Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Fewer siblings to go around

Some friends of ours came over to the house and brought their children. My son was elated to have two kids to play with for the evening - even though they were a few years younger than him. At the end of the night, I asked him how it went.

"It was rough," he said. "Now I know what it feels like to have brothers. I couldn't get them to both agree to the same activity!"

It's amazing: One evening and he believes he has grasped the fundamental truth of having siblings - they don't always agree.

My son has told me that about half of his classmates have a sibling, which doesn't surprise me. Lots of Americans are stopping at one child. I still wonder what my son might be missing out on by not having a brother or a sister: Better sharing skills? Leadership abilities? Better empathy?

But then again, my son gains a lot by being an only child, too. For one thing, he has our complete attention and feels very comfortable talking to adults about advanced subjects.

I asked my son if he wanted to have those children over to play again and he did say yes. But, he then asked me for some help figuring out how to compromise with them. Not a bad skill for a kid to have - no matter if they have siblings or not. 

Do you have a single child or multiples? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Adapting our use of screen time

It's the weekend, and my son asks if he can watch T.V.

I pause.

I have a quick memory of watching Saturday morning cartoons - spending hours in my jammies with whatever toys I dragged downstairs with me. I have no idea what my parents were doing...morning chores? Sleeping in? Making breakfast? I only wanted to watch cartoons while they were available.

I tell him yes and we negotiate to him watching two episodes of a show. While he watches, I manage to get four chores knocked off my weekend list. (Is this what my Mom did while I watched T.V.?) He automatically turns the television off when he is done and we then do something together.

It took us a long time as a family to get to this point.

I used to be way more stringent with screen time, but my limits made my son have expectations of how much time he should have every day. There were fights. There were tears. Now, he has to ask for screen time and he understands that the answer might be no - especially on a school night. We used to use screen time as a punishment and a reward, but eventually learned that it didn't really work. (It turns out that it doesn't work for most families.)

So now things are a little more inconsistent...a little more negotiable...and a little more in flux. And maybe that it a good thing for my son's age. Like all rules, we have to adapt as we learn and grow.

What rule have you recently changed in your family? Tell me in the comments. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

The battle over milk in schools

While at the grocery store with my son one week, I asked him what his friends at school drank at lunch (for those who brought their lunches). He said that most of them drink Gatorade or other sports drinks. A few of them - like him - drank juice or milk.
I was a little shocked about the sports drink - how many calories could they possibly be burning at recess and need to replenish? - but felt that my son was getting the healthier option. 

I, for example, always drank milk at school when I was growing up. And, as a parent who packs their child lunch, I know that I am always thinking about how to make my son's lunch interesting and healthy at the same time.

But maybe milk isn't always the answer. In this informative (but long) article covering the struggle over dairy at school lunches, I learned that milk is at the center of a lunchroom war. While I learned late in my life that those dairy ads from my youth were not all necessarily true, I still tend to offer milk for my son to drink. Yes, I know there is calcium in other foods...but he tends to not like those foods still. We are lucky enough to be able to digest milk in our family, and my son likes it.

I feel like this is - like so many other things in life - one of those moderation lessons. You can drink milk...just not at every meal. And you can have cheese...just not at every meal. But, I understand that it is very difficult to moderate for an entire school.

What does your child drink at school? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The food that we share

As my son has gotten older, I've tried to give him more opportunities to serve himself food. This is for a couple of reasons. One is so that he learns more about portions and has a better idea of how much food to take without wasting any. Another reason is so that he understands that it is not my job to serve him food. But, I read an article the other day that gives my list another reason: It makes him a better negotiator.

I am not sure who thought to study this aspect of sharing food, but I guess that it makes sense. If you are sharing food from the same plate with someone, then you are forced to think about their needs and not just your own. It also makes you feel closer to that person.

This might be why I still like get popcorn at the movies: Popcorn is yummy and easily sharable. Eating it brings people closer together.

And whenever I spend time with my coworkers at a restaurant, I notice that we almost always get an appetizer or other plate of food to share. We encourage each other to take more; nobody wants to be the one to take the last bite of something. I think this is another way we promote closeness within the team - albeit a subconscious one.

I will continue to encourage my son to serve himself food, and to share plates of food with us - including movie night popcorn. Even if it doesn't end up helping his communication skills, I think it keeps us connected.

Do you serve your family meals or prefer for everyone to serve themselves? Tell me in the comments.