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?


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.


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The Power of a Whisper

power-of-a-whisperDuring a recent women’s leadership conference, I had the honor of hearing a very successful leader share her story. Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is the current president of Morehouse School of Medicine. As the school’s first female president, and the first African-American female to serve as president of a medical school, Valerie shared her journey to success.

In listening to Valerie’s story I was struck by the brave choices she made along the way. More than once she changed the course of her life to follow what she instinctively knew was right for her. Also more than once people in her life questioned her choices and encouraged her to continue what she had started. For example during her senior year in college, Valerie made a decision to not complete her engineering degree and pursue medicine. Her family and school advisors encouraged her to complete her degree. And yet, she confidently moved forward, overcame obstacles, was accepted to Harvard Medical School and is now a part of history.

As she talked about her courage to pursue her dreams, Valerie attributed much of her success to her mother. One of several things her mother did—which left an impression on me—was that her mother nightly whispered in her ear, “Anything is possible.” And in listening to Valerie talk, it seemed clear to me that she embodied the mantra—that anything is possible! Wow, what an incredible example of how powerful messages can be!

Children receive messages from adults—especially their parents—that are intended to teach them how to act, how not to act, what to believe and what not to believe. These repeated messages impact the self-talk that children use to better understand themselves and their world. Self-talk is the inner voice that is heard in our heads, and for most of us this voice began in childhood. An example of this is from my own childhood. Whenever I faced a challenge or disappointment, my father always stated, “We’ll figure it out.” Not only did this message comfort me, it taught me that there was always a solution. Still today when faced with a challenge I hear my father’s message and truly believe “I’ll figure it out.”

My father continually reminding me that solutions were possible contributed to my everlasting resilience. The image of Valerie’s mother gently whispering a message in her daughter’s ear is beautiful; she took a loving approach to raise a girl into a courageous woman. The messages you choose to give to your children are life-changing—what will be the impact of your whispers?


Apple Crisp, Football and Falling Leaves

What does your child's favorite season say about their personality?

What does your child’s favorite season say about his or her personality?

I often profess that I love all the seasons—and I do. But I must admit that my favorite is autumn. I appreciate the cooler weather, the color of changing leaves and fall flowers and cheering on my favorite football teams. But even more than that, the season of autumn is a time of rebirth for me. It is a time of letting go and starting anew. It’s a time for change.

If you think about it, autumn being a season for change makes sense. Autumn is a time for harvesting and gathering. All of nature is going through a final burst of growth, to eventually let go of its flowers and begin the process of going inward for the winter. And I notice the same kind of energy in myself. I am more energetic and more active, I tend to want to be outside more and I find I take better care of myself. I find I am drawn to opportunities to connect with nature and am energized by feeling connected to the bigger world around me.

In looking back, I can say that I think I have always had this affinity towards autumn. I can recall this feeling of rebirth at the start of the school-year and always loved the smell and feel of falling leaves. It seems that I am just wired this way. Which causes me to wonder—are we all wired the same way? Or do we each have affinity towards different seasons based upon our own individual wiring? I tend to think it’s the latter.

As parents we can be more effective if we pay attention to how our children are “wired”—meaning we pay attention to children’s tendencies or “natural” way of doing things. Through observations of our children we recognize what is “natural” about them—like easy-going, stubborn, out-going or shy. Knowing what is natural about our children provides us with clues on the ways to better parent our child. In addition by knowing what is “in” our child’s nature we are better able to teach him/her strategies for living in the world.

In addition to paying attention to our children’s natural dispositions, it may be fun to pay attention to the “season” our children are naturally drawn to. We all—including our children—are a part of nature. As such we have an inner rhythm that connects us with the world around us. Some find our rhythm in the spring, others in the winter. If you are lucky enough to have a child that is “re-energized” by the fall season, then be sure to get out and enjoy all this season has to offer!


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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.