Bringing Home Baby

My sister just brought home two new baby girls. She lives far away, so I can’t be there to help her out right now, but luckily there are lots of other family and friends there for her. But what does that “help” look like?

For most new parents, getting home with a brand new baby is overwhelming. You’re in your home, it’s still the same place, you’re still the same person, except for this one little tiny HUGE difference: baby.

When you bring your baby home, everybody in the fucking free world wants to “help” you. They will offer themselves up if you need “anything at all.” But mostly, they’re full of shit. Not everyone, of course, but mostly. Here’s why: They want to “help” you, by holding your baby. And that is NOT the help you need.

The first few weeks should be focused on momma and baby, and dad too of course, where applicable. This time is for baby to bond with his/her primary caregivers (usually mom and dad). People shouldn’t be passing baby around while ignoring mom. So for those of you who truly want to help a new momma, here’s what you can do:

– Make sure she is comfortable
– Give her time to cuddle and love on her new baby
– Make sure you’ve had a pertussis booster, and that you wash your hands frequently
– If you are sick, stay away!
– Help with housework; dishes, laundry, meal prep, etc.
– Make sure mom is eating, and staying hydrated
– Let mom nap when baby is napping
– Run errands
– Keep the home environment quiet
– Let mom take a shower
– Help wrangle siblings
– Be a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on if need be. A new baby brings on a ton of emotions
– If her birth didn’t go as planned, it can be really traumatic. Listen to her birth story, and help her process it

Moms, before baby arrives, make some plans:

– Change your outgoing voicemail to say you are bonding with baby, therefore not answering the phone, and essentially, “Leave me the fuck alone.” Then, turn off your phone.
– Have a press secretary, a friend or relative who can field questions, and give updates
– Have a “safe word”, yeah, a safe word. Something you can say to a trusted friend or relative that means, “Get all of these fucking people away from me before I slap they ass.”

Moms, once home, let yourself fall into a routine. Take it easy, don’t try to force yourself back into your old life. Things will be different now. Take it slowly, and you will find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to tell people exactly what you need from them. People like to feel needed and helpful, so speak up. If guests are becoming more of a hindrance, than help, kick them out. This is your time to be with your baby. You’re forging a new relationship, and it should happen on your terms, not your neighbor’s or best friend’s.

I’ve always said, if I have a baby, good luck to anyone trying to pry it out of my arms, I will eat their face off, like that Chimp in Ohio.

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Social Life

These days people are super worried about their child’s social life.  I once had a mom who didn’t want her two year-old to hang out with any children younger than her, because she felt it would stifle her child’s development.  Parents are way over scheduling their kids for fear they won’t have any social skills.  This is stupid, so stop it.  painting

What did you do when you were a child?  I’ll tell you what I did before I went to school at the age of four.  Nothing.  That’s right, nothing.  My grandparents were my babysitters, and they had a fenced-in yard.  I played outside, mostly by myself, and sometimes with the neighbor girl who was three years older than me.  She liked to play “school”, which might have been fun, except she went to a catholic school…in the ’70s…need I say more?  So on the days that I would play with her, we played “school”, she was the teacher, and I would have to call her “Sister something-or-other.”  Class consisted of me sitting and listening to her while she sang, and periodically being hit with a wooden spoon.

Fuck that noise!  What the hell!?!  There must not have been any parents around, because I sure don’t remember any!

So, with all of my experience playing by myself, or with my grandma, or playing “school” with the neighbor girl, I went off to real school.  Guess what?  I know your mind is about to be blown right now, I WAS FINE.  I was a little shy at first, but it wasn’t traumatic, and my social skills weren’t lacking at all.  So how in the hell did I learn those social skills without Gymboree, and soccer, and dance class, and what-the-hell-ever else is out there?  I’ll tell you how.  I was a human being existing in a society.

I realize that I’m talking about only one child here, and that child is myself.  I also realize that anecdotes aren’t evidence, but just humor me for a minute…

Do you take your child with you to places like the grocery store?  Do your children attend family gatherings from time to time?  Do they ever go anywhere at all?  If so, your child is learning social skills.  Hopefully you are using positive guidance to help them along, but every interaction with any other human being whatsoever is socializing.  When your child sees you interact with other people, they learn social skills.  When your toddler rides the bus with you, because you live in a large city where mass transit is necessary, you’re teaching your child how to behave on the bus.  To children, everything is a learning experience.

For those of you who are put out by a child on a bus, or a plane, or anywhere else, go fuck yourself.  You need to realize that if a child is within earshot, or visible, they are learning social skills based on either your piss-poor attitude, OR your kindness and respect of other humans.  Pop quiz!  Which one do you think turns out better members of society?

The point is that every interaction with other humans shows children how they should interact.  So to the public, I implore you, be on your best behavior when children are around.  Say, “excuse me”, “please”, and “thank you.”

Let’s come back to all of the fun classes, early preschool, and playdates for which we schedule infants, toddlers, twos, threes, fours…  Totally unnecessary.  Yep.  Unnecessary.  Don’t get me wrong, those things are fun if you have the means, just not necessary for your child’s development of social skills.  And in moderation please!  No one needs to be scheduled every day of the week.  There is a lot for your two year-old to learn just by sitting and cutting up pieces of paper all by themselves.  Digging in the mud is hours of entertainment.  Let them be kids!

Now let’s say you agree with me, and opt out of all of the mommy-and-me crap.  How can you help bolster your child’s social skills?  Let them order for themselves at restaurants.  Let them hand the money or credit card to the cashier at the store.  Encourage them to ask another child to play at the park.  Let them speak for themselves when someone asks them a question.  Tell them what is appropriate and/or expected of them in different environments, like church, the library, or a Metallica concert.

There is absolutely no reason that a typically developing child needs you to sign them up for classes, and arrange playdates, all the time, everyday.  There is no prescribed amount of time they should spend participating in god-knows-what.  And there’s absolutely nothing that says children who play with older children have an advantage in school, or that playing with younger children delays development (just to reiterate for that mom in case she reads this, it’s fucking stupid).

Do your best to model appropriate behavior, and let your kids be kids.

One last thing, if you notice that your child is becoming mean and obnoxious, or exhibiting any other behaviors that you consider unsavory, before you read them the Riot Act, take a good, long look in the mirror.  Chances are, they learned it from you.  Yeah, you.

Preschool Entrance Exams

Let’s talk about the hell that is “getting in to preschool.”  This will be short, because it’s very simple really.

If you’re in a big city, chances are every preschool has a years-long waiting list.  Even my center has a waiting list, and we’re in the middle of nowhere.  Just so you know, we are first come/first served, but I would LOVE to switch to the most common form of preschool entrance…the interview!  Oh but let me tell you why…

It’s not that I want to “test” children…it’s not that ANY center wants to “test” children…they want to test YOU.  The parents.  They want to know what kind of wacked-out family they’re enrolling.

Parents, no one is “interviewing” your toddler.  They’re interviewing YOU.  If you come across as high-maintenance, kiss your chances good-bye.  If you display little to no interest in helping with school outings, fundraisers, etc., you’re not getting in.  If you seem controlling, uptight, or otherwise TOO interested, sorry about your luck.  Oh how I would LOVE to hand-pick my families…

My advice?  First, don’t sweat it.  Secondly, keep in mind these “Dos and Don’ts”:

Don’t:

  • Grill the director, the director will give you any and all pertinent information without being interrogated like a criminal
  • Make a point to mention that you used to be a teacher/nanny/childcare worker, as if that makes you special, it comes across as distrust
  • Ask questions that you don’t understand because someone told you to “ask…blah, blah, blah”
  • Throw out one million “what if…?” scenarios, everybody hates that shit, what if a spaceship crashed into the building?
  • Tell us your child is “advanced” and should be with an older age group, “advanced” doesn’t mean shit to licensing and accreditation, besides EVERYONE thinks their child is “advanced”
  • Think your child is “advanced”
  • Ask a “trick question”, we will just think you’re an idiot
  • Send someone else to accompany your child for the interview

Do:

  • Have a sense of humor
  • Know a little something about Developmentally Appropriate Practice
  • Mention if your child has any special needs, this is NOT a big deal for a center that is high-quality, and employs qualified people
  • Know that there is likely nothing these teachers haven’t seen before, telling us your child will cry when you drop-off is like telling us the sun is hot
  • Understand that you are talking to experts who have been to college, who have years and years of experience, who are often specialists, don’t insult them by asking if they know how to put the spill valve in a sippy cup
  • Know that any program worth it’s salt has a policy in place for every-fucking-thing, and they will all be explained to you upon enrollment, they will all be stated in multiple places in your enrollment packet
  • Get the proper paperwork in at the proper time

A “lottery” system isn’t much better, truth be told, but hey, what are you gonna do?  You’re at the mercy of the school administration.  Just be nice and friendly, and know that your child is good enough for any program.  No need to “cram” ABCs and 123s before the interview.  Early childhood professionals know that development is not linear anyway, so that would be pointless.  Besides, our job is to teach.  What the fuck is the point if they’re already know everything?

One last thing, there are ABSOLUTELY NO prerequisites for preschool.  Children DO NOT need to be potty-trained to attend a high-quality program.  If a center tells you otherwise, they’re lazy and full of shit.  Walk away.  Also,there is NO evidence showing that young children who develop earlier in certain areas (language, literacy, social, etc.) retain any advantage whatsoever after first or second grade.  So lighten up, let your kids be kids.  Your child does not need to be able to read, write, count, line up, pay attention, sit still, or be quiet to attend a developmentally appropriate program.  Period.

The same goes for Kindergarten (though that may be a separate post), the only requisite for Kindergarten is that your child be five years old…even if they turned five the day before the cut-off.  If Kindergarten teachers don’t want to teach five year-olds, they should teach first grade.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which comes from one of Lisa Murphy’s books: “Sitting still and being quiet is not a marketable job skill.”  Damn straight!  Smoke on your pipe, and put that in!  (See what I did there?  A little West Side Story for you show tune fans.)

Share and Share Alike, Or Not

sharingAnyone who knows me, knows I think forcing kids to share is bullshit.  Let me ‘splain.

I start in infancy, with newborns (because you should be talking to your itty bitty baby), using the phrases, “That belongs to (so and so).”  And, “That doesn’t belong to you.”  I use these instead of “No.” when redirecting children who are about to play with my crossbow.

Example:

A six month old who is mobile, exploring their environment, comes face to face with a very expensive sound system.  I say, “That belongs to daddy.”  “That doesn’t belong to you.”  “Let’s find something that does belong to you.”  Fast forward to that baby, now toddling, at the grocery store, sitting in a cart, trying to grab all the shit he can see!  I say, “That doesn’t belong to you.  That belongs to the store.”  He looks at me (it takes him a minute to process), and then he stops.  Now, when he wants something, he reaches toward it and looks at me.  I say, “That belongs to the store.  That doesn’t belong to us.”  So, he stops.

Ocassionally I say, “Let me find something that belongs to you, and you can play with it.”  Sometimes he wants it, sometimes he just wants to look around.  We do this many times while shopping.  At one point another shopper asks, “How did you do that?”  “Do what?”, I ask.  “Get him to leave everything alone.”, she says.  “I told him that it doesn’t belong to him.”, I say.  Let me tell you, this chick was SO puzzled!  What a fucking concept!  Talking to kids like they’re people.  Being more specific than just yelling, “NO!”  Parents say “no” constantly.  It’s so annoying.  But I digress…we’re talking about sharing right now.

So I’ve raised aforementioned child to understand that if something belongs to someone else, he can’t use it unless he asks, and is given explicit permission.  He gets it.  I’ve done this with more than one child, by the way, with the same results.  So, I don’t want to hear any of that “it’s just one example crap.”

Here’s the thing: Now you have a child who understands that when something belongs to him, and someone else wants to use it, they have to ask.  And said child understands that he has the right to refuse.  Just as I refuse to share my stabbin’ knife, or staple gun.  Who the hell are we to force him to share?

We don’t have to share everything as adults, so why should children have to?  Mind you, I’m talking about a child’s own personal object.  Not YOUR iPad, or THE CLASSROOM’S toy trains.  The iPad belongs to you.  The trains belong to the class.  You get me?  You see where I’m going with this?

When it becomes developmentally appropriate, you can absolutely explain how sharing works:

  • Sharing is temporary
  • If you share with others, they will be more likely to share with you
  • There’s this thing called “taking turns”
  • You must respect other people’s property, as they should respect yours

People, you have got to start early.  Not that it’s ever too late, but the earlier, the better.  “That doesn’t belong to you.” And “That belongs to mommy/daddy/al Qaeda/ etc.”  And, “You need to ask for permission to play with it.” need to relpace, “NO!”  “STOP!”  “DON’T TOUCH THAT!”, etc. in your vocabulary.  Not only is it better to be more specific, but it’s gonna make a world of difference when it comes time for your child to understand that he can’t just grab whatever he wants, which will in-turn, help them understand the concept of sharing.

Don’t force your child to share his belongings.  I hate that shit.  Judas Priest, people!  Your child’s belongings are his (or hers), not everybody’s.  There is absolutely no good reason to torture a child by making them watch someone else use his/her toys.

 

Science Catches Up With Lisa Blye

I have been saying this for YEARS! Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics gets it right!
Check it out here!

 

What to Do With All of That Parenting Advice

I often say, “Parents should NOT give each other advice.”  But as much as I would love that to be so, parents are still going to talk to one another.  The problem is that most people are idiots.  You know what I’m talking about, because you think most people are idiots too.  Knowing that most people are idiots, why in the fuck would we take advice from them!?!  Because we get desperate, we don’t know what to do, nothing is working, we read ten billion books all with conflicting information, and lose our minds.  So, somebody tells us what they did with their kid, and we think, “Great!  I’ll do that!”

Here’s the problem: when someone doesn’t have a working knowledge of child development, and a whole lot of experience with a variety of children, in a variety of contexts, they’re just spouting off something they did, that appeared to work at the time, with their child.

Spanking falls into this category.  Anyone who argues that spanking works, doesn’t have much of an understanding of human development.  So, sorry about your luck if you’re one of the people who “believes in” spanking.  You need to do a little more research, and hone your skills.

So, how the hell do you sort through the hot mess of bullshit out there?  Like this:

1.  You need to think about what your goals are for your child.  Write that shit down.  What to you want them to value?  What kind of person do you want them to be?  Not what kind of job they’ll have, but what  characteristics will help define them when they are an adult, as adulthood will be the majority of the time they have on Earth.  Great news, if you want them to grow up to be a real asshole, your job is going to be super easy.  If you want them to be well-rounded, emotionally competent individuals who understand the importance of kindness, working hard, contributing to society, and delaying gratification; and who can function within healthy relationships…well…that’s gonna take a little bit of work.

Too bad you unknowingly signed up for this full-time, thankless job the minute you created the little bugger.

2.  Also write down your goals for yourself as a parent.  Again, if it’s to be an asshole, easy peasy.  If you want to excel at parenting, roll up your sleeves and get ready to work.  Get ready to be 100% engaged, 100% of the time.  You can boo and hoo about the lack of sleep when your kid is like 30.  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that your kids are going to bring you lots of sleepless nights well into their adulthood?  Yeah, that’s going to happen.

3.  Once you’ve established what it is you hope to achieve in this  new role of yours, and written them down so you can see them, you have a couple of options: You can either hire someone like me to talk through your goals and create a plan to get you there, OR you can go fishing on the internet, or at the library, and bombard yourself with information, which you will then need to sort through to decide what’s good and what’s not.

Believe it or not, there’s a whole new world out there of “parent development” books, classes, consultants, etc.  You see, we now know that parents grow and develop right along with their child, and are trying to give them the tools to help them along.

4.  Look at the relationships you have in your life.  Find a concrete example of the type of relationship you want to have with your child.  Find a concrete example of the kind of person you would like your child to become.  Understand that your relationship, and your child can possess many of the same qualities demonstrated in these examples, but still look completely different.  This is why professionals exist people, to help you understand this shit.  The average Joe Blow doesn’t get it at all, I promise.

5.  If a well-meaning friend offers you some “tips” based on how he/she parented their child, take a good hard look at the big picture of that child.  What is their level of fucked-up-ness?  Is that something you want for yourself, or for your child?  Yeah see, for most people, this thought has never even crossed their mind.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t hear what your friend has to say, but take it with a grain of salt, and always, always look at the big picture.  You don’t need a 30 year old living in your basement because they can’t hold down a job or maintain a relationship.

The thing is, it’s the little things we do in early childhood that form that 30 year old.  I assure you, all of the things you want for your adult child, can be taught to your toddler.

Most people muddle through parenthood doing what their parents did, who did what their parents did before them.  No good.  Stop that shit.  We know more now.  We understand human development in ways no one ever thought possible.  I’m not saying your parents were bad, though I’m sure some of them were, I’m saying that people should parent with the best information available to them.

I didn’t wear a seat-belt as a child and I turned out “just fine”, but I sure as fuck wear one now!  And so should everyone else!  Also, don’t text and drive.

The point here is that good parenting requires some thought, and some planning.  So get goin’!