Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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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.


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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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.


The Child Connection

Children live in the moment. There's no reason we can't, too.The alarm clock blared at 6 a.m. and I willed myself out of bed. Every year for the past seven years I would have already been at the starting line, nervously waiting for the start of the Flying Pig Marathon. But this year a nagging foot injury kept me from participating, and instead I was heading to the sidelines to cheer on the runners and walkers that would soon fill the streets of Cincinnati.

 

With my camera in hand I headed to mile eight of the race to meet the other family and friends who planned to cheer on their loved ones. As the front runners rounded the corner our excitement grew. These runners were impressive, and our job was to encourage them along the way. As the swarms of runners grew, our support became even more important. For many this was their first marathon, and as these tired runners came to the brink of a three-mile uphill surge, it was clear that bringing a smile to their faces would help alleviate their pangs of fatigue.

With this in mind I began cheering more loudly, trying my best to get a nod, a wave or a smile from the many runners. Yet all my attempts were not nearly as successful as the outstretched hands of young children. Standing on either side of me were five of them. Initially they seemed unsure of how to approach the runners, tentatively holding out their hands or even backing away.

But their tentativeness quickly changed when several runners with large smiles on their faces reached out to share a high-five with the children. The response of the runners was exciting. They boldly stepped off the curb and with broad smiles, held their hands out towards the runners. And the runners reciprocated – many times coming from the other side of the street in order to share a high-five with these beaming little faces.

The connection of the young children with the runners was magical. They didn’t have to say anything, the runners were simply drawn to them, and I think it’s because children live in the moment. They do not worry about what they are not doing or what they could have done better – they simply approach the world with wonder and awe. For these children the marathon was a new experience and sharing a high-five with runners was building their confidence and bringing joy – to both of them!

So, I suggest you “high-five” the children in your life. The connection will alleviate your fatigue and your children will more confidently step off the curb and join in the race!


In an Instant

When Schmee’s preschool class went on a trip to the zoo, it was the first day in a long time that he woke up early on his own and exclaimed, “It’s zoo day! Time to get up!” He even picked out his clothes and put them on with little reminding.

With lunches made and sunscreen applied, all that was left was to get Schmee and Mom out the door while Sweet Pea and I lingered behind to make a slower trek to her child care center. Schmee was super excited and Sweet Pea was all giggles, but as we started to say our goodbyes an emergency diaper change necessitated that Sweet Pea and I dash upstairs while Schmee and Mom headed out.

And then things went south.

Once we were back downstairs, Sweet Pea had a meltdown unlike any I’ve seen in while. What did she need? I offered her food, toys, shoes, a brush, all to no avail. Frustrated, I opened the refrigerator to get something and Sweet Pea grabbed a yogurt. Excellent. She wanted yogurt, no problem! Yet as soon as I took it to open the top, she took off running, screaming, crying. I tried offering it back, even put a spoon in the cup. No! She went to the door and stood there screaming. I must have asked about everything I could think of and when I couldn’t think of anything else that’s when I lost it. My questions turned to irrational statements that I know were probably not appropriate, regardless of her disposition. I quickly gathered our things and opened the door and she ran outside. It’s a good thing the steps were there to slow her down.

As we made our way down the driveway it dawned on me. Mom and Schmee had vanished! Or at least so she thought as she looked around, whimpering. What a fool I was. How inconsiderate of me. As I reflected on the past ten minutes I realized that I had scooped her up to change her diaper and she didn’t know that the other half of the family was leaving.

It could have gone so much more smoothly, but perhaps next time I will be more reflective in the moment.


I’m Not Saying Goodbye

Last month I celebrated my four year anniversary at 4C for Children. From day one I’ve blogged for Blink – and They’re Grown. The bittersweet fact that I’m moving on to a new opportunity as a Step Up to Quality Licensing Specialist is made even moreso because it makes this my final blog. I’m so excited that my new position will allow me to continue to make a positive impact on education, children, and families, but I’m sure going to miss Blink – and They’re Grown.

When I started blogging, I was told to do so from my parenting place. That was a gift that freed me up to wear my vulnerable mommy heart on my sleeve. Through Blink I’ve chronicled my children’s early childhood years and have captured memories that may have escaped me otherwise. Now I can look back on them and recall the exhilaration, fear, unbridled joy and gamut of other emotions that we all experience on our roller coaster parenting rides. Ups, downs, twists, bumps and all.

Each blog post I’ve written wove a visible thread through the fabric of our family’s story together. Birthdays, death and loss, coping with divorce and custody/parenting issues, navigating faith, family, friends, pets, extracurricular activities, medical hurdles, their schooling and mine. There were times when I didn’t think we’d ever get here but next month Levi finishes fourth grade as an honor roll student, Liv is a confident mix of brains and true beauty – inside and out – entering her last year of elementary school and I’ll graduate with a Masters in Leadership and Coaching. The Three Musketeers have come a long way! When Liv and Levi really are grown, I hope they’ll read my posts and understand how blessed I felt to be their mommy and the love my hands poured into every word and piece of the tapestry.

I hope you’ve felt it, too. And I hope you have found or will find a way to preserve your children’s stories, through blogging, journaling, scrapbooking or even on your Facebook timeline. My great aunt Birdie once referred to my writing as “setting it down.” She only had an eighth grade education but she was wise and understood the importance of keeping some type of record because not only do we blink and they’re grown, but they’re gone .

Even though I’ll have a lot on my plate transitioning to my new job, I plan to practice what I preach. Prior to writing for Blink I blogged on a regular basis, and I’m committed to reviving that in order to continue setting it down. So while this is a bittersweet blog post, it isn’t a goodbye but an I’ll be seeing you.


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I Don’t Know How They Do It

“I don’t know how they do it.”

I often hear this phrase when the conversation turns to my previous employment as a preschool teacher, or even just talking about early childhood educators in general. The assumption is that having many children in a single space is more difficult than having just one or two.

It seems like it should be true. We hear stories of how teachers in grade school must conduct class in a certain and often strict manner. Surely teachers in preschool must use some sort of control mechanism to maintain the calm and functional bliss that is demanded by their circumstances?

 

Baloney! I recently had a group of children and families over for a celebration at my house. We had around 15 children, mostly between the ages of four and five and with a few toddlers in the mix. It was chaos for sure – there is no other way to put it. But, I felt like it was controlled without having to be authoritative. No one had to put the kibosh on anyone’s play. No one got hurt. There may have been a moment of crying or two but situations were resolved peacefully.

It wasn’t until the end of the night when the comment came.

“I don’t know how their teachers do it all day, every day.”

While I didn’t respond, what I wanted to say was, “How do you do it?”

We have to be fair to ourselves, give ourselves credit for the roller coasters, the fits and the fury that we as parents face on a daily basis. Before I had children I used to say that having them would be a piece of cake as I had a ton of knowledge and experience in the classroom. But when I had my first child that thought changed. Why? Because it’s different.

All of those skills I had for the classroom? Some of them apply and some just don’t because being in a classroom is different from being in your own home, with your own children. A child knows who their parents and/or primary caregivers are. They know there is a difference between them and their teachers. They also have the peer/social components of being in a classroom that affects their behavior. I don’t know many families that are composed of fifteen plus children all around the same age.

The environments and routines are different, too. My home is my home and toys go, well, anywhere and everywhere. In the classroom they go someplace specific. Routines are pretty consistent but in a completely different way than at school.

So, the next time I hear someone say, “I don’t know how they do it,” I’m going to say, “Yes, you do.”

Unless they don’t have a child in which case, “Have you ever herded cats? Well, it’s not really like that.”