Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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What Did You Do to Show Kindness Today?

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This is the daily question we ask our kindergartener. Along with, “What was your favorite part of school today?” and, “Tell me about what you did in gym class,” we also want to communicate that being kind to others is just as important. We want to make sure we’re doing what we can to help him develop both academically and socially. What good to the world is it to be smart if you don’t share that gift with others?

Kindness can be quite a broad topic for a five-year-old, so we focus in on specific behaviors such as helping a friend up if they fall down, noticing if someone is feeling sad and asking them if they’re okay, smiling and saying “Hi” to people passing by, etc. These target behaviors are meant to help him develop skills in becoming more aware of those around him and treating others how he would like to be treated. We also like to point out when we see these things in others by calling attention to a peer who shares their toy with us or thanking someone who holds the door open for us.

In the early childhood sphere, we often talk about how teachers will see more of whatever they give attention to. As parents, we try to do the same. Very often, we miss the mark—this parenting thing is difficult! Information overload in parenting is a real thing, and it is impossible to do everything we’re told we should do. As parents, we have had to try our best to cut out all of the noise and get down to the basics of what type of people we hope our sons will grow to be. Kindness is one trait we hope they possess. We take this journey day by day, one example at a time, calling attention to the kindness we eagerly anticipate seeing more of.


The Kindness of Neighbors

friends-bubblesFor some reason all the neighborhood kids like to play in my front yard. I live in a cul-de-sac, which is super nice because we all keep an eye out on the kids. They often ring my doorbell when I come home from work to say hi, and ask about my dog Emma and my cat Bubs. They are always trying to sell me something like water or lemonade, and I typically fold. Three dollars for a cup of lemonade? How can I say no?

Sometimes we’ll sit on the porch and share a healthy snack. Last week they ate a whole container of strawberries. But honestly I don’t mind. I love that these kids are brave enough to ask me questions.

One of the little boys that plays in my yard dresses like a police officer almost every day. He’s got the whole package: vest, belt, handcuffs, gloves, badge, walkie-talkie, play toy gun, a baton, watch, boots, cargo pants. I have named him “kid cop.” He loves it. When he rings my doorbell, he asks if he can arrest me. I have had multiple charges: Eating too much ice cream, laughing too loud, letting my dog give too many wet kisses, eating pizza without them, not having any popscicles, I could go on. He and his friends just laugh and giggle at me and think it’s the best thing ever.

He told me he wants to be a police officer when he grows up because he wants to help people. “You know, if they lose a dog or something, or someone steals their bike. I had my bike stolen and I got it back when the police officer helped me.”

Our friendly cul-de-sac police-officer-in-training was recently featured in our community newsletter. He had his picture taken with our Township Police Department. He was beaming with pride!

I hope this little neighbor of mine always wants to serve his community, whether it’s through sharing a glass of lemonade on a hot day, a kind smile to a neighbor or desire to help when needed.


“I can do it Mom! You know I can!”

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“I can do it Mom! You know I can!”

A familiar phrase from my five-year-old. I reached for the milk to pour in his cup at dinner time, when he reminded me that he is capable of doing this for himself. He’s been reminding me more and more lately that he can do many of the things I’ve built into my routine of doing for him. Whether it’s pouring milk or “fixing” his hair, I’ve had to break my routine and allow him the opportunity to explore his abilities.

This mom is having a hard time with it.

As an early childhood advocate, I know the value of children building their confidence by trying and mastering new skills. I know that a sense of responsibility can help build a collaborative relationship among our family. I know that he’s five and really can do a lot of things on his own. Then the mom in me thinks that my baby really can’t be old enough to take care of most of his needs on his own without my help. He can’t be…or can he?

When I step back and allow him to show me what he can do, he exceeds my expectations. Aside from pouring drinks, cutting food, and dressing himself, he’s shown that he can read, spell, and be a nurturing big brother to his two-year-old sidekick. I can see that when I step back and allow his experiences to guide him, he shows me he has listened and paid attention to my direction.

As he prepares to start Kindergarten, we’ve made a conscious effort at home to give as many opportunities as we can for him to do things on his own.  Of course he needs help sometimes and we’re definitely there to guide him—but it seems to make all the difference to him if he’s tried his way first and asks for help on his own. It is reassuring to me that he values his abilities enough to try things on his own, and also understands that mom and dad are a safe home base to come back to.

The next time he tells me “I can do it Mom!” I’ll reply with a “You’re right, you can do it!” and hand over the task to his capable hands.


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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.


Another shooting in another school—and this time it’s close to home.

worriedWatching the news coverage of the shooting at Madison Junior Senior High School I am struck by the re-occurrence of similar themes and images—parents racing to the school to find and hug their children, students and teachers in disbelief that a shooting has happened and a child pulled the trigger. And I can’t help but wonder why this continues to happen? What has caused some of our children to take such violent and irreversible actions? Do they not understand the possible consequences of their behavior? Do they not care?

I am a firm believer that children’s actions are feelings to be understood. Meaning in order to understand a child’s behavior it is helpful to look at the feelings that triggered the action. A child who strikes out at another child may be feeling sad, frustrated or rejected. By helping the child express and cope with these feelings, the actions of aggression will lessen. I also believe that children use behaviors that work for them. So that if a temper tantrum results in a child getting a piece of candy, the child will continue to use temper tantrums to get more candy.

These beliefs have always helped me better understand children’s actions—yet I have to admit I have a hard time wrapping my head around the feelings that lead to a child shooting another child. And an even harder time comprehending how such an act of violence can be perceived as a solution. And isn’t this what we all do—we seek to understand how and why these tragic events occur? We believe, if we understand the cause, we can prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future. Yet we seldom get an answer that makes sense which results in us looking for who or what to blame.

In my previous work as a family therapist, I came to understand that the painful depression experienced by individuals who commit suicide is unimaginable to those who have never experienced that intense emotional pain. And maybe I need to look at these school shootings in the same way—to assume that the emotional pain being experienced by a child who pulls the trigger is beyond what I or anyone else can comprehend.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking to excuse any act of violence. I’m simply acknowledging that these incidents may never make sense and I have to believe the child that pulls the trigger is experiencing emotional turmoil that is beyond what I can imagine. However, just because these incidents don’t make sense, we cannot ignore that school shootings are on the rise. We have to continue to seek reasonable solutions. We have to pay attention to any possible warning signs. And we have to figure out how to keep guns out of our children’s hands. I fear that ideas to put more guns in schools or the judicial system treating these children as adults are short-sighted reactions. I believe we have to move beyond the blame and recognize this as a social issue that requires a unified and thoughtful response.    

My thoughts go out to the families in Butler County that have been impacted by this most recent shooting. May those of us who have not experienced this type of tragedy never have to experience it in the future.


When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn

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The importance of kinship caregivers and the challenges they face cannot be understated. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there were more than 2.5 million children in this country living in kinship care in 2012, an increase of nearly 18 percent since 2002. There are 119,000 children living in kinship care situations in my home state of Ohio (Between 2013-2015).

“Research shows that children and youth fortunate enough to be raised by a safe familiar kinship caregiver have better outcomes than those children in unrelated foster care—more regular school attendance, better grades and fewer community problems. And they are less likely to move from home to home.” (KinshipOhio)

This issue hit close to home fairly recently. My sister is caring for her 13-month-old grandson. I have the utmost admiration and respect for her and others in this situation. This has not come without unique challenges. I see firsthand what my sister is dealing with: she is paying for child care, food and clothing, and learning to navigate the legal system. All this while simultaneously attempting to run her own business and raising her own two teenagers.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without community support. My sister relies on the advice and assistance of friends and family who are willing to help when needed, as well as resources shared by local agencies that are working to support kinship caregivers (If you’re in Ohio, check out KinshipOhio. In Kentucky, learn about Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky).

I see my sister loving her daughter, the baby’s mother, by loving her grandson and providing him with a nurturing and stable home while her daughter is unable to at this time. This child is with someone he knows, loves and trusts, which will help him maintain a healthy social emotional development.

When I am with this beautiful, happy 13-month-old boy I say a silent prayer for his mother. My hope is that she and all of the other parents of young children who have found themselves in this situation will one day be able to care for their children on their own.