Tag Archives: parenting

Children’s Book Review: How Many Jellybeans?

 

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Today’s Favorite: How Many Jelly Beans? A Giant Book of Giant Numbers
by Andrea Menotti – Illustrated by Yancey Labat

This book is just so cool. The illustrations are modern and fun. The little dog is hilarious. And it’s a sneaky way to introduce little ones to the visual reality of really big numbers. The story starts with a brother and sister challenging each other to who can eat more jelly beans. Each one tries to outdo the other and the illustrations reflect their increasing challenges. 25…100…1000…100,000 jelly beans! It tries to answer the great philosophical question: Is there such a thing as too many jelly beans? (The dog doesn’t think so.) The fold-out page at the end of the book has 1 million jelly beans on it! I can’t think of any other place my 4 year old has actually seen a million of anything. It was a pretty cool realization for him to see…1 million is a lot! Totally awesome!

Children’s Book Review: Little Fairy Can’t Sleep

Today’s Favorite: Little Fairy Can’t Sleep

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This book is gorgeous. Daniela Drescher is such a beautiful artist that I really wouldn’t care if there weren’t words to go with the pictures. As an adult reading this book, I want to jump into the story so I can interact with the glittery, charming world she paints. I can only imagine how magical it must feel for little ones. Growing up, I loved reading about enchanted worlds — and if I’d had it, I know this book would have been a favorite. If I were being super-liberal, I’d take a small point off for the fairy being so tired at the end of the book that the moth-fairy prince carries her home….but this book is so sweet (a mother fox & her family, a father elf & his family, the sandman, a mid-summer night’s party!) that I don’t even care. If I’m reading this to my son at bedtime, when we get to the sandman page, he asks me to grab some magic dust from the page to sprinkle in his eyes. That’s how much this book comes alive.  Gor-geous!

Children’s Book Review: My First Day

There are so many things I come across from day to day that spark an interest, make me smile, or catch my kids attention. I thought I’d devote Fridays to sharing some of those favorite things with you. (No- it ain’t gonna be whiskers on kittens and bright copper kettles, though that is one of my favorite songs for all of eternity.)

Before I share today’s favorite book, I’d like to give a shout out to libraries. Libraries are one of those things that I will never take for granted. Unlimited access to books, music and information. Including kids’ books. For FREE. Hello? It’s like traveling to an alternate universe anytime you want…Where else can you just walk into what is basically a store and take items- as many as you want- and show them your id and say, “Yeah, I’ll bring these back in like a month. Maybe. My kid might tear some pages, but other than that, they’ll be good as new”  This system is amazing! Really. Where am I? Have I transported myself into a culture where I say “I’m good for it,” and that’s enough of a social agreement? Is this America? Can we transfer this policy to the real estate market?  I almost can’t believe how good it is. It’s the guiding force of my abundance meditations. If libraries exist, there is hope for us all. Now on to the favorite…

Today’s Favorite: My First Day by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

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I love this book.  I am a sucker for animal books that aren’t super sappy and this is a good one. You can read a full review here.  In a nutshell, it captures different animals’ first day on planet earth and how very, very diverse those experiences are. “On my first day, my mother held me close so I wouldn’t drift out to sea,” says a sea otter. A giraffe says, “On my first day, I was born high above the ground – and I landed in a heap. But I wasn’t hurt, and before long I was taking my first steps.” For me, it shows the vast differences between species: different worlds, one planet. I’m hoping that will come ’round to validate for my kid that it’s ok for his experiences to feel unique to him. He likes it too.

Kids are people

One of the things that I took with me from childhood (and that landed me in therapy) was feeling invisible. I distinctly remember feeling like I had Important things to offer–and I did not measure them against the fact that I was a kid. To me, they weren’t a kid’s thoughts. They were just Important thoughts. So why were the adults around me treating me like a kid, when what I felt like was a human being with important things to say and observations to share?

What got me thinking about this today was the fact that I caught myself in a moment of gross adulthood. That is, behaving in a way that, as a kid, I swore I never would.

My kids and I were meeting my husband outside my doctor’s office so he could drive them (in the van) home while I had my appointment.  And I would then take his truck home. So the kids were in the van, and Justin and I were standing outside the van, talking about schedules and the agenda for the evening.  Then Justin got in to take the kids home. I said goodbye to him and walked away from the van.

As he was driving away, I realized I had not said goodbye to my kids. This might not seem like a big deal. Kids are often in their own world. And a three year old and an eleven month old might not notice their mom not saying goodbye. But honestly, I know kids do remember things just like that.  Because I remember being a kid and wondering why adults acted like I wasn’t in the van, or in the room or wherever I found myself being passively ignored.

I felt bad. I’m usually pretty good at including them as small people in my world, and offering them the same courtesies as I would an adult.  But I slipped.

OK, that’s part of parenting. But it got me thinking about sharing the test I have that keeps me in check.

Here it is: In any moment involving common courtesy (saying hello, goodbye, please, or thank you; apologizing if I’m wrong or rude), I pretend the kid is an adult. It’s a litmus test to see if I’m treating my kids like people.

In the case today, if I had been saying goodbye to Justin and two of my friends were in the backseat, and I had walked away without saying goodbye to them, it would have been rude. The fact that the two people in the back seat were little people doesn’t make a lick of difference. I should have taken a second to say goodbye. Kids are people too.

Baby, We Were Born to Run

Last year in my mama support facebook group, I posted these words, “I’ve got a runner.” I was referring to my then two year old who had taken to sprinting away from me as soon as he saw an opening. “Can’t catch me!”  he would shout. And I would think, “You are right! I am eight months pregnant with what must be a fifteen pound baby and I can barely waddle fast enough to catch a caterpillar!”

He thought running away was fun, hilarious, a game. I was panicked. I could not stop him from running and, being a slow-moving planet, I could not catch him.  In my mind, as happens often in parenting, my sense of time collapsed and the phase we were in became an always/never situation. He will never stop when I ask him to. We will never be able to walk down a sidewalk together. I will always have this panic that he will run into the street.

He didn’t have a sense of danger at all: traffic, bikes, losing sight of each other in public places. These were all amusing to him- they had no consequences that he could see other than the consequences I created for him which mattered little to him.

Perceiving danger was my job. And I’m damn good at it because I tend to be an anxious person when it comes to my kids safety.  (I cut blueberries not just in half, but into quarters for the baby, just to be safe.)  But during this phase, unless I had him strapped into a stroller, shopping cart, or car seat, I could not keep him safe.  He would almost always hit the ground running.

Below you will see pics of B in action during this phase:

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Throwing down his best juke moves on Justin to get past him.

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Justin is foiled again!

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At last Braden listens to reason and comes back when we call him.

The advice given to me by my facebook group was outstanding, as usual. They recommended having consistent consequences and rules, and saying things like this:

You must hold my hand in the parking lot.

If you don’t stay where I can see you and you can see me, we are leaving.

But what I learned in this phase was that, despite our consistent warnings and consequences, there was no way to keep him safe other than strapping him into something. I wanted him to have the freedom to learn, but I couldn’t keep him out of danger if we did.  So anytime we left the house, it was like we were flying through turbulence- because he was always buckled.  He went directly from the car seat to the stroller and stayed locked in until we were done with our errand and I could put him back in the car seat. Same for shopping carts. I could not let him try and walk next to me on the sidewalk holding my hand because he could never resist the temptation to run, no matter what consequence I could offer. And given that I would not be able to catch him, I really had no choice.

This lasted for a few months. I would see other toddlers walking across a parking lot holding their mom’s hand and I would then want to cry. (Time collapses: We will never be able to hold hands in the parking lot.) But I am happy to report that we do now.  He still really loves running, but usually not away from me.  He listens when I ask him to stop (usually.) He even turns around to check in.  “Is this too far?” he will yell if he’s run ahead of me on a path.  And I am so glad to shout back, “That’s far enough! Just wait there for mama!” And he does.

Kids make you busy.

Two adults, a 3 year old and a 6 month old get into a mini-van to drive 20 hours to Florida and 20 hours back.  That right there is the setup and the punchline, folks.

Yesterday I wrote about lawn mower races and poop anomalies.  Today I am thinking about grander things.  Namely, my worth as a parent.  Taking this road trip validated me at my deepest level and here is why: it showed me why I should no longer feel bad about not being able to get shit done in my day to day life.

The only tasks we really needed to accomplish as a family, while driving in this mini-van were:

1. Eat

2. Drive

3. Take potty breaks

4. Sleep

That’s it. There was no laundry to fold, no dishes to do, no calendars to keep, checkbooks to balance, rooms to clean, toys to put away, showers to take…you get the idea.  The tasks required of us on this trip were the absolute purest, barest minimum.  And yet (here is where the validating part comes in) the overall mood inside that van was absolute chaos.  Leaky diapers, bunny crackers out of reach, poop blowouts, toys dropped, baby needs to nurse, sunglasses missing, cd not working, gps comes unplugged, water spilled, straw dropped, baby crying, baby wailing, 3 year old mumbling as quietly as possible and over and over again something neither of us can hear, ridiculously annoying toddler-song cd filling the van with modified kids’ voices.

With 2 adults, we were scrambling to maintain calm.  With both of us hustling we managed to create some extended times of quiet where one of us could drive and one of us could sleep or read.  But, this was short-lived.  It made the idea of doing this at home by myself and actually trying to get stuff done seem….heroic.  Here we were driving in a 10×5 foot box with literally nothing that needed to be done except eat, sleep, drive and take potty breaks.  With 2 of us working at it, we were just barely able to take care of these things and find time to rest.  No wonder I feel too tired to make dinner most nights.

No matter how mellow you are, kids make you busy.  They bring it.  So tonight, I’m raising my glass to those parents who raise their kids and find time to do stuff like make dinner, clean the kitchen floor, and fold pants.  I will be thinking of you while we eat take-out food while wearing our pajamas (the only clothes that were clean.)

If you don’t put that down, I will hold my breath until I’m blue

Illogical consequences are the enemy of modern parenting.  In order for kids to make sense of why they are receiving a consequence, it should be related somehow to their undesirable behavior.  Like this: “If you throw the blue truck, the blue truck is banished to the closet for the rest of the day.”  Consequences should not be randomly linked (“If you throw the blue truck, you will not get to watch Dora”) or fueled by frustration and anger  (“If you throw the blue truck, I will throw it in the fireplace and make you watch it burn.”)  My problem with this system is that often the most frustrating misbehaviors do not have rational consequences.  Here is a list I compiled of such behaviors that took place in our household in the last 24 hours:

Bouncing on the bed
Unrolling the toilet paper roll
Climbing into the the refrigerator to try and reach yogurt
Throwing noodles on the floor
Laying down on the floor, limp, when it was time to walk to our car
Laying down on the floor, limp,  when it was time to get dressed
Laying down on the floor, limp,  when it was time to eat
Running away from me in a public place
Laughing at me and continuing to run when I say “STOP NOW” in my sternest mommy voice
Banging a brush repeatedly against the cabinet door
Sitting at the forbidden computer and starting to type on the keyboard
Trying to unlock the car door with his foot while in his car seat
Unlatching his car seat buckle
Throwing his cheddar bunnies on the floor of the car
Torrential splashing in the bath

What is the logical consequence of throwing noodles on the floor?  Not letting him eat them and excusing him from dinner?  He didn’t want to eat anyway!  That’s not a consequence, that’s what he wants!  Or what about a logical consequence for unlatching his car seat buckle?  Stopping the car and being Stern Mommy seems logical but then, what if it’s a trip I wanted to make that he could care less about?  Like to Starbucks or something?  He would love it if I stopped the car and headed back home- that’s where all his trucks live.

What is so stressful about these behaviors is that I’m so Nice and I Follow the Rules of being a good parent.  I give clear expectations, set great boundaries, and offer clear consequences for undesirable behavior.  I usually do not get emotionally invested in his naughty-ness, but remain calm in guiding him toward appropriate behavior.  What frustrates me the most about times like this when he’s acting out is that:

1. I feel helpless to help him navigate his emotions.
2. I feel like a failure as any kind of guide in his life.
3. I feel angry that these time-tested parenting strategies don’t seem to work for him or me (Like time-outs, for instance, are a joke.  He literally laughs at them.)
4. I am disappointed that I am not being rewarded for my undying love, strict obedience of the Rules, and consistency.  I am used to Following the Rules and being rewarded for it.
5. I feel scared and inadequate as a parent when I can’t help him control inappropriate behaviors.

Is my kid smarter than me?  Is there a secret key to unlocking daily, consistent desirable behavior that I am missing?  I admit that I don’t like classifying children’s behavior into “good” and “bad” categories.  For me, the behavior I’m trying to correct usually falls into these two categories: “unsafe” and/or “pain in the ass.”

Is it really earth-shattering that our toilet paper sits in a pile on the floor?  In the grand scheme of the things, no.  Gross, perhaps, if we plan to actually use it.  Wasteful if we don’t.  My stress comes from knowing he has directly ignored a clear instruction.  It’s like I expect him to be a little soldier.  He’s not.  He’s not even 3 years old.  I can literally not believe how stressed out I feel at these little things that happen all day long.   But then I think, my stress isn’t real stress.  We have a roof over our head, food on the table, good people in our lives.  These parenting stresses are the stresses of a luxury American lifestyle.  Deep breathing, a glass of wine and some yoga poses usually cure them.  But sure enough, when they happen again, I feel like a failure again.

I want him to listen and do what I say without fighting me.  That’s basically what the mom in me wants.  And when dealing with a 2 or 3 year old it seems that yes, that is too much to ask.  And though as a mom I want his happy obedience, as a human being I want him to think creatively and disobey authority a little.  Frankly I think a little disobedience is an asset in our society.  Anarchy!  Not quite, but sort of.  Part of me wants to let him do whatever he wants as long as he is safe.  Bounce the crap out of your bed!  Let me get you another toilet paper roll!  Yeah, lay on the ground when it’s time to go to preschool- I didn’t want to drive you there anyways!  Is it the rebel in me that he is reflecting back to me?  Nope, probably more likely to be a developmental normalcy of an almost 3 year old.   I hope.