We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who Would Rather be a Fashion “Don’t”

©Thoursie/stock.xchng

Is back-to-school clothes shopping with your tween something you love or dread? ©Thoursie/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I love my 12-year-old daughter and I love to shop, so you’d think that back-to-school clothes shopping with her would be something I look forward to every year. And it has been, until now.

Like most tween girls, my daughter, Anna, is very fashion-conscious.  It wasn’t always this way. While she liked to wear pretty things, her choices originated from what she wanted to wear, rather than what the latest styles are. I’m not saying she’s following the crowd, she’s still very independent, but she’s definitely aware of what’s “cool” and what isn’t.

One of my favorite parts of shopping is finding a good deal. I never pay full price, instead, happily bargain hunting. For me, it’s more important that the price is right, rather than the color. When we walk into stores at the mall and I see t-shirts for $50, I’m sorry, I just can’t do it, I don’t care if the latest celebrity of the moment is wearing it.

Anna is losing her patience with me and frankly, me with her. I want to encourage her to “be herself” but not at the expense (pun intended) of my wallet. Any advice?

– I Thought Project Runway Was About Restoring Airplanes

Amanda: First off, don’t let your daughter know you asked me for advice. Right now I’m wearing an Old Navy t-shirt, circa 1998, complete with faded graphics and holes. So there’s that.

I’m like you, a sales shopper. I tend to buy clothing off the sales rack in the off-season. For most of my family that isn’t a problem. My 10-year-old son doesn’t give too much thought to what he wears (as evidenced by his frequently mismatched ensembles) and the two-year-old is happy to wear the same shirt every day (seriously, he’s got an M&M tee that he would put on every day if I let him). My 8-year-old daughter on the other hand, is very aware of what she wears. She always has been. Up until now she makes do with what we find in the bargain bins, but I suspect as she gets older she’ll be wanting to choose pieces from the front of the store, rather than the rear.

Do you have a set budget for back-to-school clothing shopping? If not, make one. Once you have an allotment of dollars available, consider giving your daughter a portion of it to spend any way she chooses. She may quickly learn that a $100 pair of shoes isn’t quite the necessity she thought it was if it’s her money to spend, versus yours.

If she still goes through with buying a little bit of clothing with a lot of money, I say let it go. Make the best of what you have remaining in the budget — with her taking an active role. Involve her in your bargaining ways. Together, scour the circulars, inspect the Internet and hit the mall (outlet or otherwise). Find new places to search — thrift stores and consignment shops offer lots of fashionable garments at reasonable prices.

I think if you work together, you’ll both end up looking pretty!

Suzanne: Coming from a girl who spent her life in school uniforms and had exactly two “civilian” outfits (one for Saturday and one for Sunday), I’m feeling a little bad for your daughter. Not to say that you should buy her anything and everything she wants for her back-to-school wardrobe, but keep it fun and indulge her if only a little bit.

Which means you will have to nudge yourself past the Axe-soaked boy with a six pack and take a look around those teen stores where everything has a name. Set a budget, like Amanda suggests, and let Anna pick a top or two, or a pair of jeans, from these stores. Soon enough she will realize how far the money goes there versus your stores of choice.

And before you know it, she’ll realize that she can get away with choosing one impact piece and mixing it with a more budget-friendly basic. (No need to spend $45 on a tank top to put under another t-shirt).

Just remember, she’s only young once. So as long as you can stretch a little bit out of your comfort zone, there will be plenty of time for her to take a liking to bargain hunting (i.e after she gets her first job and moves out of your house).

Happy shopping!

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What do you think, should this mom appease her daughter and buy clothing outside of her price range, or is there a compromise to be made?

If you have a problem that needs two perspectives, send us an e-mail at advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Finding the Right Pediatrician the First Time Around

How did you choose a pediatrician? Share your tips with this mom-to-be. ©A Patterson/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I feel like I’ve got everything in place for my baby’s arrival next month — except for something really important. I still need to find a pediatrician, but I have no idea where to start.

This is my first baby and some of my friends have given me recommendations, but I feel that if I just go with one of their doctors I will have spent more time picking out bedding for the nursery than choosing a doctor.

Obviously, we are going to depend upon this person a lot in these coming years and I need someone to tell me how you know she/he is “the one.”

–Paging Dr. Who

Amanda: You are right, choosing a pediatrician is a big decision. Like you, I felt a bit overwhelmed. To compensate and make myself feel better, I felt the need to do a lot of homework ahead of time. I made phone calls, Internet searches and read a ton of books on how to find the best doctor for my little one. I was amazed at those who just choose their pediatrician at random, simply flipping through the insurance book and selecting a name that they liked.

But despite all my legwork, that’s essentially what we wound up doing.

T. and I were new to the area when our son C. was born and we didn’t know anyone yet to ask for pediatrician recommendations. We picked some names of doctors out of our insurance book and made appointments to interview them. Dr. Q. was supposed to be our first meeting, but I went to labor the night we were scheduled to go to her office. She seemed nice enough on the phone — she was the only one out of the handful of pediatricians who had called us back herself rather than have a nurse or secretary do it — so when it came time to choose a doctor at the hospital we went with her and haven’t looked back since.

We lucked out. I love our pediatrician, who we’ve been with for nearly eleven (!) years now. The mom to two teenage boys, she has a very calming presence and a seemingly endless amount of patience for my borderline ludicrous inquiries and speculation. Nothing seems to faze her — everything is fixable, nothing is cause for alarm. The few times we have faced a semi-serious situation, she has handled it with a collected aplomb, balancing the delicate tightrope of making sure we knew the severity of what was going on, while assuring us that everything would be OK.

If you want to go with someone that your friends recommend, go for it. After all, they like and are happy with their choices. But if you feel like you need to work for it a little bit, by all means, schedule an appointment ahead of time to interview potential candidates. Ask them how they feel about issues that are important to you — breastfeeding, co-sleeping, crying-it-out and vaccinations. Ask about general office policies — billing, how to reach the doctor in case of emergencies, etc. Then go with your gut.

Not sure you can trust your mothering instincts yet? Before you freak yourself out about the magnitude of it all, remember that you can always change your mind. If you go for a visit and don’t like him or her or aren’t crazy about the pracice, you can always choose someone else.

Good luck and congratulations!

Suzanne: I’m a planner with a capital P and when I got to the page in my pregnancy journal that suggested I interview pediatricians, I have to admit that I balked. Of course, like you say, it is a super important part of getting ready for your baby’s arrival, but in my case, I wasn’t quite sure where this interview process was going to get us.

The web turned up questions I should be asking when going on these interviews (like those suggested by The American Academy of Pediatrics) but I couldn’t help but think that any doctor in his/her right mind would have to be  agreeable to things like the recommended immunization schedule and breastfeeding.

Because really, would you go on a job interview only to sit there and say you don’t want the job? No. That wouldn’t make much sense. So why would these doctors be any different in trying to welcome a new patient?

(OK, maybe you won’t agree on infant ear piercing, but that wasn’t a deal breaker for me. And no, that wasn’t one of my interview questions.)

So I decided not to go to too much trouble conducting these interviews in person. Instead I set aside one lunch hour to make some calls. Among my criteria: proximity to home, multi-physician practice, 24/7 coverage, and of course, a practice that would accept my insurance. The rest would take care of itself, because if I showed up and some ogre was being condescending and had a backward approach to medicine, I would be out the door in no time. It wasn’t like I would be handing my newborn over for a major procedure on our first visit.  I figured I had time to get a feel for how comfortable I was with the personality and approach of whatever practice we chose.

And that’s exactly how it happened. We were lucky to get it right on the first shot, and even though we have since moved a little further from the medical office where the six-physician practice is located, I never hesitated to stay with them. They weren’t affiliated with the hospital where I delivered (also not a deal breaker since there’s always someone to see your baby in the hospital) but they have been there for us for a quick strep test at 8 a.m. on school days and for our 2 a.m. calls about seizures. The primary doctor who sees both my son and daughter has the most comforting way of communicating, and there’s nothing he’s said that I haven’t trusted (being a cynic working in the medical field, that means a lot).

So I encourage you to go with your gut instinct. Don’t sweat the “process” but make some calls and let that surging mother’s intuition do its job. And if it’s not exactly what you envisioned once the relationship is underway, feel free to take one of your friends up on a recommendation. By the time baby is here, you will have a better feel for what matters in a pediatrician and who will be the most supportive of the parenting style you develop.

Best to you and the baby!

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How did you choose a pediatrician? Any additional advice for Dr. Who?

If you’ve got a question that needs two answers, send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: To the Mom Mulling a Mohawk

Would you let your child sport this haircut? ©Margan Zajdowicz/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Just when did mohawks become the summer haircut of choice for boys?

Because no sooner had I finished telling my ten-year-old son that there’s no way he’s getting a mohawk haircut on our next trip to the barber, two of his friends show up to swim in our pool with their hair freshly buzzed, each with a stripe running from front to back.

What is up with that? I must have blinked and lost my edge, because the last time I checked only punk rockers sported that ‘do and it had something to do with egg wash.

So tell me: 1) Is this a neighborhood fad? and 2) Should I be giving my son some slack in choosing his own hairstyle?

To be honest, my husband is not entirely keen on the look either, but says maybe we should let him get it out of his system. I’m not sure I can go along with it though. What would you do?

–Clean Cut Mom

Suzanne: You don’t say where you live, but rest assured, this is all the rage by me too. The other night at my son’s baseball game, I spotted not one, not two, but three mohawks among his teammates (8 and 9 year olds). As soon as their caps came off, I started thinking: How long before my son asks for one too?

And I think I would probably struggle with it just as much as you. Except my son’s not asking for one. Phew.

But if I were you, I would probably want to know why this look appeals to him. And if he’s like most ten-year-olds, there won’t be much explanation or thought behind his argument. He’ll probably say something to the effect of all of his friends have it, and he just wants one too. Maybe he’ll go so far as to tell you that you’re old and so not cool and that you have no idea what style is. And maybe he already has.

So basically you have two choices. The first would be to say: “I’m your mother and as long as I’m paying for your haircut, I have a say in how it’s done.” (My first approach if need be.)

The second would be to count this among the battles you choose not to fight. Sure, you might worry that giving in to him on this will set you up to be a pushover when it comes to more serious stuff. But if you set some limits, and can come to terms with it in your own mind, then maybe tell him he can try it out once and only once. Hopefully he’ll hate it as much as you. Or grow tired of it. Or be itchy on day two and ask you to buzz it off in the backyard.

Whichever way it goes, this won’t be the last time you talk to your son about making a choice to stand out in the crowd (or in this case blend in with the crowd). So the practice sure won’t hurt. Good luck and happy buzzing!

Amanda: I asked my son, a 10-year-old boy who also happens to have the aforementioned mohawk haircut (for the third summer in a row), why he likes it so much, he said: “I just like it. It’s cool.”

So there you go. As his mom, I’m not thrilled with the cut, but it’s what he wants and it’s harmless enough, so in the summertime, when school is not in session, he’s permitted to get one. He’s happy, I’m somewhat happy (come September anyway) and peace reigns in our house.

I know what you are asking. If I don’t like him having a mohawk, why does he have one? Because it’s his body, not mine, and to me, a crazy haircut really isn’t that big of a deal. It has been my experience that hair always grows back.

In the summer for my son, a mohawk is his hair style of choice. But during the school year, he and his friends refuse to get haircuts, instead holding a contest to see who can grow their hair the longest. I think for school-age boys, hair is less a political or a fashion statement and more about topping their friends. And to me, that’s fine. Because I don’t look in the mirror and see spikes or a mop on my head.

In fact, the same reason why I chose not pierce my daughter’s ears as an infant is the same reason why I don’t interfere with my son’s choice of hair style.

Your body, your choice. And if you are old enough to express a preference, you are old enough to get it, especially if it’s non-permanent. And a haircut is decidedly non-permanent. (This is all within reason of course. No body piercings just yet. We need to save some drama for the teenage years.)

So I vote for letting your son get the hair style of his choice. If it makes you uncomfortable, set some parameters, like only during the summer like we do, or make the hair that makes up the mohawk wider. I think my son’s mohawk is about two or three inches wide across his head which definitely makes it less jarring than the one that our friend in the photograph (above right) has.

Good luck! While your son is at the barber, treat yourself to a pedicure — neon blue of course!

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Is your child’s haircut a matter of personal choice? Yours or theirs?

Check in with us weekly for the next dose of advice x2. And if you have a question that has you bouncing between two sides, send it to advice@wearebothright.com and let us help settle the match.

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who Needs Some Rest

©hoefi/stock.xchng

Do your kids have a different bedtime in the summertime? ©hoefi/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I’m tired. Oh so tired. It’s summer obviously, and to my kids and my husband, among other things, that means everyone gets to stay up later. Lovely! Fabulous! Except it isn’t so much and I’m the mean one.

I love my kids (ages 7 and 10) and I’m glad they are home all day (I’m a stay-at-home mom), but I need a break. It used to be I got it at 9 p.m. after they had all gone to bed. Now they are both convinced that since they don’t need to wake up in the morning they can stay up as late as they like.

They have the backing of my husband who is glad to spend some “real time” with them. He works until 7:30 p.m. or so and usually doesn’t get home until after 8. During the school year he would only see them for an hour or so, now they have the whole evening together. And that’s great. But I am with them all day and I need some time for myself. Not to mention, I’m not really crazy about them sleeping in until 10 or 11 every morning.

I need a break, but how do I get it without being the scrooge who stole summer?

–ZZZZZZZZ

Amanda: Easy. You take it.

It sounds to me like you don’t begrudge your husband time with his kids. So give it to him. At 9 p.m., or whatever time it is you choose, announce that mom is done for the day. And mean it. Head into your room and go to sleep, catch up on your DVR viewing in the family room, go out for a drink with a friend. But whatever you do, don’t be a mom. Don’t unload the dishes, don’t make a snack for your daughter, don’t take the dog for a walk. Take your break and let the rest of your family fend for themselves.

Sound mean? Hardly. It’s just for a few hours every night and it’s not like you can’t put your “mom” hat back on in an instant if you need (or want to). Explain to everyone what you just told us. That you are working long, hard days and while you love your family very, very much, you need a break at the end of the day, a chance to unwind. And who knows, you may decide that you want to join dad and the kids in playing Monopoly or watching a movie or whatever it is they are doing until the wee small hours of the morning.

The one thing I would be firm on is the morning wake up time. It is summer, so I do give my kids a bit of a break in terms of not turning on the alarm clock. But I make them get up by 10 a.m. the latest and if they choose to sleep in that long, they don’t get to watch television until after dinner. It’s easy to whittle away the long summer days, but I know I don’t want my kids sitting on the couch or in bed all day, I’m afraid it will mess up their internal clocks too much. And if by chance we do have something to do that requires an early wake-up in the morning, I do make them go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Good luck! Enjoy your not-mommy time.

Suzanne: Ah, the curse of summer. Everyone is so happy to be footloose and fancy-free but at the same time you get robbed of any me-time you might have carved out during the rest of the year.

If you can’t get the family’s understanding that you are home but off-duty, then maybe you should find an evening summer course — tennis, book club, or yoga — that gives you some “scheduled” time away. Or, suggest to your husband that he take the kids to the ball field or playground after dinner, and tucker them out so they come home ready to climb into bed.

As for them sleeping in, why don’t you consider those extra hours a chance to fit in some bonus time for yourself? Read a book, do your nails, sit outside with your coffee. Take a slow start to your day and you could find yourself in sync with the rest of the crew, ready to enjoy a late summer evening together.

Just look at it this way — it’s really only for a few weeks. Soon enough you will be shopping for marble notebooks and glue sticks, and then it’s back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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What is your advice to our poor, tired mom? (Whisper, I think she might be asleep.) Do your kids have a different bedtime in the summer?

And if you need advice x 2, send us a note at advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who is Perplexed by Play

Is child's play second nature to you -- or not? ©melbia/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

This is going to come across the wrong way, but I don’t know how else to put it. So here goes: I don’t like playing with my kids.

Not that I don’t like being with them or I don’t want to take time for them. But I don’t enjoy playing with their toys or getting down on the floor pretending we’re frogs or anything like that. Board games make me jittery. I never had the patience for activities like that — not even when I was a child myself.

When I see other people get into play mode, my husband included, I start to feel like there’s something very wrong with me. Maybe I was deficient in whatever pregnancy hormone induces a desire to play? I don’t know.

Am I the only one who feels like this? How can I learn to like playing with my children?

–Not Into Toys

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Amanda:

As parents, there are many things that we need and have to do, but we don’t necessarily want to. Some are more dramatic than others of course — rolling out of bed at 3 a.m. because your 2-year-old is throwing up, for example, is a lot more difficult than sitting outside in a rainstorm while your son plays in a playoff baseball game. Of course, neither scenario is a day at the beach, but we’re parents, it’s what we signed up for.

For you, playing with your kids is what has you wishing you were someplace else. And that’s fine. I’m not calling you out on admitting you don’t like to play. Good for you for being honest. But here’s a secret. I’m going to venture while some parents enjoy play more than others, none of us are intellectually stimulated after the fifth round of “Hi Ho Cherry -O” or racing Hot Wheels cars down the track for the umpteenth time (although I really do love to play Barbies and doll house with my daughter).

The thing is, play is important for kids. Sure, it’s a way for them to let off steam and have fun, but through play, children learn important social skills as well as develop physically and emotionally. It’s also a way for your child to spend some quality time with you. Sadly enough, as they get older, there will be less and less of that, so you need to take advantage of it while you still can. Forge a good relationship with your kids now, and it’s something that they’ll (hopefully) remember later during those torrential teen years.

My advice? Fake it. Grit your teeth, get down on the floor and roll those dice, push those cars across the floor and take the baby doll for a walk in the stroller. Right now, you are your child’s best friend. Relish in the joy that you are bringing to your kids and make some happy memories together. You won’t regret it.

Suzanne:

Amanda’s right, most of us are faking it most of the time! But it becomes bearable when you start to realize what your child is actually getting out of playtime with you. After watching you put together the 24-piece Winnie the Pooh puzzle for the 240th time, your preschooler is able to take the lead and is repeating your strategy no less — find the four corners and build the straight lines, then match up the like colors. (Soon enough, you’ll be watching from the couch.)

In the meantime, besides just grinning and bearing it, you might want to spend a few minutes thinking about what it is you like to do and how that can translate into fun playtime activities for your children.

You say you never liked games as a kid, but what did you do to keep busy? If it was arts and crafts, then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind breaking out the pipe cleaners and pom poms or putting a long roll of paper out in the yard for all of you to sponge and splatter with washable paints.

If sports are more your speed, you can set up a goal of some sort for a child of just about any age and see who gets the ball in first. Crawlers through school-age kids will be happy to have mom as a teammate.

And how about baking? If you’re game, then the kids sure will be. Nothing like a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies to cheer everyone up.

So give it some thought. Even if pretend isn’t your thing and board games make you shake, there are bound to be at least a few activities that will keep you and the children amused until they’re old enough to run and hide from you.

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How would you suggest this mom overcome her aversion to playtime? Have you ever felt this way?

Whether it’s playtime woes or relationship issues, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com if you could use a double dose.

Our Two Cents: The Not-So-Scary Movie That Scared a Friend Away

When it comes to scary movies, ask (mom) first, then press play. ©Jason Smith/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Two weeks ago my 10-year-old son Jack and his friend Frank were playing at our house. While I don’t know Frank’s parents super-well, he’s been at our house at least six or seven times and my son at theirs as well.

They asked to watch the movie “Transformers” which is rated PG-13. My son has seen the movie quite a few times (we own it on DVD) and Frank said he had seen it before. The two were acting out scenes and quoting dialogue from the movie, so I went ahead and let them watch it. Normally I’d ask the other parent about letting a child see a PG-13 movie, but since Frank seemed so well-versed in it, I didn’t really give it a second thought.

I wasn’t home when Frank’s dad picked him up (my husband was), and nothing was said about what the boys watched. A few days later I got a call from Frank’s mom who was very upset that the boys had watched a PG-13 movie. I apologized right away, but pointed out that Frank said he had already seen it and it didn’t appear to have scared him. The mom angrily responded that it wasn’t the point, that she would have appreciated a phone call. I said I was sorry once more and we hung up. Ever since then, Frank has not been able to come over to our house, nor have their been any invitations for Jack to come to his. At school, Frank told Jack that his mom was mad at me and that he wasn’t allowed to play with my son anymore.

I’m so upset about this, but part of me wonders if the mom is overreacting. Should I call back and apologize once again? I don’t think I need to, but Jack misses his friend.

–Unrated

Amanda: I’ve come to find that in parenting, everyone’s got an “issue” (or seven). At least one thing that gets under their skin and irritates and annoys and drives them crazy whenever they are simply a witness or experience it directly. (For me, it’s parents who don’t watch their kids closely on playgrounds. It just makes me irrationally angry. Also? Moonsand.)

I think you’ve stumbled on to Frank’s mom’s issue. That’s not to say she doesn’t have a point — as you admit yourself, probably should have called her before the boys hit “play” on your DVD player. But you didn’t and she was bothered by it, you had a conversation and you apologized. And apparently, your apology wasn’t accepted.

Normally I’d say to let it go, but keeping in mind that there are two children involved who did nothing wrong and are paying the consequences, I’d give it one more shot. Give her a call, write a note, shoot off an e-mail, once again admitting your mistake and saying how sorry you are. Don’t mention what Frank told Jack, don’t try to justify your actions by pointing out that Frank’s already seen the movie. For all you know, the movie causes Frank to have nightmares or maybe he behaves poorly after viewing it. Maybe she’s not a fan of him acting out the script. Whatever her reason, the decision is hers to make, not yours and she has every right to make and stand by it.

Suzanne: For the sake of your son’s friendship, you might have to fall on your sword this time. (Or better make that a foam light sabre, since we’re aiming to take violence out of the equation in this case.) Give it another go and make a call.

It’s unlikely that she’s so mad that she won’t pick up, so when you get her on the phone start right off by saying: “I’m so sorry that I upset you and Frank and I’d like to be able to do something to assure you that we won’t have any mix-ups like that again. Most of the time I don’t put much stock in ratings only because I’ve had friends who didn’t approve of some G-rated movies because of anti-religious undertones so I always ask a parent before they watch any TV or movies. In this case, Frank seemed to know so much about the movie that I assumed he had been allowed to see it previously. Of course, I should not have assumed. I just hope that we can find a way to make this work for their sake.”

And now the ball is in her court once again. She’ll either have had time to rethink the situation and understand that you didn’t intend to overstep her and allow the boys to resume their friendship.

Or she won’t. In which case you made your best effort.

Like Amanda said, a child’s parent always has the last word — even if it does come across as overreacting to anyone else involved. After all, she’s the one who probably had to sleep on the last inch of bed if Frank awoke at 2 a.m. after being at your house. And that explains a lot.

In either case, you will know you made your best effort and never intended to be hurtful in the first place. Be sure to update your son and maybe come up with a few other “safe” viewing choices for the next time a friend comes over.

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What’s your view on kids watching movies out of their age range? Was Unrated wrong?

If you’ve got a question that needs two opinions (or just want to know what movies we’re watching these days), send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Who Should Be in the Delivery Room?

©canoncan/stock.xchng

Who gets to be in the delivery room when a baby is being born? ©canoncan/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

I am six months pregnant with my third child — a girl. Every time I’ve delivered, it’s been just my husband and me in the birthing suite. He’s a good coach, both attentive and calming.

This time around, I’d like to ask my mother and my best friend to be there as I go through labor and when I deliver my daughter. It has nothing to do with my husband, I just know that they would love to be there as much as I would love having them. It would be something that we would all always remember.

Hubby gets along just fine with my mom and BF, but he’s objecting my idea, saying that it would take away from the specialness of the moment for him and that he’s not entirely comfortable with having other people there.

Since I’m the one doing all the work, isn’t this my call? It’s not like he’s never been in the room before. I don’t understand what the big deal is. I’d love to get another opinion.

–Labor Loves Company

AMANDA: If it was me, I’d abide by my husband’s wishes. Yes, usually the pregnant mama gets to call all the shots, but it is his baby too, and certainly this will be one of the most important moments in his life as a father, a husband and a person — even if he’s done it twice before.

Having said that, I’d like to know why your husband is objecting. Personally, I’m in the “no guests” camp when it comes to labor and delivery — mostly from a modesty standpoint, but I like keeping the experience between my husband and I. Does he want this to be a special moment between just the two (three) of you? Does he have medical concerns? Is he not a big a fan of your mom and bestie as you think?

I think there is a way to compromise though if you are really insisting on having them there. You could either have them stay until a certain point — say until it is time to push, or have them come in when you are about to, depending on what your husband would prefer. That way you still get to hear them cheering them on, and he gets to spend the majority of this moment alone with you.

In any case, I think a conversation is in order.

SUZANNE: If you watch any number of birth stories on TV, you might just begin to think that tickets are being sold at the door to labor and delivery. Two by two, the expectant mother’s whole family (brothers, cousins, aunts, and even the mother- and father-in-law) shows up and stays right there at the foot of the bed to watch the blessed event.

Now I’m all about doing up birthday parties in a big way, but that very first one — the day your child enters the world — is  best kept a private affair in my opinion. Not to mention your husband’s from what I gather.

While your two extra guests certainly don’t constitute a crowd, you might just try to come up with another way to involve them and respect your husband’s feelings at the same time. Amanda suggested a great compromise, and one that might satisfy everyone’s expectations for the big day.

If you have your mom and best friend join you and your husband during the early phases of labor, be sure to set some ground rules with them in advance. If he wants to be the one to guide you through your breathing techniques or be the only one at your side during the internal exams, then prepare them in advance to heed those wishes. You will still have plenty of time for joking around, watching mindless TV together, or whatever it is that you feel up to in the time between 0 and 8 centimeters.

When the staff says it’s go-time, your invited guests will have to know that it’s time to make their exits (as gracefully as possible, without having to be pulled out of the room by a nurse) and wait for word to come back in at whatever point you and your husband have agreed upon (as soon as they hear baby’s cries, when a few minutes have passed and he comes out to get them, or even when you’re all back in order and have the baby at your chest).

In the end, your mom and friend will still be among the first to celebrate baby’s arrival with you and your husband, and will no doubt be honored to have had backstage passes — even if they didn’t get to sing with the band.

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When you delivered your baby (or your spouse did) who was in the room? Have you ever witnessed a baby being born that wasn’t your own?

If you have a problem that needs two opinions, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Dad Planning a First Mother’s Day

©irenaeus-h/stock.xchng

What's the secret to planning a great Mother's Day? Ask the aforementioned mom! ©irenaeus-h/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

This isn’t a problem per se, but I am looking for advice.

This year my wife will celebrate her first Mother’s Day. Our son Gavin is 8 months old. I want to make the day special for her, but I’m not really sure what to do. I’ve asked her, but she’s been really vague about making plans, simply saying that she just wants a day with her family.

So what does that mean exactly?

– Dumbfounded Dad

Amanda: You are very wise to come to us with this question. And seeing as you are of the male species and don’t speak mom (and clearly you’ve lost your handy dandy translator) I’m happy to decipher your wife’s words for you.

She just wants a day with her family.

(Was that too on the nose?)

Yes, I know, you got that. “But what does that mean exactly?” I see your eyes rolling all the way over here. (And don’t take that tone with me.)

It means as long as you don’t decide to spend the day golfing with your buddies, this is an easy one. Just spend the day with her. You, Gavin and your wife.

Now you are exasperated. “DOING WHAT?”

It doesn’t matter. Really. It’s not a trick question (or answer). She just wants to be with you and your son. But since you seem to want something specific, let’s talk this out. You actually have a couple of options for planning a great day, and despite your wife’s indistinct directions, I think you should definitely take the initiative and plan something special.

You can totally surprise her with an itinerary for the day, or, if you are more comfortable, go to her with some specific ideas. You can even say, “Honey, I know you said that you just want to spend the day with Gavin and me, but I really want to make this day special for you. So I was thinking we could X, Y or Z. Or two of those. Or all three. What do you think?”

And if she’s still sort of undecided or unspecific on what she’d like to do, take your cue from that. Truly, maybe she just wants to spend the day at home doing nothing.

But the main idea is clear, whether you have brunch at a restaurant, breakfast in bed, a walk with her extended family, a day at the park or just time spent cuddling in bed.

She wants to spend the day with the two most important people in her life: you and your son.

Good luck and have fun!

Suzanne: While I agree with Amanda’s translation, I just want to make sure we’re speaking the same dialect as your wife.

Because when some women say what your wife did, they really mean it. Like me. And like Amanda.

If our husbands planned something low-key at home, just like we requested, neither one of us would be boiling inside thinking, “This is it? No diamond earrings, no spa gift certificate, no Mother’s Day brunch? Just wait until Father’s Day. Hummmppph.”

So think back. Was your engagement everything she dreamed it would be? Or did she later confess that she was a little disappointed that it wasn’t more romantic or splashy? Was there ever a time you agreed not to exchange holiday presents to save money, and she spent the rest of the day insisting she wasn’t mad that you really didn’t get her a little something, but you know she was.

Nothing against your wife if that’s the case. That just means she is into a flashier kind of a simple day. So you are probably going to want to make reservations for lunch, pay a visit to the jeweler and buy her a bouquet from you and the baby. Then everyone will be happy. For real.

On the other hand, if you’ve never disappointed her in the past, then Amanda’s plan will make for the perfect day. Tell her how much you and Gavin appreciate her and want this to be a day that is all about her.

If she still says anything sounds good, then plan the day around a few activities that give her time to focus on the best parts of motherhood. The fun of pushing Gavin in a swing. Or walking along a scenic path holding your hand and watching her son’s drooly smile as he rides in the baby carrier on his Daddy’s chest.  You might also consider making a keepsake of sorts, maybe enlarging a special photo of the two of them, stamping it with his baby handprint, and presenting it to your wife in a beautiful frame.

Let us know how it goes and whether a nice day at home was all she really wanted.

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OK moms and dads, got any suggestions/advice for our new friend D squared? How did you spend your first Mother’s Day? In a perfect world, what will you be doing this May 8?

You know what’s so great about sending your questions to advice@wearebothright? You get double the opinions!

Our Two Cents: How To Prepare Your “Baby” Not to Be the Baby Anymore

So you got the "I'm a Big Sister" t-shirt. Now what? © Armin Hanisch / stock.xchngDear Amanda and Suzanne:

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

My husband and I just found out we’re expecting our second child. We’re really excited and know our daughter will be thrilled with the news when we tell her in a few weeks. Julia’s three and has been asking for a baby brother or sister constantly.

I’m just worried about how she’ll react when the baby comes home with us — considering that she’s been the center of everyone’s attention since she was born!

How did that go for you? Was there anything specific that helped you prepare your younger ones, both before and after baby arrived?

– Another on the Way

Suzanne:
Well congratulations! That is exciting news.

A little different than the first time around though, right? Your biggest worry in getting ready for baby then probably was finding the right shade of yellow for the nursery. At the most, maybe you had a pet who needed to get oriented to a baby’s cry. And now you have this sweet little one, who you can’t imagine not being the apple of your eye. The last person you think about when you finally get to sleep and the first one on your mind (and/or breathing on your face) when you wake up. You want to make sure that she’s as thrilled to welcome home the new baby as the rest of the family.

Chances are she will be. Eventually.

However you choose to prepare her for a new sibling — whether through books, talking about the baby, bringing her to a sonogram appointment, letting her feel your belly, involving her in choosing things for the baby’s room or a combination of these — keep in mind that even when she reaches the point of elation at the thought of welcoming a new baby home, she won’t really know what comes next until it really happens. And then you might be dealing with a roller coaster of emotions that could rival what you experienced during pregnancy and postpartum combined.

So basically — have no expectations. And if she turns out to be the most well-adjusted big sister ever, you can breathe a long sigh of relief. If not, you will know that she’s experiencing an absolutely normal reaction to a major change in her life. (I was going to write “her world being turned upside down” but that sounded too dramatic. Even though it could very well be how she feels.)

I thought I had it made in the shade when I found out I was pregnant the second time, only because my son was going to be five when the baby was born and wouldn’t have the same trouble adjusting as a toddler who might not be able to communicate his feelings. How wrong I was.

As much as L. participated in our planning for the arrival of his little sister, by announcing the pregnancy to our family, helping to pick her name, painting her nursery, being there for the gender reveal, and spending lots of time with her in the hospital in the days after she was born, we had no idea that he would take as many steps back in the following weeks. He hated me and my husband, or at least that’s what he told us. Hearing that was probably the hardest thing for me to digest — still to this day and he’s 8 going on 18. It came out of nowhere despite my husband’s best efforts to do special things with him every day of his leave and my reassurances that we loved him more than ever. Our pediatrician was the only one who wasn’t surprised by his reaction. The thing was, he told everyone that he loved his sister. I still don’t know what it was that made him feel divided in this way, but within a month he got over it.

In no way am I trying to scare you about the possible reactions your daughter might have around the time of your new baby’s arrival. But I hope that by knowing how wide the range of “normal” is for new siblings, you will be able to give her the time and space she might need to get used to her new role in your family.

Best wishes to all! We’d love to hear how it turns out.

Amanda:

Yay! I hope you are feeling well.

Like Suzanne said, I think the key here is to not have too many expectations. Because the thing with preschoolers is that they are funny little creatures. Not to make light of the situation, but I expect that your daughter’s reaction to the news of her new sibling will vary over the next few months depending on a lot of things — her mood, if the moon is full, if she liked the episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! on television that morning, etc.

Still, no matter how your daughter reacts to becoming a big sister — with joy, with anger or with seemingly no response at all — it’s normal and I think it’s important for you to remember that whatever she says or does, this is a big part of her emotional development.

I do think your best bet is to address the changes in your family before the new baby arrives. And this can be a lot of fun. While you may not be brave enough to solicit name ideas from Julia (while pregnant with my third I was regaled with a selection of names culled from Playhouse Disney and Nick Jr. and my kids were six and eight years old!) you should ask for her opinion on other important details like bedding, toys and even clothing. If you decide to register, bring her with you (try to keep the trip short, you can always go back later and add items if you need to) and actively ask for input. If possible, let her pick out one or two items that you purchase on the spot.

Getting her involved in the process will make her realize that she is an important, contributing member of the family and that the life of the new sibling is something she should be part of.

Another thing, I’ve found that most kids under 5 have trouble understanding time so it’s best to say the baby will arrive when the weather gets cold or around Halloween to give her some sort of frame of reference. This way you’ll avoid an endless string of “Is the baby coming today?” questions.

One baby arrives and as your family adjusts to its new dynamic, remember that your “big kid” may not be thrilled in her new role yet. Don’t be surprised if she regresses a little — asking to drink from a bottle or nurse, have bathroom related accidents, engage in “baby talk” or even ask to sleep in the crib (especially if the crib was once hers). Ask her to help you in caring for the little one – get you diapers, push the stroller or even assist in getting it dressed. It may take longer with the extra set of hands, but if she wants to be involved, welcome her efforts. (And if you are nursing, know that this sometimes makes older kids feel left out. Keep some books on hand or have a favorite movie cued up on the DVD player so you can have some cuddle time while you feed the baby.)

Some kids may welcome the new sibling with open arms and never express any discontent. Others may say hurtful things. Most fall someplace in the middle. It’s important to be patient as your little one adjusts. Encourage her to talk about how she’s feeling through words or even a picture. Try to relate — if they baby won’t stop crying, tell her that it can be frustrating for you to hear too.

Priority number one is to make sure your child feels loved and needed. Adding a new member to the family will affect Julia in a big way, but ultimately a positive one. She is getting a new sibling, but hopefully also gaining a lifelong friend.

How did you help prepare your child for a new sibling? What worked? What didn’t?

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Have a parenting dilemma? We’ll give you two opinions for the price of one. (And if you only want one, it’s still free.) Just send your question to advice@wearebothright.com.

Our Two Cents: When Should a Child Use a Public Restroom Alone?

©clambert/stock.xchng

Is there a right age for letting a child use a public restroom alone? ©clambert/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Last weekend, a friend and I went to the history museum with our kids. We each have a nine-year-old son and she also has a six-year-old daughter.

After lunch the boys both said they had to go to the bathroom and I was shocked when she said she was going to bring her son into the ladies’ room instead of letting him go to the men’s room with my son. Now I’m as cautious as the next mom, but I don’t think a nine-year-old boy belongs in the ladies’ room any more than a little girl belongs in the men’s room. I planned to stand outside the door and give my son the same words of caution I always do when I send him in alone, and even said to her that they would be better off going in together. But she insisted, and took her son in with her instead.

Obviously, she’s entitled to make her own decisions about the safety of her kids, but what’s the right age to expect that your son will have to be responsible for himself in the men’s room when you’re out in public places?

– Bathroom Breaker

Suzanne:

Well thank goodness there are a lot more of those “family restrooms” popping up in public places. It’s so much better when either a mom or dad can bring any or all of the kids into a private bathroom and not have to worry about making these tough choices. But obviously, when that isn’t a option you still have to resign yourself to (a) embarrassing your child and bringing him into a place where he doesn’t quite fit in, or (b) holding your breath and hoping for the best as you send him behind closed doors where you don’t belong.

I’ve been in both camps at one point or another, and as you saw with you and your friend, no mom is going to budge from doing what she feels is right for her child at a specific time and place. Well except maybe the child’s other parent.

My husband was the one to convince me to let our son go to a bathroom in a restaurant by himself for the first time when he was around seven. “We can see him going in and coming out from here,” my husband said attempting to reassure me. “There’s only one way out.” Humph, I thought, my mind overtaken by images of evildoers, small windows and back doors. He was fine. And from then on, my biggest concern is always if he washed his hands and avoided the door handle on the way out.

But if I ever had to travel with my son alone (and he’s almost nine now) I’m not quite sure I still wouldn’t run him into the ladies’ room at an airport. I think this is where the mommy math comes in, a formula only your subconscious can calculate. It’s something along the lines of your child’s age multiplied by the number of bathroom stalls divided by how many times you twitched thinking about your innocent little child going through those doors alone.

So leave it to your friend to find her own comfort zone and be confident in knowing that for you and your son, the time has already come.

Amanda: When I was younger, I would go out alone with my dad somewhat frequently. And, as children are want to do on occasion, I would have to go to the bathroom. So he’d bring me to the entrance of the women’s room and promise he would stand outside and wait until I was done.

“Scream if you need me,” he’d say in a loud, booming voice, making sure that everyone around knew that he was waiting for me.

If I took too long (or maybe he’d do it anyway) he would call inside the door, asking if I was O.K. As a tween, I remember being somewhat embarrassed by his blatant display of fathering, but now as the mother of three, I admire my dad for his boldness and sometimes am tempted to employ his methods. Because this is a question I struggle with myself. Not only with my 10-year-old son who wouldn’t be caught dead with me in a women’s room but with my 8-year-old daughter who would rather I didn’t accompany her either.

My kids do go to public restrooms alone. I allow it because I do feel like they are old enough and I need to start letting go (a little). Still, I’m not happy about it. But this is one of those situations where a parent (and only a parent) has to make this call.

I don’t think there is a set age for allowing a child to use a public restroom alone — my neighbor still brings her 11-year-old son into the ladies room with her, much to his chagrin. I think the key is, to make sure your child is aware of where they are going, what they need to do when they get there and that they need to do it all quickly. They should also be told what to do if something goes wrong.

Whether we like it or not, that’s what parenting is lots of times, isn’t it? Giving your child the proper tools and then letting them use them. Watching them grow up.

(And taking comfort in the knowledge that you can always stand outside the door and shout if you need to.)

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How does it work when you are out with your children? Is there a good age to let a child use a public restroom alone?

If you have a question that needs more than one answer, send us an e-mail at advice@wearebothright.com