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?

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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)

Our Two Cents: The Fine Line Between Grandma and (Live-In) Nanny

Grandparents babysitting

When Grandma babysits 24/7, what should Grandpa do? ©Jenny Erickson@stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

My granddaughter Leila will turn 3 in a few days. Since she was born my wife has been the happiest grandmother anyone could imagine. Our son only lives a few miles away so we can pretty much see Leila anytime we want. My problem is that it seems like we see her too much.

My wife has agreed to watch her a few days a week, Mondays and Tuesdays and some Fridays. She also offered to watch her on Friday nights or through the weekend if the parents want to go somewhere. Of course, my son and his wife (who are in their mid-20s) are quite pleased with this arrangement, and often bring their daughter over to our house on Friday night and then pick her up on Saturday afternoon. Despite my opinion that this is happening too frequently, my wife still agrees to watch her anytime they ask.

All of a sudden, I’m the bad grandpa. The fact is that I love my granddaughter, but I just don’t want to raise her. We raised our own children and now this should be “our time” to enjoy.  The only one who somewhat understands is my daughter; she thinks that my son and his wife need to understand that there are no “days off” from being a parent.

At this point it seems like everyone is getting their way but me: my wife gets to dote on her granddaughter, my son gets free babysitting and our granddaughter is getting spoiled by grandma. I only wish they would understand my point of view and respect some of our free time. Any suggestions?

– Off-Duty Grandpa

Suzanne: It doesn’t sound to me like you are a bad grandpa, just one with a life. So go ahead. Carry on. With your life that is. Buy a boat, a motorcycle, an old car to restore, anything to keep you busy while your wife busies herself with full-time grandparenting. It sounds like you enjoy quality time with your granddaughter, but nothing says that you have to confine yourself to the house for every babysitting engagement.

Even if grandma can handle the childcare duties on her own, your absence could be the wake-up call she needs to realize that it’s probably not healthy for anyone that she has become a crutch of sorts. Of course she might think you are being spiteful at first, by making yourself unavailable. But if you take a sincere approach to scheduling in your own hobby time and also creating some “can’t miss” activities that include your wife, she might be inclined to curb the babysitting – to some degree at least.

Start with a scheduled brunch with friends on a Saturday morning, or a class that you both would enjoy. Your son and daughter-in-law shouldn’t be the only ones having fun on the town. Once your calendar starts filling up, it should become clear to everyone involved that babysitting should not be taken for granted.  And if she sees no reason not to continue the “always at your service” routine she has now with your son’s family, you should go on these “dates” anyway. It might just take her friends to start asking why she’s never around to drive the point home.

And don’t underestimate the opportunity to speak with your son about this situation (even if you already have). Tell him that his mother would never say no to helping out with Leila even if they asked her to let them know when she’s had enough. Instead, maybe they should take it upon themselves to consider limiting the weekend visits to once a month.

Your wife will probably need some encouragement once she comes around, so remind her that grandmas have a knack for making up for lost time whether they see a grandchild once a year or every other day.

Good luck and let us know how it works out!

Amanda: This is one of those times where Suzanne and I are in full agreement. You won’t be able to talk your wife into seeing your point of view, so stop trying to. That doesn’t mean however, that you can’t take (subtle) action.

I like the idea of scheduling activities in advance — months if you have to — for you and your wife to do together. If she balks and says she doesn’t want to go in case your son and his wife need you to watch Leila, be pleasant and continue on with your plans.

My one caution would be to not go overboard with your social calendar — be sure to continue to spend time with your granddaughter when she is at your home (or you are at hers) for babysitting. It’s nice that you are in a position to help out your son and daughter-in-law, whether your granddaughter realizes what is happening or not. Some of my best memories of childhood are the times I spent at my grandparents house. I didn’t know then (and I don’t know now) if I was there because I was being babysat or simply just because. I just remember being loved — I was so happy to be with them and they with me. That’s the takeaway here. Not every grandparent has the opportunity to spend so much one-on-one time with their grandchildren, view it as the blessing that it is. I promise in the future, Leila will.

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Your turn readers. What should “Off-Duty Grandpa” do? And if you have a sticky situation that needs a double dose of advice, remember we’re always here to help at advice@wearebothright.com.

Fifty Shades of Grey, and Why Mommy Lived Happily Ever After

Done, done and done. How about you? ©We Are Both Right

I’m a Fifty Shades of Grey convert.

There, I said it.

Until Tracey recently asked Amanda and me if either of us had read it, I wasn’t admitting to anyone (except my husband) that I not only read Fifty Shades of Grey, but Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. Just two months before, I had openly and stubbornly refused to consider reading these books.

You see, I prefer to buck trends whenever possible. And in this case, my decision not to indulge was made in reaction to the incessant gushing of pent-up moms in the bleachers at the town baseball field who thought the trilogy was worthy of a literary award. Seriously, mommy porn? How hard-up do you have to be?

So where was I? Oh yes, I read the entire trilogy. And I liked it. A lot. (I can blame a good friend, whose opinion I very much respect, for my change of heart.)

Once I had read them, it was challenging to refrain from the water cooler critiques which were heavily anti-Fifty Shades. All of my editor friends were saying that any self-respecting writer/editor would never get through the books without covering the pages in red proofreading marks. They were partially right — I was tempted, but distracted enough by the Red Room of Pain scenes to resist picking up a pen and mailing my corrections to author E L James. I also had to overcome a mental top ten list of the most overused fifty shades phrases (Can I get an “Oh my”?). The only thing left to do was laugh at myself for wasting hours on such a guilty pleasure when I barely make time to read anything else. And still, I was glad I did.

Now I am firmly planted on the Fifty Shades bandwagon — that is me, waving the flag, surrendering. But not for all the obvious reasons. Sure the story was hot, steamy mostly. And I even heard of one couple who completely turned around their relationship because the Mrs. had an awakening. But there was more to it than a bunch of sensationalist sex scenes and the BDSM theme.  The most intriguing take-away for me was how Anastasia Steele and Christopher Grey spun their extremes into a whirlwind of self-discovery and ultimately met somewhere in the middle.

I would go so far as to say that the story was touching, dare I say even sweet at times. Anastasia and Christian learned to bend (in most interesting ways) and let go of their fears and inhibitions. Their story, fictional as it may appear, gets you thinking about how far you can stray from your comfort zone while still being true to yourself.

The real theme here is about connecting with someone on a deeper level — and how sometimes you have to expand your definition of normal to get there. But I won’t lie, you will have to repeatedly pick your chin up off the sheets and get through a lot of cable ties and clamps before the real story emerges. Not a bad way to pass the time.

Come to think of it, maybe the real lesson here is about trying something before you decide whether or not you like it — kind of like this book.

Soooo, did you read it? What do you think of the Grey frenzy? Amanda had to deal with the Fifty Shades-hype on the baseball field too, except she’s not giving in. Ever.

Fifty Shades of I’ll Read Something Else

Let’s start with a fun fact, shall we?

Did you know that Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy author E.L. James originally published the work as a piece of Twilight (don’t get me started) fanfiction under the name Snowqueens Icedragon?

Book. Cover. Judged.

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One afternoon about a month ago, I was sitting at my son’s batting practice reading a book on my Nook. My daughter and 3-year-old son were home with their dad, and since me offering my child hitting advice made about as much sense as cleaning the house while my preschooler walked around with a cup of grape juice, I suddenly found myself with an entire hour of interrupted reading time. It was heavenly.

Until it wasn’t.

50 Shades of Grey? Nah, Amanda prefers color. And books without mistakes. GiniMiniGi ©/stock.xchng

Fifty Shades of Grey? Nah, Amanda prefers color. And books without mistakes. GiniMiniGi ©/stock.xchng

“Whatcha reading there, Mrs. R.?,” one of the dads asked. (It should be noted this has always been a pet peeve of mine. I’m clearly reading. Not talking. Why are you interrupting me?) In the interest of social niceties, I looked up and started to answer, but I never had a chance.

“I bet it’s that Fifty Shades book all you women are going crazy for,” he said with a smirk. “Lucky for your husband,” he added.

I started to correct him (I was actually reading the thought-provoking Defending Jacob by William Landay) but he liked the material he had imagined and wasn’t going to let facts get in the way of it. He addressed the other parents (all dads) that were in the waiting area.

“Your wives read the Fifty Shades?” he asked. “Mine did,” he said proudly. “Oh, yeah,” he added as a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, fill-in-the-blanks afterthought. (Lucky girl!)

As the other men started comparing and congratulating (!?!?) each other on the reading habits of their significant others, my inner (ha) nerd had had enough of the locker room talk. She has been a passionate, thoughtful reader since the first time she picked up a book 30-something odd years ago and was not about to let her good, hard-earned reputation be sullied by a 20-something virginal, clumsy woman and her terrible life choices.

“Actually,” she (I) said. “I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey, nor will I ever. It’s a ridiculous, poorly-written book with a laughable plot line; incompetently developed, inane characters; and questionable grammar.” (Yes, my inner nerd speaks with semi colons. She didn’t get a lot of dates in high school.) I was about to add, “And I resent that a woman can’t read a book without it being assumed that it’s that tripe,” but the group had already moved on, undoubtedly feeling sorry for my husband and what he has to live with every day. (I think I lost them with my frowny face, furrowed brow and glasses which after that rant were clearly for use and not as a “sexy librarian” prop.)

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Actually, when all the hoopla started, I had considered giving the books a go. I knew of their reputation (subject matter and proclivity for mistakes and repetition) but figured all those people and Facebook feeds couldn’t be wrong. Right? A friend stopped me before I could download the first one. She had read all three and thought they were not bad, but knew “how I was” (whatever could she mean by that?) and said that I would wind up throwing it out the window and mailing a thesaurus and a copy of Garner’s Modern American Usage to the author. I think her exact words were, “It will make you stabby.”

So I stay away from Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I realize this makes me a social oddity and a snob (an an awesome poet apparently). That’s fine. I’ll keep on keeping on. You and your inner goddess sit over there and blush and bite your lip. Again. And again. Oh my! Holy cow! Don’t forget to bite your lip! I understand 26-year-old billionaire control freaks who are into BDSM also like that. A lot! (Oh my! I’m biting my lip again!)

(WE GET IT. HE IS TURNED ON WHEN YOU BITE YOUR LIP.)

(Holy cow!)

Please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that every book read has to be a thoughtful tome discussing Important Topics. Far from it. Reading should be fun and enjoyable. A way to escape. That’s what books have always been for me. But if we are going to collectively going to go crazy over something that appears on the written page, can it at least be something that doesn’t include the phrase, “He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor Popsicle.”?

Ladies, there are some very good fiction authors out there that have strong, smart women as the lead character. Want erotic fiction with a good story? Try Judy Blume (Summer Sisters and Wifey, not Superfudge) or Penny Vincenzi. Heck, read Joan Collins! (Did I just write that? I’m probably lightheaded from Christian’s rule about no snacking between meals. Who in their right mind would agree to that? My guess? A 21-year-old college student from Seattle who doesn’t own a computer.) Now in these books, you won’t find any Red Rooms of Pain, but you will find interesting plots, complex characters and no glaring typos! Or try something on this list (Wuthering Heights! Really!).

Sigh.

Have you read any part of the Fifty Shades trilogy? Did you become obsessed? Did anything about the books bother you? Suzanne not only read the trilogy, she liked it! (And I always say she’s my most sensible friend!)

It’s the Itchy and Scratchy Show!

lice treatment

Amanda was going to run a photo of a louse to accompany her post, but she can't stand to look at another one. Here's a generic picture of a comb instead. You're welcome. aperfect1©/stock.xchng

If, for whatever reason, I am ever asked to come up with a way to torture someone, and I mean, really inflict maniacal psychological warfare, I have the perfect method.

I will infest my victim and everyone who lives in their house with lice.

Think I’m being a little, I don’t know, soft on my potential target? Clearly, you have never dealt with these wingless bloodsuckers that will just not go away.

It all started two weeks ago when I found a single louse on my 3-year-old’s head. With my own head becoming suddenly incredibly, unbelievably itchy and my stomach plummeting into the basement, my husband confirmed what I couldn’t bring myself to say or even think.

We had lice. And by we, I mean two of my children (my daughter and my younger boy) and me. (My husband is voluntarily bald. Cheater.)

I remember very clearly my reaction. I went with the three-year-old temper tantrum route, shouting, crying, balling my fists and stomping my feet. The funny (heh – I don’t think the word “funny” has ever been used in conjunction with lice before) thing was, I didn’t even know what I was in for. Just that it wasn’t going to be good. And it wasn’t.

Oh it wasn’t.

Because it wasn’t enough for the universe to just give us lice. It had to take away our hot water in the form of a broken boiler. And have my husband be at work for the next 48 hours.

Me + three cases of lice – a supply of hot water – my support system = One ticket to crazytown with all the extra baggage I could carry.

When I am faced with a problem, I automatically go into research mode and this time was no exception. The problem is, all my googling was making me more upset, despite almost every article I read starting with the same two words: DON’T PANIC. (Yeah, right. There are bugs. In our HAIR. They are LAYING EGGS. Seems like a perfect time to panic to me.)

I think the hardest part for me through it all was the hopelessness I felt. Like swimming in Jell-O (with bugs in my hair). Because no matter what I did, no matter how much money I spent, no matter how much time I spent picking through my daughter’s hair or my own (I shaved both of my boys’ heads. I was not messing around), I felt like I was always a step behind. There was always going to be a nit I missed or worse, a bug I couldn’t catch. I can’t even tell you how many treatments my daughter and I wound up having (at least five each in the course of a week).

I turned into a crazy person, with the lice overtaking every part of my life. I read, reread and read websites, over and over again, looking for some easy solution. I washed and rewashed and washed again what felt like every article of clothing and sheet in our house. (Major props to my husband for doing six loads of laundry at the laundromat on Mother’s Day.) I bought every kind of treatment, preventative spray and anti-lice product out there. I cross-examined other parents for tips and tricks (Major props to Suzanne for sending me a list of of things to do. Interestingly enough, it also carried the “Don’t panic” propaganda.) Because there was a major outbreak of lice (seven cases!) in my daughter’s class, I spent some time on the phone with the principal of her school, peppering her with questions on she was doing to disinfect and clean the classroom and educating the kids and their parents.

Not to mention how I tortured my family. Begging my husband to comb through my hair. Chasing after all three kids with sprays concocted of mint and rosemary (lice don’t like these scents apparently). Making my daughter wear her hair up in a braid and plastered with hair spray . Not to mention the plastic shopping bag in lieu of her knapsack I make her keep her things in once she gets inside of her classroom — not a cool thing to do apparently.

But no matter what I was doing, no matter how busy I kept myself, no matter how in control I tried to put myself, the lice were always in the back of my head (literally!), taunting me. I couldn’t relax. Until now. Kind of. (Not really.)

Two weeks of this ordeal and I’m cautiously optimistic that we might have very possibly, potentially, perhaps, maybe have gotten rid of them. (I’m being intentionally vague and humble on the chance that one of the little buggers reads this and decides to come back and teach me a lesson.) My daughter and I each had a treatment today — the “OK, no live bugs in over a week but you still better do a follow-up” treatment. We both came back clean, save for a few stray nits on her head that I have removed. My head still itches, but both my husband and I have been through my hair up and down and side to side and can find nothing. I think I might have overdone it on the treatments and now I’m reacting to them, physically and psychologically.

I promised my daughter that after this treatment that I wouldn’t be on top of her with the combs and tweezers as often (I was doing it twice a day), but as I write this, I know this is a promise I won’t be able to keep. I’m still scarred. And scared. You hear that lice? I’m scared. You win. Please leave us alone!

Have you or anyone in your house ever had lice? When did you reach the point where you could say, “O.K., they are gone?”

By the way, if you know me in real life, please don’t mention my post to my daughter. She will reinfect me herself if she knows this story is floating around on the Internets.

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?

Best Of (the Worst Of): Reasons Kids Throw Tantrums

child screaming

Look familiar? There are lots of reasons a child has a tantrum, but we really do need to start working on a catch-all solution. Quickly. ©Ginger Garvey/stock.xchng

SAAAAAN-DAAAAALS! The battle cry heard ’round the world. It was the beginning of another tantrum — and as usual it was about clothes.

So what that the temperature had dipped back down below 50 and it was windy and we were about to spend five hours outside on a dusty, clay-caked field for a Little League double-header. Sandals seemed pretty reasonable (and fashionable) in a four-year-old’s mind. Mom’s thoughts? Not so much. Commence tantrum.

You know the scene. And once a child gets into that mode – they’re as locked in as Maverick and Goose in Top Gun. Hugs, talking quietly, ignoring, yelling, nothing seems to work.

The one thing we have realized after years of experience is that sometimes prevention is the best medicine. If you know your child’s triggers, there are some things you can do to ward off the tantrums or at least make them less frequent or shorter in length.

It didn’t take us long at We Are Both Right to come up with the most tantrum-inducing scenarios. What did take a while was coming up with some solutions that didn’t involve earplugs or a passport and a one-way ticket for mommy to a deserted island.

Obviously, episodes like getting dressed in the morning and leaving friends’ houses are pretty much inevitable, so at some point you have to deal. But we’re thinking with these tricks, it might make life with a tantrum-thrower a little easier.

Problem/Solution

Choosing an outfit in the morning that doesn’t entail velvet in June or white satin sleeveless dresses on tie-die day in preschool in February. Take some time each night and turn this into a fun activity. Either watch the local weather forecast together on TV or pull it up on the web. Ask your child to interpret the  symbols, whether it’s partly cloudy, sunny, rainy or snowy. Explain the temperature and talk about what it will feel like on your skin. Give them the chance to be a weather reporter and give a little report to the family on what it would be best to wear the next day (i.e. pants and heavy sweaters, umbrella and raincoats, tank top and shorts, etc.) Then have your child pick an outfit to match the weather (and hope the weatherman wasn’t wrong). It will make your child feel like she has more control of the situation and made the decision herself based on her own conclusions.

Wanting something at the store and mean mommy won’t buy it. Talk about your shopping list ahead of time and ask them to check off things as they go in the cart. Explain that you have just enough money to buy these things, and anything they see and want, you have to think about adding to the list next time. If this doesn’t work, find a willing babysitter and go shopping by yourself (my solution for a few months when my kids were each around 30 months old).

Washing hands before and after dinner (the horror). Buy colored soap, peach-scented soap, hand them a wipe to do the job themselves. If that doesn’t work, threaten an earlier bath (and bed) time. Or do a science experiment on germs and let them see what dirty hands look like under a black light. It worked in our house!

Having to leave home to go someplace. Bring along the toy or thing that has them so attached to home in the first place. Tell them they will have so much fun when they get there. And then when they do, see below.

Having to leave someplace to go home. Promise that there are so many fun things to do at home, too. Tell your child that he can call his friend on the phone as soon as you get home. Have a snack stash in the car to lure her in. And then just make a quick break, because prolonged goodbyes never make it better.

Going to the supermarket (admittedly this makes me want to tantrum too). Bring a cart-worthy toy, or head to the book aisle in the supermarket and pick up a new book for your child to thumb through. It doesn’t necessarily have to come home with you, as you exchange it for a loaf of bread on the shelf. If your child knows colors, letters or shapes, play a treasure hunt game with them as you make your way through the store. Promise a special treat as you leave if they make it through tantrum-free.

Home improvement shopping where tantrumy child wants to run freely through glass tile displays on his way to jump into the whirlpool bathtub on display. Been there. The only solution is to leave and come back when you can actually form a clear thought about the tile that will be on your floor, well, forever.

Meal battles (think ice pops for breakfast). Recite a menu before the tantrum-prone child gets to declare his wishes. “Today, we have waffles, yogurt and cereal. Which would you like to start with?” And then ask another question immediately after — a distraction technique that I like to use. “And should we use your blue or yellow plate?” That way both answers come together and the child doesn’t think much about either one.

Best case scenario: Sometimes the tantrum isn’t full-blown and you will see a child who gets miffed and goes into meltdown mode, but storms off to a quiet space on her own, maybe even with a noisy door slam on the way out. Give it 10-15 minutes and chances are a centered, calm child will emerge like nothing ever happened.

So let us know where you are at with tantrums — do they happen once a week, once a month, or every day in your home? What are your best tips for keeping tantrums at bay? We’re listening, just don’t mind the screaming in the next room.

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?