Take Your Child to College

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Categories Activities, Education, Going out, Parenting1 Comment

I encourage you to spend a few hours with your kids at your local university or community college. You’ll be surprised at what you can find to do there. Without them realizing it, you’ll be setting your children up to imagine themselves as university students in a few short years.

I know that college isn’t for everyone. Many of us are happier for going straight into the job market or getting vocational training. I do believe, though, that every child has a right to know that a four year degree can be an option. Given my daughters’ love of formal education, I would be very surprised if they didn’t elect to head straight for a Bachelors degree after high school. I did. Their dad didn’t. They have options.

I work at a university, so I know many of the hidden gems of campus. Ever since my daughters were toddlers, we’ve visited the campus on occasional weekends to go exploring. Sometimes, there are child-focused activities, such as Fossil Day, Explore UT, and the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland exhibit.

The Alice in Wonderland exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center.

Even without those, though, there’s plenty to do. We never go to campus without paying a visit to the Turtle Pond.

The University of Texas at Austin Turtle Pond is a great stop for little ones.

Scavenger hunts are a wonderful way to occupy a few hours. When my daughters were learning the alphabet, I’d challenge them to find each letter as we roamed the university. They loved carrying little clipboards and crossing out the letters, one at a time, as they looked at signs, fliers, and license plates.

UT Austin street sign. Why not take your little ones on an adventure to your closest university campus.

We’ve examined the details of architecture on campus. It’s amazing what you notice if you look closely. My office was in this building for years, but I never stop discovering new details I’ve missed.

MAI details

As the girls grew older, we began to talk about the people whose names were engraved on university buildings.

On our last campus outing, I gave the girls license to take photos. J noticed how beautifully painted the ceiling of a walkway was and took this photo. I’ve walked past that building for 14 years and never noticed.

Notice the details.

We are building wonderful memories. My daughters have an image of where I go during the day.

A plaque at UT Austin.

I’m also showing them that a university is a place they want to be. They see college students walking campus, carrying books in and out of the library, sitting on the grass and strumming guitars. They can see themselves at college because they’ve spent time on this, and other university campuses. They’ve visited my alma mater in California and several other Texas, South Carolina, and North Carolina colleges. When we set forth to visit the planetarium in Chapel Hill, NC, I didn’t even realize it was part of the university until we arrived.

Forget take your kid to work day. Take your child to college!

Barbara Jordan statue at UT Austin.Have you and your kids explored a college campus? What did you do there?

 

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Quintessential Twin Pictures

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When my girls were born 6 1/2 years ago, I wasn’t on Facebook. I hadn’t started blogging. And — to my knowledge — Pinterest didn’t yet exist. I barely had any mommy friends, let alone friends with twins. (That’s funny to think now, since almost all my mommy friends have multiples!)

I say that to say, I didn’t have a ton of inspiration for pictures. I took a blue million. Now, though, I look around at all the adorableness on social media, and I wish I could rewind the clock, if for no other reason than to take some adorable smooshy baby pictures.

One picture I’m thankful I captured is what I think of as a truly quintessential “twin” picture. I’m not sure where I got the idea back in the day (how old am I???), but it’s one that just makes me smile.

What is cuter than a baby in a bucket swing? Twins in a bucket swing!

Two kiddos, back to back in a bucket swing at the park. How I love those matching hats, baby-soft skin, chunky little legs, and uber-clean tennis shoes…all TIMES TWO.

If you have infant or toddler twins and haven’t taken such a picture: GET THEE TO A PLAYGROUND. FIND THYSELF A BUCKET SWING. Aaaaand GO!!!

These days I’m almost always at the ready with my trusty camera. And a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had an opportunity to sorta-kinda recreate this quintessential twin shot.

No, I didn’t cram my kiddos into a bucket seat at the park. (They’re slight, but I think that would be pushing it.) My dad has a disc swing [there’s probably a real name for this?] at his house. The girls were delighted to play on it last month when we went down for a visit. They were taking turns well enough, but then I suggested they try to swing together. (Oh, and please do so while I find the perfect camera angle… HA!)

Too big for a bucket swing, perhaps, but these twin sisters are never too big for an outdoor adventure.

Voilà!

I still love that baby-soft skin, now with matching ponytails and scruffed up tennis shoes.

I can’t foresee what my next recreation might be, but know I’ll be on the lookout, ever ready to capture the moment.

What’s your favorite twin/triplet/more pose? Share it on our Facebook page. We’d love to see!!!

MandyE is mom to 6 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Toddler Thursday: What’s Your Religious Holiday? We Call Ours “Eid”

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Categories Diversity, Holidays, Parenting, Religion, Toddler ThursdayTags , , , 2 Comments

How to get toddlers involved and excited about a holiday when you are strung out from months of lack of sleep, the twins can’t stay up past 7:30 p.m., and are too little to really understand anyway?

First, some background on this holiday I’m talking about. Last week, millions of people across North America celebrated Eid-Ul-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of daily fasting. There are two Eid holidays that occur within a few months of each other. The second one, Eid-Ul-Adha, marks the pilgrimmage to Mecca which millions of faithful followers perform each year.

These days, many Muslim families with young children are looking for ways to adapt the customs and rituals of Eid celebrations from “back home” and adding a North American twist.

Eid is usually celebrated by dressing in new clothes, going to early morning community prayers, visiting friends and neighbours, and noshing on delicious spreads of sweet, salty, and fried foods that you normally wouldn’t eat all in the same day! Growing up, the excitement of Eid was always in dressing up in cultural clothes, going to “Open Houses” where the aforementioned food would be laid out, and getting small amounts of cash in envelopes from older relatives and family friends, called an “Eidee”.

The first couple of Eids we dressed our little ones up in cute outfits, skipped the community prayer due to it being a logistical nightmare, and instead visited close family for lunch and dinner. When they became toddlers, I searched online for trendy, printable decorations to hang up on our fireplace to make things festive. They were only 2.5 years old that summer, but old enough to get excited about parties and Christmas. I found some adorable, free printables for Ramadan and Eid banners at Sakina Design.

Our first EId banner
“Eid Mubarak” (Happy Eid)

For the stairs, I wrapped thick, multi-coloured ribbon from Michaels around as you would tinsel. And of course, there were the gold star decorations which I bought from Christmas clearances past. (Anyone else buy shiny Christmas decorations and use them for other holidays?) When Mister and Missy came home, their reaction was “Wow, niiice” and “Star!” By the next day they didn’t take notice.

For Eid Year 3, I invested in some Eid-inspired cookie cutters from an online Ramadan and Eid decoration store called Eidway. They come in the shape of a five- and eight-point stars, moon crescent, lantern, and mosque, which are all recognizable symbols of the faith.

Eid and Ramadan cookie cutters by Eidway
Unique cookie cutters shapes by Eidway

Since Mister and Missy were experienced play dough shapers, they loved making shapes with the cookie cutters.

Twin Bakers hard at work
Twin Bakers hard at work
Mastering the cookie at three years old
Mastering the cookie at three years old

This year now that the twins are four and a half years old, Mister and Missy were very excited about making Eid cookies. The only problem was, lack of time! Although they are off school since it’s summer, we are still working full-time, and it’s been hard to find enough time (and energy!) to start the four step process of making the dough, rolling and doing the shapes, baking the cookies, then decorating. It took us a few days, but we managed to hold a few sessions of cookie cutting and decorating. All for four cookies which they get to eat all by themselves. (the rest I set aside and decorated for friends and family)

Other things I had planned which I didn’t get to do was make sheer korma (traditional sweet vermicelli in sweet milk dessert), make cookies for more neighbours, put up more Eid decorations including lights, and doing some craft activities. Oh well there’s always next Eid!

How have you incorporated a unique holiday or celebration into your family lives? What new traditions have you started (or are thinking about starting) as your children get older?

Ambereen is a proud Canadian-Muslim MoM of 4 year old BG twins. She is already making plans for fun activities to do with the kids for the next religious holiday. You can find her blogging at 2CuteBlog.

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Twinfant Tuesday: What Do You Prioritize During Infancy?

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Categories Balance, Feeling Overwhelmed, Household and Family Management, Mommy Issues, Twinfant TuesdayLeave a comment

I thought I could do it all.

Even though so many books, articles and blogs for new parents told me to prioritize, I really thought that didn’t apply to me. For one, I have never cared about having a spotless home—something that has been an issue for my husband! For me, “doing it all” didn’t mean having a clean home, clean laundry, and dinner ready for the husband, all on top of having healthy and happy kids. That’s not what I strived for.

In my mind, I was already prioritizing.

I wanted to breastfeed my twins, play with them, bond with them, tend to their elimination needs. Yes, we tried Elimination Communication for several months. Of course, I wanted to eat every now and then. Before having babies (and again now that they are toddlers), I enjoyed cooking, but gourmet meals were beyond my grasp for the first year. And certainly, I wanted to sleep. But attachment parenting—breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping—were higher on my priority list.

And I thought I could do it all. I even blogged about it for a while.

But now that my twins are nearly three, I realize how close I was to crashing and burning. In reality, it was more like I was flying a plane with a severe, smoking malfunction that led to an abrupt landing with screeching, slow-burning wheels.

My question to my new parent self is: What took me so long to see that?

Would it have been such a blow to my pride if I had hired a babysitter once a week while I took a nap or even just a shower?

Yes, we call the first couple of years with multiples “survival mode”. If you are in the thick of it right now, you know it is aptly named. But now when I think of surviving, I think of getting through some difficult challenges. I don’t think it means you get out of it barely alive.

If I could do it over again, I would ask for help. I would prioritize… by putting myself up a little higher on the list.

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Twinkly Tuesday – July 21, 2015

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Categories Parenting Link Up, Twinkly Tuesday8 Comments

Skip to Tuesday Twinklers | Skip to rules | Skip to participant badge | Skip to this week’s links

Welcome to this week’s Twinkly Tuesday, the link party hosted by Sadia here at HDYDI, Caro of The Twinkle Diaries. Lisa at Mummascribbles is usually on board too, but she’s off this week.

I simply cannot get farther in this post without acknowledging a great loss to our wonderful community. Julia, who blogs at Rainbeaubelle, has been part of our tight knit group for some time now. Many of you, like me, have followed her blog as she and her husband Roger gracefully walk the road of his terminal cancer, trying to make the most of the time they have. They have created for their children memories that will raise them up during the tragedy around the corner and the years that follow. They did their best to find some normalcy in a situation in which “normal” is a stranger.

Sadly, that tragedy is no longer around the corner. It is here, right now. Roger took his last breath on Friday. He leaves behind his loving wife, Julia, and two children, Sam and Flo, aged 6 and 2.

Rainbeaubelle's author, Julia, was widowed on July 17, 2015. Roger left behind a son, daughter, and a life full of laughter.

Here at Twinkly Tuesday, you can meet new people, share your posts, and read blogs you might never come across elsewhere. Twinkly Tuesday participants are generous commenters and talented writers. And sometimes their words and stories, like Julia’s, grab you by the heart and won’t let go.

Each week Lisa, Caro, and I choose a favourite post. If you have been featured, be sure to claim your fame by adding the Twinkly Tuesday Twinkler badge to your blog.

My Tuesday Twinkler for the week is from Hectic Dad. Jeff is further down the road of parenthood than I am, and I look to his example for how to be a great parent to pre-teens, adult children and, eventually, a wonderful grandparent. His post about his adult daughter’s sudden and debilitating medical issues left me in an ocean of tears. He dropped everything to go to his 23-year-old, only to realize that he could no longer “Kiss it and make it better.” As of his last update, Hectic Dad’s daughter has been in pain for a week, with no explanation or relief in sight.

Hectic Dad rushes to his adult daughter's side, only to discover that he can't kiss it and make it better. The helplessness a parent feels doesn't lessen with time.

Lisa’s Tuesday Twinkler this week is from Motherhood: The Real Deal. Talya’s topic: “*NEWSFLASH* Why having a baby WON’T save your marriage.” This hit home especially hard for me; I was the baby intended to save my parents’ marriage, and my mother has never failed to remind me that I never fulfilled her purpose in conceiving me. Talya’s point is one that all of us who already have one or more children know: having a child puts enormous stress on a relationship. You want a strong relationship into which to bring a child. A new baby won’t rescue a relationship on the rocks. In fact, it may simply speed its demise.

Having a baby won't save your relationship.

Caro’s Tuesday Twinkler is from Parenting Highs and Lows. In her post “A Balancing Act“, Rachel talks about her relationship with her phone and how it is part of the delicate balance of her career and family. For her, a freelance writer, untethering from the online world means missing out on jobs, jobs that support her family. Much as the idea of not using her phone around the kids is a nice one, it doesn’t fit into her family’s balance. The flexibility her phone affords her to explore further afield of an office allows her to be more present for her children, even if it is with phone in hand.

Putting your phone aside around your children is a great way to keep your focus on your family for some. For others, the phone allows a neater balance of work and family.

Take a moment to visit these posts, if you can. We would love it if you paid a visit to the other host links, and any others that look interesting. And please, however little time you have, take a moment to hold your loved ones closer, to say “I love you” an extra time or two, in honour of Roger and Julia.

This week’s link-up

Link one post, old or new, that you think deserve more readers!

Twitter: Be sure to mention me — @hdydi or Caro — @twinklediaries, on Twitter and please use the hashtag #TwinklyTuesday. We’ll be sure to retweet every tweet tagged!

We’ll also visit everyone’s posts and leave comments between us.

Pinterest:  Lisa and I pin every post with an image to the primary Twinkly Tuesday Pinterest board and I repin the top pins on the HDYDI Twinkly Tuesday board. Send an email to mummascribbles@hotmail.com or tweet Lisa your email address and she’ll add you to the primary board. No more than 2 posts per week please!

Follow Katelyn Fagan of What’s up Fagans?’s board How do you do it? & the *Twinkly Tuesday* Linkup on Pinterest.

Each week, all three of us pick our favourite posts which will be featured on the following week’s Twinkly Tuesday page.

There are a few easy rules to follow, to ensure that everyone’s posts get the attention they deserve. Please do make the effort to abide by the rules, in fairness to the vast majority who do. We have been forced to block participation for repeat offenders who haven’t responded to multiple reminders.

  • Link one post per week — old or new.
  • Please be kind enough to add our badge to the bottom of your post/s. (Scroll down for the code.) If you haven’t (yet) been featured, please make sure you’re using this badge and not the featured one.
  • Please comment on at least two other posts including the one directly before yours. Visit and comment on as many others as you can. Of course, checking out the hosts’ posts would make us feel very loved.
  • Please use #TwinklyTuesday in your comments so people know where you found them!
  • By linking up, you give us permission to use images from your blog if featured. You also allow us to add you to a mailing list to receive a weekly announcement when Twinkly Tuesday opens.
  • The linky will close at 23.55 GMT today.

We look forward to reading all of your fantastic blog posts and seeing you again next week! Remember to grab our button!

Grab buttons for Twinkly Tuesday

Here’s how to add our badge to your site. Enter HTML editing mode on your post, sidebar, or page. Copy the code in the box below and paste it into your site in your code/html view. Save and publish. That’s it!

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Make-It Monday: Fun & Easy Crafts for Multiples

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Being a parent to a pair of twins, triplets or to children of different ages can make your life a busy one. Multiples can be quite a handful, each with their own quirks and interests. They can also be that much more fun. So how does one go about keeping them engaged in arts & crafts and educational activities?

With a few little tweaks to craft activities and science experiments, you can personalize them for your kids. When children relate to them on a personal level, they are more likely to want to participate and learn. These projects can become joint activities that teach kids to collaborate, bring out their own personality, and celebrate being a part of a unique identity as twins or triplets.

Find ways to allow each of your multiples to make a craft or project her own.
The Twin Chain

Twins can discover more about being twins with this activity. First, discuss different types of twins and how each one is different. In addition to distinguishing between fraternal and identical twins, you can dig deeper into conjoined and mirror image identical twins. Take drawing paper and fold it into half. Draw the outline of a doll with full arms and cut along the outline with a pair of scissors. Avoid cutting through the paper fold line. This will give you two dolls holding hands. Make around seven sets of it. Ask your children to write the type of twin on one side and their characteristics on the other side.

Paper chains offer a fun opportunity to discuss different types of twins with your multiples.

Symmetry in Nature

Children can discover the symmetry in nature with a simple activity. Symmetry is defined as, “The correspondence of the form and arrangement of elements or parts on opposite sides of a dividing line or plane or about a center or an axis.” On a trip to the park or hike along a nature trail, collect natural objects like flowers, rocks, and leaves.

Later, you can lay them out and ask your kids to distinguish between symmetric and non-symmetric objects. Take it further by snipping the leaf along its line of symmetry. Give half to each of your kids. Ask them to place it on a piece of plain paper and draw its symmetric opposite. That is, the missing side should be a mirror image of the leaf.

Think Tweedledum and Tweedledee could grasp the concept of symmetry?

The Brave Bears

For triplets, here’s something fun. Remember Harris, Hubert and Hamish from the movie Brave, who turn into bear cubs?

Ask each child to pick out their favorite from these triplets, and make a felt bear puppet each. For this, you need: bear pattern, dark and light grey felt, Googly eyes, glue, sewing thread and needle, black button, and scissors.

Take a printout of one of the bear cubs and trace an outline on paper. Cut out the outline and lay this pattern on dark grey felt that is folded in half. Cut out the felt along the outline so that you will have two bear outlines. Now, fold the light grey felt in half and draw a round shape, and cut. Also cut out an oval for the nose. Take one of the dark grey felt bear outlines and sew the two round light grey felt in place of the eyes, and the oval light grey felt in the nose area. Sew both the bear outlines together along the edges, leaving the bottom area open. Finish by gluing the Googly eyes and sticking the button for the nose.

Got triplets? Why not help them each make hand puppets of one of the Brave bears.Three-Step Art

Here’s an exercise in collaboration for triplets or for twins and singleton sibling. Divide tasks between each of them. Ask the first child to gather old crayons, strip them of the paper covering, and crush them with the back of a ladle. The second child has to lay out an old hand towel, keep a wax paper on it, pile a small amount of the crushed crayons on this paper, and cover it with another sheet of wax paper. You can step in and use a slightly warm iron over the wax paper. The third child can peel off the crayon design after it has cooled, punch a hole at the top, and thread a ribbon through it.

Which is your favorite activity to engage multiples?

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Dimensions of Intelligence

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Categories Education, Parenting, Perspective, School-Age, Talking to Kids, Unique needsTags , 3 Comments

My children are smarter than me.

Allow me to define “smart” for my purposes. I am certainly more knowledgeable and experienced than my 9-year-olds. I am better read than they are and more able to find practical solutions to problems, whether academic or everyday. I am far better at explaining complex concepts to people than Misses Giggles and Distractable. My ability to critically examine an argument is currently, at age 36, quite a bit better than J and M’s at age 9.

M and J, however, have always been better at absorbing new concepts than I was at the same age. Their minds work faster and burrow deeper. They see connections and parallels that would have never occurred to me. I have no reason to believe that this general trend won’t continue. As far as I can predict, when they are 36 years old, their brains will process ideas more effectively and deeply than mine does today.

The only milestone I beat them to was reading. According to my mother, I read at age 2. J and M were 3 before they were reading independently.

The fact that my daughters are smarter than me makes me proud. Perhaps if I had fewer academic successes under my belt, I would feel diminished by being outshone by my children. Perhaps if I were less egotistical, I wouldn’t be confident that I am just as smart as I need to be. I’m not in competition with my children. My task is give them the tools, skills, and support to be the best M and the best J they can be. I certainly aim to be the best Sadia I can be.

I am not a trained teacher, but I’m a proud nerd and I love getting others excited about knowledge. When my daughters learn a new concept at school, I often expand on it with them at home. It was while doing this that I confessed to them, for the first time, that they’re both smarter than me.

The children were studying 3D shapes in their regular 3rd grade math class. They told me all they knew about rectangular prisms, pyramids and cylinders. I asked if they knew why they were called 3D shapes.

They didn’t.

A mom explains the third and fourth dimensions to her kids, and is at peace knowing that they learn more easily than she did at their age.

The “D”, I told them, stood for “dimensional”. They could think of a dimension as a direction that exists in a shape.

  • A dot has no dimensions because you can’t move around inside it.
  • A line has one dimension because there’s no room to turn around.
  • A plane, I told them using a piece of paper to illustrate, has two dimensions. You can go back and forward or side to side. By combining those two motions, you can get anywhere on the sheet of paper.
  • If you jump off the sheet of paper, you’re in three dimensions. That’s the world we inhabit. Back and forward. Side to side. Up and down. Ocean creatures experience the three dimensions more fully than we do, being able to move vertically with ease.
  • The fourth dimension, I told my girls, was time. That took a little more convincing.

I still had the 2D piece of paper in hand, so I rolled it up to illustrate.

Sadia uses a rolled up sheet of paper to explain to her daughters why time is the fourth dimension.

Imagine, I told them, that there was an ant walking around on my sheet of paper. His world is two-dimensional. He’s not aware of what’s off the paper. Whether the sheet is flat or curved until opposite edges touch, he’s moving around in two dimensions. Even if I wave the paper through the air, the ant probably doesn’t know that it’s being moved. His entire universe is that 2D sheet of paper.

We are similarly unaware of moving through time. Right now, we’re in the dining room, playing with paper. Count to three, and we’re in the same place in the three dimensions we can navigate, but in a new second in the fourth dimension of time.

How to visualize time as the fourth dimension.

J and M said that made sense. “I’m in a new time now!” exclaimed M. “And now… and now. And I hardly wiggled!”

J took the next logical step. “Is there a fifth dimension, mommy?”

“Yes,” I told her. “I’ve read about theories of physics that argue that there must be a fifth dimension.”

“Show me, mommy!” J demanded. “Explain me the fifth dimension.”

“Little J, I recognize the concept, but I can’t see it in my mind. Without a picture, I have to use words. My best explanation is to say it’s the next logical step in the ant analogy.”

“So the fifth dimension is of the parallel universes, mom!” J realized. “Why didn’t you just say that?”

“I didn’t say it because I didn’t understand it. I can’t see it clearly the way you can right now. I’ll do my best to create a metaphor and picture in my mind, but it’s going to take me some time.”

“Mom! It’s obvious,” J told me, more than slightly irritated.

“Sweetheart, you’re going to run into a lot of people who have a harder time understanding ideas than you. Please be patient.”

“But mom,” J pointed out, “you’re mom.”

“I know sweet girl, but as you get older, you’re going to know and understand more and more things that you’ll have to explain to me instead of the other way around. There’s a lot I don’t know, and a lot it’ll take hard work for me to understand. Some of those things will come really easily to you, and that makes me happy.”

I hope that this confession, made with confidence and without apology, showed J and M that it’s okay to be smart without being smartEST. That was a lesson that I struggled with. It was quite the blow to my ego to realize that I wasn’t the top undergrad at my college. I was “only” in the top 10% based on the very narrow measure of GPA. I’ve since learned that being seen as the smartest person in the room is no measure of success.

Doing my best — that’s how I now measure success, even if that fifth dimension escapes me. And for the moment, I’m doing my best to raise two little girls who are officially smarter than me.

The Dad Network
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Don’t Suffer in Silence. Ask for Help.

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Categories Community, Mommy Issues, Other people, Perspective, Relationships2 Comments

I vividly remember attending a birthday party with my toddlers and leaving angry.

It was once of those first birthday parties that was very adult-focused. It was a celebration of having survived that first difficult year, rather than a multi-kid playdate. That makes a lot of sense. A 12-month-old likes routine. Having a bunch of people all over his house and yard is not his idea of fun at all.

While I spent the entire time chasing my twin daughters, swinging them on my hips, soothing owies, and serving them food, the hosts smoothly worked the crowd. The father, mother, and grandmother took turns tending to the birthday baby.

At the end of two hours, I was exhausted and I knew my daughters would fall asleep on the drive home. The only thing I’d eaten was a slobbery carrot shoved into my mouth by sticky little hands.

Chasing twin toddlers is not for the faint of heart!

My friend hugged me goodbye, saying, “I hardly got to talk to you!”

My eyes smarted with tears. How dare she? How dare she complain about my lack of good guest graces, not having lifted a finger to help me corral my two children? My husband was deployed. Other family was thousands of miles away. I’d shown up with a ratio of 1 adult to 2 kids. Hers was 3 adults to 1 kid.

sadia2toddlercarry

Perhaps if she’d held a child for two minutes, I could have used my newly available hand to shove hors d’œuvres in my mouth. Perhaps if she’d carried her baby over to where my little ones were exploring leaf piles, we could have had a conversation.

Now, with the clarity of retrospection, I realize that the failure was mine. I failed to ask for help. I’m sure my friend was intimidated by the competence with which I wrangled my rowdy pair. I’m sure that if I had just asked her to hold one of my girls so I could eat, she would have done so in a heartbeat.

Don’t suffer in silence. It’s not that people don’t understand. We just don’t know how to offer help.

Ask for help when you need it.

Your friends will appreciate the opportunity to help you out. I know this now from the other side. Nothing makes me happier than being able to help out a friend with young kids. My girls are now big kids, leaving me with two free hands. They love to help too. We bring 6 extra hands to the party.

Do you find it easy to ask for help?

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How the 1-2-3 Magic Approach Supports Parental Consistency

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Categories Books, Discipline, Parenting, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers44 Comments

I’m a huge believer in parental consistency. When the parent is consistent, it gives each child a feeling of security. In a world in which they have little power and even less context, they can trust that their parents will always follow through on what they say and can be relied on implicitly. By demonstrating self control, we teach them lessons that will last their whole lives. Yes, I know. It doesn’t much seem like they’re learning any self control at all at ages 2 and 3, but they are.

The challenge is that consistency is hard. Being sleep-deprived and pulled in eleven directions at once as a new parent makes it even harder. 1-2-3 Magic is a book by Thomas W. Phelan that provides parents with a practical approach to achieving consistency.

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

MandyE wrote a review of 1-2-3 Magic that is a good counterpoint to the summary I provide below.

I have to confess that I came to the book late, when my kids were at the tail end of the Terrible Awful Horrible Threes.  What I discovered was that I’d been practicing its tenets already. I had a leg up, though. My baby sister is 10.5 years my junior so got some parental practice as a pre-teen and teen. I also spent a lot of time in therapy before getting pregnant talking through exactly how I wanted to parent, in my attempt to break harmful family patterns. As my former husband put it, 1-2-3 Magic is just a matter of common sense, but it’s common sense spelled out with practical steps for application.

Premise

The basic premise of 1-2-3 Magic is that structure can help parents achieve consistency.

Phelan’s approach also assumes something that child psychologists know well: the ultimate reward any child seeks is attention. If a kiddo gets attention from her parent for bad behaviour, then she’ll continue it. If you withdraw attention for bad and give attention for good, you’ll quickly retrain his expectations.

That’s where time out comes in. Time out is simply the withdrawal of parental attention. It doesn’t have to have special chair, unless that’s what works for you. It certainly doesn’t involve talking or eye contact.

Goal

So, what is consistency? It boils down to two things:

  1. Parents do what we say.
  2. Parents are predictable.

Technique

The 1-2-3 Magic approach is a combination of counting and time out.

First, you set expectations. Tell your children that you are going to count 1, 2, 3 if they’re naughty. At 3, they’ll go to time out. Don’t worry if they don’t understand. They’ll pick it up.

When they do something against the rules, say 1. The next time they do something inappropriate, or if they don’t stop the original behaviour, say 2. At the next infraction, you say 3 and put them in time out.

If they come out of time out, don’t make eye contact. Don’t try to reason with them. Just gently pick them up and place them back in time out. The total time for time out should be one minute per year of age for neurotypical children.

When the time out is over, don’t try to reason with them or tell them what they did wrong. You can go over basic rules at a point when they’re not already upset. Don’t go back over examples of early indiscretions. They’ve already paid for the rule they broke, and listening to a lecture is a second punishment that accomplishes very little.

I’d recommend waiting a few hours, maybe until the next day.

My personal approach — I can’t remember if this is in the book — is to talk about rules when we’re happy and having a good time together. I don’t even bother trying to reason with the kids when they’re upset. I just say to my 9-year-olds is, “I love you, but we can’t have a discussion like this. When you feel calm, we can talk if you want to.” What cracks me up is that my girls now use that on each other!

If you stick with the 1-2-3 Magic approach, your kids will know that you’re serious. Don’t let them get away with someone one day and punish them the next (except the day you start implementing 1-2-3 Magic). It gives them a feeling of safety to know what the rules are, and this is far more effective than talking it through. Yes, there’ll be a lot of screaming at first, but they’ll figure out you’re serious.

Personal Example

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

I haven’t had to count past 1 with my girls in at least 3 years. Seriously. I don’t think they have any idea what would happen if I got to 3. I don’t even know what would happen. My daughters are 9 and are generally reasonable human beings. But when they hear me say, “One,” in an I-am-not-messing-around tone, they straighten right up.

An even better example of effective use of the 1-2-3 Magic philosophy occurred with my nephew. By the time he was two years old, he hadn’t had consistent nutrition, much less consistent discipline. I had to go to London to take care of him for a week while his custody was being determined.

It took 6 hours for him to figure out the system. Six hours.

Sure, I had to pick him up and place him on the chair I designated for timeout 26 times the first time, but he got it. I just picked him up and placed him in a chair, saying the word “time out”. I avoided eye contact. Every time he slipped out of the chair, I gently picked him up and placed back on it. When the fifth time out came around, he didn’t try to escape. He sat there, crying, for 120 seconds. When the time was up, I picked up him up, hugged him, and told him that I loved him. We returned to playing with cars.

At the end of the week, when he saw his mom, he begged to stay with me (which broke my heart, because I couldn’t bring him to the US to live with me because of immigration laws). He didn’t see me as Mean Auntie. He knew that I was predictable, and that predictability made him feel safe.

If you want a much more well written explanation of the whole thing, buy the book. It’s a very quick read.

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