Why Childcare Is So Important To Me Even Though My Kids Are Teens

Here is the deal: my kids are both in high school. I can feel the ache and hope that is coming: the graduations, my empty arms, home, washer, refrigerator. My empty nest.

I am a long, long way from that wild time of searching for childcare when they were age zero to 5 — heck, conception to kindergarten might be more apropos. But even now, despite having nearly-grown sons, my 2020 vote will go to the candidate with the best plan to fix America’s broken child care system.

I’m not really a single-issue voter. Not at all. In fact, I care deeply about lots of issues: suicide rates, mental health, toxic masculinity, #metoo, common sense gun laws, mass incarceration, college costs, equality, health care, and general policies that create a society full of good people living good lives. Yet all of my issues, there’s one that I would wager would produce positive outcomes across the board and impact all of our issues — if only America would invest in positive, healthy, loving, and intentional early childhood development.

When my kids were little, we patchworked childcare together each week (and sometimes every day!) with a combination of trade-offs, shuffles, favors, and paid help. We couldn’t afford the well known, magical in-home daycare where the kids made organic food with the loving couple who ran the program. My mom moved in with us after her divorce and we all banded together to figure out childcare each day. Sometimes, that meant relying on Sesame Street’s blend of entertainment, education, and engagement. Thank God for Sesame Street. I would vote Sesame Street 2020 if I could. And Mr. Rogers as VP for sure.

As parents, we did our best. So do most people. But the system is broken, and not just for lower-income folks like we were at the time. The cost is enormous, and it’s risen more than 70% since the 1980s, more than college tuition in a majority of states. Availability is often nil — parents are regularly told they should have gotten on a waitlist before conception. Educators are burning out, with the average program lasting just three to five years and average childcare workers earning $11.50 an hour.

This leads to compromises. One parent quits his (or more often her) job because the return on investment isn’t there. Staying home to care for kids is cheaper. Or both parents have to work, but can’t afford or access quality care, so they compromise and accept an unlicensed program. Add in the chaos of having a sick kiddo, and the house of cards that is America’s childcare system crumbles. It is an impossible equation where no one wins. Not parents. Not educators. And certainly not, our kids.

Society at large isn’t winning either.

A child’s brain is most impressionable during the first three years of life, forming more than 1 million new neural connections every second. This has huge implications on everything from rates of incarceration and suicide to high school graduations. It’s also a major workforce issue, with U.S. businesses losing $3 billion annually due to employee absenteeism that is the result of childcare breakdowns.

A comprehensive early childcare solution is the biggest lever to pull to effect change, at all levels, for all parties. All Americans need to understand that this problem isn’t one that can wait until you have your own kids, or forget about once your kids are grown up. We are far beyond that.

My sons are 17 and 14. My oldest will be voting in the next presidential election, and guess what — the issues that matter to him are also directly impacted by the outcomes driven by high-quality early childcare solutions. My son and I are about equidistant from worrying about daycare, and yet here we are, staring down the ballot box at the same issues Washington should have addressed decades ago.

I am not (fingers crossed) a grandmother yet. But I embody many other great roles — a mom, wife, an entrepreneur, a friend, daughter. There’s not one hat I would take off. And that’s why I can’t give up. Every role carries a certain responsibility and weight, and sometimes it is all very, very heavy. I am often overwhelmed with the needs around me. There is so much to build. I want to fix too many things, right now, the broken hearts in Dayton and El Paso, and all around our country.

For each problem I long to fix, there are a lot of things I would love to break. To maximize and balance my building, fixing and breaking urges, I need to find the most elegant, effective and empowering place to put my energy. I need one thing to dig into that affects each of my (often contradictory) roles. It is a bit like a magic trick. America, we have one hat, and many rabbits need pulling out of it. One solid plan could solve so many issues.

So woo me, candidates. Show me your plans. Show me you care. Show my son. Show me that you understand the foundational work that needs to be done. If we want to talk about infrastructure, start here. Our future is crumbling. Fix it.

The post Why Childcare Is So Important To Me Even Though My Kids Are Teens appeared first on Scary Mommy.

How I Survived A Teething Baby And Got Serious About My Kids’ Dental Care

mom with baby and toddler

When I decided to have my kids close in age, I didn’t consider that I would have an infant and a toddler at the same time. I was blinded by the idea of them growing up as best friends, building forts, and keeping each other’s secrets, even when it meant they would both be in trouble as a result. I didn’t consider that they would both be in diapers at the same time, or worse, that they would be tandem-teething, one cutting their first tooth while the other worked on 2-year molars.

Image via Giphy

Where Is the Instruction Manual?

Motherhood is utter chaos on the best day, but I’m going to be honest, I was wildly unprepared for the mayhem that came with teething and teaching my kids appropriate dental hygiene. Did you know your kid will have 20 teeth by the time they turn 3? Or that you’re supposed to take them to the dentist by the time they’re a year old? ‘Cause I didn’t. I had no idea. Baby’s first tooth should really come with an instruction manual. There could be an entire section dedicated to keeping the sink and surrounding counter space toothpaste-free too. Why must children splatter-paint the entire bathroom with toothpaste? And how the heck do you get them to stop doing that?

Image via Giphy

But alas, no one told me any of this, so there I was, waist-deep in another chaotic day with a fussy, teething baby and a toddler who had no interest in things that didn’t involve screaming. Like any rational but completely desperate mother, I turned to my social media mommy group for advice. My post may have been a slightly incoherent rant about teething that ended with a desperate plea for help. (I hadn’t slept in like three days. I was a mess!)

I Got 99 Problems But Teething Ain’t One

To my absolute delight, the comments started rolling in. Apparently, I wasn’t the first mom to stumble into a tandem-teething nightmare. Mom after mom recommended Baby Orajel™ Non-Medicated Cooling Gels for both my baby and my toddler. It’s benzocaine-free and made for babies 3 months and older, so it was perfect for my teething 3-month-old and my toddler’s nightmarish 2-year molars. There was only one problem, I didn’t have any on hand, which meant we would have to go out…in public.

Image via Giphy

So, there I was, standing in the oral care aisle of my local Walmart, the baby crying in my arms while my toddler threw groceries over the side of the cart. With bloodshot eyes and a messy bun that looked more like an untidy bird’s nest, I was 2 minutes from joining the kids in a total meltdown, when a seasoned mom walked by and handed me the Baby Orajel™ Non-Medicated Cooling Gels I was looking for.

“Been there,” she said with a smile. “Just rub this on his gums.”

Suddenly the wind was back in my sails just knowing I wasn’t alone. I could totally do this!

Image via Giphy

The Queen of Dental Hygiene

I turned back to the wall of dental products and grabbed some Orajel Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Fluoride-Free Training Toothpaste. After all, if I was going to be the Queen of Dental Hygiene, I needed all the best stuff! I’d help my toddler learn proper brushing technique (even if he covered my entire bathroom in toothpaste) and get the baby started down the right path with Baby Orajel Tooth & Gum Cleanser. (Yeah, turns out you’re supposed to clean their gums. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THIS?!)

I was ready. My dental care game was stronger than ever, and my kids were destined for a lifetime of happy smiles.

We made it back home with a much happier baby thanks to the cooling gel, a toddler who was totally pumped about his new Daniel Tiger training toothbrush, and me — an exhausted mother who looked like a pile of dirty laundry, but felt like a million bucks because Orajel just totally saved my day.

It takes a whole family of products to treat a whole family. Orajel Non-Medicated Cooling Gels are free of benzocaine and will soothe your baby’s teething gums day and night. For more resources on teething and learning to how brush, visit Orajel’s resource center.

The post How I Survived A Teething Baby And Got Serious About My Kids’ Dental Care appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Experts Say Teens Are Developmentally Similar To Toddlers

sexting-teens

Right now, at this moment, in my very home, I have a 12-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter. We have three children, and I will admit, there’s a pretty good spread between the oldest and the youngest. I won’t go into all the details as to why that happened, but what I will say is that on the low end, our daughter isn’t all that far removed from the toddler age, and on the high end, our son is considered a preteen.

I will also say this: I’ve noticed some similarities in their behavior. Sure, one is a better communicator than the other. There’s no doubt about that. But both are easily frustrated. Both are pretty good at getting offended, and both aren’t remotely afraid to state their opinions, or act like they are the expert in the room, when, in fact, they aren’t.

If I’m not arguing with one about putting on her shoes, I’m arguing with the other about taking a shower. And perhaps noticing these similarities between my youngest and my oldest is the reason I was nodding my head as I read a recent statement by Dr. Kathleen Van Antwerp, the leading expert in juvenile justice reform. She was the keynote speaker at University of Utah’s “Breaking the Pipeline” fourth annual symposium where she addressed ways to plug the schools-to-prison pipeline trend.

According to the Deseret News she had this to say about teen and toddler development: “Developmentally, teens and toddlers are about at the same level, with each age group struggling to grow into the next stage of life, but not yet equipped with all the tools.”

And later, during her exchange with the participants, Van Antwerp noted how “toddlers have yet to develop a range of expressive skills, so they resort to physical, shrieking tantrums to convey their discontent. At the teenage stage, the part of the brain that controls emotion is hijacked developmentally, governing the teen’s behavior across the spectrum… Research shows the prefrontal cortex, the chief executive officer portion of the brain that governs rational, cognitive thinking, doesn’t develop until the mid-20s or later.”

Mid-20s? Yowza!

But on the whole, why does this matter? Well… for me as a parent, it surely gives me some insight into what I’m dealing with when it comes to my son. Emotionally, he’s all over the place. He eats all the time. A few months ago, I showed him how to make pancakes, and suddenly he thinks he can live on his own. But he is a bright kid and well-behaved young man. He communicates well, has friends, so on the whole, it feels like he’s just a shorter, softer faced, adult. But realizing that emotionally he is still developing — in ways similar to how a toddler is developing — helps me put things into prospective.

I’ll admit, I am looking at my son a little differently after reading this. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still find him frustrating. But I’m also acknowledging the fact that just like how my youngest is struggling to communicate, he is struggling to manage his emotions, and it will take time for all that to settle. It’s changed my expectations of him, and it’s caused me to be more open about what he’s feeling, rather than just assuming that he’s… well… acting like a jerk, or being difficult for the sake of being difficult.

On the larger, outside of my family, societal level, understanding the emotional development of teenagers matters a lot. The real focus of Van Antwerp’s work is on stopping the pipeline between high schools and incarceration, and she feels a major contributor to that pipeline is that educators and resource officers are interested in stopping students’ behavior, but they aren’t trained in why that behavior is happening on a developmental level.

Van Antwerp has spent just over 30 years developing educational and outreach programs for at-risk youth in schools, juvenile justice programs, emergency care centers and foster homes, and what she’s found is that society makes the mistake of trying to manage behavior rather than understanding it. “[We] should be creating a school climate in which teachers, police and other adults are properly schooled in understanding developmental behavior, instead of simply reacting to something they don’t understand.”

That last line — “simply reacting to something they don’t understand” — is the real kicker for us as parents. I’ll say it, I didn’t understand my toddlers, so I just tried to expect the unexpected. Now I’m bracing myself to do the same with regards to my son and his teen years. In the heat of the moment, it’s pretty easy to respond to any child with raw emotion and focus on the behavior (you’ve been there). Particularly when you are being pulled in a million directions with ALL the things.

But I think if we can take anything away from the developmental observations of Dr. Van Antwerp, it’s this: each stage comes with it’s own roadblocks, and the moment you think you’ve figured your child out, they move into that next stage. Accepting that your teenager is still emotionally developing, similar to a toddler, really should help us locate that emotional calm that can, sometimes, be difficult to find in ourselves — and make their seemingly random emotional swings a little more expected.

The post Experts Say Teens Are Developmentally Similar To Toddlers appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why I’m So Sad To Be Done Having Babies

In a couple of months, my youngest child will turn 2, and it’s really starting to hit me.  This is it. I’m not having any more babies.

I knew this even as I was pregnant with my baby boy. It was the plan for him to be our last all along. My husband and I had to work hard to get this kid. The stress of trying to conceive was forgotten, though, as I struggled with a difficult pregnancy and delivery. Those things slipped my mind as I dealt with the pain of recovery after a rough c-section, and worked through the challenges of breastfeeding. Between all of that, I was taking care of my oldest child, being a wife, and working.

Nearly two years later, things are finally slowing down a bit, and I have time to reflect on the fact that this is it. My family is complete. In some ways, I feel like I can start to plan the rest of our lives. In other ways, and now more than ever, I feel empty.

This is really it.

I’m done having babies.

Both of my pregnancies were incredibly challenging. You name an issue a pregnant woman has, physically or emotionally, and I likely had it. Even still, I cherish the time I spent growing my children. They were the safest they’ve ever been when they were in my womb, and I felt like I had some control over their wellbeing. I did everything I could to make sure they were healthy. I sang to them to make sure they were happy. Carrying them brought me a sense of purpose and joy.

The same goes for breastfeeding, and caring for them as babies. My daughter is 9, and I’m still grateful for the opportunity to do things for her, to be of service to her. It makes me feel important. It makes me feel like my life has meaning. Even on hard days when I would want to hide under the covers if it was just me, my babies give me a reason to push through.

That’s why it’s so hard to watch them grow up and to know that no other baby will ever need me the way they needed me. I’ll never experience breastfeeding again. Or be caught up with emotion by watching my baby smile a real smile for the first time. There will never be another chance to experience the ripples of a tiny human inside of me.

It makes me feel sad.

Now I’m trying to figure out what’s next. What do I do now that I’m done having babies?

Well, for one thing, I’m trying to stay present with my children. I mean, longing for a baby that I’m not going to have doesn’t make a lot of sense if I’m not cherishing the time I have with my babies that are here. I’ve started taking a lot more pictures and actually doing something with them. I’m creating photo books, and collages, and putting some of them together to make video slide shows. For me, having actual physical activities is helping me to deal with some of the sadness that’s still there even as I push through it.

Looking forward to the positives of having children who are older and not babies has been helping, too. My husband planned an overseas trip for our family for the spring, and I have to admit that travel is a lot easier with only two kids than if I had even one more. We have savings accounts for the kids and are able to start planning for them to go to college. It’s rarely difficult to find a babysitter for our two because they’re somewhat self-sufficient at this point.

Between the two of my children, they can keep themselves entertained, eat on their own, and let me know if they need anything. I won’t know what to do with all of the free time I’ll have once my son gets potty-trained! Now, that my son is more independent, I’m starting to see the benefits of stopping at two and honestly, looking forward to a little bit more freedom. I guess that’s a little light at the end of the tunnel. The silver lining around the cloud.

I’m really trying to focus on the positives of not having any more babies. To be honest, though, a year ago, I didn’t care about the ease of travel, or what it would mean financially, or mentally, or anything to add another baby to our brood. I just wanted a baby. You know the main reason that it’s so hard to know that I’m done having babies? Because everything goes so fast when the babies are born.

There were so many things that I missed with my first child because I didn’t know to look out for them. No one warned me that the last month of pregnancy would be like a whirlwind and I should take pictures, or that all of the baby’s firsts are easy to keep up with in the beginning, but then they come super fast and it’s hard to remember if you don’t write it down right now. There’s so much that I captured during my second pregnancy and the first year’s of my son’s life because I was able to slow things down and be in the moment. It helped that I had experience and knew what to look out for. I wonder what else I missed that I would discover or get to experience with one more baby?

But, that’s not happening. I’m done having babies. It’s been decided, and it’s a choice that’s good for my family and me, and I’m really good with it.

At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself until this empty feeling goes away.

The post Why I’m So Sad To Be Done Having Babies appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why ‘Baby Talk’ With Your Kids (And Spouse) Weirds Me Out

I have a visceral reaction to baby talk.

Recently, I was helping out at a school party in one of my kids’ classrooms. As my son and I were stringing Cheerios and Fruit Loops onto yarn for necklaces, I heard the mom next to me address her child in a high-pitched voice: “Do you wanna make this cute widdle necklace? Ohhh Kayyyy! Get the stringy and…ohhh nooo. Let’s not eat the Chee-wee-ohs until we Awl Done!”

Good God. I felt a blood vessel burst in my temple. Trying desperately to hurry my son and his buddy along in their stringing, I couldn’t help but entertain visions of cramming the entire box of Fruit Loops into her mouth just to MAKE. IT. STOP.

Baby Talk

Although most of the time, I want my boys to stay little forever, I draw the line at baby talk. Even when they were babies and toddlers, my husband and I did not “dumb down” our language to communicate with them. I’ve always believed that explaining things to them in simple terms allows mutual respect to grow and flow.

Furthermore, as they get older, it avoids setting expectations that they can get away with behaviors because they are “just so cute and little.” I think that it’s just as important to model appropriate language as admitting that we adults make mistakes and have feelings.

Believe me, my kids are well versed in “Mom is frustrated and needs some space for a bit.” Or my telling them, “I’m sorry, I should not have yelled. I made a mistake and next time I will take deep breaths instead of yelling.”

We’re all human, after all.

Personal Preference or Actually Detrimental?

There are conflicting research studies out there on the effect of using baby talk on the development of children. On one hand, some studies show that using baby talk with infants can aid them in language development. However, it seems that it’s more about the pitch and timbre of the parents’ voice than butchering and “babying” the words. I remember reading that using a sing-song voice could help babies to form their vocabulary, so I would sing, “I’m changing your diaper now!” or “Here we go to the kitchen!”

Other studies suggest that baby talk can hinder language development in children over the age of 1. This study reinforces the point that avoiding baby talk and speaking clearly to children is more beneficial.

Regression

Many grade school-aged children can regress into using baby talk. It can be for a variety of reasons, namely in an attempt to seek attention if they are feeling lonely, overlooked, etc. When this happens, I tell the children I work with that I’d love to speak with them once they use their [insert age here] voice. And, “Thank you. It’s so much easier to understand what you’re saying when you use your every day voice.” After that, we can try to process the feelings that are going on underneath the baby voice.

I recently discovered a great parenting resource in this website: https://bouncebackparenting.com/. They also happen to have a great article on handling baby talk in older children without shaming or ridicule. You can read it HERE.

No Mommy Here

My visceral reaction to baby talk could be partly genetic. My mom hated baby talk probably even more than I do. For instance, she never let us call her “Mommy” because she said that it sounded too whiny and babyish. I get it. Although I never asked my kids not to call me Mommy, they naturally used Mama as their first words, and now they’ve both graduated to Mom. Sometimes my youngest even likes to spell it out: “Hi, M-O-M.”

Yes, I’m Judging You

I’ve actually witnessed a couple of friends over the years that use baby talk with their husbands. When I heard them in action, I fought the urge to both vomit and question their sanity. Keep it in the bedroom, please. Admittedly, I don’t even use pet names with my husband that often. Sure, I’ll use the occasional “honey” or “babe” and he does call me Princess…BECAUSE I AM.  (Haha). Actually, maybe I should make a case for “Queen” now that I’m more on the maturing side of life. Anyway, I do call my kids by pet names, but I refuse to use a baby talk voice.

Except for with our dog. He needs it. His tail never wags faster than when I get home and love on him: “Oh, my sweet little Frankie…who’s a good boy? Is it you? Yes, you are! You’re the best boy in the world!”

Danielle Zimmerman

That’s the only exception and I stand by it. Because he is 90 years old and he deserves it.

The post Why ‘Baby Talk’ With Your Kids (And Spouse) Weirds Me Out appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why We Might Want To Rethink The Phrase ‘Good Job,’ And What We Can Say Instead

Re-think The Phrase ‘Good Job’?

“Good job, Chub,” is a regular phrase in our house. Some might even say it’s overused. We say it when my son successfully goes potty and when he successfully differentiates his right foot from his left foot. We also use the term in a million other contexts that I can’t remember at the moment.

We’ve always thought we were doing the right thing by providing a generous amount of encouragement. But lately, I’ve been wondering about this phrase… should we re-think the phrase “good job”?

First, it’s important to note that we all get motivated by different things. The two main types of motivation are extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation compels you to do something out of genuine interest, like curiosity or a desire to improve yourself. For instance, if your child brings you a book to read because they enjoy storytelling or it has their favorite character, they are intrinsically motivated to read the book.

Conversely, extrinsic motivation is when you complete a task to receive an external factor, like
praise or payment. You’re using extrinsic motivation when you tell your child they can watch another hour of tv if they eat all their veggies.

Technically, there is a time and a place for both motivation triggers and no one style is better than the other. But as a society, we tend to view intrinsic motivation more favorably, especially when setting a foundation for our children. And motivation isn’t nearly as clear-cut as we make it seem. It can be hard to differentiate one motivation from the other. Some things are even a mix of both.

So what does this have to do with whether we tell our kids “good job?”

Well, as this article points out, the fear is that conditions under which we tell our children “good job” can reinforce the idea that noteworthy completion equals success; conversely, it can send the message that struggle equals bad job/unsuccessful. There’s also the concern that we are training our children to be motivated by the expectation of praise.

According to Rae Pica, a child development specialist, one of the biggest problems with the phrase is that it’s too vague. “The expression isn’t remotely informative; the children haven’t a clue about what they’ve done that’s ‘good,'” she said. “So how did that help them improve.”

This makes complete sense. Few things are as ineffective as a feedback that is too general.

Pica also notes that “good job” is often used in situations of dishonesty and children have the ability to detect this. Not to mention it’s overuse makes it less impactful.

The good news is, this doesn’t have to be an “either/or” circumstance. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t give positive feedback. If you would still like to verbally affirm your children, you can beef up its effectiveness with the following strategies. Regardless of how you feel about the phrase “good job,” we could all benefit from some additional methods of encouragement in our toolbox and here are a few suggestions:

1. Describe what you see.

As stated above, the vagueness of “good job” is problematic. You can make the phrase more impactful by describing what you see in detail.

Have you ever told your child that they look “handsome” or “beautiful” when wearing a certain outfit? Well, to some, that could leave your child feeling like they don’t look nice when they aren’t wearing nice clothes. An example of this is saying “Aw, you look so beautiful in your red dress” to your child.

The fear is your daughter (or son) will say dress equals beautiful so no dress equals not beautiful. And in a society where young girls are expected to put a ton of weight on their appearance, this can lead to long-term self-image issues and the reinforcement of gender stereotypes.

Instead, you can say: “You look happy and comfortable! What do you like about that outfit?” or better yet say “I notice you really like the outfit.”

2. Emphasize effort, not outcome.

The idea is that saying “great job putting on your clothes” could suggest that the day your child struggles longer on an outfit with more buttons and snaps, they didn’t do a good job.

If you describe what your child has done, instead of making it a judgment on the outcome, they will learn more from the experience. By saying something like, “Wow, you tried really hard to fasten all those buttons, didn’t you,” you can let your child know that the most important part is that they tried hard.

3. Don’t just comment on “successes.”

One principle I do think is fundamental is being sure to comment on wins, losses, and draws. The choice is yours on whether or not you want to be an “everyone is a winner” parent. But even if you don’t say “good job” when your child doesn’t reach the traditional measure of success, it can be helpful to comment on the process and their actions along the way.

It’s normal to want to emotionally support your child through losses, but it needs to be done in a way that is constructive and honest.

Saying something like “How are you feeling?” or “What do you wish you did differently?” are great conversation starters to encourage older kids to see setbacks as opportunities for improvement instead of failure.

Regardless of whether you find the phrase “good job” to be problematic or not, the beauty of parenting is you get the opportunity to customize the experience to fit in a way that works best for your family and your children.

The post Why We Might Want To Rethink The Phrase ‘Good Job,’ And What We Can Say Instead appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why I Let My Toddler Boss Me Around

The other day I was chatting away with another mama when I shared that my toddler had entered the boss phase. I went on to tell her about dinner a few nights before when he demanded, “You sit here, mommy.” I shared that I half-smiled and then sat “there.” Her reaction caught me off guard. She said, “Ooh, you let him boss you?!’ I don’t remember what I said exactly but I’m sure I probably offered up some cobbled defense.

The truth though: Yes, I do let my toddler boss me.

Now, this isn’t an “I do this so you should too” type of post, but that conversation got me thinking. I do let that little tyrant boss me. Intentionally. I won’t ever claim to be a perfect parent and I try hard not to judge others for their parenting styles. I’m new to this whole talking, learning, growing, developing at lightening speeds toddler thing and while I may screw it up I encourage you to hear me out.

I let my toddler boss me and here’s why:

1. It encourages confidence.

I’m not a psychologist, but I would argue strongly that bossy children are wildly confident. They’re barking orders in their own 2-year-old speak based on independent thinking about the world around them. They’re calling it like it is and taking charge based on what they know. They’re leading at the most fundamental level. Right now they aren’t jaded by a world of “no” or “it just won’t work” and they’re so gosh darn passionate.

Personally, I don’t want to be the one responsible for bursting that bubble. Every time I follow a bossy order, I see my son’s confidence and self-esteem grow. I let him take the lead from time and time and live by a “pick my battles” philosophy. If he wants me to sit by him at dinner, wear his rain boots to daycare, or push the little kid grocery cart through every aisle whilst knocking down multiple displays, because he’s a big boy and he “can do it, mommy” when all I really need are stamps – cool. If he wants to run with the scissors – I draw a hard line and then wait for his counter … because at two, there’s always a counter.

2. It’s an opportunity to teach manners (and other stuff).

I know, it seems ridiculous and contradicting but, for reals, it’s an opportunity for learning. When a bossed demand or instruction doesn’t work the way he envisions, he learns consequences. He also learns to listen and obey when he sees that I follow his direction or mirror how to politely say no when I don’t.

Maybe it’s here that I should caveat this whole bossing thing — I think it’s different than sass. If he’s back-talking or being super fussy and giving me unnecessary attitude, I tell him why that particular behavior is rude or unwelcome and then refocus or walk away. I encourage him to use “please” and “thank you” before and after doing what he asks. And you know what? It works — for us, for the most part.

3. It’s age appropriate.

The reality is toddlers lack the social acumen to know what bossy behavior is, but they do know what it means to be heard. They recognize when we, the parent, obey and follow through with action. They know what it means to ask for what they want even if they haven’t figured out tone or why making incessant demands, especially those unreasonable – get me the waffle, but not that waffle – demands, drive us bonkers. It’s not about power, y’all. You are the parent and your toddler is still a toddler. It’s about modeling behaviors we want mimicked. Even when I’m frustrated and at my weakest, I’m-so-not-proud-of-myself mom moments, I’m trying hard to demonstrate the behavior I want him to mirror (and then curse that little stinker under my breath).

Before kids, I thought bossy babes were rotten, entitled children whose parents had lost their resolve to raise decent human beings. Before kids, did I sit on my judgmental high horse and shake my head at a parent who seemed to let their toddler rule the roost and boast about how I would never be that parent? You bet I did!

Before kids, I didn’t understand just how dang hard it is to parent and have been humbled beyond your wildest imagination.

The post Why I Let My Toddler Boss Me Around appeared first on Scary Mommy.

If Your Kid Ingests A Button Battery, Call 911. Then Do This.

Flipping button batteries. They’re those slim, metallic, button-sized circle batteries that are in just about every small electronic device in your house – remote controls, thermometers, scales, calculators, cameras, watches, electronic jewelry, holiday ornaments, and every annoying, beeping kid toy on planet earth.

And because they are shiny, about the size and shape of candy, and look oh-so-appetizing, they are a top ingestion danger for little kids. In fact, according to the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP), 2,500 of these freaking batteries are consumed by kids each year. And the AAP estimates that just about every three hours, a kid lands in the ER for battery ingestion. Freaking scary.

If ingested, these batteries can cause significant issues for little ones, as the AAP explains: “When lodged in the body, the electric current in a button battery rapidly increases the pH of the tissue adjacent to the battery, causing significant tissue injury even within two hours.”

Initial symptoms of ingestion might include signs of common infections, but if not treated some serious consequences can take hold, including, as the AAP describes, “esophageal perforation, mediastinitis, vocal cord paralysis, tracheoesophageal fistula, esophageal stricture, or death caused by a significant hemorrhage of an aortoesophageal fistula.”

Yes — tragically — kids die from ingesting button batteries.

This is very serious business, folks, and is why you should always make sure all electronic equipment with button batteries are childproofed. You can triple tape the battery compartment closed—or even better, try to keep the device totally out of reach of your kid.

But we all know that bad things happen to even the best of people, and that little kids are sometimes just curious beyond belief and can deconstruct even the most baby-proofed device.

So, if you know or suspect that your child has ingested a button battery, you should take them to the Emergency Room ASAFP. Don’t delay—because the more time that progresses, the more likely these serious symptoms can manifest. If you’re unsure, take them anyway, and let the doctors help you eliminate the concern.

It can take a bit of time to get yourself together and get your kid(s) to the ER, and during an emergency every second feels like hours. But there’s some good news: the folks at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have come up with a fantastic and proven way to help protect your child while you are waiting to get to the ER or be seen by a doctor.

According to a study presented by the research team at CHOP, it turns out that giving your kid some spoonfuls of honey as you are waiting for them to be seen can protect them from developing some of the most dire symptoms of button battery ingestion. Yes, honey.

(Note: Honey is NOT the treatment. The treatment is calling 911 or heading to the ER immediately, but while you wait for treatment, you feed the child some honey.)

Here’s how honey can protect your child from more serious risk: According to a press release about the study, which was published online in The Laryngoscope, honey can act as “a protective barrier” between your body’s vulnerable tissues and the highly caustic battery. Additionally, honey can serve to “neutralize harsh alkaline levels” that the battery excretes into the body.

This. Is. Awesome.

The researchers used laboratory animals in their testing, and before deciding that honey was the top-choice for protection, they also tested other common beverages that people often keep handy at home, like soda, juice, and sports drinks.

“We explored a variety of common household and medicinal liquid options, and our study showed that honey and sucralfate demonstrated the most protective effects against button battery injury, making the injuries more localized and superficial,” said Kris R. Jatana, Co-Principal Investigator of the study.

So how exactly should you administer the honey if you end up in the awful scenarios of having a child who has consumed a button battery?

“Our recommendation would be for parents and caregivers to give honey at regular intervals before a child is able to reach a hospital, while clinicians in a hospital setting can use sucralfate before removing the battery,” said Dr. Ian N. Jacobs, pediatric otolaryngologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

There are a few caveats to this practice, of course. The study researchers say that honey should not be consumed in children who have known sepsis or perforation of the esophagus. And of course, any child with a honey allergy should stay away.

How about kids under one year who are told to stay away from honey due to botulism risk? You shouldn’t give them honey in this situation either, according to the researchers.

“While future studies could help establish the ideal volume and frequency for each treatment, we believe that these findings serve as a reasonable benchmark for clinical recommendations,” Jacobs explained. “Safely ingesting any amount of these liquids prior to battery removal is better than doing nothing.”

Yep, it sure is. Anything that can help in this situation should be employed. Again, button battery consumption is not something to brush off. It’s super serious and you should take every measure possible to protect your child.

So, seriously, do your due diligence to keep these batteries out of reach of your kids in the first place, RUSH them to the ER if you even suspect they may have ingested a button battery, and  also keep some honey handy and spoon it right into their mouth as you await treatment. It could save their life.

The post If Your Kid Ingests A Button Battery, Call 911. Then Do This. appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why It Hurts When She Calls For Daddy

It’s late at night. I stupidly went to bed at midnight, and I hear her calling at 1 a.m. I’ve just fallen asleep, and it’s time for our toddler to do her every-other-night wake-up. But she doesn’t cry out “Mama.” She cries for “Daddy” and “Dada” and “Dah” and every other form she can think of to get who she wants. Because it’s not me.

I walk into her room, hoping when she’ll see me, she’ll stop crying and call out “Hold! Hold!” But she doesn’t, instead, when she sees me, she asks for “Daddy” again, still crying.

“No, it’s Mama,” I gently say as I pat her back, a knife twisting in my stomach, eyes welling up with tears, but staying strong for her. She eventually calms down and is fine with me being there, but she and I know I wasn’t her first choice.

It isn’t often like this during the day, when she often calls for me in my office when I’m working from home. I get the loud pounding on my office door when I’m on conference calls at least once a week when she slips away from my husband. He’s a dad who works part-time from home. No, the calling out for “Daddy” usually happens at night, or when she sees a bug outside that terrifies her. And I think that bothers me the most because it’s her subconscious talking, the part that I know she doesn’t even control, and I know that it’s rooted in her to call out for her daddy first, and then me. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my husband ranks first, and I rank second. It goes food, water, hugs, Daddy, Mama.

I blame it on having to go back to work at three months. He stays at home with her and works when he can. And my job is to bring home the money, keep our house, and buy our food. It’s an important job, and one I frankly do love, but it’s hard not being around our children all day. But I know it’s also hard being around our children all day, and for that I give my husband a “You Survived” award almost every day.

“She drew on the wall today,” he’ll tell me affectionately with a hesitant smirk, thinking that either I may kill him for letting her do so or laugh. “But it’s okay, the magic eraser worked like a charm.”

He doesn’t know how I wanted to witness her first time drawing on the wall. Or rolling over. Or walking. Or talking. I would want no one else raising my children though. I don’t want them calling out “Karen!” in the middle of the night. It’s really not a bad thing that she loves her father so much. I just wish I could do it all. I try to feed them and bathe them and sing to them and put them to bed, all outside of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then after all that I go back to working again. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

And then there are the nights like tonight when I put our toddler to bed and try not to get mad as I close my eyes to try to get her to close her eyes as she yells, “Mama!  Mama!  Mama!  Mama!  Mama!  Mama!  Mama!  Mama!  Mama!” (no joke, like 15 times, two inches from my face… I will spare you) as she plucks my lip and pokes my eye and put hers finger up my nose. I just sit there quietly and tell myself, “This is quality time.”

I try to put down my phone when I’m with her and give her my full attention. But there’s always the nagging part of my brain that asks me why am I not making money for her, providing for her, instead of being with her.

So tonight, if she wakes up and calls for “Daddy,” my heart will sink a little more, but I know it’s the right thing for us. I can’t be angry at having such an amazing husband who I trust my babies’ lives with every day, as much as I want to, or think I want to. He’s my everything to my everything, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The post Why It Hurts When She Calls For Daddy appeared first on Scary Mommy.

How To Treat Your Child Well — Even When They Act Like A Brat

I’d had about enough. My daughter was in some type of angry zone, upset at the world, mad at everyone. She woke up on the wrong side of the bed—again—and we wound up in some spiral tug-of-war of wills. She sobbed, she screamed, she refused to brush her hair—I could handle all that. Then she threw a small book at her toddler sister, hitting her in the back and leaving a mark. I felt myself almost lose it.

When someone, even someone you love, intentionally hurts your baby, the feeling that surfaces (brace yourselves, it’s about to get real here) is RAGE. I’ve never felt that way toward my own daughter until the book incident ensued. It was a feeling of confusion, of desperation. A feeling that I must be doing this mom thing all wrong, that I need to go to stinkin’ parenting school myself, that I’m a mom fraud.

My initial gut reaction? To scream. To be mean back. To move immediately to punishment. To treat my firstborn like the enemy or a monster.

That’s not what you expected? Me neither. It’s definitely not the picture of a perfect pediatrician, but it is the truth because it turns out, I am human. It also turns out, I thankfully remembered at that moment, so is she. Well, actually, a little song started playing in my head that helped remind me.

“People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed. But throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best. True love brings out the best.”

Sound eerily familiar? Yep, the Frozen soundtrack was my saving grace at that moment (I knew that movie would be good for something one day). Seriously, as cheesy as it may sound, that tune has it exactly right when it comes to early childhood behavior and successful parenting. It’s the crux of emotion coaching and of collaborative problem solving: an assumption that all people want to do and be their best but that traumas, circumstances, skill deficits, and developmental immaturities keep them from it a lot of the time. An understanding that our most important parenting goal should be to coach our kids toward desired behaviors, not to punish them for their ineptitudes.

Think about it this way: if you were in charge of a beginning-level soccer team and one player hadn’t eaten breakfast, leaving him without any energy, and he couldn’t run down the field, would you get mad at him or would you feed him? If he missed a goal, would you sit him out of the game or would you work on his kicking skills? If he had an incomplete pass, would you run over in the middle of the game and explain in an irritated voice how he failed or would you use the next practice to build his skills? If you did storm onto the field in a fit of anger, it not only would be inappropriate, it would be ludicrous.

When you are a good coach, you think about where your player is going, not where they are now. You work with them toward the goals you share. You consider it your role to teach and guide. We have to think about our parenting in the same goal-oriented way if we want to be successful.

Does that mean we just let our kids run free and wild, hurting others along the way, with no accountability? Not at all. Does that mean we bend to every unhealthy request our kids make? Not in the least. Does that mean we never get angry or upset? That’s impossible. It does mean that we first think of our children as people, who usually act out based on feelings and needs, not spite. It means we do the following:

We remember that, in 99% of cases, our children’s behaviors do not constitute emergencies. We almost always have time to stop, get ourselves peaceful, and then move to action.

We reality check our deepest fears and disappointments. In those whirlwind moments of toddler and preschool parenting, the fears that we’ve been storing down in the depths make their way to the forefront of our minds quite often. But fears like my child is on a path toward a career as a complete sociopath or my kids will never love each other, while seemingly real in the moment, are hardly ever based in reality. Remember, aiming for perfectly-behaved kids is unrealistic and unfair. We can’t let our fears dictate our in-the-moment parenting responses.

We own our own emotions and role-model healthy ways to deal with those feelings that rise to the surface when we’re triggered. It’s perfectly okay to say to your child, “Mommy feels scared and angry right now. I need to take a second to calm down.” In fact, when we consistently acknowledge what’s going on for us inside and demonstrate how to deal with the raw feelings we have in nonviolent, non-harmful ways, we are showing our kids how they can do the same.

We broadcast and emotion coach. “Jill is frustrated she can’t play with that toy right now” or “Owen is disappointed he can’t have an ice cream today.”

We set firm limits and rules about what is okay and what is not. When our kids use inappropriate methods to express their emotions and get their needs met, we help them find an alternative solution. “We don’t hit. We don’t yell at our loved ones and friends. Can you think of another option?”

We use time-outs sparingly and natural consequences wisely. A book to the back of a sibling? In my house, that is a line we don’t cross. However, time-outs don’t have to be angry, drag-out power-struggles. They can be a chance to help kids stop and get control of themselves. Check out tips from Zero to Five author Tracy Cutchlow on the topic here. If we do set a consequence for an action, we make it logical and attainable (like taking away a privilege or helping to clean up a mess that was made), not far-fetched or punitive for the whole family (“That’s it! No playdates for a month!”).

We allow, whenever possible, our children to brainstorm their own solutions.“You’ll need your hair brushed before we can leave. You want to keep playing right now. What should we do?”

The toddler years are full of magic and wonder, but they can also be full of stress and turmoil. When your kids act like little monsters, first attend to your own emotions, learn to respond versus react, and use tantrums and “bad’ behavior first and foremost as teaching moments—steps along the path to emotional self-regulation and effective problem-solving. If you do, you’ll build a team of healthy, resilient human beings.

The post How To Treat Your Child Well — Even When They Act Like A Brat appeared first on Scary Mommy.