Parenting

For LC, After Her First Birthday: A Poem

For LC, After Her First Birthday

What can I say about a toddler who eats zucchini “noodles”
with garlic sauce at the raw food restaurant
who signs “all done” when through eating and also means
all done with sitting in this bleeping high chair
so get me out of here fast mom or I’ll be yelling and I
mean really, really loud.

How much love is there in this child who waves and says
“Hi” to everyone she meets in the food co-op
who blows kisses to the dog in an adjacent car
who plays throw and retrieve the ball
with her dog-sister Maddy who may not be enjoying
the game quite that much, if at all.

Can you measure the determination powering this girl
who takes each challenge and wrestles it to the ground
until she triumphs over that chair she wants to climb into
or some step blocking her way or the yogurt she insists on
eating with her fingers and don’t help me at all, please,
you know I want to, have to, do it all myself
help. not. needed.

What lies out there in the world for this freshly formed person
who delights in each day and the wonders it will hold
who embraces the new and welcomes it to her heart
whose thirteen-month lifetime has grown butterfly wings
like silk so fragile and so incredibly strong
that will lift her gracefully until she is ready to soar.

Brenda Robert
August 1, 2010

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50 Parenting Lessons Learned the Hard WAy

50 Parenting Lessons I’ve Learned (The Hard Way)

Posted: Wed, 06 Jun 2012 13:14:07 +0000

 http://www.scarymommy.com/lessons-in-parenting-young-kids/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ScaryMommy+%28Scary+Mommy%29

1. Super glue has no place in a house with young children.

2. Neither do Sharpie’s.

3. There is no such thing as allowing your kid to play with your phone “just once.”

4. Don’t use Google to diagnose illnesses. Ever.

5. Dollar store toys cost far more than a dollar in frustration, anguish and regret.

6. The terrible twos are bullshit. The terribleness lasts through at least age four. Or, forever.

7. Always carry wipes, long after diaper wearing has ended.

8. Resist purchasing character Bandaids, unless you’re prepared to buy a box a week.

9. You can never have too many Goldfish. The crackers, not the live ones.

10. Don’t buy bunk beds, unless you have absolutely no choice.

11. Keep track of who gave what at birthday parties.

12. Never stock batteries in your house, or you will be forced to make obnoxiously loud toys work once again.

13. Buy Mr. Clean Erasers in bulk.

14. Backup all photos. Better yet, print them.

15. Look in the oven before you turn it on.

16. There is no point in making beds.

17. Accept the fact that you will turn into your mother.

18. Always check pockets before washing clothes.

19. There is no such thing as “running” into Target with children.

20. Take more video.

21. Daily baths are overrated.

22. Find young babysitters and groom them. The less attractive, the better.

23. Always have ample one dollar bills on hand for lost teeth and bribery.

24. Carry plenty of emergency snacks in the car.

25. Keep expensive cosmetics out of arm’s reach. Arm’s reach, on a stool and tippy toes.

26. The four year old check-up is brutal.

27. Look before you sit down to pee.

28. Train your children to clean up all Lego’s before bed, knowing that nothing is more painful than stepping on a Lego with a bare foot at midnight.

29. Save “no” for when it really matters.

30. Over-apply sunscreen.

31. Practice caution when approaching that stray raisin on the floor. It’s probably not a raisin.

32. Never pay full price for kids clothes. They always go on sale and the expensive ones inevitably get ruined first.

33. There’s a reason why people surprise their kids with trips to Disney: Their anticipation may kill you.

34. Don’t take their word for it when children say they don’t need to pee before leaving the house.

35. Lock your bedroom door.

36. And, your bathroom one.

37. Never open a can of soda handed to you by a child.

38. Walk away from temper tantrums. Or, record them for future enjoyment.

39. Upset as you may be, hair grows back.

40. But, not on Barbie dolls, so hide the scissors.

41. Never buy more than two pairs of shoes at once. Their feet will inevitably grow once you do.

42. No matter how hard they promise, kids will never walk that puppy as much as you hoped.

43. Give away the books you can’t stand reading.

44. No child went to college with a pacifier.

45. Don’t buy any toy that is meant to come apart, unless they can put it back together themselves.

46. Keep a well-hidden stock of lollipops.

47. Don’t allow Play-Doh on carpets. Or, indoors, for that matter.

48. TV won’t really turn their brains to mush.

49. A bathroom in a house with boys will never smell clean.

50. It doesn’t get easier.

Scary Mommy Book Review

www.scarymommy.com

Book Review of Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler

By Brenda Robert, Ph.D.

Among the most cherished and iconic of our cultural mythologies is that of motherhood. Linked arm in arm with such other icons as baseball and apple pie, motherhood has been painted as a blissful, self-sacrificing state and those who occupy the pedestal are somewhere between the Madonna and sainthood.  Depicted in art and literature as everything from soulful to stalwart, “mothers” of the world have an impossible standard to live up to.  After all, who can possibly match the good deeds of “Mother” Teresa or the ferocious force of “Mother” Jones?

The welcome news is that someone has made it OK not to live up to those impossible standards.  That person is Jill Smokler who has written a delightful and truth telling book called Confessions of a Scary Mommy (Gallery Books, 2012). Smokler’s book shines a light into the hidden corners of motherhood….you know those corners, the ones where the dust balls, animal cracker crumbs, and missing pacifiers congregate. It’s also the place where mothers hide their secrets, the dizzying and occasionally distressing aspects of being a mother which aren’t voiced to a judgmental society. Each of Mommy’s chapters is an essay prefaced by a list of Mommy confessions by other mothers on that particular subject.  For example, in the chapter on husbands: “I tell my husband we are out of milk so I can run to the store for ten minutes of quiet time.  I don’t tell him I drank the last of the milk.” On eating: “I eat sweets while hiding in the bathroom so I don’t need to share with my children.”

Scary Mommy is more than hilarious; it’s also addictive, especially so for someone who has been there.  For those who haven’t, it’s a peek behind the curtain of that sanctified state known as motherhood.

Brenda Robert is an author, poet, and mother of three, grandmother of three, and greatgrandmother of one. She earned the badge of MOM long ago and wears it well. She is retired from a career of teaching English and then keeping those teachers in line as an administrator. She is also my mom!

The Perfect Gift for Your Child—Something of Yourself

It may sound trite to say there is no greater gift than something that expresses love and a piece of oneself, something beyond a store bought gift, but I have recently found that to be very true.

For my little girl’s third birthday I was inspired to do two things for her:  One was to write a letter and one was to create a painting. Neither was originally meant to be a present; the ideas and the opportunity just happened to present themselves at the same time.

After I wrote the letter, I pulled up my blog and showed a friend of mine what I had written (“I Have Two Names Now: Mommy and Christina”). She paused thoughtfully and after a moment said, “You are leaving such a gift for her.”

My friend is a mother of two grown children and a grandchild that she also raised for the first three years of his life. This feedback coming from her meant something.

It was then that I knew I had written something meaningful; something that my daughter would carry with her through time.

My letter recaps the last few years as a mother and in particular how much my life has changed since I gave birth to my daughter. It also describes to her, while my memories are still fairly fresh, what her birth was like and what our relationship has been like these past three years.

I am thinking that perhaps I can print it out somehow and put it, with other such letters or essays, into a book that she can keep and cherish for a long time to come.

The comment that my friend made caused me think about the importance of gift giving and how ethereal the types of gifts we normally give are.

If one thinks back on it, the things we really hold onto the longest and the closet to our hearts are the photographs and memories of family and friends.

As one of her “real” presents, I gave her a very cute, Elmo playdough machine that talks in an Elmo voice and tells you whether you should make a square or a circle. It’s cute but in a few years it will most likely be long forgotten, as will the stickers or some of the other toys she was given. Many will end up in the donation box for other young children or will break after a few years of use.

These gifts will become distant memories, if memories at all.

But the letter will live on, even as she grows into an adult herself, or has children of her own.

The two paintings were inspired by Eric Carle’s illustrations in two of his books. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?  From the The Very Hungry Caterpillar I chose the beautiful butterfly that the caterpillar turns into at the end of the story. Carle’s rendition of this butterfly is simply beautiful.

The second painting is of a crane in Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?  I chose the crane for my daughter’s Godfather to paint because there is something about that crane that draws my child in. Whenever we read the book she always insists on turning back to that page.

Because she likes the crane so much, I thought it would be lovely to have a painting of it hanging on the wall behind her bed. We could look at the painting and talk about it while we read the book.

The paintings did not take much effort – even for two novices to acrylics. I had bought some canvasses and I sketched the outline of the animals onto the canvas. I had learned this technique from a local art studio that offers one night classes to adults who would like to paint. To actually create the paintings we then went to the studio for another one night class. The studio provides everything one needs: brushes, paints, easels, gentle instruction. It was quite enjoyable.

(There is an art studio in town called Simply Jane where you can go for a one night class called Paint with a Pint. Off we went with our bottle of wine, bags of chips, cookies and unpainted canvases. I had attended a class there before called Paint the Greats and the Sharpie idea came from there.)

We spent the next three hours with our bottle of wine, chips, easels and acrylics painting our pictures. The teacher then sprayed them with a glossy spray to protect the paint.

Here are the final products of our work. I think they look wonderful and I am so happy that I have them to offer up as a special gift.

Eric Carle’s butterfly:

My butterfly:

Eric Carle’s Crane:

Randy’s Crane:

I love these painting and I am sure my daughter will come to love these paintings as much as I do. Both will be hanging in her bedroom over her bed and hopefully she will cherish them forever.

But at the same time, it has occurred to me that although these paintings are a gift to my daughter, they are also a gift to me. For a brief moment they stop the clock at the age of three and they will hold a special meaning for me that even she will never be able to understand.

No matter how old my daughter becomes, whenever I look at those paintings I will remember what she was like as a three year old and how meaningful those images were to her at that time in her life.

I will remember parenting my little three year old girl and I will remember how she looked at them and said “Butterfly!” and “Geese!” when she was asked what they were.

They started out as a gift for her but in turn have become something even greater, a wonderful reminder of the fleeting moments of childhood and the special times we enjoy.

In the future, I hope that I am equally inspired to create some special gift that will stay with her for a lifetime and that will carve out a special place in my heart for me to revisit as my baby grows up and becomes a young woman.

Minneapolis Resources:

Here is Simply Jane’s Facebook page if you would like to see more:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simply-Jane/19831748624

More on Water Safety: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

Three children have already died this summer in Minnesota due to drowning incidents. These are two deaths that could have been prevented. One boy died while swimming IN A SWIMMING POOL with a lifeguard present.

Drowning is the Number 2 cause of accidental death in children under the age of 15.

From the article Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning by Mario Vittone.

1. Of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will drown within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.

2. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC).

3. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. Their mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water so they can’t speak.

5. Drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements so they can’t wave for help, move toward a rescuer, or reach out for a piece of rescue equipment.

6. Their bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a kick. Unless rescued they can only stay above water for 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs – Vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.

Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning.  They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck.  One  way to be sure? 

1. Ask them: “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. 

2. If they return  a blank stare – you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. 

3. And parents: children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.

Here are the stories about the two little ones who died. One is the son of a co-worker in my building.

WINONA, Minn. — A 5-year-old girl drowned Monday evening at Goodview’s LaCanne Park.

Emily Margarita Lopez Leon, of Arcadia, Wis., was with her family at the LaCanne Park beach when family members noticed she was missing.

The emergency report of a child missing at the park was called in at 6:43 p.m. and a search of the park and lake was launched.

First responders used a human chain to walk the swimming area of the beach. The girl was located at approximately 7:30 p.m. in about three feet of water, about 60 feet from the shore within the roped swimming area.

She had been in the water between 35 and 45 minutes, according to Goodview Police Chief Kent Russell.

The child was transported to Winona Health, where she was pronounced dead.

Goodview police, first responders and firefighters, Winona police and firefighters, the Winona County Sheriff’s Department and Dive Rescue, Winona Area Ambulance and Medlink Air joined in the search.

http://www.startribune.com/local/west/156543495.html

A 6-year old boy drowned in a supervised pool while at a birthday party on Friday evening at Oak Ridege Country Club in Hopkins.

The boy was spotted unresponsive in the water by a lifeguard, and country club employees and members were performing CPR on him when police arrived. He was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he was pronounced dead.

Hopkins police Sgt. Michael Glassberg said it was not clear what led to the drowning and said he knew of no issues with equipment safety at the pool. The pool has deep and shallow ends, a slide and other features. Glassberg said he didn’t know how deep the water was where the boy was found.

The drowning is under investigation by Hopkins police and the Hennepin County sheriff. “This is obviously a tragic situation,” Glassberg said. “We just want to remind people about pool safety. Summer’s here. We just need to make sure we’re being safe.”

Girl drowns in above-ground swimming pool in Minnesota

Published June 07, 2012, 06:11 PM

CHISAGO, Minn. — A toddler has drowned in an above-ground swimming pool after wandering outside her family’s home in east-central Minnesota.

The Chisago County sheriff’s office was called to a home south of Chisago City around 5:40 p.m. Wednesday on a report of a 14-month-old drowning victim. When sheriff’s officials arrived they found a neighbor who also is a nurse performing CPR on the girl.

The girl was pronounced dead in an emergency room. Her name was not immediately released.

Authorities say the girl’s father was outside working while his wife was inside with the children. He says his wife thought the girl was upstairs playing with her two older sisters.

The victim drowned in the shallow end of the pool. She may have been unaccounted for about a half-hour.

What do we want for our girls? Does the media help us decide?

Image

On a blog somewhere, Jane Quick said “I saw a very interesting documentary the other night about US media and how it portrays women. Among other things it talked about how the media (run mainly by men) pits women against each other to further their own misogynistic agenda.”

I want to see this movie. The way we are as women, and how we are with each other, will affect how we raise our girls. How the media portrays women and young girls affects how our girls view themselves and how we as women view ourselves.

As consumers of media in a very media-heavy period in the history of the world, we as mothers need to be particularly careful about the messages our young girls take in and how we as mothers might also buy into the messages and images the media has to sell.

If we don’t like what the media is selling about what it means to be a girl or a woman we need to teach our girls something different.

From the website of the film Miss Representation:

http://www.missrepresentation.org/the-film/

About the film

“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation (90 min; TV-14 DL) uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.”

If anyone has seen Miss Representation, tell us what it’s about. Tell us what you learned. Tell us how we can join in to fight against the media pitting women against women.

On a different, yet similar note, let’s take a look at what the March 2012 issue of Parenting puts forth as the ideal for very young girls. (In the image above you’ll find a full page devoted to one girl who poses as three different mini Suri Cruise look alikes.)

On a side note, I recently read online that Suri Cruise’s wardrobe consists of several very expensive purses totalling over $100,000. Here’s a link to her carrying one of her expensive handbags. What kind of precedent is being set for other young women when the net total of a toddler’s purses is more than most women’s entire wardrobes?

The Suri Cruise page in Parenting is titled “The Perfect Princess.” What does this say to mothers reading Parenting Magazine? Is it a forum to pit toddler against toddler or mother-of-toddler against mother-of-toddler? Who has the cutest clothes? Who is wearing the most expensive shoes? I can’t say that I’m immune from being caught up in dressing my child up in cute clothes, and part of it is about clout and status. I, too, need to take a look at my own behavior as a mother of a young girl.

But what is the source of it all? Where do we get out ideas about what a toddler NEEDS? Where do we get out our ideas about what it means to be a girl or a woman? There is a larger issue at hand and that involves the media.

The media…yes…did anyone happen to see that Time article called “Are you Mom Enough?” with the picture of the sexy woman breastfeeding her child? Of course, I jest. If you didn’t check it out here. It seems like it is a perfect example of the media throwing out some sort of inflamatory statement to get women arguing with each other and putting each other down. Does that create a situation where men can then sit back and watch while the women go at it? Divide and conquer, right? Oh, and by the way, Parenting is owned by Time Inc. Hmmm…..

So not only are girls well-dressed and sexy, but the women, their mothers, are also putting each other down and are in battle. If that was Time’s goal, mission accomplished.

Maintaining the Balance of Mommy and Me

Have you ever tried to keep a teeter-totter in motion without someone on the other side to balance you out? Well, that’s what it feels like sometimes as a mom, especially as a single mom. Balancing my roles as a parent, a professional, and an individual feels a little like running back and forth between two sides of a piece of playground equipment just to keep it in motion!

As a parent who has made some pretty child-centered parenting decisions such as opting not to have a crib and allowing her toddler to nurse until the almost age of three, the majority of my non-working and waking hours have been literally devoted to parenting. In addition to working days, I also work some evenings; I don’t have a partner to tag team with; and I usually go to sleep at the same time as my child.

Given these circumstance and parenting decisions, I have become quite creative in finding ways to get the time that I need for myself and in maintaining my identity outside of parenting.

Below are some of the strategies that I have found useful in regaining some of the “me” that gets lost during parenting. I have somehow managed to find ways to fill the nearly “on-empty, adult-me tank” that occasionally gets low on fuel.

And these tips are not only for single parents: Anyone who knows the challenges of parenting may find them useful.

Make Your Free Time Meaningful
What do I think of when I first think of free time? Let’s see…vacuuming the living room, unloading the dishwasher, and grading papers. How much of that is restorative to me? None! I am the master of getting everything done before giving something to myself.

What I have learned in finding ways to balance the responsibilities of parenting with restoring myself is to deliberately schedule activities during my twenty-four hour free time that are meaningful to me.

For instance, on Sundays I started going to a mediation class for an hour. It’s only an hour and it feeds me spiritually and emotionally. It’s like McDonalds for the soul! I also started running with a friend on Sundays. To save time, I suggested a location that is extremely close to my house. With this arrangement, I can do something that is meaningful without spending my precious free time traveling. Perhaps running around a lake further away would have been more slightly more scenic but it would have meant one less hour that I would have for myself.

Break the Rules of Parenting Occasionally
Taking a hot bath or even a quick hot shower is a luxury for me these days. It is quite relaxing and restorative, but hard to do with a toddler in the midst. So how do I gain some me time? By breaking the rules! Tonight my daughter wanted to eat her evening snack at a late hour so I made the decision to let her take her snack upstairs where she could eat it while I snuck in a quick bath! I felt ever so slightly guilty as I watched her happily munching away on her avocado while wearing her Elmo bib in the bathroom, but for a few minutes I got to relax in tub thus bringing some balance into my life.

Work Meaningful Activities into Your Daily Routine
One of things I love most is to ride my bike. A year ago I decided to move out of my townhouse and into a single family home so that my child would have a nice backyard in which to play. My house of choice was deliberately chosen because of its proximity to daycare and my work. The location of my house allowed me to ride my daughter to daycare on my bike. This has turned out to be a wonderful bonding ex[erience for us, as well as a centering and peaceful activity for me. We have watched the seasons turn, have observed the flowers growing, and keep a close eye out for dogs. At the same time it is me at my happiest. After dropping her off I am able to bike to work and then do the same in reverse at the end of the day. Instead of commuting in a car an hour a day, I am on my bike doing something I enjoy.

Network with Other Parents
Spending time bonding with your child are special, happy moments, but from my perspective, there’s still a self that needs to be fed. By forming social relationships with other parents, you can plan and enjoy activities that are child-centered but that also allow you to engage in healthy adult-to-adult communication. Coffee shop play dates, trips to nature centers, eating out: These are all activities that can include your child, but at the same time you are able to find ways to connect with adults and explore the non-child side of you.

Find People that Care about You and Your Child/Children
Going out for ice cream is so much more fun with another adult. If you are a parent that does most of the hands-on work, it is so freeing to have another adult around who can clean up that spilled water or take the child to wash her hands. A loving adult who cares about you and your child can be a gift that you can never repay. And the best thing about it: That other adult is FRESH! They are likely in a good spot mentally spot and probably have had a good night’s sleep whereas you may have been wakened multiple times by a child calling “momma.” Going out with another adult allows you to continue to bond with your child, but at the same time you can get that break you might need. And, hey, have a hot fudge sundae while you’re at it. You deserve it!

Find Ways to Save Time
A friend of mine jokes that I have hired a husband for most everything. I have retained the services of a doogie-pooper-cleaner-uper; I pay a woman who cooks amazing macrobiotic meals and drops them off at my house once a week; and the several inches of snow that fall on my sidewalks are blown to the side by a snow removal service. Yes, these things all cost money, but if this leaves me more time to take care of what is really important; i.e., me, then it is completely worth it!

Sign your Child up for Activities You Enjoy
My little girl is enrolled in mama-baby music classes, mama-baby yoga classes and swimming lessons. Each of these benefits me in some way. The music class is fun. I get to sing and dance and wave scarves around. Yoga is one of my favorite ways of keeping fit; during momma-baby yoga class I’ll sneak in a few extra vinyasas for myself. Swimming lessons? After the 30 minute swimming class I get to hit up the hot tub. She sits on the side while I loosen up those achy muscles. Score!

Don’t Pack Too Much into Your Free Time
I have found that when I have an evening free I want to do all of the things I enjoy in one evening. I want to go to a movie AND go out to dinner. I’ve learned over the past couple of months to pick one of the two and to savor the luxury of not rushing to and from different activities. By only going out to dinner I have a leisurely hour to get to the restaurant and a good couple of hours after my outing to do whatever I want at home. It makes for a more relaxed and enjoyable evening. Plus, I can get a 20 minute nap in before I go out if I so desire!

Balance isn’t about a fifty-fifty split between being a parent and nourishing the self. As a parent with lots of hands-on parenting time, balance means being creative about finding ways to maximize the free time one does have and about being intentional about what is being gained during that time. It’s also about finding ways to bring yourself into the parenting process and to secretly gain something for your own self while you are parenting. Happy parenting and remember “nourish thyself!”

Rediscovering Myself: The Momma in Me

When I had my baby almost three years ago, I felt trapped, scared, and alone. The forty-one years prior to my child’s birth had been all about me: my schooling, my jobs, my love life, my friends, my travel. I was a busy woman and I liked it that way. I came and went as I pleased. I enjoyed the world and a myriad of activities. I ate and slept when I wanted. Flexibility in my day was mine, and I LOVED it that way!

But then came a day when that all changed. It was the day my little, tiny, needy, crying baby girl was born.

On some level, when this precious soul entered the world, the previous version of me packed up her suitcase and left. Or perhaps, part of me simply moved over and made room for her little soul to join mine to create a new and better version of myself. Either way, this 7 pound, larger-than-life being had taken my life over like an alien in Star Trek forcing me, a forty-one year old, seasoned woman to completely change my life.

The fact that the person I had known as myself was gone scared me immensely: “Who is this screaming child robbing me of my sleep and my life?” and “Who am I and what is to become of me now?”

It felt as if everything I had known was gone and would never return.

My mother gave me some sage advice that kept me going. “It won’t be like this forever, Christina. She’s an infant. In a few years, she’ll be less dependent on you and you’ll get back some of what you feel you have lost. Those things are not gone forever.” I held onto the hope and belief that someday I would be me again.

The past three years since her birth have been spent assessing my life and who I thought I was. What do I keep of my former self? What do I let go of? What do I gain in its place? How do I mother while maintaining my identity as an independent woman?

Compartmentalize & Focus
I was so used to multitasking that it was extremely frustrating to be so incapacitated while caring for my infant. She was also a difficult-to-soothe, colicky baby that did not like to sleep at night. This is all exacerbated by the fact that I was doing all of the nighttime care because I’m an NMSM (Never Married Single Mother).

To cope, I learned to compartmentalize my thinking. In these early months, I realized that in order to be the kind of mother I wanted to be, I would had to give myself over to parenting during those precious hours that I was with her. So, when I got home from work, I would make a radical mental shift and clearly accept that the next twelve hours would be baby time. I would repeat to myself over and over, “This is baby time . . . This is baby time,” as I walked down the sidewalk towards our townhouse.

Be Present
There was no use wishing that I could parent an infant and continue to do the things I used to do. I realized that I had to be present for my baby and wholeheartedly accept my role as a mother–no matter how difficult those hours might be. At the same time, I had to temporarily leave my transforming identity in the car until the next time I went off on my own.

Me Time
When I did leave the house it was ‘me time’, and I rejoiced in that. Granted I was working, and most of the time I wanted to put my head on my desk and take a nap, but there were those intermittent times when I felt like my old self again. I would deliberately seize those few minutes to just relax and enjoy life. This came in the form of stopping by the YMCA for a soak in the hot tub for fifteen minutes or taking a bike ride around the block for ten minutes before the babysitter had to leave.

The New Me
Now that she is almost three, things have gotten much better, just like my momma said they would. I have not reclaimed myself completely, and I’m not sure that I ever will or even want to do so. In short, I simply don’t see the world the same way I once did.

For instance, I recently signed up for a pottery class and claimed it as a delicately carved out period of time that I could spend doing something just for me. It was meant to be a visceral, creative, non-stressful endeavor where I could explore myself through art. What more could I ask for?

Lo and behold, what did I do in my ceramics class for the first three weeks? I’ll tell you what. I threw little tiny baby pots on the potting wheel so my little girl would have a miniature clay tea set that she could call her own. One day she could say her momma lovingly and solely made them for her.

The old me would’ve thrown five bowls all for myself. But now, as a mommy with a little two year old living in my heart, I am thinking of tiny hands and small smiles.

There is a new and better version of me that is still evolving, one which I am daily discovering, developing and nurturing. Every day I strive to find out what parts of me remain, what parts are only meant for my daughter, and what parts are some combination of the two of us. There was a former Christina and she may be gone forever. But in her place is a person defined by both me and my little girl, the little girl who brings out the momma in me.

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I was thrilled that  “The Power of Moms: A Gathering Place for Deliberate Mothers” published a guest piece that I wrote.

I hope you enjoyed it. And thank you, my little girl, for the opportunity to recreate myself, as difficult as that may be at times.

If you don’t advocate for your child, who will?

This week a friend told me a story about a little fourth grade boy who is being bullied at school. His mother is at her wit’s end. The fourth grade boy is in a combined classroom (4th, 5th and 6th grade). A sixth grader is picking on the little boy – let’s call him Raul. Raul is little for his age. He was born earlier and comes from a long line of skinny children. He’s underweight for his age. The sixth grader is dumping out his lunch when he’s not looking. When Raul tries to retaliate by hitting and calling names he gets suspended.

But this is not where it ends. Unfortunately, technology also plays a role in all of this. The sixth grader bully has a smart phone that he takes to school with him and which he uses on the playground. He also has a Facebook page and he looks at the internet while he’s outside “playing.” The school called the sixth grader’s parents and they said they were okay with this.

I don’t know the details but apparently some of the sites he visits and images he shows around to the other kids and not G rated and some contain violent images.

Who is there to protect our children against other children’s (and their parents’) misuse of the internet and of technology? When did it become okay for children to be using the internet or smart phones during recess? Recess? Really? When I think of recess I think of kickball and dodgeball, not sixth graders passing around their smart phones to young, young children. Recess is a time for our children to socialize and get physical activity, not to surf the web.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a Montessori school interviewing the director of the school to see if it would be a place where I would want my children to be eduated. One of the criteria in my selection involves a LACK of technology in the classroom. That’s right, you heard me. No computers. No iphones. No internet. I want my child to be a child for as long as possible and for her to use her intellect and creativity, not a computer.

Another mother was at the meeting with a similar goal of finding an appropriate school for her child. However, during the question and answer, she asked the director if her 3rd grader can bring her iPad to school. I’m pretty sure my face showed it all as much as I tried to avoid looking shocked. Fortunately, the director politely explained the policy on such devices and said that the third grader would not be able to bring her iPad to school. Outside the mother (who seemed like a perfectly nice woman) confided in me that the school her son is currently attending, and the Montessori we were attending, “needed to join the 21st century.” I didn’t have time to explain at length why I disagreed but I did tell her my views were very different.

So back to little Raul. If I were his mother I would in that school faster than you could blink an eye, demanding a meeting. Demanding to know what the school was going to do to protect MY child from the misuse of technology on school grounds. It is the school’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all children attending the school. Schools can and do make policies to protect themselves and their students. Just because a parent thinks that it is okay for her son to be playing on the internet and sharing it with his peers does not make it okay for him to be exposing these things to other children on the playground or anywhere else on school grounds. Nor does any of this have its place in a public school environment. Public libraries have restrictions on internet sites that adults and children can view mostly for the protection of children.

Cell phones, ipads, iphones have no place on school grounds. At best they are detracting and distracting from the learning that is supposed to be taking place; at worst they are exposing other children to material that their parents may not want them to see.

Parents must be proactive and must protect their children. Insist on a no cell phone policy at your child’s school. Phones can be left in the locker or taken away and returned at the end of the day. Contact the PTA. Ask for a meeting with the principal. Do what you need to do to protect your child and to ensure the best learning environment possible. Leave parental decisions about cell phones and the internet to the home environment where they belong. Not on the school playground, where they go unsupervised.

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And I Don’t Believe in Boredom

I grew up in a family where uttering the words “I’m bored” were akin to taking the Lord’s name in vain. No child with as many toys as my siblings and I had any reason to be bored. We had games, blocks, dolls, toys and, better yet, books. We had a split level house with a family room, a backyard with a swing and a court full of playmates. I had an older brother and a sister two years younger than me—the perfect playmates. Most importantly I had my imagination. What possible reason could I have to be bored?

My mother grew up in the 50s in rural Kansas. Her family did not have much money and likely had many fewer toys to play with than we did. In addition, my mother was afflicted with polio at the age of eleven and was sent away for treatment over a day’s drive away from her family. She stayed in a hospital for 6 months with her family only visiting on weekends. If anyone knew what boredom felt like, it was my mother.

In the 50s there were no televisions in hospitals rooms. There were no ipods, ipads, smart phones, laptops, game boys or any of the other handheld electronic devices that the children of this era often sport. The greatest forms of entertainment were books, other children and their imagination. My mother learned the valuable lesson of how to entertain herself at a very early age.

From time to time I read about toddlers “getting bored easily” or I hear parents saying “Well, we went to that play area but he got bored really quickly.” When I read or hear those words, I cringe. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a toddler– a very active, easily distracted, slightly hyperactive two and a half year old. I understand that toddlers do not have long attention spans; however, I still do not mark up impatience or lack of interest to boredom. I mark it up to a lack of creativity on the parent’s part.

This evening I gave my toddler a bath. The twenty-five plus toys that I have bought and assembled for her over the past two years no longer seem to be of interest to her. If she is bathing by herself she will usually last for about one minute before announcing “I want ouuutttt…out momma…..out….!!!” Usually this means, I want to be with you mom. If she is bathing with her same age cousin, the bath can last for hours as she plays, dumps water on his head repeatedly, and “washes” his hair. If she is by herself and the bath has no longer become of interest to her it’s because I have failed to make it a place that challenges or intrigues her developmentally or I have failed to offer something even more important, my attention.

My daughter is not bored with the bathtub. She just needs the company of her mother or a fresh perspective.

Tonight when I put my toddler in the bathtub I took two of the toys that she’s had available to her for months and I sat down with her to show her how to make them work and to play with her for a few minutes. One was a cup and the other a cup with a wheel that spins when water runs through. Pouring the water back and forth between these two cups kept her occupied for the next ten minutes. Taking two minutes out of my evening bedtime activities opened up a world of entertainment and excitement for her. She was not bored with the bathtub – she just needed some direction as to how to entertain herself – and that is because she is two. These are the skills that we teach our children.

Adults in this era are accustomed to instant gratification. Hit a button and the computer comes on. Instant entertainment. Drive by a building with a window and viola! Instant dinner. Give your child an iphone and show them a video. Instant babysitter!

Before I had my daughter I was in a relationship with a man who was a single parent to a five year old and an eight year old. If the wait at the restaurant was longer than two minutes he insisted we leave because his children would not be able to handle it. A five minute wait for food was accompanied by a bag of toys to keep them occupied. As soon as the meal was over, he would hunt down the waiter or waitress because the kids were bored. To put it in context, this man was addicted to his Blackberry.

Regardless of whether those children were bored or not, by being constantly entertained or removed from environments in which they might have to invent ways to entertain themselves, they were being deprived of two valuable lessons: 1. We go to restaurants to socialize with the people we love, not to be entertained constantly. 2. If you want to engage in an activity while you are waiting for something, you can use your imagination to find something to keep you interested and stimulated.

In addition to being deprived of valuable lessons they were unfortunately learning a lesson that is all too common in this day and age: If there is a moment of silence or a moment of inactivity that there must be something to fill up that time.

For many parents, electronic toys have become a parent’s extension of their own need for instant entertainment gratification onto their children. Children are not being taught how to entertain themselves and how to socialize with other people, they are being taught that if they are lacking in something that is of interest they should either leave the environment or hit a button and turn on an electronic device.

Last week I was in an ice cream café and my young two year old went up to a three or four year old boy who was busying himself with his parents’ phone. My daughter was exploring her environment, socializing and finding ways to occupy herself that were pleasing to her. The boy was lost in his parents cell phone…well, lost in a non-human interaction and missing the challenge of learning to entertain himself. Refreshingly, the parents took the phone from the boy and encouraged him to socialize with my daughter. In my opinion, he should never have had the phone in the first place. Is ice cream and your parents company not entertainment enough?!

Using electronic devices to silence our children is crippling our children’s natural curiosity of the world and of their ability to socialize with others. As parents we need to be aware of this before we end up with a generation of children who are constantly reliant on some external source for entertainment. We are raising a generation of children who need it and need it now. We may be raising a generation of children who do not socialize well and who will one day be raising the next generation.

The change must begin now.

(Please leave comments in the comments section to let me know what YOU think!)

Christina