Tag Archives: preschoolers

A story from yesterday

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My 3 year-old and I were home together yesterday making strawberry rhubarb crisp.

3YO: *Steals a strawberry from the bowl.* “Yum!”
Me: “Okay, last strawberry, please don’t take those!”
3YO: *Steals a piece of raw rhubarb from the bowl.* “Yum!”
Me: “Wow, really? Raw rhubarb’s kind of tart. But, okay, I’m glad you liked that! Please don’t take anything else out of the bowl.”
3YO *Bites into the rind of a lemon I previously juiced sitting on the counter* “Yum!”
Me: “I’m seriously questioning whether you even have a sense of taste right now, but good job not taking anything out of the bowl!”

Later that day, we went out for lunch with my partner, where my child spent much of his time picking strings of melted cheese out of his pasta, because his macaroni and cheese was too cheesy.

On nursing an older child

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I am lucky to live in a place where many families choose to breastfeed for an extended period of time. It is very common to see moms nursing their toddlers and preschoolers in public, and so I can feel comfortable nursing my babies in public too. My oldest son is going to be 3 in April, and he still nurses three times a day when he’s home with me. He always nurses in the morning at wake up, at night before bedtime, and he also nurses after nap times if he’s home (but obviously not if he’s at school). Nursing my toddler has been occasionally frustrating, but I also think it’s gotten us through a lot of the tougher periods of his development.

Because my son and I have been sitting down together for at least 20 minutes, at least three times a day over the past 3 years, we have a close relationship, and we read each other very well. Even on days when he’s tantruming every 5 minutes, and I feel like I’m going to lose it, that time to deliberately reconnect is what makes it possible for me to keep going. And, I do actually think we have seen fewer tantrums overall because my son and I have that time of connection.

Of course families who are not nursing can still have deep relationships with their babies, but I think it can be hard to make myself deliberately find the energy to cuddle when my baby is yelling at me all the time. At least for me, it’s hard to bridge that gap when I’m feeling angry and worn down after the eighth tantrum of the morning. But, nursing happens in our family whether I am particularly feeling it or not, which means my son knows that it’s a part of his routine that will always happen, and that his mom will always be there for him, even on a rough day. My son and I have very different personalities, so it’s helpful for both of us to have the encouragement that comes with a built-in nursing routine.

I should also mention that I do think that breastfeeding my son when my daughter was little minimized the separation anxiety he felt from having a new baby in the house. He adjusted to his little sister’s homecoming very well, much better than I anticipated, but that kind of situation can be a struggle for any child. There are new routines, new noises, and obviously all the family’s attention goes to the new baby. I disappeared for a few minutes four times a day when I had to get her down for naps. I couldn’t get up from the couch for my son when I was nursing the baby. Sometimes my son wanted to nurse, but the baby needed to nurse first, because I only have so much milk.

But, my son could still look forward to those specific times of reconnecting with me, and he knew he’d get that specialized attention from me even if I couldn’t give it to him all the time any more. And now, when he sees me nursing his sister, he’ll often come up to the couch and say, “Nursing sister!” and smile at us, which is super cute.

(On a practical note, nursing a toddler when you have a second baby is the best way to prevent clogged ducts and mastitis that I’ve ever found. I had huge oversupply with both of my babies, which sounds great, but was really frustrating and caused a lot of problems for me. Luckily, my son could be counted on to take extra milk when it caused me discomfort, and he was also instrumental in clearing some plugged ducts when neither his sister nor my pump were strong enough to clear them on their own.)

Even though nursing my almost 3 year-old hasn’t been a joy 100% of the time, it’s been great for our family overall, and I think it’s benefited my son’s emotional health a great deal. I’m really glad I’ve been able to offer this for him for so long, and I hope his sister has the opportunity to nurse for just as long, if she wants to.

And then two months went by…

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Well, when I said that I was going to go on hiatus, I never meant for it to stretch for two entire months! People told me that two and a half was a difficult age, with a lot of disequilibrium, but it’s hard to comprehend that kind of warning until you’re in the midst of experiencing it yourself. I feel like I’ve just been through months of extremely challenging behavior from my son, on top of a lot of work-related scheduling issues and illness in the family, but I think we are finally starting to see the other side. Regardless, this blog is important to me and lots of fun to do, so I’m going to try to get it up and running nice and regular again.

First, how about a family update? My daughter, our baby, is just 9 months old. I don’t know how she got that big so fast! She’s not properly crawling yet, but can scoot herself around with alarming speed, and is getting into everything these days. Her two bottom teeth are just coming in, and she is a big eater. Right now, she especially loves sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs. Sleep has been hit-and-miss lately with her crawling, and the various colds our whole household has gotten, but she is getting better. She is a happy, adorable, chatty baby, and generally a pleasure to be around.

My son, our toddler, is now 31 months-old, and as I mentioned, is just coming out of the 2 1/2 year-old “terror” phase, which I would not wish upon anyone. It was months and months of constant tantrums, shorter nighttime sleep, disrupted naps, and him needing constant attention from us. It’s all normal for this age group, but that doesn’t make it easier. Right around when daylight savings happened, I noticed that his nighttime sleep went from averaging about 9.5 hours back to almost 11 hours, so bedtime has gotten earlier and he’s sleeping later in the morning, too. This is helping his moods quite a bit.

He’s also finally broken through some of the barriers he’s had with speech, so although he’s nowhere near the average for his age yet, he is trying more words every day and using signs much more specifically and clearly. Recent signs include “help,” “more,” (which he had stopped using for a few months), and he’s begun pointing again. His repeated spoken words are also much more clear, and he says “night-night” at bedtime and “bye-bye” when someone leaves. This is fantastic progress and really helpful to me, especially as I’ve been so run down with his sister’s lack of sleep and our many colds lately. My son still needs a lot of attention, but he’s playing independently more readily than he has for months, so sometimes I can sit down by myself for a minute.

So with a little luck, we’ll be back to our regular posting schedule starting now! Thanks for hanging in there with me – I missed you!

Book review: 1, 2, 3… the Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents & Caregivers by Irene Van Der Zande and the Santa Cruz Toddler Care Center Staff

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Let’s move away from baby sleep books for a little while and take a look at discipline! I know, it’s a subject everybody dreads, but I am firmly in the camp of seeing discipline as a way of teaching a child how to be happy and productive while living in a society with other humans. Discipline is not punishment for behavior we decide we don’t like, but rather a way to set limits on behavior to keep a child safe and happy. When you view discipline as a way of teaching, it’s much easier to remember that you and your baby are a team, working together to learn about the world and how to function within it. Every parent has an off day, (and so does every baby!) but it’s easier to get back on track when you realize that you and your kids are in this together.

van-der-zande-123For parents of older babies and toddlers, I really do recommend 1, 2, 3… the Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents & Caregivers by Irene Van Der Zande and the Santa Cruz Toddler Care Center Staff. When I first read this, my son was definitely showing that he had his own ideas about the world, and we were encountering some of the upsets that come along when you discover that your toddler has different opinions about how to spend his time than you do. I wanted a book that had practical methods of discipline based in communication. I don’t want to coerce my kid into doing something through trickery, but rather to establish a relationship based in honesty and open communication. I understand that trickery is more or less necessary occasionally, but I’m not personally interested in approaching my everyday relationship with my child that way.

Anyway, the Santa Cruz Toddler Center is a daycare set up along the philosophy of Magda Gerber, who’s famous for RIE, which is a child-rearing approach designed around respecting childrens’ autonomy, individuality, and ability. You can read more about it on their website here. I personally find the philosophy part a little out there for me at times, but I think the practical result of the philosophy is just great. And 1, 2, 3… the Toddler Years is all practical stuff, with a lot of situational examples and scripts, which I kind of need when my son is screaming at me because I wouldn’t let him play with an electrical socket.

Another important reason that I recommend this for other parents is that it’s an extremely quick read. The book is relatively short, the text is clear and direct, and it’s well-organized. It’s perfect for parents who need some help with discipline, but don’t have time to read a book the size of a dictionary. It’s a great find!

Got a book you’d like me to review? Leave a comment with your suggestions or email me.

Book review: Your Child’s Growing Mind: A Guide to Learning and Brain Development from Birth to Adolescence by Jane M. Healy

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Before I became a mom, I didn’t have a lot of experience with kids, especially little babies. Being an academic, I dealt with that by doing lots of research! Now I’m a mom of two babies under three years-old, and I know what I’m doing a little more. By reading so much, I’ve come to the realization that there are some terrible child-rearing books out there! Luckily, there are also a few that are actually helpful. I’m hoping that by sharing some reviews of these books with other parents, I can help guide you toward resources that are worth your time, or at least help you avoid the really terrible stuff!

So, let’s jump right in with our first book!

healy-yourYour Child’s Growing Mind: A Guide to Learning and Brain Development from Birth to Adolescence by Jane M. Healy

Let me be honest here – I don’t know where this book came from. I probably found it at the Good Will. But, I have a background in the liberal arts and don’t know a lot about how kids learn or how brains grow. That’s important stuff to know!

This book is a few years old now, but it does what it says on the cover. Jane M. Healy reviews how the brain develops from birth through the teenage years, and examines how to best promote learning for kids of different ages. Healy is a long-time educator who strongly believes that kids will learn concepts on their own as their brains mature, and that adults can foster or hinder this learning, but not force it to happen before a child is ready. She also includes a lot of resources for parents with children with learning or other disabilities, including how to work with teachers and schools to develop plans for childrens’ specific needs.

I really liked Your Child’s Growing Mind overall. It was easy to read and pay attention to, and I learned a lot without getting weighed down by overly technical or academic writing. My main gripe with this book was in its organization. The information is great, but individual chapters didn’t seem to know where they were going or what their main point was, and that was distracting to me, and occasionally outright confusing. Still, I felt like the book was worth reading for me, and I am looking forward to reading more of Healy’s books in the future.

Got a book you’d like me to review? Leave a comment with your suggestions or email me.