Lessons in Parenting
Playgroups: A Parent's Best Friend
Published on November 14, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc

I began attending a mothers’ group when my son was three weeks old. The mothers’ group was really for me. I would spend two hours sitting on the carpet surrounded by a group of other mothers (and the occasional father) alternately feeding and rocking their babies while they chatted.  

The woman who ran the group circulated, answering questions. To the outside observer this group would have looked a lot
like purgatory. Periodically several of the babies would launch into screaming contests. One week the room was packed, and as I looked around at least three babies in succession puked up long strings of gluey milk. I couldn’t help laughing internally, imagining my reaction pre-baby if I had been informed that this was to be an eagerly anticipated social event.


Lessons in Parenting
No Experience Required
Published on November 9, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc

It is funny now to think back on certain things I worried about while pregnant. For instance, I actually considered asking a friend who had recently given birth if I could try putting a diaper on her infant, because I had never done it before. Granted, the cloth diapers I wanted to use are a bit more complicated than a disposable diaper, but I would have happily practiced either one. I remember thinking that if Jim on The Office felt it necessary to practice diapering maybe I should, too. Now I see the humor in that episode a little differently.

My worries stemmed from having little to no experience with babies. The last baby I’d held prior to my son was my nephew, some four years earlier. My sister-in-law handed him to me and he began to cry, so I handed him right back. I held him for a total of about 30 seconds. Upon becoming pregnant myself, I dealt with my inexperience in the same way I always do—lots of reading. I also took in every word of the stories shared by more experienced mothers in yoga class and elsewhere. I needed all the help and resources I could get my hands on.


Mommy Making It Work
A Family Friendly Workplace
Published on November 2, 2011 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

I have been desperately trying to get my son and my daughter to stop tongue kissing.

Now, it's not what you think. My five-year-old son, William, thinks it's funny because it bugs the crap out of me, so he encourages my nearly two-year-old daughter, Alli, to play along just to get on my nerves.

Well, their last tongue kissing incident led to time out and the spread of Strep Throat. William came down with it Saturday afternoon and Alli made it halfway through the day on Halloween before catching it. They're both on antibiotics now, and missed trick-or-treating.

The in-laws, whom I mentioned in a previous Mommy Making It Work blog, are a godsend and pitched in to keep the kids on Monday, but had obligations and couldn't do it Tuesday.

So for the first time in months I ended up having to stay home to keep the kids Tuesday. I always call it "working from home" because I try to get work done and make phone calls while I'm chasing the kids.


Lessons in Parenting
Dealing with the Pain
Published on October 31, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc
When I met each of the three midwives in the practice where I went for prenatal appointments, they asked me the same question. I told them that I wanted to have a natural childbirth and they smiled back indulgently and asked, “Are you sure?” I could tell they had heard this before in prenatal appointments and then heard something very different in the midst of labor pains. Yes, I told them, I was sure. “Because if you’re really sure we’ll help you hold to it, but only if you’re sure.” I nodded again. Even then I had to tell them (on a scale of one to ten) how committed I was, and they encouraged me to have a code word with my husband, just in case, to let him know the difference between a fleeting moment of weakness and a real change of heart. I think we selected one, but I don’t remember what it was.

I had been fortunate in my life to have had little experience with pain. I was very committed to the idea of having a natural childbirth, but how could I really know how I would feel during labor till I knew what it felt like? One of the midwives recommended holding an ice cube in my hand for a minute to practice dealing with sustained discomfort. My husband’s idea of pain training was a little more extreme.

A former Division I cross country runner, he was well acquainted with the “become one with the pain” philosophy. One night, after a long day on my feet at work, I told him I wanted to soak my swollen ankles in some icy water. “Are you sure?” he asked. I nodded. It was a hot day anyway. He prepared a plastic dish tub jostling with water and ice cubes and set it at my feet. I dipped one toe in and recoiled. “Come on!” he said, setting an example by plunging his own feet in the water and holding them there for a minute or two. I put both feet in this time, but the longest I managed was a few seconds. He shook his head. “You need to work up to it.” But I gave up on the idea. After all, I wouldn’t be feeling labor pains in my feet - why punish them? I did other things to prepare myself: prenatal yoga, squats, focused breathing. I packed calming music and aromatherapy oils for the hospital. But during labor, I didn’t use any of these.


Lessons in Parenting: Joining the Club
Published on October 24, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc
I must confess: I enjoyed being pregnant. Granted, there were certain inconveniences: back pain, difficulty sleeping, frequent trips to the ladies’ room, but it gave me a sense of empowerment. Suddenly people of all ages were more deferential around me: holding open doors, offering to help me carry things.
I even found it amusing to watch the internal waffling in their faces when they weren’t sure if they should congratulate me, followed by relief when I smiled back and told them how far along I was. It baffled me that virtual strangers seemed genuinely happy for me; one woman grinned and gave me an involuntary squeeze on the arm, as though she could not contain herself. The problem was, I didn’t expect all this goodwill to last after the baby was born.
My husband says that everybody loves a pregnant lady. I would say that the corollary to this is that everybody does NOT love a baby, or small children—especially if they are crying. A recent article on Shine details a rash of new and potential bans on children, citing a population filled with ever-more childless adults as the impetus. It seems that there is a growing population that would prefer for children to be neither seen nor heard, whether in the first class cabin or at a Harry Potter screening.

Lessons in Parenting: Never Say Never
Published on October 19, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Parenting is a little like teaching: even the inexperienced have strong opinions about how it should be done. I was no exception. Early in my first pregnancy I decided that I would not co-sleep with my baby; he would sleep in his crib and not in my bed.

Family history was divided on the subject: My husband’s mother did not co-sleep with her children and advised against it; my mother co-slept with me as an infant and didn’t see anything wrong with it. I did not bother to ask my mother about her experience when making my decision. I simply decided, as many parents do, that it was not safe—there was too much potential for rolling over onto him in my sleep, not sleeping myself for fear of rolling over onto him, or of him falling out of the bed. I was convinced and firm on this point …. at least at first.

Then I read The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears and his wife, Martha, which is a favorite resource for baby-related topics. Dr. Sears was as convinced that co-sleeping is safe and natural as I was convinced otherwise. He claimed that the mother has an innate sense that her baby is next to her and won’t roll over, and that mothers in indigenous cultures have been co-sleeping safely since time immemorial. It got me thinking. I swallowed my pride and called my mother. She had never come close to rolling over on me, although I did fall out of the bed once (not a long fall) as an older baby. I liked the idea of snuggling up with my baby, who was to be born in midwinter, and priced guardrails for the bed.


Mommy Making It Work
She Keeps Going and Going ... Right Into Her Mouth
Published on October 17, 2011 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

My daughter Allison, whom we affectionately call Alli, is a slip of a baby. At 22 months, she weighs only 22 pounds with shoes and a full diaper.

But you wouldn't know she's that petite from watching her eat. She'll eat everything on her plate, ask for seconds and thirds and THEN eat what her older brother, William, turned his nose up at.

While she could easily be characterized as a great eater, she unfortunately eats literally everything in sight. Rocks. Dog food. Crayons. She's one of those kids who experiments with the texture and flavor of just about anything. About a month ago Alli tried out the culinary value of a disc-shaped battery. I found out when I discovered something shiny in her poopy diaper.


The Kids You Deserve
Published on October 17, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over in my weekly column at the DG, I write about parents, and how they often seem to wind up with the kids they deserve.

Here's an excerpt:

"I recently went to New Hampshire and visited two sets of friends who happen to have small children.

But when I arrived at the home of my friends Amy and Sam on Saturday, the children were missing. Sam had taken them to a birthday party. Amy was full of warnings about how loud and distracting the boys could be, and I was half expecting them to run around trashing the living room when they returned, shrieking like banshees and tearing stuff up.

But they were actually pretty calm, engaging in the sort of mildly disruptive behavior that’s typical of kids under the age of 5 — turning the sofa into a fort, lining up toy soldiers on the floor, etc. They went to bed without too much trouble and, although I was told that they would start making a ruckus at a ridiculously early hour, I had no trouble sleeping until 8 a.m. In the morning, I could hear the boys running around and talking and laughing, but these sounds were faint, and not at all responsible for waking me up.

The boys were nice, well-behaved, watchful and funny. I didn’t find them bratty or unusually destructive. They were a lot like their parents to tell you the truth — pleasant, fun to be around, relatively calm and drama-free. Occasionally the boys protested when they were told to do something, but for the most part they did what they were told.

From Amy’s house, I traveled to the home of my friends Iris and Brian, who also have two small children. I worked at camp with Iris, where she was definitely one of the wilder characters on staff — an exuberant, joyful, unpredictable and impulsive presence. The camp owned a doorless truck that we used for on-site supply runs, and on one of our drives Iris turned to me, said, 'You know, I’ve always wanted to jump out of a moving vehicle,' and leaped into the dirt road before I could say anything. My friend John and I watched her roll around in a mud puddle in the rearview mirror. 'Why would you want to jump out of a moving vehicle?' John asked, after a beat.


Mommy Making It Work
How to Overcome the Preschool Blues
Published on October 12, 2011 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

What do you do when your four-year-old already hates school and he hasn't even gotten to kindergarten yet? That's the dilemma I'm in with William, who will be five in November.

He's in a 4K class that took school up a notch from preschool to get him and his classmates ready for elementary school next year. It's a lot of discipline, teaching them to sit still and pay attention so the kindergarten teachers can move right along to spelling and arithmetic.

Now, when William is in the "school" part of his daycare from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., he does fine. He likes the "centers," which are comprised of puzzles, playdoh, books and - his new favorite - science. The science center has hooked him up with tests on what floats and magnifying glasses that let him see ants up close and personal. There's a computer program he likes a lot, too, that has him constantly begging to use my MAC laptop for who-knows-what-games, and YouTube for videos of toy trains recorded by fellow train enthusiasts.

After the school time, when structure ends and free time kicks in, is when William - who has flaming red hair and the personality/temper to go along with it - gets into a mess of trouble. He stops listening to the after-school teachers, and turns obstinate.


Mommy Making It Work
How Does She Do It? In-Laws!
Published on October 3, 2011 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

As editor of a major business news publication in Birmingham, Ala., I do a lot of public speaking, mostly about the newspaper itself or about the economy.

Occasionally – if an audience member actually reads my bio and sees the ages of my kids (4 and 22 months) - I get some work/life balance questions. Like Sarah Jessica Parker in the movie “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” they want some secret to working 60-70 hours a week and raising two small children, who are both, as my buddy and fellow blogger Sara Foss would call them “spirited.”

My answer: In-laws.

I couldn’t do the demanding hours of journalism and management and TV and radio appearances without the help of my husband and his banker hours and his parents who don’t work.

Now, including the in-laws this heavily in the parenting schedule comes with its ups and downs. When William, my almost five-year-old, passed the sweet phase and hit the demonic-talk-back phase at 3, my retired-Marine father-in-law threatened to pull out the belt. Turns out threatening is all it takes with William. We now swing by the nursing home near our neighborhood and pull through the drive-up entrance and say we’re dropping him off there to live. This has worked wonders, since he’s been to my grandfather’s assisted living home and it gives him the creeps.

Since we’re all in this together, we often pow-wow with the in-laws to discuss which techniques are OK and which aren’t, and figure out which work and which don’t. Time out is essentially useless with William. He isn’t all that embarrassed or put off by being made to sit in a corner and usually entertains himself with something around him or sweet-talks his poor 22-month-old sister into joining him there. So we switched to taking away things he likes to do, like read before bed his “Weird Creatures” and “Most Venomous Animals” books that give me the willies.

As for Alli, the 22-month old girlie girl, we’re tackling the terrible 2 tantrums. William never threw himself to the floor in the middle of the main aisle of Target, but Alli does – for all of us. I’ve been told to ignore it, but it’s hard to do when people are staring at you, saying with their eyes, “Make it stop!” I’ve actually tried (at home, mind you) getting on the floor and throwing a tantrum alongside her – which is supposed to make her laugh and see how silly it is, but just enrages her even more and sends the fit into oblivion. It’s a communication barrier, so I’m secretly hoping the tubes we got inserted surgically in her eardrums last week will clear out her head and help her hear my demands to stop more clearly, but I may be setting myself up for disappointment.

Parenting is challenging, whether you work or not, whether you have family help or not.

 I figure blogging about my experiences might help you feel like you’re not alone – and give me a place to vent – so come along with me and share your thoughts, too.

Cindy F. Crawford is the editor of a news publication in Birmingham, Ala., and the proud parent of two spirited young children.


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