Posts Tagged ‘development’

Babies and Big Groups

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Babies and Big GroupsWe visit family often. By family, I mean a moderately-sized group of twenty or so people. The trick is we often stay in my parent’s or my in-law’s home where all of these twenty people are also around for prolonged periods of time. Sometimes they are also staying at my parents, or in the case of my in-laws grandma babysits many of the kids and we spend the weekends doing things together. Our visits are from a few days to as much as six weeks sometimes during summer and winter school breaks.

With our first child, our first long visit at five and again at twelve months, I really tried to stay rigid. We napped when we were “supposed” to nap; when a little taste of icing was offered I refused it on his behalf though; I apologized for his grumpiness at times. By now with the three kiddos in tow I’ve settled into a little confidence and competence on managing my babies in these big group situations.

Most important for us was to know our children’s individual needs. One child gets overwhelmed more quickly with sensory overload and crying fits occur more often. He needs a quiet room. For another we look for cues of needing more cuddles or neediness though he is not as acutely aware of noise. He needs more hugs. Knowing your child’s needs allows you to best advocate for them. Advocacy does not require shouting out defensively so much as just providing, as the adult, for your child’s needs and giving space for their voice in the context of uncertainty and unfamiliarity. We visit for weeks at a time, and I recognize that being far from home—away from bed, toys, the grocery store and church, even the streets and all the other familiar things—can be taxing.

Be ok with standing up for what your children need. We love our families very much and enjoy their company. I recall one day when additional family arrived unexpectedly to visit just as my children were waking from their naps (possibly having woken one of them from his nap). As we see them regularly during our long visits, I didn’t feel any pressure to “make every moment count.” In fact, ensuring my children’s emotional stability for the day allowed for the remaining moments to be most enjoyed. I politely and quietly ushered my kids into our bedroom and closed the door. There was no big explanation or curiosity about it. I could tell my children needed a few minutes to transition from nap to unexpected socialization. Those twenty minutes secured my children’s ability to cope and enjoy the remainder of the day with family.

Advocating also means finding trust within you. I make mistakes but generally believe I take the time to balance what everyone needs with what my children need. Just because we are far from home doesn’t mean they always get their way or even always get their needs met. Sometimes we don’t get our needs met. But I try to find a little grace for them and me when I don’t read a situation most accurately or my expectations (of myself or others) aren’t met. Though rare, any comment someone makes about their behavior I try not to engage it as a criticism. That comment doesn’t matter as a judgment on my parenting, but it is insightful in how I might be a better house guest or how someone else is experiencing their time with us. Again, it’s a constant negotiation of being present for everyone I can and not just my children.

I try to balance time with the larger family and friends with just my little family of five. For some of that time we are a family of four while hubby works. I build in days of just down time or little adventures (to the donut shop or park) where it is only us even though they have many cousins who would love to join us. We spend much time with the cousins and I find it grounding and rejuvenating for my kids (and me) to just be together alone. This means extra cuddle time and quiet time together, which I usually build in early in the morning before others wake up or arrive.

Last, I let things slide. I find it important to keep structure but my kids usually eat a little less healthy on any of our vacations. They take in a little more technology, sometimes stay up a little later, and their nap schedule becomes a little less concrete. After trekking 1,600 miles each way in a mini-van with three little ones you learn to bend a little to adapt and make the time as enjoyable as possible.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 3 months to age four. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Minimalist Infant Toys

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Minimalist infant toysIn today’s culture of mass, cheap consumerism, it’s sometimes a challenge to go against the grain. Whether it’s because of your budget or parental and personal perspective, there is a growing trend in minimal everything, including toys.

By providing objects that foster creative play you actually provide for your child an endless array of options. Some things, whether specifically a toy or not, offer the open-ended opportunity for your child’s imagination to flourish. Fewer toys may also provide opportunities for deeper, more focused play rather than short attention to a great variety of toys. For me there is endless joy of having less clutter around the house in general. Clean up becomes less of a challenge by the mere fact that it takes much less time.

Toys are also opportunities for learning beyond the toy. Fewer toys in the home offer more opportunity for a child to cherish and appreciate something. If it is easily replaceable a child might be more careless with it. Some developmental ages may care less about this than others. Some might think fewer toys mean a child will be stingier in sharing but I’ve found fewer toys mean more storylines, role-play, and relationship with peers. To help your kiddo find more enjoyment in what they have and not how much, below are a few things, but certainly not everything, that work for us.

Flaunt what you’ve got. The kitchen is a great spot for toys that aren’t really toys. Utensils, pots, pans, and more. Nature has craft supplies (sticks and leaves, anyone?) and a variety of time-burning and learning opportunities (what shapes can you find in the clouds?).

Multi-purpose what you can. As with safe household items, everyday kid’s items also offer play opportunity. For example some teething items are also toys, blankets can become tents, and so forth.

Crafts, crafts, crafts. I do not (necessarily) mean pre-packaged crafts where you just do as the instructions say. These have their place, but so do simple paper, drawing utensils, and random things. The possibilities are endless with everything from sparkles to special papers in the craft store to a nature walk’s leaves and pages from magazines, mailers, and old birthday cards. While some of the things mentioned are for older children, even older infants can enjoy a basic color and paper.

Books. You don’t need to amass your own library, though I have found my children like to go back to some books on our bookshelf over and over. You can also establish a book exchange with friends or invest in your local public library. The trip to the library in and of itself offers the opportunity to learn about being quiet, caring for other’s property, and other aspects of responsibility. Many libraries also have story time or other child-friendly activities that spark the heart and imagination of kiddos.

Keep it simple. Investing in too many can be a bad thing. It’s great to have blocks, trains, animals, kitchen/hardware/pretend play items that can serve more than one purpose If you have so many that they overwhelm the child then you defeat the purpose of minimal toys.

Don’t forget yourself. As in, your whistles, coos, goofy faces, and general interactions all can provide your child entertainment and growth, especially for toddlers and babies. Actively playing with your kiddo with a toy can bring it to life in a whole new way.

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

What Makes a Velcro Baby?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

velcro babyAhhhh. The Velcro baby. You know the one. The baby that ALWAYS seems to be attached to you. They want to be constantly nursed. Or held. Or sit in your lap. Or hold your hand. Or follow you all around the house, and if you walk away for a nanosecond, it’s a crisis. That placenta cord may have been cut long ago, but this tiny human doesn’t seem to know it. You may start to think what is going on? Why is my little one so needy? So clingy? So difficult? What am I doing wrong?!? This attachment parenting stuff is supposed to be fostering independence…but*gulp* am I actually creating an “unhealthy” attachment?

I’m going be blunt here. Parenting a Velcro baby is exhausting. It can drain you both physically and emotionally. Their need for you feels deep and overwhelming. And your body can feel worn out from constantly supporting the weight of another person. Even when you are using kicka@@ ergonomically correct carrier, your body is impacted by carrying a tiny human around all day. Plus a Velcro baby can be frustrating. It can make a simple task take 18 times as long. Basically it feels consuming. It’s like the line between your own body and theirs is so blurred you start to forget what it even feels like to be yourself.

So what causes a Velcro baby? One huge and often overlooked/underestimated factor is merely human development. When a baby is going through a big developmental leap, this seems to increase their need for comfort. Change within can feel confusing, disorganizing, and out of control. So in order to cope, they cling to what is familiar and comfortable…and in many cases that is a parent/caregiver. Considering that development is vast and rapid during the first years of life, it’s as though they are continuously on the brink of a new developmental skill. Rolling. Sitting. Crawling. Walking. And that’s only the physical changes. They are learning and growing socially, cognitively, and emotionally too. Their little bodies and brains are working crazy hard to make all this happen!

Ahhh. Whew! So it’s not something you are doing “wrong” as a parent. It’s simply a natural part of human development. Little ones grow and they need us to help them navigate through that change. How that dynamic looks for each individual parent child is truly unique. But it can be helpful to know basic developmental milestones, sometimes referred to as “wonder weeks.” Knowledge is empowering. We feel better prepared to handle these changes and perhaps more relaxed about them. Additionally we are more accepting of the challenges and demands that accompany them. Furthermore knowing ourselves is helpful. How do we replenish and renew ourselves so we can optimally nurture our little ones?

Good self-care is essential when parenting a Velcro baby. And yes, I know the hardship there. We can barely meet basic needs like going to the bathroom or eating a nourishing meal when baby is clinging to us. But call in your reinforcements. Whatever they may be. The demands of a Velcro baby are legit and can quickly burn us out if we don’t also carve out the space to meet our own needs in the process.

Is My Baby Talking Enough?

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

is my baby talking enough?After my first son was born, I voraciously followed his milestones and progress with several books, including What to Expect: The First Year, Dr. Sears’ book, and the AAP book. (Full disclosure: with my second child … I maybe didn’t pay quite so much attention to these things). I also compared notes with the other moms in my online due date club.

As a first-time parent, I had tons of anxiety about milestones: Was my baby progressing adequately, was I doing enough as his parent to ensure he did? Guess what…these thoughts are totally normal. For me (and the parents of many toddlers, particularly boys), his speech development was my largest concern. My baby was shy, yes, but he also didn’t seem to have nearly the language development going on as his peers. The pediatrician that saw him at his first birthday well baby checkup commented that, “If he were a girl, she would be concerned.”

So when is it time to take action with a possible speech delay? Honestly, if you think there may be a delay, I would consult your pediatrician. Babies often make language gains rather sporadically, and chances are your child is developing normally. If she is not, however, early intervention is really important.

If you think your child may have a delay, or perhaps a family member or childcare provider has suggested something similar, the first step is talking to your pediatrician. Your provider will have you fill out a developmental questionnaire (you probably have done several of these already). If she feels it’s necessary, she will refer your child to a specialist. In the state I lived in, there was an early intervention office run by the state for children under three years old, and after the third birthday, the school district was responsible for screening. It’s important to trust your gut on this one—if your doctor thinks your child is developing normally and you really feel otherwise, speak up.

The testing is pretty fun for many kids (my son thought it was fantastic); it’s geared to be mostly playing with a speech and occupational therapist, and you stay in the room the whole time. If they find delays to a significant enough degree, they will refer you to ST or OT (in the state I lived in, the wait list to get into speech therapy was very long). Preschoolers may be able to do therapy sessions through a local elementary school or even qualify for a special education preschool, depending on where you live.

Just remember though, the milestones are just averages. Try not to get overly concerned about any one part, but if you feel your child may be falling behind, don’t hesitate to voice your concerns.

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two young boys and a foster mom to a variety of rescue dogs and cats.

That Time I Tried to Potty Train an 18-Month-Old

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 2.59.53 PMWhat you need to know is that she was my first. I was terrified of making mistakes with her. So when I stood in line for her class that Sunday at church, I was stunned to see a man in front of me hand his toddler over the door–under her dress, no big, poofy diaper cover, but instead, tiny big-girl panties. Right there in line, I panicked.

Were there other kids her age that were also potty trained? Was she the only one her age still in diapers? Why hadn’t anyone warned me this was coming? I hadn’t even thought about that yet and now we were already behind. It was official: I was a terrible, neglectful mother.

That weekend, or maybe the next, I went out and bought training pants and a tiny princess potty that played music when you flushed. I read an article online about potty training in a weekend. Fantastic! We’d check this off this weekend. I thought about what to write in her baby book. Better take some pictures, too! I scrapbooked success vignettes in my head.

I set my watch and took her to the potty every 15 minutes when we were at home after work and on the weekends. We talked about what to do on the potty. We gave her rewards. We celebrated. She had accidents everywhere. She never asked to go, and said she didn’t have to every time I asked. Honestly, I don’t even think she knew what the question meant. We finally managed a few trips out with successful trips to the potty. It looked like it was all coming together.

When my oldest was just a little over 2 years old, just when we had got potty training semi-down, I started to show with my second pregnancy. And then we learned about regression.

You see, when you’re pregnant, everyone makes a big deal how awful it would be having two kids in diapers. But when your kids are in diapers, the mess is controlled and you kinda/sorta get to choose when to deal with it. When they are not in diapers, you get a big mess everywhere that has to be dealt with NOW. And you’re pregnant. And maybe a touch sensitive to smells. Let me also add, when kids learn to go to the potty, they master number one first and then number two. When they regress, it goes backward in that order. It’s not pretty.

Then, when this child was just older than 4, I got pregnant again. The older two both regressed as soon as I started showing.

During this horrendous experience, a friend of mine who had three kids mostly older than mine reminded me of everything that goes into a trip to the potty for a child. In order to be able to go by themselves, they have to be mature enough to stop what they are doing to take a break, be tall enough to turn on the light, strong enough to lift the toilet seat, and be dexterous enough to undress themselves. That sounds much more like a 3- or 4-year-old than a 2-year-old. Yet as soon as most kids turn two, you have daycares, churches and grandmas bugging you about potty training.

What I forgot about potty training, in my rush to be an amazing mom and fulfill everyone’s expectation of me, is that it’s one of those things, just like sleeping all night and eating solid food, that will happen on it’s own no matter what you do.

All normally functioning kids—all of them!—learn to eat solid food, sleep through the night in their own bed, and use the potty. It may not be on my timetable, it may not be when I think it should happen, but you don’t ever have to sweat these milestones. They happen.

I do still run into smug moms of prodigious toddlers who WILL be potty trained by age two. Good for them. But occasionally I run into an exasperated mom who can’t understand why this totally normal thing is just not working for them and we commiserate. It’s not us, I tell her. It’s them. They have to do it on their own time, and that may mean we suck up some criticism from a few boneheads for a while, but don’t you worry about that because it’s not worth our sanity.

My 4-year-old is 100-percent potty trained now, while my oldest still wears a pull-up at night. I don’t get it, and I probably will never understand what mistakes I made if there is a secret to this thing that I completely missed, or if it’s just biology and physical development that I never could have influenced anyway.

After these last years of potty training hell, my youngest has yet to sit on a potty. I ask her every day if she wants to, and she says “Nope!” Then I ask her, “When do you think you’ll start using the potty?” and she says, “I don’t know.” I don’t know either, and that’s fine with me.

Erin Hayes Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three who doesn’t know shit about pottytraining. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City.