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Good experiences form better behavior

When I was pregnant with my daughter 14 years ago, the best advice I received was from my coworker. She said "Don't start something with your kid that you don't want to continue." Apparently, she would put her first born into the laundry basket and would carry him down the stairs. It didn't take long and he was too big to safely continue doing so. What was fun in the beginning became a problem.

That comment stuck with me and I took it to heart. I decided to do with my child what I wanted her to continue.

I took three months maternity leave to bond with my new baby and to heal from the cesarean. I also suffered post-partum depression. During this time I also found out that I need to work outside of the home. I didn't necessarily want to go back to work but I knew it would be best for both of us. Being home all day and trying to be domestic drove me crazy.

To keep myself sane, I constantly read, sang or talked with my baby girl. I would explain things to her. Looking back, it was an awesome time of interaction with my child. But at the time I was doing what I had to do to keep from losing it.

Of course, I am probably looking at the past with rose colored glasses but today I wince when I see parents more engaged with their smart phone than their baby.

I think she was about three months old when I began taking her to the Concert Series. Hope was accustomed to sitting on my lap and listening. She loved the music and the attention from the other concert goers. We especially loved it when the performers took notice of her. If I remember correctly, I only had to take her out of one concert because of fussing. I was carrying her out and one of the concert board members took us up into the sound room. We both enjoyed the bird's eye view.

When she became a toddler, instead of yelling, "No, don't touch that," I would say, "Very breakable, I don't want it to break and for you get hurt." My college friend came to visit and laughed her head off. Hope's first words to her were, "Very breakable."

The church we attended had an awesome nursery filled with toys but I chose to use it a little differently than most. Before service Hope could play and I would tell her if she was good by sitting still and listening we would go back to the nursery afterwards. If she didn't listen, we would go home instead. She was very good in church because she had a reason and a reward. We had quality time.

When going shopping, I would talk to her before entering the store. I would let her know that if she didn't listen or wasn't good, we would leave the store. It only took one fit and we left. She learned at a young age that what I said, I meant.

When she was three years old, I put her in the St. Urho's talent show in Menahga. She got up on stage in front of hundreds of people and sang "Me and My Best Teddy Bear" without accompaniment. She didn't win but she held her own and was adorable.

These days she loves to read and write stories. She can sing and dance but most of all she commands the stage. As an eighth grader she had a significant part in the high school one act play that went to the state level. Her drama coach asked if I was so proud my buttons were busting. Proud, yes, but yet it is what I expect of her.

For confirmation, Hope had to serve up front in church. I was awestruck with her knack for engaging people with how she holds herself, eye contact and her beautiful smile. This time she taught me a lesson -- how to connect with others, something more than I ever expected.