Category Archives: parenting

What’s Your Resistance?

This is from a few years back but I just looked around and realized that it wasn’t on my blog! I’m not sure how that’s possible because it’s one of more favorite pieces of writing!  Thankfully I kept a copy and here it is:

So tonight I attended another “train the trainer” session in my journey to be certified to teach child care workers about infant mental health issues. During the session, the issue of resistance came up. We humans don’t like change. Everyone has some part of them that resists change. We went around the table and everyone said what it was about this process that they might be resisting. I didn’t have the same issues as everyone else, but I definitely have issues, don’t we all?

Anyway, I’m not really that worried about doing a good job because for one, having five children and a stubborn father in law to take care of, I let go of perfectionism long ago! Besides that, I just have a high opinion of myself and know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I’m also not too worried about translating a more reflective style of teaching into the lingo of hard scientific facts. I’m an unschooler after all. I can turn spending a day of jumping on the trampoline into educationalize. Trust me. I’ll post a sample later. My resistance is more of a paradigm issue. See, in my oh so humble opinion fixing the daycare system is like fixing war. You can’t fix it, the whole thing is just wrong. In my perfect world we would just toss daycare out the window entirely and everyone would be paid a living wage so that two incomes were not required for mere survival. Seriously, a one wage family in the fifties had the same earning power as a two wage family in the nineties. How’s that work? Prices go up at a much faster rate than wages. I would go so far as to say public school is nothing more than free child care so that both parents can work. I think our culture, despite all noises to the contrary, is very anti child, anti woman and anti family. It is not normal or natural to leave your infant in the care of strangers. What other animal on this planet would do that? It goes against all survival instincts that the child has to be separated from it’s parent. 

To top it all off these kids are being left in the care of workers paid minimum wage for the most part. Now, some long term workers have a true love for the children. Why else stay in it? But a lot of workers are there because they need little training and no education to do the job and it’s just a job to them. Being paid little and respected less, the stress of the job causes high turnover rates and low quality of care. Infants and toddlers, to whom proper attachment is paramount to survival and development, are constantly deprived of any consistency in their care. Recent studies show that children raised in daycare are more aggressive and have a harder time forming bonds than children who were not. The lack of proper training in daycare settings is staggering. Daycare policies often are contrary to best practices for healthy development of infants and children. Many workers WANT to do things differently but aren’t allowed. Many of the daycares that send their workers to trainings don’t attend themselves (owners, directors) so no real, sweeping change can be affected since those who hold the power aren’t learning the things that they really ought to know.

I know what I’m saying is politically incorrect and I don’t care because it is biologically correct, if we want to acknowledge that or not. I’m all for improving daycare because cognitively I know that what I want isn’t likely to happen. If only I were a billionaire who could endow grants to enable moms to stay at home. I know the economic realities of most families dictate many of their choices. But this is a failing of our community. This is a result of weakened family bonds and scattered families. When I was a child, if my mother had to work late, grandparents or an aunt or even a friend or neighbor stepped in.

We need to be supportive of stay at home parents and we need to emphasize real family values over material gain. Now, please don’t mistake me. I am by no means saying that women should not be allowed to work outside of the home. But I am saying that they should not be forced to by economic and societal pressures. That’s not a choice at all. Our senators children attend daycares with a ratio of about two kids per one adult. Wow! So why are our working families, the backbone of this country, having to settle for about one adult per 20 kids? Does anyone really think this is working? I have been criticized for having four children and asked how I can give them each individual attention and how I can possible home school three kids at one time? It makes me laugh. Really? In public schools there are about 25 kids per teacher and they want to know how I can possible handle three? Hmmmm.

I know all the arguments about “but MY daycare is a good one” and maybe it is. But I spend my work days going in and out of all of them and I see the differences in how things are done during drop off and pick up time as opposed to the big stretch of time when there are no parents watching. I’ve seen it.

Ive posted it before but it bears repeating:

I have so many things to say on this subject that I could fill up a hundred blogs but I guess what I need most now is to organize my thoughts so that I can articulate it in a way that will make sense to people and get them at least thinking. That would be a start.

Helicopter VS. Free Range Parenting

Today I realized that I trust my almost 14 and 12 year old with their siblings. Let me be more specific, as I was getting ready to take a quick shower, they wanted to go outside to play. I was ok with the older kids keeping an eye on their siblings, 9 and 5 for the ten minutes it would take me to shower. A year ago I wouldn’t have been and that got me thinking.

It got me thinking about how everyone has an opinion, how if I were to post it on face book, I would most likely get criticism from both sides. There would be those who say well come on! You should have given them a longer leash years ago, this helicopter parenting will cripple their emotional development. How will they grow into competent adults if you can’t leave them alone for 10 minutes in your own yard?

Then the other side, OMG, do you know what can happen in ten minutes? What if they ran into the road? What if a kidnapper came by? Anything can happen at any moment!

The thing is, they have a point. Both sides have valid arguments. Yes, children need to learn independence and self reliance as well as responsibility. And yes, any random thing can happen at any given time. So how do parents balance this? They seem to be two competing issues.

There is no simple, one size fits all answer. The best any parent can do is know their kids, know their environment and make the best choice possible for their family. We live in the county, down a private road. The odds of a stranger hanging around waiting to nab a child are just about nil. Traffic is also very, very light. And we have a fence around the yard. If we lived near a busy intersection, my decision may have been different.

Parents also have to know their child. Every child is different; one might be uber responsible at 10 while another is unreliable at 16. Don’t give me the “it’s the way they are raised” because anyone who has raised more than one can tell you that you can do the exact same thing with your kids and have them turn out wildly different. Because they have individual personalities. In fact, I would go as far as to say that you should NOT raise all your children exactly the same because what works for one does not work for the next. But that’s a subject for another post entirely.

The point is, you can’t judge another parent by your standard because you don’t know their kids and their situation. Not intimately. You may think your neighbor is a neglectful parent because their kids walk unattended to the park or you may think your sister is damaging her kids beyond repair with her helicopter parenting style. The truth is, you don’t know those kids the way the parents do. So you can’t judge. The best you can do is to know your own kids and make the best decisions possible for them.

Social Media and the Mommy Wars

I use to think that the “mommy wars” were either something made up by the media or something that had long since been laid to rest. After all, I had never encountered it.

I was 22 years old when I had my first baby and judging by the reactions of friends, family and the cashier at the grocery store, I was doing it all wrong. (When did it become socially acceptable for total strangers to get a vote on how you raise your child anyway?). I picked him up when he cried, so obviously he would be spoiled rotten with inadequate lung development. I didn’t spank him, so obviously he was heading for prison. He slept in the bed with us, so obviously we were heading for a divorce. Well, we did end up divorced, but that certainly wasn’t a causal factor! My current husband and I have raised and co-slept with four children, all healthy and well adjusted and our nearly 13 year old marriage is doing just fine thankyouverymuch!

There have always been and will always be difference of opinions on how to raise children, differences in backgrounds, culture and experiences that play into these decisions.  And parenting trends cycle around, by the way. I raise my children more like my grandmother did than my mother did. Part of that is the natural tendency to rebel and do things differently from our parents I’m sure. But just try telling someone hell bent on converting you and showing you the error of your parenting ways that they are involved in a “parenting trend”. That should get some heads to explode.

Look, I have very good reasons for the decisions that I make and I’m sure you do too. Maybe we match up on some ideas, maybe not so much on others. Here’s the thing, are you ready for this? THAT’S OK!!  Yes, it is! People are different, children are different. Even children with the exact same parents growing up in the exact same environment are different. And that’s OK too. It’s why what I do at my house might not look like what you do at your house. It doesn’t make one of us right and one of us wrong, it just makes us different.

It’s really been with the advent of Facebook and other social media that I’ve noticed, not just an increase, but an escalation in the so called mommy wars. Sitting behind a keyboard anonymously attacking and judging strangers is much easier than looking a friend, neighbor or sister in the eye and telling her that her kids are stupid and going to grow up to flip burgers, that’s she’s a horrible parent who should have her children taken away from her or that people like her should just die. Seem extreme? Yes, I agree and yet I’ve witnessed every one of these attacks online. No one would say that to someone in real life, no one. Especially not to someone they know and love, or at least like and respect.

It’s much harder to paint that mom that breastfeeds past the age of two, home-schools or doesn’t vaccinate her children as a ignorant, slobbering, red neck, sociopath when you’ve sat next to her in PTA meetings, had play dates with her perfectly well behaved and socialized children and watched her bring casseroles to a sick neighbor, take in that stray dog and run to the aid of other people’s children on the neighborhood playground. You might not understand why she makes some of the choices she does, but you accept that you are different and move on because you like her. Much easier to assume the stranger online who does those same things (and that you know nothing else about) is some kind of selfish monster who lives her life just to piss you off.

I guess the hardest part for me is understanding the seething hatred that seems to emanate so easily and quickly from other people over the simplest differences. Why does it matter if your sister in laws children attend public, private or home-school? How does that affect you in any way? I have a theory. I’ve come to the conclusion, based on my experiences and people I’ve interacted with, that those who are most angry and hostile over other peoples choices are the ones who are least secure in their own. Deep down they question their choices and instead of admitting that, they lash out. They have a pathological need to make anyone who makes different choices “wrong” in order to prove themselves “right” by comparison. The reality is, there is not right or wrong (as long as abuse isn’t involved). There’s just different.

I’m perfectly secure in my choices and it does not anger me nor threaten me in anyway for my friends and family members to make choices that are different than my own. I have friends who home school and friends who public school, they all love their children. I have friends who co-sleep and those who don’t, none of them are monsters who don’t care about their children. We need to not focus on the things that divide us, but the things that unite us and we need to support each other. If we can’t agree, it’s OK to disagree and failing that, it’s OK to delete negative people from your Facebook feed!

Bed Sharing, Why Can’t Frozen Sheets Come in King Size?

Here’s something you never consider when navigating all the myriad and complex parenting decision you must make on a daily basis. We have made many parenting choices that fall outside the mainstream. Two of them, in combination, have served to deprive my kids of cute bed sheets. No, really!

First, we have more than the expected 2.3 kids. We are a large family and that was on purpose. Yes, we know what causes that and we planned it that way! Second, we believe in sleep sharing. Over the years that has taken many forms. My first child was 11 years old before he got a sibling. As an infant he slept with me in the adult bed and as an older child he came in and out of the bed as he desired. Bedroom doors were always left open at night.

Then came child number two, but her older brother was pretty much sleeping on his own by then, no problem. Child three showed up while child two was still in the family bed. By child four we knew something had to change! For many months, my poor husband would end up kicked out of the bed by wiggly children and move to his recliner in the living room. Not ideal. By the time number five arrived we had gotten creative. Two queen sized beds shoved side by side worked to accommodate everyone nicely and we did this for several years.

As they have gotten older, they don’t always want to sleep with mom and dad, but still don’t want to sleep alone. Even the 17 year old says it’s harder to fall asleep and she doesn’t sleep as well when the 11 year old isn’t in the room with her. They have a loft bed that no one uses, they sleep together in the queen bed under the loft.

My nine year old sprawls out and likes the bed to himself, but only if it’s the full sized bed that has been moved into his brothers room so he is still near others. The bunk beds in his room sit unused. In the seven year old’s room are the full sized bed used by his brother and the queen sized bed he sleeps in with his two year old sister (and most nights me as well). The two year old doesn’t even have her own bed. We know it won’t get used yet. We have time. We have never used a crib and by number three stopped putting one up.

I know not everyone agrees with sleep sharing but there is ample research to support it as a healthy habit that builds emotionally well adjusted children. Regardless, it works for us. My only complaint is that in our quest for comfortable sleep that accommodates multiple people, all of my children have large, adult sized beds. Which is fine, except when they want Dora or Thomas sheets for their beds. They just don’t make those cute kid sheets in larger sizes. Trust me, I’ve looked!

Don’t get me wrong, the loft bed has Dora and the bunk beds have Mario and How to Train Your Dragon, respectively. But the beds they actually sleep in? Not so much. It’s not a big deal, just another reminder that we function outside the expected, outside the mainstream. Because apparently not one marketeer anywhere ever thought, Hey, we should totally make some king sized Frozen sheets! Because I gotta tell you, I would totally buy those!

Good books for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Review for Go Away, Big Green Monster!

Great book for empowering children to cope with their fears

My pick of the day is “Go Away, Big Green Monster!” by Ed Emberley. This book delights toddlers and preschoolers alike with It’s rich colors and unique style. It is a fabulously empowering experience that teaches children that they have power over their fears. It’s also great for teaching colors and body parts as it uses repetition to reinforce those concepts. It’s sure to get a giggle and a “read it again!” from the two year old set. With a creative use of colors and cutouts, this book will quickly become a favorite!  Those giggles at the end are the child’s delight in discovering they have the power to direct their monsters to go away and stay away.

Having a Large Family

Want or have a large family? Worried about or tired of hearing people say you are overpopulating the earth?

First thing you should consider is that there are manybenefits to having a large family. From conflict resolution to recycling, having a large family provides many benefits to both the children and the environment. That’s right, the environment. Many large families have smaller carbon footprints than smaller ones. How is that possible? Well, first of all, there are many things that large families have found they can live without. From making thier own clothes or usign cloth diapers, many large families are very eco concious.

There are many items that you only need one of, regardless of number of children, luxury items like TV’s and video game consols are shared items. Cloths and toys get handed down and reused. Rooms can be shared. The assumption that you must need individual rooms, computers, etc for each child is an idea based on a materialistic culture. Children from large families have an advantage of learning wants from needs early, of sharing, of cooperation. Not that only children or smaller families can’t have these things, by any means. It’s simply that children in large families learn these lessons early through necessity.

Having a large family forces the parents to engage the children in all household duties. In smaller families, it sometimes seems easier and quicker for a parent to just do the clean up, for the sake of saving time and sanity. The larger the family, however, the less this strategy works. Most parents find that engaging the entire family in household duties considerably lightens the load on any one person and contributes to the child’s sense of responsibility.

The second thing to consider is this. In the U.S. we are currently experinacing declining birth rates. If you consider the world at large, there is an actual population decline. Yes, that’s right, a decline. While sustainability is definately an issue to consider, any given family that has more than two children are not really contributing to over population.

Large families today often face discrimination and hostility. Look at one of the most famous large families in America, The Duggars. The are often attacked and criticized as a drain on society even though the family is not on welfare and they live debt free. How many people can say that?

Big families seem to be making a comeback and there are now many websites and blogs dedicated to advice, support and witty remarks to give back to those with negative comments. You can even buy a t-shirt.

In the end, the decision belongs to the parents and no one else.Image

Thank You, Kindergarten Teacher, for Breastfeeding

Looking back, I have to wonder where I got my desire and my determination to breastfeed my children. I did not get it from my family.

Don’t get me wrong, my family is wonderful!  But they were misinformed. My mother was told by her doctor that formula was better and she wanted to do what was better. I never saw a baby breastfed until I was a teenager and a lady a few rows in front of me at church nursed her baby during the sermon. I remember being slightly horrified that she was half undressed in church of all places. At the same time, fascinated. I am so glad that I saw that and saw that no one blinked an eye at it, that it was an acceptable thing to do. The first I time I breastfed in public, I thought of her.  But that was not my first introduction to breastfeeding.

I remember clearly being six years old and having a new baby brother. My grandfather took me daily to the hospital to visit my mother and new brother. Then one day, after visiting the hospital, he took me shopping with him. We had to get ready for my mom and the baby to come home. As we were buying bottles I thought I’d amaze him with my intelligence by reciting the fact that mommies didn’t need bottles to feed babies, they can make their own milk! I was proud of my knowledge. I was confused by his reaction, which was to tell me not to worry, I would never have to do that as long as he was alive!

I loved my grandfather and I could tell that he felt strongly about this and that he thought he was protecting and taking care of me, reassuring me with that statement. He obviously thought it was something that no woman would want to do, should have to do. I’m sure he was in the majority of his generation with that thinking. So the question remains: where did I get that knowledge? Where did I learn that breastfeeding was possible and desirable? I honestly can’t remember. For years this was a mystery to me. I remember silently knowing that he was wrong, but I didn’t want to say so. Someone somewhere obviously gave me a different perspective. But who? And when?

Then one day I remember my kindergarten teacher. No, I don’t remember her talking about breastfeeding, but I remember that she was pregnant and I vaguely remember that she talked to us frankly about it and answered all our questions.  I remember the substitute coming by to meet us prior to her maternity leave. We liked her, she made us popcorn. I remember our teacher stopping by with the new baby, I remember gathering around and looking at the baby.

While I can’t say for sure it was her, I suspect it was. I can’t imagine where else, who else it could have been. I was so very young that the specifics of any given conversation have long been forgotten. I can’t even remember her name.  And yet, that seed was planted and for that, I am eternally grateful.  Someday, when my children are old enough to understand the incredible gift that breastfeeding is, they too will be grateful.

I have often wondered if I would have even thought to breastfeed my children without having had the idea introduced to me, in a positive way, somewhere. Had I had only examples of people who viewed it in a negative light, would I have even thought to question it? That is why it is so incredibly important to me to be open about it, to be an advocate for it and to be visible with it. Just in case there is a little girl somewhere watching or listening who needs that introduction.

Starting Solids

When to start solids is a common parenting question. The simple answer is, between four to six months of age. However, it’s really not that simple.

Each child is different and has cues that let parents know when they are ready to try solids. The first cue parents should look for is interest in foods. Does the child watch other people eat? Reach out to try and pick up a handful off someone’s plate? These things indicate interest.

Other cues are things like posture, tongue thrust, leaning forward and opening mouth. The child should be sitting up for food to go down the esophagus correctly. Tongue thrust should be gone. When the spoon comes near the mouth, if the tongue thrusts out and pushed the spoon away, this is an indication that the child is not ready.

A child who is interested in food, will lean forward toward the spoon as it approaches. Turning the head away or leaning away from it indicates the child is not ready. Opening the mouth in anticipation of the food is another good indicator that the child is ready.

Try finger foods that the child can feed to him or herself. This lets the child control what and how much goes in. Introduce foods one at a time so that if there is an allergic reaction to anything, it’s easy to tell what caused it.

Good first foods to offer are any of the baby cereals. Some baby’s tolerate the oatmeal better than the rice, though rice is traditionally offered first. Rice, Oatmeal or Barely are all good choices. Vegetables and fruits next. Baby jar food is fine, but some babies prefer regular table food mashed or blended. Homemade baby food can be made in a blender by adding breast milk, water or formula to vegetables or fruits and blending them. Meats should be introduced last.

Introducing solids before a baby is ready can cause tummy aches and constipation.

Parental Competition

How do you handle the “my child is smarter than yours” parental competition that crops up on playgrounds and in mothers groups across the country?

There is an amazing amount of competition among parents and many people see their children as extensions, or reflections, of themselves, therefore, they need their child to succeed to feel successful themselves. The problem with this is that it has nothing to do with the child’s needs and everything to do with the parent’s. For a parent struggling in a new role worried about doing right by their child, the pressure can be tremendous. It is crucial to realize that everyone develops in their own time but all arrive at the desired destination. When tests were done on early readers (age four) versus late readers (age eight) at age twelve, there was no difference in reading skills. So then why all the panic? Every child develops at their own pace. Children are not all cut from the same cookie cutter.

Want some good advice? Don’t play the game. When someone says that their child walked at six months, potty trained at eight months and was reading war and peace at age three, just smile and say, “Wow, he sounds really smart” or, “wow, that’s early”. Focus your comment on the child they are talking about and don’t volunteer anything about your own. If asked, use noncommittal responses such as, “We’re working on it”, “He’s focused on walking right now, we’ll get to it later” or “She isn’t that interested in the potty yet so we’re taking it slow”.

Certainly look into it if you feel that your child has a genuine delay. However, don’t let other parents or grandparents who are competitive undermine your confidence in yourself or your child. Just remember that you are giving your child the greatest developmental tool life has to offer: Your love and support, because children learn best when they feel safe and secure.

If you are interested in a developmental assessment for your child who is under three, please contact your local Early Childhood Intervention program.

Infant and Toddler Feeding Issues

Problems can sometimes arise when feeding infants and toddlers. Knowing what’s typical and what isn’t can help parents know when to consult with a doctor or dietician.

Understanding that it is typical, for instance, for two year olds to go on food jags or to sometimes be picky or light eaters, helps keep parents from undue panic.

Most children do not eat a balanced diet at any given meal. Instead, as long as the parents are offering a wide variety of healthy foods, children’s diet will be balanced over the course of a week. This may look like eating only grapes at one meal, nothing but chicken nuggets at another and only their favorite cereal for two days. At the end of the week though, that child has eaten from each food group.

If a child seems to have frequent constipation, diarrhea or vomiting, there may be an allergy or intolerance to one or more foods.

Waiting too late to introduce solids can also lead to a child who is resistant to having anything other milk go into his or her mouth. Typically, solids should be introduced around six months but not later than seven to ten.

Every child is different, some signs that your child is ready for solids are the ability to sit up, loss of tongue thrust which pushes food out of the mouth, and an interest in what you are eating.

Some children have sensory integration issues and need help learning to tolerate the different smells, tastes and textures that go along with eating.

While the child’s pediatrician is always a good resource, parents should be aware that Registered Dieticians are also available and have had much more extensive training on food and nutrition than doctors are given. They are an excellent but under used resource.