We Are Both Right

Not Exactly the Second Home I Was Hoping For

©clambert/stock.xchng

If Amanda never had to go into one of these for the rest of her life, she'd be OK with that. ©clambert/stock.xchng

I hate public restrooms. The thought of going into one makes me cringe. Not because they are dirty or grimy or simply gross. I mean they are (some of them anyway, some of them are nicer than my house). And certainly I appreciate their function. On more than one occasion we have been saved by their close proximity.

It’s that lately I have been spending so much time in them, I feel as if I should be sending the collective owners part of my mortgage payment.

I am the mom to a semi-newly minted potty-trained toddler who still needs some assistance in the bathroom. When we are home, he uses the toilet, I don’t know, five or six times a day? (It’s definitely at least three, because any time I sit down to eat, there he is with his urgent cry “Pee pee! Pee pee! I have to go pee pee!”) In any case, it’s a reasonable amount, one you’d expect from a nearly three-year-old.

When we are out however, it’s double that number. Easily. Our whole family hit the toy store (shopping for his birthday presents no less!) and went out to lunch over the weekend. We left our house at 11:30 and were home by 3. He asked to go to the bathroom no less than five times. And by “asked” I mean, “shouted the words ‘pee pee’ and ‘poopy’ so loudly that I was pretty convinced that other people were getting ready to bring him to the bathroom for me.”

Why the increase? Does he feel the need to mark his territory? Is he bored? Does he think I don’t get enough exercise (heh)? Does he have a bladder control problem? Does he like the hands-free dryers? I’m not sure, but because he is still somewhat new at this and because I know what happens when you ignore the persistent plea of the diaper-less (like the time our potty-training eldest boy peed on the floor of a house we were thinking of buying a few years ago), I always respond to his entreaties. And quickly. Or as quickly as you can find the one employee in the entire store who can direct you to the non-marked restroom (behind the door with the hanging “Employees Only” sign), while being followed by a pint-sized person yelling “Poopies! I have to make poopies! Mommy! Now!”(That was yesterday’s adventure in Dollar Tree. We might have gotten some stares.) Even if it means closing my eyes, holding my nose and bringing him into the oh-so-awful port-a-potty at the Little League Fields. (“Do. Not. Touch. ANYTHING.”)

It’s usually always me, too, even if my husband is with us, simply because I feel like women’s bathrooms are generally always cleaner than the men’s room. Which makes me think there might me some sort of conspiracy going on.

Still, I am proud of him — he has yet to have an accident while we are out — so I guess he’s doing something right. Even if it means I lose my place in line, my dinner gets cold (or worse, taken away) or I misplace my other children for a minute or two. (True stories!)

What is it with toddlers and public restrooms? Have you had a similar experience?

It’s No Joke, Playing and Pretending Good for Kids

You are getting your one-year-old dressed and instead of putting his socks on his feet, you try to put them on his ears. Rather than handing your 18-month-old her sippy cup, you pretend to drink from it.

Are you a big tease or a good parent? Possibly the former, but according to a new study by UK-based Economic and Social Research Council, definitely the latter.

Researchers found that parents who joke around and play pretend with their toddlers are “giving them a head start in terms of life skills.” The study examined interactions between parents and children ages 15 and 24 months.

“Parents, carers and early years educators shouldn’t underestimate the importance of interacting with young children through jokes and pretending,” researcher Dr. Elena Hoicka said. “Spending time doing this fun stuff with kids helps them learn how to do it themselves and gives them a set of skills which are important in childhood and beyond.”

Dr. Hoicka defined the difference between joking and pretending.

“Both involve intentionally doing or saying the wrong thing. However, joking is about doing something wrong just for the sake of it. In contrast, pretending is about doing something wrong which is imagined to be right. For example, parents might use a sponge like a duck while pretending but use a cat as a duck when joking.”

But it isn’t all about fun and games. The study found that parents who joke or tease or played pretend with their young children tended to speak slowly, loudly and repeated their words. They used a slate of vocabulary and different tones to indicate various moods. Not only does this help toddlers learn to distinguish between when a parent is being serious or not, it also adds to their language development skills.

So if you are regretting your decision not to be a stand-up comedian, now is the time to make-good.

Do you joke with your little ones? In what way?

Move Over Applesauce, Hello Halloween Candy!

In our house, my youngest child, 17-month-old S., is a big fan of “M-M-Ms.” (That’s “M&M’s” for those of you who don’t speak toddler.) He doesn’t get them very often, but when he does, it is cause for celebration, complete with dancing, hand clapping, waving arms and plenty of “RAY!”s.

© lusi/stock.xchng

© lusi/stock.xchng

It’s adorable. And yet somehow I feel guilty for enjoying his display of joy.

I know that we have an obesity epidemic in this country. And I realize that these sweet nuggets of chocolatey goodness probably aren’t the wisest of food choices for my little guy. But he likes them. And he’s a good boy. And sometimes I like to give him a treat.

Or bribe him.

After his first haircut, the barber gave S. a lollipop, admittedly, a type of candy that I’m not a fan of at all. (Every time I hear the candy bump up against my kids’ teeth I can practically see the sugar coating them.) And I’m terrified of choking. But after a traumatic experience like getting your hair trimmed for the very first time, is it really so bad to let a kid kick back with a “La-Pop!”?

I know after I’ve had a long day a little bit of chocolate always makes me feel better, so why would that be different for a toddler?

The key of course is moderation. When C. and A. were toddlers, they didn’t have any candy at all. Guess what? They still love it and would eat their weight in Nerds if I let them.

When S. does get candy — and so far it’s just been M&M’s and the one la-pop — he gets very little, maybe five or six pieces. Even still, that tiny amount of sugar and chocolate is enough, causing him to turn into a bit of a whirling dervish, spinning and shouting around the house, bouncing off the walls. Now I don’t know if he’s just deliriously happy or it really is the sweet stuff hitting his bloodstream, but it’s enough to give me (a little bit of) pause, limiting his treats to just once a week or so.

Still, this Halloween you can bet I’ll be letting S. not only do a little trick-or-treating, but reap the rewards too. To be sure he’ll get something he can have, I bought M-M-M’s as the candy we’ll be handing out.

If I can just convince him to give them to the trick-or-treaters.

Originally published in October, 2010

We’ll Use the Potty Sooner Rather than Later

Elimination communication depends on you to interpret your baby's timing, signals and cues. © BabyBjorn

I hear about potty training as a two-year-old issue and even a three-year-old issue now.

I know that my mother would be appalled to see three-year-olds running about in diapers. No child in our family has ever been in diapers past two; if I let my baby be in diapers that long, I’d never hear the end of it. Some of us were trained before one.

In fact, family tradition dictates that one of baby’s first birthday presents will be a potty chair. Potty training starts when walking starts. I was potty trained before one. Now I’m working on having my son Norton potty trained early, too.

We use elimination communication. For months now (since Norton was six months old, actually), we’ve been putting Norton on the potty before he gets a bath. For the first week, he cried when I put him on the potty. Then we figured out that it was because he was cold and naked, so we started to warm up the bathroom a bit.

He stopped crying on the potty, but he still wasn’t actually using it. Instead, he was peeing in the bath as soon as his little bottom hit the water. That was when we started putting his potty on the bathroom counter and splashing water from the sink over his little foot. It took about a month of this before we had success.

The day that Norton used the potty for the very first time was just downright euphoric. I cheered so loud that I scared my baby and made him cry, then proceeded to brag on Facebook about my little genius baby using the potty. Then he didn’t do it again for a week.

Elimination communication wasn’t easy to start, but we got him to the point where he uses his potty nearly every night. (Of course, we’d have probably gotten a better start if I didn’t brag about it on Facebook. There’s no quicker way to get my kid to stop doing something than to brag about him doing it in the first place.)

Now that he’s almost a year old, we’re trying to get him to use the potty more frequently. We’re putting him on the potty before naps and after naps, and also first thing in the morning. We aren’t necessarily having success at these times, but he’s cooperating with the experience. He’ll get it soon enough. Each time he uses the potty is a success.

There’s one huge advantage to doing it this way: Norton is already used to the potty. He’s already comfortable sitting on it, and he even holds his little foot out over the sink so that it may be splashed. When he’s officially a toddler and is really ready to be completely trained, then we’ll move forward with no hold up. Less time in diapers means less laundry for me (because I mostly use cloth) and less money literally thrown away with disposables.

It’s really not even that hard, nor is it a hard core commitment. You can use elimination communication on a part time basis, or you can go diaper free and use elimination communication all the time.

It’s not about forcing your child to be potty trained before he’s ready. It’s just recognizing your child’s cues to recognize when he or she has to go. Eventually, they’ll start communicating those cues to you so that you know that it’s time to go to the potty.

Really, potty training can be hard enough if you wait until they are old enough to be stubborn about it. Why delay it if you don’t have to?

Enyo is an ex-pat living in the Great White North. You can keep up with the adventures of Enyo, Norton, and their puppies on her blog, “Motherhood Looms: Where’s My Yarn?” or stop by to chat with her on the Motherhood Looms page on Facebook.

**************

In the first of our new series of guest blogs, we invite other mommy bloggers to share a different point of view on topics where Suzanne and Amanda actually find themselves agreeing (for once). Thanks to Enyo for enlightening us on the ins and outs of elimination communication — which Suzanne didn’t quite get until now.

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…

An Organic Approach to Allowance and Chores

I guess you could say that my children are learning the values of volunteering. Or maybe their status is more accurately described as an internship. Because anything they do around the house in the way of chores is unpaid — at least for now.

It’s not that I don’t believe in allowances — I just haven’t made it to that point yet with my eight-year-old son, or my daughter, who’s just three. Instead, the whole concept of giving a child an allowance for completing assigned chores has evolved somewhat organically in our home.

You see, my son has gained a reputation as our resident money bags. Since he was a toddler, he’s had a trained eye on the ground at all times, looking for coins. A gross habit — and one which I reeled at — but there he would be, running his hand along the bottom of the counter at the check-out in the supermarket or under the desk at the bank. There were days when he would collect a dollar’s worth of change in one round of errands around town. I think I used more than that in wipes to clean his hands after every discovery.

His proudest moment — finding dollar bills in the shoe section of Target on a shopping trip with my mom. We taught him to check around to see if anyone would have dropped the money before the finders keepers rule can go into effect. This side gig turned out to be a pretty profitable one for him, which meant that he was never all that interested in an allowance. There were a few times that he wanted multiple packs of Pokemon cards and, with that motivation, he agreed to help his father rake the leaves for $5 (an afternoon, not a bag).

Around the same time that L. started picking up loose change, he also became intrigued with dusting. So much so that I bought him his own plumed feather duster and he would follow me around on a Saturday morning asking what else he could dust.

hortongrou/stock.xchng

And in the last year, both of my children developed a penchant for sweeping. We now have several small brooms and dustpans that are theirs for the taking whenever the mood strikes. (With a shedding dog, I never turn down that kind of help.)

This set of circumstances means that chores and allowances just don’t go hand-in-hand at our house.

It’s still important to me that my children understand the value of earning money, and saving and spending wisely. I also want them to learn responsibility for keeping our home in order, by putting their clothes in the hamper, fixing the blankets on their beds and putting toys back in their place. Other than that, we don’t have much structure around the concept of allowance and chores.

How do you approach allowance and chores in your family? By the book or as it comes?

Taking a Pass on the Mommy Playgroup

andrewatla/stock.xchng

Watching my children play and playing with them is a joy. Having to socialize around that, not so much.

I will admit that I have been slow on the uptake with modern day parenting protocol. Playdates, playgroups — it’s all so formal and orchestrated. Whatever happened to the days when you would run up to your mom on the corner at school at dismissal time, and ask if your best friend could come over and play?

It was all so spontaneous — and unlabeled.

Now we have to schedule “playdates” and abide by the playdate rule book of bringing an approved snack and inviting mom in for coffee on the first few dates.

To me, playgroups just sound like a quota on playdates, which is why I have remained uninitiated. I didn’t do the sorority thing in college, and yet was far from a loner. Instead, my friends and I came up with our own harebrained schemes that were unscripted (like scaling buildings, for instance) but without a pledge sister telling us what was expected. I guess it’s the same reason why I have avoided the structure and intimacy that playgroups seem to command.

With our family’s schedule, and a full-time job outside of the home, I probably wouldn’t be a very dependable playgroup friend anyway. I can barely find time to sleep, let alone coordinate my schedule with a dozen other women on a regular basis. I feel guilty enough that I don’t get to see my friends of 20 or 30 years as often as we would like because of everyone’s hectic schedules as the kids get older.

Lately though, I have been hearing more about the playgroups that my longtime friends belong to which started out as mommy and baby groups and have matured into deeper friendships as the children got older. It sounds nice — the girls’ weekends away, the joint trick-or-treating trips, holiday cookie swaps.

I wonder though, at some point does it become more about the moms than the children? What if your child doesn’t like the other “friends” in the group? What happens when they go to different schools and make new friends? Do they still have to be pulled back into that playgroup because that’s where your friends are? Or do you ditch the “play” aspect of it, and just meet as moms?

Things change, and my opinion on this might too, if I happen upon a group someday that naturally comes together. Maybe it will be different if I find myself bonding with other moms at L.’s weekend football games or at S.’s preschool. But in the meantime, I won’t be going out looking for a mommy playgroup to join and instead spend the time playing with L. and S. — and maybe even letting them have more playdates.

Playgroups Give Mommy a Social Life Too!

I should say up front that I used to think that playgroups were kind of lame. Unnecessary and formal, I rolled my eyes at the minivan suburban-ness that they seemed to represent.

And then I joined one without even realizing it, and now I don’t know what I would do without this amazing group of women who I’m so glad are my friends.

(Oh, and my daughter likes it too!)

(Also, I now drive a minivan, but that’s a post for another day.)

It was started about four years ago by a group of moms from my daughter A.’s preschool. You know how it is — day in and day out you are standing in line with the same people, exchanging smiles and pleasantries while you wait for your children to be done with school. Finally one day, one of the moms took the initiative and posted a sign that invited all the parents and caregivers and children in the class to meet at a local fast food restaurant that also had an indoor playground.

There was a lot of, “Are you going to go?” “I’m not sure if I want to go,” chatter amongst those in the group who were friendlier with one another, but wouldn’t you know it, on the designated afternoon over a dozen kids and their moms (and one or two dads and grandmas if I’m remembering right) showed up to eat and play and have a good time.

We haven’t looked back. Not only did the kids get along amazingly but so did the moms. And now, after a few informal get-togethers after that first time at McDonald’s, we wound up today as a group of eleven friends (moms to ten girls and one boy) who have grown to depend and count on one another for stuff little and big. And what’s great is, it’s not just the moms and daughters, but the dads and siblings too.

We’ve had a few additions over the years with other parents that some of us have “invited in” (and amazingly, no subtractions), but for the most part we’ve remained a solid core (we all shudder at the word “clique” although honestly, that’s probably what we are).

© hortongrou/svilen001/stock.xchng

© hortongrou/svilen001/stock.xchng

In the beginning the aim was simple — a regular playgroup for the kids. We’d meet once a week, either at someone’s home or if the weather was nice, a local park or beach. Everyone brought something to eat to share, but the rule was you weren’t allowed to go to the store to buy something. We did our best to be a “cheap” “no pressure” group so your contribution to the meal had to be from whatever was in your pantry. Which made for some interesting lunches, but hey — no one ever complained.

Playgroup soon morphed, and we now also have a “book club” (read: the not read the book, wine and snacks club) for the mommies and a Girl Scout troop for the girls (sorry Kenny!). We babysit one another’s children and go on vacation (and mommy weekends) with our families. We stand together when someone is having a crisis and celebrate through the good stuff. We throw birthday parties and baby showers and march in parades. We’ve seen each other at our best and our worst and yet we still marvel at how amazingly lucky we all are to have found each other. Sure, there have been differences, but in the end it always works out.

About two years ago, when my daughter started kindergarten, privately I wondered if we would last. Despite living in close proximity to one another, the majority of the girls would attend school in one school district while three (and count my daughter in this minority) of the children were in another. And with all the girls in second grade, regular playgroup meetings are a (sad) thing of the past. At such a young age, how could these friendships sustain?

As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Sure, A. doesn’t see all the girls on the playground every day, but when she does — Brownie meetings and birthday parties and playdates — it’s like they are all four years old once again, happily squealing and hugging one another like sisters.

My youngest son S., will turn 18 months old next week. I’m looking forward to finding a playgroup that suits us — a few neighbors and friends with young children have actually been discussing forming one. It’s something I’m excited about.

But for the record, if this playgroup also ends up having a book club, I’m going to have to insist that everyone read the book (although we can also serve wine and snacks).