Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


Well Put Together

FequitaGuestBlogWelcome to our special guest-blogger: Fequita Simmons! Fequita and her daughter attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Fequita for sharing this story with us!

Today I took my three-year-old to play group. While watching her play ‘grocery store’ with her bestie I engaged in casual conversation with another parent whose son was immersed in fire trucks. I asked her if she had any more children. She lightheartedly responded, “I have just the one, and I can barely keep up with him.” When she asked me, “So do you have just the one?” I responded almost in automation to this question I’ve answered a million times, “I have four: ages 18, 10, 6 and 3.” Her eyes immediately widened to full capacity as she said, “You look so well put together!” In the moment I awkwardly laughed it off saying, “Thank you, I guess.”

Why did she see me as well put together? And as I am a mother of four—what have I figured out that has made a difference? There are certainly complications and hardships that come with raising several children. You have more personalities to manage and more schedules to keep up with, but it’s definitely manageable. Each parent has to come up with a system that works for the needs of their particular family. Here are a few general tips that work for my family.

1. Preparation and Consistency: Make a plan and stick to it. Make a schedule for all the things that must happen on a daily basis. It may seem a bit tedious to schedule what days to wash clothes, clean the bathroom, when to take baths and plan a dinner menu. However, with the hustle and bustle of a large family, it’s easy to overlook something and once you do it will be overwhelming to catch back up.

2. Get Everyone Involved: Encourage everyone to participate in the functioning of your household. My 3-year-old has chores just like the older ones do. My older children read the younger children bedtime stories. Children actually love to help out and it builds a great bond between siblings.

3. Roll with the punches: This is the most important rule. In a large family, there are too many variables to expect everything to run smoothly all the time. So learn to be okay with change. Every day there will be something that will not go as expected. And with each unexpected situation just improvise, adapt and overcome.

So if there is a mother out there, whether you have several children or just one, and you are feeling overwhelmed, give these tips a try. I hope they work for your family.

-Fequita


Oh, the Holidays! Be Merry Be Bright!

holiday-family

I think every family has one, a few, or several holiday traditions! I know I have many. My childhood was full of holiday traditions. I remember going to my grandparent’s house on Christmas Eve and playing with all my cousins, (all 15 of us). We would eat, open gifts, then play with our new gifts. We laugh now as adults that it was not Christmas until someone threw up their dinner. No joke—every year! My family has grown so much over the years we no longer have Christmas at my grandparent’s house. We are way too big and grandmother can no longer cook for 50 people. So we all chip in now.

My traditions have changed over the years. I still have fond memories of my parents’ annual Christmas party with our friends, putting up the tree and singing Christmas songs when it was done, driving around looking at Christmas lights, making cookies, drinking eggnog, and of course our trip to the outlet malls for our Christmas gifts.

The biggest, funniest and craziest tradition that I have a love/hate relationship with was how my parents wrapped mine and my sister’s gifts from them to us. They would wrap our gifts and put them under the tree with our friend’s names on them. Yes! Our friend’s names! So we had “gifts” for Jaime, Mandy, Anne, Heather, Keisha, Abbie, Kathy, Andrea, Holly and so on. My sister and I hated it, but looking back on it now, I think its hilarious!

This holiday season, I hope that you are able to take time to appreciate how precious it is to see how fascinated kids are with all the events of the season. The lights, the fun things to do, seeing all the people that they love, and creating memories and traditions that stick with them through adulthood. I recently watched a new show on TV that I have fallen in love with called “This is Us,” that is about the ups and downs of a family. I laugh and cry every week. One of their holiday traditions is to watch Police Academy 4.

Even though my adult traditions have changed through the years, I still think back on the great traditions that my family has left me with. To this day I have great relationships with my now adult cousins and my extended family. We value our traditions and the family memories that we have created. I hope you and your family create memories that last a lifetime.

Happy Holidays!


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?


Nature: The Original Classroom

natures-journeyNature has a wonderful basic quality that has so many opportunities for learning. I believe that many of the things that we learn can be explored in nature. We learn nurturing and responsibility as we care for our parks, yards, feed birds, and plant gardens and flowers. We learn in the rain, in the water as we jump in puddles. We learn about feeling when we fall or when we have to come inside.

Nature is so valuable. The earth provides an amazing opportunity for learning and the potential from the excitement from being outdoors is electric. We see the value of nature as a way to create calm in our emotions. We spend a lot of time outside simply experimenting with the environment and investigating everything. We learn in the backyard, we learn at the park, we learn while on a hike, we learn everywhere.

The outdoors has provided a fantastic classroom for me and my children. We generally take at least one hike every week at a local park or in our neighborhood. Our son walks during most of the journey and explores everywhere. Exploring and being prepared for the journey is very important. I usually have a small bag with snacks, water, and wipes. We occasionally get off the trail and really find some interesting things. Recently we went on a hike a day after a rain and the creek trail was so muddy and full of puddles. I was prepared with clean clothes and towels in the car. What a wonderful opportunity to explore. He stomped through every puddle large and small as we were on our walk. Then it happened. His feet got wet enough that he didn’t want to walk any more. I had a few choices but I chose to put him up on my shoulders as we finished our hike. It was cold and messy but messy is fun.

About a week later we were on the same trail and it was rather dry but we found a wet space for him to learn and play with the water. I was interested in what would happen if he got muddy again. He was slow at first, but gradually got more and more wet. I got down in the mud near him and painted my face with a little mud. The best part was when he looked up at me and smiled and was inquisitive whether he could have some mud paint too. He lifted his face up with excitement and let me share some art on his face. We walked down the trail where my wife and daughter were waiting and my wife was surprised with our choice of organic facial material but it was such a wonderful memory. Yes, it will get hot or cold, rain or snow, and there will be scrapes, and the bugs will bite, but it is all worth the journey of learning outdoors.


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.


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.”


Homework Can Be Stressful for Parents, Too!

homeworkHave you heard about the no homework letter one teacher sent home at the beginning of the school year? The letter was first shared on Facebook by Samantha Gallagher, whose daughter is in Mrs. Young’s class, and it quickly went viral. The response to this letter has been overwhelmingly positive. Parents everywhere have shared comments agreeing that student success is less reliant on nightly homework and more dependent on children spending their evenings playing, eating dinner and reading as a family and going to bed early.

As a mom of school-age children this letter really hit home for me. My children are now in sixth, third and second grades.

I often find myself resenting homework. My children are at school roughly 7.5 hours a day. My husband and I are at work between 7-9 hours a day. At the end of the day I want our family to have the freedom to decompress from the day’s events, relax, and enjoy time talking, watching TV together or going for a walk. The National Education Association recommends the “10 minute rule,” 10 minutes per grade level per night. That translates into 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school. According to CNN Health, a recent study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy found students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended.

My sixth grader spends 1.5 to 2 hours on homework almost every night. My second grader’s homework includes 20 minutes of reading, 10 minutes of math facts practice, and completing one sheet in his homework packet. That is about 30-40 minutes of homework a night.

I’m not saying that my children should never have homework. I believe that homework can help students develop and strengthen responsibility and time management skills. It also helps parents to see what their student is learning. I am saying that homework can be good or it can be bad depending on the volume and the quality of the assignment.

What can parents do to lessen the stress that homework can create on the family?

I have found that having regular communication with your child’s teacher is helpful for school success. Most of the time they don’t realize until you talk to them that the amount of homework is overwhelming and causing continued family stress. Work together to come up with a plan that will work best for your child and family while respecting the teacher’s needs. Most of the time my children’s teachers’ homework expectations were the right fit. So far this year we are struggling, but I am hopeful that with the teacher’s help we will find the right balance.

What do you think of the no homework letter? Do you feel your child has too much homework? Too little? Just the right amount? What are some things you have tried to lessen the stress homework can create?