Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


“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!


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.


Too Much of a Good Thing

Too much of a good thingIs there such a thing as too much of a good thing? When it comes to parenting, I believe most of the time the answer is yes. Successful parenting is about finding what works for you and staying consistent. Kids thrive on simplicity and limits. Too much of anything—even a good thing like presents— can be overwhelming. I also believe in being grateful for all the things in my life and teaching my children to be grateful too. If you have relatives that give your children gifts that is an amazing blessing. But what if their gift-giving is too generous? How can you gracefully explain that when it comes to gifts, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing?

My children are blessed with an over-enthusiastic gift-giving grandmother. She loves to shop and she loves to give. She is so excited to see those little faces light up when they open a present. And who can blame her? It is pretty thrilling. But unlike grandparents, parents can see the practical side of over-gifting—as in, “Where is all this going to fit in my house?” “When will they play with that when they already have so many toys?” and, “What is this teaching my children about giving and receiving?”

I know it’s long been the job of grandparents to spoil their grandchildren and I don’t want to deny them that pleasure. Being able to give and receive presents at the holidays is such a blessing, and not all families are in the same situation as us. Because of this, I want my children to be grateful and appreciate what they have, but that can be tough to do when you have too much.

After a couple years of wading through the sea of presents and managing a tired overwhelmed toddler I talked to my mom about limits and expectations for gift giving. These days grandma asks for suggestions on what to get the kids and sticks to those few gift suggestions—though occasionally she goes rogue and drowns the tree in presents (including a giant Melissa and Doug stuffed tiger in the picture above, check out how huge that thing is!). For the most part the kids are now enjoying just the right amount of a good thing.


Showdown at Sunset

As a young girl, even into my adolescence, I had a hard time getting to sleep at night. I would toss and turn, talk to myself, occasionally draw on my wall with crayons (that always went over well!) and in general did everything I could think of to entertain myself until I could fall asleep.  Sometimes it took an hour. Sometimes three. When I was in high school my mom bought me a small black and white television for my room and even though it only had three stations, apparently it had magical powers because suddenly I was able to fall asleep. To this day, my mom still credits that TV for helping me sleep and saving our relationship!

So it only seems fitting that my daughter has inherited my childhood insomnia. Somewhere I can hear my mom laughing… loudly. I have done my best to establish a nighttime routine for Maddy, but often she is still awake long after the lights have gone out. Our nighttime ritual consists of a bath, a few minutes of Disney Junior, a snack, teeth brushing and finally, story time with Daddy. She may not be tired when these activities are over, but my husband and I are exhausted!

Last night was no exception. We completed our bedtime routine per usual and all seemed to be going well, until around 11:45 p.m.. I heard her soft, sweet voice calling to me asking me to rub her back. My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. How in the world was she still awake? I’ll admit that my first instinct was anger and frustration. But while that is a natural response, it is neither effective nor productive for me or for helping my daughter sleep. I took a deep breath and then went to her to rub her back.

Within 15 minutes she was finally asleep. Unfortunately, unlike my mom, I have not found a magic pill to help Maddy sleep. There may not be one. The best that I can do is learn how I can help her and lessen the frustration of not being able to sleep. That starts with patience and understanding, two things often in short supply after 10 p.m.!

If all else fails, knowing my mom, that black and white TV is probably still in her attic.


Is your parenting style influencing your child’s eating habits?

For her bedtime story recently, my daughter chose a book about eating too much junk food. It really made me think about my role in preventing obesity in my children. It also forced me to recall my personal childhood choices when it came to eating meals and snacks. I am using the term “choices” lightly, because I really did not have any say.

Parents have a responsibility to their children when it comes to how and what they eat.

When I was growing up we had three solid meals per day. Desserts were only served on special occasions. My family was very adamant about children eating all their food, especially fruits and vegetables. Most of our meals were chased by a tall glass of milk or water. During trips to the grocery store my grandmother only purchased items that were on her list, and the list usually consisted of items that were going to be used solely to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But  my flexible parenting style has led to an à la carte menu selection for my children when it comes time for meals and snacks. My children and I not only have three meals per day, we often indulge in at least two to three snacks per day (bedtime snack is non-negotiable with my children). I do not force my children to eat all of their food. Needless to say, when I am preparing meals I make various side items because I know there are some foods that my children will not eat. My son has appointed himself as the official “family drink server,” and he typically pours mostly juice and pop. When we go to the grocery store I am lucky to have room in the cart for items that were initially on my list because of all of the yummy snacks and items from wonderful food displays filling up my shopping cart.

When I was younger, obesity in young children was not a major issue. I feel that most children in my community did not snack because they were forced to eat everything on their plate or simply because snack food was not as readily available. Historically, parents were very strict about eating fruits and vegetables. Children were forced to sit at the table from sun up to sun down until they swallowed every fruit/veggie that was on their plate. I am not saying that the latter eating habits enforced by parents were right, however meal time, snacking and the “choices” children could make about the foods they consumed were totally different. How can we find a happy medium between then and now?

I am so glad that my daughter selected the book about junk food as a bedtime story. While I definitely understand the importance of healthy eating, I have been reminded about how my parenting choices can and will have an everlasting impact on my children’s eating habits (and how much I can do to make sure that’s a positive impact). In order to take a detour from my children’s trip to obesity, I may need to revisit some of my grandma’s meal time and shopping traditions.


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Want your baby to learn? Turn off the TV!

Today’s guest post comes from 4C Board Chair Davida Gable.

In the late 1990’s, Julie Aigner-Clark founded The Baby Einstein Company which sold videos of babies playing with toys with classical music in the background.  These “educational” videos were marketed to parents as a way to safely educate their babies during the most critical period of their lives for brain development.

Every living adult in the United States knows a video in a TV buys precious time when in the company of children.  Who wouldn’t love a video that makes her normal baby a Baby Einstein, too?  In 2003, 33% of American babies aged six months to two years had a Baby Einstein video.  In fact, a 2005 study showed that 49% of parents believed educational videos were important for intellectual development.

Ms. Aigner-Clark eventually sat next to Laura Bush in President George W. Bush’s 2007 “State of the Union” address.  The President even lauded her achievements and noted, “Julie represents the great enterprising spirit of America.”  By the end of the decade, The Baby Einstein Company was valued at approximately $400 million.  The Disney Company purchased Baby Einstein, making Julie Aigner-Clark a millionaire several times over.

Shortly after our daughter was born, I eagerly brought out the padding and videos that would give me freedom to pursue my dreams.  I laid my squirming daughter on a pillow and maniacally shredded the plastic wrap from the Baby Einstein DVD case, delighting at the prospect of making my daughter an intellectual genius while I continued to conquer the world.  As my infant daughter paused her fist-sucking to curiously study my palpable excitement, I popped in the video to see…drumroll please…a baby playing with a toy!

OK, there was classical music in the background, too.  But my heart sank as I reluctantly realized that it would be better if I simply turned on the classical FM radio station and brought my daughter a toy.  She’d probably like it if I talked to her, too.  Maybe even held her for a while.

I wasn’t the only one who felt duped.  At the same time parents were sacrificing their hard-earned dollars on videos, falsely hoping and believing that they would enhance their babies’ intellectual growth, only 6% of parents were aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s recommendation that children under the age of two should not be exposed to any TV or videos… including Baby Einstein.

Under Disney’s leadership, Baby Einstein ceded to pressure from “false advertising” charges and continued criticism from child experts.  It offer refunds for videos purchased between 2004 and 2009.

During this period, Julie Aigner-Clark received praise and adulation for being an entrepreneurial mommy.  Meanwhile, I was feeling like an old-fashioned scold expressing skepticism about videos that could make my average child a genius.  Not only did my skepticism appear as a lack of support for desperate parents – but it also undermined my own personal goal to be part of the “great enterprising spirit of America.”  If I spent time playing, holding and talking to my baby, how would I ever start my own company or win awards?

I finally realized the truth.  Videos would not make my baby a “Baby Einstein.”  The TV station Nick Jr. really is not “The Smart Place to Play.”  When it aired its original slogan, “It’s Like Preschool on TV,” my wise caregiving friends and I would quickly respond, “Except it’s NOT!”

Believing that videos will provide intellectual development is an extension of our earlier flawed learning that taking care of babies is like taking care of an egg. Quality early childcare takes attention, time and effort, with “measurable results” possibly not revealing themselves for years.  It’s not easy, and it’s difficult to make efficient.

4C for Children knows this.  Even better, 4C for Children understands the pressures of caregiving.  They understand the pressures so well that they even appreciate why we use the TV and videos when we’re trying to prepare dinner or brush our teeth.  They know that parents don’t need false promises from heavily marketed products…and they don’t need the high pressure expectations of perfectionism either.  Parents and caregivers need support.  4C is here to provide support.


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Preparing for Grandma’s Farewell

Today I took Janet, my mother-in-law, to what may be her last oncology visit. It was emotional and very sad for the both of us. The cancer had spread to her abdomen and her lymph nodes.  Although the compassionate doctor stated there was no way to predict a specific time frame, she told us that based upon her experience with cancer, Janet may have 2-6 months to live and it would be important to get her affairs in order.

I was trying to be so strong for her. Inside, my heart was shattering into a million pieces. At the end of each visit, we always see Jodi to check out and schedule our next appointment.  Today, she seemed distant with us. I wasn’t sure if it was because she knew this was the end of the road for Janet. When she gave us hospice material, I spoke up and asked her if this was the hardest part of the job for her. She got teary eyed, as did I, when she said “yes.” She knelt to talk to my mother-in-law who was sitting in the wheel chair and said, “You inspire me and you have lived a good life.” As Jody gave Janet a hug, I was no longer able to compose myself; I broke down and said “I am losing my rock.” Janet, very stoic, replied “I am not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to leave my family.”

My thoughts immediately went to my children. How are my husband and I going to prepare them for grandma’s farewell? As Janet and I were driving home I asked her if there was anything she really wanted to do during the remaining days of her life. She said that she wanted to go to the zoo with her family. Janet loved to entertain and I suggested we throw a party in her honor to celebrate her life while she was here on this earth. She agreed. Since she loves to garden, someone suggested her friends bring a favorite flower and plant in the garden for her. I planned to have my children involved in the planning of her party.

We talked about her sons and grandchildren getting support from Hospice and I suggested we also make a picture book for Gabrielle. I asked Janet if she would help me find pictures of Gabrielle and her together and make a book. I have heard that one of the most loving things you can do for a dying person is to tell them how important they have been in your life. For the time we have left with my mother in law, I will encourage my children to share the bountiful memories they have with their grandma and to tell her why she is important to them.

— Diann

Photo courtesy of Rosie O’Beirne