almost all situations, stealing is very wrong. But, that in soccer there were special rules that made it ok to steal the ball from the other team during a game. Relief washed over her face. And, she started taking control of the ball on the field!

Lexi doesn't complain or nag. I, unfortunately, forget to follow through on little requests she makes and she never nags or whines. She'll quietly go about her business, or gently remind me if days have gone by. One example is the chore chart stickers I told her I would provide. I completely forgot about them. Sadly, a week went by (she was still doing the chores the whole time, trying to keep track of them in her mind) before she quietly asked me again for those stickers. I felt awful, but she was understanding about the whole thing. She simply suggested that we keep the stickers in her her room so she could manage them and it wouldn't be a burden to me. I remember when this wasn't the case, but as she'd matured, she's shown she has great patience. I wish I had that attribute!

Some of the most rewarding moments as a parent have come as I've watched her interact with her sisters. Sure, they annoy her. They bug her. Sometimes, they make her so mad or frustrated, she starts crying. And when she needs time to be alone, she'll go play in room for a time. 

But, those times are rare. Most of the time, she is eager to help them. She tolerates their ransacking of her things. We've tried to teach her to invite them into her space, give them something to do, and be patient when possible. She's made good on that. Doing that puts her in control of what they can and can't touch in her room, and also makes her sisters feel loved. 

Lexi has had a few occasions where her feelings got the best of her. Because she tends to mull things over in her mind, she can get heavy laden. She then gets short with us, or weepy, or apathetic about certain tasks. I took her aside, and asked her to tell me what was going on inside her heart. She told me, and we talked it out. I let her know that I could tell something was wrong, but I didn't know exactly how to help because she hadn't told me how she was feeling. She told me she doesn't like to talk about her feelings.  I tried to empathize with her, but encourage her to share her feelings so we could support her, rather than make her feel worse. I told her that she'd probably have lots of feelings like those, and I wouldn't know what she needed if she didn't tell me. Since then, she's asked me, quite a few times, if we can talk or if she can tell me how she feels. I try hard to simply listen and only give guidance if it's necessary. I love that I can make a suggestion to Lexi and she's willing to try it to see if it helps. She's not prideful in that way. 

There are times when I'm discipling her that she wants to argue with me about my choice. She tries to yell over me to state her case. I'm totally fine with her telling me her side of the story. But, I want her to do it respectfully. I told her that if she wanted to state her case, she could, but she needed to tell me in a kind way that she didn't agree with me, rather than just yelling at me. I suggested we use the term "disagree appropriately" for this time. She can ask me "Mom, can I disagree appropriately?", or "Mom, can I disagree?" (I stole the idea from the book Parenting: A House United). It seems like a mouthful, but she's been really good about it. She has to stop, think, and then ask the question before stating her case. This diffuses the situation a bit; not just for her, but for me too.

Right now is a golden time in Lexi's life.  She's becoming more independent, but still willing to talk to mom and dad. She loves to learn and is still teachable. This is the time when all the parenting starts to have dividends. Two and three year olds can make you feel like you're a terrible parent. Like nothing you've said or done has had any positive impact. Now that Lexi is a bit older, we can see that she's listened to us and actually finds happiness is the life we live as a family. That is truly rewarding. 

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What started as a way to communicate with far away friends and family has become a place for this horse trainer/HR manager turned stay at home mom of 3 girls to hold on to a bit of her own identity. It's my take on the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the thoughts and feelings, the mistakes and triumphs of this family as we bumble our way to eternity.