Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


Help Them Help Themselves

put-on-shoesThe classic parenting struggle: we need to get out the door and on with our day, but your child is this. close. to putting their jacket on by themselves for the first time. Of course, you can insert a variety of skills—putting shoes on, pulling pants up, zipping their coat, etc. These last moments before success seem to be stretching beyond the limits of time. Your child continues to try and try again. What do you do as a parent? I’ll tell you what I do too often: do it for them and get on with our day.

More recently, our two-and-a-half-year-old has been excited about his developing skills. He sees himself as capable and wants to try to dress himself. He lets us know this by saying, “I DO IT!” with a look on his face that tells us he means business. This newfound attitude has made me stop and think about how I’m supporting him in learning these skills, while also considering the realities of our day.

Morning time during the work week isn’t the best in our house for learning new skills. We have “places to go and people to see” as my parents would say. Knowing how important it is for children to develop these self-help skills and build confidence in trying new things, I took a conscious look at what we could do at home to accommodate this. For us, evenings work out much better. When we arrive home, we can practice with jackets and shoes. As it turns out, this is much more fun for our youngest when his big brother helps to show him. When it is time to put on pajamas for bed, we can practice dressing and undressing skills. The boys have fun seeing who can finish first, even though they are both always declared the winner—our oldest says, “I know I won for real but he can win too because he’s little,” which melts my heart. We make sure to start early before everyone is too tired and provide encouragement along the way.

As these skills are practiced and further developed, they’ll make their debut into our morning routine. I’m anxiously awaiting the day both boys can get themselves ready for the day without my help. Until then, we’ll keep practicing!

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.


Family Rituals

We don’t have too much ritual in our life anymore. And these life symbols which people rely on to keep their feeling of well being, that life is not too bad after all, are required more and more. – John Hench

I arrived home late Tuesday evening, exhausted, and asked my husband if he would put our daughter, Gabrielle, to bed. I heard him pull the covers over her and kiss her goodnight. But within ten minutes, she was calling for me. Her voice got louder and louder as she called for “mom.”  Reluctantly, I left my warm quilts to go see what it was she wanted. As I put her to bed again, she reminded me to pray, kneeling at her bed and motioning the sign of the cross. She wanted me to say our prayers together. I said, “God Bless,” and Gabrielle continued with Rory (a former pet), mom, dad and her brothers.

After her prayers, Gabrielle was asleep within a few minutes. I started thinking about the impact a change in routine can have, like the one I’d tried to do that night. Rituals, like saying our prayers together each night, are important for a child, no matter their age.

Photograph courtesy of Bill S.

Photograph courtesy of Bill S.

I established routines with my children at an early age and didn’t think of their significance until they communicated their concern by questioning me. For example, I always make a big deal with their birthdays: making signs and placing them all over the house so they see them when they get up in the morning. When my son Jared turned 15, however, I didn’t make him any as I thought he was too old and would think they were for little kids. To my surprise, when he got up, he asked about his signs! Boy, did I feel bad. So for his next birthday, I made sure there were signs!

Prior to running errands, I always kiss my kids goodbye and tell them where I’m going and that I love them.  Well, once when I forgot I received a phone call from my son Jansen asking where I was. I explained to him I was at the grocery store and I asked if he needed something while I was out. He said no. He said he didn’t know where I was and just wanted to know. I now make a point to tell him as well as text him where I am and when I’ll be home.

A lot of importance is placed on establishing routines with very young children, but Gabrielle, Jared and Jansen have made me aware that rituals matter to them, too, even as teenagers. They have taught me to never underestimate the significance of rituals. Even though I didn’t think my children cared, I realized that rituals create a comfort in knowing they have a strong foundation and a sense of security. Routines and rituals let them know they can rely on their family.

– Diann