We Are Both Right

Following a One Kid/One Room Formula

©veralu/stock.xchng

In Amanda's house, siblings do not share a bedroom. How about in yours? ©veralu/stock.xchng

I can pretty much guarantee that my husband and I won’t be adding a fourth child to our brood. And while I have plenty of physical, emotional and financial reasons to keep that promise, my grounds are really driven by aesthetics.

We have three kids. We have four bedrooms in our house. We have no desire to move for the moment. Ergo, we will not be having any more children.

I understand that siblings sharing a room is hardly the end of the word, that millions (billions) do it all the time and grow up to live normal, happy existences, but for me, giving my kids their own room — a space that they can call entirely their own — is really important.

Houses are a public space. Our house isn’t tremendous and unless no one else is home, it’s rare that you find yourself alone in any room in the house (not counting the bathroom). I feel like giving kids their own room is giving them a haven. A place where their stuff stays safe, away from the prying hands and eyes of siblings; a place where they can sit and read or listen to music or just in silence; a place where they can just be alone. More importantly, their own room is also a place where they can keep their own mess and their own bedtime.

The funny thing is, I don’t think either of my older children would mind sharing a room with their younger brother at all. In fact, I think they would welcome it. When I was pregnant, we didn’t know what we were having. My son and daughter would fight with each other on whose room the baby would sleep in. Never mind that they were eight and six years older than their soon-to-be-born sibling. For them, the thought of having the baby in their room was terrific. (The baby, a boy, wound up sleeping in mine and my husband’s room for a little over a year, then we did some room swapping where we lost our office.)

Now that their baby sibling is a little brother (and one going through the toddler years at that), they still say they want to share a room with him, but their pleas are a bit less enthusiastic.

How does it work in your house? Did you share a room with a sibling when you were growing up?

While Suzanne’s kids don’t share a room, she wouldn’t mind it if they needed to.

Originally published October 3, 2011

Siblings Sharing a Room, Brady-Style

siblings sharing a room

There's a lot of irony in having siblings share a bedroom, but you might as well make the best of it like this sister/brother room does. Photo and design ideas provided by Project Nursery at http://goo.gl/AErgf

There’s a little bit of Brady Bunch envy still lurking within me. And part of it has to do with those big awesome bedrooms they shared, one for the three boys, and another for the three girls.

OK, so their dad was an architect. And each room looked like it was the equivalent of two oversized bedrooms with the wall taken down between them. And Mrs. Brady (or maybe it was Alice) coordinated the bedding just perfectly. It all looked so cool. And so much fun.

Remember when the boys scared the girls by projecting apparitions from the attic out the bedroom window? Or when one of the triple sets would huddle up in a bedroom to cover up some ill-fated scheme involving farm animals? Sure Greg eventually moved out into his attic bachelor pad, but it was a good setup there for a while.

I was convinced that there was nothing better than getting to share a room with a sibling, or two. And to a point, I still am.

Growing up, my sister and I shared a room for close to ten years after our brother was born and snagged the third bedroom. We even shared the same bed (a double from what I remember) for at least a few of those early years. But whether it was us singing show tunes while making the bed or throwing socks at the whirring ceiling fan while laying on our backs in bed, we learned to be a team. That came in handy when it came to covering for each other years later.

In some ways, I think that experience also primed me for parenting. I remember nights spent awake listening to my sister breathe after an especially bad bout with asthma. We were in twin beds at that point, and I would kneel beside her bed on the hardwood floors that had been cleared of carpeting that might harbor allergens, listening for consecutive breaths. My perfectly healthy babies would be under the same night watch years later.

Sharing a room with my sister wasn’t all fairy tale all the time though. We had our share of spats, and there was no place to escape to when the going got rough. But in the end, I still appreciate having those years in such close quarters. Because the Brady room ours was not.

Especially now, in the middle of this double dip recession (if the economists won’t officially declare one, you can take my word for it), I think room sharing is coming back into vogue. Families are downsizing their housing out of necessity. An ailing grandparent might need to move in. And in urban areas, where housing has always been a tight squeeze, room sharing is only becoming more commonplace.

There are ways to make it work and have fun with it. And there are times to let it go — like when children get older and privacy becomes a factor. But in the end, siblings sharing a room provides a special bonding experience that just might make things easier for them later.

Did you share a room growing up? Do your children now? Ever think you might have to tape a bed sheet to ceiling when the going got tough?

**********

Over at Amanda’s house, single rooms are such a priority that she and her husband gave up their longstanding home office (and a few weekends) to make room for their new addition.

Originally published October 3, 2011

Best of: Road Trip Games

©MEJones/stock.xchng

When your family goes on a road trip, how do you keep the kids entertained?

Road trip! The words have different connotations depending upon your age and station in life. For families with young children, the notion of hours (and hours and hours) in a moving metal box with four wheels and finite space can seem a bit daunting.

There are, luckily, devices designed to keep the whole family entertained while you are on the way to the main entertainment (Walley World anyone?). From portable DVD players to handheld video games (and let’s not forget books!), there are myriad ways to keep kids busy while you drive from Point A to Point B (and stop at Landmark C in between).

But now, not to get all “when I was your age I walked uphill in a snowstorm seven miles both ways,” but when we were younger, there were no electronic toys to keep us occupied. It was just ourselves (and a sibling or two), confined to the back seat, trying to stay sane. What did we do? Road trip games of course! Here are some of our favorites:

  • I Spy
  • 20 Questions
  • License Plate Bingo
  • Team Storytelling
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Banana Game (Whoever finds the most yellow cars wins)
  • Punchbuggy! (In which you keep an eye out for VW Bugs)
  • Mad Libs (buy the books or make up your own in advance)
  • Which Hand?
  • Quiz the Big People (the little one picks a topic and you name as many Pokemon, dinosaurs, etc. as you can in a minute)
  • Be Weird Al (and create your own song parodies)
  • Build an Imaginary Sandwich (the only time you will OK a pretzel, chocolate chip, syrup, white bread combo)
  • Colorforms on the windows
  • Magnetic fishing

What about you? What kind of road trip games do you like to play in the car with your kids?

(Originally published on July 22, 2011)

Best of: Bringing Tears to Our Eyes

tears of joy

What makes you cry tears of joy? ©davidlat/stock.xchng

For my mother it’s the song “Pomp and Circumstance.” She could hear the hopeful notes being played as far away from a graduation ceremony as could possibly be (think Musak in the elevator), and she’ll still find herself welling up, imagining polyester gowns, squared-off caps and optimistic speeches that take too long.

Tears of joy — a phenomena that you’ll (hopefully) experience a lot as a parent. And the thing about crying happy tears is that you never know what will set you off. Maybe it’s a sweet homemade card or one of your kids doing something uncharacteristically nice for their siblings.

Whatever it is, despite you tears, you feel good inside and you are once again reminded how lucky you are to be a parent.

So in honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday we’re sharing our favorite ways our little ones bring tears to our eyes. Pass the tissues!

  • First steps
  • Preschool graduation ceremonies where they sing songs you wouldn’t expect — ask Suzanne about “I Believe I Can Fly”
  • Dance recitals
  • Watching a child sleep
  • Solos at the school band concert
  • School-sponsored Mother’s Day teas, complete with crumbly homemade cookies and watered-down juice
  • Watching your little athlete be handed the game ball
  • Thinking back to the delivery room
  • The Song “Five Days Old” by the Laurie Berkner Band (gets Amanda every time)
  • When they brush my hair
  • The last day of school (and camp) goodbyes with friends
  • Pictures of my children giggling and playing, full of love
  • The special moments when you see siblings really connect (and dare we say, adore each other)

What about you? What makes you cry happy tears?

How Tight Are Your Apron Strings?

How tight are your apron strings? ©Adrian/stock.xchng

People watching. It’s a favorite pastime of mine.

So much so that you could send me to an airport right now, subject me to a five-hour layover and I would be more than happy to find a seat and watch the comings and goings of other people the whole time. (Of course, if my children were with me, the tables would be turned and we would be the people being watched.)

The way things have been lately, I have actually had a lot more time for people watching. You see, it’s an inverse relationship: lots of time waiting in lines, going to practices, and sitting in doctor’s offices means more people watching, less sit-ups and blogging.

Sometimes people watching is the only thing to do. Like in the gymnastics waiting room — my daughter is new to the class and I don’t know any of the other parents yet, but I do know who’s running a marathon and which moms and dads teach in the same school together. Last week, between S.’s turn on rings and her flips on the low bar, I picked up on two conversations that intrigued me. (OK, so it was more like public eavesdropping than people watching, but it struck me the same way.)

In one room, three moms were comparing sleep away camps. The conversation soon shifted to convincing another mom who was new to the concept that she would be fine with sending her second grader away to camp for the entire summer. I couldn’t see her reaction to gauge whether she bought it or not.

That’s because in my direct line of sight was a mother pressed up against the window, talking at the same time through the glass and to her husband who was half-listening with Blackberry in hand.

“They’re not even watching her. She’s going to fall,” the mom said. (Just to set the scene: the room is lined in wall-to-wall heavy duty mats equipped to cushion an adult falling off the uneven bars and her preschooler was about a foot off the ground on another foam mat, while two instructors looked over a class of six.) She spent most of the class saying the same thing over and over again.

I was keeping my judgment-free cap on, and didn’t even react when I saw that her child was dressed in a zipped-up, velour track suit on a 60-degree day. As if she read my mind, she wondered aloud to her husband how some kids could be dressed in leotards on such a cold day — as my leotarded daughter jumped off the balance beam.

No offense taken. Because these are the observations I like best. They make me think. About how I make choices as a mom. How I view different approaches to parenting. And if such differences validate my way of doing things or make me feel inadequate.

This version of people watching, or parent watching, has made me question how tight the apron strings really need to be. Most people like to keep their kids close, others even closer. But where do I want to fall?

I always fancied myself a supportive and open-minded parent, one who would be happy to help my children find their wings and learn to fly. I can picture myself smiling (with a single tear on my cheek) as we pull up to campus on the first day of college. I want to be the mom who could not be more proud that her child becomes self-sufficient and independent.

I truly believe that I will feel fulfilled to see my children make a life of their own — and not feel the need to pick out their furniture, invite myself on the honeymoon or even into the delivery room for that matter.

Of course, my two are still young. And I still smother them with worry sometimes. But there are lots of times when I think that maybe there’s a motherly doting gene I’m missing.

I let a lot of things fly, like hats on a cold day. There are times I expected them to toughen up, even as toddlers, and stick out a long day without a nap at home or forgo the favorite sippy cup which hadn’t made it through the dishwasher yet. It doesn’t leave me panicked to let them go on field trips and ride school buses without taking the teacher’s cell phone number.

Nine years into the experiment and I haven’t made any fatal mistakes. So that’s a good thing. But I’m wondering if I should be holding them tighter, worrying more, and not wanting to let go.

Tell me, how tight are your apron strings?

Preserving Memories – What’s Your Style?

old family photos

What are your family's memories made of? ©Jean Scheijen/stock.xchng

The other night, while I was rearranging the game closet (because it was about time) my daughter came up behind me and asked for her special pink book. “The one that’s all about me,” she said.

I reached up two shelves and handed over a fuzzy covered photo album that contains about two hundred pictures of her first two weeks of life. Yes, I take a lot of pictures. And my kids love me for it. ;-)

Actually, I have archived so many pictures that my husband jokes around that when we’re both gone someday, our son and daughter will be sitting in our house, looking at a room full of photo albums and portable hard drives, saying: “What are we supposed to do with all of this?”

But hey, it’s my memory-preserving style of choice.

Kids grow up so fast. There are so many special moments that I’m always thinking, I wish I could bottle this up and take it out down the road. The color of my daughter’s hair as I put it into pigtails for the first time. My son as a toddler digging into his favorite vegetable — corn on the cob. The looks on their faces the first time each of them rode a pony. Family gardening days out in the yard. Trips to the beach. Visits with great-grandma.

All of the random stuff that makes our family’s world go ’round. And so I take pictures. Lots of them.

There are so many other ways to capture a memory:

Keeping a baby book (although most moms feel a slight tinge of guilt when they think about their unfulfilled wishes for their baby book).

Blogging. I’ve gone so far as to print out most of the blogs I’ve written about my children, but somehow I don’t see them paging through these as much as they will our photo albums.

Scrapbooking, whether digitally or traditionally.

Logging highlights on Facebook–which our kids will probably hate us for someday when their potty training progress (and hang-ups) is still on full display for their prom date’s reading pleasure.

Videos–which are probably the best way to go back in time, if we could just settle on a format that’s going to last a lifetime!

What’s your memory-keeping style of choice?

Moms, Time to Have “The Talk” With Your Daughters — About Math

How do your kids feel about math? While both my kids do very well  in math at school, my son will tell you he loves it, while my daughter says that only does she not like it, she’s not good at it to boot. As it turns out, her lack of enthusiasm for the subject could totally be my fault.

A new study from researchers at the University of Delaware’s School of Education and reported in Miller-McCune finds that moms are less likely to talk to their daughters about numbers at a young age, potentially setting them up to have less confidence about them when they reach elementary school.

The research is fascinating, if not troubling. Scientists recorded mothers talking to their children who were between 20 and 27 months old. The moms mentioned numbers twice as much to their sons as their daughters. The number rose to three times as much when the number was attached to a noun — for example, “Here are five raisins.”

Alicia Chang, the lead researcher told Miller-McCune, “By grade school, boys are very confident at math, and girls are saying boys are better at math. The issue isn’t actual performance but perception of competence. We hypothesized that by the time you’re in grade school, you might like math because your mother was more likely to talk to you about it when you were very, very young.”

The researchers don’t think that the omission is conscious, simply parents talking to their children differently. Still, it’s something to be aware of.

What do you think? Does your daughter like math?

Best Of: How to Make Time for Your Spouse or Partner

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Being married with kids can sometimes give you tunnel vision. Wake the kids, feed the kids, play with the kids, get the kids to school, get the kids from school, get the kids to afterschool activities, feed the kids dinner, put the kids to bed and everything else that the kids need in between.

All important of course, but it’s also necessary to make time for your partner in all this — your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend — it doesn’t matter what they are called, but it does matter that you get some alone time together, or at least a few minutes to talk uninterrupted. But how? Certainly you could hire a babysitter for an evening, but that often comes with extra cost and not everyone has access to a person they trust.

Instead, consider ways to make time within the confines of your busy life to find time. Take advantage of the few quiet moments or carve out some time by making your own (some are better advised than others). Even if the kids are with you, it is possible! Here are our suggestions:

  • Tuck the kids into bed early, rent a movie or play a game and bring in take out for a late dinner
  • Consider taking a break from dinner time being family time for a night. Let the kids eat in the living room with a movie while you have a quiet dinner in the dining room (or vice versa)
  • Wake up early and eat breakfast together alone
  • Pack the kids in the car and go for a long drive. If your minivan or vehicle is equipped with DVD player, utilize it. If not, let the kids bring books or portable game systems that will keep them occupied. (Make an exception if you usually frown upon such devices.)
  • If you both work (or if one of you does) while the kids are in school or daycare, consider taking a “goof off” day
  • When the weather is nice, go for a walk as a family at a local high school on the running track. Let the kids run ahead (staying in sight of course) while you two talk.
  • Invite another couple with kids over for dinner. Let the children entertain each other while they play, giving the grown-ups a chance to socialize.
  • If there is another family you are friendly with, consider setting up a babysitter swap arrangement where you take their kids for a night and they take yours.

How do you make time for your marriage?

When Speaking Up Means Staying Quiet

Football stadium

Amanda discovered that sometimes advocating for your child means not saying a word. ©We Are Both Right

It’s a piece of advice that seems to transcend parenting books, styles and experts: Advocate for your child. There’s a lot of wiggle room in those four words, but for me, they always meant “SPEAK UP!” whether it was in the classroom, pediatrician’s office or even on the playground. If my child can’t articulate for themselves what they need, then it’s my job as mom to help them get it. I learned recently though, that sometimes advocating for your child means knowing when to stay quiet.

Over the weekend, my 11-year-old son and I attended an incredibly popular sporting event. A football game, you may have even seen it on network television (I hear the commercials are pretty funny). The circumstances of how we attended aren’t important, but that we did, just the pair of us, is. I was slightly nervous about going to an event like this without a male presence — not to demean myself as a woman, but in a stadium filled with rowdy, possibly inebriated fans, I felt like my son and I (decked out in gear supporting our team) were easy, vulnerable targets.

For the most part, I needn’t had worried. Our section was filled with fans supporting both teams and there was even a family sitting immediately to the right of us. At the beginning of the game, a group of three male fans about seven rows back were escorted out by security for having a bit too much to drink (something they denied but was then confirmed when one in their party slipped down the cement steps — ouch!), but otherwise we were in a good group of people who were just as happy to be there as we were. And while we were all hoping our team would win, just being at this game was enough to keep everyone satisfied.

Kind of. In the row immediately behind us, were a pair of 30-something males who were rooting for the team that we weren’t. That’s fine, except their choice of language wasn’t exactly the stuff nursery rhymes are made of. Now my son is 11, he’s certainly been exposed to words like this (not by me!), but not at the frequency and the intensity that these words were uttered (and shouted).

So what to do? If my husband was there, I’d either ask him to say something (chances are he’d do it on his own) or I’d speak up myself. Nothing confrontational of course, just a simple, “Hey guys, do you mind watching what you say? My kid is sitting right here.” But my husband wasn’t there and I wasn’t sure how these men would react to me, a mother and her child. Would they feel terrible for their transgression, curb their creative vocabulary immediately and apologize for their lack of tact and etiquette? Could be. Or would it go the other way and would I suddenly find myself in a not-so-great situation with my son looking on?

Honestly, I didn’t want to find out, so I did nothing.

Well, not nothing exactly. The next day, after the game was over (our team won!), I mentioned what had happened to my son to get his read on it. It seemed like he hadn’t even noticed, so caught up in the game was he, that the two dopes behind us never hit his radar. Still, in hindsight I question if I did the right thing. Maybe I should have said something, or even texted security (there was a number where you could report unruly game goers). That thought had passed through my mind at the time, but I was concerned that the pair would have just been given a warning, my hand would have been tipped and then a few choice foul words would have been the least of my problems. Also, I felt uncomfortable about “tattling” when I hadn’t had the courage (or good sense) to first speak to these men myself.

Overall, I’m comfortable with what I didn’t do and would probably make the same choice next time, but I’m curious what other parents would do in my situation. Seeing that the family sitting next to me didn’t speak up either, I feel like I’ve been validated a bit. What do you think? Did I make the right decision? Have you ever felt that staying silent was the best option?

Best of: What’s for Brinner?

breakfast for dinner

Breakfast for dinner anyone? ©Alicia Solario/stock.xchng

Brinner. Better known as breakfast for dinner. Or that quick fix on a busy night when you just can’t fathom take-out again.

What’s not to like?

Brinner is the easiest evening meal to pull off.

It can be as healthy as you make it.

The kids can help.

Did we mention it’s quick?

And in our homes, brinner often gets a better reception from the kids than when we spend close to an hour or longer finely mincing, dicing, and sauteing ourselves to a balanced meal (and a sink full of dirty dishes).

The husbands are a different story. Brinner is not a winner for either of them, although neither seems to mind if we serve the kids pancakes at 6 p.m. when they’re working late.

And at times like that, a mom will eat just about anything that doesn’t require a meat thermometer:

Sticky Waffles: Pop a few fluffy style frozen waffles (cinnamon work great with this) into the toaster. Set your preschooler up with a butter knife and a peeled banana to slice into quarter-inch rounds (or however they manage to do it). Spread peanut butter (optional) onto the toasted waffles, top with bananas and drizzle with honey. Warm, sticky, and yummy!

Egg Sandwiches: Eggs any which way with your favorite cheese, and bacon if you have a few more minutes to spare, smooshed between toasted English muffins, croissants, whole wheat, frozen dinner rolls, whatever bread you have on hand — it all works!

Veggie Frittata or Omelette: Same idea as above, just dump some whisked eggs and milk into an oven proof pan. Stir in diced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, peppers, leftover ham, or anything you have a chance at disguising for your kids. Top with shredded cheese and slip it into a warm oven while you find those paper plates.

Breakfast burrito: Line up bowls with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns (the frozen kind warmed up), salsa, sour cream and shredded cheese alongside warmed tortilla wraps and consider it a make-your-own kind of night.

What’s for brinner by you? Share your favorite “recipe” below and tell us about how many times a month you enjoy breakfast for dinner.