Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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Am I Really Listening?

parent-listening

I’ve been reflecting on my previous blog post about wondering if my children are listening to me, and it got me thinking: am I listening to them?

There was a stump in the road
And it became clear
Everyone’s approaching
With lots of fear
How did this happen?
Is everyone okay?
Who will be able
To lift it out of the way?
Cars need to drive through
Are they going to see?
What if someone misses
And hits the piece of tree?
Is the driver aware
Of what he left behind?
Will he be back?
Looking to find?
Assumptions have been made
From what I don’t know
It quickly turns into
Quite a show!
What I learned
About what I didn’t see
Is it’s sometimes important
Not to make-up a story
It made me think hard
And giggle a bit
How many times do I do this
And don’t even realize it
Making assumptions
About what I see
Is this okay
For every story?
It made me reflect
about my beautiful children
And how I owe them
all their explanations
I need to listen
and hear what they say
I need to push my assumptions
out of the way
Allow them to be heard
Explain in their own words
The crucial situations
That actually occurred!
Not the things
I’ve made up in my head
Who knew with this stump
My own understanding would spread?


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Are They Listening?

are-they-listeningI often ask myself, “Are my kids are truly listening and processing when I speak to them?” No, seriously…I’m not trying to be funny! When I speak from the heart and feel like I am saying things that could help them grow, develop and make well thought out decisions, are they really listening? This age span that I have with my four children has me on my toes on a regular basis. I want to make sure when they have questions about the things that are going on in the world right now that I take the time to answer them and that they hear every word! Or, when my three-year-old points out a woman in a wheelchair or my eight-year-old giggles at her own gross burps in public, I need them to listen to me when I respond.

I know they aren’t listening when the very next time we are in the same situation the same things continue to happen. We sit in the car and have in depth conversations about why it’s not polite to stare at the woman in the wheelchair, and yet the very next time we are in public, my daughter’s first reaction to a man with no arm is to loudly ask, “What happened to his arm mommy?” In the car before we even enter a restaurant we go over the basic rules: use your manners, stay in your seat, and keep your voices down. But then my daughter burps so loud that the people at the table next to us can definitely hear. I explain for hours about freedom of speech to my son and how it’s an amazing right to have your own beliefs in our great country, but then he comes home from school talking about how stupid so-and-so is because they keep talking about how they want so-and-so to win the election!

I need to have my children’s full attention so these very critical moments grow into understanding and they can then make their own educated decisions. I need them to keep asking if they don’t understand. And for my part, even if I’ve answered them over and over, I need to stay patient and answer again if that’s what they need.

I have had a session with a school psychologist and during our discussion she enlightened me that children’s brains before and during puberty are like hills and valleys. You can’t be absolutely sure at any point in time if they are on the top of the hill (in the clouds and enjoying the view) or the bottom of the valley (trying hard and focusing on the climb).

I have been in the middle of a well thought out, prepared speech that makes so many great points, and they’ve looked up at me and said, “What?” as if they had not been listening to a single word. That’s when they are on top of that hill! But that moment when you actually stimulate conversations, questions and even examples they are at the bottom of that valley working hard to get up! They get it!

Bottom line, I have to keep teaching them. I have to laugh now and say this is why Dora the Explorer is so popular! She repeats and repeats a lot of things several times over. My kids roll their eyes and get irritated when I repeat myself on a regular basis, but if they only knew my gratitude when those eyes roll and I know then that they’ve heard what I said…finally.


Homework Can Be Stressful for Parents, Too!

homeworkHave you heard about the no homework letter one teacher sent home at the beginning of the school year? The letter was first shared on Facebook by Samantha Gallagher, whose daughter is in Mrs. Young’s class, and it quickly went viral. The response to this letter has been overwhelmingly positive. Parents everywhere have shared comments agreeing that student success is less reliant on nightly homework and more dependent on children spending their evenings playing, eating dinner and reading as a family and going to bed early.

As a mom of school-age children this letter really hit home for me. My children are now in sixth, third and second grades.

I often find myself resenting homework. My children are at school roughly 7.5 hours a day. My husband and I are at work between 7-9 hours a day. At the end of the day I want our family to have the freedom to decompress from the day’s events, relax, and enjoy time talking, watching TV together or going for a walk. The National Education Association recommends the “10 minute rule,” 10 minutes per grade level per night. That translates into 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school. According to CNN Health, a recent study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy found students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended.

My sixth grader spends 1.5 to 2 hours on homework almost every night. My second grader’s homework includes 20 minutes of reading, 10 minutes of math facts practice, and completing one sheet in his homework packet. That is about 30-40 minutes of homework a night.

I’m not saying that my children should never have homework. I believe that homework can help students develop and strengthen responsibility and time management skills. It also helps parents to see what their student is learning. I am saying that homework can be good or it can be bad depending on the volume and the quality of the assignment.

What can parents do to lessen the stress that homework can create on the family?

I have found that having regular communication with your child’s teacher is helpful for school success. Most of the time they don’t realize until you talk to them that the amount of homework is overwhelming and causing continued family stress. Work together to come up with a plan that will work best for your child and family while respecting the teacher’s needs. Most of the time my children’s teachers’ homework expectations were the right fit. So far this year we are struggling, but I am hopeful that with the teacher’s help we will find the right balance.

What do you think of the no homework letter? Do you feel your child has too much homework? Too little? Just the right amount? What are some things you have tried to lessen the stress homework can create?


Trying New Things

toddler-playingWhen my 8-year-old daughter was only 9 months I was in a tough spot. I was faced with what I thought that day was a huge decision. I was asked to move her from the safe, soft, sweet, simple infant room into the loud, scary, falling onto, biting, drooling, messy toddler room. Technically it was my decision as I was lucky enough to have my kids in great care. Ms. Wendy told me, “Natalie is bored in the infant room and will do great in the toddler room getting to explore more. Think about if you don’t give her this chance to grow and experience this as she’s ready.”

Her comment reminded me of when my daughter was born and we brought her home from the hospital. My husband laid her on her brand new play mat under her hanging toys and I just giggled. “What?” he said and I explained, “Honey, she can’t even see those toys let alone reach for them yet.” He followed with, “How do you know? How do you know that exact moment when she will see them or reach for them? Why wouldn’t you put her here just in case today is the day?” That’s when my genius husband put his wife with all of the Early Childhood Education “expertise” to shame!

Ms. Wendy could see in my eyes I was still worried about my tiny, petite, little sweet angel going into a room with toddlers who were all at least 3 months older than her! She then said something to me that sticks with me to this day: “This is such a small decision compared to the lifetime of difficult ones you will have to make. For example, I am having the ‘Birds and Bees’ talk with my daughter tonight!” We both laughed and agreed! She promised to keep Natalie safe and help her transition comfortably. And she did! Natalie absolutely LOVED getting to go outside every day and play. To this day my still petite 8-year-old jumps at the chance to try something new and doesn’t seem to look at things as if she is too small to try—she will try anything!


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Summer Routines

Avery-sleepThe day I have been dreaming about for years arrived this summer.  My children are sleeping in.

First, we achieved this much-anticipated milestone with my 11-year-old. She has to be pulled out of bed around 9:30 each morning, which makes sense because according to research sleep patterns change during adolescence. Then for reasons I don’t understand but do appreciate, my boys who are  8- and 6-years-old are following suit and sleeping in much later.

While I am enjoying this slower start to our mornings I am concerned about getting back on track when school starts. I am already dreading the fights that will ensue from those 6:30 a.m. back to school wake up calls.

I was torn between letting them have freedom to make the most of their summer—schedules and rules be damned—or keeping them on track, allowing them to better ease back into the school routine.

They work hard during the school year to stay on track and they deserve a break. However as a seasoned parent I know that children need routines and boundaries and if we ditch those completely the entire family will suffer.

I decided we could have both. We kept the routines that mattered most to us and eased up on the others.

The routines that matter most to us are bedtime, mealtime and reading.

Bedtime: nature isn’t doing parents any favors with the extended daylight hours. It’s really tough to get your kids in bed when it’s still light outside. We do push bedtime back later in the summer and we let them stay up extra late on special occasions but it is important to my husband and I that they do have a regular bedtime.

Mealtime: As someone who fully admits to bouts of erratic behavior when “hangry,” I don’t like to mess with mealtimes when it comes to myself or my children. We stick to a regular breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner schedule as much as life allows.

Reading: I like to keep my kids stocked with books that interest them and ask that they read for at least 20 minutes a day. When I find books that interest them they read for much longer than the minimum.

What do you do to make sure your kids enjoy their summer—and are ready for the transition to school in August? In your family, is summer a time for complete freedom, sticking to routines, or a little of both?


Missing Out

missing-outHave you heard of FOMO, or the fear of missing out? Being a mother of four brings me to this feeling quite frequently! I always imagined being that “perfect” parent that never allowed the TV to become the babysitter, or electronics to outweigh the importance of books and one-on-one time. I wanted to ensure my children had every opportunity possible to expand their interests and I wanted to be that inspiration for each of them. I wanted to know what was going on all the time with everyone so I could coach them if they needed it, or simply be in the know. What I am finding is that I am missing out!

More often than not I find myself wishing I could go back and walk these steps with them that they are making all on their own. I spend more time trying to catch-up than I do helping to create these memories. Part of me feels proud that they can all carry on independently and be successful, but the mom side of me quietly sobs when I hear things like, “Mom, I entered a poetry contest and won!” And I so eloquently say, “You write poems? Since when? What was it about?” They are successful, they are all doing well, but I still ache for a little bit of satisfaction by being a part of every decision.

When they were small, I encouraged them to crawl, walk and then run! I guided their every choice and decision. Now, they are all living their lives and making decisions that I may never get to know about. Having four makes me feel like I am spread too thin, like just maybe if I had extra time I could be a part of everything. However, I know (I just don’t want to accept) it’s not that at all. My babies are all making these decisions and learning on their own not because I am not a part of each one, but because I have (we have, my husband and myself) given them the encouragement at such a young age to run! I may not be able to witness every little thing in person, but I am just extra blessed getting to see each of their successes everyday with or without me.


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True Courage Shining Forth

courage

It was a dreary Saturday morning. As I pulled into the drive of Camp Joy I was struck by the sense of dampness and the mist that encompassed the greenery and the scattered wooden buildings. What a shame, I thought, the weather was not cooperating for the families and children that had come from across the country to participate in Camp Courag“EOS”.

Camp Courag“EOS” is an annual event for families that have a child diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (or EoE). Several years ago, 4C was invited to conduct the opening exercise for the parents and caregivers that attend this camp. I had arrived on this particular Saturday to once again kick-off their weekend by offering a Parent Café. Parent Cafés provide parents with an opportunity to share their parenting experiences, wisdom and challenges with other parents. I felt confident as I entered the building. Certain that what we had planned would be successful—yet I must admit I was not prepared to be swept away by this incredible group of parents.

The meeting room was packed. Thirty-three parents and caregivers filled the six round tables. Most of the parents did not know each other, however they certainly shared a common bond:their children were diagnosed with an illness that many doctors still do not fully understand. Yet here in Cincinnati, the doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital developed an expertise in managing this illness—an expertise that many of these families travel thousands of miles to tap.

As the Parent Café unfolded, I found myself in total awe. The Camp Courag“EOS” parents were amazing and completely inspiring. One after the other I heard stories of how they knew in their hearts that there was something not right with their children. Yet most of them experienced disbelief and misdiagnosis from doctors who did not understand this illness. One parent said it’s like others think “You’re coo-coo.” Yet he was not. In fact his child’s gastric system was inflamed due to EoE and his child was experiencing incredible pain every time he ate.

And the stories continued—parents talked about struggles getting the medical treatment needed for their children. They talked about school personnel often isolating their children, and extended family members confronting the very practices that were keeping their children alive and pain free. Time after time these parents found themselves educating others and advocating for their child’s medically needed interventions. One parent reported, “The problem is our kids look okay on the outside and therefore others do not take the illness seriously.”

Wow—there it was! Though these children clearly had a severe and disabling illness, others doubted its very existence. The tenacity exhibited by these parents to hold to their beliefs and insist on medical interventions is a lesson to us all. Parents tend to know their children best and as experts are called to ensure their children are getting all that they need and deserve. And these Camp Courag“EOS” parents are doing this day after day.

As I pulled out of the driveway, the mist seemed less overwhelming, instead I was overwhelmed by the courageousness of unwavering parents.