Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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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?


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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.


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“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!


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What Tragedy Teaches Us

Cute girl resting her head on her mother's shoulder

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”  — Robert Kennedy

It is our nature to try to make sense out of tragic situations—especially when the tragedy harms those that are helpless. Certainly there is wisdom that can be gained in the aftermath of most tragedies. We can dissect the event, identify who was harmed and figure out new precautions that can be put in place. Yet we cannot go backwards. We cannot undo what was done—and it is this helpless that causes us such woe.

The times in my life when I have experienced loss or tragedy, I have anxiously sought answers. Why did this happen or what could I have done? I begin creating the long list of everything I should’ve or could’ve done differently. Because obviously in replaying the past I can come up with everything that would’ve been different. But at some point I have to ask—to what end? How does blaming myself or others alleviate the helplessness or sadness I feel? It doesn’t.

I wonder what the outcome would be if, when tragedy strikes, we let our hearts take the lead? If instead of thinking and blaming we allow our sadness and compassion to come forth. And if we did that, what would the tragedy teach us and teach our children?

I think the answer to this question is simple. If we express our sadness and compassion then the lesson of the tragedy becomes one of unity. By honoring what was lost and responding with genuine kindness, then the tragedy teaches that we can comfort each other, that we are not helpless and that each of us can make a difference. And if we can show compassion and sadness following a tragedy, then our children also learn how powerful compassion can be.

I think of compassion as engaging with another, acknowledging their feelings and reacting from a place of genuine kindness. When being compassionate I am present in the moment. I am listening to the needs of the other person and putting aside my own desires. Children learn to act compassionately by observing the actions of adults—especially their parents. Teach compassion by tending to the needs of others. When you encounter a person who needs help, stop what you are doing and show that they come first. When frustrated, use words that show respect and empathy.  As a family seek opportunities to make a difference and give back to those that are there for you.

It is certain that we will all experience loss. Though a tragic event may teach us about what went wrong—I believe the deeper wisdom comes from the power of our compassion. Compassion that our children learn from us.


Give Your Kids a Piece of Yourself

dad son time

In this guest post, 4C Parent Services Specialist Dan Scheiman shares a reflection on fatherhood.

“Noble fathers have noble children.” -Euripides

When it comes to fatherhood, the above quote seems to say it all.

Be noble. Be honest. Be kind. And, maybe most of all, be present in your child’s life.

The first few on the list are actually easy. Treat your kids the way you want to be treated and in the way you want your kids to be treated by everyone they encounter. Be the measure that your children hold everyone they know up to and then be the one they feel safe enough to come to when things get tough and their heads fill with questions.

Being present is the tricky one. Things like work can get in the way. Life in general can get in the way and, something I can relate to, divorce can get in the way. So, at some point, every dad and every parent for that matter, has looked at their watch or even a calendar and wondered if they’ve made enough time for their kids.

But, here’s where that whole being noble, kind and honest thing comes in. For those times when despite your best efforts, you can’t physically be there, give your kids a big piece of yourself to carry with them and the confidence in you to know that you’re never too far away.

My dad passed away a few weeks ago so he is no longer physically present in my life and, while I could look to the things he didn’t do, the things he missed or left to my mom, I’d rather celebrate how he taught me to be honest, to be kind, and how to treat others, which by the way, had a lot to do with how he treated my mom. Those lessons became a guide for me through my life and through my divorce. 

I can’t count the number of times I have tormented my now nineteen-year-old son with “You’re…umm…ok after the stuff with your mom and I…yeah…umm…I mean the divorce?” The first few times were, to say the least, awkward, but we talked a lot and, after talking a lot, his responses have become, “Dad, geez, I’m fine. I talked to mom the other day; she’s good and says hi. Can we grab some Chipotle?”

My son has been home but will be heading back to college soon and, while I’ll miss him and worry from time to time, I know he has that piece of me with him. So, even with him hundreds of miles away, he knows I’m there which, regardless of the distance, always makes me present in his life.

All of this can be downright scary, believe me, I know, so here’s another quote to inspire you.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parenting is a mighty high staircase to climb. Do it one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your kids to do what’s right.

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