Put a Bib on It


Leave a comment

Child Rearing Is Personal

parenting-is-personalI am always worried whether what am I doing is BEST for my children. Society seems to have all these rules and expectations that we have to follow, but sometimes the “rules” are complete opposites of each other, depending on who you are talking to. Are these “rules” best practice for children or are they one person’s persuasive opinion?

  • Cloth Diaper or Disposable Diaper
  • Breastmilk or Formula
  • Cry it Out or Never let them Cry
  • Baby Wear or Stroller
  • Helicopter or Free Range Parenting

Child rearing is personal. I have close friends who choose different parenting techniques and strategies. In my opinion, there is not a 100 percent right way to child rear for everyone.  We don’t all choose to do it the same way. We make different decisions on things depending on our personal situation and our own personal research. In the end, I like to think that we all have the same goal: happy, healthy children.

Next time you are at a park or store and you see someone child rearing differently than you, I challenge you to try to assume the best. We’re not all the same, all our situations are not the same, and our children are not all the same. Thankfully, we live in a country where we can choose to do things differently than our neighbor or friend.

If you find yourself passionate about a particular aspect of child rearing, and feel you must share, find ways to share the information without sounding bossy, negative, or nasty. Once, when I was out with my boys, I actually had a mom approach me and, what felt like, demean me because I was pushing my young son in a stroller rather than “baby wearing” him. After my initial frustration and anger about her approach and condescending tone, I was able to search through her comments to find the positives (this isn’t an easy task): she’s passionate about her beliefs and is doing what she feels is right for children. I am absolutely not saying I am against baby wearing (because in certain circumstances and times I have made the choice that baby wearing would be the best for me and my children), what I am saying is that everyone is different and has different reasons for child rearing differently at different times.

Let’s assume that all people have their child’s best interest in mind at all times. And assume that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. To think parents never make mistakes is ludicrous; distractions happen, life happens, bad days happen. The world would be a much better place if we could rally together as parents (and humans) rather than rally against.


Leave a comment

Play With Everyone!

play-with-everyoneWhen I was growing up, I loved to play. I think that most kids do. I grew up in the country and had lots of long days playing outside. I have three brothers and although we didn’t always get along, playing together would eventually teach us how to get along with, take care of, and protect each other.

One activity I really enjoyed was Scouting. We played often at Scouting meetings and camp outs—while also learning a lot. Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, spoke of Scouting as a game with a purpose, and I have to admit I grew as a person even without knowing I was learning or developing character. I feel that like Scouting, play lets my son grow and learn to adapt to the world around him.

We took our son to play at the park and at a mall play area. It is so much fun watching him move around and choose where to go, what to do and who to play with. It is wonderful watching him explore with sand and water, although he is a mess when he is finished. He and I don’t seem to mind being messy.

He enjoys everything and everyone. He has a character and spirit that reminds me of my grandpa, who never met a stranger. He says hello and acknowledges everyone that he comes across. I wonder what he is thinking. Maybe “Wow, what should I do first?” Or, “Those kids look like new friends.” He tries keeping up with the big kids running and zooming down the slide, and then goes to greet every new parent and child that comes to play.

Many young children don’t seem to care who they play with—which is great! Thinking about recent events, it makes me wonder when society lost this open, non-judgmental friendliness. As children age, they sometimes begin not playing with others for a specific reason, and become exclusionary in who they play with. I can only guess that the reason this happens comes from experiences and what we learn from our parents. Young children of all nations, colors, and religions look past everything and seem to find the positive possibility of a play partner, new friend, or buddy even if just for a few moments. I hope to be able to foster openness to playing with anyone in my child as he grows up.

I’ve been accused of being a big kid even as an adult, and I hope that I can help shape my children’s learning through play like Scouting did for me. I wish my son never loses his character and continues to play, have fun, and enjoy learning from all of the people that he encounters in his life journey. Differences are something that make us special, and being friends with those who are different from us brings new experiences and learning so that we can all grow.


Leave a comment

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!

kindergarten1

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.


Leave a comment

Positive Risk Taking

PositiveRiskI want to raise children willing to take risks. The kind of risks I’m referring to are willingness to try or do things, even if they seem scary or overwhelming. I want my children to be confident in their abilities, even when faced with difficult circumstances or situations. I want my children to be willing to speak their minds and stand up for what they believe in. I want my children to know that I am completely supportive of them and are behind them (whether physically or philosophically, or both) in everything they do.

However, risk is something that can be difficult to teach. I have thought often about this, and have come up with a few things I do that I believe will help build confidence in my children.

Validate feelings. Whenever my children seem hesitant about experiencing something new, I always try to put what they are feeling into words for them. At library story time recently, they had a puppet show.  Afterwards, the librarians brought out the puppets for the children to meet. For whatever reason, Bryce (3) was hesitant to go up to meet and touch them. He clung to my leg, looking at me with eyes that made it clear he was nervous about approaching them. Rather than marking his fears as irrational and dragging him to the puppets, I reassured him and validated his feelings by saying, “I understand you feel nervous about going up to the puppets, we can go when you are ready.” We waited, watched all the other children go up to the puppets, all while talking about what the children that were visiting the puppets were experiencing. We talked about how the puppets were nice to everyone they met and how the children smiled as they said hello. As the line was dwindling down, he said he was ready.

Encourage and support, but don’t force.   Encouraging positive risk can start at a young age. In a world where safety seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, positive risk doesn’t mean “unsafe”. When we go to the park, I let Drew (10 months) climb up the stairs of the climbers and slide down the short slides. I never lift him (or Bryce) up onto something. If they want to be there, they will persist, acquire new skills, and grow confidence in their abilities. Their look of accomplishment is worth the wait!!

Avoid reasoning and bribing. Telling a child they are going to like it or that it is fun likely is not getting to the heart of the problem. Bribing children will likely not lead to overcoming the fear either. Providing reassurance that you are there to support them when they are ready to take whatever challenge they may be facing will help them to overcome their fear in order to take a risk.  In my house, we try to never bribe or reason when it comes to food.  We lead by example and talk through when one of our children are squeamish to try something.  We discuss how everyone is eating it and each of us talk about how it tastes. We never force any of our children to eat anything, yet all three children will always eat anything put in front of them.  In Florida, we all even tried alligator without having to persuade anyone!

Foster independence and exploration. Children are naturally curious.  At a park recently, Bryce saw a boy go up a climbing wall that was bigger than he had ever been on. I observed him watch the boy in amazement and awe as he scaled it to the top. I then watched him slowly approach the climber. I could see and sense his hesitation, but he continued to approach it. He looked back at me for support; even though I was a little nervous for him, I smiled and nodded in encouragement. Then he started up the wall. It took him awhile to navigate the wall, but he made it to the top. I could see the pride in his face as he turned around and smiled at me.

Acknowledge Success. Take time to acknowledge when children overcome fear and take a risk. Retell what occurred to help solidify in the children’s mind what occurred. After Bryce climbed the wall, I said, “You were nervous to climb that wall, but you did it and it was fun!” In the face of future challenges, your child will remember that he felt that way then, but it ended up okay.


6 Comments

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.


1 Comment

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.


Leave a comment

The Captain of Your Own Boat

BoatWe had a friend visit recently from Hawaii who is planning to sail around the world. We shared scouting and sailing stories for a while and as we sat he asked, “What it’s like being a dad?” Two things came to mind right away. First, I communicated that nothing else in my experience has been more rewarding, and being a parent has been such a blessing. Second, I shared the metaphor that being a dad was just like sailing and being the captain of your own boat. He nodded and knew exactly what I meant.

To be a good captain of a boat and to be able to sail around the world without many problems takes experience and practice. You prepare for the journey—not sure exactly how you will get there—but this is what you love and you know you can do it.

  • There are storms that you must face and long nights when you don’t get sleep. You need to budget all of your resources: sleep, money, time, and energy.
  • There are days that are easy when “the wind is strong” and you get a bunch of smiles and hugs. Some days have no wind and you’re stuck.
  • There are days when you feel like the work around the “boat” won’t ever be finished like the dishes or laundry.
  • You learn a lot about working together with the crew of a boat because they are your family. They might fight with you from time to time, but they are learning to really be independent and make their own decisions. Just like their captain has modeled and taught them.
  • The experiences will be so memorable that you could fill a hundred log books with memories.
  • Finally, the journey goes by so fast that you get to where you were going and he’s all grown up and ready to be captain of his own ship.

I don’t know what my parenting journey will bring as we move to the future, but I hope that I can be a good captain for my family. It was good to have a visitor come to our boat and remind me of what a blessing I have and the real responsibility that comes with being a dad. For now, I’m going to do my best to enjoy each day that I have with my crew.