Book Groups Rock!

As I sat with a group of moms who I think are pretty fantastic, we spoke of the struggles of parenting. No matter how prepared you think you are there are major difficulties. And they pop up every day! It’s sort of a grind. Don’t get me wrong the sweet, tender moments and small victories are sprinkled in too. But sometimes it is hard.
This is why book groups rock! If you are not part of a book group let me explain. The concept is you have a group of people who read the same book and get together to discuss it. They evolve into meetings that include adult beverages, snacks, and good conversations. Sometimes you really talk about a book-but not always.
Book groups provide a shared time and space to connect with people. Talking about why children fail to flush, don’t eat their lunch, and trying to get to work on time is therapeutic. Sharing resources-the best new restaurants and exercise classes in town- has a lot of value. There is venting while laughing about how your issues don’t seem as bad when you hear about someone else’s. It has a magical quality to it really.
If you are lucky (I put myself in this category) you will meet a group of people who don’t judge. They are able to use their own personal lenses to help you weather storms from job changes to moving to eating that giant cookie with ice cream on top. And you learn about people who come from different circles which helps expand your own understanding of how to parent in the best way possible.
The second benefit of a book group is modeling reading for your children. When sons and daughters hear about how their parents make time to read and talk about a book it validates some of their school experiences. It makes them want to read. They may ask questions about the types of books you read as a grown up. Children see the importance of connecting with others (isn’t this becoming a lost art as kids get locked into screens.)
My life is rich as I am part of two book groups. Both have wonderful women as members who I consider an important part of my parenting network. So my advice to any new Mama is to find your village, start a book group (even if you are really tired), and see how many ways it can enrich your life!

Ahhhhh-the picky eater syndrome

As Sally Sampson from ChopChop magazine says: “The way not to have a picky eater is to expose them to everything, not make a big deal when they don’t want it, but offer it again. Don’t stop serving it. What we see over and over is that you get the crap out of the house, you involve them in mealtimes, you’re consistent but you don’t force, and it works. You may go through a period of time when they’re whiny, but, generally speaking, people get through it.”    

If you don’t buy it, they cannot have it! 

 Each week we go to the grocery store. Some of us have a list in hand with a plan of what’s for dinner. The list has snacks, breakfast, and lunch items on there too. But the reality is that we are all creatures of habit and we normally buy the same things each week. It is a rote activity that no one really likes so it is easy to succumb to buying things that are familiar. Then you add picky eaters at home to the mix and it really gets tough.

 There are some days that I love to cook. It lets me be creative. It feeds my senses-the look, the smell, the taste, and the feeling of completion when it is ready. But then add the other members of my household to this equation and things can get ugly. I hate listening to the complaints from my family about what they have to eat. I wait with baited breath at dinner time to see how things are going to go. Will they be excited about my food choices? Will they give me a bad score (yes, they rate the food sometimes to make things interesting like the cooking shows on t.v.)? Will they tell me “NEVER make that again”? It like trying to win the lottery. And it is truly exhausting!

But I do believe that parents need to assume some of the responsibility for picky eaters.  In many cases, moms and dads cave into a child’s craving.  Instead of offering a food the child may not like we decide to avoid conflict and give them a favorite instead.  I’ve done it.  Because of the insane pressure we feel about feeding our families healthy foods, avoiding junk food, etc. we have to make choices.  The saying “pick your battles” definitely applies to meal times.

So start small-eliminate a few of the junky snacks, juice, or other processed foods n your shopping cart this week.  Because if it does not exist in your home, they won’t eat it.  Introduce one new healthier food each week.  Tell your family it’s an experiment and make a chart to document your good adventure.  Blame your pediatrician- tell the kids Dr. Soandso said I can’t buy that any more (the doc won’t mind).  Create a food challenge that might get the kids excited about eating or cooking.

But do something!  Do not accept your fate as “Parent of a picky eater.”  Trust me, it’s worth the effort.

This piece was inspired by this article in the Boston Globe:

Calling Breastfeeding Natural Can’t Possibly Decrease Vaccination Rates

Recently there are claims in the medical world that calling breastfeeding “natural” may deter parents from getting their children vaccinated.  This really irritated me. If you read my posts you know that I am pro-breastfeeding and pro-vaccines. But do we really need to blame the language of the breastfeeding movement for anti-vaxxers? Don’t they get slammed enough?
I think breastfeeding is hard. Getting in sync with your baby, figuring all the nuisances, and living through the sleep deprivation is challenging. It can be painful. It is natural for some, but not for others.

Vaccines are simply a man-made way to help humans survive deadly illnesses and diseases. The formulation is studied over and over again to make sure they help protect. The truth of it is that they may or may not be natural.
Vaccinating our children is a choice. Most of us are lucky enough to live in a place that we have excellent medical care. We are given vaccines to keep us healthy. The herd helps those who cannot receive them for medical reasons.
Choosing NOT to vaccinate (for most people) is a choice. In my opinion, an uninformed, selfish choice. Do I risk upsetting others with my statement-absolutely. But sometimes difficult statements need to be made.
My take home message-be informed. Trust medical professionals who undergo years of training and continued re-certification to help care for us all. They give vaccines to their loved ones. They know more than random articles you might find while surfing the net. Have respect for those in your community who cannot be vaccinated.
More importantly-can we please stop blaming the breastfeeding community?!?  Why on earth would using the word “natural” as part of promoting breastfeeding cause others to choose not to vaccinate.  Is there really a connection?
Read the article “Does it hurt to call breastfeeding “natural”?” On to see what got me all riled up:

Being Mindful of Other’s Parenting Styles

I recently had the experience of responding to a thread on a local parenting site. A mom posted a question and asked others for their opinion and experiences to help her solve her parenting dilemma. I responded to the question with my own thoughts and offered suggestions. A few other parents responded to me and questioned my opinion/theory, calling it “nonsense.”

I am a professional in the field of child development AND a parent. While this is not new, I am still struck by how differing parenting styles collide. In an age of social media, where you can state your opinion on most any topic, people sometimes clash. And it stings when you are involved (at least in my world.)

I was really bothered by this exchange and I could not figure out why. I mean, it is not like these mothers are in my immediate social circles. They are certainly not my friends. And I am fully aware that no one needs to share my opinions, let alone agree with them. Then the light bulb came on-public shaming on Facebook is just like bullying on the playground-it’s not right.  
Parents come in many shapes and sizes. There are the free-range parents, the bed-sharers, the type A/strict rule folks, the tiger Moms, and the list goes on. But can’t we all just get along? Do we have to attack another’s point of view just because we don’t agree? I think we should all try a little harder to be mindful of others, don’t you agree? Especially because we are modeling for our children.
Biting your tongue and agreeing to disagree quietly are an art form that is getting a little lost. Just because you have strong feeling about sleep training doesn’t mean you have to “lecture” someone who chose to do it. Or feel the need to defend your own choices in the process. When social media is involved, the social nuances get lost. You don’t get the tone of voice or facial expression as part of the conversation. Reactions can be harsh.

Parenting is just like starting a new job. You go in with so much energy and enthusiasm. You enter the profession with certain beliefs based on current reading, life experience, or advice from friends or family. You learn things immediately. The process of gaining new knowledge, makes you more confident and less defensive. And with even more time, you realize that there many ways to do things, not just your own. Your community provides a framework for learning and expanding your viewpoint. You gain wisdom.
I try to be mindful of others in all aspects of my life. I want to be respectful of someone else’s culture and beliefs. I bite my tongue a lot for the greater good. So instead of attacking a conflicting viewpoint, think first. Walking in someone else’s shoes is hard. Everyone has a story. And we all need to co-exist in this world regardless of our beliefs. This creates a more positive learning environment for all, especially our children.
So even if you think my parenting theories stink-THINK!

What Is Your Parenting Theme Song?

As I sat in the car listening to one of the many pre-set music stations, singing along I might add, I thought about the soundtrack of my life.  What songs best represent me?  How do the songs I enjoy define me?  Or do they?
Immediately, I started making a list of my favorites. You know, the songs that are guaranteed to make you dance a little no matter where you are.  The song that can take a grumpy moment in time and make it go away.  The songs that make you sing even if it’s off key.
Here are some of the songs on my sound track:
Dancing Queen by Abba.  A classic by my standards and perhaps a way to determine my age.  (But we don’t really need to think about my age.)  🙂
Let It Go by Idina Menzel.  Despite the fact that the song was overplayed by radio stations EVERY WHERE in order to make young girls take notice, I like the song.  It causes me to belt out the words most every time.  It makes me remember that sometimes you just have to get over it.
Staying Alive by the Bee Gees.  After all, don’t you just feel like some days as a parent you are just trying to stay alive…  And you should see my moves when this song is on!
Shout by Tears For Fears.  Some days you need to shout, shout, and let it all out.  Enough said.
You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party by the Beastie Boys.  Remember the days when you could go out whenever you want?  You had multiple options for going out?  And now you have to rearrange the moon and the stars to be able get child care at night…  But it is important to get time away-so make it a priority!
All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow.  Not only do I love the lyrics of this song, but it makes me remember a time when there were fewer responsibilities.  I did not have to do laundry for 4 people.  I did not have to think about meal planning.  I did not have to rush home from work to relieve the babysitter and make sure homework was completed.  My life was simpler and I could think about having fun most of the time.
And yet, the ultimate song that represents my life is You Are My Sunshine.  This song has been sung by many recording artists including Jimmie Davis, Charles Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Willy Nelson, and Johnny Cash.  It has been sung by mothers and fathers everywhere while holding sleepy children.  It is a classic children’s song often sung at bedtime.  It is THE SONG that I sing to my children every night before they go to sleep.  And it does make me happy!
Do you have a Parenting Theme song?

Kids Need Nature Play

My friend and colleague, Stef, sent this article to me.  It hit home in so many ways.  As a child, I remember going outside for most of the day to play, unsupervised, with the neighbors.  The freedom was amazing.  The sunshine, building forts in the woods, learning about nature, and playing with peers for hours taught me so much.

As my children get older and learn to be more independent, I enjoy watching them play.  They wander through the garden picking berries and taking note of the different herbs growing.  They look for butterflies and teach other children about what they have discovered.  My kids ask questions to expand their knowledge base.  They ride their bikes in puddles, get stuck in the mud, and figure out how to solve problems.

Summer really is a glorious time.  It offers more time in the day to be outdoors.  It brings fireworks, fruit to harvest, baby animals to seek out, and of course, s’mores!  As I work through the daily grind that is my adult life, I love to watch children play.  It is magical.  It is crucial.  It is a child’s work.

Go out and play in nature with your family!

Here is the article of which I speak!

Resiliency and Parenting

Resilient-according to the Webster’s dictionary, means “able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.”  Isn’t this one of the most crucial life skill you can teach your children?

If you ask me, children are born resilient.  In some regards, as young children, they have shorter attention spans which means they don’t dwell on difficulties as long as adults do.  But they learn from others how to develop this skill to a higher level.

Finding humor is so important.  Learn to laugh at yourself.  Smile at the broken eggs on the floor.  You release endorphins with each chuckle.  And it really does make life a lot more fun.

I challenge you to be more resilient, to look beyond the bad moments, and try to bounce back a little more quickly.  Consider this quote by Goethe- “Everything is hard before it is easy.”

Then read this article for more insights!