Put a Bib on It


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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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At a Loss for Words

preschooler makes dinnerI never realized how many times I would literally be at a loss for what to do as a parent. So often, Ev does something and I don’t know what to do or even say. For example, the other morning I was sitting at the table working on the grocery list for the week. Ev approached me and asked if he could make “soup” next to me. I didn’t see anything wrong with that so I said, “Sure.”

He proceeded to get a bowl and spoon out of the cupboard in the kitchen. Then he asked if he could get his “ingredients” for which I again, obliged. He started with salad dressings from the fridge: balsamic vinaigrette and thousand island. He continually brought more ingredients out, occasionally asking me for help to take off a lid or squeeze a bottle. He included caramel syrup and honey, two raw eggs and mustard to name a few. He remembered out loud that “grown-ups like salad” and went outside to pick some leaves to add to the “dinner” as he was now calling it. All this time, I was amused and even impressed with Ev’s concoction, not to mention I was able to work on my grocery list and other chores while he was busy. I did assume I was going to have to try it, which I was willing to do (and bracing for).

When Ev was finished, he asked to put the “dinner” in a casserole dish and bake it in the oven. Again, I allowed for it and told him the oven would have to pre-heat and it would take a long time and we should probably just be done. That’s when I realized the activity had snowballed into a territory I wasn’t prepared for. When I mentioned being done, he immediately looked disappointed. He said it was dinner and he wanted us all to eat it. He asked if I could put it in the microwave so it would cook faster. I said yes, put it in for three minutes, took it out and set it on the stove to cool, all the while wondering how I was going help Ev find closure on this without hurting his feelings.

The “dinner” sat out on the stove all day. He worked very hard on it and I could tell he was proud of himself. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was uneatable. I did not know what to do. In the end, I did what any self respecting mom would do—and let his dad handle it. My husband explained to Ev at bedtime that we couldn’t eat the “dinner” and it would probably be disposed of by the morning. And Ev seemingly handled it fine.

There is just no way to be fully prepared when you are a parent. In fact, sometimes I feel more out of control than in control. And there is always something causing me to wonder what the best parenting move is to make. I feel pretty confident that my husband and I are both decent parents, but it would be nice if Ev didn’t “keep us on our toes” all the time.


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Great-grandpa

great-grandpa

Though he’s young and hadn’t had a lot of interaction with his great-grandpa, my son still needs to process through this loss.

My husband and I went through something recently that we weren’t quite prepared for. (When it comes to parenting, when are you ever truly prepared? That’s a big, fat “never”). Sadly, my husband’s maternal grandpa passed away and we weren’t quite sure how to handle it with Ev. We had a lot to consider when trying to make the best decision for Ev because we wanted to allow him to say his “good-bye”. My mother-in-law’s family is huge and time spent together is highly valued. They planned to have two visitations and funeral service, then the funeral. As soon as plans were made my husband and I started wondering what we should do.

Question number one—would we take Ev to the visitations? All of the family would be there together and it seemed that Ev should be there as part of the family. I also knew that my mother-in-law likes us all to be together, and as part of supporting her during this time of loss, I wondered if I should bring him. Also, if we chose not to bring Ev, who would care for him? Most of the people we trust enough to care for Ev were going to be attending the funeral services and we would never ask them to choose otherwise. All of this weighed against the reasons not to bring Ev. He is at the age where he doesn’t quite know the difference between what’s real and what’s not. He is also a thinker and a worrier. The visitations were “open-casket” and I knew there was no getting around Ev seeing his great-grandpa like that if we were to enter the building. If he were a little younger, he may have run around, up and down that place without ever realizing what was happening. And if he were a little older I may feel more confident about his ability to think through what happened to his great-grandpa and what was happening at the visitation (and my ability to explain it). Not to mention that these services are typically a somber, quiet experience and Ev is anything but. As with all tough decisions I enlisted the advice of other parents. And as with all parenting advice everyone had something different to say that worked for their families.

When it came down to it, I really just had to go with my gut. In the end, Ev did not come with us to the visitations. Thankfully, two of our friends who have kids of their own jumped at the opportunity to help us out. My husband and I were able to give all of our attention and energy to the family and each other—and Ev had a blast with friends he doesn’t get to see that often, since they live out town. We did decide to take him to the funeral service and funeral. When we told Ev what happened, that his great-grandpa had passed away, he did have lots of questions. He was worried it hurt when his great-grandpa died and we told Ev he kind-of fell asleep (And then Ev was worried if he fell asleep he would die). He was also worried about his grandma when we told him that was her dad. He asked if she was sad. I told him that she was but that’s why we’re all together—to help each other. Ev wasn’t very close to his great-grandpa since he didn’t see him that often. We were able to visit recently before he passed away, so Ev was able to recall his great-grandpa when we talked about him. I feel fine about our choice to bring Ev to the funeral. It gave us the opportunity to talk about a new kind of experience that would be hard to talk about if he weren’t experiencing it first hand. There are always tough decisions about what is best for our children and when you follow what you think to be true for your own family, you really can’t go wrong.


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How to Survive Post-Op With a Young Child

How do you survive post-op with a young child?We are on the other side of Ev’s surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids and I am very pleased to say that we survived relatively unscathed. At the pre-operation with the surgeon, he told us that the recovery period lasted a minimal ten days. Ten. Days. That part alone blew my mind. I had no idea. It meant dividing up time off work between the two of us and seeking coverage from family and friends for gaps. He also told us that we will have to bring out our “best parenting skills” because with children as young as Ev recovering from surgery, many issues arise. Some examples he gave were making sure he ate and drank enough to stay hydrated, and should stay pretty low key activity-wise. I heard some horror stories from other parents, and warnings that the recovery wasn’t pretty and very painful (literally for the patient and figuratively for the parents).

We really braced for the worst. Other then what you would expect from an uncomfortable 4-year-old, for the most part, everything went smoothly. So here are my five tips for surviving post-operation with a young child. These might also apply to life in general, but especially helped us during this time:

  1. Pick your battles. Ev was very uncomfortable at times, making him irritable, so we didn’t battle over anything unless it was absolutely necessary. We decided to let him eat anything he wanted to eat. Period. Generally, this was fine because his go-tos were jell-o, apple sauce and smoothies (made with frozen fruit, Greek yogurt and honey), but there were a couple of days when all Ev wanted was ice cream and we let him have it. There were other times when we weren’t so flexible, such as fighting with him to take his pain meds.
  2. Present a united front. I told Ev he couldn’t go outside and play when I was with him. (It was too good an opportunity for his energy level to rise and I worried about something bad happening like his wounds starting to bleed). I was very sure to pass that message along to my husband, knowing full well that Ev would ask him the moment I was out of the building. The more consistent we were, the more Ev knew exactly what to expect, which helped decrease the possibility and/or level of irritability.
  3. Sleep when the patient sleeps. Remember back when our little ones were brand new infants and everyone told us to sleep when the baby is sleeping and we didn’t listen? Well, this situation is similar. Except, do it, this time, if you have a sick or recovering child in your care. I’d argue that our roughest points were during the night. Ev would wake up in pain because his mouth had dried out and/or his pain meds wore off and often it would take a bit for him to fall back asleep. That threw off his sleep schedule and he took long naps during the day. I did too. And I’m grateful I did so that I was rested and therefore more compassionate during Ev’s wakening hours.
  4. Be prepared. Stock up on soft foods such as apple sauce, yogurt, jell-o, pudding, ice cream, scrambled eggs (Ev ate a TON of scrambled eggs). We also got some cheap indoor activities, such as coloring/sticker books, crayons and play doh. We rented some movies Ev hadn’t seen yet from the library. Granted, most of these items are specific to a tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy but for all ailing young children, the more you can have on hand, the less stress it will cause because you won’t have to run out or make do with what you have. That being said, there are just some things you can’t prepare for.
  5. Get out of the house. This one is two-fold. I got Ev out of the house as soon as he was showing some improvement because his illness started turning into cabin fever. Our trip was to Target because even though I did my best to be prepared and buy several bottles of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, Ev started refusing it and I needed to get a chewable version. But also, you as the caregivers should try to get out of the house for a bit to recalibrate and spend some non-patient directed time together or alone. In both cases, it goes a long way to keep moods lifted.


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Only Child

Our family feels complete with just one child. And I'm okay with that.I have been thinking a lot lately about the possibility of having another child. In large part, that is because I get the question ALL. THE. TIME.

“About time for another,” they say.

“Doesn’t Ev want a sister or brother?”

Ugh. It stresses me out thinking about it. I am “no spring chicken” as my mother says, but a) rude and b) it’s 2015. Having all of your babies popped out by the time you are 35 is a thing of the past. I realize that the complication risks go up as I age, but I just don’t feel like I need to make that decision right this second.

And if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure I want another.

Ever.

There, I said it. I know that the readership of this blog just took a collective gasp at the thought of intentionally choosing to have only one child, but it’s true for me right now. I also know lots of folks are wondering why. Those closest to me know that I’ve talked about having lots of children most of my life and are wondering what changed. Well, the biggest answer to that question is that what changed is that I became a parent. I know what to expect and to expect the unexpected. There is so much to parenthood that doesn’t go according to plan, or according to my needs and my schedule, so many illnesses, unforeseen costs, sleepless nights (read: weeks), irrational fears, etc. Ev is at such an independent place, too. The thought of starting over seems overwhelming right now.

There is a tiny piece of me that worries that I should have another child for Ev; that I am being a selfish parent by not giving him a sibling to play with and help care for. I find justification in child care. The boy has been in child care since he was nine weeks old. He has had to share things, including attention, his whole life. His social development is arguably right on track. (I say arguable because there’s a good chance he’s pushed another child while I’m writing this.)

There is also my husband. We had always talked about having more than one child, or at least attempt one more time to try and have a girl. I was worrying over talking with him about my change of heart, but it just so happens that he was feeling the same way.

I said, “What happens if we wake up one day and regret we never had another child but it’s too late?”

His reply?

“We’ll adopt.”

Please don’t get me wrong: the joys of parenthood far out weight the tribulations. I cannot imagine my life without my son. I love him so much it hurts. I know that there is never a good time to add to the family and that having another child just adds that much more joy. But, I think our family feels complete. And until I start feeling incomplete, I’m not ready to make any changes.


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Great Expectations

Ev was at least really proud of his artwork and I was, too.

Ev was at least really proud of his artwork and I was, too.

The first rule of parenting is that things never go as they are planned.

I got an invitation to my son’s preschool art show, where he would be performing and also have some art displayed. I got really excited. The early childhood educator in me had some doubts, of course, and I think in the pit of my stomach I had uncertainty. But the mommy in me was excited and hopeful to see my little boy on stage singing for an audience. I know that putting kids on a big stage in front of lots of people is not the best way to build their social-emotional competence, but I also know it’s pretty darn cute. So what if there are children crying if I can see my son in his white space t-shirt that he painted himself?

Ev was excited, too. He started talking about it a couple weeks prior, practicing his songs at home and talking about the stage. I told myself if he was excited, then I was allowed to be excited.

The evening of the event, my husband and I found our seats, ready for the show. Another classroom from Ev’s preschool went first and as they were singing I noticed teachers from Ev’s classroom coming into the auditorium to grab parents whose children were getting upset. I smiled sympathetically and redirected my attention to the show, getting my camera ready to capture Ev’s big moment.

Ev’s classroom started making their way to the stage and I saw him walk out with a teacher. The children started finding their spots and a child started crying. My child. At first he just stood there and cried, seemingly looking for me or my husband. I got very uncomfortable. Not because I was bummed he wasn’t singing, but because he looked scared and I was getting sad and anxious for him. One of the administrators from the program walked out to grab Ev and I hopped up. I found my way to the back of the stage because all I wanted to do was find him and tell him it was going to be okay. As soon as I got to him, he grabbed on to me tight and I asked if he wanted to watch from our seats, which he did. We watched his classmates sing and by the last song that included all of the classrooms, Ev was ready to go back on stage.

Parenting is all about being flexible and adjusting to what happens. I have ideas of how I think things should go, but in reality it always goes differently. For me, as much as I wanted to see my son on stage, Ev’s feelings were more important. It didn’t matter that every other child in the class sang, my child didn’t want to. I was still super proud of him for trying, and for going back up at the end.