I'll admit I was surprised we made it as long as we did before going to the emergency room with Nate. By one month shy of his third birthday, Ethan had been twice.
As a parent you always fear the accidents you cannot control that are out of your line of vision or happen when you turn your head for just one second. In our family, you would think by now we would have learned that we don't even need to turn our head for disaster to strike.
All three boys were in the bathtub. This gives Derek a nervous breakdown but he continues to do it night after night. He started out just giving the baby his own bath but he couldn't keep the bigger boys from asking exactly one million times "canwegetincanwegetincanwegetin?" Ethan is pretty vigilant about putting a barrier of protection around the baby who acts like he needs no protection. He tips over, gets a stunned look on his face and slowly manages to right himself as fast as a buddha-bellied baby can move, that is.
Nate? He's the one that consistently pretends he has the entire tub to himself. He squirms his way to sit under the warm running water. He shoves past the other two to climb up the side and try to slide down it, regardless of who is sitting below him. He can usually get one good slide in before he gets yelled at for bowling into his brothers. It's an offense that is grounds for instant removal from the tub. It didn't stop him the other night (or any night, really), but this time his chin slammed down hard as he slid.
His father instantly took him from the bathtub for violating the clearly posted "No Sliding" rule and he began to cry. I noticed his hand was bleeding. I rubbed it dry and the blood was gone. Then I saw it was coming from under his chin. He continued to wail pitifully about the injustice of having bath time cut short as we began to do first aid and did not seem to care less about the gaping wound in his chin.
We debated whether or not this required stitches, but once he took off the butterfly bandage 20 seconds after Derek put it on, it started to bleed again. He kept sticking his fingers in it. I normally wouldn't panic but I know where his hands have been. He is not winning any awards for cleanliness. Stitches it is!!
One trip to the emergency room later, Nathan got glued instead of stitched, he spent two hours getting his parent's undivided attention, he got to play with a really cool helicopter while we waited to check out and the nurse gave him Batman stickers.
K: Nathan. Do you understand now why Dad tells you not to slide in the tub?
N: What Mom?
K: Nathan, are you listening?
N: MOM!!! A Rescue Truck!!!! (pointing to the flashing lights)
K: I don't think he got it.
D: No. No, he didn't.
K: Who are we kidding? Ethan got his stomach pumped for eating 40 vitamins in just under four minutes when he was two and he was still calling them candy six months later.
D: He didn't get it.
You don't want your children to ever get hurt or feel pain but there are moments in parenting that you think that just maybe they could get the life lesson if you are going to get the $650 emergency room bill. Wouldn't you agree?
It started innocuously enough. Or not so much. The boys began playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii across the street. One thing led to another and they were in possession of two very exciting "life savers" as Christmas presents from the more-evolved neighbors across the street. No manner of "light saber" correcting worked. Harrison called it a "life saver" so it was a life saver. I'm sure on more than one occasion, Luke Skywalker would agree.
Ethan realized just a few days ago that we happened to have all six Star Wars episodes on DVD. The sequels, the prequels, I have no idea. Don't get me wrong. I have seen them all but calling the Empire Strikes Back episode V just seems wrong (Sorry, George Lucas).
I put my foot down (or so I thought). "No Star Wars. I don't think it's appropriate for you boys. You are nearly 3 and 5. And frightened by yelling on Arthur. How can you stand the drama of Star Wars?" This, of course, was only partially true. Nate is fearful of nothing but he is 3. It just isn't right.
Somehow this was not properly communicated because I came in on New Year's Day after making coffee to find my husband and three boys watching Star Wars, A New Hope. The baby? Crawling around on the floor as the sound of Jedi knights fighting someone or something corresponded with my Jedi knights going to town on each other as they jumped from the couch to the ottoman with "life savers" a-blazing.
I looked at my husband as if he had lost his mind. He jumped in with a "I think it's fine." Episodes 5 and 6 later and no one seemed horribly worse for the wear. I did get poked in the face with a light saber gone wrong but no one seemed frighted and that Han Solo is a pip. We agreed that Episode 3 was definitely out (too dark) and episodes 1 and 2 didn't even hold their attention. Old school it was. We were in vacation mode, it was bitterly cold outside and I figured television detox could begin on Monday morning.
Good move or bad move to let the kids watch it? Feel free to let me have it. Or my husband, since it was really his fault.
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
The Weather Channel predicted snow, snow and more snow. To be honest, I didn't believe them. I mean, they predict snow and we get rain. Rain and we get snow. You never know what is going to happen here in the mid-Atlantic. It was only at 8:00 p.m. on Friday night that I began to think that maybe they might be right. I did what every other crazy person did in these parts on Friday night and headed to the grocery store for some necessities. Call me crazy but there are things you MUST have for a snow storm.
Popcorn. This is multi-faceted. We got popcorn to eat when we were watching holiday specials, popcorn to make into CARMEL popcorn and popcorn to make a strand for our Christmas tree. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like giving your children sharp needles and telling them to string popcorn. I'll admit there were some potential 911 moments but nothing that couldn't be fixed with some Bactine and a bandaid.
Hot cocoa. We went old school with the cocoa, milk and a little sugar combination. This is my personal favorite because then Mean Mom gets to control the sugar intake. Before you bash me for being a grinch, I would much rather waste my children's sugar consumption on gooey marshmallows, and lots of them.
Bacon. Okay, I have no idea why everyone decided to purchase bacon as a snowed-in emergency item but I bowed to peer pressure and bought some as well. Bacon is good for, well, just about anything.
Chocolate chips. My children have been begging to make chocolate chip cookies and luckily the power held out and we were successful in our cookie endeavors. I'm not sure how many chips actually made it into the batter but I think they take that into account in the recipe. Then there were chocolate chip pancakes too.
Beyond all the food, what can you possibly do when you can't go out for fear of sending your car over the ravine in all the snow?
Instead of making snowmen, make snow animals. It sounds a little crazy but why not make a T-Rex? All you have to do is make a sloping mound of snow and use sticks all the way down the dinosaurs back. It is much scarier than a sweet old snowman and much easier to ride if you are really a pretend kind of kid.
Make a snow cave. We cheated on this one when Derek used a piece of cardboard for the roof. It only took about five minutes to make instead of what could have been an hour-long process for a quality job. Not surprisingly, none of the children noticed. A great time was still had by all.
Help dig a neighbor out. We walked down the street to be sure that everyone living near us was doing just fine. The boys took their shovels and helped their dad clean sidewalks and paths.
Get your emergency supplies together. Our emergency supplies used to be in one place but with lots of little hands that love flashlights, things tend to wander away. It was only when the lights flickered that we (read "I") feared that we would be panicked in the dark. Everyone ran in different directions and got together all the candles, blankets, ect. we would want to have handy if the lights did go out. We got lucky and they stayed on, but it is nice to be prepared. The boys were happy to contribute by digging out all the stolen flashlights from under their beds. Dad was happy to have his stuff back.
So all you East Coasters, what did you do this past weekend to prepare/survive the storm in a house with kids?
He was nervous about it a few weeks ago but I didn't think too much about it.
"Mom, we are moving seats, and I have to sit by this girl, I'm a little worried. She can be kinda mean."
I went into a kindness opportunity speech, I was hopeful because Josiah is really good at making almost any friendship/ relationship work. I should have known it could be hard if he was concerned. We didn't talk about it much after that until yesterday.
I was waiting in the car pool line when the door flung open and both boys climbed in, Jack was chatty but Josiah seemed a little quiet. We got home and he sat down next to me on the couch. I knew something was wrong.
"Mom, I'm kind of having a hard time." he said.
He went on to explain how the girl was being unkind, making fun of his drawings, telling how everything was wrong with him, part by part, day by day. He looked defeated and was starting to take these lies into his heart.
"I tried to tell her I don't care....but..." he burst into tears.
"But you do care right?" I said. He nodded his head through his tears.
"Everyone cares Josiah, trust me." I replied as he released long sobs in my arms.
"Do you think there is something wrong with you?" I asked, he shook his head but cried a little harder.
There are times when you just can't protect your child and someone else's pain will hurt them. I wanted to cry myself, but I didn't and we just sat for a moment together.
I told him I thought maybe he was dealing with a bully and suggested we find out some more information so we could make a plan to help him. So we spent some time researching and found out why this might be happening to him and what we could do.
Bullying is either about power or passing on some form of mistreatment. We wondered together if that might be the cause for this girl being unkind. We talked about how sometimes when you hear negative messages repeatedly you can start to believe them.
It was time for truth to do her magic I told him, because truth is the only thing that can set you free. If he was starting to question himself, maybe his bully can't remember the truth at all.
We came up with a strategy to deal with all the problems we could come up with.
1. Try to ignore any mean or unkind words, completely. No response at all.
2. We sent an e-mail to the teacher explaining what had been going on.
3. I wrote tiny cards of truths/affirmations about him to keep in his backpack at school so he could read them if things got hard.
4. Made a plan to check-in in 2 days to see if our strategy was working.
"Do you think this will work?" I asked.
"Yeah, I feel better mom." he said.
I gathered my parenting strength and sent him off to school the next day. I realized this is probably just the beginning of various big kid problems but I think we can find our way.
Have your kids ever dealt with a bully? What did you do?
My friend Laura is quite the feminist. She has worked hard in her job and has gone straight to the top. When she was 30, she and her husband decided to have a child. She got pregnant and had a beautiful baby girl, Maddie. Laura always swore that she was going to do whatever it took to make sure that her daughter didn't become a "girly girl" or find herself "pigeon-holed" by being a girl.
To combat this, she decided that she would only buy trucks and cars for Maddie to play with. It seemed to work for a while but then one night Laura came into Maddie's room to check on her girl and found that Maddie had tucked her Tonka truck in beside her, taking care to make sure that the blanket was up nice and high so her dear truck wouldn't get cold. The next day Laura went out and bought Maddie a doll. Maddie kept playing with her trucks and cars but she was opened to a whole new world of being able to care and nurture her baby.
So when I took Ethan to preschool, I was faced with a similar situation. We have never really purchased a lot of toys for him so everything he plays with is a gift from someone else. He loves to play with cars and trucks and blocks. But when we got to his class, Ethan made a beeline directly for the baby dolls. He picked one up so tenderly and gave it a hug. I thought it was the sweetest thing. And excellent preparation for the new baby on the way. Then another little boy ran over and did the same thing. His mother, however, was not as pleased.
"Oh, no, Junior. That's for girls." She looked at the teacher apologetically and said , "and I can't seem to keep him out of his sister's play kitchen set. I try to tell him that the kitchen is for girls." Ethan's preschool teacher made a joke about how she wished the kitchen was for girls because her three grown sons can cook up a storm but her daughter can't even boil water.
I almost hyperventilated at the thought of a kitchen being only for girls. I instantly thought of my friend who told me that her 16 year old son still expects her to make him a snack when he comes home from school every day. When this friend told me that, I asked if he had anything wrong with his hands. I cannot even imagine any child asking me to make a snack at 16. I'm trying to figure out now exactly how much longer until Ethan is self-sufficient. I didn't bring it to this woman's attention that some of the most famous of chefs in the world are men and that if she played her cards right, she could have dinner on her table every night without ever having to lift a finger. I wondered if her daughter was stuck cleaning the bathrooms and the dishes while her son would eventually only have to take out the trash as a chore. I don't have a daughter, but I do know that my husband is messier than me in the bathroom. And my son is learning fast. As far as I am concerned, as soon as his little hand can operate a toilet brush, he has a new job.
So why are we so concerned about our sons wearing our shoes? If wearing women's shoes as a small child causes any sort of issue when a boy gets older, nearly every man in the world would now be a cross-dresser. I don't know of one person whose mom doesn't tell a story about how they used to try to walk in Mom's shoes when they were little. It doesn't seem to be as big a deal if our daughters are walking around in Dad's shoes. And why do our sons try on our shoes, our clothes and carry around our purses when they are little? Maybe because they are more colorful, shiny, fun and different from what they normally wear. Little brothers like to wear what their big sisters are wearing sometimes too. Ethan wears Dad's shoes too, but who wants to clomp around in those 10 pound boots when you can try to balance your foot on a shoe with a tiny little heel? Now that's a challenge. Let's be honest. For all those of us who have been forced to wear high heels for years--once the novelty wears off they are a pain in the calf.
By making a big deal out of what is proper for a boy and what is proper for a girl, we just might be stifling our children's willingness to explore and learn by trying new things. And let's be honest. It's either stilettos now or stilettos later.
Alternate Title: How I will be tortured by another PBS Kids show.
Ethan: Momomomomomomomom. We have to watch Dinosaur Train.
K: Mmmm. Okay, whatever.
Ethan: PLEASE, Mom!
An hour later after watching the show he was on the computer, asking incessant questions about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. For the next four hours. In his defense, how cool is it to be able to see a dinosaur's x-ray?
I hate to be a PBS commercial but this one is a big favorite in my house and now small children are speaking in minimums of three syllables. You can't knock that. Check your local listing and check it out.
My kids have gotten into this thing about wearing their helmets all the time. I would like to thank whatever cartoon character has peer-pressured them into doing it.
Thing is? They wear the helmets all the time. All the time. As in, "Mom, can I wear my bike helmet in the car?" No, this isn't Nascar. But then it would be a Racing Helmet anyway. Why don't you wear it on your scooter? Your Scooter Helmet, if you will.
It's actually working out right now because Nate could use the extra protection since his ability to walk without running into something or falling over something is still lacking. I was glad he was wearing the helmet today when he ran into the door. Wait. Maybe the helmet is adding to his depth perception problem. And it got a little crazy when they were wearing them on the neighbor's slide and you could actually hear them clanking inside the slide as they came down together. Derek said as long as they are BOTH wearing the helmets, it's no problem to go down the slide wearing them.
You may have noticed from the picture that Nate isn't actually wearing his bicycle helmet properly, what with the 4 inches of air between the chin strap and his chin. I guess we don't have anything to worry about because he doesn't ride a bike. And the stamps? I have no idea where they came from and I have no idea where I could ship him for two 39 cent stamps. Not that that idea ever crossed my mind
We are at that point in the summer where everyone has been together nonstop and we are going a little nutty. Everything feels annoying from everyone to everyone. Throw a little heat in the mix and it's pretty much a recipe for miserable living. This is the moment for intervention, or maybe not, whatever your personal solution might be to one of the biggest parenting struggles, sibling rivalry.
It's been pretty bad over here so I came up with a few strategies. Don't know if they will work for you but maybe it's worth a shot?
1. Give Them Something To Do. Many a conflict start out from being bored. Bothering your sister is something to do when you have run out of all other ideas. Sometimes a project can bring them back together, other times doing the same project in separate spaces is called for. Pull out small art kits and other special things might be in order.
2. Stop And Spend Time Together. The last thing I want to do is spend time with fighting children but it is often the very thing most needed. I find when I disengage and enter their world for just awhile it diffuses the angst floating around. Reading a book to them in bed, watching a movie together, playing a game of tag makes them forget they can't stand each other for a bit.
3. Do An Intervention Dance. Sometimes, doing very little or nothing at all is the answer. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish wrote the best book on sibling relationships called Siblings Without Rivalry. They talk about a strategy of how to help kids navigate their own conflicts by "stepping in so you can step out". Helping kids identify their feelings in the moment (stepping in) and then allowing kids to work out (stepping out) how they are going to deal with them.
There are times when children can navigate their own conflict but it might take longer than we prefer, other times they need us to set up the navigation just a bit. I find it helps to have the kids face each other at eye level, allow each other to say what is bothering them and then ask each child if they have any ideas for solutions. After a few times, kids can actually do this themselves. If no one is ready or willing, I let them go to their own spaces until they we can come together for another try. It can be a bit of a dance figuring out which is needed when.
4. Get Some Playdate Parties Going. Everyone needs a little time away once in awhile. Now is the time to call your best friend and ask to trade various kids for the day. Absence makes the heart grow fonder? fingers crossed.
5. Forget Fair. "It's not fair!" Have you heard this? Can I get an amen from the middle child in the house? Switch verbage to needs. Things are not always fair and never will be but we can do our best to meet each others needs. When we are deep into the "mine isn't as big, she got more, etc..", the need question helps loads. "Is there something you are worried about or need?" More about this in the book mentioned above.
6. Put Everyone In Time Out. Start with yourself. When things are bad and you are spent from screeching and yelling, hide for awhile. I used to lock myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes (making sure all was safe first if you have littles) or run errands when my husband got home at night. Even being in the car by myself in silence felt like a luxury. If I could re-group, I could help the kids too.
When we were kids, my mom banished us to our rooms to "work it out". We hated it and I don't know if it always worked but somewhere in that time we decided to gang up against her. We came out annoyed with her but somehow fine with each other.
7. Start An Acts of Kindness List. See how documenting kindness can change the vibe in your family.
Got any other good tips for sibling relationships? Please, please share them. This is definitely a topic where two heads are better than one.
First off, I would like to say that I get it. If you are thinking that I am unable to see the look of terror that is constantly on my youngest's face when I post pictures, I want you to know that I see it. Not only do I see it, I spend every single day protecting him from the savages that are his brothers. In the defense of his brothers, I seem to be unable to catch a shot of the baby when he is laughing in sheer delight and joy at some silly thing a brother is doing to capture his attention.
But back to our regularly scheduled topic of Friendship Day. Which was actually yesterday. I was talking to Ethan about friendships and we discussed his friend Harrison. Then I mentioned that his brother Nate was his friend too. He quickly corrected me to say that his brother is his BROTHER, not his friend. I laughed because he and his brother Nathan play as well together as he does with his friend Harrison. Lately I have discovered that everything is very clear-cut when you are four. You are either one thing or another. You feel one thing or another. There is no middle ground at four. So I am here to tell you that Nate is NOT HIS FRIEND but is his brother. I didn't even bother to ask about the little one.
Chances are the kid that makes you the most crazy will turn out to be the president of the United States, or at least this is what I keep telling myself. Spirited children are challenging, smart, funny, strong, tender and well sometimes, hard.
Here's what I've learned so far after many mistakes and triumphs:
Everybody knows but you. Well meaning friends always know what you should do to help the struggles you have with hard kids. Sometimes they are right and have a perspective you can't see because you are so "in it." Other times, not so much. It's okay to blow off or spend less time with the expert parents, grandparents, friends every now and then.
You are tired. This is an understatement. Parenting is hard and parenting harder kids is exhausting. I would even venture to say you need more breaks and time away than the average to be the parent you want and need to be to this child. Take the time, ask even if it feels hard to, you'll be glad you did.
The world expects children to be little adults. We are only 50 years from the "children should be seen and not heard" way of thinking. Our society is often unaware of behaviour that is purely developmental. The expectations are high and we often set our kids up for failure. Read up on your kid's development, it might help.
The great push. The truth is, these kids push us to be better parents. We have to aquire skills to make it work and to meet their needs. They can teach us loads about ourselves if we hang in there and keep trying.
So the comment section is open to your thoughts on extreme parenting, vent, send us tips, tell us your stories. Or at least weigh in telling us you are in the same boat, we'll throw you a life vest.