Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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.


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.”


New Year’s Eve Celebration

family-time-holidayCelebrating New Year’s in our house is almost as anticipated as Christmas morning. I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when I told her I wanted to go to a friend’s house for New Year’s Eve. She was so disappointed that we all wouldn’t be together to ring in the New Year. So, I remembered this when I had children and decided to make it amazing while we had our time together.

Every year the festivities are something different than the year before and every year we try to top the last. First thing on our list, FOOD! Each person gets to pick whatever they want to be on the menu! ANYTHING! This gets kinda crazy! One year we had macaroni and cheese, shrimp cocktail, bowtie pasta, steak, mussels, a cheese tray and a veggie tray. The kids love going to the grocery and picking whatever they want. Then, we have to have champagne (for the adults) and sparkling grape juice (for the kids) served in wine flutes.

To top it off, we…have…games! I must say that since “Minute-to-Win-it” came out we have had so much fun! Every year we fill up balloons with random things to do at different times during the night and the kids love popping them and going crazy! We always have the TV station on the Rockin’ New Year’s Eve NYC ball drop, and we have dance parties and play board games too. The kids love it! And we “old folk” parents get a kick out of it too. At midnight our tradition is to bang pots and pans outside and yell “Happy New Year!” as loud as we can!

I know the time is coming when my kids won’t want to hang with mom and dad during New Year’s Eve, but for now these memories we have made are amazing! Maybe they will continue on our celebratory traditions with their families, but for now it’s just my favorite part of the year!


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?


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Are They Listening?

are-they-listeningI often ask myself, “Are my kids are truly listening and processing when I speak to them?” No, seriously…I’m not trying to be funny! When I speak from the heart and feel like I am saying things that could help them grow, develop and make well thought out decisions, are they really listening? This age span that I have with my four children has me on my toes on a regular basis. I want to make sure when they have questions about the things that are going on in the world right now that I take the time to answer them and that they hear every word! Or, when my three-year-old points out a woman in a wheelchair or my eight-year-old giggles at her own gross burps in public, I need them to listen to me when I respond.

I know they aren’t listening when the very next time we are in the same situation the same things continue to happen. We sit in the car and have in depth conversations about why it’s not polite to stare at the woman in the wheelchair, and yet the very next time we are in public, my daughter’s first reaction to a man with no arm is to loudly ask, “What happened to his arm mommy?” In the car before we even enter a restaurant we go over the basic rules: use your manners, stay in your seat, and keep your voices down. But then my daughter burps so loud that the people at the table next to us can definitely hear. I explain for hours about freedom of speech to my son and how it’s an amazing right to have your own beliefs in our great country, but then he comes home from school talking about how stupid so-and-so is because they keep talking about how they want so-and-so to win the election!

I need to have my children’s full attention so these very critical moments grow into understanding and they can then make their own educated decisions. I need them to keep asking if they don’t understand. And for my part, even if I’ve answered them over and over, I need to stay patient and answer again if that’s what they need.

I have had a session with a school psychologist and during our discussion she enlightened me that children’s brains before and during puberty are like hills and valleys. You can’t be absolutely sure at any point in time if they are on the top of the hill (in the clouds and enjoying the view) or the bottom of the valley (trying hard and focusing on the climb).

I have been in the middle of a well thought out, prepared speech that makes so many great points, and they’ve looked up at me and said, “What?” as if they had not been listening to a single word. That’s when they are on top of that hill! But that moment when you actually stimulate conversations, questions and even examples they are at the bottom of that valley working hard to get up! They get it!

Bottom line, I have to keep teaching them. I have to laugh now and say this is why Dora the Explorer is so popular! She repeats and repeats a lot of things several times over. My kids roll their eyes and get irritated when I repeat myself on a regular basis, but if they only knew my gratitude when those eyes roll and I know then that they’ve heard what I said…finally.