Category Archives: parenting

The Unchapter – What the Parenting Books Are Missing

Up above me sits my modest collection of parenting books which are nestled next to my books about California civil procedure (i.e. litigation).  Both basically deal with the same thing – how to address challenging moves.  When I glance above at the books I have a new perspective.  I’m not sure why, but maybe it’s the five years of mommy hood, observing trials and tribulations with my own boys and those of my friends.  The reason doesn’t matter – but here is the thing.  All parenting books are basically the same.

Just think about it.  Using the books on my shelf as an example there is the book on positive discipline, touchpoints on emotional development, and healthy sleep happy child.  Each of these books have one thing in common.  They tout one particular theory and give examples of how to implement it.

These examples seem good in theory.  For example, calmly telling the escaping toddler to come back and using positive reinforcement to encourage results.  But what happens when the toddler is running towards oncoming traffic?  Will calmness work then? Not for me.

Then what are these books?  I think they are ideals.  They set forth paradigms to think about parenting, strategies for dealing with different behaviors.  This has to be checked against the reality that no single theory will work all the time, nor should it.  We are complex beings.

Even typing this makes me question my thought – as these are the books professed by experts to raise happy and healthy kids.  Like there is some sort of recipe – 50 positive affirmations + 0 timeouts = happy child.  But there is no recipe for successful parenting as each child is different.

We live in a culture where everyone has an answer to something.  Hell, even before our children are born, we read books that tell us what to expect. They give detailed pictures, diagrams, charts (ya da ya da), to try and explain the unexplainable.

When I first read those books, I did gain some sort of comfort.  But now looking back, I wonder what they really added.  Those precious hours spent studying different books, parenting philosophies and even educational philosophies, could have been spent just enjoying the then present moment of pregnancy.

This outward direction ensues beyond pregnancy and into parenting.  Maybe it’s technology, the internet or fear of duplicating the mistakes of our own parents.  Everything directs parents outside of themselves to seek external answers – in books, on the internet or experts.

I’m not saying that all expert opinions are bad as I have gotten wonderful advice from behavioralists and professionals. What I am saying is that we ourselves are our own experts.  And sometimes our instincts provide answers.  Take the birth of my second son for example.  The nurse nearly sent me home 45 minutes before he was born.  She was convinced I wasn’t in labor.  If that was the case, then I guess C’s labor was some sort of record.

Sure birth and parenting are two different things, but both give reason to trust ourselves.  We know what’s best for our kids.  On an instinctual level we can read their smiles and body language.  Sometimes we can understand what they are experiencing without them saying it.  And this connection is so so important.

For me, I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I know what’s best for my boys. And if it is questioned, then after fully exploring the rationale for it, then I always reconnect with my instinct.  After all it is about doing what’s best for them, and sometimes the answer to that is within us.

So at least for me the next time that I feel the need to reach above to my shelf of parenting books, I am going to step back and try to find the inner answer.    Maybe yoga, meditation or a walk.  And then if after that I still feel the need to consult the written word, then I’ll peruse the book, but knowing that no book has all the answers and that sometimes the best answer lies within.

 

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Building Confidence One Step At A Time

Recently B has hit a remarkable stage.  He is all about telling elaborate stories, building things and causing havoc.   It occurred to me that there had to be a way to direct his interests into a way to build confidence.

so we’ve been taking the interests one at a time.  One day he started talking about building a tree-house in the backyard.  So, he scouted out the perfect tree.  Then, I had him draw a plan for it.  The plans weren’t complete until he finished drawing the crocodile slide.   Rolled up and secured with rubber bands, the plans became his treasure.  His  great uncle came to visit who also happens to be an architect.  And, Uncle P was all ears at hearing about B’s concept.  His other Great Uncle, a contractor, chimed in as well.2014-02-19 15.34.25

This experience just made me think about the positive effects of redirecting the boy energy.  Not to mention the importance of mentors.  Thank you Uncle P and Uncle T for encouraging B to think big.

For me, this was a major experience in letting go.  Until now, other than his preschool teachers, either myself of my husband have been teaching him about the world.  But we’ve come to a crossroad where it is time to let him gain learning from others.  It’s a humbling thing to have your child want to learn something that you don’t know.  Hockey –  ya right.  I can hardly skate straight, taekwondo, again another potentially lifelong goal but not at present.  Allowing other adult figures to step in to teach things that are beyond me has been eye opening in many ways.  Humbling yet empowering, as I know B is growing from his expanded exposure. 2014-03-01 09.11.30

As for redirecting the boy energy into positive experiences, in addition to hockey we’ve tried ninja school.  B has been talking about ninja school for months.  We visited and watched awhile ago and he has kept talking about it.  So, I thought why not let him try.

Reluctant at first, he clung close and absorbed the scene.  For me it was a parenting dilemma – to push or not to push.    After driving a half hour to get there and the days of anticipation, was expecting him to participate asking too much?  Clearly he was cautious and unsure about the experience.  and, I was getting frustrated at his hesitation.

As he sat on my lap, I thought about how comfortable he is in his little nest and the idea of eagle parenting.  Encouraging but making the nest a little less comfortable to make young explore outside.  But deciding to honor him and his interests, I held back and gently encouraged him.  So playfully I made a little earthquake with my legs, which made B stand up.  A baby step closer to participating.  That coupled with the gentle encouragement by the  teacher, made B eventually join the ranks.  2014-02-28 17.45.09

But he wasn’t sold until he was told to hit hard.  Then you should have seen him hit the red bag.  Smiling, laughing, not to mention expending all that energy in a positive way.  Yay!  And he left asking if he could go back tomorrow.   Success.

So begins a new chapter in parenting and in B’s development.  Luckily C is waiting in the pits ready for his turn.

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You Know You’re A Mom When…

IMG_4672The other day after all the Christmas decorations were tucked away in the garage, I was admiring how clutter free my mantel had become.   Amidst my moment of admiration, I noticed a new item –  prominently displayed; a country treasure.  My son found it while we were enjoying a nature walk with some friends.  Who knew we would find a bone from some creature.  And, who knew it would end up next to the pewter candlesticks that my late grandmother gave me as an engagement present.

How things change.

I don’t know about you, but I have been shocked at how quickly 2013 went.   It flew by.  With the start of 2014, I find myself noticing reminders of all the humorous aspects of mommying two boys.  Those little reality checks.  Like the bone on the mantel, these reminders make me laugh.

So here ya go, you know you’re a mom when:

  • You look forward to running around playing [favorite game];
  • This play can last all day;
  • You find yourself at a loss after your child asks you for the millionth time why they shouldn’t dig for treasure (in their nose) in public;
  • Tellers, grocery clerks and even the friendly mail lady use the words adorable and terrorizing to describe your child(ren);
  • A room or your whole house displays amazing abstract art of all shapes, sizes, and materials;
  • You sit and admire a bone prominently displayed on your mantel; and
  • You wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

Montessori Convert

mornings at our houseAfter literally years of research and trial and error, I have found the right educational fit for my son, Montessori.   Before he could walk, I began researching preschool methodologies and consulting professionals about the right fit for him. Montessori v. Waldorf v. Play Based.  The debate ensued. (See my earlier post) I looked to find him the “match,” somewhere where he would build his confidence, develop his intellect and be able to enjoy his precious childhood.

The consensus was that social and emotional development was important for him and that starting a more structured academic experience had little benefit.  So, we started out at very play-based schools.

The first school was of more of a Waldorf philosophy which aimed to promote social and emotional development through creative play.   B enjoyed it and did well.  The director was extremely well versed in early education and child development, and the teachers were engaging, positive and nurturing.  The children were well behaved, expressive and welcoming to B.

Just when we thought we had it made, a spot opened up at the coveted play based local school.  It’s the type of school where the wait list is a binder.  We thought long and hard about moving him there.  A difficult decision to say the least since he was content.  We were ultimately sold on the progression a different teacher and classroom each  year for 3 years.  We also liked the idea of having B be one of the oldest children in the class – we thought it would teach him to be a leader.  With so many of our friends’ children thriving there, it seemed like a safe bet.  The decision, however, completely backfired.  He regressed from knowing his shapes and colors.  He protested going to school.  Walking from the car with his head low while dragging his feet.  Thinking that consistency might help, we kept him there for a year, hoping that things would change.  They didn’t.

After the play based approach failed, it was time to try something different.  My husband had much success at Montessori.  I was reluctant based on the professional opinions I received recommending a play based approach for B and critiques about the method that it could limit creative and imaginative development.   Having tried the play based model, it was time for a change.  Three of B’s oldest buddies were at the local Montessori.  By some miracle, there was a spot for B.

I was reluctant at first to try Montessori based on critiques that it imposed too much rigidity to early childhood at a risk of stifling creative and imaginative development.  I can say, however, that while this may be true for some children, it does not ring true for B.   Within weeks he started asking to go to school.  Now, he tells stories, sings songs and dresses up as whatever he imagines.  Clearly his imagination is booming.

I have no idea what is going on at his new school, but whatever it is, it is truly magical for B.  in a very short time, I noticed changes in B’s ability to express things in a positive way.  Out of the blue, he’d tell C or me that he loved us so much, calling the sky or falling leaves beautiful and start to sing songs.  He’s more independent – demanding to try things himself first.  Yay!  Whether this is due to his age or the school, I’ll never know.  All I know is that he is blossoming.

I am now a Montessori convert and am looking forward to C joining the ranks when he’s old enough to do so.  In fact, I’ve again started reading Maria Montessori’s books basically promoting an educational approach to follow the child’s development and build independence.  While it didn’t seem a fit years ago, now it is.

I’ve begun to try to incorporate many of the ideas into our routine at home, swapping bookshelves cluttered with toys with more targeted and organized choices.  Both boys are thriving beyond what I could have imagined a year ago.

Don’t take this post the wrong way.  I’m not saying Montessori is right for every-child as I believe that no 2 children are the same, they are unique.  What works for one child may not for another.   All I’m saying is that Montessori works for B.

In addition, there are universally applicable concepts like building independence and instilling confidence.   Whether a child gets that through Montessori or Play-Based, it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is finding a good fit and helping to build the child.

A New Approach to Pottytraining – Camping

camp

For those of you who’ve known me for awhile, you’d think that I’d be the last person to go camping or look forward to doing so.  It’s one more example of how kids have changed me. (in a good way).  It took awhile for me to muster the courage to camp with the two boys, but all in all it was absolutely worth it and now I’m (and they’re) hooked.

We combined a camping trip with potty-training which was a gamble.  Turns out it worked out well.  My nearly four year old has been reluctant to potty train.  For months we’ve been trying, with “potty treats” displayed on the mantle as motivation including a glass vase full of lollipops.  Having tried nearly every trick in the book, it was time for a new approach (and less sugar).  Something drastic.  It was time to pull out the big guns.

Before the trip, my husband and I explained that big boys had to wear underwear camping.  Bobby seemed up to the challenge.  With tons of extra clothes for him and the potty (and a few back-up pull-ups) we were ready to go.  Bobby did extremely well the first day (none). Then the second day was not as successful, which really didn’t matter.  The point was the trip represented a change.  From then on, Bobby was in big boy pants.  So, all in all it seems to have worked.

We’re still working on that number two though, and I’m hoping it will come with time.  I’d love to hear what worked for you.

Pick a Pattern

patterns

Mornings around here are magical.  The boys do so well.  On those rare days when both boys get to relax at home in the morning, our day usually goes something like this.  Breakfast, active time to expend that boy energy, snack and then an inside project, puzzle or activity.   So this morning after our exploration down the local trail discovering creatures, caterpillars and chickens, and a nice snack, the boys were ready to dive into something more.

Having had a bin of lacing beads around for a year that have provided little interest, I decided to try something new and create sheets of pattern puzzles for Bobby to solve.  Basically, I took sheets of paper and drew out patterns based upon the beads that I already had.  If you want to try this, but don’t have time to make your own pattern sheets, rest assured that you can buy them online .

Bobby then was able to solve the pattern.  First, he was tasked with matching the bead to the pattern.  Then, I asked him to continue the pattern.  This second part was more difficult for longer patterns, but he was able to figure it out.  In fact, he ended up wanting to draw the color of the bead on the paper first before placing the bead in sequence.

In addition to providing a fun and challenging activity, the patterns teach concepts that are fundamental to learning math.   So, I encourage you to pick a pattern and let your kids have fun figuring it out.   You can use pretty much anything from beads, to hotwheels and legos.  Get creative!

Mommy Manifesto: Embracing Muddy Puddles & Chamomile Infused Banana Bread

photo(25) The struggle between pursing a career and mothering is intense.  For neither seem to be able to be accomplished with perfection simultaneously.  I personally decided to ease up on the career to dedicate myself to nurturing my two boys.  Working in a different capacity has enabled me to spend more time with my boys.  However, the cost of doing is definitely a detour from the traditional career path for women lawyers.  Although I own up to this decision, doing so hasn’t eliminated the tug of war between the two.

As the case may be, when the tug of war seems to lean towards career or when I question my decision, one of my boys will do something that reminds me of why this decision was so important.  The goal of maximizing my time with my boys always wins out.  But what I do with that time, and what I’m trying to cultivate with my boys is so important.  My mommy manifesto is to:

  • raise them with love, support and compassion
  • nurture their interests
  • let them explore
  • foster their natural curiosity
  • make them appreciate the world around them
  • photo(26)teach a respect for other living creatures
  • build confidence
  • let them feel free to discover their wings and fly as they wish
  • let them feel secure
  • help them connect to the world around them
  • experience beauty, music, sports, art
  • raise them with a goal of independence and independent thinking
  • teach them to embrace their weaknesses
  • appreciate their differences and learn that being different is a strength
  • try not to coddle
  • be accepting of messes, for what brings more fun than a muddy puddle? or a sandbox
  • seek environments for them that align with the above and minimize their exposure to environments that don’t

I’m not saying that doing the above is easy or that it happens everyday.  Take an example from the other day.  Bobby wanted to cook.  So, we decided to make banana bread.  As I turned my back, he dumped in some of his chamomile tea.  I really had no idea how much tea he dumped in, nor did it really matter. The fact that he did so, really irked me.  I was angry that he didn’t follow directions.

Then, I stepped back, took a breath.  Asking myself two questions put everything in perspective:  1) who cares, and 2) what does it matter.  After all, does it really matter how the bread turned out?  And could being a stickler in this instance stifle his creativity?  Who was I to judge? Maybe he was onto something.  Maybe chamomile tea would add an extra special element to banana bread.  Who was I to stop his creative process?  In the end, the bread was a little dry as it took longer to cook, but everyone loved it anyways.

So, I’ve learned my lesson.  Next time we do cooking experiments, I’ll be making two batters.  One for Bobby and one for me.

What’s your mommy manifesto?