Put a Bib on It

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This Will Hurt Me More Than it Hurts You

dad and son2

My wife and I are blessed with our son. He generally sleeps well, eats well and is getting big and healthy. I enjoy his laughter and smiles as we play. We have begun to understand his “language”—and can usually figure out why he is fussy. He and I share conversations daily, and although I’m not sure we completely understand each other we both often have a smile on our face.

I feel like I am trying to model self-regulation and to learn how to be in control, but I’m not always the best model. Something that I don’t enjoy about fatherhood is watching my son get shots. I believe in the value and importance of getting vaccinated. I also remember that when I was about 7-years-old, I pushed away a nurse and ran from her because I wasn’t going to let her “hurt” me. So when it came time for my son to have his set of shots, I felt it was especially important to help him stay calm. This seemed easy since he had no idea what was going to happen. I soothingly told him that this will hurt a little and will be over quick. I told him that it will help him to stay healthy and that I love him very much.

The nurse instructed me to hold him down on the exam table. I looked down into his eyes and I felt like I had been prodded with a giant needle even though we hadn’t even started yet. I remember hearing the phrase, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you,” growing up as a child. The look in his eyes when I knew he felt pain did seem to hurt me more than him. He didn’t cry at first but I had visions of being age 7 again, and I wanted to grab him up and run. I could see the pain in his eyes and held him close. He cried a little and I held and hugged him.

This has been a difficult experience. Several times in his first 3 months, Morgan also had to get blood drawn (not just a few drops). This process of feeling pain as I looked into his eyes as I held my son has gotten easier (I still haven’t given in to the urge to grab him up and run, at least.). Even though he is an infant, I like to think that my effort to self-regulate has been a good model and this has been an early step to self-regulation for him. I look forward to the other situations that will connect us as he grows up.

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Why I Love Our Sensory Table

sensory-tableSensory tables are a wonderful addition to any child’s toy collection. We have had our sensory table for just over a year now (since Bryce was almost one-and-a-half-years-old). Honestly, it is probably one of my—and his— favorite toys (Notice I did not say easiest toys). It is so versatile and can keep the little guy entertained for long periods of time. We have enjoyed everything from cotton balls to snow to beans, with many different types of “accessories” to play with including scoops, funnels, wooden spoons and cars.

Recently, a friend and I were chatting about my sensory table. Her son is exactly one year younger (exact same date, just minutes apart) than Bryce. She mentioned that she didn’t think her son would do very well with one. She said her son is just way too messy while Bryce is so clean. I had to laugh at the assumption—to think we have never had a mess from our sensory table! I explained that while it may seem like he is reasonably clean now, things haven’t always been that way, nor are they always that way.

When introducing the sensory table to Bryce, we spent time demonstrating how to play with his new toy. We focused on keeping the contents inside the bin and cleaning up those that did fall out. He even has a child sized broom and a Dirt Devil Hand Vacuum he uses for when things get a little out of control. We are consistent when it comes to cleaning up after himself, and this goes for not only sensory table play, but also for everything we do.

Although it may seem like a never-ending task to ensure that he cleans up after himself (and occasionally a never-ending battle to actually finish the cleaning), I know that in the end he will get better at cleaning up after himself and as this article articulates, there are many cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional, physical and creative skills to be learned through fun and engaging sensory play!

For me, the gains outweigh the mess. Bring on the sensory play!!

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Feeling Guilty, Party of One

guiltyI know this is a recurring theme in our blog—in fact it’s the reason this blog exists—but being a mom is hard. I’m a working mom, and lately that’s been weighing on me.

Since Ev was 9-weeks-old, he has been in child care. It was the single hardest experience of my life—to leave him in the care of someone else—but since it was a high-quality program with child care providers I trusted, I was able to make peace and feel confident in my decisions.

But I’m feeling guilty. It started a few weeks ago when Ev’s class was having a party and parents were invited to participate. He’s had a few parties since he has been in that classroom and I’ve attended some and not others. He didn’t seem to notice (or be bothered) either way, so this time I didn’t put it in my calendar. On the morning of the party Ev asked, “My teacher told me some parents are coming and some aren’t…are you coming?” When I told him I wasn’t, he got really sad and asked several times if there was any way I could. I felt so bad because I had some meetings that I just couldn’t get out of or reschedule at the last minute. Luckily, I have a great friend who has twins in Ev’s class. As soon as I dropped him off I asked her if she was going. She was—so I told her the story and asked if she’d give Ev a little extra attention. She sent me some encouraging texts and pictures so I could see Ev was having a good time. It was comforting, but I still wished I would have planned to go.

Going back to work/school after the holiday break is hard on everyone. I read somewhere that January is like the “Monday” of months and it couldn’t be truer. Recently in the morning, Ev has been saying things like, “I just want to stay home and snuggle with you,” and “I only want to be with you.” It breaks my heart to tell him that while I feel the same way, I have to work and that means he has to go to school. I’ve been staying with him in his classroom until he finds something of interest to get engaged with and when I leave he is quite content, but it hasn’t kept me from worrying.

Whether you are a working parent or a stay-at-home parent, you are still a good, hard-working parent, and your children are lucky to have you. When it gets tough, it’s important to remember that.

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Be Prepared

Be Prepared

Welcome Archer Thomas, 4C for Children professional development specialist—and new dad—to our blog team!

“Be prepared,” that’s the motto of the Boy Scouts and something I learned that is extremely important in life. My wife and I had talked a lot about having children and we wanted to be prepared to be great parents for our child. I thought about how I might feel and react to when we had the little plus sign. That day came last year, and even though I thought I was prepared, I wasn’t. When my wife came out of the bathroom and tried to fool me her eyes told me that I was going to be a dad. I was so overwhelmed by the feeling that I couldn’t hold in emotion and cried my first tears of joy that I couldn’t hold back.

Then all the questions began. What do we do now? Which doctor should we choose? What foods can’t you eat? How do we tell our parents? On and on we had so many questions. We are rather independent learners so we wanted to research much of this on our own. It didn’t take us long to discover that there are about as many opinions on child rearing as there are stars in the sky. It took some filtering, but what we soon discovered was that we really just needed to be calm, be patient, and be prepared to make our own decisions because ultimately we are going to be the people that are going to care, love and teach this new little person.

Asking questions of people such as doctors, nurses, and like-minded parents helped calibrate the needle on our compass so that we could follow this map of parenthood. My wife and I had to make the decisions on which direction to go so that we could get to that happy place of the healthy birth of our first child. We got turned around and had to rethink our direction a few times.

My wife is petite, and as her belly got larger her appetite grew and what she wanted to eat seemed to change every few minutes. She shared her worry about her weight and I did my best to support her. I was prepared for her belly, I’m a big guy and was a little happy to have someone else around that had a belly—even knowing that it was our child inside preparing to come out. As we progressed with making decisions we decided to learn the gender. The little screen at the office showed us the first pictures of our little boy. We both were happy to see him that first time and knew that we had so much to do to be prepared for him.

As we routinely visited the doctor and the expected date came closer and closer, we discovered some complications. We were scared and worried when the doctor said he would have to arrive early. Did we do something to cause this? Instead of a month left to prepare, we had two weeks. So many things were happening, but none as important as the health of a little boy that we hadn’t yet met. We were on the phone with the doctor’s office almost every day or so and after what seemed to be one hundred changes we met at the doctor’s office prepared. We were prepared for anything. The doctor said, “We need you at the hospital tonight and will deliver the next day.” I had my short list of things to get and had my ”Super Dad” shirt ready. We were off to the hospital and had our team of family and friends prepared for helping where needed.

The moment our son was born, I thought that I was prepared, but had to hand him to his mom. I didn’t want to let him go and can’t really describe how I felt. I wasn’t prepared for this love and blessing. It has been so overwhelming and wonderful.

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Mommy Again!

mommy & DrewOur newest bundle of joy has arrived. 8 pounds, 20.5 inches and affectionately called Baby Drew.

After a routine c-section and a three-day hospital stay, I landed in my living room responsible for two small children while my husband worked (we own a one man show small business) and my 11-year-old went off to school. I was outnumbered (2 to 1), slow to move (due to the large incision across my abdominal region), super tired (from waking up through the night to feed), and it only took my 2-year-old about 10 minutes to figure that out.

Infant care has presented new complications that I didn’t have to worry about when Bryce was little. Having a hungry baby attached to you while your 2-year-old “plays” can get interesting—balls flying through the air, sensory table beans all over the floor, crying breakdowns because the block house falls over (this is really interesting because usually this is so funny to him), instant dire hunger pains that cannot wait, diapers removed from the clean and orderly diaper basket and spread all over the bedroom, and my personal favorite (sarcasm)—climbing and then jumping off EVERYTHING he can get on top of! On a good note, though, I never cried at the thought of latching Drew—though tears may have been shed a time or two out of frustration for lack of control. I learned rather quickly that I had to have a plan in place for toddler care that can work in harmony with baby care for our newest addition.

Food: As mentioned, dire hunger always sets in as soon as I start to feed Baby Drew “mommy milk” (as it is affectionately referred to in our house). Having Bryce eat while I feed Drew provides a more peaceful environment for everyone. The biggest sacrifice of doing it this way is my comfort. Instead of being able to breastfeed in the comfortable recliner, I end up sitting in a hard kitchen chair—worth it for peaceful eating!

Helping: This one is especially useful when diapering Baby Drew. Getting the diaper and wipes or even picking out a new sleeper can make Bryce feel like he is important. I really enjoy encouraging him to talk to Drew as he gets his diaper changed too. I feel like I can already see their brotherly bond forming as he talks to him.

Individual and focused attention: When Baby Drew is sleeping or even playing calmly on the floor, I am always certain to provide Bryce with individual attention—playing with him and talking about things he is doing. When possible, I include Baby Drew in the play.

Multi-task feeding: Often times I end up feeding Drew while playing with or reading to Bryce (and Drew inadvertently as he listens to the words). Keeping Bryce in close proximity makes it easier to get through an entire feeding without having to unlatch and address his behavior. A basket of small toys and books next to where I normally nurse provides a convenient selection of things to do when needed.

When friends have asked me, “Is it easier the second time around?” The best answer I can give them is, “It’s different.” Many things that were challenges the first time are no longer challenging (at least not as challenging anyway), but a new crop of challenges have sprung up.

Being a mommy again is different—not bad different—just different.

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Breaking Up With Christmas

Feeling sad that Christmas is over? Treat it like a much-needed breakup.I often explain the need to put away decorations and organizing stuff after the holidays as similar to needing closure after a breakup. It’s always such a blue time for me when my family all go back to their out-of-town homes and it seems the giving, magical spirit of Christmas has drifted back to the North Pole. Staring at the lit Christmas tree and stockings on the mantel just makes it harder to get over.

But like in most break-ups, it’s actually for the best. Because the craziness of gift buying, wrapping, swapping, dinner parties, road trips and late nights are behind us and life can get back to normal. Putting away holiday decorations and organizing the house is helpful in moving forward; therapeutic, even. Turns out, it’s the same for Ev.

It’s so easy to forget, especially in the throes of the holiday madness, that children need structure and routine. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, not to mention a wedding and a birthday party, Ev’s routine was totally disrupted. It’s no wonder some of his behaviors were undesirable. Things he would have handled better, like not getting what he wanted, were cause for some melt downs and foul language thanks to overstimulation, lack of sleep and sugar. Oh, the sugar.

I’m not saying it wasn’t for good reason. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are during the holidays and I want the same for Ev. We only get to see some of our family members during this time and I know he enjoyed spending time with them. Plus, he got presents. Lots and lots of presents.

What I am saying is that hindsight is 20/20. I can now see some possible reasons Ev was a little out of sync because of how rejuvenated I feel now that’s it’s time to get back to real life. Ev helped with cleaning up, donating some unwanted items, and reorganizing, and I can tell that just like me, he feels good about moving on, too.

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Teaching Diversity

friendsSometimes experiences that are innocent and even humorous feel much heavier and serious if I don’t handle properly. One of those experiences happened to Ev and I recently and I wish I was more prepared to know what to say or do. We were shopping at a clothing store and a woman was walking toward us in full Islamic dress, including the piece of clothing that covers the face, only leaving space for the eyes. Ev pointed directly at her and said, “Look! A ninja!” The woman checking us out at the register and another shopper chuckled. But I did not think it was funny; I was stunned—and mortified. The woman absolutely saw him pointing and heard what he said, as well as her family members. When I finally processed what was happening, my instinct kicked in, and I knocked Ev’s finger down and told him it was very rude to point. I then said, “We do not know if that woman is a ninja; some people choose to dress that way, just like you chose to wear what you are wearing.” I followed that by telling him, “Some people take much meaning from the clothes they choose to wear.”

I was literally dumbfounded. I wondered if I should find the woman and apologize. I wondered if I should let him ask her about her attire to learn more about that culture. But I worried that would extend the awkward tension further. In the end, I didn’t do either for worry the situation would somehow get worse. I paid for our shirt and walked out of the store praying Ev hadn’t offended the woman or hurt her or her families’ feelings.

This feels so heavy to me because teaching Ev about diversity, culture—and most of all tolerance of people who are different (for any reason)—is very important to my husband and I. Not only that but kindness. It’s important to us that Ev does what is right and kind always. A very relevant Parent Source e-newsletter was recently about diversity. A key passage for me said, “Children are born with open minds and their experiences help determine how they will navigate through their world. It’s important that parents recognize that although cultural messaging comes from various sources such as family members, the community and the media, family has the biggest impact.” I want to do everything I can to keep Ev’s mind open.

The Parent Source article also listed tips to talk to children about diversity. Many of which I know and do, such as seeking out opportunities to experience diversity as a family and acknowledging stereotypes when we encounter them—mostly about gender roles these days. But when Ev called out this woman, I was not prepared to handle it in the moment.

In hindsight, there is not much we could have done to prevent what happened from happening. His context came from an iPad game he plays called Clumsy Ninja. So I know it was nothing but innocent. Although, pointing and talking about someone is always rude so we need to work on that. But he wasn’t trying to be offensive or unkind. He honestly thought the woman was a ninja. Since then, I’ve shared pictures with Ev showing the garments the woman was wearing and we have talked about it. My hope is that in the future when Ev sees something out of place that he doesn’t understand, that he will talk to me or my husband about it at an appropriate time so that we can discuss and answer questions together.


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