Curiosity Comes With Apprehension

The following is a guest post from 4C for Children’s Director of Information Systems, Terri Alekzander.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." —Albert Einstein

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” —Albert Einstein

Full disclosure. I am not a parent. I am the adopted aunt to the children of many dear friends. I like to buy gifts that make noise, pretend swings are airplanes. And I love to build forts out of dining room furniture.

My friends know that their child will be returned safely, a little more dirty, but safe. Recently I had a chance to spend some time with eight-year-old twins, Logan and Seth. Fun, fun age. We went to a small local lake outside of Boston. After stowing our belongings on a blanket in the sand I headed for the water with both boys in tow. The afternoon was complete with a seamless blue sky and sunshine sparkling on the water. I’m chattering away and splashing toward the first line of buoys when I turn around to see how they are doing. They aren’t. They are standing at the edge of the water staring at me as if I’ve crossed into some unknown world. My heart sank.

“Come on, guys. The water’s not cold,”

“We can’t swim.”

“Can’t swim? But I’ve seen pictures of you swimming.”

“That’s in a pool. We don’t know how to swim in a lake.”

At first I wanted to wave my hand at them and tell them how silly they were being. Water is water. Swimming is swimming. Come on, this was fun. Swimming in a lake opens up a whole world of possibilities for finding rocks, bits of shell, decaying logs and what not. But in front of me were these tiny little guys in swim trunks, wiggling their toes in the brown sand, hugging their arms across their chests. This was different. I waded back to them and sat down on the sand.

After only a few minutes of exploring the sand and its contents which included rocks, twigs and leaves, they were ankle-deep in the water and noticing small fish swimming around their legs. We were making progress, but the pièce de résistance was when I lost my footing and landed on my behind in the water. The splashing commenced. Now with a common target, they forgot their apprehension about the unusual stuff beneath their feet and set about making sure that I was completely soaked. Mind you I was wearing shorts that I rolled up. I hadn’t planned on getting thoroughly wet. However, once I realized they were no longer concerned about the lack of chlorine in the lake water, I didn’t care that I was going to drive home in wet clothes with my hair plastered to my head.

It didn’t start out the way I planned. It ended up better than I could have imagined complete with a very complicated game about splashing that I only barely understood. And I was reminded that while children are curious, curiosity does not come without apprehension. Before starting anything new and unfamiliar it is always a good idea to pause and ask questions. Rarely should we blindly follow someone, even someone we love, into unfamiliar waters.

Parent Report Card for Young Children

After reading a co-worker’s blog about the parent report card I was inspired to give it a try with my children. My children eagerly accepted the task. First, my daughter graded me and we discovered that it was a great conversation-starter for us. She is entering into fifth grade this fall and the parent report card in the format above was perfect for her age. She understood all the questions and was eager to grade me using the A, B, C, D, F system that her teachers use at school.

What would your kids say if you asked them to give you a grade as a parent?

What would your kids say if you asked them to give you a grade as a parent?

Next up was my 5-year-old. I quickly realized that many of the questions would not make sense to him nor would the grading system. He still really wanted to participate and I really wanted to hear his opinion. So I created a parent report card for young children. Give it a try with your preschool or young school-age child. It’s a great opportunity to see yourself through your children’s eyes.

When Parenting Styles Clash

Have you ever spent vacation with your siblings and their children? Did you find that you parent differently from them? My family and I had the pleasure of spending nine days with my sister and her kids. We had a fabulous time. It was nice getting to know my niece and nephew. They are fascinating human beings. On our second day at the beach, I had an “ah ha” moment. I discovered my sister and I parent differently. In addition, I recognized that we share some similarities as well.

When you go on vacation with family members with children, what if your parenting styles clash?

My sister takes a very different approach to certain things. We do not have the same expectations on the food our children should eat or helping out around the house. This caused some tension during our nine days together. When I asked my niece to carry two chairs to the beach she did not want to help. We walked in silence until we reached the water. I finally spoke up and gently explained to her that our family is different than the average family and we need everyone chipping in. She apologized and was more helpful throughout the week. Later my sister and I discussed the situation as I thought she would be upset that I addressed this particular issue with my niece. However, she supported my decision to speak to her daughter. When we vacation together next year, we agreed to be proactive and discuss with each other in advance how we would handle each other’s children if there was a direct conflict.

Where my sister and I are both similar is the way we advocate for our children. The mama bear comes out in each of us as we fiercely defend our cubs when needing our protection. We also both like to spend quality time with each our children and want each of our children to feel special.

Even though our parenting styles may vary slightly, my sister and I have both raised the most amazing and wonderful children and I can’t wait to spend next summer with them again.

Feels Like Yesterday

“They grow up so fast, don’t they?!”

I don’t like that phrase. It may have something to do with the fact that, in my mind, we grow everyday, which means no one day different than any other. Some days seem to go by more quickly than others, and sometimes weeks seem to go by so quickly that I wonder where the time went, what I did and maybe even ask myself if I did enough.

What would I’d like to consider instead?

“Have I remembered enough of my time with them?”

Time does not stop and nor should the memories.

I remember the drive with my mom when I first left for college: we talked about all of the things she was concerned about, how much she was going to miss me, and how she reminded me that she’d packed enough peanut butter crackers to feed a small army and should I run out she could send more… it feels like yesterday.

I remember when Schmee Wee was born and holding him, cooing and smiling as he yawned that new born yawn – you know, the one that makes you melt with pure joy. I remember his first successful steps on his own, how he stumbled at first rising up on the ball and tiptoes of his right foot, hands splayed in the air, planting his left foot firmly on the floor, smiling a five-toothed smile… that feels like yesterday, too.

I remember Sweet Pea smiling as I tickled her chin within her first few weeks of life, reflexive, perhaps, but so joyful and darn cute! The time she spoke her first recognizable word couldn’t have made her big brother happier as she pointed to him while saying his name… you guessed it, yesterday.

They don’t grow up fast. I just don’t count the minutes waiting for something to happen because something will always happen and things will never be dull for long. I hope to continue to be so busy that I don’t remember the boring parts. When that time comes, maybe I’ll agree that they grow up so fast.

10 Things I Do Not Miss

Not so long ago I was living in the heavy fog of the baby/toddler days. You know, that time in your life when your child is a newborn or a preschooler or somewhere in between, AKA the neediest time of their lives. My days (and nights) were consumed with feedings, diaper changes, tantrums, messes and crying. If you have more than one child close in age those sleep-deprived days can seem to stretch on for years. I remember telling my friends that the soundtrack to my life was a crying baby.

What don't I miss about small children? This.

Don’t get me wrong, those days were also magical. And now that my children are older, I actually miss toddler pouts and rocking a baby to sleep at 3 a.m. So, whenever I see a snuggly baby or a giggly toddler and I feel an ache of loss for those exhausting-yet-delightful days, I remind myself of the things I do not miss.

Using the bathroom with an audience. I pee alone, and it’s everything I ever thought it could be.

Potty training. My daughter is very stubborn, so I didn’t make it through with my sanity.

Sleep deprivation. My youngest child can use a remote and pour cereal, with some help from older siblings. I wake up after the sunrise again, and it is amazing.

Changing diapers. I spent six years of my life changing diapers. Now I use that time reminding people to flush the toilet and wash their hands.

Negotiating with toddlers. No more maddening debates on pajamas, snacks, toys, shoes… oh, the shoes! We are 20 minutes late, please just put something on your feet.

Washing hair. How can it be so hard to tip your head back and leave it there for five seconds?!

Being late to everything unless you factor in a 30 minute contingency plan. I no longer have to allow extra time for last-second poopy diapers and toddler tantrums.

Washing bottles and sippy cups. Big kid water bottles have nowhere near the amount of pieces and parts as bottles and sippy cups.

Deciphering a toddler’s needs and wants. No more confusing answers to simple questions like, “Do you want milk or juice?” “Milk. No, juice. Um, yes. Milk. No, milk. Yes, juice. Yes. No. Yes. No.” “So, juice then?” “Waaaaahhhh!”

Feeding everyone else before me. Wait, I actually still do this. I suppose it’s something to look forward to.

The Child Connection

Children live in the moment. There's no reason we can't, too.The alarm clock blared at 6 a.m. and I willed myself out of bed. Every year for the past seven years I would have already been at the starting line, nervously waiting for the start of the Flying Pig Marathon. But this year a nagging foot injury kept me from participating, and instead I was heading to the sidelines to cheer on the runners and walkers that would soon fill the streets of Cincinnati.


With my camera in hand I headed to mile eight of the race to meet the other family and friends who planned to cheer on their loved ones. As the front runners rounded the corner our excitement grew. These runners were impressive, and our job was to encourage them along the way. As the swarms of runners grew, our support became even more important. For many this was their first marathon, and as these tired runners came to the brink of a three-mile uphill surge, it was clear that bringing a smile to their faces would help alleviate their pangs of fatigue.

With this in mind I began cheering more loudly, trying my best to get a nod, a wave or a smile from the many runners. Yet all my attempts were not nearly as successful as the outstretched hands of young children. Standing on either side of me were five of them. Initially they seemed unsure of how to approach the runners, tentatively holding out their hands or even backing away.

But their tentativeness quickly changed when several runners with large smiles on their faces reached out to share a high-five with the children. The response of the runners was exciting. They boldly stepped off the curb and with broad smiles, held their hands out towards the runners. And the runners reciprocated – many times coming from the other side of the street in order to share a high-five with these beaming little faces.

The connection of the young children with the runners was magical. They didn’t have to say anything, the runners were simply drawn to them, and I think it’s because children live in the moment. They do not worry about what they are not doing or what they could have done better – they simply approach the world with wonder and awe. For these children the marathon was a new experience and sharing a high-five with runners was building their confidence and bringing joy – to both of them!

So, I suggest you “high-five” the children in your life. The connection will alleviate your fatigue and your children will more confidently step off the curb and join in the race!

In an Instant

When Schmee’s preschool class went on a trip to the zoo, it was the first day in a long time that he woke up early on his own and exclaimed, “It’s zoo day! Time to get up!” He even picked out his clothes and put them on with little reminding.

With lunches made and sunscreen applied, all that was left was to get Schmee and Mom out the door while Sweet Pea and I lingered behind to make a slower trek to her child care center. Schmee was super excited and Sweet Pea was all giggles, but as we started to say our goodbyes an emergency diaper change necessitated that Sweet Pea and I dash upstairs while Schmee and Mom headed out.

And then things went south.

Once we were back downstairs, Sweet Pea had a meltdown unlike any I’ve seen in while. What did she need? I offered her food, toys, shoes, a brush, all to no avail. Frustrated, I opened the refrigerator to get something and Sweet Pea grabbed a yogurt. Excellent. She wanted yogurt, no problem! Yet as soon as I took it to open the top, she took off running, screaming, crying. I tried offering it back, even put a spoon in the cup. No! She went to the door and stood there screaming. I must have asked about everything I could think of and when I couldn’t think of anything else that’s when I lost it. My questions turned to irrational statements that I know were probably not appropriate, regardless of her disposition. I quickly gathered our things and opened the door and she ran outside. It’s a good thing the steps were there to slow her down.

As we made our way down the driveway it dawned on me. Mom and Schmee had vanished! Or at least so she thought as she looked around, whimpering. What a fool I was. How inconsiderate of me. As I reflected on the past ten minutes I realized that I had scooped her up to change her diaper and she didn’t know that the other half of the family was leaving.

It could have gone so much more smoothly, but perhaps next time I will be more reflective in the moment.