Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Lay me back to sleep

I am a back sleeper. I try not to be, because I am more likely to snore when I sleep on my back (sorry, honey!). So, I try to sleep on my side, but I know that at some point during the night, I will roll over to my back.

My husband and son are also back sleepers. Actually, in the case of my son, it is sometimes hard to tell, because of the 20+ stuffed animals, blankets and pillows he insists on surrounding himself with every night.

When our son was a baby, we followed our doctor's advice and made sure there was nothing in the crib with him and always put him on his back to sleep. It surprises me that more parents are not following those directions - they are either placing the baby tummy-side down or including stuffed animals in the crib. It's hard to tell if the problem is new parents following well-intentioned old-school advice, or if there needs to be another Back to Sleep movement.

I remember when my son learned how to roll himself over. Every night after that he figured out how to roll onto his tummy once in the crib. I would put him on his back; he would flip himself over. I would check on him in the middle of the night and flip him onto his back, and by the morning he would be on his tummy again. We're both stubborn.

What sleeping position do you prefer - side, back or stomach? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Roaming away from home

When I was little, I had set parameters for how far I was allowed to go in my neighborhood unsupervised. Of course, "unsupervised" is a loose term here, because there were always people sitting on their front porches in our small town, but the point is that my parents were not expected to constantly hover over me. And that was great for me, because sometimes I wanted to get in some swing time and my parents didn't have to take me to the local park.

Oh how times have changed.

Sociologists are starting to study why we have become a society that believes our children are not safe. One are of focus has been around the availability heuristic. This is the idea that if we can recall a horrific event easily, we think it is more common than it actually is. (Think about all those missing children that appeared on milk cartons...putting the idea in every Mother's mind before breakfast was even over.)

It turns out that when we do hear about incidents of children being left alone, we also allow our own moral biases to color the incidents in our minds. In this study, researchers determined that we were more likely to forgive a parent for letting their child watch a movie alone for 20 minutes while a parent got work done versus a parent using that time to have an affair.

All of this research is good news: If we are able to change the conversation, maybe we will realize our children are safe. I want my son to explore the world, not be afraid of it. But, it is hard to encourage that when the world says he can't leave my backyard.

How much independent roaming of your neighborhood did you do as a child? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, August 29, 2016

When the rules aren't clear

Let's say you have a rule in your household that there are no electronic devices at the dinner table. You have this rule in place because you are trying to establish the expectation for your son early in life and you don't want to become one of those families you see in restaurants - the ones who are all staring at personal screens and not talking to each other.

So, you have this rule in place, and let's say (hypothetically speaking) your husband breaks it by checking for tomorrow's weather on his phone. Do you:

A. Remind him in front of your son that there are no devices at the table.

B. Tap into your inner Elsa and let it go.

C. Be slightly passive aggressive about it by writing about it on your blog so you can remember to have a conversation about it later on.

Whatever you chose is actually not important, because here's the thing: Parents are not on the same page as their children when it comes to technology use. The National Cyber Security Alliance funded a study (a small one, but still interesting) that found there is a large disconnect on what parents say are the technology rules for the household and what children say are the technology rules for the household. Basically, children aren't aware that they have limitations on screentime, have no use at the dinner table, that they have to ask permission before downloading a new app or that their devices have a bedtime. Parents aren't enforcing their own rules.

I'm taking this all in as a reminder that my husband and I need to sit down and hash out the technology rules for our household, so that we are on the same page when it comes to enforcing them.

When's the last time you reviewed the technology rules of the household with your children? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Long live Mom and Dad

My ears always perk up when I hear something getting linked to nature instead of nurture. (Science is cool.)

I remember when I was pregnant and my doctor said I should find out if my Mom was early or late with her first pregnancy to help determine if I was more likely to be early or late with my son.

(I learned that we hold onto the babies in our family for longer than 40 weeks. The doctors ended up inducing me anyway.)

I am not sure if that prompt by my doctor was backed by any science or if she just wanted to alleviate my fears. But the older my son gets, the more questions I ask my Mom about her experiences - just in case there is more to genetics than we give it credit for.

One newly popular discussion of nature versus nurture is how long we are going to live. I know lots of people who have learned their family history to be prepared for any medical anomalies, so it makes sense that they also learn how long their lives may be based off their parents' ages.

Maybe this all seems obvious, or maybe it is just a good reminder: Ask your parents more questions.

Do the people in your family tend to live a long time? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The eyes have it

My eye doctor's office texted me to say that it was time for my annual eye exam. And I immediately set up my appointment.

To put this in perspective, my dentist and my regular doctor have also both notified me for an appointment. But I haven't responded to them. (I will, just not right now.)

I love my eye doctor. I used to go to a mean eye doctor, but he was mean, so now I go to my current doctor who is insanely nice. I have recommended her to about 12 people and when my son is a little older, I will take him there as well.

Vision health is important to me. This is probably because I've had vision issues for as long as I can remember.

I understand that not all families take vision health as importantly as I do. Even though I know that, I was sad to read that children are not getting vision exams, even when they are covered with health insurance.

Here's the thing about eye exams that a lot of people don't understand: Vision tests and vision health are two separate things. And they are both equally important. I am super happy that my son has perfect vision, and I hope that continues. It is my responsibility to make sure that his eye health also stays as perfect as possible.

How's your eyesight? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It must be hard being a guy

I am super glad that I am a woman.

Like most people, I have thought about what life must be like to be the opposite gender (people do think about that, right?) and I have determined that being a guy must be hard. I can't imagine walking around with their equipment all day or having difficulty focusing on something and shoes at the same time. That seems weird to me.

The truth is, both genders have their struggles. Women, for example, face a lot of issues around equality at work. And sociologists have recently determined that men experience the greatest amount of stress and health issues when they have to take on the role of sole breadwinner. (Women, on the other hand, take a lot of pride in being the one who provides for the family.)

My husband and I have - at various times in our relationship - been the sole income earner for our family. It is stressful. It is hard. But, it turns out that it might have been harder for him than it was for me. I have found that life seems to work out a little better when we both have jobs, so I am happy that is the case for us right now.

I guess what I am saying is: Thanks, honey. Thanks for being there for me and our family when I've needed you to be.

Are you the sole breadwinner for your family? Tell me how you feel about it in the comments.

Monday, August 22, 2016

I am not interested in doing homework

The other day I reminded my son that camp would be over soon, and it would be time for him to return to school.

He frowned at me.

I ignored his frown and told him that when he gets home from school he will need to finish any homework he has before he is allowed to play. And he immediately burst into tears.

After a few minutes, I was able to determine that his tears were because he was sad that camp would be over and he was scared about how much time his homework would take. When he was calmer, I explained to him that his homework was his responsibility.

Because I don't want to do any more homework.

There are lots of sites out there that refer to homework as a way to have more family time, but here's the thing: Homework is an activity that children need to learn how to do on their own. Don't get me wrong, I am all for setting my son up for success (a set time and place to work, checking that it has been done, trying to help him when he absolutely needs it), but overall, I think that homework is my son's responsibility.

What about your household? Are your children responsible for completing their homework on their own? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Delinking the food from the fun

"Mom, is it a dessert night?"

I get asked that question almost every night. And I am pretty arbitrary in whether or not it will be a dessert night, as it depends on a lot of factors. To paraphrase Cookie Monster: Dessert is a sometimes food.

But, we sometimes do have dessert, where I will have my son taking everyone's order and we customize their ice cream for them. Or when we have gourmet s'mores. Because if we are going to have dessert, then we are also going to have a good time.

And that may not be wise of me, as this UK study found that children linked junk food with having a great time. Granted, the study was mostly centered around fast food advertising and not around eating homemade cookies while playing board games at home, but maybe I shouldn't make such a big deal around dessert.

I'm a little conflicted on this one...because dessert is inherently fun. What do you do in your household? Is dessert a big deal or not a big deal for your children? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Embracing the dark side

The bears in my household outnumber me. They are there in the morning, facing me with their anger at the fact that the sun has risen in the sky yet again, forcing them from their slumber and making them face another day. I try to focus on my thankfulness that it is another beautiful day; I try to enjoy the morning...but why do people think that it is OK to be snippy just because they are sleepy?

Never mind them. I will head to work and ignore the fact that I am stuck in traffic behind a person who is driving 5 mph under the speed limit for reasons unknown and that they are now not paying any attention to what lane they are in so I can't even pass them safely. I will listen to my podcasts and stay well out of their way.

Once at work, I will be a willing/unwilling participant in 12 meetings, and get an instant message from someone complaining that they are unable to book me for a meeting because my calendar is too full (oh! the irony! I could bottle it!). I will sweetly tell them that I am a very popular girl and try to find them a time next week.

My default setting in life is set to "nice." But science tells me that maybe I should embrace my grumpy side. In an article that I fully admit that my positive self cannot fully understand, sometimes it pays to be angry. I understand the article's research - I really do - but here's the thing: As someone who occasionally has to listen to angry people at work, I don't get it. I am much more responsive to the people in life who are nice to me and who are helpful and cooperative than the jerks who are complaining and making life more difficult for everyone.

So, I reject all that research: Nice people unite! Let's meet up for breakfast and pet some cute animals or do something equally uplifting. All those grumpy people can complain about us away from our hearing.

What gets you grumpy? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Even babies need a bedtime

When my son was a baby he slept all the time. (Mostly while laying on me.) I remember having to wake him up to feed him and all the times he fell asleep while still breastfeeding. When I asked our doctor about all this, she asked some questions about family history and determined that everything was fine. She added that we were lucky because our son slept so well.

I loved all the little routines he had through his waking and sleeping cycles. And, as he got older, we adjusted those routines to our working schedules until he ended up with a regular bedtime of 8 pm.

Now, more than six years later, he still has a bedtime that falls around 8:30 pm. Granted, today's bedtime routine - no matter how consistent we've tried to maintain it - has become a nightly battle of wills, but the boy (somehow) goes to bed at about the same time every night.

Sleep is important.

I didn't realize that those routine adjustments my husband and I were doing to give our son a bedtime were actually beneficial to his health (we were just doing that for our sanity). But, it turns out that babies need a regular bedtime, too. In addition to helping establish routines in their lives early on, regular sleep cycles help prevent obesity later on in life.

So, whether you put your baby to bed at the same time every night because you would like five minutes alone with your spouse or because you are taking advantage of the fact that babies can't fight back against the bedtime routine too much at that age, keep in mind:

Sleep is good.

What's everyone's bedtime in your household? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Will my real friends please stand up?

When we are children, life is simple: We divide our lives into things we like and things we don't like. Candy is wonderful; vegetables are not. Summer fun is the best thing ever; school is a chore that is dealt with. People we know are either friends or not friends.

It turns out that last one is still true in adulthood.

Before I had a child, I considered myself a woman who took her friendships very seriously. I knew my friends' birthdays, likes, dislikes, favorite movies and private moments. After childbirth time moved differently - and because I couldn't devote as much time to my friendships my relationship bar was set a little lower. Now, if someone relates to me when I tell a story around the struggle of motherhood, we are on our way to being buddies.

But I still consider those friendships to be real, just as I consider my work friendships to be a real thing. (I have, after all a best friend at work, who became my BFF because I told him that was what we were and he readily agreed.)

If this all sounds a little crazy, that's OK: Friendships, it turns out, are hard to explain and maintain. The issues stem around the fact that none of us have the same definitions of what makes a friend, so none of us are classifying each other the same way. When we are little a best friend is someone who shares their toys (even the really cool ones), but as we get older the requirements are a little hazier. (Do you consider your bestie to be someone you share life moments with or just a few really important moments...hard to decide.)

So we categorize. And we re-categorize. And we find ourselves in a situation where we have best friends where we didn't realize and friendships that have fallen by the wayside.

I think the point of all this is that you need to talk to someone about life, so pick a few people that you trust and go for it.

Who is your best friend? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Getting back to a few good books

There is something odd about my life right now.

My BFF at work asked me what I was reading these days, and after thinking about it for a few moments, I had to respond with "nothing."

He immediately asked me if I was feeling OK.

That was a valid question, as he knows that I am always reading something, and for a woman who once happily read 100 books in less than a year, it is probably a red flag of some sort.

So, I need to head out to the library this weekend and fix that.

I've always loved reading, and am glad that my love of reading wasn't killed by the mandatory reading we did in school and that I've been able to still find time for it in my daily life (until recently). I read a study the other day that reading can actually extend your life by up to two years. I don't believe that is true and it is more a study of correlation and not causation, but it was still an amusing read.

The point is to read because it is fun - something that I've worked hard to instill in my son and continue to work with him on. (Of course, when he reads he is learning things, too, but please don't tell him that.)

It's time to bring a few good books back into our lives.

What are you currently reading? Can you make a recommendation in the comments?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

You gotta know when to push them (part 2)

On Monday, I shared some of the ways that I push my son so he learns about money and doesn't give up on trying new things. And that is all fine and dandy. But the real challenge for me will be pushing him academically without become a crazy, overbearing Mom in the process.

Last year my son went through Kindergarten, and he doesn't realize all the things that he learned while there: More structure than he had in the past, socialization on a grander scale, more rules and regular homework.

If you ask him about Kindergarten, he will say it was "too easy."

This year as we approach first grade, I will have to pay closer attention to his attitude toward school and make sure that he is challenged. In other words: I will have to adopt some of the rules of the "good" pushy parent:
  • Teach kids to lose. If you learn how to deal with failure when you are a child; it makes life easier.
  • Teach kids how to study. Smart children are rarely taught how to study because learning comes so naturally to them. When they get older and really need to study, they don't know how.
  • Expose children to those who share their interests, as well as those who are different. It's hard to be the only child in the class who is into one subject - finding children with like interests helps children feel normal and spending time with children who have different interests helps them realize that there is more to explore in life.
Have you figured out when to push and when to walk away? Share your tips in the comments.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Knowing your rights before becoming a mom

They say that the first few months of your child's life are some of the most important. They say that spending one-on-one time with your infant is necessary for developmental growth. They say that Mothers will be less likely to suffer from postpartum depression if they are able to connect with their babies.

But, what they don't say is how to meet all those needs if you are a working Mother.

I live in North Carolina, and although I am not planning on having any more children, it bums me out to learn that my state earned a D from the National Partnership for Women and Families in terms of its laws protecting maternity leave and other support for new parents. I am bummed for the woman who sits across from my cube at work who is about to go on leave and will have to return to her job sooner then she would like. I am bummed for the younger women on my team who talk about children "some day" and what it would be like to struggle with the work/family balance.

I hope that one day we can do better.

What grade did your state earn? Check out the results of the analysis and let me know in the comments. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

You gotta know when to push them...

My son gets a weekly allowance and dutifully puts the money into one of his jars. We've used the money in his Give jar a few times for donations to his school and other causes that he chooses. It's the Save and Spend jars that I am still teaching him to work with.

I think he understands the concept of the jars, but he doesn't have anything he is saving up for. Sometimes he will tell me that he is saving up for a Lego set, but when I follow up with him, he says he doesn't want it anymore.

So the money just sits there.

Which is probably why this past weekend, I told my son to take some money out of his spend jar and we would go to the store. Here's a list summary of what happened:
  • He told me that he had more money in his jar, but he only brought $26, because that is all he "felt like spending"
  • We wandered the aisles of the toy section for an hour
  • I had to talk him out of purchasing something he already owned
  • He ended up with a Nerf-style bow and arrow set
  • The entire drive home, he kept saying, "I can't believe you let me buy a bow and arrow!"
  • Me either.
Once at home, he got uber-frustrated by the bow and arrow set and the position of his thumb on the bow. We tried to help him, but he was so amped up, we all had to walk away from him. (Better to let him fail and then work it out on his own.) After a cooling-off period, he eventually got the hang of things so I could make the parental points that it takes practice to be good at something and that it is OK to fail.

Now, he claims that the set is his favorite toy.

It's hard to know when to push and when to walk away, isn't it?

Friday, August 5, 2016

When it is too loud to think

My son recently went to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. When I was a child, Chuck E. Cheese was a wonderland of fun games and chaos. Now that I am an adult, I think of it as a casino for children.

But, I digress.

We were at the party and it was loud: There were TV screens on the wall, three birthday parties of excited children, some adults trying to get the children to do a birthday dance, a person in a giant mouse costume and the animatronic characters were going in the background. My son was so distracted that when I asked him later about that portion of the party, he said, "It was just too much going on at once." (Playing games for the rest of the party was, however, the best thing ever.)

I agree with my son - no one can really concentrate when there is that much noise in the background. And it doesn't even have to be a large amount of noise: I don't think I'm the only person in the world who has turned down the car radio volume to concentrate on finding a turn I don't want to miss.

So, it came as no shock to me when researchers started studying toddlers and found that they didn't learn as well in an atmosphere with a lot of background noise. Television, music, other's too much for their little selves to pay attention to. If you want your child to focus on you, you have to cut out the distractions.

I would say that advice works for adults, too. If you want someone to focus on what you are saying, wait until they are done with their phone, turn off the background noise and make sure you have their complete attention.

Is your house pretty quiet or do you think there is always noise in the background? Share with me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tell me how tired you are

It's the morning and your alarm has just gone off - an angry buzzing sound breaking into that peaceful murky bliss. You hit the alarm with a surprising amount of force and sit up in bed.

The problem is that you feel like you haven't slept at all and you are still tired. No, not just tired. Bone tired, where you feel like time is catching up with you and you are seriously considering laying back down in the bed. You do some quick math (ugh! math first thing in the morning) to determine if you have enough time off to call in sick to work or at least entertain the thought.

Your inner bear starts to emerge: If I can't sleep, I'll be grumpy.

In other words: You are exhausted.

Maybe we should take some comfort in the fact that we are all exhausted. And it's not just in this time - people throughout history have felt exhaustion, but may have had a different term for it.

Sure, we try to get around our tiredness: We drink caffeine, we play mind games to convince ourselves we aren't tired (with varying degrees of success) and we try not to compare out tiredness to other people's.

I don't remember being exhausted when I was a child, although (judging from my own son's behavior) I am sure that I moaned and complained to my Mother about being tired whenever we had to stand in line, complete household chores or clean up after play time (sorry, Mom!)

And yet, we still keep moving. Maybe it's the knowledge that stuff has to get done and we are the ones to do it. Or maybe we have hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Whatever the reason: I'm proud of you, and wish you a restful night.

How tired are you? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Looking for a moment of touch

My son was a snuggly baby.

I am truly happy about that. Sometimes I teasingly tell my son about all the time he spent sleeping on me when he was first born, but I usually tell him that story when he is sitting on my lap. I know that I am super lucky that he still wants to snuggle with me, and I hope that doesn't change anytime soon.

We hold hands when we walk, he likes to sit on my lap when we read together and he randomly throws his body at me in a "monkey hug" throughout the day.

I have lots of friends who are not ultra affectionate families, and I know that it works for them, but I can't help being thankful that we are a family of huggers.

And all that hugging is good for my son. We've long known about the importance of touch with babies - this is why so many of us initiate that skin-to-skin contact with our newborns as soon as we can. But there has been new research to indicate that the benefits of touch are long-reaching. Toddlers who are first making social connections are often soothed by touch while they play, as well as make stronger connections with the people they are playing with.

So, if it works for your family, don't be afraid to snuggle up. You may both be getting something out of it.

Do you consider your family affectionate? Tell me in the comments. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Living life on default mode

When I look at my phone, I see all the apps that I use the most on my first screen. I took all those factory apps that I never use and stuck them in a folder so I could have more room, and put the apps that I have to have but rarely use on a secondary screen. At the time, I thought of this as me staying organized, but after reading this piece on how default settings rule the world, I see that I have more work to do.

I am very good about changing some of my default settings (my ringtone, my alarm tone, the settings on my computer), but for other things, I have left it on the factory default settings. And I can't figure out if that is me being lazy or me just not caring. But the article linked above does have a good point around how position and placement makes a huge change in how we go about our days.

So, maybe I need to spend some time thinking about where I put things. (And I would like to apologize in advance to my sweet husband, as he may soon be faced with re-organized shelves or a pantry). But even more importantly, I need to show my son how he doesn't have to accept the default settings in life.

I am sure this will come back to haunt me in some way when he decides to re-arrange something in the household to his tastes, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Do you leave items in your household on default setting or do you customize them to your preferences? Tell me in the comments.