Discussion of NurtureShock, Chapter 8 “Can Self-Control Be Taught?”

We're talking about NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman allsummer. One chapter every Friday. Jump in whenever you'd like. The first week we talked about Chapter 1 about praise.
The second week we talked about Chapter 2 about sleep.
The third week we talked about talking about race with
your
kids.
The fourth week we talked about why kids lie and how
we're
inadvertently promoting that.
The fifth week we talked about
intelligence testing for preschoolers for school placement purposes.
The sixth week we talked about how having siblings socializes children. Last week we talked about why teens lie to their parents and engage in risky behavior. This week we're talking about how to teach kids self-control.

This chapter, entitled "Can Self-Control Be Taught?" made me want to move to Neptune, New Jersey immediately. Essentially, the
whole chapter is a review of a program called Tools of the Mind that has been shown
to teach preschoolers and Kindergartners self-control in all the
schools it's been used in.

Before Bronson and Merryman start talking about Tools of the Mind they talk about Drivers' Education classes in high schools and how they fail to make teens better drivers than teens are who don't go through Drivers' Ed. Then they talk about the hype and failure of the D.A.R.E. program (and other similar programs) that was so popular in the '80s to keep kids from using drugs. They tell about these programs and how they don't work to talk about how unusual Tools of the Mind is because it does work.

The Tools of the Mind program itself isn't markedly different from most preschool or
kindergarten programs, except that it puts the onus of action on the
child instead of on the teacher to enforce with the child. Each child
makes a play plan, for example, planning out what role they'll play in
a make-believe game the kids all play. If the kid gets off track, the
teacher refers the kid back to the plan they made for what role they'd
play in the game. Because the kid plans what they're going to do, doing it becomes a matter of carrying out their own idea instead of merely doing what an adult tells them to do. They're training kids to use their own decisionmaking skills and motivation to keep on track.

Bronson and Merryman have stats and anecdotes from a bunch of areas of the country in which Tools of the Mind has been tested and used. Of course they Tools kids have higher test scores than the other kids do, but what seems even more impressive is that they kids are more self-directed so there isn't as much chaos in the classrooms. Since the kids get to carry out their *own* plans they don't need to goof off and misbehave. I would love to see information on Tools and how it interacts with kids who've been diagnosed ADHD.

Bronson and Merryman go on to explain why Tools works so well from a neuroscience perspective.Then, and I know we're all going to be happy about this: they talk about both authors have started using Tools concepts in their own lives. Merryman runs a tutoring program, so they talk about how she uses it with the older kids she tutors, and Bronson talks about how he uses it with his preschool-age daughter. I read it and was kind of shocked to realize that that's the kind of stuff my mom did with me (and still does with me, frankly) and that I just instinctively did with my kids because that's what she did with me. (Everything I know AT ALL about parenting I know from my mom.) So it seems like it won't be a stretch to be even more explicit about some of the stuff.

The chapter gives such a glowing review of this program that I started
getting sadder and sadder that my own rising Kindergartner wouldn't be
able to experience such a wonderful program. Some of the statistics and
anecdotes about the success of Tools come from the schools in Neptune,
NJ in which it was tested. At the end of the chapter the authors
reveled that all the schools in Neptune ended up adopting tools. It's soooo tempting…

Do any of you live in places that are using Tools? Do any of you have experience with it?

Do any of these ideas listed in the chapter from Tools ring true for you?

Q&A: How does a WOH parent help her child build friendships?

Amy writes:

"I’m employed full-time outside the home. I have one4-year-old daughter. I drop her off at preschool three days a week, but I’m
not able to pick her up (12:30 dismissal). My mom picks her up and cares for
her at our home in the afternoons. We chose a preschool – and a
neighborhood community — that mostly self-selects for families with one parent
at home, so we are definitely in the minority.

So far, my mom has been wonderful about accepting a few
playdates here and there, and has hosted once or twice. However, she’s
recently raised some concerns about noticing how the other mothers and kids are
really bonding after school. Lots of playdates and swimming pool dates, etc,
happening. Everyone loves my mom, but there are two issues: one, my mom really
doesn’t have the energy to maintain a big, active social life for her
granddaughter (nor an overwhelming desire to forge deep friendships with the “young”
moms). Two, I think the other mothers just connect with each other differently
than with a grandmother (she’s only 58, but I imagine they just don’t
feel the same about reaching out).

My daughter’s current social data points: she is
well-liked by the other kids at school, and seems to be creating some specific
friendships. Outside of school, she spends a lot of time with her (boy) cousin,
who’s a year younger –they play well, but they fight like siblings
and have pretty different interests overall. She doesn’t have a sibling
in the house, and is pretty demanding with the adults around her, wanting lots
of imaginary play all day long. She plays independently for stretches, but her
introversion seems to be veering toward extroversion these days.

Initially, we got a few invitations to play outside of
school, but as soon as the moms learned that I work, the invites stopped. When
I mention weekends, you can practically see them groaning inwardly, and I don’t
blame them – weekends are so impossibly full for us, too.

Meanwhile, I’m operating from a framework of having
grown up with three best friends – our mothers engineered our early
connection in kindergarten. To this day, we email each other every day. So, I
know that I’m struggling with wanting the “same” solid
friendships for my child. And because my friendships have been intensely strong
and lasting, I’m not sure I can accurately measure my “success”
at helping my kid develop and nurture her own relationships. The bar is set
pretty high. And I’m intensely afraid of her feeling left out or lonely,
particularly since she’s an only child.

I am entirely overwhelmed at the idea that this problem is
going to have to be tackled for *years*
to come. I can’t stop working, so …

How do I do this? What do other WOH moms do, and what to SAH
moms recommend for moms/daughters like us to connect with moms/kids like them?
Are they really all lounging around their backyards together everyday, or are
our realities more similar than I think?"

The reality that is similar, even if nothing else is, is that all moms want their kids to have friends.

Note: I'm talking about moms here because Amy's situation is very specifically about moms. Many many of the dads I know have a lot to do with playdates and friendships, so I'm not ignoring you–I'm just addressing Amy's situation specifically. Feel free to offer advice from your POV.

Now I know that there are more similarities between WOH and SAH moms, because I've been both and I was the same person, and the moms in my same "category" all had similar concerns, no matter which situation I was in. (Let me also note that maybe this is a NYC city thing, but there seem to be so many non-standard work arrangements in this city that there are always a bunch of dads and babysitters in the mix so sometimes it's hard even to know who's SAH and WOH and what that really means.)

Because your mom isn't able to just hop into the mix and hang out, you're going to have to specifically pursue friendships with kids your daughter likes. Find out from her which kids she likes the most, and ask her teachers who she likes to play with.

Another plug for preschool teachers: They can be allies for you here, as they can in all things kid while your child's in their class. They see all kinds of things you can't see.

So explain to them the situation, that you want to promote friendships but your mom's not able to just hang with the moms. Ask them if they think the moms of the couple of kids your daughter likes the most would be receptive to playdates with your mom. They'll know what the social scene is, and which moms will likely be receptive and which ones won't. (You don't really want to be friends with the ones who'd refuse a playdate with your mom anyway.)

Then, gather your courage and call or send an email: "Hi, Kelly. This is Amy, Ella's mom. Ella's been talking non-stop about Skylar, and how she wants to play with her. I was wondering if you'd be willing to have a playdate with Ella and my mom next week. We're happy to host." And then you wait to see what the response is.

If you can get a few after-school playdates, then maybe you could expand into evening playdates. When I was a SAH mom, evening was a crazymaker: I'd been on duty all day and then suddenly had to pull a rabbit out of my hat for dinner and the bath-story-bed gauntlet. If someone had invited me over to her house with my kid along (and partner) for a playdate, I would've been happy to eat pretzels and tapwater just to not have to deal. (Of course you will order pizza and have wine or at least ice cues for the tapwater.) Run the kids around together in your basement or yard while you chat with the mom about things you both have in common, and by the time they leave both your kids are exhausted and ready for bed.

I know I have readers on both "sides" of this dilemma right now. Any suggestions from WOH moms who've made friendships? Any suggestions from SAH moms on what would make you accept the playdates without hesitation?

Also, I'd like to give a big shout out to P, the awesome grandma of my kids' friends, with whom I spent many many playdate hours back when I was a SAH mom, and to the excellent nannies of my kids friends who had a lot of really funny stories to tell while we were at the playground. And a big hug to all the SAH moms and dads who have gladly accepted playdates with my babysitters and my kids' dad now that I'm a WOH mom.

Aim true

Ever since we talked about the "talking about race" chapter of NurtureShock, I've been thinking about how it's not just about taking about race. It's about communicating values. I've been thinking that just living my values are going to pass them on to my boys, but that chapter really made me see that I need to explicitly talk about them–race, body size and health, relationships, sex, etc.

Last weekend, I got a beautiful chance to talk about what I value with my younger son. He and I took a vacation together, just the two of us, to drive 350 miles to the wedding of my high school friend who was going to marry his partner of 14  years in Massachusetts, one of the few US states that will allow them to get legally married because they both happen to have penises.

I wanted my son to be able to chose what he wore to the wedding, which was going to be casual, with a beach reception, so on the drive up the day before we stopped at a Target and went into the boys' section. He told me that "those things" (collars) tickled his neck, so he didn't want to wear a polo shirt or a Hawaiian shirt. We picked out a plain navy t-shirt, and a pair of madras plaid shorts. They didn't have any sandals he wanted, so he stuck with the flip-flops he had on. He also got a new pair of Spiderman sunglasses. He was excited about picking out his own clothes, and about wearing an outfit he liked.

On the way there we talked about the wedding. "Is it really two mens, Mom?" he asked. "Yes." Why are they getting married?" "Because they love each other. And when two grown-ups love each other, they can get married. Sometimes a man marries a man, and sometimes a woman marries a woman, and sometimes a man and a woman marry each other."

In another conversation he asked if there would be a "statue" of two men on the top of the cake. I said I thought there probably would be. He thought about it, and said that when he got married he wanted to have a statue of two penguins on his wedding cake. I said I thought that was a good idea.

When we got to the wedding he noticed that the two grooms were wearing matching shirts and boutonnieres. He asked why they were hugging and kissing. "Because now they're married. They're both husbands now."

Some of the guests were same-sex couples, and we talked about that, too. "Are those mens married to each other, Mom?" "I don't know. Let's look and see if they're wearing rings. That's usually how you can tell if someone's married." "Yeah, like you and Dad don't wear rings because you're not married." "Exactly."

He didn't cry at the wedding, because he's 5. I did, though. I cried because my friend, who was in my wedding, had been with his new husband for long enough for me to meet and marry and divorce my kids' dad, but was only now making it legal. And I was crying hoping that by the time my sons are old enough to get married, they'll be able to marry any adult they want to in any of the 50 states.

This morning I read this news, that one of the head execs of Target donated $150,000 to the gubernatorial campaign of an anti-gay candidate. And it made me sick to think of all the money I've spent there over the years. All that money, thinking Target was giving back to the community, when their execs are violating the Greatest Commandment.

But I'm glad that the last money I'll ever spend at Target was on the clothes my son wore to the wedding of a couple that gubernatorial candidate thinks don't deserve to be married.

And now, to teach my values, I'm going to explain to my children why we don't shop at Target anymore.

Spread the word (also, ouch)

I'm having some bizarre and debilitating back pain since Monday night that's making me cranky. Too cranky to be thoughtful about looking at problems and trying to pull them apart. I may post the weirdness of it later to crowdsource a fix when I can think a little better.

In the meantime, tell me what blogs you read and why. Please link them so we don't have to google. (If you put the http:// at the beginning of the URL it'll automatically link in the comments.)

My blog discovery is a new blog written by a long-time friend of mine. She's an American Christian, married to an Egyptian Muslim, and they have three kids that they're raising Muslim in the US. Her blog is called My Islamic Life, and her most recent post, "Secrecy Is Isolating," made me think a lot about how many models I've had and how daunting it would be to be raising kids without a clear path to follow. You can Twitter-follow her at @MyIslamicLIfe.

Q&A: How to deal with a demanding almost-5-year-old when you’re chronically sleep deprived

Amy writes:

I'm a 38 year old mom of a nearly five year old girl and 10.5 month
fraternal twins. The twins wake at least two times a night each (to
nurse), sometimes more. So I am not getting my REM sleep and besides
being plain tired, I am clinically chronically sleep deprived. This is
what my doctor told me when I was fishing around for him to give me
something to help me with my proneness to feel depressed, my
irritability, my short temper, my poor memory, etc.

I think I could cope with all this if it weren't for the fact that I
have to parent my very demanding nearly-five year old daughter. While
she isn't outright jealous of her baby siblings (she is very happy to
have them, having asked for baby sister/brother for ages, and she is
very loving to them, "helps" me with them, cuddles & kisses them,
plays with them etc.) she is extremely demanding of me, my energy,
attention and time. I have to do everything–fix her meals, help her get
ready for school/dance class/etc., read her bedtime stories, give her a
bath (so it has to be ME, not her father, not the sitter). And she is
constantly demanding my attention. She whines. She calls for me every
minute. Every little bump and scratch is a crisis. She doesn't do what I
tell her unless I threaten to punish her (I really can't stand that.)
You get the picture.

Our relationship has devolved to a situation where she gets me
angry, I shout at her, then I feel guilty, and say to her something
like, "Mommy doesn't want to shout but she gets upset when you don't
listen, etc." And she says, "I don't like it when you shout at me." And I
say, "well why do I shout?" And she says, "because I don't listen." And
we kiss and make up and then the same thing happens all over again a
few minutes later.

I am tired of being so angry at her all the time. I feel like a
rotten parent because I am so impatient with her. I feel guilty that she
is getting the short end of my chronic sleep deprivation. (I know I
would be a much calmer more patient person if I wasn't about to short
circuit all the time.)

Is there anything you can suggest to help me get through this with
my sanity intact, and without irreparably damaging her and our
relationship."

Wow, what a rough situation. 10 months is a horrible time for a lot of kids, and almost-5 seems to be really hard, too.

Did any of the rest of you notice an increase in clinginess and neediness in the 3-5 months right before your child turned 5? I didn't notice it with my first, but I also had a 19-month-old and had just asked my husband for a divorce, so I wasn't in any frame of mind to be making big-picture observations. With my younger son, though, there was a very distinct period in the months before he turned 5 in which he seemed to want to be inside my skin with me.

At the time it felt like one last hurrah of neediness and babyhood before her turned 5 and became a kid, independent from me. And that is what happened. Over the course of about two days within a few weeks of turning 5 he just got fluid and independent and competent. And he still wants to interact with me, but it's not a constant need to be with me and only me.

So I'm hoping that when your daughter turns 5 her intense need for you to be physically present at all times (and only you) diminishes.

I will also bet cash money that when your younger children turn a year things will start to ease and that by the time the turn 15 months they'll be completley different kids, sleepwise.

So at this point it's just survival for a few months, and knowing that everyone's doing appropriate things developmentally and you haven't done anything wrong. But that you do need some help help help.

Is it possible for you to get a break from the nighttime duty for a few days in a row? If you could get 2-3 nights of decent sleep you'd be fortified for the next few months. If your partner or a relative or friend could take an overnight shift with them it would make an enormous difference. Honestly, your doctor's kind of an ass for not taking this more seriously and suggesting HELP for you so you can make it through this really tough period without losing it completely. You need sleep.

I also wonder if you could get some help during the day for a few hours a couple of times a week so that you could get some more intense time in with your daughter or just feel like you can catch up with yourself a little.

We are NOT meant to be doing this all alone, on duty all the time, no respite. And giving our kids what they need developmentally doesn't mean that we stand back and watch while we sink into PPD because it's just not physically or emotionally viable.

Maybe your partner could read this, or your mom or friend, and the seriousness of the situation would hit and they'd offer to give you the support you need to make it through the nextx few months until your kids need (a little) less from you. I hope that's the case. I'm betting many of us reading this remember that feeling of thinking we were about to break. we're here with you.

Support? Especially from twin moms? (I can't even imagine. One at a time almost did me in at 10 months.)

Discussion of NurtureShock, Chapter 7 “The Science of Teen Rebellion”

We're talking about NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman allsummer. One chapter every Friday. Jump in whenever you'd like. The first week we talked about Chapter 1 about praise.
The second week we talked about Chapter 2 about sleep.
The third week we talked about talking about race with
your
kids.
The fourth week we talked about why kids lie and how
we're
inadvertently promoting that.
The fifth week we talked about
intelligence testing for preschoolers for school placement purposes.
Last week we talked about how having siblings socializes children. This week we're talking about why teens lie to their parents and engage in risky behavior.

This chapter, entitled "The Science of Teen Rebellion" wasn't as
thrilling to me as previous chapters, undoubtedly because I don't have
teenagers yet. But I also thought the structure and writing in this
chapter is weaker than in the others we've read so far. The first
section (a terrifying expose of one teenager in Florida that I didn't think was actually necessary) and the last
section (I'm not really sure what to make of it) aside, here are the
main points of this chapter:

  • Teenagers lie to their parents. A lot.
  • The main reason they lie to their parents is to avoid arguments about
    things they're doing or want to do.
  • The parents to whom teens lied the least were parents who enforced the
    few rules they had. Parents with tons of rules and parents who were very
    permissive were lied to the most.
  • Kids who argued with their parents saw the arguing as good for the
    relationship when they felt their parents had understood their side of
    things and had compromised with them.
  • Parents, on the other hand, saw arguing as destructive to the
    relationship and didn't notice the compromise as a bonding factor. The inference here is that you might think your
    relationship with your teen is in the crapper, while your teen could
    think things are great because you give them your full attention and
    concede to them sometimes in arguments.
  • There was some program trying to teach kids not to be bored that didn't work, and I really didn't get how it related to the rest of the chapter.
  • Teens' brains are physically not able to experience pleasure except at
    extremes of experience, compared to children and adults.
  • Teens also are unable to make fast decisions about risk and reasonable
    behavior.
  • No wonder they do really stupid things.
  • All that research in the '50s and '60s showing that teen rebellion and
    anger is normal was done on kids in treatment centers for behavioral
    problems. Turns out that when you study a wide group of teens in schools,
    75% have good relationships with parents, and the 25% who don't had
    trouble before becoming teens.

Even though there was plenty in this chapter that seemed not to connect to the main points, I did think this chapter was going to be the easiest to turn into
real-life behavior for parents: The example of a parent who was lied to the least
and had the most harmonious relationship with their teen was a parent
who had consistent rules but was flexible in allowing the teen to
collaborate on occasions in which the rule was changed. Seems pretty straight-forward, and goes along with the parenting by principles, not strictly by rules, approach that we've talked about before.

Thoughts? Reflections on your own teen years? Any really notorious lies
you told your parents? Ready to just give up? (My dad always threatened me with "You know, there's a Lutheran convent in Iowa that takes girls when they're 14…")

Q&A: SAHM wants to go back to work because of 4-month-old’s naps

Here's yet another sleep question that's not just about sleep. Mary writes:

"Not sure if you've posted an answer to this before, but I am at myWIT'S END with my son. He is 4 months old, and his naps are a
horrendous, stressful experience for me….I am a SAHM and I almost want
to go back to work so I can get out of this heart-wrenching situation
and let daycare deal with it.

He sleeps well at night. He wakes usually once per
night to eat, although sometimes he wakes at 1:30, sometimes 4…you
never know. Typically, though, he sleeps in 6+ hour stretches for us.

Naps are pushing me to my limit. He has never once in his
life fallen asleep on his activity mat or in his bouncer just
willy-nilly. He does not nod off. Ever. He becomes obviously fussy when
he's tired…no slipping off to sleep. So at naptimes (typically 1.5 – 2
hours after waking) I swaddle him (he is swaddled at night), turn on
soft music and then have to take him into the bathroom (super dark, no
windows) and sway him with the exhaust fan running for white noise until
he falls asleep. Sometimes he wails like he's being killed, other times
he goes down with a whimper or two. However, if I try to lay him down
in his crib…boom…he's awake after 20 minutes. If I sit and hold him,
he stays asleep for an hour, sometimes longer. Even when I hold him,
he'll come to, which means I jump up to either sway some more or go back
to the bathroom if he starts to fuss.

My arms and back are killing me because, well, he's
four months old.

I can't cope anymore. I can't
do anything during the day because if we're not napping/attempting to
nap, I'm playing with him or feeding him. I barely get to pee or drink
or eat.

Please…do you have any words of wisdom, and is
there something wrong with him? Or me? Will he outgrow this…do I need
to keep holding him? Just put him down and take whatever nap I can get? I
can't let him CIO. I can't…. I've purchased every sleep book known to
man. I'm ready to burn them all!"

Oh, no. I'm so, so sorry that you're feeling this way.

And also: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. That's the bitter laugh of
someone who remembers exactly what that was like. If I'd had any kind of
decent career at all before having a baby I'd surely have gone back to
escape. And I *know* 90% of the people reading this are chuckling
bitterly because they either wanted to go back or felt a guilty sense of
relief at not having to deal with naps when they did go back to work.

Being a parent is hard, y'all.

It does not matter how much you love your child: Caring for a baby is
the ultimate tear-you-down-and-build-you-back up experience*.

And here's where the bad news and the good news are exactly the same: What you're experiencing is totally normal.

Exhibit A: When you hold him he'll stay asleep for a long time. When he's sleeping by himself, he only stays asleep for 20 minutes. (Babies that age seem to be pre-programmed for either 20 minutes or 45 minutes.)

Exhibit B: He doesn't fall asleep on his own. (Apparently there *are* babies who will do that "drowsy but awake" thing–I know because some readers have had them. Neither of mine were. One of mine needed to be nursed or rocked to sleep. Always. The other needed to create white noise by crying to shut himself down, and could not be nursed or rocked to sleep. Almost always. They both sleep like champs now.)

Exhibit C: You are going insane. (Check. Check, and also check.)

Allllllll normal. At this age, no matter what you do, he's not going to get a long nap, so
don't stress yourself out trying to make it happen. When he's 5 or 5
1/2 months old, it'll all change. Read the comments on this post and absolve yourself.

Here's what I think you should do, right now, today. First, round of all the baby sleep books you have. Put the ones that your son has read and has agreed to follow in one pile, and the ones that your son hasn't read in another pile. Take that second pile and put it in a kitchen garbage bag and put that bag either 1) in the way way back of a closet to pull out when your son is 8 years old and read and laugh at, or 2) in the paper recycling bin.

Now, put your baby in the stroller or wrap or sling or what-have-you and forget about his naps, just for this one day (or tomorrow, if you're a planner). Pop in on that new moms' group you always wanted to go to but couldn't because of the !@#$%ing naps. Or call a friend (with kids or without) and meet for lunch. Go to a cafe and have an iced coffee and bring along a book and if your son falls asleep, read your book. (OK, magazine–Who are we kidding about your ability to concentrate on plot right now?)

Let today not be about naps. Your son will probably end up getting the same amount of sleep he would have if you'd stayed home and tortured yourself, only *you* will feel like a human being instead of some inadequate robot.

Now. Do you want to go back to work? That's another story for another day. There is no easy path for a mother. It's just a different set of problems. So maybe table that discussion and let the nap thing go until tomorrow and see how you feel.

Sympathy? Empathy? Bitter remembrance?

* Has anyone out there gone through military boot camp *after* becoming a
parent? Because I kind of feel like it wouldn't be the huge deal
it is for most recruits after going through the newborn stage. I mean, you get 7 hours of straight sleep a night, someone else cooks your meals, you get to pee all by yourself, you're not responsible for anyone else's socks, and all you have to do is physical tasks and not let a drill sergeant make you cry? Please… muscle soreness is nothing compared to the dark night of the soul.

Q&A: kids and messages about body size/shape

Our own Charisse writes:

"Can we talk about girls and body image and weight? These 3 things have
happened in the last week and it's freaking me out:

-Mouse was
riding in the car with me and said "mommy, I hate this reflection (in
the window), it makes my legs look fat and I never want to be fat" and
stayed upset about it no matter what I said ("oh sweetie, reflections do
funny things to how we look", "people come in lots of shapes and sizes"
and "you use your body a lot and eat good food and you're very healthy"
being among what I said)…and she is in fact a healthy weight too.

-Mouse's
friend E's mom posted that E refuses to smile because it "makes her
cheeks look fat" and is also very upset about this

-Mouse's
friend L's mom posted that L ate half a cookie and handed her back the
other half saying "I'm worried that this isn't good for my body"

All
of these girls are 6. I can't speak as closely for the other families
of course, but I don't diet, don't comment negatively on my own or other
people's appearance in front of Mouse, talk about exercise for fun and
strength and good food for pleasure and energy…Mouse sees very few TV
commercials, takes dance at a place that celebrates multiple styles
& body types…swims and gets lots of active play where appearance
isn't the physical quality in question – in short I feel like I'm doing
the right stuff, but hearing this out of her mouth at such a young age
makes me feel like I'm not doing enough. Or worse, like there's nothing
I can do. And I can't imagine it's going to get better. She's only 6! I
would love to hear what you think, and what readers with older girls
are doing about it that works."

Upon further correspondence, I revealed that my boys had been making
similar comments about "not wanting to get fat." Charisse expressed
surprise, thinking that this was mostly a girl issue. I think that it
may have been primarily a girl thing in the past, but body issues seem
to be for everyone now.

I know that I've been trying to emphasize being healthy. I talk about
exercising and needing to exercise to keep my body running. And I talk
about not wanting to eat too many foods that are unhealthy because that's
bad for my body.

I talked to the kids about making some of the changes I talked about
last Thursday. The older one was arguing with me that he was "only a
kid" and wasn't going to get sick from eating bad foods. But then I
pointed out that he'd told me on the way home from Cleveland that he was
feeling slow and tired and fat (his word) from eating so many vacation
foods. And, more importantly, health is something that's cumulative, so the best way to be healthy later is to take care of your body now.

(In other sad news, one of my kids' dad's friends from high school died
in his sleep a few days ago. He was 45, and had no real health problems. It's hitting my ex-husband hard, and he's
reevaluating his diet, along with pretty much everything else. So I think my kids are going to be getting a whole lot of whole grains in both households.)

From the comment Charisse quoted about Mouse's friend not wanting to eat the cookie
because it wasn't healthy, I'd guess that a lot of us are communicating the
same message about health. (Although apparently in a Nancy Reagan-ish "zero tolerance" kind of way.)

But what I'm wondering now is if we're not being specific enough about
separating health and size when we talk to our kids. If we're talking
about health health health, our kids are probably receiving the message
thin thin thin. It could be just like discussing race, in that we
*think* we're saying something, but our kids need to be told explicitly
every aspect of it. By only talking about health, society is still
getting its "Thin At All Costs" message into our kids' heads.

I am wondering what will happen if I start some deliberate conversations
with my kids about how it's possible to be thin and unhealthy, fat and healthy, fat
and unhealthy, extremely thin and healthy, and extremely thin and
unhealthy. I wonder if being super-explicit about body size relating
only loosely to health will change the self-talk my kids seem to be
engaging in.

Any thoughts about this? Experiences about talking specifically about
body size with your kids?

Q&A: Daycare and food question for baby

Here's one that kind of makes my head hurt.

Elise writes:

"My daughter is six and a half months old. We introduced solid foods
around five months, and she does well with cereal and some mashed
foods. However, she is not very interested in purees and has recently
begun insisting on finger foods (she snatches food out of my hands and
puts it in her mouth). I've given her cubed, steamed carrots and
potatoes, sliced ripe banana, etc, which she really enjoys. This is all
great, so no problem, right?

The issue is with daycare. My daughter is in a full-time daycare
center. She has wonderful caregivers, it's in my office building
which allows me to come by to breasfeed one or twice during the day,
and we are mostly happy with it. Unfortunately, they have very strict
food policies. Parents are only allowed to bring in bottles and jar or
some other type of pre-packaged food until their babies are old enough
to start eating the center provided lunch at age one. There are no
exceptions — infants cannot start center lunch early and parents may
not bring in food prepared at home. 

I plan to speak with the director in hopes of getting the rules
changed (I am not the only unhappy parent either). Right now my daughter
only eats cereal at daycare and has dinner with us at home. I'm hoping
you or some of your readers might have suggestions for what I can
bring for lunch in the future. The center suggested that I bring
Gerber Graduates (Puffs!! Crackers!) and things like fruit cups (that
come packaged in syrup!). I would prefer it if she were eating fresh
fruits and vegetables. She only has two teeth, so anything I bring needs
to be soft and easily gummed. 

Any ideas?"

Speaking of advocating for better food for kids, it makes me sad that already in daycare kids are being fed stuff that's less-than-healthy. Everything pre-packaged is really restrictive. I can understand that it's probably some kind of liability, but they're not the only daycare in the country, and many many daycares don't have restrictive policies like that, so it can't be an insurmountable policy. Keep pushing for change.

(As an aside, I love questions about daycare in which the caregivers are great. It makes everything so much better when you're really happy with who's with your kids all day.)

I've been wracking my brain to try to come up with something fresh but also packaged, but am not having much luck. Could they count a banana? It's in its own package, and if they broke off big chunks she could handle it.

I'm going with the Baby-led Weaning research that shows that kids do better with bigger pieces at first that they can control and put in the fronts of their mouths, than with small pieces or purees that are shoved into the back. Their finger control keeps pace with their tongue/mouth control, so that by the time they can pick of a small pea they're able to eat it safely on their own.

So a half a banana is something a little baby could pick up and gum in the front.

But even if they allow a banana, that's not a lot of variety.

Help.

Does anyone have any ideas to save Elise's baby from eating lunchables?

Q&A: Work load for SAH parent–perspective?

Today's post is not my finest work. Weird stuff happening all around that's distracting me. Is anyone else feeling like things are particularly chaotic since Saturday?

Anon writes:

"I am a WOHM and
my husband is a SAHD caring for our 10 month old daughter. My husband
does a large portion of the household chores during the week while I'm
at work (laundry, cloth-diaper laundry, dishes, some cooking, cleaning,
outdoor as well). I do what I can on weekends, plus most of the meal
planning and try to do most of the cooking as well, although some of
it's shifted to him lately.

Since our
daughter was about 4 months old or so I have also been doing the night
shift, mostly alone. I was getting fairly tired so asked him to step up
and at least take care of the "getting her back to sleep" as needed
before he went to bed (around 11/12pm). He did pitch in. We also decided
that as I'm not the kind of person who does well on 5 1/2 hours of
sleep, that I start "retiring" for the night at the same time as our
daughter. We usually start bath-time around 6:15/6:20, followed by
nursing, followed by sleep. My sleep really did start to look better.

Then my husband
apparently started feeling "overworked" and basically either stopped
doing his "getting her back to sleep" work before 11pm or doing it very
belligerently. This has recently been compounded by the fact that Miss A
is in full separation anxiety mode and won't even let him comfort her
before 11pm (not that we've really tried for more than a minute or two)
by crying loudly if he picks her up or if I pass her off to him.

What I'm really
wondering is a) in the light of all the work he does is it unreasonable
to expect him to pitch in at night too? and b) in the face of separation
anxiety, how long do we give her (days, weeks) of me only consoling her
before we try him again? Also, he recently made the comment to me that
he thinks he's the only man doing this much work at home (child care
plus housework).

I'd really love
to hear some feedback from any SAHD's who cruise this site."

I think your husband's comment that he thinks he's the only man doing this much work at home is the most telling part of this, and gives us the clue about what's really wrong, because your husband either isn't able to or doesn't want to verbalize it.

I'm hoping that some SAHDs jump in to give some data points here. I am 100% positive that your husband is not the only man doing that much work, but I hope the men speak for themselves.

But it's really not even important where your husband's workload lies on the spectrum of SAHD workloads. It sounds like your husband is just really unhappy, and is taking it out on you by being passive-aggressive and not just saying "I feel overworked and something needs to give." (Any other current or former SAH parents who've ever been passive-aggressive, raise [y]our hands.)

But something does need to give. There are all kinds of solutions here, everything from hiring a part-time babysitter to give your husband a break, to hiring someone to come clean every other week to give your husband a break, to having your husband go back to work part-time or full-time and finding corresponding care for your daughter. There are all kinds of ways to make the family arrangement work for everybody involved, but the first step is talking about it honestly.

Talk about it, and leave your mind open to all kinds of ways to make things work.

Talk about it.

I'm talking to everyone: SAHDs, SAHMs, WOH parents, WAH parents, everyone. Even single parents (if there's anyone involved in your life that you can talk to). My kids' dad and I were in the same kind of road-blocky passive-aggressiveness for a long time and finally just got honest and found a solution and both of us are waaaay happier now. You can do it, too, but it takes stepping away from who's got the most "points" and moving on to who's feeling what and how can everyone feel better.

So, any SAHDs who want to give data points can, but as part of that please talk about whether it's working for you or not, and if so, how are you making it work.

Everyone else, please talk about what you're doing that makes things work or not. And if it's not working, is there something you think would make it work for you?

(Oh, and I predict about another month on the separation anxiety.)