This is Melanie.  She lives in my neighborhood and is the biggest spreader of kindness and cheer.  She has three kids and that have grown out of the toddler stage and I think her perspective on motherhood is so great.  I always love talking to mothers of older children.  Sometimes they ofter a different view of things that are hard for me to see when I'm in the throes of baby and toddlerhood.  I hope as you read this post you grow to love Melanie as much as I do. 

BRITTANY: What is something you enjoy doing with your children? Why do you love it?

MELANIE: I love having Hansen movie night. Occasionally we pick a movie, and usually my youngest helps me get it all ready. We get candy, popcorn, drinks and blankets. And then the payment for admission and for the treats is one hug, or two kisses on the cheek - that sort of thing. It's fun to scheme with my youngest as we pick treats and the feature film. And it's fun to get all cozy and enjoy!
Once in a while we'll pick a great book, like Where the Red Fern Grows, and we'll read it a little at a time. I love when everyone gets into the characters and the story enough that they stop touching each other and doing acrobatics and they actually sit quietly together and listen! Miracle!
I also love to sit on the porch and just talk and laugh and tell stories or hear about their day. My daughter does this more than the boys, because they're still at the age where they want to run and play. It's really relaxing to take time to sit and focus on each other.


BRITTANY: Describe one way motherhood is different than you expected it to be.  How is the reality better?  Not easier just better.  

MELANIE: I have learned so much about my weaknesses and strengths, that were just not as apparent to me before motherhood. I have seen corners of my heart, pieces of my soul I did not know were there before my children became part of my life - like a muscle I had never used before.  I have developed a deep appreciation for other women I see, for their examples of quiet service for their children, or their patience in a crazy moment. I am simply amazed at the women around me and their capacity to care for their families, and also to care for neighborhood kids or children from other families, as well.  I don't think I would have recognized how incredible the women are around me, were it not for my own personal experience with motherhood and what it has taught me about my own limitations and abilities.


BRITTANY: What do you know now that you wish you had known when your children were younger?

MELANIE: I wish I had made more of an effort to take care of myself, if I'm being unabashedly honest. It takes energy to go and do stuff with your kids like playing ball, going for a hike or other such things. I don't want my kids to miss out on memories because I'm too tired or sore to do something fun with them. 
I did hold my babies as much as I could! I don't ever regret time that I spent sitting with them wrapped up like a burrito, laying on my shoulder. I really grateful I did that!


BRITTANY: What is one of the hardest aspects about motherhood for you right now?

MELANIE: Worrying. I don't mean worrying about one of them skinning their knee, or even getting their feelings hurt at school. I mean heavy, heavy worrying about where they will be in 5, 10 or 30 years. Worrying that they might not remember their worth. As my kids get older, and they are formulating their own opinions and plans, I see this juxtaposition between loving them so much and having to let them be themselves. It's a delicate but necessary thing to speak up and let my kids know what I believe and what I think they should or should not be doing, and I always hope they will be open to my suggestions because they come from my heart.


BRITTANY: What is the number one thing you hope your children learn before they are grown? Why is this important to you?

MELANIE: I hope my children learn to trust that their Heavenly Father is real, He loves them, and He knows better than the world what is right. I suppose that if they learn this, then on good days and bad ones too, they can still feel safe, know where to find direction, keep the right perspective and lead purposeful lives. One of my favorite, favorite things is when one of my children tells me they had a problem and they said a prayer about it. It brings me immense peace to know that my children are learning that one their own, without my suggesting it, they can pray to their Heavenly Father and He cares enough about them to help them.


BRITTANY: What are 3 of your strengths? Why do you love these things about yourself?

I try to be grateful for what we have and content with where we are. I realize that everything we enjoy is truly a blessing and to be wishing for someone else's life would be ungrateful and a waste of time. What we have is just right for our family, and I hope my kids sense that I am happy.

I am learning to be a good listener. As my kids get older, especially my daughter, since she's my oldest, I try very hard to listen respectfully and to show them that I take them seriously, when they need to talk. I try to be approachable, and I feel like my kids trust me enough to open up when they need to.

I am pretty good at living by my own expectations for myself and my family and not by someone else's expectations. What I mean by this is, while I don't always get it right, I don't let myself feel pressured to have 500 things going every day for my kids or for myself. I know my boundaries and I try to stay within them, and this helps keep our daily life a little more peaceful and manageable. What works for one mother and one family, is surely not the only formula for success out there, so I try not to compare.

BONUS answer: I've already given 3, but I have to mention my husband as one of my strengths. I know that's probably cheating, but it's true. We are a good team, we love each other, we have fun together and we appreciate each other. Spending time together is a top priority. Our love for each other is in a way a gift for our kids. I don't know if they realize the worth of this gift, but I know it's rare and priceless.