The best way to teach your kids to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled people is to model it for them. The way you live and act will be the megaphone in their life. You can read them all the right words, teach them all the right quotes and verses, pray all the right prayers- but those will be the background music. Your life is the loud, blaring siren bringing them in. Your children are your closest disciples, following you as you follow Christ. They will receive the overflowing abundance of God as your cup overflows onto them. Make sure you’re filling your cup with things of God. Make sure the song your life is screaming points to Him. Their little eyes are on you, like it or not. Your walk with God will either help or hinder them. Want them to be loving? Show them love. Want them to be joyful? Let your joy overflow to them. Want them to be peaceful? Sow peace with your own life first. Want them to be patient? Be a shining example of patience. Want them to be kind? Be kind. Want them to be good? Shower them with goodness. Want them to be faithful? Be their example of faithfulness. Want them to be gentle? Shown them gentleness. Want them to have self-control? Show them your self-control. It’d certainly be easier to just have them memorize 9 verses and tell them what they should do. I pray our Lord will give you strength for this tough parenting gig. Let your children follow you right to the foot of the cross.
I wanted to read more in 2013. I really did. But then it just didn’t happen. Something about having a baby threw my number of books read this year way, way down. Boo.
4 out of 5 stars
I read this book last January in an attempt to organize my house again. I never ended up organizing my house last year. I say every year that it is something I will do and then I don’t do it. 2014 is my year! Right?! That is a post for another day. Overall is was a decent organizing book. I received the book for free for review purposes.
4 out of 5 Stars
I received this book for free for the purposes of a review. This book was a new take on The Island of Dr. Moreau. It was creepy and gothic. There were aspects that missed the full potential of what the book could have been. It could have been phenomenal, but the author strayed and missed the overall mark at times. These things happen.
4 out of 5 Stars
I didn’t realize this was a kid’s book until I got it. I love the pictures. They are fabulous. The words are heart warming, but not particularly for kids. Not sure where the intended audience actually was or what mark they were trying to hit. This isn’t a devotional or a story. It isn’t exactly a coffee table book, either. It is more of a pick me up on a bad day kind of book. I didn’t like it very much at first, but it has grown on me over the year. On my first reading, I gave it 3 stars. Now I give it 4.
This is a wonderfully cute little embroidery book. It comes with iron on images, so you don’t have to hand copy them, which is worth the price of the book all by itself. The images are cute and sweet. I embroidered a few burp cloths while waiting for Topher last year using these patterns.
4 out of 5 Stars
I expected to like this book much more than I did. I had hyped it up so much in my head that the end product just didn’t live up to my head hype. It contains projects of various kinds. It contains parenting insights on how to encourage creativity in your child. I just… well, my kids just don’t cooperate with this kind of fantasy she lays out. My kids are very creative, but also destructive. So, I can’t have random stuff found from outside hanging out on my hearth. My kids tear it all to shreds. I can’t leave art supplies out. They mural my walls. In my fantasy world, I do these wonderful things from this book, but in my real life, things just don’t work out that way.
I really loved Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth and as a natural birther and planning a home birth, I kind of felt like Spiritual Midwifery was a must read. It was set up much like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth– birth stories for the first half of the book and information in the second half. The information in Spiritual Midwifery is geared much more toward midwives (surprise!). It was interesting, for sure. The birth stories were a little more “woo” than I experience myself. I also really disliked Stephen Gaskin writing any portion of the book. The other dad perspectives didn’t bother me, though. Definitely not for the mainstream people. It also wasn’t particularly helpful for my home birth preparations. I just felt like I needed to read it so I could get my granola card punched.
This book has some good activities for your little ones, but overall I think it is overkill. Plus it isn’t really doable, in my opinion, in real life when you have more than one child under five at a time. (And I currently have three under five.) Some of the activities were just dumb. I’m naturally inclined against things geared toward this age group. I find they are far too limited and seem to assume that preschoolers and toddlers are much dumber than they really are. If you find this book for free or at a thrift store, pick it up. But don’t pay full price for it. It isn’t worth it.
I really liked the overall premise of this book. I particularly did not like the last few chapter, which brought my rating down from 5 stars to 4. But there was so much good in this book. I highly recommend it. Clearly, I am not Jewish, but this book contained so much great parenting advice. It did talk about Jewish tradition quite a bit, but I think any parent would find the book helpful if you are in any way spiritual. It talks about not sheltering your kids, letting your kids fail, letting your kids express themselves, not bulldozing your children, and giving your children the freedom to be themselves.
5 out of 5 Stars
I really wish more people in the Church would read this book. (See that I capitalized Church? That means the entire worldwide Church, not just my local church that I attend.) It is one of the Big Deals in my life that I think through decisions that I make. That Hideous Strength (which happens to be part of The Space Trilogy, only one of my favorite book series in the world- so much so that I named my kid after the main character, Ransom) is the fiction equivalent to this book. If I boiled it down, the point of the book is that in an attempt to control nature, it ends up controlling us. We try to be gods, but lack the necessary knowledge of God. This book is so relevant to today, you’ll find yourself amazed this insight came from the 1950s.
5 out of 5 Stars
It is no secret that I am not very mainstream. (Although I’ve recently found out that many people in real life didn’t know about my crunchy leanings. Surprise! I’m a hippy under these normal clothes!) This book is a great resource for dealing with childhood illness without running to the doctor for everything. It is completely exhaustive, there are plenty of other remedies than those listed. But it is a very easy to use quick guide. We successfully managed a few ear aches, coughs, chest colds, croupy coughs, and sore throats with the help of this book. If you’re just getting out of the mainstream, this book gives you brand name products to buy online or at your local natural grocer so you don’t have to go make your own tinctures and such. If you’ve got a crunchy card, you can make your own or buy similar products. I highly recommend this book!
5 out of 5 Stars
This book deserves its own post. And I will get on that. This book changed my life. No joke. It changed my heart and changed the lives of my family, as well. I cannot recommend this book enough. Full post about this story is coming.
3.5 out of 5 Stars
I was given this book free for review. The authors have a massive mega church plant down the street from me. I think the book skims over a lot of what made their mega church a success and it doesn’t delve into their limitations and problems quite enough. But this book wasn’t about their church, it is about them. It is a book for church planting families. How do you balance the work required in a church plant with your family life? How do you guard your marriage during the turbulent church planting times? It is something only those in full time ministry really understand. I appreciated their perspective and advice far more than I anticipated, even though I do not agree with all their advice.
3 out of 5 Stars
Honestly, I am still on the fence about this. It works. You loose weight. (I lost 17 lbs. in one month.) It does help you feel better toward the end. But it is so arbitrary. It is so limiting. It is not sustainable. (And not intended to be.) It is absolutely miserable. It will break your physical food addictions, but in my opinion can make the mental issues surrounding food much worse. I’m so torn on this. It worked. I physically felt better. I lost weight. The restrictions were ridiculous and arbitrary. But mentally, it put me in a much worse place than when I started. Menu planning now sends me to tears. Just ordering food in a restaurant begins an epic mental battle for me. I’m now having to heal my body image and my food relationship coming off of this. It is hard to do with a family. It is hard to stick to period. I don’t think this is healthy for life. Check out Go Kaleo. I’m beginning my healing from this diet there.
3 out of 5 Stars
A collection of essays about cleaning. It is interesting to look into the minds of others when it comes to cleaning. You’ve seen it in those you know- your aunts, your mother, your mother-in-law. They all clean differently and all feel differently about cleaning. They have their reasons and you might know them. There are underlying psychological reasons we clean (or don’t clean) the way we do. Has poverty led to a need to hold onto everything? Has a busy life resulted in a completely chaotic house? Has a military past led way to a need for orderly surrounding? Is housework a woman’s work? Is it a man’s? Is it a maid’s? It is interesting to look into the lives and homes of others.
4 out of 5 Stars
Unschooling fascinates me. It really speaks to me. I’m finding myself drawn in that direction myself, but have not fully given into the idea. This book explores five basic principles into unschooling. I actually felt that it explored 3 unschooling ideas and 2 parenting ideas. I enjoyed the actual part about unschooling. I didn’t really resonate with the parenting parts 100%. But such is life. (Have you ever noticed how hard it is to have other parent friends? You never 100% agree on parenting issues and it can get awkward. You really have to try hard to give them space to parent their way while also staying true to you. If you thought finding friends in junior high was hard, just wait until you’re a parent! Suddenly how your diaper offends a now former friend. How you feed your baby hurts someone’s feelings. How you discipline or don’t discipline your child is now a grand dividing line.) I am looking forward to exploring unschooling further. The anarchist in me says, “Go for it!”
5 out of 5 Stars
I didn’t think it was possible for a breastfeeding book to move me to tears, but this one did. With the science to back up the claims, the Church to back up the methods, this book is full of wisdom for breastfeeding moms (and dads). I very highly recommend this book. It doesn’t have a lot of the how to and problem solving of breastfeeding, but will deepen you resolve to breastfeed your child and turn it from a chore into something you love to do. It elevated my role as a mother. It elevated Topher’s role as my son. Fabulous read.
5 out of 5 Stars
I have 5 kids, he has 5 kids. Had to read it. Some of the content of this book is the same as his stand up routines, but it is still funny. In fact, it may be funnier that you can read it in his voice. So funny. This book is stories of fatherhood, thoughts on fatherhood and families and our society in relation to big families.
4 out of 5 Stars
This book needs a different title. The first part of the book is about choosing to have a large family and thinking through the logistics of it all. It does have some practical advice for larger than average families. Some is similar to other books about large families. I liked her writing style. Good thoughts for families of not so many kids thinking about maybe having more. Or for families that are wanting to have more but haven’t really figured out how it will work.
We decided to wear our baby before our first was born. I loved the idea and thought it’d be so much easier than maneuvering a stroller everywhere we went. When our first was born, we were still in youth ministry and just knew a stroller wouldn’t really suit our lifestyle. So, off to big box baby store we went. And we registered for the most expensive, “nicest” carrier they had. The Baby Bjorn.
We quickly realized that was a mistake. Though at the time, I thought it was just babywearing in general, since I did buy the best and all. (Ha!) My hands would go numb within 30 minutes of wearing the carrier. See how narrow the seat is on that thing? Yeah. You had to turn her back and forth to keep her comfortable. Poor little hips.
We didn’t use it at all with our second. It was just too uncomfortable. For our third, we needed our hands! So, we dug the Baby Bjorn back out to give it another shot. I’d been reading and researching baby carriers and I knew there were much better ones than the big box baby stores carried. I just didn’t know if I could justify the price tag. I was looking at spending double what I paid for my Bjorn! And would it be worth it? Or would my hands still go numb and the baby still have to be rotated like a roasting chicken? Finally, we decided to go for it. We NEEDED to be able to wear the baby. We had a baby and two toddlers. Something HAD to work. I ordered my very first Beco Butterfly from Carrymeaway.com.
Finally! We had our hands back! (And they weren’t numb!) Why didn’t we do this sooner? That first Beco was worth every single penny I paid for it. We used it so much more than the stroller we paid way more money for. It made our life so, so, so much easier!
Suddenly the baby carrier became our one must have item. You could forget diapers at home. You could forget an extra change of clothes. But DO NOT forget the Beco or we’re turning the car around!
When our fourth was born, I bought a Baby K’Tan carrier. It worked wonderfully for the newborn stage- keeping baby snug and cozy against mom. I used it daily- at home and out.
When the new Beco Gemini came out, we’d been discussing becoming a two carrier family, so we decided to go for it. We knew we’d get our money’s worth out of it. It ended up being The Pastor’s favorite carrier. (In the photo, you can see how much longer it is than the Baby Bjorn. You can also see how much wider the seat is, even with it snapped into the “narrow” position. It is ridiculously more comfy for baby and parent!)
We got so comfortable being a double babywearing family that when I broke the buckle of my Beco Butterfly (I slammed it in the van door), I just knew I had to replace it right away. (Should have checked, because you can buy replacement buckles on Beco’s website.)
The Beco Soleil joined our family earlier this month, and once again, we’re in love. We now own 4 baby carriers and I can tell you every single one of them was well worth the money.
What makes them better than the cheaper versions? Well, quality, when we’re talking about something you wear, is always going to matter. The quality is simply not there in cheapo carriers. You’re also dealing with a company that consistently makes a good product- always important when talking about baby items. The good carriers (if you don’t have any clue what a good carrier is, check out this site and browse around. They only carry good ones.) also last a really long time. Through washings, beach trips, zoo trips, being shoved in your bag, grocery runs, and ball games- these carriers hold up. Good carriers have much higher weight limits! The Baby Bjorn maxes out at 25lbs. The Soleil maxes out at 45lbs. That is a big, big difference! (And I can tell you from experience that the comfort level of a maxed out Bjorn is nil- while a maxed out Soleil is still incredibly comfortable and easy to carry.)
I’ve been asked frequently about the price of carriers. If you’re truly strapped and cannot spend more than Baby Bjorn price for a carrier, check out a wrap. They are going to be much more comfortable than a cheap carrier for both you and baby at the same price. You can still have a great carrier on a limited budget. If you’re expecting- you’ll use the carrier way more than the stroller, pack and play, exersaucer, etc. So invest the money in the carrier! I have never regretted the money spent on my carriers.
* Note: You’ll notice that most of my carriers (the Baby K’Tan is the exception) are buckle carriers. There are plenty of other kinds of awesome carriers out there! Here is an article to help you decide which carrier is for you.
You remember that Lenten reading schedule I made for the kids? The one complete with activities? Well, apparently, that was a huge hit with the kids. It opened up the door for a lot of discussion around our house. Some that was odd (When Lazarus was resurrected, did he have to heal from his decomposition wounds or were they completely healed when he was raised?) and some that was tough (In glorified bodies, will we have need to eat? Will we want to eat?). The kids loved the crafts. They soaked up the information like little sponges.
Imogene went to her Dad sometime this week with a request. She had seen a figurine in a catalogue (girl loves catalogues) and she wanted to get it for me to thank me for all I put into their Lent activities. (I know! Talk about teary eyed!) Of course, Dad couldn’t say no to that request. He took her to the store and the found just the figurine she had wanted to give.
She gave it to me today and said, “Mom, I wanted you to have this because I am so thankful for all you’ve done for our Lent. You taught us more about God and did awesome crafts with us. I thought this one was perfect, because you keep telling us that we are the light of the world and we’re the light in the darkness, and she has a light.”
Who says parenting is a thankless job?
Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort
I read many parenting books. It isn’t necessarily in hopes of solving some problem, as much as it is an attempt to better myself as a parent. I’m not in the camp of people believing that simply birthing children makes you suddenly an expert on raising them. I find that many people rely heavily on how they were raised. Of course, many in our generation find themselves wanting a bit more for their children. In fact, this has been the desire of almost every generation, but our generation this is a desire to be better, not necessarily to want more for them. We want to be better, not buy better. (Hope that made sense.) To me, reading parenting books makes me think about what I am doing as a mom. For me, it isn’t always about solving that next problem or learning a new trick. For me, it is about being intentional in how I raise my children. I read parenting books to help me think about those things that I do that could be improved. I read parenting books to challenge me. I read parenting books to connect with others in my profession and do what I do better. That is one thing I love about blogs and blogging. I feel like I get to pick the brains of parents around the country. In reading their blogs I get a little view into how they do what they do, into what makes them tick, into what their world of parenting is like. It makes me think. And thinking is good.
In reading parenting books, you rarely find one you’ll agree with 100%. The trick really is to take the good and leave the bad. The book is a good book if the good outweighs the bad. The books is bad if the bad outweighs the good. Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves did contain quite a bit of good. However, it also contained, in my opinion, an awful lot of bad. The good in this book was very good. The bad was bizarrely bad. I ended up giving the book 3 stars, placing it squarely in neutral ground, though it is far from neutral.
I’ll start with the good this book had to offer. It is true that far too many people do not view children as people. Our society tends to place them somewhere around a well loved pet, not a fully formed person. For some reason, the trend has remained that magically at 18 a child becomes a person, capable of having their own opinions only at that magic point. However, that isn’t as it should be. This book offers great perspective on treating children as persons, equal persons. Considering their needs and desires as you would the needs and desires of any other person in your life. I wish that message could be sung from the rooftops. Respect children! Treat them like people! You’ve been talking to an adult when a kid tries to interrupt, the child is told they are interrupting, please wait. However, have you ever been talking to a child and have an adult interrupt? Usually, the conversation with the child is simply dropped. Rarely will you hear an adult say to another adult, “I am speaking with this child. Hold on just a moment.” We just don’t show children the same courtesies we expect them to show. I cannot tell you how many times I hear that children need to show some respect, when they are never shown respect. I’m not sure how people justify such treatment. Seems that all persons should get common courtesies, regardless of age.
“Many small events… don’t require solutions even if the child reacts with tears or rage.” (p.100) What a great point! I don’t have to rescue my child simply because they are upset. If I’m there, that is all that the child needs. It is not my job, place, or duty to “fix” everything for my child, even if they react negatively. I think that many parents fail to see the value in letting a child be mad and not trying to “fix” them being mad. This book was great at pointing out that children should be free to express all emotion, even negative emotion, and there isn’t something you need to do in letting them express their emotions other than simply listen. “We cannot stop the rain for out children and it wouldn’t be good for them if we could.” (p.145) Ah, don’t you feel the weight lifting? Finally, someone willing to say that I don’t have to stop the rain! I don’t even have to provide an umbrella! It is a common theme these days to shield kids from all bad. If a child is upset, we must do absolutely everything to make the child happy. But that isn’t life for you, is it? When you are upset, does someone rescue you? When you are unhappy, is it someone else’s responsibility to make you happy? I do agree with Dr. Aldort on this point. Negative feelings are not the end of the world. A child being upset over rain when they wanted to go to the park isn’t something to fix. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes the outcome isn’t sunshine and roses. Sometimes we sing the blues.
I also found many of her communication techniques to work wonders. Simply listening and validating my children has been a big game changer around here. I am listening, I am there for them, but their feelings are their own. I feel that they’ve been owning their lives more and relying on me a bit less to provide them their happiness or solutions to their negative emotional state. I’ve noticed a particularly evident change in my Imogene (she’s 6) that she feels more “at home” expressing herself these days, good or bad, and she doesn’t blame others for her feelings so much. She’s also gotten much better at her problem solving skills since I’m not jumping in with suggestions every time she encounters another child who doesn’t want to play with her or some other disappointment. I’ve learned to stop invalidating her feelings by insisting things aren’t “that bad” or that “there is no reason to cry.” Just because I don’t understand, doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel the way she does. And simply because I don’t understand, doesn’t mean she shouldn’t feel the way she does. We all react differently in similar situations, so who is to say how any of us should or should not feel? I might think it is downright silly to be crying about one little girl at Chick-Fil-A not playing with me when I’ve got 5 other kids who are happily playing with me. I don’t understand being upset about that. But that situation really upsets Imogene. She has a very hard time when she encounters people who prefer to not play with her. Just because I don’t get it, I’ll admit I’m just wired that way, doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be upset about it. But just because she is upset about it, doesn’t mean that I need to DO anything about it.
So, there is a great amount of good that can come from this book if you have the particular ability to take the good and leave the bad. If you are one that fixates on what is wrong with a book, then this may not be the book for you. In fact, it will likely drive you nuts.
Most of the personal stories given in the book seem outright fake. The interactions between parent and child or counselor and parent just don’t feel real to me. Perhaps much was condensed so that the point was easily displayed, but the stories just didn’t sit right with me. None of them felt real, which gives you the feeling that either you’re doing something incredibly wrong, or the whole thing is wrong because the stories are fake. I wish she’d left those stories out. To me, they don’t illustrate her point, but seem to create these fake parent and child relationships that you’ll never attain.
I often felt Naomi Aldort went too far. That she had a good point and I was with her, until she went too much to the extreme and threw the point off a cliff. It seemed many of her points went from me nodding in agreement to saying, “Whoa Naomi! Too far. Too far!” I feel like I took her basic points and then had to throw the rest out of my head.
I felt like she was asking the impossible at times. I get that “power games” (where a child empties the garbage over and over while you pick it up while play acting that is is a big deal, but not trying to stop the child) can be a good tool for kids who are feeling a bit helpless, I just don’t have the time or the energy to play anytime my kids says to. I cannot possibly come up with the energy to chase Emery around every evening at bedtime so he can feel powerful. Often I just don’t have the time for a game of throw the sippy cup on the floor. There were multiple point like that that could make a parent feel like a big, fat failure because they just can’t do that today or right now. I don’t feel bad that I can’t chase Emery down to let him have some power. I give him other opportunities (and many of them) to flex his autonomy. Emery would play “power games” all day, every day, but that wouldn’t allow me to do the things that need to be done with the other kids, the house, myself, and my husband. I’d spend every waking hour making Emery feel powerful.
Dr. Aldort and I also disagree on expectations. I know that my living room being relatively clean is my goal. Dr. Aldort feels that as such, it is my responsibility to keep it that way and should my child trash it, I can verbalize my wish that it be clean, but I cannot expect them to help clean it. In my world, family just doesn’t work that way. We all have to pitch in and do what helps the whole. There are many goals that my children have that I help meet. Likewise, I expect their participation and cooperation with some of my goals. I don’t expect them to steam clean the carpet or keep all the toys on the shelves at all times. I do expect that they pick up their own things when they are done with them and that they pitch in on family cleaning day for the good of all. Mom is not a slave. Community works when everyone works for all, not just when they personally see benefit. I think it is ridiculous to conclude that we should have no rules, no expectations, and no discipline simply because some do those things wrong. I think we need to be realistic in our expectations without having none. I think we can disciple gently and appropriately for the child and situation without having zero disciple. I think my children can be told “no” and not have it damage them. (Remember that whole “not stopping the rain” bit? I’m not sure where that was in this concept of Dr. Aldort’s.) Discipline is not a bad word. It is not synonymous to spanking (though many that use physical discipline have great difficulty seeing gentler approaches as discipline.). Discipline is not bad. I know the extreme sort have ruined the word for the rest of us, but there are positive ways to discipline a child. I won’t get into all that right now, but there are plenty of books and websites about the subject. It isn’t spanking a kid or nothing.
I was also very confused when Dr. Aldort told me I should not praise my children. She seems to believe scolding nor praise should take place. Everything should be matter of fact and avoid trying to steer them on way or another. I want praise when I accomplish difficult things. I anticipate my children wanting the same. I think this is just one instance of Dr. Aldort throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Some people use praise to coerce their children toward certain things. So, no one should praise their children. I think that is very short sighted. I think praising a child in the things the child is proud of or does well is a good thing. And I can’t imagine stopping myself from telling my daughter the picture she spent hours making is lovely because I don’t want my daughter to think I only want her making such pictures. That’s just silly.
So, if you can leave the bad and take the good, read this book- it will do you good. If you are one that fixates on the bad- avoid this book, you’ll hate it. If you are a slightly insecure sort of parent who easily feels they fall short of expectations- avoid this book, it’ll make you feel worse. If you can read her expectations and feel they are silly and not feel personally assaulted- the good in this book could outweigh the bad for you. I, personally, gleaned quite a bit of useful information from this book. Even in the things I disagreed with, I found that it helped me put into more concrete terms why I would disagree with it.
This is my new tattoo. New tattoo, this is my blog. It is brand new. (Obviously, it is still in plastic.) I knew when I decided on this tattoo I’d get asked a certain question a lot. Now, I know there are plenty of other questions, but there will be one that people ask most often. I’ll hit the other questions first.
Where did you get this tattoo?
When I need a referral for anything, I ask the ladies of ICAN of Atlanta. I wanted a tattoo, so I asked for their recommendations. Among their recommendations was one for Family Tradition Tattoo. So, I did what anyone would do. I stalked those recommended on Facebook, and decided I’d check out Family Tradition. I am very, very pleased.
Not where, as in location! Where on your body?
Oh. See, this is why you should fully understand the question before answering. Sometimes “where do babies come from?” isn’t quite what you thought. The tattoo is on the inside of my left wrist.
Did it hurt?
Yes, a little. Completely bearable, but it wasn’t an hour massage. It was an hour of needles in my wrist. Which surprisingly is much less painful than the previous sentence implies.
What does the Pastor think?
He knew what he was getting into when he married me. He should expect such nonsense at this point. (And he knows what is good for him so he says he likes it.)
What do the kids think?
Emery said, “Dat’s coot!” Aidan said, “Mom! That is beautiful!” Imogene said, “Where’s Peter Rabbit?” Ransom said nothing, instead just tried to get me to feed him. (Typical.)
What does it mean?
Here is the kicker question. The one I am certain to be answering for years to come. (Maybe people will stop asking me if I know what causes “that” and ask instead about my lovely ink. Maybe.)
You knew you recognized those sparrows, right? See, here they are in their original form. In the story of Peter Rabbit. I used to read this book to Imogene every night before bed, so I know the story well. In the story, Peter disobeys his mother and goes to the Farmer’s against her warnings. Peter finds himself trapped and gives up hope. Some friendly sparrows fly down to Peter and implore him to exert himself. Peter musters the strength to free himself and get away, avoiding destruction.
Now, the sparrows could have done what I would do and tell Peter he’s in the predicament because he lacks good sense and refuses to listen to wise counsel. The sparrows could have freed Peter themselves, making them the hero of the story, but they don’t. They simply offer encouragement for Peter to do what they know he can do.
As a mother, I feel I need to be more like these sparrows. I need to be more encouraging (and not just to my children). I need to build others up, not tear them down. I am confident Peter realized the error of his ways. He didn’t need the sparrows to tell him what an idiot he was. As a mom, it is my job to be like these encouraging sparrows. I should be standing on the sideline imploring my children to exert themselves, do their best. It isn’t up to me to rescue them from every situation, but to help them find it in themselves to be their own heros, to do it themselves. As a friend, it isn’t my place to tell my friends when they mess up or what is wrong with their lives. We all know too keenly what is wrong in our lives without others pointing that out to us. (And I’m not talking about accountability, just meddling.) What my friends need is an encouragement.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
When I look at these sparrows, my hope is that I will be reminded to encourage rather than to nag.
Meet Emery. Adorable. Right? Come on, you know that kid is cute. Life with Emery is not always easy. I know, I know. You’re looking at that angel face saying, “Certainly he is the most perfect child ever!” Okay, so you might not be saying quite that, but something along those lines. But this kid is a challenge. And it is my daily mission to stay sane, while raising him lovingly and letting him be who he is.
This isn’t my first trip to the Raising-A-Toddler rodeo, and it won’t be my last. I’ve still got years of this stuff ahead of me. I’ve learned some things along the way thus far. And I’m sure I’ll have plenty more of these tips once Ransom enters the ranks of toddlerhood. But for now, here are 33 tips for maintaining your sanity while raising a toddler. There may be some you just cannot do. And that’s cool. There may be some that you just don’t need with your perfectly behaved toddler. Okay. Lucky you. Some of these may be just the perspective changer you need.
1. Messes can be cleaned.
It doesn’t matter how big or small, know it can be cleaned. And if you don’t know how to clean it, grab some Dawn dish soap and jump right in. It can’t be worse than the mess in front of you, right?
2. If you are not willing to DO something about your toddler’s behavior, don’t SAY anything about it.
I call this “saving my nos.” You know there are times when you’re, say, melting chocolate on the stove and you notice your toddler taking book after book off the shelf into a room beyond your line of vision. You aren’t willing to leave the chocolate to burn, so you yell, “No! Stop taking books off the shelf!” Well, your toddler will likely not listen to you. You are then left in the predicament of continually yelling at a little person who now KNOWS you aren’t willing to actually DO anything or you just let it go, and you’ve wasted a “no”. (You said no, they didn’t listen, nothing happened.) You get your blood pressure up about it. And you aren’t even sure of what they are doing in the other room. You might be right, they might be making a book tower to stand on to grab that beautiful ceramic vase they’ve been eyeing for years. Or they might just be giving each stuffed animal a book to read. You don’t know. But to save yourself the future trouble of them testing your no and save yourself the headache of having to keep yelling at the kid when they have clearly tuned you out. Just keep melting the chocolate. You’ll deal with the mess later.
3. Toddler proofing is not the same as baby proofing, and you need to do it.
When your baby was small, you baby proofed your house. You crawled around looking for hidden dangers for baby. You cleared off the coffee table. You put foam edges on your hearth. You plugged all the electrical outlets. But now, that baby is a toddler. And he can reach anything you can. Why? Because he can climb like a frickin’ monkey. (Seriously, Emery can scale walls!) So, that baby proofing you did just isn’t enough. You’ve got to tether the furniture to the walls. Anything of value needs to find a home in a box and hang out in the attic for a few years. Because, let’s face it, those peanut butter covered finger are just drawn to whatever it is Mommy finds most valuable to her. Wedding photos meet sharpie. First edition signed copy of a book, rip….. Glass vase passed down every generation on your wedding day- crash! Save yourself the headache and heartache and just put them away. (And by away, I mean far, far away. The top shelf might be 7 feet high, but your toddler can still get to it.)
4. Embrace the zen of things being already broken.
I once read an article about embracing the zen of toys being broken when you get them. Basically, you get something new and in your mind, the thing is broken. You spend each day that it isn’t broken excited, and loving it for the time. But when the day comes and the thing breaks, you don’t grieve, for it was already broken. Sounds strange. Sounds crazy. But it works. And it doesn’t just work for toys! It works for that awesome coffee cup you just bought. Or those lovely stemless wine glasses that you have been eyeing and finally possess. One day, they’ll break. View that as an inevitability. And when the day comes, and your coffee cup breaks (in the hands of your toddler, I’m sure) or your set of 8 wine glasses is down to 3, you’ll be okay. You won’t be upset. Because you viewed these as transient things. You enjoyed them while they were whole, and now you can move on.
5. Don’t buy double rolls of toilet paper!
But I’ll have to change my toilet paper more often! Hear me out, here. You buy a double roll, you use it for a few days, then your toddler decides to put the end in the toilet and flush, watching the whole roll unravel on its way down. You just wasted over half of your double roll! Buy the single rolls. When your toddler has his inevitable toilet paper adventures, less paper waste and lesser chance of a clogged toilet. Embrace the single roll!
6. Don’t get over-zealous about potty training.
You know, one of the most stressful events with a toddler is not the messes he makes or the things he breaks. It is teaching him to quit pooping himself. Most parents really stress themselves out over potty training. They have some self-imposed deadline in their head and their child will be potty trained by the deadline, dagnabit! Only, the toddler isn’t aware of the deadline. The toddler isn’t even completely convinced in the necessity of using the toilet. And so the battle begins. I battled with my first with the potty. I begged. I cried. I bribed. I gave up. I resolved to get her on that blasted pink potty! She eventually got it. She’s 5 and she can use the toilet now, praise the Lord. I stressed us both out over something she was eventually going to get. My stressing over it and pushing her did not help her in the least. It did not help me in the least. Aidan got a bit forgotten in the potty training area. I potty trained Imogene and needed a break, though it was “his turn” since he is not too much younger than his sister. I didn’t bother, citing that boys needed longer anyway and I needed a potty training break. Guess what? He still learned to use the potty. On his own. No tears from me. No begging. No bribing. He figured it out all on his own. Now, he is that kind of kid. (You know the type. Engineer brain, I call him. He sees the way things work and he applies it for himself.) But the point is, he learned without my efforts. So, don’t stress out over it. They’ll get it soon enough and diaper days will be behind you.
7. Don’t compare toddlers!
If you’ve got more than 1 child, you know that no two kids are alike. Yet, you’ll often find yourself comparing what your younger one is doing compared to your recollection of what the older one was doing around the same age. You’ll find yourself comparing your toddler to the one you see at the park. Stop it. Stop comparing. You’ll only frustrate yourself. The kid you see at the park, you see for just a few moments of her day. You don’t see the little train wreck she is a bed time or the way she pitches a royal-knock-down-drag-out fit if she even senses healthy food of any sort in her vicinity. Assume you see every toddler at their best. (Or, if you see their fall-on-the-floor-thrash-around fit, assume they are at their worst.) But don’t compare. I’ve had 3 toddlers thus far and can tell you they are each very different and each complicated in their own way. So what if Suzy 2 year old can recite her ABCs and count to 20. Your kid can climb trees higher than most adults!
8. Find a way to internally mock those “my kid is better than yours” or “I know everything” parents.
I’m not saying be mean to them. I’m just saying, take lightly everything they say. So, Suzy can count to 20. I’m sure there is something Suzy cannot do. Don’t let Suzy’s Mom make you feel like a bad parent. Your kids are different. You are different. She doesn’t know your kid. She doesn’t parent your kid. You re the expert on your child. Ignore Suzy’s Mom. Making a farce of such parents will keep you from taking their criticisms and “advice” to heart. It’ll keep you sane.
9. Don’t be embarrassed by your toddler’s escapades- they are no reflection on your parenting ability.
People without toddlers look at a tantrum and say, “Look at that horribly parenting. If that were my child I would, blah de blah blah. And furthermore, my child will never behave in that manner!” If you’ve ever had a toddler, you look at a toddler’s tantrum and say, “Man! I remember those days! Stay strong, Mama. This too shall pass.” See, there is always going to be someone in the crowd (usually the least experienced) who will have some critique and assume your parenting is to blame. But the majority of the crowd knows that this is just what it is like living with a toddler! So ignore the few that don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Ignore those shocked stares. Let your toddler pitch his fit because his Happy Meal now comes with fries and apples. (How dare they give me both and not let me choose anymore!) The “experts” around you (those normal moms who have toddlers or have had them) sympathize. Don’t feel the least bit bad or guilty. Toddlers pitch fits. Some more than others. You’re still a good mom. (And in my book, you get bonus points for continuing on your merry way and not let the fit even so much as faze you. I know you are my sister, a girl after my own heart!
10. What works for one toddler, will not work for all toddlers. What works for one mom, will not work for all moms.
You’ve been on the internet (you’re on it now!), you’ve read all the advice from all the “experts” about how to potty train, how to get your kid to eat better, how to limit temper tantrums, how to stop your toddler from biting. You’ve tried some of this sage advice. You feel like a failure when it doesn’t work. Wait! What happened?! Andrew’s Mother swore up and down bitter apple would stop my child from biting his brother again! But it just made my child more angry and he bit me! What did I do wrong?! You didn’t do anything wrong. You just aren’t raising Andrew. (And I do not recommend bitter apple for biting. I’ve never even heard of using it with kids, only dogs. So don’t try it and cite me on it.) You’re not Andrew’s mom. So, though the “experts” may claim (and I always check and see if the expert has even raised children) a fool-proof plan to sneak veggies into your child’s diet, know your child may not be fooled. There is no one size fits all advice for toddlers. There is no one size fits all advice for parenting. I’ve got 4 kids and have to do things differently for all 4. You think you’ve got this parenting thing in the bag, and then the next kid doesn’t respond to your ways. Nothing is wrong with them, or you. You’ve just got to adjust and adapt.
11. Just because he likes it today, doesn’t mean he’ll like it tomorrow. (Just because it works today, doesn’t mean it will work tomorrow.)
These toddlers are fickle little things. Today, string cheese is their favorite snack in the world! Tomorrow, they throw the cheese at you and scream! (You fool! Don’t you know string cheese is out! Fruit leather is the new string cheese! Sheesh.) Today, you find he’ll actually clean up his own toys if you play the “Clean It Up” song by Yo Gabba Gabba. Tomorrow, you turn the magic tunes on and he makes a bigger mess! Don’t fret. Toddlers are fickle. It isn’t you. Just roll with it.
12. Put the number for poison control on speed dial.
You know, the moment your kid ingests floor cleaner is usually a few moments after he flushed that poison control magnet down the toilet. Go ahead and put the number on speed dial. And don’t worry, poison control assures me that they aren’t tracking my calls for investigative purposes. (Yes, I called so much I had to ask.)
13. Put the number to the local Children’s Hospital Nurse Line on speed dial.
You’re at the playground, suddenly the stick that was a pretend sword is now in your toddlers eye. You’ll be glad you’ve got the nurse line on your speed dial to determine if your should take your toddler to your regular doctor, urgent care, or the ER.
14. “Child Proof” is a relative term.
When dealing with a toddler, “child proof” simply means it buys you a little time before they get into whatever it is you’re trying to keep them from. They’ll eventually figure out those cabinet locks. They’ll eventually figure out the child-proof medicine tops. The trick is to not give them long with those things, so hopefully you don’t have to call poison control. With a toddler, you want to double and triple up your child-proof stuff. (Medicine in a child-proof bottle, inside a tote with a latch, inside a cabinet with a lock.) Hopefully you’ll catch them before they get through all layers of protection.
15. Switch to more child-friendly cleaners, at least while they’re in this phase of life.
I know, you love your bleach and ammonia. But how much are you going to love your toddler getting into those things? Consider switching to more kid-friendly cleaners, at least until this exploring and destroying phase is over. (Fabuloso is safe-ish around toddlers. It is just soap, so drinking it just upsets the tummy. I know from personal experience.) Switch to vinegar or just soap and water.
16. “Spill-proof” is a relative term.
Spill -proof usually means that when the cup falls onto its side, it does not spill completely. However, when a toddler shakes it upside down, it might sprinkle. When they throw it against the wall, it might leak. And of course, they could just suck it out and spit it all over your white couch.
17. Lids are a must on all cups- even yours.
You think to put your toddler’s drink in a spill-proof sippy, but what about your sweet tea you keep with you all day? Put a lid on that, too. It won’t keep it from getting spilled, but it will minimize the mess when it is spilled. Consider travel cups for everything anyone in the house is drinking that isn’t at the dinner table.
18. Invest in a steam cleaner.
If you’ve got carpet and a toddler, you need a steam cleaner. Even if you have your carpet professionally cleaner twice a year, you need a steam cleaner. Some messes are just less stressful with a steam cleaner around.
19. Remember, your main goal of the toddler years is simply keeping the child alive.
If your toddler is alive at the end of the day, you’ve done your job. It doesn’t matter that all they’ve eaten is dog food and they’re covered in marker. They are living. No permanent damage has been rendered to them today. Good job, mom!
20. Delight in small victories.
Life with a toddler can be rough. It is easy to get bogged down. You’ve cleaned mess after mess, the house is still a wreck, the kid is throwing his umpteen-thousandth temper tantrum, and you’re about to loose you shmidt. Learn to celebrate your small victories! He colored mostly on the paper with the Sharpie this time, only a few marks on the table- that is improvement! He ate 2 beans at dinner tonight when yesterday he tossed his plate against the wall. Winning! He brought me a book to read to him! Sure he only sat for a few pages, but he is interested in reading! Yes!
21. The cuter the outfit, the more staining the mud/lipstick/paint.
It never fails, I put my toddler in the most adorable outfit and before we even get out of the house, it’s ruined. And not ruined like, he can’t wear it today. Ruined like, he’ll never wear this again. It just seems to always happen. The cuter the outfit is one him, the bigger and deeper the stain. Save your sanity. Enjoy the cute outfit for the two seconds it is cute. If you have to, put it on them and take a picture immediately. We all know the outfit will never be the same. (This is why I laugh when people say, “Oh, you’ve got three boys! At least you already have all the boy stuff to pass down.” Pass down? What’s that? Do boy’s clothes beyond a certain size make it out in one piece?)
22. If you don’t make the most of unconventional canvases, they will.
Toddlers love to make messes. It is just part of their little natures. If you don’t provide unconventional canvases to make messes upon, they’ll find their own. So, let them color the side of the house with chalk. Let them use the chalk to “decorate” your brick hearth. Because if I’ve got to choose between cleaning chalk of the hearth at the end of the day and cleaning Sharpie off my white chenille bed spread, I’m going with the hearth. (The second is impossible.) Their messes will be made. So take advantage of opportunities to put the messes in the best place for you.
23. The second you try to show them off, they’ll act a fool.
Emery can count. He can count very well. The second I say, “Emery, show Mrs. Jan how you can count.” he acts out. Not just folding his arms and refusing to count (though he has done so before). But yelling, screaming, kicking, “Noooo!”
Emery tells jokes. He only knows one joke, but varies it constantly. If I say, “Emery, tell Daddy your joke.” That kid will act like I’ve got two heads. Suddenly the word “joke” has no meaning. So, I prompt him. “Say, ‘Knock, knock!'” “No!” “Come on Emery. ‘Knock, knock!'” “NOOOOO!!!!”
24. Don’t take it personally.
They love you. Really they do. Screaming “No!” in your face and then throwing a cookie at you isn’t a personal affront. They don’t think poorly of you just because they scream “SHUT UP!” when you say, “I love you, sweet boy.” None of it is personal. It isn’t you against them. It is just them learning how the world works. (And by all means, you can tell them not to tell you to shut up or tell them they hurt your feeling. Though, I wouldn’t expect empathy- they’ve got none. Little sociopaths.) So, don’t get your feelings hurt when they refuse your kisses. They are just flexing their autonomy. It’s nothing personal.
25. They do not like age appropriate toys.
Save your money, they aren’t going to play with that toddler toy that is “all the rage.” Being a top toy only means that lots of parents buy it, not that lots of kids like it. You get them a play broom, they’ll still scream for the Swiffer. You get them a play kitchen, they’ll still be up under your feet to “help” you cook. Toddlers like the real thing. No fakes. So, shorten the Swiffer and let them to town. (You can actually shorten a Swiffer to be kid sized. Just remove one of the rods in the handle.) Give them a duster and let them work. Hand over spoons and bowls and let them play.
26. Limit your expectations.
They are toddlers. It is a difficult transition phase for you. They were your baby, now they are growing. As they grow, it is easy to have unrealistic expectations. While we can’t treat them like babies, we also can’t expect 5 year old behavior from a 2 year old. Just because they can sometimes help pick up toys doesn’t mean we can expect them to keep their rooms clean. Just because they sometimes refrain from taking the toys of others, doesn’t mean we expect them to be self-giving all the time. Anytime you find yourself frustrated that your toddler isn’t behaving as they should, think about what it is you are expecting of them and decide if it is an acceptable expectation. Don’t sell them short, but don’t hold such high standards they’ll always fail.
27. Don’t expect them to just go with the flow.
There are toddlers who go with the flow. It is built into their little personalities. They’ll always be that way. Everyone cannot be that way. So while you may wish you’re little one would just go with the flow, he may be yelling, “Go with the flow?! Woman! I am the flow!” And you know what? The world needs those kinds of people. Yes, they are inconvenient toddlers, but they make awesome leaders.
28. Bribes just don’t work. Save your breath and money.
Bribing a toddler is a futile activity. They just don’t really get the whole delayed gratification bit, which is what a bribe is. Putting aside the discussion on if it is best or not for kids, plain and simple, it just doesn’t work for toddlers. You may find it works one day, because the kid is tired of feeling amicable that day. But you’ll find that with a toddler, more often than not, your bribes will fail. So save your efforts and don’t bother attempting it.
29. You don’t have to entertain them all day.
That is a novel idea to some parents, I’m sure. But the fact is, your toddler will be happy, smart, and well-adjusted without your over-enthusiastic attempts to keep him that way. They can play alone. They can invent their own games. You don’t have to schedule activity after activity for them. It is okay to sit on the patio and read while they pick at blades of grass. You don’t have to be actively playing with them all day every day. Sure, there are times you’ll want to have a planned activity for them, but they flourish with free time. I know you think, “Lordy me! He’s just bored to death. He’s just piling up rocks and then moving the pile! I need to do something with him.” But stop! He’s learning. He’s exploring. He’s safe. He’s happy. You can sit back, drink your lemonade and continue reading your Sookie Stackhouse novel. If you’ve been entertaining your kid every hour of the day, you may find him resistant to playing alone at first. Encourage him to spread his little wings. He’ll be entertaining himself in no time.
30. Enlist in the help of his little friends.
Sometimes, talking through toys is the best way to get your toddler to listen. With Emery, that means talking to Ribbert, his Scentsy Buddy. A few evenings in a row, Emery suddenly HATED the concept of bedtime. This, from a kid who would BEG to go to bed just 8 months before. I tried talking to Emery. I tried just making him go to bed and protest and keep putting him back in bed. In desperation, I turned to Ribbert. I said, “Ribbert, stop screaming at me!” Immediately, Emery was quite. I continued, “Ribbert, it is bedtime. There willl be plenty of time to play tomorrow, but tonight, you must go to bed.” Emery joined in, “To bed, Ribbert!” I tucked Emery and Ribbert in bed. “Would you like me to sing ou a song or tell you a stroy, Ribbert?” Emery replies, “He like song. Twinkle. Twinkle.” I sang the song. Kissed Emery and Ribbert, and they were in bed. Suddenly, it wasn’t a power struggle to Emery. I took it from being between me and Emery and made it between me and Ribbert. Emery was moved from his spot as being in the fight for control to being an observer. He was free to “give in” without loosing his autonomy. I gave him an out to stop fighting.
It won’t always work. (See the previous point about everything not working for every kid, every time!) But if you’ve tried everything else, give it a shot. if nothing else, it lightens the mood.
31. Give them options, but not too many!
Toddlers are learning that they can control things. They are suddenly the boss of their world. From babies being carried about with no control over who was holding them, where they were, what they ate, or what the wore they move into this new stage where they can cause things to happen. If they scream loud enough, long enough, they get their way. They want choices, dangit! The trick is to give them options so they can choose. Let them have some control in their lives. But don’t overwhelm them. I usually give two options when I can. At bedtime, I pull out two sets of pjs. This turns the tables. It isn’t about if they’ll consent to wearing the pjs, it is about which pjs they’ll wear. The same goes for snack time. The entire contents of the kitchen aren’t up for grabs (it would take forever, and many mind changes to get him settled on anything). He can choose a banana or some cheese crackers. He’s happy. I’m happy.
Of course, there are times when neither of the two options is sufficient. That happens. Stinkin’ tiny, cute dictators! You just have to know what things you’ll just let go and which are non-negotiable. Are pjs for bed a must or can they sleep in their diaper alone? Are you willing to say “no snack” or is it okay that they chose a fruit leather when you offered crackers or a banana. Is the couch an acceptable napping spot or do they really have to go to their bed, even if it means they won’t sleep? That stuff depends on you and what you know of them.
32. If it looks like poop, treat it like poop until it is proven otherwise.
If a toddler walks over to you holding anything that appears to be poop, you assume it is poop. If you find a “painting” on the wall and you think, “Is it chocolate or poop?” You treat it like poop. Never smell a toddler’s could-be-poop hands. You’ll just end up with poop on your nose. In the end, you’ll never regret treating the come-to-find-out-it-is-only-chocolate like poop. You will, however, regret assuming chocolate when it turns out to be poop. And 9 times out of 10, it’s poop.
33. Enjoy it. But don’t feel bad that you don’t enjoy the moment you’re cleaning human feces out of the carpet.
You know they’l only be toddlers once (Praise the Lord!). Take the time to enjoy the funny things they do and say. Enjoy watching them explore and learn. Celebrate this time with them. But don’t feel guilty that at times, you just can’t find the silver lining. Don’t feel bad about being annoyed that you’re steam cleaning chocolate footprints off the floor for the fourth time this week. (Blasted “fridge lock” never worked correctly!) Sometimes life with toddler just sucks. Cleaning up their messes while being screamed at is no fun. Maybe you’ll laugh about this one day, but today, it ain’t funny.
Write down those messes they make. Maybe one day, you’ll get a book deal writing about all these escapades. That might make cleaning permanent marker off the hardwood floor worht it. Or maybe you’ll just pass your notes on to this toddler when he’s a grown man with his first child turning two. It just might bring him a bit of perspective. Or he’ll assume you are a vry lousy parent to allow him to stab his eyeball with fabric scissors not once, but twice! It’s okay. By the time his first child is 4, he’ll understand.
He’ll be a man one day. And this one, he’s going to be Chuck Norris.
Sorry for the lack of new postings here lately. Ransom is 10 weeks old. He is a great baby, except that he likes to wake up every 2 hours at night to eat. So, I’m not sleeping extremely well these days. Although, Saturday night, he slept for a consecutive 6 hours! (Yay!) And then last night, he slept a consecutive 4 hours! So, maybe we’re making progress to sleeping longer periods of time. (Maybe.)
We are gearing back up for the scheduled life. Ugh. I wasn’t sure I’d make it through last year with the weekly ballet classes for Imo. But we made it, and we added Aidan’s baseball to the mix. Imogene will be taking ballet again this year (and she is super excited about having the same teacher). Aidan is signed up for fall ball. So, here in a couple weeks, we’ll be getting back into kids that have schedules.
I really don’t know how some people do it with the over-scheduled kids. Maybe they thrive on routine. Or maybe they think that is what it takes to be a good parent. I don’t know what motivates them. I don’t know what sustains them.
Aidan and Imogene did enjoy their activities. They enjoyed them enough to pester me over the summer about the fact that they weren’t going to ballet or baseball. And I survived the other parents. (Though there was one granny at baseball that almost got smacked by a very pregnant me.) Hopefully this will be a good year. Hopefully they’ll have fun. Hopefully I can do more than just survive this year.
And I’ll try to enjoy my last year with just 2 with schedules, before Emery joins their ranks next year.
This is more or less a rant. That is your warning.
The kids are watching Nick Jr. this morning and some commercial comes on. “Did you know half of all kids go to kindergarten unprepared?” Then this celebrity goes on to tell you how you, the coach, can prepare you child for Kindergarten. Isn’t kindergarten preparation for elementary school? It isn’t even mandatory (at least not here). So, let me get this straight. You (the general “you,” not you personally) send your kid to pre-K to prepare them for kindergarten. (Several levels of pre-K, in fact.) Then they go to kindergarten, which prepares them for elementary school. Elementary school then prepares them for junior high. Junior high prepares them for high school. High school prepares them for college. College prepares them for the real world.
Am I wrong in thinking that this is the real world? This is their life. Why can’t we just enjoy living and quite perpetually preparing for a future that just never arrives?
The Princess began ballet yesterday. She enjoyed it. She flitted from girl to girl, acting as a one girl welcoming committee. She complimented them each on their particular style of pink leotard and comparing ballet slippers with each girl. She pranced into class, where a Miss Patty welcomed the girls in. She had a blast. She got to wear a crown, got to dance in a studio, and she got a smelly stamp at the end of class. (“It smells like butterflies and grapes and blueberries!”) She loved it. She can’t exactly recall what she did, but she knows she had fun and is looking forward to next week.
I, on the other hand, did not have much fun. Not sure if you know this about me, but I am not very social. In fact, I am usually labeled “anti-social.” So, here are just a few highlights from my experience at her first ballet class.
I was early. I mean, really early. And I brought my kid dressed and ready to go. Apparently, this is not the norm. 15 minutes early at a ballet studio seems like forever. All I had to do was change The Princess from her rain boots to her ballet slippers.
I was THE ONLY mother who put their child’s hair in a bun. I’m a rules person. I follow them. Even if they are dumb, I follow them while announcing how dumb the rule I am following is. The director of the studio informed me all girls MUST wear a bun. She had me seek professional help in the matter. (By professional, I mean a nice mom of a teenage ballerina showed me when she saw how clueless I was in the dance store.) I had it pinned up in a hair net! It was a good bun, dang it! And what do the other moms do? Well, it ranged from nothing to a plain ponytail to a headband to some sort of wild pig tails with half the hair thing. Not a bun in the group, except for my adorable gal.
Apparently, starting in ballet at the age of 4 is “late.” Over half of the other mothers knew each other from last year and from the other four thousand activities their child participates in. I was unaware of the tight social group I would be up against. I’m guessing if two left feet don’t do the princess in with ballet, her mother starting her late will! (I’m completely joking.)
I made the mistake of not bringing a coverup for her ballet outfit. When talking to the director, she told me no skirts or tutus were allowed. I failed to read the entire ballerina handbook (okay, so it isn’t a handbook, just a bunch of printed pages) and didn’t realize a coverup of some kind in required when not in the studio. Doh! I broke a rule week one! At least I didn’t break the bun rule and the coverup rule.
In general, I sat. I read. I watched the little screen. I tried not to seem more out of place than I looked. And I said all of two sentences in the hour that the girls were dancing. Next week, I may go get coffee next door.