Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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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?


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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.


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What I Learned When I Returned to Work

boys being sillyYears ago, after a failed attempt to negotiate a work from home deal with my job, our child care provider resigning to raise a family of her own, and many evenings spent discussing future plans and expenses with my husband, this second time mom-to-be made the decision to leave the professional world behind for awhile and take on a new title as stay-at-home mom.

The decision was both exciting and scary. It had always been a desire of mine to stay home with my children during their early years and to have the opportunity to make it a reality was a gift. The troublesome part wasn’t the overwhelming amount of physical and emotional energy that comes with being a constant caregiver for small children, that realization came later, the cons on my list were concerns of lost time building professional work experience.

I had only just begun building a career and wondered what it would be like re-entering that world after years of absence. Still, the pros of being there for all the moments of my children’s first years of life outweighed the cons and I happily accepted my new title as stay-at-home mom.

I enjoyed (and cursed, on the particularly tiresome days) that title for 6 years; I even expanded my team and went from managing two to three with the birth of our third child.  But the time had come for me to make my comeback into the workforce and face the many challenges that came along with that.

  1. Resume and References

I remember looking at my resume and wondering if I could add household CEO and list teacher, nurse, chef, housekeeper, event planner as titles to describe the work I had been most recently performing. I joked with my friends that I was going to add the children as references and attach their drawings and “world’s best mommy” notes as reference letters.  Seriously though when I left the working world Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were not popular yet so maintaining a connection to past co-workers wasn’t easy. Luckily I managed to reconnect with a few former colleagues to use as references and I refreshed my resume making sure to be straightforward about the reason for the gap in time.

  1. Interviews

I got a call for an interview very quickly after submitting my resume and enthusiastically agreed to meet the next day. It had been many years since I had been on an interview and made a classic mom mistake by being so concerned with the children’s needs that I left no time for myself to prepare. I hadn’t thought about my professional experiences in years and couldn’t for the life of me come up with any examples. At that moment my mind was filled with the crying 3-year-old I just left and whether or not I had told grandma what time to the get the 1st-grader off the bus. Needless to say the interview did go that well. I chalked it up as a learning experience and made sure to give myself some prep time for the next interview. My sister even helped me prepare by doing a mock interview with me.  The next couple of interviews went very well and it wasn’t long before I was back to work.

  1. Emotional Adjustment

For years I played a major role in my children’s daily lives.  Even when the oldest was in school, I was there to get her off the bus and hear about her day. Going back to work meant finding new ways to keep that connection strong and it took some getting used to.

  1. Feeling Left Behind

Once you get hired and start back down the career path it’s tough to resist the urge to compare yourself to others who have gained valuable professional experience while you were at home raising a family.  At times I’ve felt frustrated when others talk about opportunities they’ve had and I’ve felt a pang of regret thinking about how much fuller my resume could be if I had made a different choice.  But ultimately I know I made the right choice for me and I am thankful for the valuable experiences I had, even if they could never be explained on a resume.


“Back in MY day…”

woman and little daughter taking selfie photo with mobile phone

When it comes to technology, how do you help your children appreciate what they have?

Recently my kids received a letter from their cousin telling them how much she missed them. They were so excited to open it and find a letter and a picture inside the envelope. I told them they should write back to her and then address the envelope and put it in the mailbox so she could feel the same excitement. “You’re going to put a dress on an envelope mom?” Now that their confusion has been brought to my attention, I realize I need to start making a list of things to help them understand what my generation was like! My hope is to help them see how we have evolved but not to forget why each generation may struggle with technology. I think if they could understand how we, my parents and even my grandparents had to do things, they would be more considerate of the way things are today.

Here are some of the things I put on my list. What would you put on yours?

  • Records (trying to get the needle right to the place you thought the song started)
  • Cassette tapes (rewind, fast forward trying to find the beginning of your song)
  • Recording songs from the radio (trying to not get the DJ’s voice in there and hitting the play and record button at the same time)
  • CDs (they weren’t very forgiving of scratches, right in the middle of a song it would stop but you wouldn’t turn it off in hopes it would successfully get over that scratch and sing on!)
  • Boom boxes (our portable music that might last one half hour on 6DD battery power of you were lucky!)
  • Vehicles without TV or plugs (long car rides with no electronics!)
  • The first cell phones($3,995)
  • The first Gameboys, and atari!
  • Polaroid cameras

…the list goes on and on! I have written them down and giggled with my babies over and over again telling stories of how things were! Every time they want to complain about their phone service or WiFi not working, I bring my list out and remind them of the good ol’ days. The only reaction I seem to get is, “I feel so sorry for you guys!” but I’ll take it!