Why Losing A Mom Is Even Harder When You’re A Mom Too

It’s 3 a.m. Well, it’s actually 9:39 p.m., but I’m in bed, it’s dark, and my kids have been asleep for more than 45 minutes, so it’s 3 a.m. TMST (toddler mom standard time).

Instead of claiming the sleep that is one of the rarest commodities for the mom of a toddler and a newborn, I’m going through old photos trying to find every single picture that has ever been taken of my four-year-old and my mom, her Grandbunny. We lost my mom this past January. To say it was a big blow to our family would be an insultingly drastic understatement.

I gave birth to our youngest son this past November, and while we were in the hospital, my parents took care of our older daughter (then a rambunctious three-year-old) with no problems. Everything seemed normal. Thanksgiving came and went, and our biggest worry was whose house was going to smell like turkey for days. We visited my parents’ house for Christmas, and we could tell Mom looked different, but she shrugged it off, saying she was having a health problem and had lost some weight. In mid-January, she went into the hospital. A week later, she was gone.

Grief is always painful. Grieving a parent is excruciating. However, in the three months and three days that have passed since then, I’ve been on a daily discovery trip to realize how much it sucks to lose a mom when you’re also a mom yourself.

My daughter worshipped her Grandbunny. They spent time together more days than not, especially toward the end of what was a pretty rough pregnancy with our youngest son. So my first realization was that, when you should be struggling to deal with your own immediate grief at losing a parent, a mom doesn’t have the luxury (if it could ever be called that) of focusing on her own grief. We inherit the unbearable, inhumane job of breaking the hearts of the tiny people we care about more than anything else in the world, whose emotional states even more fragile than ours. You have to sit down with your kids and watch as their tiny worlds collapse around them and know you’re powerless to fix it.

And that’s just day one.

You then all start the grieving process, but you still aren’t absolved of being the glue that holds the family together. Your kids act out more because they just lost a major part of their lives, and you have to be patient, understanding, and forgiving, even though you just want to curl up in a ball and sob. And it gets even worse, because every time your kids act out, your first impulse is to reach for the phone and ask your mom for advice on how to handle it. I’m only three months out, but this reflex isn’t going away.

So you learn to cope quietly. To draw out whatever inner strength you can find under the couch cushions of your soul, and you try to strike the right balance between keeping your kids distracted with the best smiles you can fake and shepherding them through the grief process with stories, photos, and videos of them with the grandmother they’ll never get to see again.

Why Losing A Mom Is Even Harder When You're A Mom Too
Courtesy of Liz Bayardelle

Toddler parents have it even worse because we don’t just have to break the bad news once. No, we have to re-explain the most painful event in our lives every day, to break it down into simple and easy-to-understand language, and to repeatedly answer questions so brutal only a small child could get away with asking them.

But, as always, time passes. You think it will get easier with time, but it doesn’t quite work that way. As they are wont to do, your kids start to grow and then you discover a new type of pain because every first is one more thing your mom isn’t going to see. You have to resist the urge to text her every time you take a cute picture of her grandchildren (because she was the only one in your life who didn’t mind when you texted her basically the same picture of the baby napping every single afternoon). Every adorable moment now becomes bittersweet because you know how much she would have loved it.

You get used to living your moments with the devil on your shoulder silently whispering that things will never be the same without her here to enjoy these precious moments with you. Some moments you are actually happy, and all the others you get better at faking it. Everyone else begins to move on, and you not only get to grieve, but you learn to do it without the initial outpouring of support that accompanies the loss of a relative. You realize that the grief isn’t going to go away, it’s going to become a part of you, and you will just get better at carrying it around.

And then, just as you slowly adjust to the emotional trauma (as if such a thing is actually possible), you begin to realize just how much you relied on her for help on a day to day basis. I never realized that I used my mom as Google until I couldn’t anymore. Any time I wanted a recipe, couldn’t get a stain out of something, or needed to know how to calculate some figure for my taxes, I didn’t look it up. I called my mom. The only time my husband and I had “date nights” were when my parents came over to babysit for us. Now with two kids under five, there’s no way we’d saddle my recently-widowed father with that level of chaos, so I guess we’ll be dating at home until our five-month-old son starts preschool. It’s only three years, right?

If the initial emotional damage, the trauma of having to tell your kids, the process of parenting through grief, the dampening of what should be incredibly happy moments that follow, and the loss of a major source of practical help don’t get you, what surely will is the hollow realization that your kids, especially if they are on the younger side, might not even remember this person who had such a major influence on both your life and theirs.

So here I sit, blatantly ignoring my better angels’ attempts at getting me to go to sleep, culling through old family photos to make a “Grandbunny and Me” photo book for my daughter. She’s only four, so I know that there’s only a small chance she’ll retain any of the memories of the Grandbunny she spent four days a week with every day of her early childhood. However, I know that the more she is reminded of the memories she does have, the higher the chance she’ll retain them into adulthood, so here I sit.

While sorting through photos I had the most jarring realization of all. Despite the fact that my daughter spent more time with my mom than with anyone else aside from me and my husband, there are shockingly few pictures of the two of them together. There are hundreds of pictures of her with the gifts my mom got her and the occasional few pictures I was able to take of the two of them, but the overwhelming majority are photos of my daughter that were taken by my mom.

A majority of our most cherished family photos had my mom on the other side of the camera. It wasn’t because she was camera shy, but because she was doing what moms do best: being the invisible glue that held everything together. She was the person who remembered every little holiday and mailed my daughter cards because she remembered that kids still think getting mail is fun. She was the person who made trips to the grocery store and the gas station into an adventure. She was the one making sure every family get together was fully photographed and happily documented.

After making this discovery, I realized that the same is mostly true of our family photos. I’m usually behind the camera, so an overwhelming majority of the photos are just of my husband and kids. I’m sure it’s like this in many families even though no one ever really notices. And there’s a very good reason for this. To use my glue metaphor, the mom isn’t usually in family pictures because the only time glue is ever really noticed is when it fails to do its job.

As the glue of a family, a mom’s work is usually silent, unnoticed, and often without any external validation whatsoever. There are days when this can feel horribly unfair. There are days when all I want in the world is for someone to thank me for unloading the dang dishwasher (again).

However, sitting here and looking at all these photos that have my mom invisibly behind the camera, I realize that this is the biggest compliment in the world. If I can do half as good of a job as she did of holding the family together so well we didn’t notice it was even happening, I’ll know I’ve done my job as a mom. And after living through the last three months and three days, I know how much my kids will appreciate it too.

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What I Learned About Parenting From Two Light Switches

For nearly a year, I carried light switches around in my purse.

You read that right. Two light switches. One traditional-style white one, the other off-white with a one-inch-wide, three-way rocker.

Why?

Because when my son was two, he liked to strip naked and run through the house turning off every light he could reach.

In public, he usually stayed appropriately clothed, but I often had to intervene as his grabby little mitts attempted to flick every toggle, turn every knob and push every button that crossed our path.

Elevators were a nightmare during that phase, and fire alarms gave me heart palpitations.

During one particularly exasperating errand run, I brought my little man to the doorknob aisle of our local hardware store where he could have spent hours turning, pushing, pulling and locking. Finally, he was satisfied, and my frazzled self could take a breath.

And that’s when the idea struck! I bet those two plastic rectangles were the cheapest toys I ever purchased.

When my high-energy little guy lunged for the buttons on an elevator, or even worse, started eyeing fire alarms, that extra hardware saved me.

I’m sure I looked very odd, waiting in line to get my driver’s license renewed with my toddler on my hip flicking those toggles up and down, up and down.

I’m sure I raised some eyebrows at the dentist’s office and the bank with these unconventional toys.

And I probably confused my child a bit, too. Every time he flicked those unwired, solitary switches, he scanned the room to figure out what exactly he was turning on or off. I’m sure he was disappointed when we weren’t plunged into darkness.

Weird as it looked, it worked for us. And that’s all that matters.

In this age of endless parenting advice, from social media, blogs, articles and everyone you meet, no one is going to tell you to buy two light switches to carry around in your purse for occupying your handsy toddler. But for us, it was the perfect solution.

When I started carrying around light switches in my purse so many years ago, I gave myself permission to focus beyond the prescribed parenting manuals and popular conventions. In doing so, I met my son’s challenges, stoked his interests, and encouraged his curiosity and creativity.

Plus, I learned that when it comes to parenting, sometimes you just gotta do what works for you and your family.

Even when it looks a little silly.

 

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners), daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook page is here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all).

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Beware: Knock-Off Car Seats That Don’t Meet Safety Standards Are On The Rise

It’s a sobering fact that car accidents are a leading cause of death among children under the age of 12. At the same time, we have an amazing way to reduce and prevent these deaths: car seats.

The thing is, car seats don’t work unless they are installed and used properly. It can be confusing to make sure your seat is the right size and fit for your child, that it’s installed correctly in your car, and that your child is strapped into it appropriately.

But parents do what we need to do to get it right—including seeking  help from child passenger safety technicians (CPST) if needed—because car seat safety is that important.

As if all of that weren’t time-consuming and nerve-wracking enough, now parents have another car seat related stress to contend with: knock-off car seats.

Of course, not all affordable (read: cheaper) car seats are fake knock-offs, but apparently some folks out there have decided to make a pretty penny off of parents who are looking for a discounted seat by passing off fake ones as the real deal.

As The Washington Post reports, knock-off car seats are saturating the online marketplace. Companies selling unregulated products are touting their wares on massively popular sites like Amazon and Walmart, and parents are attracted to the seats because they are sold for less than market value.

Important note: It is possible to purchase discounted car seats that ARE safe. Check out this post for some ideas.

The Post reports that upon contacting Walmart and Amazon, most of the knock-off seats were removed, but sites like Ebay and AliExpress still contain a ton of listings for knock-off seats.

d3sign/Getty

As you can imagine, these seats are not safe. In order for a car seat to be legitimately sold in America, it must meet federally set safety standards and pass several crash tests. These seats have not, and will not, keep your child safe in the event of an accident.

Laurel Schamber, a certified child-passenger safety technician based in California, described to The Post one knock-off seat she saw a grandmother bring in a few months ago for inspection.

“It looked like a deconstructed backpack,” Schamber said. “It’s made of backpack material, no manufacturer name, no labeling, nothing.”

In addition, she said, there was no chest clip, which meant that if there was a crash, a child could potentially be tossed right out of the seat. Even the smallest crash could cause that to happen, Schamber warned.

Other outlets, such as KMOV, St. Louis’ local news channel, have also warned of knock-off seats that have been spotted in their communities. These seats share many of the same traits that Schamber mentioned.

 

And it’s not just infant car seats that are in play here. There are several copy-cat booster seats being sold as well, such as knock-off MiFolds. These seats, which can be folded up small enough to fit in a backpack, are easy to replicate, and it’s not always easy for parents to tell the difference between a real MiFold and a fake.

“Parents and caregivers can’t be expected to know by looking at the product whether it’s good enough,” Jon Sumroy, MiFold’s chief executive, tells The Post. “You can buy the MiFold at Walmart or Target or Buy Buy Baby in the United States.”

Sumroy explained that in order to get his products sold in these stores, he had to show they they met safety standards. But he says that sites like eBay don’t check to see whether the seats are safe.

The truth is, when you buy products anywhere on the internet, you really don’t know what you are getting. And with so many of us looking for the latest deal online, it’s easy to see how parents could fall for these knock-off brands and not even realize it.

Karl Tapales/Getty

However, just because these seats exist, it doesn’t mean you have to fall victim to one of these scams – scams that could very well put your child at risk. There are a couple of simple, key questions to ask yourself when you are purchasing a car seat:

– Is your seat properly labeled? All car seats are required to have this printed on their labels: “The child restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.”

– Does your seat have a recognizable product brand label on it?

– Can you find your car seat brand listed on a reputable car seat website?

– Does your car seat have a model number and manufacture date?

– Does it have an instruction manual and a product recall registration card?

– Is your seat listed on the Academy of Pediatrics approved list of seats?

You can also check the seat for “red flags” that many knock-off seats share: no chest clips, made of low-quality plastic material (including buckles), insecure fit in car, and just generally made of flimsy material that looks like it would easily break.

Finally – and maybe most importantly – if the deal you are getting on your seat seems too good to be true, it probably is. Listen, raising kids can be seriously expensive. But car seat safety is something that none of us should skimp on, ever (and again, buying a good quality seat doesn’t have to break the bank). The lives of our precious kids are too important.

For more information about car seat safety, check out this post written by Alisa Baer, MD & CPSTI (i.e., The Car Seat Lady) as well as our interview with her here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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