Tag Archives: parenting

Delighted or Disillusioned? Low energy parent, high energy kid

Standard
Delighted or Disillusioned? Low energy parent, high energy kid

Mom, can’t we please go to the park?” seven-year-old Elisa asked as she pulled on my arm.

Arghh. I’d just settled—finally—into the recliner for a little coffee break after working all afternoon at my in-home office. I’ll get so cold standing on that playground watching her! Do I have to? I thought.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather cuddle and read a story?” I asked.

“Aww, c’mon, Mom. I want to swing on the monkey bars.”

Sigh. “Okay,” I said, struggling to hide my exasperation. I knew she simply had to get outside to do something active or she’d beg me all evening to take her out. It was simply the way she was wired. Chalk up one more to the sacrifices of motherhood. I got our coats.

At the park, I impatiently shifted my feet back and forth. I blew out my white breath. I clapped my gloves together to keep warm. “Just ten more minutes!” I called out, as Elisa shimmied up a pole to some very high bars.

She swung powerfully, back and forth, back and forth. Startled out of my discomfort and impatience, I marveled at her coordination, and not for the first time.

“Wow, that’s great!” I cried out. I never could have done that as a kid—nor would I have even wanted to! What makes her that way? She obviously didn’t inherit the klutz gene from me.

While Elisa played, I thought about how she’d always used her whole body to express her personality. She never walked downstairs, she leapt—four steps at a time. She was compelled to get in her quota of at least 1,642 cartwheels per day. I wondered: when was it that she first earned the nickname Monkey?

E presschooler at the park

Perhaps it was when, at age two and a half, she declared she’d climb the rock wall at the outdoor store REI (and did so a few short years later). Or perhaps it was the day when she was only sixteen months old when, horrified, I spotted her crawling across the top of the monkey bars on our backyard swing set. As I ran to save her, she nonchalantly climbed back down! Hmm. Or was she already our Monkey at a mere three months, incessantly standing on our laps as we held her? I wondered: if she could have grabbed my rib cage before she was born, would she have swung from that? What makes her so nimble and so adventurous?

Suddenly I realized we had to scoot to make it to Costco before the store closed. Elisa and I left the park, picked up Aimee, and I fought traffic as the kids bickered in the backseat.

“Stop that!” I said.

“It’s her fault!” they chorused.

“It takes two to make a fight!” I replied very loudly and impatiently. (And that made three.)

As we entered the warehouse, Elisa’s face lit up at the sight of those wonderfully wide, long aisles. She impulsively cartwheeled through the office-supply section. I cried, “Look out!” as her foot nearly connected with a customer’s chin. I apologized, embarrassed. Frustration mounted as I approached the long checkout lines.

Later that evening, I guiltily looked forward to a quiet house with kids nestled in their beds. But my first request to “Get on your PJs and brush your teeth now” fell on deaf ears, as Elisa attempted some last-minute acrobatics.

“Okay, okay,” I grumbled, “just three more somersaults down the hall and that’s it—uh-oh! Watch the lamp!” So much for the trip to the park to help release her energy.

Eventually, Elisa’s sweet, high voice called from down the hall, “Mommy, Daddy, tuck-in!” We went into her room and bent over for the obligatory chain of butterfly kisses, fishy kisses, and Eskimo kisses. But as I nuzzled her soft face, I was drawn in. I lingered. My little pixie grinned charmingly—minus a few teeth the tooth fairy had taken—and sighed, “You’re the best mom in the whole wide world!”

Hardly, I thought. Yet my heart lifted. A grin tugged at the corners of my mouth as I recalled Costco cartwheels, somersaults down the hall…and her enthusiasm for life and tenderness toward me. My weariness from caring for an energetic child was replaced by delight in her and the privilege of being her mother. I’m so glad I’m her mom, I thought as I switched off the light. I couldn’t wait to tuck in Aimee next!

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 1 in:  Delight in Your Child’s Design, Second Edition,  Copyright 2016, Laurie Winslow Sargent. All Rights Reserved.

Want to see future posts by Laurie for jolt of parenting encouragement? Click SUBSCRIBE at the top R of this page.

Delight in Your Child's Design, Second Edition

Adjusting to Life as a New Mom

Standard

I originally wrote this article for Christian Parenting Today magazine for a Your Child Today column. It was later included in the hardcover book, Christian Parenting Answers: Before Birth to Five Years Old (Chariot Family Publishing, 1994), edited by Debra Evans with articles by Dr. William Sears, Grace Ketterman, V. Gilbert Beers, Mary Manz Simon, Kay Kuzma, Patricia Rushford and myself. At that time we were all contributing editors for Christian Parenting Today (300,000 circ.) which is out of print now, although many of the articles were later moved to Christianity Today and Today’s Christian Woman online.

Parenting books often don’t tell you what the first months of mothering are really like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are some aspects of being a mom that you may never have imagined until after your baby was born:

Sudden, constant responsibility for another human being.

Where’s baby? How’s baby? Not a minute passes that a corner of your brain is not focused on your child. Even when she sleeps, you listen for fussing. In your shower, you lather up quickly – fearing you’ll miss her cry. This can drain you mentally and emotionally.

You can cope by occasionally giving someone else full responsibility. Then, let your mind go blank. Perhaps you’re so in love with your child this seems unnecessary. But a break will allow you to come back to her more energetic and at peace.

Some suggestions here will seem like common sense to anyone developing expertise as a mama. But some new moms, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, need simple struggles acknowledged. And if you’re in that position right now, you may appreciate simple reminders that it’s OK to take some pressure off yourself. One of the biggest adjustments for new moms, especially with Type A personalities, is the realization you can’t control as much as you used to. But it’s all worth it!

New dress code.

After spit-up blurps your third freshly ironed shirt in a row, you may feel like crying. Instead, take a realistic look at your closet contents. Put away almost everything that requires dry cleaning, hand washing or ironing. Replace them with new, fun sweatshirts. Keep a few dress clothes for church and occasional date with hubby. (Don’t worry — this won’t be your wardrobe forever! The key is to make life a little easier on yourself right now without worrying about any more laundry than necessary!)

Lack of spontaneity.

Even going to the bank or grocery store becomes a hassle: Pack the diaper bag with its dozen items. Need the stroller? Front pack? Is baby napped, changed, fed and burped?

Instead of feeling exasperated for only accomplishing two errands, congratulate yourself if you finish one. Despite the hassle, don’t avoid weekend trips. They make for a nice change of scene.

Believe it or not, you will indeed develop new routines that work and travel will become easier too.

Time-consuming baby care.

Do you sit in your bathrobe, watching dirty dishes mount? Diapering and feeding take hours of time and volumes of energy. A fussy baby can steal away your whole day. Who has time for housework—there’s barely time to dress and feed yourself.

If you feel like a failure, don’t. You’re shaping a human being—enjoy it. Marvel at those tiny fingers. Beam back at that toothless smile. It won’t last long. If housework trumpets at you and you can’t answer its call, ignore it for a time or ask for help.

Sleep deprivation.

When your child wakes you all night, you can be a zombie the next day. You’re more emotional, confused and tired. Parenting books say, “Sleep when baby sleeps.” But there are a million other things you’d like to do in that minuscule hour or two.

Daytime sleep may seem a time-waster, but if you’re exhausted, don’t fight it. Your body must catch up eventually. Poor nutrition and lack of sleep can affect breast milk supply when nursing. If baby won’t nap, let someone else mind her so you can rest. Bits and pieces of sleep never feel quite like a straight eight hours, so adjust expectations for yourself until your child sleeps all night.

Lastly, you were probably least prepared for:

Overpowering love for your child.

You lack time, style, spontaneity, sleep and (apparently) accomplishments. At times there may seem to be more lows than highs. But the joys of mothering can pull you up to the top, too—breathless and ecstatic. Savor those moments. Drink in the view at the top—it makes it all worth it.

One Thankful Child

Standard

You never know, on Thanksgiving day, what a child will be grateful for . . .

Excerpt from Growing Toward God: Life Lessons Inspired by the Wonderful Words of Kids, by Doreen Wright Blomstrand and Barbara J. Koshar (2008, Kregel Publications)

Growing Toward GodBy Barbara Koshar

Eight-year-old Sara shared her gratitude before our Thanksgiving meal. “I’m thankful for my mom and dad, my little sister, and this yummy dinner,” she said.

“And what are you thankful for, Renae?” I asked.

Five-year-old Renae sighed and then exclaimed, “I’m thankful that Tyrannosaurus rex is extinct.”

Our family broke out in laughter at her response. Several weeks before, we had observed full-size dinosaur replicas at the science center. After viewing these giants, Renae was relieved to learn she couldn’t be crushed beneath monstrous dinosaur feet because they no longer tromped the earth. Whew!

When I think of Renae’s response, I, too, am thankful that I haven’t had to face many of the gigantic disasters I often hear about. I have not successfully avoided them all. Difficult circumstances such as unemployment, serious illness, or the death of a loved one can seem like Tyrannosaurus rex, seeking to shake our faith and stomp out our joy.

Paul challenged believers with these words:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I wish adversity were extinct, but I’ve learned I can live through it by praying for protection and strength. I’ve also learned I need to thank family and friends who embrace me when I’m fatigued, and to thank God, who uses difficult times to teach me to trust him.

Barbara J. Koshar

Barbara J. Koshar

All rights reserved. This story (titled In the Shadow of His Wings, in Growing Toward God: Life Lessons Inspired by the Wonderful Words of Kids) is reprinted at Parenting by Faith by express permission of Kregel Publications.

Note from Laurie: This book would make a fun Christmas gift or Mother’s Day gift for a parent or grandparent. Inside the book, you’ll see my endorsement: “Using poignant and humorous quotes from children to teach spiritual truths is both unique and clever. Growing Toward God is a fun and insightful read!”  So . . .  can you tell I’m a fan?

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

Standard

How to help brothers and sisters connect through shared memories to build strong sibling relationships.

photo siblings snuggling

Image purchased from iStockphoto

It’s become a passion and priority of mine to help nurture my kids’ relationships with each other. It often has not been easy, but has always been worthwhile! Now at ages 28 (boy), 23 (girl), and 17(girl) I see their closeness and feel I’ve done at least one thing right.

To be honest, it has taken determination and even financial cost to help them draw and stay close, especially as young adults. But I realized when my kids were small that one way to help create strong relationships between them was to make sure they were part of each others’ special events in life. Whatever was special to that child, or teen, or young adult would be attended, if at all possible, by the other siblings. I wanted to help them build memories of each other’s successes, so that when they experienced failures or struggles they would turn to each other then, too.

It pains me to think of special events and even crises I missed with my own siblings. I either didn’t hear about them, couldn’t get there, or was too self-preoccupied. My biggest heartbreak was not getting to be at my own father’s funeral with the rest of the family as I was delivering my first child that week, so forbidden to fly. There were multiple practical reasons for our drifting apart: gender, age, personality differences and moving away to school/work.  Much separation can occur naturally, unless parents are determined to curtail that drift somehow.

I became determined when I became a parent myself to make special efforts to glue our kids together through shared critical memories, sometimes whether they liked it or not.  Don’t like to watch wrestling or listening to violins? Tough. Be there to support your sibling. I didn’t force all events, but made sure they were there for at least some, to create shared memories.

That has often meant setting aside funds specifically for family events and coordinating calendars like a ninja. And sometimes firmly telling school officials or coaches our kids would miss school events to be at critical sibling events. I actually laughed when a cheerleading coach complained when our youngest missed practices to attend her sister’s wedding. But most were supportive and highly respectful of our nurturing our kids’ relationships.

Here are a few ways we’ve nurtured our kids in recent years:

  • Flew the family from IA to RI to our eldest son’s graduation from naval officer candidate school, and took our youngest out of school & sports practices for a few days for that purpose.
  • Bought an airline ticket for our teen to do a 3-way trip this past summer to see her brother in CA, and sister in WA.
  • Timed it just right so brother and sister could run a half marathon together.
  • Flew our middle daughter from WA to CA show she could see her brother before deployment and the two of them could visit grandparents together. Brother used his own airline mileage to get his sister there.

Practically speaking, we’ve had to budget for some things by pinching pennies in other ways. We have always bought used cars — and kept them forever — to have at least a small travel budget. We pay for big items (home repairs, etc.) with cards that get us airline miles. We eat out less when we want to save for more important things. And if travel is not affordable, there is always Skype: for free.

Also free and easy is continually encouraging communication. “You might give your sister a call, she’s having a rough time.” “Sister is in a race right now with a live video feed! Here’s the link!” “Brother will be packing up, this is a great time to give him a call.” But what I love now is when I make suggestions like that they are have often already talked or texted each other.

For those of you with multiple little ones, it may seem a no-brainer keeping your kids close. They are always together anyway, either playing or fussing and fuming. Where you go, they all go.

But at some point they grow up. Brothers and sisters with the most distance between ages can naturally grow apart. Older ones leave home for college and careers, younger ones are left behind. Right now they may fight like cats and dogs and you wonder if they will ever get along. But as teens and young adults, they will have fresh opportunities to draw close to each other.

I can’t tell you how many times I told my kids this (especially when they were fighting):  “Friends will come and go — but you will have your siblings for each others’ lifetimes. Cherish that.” Sometimes they said, “Yeah, right.” As young adults they all get it.

7 Key Features in the Best Toys

Standard

By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

With the glut of toys on the market, how can you choose the best toys for your child? Look for these 7 key features.

This post contains excerpts from the book The Power of Parent-Child Play, © Laurie Winslow Sargent, Tyndale House Publishers. 

Measure Up Cups by Discovery Toys

Image: Measure Up Cups (Discovery Toys)

In my mind, the best toys or games are safe, plus have several or all of the following features related to play value:

 

  • Can be played with in a variety of ways and stimulate some imagination
  • Teach more than one skill
  • Appeal to several age groups
  • Encourage positive behavior and learning
  • Are fun (for the child—and hopefully for the parent, too)
  • Get frequent, long-term use and stimulate interest in independent play
  • Offer a window into what the child is thinking or feeling

Toys that don’t meet many of these qualifications can be a waste of money and do little but create clutter in your home.

I’m big on what toys teach, partly due to my previous experience working as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) in public schools, including one Birth-to-Three program. But I’m also a huge fan of helping kids learn through toys because I did just that with my own three kids. (My middle daughter is now a teacher in early childhood education.)

I used to write toy reviews for the former Christian Parenting Today magazine. Toy manufacturers (including Fisher-Price® and PlaySkool) sent me boxes of play materials to evaluate. That made me think more deeply about what was worth occupying space in my own kids’ rooms and what I could justifiably recommend to my 250,000 readers.

Once when the UPS man delivered a huge box of toys for me to review, the neighbor kids were gathered in my yard. Reviewing the toys became a group project. One thumbs-down preschool toy was designed so poorly it made us all laugh. A catapult was supposed to launch plastic treats (with numbers on them) into a creature’s plastic mouth. Theoretically, it was designed to teach child recognition of the numbers one through five.  Realistically, correctly loading and launching the catapult required the motor skills of a child who could count to fifty. Of course my creative crowd found other things to launch with the toy until the catapult fell off.

A much better toy, one that all three of my children loved, was a set of Measure Up Cups, which can be used to “dump, fill, nest, stack and stamp. These volumetrically correct, sequentially numbered cups introduce important preschool concepts related to volume, size, time, color and measurement.”

The toy is described as appropriate for children from 12 months through primary school, but an infant can also play with the larger cups. That means the toy can be played with by the same child for four to five years–and my kids did.

The manufacturer’s site describes 16 different ways you can play with the Measure Up Cups. I’ve modified their list a bit to focus on games you can play with your baby, toddler or preschooler.

Games to Play with Measure Up Cups

  • Stack into a tower to knock down. (Toddlers love to do this, and don’t realize they’re learning cause and effect.)
  • Build a castle (the scalloped edges make great castle turrets). This can lead to some fun pretend play with preschoolers. This is a new feature my kids’ cups didn’t have. Neat!
  • Scoop, fill and pour water, sand, rice or small safe objects. At the same time your child learns mathematical concepts, since the contents of cup #1 plus cup #2 equals the contents of cup #3.
  • Nest the cups to learn about size and relationships. This also helps your toddler’s motor skills.
  • Practice number recognition with your toddler; the cups are numbered both on the outside and inside on the bottom. For fun, a child can put a corresponding number of small, safe objects in each cup.
  • Learn English, French and Spanish words for numbers as those words are stamped on the sides of the cups. This is also new, awesome feature to extend the fun even through early elementary school.
  • Practice color identification as your child sorts and stacks the cups.
  • Hide objects under the cups, then reveal them. This can teach a baby object permanence, but also can be fun for illusion tricks with preschoolers.
  • Touch and feel numbers with your eyes closed, inside the cup on the bottom.
  • Identify animals on the bottoms of the cups with your baby.
  • Stamp the animal designs into dough or wet sand with your preschooler.  Point out to your child that the designs grow progressively larger as the cups increase in size.
  • Trace around the cups and then match the cups to the right sized circles.
  • Practice telling time with your preschooler: the designs on the outside of the cups correspond to clock face positions–another new feature.

As a recap, to choose the best toys for your children, look for ones that can be played with in many ways, stimulate creativity and imagination, teach more than one skill to more than one age group, and make learning fun. The best toys will be used often and your child will enjoy playing with them by himself but also with you. Great toys can actually make parenting more exciting, when through parent-child play you see your child thinking, learning new skills and reaching new milestones.

Play on!

Laurie

How Do I Stop My Kids’ Fighting?

Standard

By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

One frustrated mom asked, “How I stop my kids’ fighting? It’s driving me crazy!”


Photo by Stuart Miles: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ooooh, been there, done that, felt that. I know, it can be enormously frustrating. I think what  made me craziest was the noise level–just having to listen to it.

Even handling it perfectly (and how would that be?) won’t make it go away entirely. Kids are learning how to relate to each other and will practice with their siblings.

As we enter this discussion on sibling squabbles, ask yourself this:  “What am I most reacting to?” Is the answer:

#1 The noise?

#2 The issues at hand, which you feel you must intervene in (and should you–really–or must they work it out themselves?)

#3 The need to protect one child from another, physically or from wounding words?

Kids pick at each other for all kinds of reasons and many do require adult intervention (AKA refereeing). But for this first post on kids’ fighting, let’s examine your own attitude as a parent, as I was forced to examine mine.

Is it possible that your interventions in kids’ fighting sometimes make things worse?  Consider your:

(CLICK to cont. for 6 Ways parent attitudes can affect kids’ fighting…)

Read the rest of this entry

Are We There Yet? 3 tricks to help kids travel (more) patiently

Standard

By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

How do you keep your sanity when traveling kids whine, “Are we there yet?” Here are 3 ways to keep them occupied, so they travel more patiently and pleasantly.

How do you keep kids from whining, “How much farther?”           Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I had to lay still for half an hour for a simple medical test, but couldn’t see a clock. To pass the time (and distract myself from moving) I played an old mind game, Count the Music, which I played with my kids on long road trips.

Try this, plus two more ways to keep your own kids occupied as you drive:

Way#1: Count the Music

Consider that most songs on the radio are 3-4 minutes long. In your own head, take the number of minutes you expect it to take to reach your destination and divide by three. Tell the kids “We’ll be there in 7 songs,” (or whatever). They can keep track of the number of songs on their fingers.

While listening to music during my medical test, I’d calculated that would hear eight or nine songs. I only heard three, so must have dozed off while counting and focusing on the music. It tends to work the same way with kids–they either get into the music or fall asleep. It also gives them a sense for how much time is passing if they can’t grasp what “half an hour” is nor tell time.

(CLICK TO READ Way #2 and Way #3)

Read the rest of this entry

A Huge Thank You for Playful Fathers

Standard

This makes me ache for every child who has no dad to play with, or a father who is present but not available. And it makes me very thankful for my own husband who has been so wonderfully involved with our own three kids and helped them grow to become such fine grown up people.

I appreciate Igniter Media for creating this video showing the empty spaces and places left by missing fathers. It truly reveals the power of parent-child play and especially the impact of playful fathers. Visit Igniter Media’s website at  ignitermedia.com and their YouTube channel. You can also find them on Twitter as @IgniterMedia.