Friday, December 30, 2016

When you didn't go home for the holidays

The holidays are a big deal in our household. Although Christmas is not my favorite holiday (it's Halloween, in case you are wondering), I really enjoy giving the "perfect" presents, and the food and the extra time spent together. I like the decorations and find joy in the idea that we are celebrating each other and another year of being together.

But, I do recognize that not everyone enjoys going home for the holidays. There is so much emphasis on family togetherness and making amends before the new year, that it is easy to forget that sometimes there are good reasons for family estrangements. And, sometimes I forget that not all families enjoy spending time together.

So, that is something for me to keep in mind as I catch up with friends in the New Year - to not automatically ask if they spent it with their families. Instead, I will focus on asking them if they rested and had fun and are ready to dive into the new year.

What was the best part of your holiday this year? Share with me in the comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It's time for a jingle about vegetables

I have a knack for remembering the theme songs to 80s television shows and commercials. (My husband is both in awe and disturbed by this "talent.") I would like to think that this is some sort of mental agility on behalf of my amazing memory, but the reality is that I watched too much TV and those jingles were meant to be catchy. So, they stuck in my brain, much like how I was stuck on Band-Aids brand ('cause Band-Aids stuck on me.)
What rhymes with "carrots?"

I don't wish this super power on anyone.

But here is some advertising I can get behind: A recent study has shown that marketing ploys work to get children to eat vegetables. Banners with colorful, fun characters making a positive association with vegetables influenced more children to visit the salad bar at school than at a location that didn't use the banners.

I like this study, and I think we should go all out with a song. Yes, I know that Sesame Street had Captain Vegetable, and he was a great start, but we need something that is a little catchier (and shorter) that children can hum while reaching for the salad tongs.

What's your advice on getting a child to eat their veggies? Share with me in the comments. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Books lead to snuggling

We are a family of readers. And, although my son has reached an age in which he usually wants to read by himself at night, he does sometimes ask that I read to him. And I am always happy to oblige.

I love reading to my son - the way we curl up in his bed and look at the book together and even the way I will veer away from the traditional story just to see if he is paying attention. (He is always paying attention.)

In all that time that we spent reading together, I never really thought about the position we read in affecting our relationship. When he was really little, he would plop down into my lap with my arms around him and we would look at the book together. He is much bigger now, but he still half sits in my lap when we sit and read together. And all of that sitting together is leading us to be more affectionate.

There is an article that explains all this, but for me, it was all about the pictures toward the bottom of the article: You can see the difference of reading on a tablet (single-user experience) versus reading from a book (multi-player experience). And how the book leads to the snuggling, which leads to the warm and happy feelings for everyone.

So, yeah...the idea of curling up with a good book just got a whole new meaning for me.

Do you still read to your child at night? What do you read together? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, December 23, 2016

From joy to anger to snark

It's hard for me to look at my son now and imagine the swirling mass of hormones that he will become one day. It is equally hard for me to think about the time that he will not need me around anymore (but still want me there, like a plant). But, those days are coming, whether I like it or not. So, I guess that it is good for me to start reading articles on teenagers now to mentally prepare myself (well, as much as any parent can prepare themselves) for the inevitable.
One area of his future self seems very familiar to me: Emotional triggers. Parents see their teens' emotions swing from one state to the next quickly, but what they don't see is how their own behavior can be interpreted as negative by their teenager. And since parental negative behavior is often a catalyst, it can set off a teen's own emotional spiral.

So, basically, my son will have the same mood swings that he does now (from joy to anger to snark in six seconds), but he'll do a slightly better job of recognizing the catalysts.

Really interesting though, is the difference between Moms and Dads. If Mom misidentifies her teen's anger, then the teen will usually storm off. If Dad misinterprets the anger, however, the teen is much more likely to respond aggressively.

While this is a unique division of the sexes, it does not let Dads off the hook for the trials of dealing with teenagers.

For now, I will take things one day at a time with my still-a-child son and try to help him identify all the emotions he experiences that lead to the big blowout.

Do you think your teen misinterprets your behavior as overly negative? Tell me in the comments. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Don't forget to water the parents

I am very happy to be back at home to spend time with my son, especially as he is about to be off from school for the holiday. We have a list of special things for the two of us to do together while we are home. I am trying to treasure this time, because I know that one day, he will want his Mommy to be just like a plant.

Yes, it is true: Teens want their parents to be around, but in the background and not interfering with their lives, much like a potted plant.

But there are worse things in life than becoming a plant in my son's life, I suppose. At least I am around to watch him grow and I can still trip him with my roots when I think he is headed down the wrong path. I just hope he remembers to water me from time to time, since I have a feeling I will no longer be showered in his love and adoration as I am today.

Since no one has put Mommy in a corner (yet), I will enjoy making happy memories of this time with my son.

Did you wish your parent was around (in the background) more often when you were a teenager? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Catching up with my guys

I was traveling for work last week and really missed my guys. The week before I left, I had gotten into the habit of playing card games with my son in the morning, and I missed that special time while I was away.

My son missed me, too, but he did have lots of fun with his Daddy. Which is good, because Dads are important.

I read a lot of parent studies, and frequently the research is focused on Moms. Dads, somehow, rarely get studied (or blamed) for whatever the child's behavior is. But a new study underlines how important Fathers are to the emotional stability of their children. And, for Dads, it's all about confidence.

This study made a lot of sense to me: Confident Dads will pick up more baby duties which helps relieve stress from Moms. And, as the child gets older, he or she will reap the rewards of emotional and behavior stability from both parents.

Am I pointing this out to get Dads to pick up more child duties? No. (But if that happens then that is a great side benefit.) I am pointing this out to say that Dads matter.

So here comes the loaded question: Do you share child rearing duties equally with your spouse? Share with me in the comments.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Unpacking at the end of the day

My son has a few responsibilities when he gets home from school, which includes unpacking his book bag.

This is a relatively simple gig, and yet, it can go so very, very wrong. I have often come home from work to find his bag still packed on the couch or his things scattered in a few locations. Don't get me wrong - he does this right on most days, but it is those days that materials are scattered that I have found I need to pay more attention to him.

I've talked before about how I use traffic to unwind from work. That commute home with a podcast that makes me laugh or think is what I need to transition from "work Lauren" to "home Lauren." That transition time helps me refocus my energy.

But my son doesn't have that. He gets off the bus and is expected to come home, unpack his bag and start his homework. If he has had a rough day, he usually doesn't get asked about it until the dinner table.

There's this great article about children and daycare, and how children might be feeling stress at going to school everyday, but they don't have a way to verbally express it. This is why most parents with children in school before the age of kindergarten will have at least one story of their child getting bitten, hit or hurt in some way. All those feelings come out in the form of teeth and kicks.

My son is obviously older and he has the ability to say what he is feeling, but there are days when he still gets overwhelmed and the words escape him. Those are the days where his backpack is as scattered as his thoughts and feelings. And those are the days when I need to pay him some extra attention to help him find the words.

What signs of stress does your child show you? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thoughts about the end of things

We were headed to swim lessons and my son said to me, "Mom, what if the sun exploded but somehow didn't blow up the whole earth and we didn't have a sun anymore? It would be winter all the time and maybe it would snow."

I had no answer to this, which was fine, because he continued. "Maybe the sun would reform from its own gasses and we would get a sun again but it would take billions of years."

At that moment, I couldn't decide if that was the more interesting end-of-the-world scenario or if the one he told me earlier in the day about a real zombie invasion and us having to live our lives in bunkers was.

I am thankful for my son's active imagination, but I do wonder what the root cause is for the uptick in his survival-of-our-family fantasies. I let him have his fun, because the truth can be much scarier. For example: Life expectancy in the U.S. just dropped. It wasn't the significance of the age dropping that bummed me out, it was that it dropped because of an increase in deaths that are preventable.

That all reminds me that it is my job to teach my son about how important health is. After all, he will need to be in top shape to outrun our alien overlords, which my son assures me could happen any day now.

Would you want to know how it all ends? Tell me in the comments. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Living your life for likes

I have always thought that I've done a good job documenting my son's life, especially during his early years, which he will not remember. Here's my list:
  • I took a photo of him every day for the first year of his life. (Mostly because my Mom asked me to, but I am glad that I did it.)
  • I have written him letters since I learned I was pregnant with him.
  • We have loads of pictures and videos of him.
  • I've taken a lot of those pictures and scrapbooked them.
  • His baby book is complete.
But for some families that list wouldn't be enough.

A recent Washington Post article discusses families with children who live their lives on YouTube. The article discusses a very valid question: If your life is recorded for an audience, are you living your life or playing a part? Older children will fare better in making that distinction, of course, but I have to wonder about the long-term effects of knowing that strangers are watching your everyday life.

I am clearly not the person who would sign their family up for this gig, despite the benefits gained in responsibilities (having your children scheduling and creating their own content) and financial rewards (as most sites are money-makers for the families).

In our household, the videos I take of our son's life are just for us.

Is your family interested in creating a YouTube channel? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The 15-minute mile

Something very silly occurred to me the other day, as I was thinking about how I don't make enough time in my day for exercise. My problem is that I have been looking at my schedule for a large block of time, but the truth is I don't need that. I just need 15 minutes.

I know that is all the time I need, as there is a movement in Britain's schools right now where students are released from class for 15 minutes to walk/run a mile. They love the fresh air and social aspect, and come back to their seats completely refreshed and better able to focus. Teachers who adopt it find that the class performance has improved and they are proud in their effort to help fight childhood obesity.

Fifteen minutes is easy. I should be able to find 15 minutes in my day to knock off a few quick laps to clear my head, breathe fresh air and return to my desk. Right?


Do you have 15 free minutes in your day to exercise? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How was recess today?

In our family, we've been working on kindness. And because we are focused on that, I get to hear about recess a lot.

You see, almost every night at dinner, my son says that recess was the best part of his day. And so I ask him why it was so great, and I ask him who he played with and I ask him what he might do differently at recess tomorrow.

I avoid asking him about homework or his spelling test or what he is learning in math.

I do all this, because I don't want him to think that I only value his grades and successes. I want to hear about who he played with so I can encourage his kindness toward others.

None of this is easy, by the way, because we have spent the last few days working on his spelling words or the special assignment that was sent home and I really, REALLY want to know how it went, but...he wants to talk about recess. So, we talk about that.

This is what makes it easier: Weirdly, when children believe that their parents are focused on kindness over achievement, the academics tends to take care of itself. I am not 100% sure how that works, but I'll go with it.

Do you focus on kindness over academics in your home? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The annual gift buying extravaganza

My son struggled with his Christmas wish list to Santa this year. My husband had a theory that this was because our son has too much stuff and didn't know what to ask for. While I do not disagree with the viewpoint that our son has too much stuff, I think there was another reason that he struggled with the list:

We don't watch live television, so we don't see any commercials.

When my husband and I were children, we watched lots of TV and were inundated with toy commercials and stuff that we wanted to collect. Filling out wish lists at Christmastime was easy. Now, I have to take my son through a toy store for him to gather ideas.

I'm not really complaining; it's just...different.

But maybe we should look for another tradition in our family for next year's Christmas. We get so many material goods from our relatives, so perhaps we should give the gift of experiences instead. There have been some recent studies showing that time together creates more happiness than material goods.

Something to keep in mind, for sure.

What's at the top of your wish list this holiday season? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Later in life pregnancies

I am happy being the mother of one. My husband and I are satisfied with our family size and neither of us is pining for another baby. Don't get me wrong - I do sometimes wonder what life would be like with a second child (and it usually scares me a bit). Also - at least in my mind - I think of myself as too old to have another baby.

There has been a lot of research around high risk pregnancies, so it was surprising to see this small but interesting study done on the positive effects of having children later in life. I've seen research before about the benefits of having children earlier in life, and all those benefits were gains for the children. But this study focused entirely on what the mother gains from a later-in-life pregnancy: Potentially longer lifespan and higher cognitive functions in old age.

Although those benefits are not going to be the deciding factor in anyone's decision to have another baby, for pregnancy-minded women who are past their mid-30s, it might give them some comfort. At the end of the day, deciding to have a baby and when in your life you want to have children is a personal choice.

At what age do you think you are too old to have a baby? Tell me in the comments.