Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Share and Share Alike

High up on the list of lessons parents have to teach their kids again and again and again is how to share.  They get it, but they don't get it.  They need constant reminding;  it's a process.

So when your kid takes the initiative and makes a move to share on his or her own, it can be a cause for celebration.  It happened recently with my 4-year-old daughter, and it was a banner day.

I had picked up her and a companion of hers from summer camp, and we were on the subway.  They're good friends, but they have a toddler rivalry going on:  who's "first" at any given function...  first out the door, first to say something, first to suggest an activity, whatever.  It's exhausting, but it's what toddlers sometimes do.

We'd gotten on the subway to return home, and whether we take the train or the bus, the desired seat is always the window seat (never mind that the window seat on the subway equals darkness for the majority of the ride).

On this trip, it was my daughter's turn for the window seat, but since they were very tired from an active day at camp -- and therefore both on the brink of breakdown -- I told them that my daughter would start with the window seat since it was her turn, but that they'd switch halfway through the trip.  They agreed.

Soon after the first stop, I looked at my daughter, and she shot me a funny face -- one I couldn't quite place.  She then looked at her friend and proceeded to make the move to let her friend have the window seat.

It was awesome.  She hadn't taken that kind of initiative before on a sharing issue.  I was so proud of her, and I told her so.  She smiled.

That's it.  It was fabulous.  When your kid surprises you with good behavior like that, you take it, praise the child, then move on.

It was a good day.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Me Time

"I want to be alone!"

That came out of my 4-year-old's mouth a couple of months ago, and I wasn't quite ready for it. 

You get used to your kids needing you for absolutely everything:  eating, sleeping, pooping, you-name-it.  So when I heard those words, it kind of stopped me in my tracks for a few seconds.  Of course, I complied.  I'm no fool -- who wants trouble with a 4-year-old?

We encourage our daughter to do things on her own for various reasons, and she has always been fine entertaining herself with Lego, puzzles, and Play-Doh.

But this was different.   She and I were playing with her princess collection (yes, she has a princess collection), when she suddenly asked me without any provocation if she could continue on her own.  She said she needed to put the princesses to bed.

I'll admit that in my mind, I reviewed what had just happened -- Cinderella said this, then Ariel said that -- and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  It was just regular conversation between two princesses.  So I asked, "You want to play alone for a while?" -- just to make sure I had understood her.  She said, "Yes."

That was that.  Since then, it's been happening once or twice a week.  It could be when she's made a "bed" somewhere in the house and wants to "sleep," or when she's coloring. 

I guess I'm starting to get used to it -- and I'm certainly thankful that she has an independent streak -- but it still bums me out on occasion, especially when I'm having fun with her.  I mean, who wouldn't want to know what Snow White talks about with Sleeping Beauty?

So sometimes our daughter needs "alone time" from her Daddy or Mommy, or her 19-month-old brother...  or perhaps all of us.  It's perfectly understandable, but it reminds me that as she gets older, the amount of time she's going to want to be left alone is only going to increase.  And I already miss her.

For now, I can always just go grab my son.  He still needs me for stuff -- just about all the time.

When does your child ask to be left alone?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

How to Handle Mealtime Malaise

You sit down for dinner.  You place your toddler's favorite plate with portions of five different foods in front of her.  Then comes:  "I don't like any of this!  I never liked any of this!"

Forget that she's eaten three of those five items within the past 24 hours, without incident.  Right now, she hates all this stuff.

What do you do?  Here are six suggestions that have hit more than missed at our table.  Maybe they'll work at yours:

1.  Prepare the same stuff a different way.
I've cut up an apple dozens of different ways:  with skin, without skin, square chunks, thin sticks, slices with jagged edges, you name it.  My 4-year-old daughter's consistent favorite?  "Daddy's thinnest apple slices ever!" -- they work every time.

2.  Let your child help make the meal.
This one works when our daughter isn't tired.  She loves to help prepare food, whether it's just for her or for the whole family.

3.  Act like a clown.
I can't even describe to you how much of a fool I've made of myself, in order to distract my daughter or son from the task at hand.  One thing this method will always accomplish is remind you that you'll go to unreasonable lengths to solve a kid problem.

4.  Offer up whatever's on hand in the kitchen as a distraction.
This one's in the same camp as #3, but is for a younger child.  Here's some stuff that works for our 19-month-old son:  small metal measuring cups, cookie cutters, and his older sister's princess utensils (assuming she's not around).  He immediately plays with these objects, then starts munching away at whatever's in front of him.

5.  It's all in the delivery.
I discovered this on my own, then saw it recommended by others.  For our 4-year-old, I'll suggest a weird way to eat something, like munching on lettuce like she's a rabbit, or first eating the outside edge of a ravioli, then the middle.  It's even easier for the 19-month-old.  I'll lay down an undulating row of blueberries, or stack four to five pieces of fiori pasta on top of each other.  He looks at the weird food pattern, then at me, and then starts chowing down.

Do you have any good tricks for getting your fussy child to eat?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What I'm In For, Part 1

So there I was, hanging out with a bunch of fellow parents, as their 13- and 14-year-old boys were cruising around a hotel, causing a little trouble.

None of them were mine, so I didn't have much to worry about.  I was visiting my nephew and brother-in-law at a baseball tournament.  Spirits were high since their team had done very well to get into the competition.  Plus, they were hanging out at a hotel with a pool.

My son is only 19-months old, so I have a different set of worries in the "boy behavior" department.  Stuff like:  Is he ever going to eat anything that has protein in it?  And:  Will he and his older sister have a positive relationship?

But observing these kids provided me a window into the world of the young male teen, or at least part of it.  There weren't too many young women their age around, so I didn't get the full range of behavior, but I think I now have a better picture of what's ahead of me.

There was a lot of racing through the hallways and the parking lot, and an occasional gang-up on somebody, but for the most part, the kids all seemed to get along just fine.  Like many parents, I worry about the potential for bullying (which I didn't see during this trip).  My wife and I hope some well-taught self-confidence will keep that at bay.

So I wondered, What kind of trouble will my boy cause?

If he gets into the kinds of messes I got into, he'll probably (for the most part) be okay.  I was generally well-behaved in my younger years -- at least, that's what my Mom told me -- but I really don't know how big a part genetics plays in the behavior department.

My son is certainly more aggressive than my 4-year-old daughter, but that's generally considered a bit of a given, considering gender.

I figure if the behavior of those boys in the hotel is any indication, things should be fine.  It was just testosterone making a typical appearance.  As mentioned, it was mostly just a whole lot of running around.  I also heard a group of them got kicked out of the hotel's pool at one point, but that's no big deal, as long as there wasn't an ambulance involved.

Then again, only the teens know everything that went on in that building.  As my brother-in-law put it, "What happened in that Residence Inn, stays in that Residence Inn."

Are you worried about the trouble your kids might get into?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cleaning Out The Closet

Over the weekend, I decided to go through our kids' clothes.  They share a dresser, and between the two of them, despite Daddy's decent organizational skills, every one of the six drawers was so stuffed, they could barely be closed.  My wife and I had put off the job for long enough -- it was time.

I decided to take on the task solo.  My better half is better suited for it, since I'm awful at eyeballing a shirt or a skirt and determining whether or not it still fits one of our children, but I wanted to give her a break.  I'd go through everything, then let her make the final call.

With our 18-month-old son, it's always been easy:  the only issue is whether something fits him.  He's 18-months old:  he wears whatever we stuff him into.

But our 4-year-old daughter makes the whole wardrobe thing a different animal.

She's developed a signature look (weather permitting):  a short-sleeved shirt over a long-sleeved shirt, on top of leggings and a skirt.  She likes a variety of colors, but they're usually coordinated.  Thankfully, she's been backing off the "It has to be pink!" ledge as of late.

It's a rare day that she deviates from this outfit, and she tends to wear the same items over and over again (kind of like her Dad does).  So I decided to include her in the weeding-out process, figuring since the clothes she prefers are so specific, it'd make things easy.

I was right.  She basically hung on to all her favorite stuff, and rejected everything else.  Of course, I decided to keep a selection of the dumped items, knowing they'd be needed at some point.  But she's a strong-willed kid, and we know that there's a good chance she'll never wear some of the things that I'd chosen to keep.

This all got me thinking:  How are these kids going to dress when they get into high school?  Will there be any battles?

I'm guessing the answers are:  Who knows?  and:  Of course.

I wondered just how much trouble might be ahead in my daughter's case.  She doesn't really wear anything out of the ordinary, considering she's 4-years-old:  the occasional full-on ballerina outfit to school, or a favorite pajama top outside once in a while.  There's also the official Snow White costume from last Halloween that sometimes finds its way to a birthday party, but that's all normal.

Will my wife and I have to send her back to her room to try again, after she shows up in something a bit too skimpy for 8th grade?  Maybe.

But she's a good kid and a little shy.  I suspect there won't be trouble.  But who knows what will happen once she's faced with somebody she's attracted to.

What's the most outrageous thing your kid has worn outside your home?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mini-Male Bonding

I'd waited a long time for a solid male-bonding moment with my son.  Well, at least for most of his now 18-month-old life.

He's been a Mama's boy for a long time.  It's understandable, of course, what with the whole 9-months-in-the-tummy thing, as well as the only-source-of-sustenance thing.  But food-wise, he's been on his own for a while, and all things considered, he's now a pretty darn good, independent eater.

I'd expected more of a connection with him earlier, but it never really came.  Don't get me wrong;  he's a sweet, loving kid, very free with the hugs.  But when there was a serious comforting issue that needed tending, Mommy was the destination, and usually still is.

He'd pop out in a moment of need, take one look at me, then make a beeline for his mother's leg.  It was a rare instance that I'd been able to comfort him completely.

Except at bedtime.  For some reason, he prefers me when it's no longer time to communicate with his family for the day.  I'm great at putting him down.  Mommy at bedtime equals playtime.

I'd had my turn at the kid preference thing, though.  Our now 4-year-old daughter was a Daddy's girl for a long time.  My wife recently reminded me of the time our child raced for me, after Mommy and Daddy returned from a three-day trip without her -- her first significant separation from us.

Now, our daughter seesaws between us equally.  So my wife and I both know what it feels like to be the "chosen one."

So there we all were, one recent day, at a neighborhood park.  Our daughter was playing on the grass with a ball.  I was expecting our son to gravitate toward either her or his Mommy, per usual.  He of course wants to do everything his sister does (which got him walking earlier, but also invades her privacy, as she often points out).  He typically romps with her, then takes a break with Mommy, periodically throwing me a hug or a smile.

But this time, he chose to hang out with me.  He came over and started grabbing and yanking on a nearby chain-link fence, an action that felt very male to me.

It lasted a while, and felt good.  It got me envisioning a classic father-son activity that's sure to come:  tossing a baseball back and forth (though I think I'd prefer it to be a Frisbee).

After about 10 minutes, he went over and stole the ball our daughter was playing with, and we were back to the way playtime usually goes.

But I got those 10 minutes, and it finally felt like there would be a lot more to come.

What have you considered to be a good bonding moment with your child?

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Time flies!"

"Time flies," everybody says.  They sure as hell got that right.

I can't tell you how many times fellow parents with kids older than mine have advised me, "Enjoy this age -- it'll go by fast!" or say, "You'll blink and they'll be leaving for college!"

The first couple of dozen times, I smiled and nodded -- kind of believing it, but also kind of not, considering all the crying I've heard, diapers I've changed, and toddler negotiating I've done.  This toddler phase seems to last an eternity.

But last night, my wife and I were on a bus, after a rare event sans children, and we simultaneously spotted a very cute baby, looking our way from her guardian's lap a couple of seats up from us.

A woman in the seat directly in front of us was making loud, silly utterances, trying to engage with the child, so I'm guessing this kid was used to being a hit.

I made a comment to my wife about all those times people have told us how fast children grow up.  It sounded weird, since one of our kids is only 18-months-old, and the other is 4-years-old.  We remembered our experiences from back when they were the age this child was:  about 5 months.

It was a lot of work.  Not that it isn't a lot of work now, but at least they can transport themselves and communicate -- though the communication thing can be challenging at times.

We got a little nostalgic about all the time and energy that's gone into helping our kids understand and navigate their world.  I like to think we've given them a good start.

So there we were, both thinking how big our son -- only a year and a half into his life -- was getting.  The next second, we both started laughing at how ridiculous that seemed, but how true it actually was.

One minute, he was cooing, getting swaddled and requiring night feedings...  the next he was calling for Mommy and Daddy, drinking from a sippy cup and proving to us that he could be the angriest 2-foot-tall dude in a diaper and tyke-sized tennis sneakers that ever existed.

So does time seem to be flying by?  Yeah.  It feels like we reached this crazy, unpredictable toddler phase way too fast.  The good parts are great, but the tough stuff seems to last a very, very long time.  We try to focus on the good stuff.

Do you feel like your child is growing too fast?