53 posts categorized "Development"

Delayed Gratification equals Success: do you believe it?

September 29, 2014

My line of work brings me into contact with lots of schools, many of them charter schools or alternative schools.  One site visit last week brought me to a charter school in a low-income neighborhood, where the administrator stated a few times that the staff believes in the studies of delayed gratification where they result in better adult outcomes: more success in school, career and life.  

I had never heard of the "marshmallow experiment" wherein researchers presented children with a marshmallow, stating that - if they waited - they could have two marshmallows instead.  That was in 1972.  After following those same marshmallow kids, the ones that delayed their marshmallow desires to wait for the two marshmallow treat were the ones that got better grades.  AND: they dealt with stress better and they were less likely to be obese and on and on.

Having never heard of this study and having never really noticed my kids' abilities to delay gratification, I suddenly started to notice.  My teenager wolfed down some brownies the other day immediately when she got home from saying "Oh my god, I am so hungry."  My five-year old boy spied a new Matchbox car at the store, and when I said: "your birthday is in just a week; let's put this on your wish list!",  he burst into a tantrum unable to fathom waiting.

Does this mean they will be less likely to succeed when they grow up?  Should I be training them to withhold pleasure and delay gratification?


"Mama, Jack said I was small": When size matters

January 16, 2014

"Mama, Jack said I was a small boy," said my four-year old, a little forlorn.  "He said I couldn't play basketball.  Aren't I a big boy?"  Many children pride themselves in being independent, being "big", being capable, and - yes - being athletic and coordinated.

Growing up, I was often on the smaller side.  I was an autumn baby, always a bit younger than all the rest.  I think I was pretty fit and active, and I had a good shot at being chosen early on teams for games like capture the flag.

A friend commented the other day that her son was feeling less confident on his basketball team, being one of the shorter members.  He, a fifth grader, was about the same height as his 2nd grade sister.

Does size matter?  A few years back, we talked about being vertically challenged and some medical interventions.  But for those that let height run its natural course, how has size played out on the playground, on sports teams, in friendships and beyond?  Is it a big deal when they are younger?  Is it a bigger deal when they are older?  Is it not a big deal at all?

He can tie his shoes! (Finally)

August 28, 2012

I'm not sure if it's a 21st-century thing or connected to my oldest's anxiety, but he went most of his nine years without learning how to tie his shoes. Every once in a while I'd sit with him and try to get him to put the pieces together, but he always gave up in frustration when he couldn't get it. He wore slip-ons or asked for help with his running shoes.

And then he went away to camp with brand-new shoes. We instantly fell in love with the shoes when I picked them off the shelf at Clogs-N-More Kids; "but you're going to have to tie them," I said, "by yourself, by tomorrow."

"I can do it," he said, and sure enough! After a few practices with me, he did. When he came home he demonstrated his technique to me; perfect. And only a month past his 10th birthday.

Have any of you struggled with older kids who never learned to tie their shoes? Have you waited them out, like I did; or put in some intensive skills development? If you haven't yet reached the "finally!" point, take heart. Maybe your kid will be next.

What do they want? A mantra for parenting and my own fool self

March 26, 2012

I spent yesterday immersed in all the loneliness and fervent belief and highly embarrassing prayers of my high school years. I had a screening for Mortified PDX -- Mortified, in case you've never heard of it, is a series of live readings of poetry, journals and other horrifying writing from one's own teen years -- and I'd spent a half-hour with the producers talking about what, exactly, I wanted as a teen? All afternoon, I sat in the basement and, later, at my dining room table, poring over journals and papers (with perforated edges thanks to our old dot-matrix printer!) and binders full of my deep thoughts and doodlings.

What did I want? I actually had an answer when they asked me at the beginning: I wanted to be popular. See, I knew I seemed popular from the outside -- I was a cheerleader, I ended up as student body president, I was involved in nearly every school organization to some capacity, I was even voted 'Most Likely to Succeed' -- but I didn't get invited to parties and I rarely had much in the way of boyfriends. I had lots of crushes and crushees and dates to the prom two years running -- but it wasn't ever because of my yearbook-worthy couplehood.

Now, I have what I want, even speaking strictly within my high school peer group (and I'm married to one of the guys I crushed on in high school); after our 20th reunion I had lots of old friends come up to me and say how much my soul-baring on my blog, on Facebook, and/or here had resonated with them; I'd become popular by, paradoxically, telling all the embarrassing, true-self-opening stuff I kept to myself in high school. Weird, but true. I'll just go ahead and quote myself from October 23, 1987, 7:51 p.m.: "There is an abundance of things that boggle my mind, including mostly eternity and the universe."

Which brings me to parenting.

Continue reading "What do they want? A mantra for parenting and my own fool self" »

About arguments (this time, we're doing good!)

January 17, 2012

I know my oldest has years to go before he hits the teen years, but I've felt for a while now that his behavioral struggles give me a window into who he will be as a teen -- he's got all the talking-back chops and punky authority questioning that any self-respecting teen boy would. Lucky me: I get to practice conversing with a teenager years before my time!

Sometimes I agonize over this (mostly when someone else is overhearing me and Everett in a tense debate over privileges and responsibilities, speckled tightly with the occasional bit of bad language). But thanks to some new research from the University of Virginia, I could just go ahead and embrace it. These debates with me now and in his teens will help him resist peer pressure among his friends and stand up to problems on the job. In other words, our arguments are lessons. According to NPR:

"[In the] study, 157 13-year-olds were videotaped describing their biggest disagreement with their parents. The most common arguments were over grades, chores, money and friends. The tape was then played for both parent and teen...

"[The researcher, Joseph P.] Allen interviewed the teens again at ages 15 and 16. "The teens who learned to be calm and confident and persuasive with their parents acted the same way when they were with their peers," he says. They were able to confidently disagree, saying 'no' when offered alcohol or drugs. In fact, they were 40 percent more likely to say 'no' than kids who didn't argue with their parents.

"For other kids, it was an entirely different story. "They would back down right away," says Allen, saying they felt it pointless to argue with their parents. This kind of passivity was taken directly into peer groups, where these teens were more likely to acquiesce when offered drugs or alcohol."

How you argue is important. If you "reward" children who develop a persuasive argument, bargaining thoughtfully instead of using begging, whining, threats or insults, you will teach them how to not just get along with other teens (and to stay clear of dangerous problems like drugs and binge drinking), but how to successfully manage relationships as an adult -- even and eventually, marriage.

I was, for once, proud of my parenting skills -- something I tell the boys every (sometimes many times a) day is to use their problem solving abilities to come up with a solution that doesn't involve physical aggression or anger. Now, this doesn't work very well between the boys many days, but I often see the persuasive kid show up for a really great and -- often -- even courteous! -- debate with me or another adult. And that's something to be proud of.

Coming of Age in Books

October 09, 2011

Today, following my own advice, I sat in on the Wordstock 2011 panel discussion titled, "Move Over, Holden Caulfield," a conversation about coming-of-age stories with Anna Solomon, Blake Nelson, and Jen Violi. Each of these authors read a bit from their novels, all featuring central characters that were girls, 16 or so. Was the new coming-of-age heroine not man, but woman?

While this wasn't explored much, my favorite question was this: what coming-of-age novels made the biggest impact on the writers of the panel? Solomon, whose book is classified as literary fiction -- and which I, stunned by the passage she wrote, bought -- said her first memory of a coming-of-age book that moved her was Judy Blume's classic Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. Her second choice was a memorable one for me, as well: A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle.

Jen Violi, whose book sounds funny and macabre but also wise, also chose a L'Engle book, the classic, A Wrinkle in Time. Her other choice was (she said) a testament to her dark side: Jane Eyre.

(Nelson said all he read as a kid was Peanuts; some quality stuff in the comic strip, but not quite meeting the description.)

I thought for a while about my own answer to this question. Surely those L'Engle books are on my list, as well as another one that made an even bigger impact on me, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. (I read it a few years ago to Everett, and it's eerily modern.) So, too, the good vs. evil series like Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising books and The Chronicles of Narnia (both The Magician's Nephew and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader were particularly interesting to me, for some reason; I think it's that the character whose trajectory is most central in both of these, Diggory and Eustace, have something of a transformation from insufferable to brave). The Little Women books were also beloved, as were the Little House on the Prairie novels; I suppose each of these had its coming of age book. I read so voraciously as a child that it's hard to pick anything as key in my development; in high school, of course, I read all the legendary ones including Holden Caulfield's vessel (A Catcher in the Rye), A Separate Peace, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, even Black Boy; the one, though, that I remember most keenly from high school was Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior. But each of these classic ones stays with me, even though I haven't even touched the cover of many of them in decades.

When you were a child on the cusp of your own coming of age, which books did you read -- and which had the biggest impact on you? Which coming of age stories will you urge your own children to read, when they're ready? If you have children who are old enough to dive into such books, which have they read?

TV Study: SpongeBob's Bad

September 19, 2011

There was a study several years ago that made the rounds when my oldest was in prime Nick Jr.-watching age; it was the basis for the AAP recommendation that kids two and under watch no TV, or, failing that, very very little. The study basically found that all TV was bad for little kids' brains, and it didn't matter what it was; Sesame Street, SpongeBob, and Law & Order were all equally brain-rotting, in this study's opinion. This was the inspiration for lots of mama guilt (both personal and universal), and some grumbling about the poor study design; it was, for instance, based entirely on parental report of both quantity and content of TV, as well as the children's resultant behavior and school performance. Were the kids with difficult behavior and poor school performance really watching PBS for two hours a day -- or WWE for six hours a day? And were the guilt-ridden mamas whose kids watched PBS over-reporting the behavior out of some kind of morose ethical code? Causation, too, was an issue; maybe the kids with poor school performance all lived closer to high-traffic streets, or were all suffering from imperfect nutrition. The study, while striking, was hardly clear evidence.

Enter better (if not exactly clear) evidence. A new study from the University of Virginia [pdf link] published in the September 12 issue of the Pediatrics journal showed that it does make a difference what the young children watch, and specifically, preschool-aged children were shown episodes of Caillou (the almost moronically peaceful, sweet show about a little boy shown on PBS) and SpongeBob SquarePants (I think you know). The control group drew pictures independently. There was only nine minutes of the TV, but the fast-paced SpongeBob immediately impacted childrens' "executive function" -- self-regulation and working memory.

The problem wasn't the slapstick content and the ridiculous jokes (honestly, I've grown to appreciate SpongeBob's unusual humor). It was the part that makes me crazy when I'm listening from the other room -- the frequent changes in scene, about every 11 seconds, compared to 34 seconds for Caillou. Researchers theorized that this fast pace impaired children's brain function. It's worth noting that defenders have sprung up to compare this study to one 1970s comparison of fast- and slow-paced episodes of Sesame Street (the control group was read to by parents), which held that pace had no impact on children's attention spans. "...there’s no telling which characteristics of the programs might have affected the children’s thinking," wrote editors on a Bloomberg editorial. "Could it be that the children were slow to settle down and get to work because SpongeBob is funny and they were energized by laughter? As much as we respect all forms of expression, it’s safe to say that Caillou is not particularly funny, and it’s easy to see how kids could turn from watching it to performing serious tasks without needing a moment to recover." And another critical article noted that the survey was statistically flawed; "Compared to drawing, kids in the SpongeBob group did worse when the researchers measured these executive function areas — attention, working memory, and problem solving. But compared to the kids who watched the other cartoon, there was no statistical difference between the two groups of kids. When a researcher says something 'approached significance,' that’s a squishy research term to say, 'Well, it's not significant, but it's darned close.'"

Given the usual skepticism about making generalizations about small groups of children watching two very different programs, this is still something I've long been concerned about, though not with such clarity. My kids had some unexpected response to a zoomy, fast-paced movie made for 3D when we saw it in the theatre (How to Train Your Dragon). I was boggled by how often the scene changed; sometimes the pace was so fast I found myself ducking, or squeezing my eyes shut. It overwhelmed me. On the way home, we endured some of the worst meltdowns I'd seen from my kids -- simultaneously, at least -- in months.

I'm not banning SpongeBob, but it's useful to observe the reactions of my kids to various intensities of TV. Johnny Test, for instance, is hilarious -- but the sound of it destroys my own brain function. If it's on, there's no way I can write anything intelligent. Same goes for lots of Cartoon Network shows (and, let's be honest, Sid the Science Kid, which I've never cared for). I'll keep this sort of content to a minimum for my kids; it's not going to rot their brains permanently, probably, but it's certainly not going to give their brains a rich and nurturing environment for creating positive change in the world.

When she starts to "develop": books to read

May 17, 2011

Along with changes in scent come changes to the body.  Back when I was a young girl, there were pamphlets describing your ovaries, eggs traveling down tubes, then a monthly shedding of the endometrium.  It was all very clinical in all of its two pages.

Now that my girl is starting to go through the changes, I want to collect reading material that answers some of her questions.  I also want reading material for myself, from the mama perspective.

Years ago, we received a copy of Cycle Savvy, "The Smart Teen's Guide to the Mysteries of her Body".  It really is geared toward the 13-18 year old set.  I'm looking for books more geared toward the 8-13 year old set, to prepare girls for these changes.

Our doc recently recommended a series that talked about the changes, both emotional and physical.  But should couldn't remember the title!  Suggestions, please - both for girls in the pre- or early-pubescent range & their mamas....

The Motherhood-Project: have you participated?

February 17, 2011

It was only after I had endured a most angst-ridden adolescence that I had read "Reviving Ophelia", a collection of anecdotes of a psychologist's work with adolescent women coming of age.  Granted, as the daughter of two immigrants not fully accepting of "American ways", I didn't have the same experiences as the examples.  Still, something resonated.  When "Ophelia Speaks" came out, I was equally drawn to the stories, written by teenage girls themselves, reliving many feelings and emotions of being a young woman, in search of self, questioning and wondering, struggling and exploring (though I recall feeling the same sense of homogeneity in this book, telling myself I had to one day edit a book that would be more representative of the experiences of girls of color).

That was before I was a mother.  Now, I have a daughter named Ophelia (can you believe?), aged 10.  Roughly two years ago, we started to notice changes in our daughter's mood, behavior.  She was becoming more assertive with us, of the annoying variety, and oh-so emotional.  Tears were abundant, seemingly about mundane things.  But, it all meant the world to her.  We, as her parents, had a hard time dealing with these changes. Rebanal_women

More than anything, I want to have strong, passionate, and confident daughters.  I want them to feel comfortable in their skin, even if they are unlike the images we see on billboards or in the movies.  I want them to speak, loudly and strongly, in public, with elders, with peers, with youngers.  I want them to find their voice, know it and use it.  I want them to dance and perform, for the love of it all, with little self-consciousness.

I think we have our jobs cut out for us.  Raising conscientious and confident girls (or boys - saved for another post) is not easy.  

On thing I have heard about is the Mother-Daughter Project.  Groups of mothers and daughters have come together to support one another through the adolescent period and beyond, providing that important sense of community and sense of belonging, deepening mother-daughter relationship, while also forming strong peer relationships, all in the name of support and camaraderie during difficult times.

Have you participated in a Mother-Daughter Project group?  How have you tried to strengthen your relationship with your pre-adolescent or adolescent daughter?  What were memorable, meaningful relationships for you when you were an adolescent that you hope to replicate for your daughter?

How to help children deal with stress

November 09, 2010

We parents are not the only ones facing stressful situations.  Our children also experience stress: stress with transitions in their households, stress at school with friendships or academic challenges, stress related to medical situations.  An urbanMama recently emailed, seeking your suggestions for stress-reducing activities for her daughter:

My six-year-old daughter is going through some tough medical issues right now. I think we’re hooked up with the right medical providers, but she is understandably stressed. So I was trying to think about what to do for a stressed-out kiddo. Good food—check. Good sleep—check. Cleared my schedule to make life less rushed for her—check. Organized her room and am making an effort to keep the house tidy—check. What else? I’d love to hear suggestions about ways to help kids relax. My only thought so far was massage, but I think I’d have to find just the right provider since otherwise it would just be one more stressful appointment with a stranger. So if anyone knows of a masseuse who works with kids, or has other ideas about techniques for reducing and coping with stress, that would be great.

Potty training diet: No corn, no way

August 17, 2010

Monroe, finally, seemed ready for potty training. He started to have a more positive response to the question, "do you want to try to go potty?" My sister (who teaches preschool for two- and three-year-olds, and babysits for me regularly) bought him a bag of gum drops from Trader Joe's, and started offering them as prizes. His early intervention specialist mentioned the way to tell he was ready was, could he be dry through the night? And the next night, I let him go the night in his underwear, and sure enough: he made it!

So we began; put away the diapers and started the slow progress toward an accident-free future. Emphasis on slow. Though he lately seems to have almost conquered the pee accidents, the poop accidents are frequent. So we're on a potty training diet.

The first thing off my list was corn on the cob. We don't eat it much, anyway, as I rarely buy fresh food that's out of season, and it's not something I love enough to freeze. But Everett had asked for some, and there was sorta-local corn cheap at Limbo. Four corn-kernel-filled pairs of underwear later, gross gross gross, and I declared (quietly, to myself, no point in reminding him he loves it) NO MORE CORN. Yesterday, I let him have blueberries, against my better judgment. Yuck. Three times cleaning blueberry poop off the floor was enough to have me questioning that (delicious and healthy but oh! messy!) food, too.

It seems like a perfectly rational plan, to me, to limit the diet to less-poop-inducing foods while you're in the worst of potty training's throes. Maybe my brain is a bit addled by the ick. Have any of you done this? What foods have you, umm, eliminated?

Away from babe: when was the first time?

August 02, 2010

The email that came from the baby daddy read: "has no ever taken a ten-month old away from his/her mom for 48 hours?"  He was responding to my resistance to agreeing to let him take our babe away for the weekend when he goes solo to see his family.

Here's a secret: I don't think I can do it.  With the two that came before, it was 2.5 years before I had a night away from them.  And, the first night away coincided with the weaning effort both times.  This definitely will not be a weaning effort, only a time away from mama, one-on-one time with dad.  But, I don't know.  I don't want to.  Maybe I am clinging too much to my babe, not wanting to be apart for two days.  Not to mention: how am I supposed to make enough milk for the 48-hour separation?  They would leave at 10pm on Friday and I have just a few days to pump!

I would love to hear stories about your first nights away from your babes.  When?  How old?  How long?  How did you fare?

Pediatric 'Disorders' have this mama in chaos

June 07, 2010

"We're going with Disruptive Behavior Disorder," says the pediatric psychologist. She is young: the sort of young that goes with lots of experience working with parents and small children, seriously impressive degrees, knowledge, decisiveness. In fact, looking at her resume later, I decide she may be exactly my age. But her manner, her aspect, young.

The patient is my not-quite-three-year-old son, Monroe; I'd started this quest to get him diagnosed by a storied medical organization up on this hill of inquiry six months ago; for what? I ask myself in these spare moments after receiving the diagnosis. What did I expect? All pediatric psychologists and special education teams have for my children is a (damning) name for the symptoms I'm reporting to them. All they have is a knowledge -- from this brief interview, these questionnaires with acronyms and insufficient answer choices (there's no "it's complicated," or, "are you kidding me?" or, "but I love this kid with every inch of me" as options) -- that I've given them, that they've observed with the shapes and the little plastic bolt-and-nut. He can sort the shapes, he can screw the screw, he can tell you he's a boy and I'm his mama. He can say "I loff you!" and call blue "boo" and ask where "muffin" has gone ("my friend," I translate after a minute, a little boy only 11 months, Monroe was so sweet with him). He eats kale and garbanzo beans and picks raspberries right off the bush. He hits me, bites his brother so hard it bruises, stomps, throws things, breaks them, screams! screams! when he's angry. He's angry a lot, far more than is right.

What I wanted, I decide after much questioning myself, was a reason, if only a guess! a supposition!, something to look back to and say, "ahh," sorrowfully, to avoid next time, to purge from my life, from which to warn others away. I wanted to know how to wean this child so I can sleep better, manage better. I wanted a solution. Not a thoroughly bad name for what I already know.

Continue reading "Pediatric 'Disorders' have this mama in chaos" »

Self-directed play and siblings

March 09, 2010

I was alone for several hours yesterday at home with Monroe, who's two-and-a-half, and contemplating my plans for next year in the backdrop of a book I have been reading, the fascinating and inspiriting Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. Truman was out on an errand with daddy and I was finding it impossible (as usual) to do any writing. Monroe, needing attention in the absence of his brotherly playmate, wanted to sit on my lap and punch keys on my keyboard. My choices: give him the iPod touch with its monkey games, put on a TV show, or do something with him.

I've made it my personal mission not to use screen time unless I'm truly desperate, and I wasn't, so we went outside and planted more peas and some lettuce and kohlrabi. He dug in the dirt and helped me sprinkle kelp meal until he got bored of it and decided it was time to go for a walk. As close to traffic as possible. Inside again then! I spent the rest of my "free" time making us a snack, wondering, how will I ever manage to entertain this child and get just a little bit of writing in each day, next year with Truman in kindergarten? And the next? Truman has always been the sort of child who can play by himself for hours, without heading for the street, and this littlest man in our family is demanding enormous levels of interaction.

Enter the radical homemakers, those who, according to Hayes, "are pursuing homemaking as a vocation for saving family, community, and the planet." I'd just been in the part in Chapter Five where Hayes describes the way these radical homemakers "redefine wealth and poverty," in her section beginning, "Child care is not a fixed cost." In other words, how can you redefine the way your home economy works so that you do not need to pay another person to care for your child? I was tracking -- this is exactly what I've tried to do with my own family, freelance writing from home when it became clear that, more than anything else, my kids needed me, a lot. One of her interviewees had her daughter in day care for a while and she says, "I noticed that in day care, what she learned was to be entertained. Out of day care, she had boredom. And when she had boredom, she got creative and she thought of things to do, and went outside and climbed the tree..." In contrast, all the activities and scheduling at day care had her wired on the expectation that someone else was supposed to give her that play structure she needed. "I don't think that's necessarily a good thing," the mother concludes.

This gives me hope: it occurred to me that the expectation of a sibling to play with could be a balm that, once it was less of a sure thing, Monroe could learn to work around. I'd love to hear stories from those of you who aspire to a simple and less structured life: once all the older siblings were in school, did your youngest adapt to life just with you -- and let you get a little bit of time to focus on whatever else you and your household needed?

News for kids with mental health challenges

February 11, 2010

As if to punctuate the news I
was listening to on NPR on the morning of February 10, rapt and horrified, as soon as the piece on the draft of the new 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders' released by the American Psychiatric Association today, Monroe rolled over, asked to nurse, and when refused, screamed and punched me in a brief, intense fit of anger. The news, at least in part: mental health medical professionals will be urged to consider an alternative to pediatric bipolar disorder, a label currently on the chart of a whopping 1 million (!!) (!!!!!!!) children in the U.S.: temper dysregulation disorder. I do know that I'm not qualified to make this diagnosis myself, but the child described by the mother in this piece is my seven-year-old; he's also my two-year-old; oh my god OHMYGOD if Everett were to have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder?

I learn after listening to a few more pieces on the subject, if Everett were to have been diagnosed with BPD, he'd still be at Grout; given the oppositional/defiant disorder "diagnosis" handed to us by a parenting coach and shared with the school -- I'd no idea at the time I was possibly creating a Berlin Wall's-worth of barriers for my poor child's future -- he had to be sent to a special school, not mainstreamed with gentle love and school district-provided assistance. So-called "conduct" disorders like oppositional/defiant, once on his chart, allow school districts to remove your child from the mainstream. There may be many drawbacks to temper dysregulation disorder -- I've been reading a wide range of them in the past few days (for instance, it's limited to children between six and 10, perhaps leaving the window open for psychiatrists to consider it a precursor to bipolar disorder and, thus, prescribe the anti-psychotics that are precisely the enormous concern of parents and activists surrounding pediatric bipolar disorder) -- but its availability as a more accurate diagnosis for kids like Everett, being biological and not conduct-based, could open up educational options.

The other big news was that Asperger's Syndrome will be removed from the manual (which isn't published until 2013), with the recommendation that children who meet the current criteria for Asperger's be instead diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This, too, could have far-reaching effects mostly centered around public school accomodations and social service eligibility, with perhaps a minor effect on which treatments would be reimbursed by insurance companies.

I'm working on a larger article about this and will be interviewing a few pediatricians and other experts in the next day or so; I'd love to hear your thoughts and perhaps weave them into my interviews. I'd also be interested to see if any of you with children who fit either diagnosis "basket" were heartened, or terrified by the news? Did you see relief or great worry? I have so many rather weighty questions that I don't think the experts can answer (should Everett have been placed on anti-psychotics? Are the anti-depressants he is taking ultimately harmful? Just how badly did I effect his future by allowing that conduct disorder diagnosis? What about the kids who are on anti-psychotics? I million freakin' bipolar kids? How could that be?)

Seeking Recommendations for Child Psychologist

January 06, 2010

When we see that our child needs more specialized attention, we want to offer that access.  An urbanMama recently emailed, seeking suggestions for child psychologist:

I have a child who suffers from extreme shyness and overall anxiety about numerous things from thinking about death to stressing over doing the right thing to making an out in baseball to being afraid to ask a friend to play for fear of being told "no." He starts kindergarten next fall and was looking for advice from a recommended psychologist on ways in which I can help him succeed before he enters the public school system. Would love to see if anyone else has met someone they respect who has helped out their child.

Seeking recommendations for ADHD support

October 07, 2009

We know how important it is to get feedback on programs that are unfamiliar to us.  To that end, an urbanMama recently emailed:

I have a 5-year-old son with ADHD and am looking at ways to provide him support outside of the services he is receiving in kindergarten.  I am potentially interested in the Children’s Program, but they charge $175 for an initial consultation and I’m nervous about paying that much without having any other feedback on their programs or services.  If anyone out there has used them for any groups or classes or workshops and can share their thoughts (good, bad or other), I would really appreciate it!  The information and group descriptions look promising, but I would feel so much better about moving forward if I hear from some of you.   I would also be interested in hearing about any other places that provide similar services.  Thank you!

Montessori, Waldorf, Reggio Emilio, Play-based: What does it all mean?

June 08, 2009

As a parent, the educational approaches and influences used in daycare and preschool settings can be overwhelming to say the least.  While surfing around to find more information, we found this piece that was a nice, quick guide on different approaches: "Waldorf? Play-based? Montessori?  What does it all mean?"  The options, the options.  A few pretty common approaches include (linking to wikipedia only because it seemed easiest and comprehensive - forgive us; we're no experts ourselves!):

  • Montessori: focusing on child-directed learning, practical life, learning through discovery, and use of specific materials to further a child's independence and curiousity.
  • Waldorf: emphasizing imagination in early learning, with extensive time in guided free play in a homelike natural environment with natural materials.
  • Reggio Emilio: also giving children some control over their own learning, encouraging small group project work and self-expression where teachers and children work collaboratively.
  • Play-Based: creating an environment where children can safely explore and experiment and accomplish learning through play.

How to make sense of it all?!  What "method" works well with what "kinds" of children?  An urbanMama recently emailed, wondering about your thoughts, experiences and perspectives on these different approaches:

I was recently doing some light research on different pre-school education programs and it seems like the three most predominant schools of learning for kids this age are Montessori based, Waldorf based, and play-centered based.  I currently have my girls in a Montessori program, and we're very happy with it, but I'm curious about the other two.  Does anyone have any insight on these, either through personal or professional work experience?  Are there any early childhood education specialists who could weigh in on this?  When I try to search for more info online it's hard to separate fact and research from testimonials from pre-schools trying to sell their own programs.  Is there a method that seems to be better or worse, or is it, like many things, dependent on the needs of the individual child?

"I'm scared of monsters!"

February 25, 2009

Fears can be real, especially when you're two feet tall and the world seems so big and daunting.  Our little babes are scared of the dark and even of ladybugs and cows.  It's normal and totally understandable.  But, how do we help our little folks work through these fears?  Do you think we can assume that they'll eventually get over the fears?

An urbanMama recently emailed:

I have 2 little girls 10 months and 28 months. My 2 year old has developed a huge fear of monsters in her room at night. It takes he over an hour of panicking and screaming to go to sleep. Which means the baby suffers too as they share a room. My husband is the working parent so bedtime is his domain. He sits with her until she finally falls asleep. We are not sure where it came from, an episode of Charlie and Lola maybe or something else, we do not know. We have a night light, she has a flashlight and "monster spray" in her bed. I just need some help on what direction to take with this. Any book recommendations for the kids or the parents?  What have other mamas or papas done to help put these fears and their babies to bed?

Binky removal causes sleep crisis: What to do?

October 27, 2008

Have you ever gone through the great binky guilt? I know it's common, and many pediatricians have strict guidelines about when pacifiers should be tossed. Can you offer any advice to Stephanie in NE Portland? It sounds like she's been extremely creative and needs more help!

We're in the middle of a binky induced sleep crisis and I'm looking for some help.  A week and a half ago we took away our two year old son's pacifiers and now he is refusing to nap or go to sleep in his own crib.  This is a child who has slept (easily) in his crib since coming home from the hospital. 

At my son's two year appt my pediatrician said we should get rid of the binkies before March when our second child is born.  He said if we didn't, then our son would never give them up.  For more than a month we restricted binky use to naps and bedtime only.  Then last Saturday (a week and a half ago) we cut the tops off of the binkies.  I expected this would be a gradual way of getting him to dislike and ditch his binkies.  Instead he totally rejected them instantly and we had a cold turkey situation on our hands.
I tried to do this as gently as I could.  I bought books to read to my son about giving up the binky to prepare him and we have been talking about it for awhile.  Several days after cutting the tops off of the binkies my son and I decorated a box and left it for the Binky Fairy.  He received an IKEA train set the next day from the Fairy.

Continue reading "Binky removal causes sleep crisis: What to do?" »

"I'm scared of the ladybugs and cows!"

October 02, 2008

Well, those little tykes.  If it ain't the dark, then it's something else, like cows or ladybugs.  Do you have any suggestions for the mama of this suddenly fearful girl?

My lovely 2-1/2 year old daughter is suddenly afraid of things, and by "things" I mean going to bed and taking a bath.

Somehow I have ladybugs in the bath, and she tells me she's afraid. But before she tells me she's afriad I ask her to find some and she can't. "No ladybugs in the bath."  Then, my girl, who has always been totally easy to put down for bed (often telling me herself that she was ready for nap and goodnight), now will not go to sleep in her crib because she is afraid of the cows.  Cows?  Really?  In her 10X12 bedroom?  Seriously. Well, yes she is serious.  I took down a drawing that has been up for months showing a cow jumping over the moon, so maybe that will help.  However, the ladybugs in the bath thing is getting old.  I shower with her to get her clean, but it's a bit like showering with a declawed cat, that's 25lbs and slippery.

In other households, the scary creatures may be ants, squirrels, or pigeons.  Whatever the fear factor, do you have any ideas to get this urbanMama's babe back in the tub and bed, fear-free? 

Puppy Love: When do childhood crushes begin?

September 12, 2008

When I was a little girl, I think I had my first childhood crush when I was in kindergarten.  I can't remember his name, but I can definitely remember his face.  He had freckles, red hair, and a round face.  I liked him because he played tag vigorously on the playground.  We would tag each other in a weirdly flirtatious way.  My second childhood crush was the next year.  I remember his name (I think).  Brian Lee was a boy I liked because he would play backgammon with me during before-school and after-school care.  My "interests" continued on a regular basis for decades afterwards.  I remember feeling like my interest in these boys was more than just "friendship".  There was definitely a romantic element to all of it; I'm not sure why or how.

When our oldest daughter was in first grade, she had a friend with whom she was very close, cuddly and intimate.  Michael was a 5th grader (an older man!), and I would often find them two playing together, just them two, alone at the top of the play structure.  When I would ask: "what do you and Michael play?", she would said, "Um, well, we play 'brother-and-sister' and stuff."  Hmpft.  (Are you sure you aren't really playing 'mommy-and-daddy'?)

When our girl was in second grade, there was a third grader (smaller age difference this time) about whom we heard a lot.  I may have heard in passing that so-and-so "liked" our daughter.

Now, our girl is in third grade.  I just spent an hour on the playground with 20 second and third graders, supervising school pictures, and I was struck by this energy among the kids, a different sort of playfulness that lends to what I remember as behavior when a kid likes-likes the other.  It seemed like that flirtatious charge.  From my own experiences of puppy love starting as early as kindergarten, I can believe that even the littlest kids can have a "crush" on another.  But when I look at my girls, I think, "They're too young!"

Has puppy love entered your household?  Do you hear of the kids coming home with a "crush on 'so-and-so'"?  Or, do I have just a bit more time before that all starts?  What *is* puppy love, anyway?  Is it all stemming from oversexualized images in the media?  Or is it a sweet, innocent legitimate attraction between two kids?

TV might cause autism, definitely causes chaos

August 04, 2008

I recently cut off the cable at our house. If you knew me three years ago, you would be shocked. I've always been pretty relaxed when it comes to media's effects on my kids, but in the past few years I've seen more and more negative results of too much TV (even though I tried to limit the amount and quality of their exposure, I often failed due to a huge number of factors). Even when they weren't watching TV, my 6-year-old and 3-year-old were arguing with me about it.

I wrote about this for Culinate, and was amazed by the quality and quantity of the responses to my piece (where I was, mostly, talking about giving up Rachael Ray and replacing her with beloved cookbooks). The day after my piece went up, my boss sent me this article from Slate, which gives evidence that TV watching in young children might cause autism. I had to gulp, because my middle son is speech delayed, and I had to wonder if it was his frequent exposure to his older brother's television shows at a young age. The theory is that babies need three-dimensional stimuli, and an abundance (in my book, "abundance" means more than an hour a day, even in my loving, attentive, active and book-reading household, our TV days were often more like 3-4 hours) of two-dimensional stimuli is ultimately harming. No, I don't think this is isolated to the sorts of parents (or more likely, low-cost in-home infant care) where babies are strapped in car seats and plunked in front of TVs. This is homes like mine, where mama is trying to juggle too much and lets the kids watch three hours of Nick Jr.

I'm not suggesting that everyone cut their cable off, too (well, I am suggesting that, but I would never judge you for not doing it), but I think it's worth taking a closer look at the various studies and my anecdotal data. In my house, TV causes chaos, and so far I've been a better mama without it.

Heading to the restroom, SOLO

June 26, 2008

If you're a mama with a little boy or if you're a papa with a little girl, how and when would/did you let them go to the bathroom on their own?  When our daughters were brought on a playdate with a friend and his papa, we wondered, "would Jason take them into the men's room?  Or let them potty on their own?"  Shannon emails:

I’m the mama of two kids, ages 7 and 3, and we have just started swim lessons again at our local pool.  Up until now, I have been bringing my son (the 7-year old) in the locker room with me despite the inane sign that tells me children 5 and up must use the same gender locker room or a family changing room.  There was no way my 5-year old was in any way ready to go in the men’s room by himself and it’s virtually impossible to get a family room (plus floor is generally wet and icky).  So now that he is 7, my husband suggested that maybe he is old enough to venture into the men’s room and change by himself while I tend to my daughter in the ladies room.  At first I was really reluctant and worried (there are myriad scenarios that fly through my head), but I thought we’d give it a try.  We designated a spot for him to wait for his sister and me, we talked about strangers and where to go for help (the front desk) if he needed it.

So I was wondering at what age do other mamas let their sons go in the men’s room on their own and how they felt about it?

Growing up social: how to help a 6-year old make friends

June 03, 2008

As our children get older, having and making friends becomes so important for their sense of self.  Having and making friends, however, can be quite emotional and difficult.  I myself can recall the difficulties of friendships, even from a very young age.  An urbanMama and worried mom emails:

Our 6 year old son is having problems getting along with other kids. He is an only child and we know that plays into it, but is it more than that?  He loves kids and the notion of having friends, but when it comes down to it he really does not play well with other kids.  He is often self-centered, competitive and adversarial in his interactions.  He has yet to develop a true pal either at school or in the neighborhood.  We set up play dates outside of school as often as we can so that he has more opportunities to socialize with other kids one on one, but often they do not go that well. 

Socialization is messy for almost all kids at his age, but we want to do as much as we can to help him get through his challenges so that he can experience more success socially when he enters first grade next year.  I think this has also been challenging for us as parents because we feel a bit isolated socially from other parents.  He does not get invited to many of the birthday parties or for play dates at other kids houses and that extended community is something that we are missing as well. 

We would love to hear from other parents who have struggled with similar issues and find out what has worked for you.  We would also like to consult with a child psychologist or counselor to obtain better tools as parents to help him develop these social skills.  Maybe even some form counseling for him.  If you have had experience with a child psychologist or counselor that you particularly liked, we would love to hear what you liked about them and to have their contact information. 

Did you pierce? When?

May 20, 2008

Amy emailed a question recently that we, ourselves, have been thinking of lately:

I'd to take the uMama temperature on the subject of ear piercing. I had my ears pierced at age three, after showing a consistent, swooning desire to have sparkly ears. (I actually remember the occasion, sitting on the Sears jewelry counter - I loved wearing my earrings from that first moment, and I still have some of the cute posts I collected from the Avon catalogue throughout elementary school!)

Which brings me to today. My daughter is almost two, and loves, loves, loves my earrings. This morning, she pulled on her own ears and asked for "'rings?" It suddenly struck me that the ear piercing question might come sooner rather than later - and I don't see many young girls with pierced ears around here!

So, what's the community perspective on pierced ears on young children? Do your daughters have pierced ears, and when did they get them? What would you think if you saw a three-, four-, or five-year-old with pierced ears? (If it makes a difference - I realize that pierced ears on babies is common in some cultures, but my family's ethnicity is caucasian.)

When Did (Would) You Let Your Kid Take Transit Solo?

May 13, 2008

When I ride the Max or the bus, I often times see kids riding on their way to or from school.  I've been curious as to when they started riding seeing as how public transit is also a form of busing kids to school, definitely much different than my suburbia experience back in the day.  I've been meaning to broach this topic on urbanMamas, and what better time than now especially in light of Lenore Iskenazy's fairly recent post on "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone"; where her son successfully navigates his first solo trip on the New York City Subway.  At what age did your kids venture out solo?  At what age would you let your kids venture out solo?  Is there a right age for allowing solo trips to school and/or their friends homes?

Infants: Satisfying the Need to Climb Safely

Gotta love those early months when you have to keep constant watch over your mobile infant.  Sarah needs your suggestion for her little one that aspires to vertical endeavors.  She emails:

I'm looking for ideas for my 11 month old who can't stop climbing. We never had to childproof before now we have a little spiderette on our hands. She hasn't been walking long but really feels the need to go vertical. A climbing wall won't be appropriate for a while. Has anyone else found a good outlet for their little wobbler climbers? Backyard structures for the smaller set? Thanks!

Red Shirting Your Kindergartner-To-Be

May 06, 2008

When my sister mentioned she was red-shirting her son who has a July birthday, I thought nothing of it.  She felt he wasn't emotionally ready for kindergarten and waiting would allow him another year of maturity.  Andrea recently sent us this thought provoking email on delaying the start of kindergarten:

I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about kindergarten for my kids. My oldest is only 3, so I'm still wrapping my mind around preschool. But a friend of mine is a kindergarten teacher, and she recently told me about a growing trend where parents purposefully hold their kids back from starting kindergarten until they're closer to 6.  It's called "red-shirting", and I guess parents are doing this with the idea that their kids, if a little older, will be better able to handle the academic and physical rigors of kindergarten, and therefore outperform their peers. 

A number of issues around kindergarten are explored in this article from last year's NY Times Magazine.  One of which is the shift in our expectation of what children should achieve in kindergarten.  At one point in our not too distant past, kindergarten was geared mostly around play, and was only half-day to boot.  Now, we expect kids to start learning to read and write in kindergarten.  Play is all but disappearing from their school day.  In this sense, delaying your child's start to kindergarten makes sense.  If kindergarten is now what first grade used to be, it makes sense that kids would do better if they were closer to six when they began.  However, this is difficult if it is not uniformly applied.  One of many challenges with red-shirting is that teachers are forced to accommodate the skill differences reflected in the growing age divide of their students.  Another is that red-shirting is only really an option to those with the means to delay their child's start in school.  If you have the money to pay for another year of preschool, or the opportunity to stay home with them for another year, you can ensure they'll have a leg-up in kindergarten.  If you can't, you have to enroll them in a class where they are learning alongside children more than a year further along in their development. 

In response to red-shirting, and more general ideas about the benefits of delaying the start to kindergarten; a number of state's are contemplating changing their cut-offs, delaying them, so that their kindergarteners will be older, and later test scores more competitive with states with later enrollment dates.  I wonder, why is it that we changed our academic expectations of kindergarteners in the first place?  Only to now work on delaying when they start because they're not ready to meet those new expectations. 

Doesn't this represent a major shift from our previous conversations about this, and from the thinking when we were kids.  Until recently, it seemed more common for parents to fight to enroll their kids earlier than the age cut-off.  Sure that, even at the later end of 4, they were prepared to start school. 

What do you think?  Is there a "right age" for kids to start kindergarten? 

Vertically Challenged

March 25, 2008

I'm like Stacy, short in stature.  What gives?  But certainly, Stacy needs some perspective on this unique question.  She emails:

Any mamas out there with really short kids?  My son is 4 1/2, and just over 36 inches tall.  According to the growth charts, he doesn't exist.  He is active, strong, articulate, and has a very healthy, varied diet.  At last year's well child check-up, pediatrician sent his growth charts to an endocrinologist.  We had blood tests (hormones, thyroid).  He was healthy, there was no more discussion.  Last week we went again, and go through the same questions.  Was I a late bloomer? Yes. Was my husband a late bloomer? Yes.  My boy has certainly grown in the last year, just not very much.  Pediatrician sent us for a bone age x-ray (and
gave me no interpretation of the results) and now I've been instructed to set up an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist.  My husband thinks that being short is really hard for boys and has much less distrust than I do of whatever medical intervention might follow.

Of course I'll take my son to this appointment, but part of me just thinks, "He's short.  I'm short.  I'm 5'2''.  My husband is maybe 5'8".  The pediatrician is 5'6"! Can't someone just be short?"

Any experience with endocrinologists?  Perspective?

Do your kids free play?

March 04, 2008

A recent NPR piece touted that "Old-fashioned play builds serious skills", and these serious skills are threatened by the decline in self-regulated play by many children.  Researchers follow the (de-)evoluation of play, from an emphasis on free, improvised play in the first part of the 20th century to more guided, toy-/object-directed play in the second part.  Improvised or self-guided play, researchers say, develops something called "executive function", an ability to control emotions and behavior.  According to the NPR piece, "Poor executive function is associated with high dropout rates, drug use and crime."

Laura emails:

I heard this on NPR, and as a mother of a child with possible Sensory Processing Issues, I found it extremely interesting. There are so many things that are "spelled out" for our children where their toys are concerned, that it isn't that surprising that self regulation is becoming a widespread issue. I'm interested to see what other parents feel about this issue?

Do you agree?  Do you see this happening to our children?  Do you have great ideas to promote [low toy] free play?  Do you think it's not really an issue?

Suggestions for a 7yo bedwetter?

February 26, 2008

Mamas, any suggestions?

I have a seven year old who is still wetting the bed every night. I’m interested in knowing if there are other parents out there who have found particular books or bedwetting alarms helpful with their child.  I am considering using a bedwetting alarm and am looking at two in particular, one called the Potty Pager and the other made by Malem, but have no idea how to choose one.  The book Dry All Night: The Picture Book Technique that Stops Bedwetting also intrigues me.  Any advice would be appreciated.

Is this only the beginning?

February 12, 2008

Seven years ago, when my first daughter was a baby, I spent moments of each day wondering: "Am I doing it all wrong?"  Now that our girl is seven-and-a-half approaching thirteen (it seems), I am still wondering the same thing: "Am I doing it all wrong?"

Yesterday was the Monday of all Mondays.  I tell ya.  It was a completely ridiculous workday for me when I felt like I did. not. have. enough. seconds. in the day to finish every report, call, analysis, whatever before fetching the girls.  Then, when I picked up my girl and her girlfriend from school, it was nothing. but. rant and whine. rant and whine. about. every. single. thing.  "Why didn't you pack me peanut butter sandwich for lunch?" ("Because you packed your own lunch this morning.")  "I'm so thirsty! Why isn't there any milk?" ("Because you drank it all this morning and brought the rest for your lunch.")  "I'm bored.  Why can't we go biking?" ("Because your friend doesn't want to, why don't you ask her to go biking?")  "Why don't we ever get to do what I want?" ("Well what do you want to do?")

She says, "Mama, I want to bake cupcakes."  So, I put away what I was doing, and we start sifting flour and mixing up confectioner's sugar for icing.  The beaters haven't even stopped beating before I hear it (the whining) start, "I never get to do it first" or "Why don't you ever let me lick the bowl" or "This is so boring".  I swear to the heavens, I was just not getting anything right.  At all.  And, what was painful was that it was all my fault.

As I recount this story, I realize that it makes it sound like my 7.5 year old is nothing but I royal brat.  But, I swear she isn't.  She is mellow and sweet and respectful.  Really she is.  Usually.  But, sometimes, something just sets her off and everything is all wrong.  Not only is it all wrong, but it is also always all my fault, in those instances.

All of this to say: is this some pre-pre-pubescent condition?  Have other mamas and papas gone through this with their 7-10 year old girls or boys?  This almost-irrational, uncharacteristic, passionate, uncontrollable emotion?  Is this just the beginning?  Or is it me?

Let's talk about sex... with the kids???

January 11, 2008

Do you remember the very first time you learned about sex?  Do you remember learning about the body and its sexual parts?  How old were you?  How do you think you'll approach it with your kids?  Will you approach it differently depending on their age?  Holly emailed the other day:

I recently read your post “Let’s talk about sex” and loved all the information and honesty.  I then realized I had a great opportunity to ask other parents about how and at what age they spoke to their children about sex.  We have a 5.5 year old daughter and a 2.5 year old son.  I have been given mixed information about when and what to tell them.  Does anyone have any advice?

To TV or Not To TV?

November 18, 2007

My daughter came home one day and taught me a playground patty-cake rhyme:  "coca cola....  pepsi....  lemonade...  iced tea...."  I stopped her.  I asked, "What's 'pepsi'?"  She shrugged.  Slowly, she said, "You know.  Pepsi is when you shake some liquid and it explodes."   I was amused.  She had no idea what Pepsi was!  She knew what 'coca cola' was; her daddy drinks it maybe a few times a year.  We have since changed the rhyme to "coca cola.... izze...."  She knows and loves the fizzy izze drink.

Anyway, what spurred this anecdote is an email from Sarah who asks about how other urbanMamas and urbanPapas are dealing with TV and videos in their homes:

We have two boys (an almost 3 year old and a 5 month old) who have never watched TvTV or videos. I really wanted to get them excited about reading and in the habit of amusing themselves with active and imaginative play. My husband and I gave up TV in early 2005 and frankly don’t miss it (we’re not totally pure – we do get our movie fix from Netflix).

I love that my son doesn’t recognize a Coke logo and doesn’t ask for silly toys and sugar cereals that are so heavily marketed to young children. I realize, however, that TV is ubiquitous and I am wondering when (if?) to introduce our older son to TV or DVDs.  Do other parents have this dilemma?  When and how do I delve into this and what TV or DVDs do other urbanmamas recommend?

Seeking good books on child development

November 07, 2007

Mamas, do you have a go-to book on child development?  Capella writes:

The last coupla times I've been at the library I've tried to find some good books on child development.  It's been 15 years since I read Erikson's books while in college & I know there's been a lot of theorizing since then on what's going on in those developing brains. Through the library catalog & their reference desk I always end up at the parenting section.  I'm not looking for a general pamphlet level "what to expect from your 2-year old" kind of book.  I'm looking for something that will give me some theory, some insight, some opinions, something to think about while I'm spending my days doing childcare.

Does anyone have any good suggestions--titles, authors?

Your child and mature media

November 05, 2007

As our children get older and older, we start to wonder whether certain topics or scenes are appropriate for their ability to understand.  Do you censor the media that your child is exposed to?  Are you inclined to let your child self-censor?  Emily recently emailed her question, wondering if she and her spouse were the "squarest parents ever":

Our almost eight year old son thinks we are the squarest parents ever. Maybe we are, but we feel pretty strongly about limiting television, not owning any sort of video game system, and carefully screening movies for appropriateness, etc. I do feel somewhat hypocritical, however, as both my husband and myself were not raised by such picky parents. My husband has his old comic book collection in the basement, and is knows minute details of most science fiction and martial arts movies. WE both saw Star Wars when it came out in 1977, and WE were only 8 and 9 years old. We have planned on letting our son watch SW when he turns 8 in a couple of months, but he seems to be the last kid on the planet that hasn't seen it. Many kids in his class have seen ALL the Star Wars movies. And all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Transformers, all the Spiderman movies, Fantastic Four, and other mostly PG 13 movies. I don't get it, these are seven year old children. And younger. Many of these kids (including younger cousins) even have several different game systems and play fighting games that are rated for teens. II often refer to http://www.kids-in-mind.com/ to check out the scenes that might be violent or too mature and am curious about whether other parents do the same. We have bent on a few things: we'll allow supervised computer games on my laptop-even on controversial websites (to us, anyway) like bionicles.com lego.com, or even some cartoonnetwork.com games. We let him watch Saturday cartoons till nine-thirty or so. He's allowed to read some comic books.

My son really thinks he's ready to see more mature films, but I know he is not. We recently watched Black Beauty together and he covered his eyes and cried when one of the human characters got stabbed. He would probably react the same to the violent imagery in PG-13 movies, and once those images are in his head they are not going anywhere. But he's feeling left out and too sheltered, and maybe he his.  Are we surrounded by inattentive parents, or are we too paranoid?  Anyone else in a similar situation?

Princess Boys

November 01, 2007

We all support exploring and expressing oneself fully.  And, we are also in support of playing nice with both boys and girls.  An urbanMama emails:
I am the mother of a 5-year-old boy who is very into all things girly. For Christmas he is begging for the Playmobil Princess Castle, the Princess Treasury book and dress up clothes. We got the mailing for the Princesses on Ice show, and he studied it as though it were the Rosetta Stone. Predictably, all of his friends are girls.
My husband and I are totally into it and are happy to ride the pink train with him. I do have one small concern, though. He's beginning to rule out having friends who are boys, without getting to know them or giving them much of a chance. So, I'm wondering, are their other mamas out there with similar boys? Any tips?

Speech therapy for the delayed talker: 101

October 19, 2007

Truman_purplesmile As many of you know, my 29-month-old, Truman, is greatly delayed in speech. Through the MESD, we had him assessed for early intervention at 20 months, then again in August. Because children are assessed for all aspects of development holistically until age three, we didn't qualify for services according to our score cutoffs either time -- but the women we were working with decided to use "judgment" to qualify us anyway at the second appointment. Maybe it was my persistence? Very few parents (I get the impression) make their own referrals for assessment. Or maybe it's just because Truman is so ridiculously cute.

Either way, we're now getting speech therapy once a week. And because you have to be so delayed to qualify, I thought I'd share my homework with you, so those of you with very mildly delayed talkers could join in the services!

Truman clearly understands most words but had a lot of trouble saying consonants that appear at the end of words, and stringing syllables together. So "mama" is "ahhh," "daddy" is "a-dah," "airplane" is "aarrr," "water" is "ahh-raarr." Our therapist sat with us and we found one of Truman's current favorite books, Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. We started out with him on the floor, as usual, but soon she decided to put him in a chair with the book on his lap, and put me in front of him.

Continue reading "Speech therapy for the delayed talker: 101" »

Let them eat cake and be cold!

September 24, 2007

"Give them choices you can live with and let them make those choices, so long as they doesn't pose danger to themselves or others."  I believe I picked this up at a free series of Love & Logic workshops we once attended at our former school.

Well, this morninCupcakeg, I let them eat cake.  I know, I know: bad mama!  Cake for breakfast?  But, hey, we had a big birthday party yesterday and I can't bear to have the cake go to waste (anyone want a piece of St. Cupcake 4-layer chocolate cake with buttercream frosting?).  My husband kept saying, "You're letting them eat cake for breakfast?"  Well, sure.  "It's probably not as bad for them as a cinnamon roll from the bakery..."  This cake probably has a little less sugar.  So, I gave them the choice: oatmeal or cake.  They chose cake.  No one is surprised.

I also took out a stack of fleeces and jackets and vests for them to choose their method of warmth for the grey fall morning.  Girl 1 chose a fleece sweatshirt and Girl 2  chose a cotton sweatshirt (on top of heGrey_dayr sleeveless short sundress).  I urged Girl 1 to also layer a fluffy vest and Girl 2 to also layer a jacket on top of their sweatshirts.  They refused.  I shivered a shiver for them each.  Both sockless, they hopped on the Xtracycle and we rode down to school.  A few minutes into the ride, I asked them, "Are you cold?"  They each said, "Well, sort of."  I said, "Do you think you should have worn thicker jackets or socks?"  They said emphatically, "NO!"

Tomorrow will be the same negotiation, I think.  We probably won't offer cake again, though.  How do you handle choices, especially, the fight over jackets, socks, hats, or gloves?  If my Girl 2 wants to wear sundresses with no tights or socks or shirts for the rest of the autumn and into winter, should I just say, "OK!  It's your choice!"??   

Seeking support for Sensory Integration/Processing Disorder

September 13, 2007

"Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children and adults."  There have been suggestions on preschools for children with sensory integration disorder and there was previous discussion on finding a support group for parents and children with sensory integration disorder.  But, did a group ever form and gather?  Beren is seeking support and would like to get convene families:

I’m looking for a support/social group for Portland mamas with Preschool aged kids with sensory processing disorder that impedes their ability to attend or succeed in preschool or Pre-K. I’m feeling a little alone and would love to share stories, offer support, and cry together over administrators who just don’t get it. Are there any other stay-at-home moms or dads who meet up during the weekday?—Mom of 3 in NE Portland

Get to sleep! How do you change a child's bedtime?

August 30, 2007

My husband and I are confirmed night owls, always have been, always will struggle with it! I've read studies that a predisposition to early rising or staying up to all hours is hereditary, so you can imagine that our kids are just like us. Unfortunately, we're all night dwellers in a world designed for the early bird. And (what with Everett starting school at 8 a.m. in 11 days) I'm trying to change our ways.

Let's take yesterday as a case study: I woke the boys at 8 a.m., only 45 minutes past my goal time of 7:15. Truman (28 mos) took a nap, nearly three hours in the late afternoon. I tried to wake him up starting at around 90 minutes, but it didn't 'take' until 5:30 or so. All day I did admirably on what I call Project: Schedule; we ate meals at regular times, went largely without TV, tried to have a post-lunch settle down. Around 8:00, I started my recently-established routine: bath, maybe a glass of milk, brush teeth, books, good night! A few minutes before 11, I checked on them and they were quietly playing. 10 minutes later, Truman trundles down the stairs, and we do the carry-back-upstairs three or four times before finally, it's nighty-night.

Zoinks! What should I do? I just can't seem to get them to go to sleep at a "normal" time (I'd hope for something in the 9 p.m. range). I've been working on this for a couple of months now, some days assiduously, some days (I'll admit) a bit lackadaisical. I've tried some tricks that didn't work, like spiking the milk with Benadryl (I gave up after a week feeling guilty), aromatherapy bubble bath, even reading books that all have a bedtime theme. How can a mama get a couple of energetic boys to sleep already?

Tantrums & Meltdowns

August 21, 2007

Other urbanMamas have discussed before, could it be that three is more terrible that two?  It very well could be the case.  How has the number 3 fared for you?  Mary emails:

My son turned 3 this past week, and while I know that it is completely normal for kids this age to throw tantrums when they don't get their way (we here 'I want', 'I want' a LOT), my husband and I are having much frustration with the complete crying screaming meltdowns that have been happening lately.  I have been diligent about getting him snacks and meals at the appropriate times to ward off low blood sugar, but the tantrums continue to happen.  We have made the rule that he cannot have his milk until after he eats his meal (whatever time of day, breakfast, lunch, or dinner) because he fills up on milk and then refuses to eat anything.  Today before his normal lunch time, about 11am, he started in on the whining and crying asking for his milk (he had just had a snack of cheese at 10:15) so I fixed him his lunch early and told him that I would be happy to give him his milk after he ate his lunch.  Complete sobbing meltdown.  He wouldn't even sit on my lap and take a bite at all.  Finally he asked for a nap, so I took he and his sippy of water up to bed.  I feel awful about putting him down hungry, but I don't want to back down from our milk-after-eating rule because I know that is a slippery slope with the rules.  He cried for a bit after I put him down but did go to sleep (his usual nap time is 12:30, give or take a bit).  My typical mantra is 'this too shall pass' but I am quite frustrated!!  Any advice??

Just a few weeks left - counting down to school

August 14, 2007

Portland Public Schools kicks off the 2007-2008 school year in just three short weeks.  Will your child be going to school for the first time?  What sorts of things have you been doing to get ready for school?  Stocking up on the back-to-school suppply list that the school sent you?

We caught wind of a new product by Portland-company Blue Lake Children's Publishing.  It's called the Kindergarten Countdown Toolkit, and it comes with a DVD, a stack of Tessy & Tab magazines, and a kindergarten checklist.  The checklist has great tips for building up to the first day and week of school: visit the school, prepare for riding the bus or commuting to school, routinize the sleeping schedule, make a list for things to bring to school, and -- my personal favorite tip -- plan a special "first day" family dinner.

Another great idea is to start to get to know new families at your new school.  We've already been invited to our daughter's new school's end-of-summer picnic, and we already have our older daughter's back-to-school picnic on our calendars.  Sarah C recently posted that she belongs to a google group for her daughter's school, Beach Elementary.  We are figuring that there are many school  yahoo/google groups out there -- like Alameda Elementary, Creston School, Arthur Academy -- are there more?

Kindergarten is truly one of those first milestones you will definitely not forget.  Megan's daughter will be starting this fall, she asks:

Stella is starting Kindergarten (too soon!) at Vernon, and I'd love to find some other families to have some playdates so she might have a familiar face or two on her first day of school.  Do you guys know of anyone?

Are you in the same situation as Megan and would like to meet others from your school?  Start posting in the comments and let's see if we can help any of you connect! Any other ideas on how to prepare for the next school year, especially for those who are just starting their first days?  Three weeks will be gone before we know it!

She's Big for Her Age

July 31, 2007

Tristan is wondering if any mama's out there are in her shoes.  Do you have a "big baby"?

My 4 month old daughter is very big for her age (18 lbs and 27 inches...a behemoth!) and we were wondering if anyone had recs for a carseat, since she will be outgrowing her Graco Snugride sooner than later (they go up to 22 lbs and a year).  Also, any other recommendations from other parents who had big babies might be interesting to hear: obstacles they faced with clothes and toys and feeding.

What would you do - let her keep the binky?

July 29, 2007

BinkyLet's just say that one day, you were walking around the Division-Clinton Street Fair, moseying about with some other urbanFamilies.  Let's just say that you happened upon another urbanFamily's home, where they were having a mongo garage sale.  Now, let's just say that lots of the urbanKidlets got a hold of some pacifiers (all clean ones, some new) at said garage sale and your 3-1/2 year old urbanKiddo insists on going home with the binky in her mouth.  Let's just say that we catch her sucking on said binky almost every single moment in the past 24 hours since she's found the novel little thing, never ever having had taken to the binky as a baby in the past.  Let's just say that she goes to sleep with it in her mouth and she also took her nap with it.

What would you do?  Yank the damn thing outta her mouth and chuck it in the trash?  Or, just let her suck on the thing and decide herself when enough is enough?

A time in need

July 09, 2007

Loss, especially unexpected loss, can be a very difficult time for families.  Jesse has previously recounted an experience of Mama Grief and we have also had a discussion on helping children deal with death.  An urbanMama just emailed us and is seeking some tips or recommendations as soon as possible:

A few days ago my father, who was a central figure in both my and my 2-year-old daughter's life, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. I am devastated. I am trying to hold it together for my daughter, but I need help. I am looking for some sort of grief support group or therapist who might specialize in this sort of thing, preferably in NE Portland. I'm also looking for ways to talk to my daughter about this. My father was the central family member in her life and she adores him.

Continue reading "A time in need" »

What Website to use for Pictures??

July 03, 2007

All of must have byte upon byte of photos of our darlingest little bon-bons.  We have memorialized everything from the first bath to the day she lost her first tooth.  What to do with all of these pictures?  How to best share them with family and friends across lands and oceans?  Something like an urbanMamas flickr pool?  Sarah emails:

I have just under 15 bazillion pictures of my 1 1/2-year-old daughter trapped on my computer and on memory cards. I would like her to actually SEE some of these pictures one day but just can't seem to get myself down to the drug store, with toddler in tow, to scroll through all of them on a touch screen and print them out while someone taps their foot impatiently behind me. Plus, I've been disappointed with the quality at those do-it-yourself photo kiosks.

I am ready to enter the world of online photo uploading and processing but don't know where to start.  SnapfishShutterfly? I have no idea.  Are they all about the same? Are there some Web sites that have definite advantages or disadvantages?  Where have other mamas been particularly happy with photo quality, security concerns, and price? Or is there a local digital photo processing place that is even better? More organized mamas, please show me the way...

Our children and their heritage

June 28, 2007

My husband and I recently enjoyed a date night, compliments of a friend who graciously offered to stay with the girls.  It'd been a LONG, LONG time since we'd seen a movie (I think we've seen 2 movies at the theater in the past 6.5 years), so we opted to see Namesake at the Hollywood Theater.  A story about a family young scholar who moves from Calcutta to New York and his almost-stranger wife who journeys to join him, my husband and I are each reminded of our own parents, their immigration stories, and our experiences growing up in America but often being asked "so where are you from?", as if we couldn't be from San Francisco or New York (respectively).  My father immigrated to the states, a single man.  On a 2-week vacation in his home, the Philippines, he met my mother, fell in love, proposed, and married her.  The newlyweds spent their first 3 months of marriage across the world from each other; they conceived me immediately after my mom joined my dad in San Francisco.

My husband's parents story is that both parents came to the states single and separately.  They lived in different cities where they could work (as physician and nurse) in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Ohio.  They settled in New York, where they raised their Filipino family of four children.

Growing up, he and I had different experiences, but we were both growing up as children of immigrants.  We faced challenges like parents being confused on what a "prom" was and why teenagers should be allowed to go to a dance party without parent supervision.  Our lunches were thick savory Filipino stews over rice, maybe some adobo or relleno.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were pretty foreign, but siopao (steamed adobo pork buns) were a common merienda.

Like with many cultures, Asian, European, African, Latin -- the two "f"s are what keep the heritage alive: Food and Family.  Do you feel you are able to inject your children's awareness and love of their own ethnic heritage?  How?  Do you feel you are able to raise their awareness of others' ethnic heritage?

Way back when, we had previous conversations about our children of mixed heritage or about how we were clinging to culture.  In the past, many mama groups have formed via urbanMamas, including a group of Jewish Mamas who have found cultural commonality among their families.  We recently received email from Kinnari: 

I've recently moved to Portland with our two-year-old son.  I am of Indian descent (my parents moved from India in the '60s, though I was born and raised here), and as my little one is getting older, it's important to me that he grow up with a connection to his heritage. Are there other Indian/South Asian moms in Portland who'd be interested in meeting up from time to time?  If so, please email me at kshah[at]alum [dot]berkeley[dot]edu.  Thanks, and I look forward to meeting you!

Seeking Lactation or Newborn Care Classes

June 26, 2007

Erin is new to Portland and new to motherhood.  Does anyone have an experience with lactation classes or newborn care classes:

Could you point me in the direction of lactation classes and newborn care classes? I've been searching but can't find any. I'm looking for recommendations and opinions on how the hospital-offered classes compare with private organization offerings.