Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Moving back home

Sometimes I tease my Mom about her home (sorry, Mom), because she maintains two guest bedrooms that are reserved for her grandchildren to stay with her whenever they want. I tease her because I know it takes a lot of work to keep up her home, but she does a lovely job with it. And, my son absolutely loves the idea that he has his own bedroom at his Nana's house.

I should stop teasing my Mom. Because what if my life drastically changes and I have to move back in with her? I've done that once before when I was pregnant and had to live away from my husband (due to work), and I was very grateful for the extra bedroom and the TLC that came from having my Mom and Stepdad take care of me (thanks, Mom!).

More and more adults are moving back home. More than you think. In fact, the Pew Research Center has just released the numbers, and the number one living arrangement for the 18-34-year-old crowd has become living with the parents. This is the first time in more than 130 years that adults have been more likely to live with parents than on their own or with a spouse.

Pew breaks down all the data, but one highlight for me was reading that men are still more likely than women to still live at home. I'll have to keep that in mind as my son continues to grow older; I'll remind him that he always has a place to return to.

Would you consider moving back in with your parents? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Growing old together

I normally get dressed before my husband and he doesn't usually see me until he is also fully dressed. It is at that point that we realize we are dressed in similar colors.

Is this because we own too many of the same shades of clothing? Maybe. Maybe not. I'd like to think it is because he and I are in sync.

And there may be some evidence that supports my theory.

Most people know at least one couple that seems to grow more and more alike with age. (Of course, we've all seen the opposite as well, but go with me on this one). Their tastes become more similar and so do their dislikes. It turns out that this becomes true on a biological level as well. The longer a couple stays together, the more likely they will start to get in sync in terms of physical health. Liver functions, cholesterol, motor coordination - these are all things that tend to change with age. And if you've been with your partner long enough, they may be changing in a similar way.

On a very interesting side note of this study, they found that partner optimism also played a key role in partner's health: The more optimistic the person, the less likely their partner was to develop health issues during their time together.

So, honey, aren't you glad that I am always such an optimist at heart?

Do you feel like you and your partner are growing more alike? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Listening to your mother

When I was pregnant with my son, I was working at a company located about an hour away from where I was living. I would sit in the car and sing along to the radio, secure in the fact that my son was the only one who could hear me and he wouldn't judge me for being out of tune.

At the time, I realized how important it was for my son to hear my voice (muffled though it was) and I was happy to spend time that I would normally be stewing in traffic focusing on bonding with him instead.

What I didn't know was that even today, my voice causes a special reaction in my son's brain. That's right, science has discovered that Mommy's voice lights up more areas of emotion, rewards and recognition than any other voices. This is true even when a child only hears a one-second sample of their Mom's voice.

I'll keep this in mind as I read to my son at night, or when he sits in my lap and asks me to tell him a story. Maybe on some fundamental level it is more than the story that he wants to hear - maybe he just wants to hear Mommy's voice.

I need to go call my Mom.

Tell me whose voice you love to listen to in the comments.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Don't fear the needle

My son and I are at his annual wellness checkup. He giggles when the doctor looks in his ears, and he shows her his muscles. He asks questions about how the doctor is able control his reflexes and what his heartbeat sounds like. At the end of the visit, he reminds her that he isn't scheduled to get any immunizations until he turns 10. He waits for her to confirm this statement.

When she leaves the room, I tell him that just because he isn't getting immunizations any time soon, it doesn't guarantee a lack of needles in his life. He makes a face at me when I bring up potential flu shots or blood being drawn and make my point about needles being a part of health.

I wouldn't say that I have a fear of needles, but whenever I have to get my blood drawn, I look away. I am fine with the rest of the process - the strap, the tapping to get a vein to come up, even the slight pain of the needle going into my arm. I just don't want to watch it.

When my son gets shots of any kind, I do my best to treat it like it is no big deal. I try to distract him but I am honest, too: I say that it will hurt for a second, and then it will be fine. I hate seeing his little flinch as he gets poked by a needle and the immediate tear reaction. I feel very sorry for the nurse who has to give children their shots, and I thank her for helping to keep my son healthy. (She looks like she could use a vacation.)

My intent is to not encourage my son to develop a fear of needles, because our children's reaction to shots is based on how we parents act about getting them. A study published in the journal Pain has found that if you act fearful around your child getting a shot then they will pick up on that. If you talk about shots as a positive experience, then they will be less fearful overall. (On a non-related note, why is there a medical journal entirely devoted to pain?!?)

Do you have a fear of needles? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, May 23, 2016

It's time for some Daddy play

My husband is stretched out on the bed while I put away some clothes. What happens next is inevitable: My son comes into the bedroom and climbs on top of his Daddy. For the next half-hour, they play some game that I don't understand, but they both know the rules. It involves keeping each other down on the bed and tickling and laughter and it makes no sense to me.

It is Father and Son play, and it is super important.

When my son wants to play with me, it involves a board game or something outside: There are stated rules or I have to come up with complicated villainous plots for him to overcome. I have never been sitting on the couch and had my son climb on top of me just to block my vision of the television. If he climbs into my lap, he wants to snuggle.

Parents figure out pretty quickly that our children develop different ways to play with us. It is amazing for me to watch my son want the rough and tumble play of his Dad more often. And I like being reminded how important it is to his emotional well being. It's not a type of play that I would be good at, so I am glad that my wonderful husband has got that subject covered.

I'll be over here ready for a good snuggle when the guys are done.

What's your favorite way to play with your children? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Sometimes charts make me sad

I hate to bum you out on a Friday, but if you are a working woman, you have to see this. On this link from the Wall Street Journal is a chart showing how women earn less than men in 439 of the 446 major U.S. jobs.

I think of all the hard working women that I know who are also Moms. Of how they put in full days at the office. Of how they still do the majority of the child care at home. Of how they love their families and they love their jobs. And it breaks my heart to think that they are working for less.

Not a good way to start a weekend, but it's important information to have the next time you need to talk to your boss about your salary.

Do you think there is a gender wage gap in your workplace? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Choosing what to forget

Up until this point, my husband and I have been the keeper of our son's memories. I've written letters to him since I learned I was pregnant, I'm one of those scrapbooking Moms who has shelves full of family albums documenting our family adventures, and my wonderful husband is the photographer of the family, capturing all the big (and little) moments of our lives.

My son is able to retain long-term memories from his current age, and I often wonder what he will choose to hold on to and what will be forgotten if neither he nor us, document it.

Of course I want him to remember the good things in life and let go of some of the bad memories. Science, of course, has given us a way to do this. By changing the context of a memory, we can eventually forget it.

Yes, science is cool, but I don't think this is something that I want to explore with my son. We are made up of our memories - both good and bad - and although I have chosen what to write in our family history for the his first six years, I don't want to dictate what he will remember for the rest of his life by altering the context of an event. It will be up to him to remember the good, the bad and the everyday, whether I document it for him or not.

What's one of your strongest memories from childhood? Share it with me in the comments.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Leaving the cereal on the shelf

I ate breakfast every morning when I was little - oatmeal in the winter, cereal in the warmer months, pancakes or waffles on the weekends. Breakfast was, after all, the most important meal of the day. I probably needed that meal to sustain me as the nuns were not going to let us eat again until lunch at 12:30.

Times have changed, as my son eats several times in his school day: He eats a small breakfast at school at 8:45, which is followed by a snack at 10:30 and then lunch at 1:30. He also gets a snack at after care at 4:30.

We don't follow this meal schedule on the weekends. He never complains about being hungry either, as I normally kick off his Saturday and Sunday with a large breakfast of eggs and sausage, or pancakes.

What we don't eat is cereal. This seems odd to me, since my husband and I consumed a lot of cereal in our youth (his favorite was Golden Grahams; I loved Peanut Butter Captain Crunch). Cereal is not something we've regularly offered our son, which is a good thing, since studies are starting to question the effectiveness of "breakfast foods" like cereal.

There are several reasons for the backlash on breakfast foods, including that the "most important meal of the day" message was made up by marketers. But there is also some evidence to suggest that what we eat is more important than when we eat. A yogurt at 10:30 am may serve us better than filling up on carbs before we head out the door. Some of us may not be hungry until lunch.

So there you go. Eat breakfast if you want to and when you want to. For now, my son still seems to be hungry first thing in the morning on weekends, so I'll continue frying up the bacon.

What's your breakfast go-to food? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Where is your phone right now?

When I am work, I carry my mobile phone with me from meeting to meeting. I do not want to do this, but should I get a call from my son's school, I want to be able to answer it. I try to keep it on silent, so it will not ding during meetings, and I try to remember to turn the volume back on at the end of the day in case my husband calls while I am driving home from work. (I am not always successful at remembering either of those things - sorry, Honey!)

When I am at home, my phone generally stays near my purse, and I will check it a few times a day, always returning it to my purse so I do not have to search for it throughout the house. This is how I try to stay off my phone for the majority of the day.

More and more of us - teens and parents alike - report that we have an addiction to our phones. More than half of teens and around 28% of parents report feeling the need to always be on their phone or have it nearby to immediately answer incoming messages. That's too many of us responding to a little device at all hours of the day and night.

But breaking an addiction - any addiction - isn't easy. Digital detox experts (yes, that is a thing now) do offer some tips to help:
  • Have no phone zones - like the dinner table or during family time activities.
  • Schedule your social media time to a few times per week, so you won't needlessly post information and learn to streamline your time online.
  • Tell friends and family that you are cutting back, so they will know not to get an immediate response from you.
  • Give all your devices a curfew.
The point is to take baby steps and not to try and quit all at once. As parents, we are the ones who have to set the rules and then follow them as well, giving our children the boundaries they need for their own lives.

What rules do you have in place around smartphone use in your home? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A bunch of little liars

I once read about a Mother who was tired of her sons' lies. So, she told them that she was going to lie to them as much as they lied to her. For two days, she lied to them. She lied about plans to take them to the park, what was for dinner, that they could go out for ice cream, that she would get them that new game they wanted. Everything she said was a lie, and by the second day, her sons asked her to stop.

Did the boys still lie? Of course, but significantly less.

Or maybe it was less, because it turns out that parents are really bad at detecting children's lies. The experiments described on that link found that not only do we want to believe that our own children are honest, but we want to believe it of other children as well. Because of that, we are really bad at figuring out when they are lying to us.

There are lots of reasons that children lie - to stay out of trouble, to protect feelings, or because they can get away with it. It's going to happen, and we may not even realize it.

To combat the urge to lie, most parents focus on honesty and becoming good role models for our children. We also try to reward truthfulness whenever we can. One tip (also on that link) is that when parents do catch their children in a lie, they should to understand the motive for the lie, and not punish the liar.

What is the most recent lie that you told? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Balancing the weight issue

I have a little secret: I am concerned about my son's future weight. He's not in any danger of being overweight right now, but it is an issue that I try to keep my eye on. Is he getting enough regular exercise? Eating enough healthy food? Growing the way he should? I am concerned about all these things.

Clearly, I read too many parent studies and they weigh on my mind.

But here's the key point: I don't let him know that I am concerned. His latest doctor checkup tracks him within the same percentiles he's been within since birth. There's no need for me to change up his eating/exercise habits.

I'm lucky, because parents who are concerned about their children's weight and make changes to their diets are finding that the change may be causing a larger problem.

There's so much discussion around children's weight these days: Everything from parents not being able to recognize that their child is overweight to issues with body shaming. What's a parent to do?

The experts say to focus conversations around having a healthy lifestyle. As much as that sounds like a cheap cop out, that is pretty sound advice.

How do you help your child make healthy choices? Share your tips in the comments.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Good cop; bad cop

At work, when things get rough for my team, I have to play the role of bad cop. (Or maybe it is mean cop, I am not always sure.) The point is: I sometimes have to be the tough guy to back up my team. And I am happy to take on that role. At work.

Home is another story: We don't play any type of good cop/bad cop when it comes to our son. My husband and I try to be on the same team when it comes to rules, repercussions and everything in between. Does this always work? Of course not. There are certain subjects that my husband is more lenient on, and there are certain things that I am more lenient on. But, overall, I think we make a good pair.

And that is beneficial for our son, as good cop/bad cop parenting styles can be unhealthy for children.

This seems like common sense: It is unfair for children to associate one parent with discipline and another with rewards. Also: This is unfair for parents. 

We have one simple rule when it comes to dealing out punishments:

The parent who dealt the punishment is responsible for removing it.

This prevents the other parent from being the one who rewards the child.

What rules do you have in place to prevent a good cop/bad cop parenting structure in your home? Tell me in the comments (but tell me nicely).

Monday, May 9, 2016

This is your 2-minute warning

My little bear bears through the morning routine the best way he can. He whimpers as I help him get dressed and he slunks off to completed his bathroom stuff on his own. By the time he is finished, he is fully awake and ready to play. Our deal is that he can have screentime on his iPad until it is time to go to school.

I generally tell him how much time he has before he starts to play (generally within the 10-15 minute range). When I am ready to go, I tell him to wrap it up and we head out the door. I've never tried to give him a two-minute warning.

And that is a good thing, as researchers have found that the two-minute warning only makes children angrier. That's right: Warning your child that they are about to lose screentime only makes their tantrums larger.

It's important to note that this is really a problem with the one- to five-year-old set, or (as I prefer to call them) the power-struggle set. Little children still don't have a very good concept of time, so telling them that they only have two minutes left makes them angry, as they know that "two" is not a large number.

So...is no warning for the end of screentime any better? I think it depends on the child, but go ahead and leave me a comment telling me about your experience.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Calling your child by your pet's name

When I was little, my Mom would sometimes call me by my brother's name. It usually happened when she was distracted, or when she was in a hurry. I never thought about it much, since she usually corrected herself quickly.

Mom really knows which one is which.
Misnaming people is quite common - many of us accidentally slip up and call people by the wrong name. Science finally looked into this (thanks, science!) and determined that when we do call people by the wrong name, we tend to swap in a name from a similar social group. This explains why sibling names tend to get swapped, or why we switch names for our coworkers. The study found that the swaps have very little to do with physical appearance.

This explains all those times that you may have had someone call you by the family pet's name. It's not because you look like the dog or cat, it is because your parent considers the family pet part of the family group.

When's the last time you had your name accidentally swapped out with someone else's? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Who do you think is lonely?

Pause for a moment to take stock of your family and friends. Do you think that anyone you know is lonely? Did you know that you are probably right?

Social isolation isn't good for us - numerous studies have shown that people need connections. And, as if that wasn't enough, people who are lonely are seen negatively by new acquaintances. It's hard to make new friends to alleviate your loneliness if every new person you meet has a negative view of you because you are lonely.

Researchers wanted to know if people (generally speaking) were able to even tell if the individuals they were close to were lonely. The good news is that we can: Even when someone is pretending to feel socially connected, if you have a close enough relationship with the person, you can see through the clutter and detect the true feelings.

What do they mean by close enough relationship? Well, romantic partners tend to detect more emotional nuances than friends, for example, and parents who talk with their children often tend to score better than some friendships. So, it's all a matter of degrees.

If, at the beginning of this post, you identified someone you know as being a little lonely, you are probably correct. Maybe you should drop them a line.

Who do you reach out to for company when you are feeling a little lonely? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Focusing your attention on the important things

My son is six now, but I vividly remember the oh-so-brief period when he was a baby. He would sit on the floor with toys scattered all around him and either his Daddy or I would be on the floor nearby, watching him play and sometimes joining in to help him with his blocks or trucks. I never wondered if we were playing with our son in the "right" way or even if there was a "right" way to play with him.

But, apparently, there is.

Through numerous observations, researchers have found that this is the way that parent's should play with their babies:
  • Be nearby
  • Let the baby choose the toy
  • Interact with the baby and the toy
  • After the direct interaction, let the baby continue to play with the toy on her own, but stay focused on your child's play
What does all this accomplish? Babies who take the lead in picking a toy tend to have longer attention spans. Instructive play in which a parent chooses a toy and explains it to the baby doesn't have the same effect. And parents staying focused on the baby after the interaction (instead of looking at a phone or walking away) also increases attention span and concentration skills overall.

Who knew that play could be so important?

The caveat to all of this is that it is hard to do. Sitting on the floor with your baby for play sessions can be both very rewarding and sometimes (let's be honest) a little boring. But I think it is worth a try.

What are your tips for playing with your baby? Leave them in the comments.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The way we view failure

My son walked in while I was getting ready for work and said, "Mommy, I have some questions about ancient Egypt that I would like to talk about."

Of course he does.

I love my son's curiosity, so I listened to his questions, answered the ones that I knew and then found him a children's video on Egypt to answer the ones I didn't know. He was happy to learn more about Egypt; I was happy that he wants to learn more.

I try to encourage my son's learning wherever I can, so I was interested to hear that one of the ways that I can keep him motivated to learn more is with the way I approach failure. Children adopt either a fixed or growth mindset around intelligence early on: Either they believe their intelligence cannot change (fixed) and may give up on learning concepts that are too difficult or they believe that they have an unlimited ability to learn (growth). So, when it comes to failure, parents should try to focus on the failure as a learning opportunity rather as a reflection of their child's abilities.

Like most things in life, this is easier said than done, but it is definitely something I will keep in mind to ensure that my son keeps asking more questions.

What do you still enjoy learning about? Tell me in the comments.