Patience Young Grasshopper

As any parent of a toddler knows, patience is a virtue. However, we also know that patience is sometimes the first thing to go, especially on those particularly challenging days. But when we let that patience slip, it begins a vicious cycle. You see, toddlers follow their parent’s lead. When you lose patience with your toddler, you begin to see a spike in your toddler’s own impatience, which then leads back in to your own frustration, and it goes on an on.

One time when my girls were much younger, I woke up with a headache. That’s always the worst time to have a headache, or any kind of pain for that matter, when you first wake up, because that is the one time of the day where you should be able to count on feeling refreshed, bright-eyed and bushy tailed. In any case, this particular morning, my body was deciding not to cooperate with me. Then on top of that, my younger daughter, Nai, was teething, and, Isy, my toddler, was having what I will call a ‘spirited’ day. I had already put some teething gel on Nai’s gums, and was now bouncing her on my hip trying to get her to calm down. Isy chose that particular moment to start running around my legs in some frenzied orbit, while screaming her ABCs at the top of her lungs. It was just too much all at once. I took a deep breath and I calmly asked Isy to use her inside voice and slow down. You would have thought I had just told the world’s funniest joke, because she went on to remix her ABCs with this high pitched, maniacal giggle. I took another deep breath and said, “Isy, I am going to count to three, if you are not using your inside voice, and if your little butt is not sitting on the floor, you’re going on time-out.” But it was too late, she had worked herself up the way that toddler’s do and it was as if my words were trying to permeate a giant orb surrounding her.
Then I snapped. I yelled (actually, by that point it was probably more like screech). “SIT DOWN ON THIS FLOOR RIGHT NOW AND DON’T YOU MAKE A SOUND, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!?” All at once the little bubble around her popped and she froze. She looked up and me and said, “Yes mommy,” and sat down on the floor. At first I thought, Thank God, I got through to her, but then I looked at her face, and the guilt started to creep up. There’s nothing like seeing sadness in your child’s eyes. Some people can’t stand to see their children cry, and while I agree that that’s no picnic, I feel far worse when Isy doesn’t shed a single tear, but I can still see pain on her face. It looks like a sadness that she should be far too young to feel. Knowing that I’m the one that’s caused that sadness is pretty close to unbearable.
Later that day I was sitting in the kitchen feeding Nai in her high chair and Isy was playing in her room. I kept thinking I heard someone yelling, but I figured it was coming from outside or down the hall. Finally, I sprinkled some Cheerios on Naomi’s tray to occupy her for a few moments and I headed down the hallway towards Isy’s room. I realized she was the one yelling… seemingly at someone, but there was no one else in the house. I tiptoed toward her door and peeked in the room. She was yelling at one of her dolls, and this is what she said, “NO! NO! DON’T YOU EVER, EVER AGAIN! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!?” My hand flew to my mouth. This is what I sound like to my child. I walked in and I asked her, “Baby, why are you talking to your doll like that?” and she said, “Because she’s misbehaving” I told her, ” It’s not nice to yell baby, I know mommy yells sometimes, but I shouldn’t. I’ll try not to yell so much, ok?” She said ok, and I though that was that, but it wasn’t. For the rest of the day, I noticed Isy had an extra short fuse. When she was playing with blocks, and one of the blocks fell, she knocked over the whole pile and scowled. While she is usually very patient with her baby sister, that day she just didn’t want to be bothered with her.
I wondered, could all of this have stemmed from me losing my patience with her earlier? And I honestly think it did. The same way that our children learn to walk and talk from us, they also learn how to behave from watching us. It is important that we be the best, not just parents, but people, that we can be because our children are always watching. We can’t expect them to do as we say and not as we do, because as cliche as it sounds, actions speak louder than words, and our children will follow our example.
Advertisements

Let Your Kids Cry

The other day I saw an article on Facebook about the benefits of spanking your children. Upon further investigation it was actually refuting these so-called benefits. I shared the article with the following comment:

“In my humble opinion, as parents we can not expect more from our children than we expect from ourselves, and actions speak a lot louder than words when it comes to shaping the adults our children will become. We can not tell our children “use your words” if we ourselves are resorting to hitting. We can not tell them to keep their hands to themselves, when we are putting our hands on them. We can not tell them to treat others as they would like to be treated and hit them, knowing full well we wouldn’t appreciate someone hitting us.”

I wholeheartedly believe it is far more important to let people feel what they feel, rather than suppress those feelings and that goes for little people especially. I posted an article a few days ago about why it is important for adults to own their emotions, but I don’t think this is advice that is exclusive to grown ups. Children are people too, and as stated above I do not think we should have harsher standards for them than we do for ourselves. Kids have rough days. Kids get their feelings hurt. Kids sometimes feel sad and can’t place their finger on what exactly is the matter. Without meaning to, I think parents can sometimes trivialize their children’s emotions because compared to an adult’s their problems are “small.” But, how would we feel if when we were having a bad day, someone belittled us for feeling the way we were feeling because they felt our problems small by comparison?

sadchild

When our children are experiencing more challenging emotions, those feelings are just as real as our adult ones. In those moments our children don’t need us to tell them to pull themselves up by their boot straps, or be made to feel like their hurt is invalid. They need us to be there with them. They need us to guide them through what they’re feeling, and they need to learn how to express those emotions in healthy, productive ways.

So, when I say let them cry, much like the article I wrote for adults, I do not mean let them wallow. I do not mean let them go into a rage or dissolve into self-pity. I mean, give them a moment to process their feelings. Give them the space to express themselves emotionally. Show them that you respect their experience. And then teach them how to go forward.

 

Nannies, and Au Pairs and Daycares, Oh My!

If you work outside the home, before your child is school age and you have to begin considering public or private, Montessori or Waldorf, there is a whole wide world of childcare options for newborns, infants and toddlers you must dive into. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you make some sense of it.

MaryPoppins

Option 1: Nanny

A nanny is typically someone with a breadth of childcare experience that may or may not come to live with you, but takes care of your child in the home. A nanny is generally someone who has, and may continue to make a career out of childcare.

Pros: The nanny’s sole focus is your child(children). If you have one child, there is a 1:1 ratio between your child and the provider. Nannies generally have lots of childcare experience, as nannying is/has been there profession. Your child also has the added benefit of getting to be in their home, with their things, where they are, perceivably most comfortable.

Cons: You are putting a lot of faith in one person (many times a person you did not know previously, read: a stranger) to come into your home and care for your child. Parental paranoia (albeit somewhat justified) about how children were truly being treated in the absence of their parents spurred the invention of the “nanny-cam.” Now, whether or not you choose to install cameras is a personal preference, but I would definitely suggest not only calling a host of references, but if possible, visiting with a family or two on your intended nanny’s former client list.

Option 2: Au pair

At first glance an au pair seems very similar to a nanny. However, there are a few distinct differences. An au pair is generally pretty young – between the ages of 18-26, and comes to live with you for a year as part of a cultural exchange.

Pros: Your child has most of the benefits they would have being cared for by a nanny (see above), with the added benefit, of the “cultural exchange.” Many parents ask that their au pair teach their child a second (or third) language during their stay with their family. Au pairs also tend to be a more affordable option, than nannies.

Cons: Along with the cons listed above for nannies, au pairs usually only have basic childcare experience, so that lack of experience can serve as a drawback.

Option 3: Family Member

I think the definition of “family member” is pretty self explanatory.

Pros: Again your child has the benefit of getting to be in their home, with their things. And you don’t have to worry about the “stranger danger” aspect of hiring a nanny, because your family member (I’m assuming) is someone you trust. Having a family member watch your child is usually more affordable (sometimes even free) than hiring a nanny or even an au pair.

Cons: It can be harder to “lay down the law” with a family member. With a nanny and even an au pair, your have an employee-employer relationship, which can sometimes make it easier to be very explicit about the dos and don’ts within your household. The family member relationship can be a little harder to navigate when you are not seeing eye-to-eye on an aspect of your child’s care.

Option 4: On-site Daycare

This kind of care is job-specific. There are companies that offer “on-site” childcare, which is a center with multiple children and the appropriate number of providers according to state provider:child ratio regulations, that is offered on location where you work. Day care centers typically offer loose structure (that becomes more formal the older the child is) with supervised free play.

Pros: Many on-site childcare facilities are subsidized by your employer, so the fee you pay is at a reduced rate, and day-care in general is less expensive than having a nanny or au pair. There is also the bonus of being able to “reach out and touch” your child. You will need to check the policies of the particular facility, but there are some on-site daycares that don’t mind if visit your child during the day, for instance on your lunch hour. One more benefit is that your child, when developmentally able, gets to socialize with other children while you are working.

Cons: The cons for on-site daycare (or any daycare) are the opposite of the pros for using a nanny. Your child does not get the benefit of being in their own home, and their provider’s attention will be divided between your child and the other children in the center.

Option 5: Off-site Daycare

Off-site daycare is the same as on-site daycare, only, as the name indicates, it is offered in a location separate from where you work.

Pros: Just like with on-site daycare, your child gets to socialize with other children while you are working.

Cons: In addition to the cons listed above for on-site daycare, there is also the added cost of off-site daycare (as compared to on-site), though some employers offer a child care benefit, and daycare tends to still be a more affordable option than having a nannie or au pair. When using an off-site daycare, you do not generally have the option of seeing your child during your work day, and you must also consider how far the day-care is from your job in cases of emergency, and also the time it will add to your morning/evening commute.

When it really comes down to it, no one option is better than another. It really just depends on what you and your baby are most comfortable with. Take time to explore your options, and trust your instincts!

Where do Babies Come From

One day I was walking home from my in-laws house. I was pushing my infant daughter in the stroller and my toddler was walking beside me. The baby had fallen asleep and my toddler was deep into one of the complex, somewhat hard to follow, stories she loves to tell me on walks like those. All of a sudden she stopped in the middle of her story and asked me, “Mom-Mom, where do babies come from?” I was floored. After all she was only 2 and a half years old. I figured I had at least a couple years before I was going to have to handle that question. She stared up at me, as if to say, ‘I’m waiting, let’s see what you got.’ I took a deep breath and went for it. “Well baby-cakes, when a mommy and a Papi really love each other, the Papi plants a seed inside the Mommy’s tummy and it grows into a baby. After nine months when the baby is ready to come out, the Mommy pushes really hard and the baby comes out of her toto (toto=vagina in our house).”She squinted her eyes at me and said, “So, you pushed meout of your toto?””Yes,”I said.”And baby sister too?” she asked.”Yes,” I said.”Welllll, I pushed you out of my toto,” she said.All at once the apprehension I felt, the minute that ominous question was asked, was gone. I burst out laughing. She smiled. “What?” she said. I went on the explain to her that I was her mother, and she was my child and mommies are the ones who do the pushing.Some people may think I’m crazy for telling a two-year-old where babies come from. Many people I have talked to say that I should have just told her, I’ll explain it to you when you’re older, but I just don’t agree. When it comes to my toddler, I try to answer all of her questions as honestly as I possibly can. For me, it’s about finding an age appropriate, child appropriate version of the truth. My daughter has recently been learning about plants and how they grow, so telling her that a baby grows like a seed is something that conceptually makes sense to her, and it is close enough to the truth, without getting into graphic details and breaking out charts of our anatomy, but not as far from the truth as say, the stork theory.Answering questions like, where do babies come from, doesn’t have to be daunting. Taking a stab at awkward, uncomfortable questions and topics like those, can be an exercise in your own creativity. And while in the moment that the question is asked, your breath is taken away, and you wonder if perhaps the world is going to stop turning if you dare to answer with a shred of honesty, I am here to tell you, time keeps ticking, and you survive to answer more breathtaking questions.

This and That

My oldest child’s first word was Dada. However, her father refuses to acknowledge that as a first word. He insists that all babies say Mama and Dada, so those two shouldn’t count. So, if we go with that idea, my daughter’s first word, was actually a set of words… This and That.

Just after she turned a year old, this and that became her world. For months she would point at everything and everyone and say “This” or “That.” At first it was cute. I would respond by telling her the actual name of the particular this or that she was pointing to, and she would smile and look very pleased with me, or perhaps with herself, I’m not quite sure. But this went on for months.

When she got to be around 16 months old, it began to feel tiresome to constantly label, this or that, especially when they were things I’d already named a thousand times over. I started to consider coming up with new or nonsensical names for the objects in question, but something inside told me it was probably seriously immoral to mislead my child in such a way, so I kept on keeping on, no matter how tedious it felt. Then something happened. One day, out of nowhere, my daughter started speaking in full sentences.

It was as if a light bulb went on in my mind. All that time my daughter had been asking me about this and that; she had really been banking words. All those months of: table, chair, door, sun, refrigerator, etcetera, etcetera, had not just been a test of my patience and willpower; my child had been learning. It was as if that day, she decided that she had enough words in her arsenal to say what she needed to say, and this and that came to a close.

Now, this is not to say she no longer asks me questions. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This and that may no longer be her questions of choice, but that is only because she has more sophisticated and multi-syllabic ways of drawing information out of me. No, no, the retirement of this and that did not mean the end of my question answering duties at all. All day long I continue to answer a barrage of queries, sometimes shot off rapid fire, as if she is testing my capabilities. The difference is that now, when I want to pretend I have selective hearing, and stop answering questions once I have reached my personal quota, I remember that day that my child started speaking in full sentences, seemingly out of nowhere, and I remind myself that she is storing up all the information I give her.

This knowledge gives me the brainpower to answer her as best as I can, as often as I can. I am by now means perfect though. There are days when I feel as though the onslaught of questions my toddler  throws at me, is some new form of torture and somewhere, someone is studying my reaction on tiny hidden cameras. So, I occasionally turn on my selective hearing and let questions go unanswered, but more often that not, unless I simply do not know, I rack my brain and come up with the answer that can best fill the pages of my toddler’s growing mental encyclopedia.