Bringing Home Baby: The Only 10 Things You’ll Need

The baby products industry is so jam-packed with fancy-pants  thingamabobs and whatchamacallits that it’s becoming difficult for parents-to-be to determine what they will actually need for the arrival of their new little ones, versus the on-trend nice-to-haves of modern society.

Having done this new baby thing a time or two, I thought I would share with you my quick list of the only things you’ll need to buy before bringing home baby (and a few of the things that can wait until later).

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1) A Car Seat. You’re going to need to bring your baby home in something, so a rear-facing car seat should be at the top of your list of must-haves (unless of course you don’t have a car, in which case, see #8 & #9). There are about a million different models out there, but I’ve found this one to be my favourite (or I’m currently using this one for baby #3 which I also like). These seats are both lighter than most (which is important because for the first few months you’ll be carrying them on your forearm like a purse), and they are quite compact (especially important if you have a small car or other small children). I’ve also found that they are adaptable to most strollers.

2) A Bassinet/Cradle. Because babies sleep. A lot. If you have the space, I would suggest starting with a little bassinet or cradle. In the first few months your new little baby will need you at least a few times throughout the night, and having baby nearby makes those midnight feedings a little more bearable. A smaller bassinet is also more mobile so you can move your baby’s sleep locations more conveniently. Of course, some parents co-sleep, or start putting baby in a full-sized crib right from day 1, so this one can be left up to your own personal preference.

3) Diapers. Whether you like it or not, babies also pee and poop. A lot. So you’re going to need something to catch it all. Whether you plan on using disposables or cloth diapers, you’re going to need to stock up. Babies do the deed an average of 10-14 times a day, so plan ahead my friends! You will not want to run out to the store for another pack of diapers in the first few days of bringing home baby.

4) Change Table/Surface. With all of those diaper changes, you’re going to need somewhere to actually change the baby. I like having a full change table with space underneath to store the supplies (wipes, diapers, creams, powders, cloths, etc), but I know many people who use dressers with change pads on top and this works too – you can just buy a basket or install some shelves above for the extras.

5) Wash Cloths/Blankets. I’ve grouped these together because basically you’re going to need some fabrics to wash, swaddle, and block your baby (block = defence against unwanted explosions, i.e.: pukes, spit ups and blow outs). You will need a lot of these too.

6) A Vibrating Chair. Some parents may challenge me on this one, but with all 3 of my children I found this to be a godsend. Because as much as you love to cuddle your baby, your arms will get tired and you’ll have other things to do. And while the dream is to have a baby who will self-sooth and fall asleep in their cradles on their own, this is rarely the case. I used my vibrating chair constantly – to keep baby happy while I did chores (easy to move from room-to-room), and many times to coo baby to sleep when rocking in my arms just wouldn’t do.

7) Sleepers. While there are endless drool-worthy baby outfits out there (hello adorable sneakers, bomber jackets, tutus, and baby denim!), you’ll really only need a sizeable collection of onesie sleepers (and zippers are a MUST). Cutesy accessories can come later, but for the first few months, the goal is to keep baby warm and cozy, and to regain your sanity from a long slew of sleepless nights.

8) A Baby Carrier. Some parents prefer this one, but I’ve always been happy with this one. There are a TON of choices out there, and the one you choose will really come down to personal preference, but you will need one if you ever plan on leaving the house or using your hands again.

9) A Stroller. Babies get heavy so you’re going to want one of these too. Especially if you have a dog, need to go to the store, or pretty much have to go anywhere that requires you to walk for longer periods of time. Not only are they great for transporting your kids, but you can put stuff in them when you’re shopping which is handy! My favourite strollers of all time are these ones (I was spoiled with baby #1 and received one as a gift from a group of family members – pricey, but THE BEST). Due to tighter budgets with baby #3, I now have this one which has been pretty good so far.

10) Poo Bags. This one might sound a little strange, but I’m telling you, you DO NOT NEED a diaper genie. The thick poo bags that were designed for picking up after your dog are perfect – especially these ones which are biodegradable, and totally affordable. We put the poopy dipes in the bags, tie them tightly, and toss them in our regular garbage can. No stink. I found the diaper genie to be a pain in the arse to change the bags, and it was often difficult to find the refills (not to mention pricey!). If you’re using cloth diapers, it’s still nice to keep these on hand for dirty baby wipes or blowouts when you’re out and about.

There are of course other things you’ll need as well, but you don’t need to buy it all right away! Here are some things that you can save for later.

Save for later:

– full-sized crib

– Bumbo chair

– bottles

– soothers

– high chair

– exersaucer

– toys

– clothes (beyond sleepers) & shoes

– baby foods & accessories (dishes)

If you have friends with kids, ask them if they have any of the items on your list before you go shopping, or add them to your wish list for baby shower gifts. Congratulations on your new babies to come, and good luck!

 Fellow parents, have I missed anything? 

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One Thing All Parents Should Stop Doing

I was strolling through the grocery store today when I passed a dad who was pushing his young daughter down the aisle in a shopping cart. When he passed me and our eyes met, he glanced down at his daughter and did something that I realized many of us parents do – he talked through his child. “Look how messy your hair is today,” he said to her while side-glancing my way, “how did it get so messy huh?”

He said this in a playful, high-pitched voice, as if to be joking with his little girl, but I knew his intention. I knew, because at that moment, I realized that this was something I had done too – often.

Now, I could very well be wrong, but I believe that this man was using his child as a conduit to pass along a message to listening adult ears – perhaps to justify the dishevelled appearance of his little girl (who by the way was totally adorable). I’ve done this often too – I’ve suddenly noticed that I’ve forgotten to brush my child’s hair, and when another adult looks in our direction, my parenting insecurities set in and I say something similar to my child.  “Oh honey, how did your hair get so messy? I guess we forgot to tie it up today, hey?” I’d say, hoping that by verbalizing it, my insecurities would disappear.

I’ve talked through my children in other ways too – and to be honest, I’m not sure why I do it. “What do you think your brother and sister are doing right now?” I’ll say to my eldest if we’re out alone and I feel as though adult ears are listening in. As if verbalizing aloud that I have 2 other children at home will automatically excuse my lack of makeup, sloppy attire and tired eyes. “Now, I’ll buy these Eggo waffles for you just this once honey, as a special treat.” I’ll say to my middle child at the grocery store. As if saying “just this once” out loud excuses my purchasing of an unhealthy, processed breakfast food.

And the worst way that I do this – talking through my children – is when I’m frustrated with my husband. I often do it as a way to passive aggressively express my disdain for something that he has done (or hasn’t done). “Ok honey,” (I’ll say in an elevated tone of voice) “mommy will help you with that in a moment, she just has to finish cleaning up the dishes in the kitchen, and grab the laundry from the dryer, and tidy up daddy’s mess on the table.” (cue stink eye in my husband’s direction as he slowly flips through the newspaper on the couch). And this passive aggression doesn’t go unnoticed. My husband isn’t an idiot – he knows what I’m doing, and let’s just say he’s not a fan.

So why do I do it? Because I don’t like to nag. I feel insecure sometimes as a parent. And I’m writing about this because I know that I’m not alone – I’ve seen lots of other parents do this too.

So my advice to myself and those of you who are also guilty of talking through your children is this: just stop. Passive aggression is unattractive. And onlookers probably don’t care that your kids have messy hair or that you’re wearing torn sweats. And if they do, so what? Be you. Be confident.  Be happy in the skin that you’re in.

Are you guilty of talking through your children?

Parents

– Mark Twain

Ask Mama Dina: Are We Teaching Our Kids To Be Helpless?

I can’t count the number of times my children have asked for my help with something, and instead of showing them how to do it for themselves, I’ve just quickly done it for them. Putting toothpaste on their toothbrushes, tying their shoes, and even wiping their bums – it all just seems easier to do it quickly and properly, and I confess, I’m a bit of a control freak. I like things done in a certain way. So when they ask to help with folding laundry or making dinner, I frequently reply with a “sorry honey, not this time”, sprinkled with some excuse as to why mommy needs to do it by herself.

Awhile ago I came across an article that asked the question: Are We Doing Too Much For Our Kids?, and it made me think about my actions and the effects that they have on my children. Today’s society is so focused on convenience – making things easier, more accessible, and faster for us. We’ve become a bit lazy, and I can’t help but wonder: Is our tendency to help ourselves hindering our children’s ability to reach their developmental milestones?

Parenting Tips

When I hear stories about my parents and the responsibilities that they had when they were growing up, I feel a little embarrassed about how much I do for my children. My mom and her four sisters were expected to work from a very young age. When she was only 7 (the same age as my daughter) she would come home from school, change into her “work clothes”, and begin her chores (housecleaning and cooking). When she was 10, she was expected to get a job. She would go around knocking on neighbours doors to see if they needed a babysitter, or help with their lawn mowing, and would work hard so that she could earn money to buy her own clothes. My children on the other hand, have almost everything done for them by yours truly.

In thinking about this, I asked my mom: “Do you think we do too much for our kids nowadays? Are we teaching them to be helpless for our own convenience?” Here’s what she had to say:

She started by agreeing that parents nowadays do tend to do too much for their children (including me). But she quickly followed up with the fact that we are all busy, and when trying to juggle the kids, work, ringing phones, errands, etc. it makes sense to do what’s easiest for us. She said we shouldn’t punish ourselves for it, we’re human and we do what we need to do get through the day. She reminded me that each day is a brand new day, and that it’s never too late to change our ways.

Here are some key tips that she gave me on helping my children to mature and do things on their own:

Ask yourself if you think they are capable of doing it themselves. As often as possible, it’s beneficial for your children to try to do things for themselves. It teaches them independence, and boosts their self esteem when they learn new skills. If they can’t tie their own shoes, respond with “let me show you how” instead of just doing it for them.  If they ask you a question, show them how to look up the answer instead of quickly responding.

I asked her what to do if you’re not sure if they’re capable of the task or not, and her response? “You won’t know for sure until you let them try!”

Praise, don’t punish. Praise them for trying, even if they don’t succeed at doing the task right away. If they can’t tie their shoes after the first few tries, don’t get mad or frustrated (I know, easier said than done), but instead encourage them with praise – “you’re doing a really good job at trying to tie your shoes. Keep practicing and I’m sure you’ll get it!”

**Side Note: Be sure to be specific with your praise. My mom says that always saying “good job” doesn’t teach them as well as being very specific about what they’ve done well. Saying something like, “You cleaned your room without my asking, that shows me that you’re learning to be responsible and that makes me very proud of you!”, helps them to understand what they’ve done right, and helps in the development of their independence and maturity.

Teach them what they need, not what they want. As you teach your children important life skills, be sure to distinguish the difference between the things that they need (healthy eating habits, choosing the right clothes for the season), versus the things that they want (iPhone 6, video game consoles). This will help to develop their decision-making skills.

I then asked her if there were certain milestones that children should reach by certain ages – for example, should my 7-year-old know how to tie her own shoes by now?

She responded that all children mature differently so there really aren’t any predetermined ages for reaching different milestones of independence.

So there you have it! I’m going to try my best to help my children to learn how to do things for themselves. A daunting task to say the least, but worth a try.

ABOUT MAMA DINA:

Mama Dina is a consummate mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, foster mother and grandmother. For over 30 years, she worked as an early childhood educator, and is fully trained and experienced in the Montessori educational approach. She has over 15 years of experience as a foster parent to children from all walks of life, many of whom have special needs. She provides emergency respite care for the foster care system, and acts as a ‘baby whisperer’ for preemie twins on a part-time basis. Her educational background includes training in child psychology, ECE, infant-toddler development, and various areas of special needs (ARBD, FASD, ADHD). Mama Dina’s lifelong passion has been children. She understands typical and atypical child development and behaviour, and combines her magic formula of unconditional love and consistency to enhance each child’s potential. She is also my beloved mama, and I am so blessed that she chose me to be her daughter.

The BC Teachers’ Labour Dispute: Why I’m Accepting The Money

I’m not a teacher, and I’m not a politician. But I am a parent, and therefore am affected by the ongoing labour dispute that is happening in BC. Unlike many of the media outlets who are calling this a “BC Teachers’ Strike”, I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that there are two sides to this dispute, that this is a feud between the teachers union and the government of BC. I think it is also important to acknowledge that it affects more than just the two sides involved, it also affects the students, parents, and taxpayers of our province.

Until now I’ve been quiet about the dispute. I’ve watched as my Facebook feed has been flooded with backlash against teachers, against the government, and against our Premier. I’ve refrained from commenting on posts about who should receive the $40-a-day ‘childcare support’ that will be provided to families during the labour disruption, and I’ve bitten my tongue as people have raged about the government’s attempt to drag out the dispute in order to make the teachers look like the bad guys.

Tomorrow is supposed to be my daughter’s first day of Grade 2. And as I sit back and read the comments, articles, discussions, and rants from teachers, government officials, union representatives, school board administration staff, parents, friends and strangers, I’m left with some thoughts.

Accepting the $40-a-day childcare allowance from the government for my school-aged child does not make me an idiot, nor should I be excluded from receiving it based on my employment status.

I’ve seen some comments on social media about who should receive the $40-a-day childcare allowance during the school closures, who think that work-from-home and stay-at-home moms and dads should not receive this benefit because they will not require childcare services during the delays. These people are missing the point (and ignorant if they don’t realize that everyone with children, regardless of employment status will need additional support).

I am a taxpaying home owner. And like everyone else in BC who pays property taxes, I am paying school taxes that are used to pay for public education in BC. With schools not in session, doesn’t it make sense for everyone who has paid their hard-earned dollars towards provincial school taxes to receive a refund when that money is not being spent on what it was intended for? While the money is being presented as child care subsidy for parents who are left with children at home as a result of the dispute, what it should be presented as is a refund on taxes that have already been paid.

The money does not dissolve my feelings of frustration towards the dispute and how it will hinder the educational needs of the children in my province. The money does not sway my support for BC teachers, and does not blind me from the challenges that they face every day in over-packed classrooms with limited resources for children with special needs and lower-than-average wage increases.

What the money does do is provide support for parents like myself who will attempt to educate their children during their extended time outside of the classroom, through educational outings, tutors and related resources. This has nothing to do with parents who are working, who work from home, or who take care of their children full time. It is about the children who are missing out on classroom time and the valuable education they deserve.

I feel for the children who are experiencing delays in their final year of high school, and for the children who are entering school for the first time in Kindergarten. I feel for all of my fellow parents who fear for their children and their educational future. But I also understand the issues and am willing to wait patiently for them to be resolved properly. I know a resolution won’t happen overnight, and would rather support our teachers as they fight for what’s best for our children’s futures than to settle for a short-term solution that is not in the best interest of our children.

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Swimming Lessons: Overcoming Failure

Swimming lessons are not optional for my kids. With a rushing river steps from our door, and regular family outings on our boat, learning the life skill is mandatory for the kids in our household. Unfortunately, what I thought would be a quick and easy accomplishment for my firstborn, has become a seven year battle.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…or take a break and try again in a few years?

In the beginning, swimming lessons were fun for my oldest. When she was 6 months old, a group of my mommy group friends and I signed up for Mommy and Me swimming classes. Each class, my girl splashed and giggled with enthusiasm, her sparkling eyes begging for me to dunk her head under the water again and again. Unfortunately when she was 1, I returned to my full-time job and found it difficult to keep up with the lessons, so I put them on hold.

We did our best to take her swimming regularly, but our visits to the pool were few and far between. When she was 3, I decided it was time to start up the lessons once more. Unfortunately, her love for water had dissolved, and the lessons were everything but enjoyable for her. She failed Tiny Tots 1 – the entry-level swimming stage. I enrolled her again, and again she failed. After 6 failed sessions, I decided to give her another break. Why beat a dead horse? She’ll come around eventually.

swim

With the arrival of our second child and two busy careers, swimming lessons were on our minds but fell by the wayside. Again, we did our best to take our kids swimming, and while they loved to splash and play in the shallow end of the pool, both children refused to submerge their faces in the water.

This past Fall, I registered both kids in Tiny Tots 1 together, hoping that my oldest would find motivation in helping her little brother. And with determination and a lot of assistance from her instructor, she passed. She was proud of herself, and I felt a huge sense of relief. My big girl was finally learning how to swim.

Drive, determination…and heartbreak.

With the pending arrival of baby #3, I again chose to give my girl a break from lessons.

With the approach of Summer, her friends began inviting her to pool parties, and it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was more than behind in her swimming skills. Her classmates were all doing cannon balls in the pool, practicing hand stands and wooshing down waterslides on their bellies, while my girl watched enviously from the sidelines in her swim vest. “I want to learn to swim like them mommy, I feel so embarrassed that I’ve only passed Tiny Tots 1 and have to wear a vest” she said to me one day, and I knew it was time to re-enroll her in lessons.

Now 7, my girl is too old to continue with the Tiny Tots sessions, so I enrolled her in Stage 1 lessons – the first level for school-aged children. I promised that she would catch up quickly, as the class was 5 days a week. She was excited to get started, and showed up for her first lesson grinning from ear to ear.

She jumped into the pool with her fellow swimmers, and awaited the first command from her instructor. “Ok kids, front crawl to the end of the pool and then dolphin swim on the way back. And GO!” Immediately, the kids dove in facedown, and splashed across the pool like a school of fish. My girl, who had just finally dunked her head in the water for the first time in her last class (nose plugged with her fingers), looked at the instructor in awe. “C’mon, let’s go!” the instructor persisted.

My girl began splashing and flailing her arms around as she waded across the pool. She tried to put her face in like the other kids, but each dunk resulted in a nose full of chlorinated water. She hadn’t yet learned how to breath underwater without plugging her nose.

Gasping and choking, she just kept trying. My heart sunk and my eyes began to well up as I watched my little girl try and try again.

And then it got worse…

As she approached the pool’s edge, a boy kicked off and his foot hit her square in the face. Already humiliated, my girl pursed her lips and tried her hardest to hold back the tears that were welling up in her eyes. She glanced over at me, and her face fell as sobs forced their way through her tiny pout. But she still didn’t give up.

It took everything I had to resist the urge to scoop her up out of the pool into my arms, but I wanted to let her decide when she was done – she was just so determined. So I watched wide eyed, my heart racing and my throat choked up with empathy for my baby girl.

From failing to winning, and what finally worked.

When class was over she rushed into my arms and sobbed uncontrollably. I hugged her tightly and told her how proud I was of her for trying so hard and doing her best. I promised that she wouldn’t have to return to that class, and that I would find a more suitable option for her. After a lengthy discussion with the head lifeguard (who explained that although it was indeed the beginner level for school-aged children, my daughter had happened to land in a class where all the children had completed all 4 levels of the Tiny Tots sessions and they just happened to be a more advanced group), I made the decision to pay the additional fees for private lessons.

Although the cost was almost triple that of the regular swimming lessons, private lessons seemed to be our only option. But costs aside, it has been totally worth it.

swim 2

After one session, my girl was bobbing under water without plugging her nose. Now five sessions in, she’s swimming on her back unassisted, dunking for rings without hesitation, and approaching the ability to do a proper front crawl. She’s actually learning how to swim, and more importantly, she’s loving every minute of it.

Signing her up for private swimming lessons was the best decision for my girl, and I’m so happy that I did it. Fingers crossed that my next two little ones will love the water from the beginning, but I’m also going to make more of an effort to enroll them in lessons earlier, and to keep it up regardless of the obstacles that might be in my way.

Why I’m Using Cloth Diapers For Baby #3

Confession: becoming a mother has made me less ignorant about the world around me. I’ve developed a new appreciation for our planet and our natural surroundings, I’ve put more of a focus on eating healthy, and have taken into account my health and wellbeing – not only for myself, but for the sake of my children. I’m now thinking about the future and the long-term effects of my actions, and not as much about what is convenient and easy in the present.

With my first two babies, I opted for disposable diapers because it was the most convenient option. It’s not that I didn’t care about the effects they had on the environment, I just cared more about the easiest option for me – and I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that. When you’re a parent, you do what you have to do.

But with baby number three I’ve decided to try something new. It took a long time for me to even consider learning more about cloth diapering. I had received an array of comments (both positive and negative) when mentioning to others that I was considering cloth, and I was aware that I would be even busier than ever with three little ones under my wing. But I had to learn more before making the final decision.

I popped into a cloth diapering workshop put on by my friend Janelle from Yaya Baby, and I’m so glad that I did! She confessed to having tried over 20 different brands and styles of cloth diapers, and walked us through the pros and cons to each. She explained how to use, wash, and store cloth diapers, and shared some valuable resources on the benefits of using cloth over disposables.

Here are the top 6 takeaways that resonated with me:

1) Environmental Impacts: In Canada we throw away 4 million disposable diapers per DAY, and it takes about 450-500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose. From birth to 2.5 years, we go through approx. 7,000 disposable diapers (whereas you only need approx. 24 cloth diapers in that timeframe).

2) Money Matters: On average we spend $2,000 on disposable diapers (per child) from birth to 2.5 years. Cloth diapers (including all the essentials) will cost less than $800.

3) Rash-Free Rumps: No chemical gels means no rashes on baby’s tender bits. With Apple Cheeks specifically, the fleece liners keep bums dry.

4) Buh-Bye Blowouts: The Apple Cheeks diapers have a ruffle in the back designed specifically to make those messy blowouts virtually impossible.

5) Pain-Free Cleaning: Seriously. Despite what you might hear, the wash routine for Apple Cheeks diapers is super simple. To learn more, check out the link I’ve provided at the end of my post.

6) Cute Factor: So adorable baby won’t need pants. For real. The rainbow colours and adorable patterns are too cute to tuck into pants. Bring on Summer!

I’ve taken the leap and can’t wait to get started. Wish me luck!

To learn more about the benefits of cloth diapering, visit Why Cloth – Yaya Baby

What Not To Do When Your Kids Are Bored

I remember the unbearable feeling of childhood boredom. Feeling as though you had truly exhausted all options, left to lie lifeless on your bed in a total and complete slump.

You dragged your feet as you shuffled to the room in which your mom was busying herself with making dinner or folding laundry. Slowly lifting your glum face so that your desperate eyes met hers, you would utter those three words of complete surrender: “Mom I’m BORED.” Ready for her to present a magical solution, you would wait with bated breath to see what she had to say.

And each and every time, the answer would be unsatisfactory. “You can help me fold laundry” she would say. Or, “why don’t you get a head start on your homework?” she would suggest. Your shoulders would rise simultaneously as your eyebrows fell into a deep frown, and a big HUFFF would blast out of your lips. You’d swivel, stomp your feet, slam your bedroom door and bury your face in your pillow as if your life had truly ended.

At least that’s what I did.

Now that I’m a mom to a six-year-old girl, I’m faced with the same challenging three words on an increasingly regular basis. And until today, my responses were equally as unsatisfying – “why don’t you play with your brother?” or “you could always tidy up your room?”. She of course loathes these answers, but always comes back for more when boredom strikes.

I had recently come across (what I thought to be) a great solution for boredom through Pinterest and friends’ Facebook posts, so tonight when my girl came to me with the dreaded three words, I asked her to bring me her white board and a dry erase pen.

I proudly wrote out the words that I had seen, convinced that I had solved the great boredom plague that continually struck my little girl. I flipped the board around and presented it to her with a proud grin on my face.

….And this was her reaction….

Kids Bored

After I snapped this photo, she dropped the board on the floor, and ran bawling to her room. Sobs of sorrow bellowed through her door, and in between fits of despair, she uttered “My mommy’s the WORST, waaaa”.

While this erratic behaviour would normally set me off into a fit of full-on mom rage, I threw my head back and laughed quietly to myself, truly amused by the humour of it all.

I had become that mom. And I didn’t mind one bit.

(Still) Coping With Toddler Tantrums

The day my boy turned three, it was as though a demon had left his body, and my sweet little prince was resurrected. For one full year, I fell victim to the terrible twos, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. I thought the worst had passed – that I’d never again have to fall victim to the toddler tirades – the blood-curdling screams, the thrashing tantrums, and the embarrassing public displays of tantrum-possessed, out-of-control flip outs.

He was potty-trained. He was sweet and affectionate. He was using his words. My faith in my parenting was renewed and my sense of relief that the worst was over was ethereal. That was, until last night.

The hubs had to work late, so I was left to bring my little guy along to his big sister’s dance class. When he was two, I would have considered skipping the class entirely, afraid that the beast would unleash his fury. But my boy was three now, so surely he would be on his best behaviour. Wrong.

I arrived equipped with the essentials: his favourite snacks, a bottle of water to quench his thirst, and some of his favourite miniature characters to keep him distracted. I kissed my girl goodbye, shuffled her into her tap class, and positioned myself and my boy by the viewing window, where I lined up his snacks and toys. For five full minutes, he was engaged, quiet, polite. He sat peacefully watching his sister dancing while munching on his sliced pears and Goldfish crackers, and I held my head high as other parents looked on and smiled at my sweet little well-behaved buddy.

But then it happened.

Tantrum

Suddenly a scream exploded through his little lips, and he went dashing up the stairs and out of my sight. I rushed after him and watched as he screeched at an ear-piercing pitch. I tried to quietly coax him back to our spot by the window, but he refused and his scream only amplified. All eyes were on me as parents and dance school staff watched carefully to see how I would react to my toddler’s outburst. I scooped him up, murmured some threats to him in the tight-lipped mom voice that we all secretly do, and carried his thrashing, screaming body outside.

I transported his beast-of-a-deadweight-body to my car, tossed him into the backseat, climbed into the front seat, and closed the door. Beads of sweat were dripping down my forehead and I held back tears as I sat there, astonished by what had happened. And then it got worse.

My boy didn’t want to sit in the car, and certainly wasn’t going to let the tirade end without an epic finale.

He climbed himself over the centre console and into the front passenger seat, where he proceeded to push all the buttons and knobs in my car while I gave him the mom-death-stare. Suddenly, a loud siren began to wail – it was my car alarm. As the alarm seemed to get increasingly louder, so did my voice as I panicked out loud. “How the HELL do you turn this thing OFF!” I barked as I flailed around in my my seat, trying every button, knob and handle in sight. “You are in SO much trouble!” I growled at my boy as I finally found the switch. All eyes were on me. I felt as though a MILLION judging eyes were watching me as I sat in the spotlight yelling at my boy. Failing as a mother.

And of course it was time to pick up my daughter as her class was over. So out we went, me red-faced with embarrassment and rage, and my boy with a devilish smile, as though he’d won an epic battle.

It was a quiet ride home (to say the least), and I was exhausted with defeat.

Shit happens. Tatrums happen. It’s all a part of mom life, and we get over it, but BOY did that moment rank high on the richter scale of fails.

Not sure what to do when you’re caught in the web of toddler tantrums? Check out this video on Parentdish.ca – How To Handle An Epic Meltdown, and for the love of mom, DON’T FREAK OUT when your toddlers do. Lesson learned.

 

 

 

The Extracurricular Jigsaw Puzzle

If you have (or have ever had) a school-aged child, you’ve likely engaged in an exchange similar to this one:

Mom Friend: “Ugh my schedule is so busy, my kid’s in soccer, ballet, t-ball, singing, piano, and swimming this year! What are your kids doing?”

Me: “Oh, well.. we’re still trying to decide, there are so many options…”

Translation: I’ve failed as a mom.

Or at least that’s how I feel.

For some reason, selecting extracurricular activities for my children feels as though I’m selecting numbers on a lottery ticket. Each number seems equally as legitimate, but how do I put them together to get the big win? How do I pick the right activities to create the best future for my children?

I’ve always thought that when the time came, I would let my children decide what they’d like to do, but the tricky thing is, when they haven’t tried anything, how do we know what they’ll enjoy?

My daughter was crazy for tutus, princesses and twirling, so putting her into ballet when she was 3 seemed like an obvious choice. For 3 years she stuck with it, and loved every moment. But by the end of last year, she was starting to get antsy. I could tell that it was time for her to try something new, but what? I didn’t want her to give up dancing because I could tell that she loved it, but I also didn’t want dancing to be her only activity, at least not until she had tried other options.

Just like mommy?

Throughout my childhood I was a passionate dancer. I started with ballet at 3, and as I grew, so did my roster of dance classes. By 8 I was taking ballet, jazz, tap, and modern, and was dancing for approximately 10 hours a week. I danced in a professional dance company, and my performing even led to my meeting Princess Diana. I was fortunate to have parents who supported my passion.

But one thing that I kind of regret, is that because I was so wrapped up in dancing, I didn’t learn the sports skills that many of my peers had pursued. To this day, I can’t catch a ball. I throw “like a girl” and my running is atrocious. I envy women who play soccer in their spare time, who can toss a football with a perfect spiral, and jump into a game of beach volleyball without a second thought.

I’d love for my daughter to have a well-balanced roster of after-school activities, but I also want her to enjoy what she’s doing.

Over the Summer, I enrolled her in a one-week dance camp where she was able to try several genres of dance. I promised that at the end of the week, I would let her decide which style of dance she would pursue for the upcoming year. Giving her the independence to choose seemed to thrill her – finally a decision that she could own.

Dance

She enjoyed every day of dance camp, and to my surprise, she came out of it feeling confident in her decision: she was to take tap.

I signed her up and thought my job was done.

How much is too much?

But now that she’s back in school, and I’ve engaged in more than a few conversations similar to the one above, I’m second-guessing myself.

Should she be doing more?

Should I enrol her in soccer even though the mention of the word brings her to tears?

Is there harm in not having my child enrolled in more than one activity?

Most families that I know have signed each of their children up for at least 2 extracurricular activities. I can’t help but wonder if my children should be doing more, but I’m also stuck wondering why it’s so important to keep them so busy.

They’re six. They’re in school for almost 7 hours a day. They have homework, and siblings, and wild imaginations.

The questions I can’t seem to answer are these:

Is it better to have them enrolled in as many activities as possible so they can find their true passion through experience, or are we signing them up for too much to keep up with the norm? Are we doing it for bragging rights?

How did you decide which extracurricular activities to choose for your children, and how many they should do? How did you piece together the extracurricular jigsaw puzzle?

 

 

 

 

Ask Mama Dina: Pretty Little Liar

1011949_10151746889176955_897263972_nWhen she was a toddler, she was so honest with me, almost to a fault. It was as though she was simply incapable of lying. But with her newfound confidence as a six-year-old, she has discovered that she can withhold the truth, and even lie to avoid facing the consequences that might come with the truth.

I recently caught her in a lie, and as she spouted out a descriptive re-enactment of what had happened, my heart sank. She spoke with emotion, emphasized details, and even shed a few tears as she told me her story. I would have believed her story – if I hadn’t come to the conversation equipped with facts to back up the truth. She’s a good little actress – a skill which I’m not sure yet is an asset or a liability.

I didn’t want to call my little girl a liar, even though I knew she was in fact lying to my face.

So I did what I always do: I asked my mama for advice. My mom is an expert, and has always been my go-to for parenting advice. She advises her friends, fellow foster parents, my siblings, acquaintances, and even some of my friends who need answers to tough parenting questions.

Here’s a summary of what she said to me:

1) DON’T call your child out for lying. The truth is, we lie to them all the time. Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. The Tooth Fairy. We have to be very careful about how we broach the subject of lying because they will one day discover the lies that we’ve told them.

2) Emphasize the importance of telling the truth. Tell them “the truth will set you free”. Remind your child that being dishonest will lead you into a web of lies, and will result in consequences.

3) This is an opportunity to establish a close relationship with your child. Reassure her that if she is honest with you about something, no matter what it may be, she will not get in trouble. If she is not honest, there will be consequences.

4) DON’T overreact when she does tell the truth. Showing your child that you can remain calm, provide advice and guidance, and keep your cool, will keep the channels of communication open as she grows and experiences new things. If she feels as though she can trust you, she will come to you as a confidante, knowing that you won’t punish her for her curiosity.

5) If she confesses to lying, and then tells the truth, don’t get mad. Focus on the positive. Tell her how proud you are of her decision to tell the truth, and remind her that you will never get mad if she is completely honest with you. Don’t focus on the fact that she had lied at first because you are still establishing trust.

I followed my mama’s advice. Instead of calling her out for lying, I said, “Sweetheart, that sounds like a very interesting story, but I can tell by the look in your eye that you’re not being completely honest with me. I feel as though there is more to the story. I just want you to know that I love you, and that you will never get in trouble if you tell me the truth or ask questions that you think might get you in trouble. You can always come to me and I will never get mad at you for being honest. But if I find out that you’ve been dishonest with me, there will be consequences for lying. I’m going to trust that you will do the right thing, and am here for you when you’re ready to talk.”

And you know what? She came to me, and confessed. All on her own accord. We had a long heart-to-heart, and I feel like we’ve established a new level of mother-daughter trust.

And so begins the slow ascent to the dreaded teen years. I’m just so thankful that I have my mom as backup for the parenting growing pains! And how you can benefit from her advice too.

ABOUT MAMA DINA:

Mama Dina is a consummate mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, foster mother and grandmother. For over 30 years, she worked as an early childhood educator, and is fully trained and experienced in the Montessori educational approach. She has over 15 years of experience as a foster parent to children from all walks of life, many of whom have special needs. She provides emergency respite care for the foster care system, and acts as a ‘baby whisperer’ for preemie twins on a part-time basis. Her educational background includes training in child psychology, ECE, infant-toddler development, and various areas of special needs (ARBD, FASD, ADHD). Mama Dina’s lifelong passion has been children. She understands typical and atypical child development and behaviour, and combines her magic formula of unconditional love and consistency to enhance each child’s potential. She is also my beloved mama, and I am so blessed that she chose me to be her daughter.

Has your child ever been caught in a lie? How did you react?