Thursday, April 21, 2011

When would you let your child go to the park alone? - Venting a Parenting Frustration!

I confronted another parent at the playground today. If you know me at all, you know that I hate conflict. It makes me uncomfortable. I worry about offending people and hurting their feelings. But this was something I just couldn't hold in and had been stewing on for the past few weeks. I just hadn't done anything about it yet. Let me rewind to the last weekend of March. My oldest son (age 6) was invited to a school friend's birthday party. I was happy to send him for the afternoon. I do know the family slightly and have chatted with the mom off an on for the past year or so.
When I picked my son up later that afternoon I was surprised to hear that the kids had spent part of the afternoon at the park, alone. These are 5 and 6 year old kids. I was pretty shocked. And angry. My kids don't go to the park alone. We live in a pretty big city. Their place is less than a block away from a major busy road. I couldn't imagine what she was thinking that this would be okay. Maybe it is okay for her to let her kids go off alone, but that's a pretty big leap to send off kids who aren't hers off alone. Thank God nothing bad happened to the kids, but I can only imagine the fall out if something did.
There's a level of trust in sending your child to visit at a friend's place. You trust that the people will watch out for your child. I didn't think to ask, "Will my son be supervised while he's at this party?" I just couldn't imagine that he wouldn't be.
Today was the first opportunity I had to speak with the mother. I started off by telling her how pleased my son had been to attend her son's birthday party, and then I shared how I felt about the kids being unsupervised. I don't know if she really 'got it', and she didn't offer an apology. I can only hope that the next time she has children in her care that aren't hers, she takes more responsibility with it. I know I won't be allowing my son over there again any time soon.
This begs the question then, when is it okay for kids to be sent off on their own? When are you comfortable with it? In Canada there are no legal guidelines in place (as far as I can find out) but it is suggested that a child of 10 can be left for short periods of time, trusting that they are mature enough and responsible enough to deal with it. In the US, State laws vary, some states offering a suggested age (ranging from 8 to 12) with other having a firm age (in Oregon, it's 10). To see a list click here). The American National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left home alone. So where are you at with all of this? What age do you (or will you) allow your child to be alone in certain situations?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When to potty train?

I had a really interesting conversation with another mother last week. As I've mentioned I am currently running a home daycare. Two of the children I care for have parents who are from Eastern Europe. One of the children is a boy who turned two at the end of January. He came to me completely potty trained. I have to admit that I was both skeptical and impressed when his mother originally told me that. But it was true. He knew when he needed to go, had no accidents and only wore a diaper for nap time and for outings.
The little girl I care for won't be two until July. One of the things her mother was upset about at her last daycare was that she had sent her daughter to that daycare potty trained and that daycare worker decided it was too much work to keep her on the potty so kept her in diapers, never taking her to the potty. Again, I was a bit skeptical, but I figured if her mom is training her at home, I will continue on in the daycare and take her to the potty here. Again, I've been impressed. She will pee on the potty (not all the time, but at least once every day).
Back to last week's conversation. The 2 year old boy's mom asked me if any of my boys had potty regression. Mine didn't but they were much later to train. My oldest was 3 1/2 before he was completely trained and my younger son had just turned 3. This little guy was starting to regress at home. I hadn't yet seen it at the daycare, but sure enough a few days later he stopped letting me know when he had to go potty and started having accidents. This mom said that she thought regression was a common thing, that other mothers she knew experienced it.
I asked her about the early to train idea and what I discovered was really interesting. She told me that back home (Romania), children start training as soon as they can sit (6-7 months old). Most children wear cloth diapers and their parents just keep them close and keep sitting them on the potty to learn association. She said that she found it frustrating talking with her mother back home and having her mom get on her case for not starting this little guy on the potty when he started sitting. She said that she couldn't find a small potty here, as most potties are designed for 18 months plus. It was only when her mother came to stay with them for 6 months that he started to train. (at about 18 months old).
This is what is referred to as Natural Elimination (NE). NE is common practice throughout the world. Keeping your children close to you. Learning their rhythms and associating the potty at a very early age. Actress Miyam Bialik is a North American example of a mother who used this technique. Both her boys potty trained early on and were in underpants at about 15/16 months.
I can see where the idea has merit and I think it takes a lot of dedication to follow through with it. You have to be able to devise a way to communicate the need to use a potty very early on. Some parents are quite successful at introducing a sign for this.
The North American mindset for potty training is quite different than this. For me, the idea of training a child to go to the potty means a number of different factors, it isn't just the ability to pee on the potty. (As one mom who is training her daughter early shared, "sometimes you catch it, sometimes you don't"). It's more of a complete ability. Does the child have the ability to independently use the potty? Can they communicate their need? Can they undress/dress themselves? Can they wipe? Can they 'hold it'? When all of those things are happening at once, I consider them to be fully trained.
I don't know that their is a perfect age or perfect way for this to happen. If you are someone who believes in the holistic NE method and you have the time to do it, then good on you. I'm not.
The little girl I care for is a 'hit and miss' kind of potty-ing. She doesn't communicate to me any need to go. Sure she'll sit on the potty and sometimes something happens. But sometimes it is a trickle, which makes me wonder if we just got lucky. She doesn't appear to be bothered in a wet diaper. She doesn't seem to have the ability to 'hold it'. It seems like sitting her on the potty is more of an extra step in changing her diaper. I take her at regular intervals and I will continue to do so as that's what her mother wants.
I think the little guy I care for really and truly was trained by age 2, but is experiencing a regression, for whatever reason. But again, he had a very dedicated care giver to work with him young (his grandmother in this case).
For my daughter (15 months), I think I'll wait a little longer. When she shows me interest and capability, then we'll start. It's not a priority for me to train my kids young. It's more a priority for me to know that when they are trained, they are trained completely to be independent at it. In any case, I'm the one who has to deal with the diapers.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter Traditions

 Before children, my husband and I had very few holiday traditions that we kept as a couple; we have been pretty happy to celebrate holidays with the sale candy the day after. We don’t do too badly at Christmas, but for things such as Valentines Day, Easter and even birthdays, we have not had a lot of consistency in celebrating them with routine traditions.

I am thinking of this because my husband and I were debating the Easter basket with our son this year, who is not quite 2 years old, and will probably never know he is missing it, but we do want to start having traditions for our kids to look forward to.

This was something my mother did really well, with every holiday there were decorations, food and things to make it special. My parents were not really into commercially celebrating holidays- we did Christmas stockings and Easter baskets, but with the full knowledge that it was credit to my parents, not fictitious characters; it was still fun but we knew it was a game (and to respect our friends who did not know it was a game). I believe this is the same approach we will take with our son; as we teach him about the bible and our faith, we want him to be clear on what truth is and what stories are.

That got a little heavier than I intended especially for my first post.

Back to my main point, which was finding traditions that work for our family.

At Easter my mother would make Ukrainian Easter bread (we are not Ukrainian-but we lived where there are a lot of Mennonites), we would put up and Easter tree with ornaments from Holland (we are not Dutch- I think the ornaments came from friends of my parents). Of course we decorated eggs and went on hunts as most children do.

On a spiritual note our family would usually participate in Lent, go on a Stages of the Cross walk with our church for Good Friday and then to church on Easter Sunday.

As we are at point of making traditions for our family I am curious to know what other people do to celebrate the Easter season.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Our New Look!

There have been a few changes around here! Our second blogaversary happens this month. We are celebrating by shaking things up a little around here. Yesterday we introduced Anna to the team. Today we got a makeover. Thanks to Lena at Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates and Mommy Moment for her template and tutorials! You made it so easy for us! We are now on Twitter and Facebook! Keep up with us by 'following' and 'liking' us there. Our links are on our sidebar. We're thinking we need to cap it off with a giveaway. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Welcome Anna!

We are pleased to announce a new Clever Mama to our team! Anna is mama to one sweet little boy and is expecting her 2nd child this fall. Anna has guest posted for us before authoring "Signing With Your Baby" one of our most popular posts to date. Anna keeps her own recipe blog, Anna's Place where she has some fantastic meal ideas (and other creative thoughts too). We are happy to have her on board and look forward to her thoughts on parenting. Welcome Anna!

Busy, Busy Toddler

My almost 15 month old daughter is into that very, very busy stage. If you've been there with your own children you know what I mean. If you aren't there yet consider yourself officially warned. This is the stage of no roll of toilet paper being safe, it will be unrolled completely, several times. Any cupboard and drawer is fair game. The string of mess tells the tale of where she's been. She's smart enough to have figured out every cupboard and drawer lock (I honestly don't know why we bother to still fasten them). Our Wii remotes and games now sit on top of the Entertainment stand instead of in the drawer hidden neatly away. All of my older sons' belongings are hidden up in their room for fear of their sister's attack. Our home is gated with as much security as the CIA headquarters and she still gets into things that she shouldn't. Full boxes of corn starch and pancake mix have been dumped. Pages of library books have been ripped. She's just so interested in everything and patience is a foreign concept. It has to be now! It keeps you on your toes and longing for nap time, just to have space to breathe.
It's also a very lovely stage watching her little mind take in everything. She is exploring so much because the world is opening up to her. When she's outside she notices everything from the wind to a bird flying by to an ant crawling on the ground. It's a gift to be able to take in the world through her eyes. It's all brand new and fascinating.
David Shannon captured this stage beautifully (and humourously) in his Diaper David books - well worth checking out and sharing with your little ones.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The other side of daycare

I opened my own home daycare this year. It has been quite an interesting journey so far. I haven't been on this side of daycare before. I've had my own kids in various daycare situations so I knew what I did and didn't want to do generally when running my own. Here's where I'm at with it at this moment in time.
First, I have a new appreciation for parents of multiples. It is so busy to have 5 kids under the age of 5 in the house. Routine is so important. I feel like I've got it now. There's the one on the potty, another on the potty, diaper change the third, then diaper change the fourth routine. There's also the surround yourself with high chairs at lunch time and spoon feed toddler one, toddler two, toddler three and repeat trick. Alternately, I've got the first toddler in the high chair, feed yogurt, second toddler in, third toddler in, fourth toddler in trick. Fortunately for the most part the majority of the kids are self-feeding (or at least I'm making them finger food so that they can be) so it's more a trick of getting all the food ready, getting the kids in their high chairs/booster seats and fed all at once. I'm also pretty proud of the getting 4 kids to nap at the same time trick. My own son who is 4, just has a quiet time, no nap.
I think the key to having a good daycare going is having a plan, a good schedule and keeping them busy, very busy. You can see when they start to get bored with one thing, then it's time to clean up and move onto the next. So we go outside and play with balls, trucks and dirt. We come back inside to dance, sing and read books. We have basic crafts to talk about shapes and color with crayons. (they love having the big roll of paper out to use markers - I just have to watch my own daughter who likes to put them in her mouth). We have times with Play-do and times with blocks. A lot of the time, they are playing. They play with tupperware and pots and pans when I'm getting lunch ready in the kitchen and they play with toys just to be kids.
Everything takes a long time. To go anywhere outside means potty and diapers first, then shoes, outside pants, jackets and hats for everyone.
The parents wonder how I get all the kids to sleep at the same time. My answer is routine. I have to get them all down, so I do. They know it's lunch, clean up the morning mess, story, nap. I draw the curtains closed, lay out their mats and blankets and they sleep.
Not everything happens according to schedule every day. This week one my kids was really sleepy at snack time (2 hours before our regular nap) so she had her nap early. Of course at nap time she wasn't at all sleepy so I had to find a way to keep her quiet while the others slept.
It's also a very long day. My earliest kid comes at 7:30am and my latest one home is just before 6 in the evening. There's not a lot I can get done for my home during the day. I had mistakenly thought originally that I could use their nap time to do some work around the house. I didn't count on 2 light sleepers in the bunch. So really, I can't do much of anything, except stay quiet on the couch myself while they sleep (I'm getting some good reading in).
It's been an eye opening experience doing this and I'm enjoying it. Every day is busy and not quite the same, but it never is with kids is it?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ultimate Blog Party 2011!

Welcome to Clever Mamas! We are so happy to be part of this year's Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes For Mom! For those of you visiting for the first time, let me tell you a little bit about who we are, what the Ultimate Blog Party is and why we take part in it every year.
First - Clever Mamas is the brainchild of myself (Kris) and my good friend Jill. We are both mom to 3 children. Each of us has 2 boys (age 6 and 4) and one girl(both aged 1). We first started blogging together 2 years ago (we celebrate our 2nd blogaversary this week). At the time Jill was a SAHM in Northern Saskatchewan and I was a work outside the home mom in New Brunswick. Our lives have changed a lot since then. Jill has recently moved to Montreal and started working outside the home. I've also relocated, but to Toronto and am on an extended maternity leave. When we first started blogging together we hadn't seen each other for a couple of years, keeping in touch over email and phone calls. We've just recently remedied that (taking advantage of Montreal's close proximity to Toronto) having gotten together last Thanksgiving and New Years. We still maintain our friendship mostly through email and phone calls. We both believe in doing the best we can with and for our kids. We both admit that we make mistakes but part of being a clever mama is recognizing our mistakes and changing things to make better choices in parenting. We believe that some of the strongest parenting resources out there are other mamas doing the same job we are. That is one of the reasons we love the mom blogging community. We generally blog on parenting related topics, but run the occasional giveaway as well.
5 minutes for mom is one of those miss-mashed sites that takes a little bit of everything about mom blogging and brings it altogether. Each year for the past 5 years they have hosted the Ultimate Blog Party. It is a super-big blog link up, encouraging each other to visit new to them blogs. This event has grown exponentially over the years. There are now tweet ups and of course prizes galore. So go on over and check it out for yourself here.
Don't forget to say hi to us in the comments section, let us know you stopped in!
Jill's the redhead, I'm the brunette.



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