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Lessons in Parenting
Rediscovering Children's Music
Published on February 28, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

One of the things I dreaded about having children was feeling obligated to listen to children’s music. My associations with the genre were of over-enthusiastic, high-pitched voices and melodies drowned out by a cacophony of instrumentation. The very thought of it was enough to make me want to put off having children just a little bit longer.   

I didn’t always feel this way. I listened to a lot of children’s music as a child and loved it. It was the memory of what it sounded like, as recalled by my adult self, that was causing me problems. When my son was around four months old, it finally happened. My mother sent me two albums of “classic” children’s songs. I put them on, grimacing at the thought, but was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed them.   

Don’t get me wrong - if there’s one thing I hate, it is over-produced children’s music. Especially if the perpetrator feels the need to add a “modern beat” or some equally obnoxious flair to the music. But these two albums were surprisingly straightforward in their interpretations of some classic songs that I had forgotten I ever knew.

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Lessons in Parenting
There's a Bear in There!
Published on February 21, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

We recently purchased a membership to a small, local science museum. It is an ideal place to take our son when I don’t have other activities for him. This museum has many hands-on exhibits for older children, but also an area especially designed for young children. In this area there are exhibits that teach about air, sound and color, but that is not what you hear the children talk about the most. There is also a small tunnel for them to crawl through. If they go to the left, they will see a small aquarium that is totally hidden from view from the outside. To the right is the bear’s den.   

This is about as scary as it sounds, given that it is in a play space for small children. It is small and dimly lit with a big mound of real, furry bearskin reposing in one corner and taking up a sizeable portion of the den. A sign outside the den explains that this bearskin comes from a female bear that was hit by a car in northern New Hampshire. That alone was enough to discourage me from peeking inside, but I am a chicken when it comes to such things. My son is probably too young to be afraid of it; one day, my husband went in with him and he crawled all over the bear, even pulling up and tapping it with the palms of his hands.

Older children, however, speak of the bear in hushed tones.

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Lessons in Parenting
Good Cop, Bad Cop
Published on February 13, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Before we had children, my husband assured me that he would be the tougher one in terms of discipline. Now that our son is walking and asserting his independence, the issue of discipline is finally upon us and I am finding that I tend to be the “bad cop” while my husband is the “good cop.” The reason for this is simple: I am at home with the baby during the day and thus am constantly re-directing him as he approaches a light socket with a ill-disguised gleeful smile or reprimanding him for trying to crawl off the changing table or biting me. There are fewer opportunities for my husband to be the enforcer of discipline.

Knowing my expertise at diapering, feeding, and putting clothes on a squirmy almost one-year-old, my husband began to avoid doing these things when he was home. Not out of laziness, but because he knows how much the baby dislikes having these things done to him and that I can accomplish them quicker, causing the baby less distress. However, we realized that we had begun to compartmentalize our tasks withregard to our son so that my husband dealt primarily with playing and soothing and I dealt with the things that tend to involve a lot of wrestling. So, we resolved to make a conscious effort to change this.

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Lessons in Parenting
Purchasing Baby Gear: My Two Cents
Published on February 5, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Generally, I like to avoid dispensing advice about parenting in this forum because I am not yet a very experienced parent and because parenting experiences can differ so greatly. However, this time I feel I have some advice worth giving.


When you are a new parent, or about to become one, other parents delight in giving you advice about what to do. A lot of this advice ends up being what you should buy because they simply couldn’t live without it. Like many new parents, I felt a little panicked around nine-and-a-half months of pregnancy when I didn’t have all of the items I’d been told I would need. For a first-time parent, the fear of being unprepared for this life-changing event can be so strong as to prompt an unwarranted shopping spree, but there are very few items that I consider to be absolutely essential to have purchased before the baby is born. Things like a car seat and a crib or bassinet would fall in this category, but even that could be up for debate, for example, if you live in a large city and use the subway and plan to co-sleep with your infant.

My first bit of advice regarding buying baby gear is to wait. Whether it is a toy, a baby carrier, or a diaper bag, it is better to see how you or your baby reacts to it before making a purchase. I quickly discovered that my copious baby book reading was no substitute for experience. One book considered a ring sling to be the essential mode of carrying a baby. I dutifully bought one in advance, but my son was swallowed in it. I couldn’t see his face and he couldn’t see mine. That alone was a deal breaker. I returned it and bought a Baby Björn. I couldn’t put him in the Björn right away, as he weighed too little, but it wasn’t long before he fit into it and it became indispensable to my ability to eat breakfast in the morning. What’s more, my son went through some periods as an infant where he wanted to be upright all day, which wouldn’t have been easy in the ring sling I had bought.

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Lessons in Parenting
The Pets
Published on January 30, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

The day we brought our newborn son home from the hospital, we were curious to see what the reaction of our two cats would be. We proudly set down the infant carrier in the center of the living room and watched them, happy to be a complete household again. One circled the carrier confusedly, sniffing it a little, then coming up to rub against our legs. The other eyed it suspiciously from afar. It was a pretty uneventful beginning.

We didn’t expect that the transition would be excessively traumatic for them. A couple of years earlier, we had taken in a stray kitten, something our two older cats did not appreciate at all. She was feisty and full of energy and delighted in attacking them the minute they got up to go anywhere. We had assumed that our older cats would put a stop to this eventually by putting the little one in her place, but it just never happened. Though they often fight and wrestle each other (they are brothers) and did play with her a little at first, they ended up huddling miserably together in one corner while the kitten waited impatiently for them to get up - which they began to studiously avoid doing - so she could tackle them. I had never seen them happier than when we found a new home for the kitten - suddenly even the cranky old codger brother was the most affectionate of lap cats.

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Mommy Making It Work
Coping With A Tornado As A Family
Published on January 29, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

An F4 tornado ripped through my hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala., on April 27 last year, killing more than 40 people and leaving a mile-wide path of destruction through the middle of town.

Within three days, we packed up the kids and drove one hour south from our home in Birmingham to see the damage up close and help clean up the sanctuary of my childhood church that sat right in the tornado’s path.

It wasn’t pretty. (To read more about my experience with the historic tornado, click here.) Taking my then four-year-old William into that war zone was not a good idea. The devastation surrounding my church looked like post-Hurricane Katrina, with spray-painted Xs marking which homes had been inspected and whether bodies were found there. My two-year-old called them “boo boos.” William soaked it in and might never let the memory go.

We went to help in recovery efforts three weekends in a row after the tornado struck and each time William stood in the middle of it. By summertime, he was jumping every time a neighbor ran a leaf blower, thinking it was the tornado siren going off. He doesn’t sleep well on nights when it simply rains and can be found crying at the top of the stairs just about every time it thunders and lightnings (which happens a lot in the Deep South).

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Lessons in Parenting
Reaching Across the Social Divide
Published on January 23, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

The minute my son was born, my social life changed. Not drastically, but the fact that a shift had begun was obvious. Although many of our friends wanted to stop by to see the baby after he was born, many were also careful to express a desire not to disturb us, as though they feared intruding on some mystical parental bonding or thought that they’d be walking into Night of the Living Dead. Granted, post-partum recovery varies and some babies are screamers, but it was odd to find that people who normally never hesitated to call or email were suddenly totally silent, as if in reverence of our new situation.

Many of my local friends do not have young children and upon becoming pregnant I began to worry a little about how our friendships might fare. Our common interests tended to be activities that would be limited, if not impossible, for me once the baby arrived. As I reflected on this, I realized that the problem was not merely a parent versus non-parent lifestyle, but lay in the very way that people tend to socialize. Living life side by side and working side by side seem to be largely lost. There is an unspoken understanding that people are so hurried and their time so valuable that your invitation must be
to something sufficiently enticing - a party, a movie, dinner - to merit their attention. Who wants to be the one to say: Want to keep me company while I fold laundry?

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Mommy Making It Work
Potty Training Boot Camp
Published on January 10, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

When my second child turned 2 in early December, I was anxious to get her potty trained and get this diaper thing over with.

I decided during Christmas break that I was going to do “potty training boot camp” for Alli. I confidently told daycare she was coming back from the break in panties. I talked to her about it for weeks and showed her the singing potty and how it only sings if you pee on it.

We were ready.

We got started at 8 a.m. on my first day off from work. No diaper. Just pants. She loved the freedom and how it made her feel like a big girl. I encouraged her every 10 minutes or so to try out that potty that sings and lights up. She’d sit on it and stare at me with a big smile. And do nothing.

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Lessons in Parenting
Sick Day
Published on January 9, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

I’ve never exactly enjoyed being sick, but there was always something nice about taking a much-needed sick day. Luckily, I’ve never gotten sick very often, but when I did it was usually when trying to do too much for too long had caught up with me, so there was a certain relief in tabling my responsibilities and just taking care of myself for the day. I would spend the day mostly sleeping, or if my symptoms kept me awake, watching a movie and drinking lots of hot liquids. By the end of the day the frazzled feeling that had usually hit its apex as my cold symptoms came on would have retreated and been replaced with a peaceful calm.

Now, there are no sick days. I felt a cold coming on a couple of days ago and tried to take a nap to keep it from getting worse. Of course, my son had no interest in napping and I spent an hour alternately wrestling him down in an attempt to convince him to nap with me and nursing him while he kicked me in the stomach. Finally, I put him in his crib, which is at the head of our bed, where he spent some time crying and reaching through the slats trying to pull my hair. Ah, sick days, where have you gone?

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Lessons in Parenting
Surviving the Holidays
Published on January 4, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

I figured we had one more Christmas before our son really understood about Santa Claus and presents and family visits and all the other excitement that comes this time of year. What surprised me is that, despite the fact that my husband and I were probably calmer than in past years in the lead-up to Christmas, our son still seemed to catch the vibe that something was afoot.  

Of course we were doing extra cooking and cleaning in preparation for Christmas Eve, when the first wave of family would arrive, but this was no different than when we had hosted other events at our house. Except that he somehow seemed
to know. The night before Christmas Eve he was wired: babbling, pulling up, and flopping on top of us, squealing.  I hadn’t expected that at a mere ten months.

Christmas Eve we had twelve people at our house and he was passed around, played with, crawled around trying to imitate his five-year-old cousin, and tackled his uncle’s dog. Christmas Day, after more of the same at his grandparents’ house, he and I took a nap while my husband picked up my mother at the airport. I was interested to see how he would react to having a houseguest for several days; the last time was when he was a newborn. I knew that he warmed to people he saw regularly, maybe once a week, over a period of weeks and was friendly to them - crawling over and begging to be picked up - but he was usually quieter and more wary around people he saw less often.


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Lessons in Parenting
Feeding the Beast Within
Published on December 13, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc

As the holidays approach, what most people are thinking about is how not to eat too much.  I, however, am looking forward to the feasting. This is because breastfeeding quite simply makes me ravenous. It has slacked off somewhat as my son has begun nursing less and eating more solids, but I still experience surges of hunger where my usual eating habits just don’t seem to satisfy. When dinner is over I still feel a gnawing in my stomach.       

This is nothing new. It began sometime in my second trimester of pregnancy and has fluctuated since then. Often during pregnancy I would wake up in the middle of the night to discover I was ravenous. Getting up to eat a slice of bread helped, but the getting up part was daunting: fatigue pulled at me like so many barbells attached to my limbs, and disentangling myself from my network of pillows required too much effort.

My hunger spiked sharply just after my son was born. That first week home from the hospital, I remember my husband kindly bringing me what used to be a normal lunch: a hearty soup, some bread, some yogurt and fruit. It barely put a dent in my hunger. I wanted so badly to just get up and raid the kitchen myself, but soreness and fatigue held me back.


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Mommy Making It Work
Two Birthdays, One Party
Published on December 6, 2011 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

I guess I’m only fertile one time a year.

My first kid was born on Thanksgiving five years ago and the second was due on Christmas two years ago. But she came three weeks early. So I have two kids with birthdays two weeks apart.

Last year I held two separate parties so that my oldest, William, who has bright red hair and the personality to go with it, wouldn’t steal his sister’s thunder on her first birthday. That went well, but it meant I had to drag family together on Thanksgiving, then William’s birthday a week later, then Alli’s birthday two weeks after that and Christmas just three weeks after that.

It was too much.

So this year, I combined the parties. One venue, one date in the church fellowship hall with ride-on toys and a small bounce house. Makes sense, right? Yes, but there were a few glitches in the dual birthday party that I would try to fix next time around.

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Lessons in Parenting
Having a Baby After Thirty
Published on December 5, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Someone once gave me a book with this title. It was published over three decades ago and featured questions on the back such as “Is it safe to have a baby after thirty?” and “What psychological problems do ‘older parents’ face?” I put it on a shelf somewhere and forgot about it until after the birth of my son, when I got a laugh out of reading the back cover.

I was much more intrigued by a report on NPR that coincided with the year I turned thirty. Rather than raising questions about safety, it raised questions about adjusting to the lifestyle of a new parent after age thirty. Several parents were interviewed, some saying that they wished they had had children in their twenties. Giving up dinners out, going to the movies - in short, being able to do more or less what they wanted during their free time would have been easier if they had never had the opportunity to get accustomed to that way of life in the first place. Their voices sounded weary and a little disappointed, as if they’d expected parenting to be less difficult, or maybe that they would magically not miss the things they used to be able to do.

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Lessons in Parenting
Babies and Television
Published on November 29, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc

We do not have “television” in the proper sense. We watch movies and other programs on DVD. Now, however, this activity has been relegated to times when our son is asleep. My husband and I made this decision upon discovering that our son, who usually loved nothing more than to play and interact with us, would stare at the TV, transfixed, if it was on. Even if he did keep playing, it wasn’t exactly easy for us to pay attention to our programming. More importantly, we were bothered by his reaction to the TV.

The last time I was at someone’s house who had television, I was struck by how much it has changed since I was young, especially the advertisements. Commercials I grew up with, like the Life cereal one where his brother offers Mikey some cereal and is surprised to find that “He likes it!” seem pretty sedate when compared with the explosions of sound and color that seem to accompany today’s commercials, as if every one were its own fireworks display.

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Candy As Currency
Published on November 28, 2011 by guest author: A Espeseth

My son is four. We have celebrated Halloween with him – maneuvering him into a getup and shuffling him around the neighborhood – ever since he was one and couldn’t even walk on his own. He was a gorilla and I was Faye Ray. He clung to me as I collected the candy.

The second year, when he could walk and talk, he selected a giraffe costume, and because we forgot about needing a bag to collect candy, we grabbed a paper cup from the neighborhood Halloween pre-party and he used that to hold his take. We made it to maybe four houses before he spilled the contents of the cup and we went home. The third year he caught on to the candy and costume bit. He made it all the way around the block and we made sure he had a proper bag for his collection. No spills this time, and the enticement of candy was enough to dispel the fear of approaching complete strangers. But once the event was over, the candy was pretty much forgotten. My husband and I ate some, and then the rest was pitched.

This year was a new frontier. My son began considering his attire for the occasion weeks, if not months, in advance, and the promise of sugar caused his eyes – no, his whole body – to dance as though just the idea of candy spiked his insulin levels. The nagging for candy started even before it was in hand, and my husband and I quickly decided we’d already had enough. Candy was a demon that would have to be exorcised from our home.

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