We Are Both Right

Let’s Play Pretend. Mommy Will Be Ansel Adams.

Do-it-yourself family photos -- smart or short-sighted? ©Harrison Keely/stock.xchng

No disrespect to our guest blogger this week (who also happens to be an amazing professional photographer whose work we adore), but Amanda and I both are admittedly indifferent to having professional photos taken of our children.

Don’t get us wrong — we think our kids are as cute and photo worthy as the next. And there are lots of photos of them around our homes (well maybe just not in frames). It’s just that there are few that we paid to have taken.

Slackers, maybe. On a good day, you could be more generous and say we’re do-it-yourselfers.

We’ve managed to convince ourselves that there’s no need to make an appointment, go to a studio, cross our fingers and toes that our children will be cooperative for the length of the shoot, and then pay for someone else to do the honors. I mean, we have cameras. There are pretty trees outside in the front yard. And when the toddler wakes up in a good mood, we figure it’s a good time to take a picture.

Purely amateur. And now I’m speaking just for myself. Because I couldn’t tell you the difference between a shutter speed and the velocity of a space shuttle.

That didn’t stop me though. After having three-month and one-year professional portraits done for my son, I took it in-house. With sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly, I figured why pay a professional in the triple digits for a package when I could order up 79 cent 5x7s and a sheet of wallet-sized prints for all the grandparents? And I had my nice SLR camera (which I knew how to set on auto). So we took to the backyard and had fun doing our homegrown photo shoot in his “natural” setting.

When he turned four, we got fancy and took him to a local golf course for his birthday pictures. Why? Because I couldn’t help amusing myself with the connection between shouting “fore” on a golf course and him turning four.  I know, the absolute cheesiest of ideas. See why they shouldn’t put cameras in the hands of amateurs?

Then again, do you ever groan when you get back your child’s school photos? Like when the carefully plaited braids your daughter left the house with were captured as a tangled mess because someone behind the camera decided to take one of those black men’s combs and “smooth” out the top.  Not all professionals are created equal.

Which brings up another issue with professional photos — when you can’t say no. Even if the picture shows a lopsided frown, or the gum on the bottom of your cross-legged preschooler’s shoe, it can be hard to send those outtakes back. At least it is if you’re like my husband or Amanda. (Funny enough, they tend to order the same thing off the menu when we go out together — must be coded on the same gene).

Because every time we get the packet of pre-printed pictures back from school for the purpose of making a selection that’s within our budget, there’s hesitation (on their part) about saying no to any of them for fear of these beautiful images of their children ending up in a shredder somewhere. (Good thing my husband is not married to Amanda — they’d be up to their shoulders in school photos, Little League baseball cards and all those nifty magnets and pins that come in the photo fun-packs.)

So you see, it can get complicated. Which is why we’ve tried to take shortcuts in getting those milestone photos and family portraits done, without the formalities of hiring a professional photographer.

Except that it’s really not the same if you just do it yourself. I know — I’m supposed to be making the case for why I prefer not to go the professional photography route. But it is kind of hard to argue the point, especially after hearing Officerswife33 make her case. And you know what? I just might take her advice — sooner rather than later.

What’s your take on having professional family photos? And how often would you go?

Boys Wearing Boas to Preschool? Sure, Why Not?

little girl dress up clothes

Do dresses like these belong in the closets of preschool-age boys? © Kohl's

When I was four, I had two imaginary friends. Marshay, (which at the time, I believed to be the most beautiful name ever) who was a gorgeous girl with soft features and long, wavy black hair and Johnson, who was modeled after the Sesame Street muppet Roosevelt Franklin.

When my son was four, he would name any doll, toy or action figure in his possession “Dit Dit.” He knew other names — he had friends with other names. He liked the way “Dit Dit” sounded, so that’s what everything he owned was called. Until he got a fish. That he dubbed “Straw.”

When my daughter was four, she would insist — insist — on picking out her own clothes. This would result in outfits that included, among other things, snow boots and a tutu, a scarf and a sundress and a pink fuzzy sweater paired with orange shorts and green tights.

I love the preschool years because unlike a toddler, who tends to make decisions soley on impulse, preschoolers usually put a little more thought and creativty into their actions. There is purpose behind what they do. Having said that, kids that are between the ages of 3 and 5 are also some of the most absurd creatures you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.

Some don’t like it when food on their plate touches other food on their plate. They tell jokes that don’t make sense. They dance in the supermarket aisles. They think kitchen utensils are funny (at least mine did). And sometimes they want to wear clothing that isn’t “gender-appropriate” to school.

(Aha! I knew I’d get to the point eventually.)

If my young son ever asked to wear a dress to preschool, I admit that intially it would give me pause — would he be teased? Would he feel strange once he got there? Would the teacher mind? (Although I suspect a preschool teacher, well-versed in the odd behaviors of the under-5 set wouldn’t even blink an eye.)

Ultimately, though, I’d let him, chalking it up to the peculiarities of childhood.

Let’s face it — girl’s clothing is fun! It’s visual and tactile. You can clomp around and make a lot of noise in high heels — not to mention, grab a couple of inches of height over your friends. And dresses and scarves and boas are pretty! And sparkly!

Heck, I’m 36 and there are days I would love to head out to the grocery store in a boa and a sequined top. I wouldn’t because I’d probably get some raised eyebrows and other assorted strange looks (also, sequins make me look pale), but in a way, that makes me sad. As they get older, our kids will have plenty of time to dress appropriately. Can’t we give our little ones a little more time to be little?

When my daughter was in her mismatched phase (one that I’m not entirely sure she’s grown out of), while her looks were likely to draw the ire of Mr. Blackwell, ultimately they were an expression of her growing creativity and independence. So I encouraged and humored her, allowing her to dress as she liked (weather-permitting) and off the store, preschool and other places we’d go, she earning smiles (and compliments) all the way.

So why wouldn’t I extend the same benefits to my son?

And by the way, when my little girl asked to dress in “boy clothes”  for preschool — for argument’s sake let’s say a shirt with cars or trucks on it, or one adorned with a popular sports figure — no one batted an eyelash. So why are we holding our kids to different standards?

The preschool years make for some of the sweetest, funniest memories of all. We should embrace the quirks and eccentricities that come with little kids, because they don’t last for very long. Encourage their growing independence by letting them make their own decisions whenever we can, so when they grow up they turn into funny, self-reliant, free-thinking adults. Our job as parents are to encourage the burgeoning creativity of our little ones, supporting them as they figure out who they are and who they are going to be.

Whether they are wearing a pink tutu when they do it or not.

Would you let your son wear a dress to preschool?

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Guest blogger FunnyMum has an interesting take on “cross-dressing” preschoolers, one I hadn’t really considered.

That’s Me, Hitting My Head Against the Wall Instead of Spanking My Child

Pick your poison -- listening to mom yell or getting a spanking. © Ahmed Al-Shukaili / stock.xchng

It’s not that I’m anti-spanking. I’m just trying to be less hypocritical in my approach to parenting. Because it’s bad enough that I cut the kids off from snacks before dinner, and then they find me popping a few squares of chocolate into my mouth as I stir the broccoli.

I figure that if I’m trying to make the point to my three-year-old daughter that it’s not OK to come up from behind her brother and hit him across the back of the head, how effective will I be if I come up behind her and whack her on the butt to make the point?

Not to say that I haven’t.

But on the two occasions I have swatted her behind (once in diapers so it doesn’t exactly count), it was meant more for emphasis than punishment. Like along the lines of: I can’t believe you just stuck a play-kitchen butter knife in the dog’s ear, stop that right now, and never, ever do that again!

The other type of spanking — the pre-meditated, come over here and get the five whacks I owe you from when you ran into the street yesterday kind– is absolutely not even a consideration in my house.

I’m all for instilling fear into my kids. I absolutely plan to scare the wits out of them when it comes to driving, underage drinking, having sex as teens and stealing. But none of it will be done with a heavy hand. I’m much more into words. (Can’t you tell?) Instead of promising a beating, I’ll be making them wish they never had to hear me talk again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

For right now, we’re dealing with the serious issues of writing on walls and purposely clogging up the bathroom sink to see how far the water can reach out the door before Mommy notices. And still, I don’t see where a spanking would solve those problems.

My preschooler is as defiant as the next, and yet when time-outs don’t work and verbal threats fall upon deaf ears, I am rarely tempted to use my hand to prove a point. I’d get laughed at anyway, since that is my daughter’s response to any form of discipline. Why give her the satisfaction of being the one in control, the one who obviously can spin mommy into such a tizzy that the tall lady ends up looking like a two-year-old?

So I’m still at a loss as to how to get a point across, and manage to make my second child as obedient as my first.

But one thing I know, spankings are not going to do it.

Any other ideas for me?

When Pop Culture Toddler gets out of hand, her mom doesn’t hesitate to use hers. At least it seems to work for them.

I’m Sorry, is it a 5-Second Rule or a 5-Second Guideline?

©hmpalassi/stock.xchng

Exposure to some germs can't be all bad, right? ©hmpalassi/stock.xchng

I was browsing in a gift shop at some tourist trap on vacation one day and stumbled upon a funny little saying embroidered onto a pillow:

I keep my house like I drink my martinis — dirty.

I’m not saying this is an expression I relate to — I don’t even like martinis — but I do confess to being on the (ahem) messy side sometimes. Now messy doesn’t necessarily equal dirty, but I think the last time my kitchen floor saw the mop was before the holiday season.

(Of course I’m kidding. It was definitely after Thanksgiving. I’m not a barbarian.)

Despite my joking, I do clean my house (please tell my husband to stop laughing). But I’m not a crazy person about it. Call it lazy, call it progressive, call it gross, but I think a little dirt and exposure to germs isn’t the worst thing in the world. I feel like everywhere I turn, everything is antibacterial — I mean, do we really need antibacterial pencils and socks?

This may be old school thinking, and you may never want to set foot in my house after you read it, but isn’t it important for kids to develop an immune system? If we let all of these products do the work for us, will we ever be able to fight germs ourselves?

So yes, the “5 second rule” is alive and well in our house. And when I came across my toddler son with my sneaker in his mouth, I sighed and I shuddered, but I didn’t freak out. (Same for the time when he was at my grandmother’s house and ate food out of the dog’s bowl.)

Somehow, this system seems to work for us. My kids get sick, but no more than any of their peers. In fact S., the 22-month-old with a taste for footwear and kibble, was on antibiotics for the first time ever just last week.

Now lest you think I’m a total slob with no regard for bleach and its properties, when there is a new baby in the house, I’m a bit extreme in the other direction. I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in every room and ask people to use it — after they’ve washed their hands. Everything gets washed twice (the dishwasher is my cleansing tool of choice).

And certainly, babies or no babies, regular hand washing for all family members is required on a regular basis. So we’re a clean bunch. Mostly.

Just don’t ask to look inside my closets.

How is it in your house? Are you meticulous about keeping things clean and germ-free?

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Our guest blogger BostonsMama takes germs a bit more seriously than I do. Which is why if I ever go to her house, I will gladly eat off the floor.

Potty Training is So Old School (But I Still Prefer It)

Waiting to potty train -- at least until baby can walk. © Marco Ariesen/stock.xchng

Up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea what elimination communication was. But thanks to Amanda who connected the dots for me (‘You mean that’s what they call holding a baby over a potty?’) and her pointing me in the direction of a friend who follows this method with her infant son, I feel better.

Because for a while there, I really thought I might end up in mommy summer school. I rely so heavily on intuition that I tend not to read the parenting handbooks until it’s time to put a label on what it is that I’ve been doing all along — like I did with parenting styles. That’s just the type of mom I am.

So when it came to potty training, I dove in head first, without researching a thing. Honestly, I didn’t think there was anything to research. I did it the only way I knew. Wait until your child knows what a potty is, realizes that no one else taller than them is wearing a diaper, and then sit them down. And wait some more.

Somewhere between age 2 and age 3, it clicks and they are potty trained.

To have started that process a whole two years earlier when my baby didn’t even know — well, anything — I’m not sure what difference it would have made. And essentially, with elimination communication, you are carrying your baby around, sans diaper, trying to time their needs just right so that you are holding the baby over a potty or a receptacle of some sort every time the baby needs to “go.” Talk about responsibility. I can barely predict that for myself, never mind a creature who is predictably unpredictable.

The theory behind it is that you start your baby using the toilet almost from birth — say every twenty to thirty minutes. It’s common practice in Asia and Africa, where potty training tends to be completed in baby’s first year for this reason. Call it what you like — infant potty training, natural infant hygiene or “potty whispering” — but it relies upon the parent to interpret an infant’s body language and cues. Part of the appeal among Western parents is that the practice is environmentally friendly and cheaper because you aren’t relying on diapers, either at all or for the better part of two years. Some even say it creates a stronger bonding experience between parent and child. Oh, and you don’t have to deal with diaper rash.

Sounds great.

But I don’t think I could do it.

The way I see, there would be little time for anything else if you had to hover around a potty every twenty minutes, every day of baby’s life. It’s bad enough you have to carve out a week for intense potty training when the child is two, dismissing any thought of grocery shopping or taking a trip to the playground, instead chasing a naked toddler around on your hardwood floors.

Although, according to practitioners of elimination communication, if we had actually followed that method from the start the child would already associate the urge to eliminate with a potty because of all of their training, and we wouldn’t be saying “uh-oh” in the pile of Mega Blocks.

Still. I don’t see it happening. It’s almost like starting to teaching a baby division at their first birthday. You can talk about it all you want, and the child is still going to get it when they’re ready. So either you spend years “teaching” them from an early age or weeks when the natural capacity to comprehend it kicks in.

What do you think? Have you ever tried elimination communication? Or if you didn’t get it until now like me, would you ever consider it?

For our guest blogger Enyo, she did what she knew best too. Having been brought up with the practice of elimination communication, it was more of an expectation than an expedition when her son was born last year. And so she checks in to tell us how it’s going…