Put a Bib on It


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Self-Care is a Joke

2014-08-07_1407369683It was 11:30 at night and I was in my kitchen mixing up a batch of sweet potato muffins for my daughter’s classroom (guidelines for birthday celebrations involved bringing a snack that was as “nutritious as possible,” and I was bound and determined to deliver). I’d already spent most of the night working after a full day of mothering, our sink was full of dishes, our bedroom full of baskets of laundry that had yet to be folded, and all I wanted to do was lay down, preferably right in the middle of the floor, and cry.

But I finished baking the muffins.

I know I’m not taking good care of myself, but self-care when you’re working full-time, parenting a toddler and eight months pregnant is. A. Joke.

I try, I really do. But even when I force myself to lay down and take a nap, at least 60 percent of the time I end up lying in bed fretting over all of the things I’m not doing. I don’t get out of bed, mind, because I lack the will and energy to actually do them, and I don’t want my husband to stop offering me a break because of my inability to actually take one. He doesn’t need to know that when I can’t sleep I just play Candy Crush.

Still, last week I had a morning to myself and he treated me to breakfast. I had every intention to write or edit or get caught up on something, but instead, I ordered the three things on the menu that looked the most delicious and nursed an iced coffee while reading a book. Those two blissful hours got me through the rest of the week.

I have four weeks, give or take, before baby comes, and while I have a very long list of projects I’d like to complete before that happens, I think I ought to just write “me” on there a dozen times or so to even things out. Because it won’t get any easier with two, and I probably won’t get any better at learning to relax.

But with Miss E in school three days a week, at least I can cluster feed a newborn while watching Netflix on my couch. I’ll take it.


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Change is hard for parents, too!

Kids aren't the only ones who need a little support during transitions. Parents do, too!On Ev’s first day at his new school, I was a bowl full of mush. Both my husband and I had been so anxious, even though we felt confident in our decision to transition Ev to a new program. There are many reasons why we feel good about it: it’s more convenient to both our commutes to and from work, it’s very high quality and he is in a Montessori classroom, a philosophy we are still learning about but are hopeful will be a good match for Ev. Change is just hard.

I knew that this transition would be difficult for me and possibly Ev, too, so we took some steps to ease into the new school. First of all, I observed in the classroom three times (once with my husband) prior to enrolling Ev. Then the week before his first day, we took Ev to visit twice. The first time, Craig and I stayed in the classroom with him. He hung with us for a bit before exploring the classroom and the materials. He seemed to really enjoy it. Then the next day, we dropped Ev off for an hour and half while we went and had breakfast just down the street. When we returned, again, he seemed to enjoy the time he had. One other way we thought to help Ev get acclimated to his new classroom was to buy new nap time stuff that he helped to pick out. So, we did that over the weekend and he helped to pack up his bag. We were ready.

We found out during the visits that the children in Ev’s new class go out on the playground first thing in the morning and then eat breakfast before starting their morning routine. This is basically a perfect scenario for Ev. He wakes up with a lot of energy so being able to drop off right on the playground will not only allow for him to burn some of that energy, but also makes for an easier transition. Knowing that if Ev had a hard drop off it would make it even harder on me, I made sure to get there in time for outside time. I’m not sure who was more nervous on our walk in that morning: me or Ev.

His new teacher greeted us both immediately. Though Ev initially clung to me and told me he only wanted to play with me on the playground, I told him I needed to get to work and about that time, Ev’s teacher walked up and ask him if he wanted to walk around the playground with her. I gave a final hug and walked towards the door without looking back, mostly because my eyes were welling up and I didn’t want anyone to see.

Once I was safe from anyone seeing me, I peeked back to the playground saw Ev smiling. I took a deep breath and realized how much better Ev was handling the transition than me. Two hours later when I called to check in, he was still doing great. His teacher told me he was currently building with LEGO® (one of his most favorite things to do).

He had a great first day, but I needed to use some self-regulation techniques to concentrate on work and not worry about him!


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It Takes a Village

Where's your village?A recent Huffington Post article has been floating around lately, lamenting the fact that the “villages” that used to raise our children have disappeared. Gone are the days when you opened the door and shooed the children outside with instructions not to return until lunchtime. We no longer have tables full of children at supper, some of whom belong to you – and some of whom do not.

I’ve only been a mom for a few months, so I’m hardly an expert, but there was something about the idea of losing our villages that really stuck with me. It took me a few days to figure out why—it’s because I don’t think it’s true.

When I found out I was pregnant, I felt like I punched a ticket into a secret moms club that I didn’t know about before. All of a sudden, I had something in common with women that I barely knew and what we had in common was powerful and intimate. Friends with young children gave me much needed advice about what type of burp cloths we should get (muslin seems to hold a gallon of baby spit-up), how many diapers we would need (there will never be enough), and what to do if your water breaks at work (good thing I asked, since it did).

Once my daughter was born, I was overwhelmed with love from friends and family members who wanted to snuggle her. I couldn’t have survived my first day back to work without the messages and calls from friends—mostly fellow young moms—with words of support. Each time I post a picture of my sweet baby on Facebook I realize how far my village really reaches. I have two friends who had babies within a few weeks of me. They are dealing with the same things I am and at the same time. We are literally in this together.

It’s not just people I know, either. While trying to soothe a fussy baby stuck in her car seat at the grocery store the other day, a mom with two school age kids in tow gave me a knowing smile. She’d been there. She maybe even missed those days. And her smile reminded me that I’m not the first person to raise a baby and that we’re going to be just fine.

There’s a good chance (sad as it may be) that I’ll never shoo my daughter out the front door to play in the woods outside until supper. I’m not home all day to have coffee with neighborhood moms while our babies play together on the floor. My village isn’t the same as the one that my grandmother or mother had when raising their children—but it’s there, and it’s strong, and I wouldn’t want to be on this journey without it.


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Is it possible to find the “perfect” child care provider?

Is it possible to find the "perfect" child care provider?Finding out I was pregnant instantly brought joy and happiness to our family, but just as quickly brought concern as I began to worry about who I would trust to be with my baby for 40 hours every week while my husband and I worked full time.

I turned to 4C for Children for help gathering information about the different licensed child care providers in my area that would meet our specific needs, and I also spoke with various friends and neighbors who have children or know people who care for children in their own homes. I visited many different centers and interviewed what seemed like an endless number of family child care providers. I felt like my search was hopeless. I couldn’t find that “perfect” person or facility I was looking for. Was it possible that my requirements were unrealistic?

My husband saw the whole situation as ridiculous. Many times after meeting with a center or a family child care provider he would say, “I like them; I think they would be great.” But my motherly intuition kept telling me something about them wasn’t the perfect fit for us. He was frustrated, and so was I. But I couldn’t give up. I knew I needed to continue to work in order to make ends meet, so I continued to search.

We met our current child care provider through an online child care referral service. It was an instant connection when we met. She was just what I was looking for (even though I never knew, and still don’t know, exactly what it was that I was looking for). When we left my husband and I both instantly agreed that she was a perfect fit.

As comfortable and connected as I felt to our child care provider, I was still a nervous wreck the first day (and week and month and half-year) that I had to leave my son in her care. I felt like such a terrible mother after leaving my small and practically helpless 6-week-old child with someone who was, essentially, a stranger. I had so many worries. What if Bryce didn’t get fed when he was supposed to? What if he sat in a wet diaper too long? What if she couldn’t answer his cries effectively? What if he was scared of his new sleeping environment?

In the end, I had to trust my instinct as a mother and trust the woman we had selected to care for our child. But not without a couple of phone calls and text messages throughout the day!

Bryce is nearly one now and has been with the same child care provider for 10 months. I no longer have to question whether he enjoys going to her house. I can see the answer in his smile, in his behaviors. When I carry him in he is reaching for her as soon as she is close enough. When I leave he is smiling and playing with his friends, sometimes not even taking the time to acknowledge that I have called his name to wave at him one last time.

Knowing I made the right choice, the “perfect” choice for us, is a great feeling.


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Do toddlers need TV? (Nope!)

Do toddlers need TV? Not even a little.My husband and I have gone to great lengths to keep Miss E’s screen time to an absolute minimum, and while there have been a very few exceptions – we tried and failed to distract her with The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh on a long flight, and she snuffled her way through a few classic episodes of Sesame Street when she was sick with a debilitating fever – mostly, neither television nor tablet PCs of any kind are among her regular entertainments. She’ll take a puzzle over PBS any day.

But her second birthday is right around the corner, and the dreaded influence of children’s programming feels inevitable. And yet, just because it’s slightly more “okay” after her second birthday doesn’t mean I feel okay about it. It’s not like her dad and I don’t enjoy watching television or movies, or that we don’t have fond memories of enjoying them as children, too. I dressed as Punky Brewster for Halloween three years in a row.

I remember friends and family joking before Miss E was born that before too long we’d be stuck marathoning Care Bears or Curious George, and my feeling now is the same as it was then: why? I don’t remember my parents slavishly attending to my whims when it came to the remote control. My brother and I got to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings and very occasionally an episode of Duck Tales after school. We spent a whole lot more time reading, pretending, coloring, and playing outside, and I don’t see any reason why Miss E’s childhood can’t look like that.

I am also all too aware of how aggressively children are marketed to, and that’s something my parents never had to contend with, and I’m in no hurry to. Commercials during children’s programming, and often the programs themselves, are notoriously rich not only with cultural messages I’d rather avoid, but consumer ones, too. While I can’t – and don’t intend to – shelter my daughter from the world she’s going to inherit, I do think it’s my responsibility as a parent to mediate her exposure, and more importantly, talk with her about what she sees and hears. And if she’s going to watch, why not the good stuff, and in moderation? I want her first princess to be Princess Leia. Give me Miyazaki over Disney any day. And if we’re going to watch Nick, Jr., can we skip Dora and opt for DJ Lance Rock and Weezer, instead?

Ultimately, we haven’t needed television, and it’s my hope that in the coming years we won’t suddenly start needing it. It was a treat for me growing up, and I’m going to try my best to see that it’s the same for my children, too.


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Potty training? Don’t panic!

Potty training? Don't panic!Good news! My child will not be going to college in a diaper.

It’s amazing how one milestone can be so stressful and then be so gratifying. Now that Ev can “go potty like a big boy,” my feelings of being a good parent are finally validated. Because for awhile there, it felt questionable.

Personally, I never really doubted my son’s capability of using the potty. He is a fairly intelligent child, pretty good gross motor development and getting better at undressing and dressing himself. I knew it really came down to interest. My husband and I decided pretty early on that when tackling these transitional milestones, we’d follow Ev’s lead. As I’ve talked about before, that system worked well for us. Transitioning from being rocked to sleep to him falling asleep on his own was a breeze, moving from breast milk to whole milk (and cup use) was simple. Even taking the pacifier away was not nearly as hard on Ev as stories I’ve heard. And I really think it’s all because we waited for signs from Ev that he was ready. So why was I questioning that system when it came to teaching Ev how to use a potty?

First of all, you can’t help but compare your child to everyone else’s even though you swear you never ever will. Truly, Ev was one of the oldest children I know to learn to use the potty. I feel like most children can do so by the time they are three and Ev was showing zero interest. I kept telling myself (and my husband) that he just wasn’t ready, but I began doubting myself as he kept joining smaller and smaller populations of children who didn’t know how to use the potty at that age. Also, other parents and early childhood experts loved to give their advice on what worked for them, and most often that involved reward systems, and we just weren’t ready for that at the beginning.

What I mean by reward system is a sticker chart, or giving prizes for using the potty or trying to use the potty. Mostly we were reluctant because we wanted Ev to use the potty because he wanted to, whether that motivation came from feeling proud that he could do it or happy because he no longer had an uncomfortable diaper on.

We also heard about this idea of “potty boot camp,” where a parent or caregiver just takes the diaper off one day and spends the next 3 – 7 days (I totally made that number up), sitting the child on the potty every half hour and then viola – child can use potty. This actually made a little sense to me and if I’d been able to be home and Ev was showing an interest, I may have tried it. But, both my husband and I work full-time and I felt it unrealistic to ask his child care provider to do that when she was managing a class full of preschoolers.

When Ev did show a slight bit of interest in going to the potty, we jumped on the opportunity to begin supporting this transition. It began when Ev went from the 2-year-old room to the 3-year-old room. All of his buddies were using the potty and were no longer wearing diapers, which I think helped. I had heard about putting underwear on underneath the diaper. The thought behind this is that the child can start to feel that he’s gone in his diaper, but the diaper still “catches” the mess. We did this for about two weeks and then thankfully, Ev’s new teacher offered to be a partner in moving forward. She told us that if we were comfortable bringing in lots of extra clothes, she was comfortable cleaning up accidents since we all felt Ev was ready to take the diaper off.

He actually did great. It took about 2 weeks and while Ev did have a few accidents, it went pretty smoothly. He is still wearing a diaper/pull-up at bedtime but mostly because we want Ev to continue feeling successful and don’t want to risk any set-backs with having an accident at night. We also did end up using a sticker chart that resulted in the purchase of a toy he wanted, because he was having trouble pooping on the potty. In an effort to get over that hump, I offered a reward after going five days without an accident. And we needed something tangible for him to track the days, so we used stickers. It worked.

Looking back it seems silly that I was so stressed and concerned that Ev wasn’t using the potty at the typical age. I think to myself, “What was I worried about?!” The pressure we put on ourselves as parents never ceases to amaze me and yet I always do it, even after telling others they shouldn’t stress. It’s just a normal part of being a parent.

The good news is, we keep getting over the hurdles and meeting the milestones with very little stress on Ev. And that’s why I feel like a successful parent.


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Driving cross country with a baby?

How do you plan for a 2,500 mile cross-country road trip with an infant? Very carefully!We’ve just returned home from a 2,500 mile drive across 9 states with a teething infant, and I think it’s safe to say, we survived. But, not without a few challenges, surprises and lessons learned along the way!

When a baby needs to eat, a baby needs to eat. We learned this one pretty quickly. The first time came about 2:00 in the morning and sounded something like a screech owl coming from the back seat of the minivan. This lead to the first of many middle of the night nursing sessions in a gas station parking lot. Although it was not the most ideal location and occasionally led to a baby experimenting with a car horn, it worked for us and allowed us to get back on the road as quickly as possible! It helped that a few choice locations, like the Houston Zoo, offer private areas for nursing mothers.

A well rested baby leads to a happy family. Sometimes we just had to make the choice that our entertainment would have to be sacrificed because Bryce needed to sleep. One problem we ran into was that a busy day meant a tired baby, and a tired baby meant he needed his bed. We struggled with getting Bryce to fall asleep while out sight-seeing or riding in his stroller, because he loved looking around and taking in the sights as much as mom, dad and older brother! This lead to us leaving the beach, the Naval Air Museum and even a putt-putt golf game before we were really “ready” to leave. This was upsetting for everyone, but when thinking about the alternative, we had to make the best, yet difficult, choice for everyone involved.

Preparing for the trip proved to be invaluable in many situations. Although we chose not to make any hotel reservations or specify what day we would be where, we were prepared for challenges on the road. The most valuable preparations proved to be the “new” toys we brought with us. 4C for Children in the Miami Valley offers a wonderful Lending Library – you can look into borrowing items yourself by contacting us – offering parents and child care providers the opportunity to check out different items, and I was able to choose toys that I felt Bryce would enjoy. We introduced them to him on the trip when he woke and seemed frustrated with being buckled into his seat. We also checked out many new books from our local library that helped him pass the time.

We might be home now, but there are still remnants of our trip all throughout our home, including a pile of laundry almost taller than me, various toys that I have found wedged in van crevices I didn’t know existed and four new teeth that have emerged in my son’s mouth. The best remnant is the smile and renewed sense of family we all seem to have since returning from our surprisingly enjoyable and relaxing vacation across the United States.

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