July 31, 2014

all our kids want is more of us - taming the 5:00 frenzy

As a working mother, one of the hardest things for me to do is to stop multitasking and be present for my son.

Case in point: the 5:00 frenzy. When my son gets home from school, he's already had a full day with friends, food, teachers, and play time. What he really wants at that moment is me. And what am I doing? Cooking dinner, washing dishes, emptying and reloading the dishwasher, wiping countertops, sorting mail... anything but paying attention to him. This is the point at which he starts demanding gummies or treats, and opens the fridge (unless I've locked it) to find something to get into. I get mad, I give him a snack which is never good enough because I can't get it to him fast enough while my attention is divided, and within 30 seconds he falls apart.
Hooray weeknights.

Is he really hungry? Maybe, maybe not. In my quest to curb this daily madness, I have received two wise pieces of advice. My mother has suggested that when he gets home, I stop what I'm doing and just play with him for 10-15 minutes. Never mind the dishes and dinner (no matter how nice and homemade it might be) unless I'm putting away frozen food, which I can do quickly. As much as I'm in a hurry, he is definitely not. He misses me and wants to reconnect. My mother-in-law suggested that I give him a small snack and just eat dinner a little later (What? And ignore the almighty Schedule?). This loosens the pressure valve of getting dinner on the table, but ironically it also forces me to stop what I'm doing and pay attention to him by giving him a snack and asking him about his day.

Some days I incorporate both strategies, others one or the other (or if it works out, Daddy jumps in and plays with him until dinner's ready). Some days I forget and do neither, and reap the consequences.

I'm still working my way through the book Strong Mothers, Strong Sons. In a section about listening, the author points out the importance of giving our children our attention by saying that they don't care whether we bake goodies from scratch or from a mix, or if we buy them at the store. All they want is to sit at the table and eat them with us.

It's so hard for me to unplug from my multitasking. My brain is going 100 mph especially from 5-8 p.m. But above anything, my kid needs to know that he's more important than whatever is for dinner.

July 22, 2014

random thoughts: the tantrum behind the tantrum

I think most of my son's explosive moments can be summed up in one sentence, if only he could say it:

"I don't know what I want and you won't give it to me!!"

Yeah. I'm mean like that.

July 19, 2014

so my toddler may have swallowed a piece of plastic

I may never know, but there's a good chance my son swallowed a piece of plastic that broke off of a little spoon while we were eating ice cream yesterday. No bigger than the size of the white part of my pinky fingernail.

I was running out of things to be paranoid about, anyway.

So I called the pediatrician, and the nurse told me that since he didn't act like he was choking or anything, if he swallowed it it did not go into the lungs. Fortunately, as she explained, everything below the lungs gets bigger on its way down so more than likely it will pass through. I have to watch him over the next week for signs of stomach aches, bloody stools, or vomiting which could indicate that the piece has gotten caught on its way down.

My mom and I prayed for the boy that afternoon, but as I laid down to sleep I started thinking about him again. I knew I wouldn't stop worrying, so I got up and prayed. I asked God to dissolve the piece of plastic if it's still in there and restore his health. After a few minutes I got the sense that my petition had been heard, and I felt peace.

I went to bid him a final goodnight, and opened his door. It was completely dark except for a dim nightlight, and I hadn't turned on a light to pray. As I started to close his door behind me, out of the corner of my eye I saw three bright, white lights flash in a row -- pulse. Pulse. Pulse. At the first one I figured it was my eyesight adjusting, but by the third I realized something was different. I looked around -- everything was dark and still. I checked the CO2 and smoke detectors in the hallway -- normal. Headlights? No -- the blinds are closed and the door was too far shut for them to come in no matter what the angle. Burglar with a flashlight? Unlikely, since the pattern was steady and not erratic.

What did I just see? Or, what did I miss?

I went to my son's bed and just rested my hand on his torso. Breathing normal. I went back to bed and eventually went to sleep.

July 17, 2014

there are only 3 things i need to do before i die

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get a little weary of giant lists of 50 Places to See Before I Die, 25 Coffee Shops to See Before I Die… it's exhausting. I only have so much time on this earth, and as much as I love travel, coffee, and many other of life's pleasures, I don't need a list reminding me of all the things I may not have time to do. So I made up my own.

July 7, 2014

thoughts on turning 45 with a 2 year old

It's a few weeks away yet, but I treat it as if it's a year. I don't feel like 45 is a celebration. More like a nail positioned at the middle of my coffin, reminding me of my mortality as every day brings me closer to that reality.

Oh, that sounds terribly morbid. Let me start again.

I'm about to turn 45, and most all of my peers are either 10 years younger than me or, if they're my age, are dealing with teenage or fully grown children. How do I feel about that? Weird. And kind of funny.

I made peace with our starting-a-family-in-our-40s status a while ago, especially when I learned we are part of a growning demographic. The fact that I don't actually know anyone else in our demographic is not the point. The point is, today is all I have and I don't spend it wishing I was somewhere else in life -- that I was younger when I had our son, that I paid closer attention to my career development, that I had my own house years ago rather than six months ago...

We can all go down that road, can't we?

And yet, turning 45 with a toddler is serious business. At a time when most women my age are at the top of their professional game, I'm working part time so I can spend more time with my son. When others are getting close to being empty-nesters, I will be past retirement age when my son is in college. When other parents would encourage their children to put off marriage and family in favor of careers and "playing the field," I'll be trying not to tell my son too often how much I'd love it if he married early, started a family when he has the most energy (and can give me grandchildren while I'm still around), and bypassed the aimlessness of those years known as our 20s. It's also weird to have friends many years younger than me that already have many years more experience parenting.

I'm kind of exhausted most of the time, but I will say that it has gotten easier lately. In fact, just in the last few weeks I've noticed that I have been better able to accept my son the way he is rather than getting frustrated because he's not just a little older (i.e., spills less, talks more, is potty trained, etc.). Because you know what? Again, today is all I have.

Our adventures as a family are just beginning. I don't have to be buddies with another couple who's our age trying to start a family. It would be fun, but it's not necessary. Having friends no matter where they are in life makes everything more colorful, more bearable.

I mentioned that being 45 with a 2 year old is funny. What's funny about it? When my son is a teenager, I will be in the throes of menopause. Ha! He'll never know what hit him, poor guy. And he won't be able to get away with anything because his parents will have a lifetime of experience and will see trouble a mile away. I hope.

Finally, as much as being middle-aged with a toddler is uniquely exhausting, I also think he'll keep me young. After all, I can't afford to lay around and watch TV -- I have to maintain a level of mental and physical fitness just to keep up with him.

Bring it on!

July 3, 2014

what's for dinner - dream dinners part 3

This week we've had three Dream Dinners meals. All were good, portions were pretty accurate, and since my son generally eats very little for dinner, two meals gave me lunch the next day. Already I'm spending less time grocery shopping and worrying about what to make for dinner. Tonight, however, I will purposely build a meal around a box of mac & cheese just so my son doesn't wonder if I'm trying to starve him by not serving his mainstay meal. Last night he absolutely refused even one bite of plain rice. He had some plain yogurt instead. Oh well. I'm over it.

I'm picking up my next set of meals this Saturday, giving us three or four meals per week through July.

Of course, this gets me thinking about making my own freezer meals. Surely I can do this on my own for a lot less money? Obviously I can, but therein lies the trap I'm trying to free myself from which is the time-consuming planning, purchasing, and prepping. I don't know. Maybe at some point I'll do just that. But for now, I'm content to dine the Dream.

how to get your toddler to sleep - extinction

I have a book that I have read parts of at various times: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth M.D. It is one BIG reason why my son sleeps pretty well now and, if I have anything to say about it, far into the future.

When the boy was several months old, getting him to sleep at night was a nightmare. We had first trained him early on (like, 6-8 weeks of age) and experienced early success. Sleeping 12 hours a night at 4 months old was due to part training, part natural tendency (I don't think I can take all the credit since every child is different). We used the book and got him back on track.

However, recently his bedtime ritual has included several drinks of water, more stories, longer back rubs, blah blah blah. I'd had enough. I picked up that book and searched for our situation: reluctance to go to bed. Whatever the reason, whatever the age, their recommended method for retraining is the same: extinction. As in, quit reinforcing that behavior and leave him alone when it's time to go to bed. Does he cry? That's okay. Give him time to settle himself down -- he's apparently forgotten and needs to be reminded.

My poor, exhausted husband emerged from the boy's room last night, and I pointed to this extinction method. Sometimes us parents need to be retrained too! So we left him alone. Did he cry? Yep. We ignored him. Did he stick his fingers under the door, randomly whine, and say "Hi Mommy...?" Yep. Ignored him again.

Within 10 minutes he gave up and went to sleep on his own. Training and a lock on the outside of the door work wonders.