{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 Moms Fail Miserably At Achieving Personal Goals

I may not believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve become really good at setting personal goals for myself.

It’s just the follow-through that I haven’t yet managed to master…

When I turned 35, I shared 10 things I wanted to do before my 36th birthday. When I turned 37, I shared another list, this time 10 things I plan to do to remain youthful. My lists always seem reasonable: have fun, take time for myself, try something new – it’s not like I’m planning to change the world or anything. Yet every year when I revisit my list of goals, I’m left with feelings of regret. Feelings of failure.

This morning I received a comment on a recent blog post from a new reader (also a career mom of three), who asked if I manage to accomplish my annual birthday goals, and if so, what’s my secret to doing so. She then mentioned that when she fails to achieve her goals, she uses the same excuse: it’s because of her kids.

And there it was. An excuse I’ve used many times, and one that I think most moms use far too often.

Sorry I’m late: kids.

I don’t work out, no time: kids.

I’ve always wanted to try that, but you know: kids.

There are so many things I want to do – so many goals I want to achieve that have nothing to do with my kids, yet it seems as though my kids are always my excuse for not achieving those goals. And that’s where I’m failing myself.

Having kids shouldn’t be an excuse for not doing things, it should be an excuse for doing more – achieving more.

Because when you set goals for yourself – and actually accomplish them, it’s a great lesson for kids. It teaches them how to master the follow-through, and shows them that you can do anything if you set your mind to it – even as a busy mom.

Children shouldn’t be obstacles on your road to success, they should be motivation. Yes they can be little time suckers, but if you’re creative, they can also be conduits for success.

I challenge you to set goals, and make them happen – not despite having kids, but because you have kids.

I’m going to start by carving out time to devote to working out, because if I can find time to watch my favourite series on Netflix, I can find time to sweat it out and work on developing a healthier body. What’s your next move? Let’s make each other accountable for our goals and achieve them together – because: kids.

Follow me on Instagram: @bitsofbee

 

{FAMILY} Did I Shampoo My Hair?

I wake up at 5am to the smell of dog shit and a toddler tugging on my hair.

It’s the Friday of a long weekend – not exactly the way I had envisioned the start of my “day off”. I guess that’s the beauty of parenting (and housing a 15-year-old dog with wavering control of her bowels thanks to old age) – you never really know how your morning is going to unfold.

I look over resentfully at my snoring husband, and roll out of bed like a log dead-falling over the cliff of a waterfall. Eyes squinted, I navigate my way through the dark room, doing my best to avoid stepping in the piles of poop that plop in a trail towards the bedroom door. As I clean up, my ears ring with squeals of discontent that echo down the hallway. Sibling rivalry thrives most in the wee hours of the morning, it seems.

I throw together a half-assed breakfast and settle my kids in at the table, and then rush to the bathroom for my never-to-be-missed daily shower.

If I’m lucky, I can make it through the 10 minutes of shower serenity without interruption – without a whiny voice pleading for a drink, or a shriek from a disgruntled sibling, or a tiny toddler’s palm streaking down the glass door of my shower like a scene from a horror movie, begging for me to come out and grant “uppies”.

Yes, if I’m lucky, I’m left alone for a whole 10 minutes. And as I squeeze shampoo into my cupped palm, my thoughts run wild.

I mentally scribe my day’s to-do list. I devise drafts of articles that are yet to be written. I dream up epic family getaway ideas, and renovation plans for my house. And then it happens.

Did I shampoo my hair? 

Unsure, I cup my hand, squeeze a blob of scented hair soap into my palm, and let my thoughts wander some more…

Did I just use conditioner or shampoo?

Untrusting of my meagre memory, I squeeze a squirt of shampoo into my hand, lather up, and wash my hair (again?).

Shit. Now I really don’t know. Was that conditioner?

My thoughts have wandered again and I don’t know if I’m done, or if I’ve missed step 2 of my hair-washing routine. I run my fingers through my hair. Does it feel slippery as it does after a post-conditioned rinse?

Somewhat satisfied, I step out of the shower into my towel, and it all comes back to me.

Yep, I’ve just shampoo’d my hair – THREE TIMES.

{FAMILY} Daylight Savings Is All About The Feelings

While daylight savings time may provide us with an added hour of evening sun in the Summer months, it certainly doesn’t save my sanity.

For as long as I can remember, the twice-a-year tradition has sparked the same old controversial conversation: do we get to sleep in, or do we have to wake up earlier once the clocks have changed? And this question has usually led to a long-winded tongue twister about feelings.

“OK, so if we set the clocks forward, then it feels like it’s 6am, but really it’s 7am.”

“No, no, no, it’s feels like we’re getting up earlier, not sleeping in…”

“Wait, ok so the one in October, feels like we’re sleeping in?”

daylight savings

I just want more sleep.

The queries drive my husband nuts, and make my head spin. I just want to know if I’m going to get an extra hour of sleep!

When you’re a parent, earning an extra hour of sleep is more of a win than actually winning the lottery. Sleep is sacred – and seldom.

So when the universe doles us a bad hand, and our calculations conclude that not only are we “losing an hour of sleep”, but our children are going to lose their minds trying to make sense of the extra daylight at bedtime – responding like a wild pack of blood-hungry zombies, of course we’re going to experience all sorts of feelings.

When it comes to the bi-annual tradition of time change, I know I’m not the only mama who changes the clocks with her fingers crossed, hoping that this is the one that will save my sanity and grant me that extra 60 minutes of sleep.

Unfortunately, this is not the blessed time. Because when my kids wake me up bright and early at 6:30am tomorrow morning, it will feel like 5:30am.

I’m off to “Spring forward” to a week’s worth of sleepless nights and my sanity will not be spared.

{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} 4 Funny Parents Who Own The Internet

From witty remarks, to costumed shenanigans, to playful parodies, these parents are taking the Internet by storm! Not only do they keep me giggling as I navigate through the treacherous waters of parenting, but their light-hearted takes on life with kids make me feel as though I’m part of a community of like-minded moms and pops. If you’re not following them already, I highly recommend joining in on the fun! Here are my 4 favourite parents who are winning at Internet-ing:

1) Bumni Laditan (Honest Toddler)

With over 320K followers on Twitter, it’s obvious that this hot tot’s tweets have made an impression. After browsing through toddler mama Bumni Laditan’s blog posts, it’s obvious that her quick wit and talent for writing are the keys to her success. Now the author of two hilarious books – The Honest Toddler – A Child’s Guide To Parenting, and Toddlers Are A**holes: It’s Not Your Fault, Bunmi has made a career of what she once referred to as full-blown toddleritis. If I were to choose one favourite Internet mommy to share a glass of wine with, it would definitely be Bunmi. I’m pretty sure we’d become besties.

the-honest-toddler

2) Blake Wilson (Bat Dad)

Who says dads can’t be superheroes? Certainly not Blake AKA Batdad, who has swooped in as one of Youtube’s top parenting sensations with almost half a million channel subscribers, and over 4 million Facebook fans. His goofy one-liners and masked monkey business are definitely worth a watch. It’s no wonder the popular papa says that his mask was the best $10 he has ever spent!

batdad

3) Penn & Kim Holderness (The Holderness Family)

The Holderness Family has perfected the parody with their cleverly-comical lyrics and giggle-worthy videos. With over 300K Youtube subscribers, it’s obvious that I’m not the only one who wishes this family would move in next door!  Their latest viral video I’m 40 (a parody of Justin Bieber’s I’m Sorry) has every parent nodding their heads in agreement as they watch The Holderness’ dance out partying life as parents. This talented duo definitely rule the roost when it comes to online entertainment.

3) Elle Walker, Meg Resnikoff, Brooke Mahan & Liane Mullin – What’s Up Moms 

This group of singing mommies knows how to have a good time, and with almost a million views on their latest Youtube video alone, their relatable, I’ve-been-there videos are obviously a hit. A regular addition to my Facebook feed, these moms are definitely resonating with their viewers.

 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well I say it takes a virtual village of funny parents to make the adventures of parenting a whole lot more entertaining. Follow them all and enjoy a humorous break from the mundane.

Have I missed any funny Internet parents that put a smile on your face?

{FAMILY} Snippets From the Life of a Soccer Mom

I woke up at 7am to the sound of rain pounding against my window and grunted softly as I rolled out of bed.

As I shuffled slowly towards my bedroom door, I contemplated the consequences that would result if I allowed my oldest daughter to skip her early-morning soccer game.

Did I really want to wake all 3 of my peacefully-sleeping children to drudge through this torrential downpour and stand shivering on the sidelines with my 2 youngest whining in my ear?

After a quick mental tally of the pros and cons of my actions, I decided that it was my responsibility to set a good example for my children. I was the parent after all.

We battled through the usual morning routine – the nagging pleas to finish their breakfasts, the  ceaseless requests to get dressed quickly, and the repetitive reminders to put on their shoes and coats. I took a swig of my tepid coffee and we piled into the car – just in time.

As I drove towards the soccer field, the rain fell harder. Clicking the windshield wipers up a notch to counteract the water coverage, I toyed with the idea of turning around and calling it quits.

When we arrived, the parking lot was full. I pulled into a spot that was located as far away as possible from our designated field, unloaded my stroller, umbrella and 3 drowsy kids, and power walked to the team’s meeting spot.

soccer mom

As I rushed my hesitant daughter onto the field, I shouted promises of hot chocolate and treats, and urged her to play her best.

And then I stood there. In the pouring rain. For an hour and a half.

Huddled under a small umbrella that I shared with my shivering son and restless toddler, there was nothing I could do but grin and bear it.

I watched as my big girl ran around on the field. No hood, no umbrella, and no gloves. She was SOAKED and she didn’t give up. I didn’t dare complain about my frozen fingers, or numb toes, or dripping wet hair. Because I was just a spectator. I was the parent.

It took everything I had to mask my excitement when the whistle blew 3 times indicating the end of the game. As we raced to the car, my daughter burst into tears. And then my son. They were frozen, frigid, and famished.

As we drove home I quietly wondered to myself: why do we do this? My kids like soccer but they certainly aren’t passionate about it. They’re not training to be professional athletes, and they certainly aren’t star players. They wouldn’t beg to go if I offered to skip a game, and they wouldn’t miss it if I allowed them to quit.

And then I remembered why I wanted them to play soccer in the first place. I wanted them to connect with a new group of friends. To get more exercise and to learn to work as part of a team. I wanted them to forge bonds, to try something new, and to learn about commitment. I wanted them to experience the victory of winning, and the feeling of defeat. Because those life skills, regardless of where they end up in the future, will make them better people.

What keeps you going as a soccer parent?

{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} 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

{FAMILY} 8 Things That Made Me “The Worst Mom EVER” (Today)

Along with having an 8-year-old daughter comes an elevated level of sass. As she tries to navigate through her pre- pre-teen years and all of the emotions that accompany this fragile age, her strong will and desire for independence are unparalleled, and her emotional ebbs and flows completely a mystery to us as parents.

And as the cherry on top – she is idolized by her 5-year-old brother, whose stubbornness and desire for attention are equally as prominent. The two siblings have created the ultimate duo – rivalling each other some days, and other days teaming up to battle the wicked force that is “mom”.

And always on the sidelines is my littlest. Forever wanting to keep up with her older siblings, she mimics everything they do or say – duplicating and elevating her siblings’ frustrations towards their “unfair mom”.

If they are playing together nicely, I am the enemy who “ruins all the fun”, and if they are battling each other, no matter whose side I support, I become the “meanest mom” for not supporting the other. I’ve learned to accept the fact that I just can’t win – that I’m going to be known as the “worst mom EVER” for everything that I do. And I’m ok with that, because I know that one day it will pass. Right?

worst mom ever

That time when they made ninja outfits – so they could spy on me and ninja kick me.

In the meantime, here are just some of the things that I’ve done today that have earned me the title of “worst mom EVER” in the eyes of my children:

1) I asked them to get dressed for school. -> my 5-year-old son:”MOM! You ALWAYS ruin all the fun. You’re the MEANEST.”

2) I gave my 8-year-old daughter a little pat on the back when I dropped her off at school (respectfully honouring her wishes for me to stop kissing her in front of her friends) -> met with incessant eye rolls, and a loud “PSSHHT Bye MOM.”

3) I offered my youngest her favourite soother when she was acting fussy. -> she threw it at my face and yelled “NO!” and then begged for her “soo-soo” as if it hadn’t just been offered.

4) I offered to put a freshly-made blueberry muffin in my daughter’s lunch for her recess snack. -> met with “MOM! I don’t even LIKE muffins.” (funny, she did last week…)

5) I wouldn’t let my daughter skip her ballet class after school to go on a play date, but offered for her to have one the following day. -> “ugh MOM! I don’t even LIKE ballet. You’re ruining my LIFE by not letting me have a play date.”

6) My two oldest were fighting over which show to watch after school, so I suggested that we turn off the TV and do something else. -> suddenly on the same side: “Mom, you’re the WORST! Why can’t we just watch a show and relax after a busy day at school?”

7) I suggested that my son wear a rain jacket to his soccer practice so that he doesn’t get soaked. -> “I will NEVER. That’s the worst idea EVER.”

8) When asked what we were having for dinner, I responded “I’m going to bar-b-que some steaks and make rice and broccoli.” -> all 3 children “YUCK! That’s not my favourite. Gross.” (littlest just chimed in with “No, no, no” while shaking her head).

Don’t get me wrong, these comments and objections weren’t said without reprimand.

I can remember being in my children’s shoes, and I know that it is a passing phase of self-discovery and desired independence. But, seriously. Whose kids are these?