{FAMILY} How To Prep Your Kids To Stay Home Alone For The First Time

When I was a kid, playing outside and staying home alone without parental supervision was the norm. I learned from an early age how to fend for myself, recognize boundaries, and stay safe, and never found myself in harm’s way as a result.

I know it’s not the 70s anymore, but that doesn’t mean that we should trust our children, or our own intuition any less than our parents did when we were growing up.

My oldest daughter will be 10 years old in 3 months, and while the average family waits until at least the ages of 10-12 to leave their child home alone for the first time, we’ve decided to start a bit earlier. I believe that she’s old enough to start easing into the next step of independence, and with the right tools, I’m  confident that she can do so safely and successfully.

Here’s how I’ve prepared her (and myself) for this big milestone:

Suss it out.

The first step in determining whether or not your child is ready, is to ask them how they feel about it. For some kids, the mention of having the house to themselves conjures up images of them sitting in front of the TV watching inappropriate movies and stuffing their faces with candy-topped ice cream sundaes (thanks for that Home Alone). But it’s important to discuss the situation in more detail to really get a feel for your child’s comfort level. Ask them how they would feel if the power went out, or if someone they didn’t know were to knock on the door. Helping them to visualize the reality of the situation will help you to gage how ready they really are.

Related: Home Alone: How Young Is Too Young?

Hit the books.

My daughter and I were browsing the shelves of Chapters Indigo awhile back when we came across a great book that has become a valuable resource for us: A Smart Girl’s Guide: Staying Home Alone by American Girl. The book starts with a cute quiz called “ready or not?” where kids can take a self evaluation to determine their readiness, with real-life situations as examples of how they would react to sticky situations. Not only does the book highlight helpful tips on how to be prepared, responsible, and in control when home alone, but it offers fun tips like boredom busters and snack recipes that can be made without the use of appliances.  My daughter read the book from cover-to-cover, and likes to keep it by her side when we leave her home alone.

Establish rules and boundaries.

There are obvious rules and boundaries that should be established before you leave your child alone – don’t open the door for anyone, don’t use the appliances (unless they are seasoned experts), don’t leave the house without permission, and what to do in the case of an emergency. Not only is it important to list the do’s and don’t’s, but it helps to walk them through various scenarios. Quiz them on what they would do if they were hungry, or if someone knocked on the door and said that their parents gave them permission to come in, or if a power outage were to occur.

Practice makes perfect.

Before you leave your child home alone for the first time, do a test run. Do something in the yard and leave them in the house. Call to see if they answer. Knock on the door and practice a few scripts to see how they would respond in various situations. The more you practice, the more confident they’ll be when it’s really time to stay home alone.

I like to make sure that at least one of my neighbours is going to be home – just in case my child feels unsafe or unsure of what to do. We don’t have a home phone so I make sure to leave a fully-charged iPhone with my daughter so she can call or text me whenever she wants. We’ve been easing into it – leaving her home for only 15-20 minutes at a time, and never with her siblings.

Whether you decide to wait until your child is a teenager, or you feel comfortable doing so at an earlier age, independence is an important life skill that takes time to learn successfully. With the proper guidance, it can be a fun and easy transition for your family.

Check out these safety tips for more: American Red Cross Safety Tips 

{FAMILY} Why I’ve Decided To Stop Making My Son Wear Pants

In the middle of my son’s Kindergarten year, he decided that he didn’t like pants. He didn’t just dislike them as an item of clothing – he refused to wear them.

For months I fought the daily battle, trying my best to wrangle him into pants. Some days, physically forcing him into the ankle-length garb.

And then one day, I gave up.

I waved my white flag and walked away unscathed (except for maybe a slightly-bruised ego).

I soon realized that my desire for him to wear pants wasn’t just about “dressing for the weather”, it came from my fear of being judged by other parents. I worried that they would look at his bare shins as he strolled through the rain in shorts, and determine that I was an unfit mother.

How could I let my son walk out of the house improperly dressed? 

shorts-2

But I was fighting a battle that didn’t need to be fought. Sure, his legs would get cold during the cooler months, but he would learn his lesson through natural consequences, not through my incessant nagging. And why did I care so much about the opinions of others? Isn’t our goal as parents to teach our children to think for themselves and not follow the pack when it comes to the opinions of peers?

He’s an active kid – always moving, and always hot. If he feels comfortable wearing shorts all year round – so be it.

Thankfully, Peekaboo Beans offers a great variety of just-below-the-knee thick cotton bottoms, so stubborn shorts lovers can sport their favourite half-pant all year round – without freezing their buns off.

shorts-1

Parenting experts say to “pick your battles” when it comes to confrontations with kids, and this one just isn’t worth the fight.

Do your kids insist on wearing shorts year-round? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

{FAMILY} Teaching My 8yo Daughter About Self Confidence

Eight seems to be an age of self-awareness and unbridled insecurity. My 8-year-old daughter has suddenly become so self-conscious – constantly questioning her looks, her physical abilities and her mental intelligence. I always reassure her that she is beautiful, talented and smart, but it’s tough for an almost pre-teen to believe those words when they come from her mother, who of course loves her unconditionally.

I’ve always focused on teaching my children to be self-confident beings (and I do my best to be a self-confident mom as well, because it’s important to practice what you preach). But a big part of self confidence, is actually believing in yourself, not relying on others to believe for you.

The other day, my beautiful girl – eyes welling up with tears – asked me why she was finding it so hard to remember the steps in her ballet class. “I try so hard to get them right” she said softly. And I completely understood where she was coming from. Choreography is hard! I told her that I was also struggling to remember the steps in my adult ballet class, and that learning new moves is something that just comes more naturally to some people than it does for others. I went on to explain:

“Dancing is like learning how to play a musical instrument. You have to start with learning how to play the notes before you can learn how to play a whole song. With dancing, you have to learn the steps before you can master the choreography of a whole dance. Keep practicing, and before you know it, you’ll be playing your song.”

I’m not sure if she fully understood the message behind my simile (because I love a good comparison), but I think the empathy in my personal story and in my comparing dance to music, made her realize that she wasn’t alone in her struggle.

I hope that she’ll continue to come to me when she’s feeling down or insecure, and I hope that I can find the words to help lift her spirits.

self confidence

{FAMILY} 5 Reasons Why Having 3 Kids Doesn’t Suck

Usually when I tell people that I have 3 kids, their eyes widen, and in a horrified moan they say, “oh my gawd, I could NEVER have 3 kids, you must be SO busy!” And yes, I’m busy. We’re all busy, parents or not. But while having a full house may mean an increased level of chaos, there are also some benefits to having a trifecta in tow. Here are some reasons why having 3 kids doesn’t suck:

1) No more unsolicited parenting advice.

When I had my first child, everyone – stranger or not, was eager to bestow their all-knowing wisdom on me. But in my overtired, overwhelmed state of first-time motherhood, it was often more of a pestering annoyance than a helpful suggestion. When I had my second child, the “advice” was still plentiful, the content just shifted from how to do it, to how to do it with two. Now that I have 3 kids, I feel as though people just wouldn’t dare try to tell me how to parent, because – THREE. KIDS. And parents who have more than 3 are smart enough to know that it’s better to keep quiet than to try to tell a parent how to parent.

3 kids

2) Study shows that the more children you have, the longer you’ll live.

In a recent study on women and aging (conducted by SFU), it was concluded that “the more babies you have, the longer you’ll live” – associating the longevity of a woman’s life with DNA strands, estrogen levels, and cellular aging. Which means, basically, that I’m going to be around for awhile. I guess that also means that this mom will be alive FOREVER.

3) Extra hands.

One of the main reasons why the thought of having 3 kids freaks out so many people, is the thought of being outnumbered by children. 3 kids – 2 parents. Or 1 parent, 2 hands, 3 kids. No matter how you do the math, the parents always seem to fall short. Except, when you’re out and about with 3 kids, you’re no longer struggling with multiple bags and only 2 hands – you now have 6 hands to help you out. The same goes for folding laundry, and cleaning the house. More kids = more helping hands. And yes, even the little ones can help.

4) Better odds of having someone take care of you when you’re too old to take care of yourself.

With 3 kids, I feel like I have better odds of having at least one successful child who will be able to take care of us in our old age. More children, more chances to do this parenting thing right. Am I right?

5) Full house.

More children, more family fun! Having a full house can be a bit crazy at times (morning routines – gah!) but having 5 people under one roof to play games, have dance parties, snuggle on the couch, and share meals with – priceless. I grew up as an only child, so the constant hustle and bustle of a big family is a welcome change.

Have I convinced you yet? Come on, join the club!

Do you have anything to add to my list?

{FAMILY} Why You Should Make Every Day Your New Year’s Eve

It’s no secret that I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Regardless of the highs and lows that I may have experienced over the past year, I refuse to look back at the choices I’ve made (or didn’t make) and compile a list of self-deprecating ‘should have’s and ‘wish I could’s for the New Year.

Everything is a learning experience contributing to my personal growth, and I enter each year without a list of regrets. Instead, I like to take a moment to quietly reflect on my accomplishments, milestones, and laughable moments of the past year, and then push forward with a clean slate.

New Year

For me, the start of each year is the first (blank) page of a brand new notebook, not the next chapter of a book whose ending has already been written.

Only I can determine what comes next, and my interests and intentions are ever-evolving. Goals are set and achieved continually throughout the year, regardless of the flip of a calendar page. Instead, each new day is an opportunity to make new goals – to aspire to be a better me.

Can you imagine if every day were New Year’s Eve? 

What if each night, you took some time to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and resolve for an even better tomorrow? If you planned to do better – be better, each and every day instead of once a year?

I’m not just excited for a new year, I’m excited for a new tomorrow.

New Year

Cheers to a new year, and to 365 brand new tomorrows!

{FAMILY} What To Expect: Leaving Your Toddler Overnight For The First Time

With my first child, it took me almost 3 years to warm up to the idea of leaving her overnight with my parents. Leaving my toddler overnight was a scary thing! I was afraid that she would experience separation anxiety – that she would reach towards me with her arms outstretched as tears streamed down her face, sobbing uncontrollably and begging for me to stay as I walked out the door.

I imagined that she wouldn’t sleep, crying for me throughout the night, calling out “mommy” to the dark and empty room in which she laid her head. I feared that she wouldn’t eat, hanging her head low as she wandered aimlessly through each day, convinced that I had abandoned her for good. And most of all, I worried that I wouldn’t survive the separation – that I would yearn for her day and night, and that the guilt of leaving her parentless for the weekend would forever damage her fragile little soul.

toddler overnight

 

They’ll be alright, I promise.

All of this of course was ridiculously untrue. When I finally did leave her, she waved happily goodbye and went on to play gleefully with her toys. While I was gone, she enjoyed new adventures with her grandparents, and when I returned, she was excited to see me – not broken, but possibly more whole as a result of our time apart.

With my third child, I’m more than confident in our overnight separations. Perhaps because I know that valuable time spent with my parents is almost as important to her well being as spending her time solely spent with her parents. Perhaps it’s because I know that having time away makes me a better parent, and that exposure to varying environments is important for early childhood development. She feels comfortable with our nights apart, as do I.

The one thing that might take awhile to accept…

But there’s one thing that sometimes comes with overnight separation that took me awhile to accept. When I returned from my time away, my children weren’t always excited to see me – at first. They would reach for my parents, rejecting my outstretched arms in favour of Nana and Papa. It wasn’t because they had grown to love my parents more than their own, or because they were traumatized by the experience of sleeping in a different place.

According to my Mama Dina, it’s natural and completely healthy for children to “punish” you for being away. While at first they may seem to reject your advances, they quickly learn that you come back. Which is a good thing. After a few experiences with being apart, they grow comfortable in their new environment, and confident that their parents will be back soon.

And the “punishments” will quickly pass, I promise.

How to make it easier?

I’ll leave you with some quick tips on how to make an overnight stay a little more comfortable for your toddler:

1) Make sure that you are leaving them with someone familiar. Leading up to the overnight stay, pay a few visits to the place where they will be staying and enjoy some time together in that new space. It’ll be easier to say goodbye if they feel comfortable where they’ll be.

2) Bring comfort toys. My youngest has a favourite stuffed bunny that she likes to sleep with, so I make sure to always pack it for her. I also include a photo of the family so she can see our faces regularly (my mom tapes it near the crib where she sleeps).

3) Let them hear your voice. If you aren’t able to call, leave a little voice recording for them to listen to – there’s nothing more comforting than the sound of a parent’s voice when feeling unsure of a new environment.

4) Prepare them for what to expect. Talk to your child about how long you’ll be gone and when you’ll return.

Good luck, and don’t fret, your little one will be just fine.

 

{FAMILY} I Voted Today (For The First Time EVER)

I’m a mom of three in my late 30’s, and today was the first time I have ever voted in a federal election.

Before you wag your fingers, unfollow me, and respond to this post with negative comments, hear me out.

I had never voted before because I didn’t want to make an uninformed decision. I knew that my vote counted, and I didn’t want my uneducated eenie meenie miney mo pick to be the one that swayed the results. I didn’t want to vote for someone because my parents were voting that way, or because the paid TV ads told me to, or because I wanted to vote against someone else. I wanted to make an informed decision, and to vote based on my own beliefs.

I’m not going to lie, it was commentary on social media, conversations with friends and family, and debates in the media that motivated me to take the leap into voter-land. I read up on the issues, and tried my best to gain a basic understanding of each perspective. I took online tests to see where my opinions aligned with various parties, and I visited the webpages of each of the candidates in my riding to learn more about them.

There is still so much to learn, and I’m in no way a fully knowledgeable political savant, but I feel comfortable with my decision, and hope that my choice to exercise my right to vote will make all the difference this year. I’m also proud to be able to share the experience with my children, and to be able to explain to them the importance of exercising our right to vote as Canadian citizens.

For those of you who, like me, are voting for the first time today, but are too embarrassed to admit it – here are some quick tips to make the voting process a bit easier for you:

Know where you have to go to place your vote. I had assumed that I would be able to vote at my children’s school (one of the official local voting stations). Unfortunately, I was redirected to another location to cast my vote, as my residential address was in another catchment area.

Bring your official “voter information card” (and 2 pieces of ID). I didn’t know where my voter card was (to be honest, I likely tossed it into the recycling bin when it arrived without even noticing what it was). I was still able to vote, but it would have been an easier process if I had referred to the information on the card, and had arrived at the polling station with my card in hand.

Know the names of the candidates in your electoral district. It’s important to know the names of the candidates in your district because you will be voting for them, not by the names of the political parties.

Now head to the polls, and happy voting!

{FAMILY} The Benefits of Saying “No”

For many parents like myself, hearing the word “No!” is like hearing a small child drop an F-Bomb in a public place. It’s cringe-worthy. We teach our children to say “yes mom” or “yes dad”, and to only respond with a “no” when something harmful or unpleasant occurs. Perhaps this is why the negative response has such negative connotations (besides the obvious).

I was walking through a local market with my children recently, and as we walked past the bakery, my children began to chime in unison, “Please, mom, PLEASE can we have a cookie!?” I cooly responded with a “no kids, not today” and we continued on our way. As we passed the bakery, the man behind the counter exclaimed, “Wow, well done! You said no and your kids didn’t make a big deal of it. I rarely see parents say no to their kids these days.”

At first the comment surprised me. It seemed like a no-brainer – saying no to treats is a common occurrence in our family (although we definitely balance our restrictions when it’s acceptable to indulge on sugary treats).

As a self-employed business owner, I’ve also had a hard time with saying no. The unpredictability of contract work can be daunting, making it easy to accept every opportunity that comes my way. But I’ve quickly learned that saying yes to everything doesn’t always result in a positive outcome. I soon realized that overloading my plate would actually have negative results. Here are some of the reasons why saying “no” can actually be a good thing:

1) More time. If you reduce your yes’s and only accept tasks that you are sure you can manage, it will be easier for you to balance your busy schedule – and even set a little time aside for YOU!

2) Take charge. Saying no to your children teaches them balance, and keeps them well-adjusted. It is important for them to learn that they can’t have everything they want. Sometimes the answer will be “no” and that’s ok.

3) Do what’s best for YOU. Saying no to plans with friends, potential clients, or playdates for your kids can be tough. But being honest will lead to happier choices, and ultimately lead to a happier you. If you don’t think you can handle the extra workload, or night out, or kids at your house, it’s better to just say no than to commit to something that you really don’t want to do.

Saying no to your children can be a teaching moment – an opportunity to learn about responsibility and how to deal with disappointment. It can free up some time for the things that you really want to do, and can alleviate a lot of the stress that comes with being a parent.

saying no

6 Things I Learned From Taking My Daughter To Her First Concert

6 months ago, I bit the bullet and emptied my bank account on a pair of floor seats to Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour concert – a gift I was going to give to my daughter for her 8th birthday.

I was nervous, unsure if she was too young for a stadium concert – and especially worried that floor seats would be too overwhelming for her first concert experience, but I knew that Taylor Swift would be a positive role model for my little girl and felt confident that the content of the show would be suitable for a young audience.

After a months-long countdown, the big day arrived, and my girl was ecstatic. She picked out her outfit (cutoff shorts, a cute top, a sparkly necklace, black ankle boots, and hair chalk to accent her cute little bob).

first concert

I was going to wear a pair of cute heeled boots or summery wedge sandals, but then I realized that my choice in footwear could either make or break the evening.

I’m so relieved that I opted for comfort because I wouldn’t have survived the night otherwise! We did a lot of walking, standing in line ups (oh the lines!), and on several occasions I was carrying my almost 50lb baby girl in my arms as we danced and swayed to the music.

Flats saved the day for this mama!

TIP #1: When taking young children to a concert, be sure to dress comfortably.

We left the house almost 3 hours before the scheduled start time, to allow for ample time to find parking (the sold-out concert crowd of 50,000 people, plus a few other high-attendance events scheduled in the same downtown neighbourhood meant a carefully-planned driving route was mandatory).

Once we parked, we strolled to a nearby restaurant and enjoyed a relaxing pre-concert dinner. This gave us time to chat, allowing me to prepare her for what to expect at her first concert – the opening bands, the waiting, the line ups, the encore, the standing and screaming and the overwhelm of being amidst such a large crowd.

After dinner, we sauntered over to the stadium and entered the building with plenty of time to find our way to our seats.

TIP #2: Plan out your route, and arrive as early as possible.

first concert

Arriving early gave us time to scope out the t-shirt stands, closest washrooms, and to find our seats before the large crowds poured in through the doors.

I was especially concerned about selecting floor seats for the concert, but when we arrived and found our seats, I was so pleasantly surprised. The floor seats were carefully spaced out in allocated sections, and our seats were located in the front of our section (which meant lots of leg room and easy in-and-out access for bathroom breaks!).

TIP #3: When selecting your seats, opt for easy-access (even if it means spending a bit more money).

We waited until the opening act started to play before we hit the t-shirt lineup, and we stopped in for one last bathroom break just before Taylor Swift was scheduled to hit the stage.

And then the big moment arrived.

The look on my daughter’s face when Taylor Swift appeared on stage was one that I will never forget. Wide eyed, grinning from ear to ear, and screaming at the top of her lungs, my daughter leapt into her first concert experience like a rockstar, and I soaked up every moment of her excitement.

TIP #4: Take lots of pictures!

first concert

 

first concert

first concert

TIP #5: Buy the t-shirt.

The line ups were unbearably long, and the prices were outrageous, but buying the t-shirt (or any other keepsake to commemorate the occasion) is totally worth it. Her first concert was the perfect excuse to indulge – a special drink at dinner, a commemorative t-shirt, and a very, very late bedtime – it was definitely worth breaking the rules (and the bank!) to make the night a little extra special.

As the concert came to a close, my little girl wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed me tightly. I knew it was her way of thanking me for the best night of her life, and I took it all in as we danced to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” hand-in-hand.

TIP #6: Leave early. 

There’s always a bit of a drawn-out finale, and that’s the best time to make your exit before the crowds become unbearable. As Taylor Swift slowly strutted herself off the stage and the crowds roared, we rushed out of the building, beating the gaggle of fans who would quickly follow suit.

It was an expensive and exhausting night, but worth every penny and sore muscle. My daughter and I made memories that will last infinitely longer than our cracking voices and throbbing feet, and bonded over a mutual love for dancing and music that will hopefully carry us through many more concerts in the future.

5 Things To Consider Before You Quit Your Day Job #WAHM

Two years ago, I was sitting at my desk at a full-time office job, daydreaming about finding a more balanced life. A life where I could be present for school drop offs & pick ups and participate in parent volunteer opportunities, but where I could also continue working in a career that I loved. At the time, I didn’t know that there were other options. I thought that I had to choose between my career and staying home full-time with my children, and the latter just wasn’t an option for me.

When I started to crunch the numbers and think more seriously about my options, I came to the conclusion that I could explore part-time work opportunities, as long as I was willing to make a few sacrifices. Now that I’ve transitioned from a full-time office-dwelling career, to a part-time work-from-home job, to an all-over-the-place work schedule as a self-employed mompreneur, I thought I would share with you 5 things to consider before making the shift from WOMO (working mom) to WAHM (work at home mom).

1) OPPORTUNITIES ARE SCARCE

It’s one thing to decide that a part-time job will work for you and your family, but quite another to actually find part-time job opportunities! Unfortunately, it’s still not the norm for companies to create part-time opportunities that accommodate family life.

Tip: Find and secure a part-time job before you quit your full-time day job.

2) MONEY MATTERS

Part-time hours are great, but part-time pay is not. If you find a part-time work opportunity with a fabulous company, you’re on your way to living the dream. But it’s important to remember that fewer work hours means less income for your family.

When I made the transition, I thought that the money we would save from taking our children out of daycare/after-school care would compensate for the lower salary that I would be bringing in. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that I would actually need time to work, and with young children in the house, finding the time to actually get work done would be next to impossible. I also hadn’t accounted for extra costs like Summer camp.

Self employment is even more challenging because in most cases, your income and hours become unpredictable.

3) SUPPORT IS KEY

It takes a village. When you have children, it’s important to make sure that you have the support you need from your family and friends before you decide to work from home and/or start your own business, because your decision will affect others more than you realize. Your partner/spouse will need to be involved in some of your cost-cutting plans, and the lack of structure that comes with self-employment will leave you relying on help from family and friends.

4) JOB SATISFACTION

Before applying for and accepting a part-time job opportunity, it’s important to really think about whether or not the actual job in question will satisfy your needs. The appeal of a shortened work schedule can sometimes blind you from what the actual job entails. Before you take the job, it’s important to ask yourself: will I still be doing work that I love?

5) LONG-TERM GOALS

It’s not only important to ensure that the career change will satisfy your personal needs, but it’s also important to consider your long-term goals. Where do you hope to take your career? If your desire is to move up the corporate ladder with an organization, chances are, those senior-level opportunities will go to the employees who have made a full-time commitment to their work.

Working from home can be rewarding in many ways, but it’s important to see beyond the daydream before making the  decision to change your career. Do your research and take the time to plan before you commit to a new lifestyle. Remember that there are always pros and cons to both sides of the working world – do what ultimately works best for you and your family. And if you have any questions, I’m here for you!

WAHM