My Q, your A: someone else disciplining your child

Here’s a new occasional feature: I’ll bring up something that happened to me recently, and you tell me how you’d react to it.

A few days ago I was with the boys (4 and 1) at the playground. Also there were a couple of El C’s (the 4-year-old’s) friends with their moms or nannies. One nanny, S, always drops off and picks up at school, and she and the kids she cares for are often at the playground. So we’ve spent some time sitting together chatting while the kids play, and we’re certainly friendly, although I wouldn’t consider us actual friends. I think she’s an excellent nanny, firm but loving, and she gives the kids enough freedom but is also on top of any potentially bad situations almost before they start happening.

At one point I was standing helping El P (the 1-year-old) cruise around a play structure and chatting to a friend at the same time. S walked over, holding onto El C’s arm, and said, "He’s not allowed into the sand anymore today. He just kicked sand in a little girl’s face." And then she delivered El C to me and went back to supervise her kids. I asked El C what happened and he confirmed that he’d kicked sand ("because they wouldn’t give me back my shovel, Mom!" I was hoping we’d be past this by now. Sigh.).

Edited to add: S’s charge and El C both had to be at school in a little over an hour, so S and the kids and I all knew we had 45 minutes left at the playground, max.

Question #1: How would you feel about S coming over to tell you what happened?

#2: About removing your child from the situation?

#3: About telling him he couldn’t go back into the sand that day?

Does it change or add anything if we factor in the facts that I’m a white US-born American (as are my kids) while S is an immigrant of color?

So think about your reaction. Here’s mine:

I was happy she stopped El C and then stepped in swiftly and decisively to remove him from the sandbox and punish him by banning him for the rest of the day. I think it’s convenient that that’s exactly what I would have done, but even if it wasn’t my first instinct I hope I’d have been OK with it.

I have in the past been very upset when someone else at the playground disciplined my child, but I think this was different because: 1) I know and respect S already–it wasn’t just a stranger hopping in who I knew didn’t know my child. 2) She wasn’t at all hostile about it, to him or to me–I will never forget the time El C accidentally knocked over a smaller kid on the playground and the mother told him he was "a bad kid." Uh, no. 3) I knew the only reason I hadn’t been there on top of it myself was because I was with the baby. I think often if we get upset about someone else disciplining our child it’s because we actually feel defensive because we know we should have been there instead of talking to another parent or being otherwise distracted.

To me this episode felt like a validation of the idea that the community can help you raise your kids. But I’m wondering if you had the same reaction to hearing the story, if you would have felt differently, or if you have other insights into the situation. How do we negotiate others disciplining our kids (besides regular babysitters and others we assume will do it daily)?

Air travel with babies and toddlers

I’ve gotten a couple of questions about traveling by plane with babies and toddlers recently. This is a subject I actually know a fair amount about–by the time El Chico was 2 years old he’d been on 24 flights ranging in length from 1 to 5 hours. I accumulated a lot of knowledge about making air travel with a young child easier, so here are my general tips for air travel with kids under the age of 2 to 2.5 or so. (All our flights were in the US or to Puerto Rico, so these tips don’t specifically apply to international travel.)

1. Try to book your flight for off times, if possible. If you can get a flight with a few empty seats you’ll be much more comfortable than on a flight that’s full, and you’ll be more likely to stay on schedule. Also take into consideration when your baby usually sleeps. In general, you’ll be better waking a baby up to catch an early flight or flying during nap time than keeping your baby up for a late flight.

2. Don’t even bother trying to get the bulkhead seats on a domestic
flight. Nowadays they’re all reserved for people with mobility issues
(which is proper, IMO). You’ll have more room on most flights if you
sit in the back, plus the greater engine noise back there might lull
your child to sleep. And you’ll be closer to the bathrooms.

3. Wear your baby through the airport. If your baby isn’t old enough to reliably walk through the airport, wear him/her in a front carrier, sling, Ergo, Sutemi, etc. The most obvious reason for this is because it leaves you hands-free. The emotional reason, though, is that you never have to worry, even for a second, about your child being away from you in the airport. Since you’ll have your baby strapped to you, you can use your stroller (or carseat-snapped-into-stroller combo) as a luggage cart for your diaper bag and carry-on.

4. You’ll have to fold up your stroller (and break down the carseat-stroller system) to put it through the security x-ray machine. (That’s another reason you want to wear your baby instead of having him/her in the stroller.) So while you’re waiting in line and taking off your shoes and stuff, start getting your stroller ready to be folded down. Put it through the machine, then walk through yourself. You’ll probably have to take the baby out of the carrier (although you can ask if they’ll just wand between you and they might oblige) and hold her/him out in front of you as you walk through. Then you can put the baby back in, get the stroller and pop it up, put your bags on it, put on your shoes, and go on your merry way.

Yes, it’s possible to do this by yourself. It’s easier to do with a partner, but you can certainly do it by yourself, and people almost always offer to help you.

5. You can preboard, but consider if you want to or not. If you have a happy baby, it might build a little goodwill to wait until the plane’s mostly boarded to parade your smiley cute cherub down the aisles. Then, if your kid wigs out in the middle of the flight, people will think, "Oh, that sweet little baby is upset" instead of "Whose screaming brat is that?"

If you have a toddler, wait until the last possible minute to board, and spend the extra time having your partner run running the kid around in the terminal to get out energy. You might luck out and have the kid fall asleep right after takeoff. And if everyone on the plane sees you running around like a fool in the terminal, if your kid causes a ruckus on the flight they’ll all think "At least the parents did the best they could" instead of "Why can’t they make him shut up?"

6. Gate-check your stroller (and your infant carseat if you
didn’t buy a separate seat for your baby). That way your luggage
trolley will be right there ready for you when you deplane.

7. If you’re checking your convertible carseat (because you didn’t buy a seat for your older baby or toddler), buy one of these bags to protect it. The bag has straps so you can wear it on your back and wheels so you can pull it behind you with one hand. Our first one survived a couple dozen flights before finally giving up the ghost, so it ended up to be only around $1 per use.

8. If your child is over 18 months or so, consider carefully whether you actually need a stroller with you. If you won’t need one at your destination, it might just end up being a liability through the airport. You can bring a diaper bag and wheelie bag (or carseat in the rolling bag) and check everything else, and just walk slowly enough for your child to keep up. If you’re only using the stroller as a luggage trolley, you might want to use a cheapie $15 umbrella stroller so if it gets crunched in baggage you won’t be upset.

9. If your child is crawling or walking and you have the choice between a non-stop longer flight and two shorter flights, go with the two flights. Your baby will really appreciate the chance to crawl or run around in the airport during the layover. The novelty of boarding and takeoff will buy you enough cooperative time that the extra time in the air shouldn’t be a problem.

10. Don’t borrow trouble. Traveling with an infant is an opportunity for the universe to be nice to you. Sometimes it bites you in the ass, but more often than not, strangers come to your rescue. The number of times older white businessmen (who I thought would be the most hostile because they’re trying to do serious business) have said nice things to me about my crying baby or about my nursing the baby (while being squashed in the seat next to them) is overwhelming.

11. The months between 10 and 21 seem to be the worst for travel. Before that babies are so pliable and easily entertained. After that toddlers are so impressed by the ritual of flying (check-in, security, waiting, boarding, takeoff, beverage cart, landing, deplaning, baggage claim). If you’re in the Red Zone of travel, you’ll have to suck it up, but know that it’ll get better in a few months.

12. If your kid is particularly enamored of a certain DVD, you might want to bring along a portable DVD player for the trip. But it could be something extra to carry that doesn’t actually buy you much quiet behavior if your kid ends up not being sucked in by the DVD on the actual flight. It’s always safe to bring a bunch of new little toys along, though, so every 15-30 minutes you can pull out some new doodad to entertain the child.

13. Here’s the obvious stuff: With a baby, nurse or give a bottle on the way up and down to prevent painful ear pressure. Make sure you have a change of clothes for the baby and for you in your bag, and plenty of wipes and extra diapers. Bring water and snacks (especially when your kids are older) since you have no idea what delays will happen and you don’t want to be hungry or thirsty or be with a hungry or thirsty kid. Accept help where it’s offered. And have a good trip.

Anything I forgot?

Q&A: daughter’s discovered her hot button

Kelly writes:

"I have a 10-month-old daughter who seems to have discovered hergenitals.  Really discovered.  Unlike her older brother who
discovered his at about the same age during diaper changes, she connected
while in the new Peg Perego Aria.  It seems that there is just the
right, well, pressure when strapped in.  She has begun these repeative
leg rotations that will go on for hours (we went to an outdoor fair
on Saturday).  She gets very red in the face and is basically in
another zone (not responsive to me in her usual fashion).  Since
Saturday, I’ve also noticed her putting pressure on her crotch both
hands and rotating her legs while in her crib.

I don’t want to be a
prude.  Heck, if I could get Toyota to put the same kind of strap in
the Sienna, I might consider it as an option.   With her brother, I was
a bit proud of his discovery and didn’t stop his exploration.  I never
felt I had to as once he was re-diapered, his attention seemed to focus
elsewhere.  I think I want to have the exact same reaction here, but
I’m not.  I keep thinking what great stomach mucles she’s going to have
with all that leg/stomach work (another reason I too would wish for a
Mommy version).

With her brother, it seemed
to be a phase and after a week or so, he no longer seemed focused on
his penis (any more than his toes or knees), so I want to just wait it
out.  She is not in any kind of a day care situation, so I know there
is nothing going on that has started this behavior. 

I just ignore it with a smile?  Do I take her out of the stoller when
it starts (it starts immediately upon being placed in the stroller)?
Could this be an idication of some other issue (a urinary infection)?"

Remember a few years ago when the Harry Potter craze was at its zenith,
and there was that Harry Potter broomstick that vibrated? They couldn’t
figure out why it was so popular with teenage girls until someone
stepped back and thought about it. And then all the parents and
marketing execs freaked out about it and pulled it from the market? Ah,
good times. I’m just guessing Peg Perego isn’t going to use this to market the Aria. ("Better than the Toyota Sienna or the Jackrabbit…")

Now, I am a girl, obviously, but I don’t remember far back enough to recall what
it was like to discover my own special purpose. Being the mother of two boys, I will say that it surprises me to hear
that your son stopped being obsessed with his penis after a few
weeks. From what I’ve observed, it’s a love affair that starts as an
infant and continues for 70 years or so for many many men.

But back to your daughter: I think this could be a sign of a urinary
tract infection, but isn’t necessarily one. My first move would be to
call your pediatrician’s office and explain to them that you just want
to rule out a UTI. She’ll probably have to come in and get checked out
and give a urine sample. Who knows if it is indicative of a UTI in her
case, but you definitely want to rule it out so the poor thing can get
treated if she’s got one.

I need a minute. Just the thought of a UTI is sending that nasty shiver down my back. Gah.

Ok, I’m back.
Now if it turns out not to be a UTI, then it sounds like she’s just
discovered the zone. As long as she’s not in the stroller for hours a
day, it’s probably not doing any harm. The only thing I can think of
that would be a cause for concern would be if she was focusing on
masturbation to the exclusion of other things like crawling and play
with toys and other normal developmental tasks for 10-month-olds. But
if she’s still doing all her other normal baby things, then she’s
probably just building some neural pathways that are going to come in
very handy (I apologize sincerely–I just couldn’t resist that pun)
when she’s older.

Of course there’s also the social issue. You can explain to a
three-year-old that there are things you do in private only, but you
can’t get that through to a baby. So if you’re going to be somewhere
that people would be scandalized by her stroller activities, you might
want to bring her in a body carrier instead of the stroller just to
avoid the issue. Or bring along a radio and tell people she’s dancing
to the music.

Moms of girls? Does anyone have anything to offer on this one? Is there
some hidden danger to masturbation (other than hairy palms and certain
blindness) that I’m not aware of?

Q&A: foods that freeze well

Elizabeth writes:

"This might not be the right kind of question but here goes:

Do you have a list of casseroles or other foodstuffs that freeze well?

I would like to make up some meals to give to a lady having a baby.

So far, I know I am going to make a batch of bran muffins
wrapped individually for easy freezing & thawing, and hamburger soup.

Other than that, I need some ideas for a one dish dinner….away from the lasagna/pasta theme."

Anything that helps people help a "lady having a baby" is the right kind of question for this site.

I’ll tell you my ideas, then I hope the readers and lurkers will come out of the woodwork with ideas. (Remember, if you want to post anonymously, just put in a fake URL in the URL spot and I’m the only one who can see the real or fake email address you leave. Also, actual recipes are intellectual property*, so please give attributions if you know them, or just link to the recipe on its own site if there is one. If you made up the recipe, give yourself a credit.)

I made up a bunch of burritos before having my younger son. I chopped some bell peppers and zucchini and mushrroms and sauteed them in a little olive oil, salt, and dried oregano. While they were cooling I set up the assembly line, then made the burritos like this: piece of aluminum foil, flour tortilla, generous smear of refried beans, grated cheese, sauteed vegetables, slosh of salsa. Roll up the burrito in the foil, crimp, then freeze. Either unwrap to microwave, or leave in the foil and reheat in the oven.

Chili (con carne, vegetarian, or white) freezes well. I don’t need to give a recipe for chili, do I? You all have your own favorites.

Here’s a recipe I made up last week for Green Salsa Chicken.

1 large onion

4-6 chicken thighs (bone in or boneless)

1 jar green salsa (tomatillo salsa in your chocie of mildness, not the super-hot green sauce–ouch!)

dried oregano

1/2 bag washed baby spinach

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven or pot. Slice the onion in big long slices and saute over high-ish heat. Skin the chicken thighs and salt and pepper them. After the onions are starting to brown a little, move them to the side and put in your chicken thighs to brown. Brown a little, then flip over to brown on the other side. Dump in the jar of salsa, and add some water to make sure you have enough liquid to cover the chicken (I use enough water to get the jar half full, then swish it around to get the last salsa bits, then dump it in the pot). Shake in a few shakes of oregano. Let simmer for 25-30 minutes.

If you want to serve a carb on the side, make it now while the chicken’s simmering. Rice, basmati rice (lower in glycemic index than regular white rice), barley, pasta, quinoa, etc.

When the chicken is really tender, stir in the spinach until it’s wilted, then serve in soup bowls (over your carb of choice). (Or, if you’re going to freeze it, turn off the heat, let it sit for 5 minutes, stir in the spinach, then let it cool down in the pot and freeze.)

Copyright 2006 Moxie

What else?

Turkey or beef burgers can be frozen raw, then put directly from the freezer onto a table-top grill (like the George Foreman grill).

Mexican lasagna (which is neither Mexican nor lasagna) is pretty simple. Layer flour tortillas (cut in quarters and put the straight corners in the corners of the pan), black or pinto beans mixed with chili powder and cumin, thawed drained frozen spinach, enchilada sauce, and shredded Monterrey jack cheese. Line an 8 by 8 pan with aluminum foil, do the layers (two layers, finished by a layer of tortillas, sauce, and cheese), fold over the foil, remove from the pan, and freeze.

As far as one-pot meals go, what about pizza? You can buy a Boboli or other premade crust, or get dough and roll your own crust. Then you can top it with whatever you want. You could even make it the day ahead and bake on the day you need it.

Or how about paella? It’s rice with basically anything you want, all in one pan.

OK, I’m getting hungry now. Anyone else ave any ideas for the lovely woman who’s going to cook for her friend?


* Obviously no one can copyright the idea of a biscuit or meringue or any kind of food. But the way a recipe is written–the actual words–are protected by intellectual copyright. I’ve been a recipe developer and know how much work goes into developing and writing recipes, so I’m really careful to give attribution for a great recipe when I pass it on.

Q&A: sensitive 2-year-olds

(Scroll down for info on drug safety during pregnancy.)

Karla writes:

"My kids are extremely crabby.  We stayed at a friend’s house this weekend. They have a two year old son.  My boys are also two.  Our friend’s boy (let’s call him Jake), not knowing how to play, would growl at our sons, try to tackle them, and sometimes push them (all things his football coach dad had taught him to do).  My sons cried (screamed) with ALL of their might any time this kid came near them.  The weekend was horrible, because my sons were SO sensitive.  My friend DID tell her son not to push, etc. but when it DID happen again anyway, I was embarrassed by how wimpy my kids were being. We tried showing our sons that Jake was playing.   We tried to teach them to growl back when he growled, etc.  Or tickle him when he pushed.  They were happy to do so when we were right by them, but screamed hysterically when we were not present when the incident occured again.

Besides that and outside of the weekend, our boys are just crabby kids.  I don’t think that it is because we spoil them.  I don’t hold them all of the time, although you would think so with the constant demands of "COME! Wahhhah!  COME!" or "UP!"  "Cereal! MORE! Wahaha!" The kids cry almost all day long, unless I am RIGHT there playing with them.  I don’t believe that a mom should spend every second with her kids all day.  I have things to get done, dinner to make, laundry to do, etc.  How do you teach your kids to be content when their mom is not right next to them, comforting them in their toddler despair?  I did read your post on whining (for a 3 year old, i think?), and you said to put them in their room until they have calmed down.  I have done that to some extent.  Not in their room, but at the end of a hallway, away from all of us.  It totally works while they are there, but as soon as the kid is allowed back into the family, he is screaming and begging to be picked up again."

Your poor kids! It must have been awful for them to be around Jake for so long. He really sounds scary.

I’d say he sounds "out of control," but it sounds like his dad wants him to act that way and is creating this behavior (so it’s very much controlled behavior). I wonder what his father thinks is going to happen when all the other kids are scared to be around his son. 2-year-olds are prone to violence anyway (because they have a hard time processing and communicating their frustration), so parents really need to be on top of things and help their kids work through their negative feelings without hurting anyone. The father is not helping his son in any way by encouraging him to tackle and push down other kids. (And growling at them?! What’s with that?! I really wonder about this father’s thought process.)

I think your children acted perfectly appropriately by screaming and trying to get away from him. They really shouldn’t have to spend any time with a kid who’s being trained to be a bully by his parents. Jake is essentially the equivalent of a big, scary dog, so they were really just trying to protect themselves by getting away from the danger.

That said, I think you did the right thing by trying to let them know that he was trying to play with them. It’s important to help kids formulate a response to things they think are scary, and helping them turn it into a game is a good technique. Unfortunately, Jake was probably way too aggressive for them to be able to deal with for more than a few minutes at a time, and they certainly couldn’t deal with him alone. But it’s a good thing to teach your kids to take a situation they find scary and try to find a way to master it for themselves. It’s not going to happen overnight, but if you keep helping them with taking control back from a bully, eventually they’ll be able to to it for themselves.

About the "crabbiness," I think you’re expecting too much of kids that young, honestly.

2-year-olds are incredibly needy creatures. They need almost constant interaction, so even when they’re playing "by themselves," they’re still asking you to look at what they’re doing, and talk to them, and answer endless "Why?"s and hug them, pick them up, stack the Legos, make Percy go around the track, etc. It’s a normal part of that stage and does not mean that they’re especially needy. It’s totally normal, and you shouldn’t be trying to push them to be more independent than they can be, if only because it won’t work and it’ll just make you more frustrated.

This age is right smack dab in the middle of the fight for autonomy. They’re doing this odd little dance between independence and clinginess, freedom and safety. By picking them up when they ask for it, you’re giving them the security to be able to walk away from you. If you refuse to pick them up in hopes that it will make them more independent, it will actually backfire on you by making them want to be with you even more.

You’ve probably heard the old rubber band analogy before, but I’ll trot it out again because it’s just so illustrative of what happens with toddlers (and boyfriends, frankly). Essentially, a toddler’s need for connection is like a rubber band, with the toddler holding one end and you holding one end. There needs to be just a slight amount of tension there, but not too much, for the toddler’s emotional needs to be met. If you pull away, the rubber band gets stretched too tight, and the toddler will try to get closer to you to get the right amount of distance. If you give the toddler all the closeness s/he seeks, the toddler will then be able to pull away from you and be more independent to maintain the right tension.

So it’s counterintuitive, but the way to get your kids to be more independent is to give them all the attention and closeness and carrying they want.

The problem, of course, is that you have stuff you have to get done. This is where it starts to get a little messy, because the best thing to do with 2-year-olds is to let them help you with everything. Yes, this is extremely annoying. Yes, it’s going to take twice as long to do everything, if you’re lucky. Yes, you are going to want to start drinking at noon. But the good news is that if you just suck it up now, in a few years they’ll be really good at all the chores and fully trained. Seriously. My 4-year-old can make a pizza by himself, with just a little assistance from me. He can also put in a load of laundry, although I have to lift him up so he can put the quarters in the slot (we have a shared machine in our building). And he’s at least as good at Broom-Vac’ing the living room as I am by now.

There are times when it makes my blood boil (and I’m not sure that’s even a metaphor) to have my son help because it’s like pulling teeth. But I just keep my eyes on the long-term goal, which is to raise independent kids who know how to do all household chores and just expect to do them. I feel like I’m taking the hit now so my future children-in-law won’t be partnered with domestic incompetents.

I guess what I’m saying is that there’s no way you can change your kids, so you’re going to have to adjust your own expectations to be more realistic for their developmental stage. They’re so much needier than we think they should be at this age. After all, they’re so big and can talk so well. but they’re still just babies, and they need as much closeness and contact as we can give them now so that they can move away from us when they’re ready.

And maybe you shouldn’t do anymore overnights with Jake until his dad has figured out that he shouldn’t be training his son to act like an untrained dog. It’s hard to deal with our friends’ lack of parenting skills sometimes (but that’s another post entirely).

Drug Safety Fact Sheets for Pregnancy

(Scroll up for today’s Q&A.)

Reader Sarah sent me this link to fact sheets on the safety and effects of various drugs during pregnancy from the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS). It also has the phone number to call to ask them about any drugs you don’t see on their list.

Aquí hay información sobre la seguridad de alguna drogas, antibióticos, y medicamentos durante el embarazo:

Here are the fact sheets available in English at the OTIS site about various drugs (and other conditions) while pregnant:

Accutane (isotretinoin)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Acyclovir (Zovirax)/Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
Antiviral Medications to Treat/Prevent Influenza (Flu)
DEET (N,N-ethyl-m-toluamide)
Flagyl (metronidazole)
Metformin (glucophage)
Methamphetamine / Dextroamphetamine
Paxil (paroxetine)
Propecia/Proscar (finasateride)
Prozac/Serafem (fluoxetine)
Tegretol (carbamazepine)
Desyrel® (trazodone) and Serzone® (nefazodone)
Zoloft (sertraline)

Herbal products
St. John’s Wort (hypericum)

Infections and Vaccines
Chicken pox (varicella) and vaccine
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Fifth disease (parvovirus)
Hepatitis A
Hyperthermia (fever)
Influenza and vaccine
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV)
MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) Virus and Vaccine
Staphylococcus Aureus
West Nile Virus

Maternal Medical Conditions
Breast-feeding Following a Natural Disaster
Maternal PKU
Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy (NVP)

Illicit Substances
Methamphetamine / Dextroamphetamine

Other Common Exposures
Alcohol and Fetal Alcohol
Carbon Monoxide
Hair treatments
Hyperthermia (hot tubs, saunas)
Methylmercury (fish)
Paternal exposures