Posts Tagged ‘development’

Can You Prepare for Parenting?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

Can You Prepare for ParentingYou read the books. Not just one, and not only about pregnancy and birth. You signed up for emails and apps that provide development updates at your fingertips. You checked the registry lists—all of them—and planned accordingly. You even read the “what you REALLY need” and “things you just don’t need” blog posts. You took the classes for the birth and talked to a few trusted sources who have been there, done that. You’ve even taken in more unsolicited advice than you’d like because…almost all unsolicited advice is more than you’d like. You are prepared, you think.

Just like you were prepared the first time you went to a new school, on your first date, off to college, into a committed relationship, on a first interview, to that first job, and more. Parenting is unlike any other endeavor. If you could prepare for major seasons of life I imagine there would be fewer letters to my younger self, what I wish I knew, tips for fill-in-the-blank, and other such thematic articles. There is knowing about something, and then there is actually breathing it in and out to your very core.

This isn’t to say one can’t understand until one has children. That’s too condescending. You’ve heard it. “One day when ____, then you’ll understand.” It’s not that simple. There are many parents who don’t have a clue on some things for any number of reasons and other childless people who have great wisdom in what being a parent might involve.

I knew patience. I grew it over years; parenting did not teach me patience unlike anything else so much as it affords me opportunities each day to learn it again in all its endurance. I knew love. I tended to love over all my years; parenting did not teach me love so much as specific love and selflessness.

Something I did not know until I became a parent, nor do I think I could have prepared for, involves the time of caregiving, the way it weaves into one’s soul. In this sense caregiving is not only to children but also to parents or others loved dependents. It’s life-altering and perspective-changing. I spend my time considering and doing things I’d never thought of, never even knew to.

This investment is partly pragmatic. Pulling out four sets of clothes for upcoming season was just a short afternoon task when it was just me and my one set of clothing. Or in the morning, when getting ready for one to get to work on time seems like a task, suddenly getting four bodies fed and ready, in the car, and off to school and childcare, then me on the road. Don’t forget the lunches! The change of clothes to replace those used yesterday! The sign-up sheet for the goods to bake! So much time and thought goes into making that process seamless, not to mention all the emotions of shuffling kids here and there as you leave them for work.

Then the time that gets to the intention of your parenting. You care and everything is new. What doctor to choose, what that rash might be, which stroller to buy, whether to preschool or not, which preschool, what sports and how many, when to speak and hold your tongue, when to give them space to fail and succeed, how much screen time, when to allow a phone, oh-my-gosh bullying or dating or developing ethics and principles, and so on. Everything takes thought and attention like those first days of being at college or starting my first “real” job, or planning a wedding—except a life hangs in the balance. Of course a wedding comes and goes—for a child the new just keeps coming. One age mastered and another age comes.

Turns out you constantly prepare for parenting. It is the real-deal, never-ending, choose-your-own adventure every day. Welcome.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 6 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Have I Outgrown Social Media?

Monday, October 24th, 2016

10-20-16-outgrowing-social-media-option-1Scroll. Scroll… scroll.

It started innocently enough five years ago. I researched strollers. Which brand should I buy? Which one is smoothest for jogging? How smoothly does the front wheel pivot? It costs HOW much? Oh wait… a giveaway! I’ll enter the giveaway! Just like these 20 Instagram accounts and I could win! Ok. Cloth diapers. Which brand should I buy? Group? Sure I’ll join your group. Seasons of life start like this, at least for a new soon-to-be-mom and solidly through my second child’s first year.

Here I am with baby number three, at six months old, and I’m tired of scrolling through Instagram photos of single strollers and belly belts. It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve outgrown you. I don’t mean to be brutal. After all, you’ve supported me with encouraging words, kept me company through many sleepless nights of nursing. But unfollow. Unfollow. Unfollow. Don’t get me wrong, there is a core group that will always keep me going. I’m sticking with a group, a couple businesses, and my handful of friends. I just don’t have interest in the fringes anymore.

The moment of truth hit me after weeks, months even, of me mulling over the rut I so desperately wanted to climb out of. The mommy rut, with three kids ages four and under, wanting to lose that baby weight and talk about something other than diapers, nap schedules, and tantrums. I don’t have time for everything. I have to choose. I have to cut the fringes because grabbing onto them I know I’ll just fall back into a rut. I need the strings that are deeply attached. I am ready to reincorporate the “me” from before mommy hood with the mommy that I am now.

Those late night chats with a handful of imaginary friends—the ones I’ve shared with but never met—they got me through many challenging times. Friends we will always be, but it’s time for me to put my computer away at night because I need to sleep. My kids now sleep through the night, you see. Five years ago I was expecting my first brand new baby and I had so many questions. Now I’m seasoned. I’m happy to talk you through your sleepless nights but I no longer need it myself.

I’m always going to be parenting, so it’s not so much that I’m giving up something as I am outgrowing the first stages of being a parent on social media. Goodbye stroller specs, hello homework or sports or preteen questions. Let me be clear there is no judgement at all. I am thankful for the likeminded people, companies, and communities I invested in—and who invested in me. I needed you and hope that I served you well. But I’m done. It’s done. That season of my life is done.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 6 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Sensory Activities for Baby

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

sensory activities for babySo your baby is 3 months old now.  She seems to be ready to play and learn about her world.  But how do you play with a 3-month-old? Providing her with sensory activities each day helps her develop cognitively, begin to learn language, and gives you the opportunity to play with your baby. Initially, I was hesitant to start using sensory activities because activities that create a big mess are overwhelming to me. However with a little research, I discovered that with slight modifications, many everyday activities turn into sensory activities, becoming opportunities to play with your baby, build foundations for language development, and encourage exploration of her world.

The following are 10 activities I used with both my girls to address the five senses.

  1. Reading touch and feel books together (The That’s Not My… series are my girls’ favorite touch and feel books)
  2. Creating scent jars by filling empty spice jars with strong smelling objects (basil, orange, lemon, lavender, etc)
  3. Creating a ribbon box by attaching ribbons at the opening of an old box (one that is large enough for your baby to lay in/under)
  4. Allowing them to squish and play with their food once they start solids
  5. Providing toys that crinkle, make other sounds, and have many textures (Melissa and Doug’s Flip Fish was one of Juniper’s favorites from about 4 to 7 months old)
  6. Walking outside while talking to your baby about things you see, sounds you hear, and smells you smell
  7. Playing peek-a-boo and other songs that use scarfs
  8. Going to baby storytime and other age-appropriate mommy and me classes
  9. Looking at and making silly faces in mirrors
  10. Talking to your baby while grocery shopping about what color, shape, etc of the items you’re purchasing (sometimes I accidentally do this on solo shopping trips and get weird looks!).  In the produce section, I let my girls touch and smell the produce we intend to purchase as I’m talking about it.

Having your baby do sensory activities does not require a huge mess or a lot of prep before hand.  With little extra effort, you can maximize your baby’s opportunity to use their senses and learn about the world.

Becky Nagel is a stay at home mom to two girls, a three year old and a one year old, in Denver, CO who enjoys cooking for her family, running, and hiking.

The Week the TV Died

Monday, September 19th, 2016

The day the TV diedWe just returned from a two-month venture away from home, one of the perks of being a stay-at-home-mom with a teacher hubby. We drove several thousand miles over that time. The children were ready to be home. I was ready for a break, ready to not be “on” all the time. We came home to a power-surged television and Blu-ray player. Our only television and Blu-ray player. Did I mention I stay at home with three children and my husband is a school teacher? Going out and dropping a load of cash was not in the cards after the summer we just had (ever?). But fortunately, the TV was under warranty and could be fixed for free. In 19 days.

The official mom in me said, “We don’t need TV anyway; the AAP discourages prolonged screen time; play with your toys; use your imagination.” We don’t have cable anyway. I painted a picture of simpler times and the importance of creativity in child development. I glamorized our lives to that of a natural family magazine cover shoot. Oh, the opportunity! Oh the solitude! Unofficially I was a little rattled. I often sat up late at night with the 4-month-old, nursing. With hubby going out of town for a week, I needed the occasional assistance of a television for very basic needs—like mama’s gotta shower and momma needs to fix dinner!

We don’t own smart phones, but we have more than one screen. Our laptop and tablet ended up getting a little heavier-than-usual use by the end of the 19 days. We survived. Did we learn anything?

TV is overrated. Our kids woke up and played quietly without bother. They didn’t ask much at all that first week about the television or when it would make its return. We spent more time with books and playing with toys. I often use television as a tool when I need to get something done (like call customer service, etc.) or just need to take a deep breath because, you know, I have a young infant, toddler, and preschool-aged kid. Turns out toys did a pretty similar job as television with the whole “keeping them occupied” concern. In fact, they seemed to play together a little more with less distraction because the TV wasn’t there.

TV is underrated. Like I said, mama needs a quick shower with the assurance that something has her children’s attention. Few things are as mesmerizing as a new episode of Super Why! Mama needs a few minutes of peace sometimes, especially if she (or daddy) is a single parent or sick or has other additional, situational challenges. Also I can’t juggle a screen while nursing. We don’t have a smartphone and the laptop distracted the babe. I tried. More than once. I certainly got my minutes of peace! They occurred late in the night for the most part while baby nursed. Peace turned into a little aimless boredom because nursing a young babe is very time and energy consuming. You sit a lot. And, turns out, without a television late in the night when your mind is beyond tired, you stare at the wall, a lot.

There was not newfound solitude or deep satisfaction with life. I’ve heard the terms float around—the “no TV kid” or “low media kid.” I suppose we are already low media, and we do that rather purposefully though not as fervently as possible. I don’t think removing the television made all that much difference. Perhaps this is because I’m already mindful of limiting screen time and “cultivating intrinsically motivated, independent exploration” or because this venture lasted less than three weeks. Life was pretty much the same for us, and no life-changing development occurred so far as I could see.

There was newfound solitude and deep satisfaction with life. Sitting in the quiet at the end of a long day while I nursed my babe would previously include an episode of some old show on Netflix. Turns out the quiet was nice for me more than the children in that I spent those evening hours reading or processing the day. I spend time with my daughter all day but not being distracted by television allowed me to spend that last hour more aware and appreciative of her presence in my life as she settled into sleep. You know, all that “cherish every moment” stuff older parents mention? I did. Perhaps if anyone benefited from the lack of television in our home it was me. Turns out instead of going a little crazier I found a little peace.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 4 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

How to Baby Proof with Big-kid Toys Around

Monday, September 12th, 2016

How to baby proof with big-kid toys aroI should preface this by saying we have never done the baby-proofing by locking the fridge, toilets, nor many cabinets. We have almost nothing that can break, put our few cleaners up high, and have a small (but cozy!) home where I can see all of my children most of the time and can hear them all of the time. We anchored our television and most furniture.

We are also in the stage of life where we see our living room furniture not so much as investment pieces and more like fun and comfortable. The kids can jump about the couch without us concerned with wear and tear (to a certain degree, of course). I think it is partially here that they’ve learned to be rough and tumble but also cautious. That said, as baby number three approaches 6 months and crawling, we’ve thought anew about what babyproofing looks like with older kids (almost three and five) in the mix.

Prevention. It’s helpful sometimes to “baby proof,” but sometimes prevention is key. Having fewer breakable things around gives some peace of mind. Minimizing the sheer volume of stuff in your home also minimizes the things your babe will come across. This includes your children’s belongings but also yours.

Consider your stuff, space, and child. Given the ages of your children, sleeping arrangement, size of home, and amount of toys, how you baby proof with big kids around may vary from my way. Consider the things that you are keeping baby safe from—stairs, breakable items, cleaners, medications, doors that lead outside, and so forth. We all have different variables with which to work. Also consider your child. One of our sons never had interest in plugs while the other approached them a number of times; one son has always had a keen interest in getting out the front door while the other, generally, stays inside when he should. Last, consider protecting your other children from baby. What toys or belongings do they cherish most? Try to make efforts to protect their most beloved objects from the baby when possible.

Create a completely safe space for baby. For us the living and dining rooms are always baby-friendly. Her brothers have toys out but, for example, we keep Legos in the other room on the table always. It’s helpful to have a location where I don’t have to be as alert to danger. Likewise, the boys’ room is one location that baby should NOT be in without my direct, hands-on, supervision as there are numerous toys with small parts.

Invest in baby-friendly toys for your older children. This can vary based on your children’s ages. Our two and four year old children still get entertainment and enrichment from large blocks, and smooth wooden and soft toys. When chosen thoughtfully, these toys can prove an investment as they span many years of child development while also safe for baby to play near or even with. Keep an eye out for small parts that can break off and baby-safe (i.e. lead free) paint/finishes.

Use your words to protect your children. Start early and explain simply. For example, we explained to our 4-year-old that shoes have dirt and other yucky things and they need to stay in the shoe bin, away from baby sister’s blanket and toys. We then made the habit of shoes going to the shoe bin. We still remind him sometimes but the expectation is established. The same is true for other things: Your food is for you (don’t feed baby); if you drop food, pick it up; leave baby on ground (don’t pick up); gentle (don’t hit); put your toys away; etc. Locks and gadgets can prove helpful, but they aren’t the only way to establish a safe space. Talk to them about responsibility at an age-appropriate level. For example, “If you don’t want your (favorite item) chewed, broken, or removed, then please care for it by putting it away where baby can’t reach.” Encourage grace when inevitably baby gets to someone’s treasured item.

Use babyproofing gadgets as appropriate for your needs. We haven’t used many but the ones we have purchased were a great relief. Anchors to secure our furniture to walls were worth every penny. Though we never used a baby gate for four years, we now use one almost daily to keep baby from unsafe spaces. While I generally keep an eye on my kids most of the time, sometimes I am busy, distracted, or otherwise occupied and cannot keep them safe only by sight. Invest in necessary precautionary measures and consider whether or not your older children should know how to maneuver the safety devices.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 5 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.