Tag 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.

Pat Benatar Had it all Wrong – Birth is a Battlefield

birth is a battlefieldAfter months of anticipation, and ages of waiting, motherhood arrives.  Whether it is a scheduled C-Section, induced or natural labor, after all of the waddling it is here.   An intense journey that fully pushes us to our limits and shows us that we can do things we had no idea we could, we meet our prize.  Intrigue, love, wonder, amazement at the process and the joy.

The process is physically and mentally taxing.  At times, I think that Mother Nature is cruel to place so many physical requirements on the mother.   The pregnancy, the birth, and then the physical care of the newborn.   Add to that the physical requirements of a postpartum body, needing simultaneously to recover, restore and supply for a baby.  The entire process is nothing short of amazing and draining.

This may sound like a bit of a rant.  To be honest, it is.  There is a point to it.  There are things us moms can do to take care of ourselves and prepare ourselves for this journey.   As moms we often forget about ourselves.  In a life where getting a shower is a luxury, can we really take care of ourselves? Well, maybe not to a level we did pre-kids, but there are things we can do to get off on the right foot.

Before having the baby, plan & prepare.  Stock your freezer with prepared or purchased meals.  Collect lists from your favorite take out restaurants.  Make lists of things that folks can do to help you when they visit.  Plan help – friends, family, neighbors.  And, check out my article on the gear to have on hand.

Get back up.  Plan who is going to help you when you get home from the hospital.  Don’t end up like me after my second child.  My first day home, my husband was back at work and I was taking care of both boys.  My older son was in the process of weaning off a medication that caused him to have uncontrollable crazy tantrums.  Sometimes they’d last for over an hour.  No joke.  Anyways, by the end of that day, I was so exhausted physically and mentally.  A friend came by and brought dinner.  I was so grateful and thankful for the mere presence of my friend, but embarrassed that my house was a mess, my son was having a tantrum and the baby was screaming.  That said, her being there was a gift.  Later that week, I asked another friend to come by to help with bathtime.  Again, I was grateful beyond belief.

My point is simple – secure help.  If you don’t have family in the area or if they were like mine unavailable, then call upon friends to come help or if you are in a position to hire help, then hire as much as you can afford.

When you are in the hospital, get all the help you can.  There are tons of resources while you are in the hospital.  From lactation consultants to the nursery, there is a huge support network there to help you recover.  My biggest advice is to utilize the professional babysitters and get some sleep.  It could be months or years until you’ll get to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time.  I’m sure Dr. Sears, the proponent of attachment parenting would disagree with me, but seriously, adjusting to life with a newborn and taking care of one is so difficult.  Why not get some sleep?

With my first son, I kept him in the room with me the entire time.  I felt a duty to care for him every minute (and I still do).  But with my second son, I still feel this connection but knew that I’d be going home to taking care of two boys.  So, I took advantage of the newborn nursery.  The first time I sent him, I was a little hesitant.  But as soon as he was wheeled out, I crashed.  He was brought back in three hours later.  And, then after a bit he went back.  I crashed again.

Use a lactation consultant – Another huge resource at the hospital are the lactation consultants. Before I tried nursing, I had friends who made it look so easy.   It was like something out of a movie – the baby  calmly and happily latched on.  Mom had a conversation while nursing.  Then baby detached in a happy milk coma.  With my first son, I had major issues getting him to latch properly.  Nursing was a bloody and painful experience.  Who knew it didn’t have to be that way? I sure didn’t.  With my second son, it was much easier, which I attribute to the refresher course given by the lactation consultant while I was in the hospital.  Whether you’re a veteran nursing mom, or not, using a lactation consultants is totally worth your while.

Going Home

No one talks about it.  So here goes – You go from being able to control your schedule to having to spend endless sitting on the couch, laying in bed or rocking in a chair feeding baby.  When you’re not feeding the baby, if you have a fussy baby, you are soothing the baby.  With my first son, this meant spending hours bouncing him on an exercise ball. The ball was fabulous at first as it made him so happy, but as the months went on, I began to loathe that ball. It was a bit like a prison, but the only thing that made him happy.  So, anyone who came to visit took a turn on the ball.

How do you make this easier?  Well, why not have books downloaded on your kindle or smartphone so that you can easily access them during those late night feedings.  You’ll eel more connected anyway.  In addition, like I said above, plan for help.  One of my girlfriends put it best when she said get all the help you can afford.  Whether you hire a nanny or swap I owe yous with your girlfriends, there are tons of creative ways to make it work.

Well, thanks for reading.  I appreciate having this platform to share tips from the trenches.  I’d also love to hear yours.

Picking a Preschool

The preschool hunt, for some begins as early as they are pregnant, for others long after the child is born.  For me, the thought process began when Bobby was merely weeks old hanging out in a baby carrier.  I was shopping for apples at my corner market in Oakland when a fellow mom stopped me.  She asked whether baby was on a list for school.  A little shocked by the question – I said no.  At that point, I was really thinking about buying produce, not about preschool options for my little guy.   Since Bobby was not even old enough to hold his head up, I thought it was a little early to start thinking about it.  What I learned was that the waiting lists at some schools start as early as when kids are in utero.  Yikes, I was already behind the ball!

Researching Different Options

With this in mind, when I moved to Sonoma when Bobby was six months old, I began the hunt.  In foreign territory as neither child development nor teaching is my profession, I searched for information.  Looking for expert opinions I consulted books and numerous articles (like these 1 and 2) detailing different educational philosophies like Montessori, Waldorf, Emilia.  There is only so much you can surmise from a book though.

The best advice came from local moms at the playground as they had actual experience with kids at the schools.  As I learned that there were different degrees with which the philosophies would be implemented at particular schools.  From strict implementation to lax, from focusing on daycare to the preschool program, there were so many things to consider.

Visiting the Schools

A shopper by nature, I visited the top schools that I had heard about.  Armed with my lengthy list of questions in hand like student to teacher ratio and schedules, I carefully observed what each school had to offer.  As I became more educated about programs, my list of questions evolved.   What were their goals for their graduates? What approach did they employ? How did the school develop confidence in the child? How did they engage children?

Of course, practical considerations like location and schedule came into play as well.  As one particular school that I fell in love had a very short program.  The short program coupled with the travel time to get there was impossible for my work schedule.

The decision involved other things more specific to Bobby like temperament and handling food allergies.  In addition, Bobby’s reaction to the school was key.  This even required a separate visit for some schools.  When Bobby visited, there were some schools where he immediately seemed comfortable.  There were other schools where wanted to be held the entire time.

Factors to Consider

Ultimately, the following factors helped me compare schools and make a decision:

  • Kids – did the kids seem engaged?
  • Teachers – what was their approach to teaching? How did they interact with the kids? How long had they been there?
  • Structure – what schedule did the day follow?
  • Art – what was the school’s approach to art? Was it free form or worksheets?
  • Curriculum –  what was the curriculum? Was it play based, Montessori, Waldorf or a hybrid like High-Scope?
  • Environment – was it organized, bright & cheery?
  • Play spaces – how did the space seem? Was it safe, clean, inviting?
  • Approaches to Discipline – what was the approach to discipline?  Would kids be in timeout chairs wearing a cone of shame? Or is there another more positive approach?
  • Socialization – how does the school encourage socialization?

Shortcut for Sonomans

With so many great options, picking a preschool can seem like such a tough and even overwhelming decision at times.  The good news is that there are resources out there to make it easier.   Cindy Studdert, owner of FarmTots, put it best when she described her decision not to open a formal school due to the great and numerous child centered programs in town.

In Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley Mother’s Club hosts a preschool fair every other year.  As a past coordinator of the fair, I can say firsthand that it is a unique and fabulous event.  Numerous preschools and other kids’ activities attend to showcase their programs.  It is the event where you as the shopper can comparison shop for preschools under one roof.  Take your list of questions and go booth to booth!  It is a fabulous way to start comparing different schools.  This year, the Preschool/Tot Fair is on Saturday, March 16, from 10 – 12 at the Veterans Building.

If you’re outside of Sonoma, check your local mothers club to see if they host such an event.  If they don’t, maybe start one.

 

Thanks for reading and letting me share my musings with you.  I hope this article is helpful.  I’d love to know what helped you pick a school?

FarmTots – Sonoma’s Version of Sesame Street

Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to a gem of a program in Sonoma.  FarmTots at the Studdert Family Farm is the country version of Sesame Street.  Tucked away, this darling farm offers days of discovery for young kids and adults alike.  With sheep, rams and chickens, kids can get up close and personal with nature. Farm Tots Cover

FarmTots Epitomizes What Sonoma Is All About

Besides the activities of this seven acre working farm, the main attraction is Cindy Studdert.  Cindy is a trained Montessori teacher and an experienced mom.   A natural with kids, her gentle manner guides and encourages wee ones to get their hands dirty while having fun and learning a ton.

One example is the way she taught Bobby how to care for plants.   The patience of her approach is nothing short of amazing.  It went something like this – Cindy took out plants for Bobby to water and handed him a small watering can.  Of course I thought he’d drown the plants with water as he is an expert in doing so.  As calm as a clam, Cindy explained to Bobby how he needed to make sure each of the plants had water.  He listened and did so.  After she saw how much he enjoyed waterinFarm Tots Plantsg the plants, she brought our more plants to let him water.  She then explained to him how the plants needed to be put in the greenhouse, but she asked him if the neighboring chickens looked hungry.   You can guess what happened next.

With a barn fashioned as a classroom and playgrounds galore, this farm is absolutely kid friendly.   The classroom decorated with twinkling Christmas lights boasts activities at every corner, including a sandbox.  The play structure has a steering wheel so young mateys can steer ye ship.

How did this jewel start?  It started out as a soccer program for kids.  As the kids became more interested in nature and the farm more developed, Cindy followed the children’s lead and modified her program to focus on farm activities.  Of course, she offers the typical preschool things like counting.  But what this program really offers is a hands on experience where kids can gain confidence in their abilities through working on the farm.  To me, this program epitomizes what Sonoma is all about.

Montessori Roots – Cindy’s model of engaging and interacting with the children lies with background as a Montessori teacher.  She emulates Mari Montessori’s’ tenet to follow the child.  Flexible as can be, Cindy makes space to create activities for what the child wants to do.  If a child wants to play in the garden, it’s available.  If they want to play fireman, then that’s available too.  Of if they want to steer a ship and play pirates, then off to the play structure.  If they ate all of the Farm Tots Mike Iketomatoes, then Cindy helps the kids plant more.

She follows another of Montessori’s tenets which is to teach practical life skills.  For example, kids learn to rake and sweep.  In doing so, they develop not only fine but also gross motor skills.

It also seems to follow some Waldorf principles as well as the program follows and teaches children about the rhythm of the seasons.  With fruit cocktail trees, children are able to enjoy loads of different fruit.

Most of the kids in the program also are in other programs as well.  So, the program acts as a supplement to those programs.  With all of the child centered programs in Sonoma, Cindy didn’t feel a need to open a school.

With a fabulous ratio of teachers to students, sometimes even 2 to 1, FarmTots can nurture children with individualized attention schools with larger ratios are unable to provide.

Sound good?  The Nitty Gritty – FarmTots is now accepting preschool aged and school aged children.  The program for preschool tots, starting at age 2.5, is on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 -1:00 (during the spring and then again in late August).  The school aged program is on Wednesday afternoons after school.  FarmTots also has a Parent & Tot Class on March 15, 29 and April 19, & 26 from 9:30-11 at a cost of $10.

FarmTots has a summer program that serves kids ages  2.5-10 during the weeks of June 17, 24.  July 8, 15, 22 and 29 (Mondays – Thursdays from 9:30 -2:00pm).

Contact Cindy Studdert for more information cindylane1@sbcglobal.net

Bath-time Commandments

Do tidal waves hit your bathroom too?  It’s amazing that after bath-time there is always water splashed about my boys’ bathroom.  Encouraging fun and water play is important over here.  After all, the boys have such a fabulous time fishing for toys, pouring water and playing water instruments.  That said, I am starting to need to put some limits around this spash zone.

Somewhere between bath-time exploration and the  splash zone has to be a middle ground.  I am waiting to find it.  In search of it, I’ve implemented the following golden rules.  We’ll see how long they last.  I’d love to hear your ideas too!

Bath-Time Commandments

  • Bath toys stay in the tub
  • Water stays in the tub
  • No dumping water on siblings
  • No pooping in the tub
  • And, last but not least don’t drink the water (see above)