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Lessons in Parenting
Raising a Bilingual Child
Published on June 28, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

It wasn’t until after my son was born that I committed to attempting to raise him bilingual in French and English. Not being a native speaker myself, and being the only one in the household who would be able to speak French to him, I was naturally a little nervous about the responsibility. However I knew quite well that research has indicated time and again that when it comes to learning a foreign language, the earlier you start, the better. In fact, one study determined that children learn all the sounds they need to produce in a particular language by the age of one.

There were lots of questions to debate: When would I speak to him in French? How much of the time? What happens when we are out in public? When relatives are around? The one thing I was sure of was that I was not going to sacrifice ever communicating to him in my native language by speaking only French to him.

Before I devised a plan, when my son was a few weeks old, I did a nominal amount of research about raising a bilingual child. It seems that most households fall into one of two categories. Some households have one parent speak exclusively in one language to the child and the other exclusively in another language. This works well, I would imagine, in households where each parent has a different native language. In other households, the parents speak one language at home and another in public. Neither of these options really fit our situation, so I decided that I would speak French to my son during the day, while my husband was at work, and English to him in the evenings and on weekends.

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Lessons in Parenting
Babywearing
Published on June 21, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Attachment parenting has been getting a lot of press lately: Time Magazine recently profiled Dr. Bill Sears, identifying him as “guru” of the attachment parenting set; The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik was interviewed a couple of months ago about her parenting style, which includes long-term co-sleeping and breastfeeding, two of the major tenets of attachment parenting. The third major component, as identified by Time, is babywearing, and of the three, it is the one that really didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Babywearing has ended up being only an occasional thing for me.  I thought it sounded great at first - a way to keep baby nearby and still have my hands free to do the occasional chore. However, the biggest hurdle to my babywearing, especially immediately postpartum, is that I just didn’t want to do it.

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Lessons in Parenting
Breastfeeding: Get Over It
Published on June 6, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

As I sat through the session of my birthing classes devoted to breastfeeding, I was surprised to find that the first half hour was devoted to stories of people giving women a hard time for breastfeeding in public. One woman was thrown off an airplane for feeding her child to keep his or her ears from popping in preparation for takeoff. Another was asked by a security guard at the Smithsonian to stop breastfeeding. Two recent pictures of mothers breastfeeding have caused an uproar. One is the Time Magazine cover from a couple of weeks ago depicting a young mother feeding a three-year-old who is standing on a chair. The other is of two mothers in the military feeding their babies in uniform.

The Time Magazine cover appears to be trying to provoke a reaction. The young mother is wearing a tight-fitting tank and skinny jeans, staring directly at the camera, a hand on her hip; her son is latched onto one breast and is also staring at the camera. What I see as the problem with this photo is that no one breastfeeds like this. Mother and child don’t seem to be making any connection with each other and, although I have no experience breastfeeding a child that old, I can’t imagine anyone would choose to breastfeed while striking a runway model pose. Sadly, an opportunity for helping people understand that some mothers and children continue with breastfeeding until this age because it works for them is lost because people can’t get past those poses.

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Lessons in Parenting
What to Expect From Hollywood
Published on May 16, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

The new film "What to Expect When You’re Expecting" caught my eye the other day. It shares its name with a book known as the “pregnancy bible” and I wondered what, if anything, the two had in common. So, I watched the trailer. It appears the resemblance ends with the name. Far from having the desired effect of making me want to watch the movie, it made me wonder how it is possible that Hollywood is still beating to death the same tired stereotypes about birth and parenting.

A large part of the trailer features a group of morose dads saddled with babies and their bulky paraphernalia telling the new guy about how parenting means your life is over — stereotype number one. They also inform the newcomer that his girlfriend is really running the show; in this case, if she wants to look at houses, they will get a house —enter stereotype number two. To cap off this optimistic lesson, they inform him that within their group of “dudes” there is “no judging” – no matter what heights of incompetence or neglect they may reach. Thus we come to stereotype number three: the incompetent father. To the credit of the fathers out there, I don’t think this one is merited. 

The final stereotype involves the birth process. The several-second clip told me that it was the same comedic birth scene I’ve seen so many times before. Woman in labor verbally and/or physically abuses significant other while screaming for drugs. How about a woman who toughs it out for once? Or even one who genuinely tries? Or one who gives in out of exhaustion rather than because the pain is too much for her delicate feminine sensitivities? These fictional women must have super human energy — most of the actual births I watched on video involved a lot of moaning, but not a lot of yelling, except perhaps at the final pushing stage.

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Lessons in Parenting
Missing Maurice Sendak
Published on May 9, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

A great children’s book author passed away this week. He is probably best known as the author of "Where the Wild Things Are," a favorite of ours, but we also love "The Nutshell Library" (which has accompanying songs by Carole King from a 1970’s era television special), "In the Night Kitchen," and "Outside Over There."

Maurice Sendak is known for not sugar-coating the life of a child: The children featured in his stories are brazen and selfish at times, loveable and imaginative at others. In the course of reading to my son, I noticed there is something that sets apart the really well-known children’s book authors, and a part of that is the realism that they attempt to portray.  Sendak’s hero Max is terrorizing the house before he is sent to bed without supper, but he is more than simply a mischief-maker, as we realize when he suddenly wants to be with someone “who loves him best of all." Dr. Seuss is another of our favorites, and I hope my son will pick up on the message "Green Eggs and Ham" has for the picky eater. While my son has yet to really warm to Beatrix Potter, I love her stories and how the animals act like little boys and girls, such as when Tom Kitten and his siblings run around getting their nice clothes dirty playing outside.

There are a lot of newer children’s books out there and a surprising number of them are not very good. First, too many celebrities think they can write children’s books. Nothing against John Lithgow - I admire his acting - but I picked up a children’s book written by him at the library the other day and it looked like lackluster folk song lyrics written in tribute to his dogs. There are others who seem to take children’s book writing more seriously, but they often make childhood seem too saccharine. Take for example, "Guess How Much I Love You." It is, as a mother at one of my playgroups pointed out, basically a competition between parent and child as to who loves whom the most. The parent wins - big surprise. What’s more, it’s just not that interesting to read. Another author we’ve run into frequently is Karen Katz. We have a copy of "Counting Kisses," which I have altered. Rather than reading to my son about how someone is kissing the baby’s “yummy, chubby knees,” a description only a parent will appreciate and maybe not even then, I have focused instead on who is kissing (mom, dad, sister, cat, dog, etc.) and the body part, minus the strings of syrupy adjectives so as to teach my son about the people in the household and body parts, in addition to numbers.

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Mommy Making It Work
Losing A Tooth
Published on May 7, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

About a month ago, my husband put my 5-year-old, William, to bed a few nights in a row, switching off with me for the not-so-easy 2-year-old Alli.

So when it was my turn again, I went to brush his teeth and noticed something poking out of his bottom gums, behind a tooth. At first, I thought it was a popcorn kernel. The kids were in an everyday popcorn phase at the time.

Then I realized it was a tooth. His first adult tooth!, While I know it happens with every kid, I wasn’t prepared for how I would react. This was one of the first signs that my little boy wasn’t a baby anymore.

And as he becomes a big boy, that baby tooth has to go. I wriggled the baby tooth in front of the new one, and it was barely moving. It just looked like he was growing a second layer of teeth, like a shark.

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Lessons in Parenting
Traveling With a Lap Child
Published on May 1, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

When my son took his first plane ride at age four months, I was afraid he would cry (he didn’t) or have a blowout (he did). When he next flew at seven months, I was more concerned about him being a lap child, as we had a long day of flying ahead. Luckily, my husband went along that time, so we passed him back and forth. At age thirteen months, I was nervous that the entire time on the plane would be one hours-long wrestling match. After all, that’s what diaper changing and clothes-changing times have become.

I came as prepared as I could. I asked friends for advice; I did research. I had toys he knew and loved, toys he’d never seen before, his favorite books, lots of snacks, and my Baby Björn to strap him into if all else failed.

When I got to the airport to check in, the attendant suggested I keep his car seat with me in case there were empty seats. The first flight was the longest, so I leapt at the hope of being able to strap him in, although I had not purchased a seat for him. As it turned out, there were empty seats, but the airline announced that the flight was full before we got on, so I gate-checked the car seat. That meant I had to manage a car seat, stroller, and toddler when we changed planes. I wish I had not taken that advice.

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Lessons in Parenting
Procrastination Station
Published on April 25, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

When it comes to baby dishes, I have been very lazy. I just haven’t bothered to get any, even though my son has been eating solids for nine months now. When he was about five and half months old, I started thinking about the whole feeding thing, as he was starting to go bug-eyed every time I ate something. One friend had just bought a set of bamboo dishes for her baby. I liked the sound of that - environmentally friendly and chic - until I read an internet review which said they could get moldy if they didn’t get fully dry. Since I was planning to buy only one set, I figured that was a distinct possibility - what were the odds of it drying fully once I was feeding him several times a day? Another friend bought a plastic set with a cute whale on the bottom of the bowl. Her son loved the whale. So much, in fact, that he would dump his food out of the bowl to get a better look.

Unable to decide, I bought a sippy cup and a set of four baby spoons to help me get by in the short term. I used my conveniently microwavable teacups to heat his food and fed him from those. The sippy cup didn’t get much use - he didn’t seem to have the hang of it (he never drank well from a bottle either) and I quickly realized that, with only one, I’d have to wash it after every meal. So I just gave him a small amount to drink in the same half-glasses my husband and I use. Since there are twelve glasses, I can go quite a while before running out of them. At least now he is a pro at drinking from a glass, although he gets bored quickly and likes to waggle his fingers in the bottom of the glass or tilt it the opposite way, so that all the liquid spills out onto his high chair tray. 

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Lessons in Parenting
Baby Signs
Published on April 18, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

I had heard of the trend of teaching babies some basic sign language several years before having children and found it intriguing. When my son was about five or six months old I was reminded of it when I saw some mothers in my mother’s group signing for things like “milk” and “diaper” to their infants. Some, it turned out, had taken a class on teaching the signs to their babies and others were talking about signing up for the next class. 

Unfortunately, the upcoming class was cancelled, but I was still interested, so I looked up some signs online. The website I found (http://www.babysignlanguage.com) recommended starting with just a few basic signs that related to important parts of the child’s day. I started with “mother," “father," “milk," “diaper," “cat," and “eat."

After a short time, I could tell that my son recognized some of the signs, most notably “milk,” which, to him, is equivalent to nursing. But it wasn’t until age eleven months before he actually made a sign back to me - the sign for milk. I was getting a little impatient - after all, he could wave good-bye and the sign for milk was very similar, so I tried something different. Instead of signing to him just before nursing, I also did it while nursing him. The result was amusing: He unlatched and smiled at me, making the sign, then launched into a fit of giggles, as if giddy with the ability to communicate.

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Mommy Making It Work
Good Sportsmanship and Other Baseball Lessons
Published on April 17, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

William has been hitting baseballs off a T since he was not even 2, and I have always thought he was pretty good.

When we got him on a community baseball league team his first year – spring 2011 – he was 4 and had a blast playing ball with other kids instead of just his parents.

But he also learned some valuable “team sports” lessons that he continues to encounter, even as he plays more mature ball this spring as a 5-year-old.

The first issues we ran into with baseball when he was 4 were the hard-knock lessons that he’s not going to win every game or hit a home run every time he got up to the plate.

Now, our team went undefeated last year and won the 4-year-old T-ball championship, so he didn’t exactly learn the “how to be a graceful loser” lesson.

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Lessons in Parenting
Tagging Along
Published on March 27, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

When I received a call reminding me of a dental check-up, I was faced with a dilemma: whether or not to arrange childcare. I debated asking someone to watch my son, but felt as though asking for those kind of favors should really be saved for times when they are truly necessary. Also, I felt it would be good to set a precedent with my son of getting used to having to tag along on these sorts of errands once in a while.

I remember the first time I faced this dilemma: It was a mere few weeks after my son was born. I had made the appointment thinking I would be on maternity leave and I wouldn’t need to worry about the time of day, but without thinking about what I would do with the baby. Luckily, it was an early appointment and my husband went in to work a little late so he could watch the baby for me. At the appointment, my dental hygienist said it was fine to bring my son with me.

A few months later I did, for my next six-month check-up. At least he still fit in his infant carrier and when he began to cry, I rocked him with one hand while my teeth were being cleaned. I was reminded of that today, as he sat opposite me in his stroller, alternating between babbling and slowly going from whiny to crying, then back again as soon as anyone paid him any attention. The hygienist was very friendly and kept drawing his attention to the decorations around her: a brightly painted gecko on the ceiling and a plush flower with a fabric covered wire stem that was wrapped around the light over the chair where I sat.

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Mommy Making It Work
The Tribulations of Traveling with Small Children
Published on March 21, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

My identical twin and little sister live on the other side of the country, so the only way to see them is to fly there. Without kids, it’s no big thing. With kids, it’s a nightmare.

My most recent cross-country trip via airplane with two small kids, ages 2 and 5, was to Spokane, Wash., for my twin’s Idaho wedding. That’s right. I said Idaho. From Alabama, that’s three airplanes and about 10 to 12 hours of traveling. And it was in mid-January, when it snows in that part of the country. A lot. So there was no guarantee our original flights were going to stick.

And they didn’t. We had layovers and flight swaps going both ways. Going there, we couldn’t go through Denver because of a snowstorm. We were rerouted through Minneapolis and it was 12 a.m. when we got to Spokane, which was 2 a.m. our time (central).

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Lessons in Parenting
It's Never Too Early To Start Reading Aloud
Published on March 20, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Reading aloud came naturally for us from the start - my husband and I are avid readers, and what better activity for me as the mother of a newborn, spending much of my days nursing and holding a sleeping baby, than to read. Our reading aloud habits have changed gradually over time. At first, I could spend the better part of a day reading aloud to my son as he nursed or slept. Later, as he slept less and began to be interested in grasping objects, I read to him primarily while he nursed, which was still a significant portion of the day. Eventually, he would unlatch while nursing, give me a mischievous smile, and feel for the book he knew would be there. That is when we switched to picture books.

This transition was probably the hardest. As with all babies, the book was just another object he wanted to grab and chew. We had board books and a couple of cloth ones, but we also established a reading etiquette. I allowed him to do as he pleased with the cloth books and sacrificed a board book I didn’t care for so that he could practice turning the pages by himself (it was subsequently torn in two), but during “reading time,” he didn’t touch the book. He sat on our laps and watched the pages as we read. My husband especially had a strict “no touching the book” policy - at least not until he had finished reading the book, after which point he would let our son hold it, but not put it in his mouth. I started out this way as well, except that I relaxed once I realized he really wanted to turn the pages himself - first the board books and then the paper ones, too - and he was really quite well-behaved about it, waiting patiently for me to lift the page enough for him to turn it.

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Mommy Making It Work
My Kids Are Streakers
Published on March 7, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

For the last few months, whenever I walk in the door after a long day at work, my kids are running around stark naked.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk in the door after a long day, I put my purse down, take my shoes off, hang up my jacket. The usual. But for some reason, my kids, who are 5 and 2, take off their shoes, their socks – and everything else.

I think part of it is because at that hour, it is daddy daycare. Because I work long hours and commute at least 30 minutes, my husband has night duty since he works really close to home. And he doesn’t care whether they’re dressed or not. And he’s not the first dad in charge. Before hubby takes over, his dad holds court by keeping them several days a week. So it’s possible clothing is optional when the men are in charge, even if it is 6 p.m. and company could show up at any time.

The streaking probably popped up when we started ramping up the potty training with Alli around Christmas. Right now, she sits on the potty a million times a night (and does nothing, mind you), then she gets off, flushes the empty toilet and goes back to playing. After doing that a bunch of times, putting the pullup and pants back on gets tiresome, so we all just let her run around bottomless. Then the shirt comes off around dinnertime so it won’t get dirty (because she hates getting anything on her shirt) - hence the nakedness.

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Lessons in Parenting
Phases
Published on March 7, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Last night, I was holding my son and swaying in time to some early Beatles songs, an activity he loves. As usual, he was looking away from me, a serious expression on his face, intently listening and occasionally cooing as though trying to sing along. We had listened to several songs when, abruptly, he twisted away from me, indicating he was ready for me to release him to go and play. He had never done this before; he always seemed to have limitless interest in our “dancing.” And thus, one more little phase ended.

Ever since my son reached the one-year mark, I have found myself reflecting on what our lives were like a year ago when he was a newborn and retracing his route to where we are now. At times it seemed so slow, but somehow I find myself wondering how we got here.

Having a child has forced me to change the way I look at time. Before, if I saw something was coming, I would take measures to prepare, to make the transition and the change itself easier on a long-term basis. My son’s phases, though, are so relatively short compared to other changes I’ve experienced, it has taken me a while to realize that I can’t keep planning for a future in which he is doing a particular thing indefinitely. For example, during our dancing session, I was thinking how I should try getting him to dance standing on his own, since he will soon be too heavy for me to hold him and do this for very long at a time. When he began to squirm, the lesson really hit home: I should just to do this as long as he will let me, because the odds are much greater that he will tire of it before I do.

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