Put a Bib on It

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Stroller Etiquette

Stroller time!My wife and I enjoy getting out of the house when we can with our son. Strollers or buggies are one of the most useful tools that we have with us when we go out. There is great debate online around forward-facing versus rear-facing strollers, with a main concern being the ability to communicate with your child as you walk. We have a forward facing stroller and make a conscious effort to talk with him and narrate what we see and experience on the walk. Our son generally enjoys riding in his stroller as we explore the world. He must have an interesting perspective at that level as we roam around. If the weather is cold, we go out to large stores and malls.

Some days, however, the experience isn’t so great for the driver of this chariot. It is estimated that 13,000 children under the age of three are involved in stroller accidents each year. I didn’t realize how dangerous it can be. There are specific issues with the actual stroller, such as lack of supervision or not fastening the child. Both of these I have control over, however it didn’t take long to learn that there are no standard driving rules for other strollers, shopping carts, or surrounding pedestrians. In fact, there are times when other people are oblivious of their surroundings and it keeps us on our toes when we go out.

There are a lot of things to think about when we go for a stroll and getting through pedestrian traffic can be difficult. I often open the door for my wife and the stroller, but people quickly get through the opened door before she can navigate the doorway. Although occasionally someone holds the door for us, and we politely thank them each time. Shopping carts roam everywhere and can be a dangerous collision for a child. A stroller isn’t a shopping cart, so I am careful to keep extra space between us and the other “drivers.” I find that it could be easy to have some “stroller rage” from what appears to be inconsiderate people at times, but I try to focus on being patient. There is no need to rush through life with my little one. I want to soak in every moment that I can. Although, I would encourage everyone to share some kindness when you come across your next stroller. If we are all patient with one another, whether we’re casually walking through the park or busy shopping at the store, it will help us all to have a better day!

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Dad Days

Dad-DayMy son is adorable and I enjoy watching him laugh. Even after the long day at work I make it a point to spend quality time with him as soon as I can when I get home. He usually smiles and I feel like I’m a big toy for him: playing, talking and crawling around on the floor. I think it is good quality time which is important to establish a loving relationship. I get extra time on weekends and I usually get to greet him with a smile in the morning. As days and weeks go by I still don’t feel that it’s enough so I have decided that I am going to make a new set of holidays.

Welcome to the very important Dad Days at my house. My plan is for this amazing “holiday”  to happen throughout the year. It starts by taking a day off and making a big deal out of spending quality time with my son. As he gets older, the activities will change, but the importance of having quality parent time and allowing for some big kid time of my own are what matter on Dad Days. I didn’t have much of a relationship with my dad and now that he is gone I can’t fix that. What I can do is establish this relationship with my son so that when he is older we can talk and grow together.

My first Dad Day was on a Friday and we spent most of our day exploring our house on the floor. We also played with the dogs and read books and talked. I’m still unsure what my son is babbling about, but it is great to have eye contact and be engaged in each other’s presence. I only hope that the continuance of this holiday will establish a foundation for when he gets older.

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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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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.


Breastfeeding With an Audience

breastfeeding with an audienceThere is nothing quite like having a conversation about breastfeeding with an 8-year-old.

I’d just picked up Little Sister from her family child care provider. The daughter of one of her neighbors was playing outside and began asking me questions as I walked to my car. What was my name? What was my baby’s name? How old was she?

I was happy to oblige. Little Sister, not so much. While she’ll happily eat Cheerios and pears and peas, she largely refuses to drink milk from a bottle or cup. Consequently, I can’t get her settled for the drive home until she nurses.

As she fussed and tugged at my blouse, I explained to the girl that she was hungry and I needed to feed her.

“So she’s going to suck, like, right there?”

She pulled a sort of silly face and gestured with her hand at her own chest.

“She is,” I replied, trying not to make a big deal of it. If you’re a kid and you’ve never seen somebody nurse a baby before, it can seem pretty strange. I still think it’s odd sometimes, and this is my second baby.

But it was her next question that really made me smile.

“Was she born like that?”

“Yes. All babies can drink milk from their mama’s bodies or from a bottle. Some mamas choose to breastfeed and some choose to use a bottle.”

The nuances of supply and latch and the myriad other complications and considerations in that choice seemed like too much to get into, especially as there was nothing for it but to take a seat in my car and nurse Little Sister with an audience. I don’t typically like to regard her meals as teaching opportunities, but I do feel strongly that normalizing breastfeeding is important. It seems like most depictions of breastfeeding in broader culture are usually for shock value: problematic depictions of extended breastfeeding in Game of Thrones come to mind. It’s become normal for me, but this girl had no idea how it worked and was pretty obviously curious in a way only children can be. Even if I was a bit reluctant and embarrassed, I certainly wasn’t going to show it.

Because feeding my baby is nothing to be embarrassed about.

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Never Underestimate a Baby

never underestimate a babyI have this irrational fear that Little Sister is going to be loved the least.

Not that she won’t be loved, mind, but that she won’t be loved quite as much as her big sister.

It’s pretty challenging to outshine a walking cartoon, which is what Miss E is daily becoming. The conversations she has with herself make grown, stoic folk giggle. She dresses herself, so, no explanation required there. Miss E is just so intensely involved with the world and present in a way that a pensive, crawling girl sometimes gets a little sidelined.

In a recent conversation with my husband, we were talking about how much we love Little Sister, but also how different it is with a second child, another baby. My husband said we have “history” with Miss E, and it’s true. We’ve shared our lives with her in a way we haven’t yet with Little Sister, or are only just beginning to. I can see now that we weren’t complete without her, but it’s also such a strange dynamic, having experienced things in a big way with Miss E, to slow down and remember that life with a baby is a whole lot different.

I never thought it was strange that Miss E couldn’t talk when she was a baby, or feeling like she was perhaps missing out because of all of the things she couldn’t do yet. But sometimes I look at Little Sister, yammering around a mouthful of Cheerios or stubbornly scooting around the house after me and I think, it’s like she’s locked in. There’s stuff she wants to tell me and can’t. There’s things she wants to do and can’t. And because I’ve seen now what babies grow up to be and do, I have complicated feelings for her. Honestly, I feel a little sorry for her, which is just silly.

Because there’s another thing my husband said that truly resonates with me, and grounds me again in appreciating babies for who they are and what they CAN do: she’s experiencing the whole world, every little thing, for the first time. I loved observing that process with Miss E and I relish getting to see it all over again with Little Sister, too.

And she’s just as loved, likely more loved, because having done this before, I know now just how much I’ll miss this age, and all of the joys I have to look forward to.