Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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Cutting Through the Noise

holidays-together

The holiday catalog from a popular retailer arrived in the mail recently, and our two sons had a great time looking through the pages and finding countless items they wanted to play with. With every page turn came exclamations of “That’s my favorite!” and “That is just like, so awesome!” They tore, cut, and glued their “most favorite” photos to paper as we talked about what they’d like to do with these new toys. When the excitement died down, my mom brain took over.

“These prices are crazy! Where is all of this stuff supposed to go? Don’t we already have something like this?”

This time of year can be overwhelming! One of my roles as a parent is to make the most of the fun by managing expectations and what is realistically possible. While it would be exciting in the moment to buy everything their hearts desire and watch the joy on their faces as they open everything, it is not at all realistic. And really, where is all of this stuff supposed to go?

Our children are inundated with so much information on a daily basis, through TV commercials, catalogs, and/or peers. Honestly, we as adults are flooded too! It can be challenging to cut through all of the noise. As parents, my husband and I look for strategies for our family to focus on each other instead of focusing on things.

A few years ago, I came across the Something you want, Something you need, Something you wear, and Something you read strategy for gift giving. We’ve done this for the past two holiday seasons, and it has really helped to focus us on being thoughtful and specific with gift giving. We’re also able to talk about wants versus needs, and the boys aren’t nearly as overwhelmed by stuff and can fully enjoy discovering their gifts. This allows us to all enjoy each other a bit more, and is much easier to organize! How will you and your family cut through the noise?


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What Did You Do to Show Kindness Today?

friends-kindness

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.


Confidence in Child Care

confidence-in-child-careAs I send my oldest child off to Kindergarten, I find myself worrying how his day at “big school” is going. Is he being kind? How does his teacher handle his love for talking his way through activities? Is he making progress? This change from our previous routine of being at child care all day has me reflecting on how comfortable we’ve become with our child care provider, and what it is about our provider that eases my mind.

Making our initial child care decision was somewhat overwhelming. We knew how important doing our research and making an informed decision was. I utilized the “Find Child Care” quick link on the 4C for Children homepage, and further explored the “Choosing Quality” tab. Ultimately, utilizing these resources and touring facilities brought us to our current child care provider.

We were greeted over the phone by a loving and professional voice that encouraged us not to schedule a tour, but to come visit at any time. To me, this signified confidence on the part of the provider. When we toured, we were immediately greeted by the director and by every teacher whose classroom we entered. The spaces were calm and organized; the teachers were warm and welcoming. I paid close attention to how the children treated each other, and how they approached the teachers. Everyone was comfortable in their surroundings, which is an essential foundation to learning. After touring the facility, we were given a copy of the age-specific parent handbooks and encouraged to ask any questions we might have. We weren’t pressured to make an immediate decision, rather, we were guided to look over the information and contact them if we’d like to enroll.

After making our decision to enroll, we were able to fill out a questionnaire regarding our children that would help the teachers with basics about our boys before they came into the classroom, as well as scheduled a time to meet with each teacher so they could ask additional questions and get more comfortable with us. This was very reassuring to a nervous mom! Knowing they had an “open door” policy meant I could stop by at any time, and I could call to check up on them. In the coming weeks we received daily communication with special notes about what they enjoyed each day. The attention to detail and development their teachers put into their notes helped reassure me that my children were well cared for. The program director asks for feedback and welcomes questions and input from all parents. The words and actions from our program say “We are partners in caring for your child.”

Overall, every parent needs to have choice in choosing child care, and feel confident in those caring for their children. We are so thankful to have found a program which partners with us as parents while truly appreciating our children for who they are. It is among the most important decisions as parents we’ll make!


My Child Is Not Me!

mother-sonI’ve been a mommy since 2006, and before my angel was born I had all these grand ideas and plans of how I would be as a mom and how he would be as my son. I thought we would be doing a lot of laughing, reading, riding bikes, visiting the museum, zoos, amusement parks, you name it—but boy was I wrong. I did not expect and anticipate my kid not liking any of those things. I mean NOTHING. So instead of crying, being sad and pouting I had to come up with ideas that would entice or interest him in a different way. I didn’t take into consideration that he may have just been fed up or burnt out because schools and summer camps take him to most of these outings. So how do you get your kid interested in hanging out with mom?

First, I always check in with my son. I have always formed a bond and a relationship with him so that he knows he can tell me anything whether I would be upset or not. I wanted to develop his trust but at the same time remind him that I can be his friend but I still have to parent.

Second, I talk with his friends to see what his interests are. Sometimes our children tell the parent one thing and his friends something else. I’ve figured from talking to his friends that some things of interest to my son he may deem embarrassing or feel like I would think it’s stupid or that I just wouldn’t get it.

Third, I am personable. I like to check in with my son to let him know that mommy was not always an adult and to let him know the things that I did as a child. Because of the power of the internet and ebay, I can pull up old TV shows, cartoons and toys.

All in all as a parent I had to learn that my child is just an extension of me, not a replica. So instead of being disappointed, losing interest or giving up on bonding and hanging out with your child, think about what interests you have and adapt to involving yourself with what your kids like and are involved in. I have now been introduced to worlds that I didn’t know existed such as Comic-Con, playing and beating him in laser tag, learning to play video games and actually participating in gaming forums.

Hopefully you too can follow this TIP, (Trust, Interest, and Personable) on your journey to maintaining a bond with your child.


“I can do it Mom! You know I can!”

independence

“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.


Technology Guilt

tech

I can’t be the only parent who has felt the proverbial “short fall” to my initial plans for my children. Have you ever said, “When I’m a parent, I’ll never…”? For me, one of my big “I’ll never…” struggles has been TV. Allowing them a little TV show once in awhile to get a shower or complete a meal seemed so harmless. Over the years,  TV eventually turned into tablets and smart phones and before I knew it, I realized that sometimes I look up and everyone in the room is on some sort of device. When it comes to technology, it’s a daily struggle with me, whether I am making the right choices for my children. Even just the process of purchasing a smart item for them to gain access to more screen time is overwhelming.  Am I helping or hurting their development? Are they going to become smarter than me and be able to get around all the parental control passwords we set up? How dangerous it could be is an entirely different topic!

There are different stages that I have gone through with technology guilt:

Stage one: Guilt. This is where I am in complete denial of technology.

Stage two: Understanding.I feel okay with minimal uses of technology.

Stage three: Acceptance. Maybe getting a little too comfortable and allowing overuse of technology.

Stage four: Happy medium. Allowing use of technology, but being clear about limitations such as time constraints and parental controls to keep them from seeing things they shouldn’t.

We also make time to use technology together. My children thrive in the world of technology. They share what they learn with me, and teach others as well! As it was beautifully said, “We can’t prepare our kids for the world they will inhabit as adults by dragging them back to the world we lived in as kids.”


Am I Really Listening?

parent-listening

I’ve been reflecting on my previous blog post about wondering if my children are listening to me, and it got me thinking: am I listening to them?

There was a stump in the road
And it became clear
Everyone’s approaching
With lots of fear
How did this happen?
Is everyone okay?
Who will be able
To lift it out of the way?
Cars need to drive through
Are they going to see?
What if someone misses
And hits the piece of tree?
Is the driver aware
Of what he left behind?
Will he be back?
Looking to find?
Assumptions have been made
From what I don’t know
It quickly turns into
Quite a show!
What I learned
About what I didn’t see
Is it’s sometimes important
Not to make-up a story
It made me think hard
And giggle a bit
How many times do I do this
And don’t even realize it
Making assumptions
About what I see
Is this okay
For every story?
It made me reflect
about my beautiful children
And how I owe them
all their explanations
I need to listen
and hear what they say
I need to push my assumptions
out of the way
Allow them to be heard
Explain in their own words
The crucial situations
That actually occurred!
Not the things
I’ve made up in my head
Who knew with this stump
My own understanding would spread?