Category Archives: lessons

The Juggernaut vs. Joy

So, I have some weird hang-ups about Disney, “princess culture,” the sexualization of girls and the general over-gendering that American childhood culture does to to kids, even really young kids. And for 3.5 years, that was a pretty easy path to walk — Daddy-o and I have tight control over the media Boopsie is exposed to, and we haven’t introduced Barbies or Disney Princesses or any TV with commercials.

However, since we decided to take Boopsie to her first movie, and it was Frozen, which has been crazily successful for picture of a package of Frozen undiesDisney, this has been challenged. Case in point: Yesterday I took Boopsie to our nearby Target. We needed a few first aid supplies and she wanted to pick out some Band-Aids, so she picked out the Disney Princess variety. This was a first and it was a little unsettling, but I just let it ride.

Later, we were hitting up the baby/toddler section and she spotted character undies featuring the characters from Frozen. And I let myself be talked into buying them despite serious misgivings. First of all, I dislike how aggressively every movie tie-in is marketed to kids. Secondly, she didn’t even really need undies. Finally, I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a damn slippery slope. Yes, Frozen has a lot of good messages about sisterhood and being brave and strong, but it’s still a Disney movie and there’s still some weird sexuality stuff happening with Elsa. But I folded, and quickly, and you know what? My kid is overjoyed about those undies. She told the cashier. She told friends we saw for dinner. She changed them this morning and came bursting out of her room to show Daddy-o and I the “Olaf” pair she had put on. She. Loves. Those. Undies.

The Disney juggernaut, and their product tie-ins, have brought her JOY. I’m still mixed about the whole Frozen craze, and Disney and I definitely am not a fan of the other “princesses.” But with this experience, I’m going to try and walk this line, and to help her enjoy some aspects of what this part of our culture has to offer.

Once again, it’s likely I’m putting way too much thought into this. But my goodness, she is adorable when she’s talking about those undies…

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Book Review/Discussion: Raising Your Spirited Child

First of all, let me just lay it out there and say I love this book. If I had the skills to write an ode to this book, I would. Cover or Raising your spirited childFor one thing, when things went a little nuts with Boopsie, this book was the first I read (out of several) that made me feel like what we were dealing with was manageable. Secondly, it provided an new lens for considering why the whole situation was getting my goat so much. When I look at my copy of the book now, I see at least 30 pages that I have dog eared for future reference. (Interesting aside: I’ve stopped buying parenting and most other nonfiction books on my Kindle because I want to be able to mark them up and clicking to highlight just isn’t the same as marking with a pen and folding over pages.)

Some of the details about Raising Your Spirited Child:

  • It was written by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
  • The subtitle is “A guide for parents whose child if more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic.”
  • The paperback edition I have (revised edition) is 468 pages long
  • The book is organized into five parts: Understanding Spirit, Working with Spirit, Living with Spirit, Socializing with Spirit and Enjoying Spirit

Kurcinka’s definition of a spirited child is, “The word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is more. They are normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and uncomfortable with change than other children.”

She explores temperament, facets of “spiritedness” and even includes a little quiz to help you gauge your child’s level of spirit on the different facets: Intensity, Persistence, Sensitivity, Perceptiveness, Adaptability, Regularity, Energy, First Reaction and Mood. Once you’ve done that, she also encourages the reader to look at his/her own spiritedness in terms of these traits. I found these exercises particularly helpful because they helped me put words to Boopsie’s personality (and positive words at that!) and showed me where my own “spunkiness” might be contributing to our challenges.

In subsequent parts of the book, Kurcinka walks through the various traits and how to deal with each of them. In addition, she spends chapters on tantrums, planning for success, bedtime, meal times, dressing and topics like socializing, vacation and school.

I’ve read this book through twice and I will probably continue to refer to it regularly. I recommend this to anyone struggling with a “spirited” kid!

Now that I’ve waxed poetic… have you read this book? Any thoughts? What parenting books have you found most helpful?

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Bedtime Redemption?

(Notice the question mark… after the past three months, I’m unlikely to be declarative about most things…)

As noted, the Pacifier Fairy (and some other things that are still being sorted out) had some unintended consequences in our house. Namely, Boopsie’s ability to fall and stay asleep disappeared. Gone.

At first, we tried to soldier on as we had… two books, potty and brush teeth, one book, go to sleep with some books in bed to look at. And it didn’t work. We tried putting her back in bed without talking to her (one night we did that 32 times). We tried doing bed checks (she would scream bloody murder and kick her closed door). In desperation, we began laying on her floor while she fell asleep, which could regularly take 75 minutes or more.

Reacting how I normally do when faced with a parenting dilemma, I reached for my old standby — books. I re-read pertinent sections in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Family, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. I also hired a parenting coach, who suggested that Boopsie may have some sensory integration dysfunction.

In the interim, Daddy-o and I were having to stay in Boopsie’s room until she fell asleep and then we were often  called back in there in the middle of the night to sleep on the floor (in the middle of the winter, in the northland, as an alternative to having her end up in our bed). It. Was. Hell. This was all additionally complicated by travel and tantrums and being generally shell-shocked by the changes in our kid.

So we tried the “sleep shuffle” from The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. And it took about three weeks. And it worked. Sort of.  But our kid still wouldn’t really nap and was waking still in the night. Oh, and she wasn’t actually falling asleep (usually) until close to 10 p.m. (Side note: Sleep deprived preschoolers and having one parent “booked up” with a kid until 10 p.m. every night are not great marital aids.)

Man and child outside Build A Bear Workshop

Daddy-o and Boopsie with the bunny.

We got a new night light. We got a new clock for her room. We tried letting her color in bed. We started playing music in her bedroom.We tried a reward chart. It took her 42 days to earn 15 stars. She earned a trip to Build A Bear workshop and was so overwhelmed by the crowds that she didn’t want to build a bear. So she picked a bunny she was thrilled about.

Then she got sick (and then we got sick).  And she needed more help falling asleep and we were back to sitting in the rocker in her room, trying to get her to stay quietly in bed, often threatening to leave and do checks (and sometimes leaving and doing checks). I felt like a hostage.

Finally, last week, with help from the parenting coach, I re-made bedtime again. The first two nights were tough, with tears and me having to prove to Boopsie that I would not come back to her until 9 minutes was up (she was gated in her room), no matter what she said. But then I made a little tweak and bedtime has gotten much better. In fact, one night my kid fell asleep on her own before 9 p.m. And she’s consistently falling asleep on her own (okay, is six days enough to say “consistently”?). Without tears. I won’t bore you with the details of her new bedtime routine because what works for one kid has no guarantee of working for another kid. I will say this: I cherish the time and mental energy I’ve gotten back. Getting 1-2 hours back into our evening has made Daddy-o and I much happier people. We can do little things around the house. We can have uninterrupted conversations. We can watch a TV show. We can work if we need to. We can just freaking be.

You may be wondering why we didn’t have her “cry it out.” I was actually very close to doing this in December. I queried other parents via Facebook and got a lot of support and tips. Here’s the thing: One thing that has been reinforced for us over the past three months is that Boopsie is an incredibly intense kid. And with the question of sensory issues still on the table, along with her the length and strength of her tantrums, we truly did not have any confidence that it would work. If anything, we figured she’d cry for hours until she passed out. And that wasn’t going to help her re-learn to relax and fall asleep. I don’t begrudge anyone who tries the “CIO” approach, but for our kid, it was a no-go.

So here I am… enjoying a whole hour of time I didn’t have this night a week ago, feeling like maybe, just maybe, we have found the bedtime promised land again. (As a superstitious person of Irish descent, I’m almost certain that by talking about this it’s all going to hell in a handbasket. Let’s hope not.)

Sweet dreams to you and yours…

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Power of the Pen

This weekend Daddy-o had to work all weekend. And I mean all weekend. And there was a nasty snowstorm and the roads were in bad shape. (All contributing to the long winter of my discontent.) As a result, Boopsie and I had three days of intense, home-bound togetherness. Yesterday, I seized on a moment when she was reading aloud to her stuffed animals in her room to write for a few minutes.

After seven minutes (yes, I counted) she found me on the living room couch. She quickly joined me, in a purple hooded fleece jacket, pink ladybug-print pants and pink and white striped socks, setting up across from me to do her own “work.” I was taken aback by her working by me and loved watching her “write.”

For the first time in a long time, in those moments across from her on the couch, I felt like a successful mom. Like I was showing her a path worth taking. For the first time in weeks, weeks that have been filled with battles and tears and struggle, I was totally at peace with my parenting.

I took a moment to breathe it in… and then I snapped a few good photos:

Preschool girl with crayons and paper

“Working” on the couch

Scribbles on paper

Boopsie’s “writing”

Here’s to the power of the pen. (And the crayons.)

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Pacifier Fairy, Part 2

Wow. I was supposed to write this post more than two months ago. In fact, I even drafted it. It was going to be about how we sent a couple of “prep notes” from the paci fairy, and how Boopsie helped pack up all the pacifiers into a plastic bag, and how she helped me set them in the yard. And how she cried some at that bedtime, but slept all night and went on to get over it really quickly.

But then something happened. On the day after I posted Pacifier Fairy Part One, all hell broke loose with our kid. What do I mean by all hell breaking loose? Well, let’s see:

  • She went on a sleep strike… bedtime became a multi-hour battle, naps were treacherous
  • She started having epic, violent tantrums including throwing things, hitting and kicking
  • Her personality changed into one I didn’t really recognize. Boopsie became much more anxious, whiny and angry.

I’m not sure how to convey the impact this had on our family, in part because we are still trying to find our way out. Our attempts to find our way out have included:

  • Scouring the interwebs
  • Hiring a parent coach
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Putting a lock on the outside of her door
  • Multiple trips to the pediatrician
  • Reading books… lots of books (more on those to come)

We’re still trying to figure out if we’re somewhere on the continuum of “normal” or if there’s something else going on with Boopsie that we need to address. But that’s what’s been happening in the silence — stress, fear, anger, exhaustion and worry. So much worry. Thankfully, there’s been joy, too, and fun. And I think (and hope and pray) that we’re getting back somewhere more familiar.

All that to say… hello, strangers. More soon.

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The Pacifier Fairy… Part I

Pacifiers

Our little junkie’s brand of choice. Oh, and despite what the label says, they can move kids’ teeth out of whack.Way back in July, we mentioned to our little paci-addict that the “Pacifier Fairy” would be coming to take her pacifiers and give them to little babies who needed them. In exchange, we explained, Boopsie would receive some fun surprises. This did not go over well.

Way back in July, after Boopsie’s first (disastrous) trip to the dentist, we started discussing a visit from the Pacifier Fairy. The Pacifier Fairy, I explained to Boo, would come and take all her pacifiers away and give them to little babies who need pacifiers. In exchange, the “Paci Fairy” would leave fun surprises behind.

My sister was visiting the first time this conversation came up. She put Boopsie to bed one night and they had a long conversation about the Paci Fairy. Boopsie was concerned about the PF coming in her room, and about having to give up her pacifiers… you name it. So we let it ride for a while.

We were prompted into all of this by Boopsie’s dentist, who noticed her teeth going out of alignment and recommended we ix-nay the pacifiers ASAP. We thought about it, but after her negative reaction in July, we basically wussed out and decided to let it ride for a while. I mean, the pacifiers were her COMFORT OBJECT(S). Boopsie liked to go to bed with one in her mouth and one in her hand. And when she was especially tired, she would rub the one in her hand along her cheek. She did not, however, use a pacifier at day care, so we knew we had this going for us. Unfortunately, her regular routine was that when we would pick her up at day care, Boopsie would dig through her bag until she found a pacifier and stuff it in her mouth. And when she’d do that, you could see the relief wash over her, like a smoker taking a long-overdue drag from a cigarette. Yes, we were in deep.

The months dragged on, and Boopsie transitioned to a big girl bed (well!) and started preschool (well!) and in October we realized we could literally see her front teeth starting to “buck” out a little. Ruh-roh. It was time to get serious. I over-thought the whole thing (as usual), plotting what “gifts” the Pacifier Fairy could bring and the deciding which weekends were possible targets for a visit. Finally, on the way back from a family trip to visit family and friends in Chicago, we asked Boopsie if she wanted the Pacifier Fairy to come and she said, “Yes.”

Yes? Really? Yes.

Gulp. We picked Friday, just a few days away and I upped my activity around frantic research on the interwebs. I looked up tips and tricks and things to say and e-mailed them to Daddy-o. We both committed to stay the course. I cleared our weekend schedule, shopped, and “discovered” a note from the Pacifier Fairy in the mail box Thursday morning that let Boopsie know she’d be coming the next night…cue the dread.

The dread was not Boopsie’s. It was mine. I couldn’t stop worrying. What if she wailed for hours straight? What if she started waking up at 5:30 a.m. again (that was a brief and crappy period this autumn)? What if she stopped sleeping through the night? Or napping? What if this was a huge mistake? My stress mounted.

To be continued…

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Springing Forward

So tonight I was folding Boopsie’s underwear and suddenly I thought, “Holy CRAP… I’m Folding. Boopsie’s. Underwear.” You read that right. And it’s true. Last weekend a small miracle happened: Boopsie decided she wanted to wear underwear. Then we put her in undies. And she peed on the floor. And we put her back in a new pair of undies… and we went for it.

Dora the Explorer undies

“D-D-Dora! D-D-Dora!”

After a panicked call to a friend whose potty-trained three kids and some good advice from her, we decided to go for it. I’m not going to lie. It was a really stressful, cooped-up weekend. But Boo did great. There was a lot of pee on the floor, but also a lot of pee in the potty. And no pee in the bed. (Amaze-balls, people.)

Potty training threw me for a huge loop. I sent frantic e-mails to my friends, who told me to hang in there. I blathered on about it at work. I laid awake worrying she’d wet the bed. And I was in the hot seat most of the time. Boopsie decided that she didn’t want Daddy-o in the bathroom and she wanted my attention every single minute. In short, I went bonkers for a few days. Okay, like six days. We crossed the final frontier when I took her to the Minnesota Children’s Museum Friday night… and she used the potty in a public restroom. BOO-YAH!

Here are some things that helped:

  • Character undies. Boopsie was sort of invested in keeping “Dora” dry. Even so, get like 14 pairs or you’ll be doing laundry every six hours.
  • Random rewards. What worked for us at different times, to incent her to sit on the potty: plastic animals, stickers, Dora the Explorer Band-aids and ice cream.
  • MAKING her sit on the potty. This was harder than it sounds. She was resistant and I was terrified I would give her some intense complex about going potty, thus ruining her life forever. (Yes, I’m serious about this. I really worried that by MAKING her sit on the potty when she didn’t want to she’d end up in diapers and a therapists office for the rest of her life.)

When I reached out to my friends to thank them for the help and advice, I admitted to them that potty training threw my for a loop. One of them pointed out that as a parent, it’s one of the things you have the least  control over. So true. And we all know how well I do (or not) with a lack of control… (Ehrm…yeah.)

We have two more big adventures to contend with some time in the coming months — moving into a big girl bed and getting rid of the pacifier. For now, I’m going to enjoy a glass of wine and then fold some more undies.

 

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