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 Does This Season Mean for Your Family?

holiday-magic

Every family has their own idea of what traditions the holiday season should hold. After having children, my wife and I have discussed traditions and the societal influence of the holiday season. Imagine if the only thing that you knew about Christmas was what you saw on television or in the movies. You might imagine a snowman, elves, and jolly man in a red suit with white beard racing on a polar express train to get to Kevin who is home alone before a green grumpy Grinch steals all of this year’s most popular toys, only to be saved by a red-nosed reindeer.

My wife and I come from different backgrounds. She grew up with a vision of a commercial Christmas with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents and special foods. I have a Christian connection to Christmas with a baby being born, along with fitting in some of those same traditions of a tree and presents. How do we as a family unit celebrate and teach our children about the holidays? How do we learn about the holidays, specifically Christmas, for our family?

Working together and having open communication has been extremely important. We have chosen a traditional approach that focuses on our religious beliefs while embracing some of the popular cultural practices. We put up a tree together as a family and have pictures taken with Santa Claus. We spend time visiting a live nativity depicting the birth of Jesus. We will attend our church for a night of music and performance that is very family-friendly. We will be making Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes with grandma. We will exchange presents with family and friends, but we focus on the people and not the gifts. (Although the box was the largest, best toy last year and I’m sure it will be again this year.) We have begun to do random acts of kindness for some people we know and others that we don’t. We will read the story of the first Christmas in the Bible and talk about the blessings we have to be thankful for. We have also begun to plan a trip to have a new experience and memory to celebrate.

We don’t have everything figured out as parents, but we are doing our best to provide as many positive experiences that our children will remember. That is what a tradition for the holiday has become for our family. My son already says Merry Christmas and we greet others with a smile.

We realize that everyone has their traditions, including not celebrating the holidays at all. We want our children to grow up and respect that this season is different for different families, and when they have their own families they can even make their own traditions! I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday season, or Delightful December.


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!


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.


No Halloween! What’s the big deal?

Parents are sometimes surprised to learn that their child care program doesn’t celebrate Halloween. Why won’t they allow costumes and let the kids have some fun, they wonder. Are these child care providers spoil-sports, or are there good reasons for their policy?

While not the biggest issue in early childhood these days, consider this: Halloween can be very frightening to children under 5. While costumes and make-believe are fun for older children and adults, this can be downright scary for younger children who can’t yet separate fantasy from reality.

Though Halloween is widely accepted as a secular activity by most, it does conflict with the religious beliefs of some families. So programs are being respectful of the diversity of the families they serve when they limit celebration of holidays to those that are strictly secular.

If your program is one that chooses to celebrate Halloween, consider discussing with the director or caregiver how he or she will take steps to avoid frightening experiences. One simple precaution is to not allow masks and to keep costumes limited to simple dress-up items.  Better yet, consider a no-Halloween policy!

This blog post was originally published in October 2009 by Elaine Ward, Senior Vice President/COO, 4C for Children.


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Slow Down and Smell the Poinsettias

The holiday season can be downright stressful. There never seems to be enough time or money to do all the things you want to do for and with your family. So often as parents we place undue pressure on ourselves to create the perfect holiday experience for our children and families. The perfect presents, the perfect decorations, the perfect dinner… it can all be perfectly maddening.

Don't get caught up pursuing perfection this holiday season!

Last week in pursuit of this perfection, I worked for hours looking for and hanging decorations.  I literally spent an entire day doing nothing but. Several times during the day my daughter asked me if I would play with her, and each time I said, “Not now, I’m busy. When I’m finished.”

When I finally sat down to relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor, my daughter sat down next to me and asked if I would play with her. I immediately told her I was too tired.  Then I saw the disappointment on her face.  She’d been waiting all day to spend time with me and I had let her down.

It was an “A-ha” moment for me.  It’s definitely a work in progress, but I am trying to do my best to slow down and be intentional about how I spend my time this holiday season. When I start to feel overwhelmed I have decided to just BREATHE

B:  I will do my best to BE in the moment and not worry.
R:  I will REMEMBER to be grateful for my family.
E:  I will EXTEND kindness to everyone I encounter.
A:  I will ACCEPT help from others.
T:  I will take a TIME-OUT when I become overwhelmed.
H:  I will extend a hand of HELP to someone who is need.
E:  I will EXHALE – it’s going to be ok!

Here’s hoping you are able to do the same!


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Feeling overwhelmed? Slow down!

Are you a member of the “sandwich generation”? I still have kids at home, but I also have my own parents to care for sometimes. Though they’re barely in their seventies, we’ve still dealt with some emergencies.

In the midst of the Thanksgiving holiday my mom had a scheduled surgery. We knew there would be several days of hospitalization, but we didn’t expect the complications that followed.  Between the drive back and forth to the hospital, working and trying to keep my own home intact, I AM TIRED.  I’ve been at the hospital so much I’m starting to feel like a nurse! But when I felt like I couldn’t go on one more minute, I forced myself to stop and think about the advice I would give my best friend if she were in my situation.

Breathe. Don’t let yourself get so wrapped up in things that you go on auto pilot. Sitting silently for a few moments and taking deep breaths not only relaxes your body but clears your mind and allows you to focus.

Find your comfort. I have my husband and children for moral support, but my personal comfort and peace within comes from much prayer. For you it may be a warm relaxing bath, snuggling with your baby or listening to soft holiday tunes.

Delegate and accept help. Not only am I trying to be present for my mom, I want to be there for my children as well. I am relying on my husband to do things I normally do. Some guilt goes with it, but I have learned to let go. He took them to the choral concert at school, and I drove myself there just in time to hear my daughter sing. Then I left and crashed on the couch! This weekend, my girls are learning to make a menu and prepare two meals each.

Take shortcuts. I love to do things big at the holidays: get everyone together to take the family photo, send out cards, make cookies. This year, I simply haven’t the time or the energy. When I ran in the store the other evening, I went for the refrigerated cookie dough so we can still have the fun of decorating them together!

Sometimes life gets overwhelming and we have to focus on things other than the fun stuff. But by slowing down, simplifying and taking shortcuts, we can still enjoy quality time with our families.

– Debbie