Put a Bib on It


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First Day of School—and Beyond!

We’ll bid a fond farewell to Sadie after Ev heads to his first day of school… next month, join her on our blog for parents of young children, Blink…And They’re Grown!

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Ev started kindergarten in August. It’s true what they say, about it being such a transition, such a coming of age life moment. My baby is no longer a baby.

I just felt like so much was changing. The same week Ev started kindergarten, Ev switched from a car seat to a booster chair—no harness buckle. Drop off meant no more walking into the classroom and Ev just getting out of the car at the door to the school. I don’t even have to put my car out of drive. It means leaving the Put A Bib On It blog and joining our other parent blog, Blink…And They’re Grown. Because I no longer have a baby. I have school-ager.

I have once heard of change being compared to an elephant and its rider. The elephant is our emotions and the rider is our analytical side. Usually the rider has control over the elephant, but if the elephant doesn’t want to obey—who would win? I did everything in my power to keep my emotions, my elephant, from running amuck. What if drop off didn’t go well and Ev got out of the car crying? What if he is lonely all day and misses me and his dad? What if he doesn’t make friends? What if he doesn’t make the right friends—those who encourage him to be a leader and make good choices? What if he isn’t kind? What is he doesn’t stand up for himself? What if he doesn’t stand up for others? What if there is a zombie apocalypse and I can’t get to him in time?

The rider in me made some plans to prepare Ev and to prepare me. We set up some play-dates so that Ev would have the opportunity to meet some other children in his class. I took him to meet the teacher and to drop off school supplies. We also spent some time at the school. Ev played on the playground and we walked around inside. We practiced how drop-off would go. We talked at-length about kindergarten. We made a laminated picture schedule of the morning routine and a laminated family picture for the book bag.

The first day of school arrived. Ev hopped out of bed, got dressed and started the morning. He was excited. We took first-day pictures and loaded the car at our pre-determined time. As we were in the car line to drop Ev off, we talked about having courage and being kind and went over things one last time. An aid approached the car, opened the door and Ev got right out with a simple “Bye.” I of course, started bawling (and proceeded to do so on and off until pick-up time; I could no longer control my elephant). But Ev was fine!  He was great, even. And I am so proud. He has been in kindergarten for several weeks now and I am still so proud.  He has handled the transition so well. We discuss good parts and challenging parts of the day. And the good far outweighs the bad.  He looks forward to school and seems very confident. While I miss my little baby terribly, I am so proud of my school-aged boy.


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Swim Lessons

SwimLessons-editYou know your child is getting older when he begs you not to go to swim lessons (or some other organized sport/lesson/activity). This experience was yet another first for us and another time when we didn’t know what the right answer was.

Ev has been going to swim lessons every week since February. Often he tells us he doesn’t want to go or seems anxious about it when we are en route. However, once we are there he seems content and when asked he says he likes going. We really like where he gets his swim lessons because the groups are really small (more times than once he was the only child for the lesson and no more than 4) and children move through the levels based on skills, not age. Also, the teachers all seem to work really well with young children. Plus, almost every lesson is a family event. Both Craig and I make it a priority to go so we value the time together.

Lately it seems much more frequent that he loses focus or doesn’t seem to listen to the teacher—which is frustrating. It’s frustrating because when he is paying attention and actually trying, he does really well. And furthermore, learning to swim is serious business and we want him to take it seriously.

Last week, the day of swim lessons fell on a day we took Ev to a Red’s baseball game and to play at a park. On that morning Ev woke up very early (by coincidence, not excitement). We had a really fun day. We had some time between leaving downtown and going to swim lessons so we decided to go home to rest, which we all needed. Ev was laying in his bed and when I told him it was time to start getting ready for swim lessons, he fell out. He began crying, saying he was too tired and really didn’t want to go. He genuinely didn’t want to go, I could tell, but my husband and I were still conflicted. On one hand, the lessons are expensive so not going potentially wastes money—money we don’t have to waste (not that anyone has money to waste but you get the point). Also, I was worried about setting a precedent. When you commit to something, you should do it, even when you are tired, and I didn’t want Ev to get in a habit of bailing or being lazy. Lastly, Ev’s gotten some momentum with his skills and I didn’t want to lose that. He is right on the verge of swimming, arms moving, legs kicking, swimming. I worried that missing a week would cause him to regress or something. On the other hand, he was tired. And I was tired. I knew if I made him go, it would be battle from start to finish (with no winner at the end). Also, so far swim lessons have been a positive experience for him for the most part and I didn’t want this to ruin it for him.

I told him to take some deep breaths and that I would talk with his dad about it and be back in a few minutes. I talked about all the above with my husband and in the end decided not to go. I called to let them know we weren’t going to make it and was able to reschedule (two nights in a row next time) therefore we didn’t lose money. We also decided to take a break from lessons for a bit. He has 3 more before we break. I went back to Ev’s room to let him know that he was off the hook. His relief was obvious as he smiled big and thanked me. I told him he would have lessons two evenings in the row to make up for it but he was okay with it. I am sure as Ev gets older, we will have similar conversations. And there will be a time when we make sure Ev goes to a lesson or other commitment that he’s made. But for now, he is still only five and what looked a little like laziness was actually exhaustion, which is very different and I’m glad we recognized that and didn’t force him to go.


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Marble Jar

behavior2Ever have a moment when you basically get called out by your child? I have. At a recent visit at the psychologist, when asked if he has any chores at home, Ev said, “No. My mom does everything for me.

Hello, truth bomb. At first I got defensive. Like, “Hold up, buddy, that’s not true. I don’t do everything for you.” I was feeling defensive and guilty because it is a little bit true. Ok, a lot bit true. I often do things for Ev that he could do for himself and moreover, that he should do for himself. One example is getting him dressed. I know he is fully capable—but in the essence of saving time and irritation, I often just did it for him. He can be a very stubborn, strong-willed child and sometimes I don’t want the fight or the struggle. As I talked with my husband and what I knew, deep down in my heart, was that I was not doing Ev any favors. Building independence and responsibility are an important part of his development.

We are trying something new. Remember when I talked before about the things I said I’d never do as a parent and now do without hesitation? One of those things I swore I’d never do was use “behavior modification strategies.” That’s a fancy way of a saying rewarding desired behavior, for example, a sticker on a chart every time your child uses the potty. Well, we are trying one. We got an old pickle jar and some marbles. Ev gets marbles for very specific objectives during specific time frames. So, from wake-up until going to school, Ev can get a marble for:

  • Getting dressed on his own;
  • Brushing his teeth after only being asked once,
  • Not saying any bad words during that time (Ev’s current favorite is butt crack);
  • Not being asked more than once to do anything during that time frame and
  • Eating healthy for breakfast (which is usually aclementine or yogurt).

There are also specific objectives for after school.

Each marble represents 2.5 minutes of iPad time during the weekend. (Remember the no iPad rule on week nights!) My husband and I talked about rules for ourselves as well. First of all,we want him to be successful, so we started with sections of time versus all day. Before we walk out of the door to school, Ev already has some marbles which I think starts the day with in good spirits. When you are feeling good, you do good. Secondly, we vowed that marbles cannot be taken away. Once they are earned, they are earned—regardless of how frustrated we may get.

The first week went really well. Ev was excited to collect marbles. He picked them out each time. He was excited to see the jar fill up. We did encounter one problem. Once the weekend came, Memorial Day weekend, Ev spent the entire time outside. He hardly used his iPad. He had a great weekend, playing on a water slide and using real bricks to build a pretend house. But when Monday rolled around, we emptied the jar which was kind of difficult to explain. I was worried Ev would feel like it was all for naught. But we’ve started week two and he seems just as engaged. We are hopeful this will be a good way for Ev to start feeling good about doing things on his own. I want to eventually add tasks, such as chores (i.e. feeding the dogs, helping to clear table after dinner). And it also helps me not do so much for him.


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Five Ways I Knew My Son Needed Help

play-outside-inflatableOver the past several months Ev has exhibited some less than desirable behaviors. I am sure (because some said so out loud) that family members and other observers judged the situation, determining he just needed a good spanking or other ways to teach children “respect.” If I am being completely honest I also questioned (as we all do) whether it was my parenting that was causing some of the issues. But my gut was telling me there was something more there. Terms like ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder were bouncing around my head and I was worried.

After consulting with Ev’s preschool teacher, my husband and I decided to call our pediatrician who referred us to Children’s for an evaluation. We filled out several assessments, his teacher filled out an assessment, and a psychologist met with us and Ev separately. As a result, we found out that Ev struggles with anxiety.

Here are the top five ways I knew my son didn’t need a spanking, but needed help.

  1. Transitions are hard. Very hard. But here’s the thing—for Ev it wasn’t just about needing warning. He had trouble transitioning into something he likes I’m talking going to get ice cream or heading out for a play date. I learned the hard way that warnings actually made it worse. It was like I kept reminding him the end was coming. What I’m learning is he really needs help seeing what is next, what he has to look forward to. For example, when preparing to leave for school, I might say “How many times do you think you’ll laugh today?”
  1. Ev got very frustrated when his work didn’t look like he wanted it to look. When building with Legos and pieces fell off, he would lose his temper, throw pieces and yell things like “why do my Legos hate me?!” If this happened at school, unfortunately nearby children suffered the wrath. If the children weren’t building or doing what was in Ev’s brain to be “right,” he didn’t handle it well. I’m not trying to justify his behavior but it was more than being a bully…Ev is a perfectionist.
  1. Ev would get very worried and dwell about things. The children had a tornado drill at school and also learned what a tornado was and now Ev is very scared of tornados. If the skies darken or it rains even a little, he needs reassurance that it’s going to be okay. We talk about tornados often, going through protocol if one were to strike. Ev also likes to watch the news during storms or the Weather Channel App on my phone so he can keep an eye on the radar. These worries can steel his attention. At times when he was not focused on what was being presented i.e. morning meeting at school, he was actually focusing on his worries instead.
  1. Ev gets very angry, very fast and at times, it seems at the drop of a dime. One minute he seems perfectly content and happy and the next he is angry. When asking Ev a simple question, “What do you want to do today,” e would respond by yelling and/or calling names. That was a mystery to us and one of our biggest concerns. The psychologist we met with it put it very well: it comes down to “fight or flight.” If we meet a bear in the woods, our brain tells us to either fight or fight—we either fight the bear off or we run. That is a good thing because otherwise we would likely perish. However, Ev feels the same thing all throughout a typical day. It’s good to feel that way when meeting danger in the woods; it’s not good when picking out what shoes to wear. Furthermore, when Ev is feeling those intense feelings, he can’t determine between anxiety and anger all the time so sometimes it comes out as anger, when in fact it’s anxiety.
  1. Ev needed help acclimating to his classroom every. single. morning. The issue wasn’t friends—he has friends and makes them easily. Merely joining the room, joining in on play or starting something was hard for Ev. So every morning, I stayed with Ev, helped him choose an activity until he was feeling strong enough for me to leave.

It’s so hard when you’re feeling exhausted and inadequate as a parent and your child is obviously struggling. Add to it melt-downs in public and you have shame and guilt. We’ve all been there on some level. The good news is my husband and I are the experts on our child. And while we appreciate the love and support (and even unsolicited advice sometimes), it really comes down to relying on our own knowledge (and what our guts are telling us) to determine how best to support Ev.


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Screen Time Boundaries

screentimeWe recently implemented a new rule in our house. No iPad on school days/nights. Prior to that, we had been allowing Ev to have his iPad before and after school. Admittedly, it was helpful—a crutch of sorts. In the morning, Ev would get on his iPad and I could drink my coffee/do my hair and make-up in peace. And in the evenings we could make dinner and complete other chores waiting to get done like emptying the dishwasher. Ev never spent more than two hours total on any given day but it did start to control his life.

Ev was becoming obsessed with his iPad, addicted even, maybe. It was starting to ruin our mornings. Even with warnings when it was time to go, it was a struggle. He always wanted five more minutes to play whatever game he was playing. Then I would get frustrated with him and the domino effect would continue from there. I can’t believe I am admitting this in writing, but I even began letting Ev bring his iPad in the car. Honestly, I just didn’t want to have the battle. But then I was missing out on time with Ev on days when our time together feels so limited. In the evening, it would be the same; Ev would rush to his iPad and then get so upset when it was time for dinner—time to turn it off.  That battle would ruin dinner. He would refuse to eat while my husband and I were trying to eat. We’d give him warnings; saying things like, “When dinner is over, you will not be able to eat,” and, “If you choose not to eat now, you will not get another chance.” But even so, Ev would wait until we were finished with dinner and then say he was ready. But dinner was over and we felt strongly that we should not give in. We like dinner time to be a family re-connection time where we talk about our days and enjoy each others company. It was quickly becoming not enjoyable.

After some discussion, we implemented the no iPad on school days/nights rule. It’s been about three weeks and we have noticed a positive change. Granted the transition wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies (although it didn’t take nearly as long as I expected for Ev to adjust to the change). One time Ev had to call me out. My husband was on a business trip so it was just the two of us. I pulled out my iPad at dinner and Ev immediately told me it wasn’t fair that he didn’t get to have his. On a recent morning Ev asked if he could have his iPad and when I reminded him of the rule he told me he didn’t care if he rotted his brain and he didn’t want to be smart. Apparently those are some of my words from some point in the past.

Our mornings are smoother and full of good conversation. (Today on the ride to school Ev told me he wanted a pet bird and then changed his mind to a snake and then changed his mind to a spider and then we talked about what was necessary for proper care-taking). Dinner time is better. Most evenings Ev eats with us and we enjoy our time together. The decision didn’t come lightly. We knew in our brains that losing the iPad on week days was the healthier, more appropriate choice but we also knew in our hearts Ev was going to be bummed. It’s good our brains over powered our hearts this time because we are all better off for it.


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Ready or Not—It’s Time for Kindergarten!

Ready-or-notNothing makes you feel like your baby is no longer a baby than getting kindergarten registration paperwork in the mail. Seriously, I felt a panic attack coming on and immediately pushed the packet under a stack of junk mail and sent my husband a text with a sad face emoji.

Let’s back track a bit. My husband and I have been talking about kindergarten for a year. Should we send Ev to kindergarten in the fall or wait a year? I had worries like the size of the school and the amount of children. Older children. Who would be on the playground with my baby? Does Ev need to learn how to carry a lunch tray with plates of food balanced on top? Will I be able to walk Ev to his classroom or will I have to drop him off at the door?

All of this has been running through my head and it just felt like we weren’t ready. We struggled when thinking about Ev’s development. Cognitively he seems ready but socially and emotionally, not so much. We started asking ourselves questions like what’s more important—to stimulate his cognitive development or support his social emotional development? Other parents have told us that they wished they would have waited to send their child to kindergarten, but we have never heard someone say they wished they would have sent their child a year earlier.

On the surface this seems like an easy answer. Just wait a year. But it’s not that easy. We live in the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) district and we really want Ev to attend one of the magnet schools. Up until this year, that required camping out for two weeks because their registration for magnet schools was on a first come/first serve basis. But this year CPS changed the process. Since our minds weren’t made up yet we thought (like many parents I’m sure) what the heck? So we filled out the application and went on with our lives. CPS announced that they received a record breaking amount of applications and they were working on plans to have more seats in magnet schools but we counted ourselves out and just figured we would wait to send Ev to kindergarten another year.

He got in. He got a spot at our first choice. Since we don’t want to lose our spot at the school we decided to enroll him. The magnet school we chose is a Montessori-based program and the kindergarten also includes preschool-aged children. That reassures us that the teachers will be able to support Ev’s social and emotional needs while also providing the academic standards that we are looking for. And after that year if we feel like he isn’t ready for first grade, we won’t send him; whether that means keeping him in the same room another year or sending him to a private school for a year.

I feel confident in this decision. But when that registration paperwork came in the mail, it just made it real. My baby is going to kindergarten in six months. He is ready. But that doesn’t mean I am.


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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.