It is that time of year again! School is starting to wrap up and as a parent, you may find yourself wanting to give the teachers something special. But before you make your best cookies or fudge, let’s think about what the teachers really want or need!
I am a parent coach now, but I spent almost six years as a teacher. I have seen gifts come and go, and here is truth: I was grateful for every single gift. Yes, even the “World’s Best Teacher” mugs. Yet, looking back (and seeing my childrens’ teachers now), I know that some gifts aboslutely stand out. So, here is a short list of some great gift ideas (and a couple of gifting no-no’s!)
Whatever you give, be sure to include a personal note and give a big hug (if the teacher is the hugging type!)
I sent my kids to the beach this week (to be with my parents).
How wonderful it will be, I thought, just me and my hubby.
It’s been a long winter and we are connecting poorly.
This time THIS TIME is what we need.
Upon driving home, I call him. “I dropped them off! We are FREE.”
Hubby: “I just started throwing up. I feel like shit.”
Oh, yes. I thought of his welfare first (no I didn’t).
And yes, I worried about how he would get to work (nope, not at all).
Okay…maybe I was a tiny bit PISSED OFF.
We were SUPPOSED TO CONNECT, GODDAMMIT.
I HAD MADE A PLAN. WE HAD CONCERT TICKETS.
Karen Maezen Miller talks about meditating facing the wall. The wall can be a literal wall (which really does suck by the way, until it is an odd relief..and then it is wonderful). Or the wall can be your tantrum-throwing child. Or the wall can be your canceling client. Or the wall can be the rain on your photo-shoot day.
Or the wall can be your vomiting husband when you have MADE PLANS.
WE ALL FACE THE WALL.
All of the time. Day after day. Sometimes minute after minute.
I e-mailed every human I know and pleaded, “I have a concert ticket…will you come? Please…”
Sorry, Meghan…no. I am traveling. I cannot, I am busy. I am tired.
The wall of purchased tickets and no one to come.
I went by myself. I sat by myself. I drank a gin and tonic, by myself.
And the music was better.
No one to make small talk with…no one to check in on…no one to say, “HEY, aren’t we CONNECTING SO WELL?”
I bounced my head to the music. I watched these people create total craziness (do you know how fucking creative people are?)
I came home and took care of my husband. Got him the ginger ale and chicken soup.
He’s doing better.
Life will present what it needs to, when it needs to present it.
And the hubby and me? We are all good. As soon as I dropped my desperate need to attach…we were all good.
This post was inspired by this brilliance, right here.
First, let’s all agree on one simple precept: every human on Earth loathes being bossed around. Every. Single. One.
We are programmed to do the opposite of what we are commanded to do.
That is what a healthy human does! We are not meant to obey rude and brusque commands and demands.
How would we ever become a freethinking, creative, and inspired people if we blindly followed commands?
So, how can parents stop all that bossing around?
1) Acknowledge that you are being bossy and have been calling that “parenting.” This is not a failure on your part. This doesn’t mean that everything is a mess. It means you have fallen into a pattern that is not working for you. Accept the pattern, accept the responsibility, and begin to forgive yourself and move on.
2) Think before you speak. Ask yourself: “How can I say this in a way that is more respectful? More kind?” If you cannot think of another, keep your mouth shut until you can.
3) Check your own stress. The more we stressed we are, the more bossy we become. We need to simply pause and, unless someone is in danger, decide that our request is best left for later. When we are stressed, our brain is telling us everything is imminent. Our brain is trying to protect us (thanks, brain!), but it is really just creating more mayhem. And bossiness.
5) Ask yourself if the request is developmentally appropriate. This is not necessarily by age; this is also about your child! Often, we are commanding and demanding our children to do things, but they are either not ready, brain-wise or physically. The child’s lack of readiness or our poor routines lead to nagging and then POOF! We are bossing them around.
6) Get support. Your spouse, your partner, friends, childcare, other family members…have them catch your bossiness and have them call you on it. Hang up stickies that say, “KIND REQUESTS.” Whatever you need to do!
April is Autism Awareness Month and I felt it would be best to feature a parent who truly knows what is like to mother a child with autism.
E.V. Downey is friend and former colleague from my teaching days. I consider her to be an Autism expert and advocate, as well as all-around great mother. I was so pleased and grateful she agreed to this interview!
When did you realize that your son had autism? What were the behaviors that compelled you to seek out support?
As is the case with many kids with Asperger’s, our son initially presented as a typically developing child. In fact, we first saw signs that he was extremely bright by about 18 months, he knew all his letters at 21 months, and was teaching himself to read at age 2. In hindsight we realize that these are signs of hyperlexia, an early indication of Asperger’s. By age 3, he was emerging as a child with an incredible ability to learn and retain information, plus he was adorable, relatively easy-going (always intense, but not unpleasant) little guy. We started to realize that there was something “wrong” after he started school at age 3 ½. It was actually around age 4 when he started reacting poorly to the other kids around him at preschool. He was bothered by the noise, wouldn’t play on the playground, had problems with certain activities. He was also extremely late in potty training (another common trend with Aspies), resistant to costumes, new clothes, had poor gross motor skills. We started with his pediatrician and progressed quickly to an Occupational Therapist who diagnosed him with Sensory Integration Disorder and a Physical Therapist who diagnosed him with hypotonia (low muscle tone) and delayed gross motor skills. He did both OT and PT for approximately 1 year. He has been in one therapy or another (or several) for the 7 years since then.
What has surprised you about parenting a child who has autism?
The biggest surprises are how incredibly good I can be at parenting sometimes and how incredibly bad at it I feel at other times. The other surprise is how judgmental other parents are despite my efforts. I have lost from friends due to this.
What is the hardest part, in terms of parenting, of having a child who has autism?
The hardest part is that my autistic child is so delayed in gaining independence from us as his parents. The other hardest part is the impact on my daughter. No matter how much we do for her, and it’s a lot, she feels like she’s not as important as her brother because he gets so much attention. She’s jealous of his therapies (because I take him to them without her) and the attention he demands from others and us.
What has been your experience re: getting your son the resources he needs in school?
Ah, I could write a book on that topic alone! It has been an absolutely constant struggle for every day that he has been in school to get him the resources he needs. Asperger’s poses a particular challenge in school because Aspies are often (as our son is) quite bright and advanced academically. It is hard for schools to understand that, despite their academic abilities, Aspies need A LOT of support at school. I will leave it at that.
What is like to parent a child who has autism and a child who is neuro-typical child?
I hate to say it, but our neuro-typical child is just SO much easier. There I said it. Our daughter makes us realize what it would be like to have a “normal” child and, at the risk of angering every parent of a neuro-typical child out there, it’s just SO much easier. There, I said it again. Our son is just so much MORE.
How has parenting your son changed you?
How hasn’t it changed me?!? There’s really no way to answer that. It has made me a better person, a more patient person, an exhausted person, a poorer person. In has made me somewhat of an activist. It has made me a whole lot more compassionate and a whole lot less tolerant of intolerance.
Which aspects of your son’s character do you cherish? What have been your parenting triumphs?
My son is so incredibly bright, it is actually frightening sometimes. His brain truly operates on a way that other brains do not (certainly not my own). Because this is common with Aspies, I can only assume that it is a part of the Asperger’s. He has shown evidence of this intelligence since he was not even yet walking. He is an amazingly loving child and extremely dedicated to his family and friends. He is, usually, a genuinely delightful person with whom to spend time.
What do wish parents of neuro-typical children knew about your parenting life?
I wish they would understand that, just as they make mistakes, so do we. It is so hard to parent any child, let alone one with needs. We try to do all we can and be at the top of our game at all times, but sometimes we just can’t accomplish what we should. Please don’t judge us!
What have seen change over the years, re: resources and support for parents of children with autism? What do you see as the glaring need, right now?
Public school programs for children on the spectrum are, generally, absolutely inadequate to meet the needs of our children. In order to, supposedly, save a small amount of money and a lot of face, the system is determined to attempt to educate our children, despite multiple failures. There are many excellent people in the system, especially the teachers, but there are so many prohibiting factors that so many of us are desperate to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education or, really, an education, for our children. This is especially true for kids such as our son who can achieve academically but needs the right atmosphere and support in order to do so.
Downey School Consulting provides services to families to help them navigate the educational system in the Washington metropolitan area. Families can come to a group lecture and/or have a private consult or a series of consults to learn about and apply to public, charter, and private schools that are appropriate for their child/ren. For children with special needs, services can include advising on testing, reading results from tests, evaluating IEP’s, and selecting an appropriate school for the child. https://www.facebook.com/DowneySchoolConsulting
So you have more than one child, born at the same time? You are in good company! The most recent data shows that in 2009, 137,217 twins were born in the United States, as well as 5,906 triplets, 355 quadruplets and 80 quintuplets or higher. That’s a lot of children who share a birthday!
Of course, we all know how different each child can be within a set of multiples, even when they appear to be identical. These differences can range from the obvious (different genders) to the more nuanced, such as personality, developmental stages and personal preferences. What is a parent of multiples to do to manage so many variables?
Luckily, the parenting virtues that work for all children work for multiples as well. Love, patience, clear boundaries, flexibility, respect and a good sense of humor are the cornerstones of all good parenting, and needed two-fold (ha!) in raising multiples.
But what about the nitty-gritty details, the day-to-day minutiae, the work, of raising multiples? Well, why not ask the true experts…parents of twins! I am lucky enough to know parents raising multiples, so I posed questions to them, and yes, they had answers! Read on!
How do you prepare for multiples?
Beyond the obvious answers (such as reading the books, talking to your doctors, finding a good pediatrician and finding parenting support groups for multiples), many parents spoke to me about sleeping while you can, going to as many movies, restaurants, and date nights with their partner and seeing friends. The end of multiples pregnancies can become quite uncomfortable, so as much as the mother can walk, swim, and move her body; it improves her overall mental and physical health.
And when the babies are born, it’s all about organization! Rachel S., mother of four-year-old twins says, “Being organized is my number one tip. The more you can prepare, the better…I am also a BIG believer in routine. If I didn’t get them both on a schedule when they were younger, I would spend my life feeding. Developing systems for two is also a time and lifesaver. When they were smaller, it was a color that we used to remember who was drinking what amount, etc. I also used charts because I was so sleep deprived and sometimes couldn’t remember who had done what.”
Cooking for multiples: should I cater to specific needs?
“You give them whatever they want as long as they stop that whining. (Wait, is that the wrong answer?)” says Mike D.
I know for a fact that Mike and his wife feed their twin 2.5-year-olds nutritious food, but his funny quote speaks to the frustration of trying to accommodate different palates. Many parents suggest having a little bit of everything on the plate.
Rachel S. says, “I didn’t ever want to be a short order cook, so they eat what they get. I try to make a variety of things so that if one doesn’t like one item, there is usually something else on the plate they do eat. And probably the next night, I will make something that the other one I know will eat.”
Laren P., mother of 21-month-old twins, says the food issue has been made better by the option of choices! “Meals at my house go like this: the adult decides what’s to eat, and options are given within reason. For example, everyone has chicken and green beans, but everyone decides on if they want applesauce or yogurt or a banana. They also get to choose which fork or spoon they want to use. I’ve found that if they have a few options that don’t impact the overall nutrition of the meal, they will eat happily…especially with their favorite fork.”
Photo Source: Thinkstock/Creatas
Going on vacation with multiples: how can I manage it?
As any parent knows, traveling with kids requires three main things: organization, organization and more organization. With multiples? Traveling also requires a healthy dose of patience, a sense of humor and some tricks that only a mulitples parent would know!
Laren P. says, “I ALWAYS travel with a heart beat bear or white noise maker.” Mike D. and Rachel S. both agree that ordering the diapers and wipes ahead of time and having them delivered to your destination can really cut down on the packing! Rachel also adds, “For each girl, we pack a travel bag that has items to occupy them in the car or on the plane. They have their own items. Then we do one family bag of snacks, etc.” And if your multiples share a gender, try to pack similar outfits to make dressing the kids easier.
Going out to eat with multiples: how to get in and out alive!
Everyone with multiples agrees that yes, it is a nice idea to go out, but when they are very young, it is often just too hard (especially if you are bringing other siblings along).
Laren says, “Eating out: we’ve avoided it. My singleton is 3.5 years old, and the twins are almost 21 months. I’m brave, but I’m not dumb.”
Mike agrees it is tough, but “if they’re behaving and coloring quietly, live it up: order dessert, have a chat, take advantage of the fact that you do not have to clean up afterwards (but tip well). However, if one of them is tossing French fries over his shoulder like he’s a new bride, and the other one is half a dozen sips into the ranch dressing, it’s time to go.”
When does it get easier???
A good friend, Colleen F., has four children, eight and under, with twin six-year-olds. She reports that, “Having twin babies and a 20-month-old was the most exhausting time in my life. I walked outside, and four months had passed! And so, yes, the physical work does start to become easier. Now they dress themselves, eat, bathe, walk to the car, etc.”
But, it’s not just about physical work. Colleen adds, “What has surprised me are the emotional challenges. I have realized that their emotional needs, the need for separation and to be recognized as individuals, arenow what we need to balance. For instance, now we balance when one twin scores two goals and the other scores none. What we say and do, to grow them as unique and different children, is my new parenting challenge.”
And while discovering who multiples are as different children is a challenging balance, Colleen also states how exciting it is, “Watching these boys become two very different people is fascinating. They have always had each other: to play together, eat together, share a room. Yet, they are so different. It is amazing.”
Parenting multiples, while more and more common these days, has its own set of challenges and joys. As a parent coach, I always recommend support, asking for and being able to recieve help and cultivating a good sense of humor. And while the work is most intense, self-care and attention to your marriage is key. Parenting mutiples isn’t easy, but the rewards are unique and sweet! Enjoy them!
Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/Comstock
Did you know February was National Children’s Dental Health Month? Nope, me neither! I do know how important it is, as a parent, to take care of children’s teeth. Like doctor’s visits, taking care of their little teeth is a non-negotiable. Regular dentist visits, brushing and flossing are like money in the bank for helping guarantee good oral health for years to come…but it’s not always easy, is it?
Parents chasing children with toothbrushes, bribes, begging, threatening, etc. – these are the many tactics parents use (I have been guilty of some of them, too!) to promote healthy teeth, but there must be a better way.
I decided to turn to the wise, nurturing, gentle and patient pediatric dentist whom my own children see, Dr. Mahnaz Shahinfar. As recently as this past week, my eight-year-old had a cavity filled with no tears and my four-year-old wanted to go along, because she “loves this dentist.” That’s all the proof I need that this is the dentist who knows kids and teeth.
How long have you been practicing pediatric dentistry? How long have you been in D.C.? And do you have children of your own?
I have been practicing and teaching pediatric dentistry for the past thirty years. I have started my practice in Washington D.C. in 2006. I have two sons 29 and 23.
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Why is it important children take care of their teeth at an early age?
Decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease in the United States.
Primary teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Oral conditions can affect child’s self esteem and performance at school. Severe decay can affect growth and development.
There are many so many different ways to prevent future dental problems (and cavities) while the children are still young. What do you recommend and why?
We can prevent cavities through the following procedures:
What top three tips you would give parents who are struggling to get their children to brush their teeth?
For more information on dental health for you and your children, go to the American Dental Associationwebsite. They have facts, tips and games for kids!
More on Children’s Dental Health:
Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/iStockphoto
You have John over after camp, feed them lunch, all seems well, and then poof! The fighting begins! The boys don’t share, they disagree about what toys to play with, and then you can hear them pushing and shoving from the other room. Tattle-telling begins, and coupled with the sulking, you know that this play date is a failure. You stare at the clock until John’s mom arrives to pick him up. Phew! You are never doing that again! He’s a sweet boy, but clearly that was an unsuccessful play date.
So, imagine your surprise when, the next morning, your lovely son asks if John can come over again. What? The play date was a disaster! Why would your son want to repeat that mess? And how can you make it better?
You may not be in love with John, but your son clearly enjoys him, so here are some tips to help smooth a play date, whether it be between two kids who want to like each other, or just some tips to help smooth the date when there are some bumps in the road.
1). Food can be fun! Instead of just another snack of goldfish, make the food a project. From good old-fashioned Rice Krispies treats to English muffin pizzas, have the kids get involved with a little DIY snack. There are hundred of websites to help you; have your child pick a recipe that looks delicious and fun.
2). Plan a project around the house. Have the friend bring a bathing suit or change of clothes, and set the children up to wash cars! A bucket of soapy bubbles, a hose, and a dirty car, (followed up with Popsicles) is a fun afternoon. Helping to dig in the garden, weed, and planting flowers can also be a fun way to have kids working together and having fun. If you cannot find any work in house, have the children create an obstacle course or a beauty shop! Have them set it up, make signs, and open for business. Run the course or become a customer. When in doubt, a lemonade stand is always exciting for children.
3). Coach your child (beforehand) to handle the conflicts. Pretend to be a friend and role model a play date going south. Have your child get used to saying things like, “please don’t take the truck while I am playing with it” or “I don’t like it when you push me, please stop.” While you’re at it, have your child practice saying sorry for his or her missteps. “John, I am sorry I took the truck. Here it is.” This will not create perfection, but it a step in the right direction.
4). Ignore the squabbling. What may be annoying and sound negative to you, it may be just fine for the kids! It is hard to believe, but some children like a little bit of drama. Many friends can have a “fraught” dynamic, and so long as no one is being cruel, there isn’t overt violence, and they keep playing, try ignoring them! Wait and see if they can create their own solutions.
5). Give a choice. If you hear quite a bit of arguing over a certain toy, give the kids a choice. “You can find a way to share or I can take the toy. Which would you prefer?” If they whine or continue to fight, simply take the toy. Another choice sounds like, “you may either go outside to the swing set or play this board game, which one is it?” The power of the choice only exists when you ask once and then act. The kids will know you mean business if you act, and they are more likely to hustle to find a solution on their own.
Finally, your children will have many friends come in and out of their lives, so try not too worry about these play dates too much. Disagreements, a little fighting, meltdowns…they are part of childhood. As long as you pay attention, help create solutions, and keep it positive, most of it will come out in the wash.
1) Accept that young children are tired at dinner. We expect children to sit and enjoy our organic chicken at an hour where they have about five good minutes in them. Children have, largely, front-loaded their calories during the day, and they are simply not ready to “fill up” at the hour we have chosen!
2) Call a meeting and set the expectations. If the children are 3.5 and older, have them provide some ideas about the foods they would like to eat, and put them on the menu for the week. Let the children know that there will no other food served.
3) Have some conversation at the ready. Children love to be silly, they love family stories (especially involving danger/injury/or mistake-making), and they love being in charge of the conversation. For instance, these Table Topics are a family favorite at my house! To make it truly person, create your own table topics (instructions here).
4) Serve the food family style. If you keep this as a practice and keep the focus on the family (not the food), the children will enjoy making their choices, and will better learn to moderate their own hunger cues, as well as correlate their hunger to the amounts of the food they take to their plates.
5) Don’t promote a “clean the plate” mentality. Nutritionists have been fighting this for a while, saying it promotes overeating and lack of hunger and self-awareness. From a parenting perspective, it also makes you into the wretched “food police.” “One more bites of peas….” And “When you eat your broccoli, you can have dessert…” All of the cajoling and reminding sparks children’s counterwill or the idea of doing the opposite of what is asked.
6) Keep your boundaries. If you say the kitchen is closed at 7 PM or that the food stops after dinner, then stick to your word! Yes, there will be some yelling. Yes, there will be crying and whining. If you can withstand the storm of the transition, the child will adapt. As the parent, you have to stay strong; this will feel very hard. But it will pass!
7) Keep the sweets as celebrations, not rewards. Go ahead, have some fun! If it has been a tough week of holding boundaries and the children have done well, have a “Sundaes on Sunday” night. Or have a “Dessert First” for dinner one night. Have fun. Show the children that yes, you have rules, and sometimes it is okay to break the rules. Everyone will have a blast, and the idea is to laugh and enjoy each other.