A Little Bit Me First

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I have a confession to make:  I don’t like going to the dentist.

 

I know, I know, no one likes going to the dentist.  But I really don’t like it.  I avoid it at all costs.  I think about it often.  I know that the more I put it off, the worse it will be.  Thinking about how bad it might be causes my heart to race.  So I take a few deep breaths and think about sunsets on the ocean, because that keeps the intrusive thoughts away.

 

And then I continue to put my head in the sand and avoid the dentist.

 

But you can only avoid the dentist for so long.  You have to take care of yourself.  You have to show your children that taking care of your body is important.  You have to prioritize you sometimes.

 

So, the other day, I went to the dentist.

 

I was convinced that she would tell me that I needed 20 root canals and 5 caps.  Minimum.  That’s how long it had been.  I was prepared to shout, “Sedate me, please!”

 

But, I had to do it.  So I put on my brave face and entered the office with as much calm as I could possibly muster.

 

And you know what?  It wasn’t so bad.

 

I sat back on a very comfortable recliner and watched the news.  Sure, there were x-rays, there was poking, and my lips were stretched farther than I ever thought possible.  But it was actually (dare I say it?) kind of relaxing.

 

I stopped worrying about my prognosis the minute I entered the office.  For better or for worse, I was there.  All I could do was wait and see.

 

And for the first time in a long time, I prioritized my own health.  There’s something soul soothing about that, even if prioritizing me means sharp objects in my mouth.

 

And?  The prognosis was good.  No root canals.  No caps.  No big deal.

 

I walked out of there with a fresh clean smile and some pep in my step.  Who knew that a dental visit would provide such a boost to my self-esteem?  Not me, that’s for sure.

 

But the more I thought about it, the more that it made perfect sense…

 

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Get Down and Play

Parents are busy these days.  There are jobs, kids, errands, relationships, and friendships to care for.  Not to mention the PTA meetings to attend.

 

Some parents seem to move from task to task flawlessly.  They have it down, you think, as they buy holiday gifts from Amazon while running on the treadmill.

 

But many feel tired, overwhelmed, and stretched thin.  Tis the season for too many commitments and not enough time.

 

And in all of this busywork and go go going…our children sometimes feel left behind.

 

They shouldn’t, of course, because almost every little thing we do is meant for them in one way or another.

 

But they don’t know that.

 

They play quietly or together.  They wait (as patiently as they can).  And sometimes they yell out for just a little bit more attention.

 

We take deep breaths, we try to push the stress aside, and we sit down and engage with our children.

 

That’s what we should do, anyway.

 

Busywork is busywork.  No matter the season, there will always be something.  Stress creeps in at all different times in all different forms.  We can find ways to manage it in the present, and avoid it in the future.

 

We can change.

 

But connecting with our children is a gift.  The only way to truly get to know our children is to take the time to connect with them, to observe them, and to meet them right where they are…

 

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Tech Free Holiday

What’s the best tablet for toddlers?

 

It’s a question I see over and over again on Facebook and in my Twitter stream.

 

And it’s always followed by…

 

I want my phone/tablet back!

 

I won’t pretend that my kids are tech-free.  They’re not.  And I don’t think they should be.  They are growing up in a tech savvy world, and they shouldn’t be left behind.

 

But they are limited.  Ten-minute timers are the norm around here.  When the timer beeps, they hand it over.

 

They don’t argue.  They don’t beg for more.  And when they go seven days without any iPad time?  They don’t even seem to notice.

 

They would rather play with cars, trucks, dolls, and stuffed animals.  They would rather build zoos and create construction sites.  They would rather plant beans and dig up worms.  They would rather play board games and ride scooters.

 

They would rather create their own fun.

 

Just last night…a simple Dixie cup in the bathtub became both an excavator and a pet wash.  Their needs are simple…

 

When I see the holiday price cuts for the toddler tablets and hear moms discussing which is better and why…I can’t help but wonder why a toddler needs a tablet of his own in the first place…

 

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In Pursuit of Passion

For years, parents have been coached to focus on the well-rounded child.  A little bit of everything is the key to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton…or so the story goes.

 

Children should read a lot, play several sports, try a few instruments, write, sing, dance, and the list goes on.  Are you exhausted yet?  I am.

 

I’m a huge believer in everything in moderation.  Huge believer.  I think the world has a lot to offer out children, and I think they should navigate their way through it by trial and error.

 

The best way to find your passion, after all, is to get out there and explore the world around you.

 

My daughter, for instance, loves to dance.  Loves it.  She’s constantly creating new routines and giving me lessons.  We tried one class, but the teacher was terrible.  Then we tried another.  It was great.  It was a ballet/tap combination.  The teacher was lovely, the facility was beautiful, and the tutus were exceptionally cute.  And for about six months, it was her favorite activity.  Until one day…when it wasn’t.  As it turns out, my daughter is a bit of a free spirit and probably isn’t meant for traditional dance instruction.

 

So we moved on.  We’ve done gymnastics, art, cooking, and soccer.  She loves loves loves soccer.

 

She manages to find something positive in almost every class she tries, and she learns a lot along the way.  In my mind, that’s as good as it gets for a five year old.  Learning something new and having fun along the way.

 

But some kids are different.  Some kids are very passionate about certain activities.  For some reason, the parents always seem to take the blame when a child finds a passion at a young age…

 

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The Homework Hassle

I don’t mean to date myself here, but I truly don’t remember homework in Kindergarten.

 

I remember some cool projects.  I remember those little picture books that I made by the dozen each day.  I remember dressing up and playing pretend.  I remember playing outside.  A lot.  I remember the music room.  I remember writing my name.

 

And I remember the naps.  Yes, in my Kindergarten class, there were rugs for napping and we all took a break for a little bit.

 

Imagine that?  A morning of fun filled activities, some learning, a lot of outside play, and…a nap?

 

Those were the days.

 

Kindergarten is a much different learning experience today.  Yes, it varies depending on the school.  But the push for accelerated learning has taken some of the fun, and a lot of the unstructured and outside playtime, out of Kindergarten.

 

My daughter comes home with a homework packet each Monday.  The goal is to complete one assignment per day and turn it in on Friday.  Sure, the assignments are fairly quick.  And yes, we scored a teacher who is super mellow on the homework front and asks for a picture of a “family activity” for one assignment each week.

 

But my daughter is in school for 4 hours and 20 minutes a day, five days a week.  She’s working on fine motor skills.  She’s practicing numbers and learning some math.  She’s learning sight words and working on reading.

 

She’s doing a lot of hard work each day.  She’s exhausted when she comes home.  She needs time to just relax and listen to stories before we head out for some afternoon playtime.

 

But her relaxation time is cut short by the need to complete the assignment for the day.

 

I get it.  A little practice at home reinforces what was learned during the day.  It makes sense.  But…doesn’t listening to the latest adventures of Cam Jansen while picking out sight words on the page reinforce her learning?  Isn’t a trip to the library considered an educational experience?  Can we count cars and sort fallen leaves to address math skills?  Or maybe even bake some pumpkin muffins instead?

Please stop by Mommy Moment this week to join the discussion about homework.

Accepting the Competition

It’s no big secret that kids love to win.  At some point during the transition from toddler to preschooler, most kids learn that there are winners and non-winners when playing games and participating in races.

 

And while some parents go to great lengths to avoid all forms of competition, it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid competition.

 

And, as it turns out, not really necessary.

 

Kids can learn a lot from losing a game or two (or ten…).

 

My five year old daughter plays in the town soccer league here.  I’m not sure what the magic age is when they start keeping score, but at this stage the league is considered “non-competitive”.

 

The girls are placed on teams of six and play on small fields with very cute and very small goals.  There are no goalies, and “no standing in the goal” is one of the few rules of play.

 

It’s sweet and fun and the girls get some great exercise, learn a few skills, and, most importantly, forge new friendships throughout the season.

 

That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

 

While my daughter was placed on a team with a coach who really just wants the girls to enjoy the game, there seem to be some very competitive teams out there.

 

I mentioned that the kids are five, right?

 

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The Morning Routine

The morning routine (n.):  The list of steps (sometimes posted all over the house) that families follow each morning in an attempt to get the kids to school before the classroom door shuts and you have to report to the front office with your head hung low.

 

We all have one.  Or at least some vague sketch in our minds of how the morning needs to go to get out the door at the appointed minute.

 

Lay out the outfit the night before.

 

Pack as much of the lunch as possible at night.

 

Put the backpack by the door with a sticky note reminding you to grab the lunch.

 

Wake up and start fixing breakfast before the kids get up. 

 

(Note to self:  Stop hitting the snooze.)

 

Have the kids get dressed the minute they get out of bed.

 

Set timers to provide reminders.

 

Put the shoes and socks in bins by the front door…

 

It almost doesn’t matter how specific the routine because something always crops up…

 

Please stop by Mommy Moment to see how our morning routine stacks up.

The Trickle Down Effect

With the amount of bullying that exists in this world, you would think that parents would want to do better.

 

Regardless of your religion, race, or sexual preference, shouldn’t we all share a common goal of protecting our children?  Shouldn’t we all strive to teach them kindness, empathy, and mutual respect?  Shouldn’t we give them the opportunity to erase hate?

 

You might think that the latest playground antics have me frustrated.  You might think that another child was mean to one of my children recently.  You might think that I’m simply thinking ahead to what might or might not happen during the upcoming school year.

 

Any of those predictions would make perfect sense.  I am, first and foremost, a mom, after all.

 

But it’s not that that has me concerned.  Yes, those things are happening.  Yes, kids are learning and practicing negative behaviors.  Kids are making choices based on what they’ve been taught and the love they’ve been given (or not, as the case may be).

 

But what really upsets me is this current generation of parents and parents-to-be.

 

We can’t fight technology.  And, honestly, who want to?  The fact that I can keep my home safe from my iPhone both astounds and calms me.  The fact that my kids can Facetime or iChat their daddy when he travels makes the long tours much more bearable.  And Genius Scan?  Don’t get me started on my love of that little gem.

 

But with the good always comes the bad.  The negativity that flies through my Facebook and Twitter streams is alarming.  The judgment of parenting styles, celebrities, and breast versus bottle is positively never-ending.

 

The political hatred clogging my feed as we head toward another big election year leaves me wondering if I might be better off just taking a social media break until the votes are cast.  In case you’re wondering, you won’t change my mind by posting five politically fueled graphics per day…

 

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Practicing Forgiveness

Practice forgiveness.  It teaches your children the emotional freedom that comes with letting go of negative emotions.

 

Sounds simple, right?

 

And yet, people often struggle to forgive and forget…to just move on.  At times, people carry around negative feelings and emotions. Those feelings might fade into the background for a little while, but they are bound to return when a similar stressor strikes.

 

When couples return to the same argument week after week, they are holding onto something that prevents them from truly working through it.

 

When parents disagree on a parenting decision and resort to sarcasm or, even worse, yelling when the problem isn’t corrected, they are holding onto negative emotions associated with that decision.

 

Children watch our every move.  They listen every chance they get.  They might seem completely engrossed in a book, drawing, or board game, but they are listening and watching.  They are learning from us…

 

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The Power of Self-Talk

It’s not enough to say, “Just keep trying.  You can do it.”  Blanket statements hold little meaning for small children.  They seek facts, evidence, and concrete advice.  Often, they want to know the right way to get something done.

 

My sweet girl has always loved the water.  She has never really been afraid of pools, but she has never wanted to swim independently.  Spoiled by a community full of very warm and very shallow, kid-friendly pools, we’ve been able to introduce her to swimming in the safest possible way.

 

She loved the Mommy & Me classes from the very first day.  Splashing while singing left her in a state of relaxed exhaustion after each class.

 

We’ve always tried to prioritize time spent in the water, but we haven’t always prioritized swimming lessons.  One summer we tried to share private lessons with a friend, but the scheduling didn’t work out.  Often, the group lessons at the community pool conflicted with baby brother’s nap schedule.  Friends suggested survival swimming (no thanks), lessons in another town (no babysitter for baby brother), and private lessons that would come to us (no private pool).

 

And so we just kept swimming with her, giving her some basic safety skills along the way.  This seemed to work just fine for a while, until it hit me that she was very, very afraid of putting her head under water.

 

We talked about the options:  Group lessons at her favorite shallow pool.  Private lessons at a house one town over.  Semi-private lessons at a health club.  With worried eyes and a tentative voice, she begged me not to make her go.

 

“I can swim fine, Mommy.  You can keep teaching me.”

 

Tears welled up in her eyes as she waited for a response.

 

“It sounds like you’re feeling afraid, sweet girl.  Are you afraid that you will have to put your head under?”

 

“Yes.  I’m not ready and I don’t think I can tell someone no.”…

 

Stop by Mommy Moment to see what happened when my sweet girl learned to use positive self-talk.