Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Importance of Speaking Honestly to Children

V, all dressed up and waiting to go to her party!

My daughter, V, like any curious toddler, asks a lot of questions.  Some of which, I’m not quite sure how to answer. But I’d rather admit that I, the great and powerful mother, am not all-knowing, than lie to my child. After reading the book, Nurture Shock, which includes a discussion on lying in young children and teens, I was shocked to learn how frequently both children and adults lie.  It truly scared the hell out of me. Mostly, the frequent lying is about minor issues, or even differences in perception.  An example is when my daughter asks, “Toys, mama?” to be interpreted as, “Will you play toys with me, mama?”  To which I might respond, “in a minute, honey”  or “after we finish dinner,”  only to find me a minute later still tidying up the kitchen, folding laundry, or sweeping her directly into her bath after dinner.  I didn’t intend to lie, rather I merely became distracted or busy in this hypothetical situation.  In her mind, though, this is tantamount to a lie.  I told her I would do something, and then I did not follow through.  Nurture Shock makes the case that after years of observing this sort of behavior from parents and other adults, kids get the message that lying is ok.  And then the kids lie about the big things.  Even the “good” kids.

So, as a mother who prizes honesty over nearly every other virtue, I am hoping to set a good example for my daughter.  It is harder than it looks.  I stumble over words when my 19 month old asks about feminine hygiene products, wanting to be honest but developmentally appropriate at the same time.  I try not to tell her about play dates until we are en route, because if they fall through, not only do I not want her to be disappointed, but more importantly, I don’t want to have “lied” to her about something that didn’t happen.  At her age, the subtle distinctions between out and out lies and broken promises that have good (or not so good) justifications are very difficult for her to understand.  I do let her experience disappointment for the sake of growth, but I try not to unnecessarily set her up with promises I might not be able to keep.  Even with the best of intentions, things happen.  An example was when we tried to go to her friend’s 2nd birthday party.  She adores this little boy and was excited, all dressed up in her party dress, bows in hair, shoes on, gift in hand, when we walked out to the garage to find our car battery was dead.  Two hours later, Daddy and our neighbor friend had installed a new battery and we were able to make it to the party after all, but for a short period in time, my daughter had to face her first real let down.  I had to tell her that although I had promised we were going to the party, the car was broken, and we might not be able to go.  I tried to keep my explanation clear and simple, and for the most part, she handled it really well.  If the car had not been so easily fixed, however, I would have broken a promise to her for the first time.  Granted, it was not my fault, but it did not feel good.  That guilt alone is enough to motivate me to keep my communication with my daughter as clear and straightforward and developmentally appropriate as possible.

Why is honesty so important to me?  I have watched and participated in many relationship failures in my life, and pretty much all of them are connected to the breakdown of honesty.  Whether people are dishonest with themselves or with each other, each little lie can accumulate into a tsunami of distrust that sweeps the relationship into destruction.  Big lies expect the person to both forgive and forget, and while the former is possible, the latter is hard to do when a person is forced to choose between love of another and love (or protection) of the self.  Lying to oneself to preserve a relationship will not work either; eventually, a choice must be made between preserving the last remnants of self-truth or preserving the illusion of relationship.  This is not a choice anyone wants to have to make, as it involves tremendous loss, whether it is the loss of self, or the loss of what might have been if we had been honest a bit earlier, whether it is the loss of a ideal relationship that we have been clinging onto, or whether it’s just the loss of hope that we can fix problems that have escalated out of control.  Being dishonest with oneself or another person in a relationship is a set up for failure every time.

Not only is honesty important to maintain solid, trusting relationships, it is also important for intrinsic growth and development. I believe that internal, mental, and spiritual growth only come when we are truly honest with ourselves, about our limitations, our gifts, our mistakes, and what promises we are able to keep.  Self examination leading to self-awareness is crucial for understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses.  Self-awareness can improve quality of relationships, as one is able to admit and take responsibility for conflicts and issues.  My relationship with my husband goes a whole lot smoother, when I can say, yeah, in that moment I was feeling stressed and angry about X, and I took it out on you.  Or I was being a big jerk, and I just have to fess up. It also goes a whole lot better for me when I can tell him I have an issue and he is honest enough with himself to admit that yup, his weaknesses played a role in that conflict.  In each situation, we can then find common ground, seek forgiveness, and move forward, trusting that the conflict is out in the open, rather than festering and waiting to pounce at the next opportunity.  If we can’t be honest with ourselves, we cannot be honest with other people, and the issue further spirals into an inability to achieve true intimacy.

Why do we fail at honesty?  Because we are afraid of what will happen if we risk the truth.  The other person might not be ready or able to hear a truth.  We may not be able or ready to face a truth about ourselves.  Sometimes time helps, but starting out honest can keep us from veering too far down into a thicket of brambles that are difficult to untangle.  If we can find the courage, honesty will guide us rightly, every time.  Honesty does not guarantee an absence of suffering, but it does liberate us inside, with the knowledge that we have preserved some good and noble essence, and that whatever shakes out in the aftermath of a crisis, at the very least, it will be what is true.

Through my writing, I am facing some hard truths about myself that I haven’t had the courage to deal with for years.  Afraid of failure, I veered away from my initial career interest in journalism and writing to pursue what I thought was a safe career path for a family oriented person.  How ironic that the year immediately before and immediately after I became a mother, I have also reintegrated writing into my life.  Something about bringing a life into this world has made me feel powerful enough and hopeful enough to try writing again.  For the first time in my life, the most important roles that define me: wife, mother, writer, are things at which I can utterly fail.  I have more than a little anxiety about all three roles at times, but they are who I am.  I can face the possibility of failure, because I genuinely love the meaning that motherhood, marriage, and writing bring to my life.  I am willing to risk it all, to have it all, and honestly, risk makes me feel uncomfortable.  I am learning to be okay stretching outside my comfort zone, and stop the voices in my head, those lying voices that tell me to ignore parts of myself that involve risk or potential suffering.  To deny those parts of myself in order to protect myself would be the biggest lie of all.

I am hoping that years from now, my honest approach with my daughter will give her enough trust in me to help us navigate the difficult teenage and young adult years where she will naturally push away, and even want to lie to protect her independence.  I hope she realizes that she does not have to trade one for the other with me, that honesty is always the best policy.  If she’s honest with herself, she’ll know, deep down how much, and how unconditionally, I love her.  I know we won’t be perfect, but if we can be honest, perhaps we can continue to share a sense of respect that will get us through the rough spots.  Because, honestly, I love her more than anything.


Balanced Budget: How Do You Do It?

Hi all,

I am writing an unusual blog…for me, today.  First of all, I’m posting on a Tuesday.  Second of all, this will be more of a  query than my usual style.  But I think this topic is relevant for all my readers, whether they are parents or penny pinching poets.  Today, I want to talk about the budget.

With so much current discussion surrounding balancing the federal budget and as we are, at least those of us in my SES, tightening our own belts, my husband and I were moved to take a closer look at our personal finances.   After all, how can we  expect the government to achieve balance and savings with billions if we do not get our own house in the tightest possible order?

My husband, M, and I have similar philosophies about money.  We like to be debt-free, have a cushion for emergencies and for the future, but also have some freedom for fun built into the budget.  We try to balance planning for the future (with it’s potential good and bad prospects) with living in the moment, and for the most part we are managing.  But, as every perfectionist knows, you can always do better, right?  So, right now, we are reviewing our monthly expenses (already tight without cable, Internet, and other frivolities) to try to find additional ways to save for our future and that of our daughter, V.

In thinking about possible ways to manage what few ducats we have after the bills are paid, we are considering a small contribution to a retirement fund, a college fund for V, and possibly saving for a down payment for a house.  We have read different philosophies about how to go about doing this, and plan to meet with a financial advisor at our bank for additional perspective.  What I’m curious to hear from my readers is what strategies you use to keep your house in order?  After all, the more ideas on the table, the more dishes there are to choose from…

So if you are interested in sharing your success (or learning through failure) stories, please do!  We’d love to know everything!  From how much you budget for groceries, entertainment/eating out per month to what your priorities are for saving.  If you have a helpful tip or reference, please share in the comment section and thanks in advance for your thoughts!


Twinkle, Twinkle, Mobile

Twinkle Twinkle Mobile

 

Materials:

Yellow, white, orange construction paper

Empty paper towel tube

Ribbon or string

Scissors

Hole punch

Glitter/sparkle paint, black paint optional.

Paintbrush

 

Age:                18 months+ with lots of adult assistance

 

Objectives:  sensory exploration, motor skill development, colors, learning about space and stars

 

Instructions:

 

On the assorted construction paper, draw and cut out several stars of various shapes.  Punch one hole in the top of each star. Give them to your child to paint using the glitter sparkle paint. You may paint the paper towel tube if you wish (I did not during my experimental effort!).  I would paint it black to go with the theme.  Let all materials dry before proceeding. On either end of the paper towel tube, punch a hole.  Make sure the holes are on the same side of the tube, as this is where you will tie the string for hanging your mobile.  Cut various lengths of ribbon or string.  Thread them through the assorted stars and put the loops over the paper towel tube.  Cut two strings of the same length for hanging your mobile.  Tie each string to the hole on each end of the tube, making sure all your stars stay on the paper towel tube.  Tie the two strings together in the middle.  You may also use one long string and tie the two ends of the string to the holes on either side of the tube; it’s up to you.  I prefer the first way, in case I want to affix the mobile to a stationary bar that I cannot remove to loop the mobile around.  Hang your Twinkle Twinkle Mobile and enjoy!  As always, make sure your mobile is out of reach of small children due to strangulation hazards.  This project could be adapted with red,white, and blue paper to make a Fourth of July themed mobile!


Mommy Mishaps: Days You Had As A Mother (or Father) That You Never Thought You’d Laugh About

 

I’m a pretty serious gal.  I am bookish and introverted, and sometimes socially awkward.  I’m not a quick wit kind of person, which is why I love to write because with time to reflect and think, I can communicate my more authentic self.  But sometimes life provides what you lack in big old doses.  Motherhood has brought out the funny in my life.  Every day, my daughter V does something that I find hilarious.  Today she asked to eat a pig for lunch.  I did not teach her where pork comes from, so my best guess is that she knows we eat chicken and generalized from there.  Yesterday, while sitting on the potty, she kneaded her stomach to try to get more pee out and looked up at me with this giant grin, like “I’m doing it, Mom!”  I’m sure as a teenager, she’ll love that I wrote about that moment in her life.  My kid is genuinely funny, and I’m loving it!

But there have been times when my first impulse as a parent was not to laugh, times when the day promised to get the best of me, if I let it.  One of the worst of these cases involved, you guessed it, doody.  My daughter was in early infancy, and in one of my parenting books, I had read about the benefits of skin to skin contact with young babies. The author had described a warm and comfortable bath with your infant as a nice way to enjoy a relaxing bonding moment.  As a new mom who counted herself lucky to bathe every second day, I thought this was a great idea.  What a wonderful way to multi-task and have a little snuggle in gentle, soothing water.

I had gotten us settled in the water; my husband handed her in to me so I wouldn’t slip getting into the tub and then went back downstairs for a few minutes of alone time.  We splashed and played and I washed her up, then was thinking about calling my hubs back to take V out so I could clean up, when I thought I heard some bubble activity in the water.  A moment of horror set in as I realized what was happening, as the breast-fed baby sludge filled the tub, swirling around my lower half and encompassing my little bathing beauty.  She had pooped.  In the tub.  And as she was not eating table food yet, there were no floaties involved.  Only runny, rapidly mixing, murky, brown-yellow streams where once clear water had flowed.  I screamed in horror, the hubs racing up the stairs to find me standing in the tub holding our crap covered kid at arms’ length and dancing and cringing with disgust. I can barely recall what happened next, as I was so traumatized.  I know that together we managed to empty, disinfect, and refill the tub and my husband bathed our shivering girl for the second time, while I jumped into the separate shower stall to scrub my skin raw as I washed my body about 5 times in scalding hot water.

I am a mom, and I have been pooped on, but let me tell you, a clothing barrier gives a lot more confidence when dealing with the doody.  After this fiasco, I learned that some discernment was necessary when determining the practicality of baby soothing techniques.  But our bathtub fun continued.  One particularly horrid morning, I spent the whole morning bathing V, as she pooped through three subsequent bath times.  Each time, I would pull her dripping from the tub, wrap her in a towel, several of which were pooped upon, drain and disinfect the tub, wash her, only to have her poop again.  After the third time, I called my husband at work, hysterical.  My child was shivering and covered in feces.  I was disheveled, the bathroom was a wreck.  I can’t imagine being on the receiving end of that phone call, but my husband did his daddy duty and talked me down from the crazy place I was in.  I got V cleaned up.  I cleaned the floor; I cleaned her bath toys; I did a load of laundry.  I warmed my poor, shivering child, as our hot water had given out by the third attempt.  I coped and cuddled and we moved on, though half our day had been swallowed up with baths.

I look back on these incidents, ones that threatened my parent nerves of steel, and I have to laugh at that fledgling parent, so determined to do everything right, best of intentions thwarted by the stuff the universe threw at her.  I’ve gotten used to these kinds of mishaps by now.  There are days that devolve from start to finish, and I find myself quicker to laugh, and follow up fiascos with fun.  After all, poop happens.  As a mother, I’ve literally learned this lesson.

I would love to hear your mommy (or daddy) mishaps!  Please share your silly stories below if you dare to share!

 

 


Nineteen Months and Still Nursing

When I became a mother, I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  I had researched it extensively, and found that breastfeeding provided many benefits to my child, the greatest of which, was improved immunity.  In addition, it is a tenant of attachment theory to which I am a subscriber (for those of you interested in attachment theory, please refer to the work of Dr. Robert Sears).  It was important to me to foster secure attachment through nursing my child. I hoped to nurse for at least a year, as is recommended by many breastfeeding proponents.

What I didn’t anticipate was my daughter’s intense need to nurse.  She nursed frequently for both nourishment and comfort from the earliest days of her life.  Nursing is a great option, and for my child, I wouldn’t make any other choice, but it requires a great commitment on both the part of the mother and her partner.  For me, it meant giving up a great deal of physical freedom, time, and the ability to take time away from my daughter, V, for any length of time (she was, and still is, a frequent nurser).  However, I was in it for the long haul.

And, nineteen months later, I still am in it.  During a recent conversation with my sister, a mother of a 4 month old daughter, I explored some of my conflicting feelings about nursing my daughter as she approaches the age of two.  As my daughter is becoming increasingly independent, and more able to separate from me, I am finding myself more and more excited to carve out some of the time that I previously devoted to nursing to do other things.  I am looking forward to the time when I might be able to have a late night date with my husband with my child in a sitter’s care (by late night, I mean, home by 10 pm!).  I am looking forward to maybe taking a day where my daughter spends the whole day with her dad or a grandparent, and I do not have to worry about whether she will need to nurse.  I am looking forward to a night where I can sleep all the way through, because despite my best efforts, my daughter still requires nighttime feedings.  I am okay with the situation as it is, but there are times when I look forward to regaining my body and some freedom.  And, though I shouldn’t care about it, I will have some relief about not having to answer the judgment laden question…”Oh, you’re STILL nursing?  How long do you plan to do THAT?”  UGH!  To those folks, I answer, “But the World Health Organization recommends nursing until at least two, and often beyond…”  Like that changes their opinion.

Things I love about still nursing my daughter:

*Built in downtime where I can rest during the day, napping, reading, watching some tv, while my daughter snuggles and snoozes on my lap.

*It is a source of comfort and security to my very independent, very precocious little girl.  When she is hurt or frustrated and sad, she finds comfort in cuddling close to mommy and getting her “Chi” (I have no idea why she calls it that!)

*As my daughter increasingly becomes more independent, it is a lovely time for both of us to snuggle and cuddle together.  It gives her a chance to touch back to babyhood, with confidence to return to the new challenges she is facing, secure and supported.

*When my daughter is sick or teething, it is the one source of nourishment she NEVER rejects.  During the few colds she has endured, it was the only food she would take.  After immunizations, it is the only thing that will soothe her.

*It is portable and I don’t have to worry about detaching her from a bottle!

*It won’t last forever.  Even though I sometimes feel I would like a day away from nursing, I know the day will come when I would gladly wish for the nursing connection I share with my little girl to return.  Like every phase, she will grow out of it.  She already has reduced her feedings drastically, and when distracted, will sometimes forget her midday feeding entirely. She won’t be nursing in school; she will grow and thrive and separate like every child does.  And when she moves away from nursing, it will be on her own terms, not because I’ve forced her to give up something that gives her security or damaged her trust in me to meet her needs.  That makes me feel good about still nursing my daughter, no matter what anyone has to say about it. I know extended nursing is not for everyone, but it works for my daughter and I and my mommy gut says that means it is the right answer for us!


%d bloggers like this: