What about sleepover parties?

I was on tv last week and wrote about it here.


Can we talk sleepover parties?

They kind of baffle me, and I've realized it's because all I know are slumber parties with girls, so I really don't know what happens with boys at sleepovers.

How old were your kids when they started being invited to them or going to them or having them?

How many kids usually go?

Are there ages at which they're co-ed, or are they always single sex?

In NYC the first one we got an invitation to was in second grade, and there were around 8 boys. My older son went to one last weekend here in Michigan with what seemed like a thousand boys. My first-grader suggested having one, but we thought it might be too soon and talked him down to a daytime party.

Do girls still do the same social bullying games we did in middle school to the first person to fall asleep?

Do boys do that same stuff, or is it more straightforward?


Dealing with kids’ clothes at the season changes

Bonnie is in the middle of the only seasonally-related malady worse than pollen allergies: changing her children's clothing for the seasons. And she's hoping you have tips (because I sure don't). She says

"Every year I get the biggest headache trying to sort–size or season? Label or actual measurements? And now that I have my daughter it totally complicates…I am sure some parent has come up with an intelligent solution or system."

The only thing I know is that sorting by actual measurements ends up being better than sorting by the size on the label. But there has got to be some better way to do this than my method (3 big clear plastic containers, one for each of the sizes between my older son and my younger son), or at least some way to make me operationalize better so I'm not discovering big stashes of clothes in the size my younger one just grew out of.

Does anyone offer this as a professional service? I can't be the only one who would be willing to pay someone else to come in and manage our kids' clothing…

But I know there have to be some of you out there who have a true handle on this and can share for those of us who are struggling. Please, please share.

Talking about sex and dating post-divorce

I have a friend who's in the process of a divorce after having been with her soon-to-be-ex-husband for a decade. She has two young children and a full-time job and has been thoroughly demoralized by the last few years.

The last time I saw her, she told me that someone from her past had heard that she was getting divorced and told a mutual friend, "Maybe now I have a chance with her." This was shocking to my friend, because she really thought she was over. Done, undesireable, on the shelf.

I knew she wasn't (she's hilarious and pretty and wild), but I vividly remember feeling like that myself, as I dragged my worn-out, soul-weary ass through every day of the end of my marriage and the beginning of the divorce process. I could not fathom that anyone would ever want to be with me. Not least of which because I had kids, but also because I felt like a dried-out shell.

Has anyone else experienced that? Feeling like everything was completely over for you? Being the bitter, '70s-style divorcee, sitting alone and lonely with your cats as soon as the children go to their father's for the weekend?

That was not at all what happened, though. To my everlasting shock, men seemed to pop out of nowhere and want to date me. And some of them seemed to want to date me even more because I have kids and weren't afraid of that side of me.

So I got that my frend was shocked that someone wanted her, but I wasn't surprised at all. She is a catch, and even though she may not feel like it right now, she's the It Girl. I plied her with a few drinks, and then her real question came out: "How do I know how to have sex anymore and what I like?"

Ah, yes. Terrifying. A decade with the same person in a huge rut disconnects you from your body. Plus the pregnancies and all the accompanying stretchmarks. I had years of thinking I didn't have any sex left in me anymore. For me what helped was doing burlesque (that link describes my experience taking the class and glosses over my having done one public performance–I was invited back for an "all-stars" performance [!!] two years later and I did it, again, in public), but not everyone can or will do that. Some people start exercising, or buy a lot of sexy shoes, or run a marathon, or jump out of an airplane. Some people just watch Nicholas Sparks movies and drink a lot of Diet Coke.

So I told my friend what I figured out: You find someone you're really physically attracted to, and you just screw up your confidence and do it. And the details come back to you, and that person brings something new to it, and if you like it, you keep doing it.

The first person you date post-divorce is probably not going to be your life partner, but you can learn so much about what you like and don't like and who you are now from dating. It's ok to make mistakes (as long as they're on your time and not your kids' time) and have fun. It's great to have fun. It's awesome to have fun. Fun is fun.

Also: Therapy. You need to see someone for a few months to help you figure out why you married someone you couldn't stay with (no matter who asked for the divorce) so you can avoid getting into the same situation again, and can move on to a life full of friends and forward motion and, you know, fun. A few months with someone who can help you sort it out and figure out how not to repeat mistakes is the best investment you can make in yourself and your children. In all areas of your life, but also sexually.

Readers? Dating post-divorce? Sex? Therapy? What have you got for my friend?

Friendships and the 8-10-year-old boy?

I've been thinking a lot about the way friendships seem to be playing out in the third and fourth grades for boys.

Note: I'm not trying to exclude girls, and I don't know if things are substantively different for girls, but I don't have any girls to observe close-up. So this is about boys but not not about girls, if that makes sense. I'd appreciate data points about girls in the comments.

In these grades it's felt like the boys are constantly shifting friendships and alliances. Like two boys will be best friends one day, and then the next they will be enemies and will be friends with boys they didn't like the day before.

It makes arranging playdates difficult, since a playdate arranged too far in advance can fall apart if the boys are on the outs that day. It makes planning birthday parties difficult, too, since it's not just about who your son wants to come to his party, but whether those boys are friends on the day of the party.

I have found it all to be very hurtful to my son at the same time that I'm sure he's hurting other kids' feelings, but they don't seem to know how to stop.

Is this a testosterone surge? There has to be some sort of explanation for it, because it seemed very timebound, and seems to be starting to stabilize as the boys all turn 10.

Has anyone else experienced this? What do you think causes it? Is there something we could be doing differently to help the boys get along better?

The first few weeks: Wild animal or alien cyborg?

A friend of mine, who has a 2-week-old, thanked me for being honest about how much the first few weeks can suck. Crying, your not knowing what the baby wants, cluster-feeding, pulling off if the flow is too fast or too slow, etc. He said most people "candy-coat" the first few weeks/months, and he thinks it's because people don't want to admit that their child was like a wild animal.

I would much rather say to someone that I hated the early weeks because you have zero control and the baby is a constant vacuum of need, but gives you virtually no positive feedback. Seriously, when the fact that the kid poops and pees regularly is the best feedback you're getting, it's not the most blissful phase. But I'd rather be honest about that and then talk about how it does get better. Because it does. But also so your friend doesn't abandon all hope.

I never thought of either of my newborns as wild animals, but that's probably because I was thinking of them more as alien cyborgs with neverending appetites. Although I guess that's similar to a mongoose baby.

What do you think? a) Was your child like a wild animal? and b) Why do people candy-coat the early weeks/months? (I remember thinking I was going to punch the next person who told me to "enjoy this phase" because the baby was so snuggly and sleepy.) c) Do you tend to be more of a candy-coater or a yes-this-sucks-er?

Please read this Guest Post on IBS from my friend Nina

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month.

Shawn was 10. On a family vacation in Mexico, he accidentally swallowed contaminated water while swimming in a chlorinated pool and became critically ill. He recovered, but soon developed IBS. Now an adult IBS advocate for many years, he says, “In those days, no one had a clue about IBS… Since the good doctors couldn't figure it out, I was sent for therapy and put on librium and told it was psychosomatic… I struggled for years through school… trying to explain to friends why I was in pain a lot and could not do things… My parents were very supportive and my mom is a nurse… However, … she could not help and I could see that in her eyes while I laid there in complete agony…”  After decades of searching for answers, Shawn was helped greatly by a gut-directed hypnotherapy home course, but IBS still remains. (excerpted with Shawn’s permission)

What IBS is

* IBS is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder, affecting 10-20% of the population. That’s more common than diabetes.  “Functional” means it affects the function of the colon without showing obvious structural, organic or metabolic problems.  IBS is more common in women than men, but affects boys and girls equally.

*The hallmark symptoms of IBS are chronic or recurring abdominal pain or discomfort and changes in frequency and/or appearance of stools. Usually the pain or discomfort improves after a bowel movement. There may be other GI or non-GI symptoms that vary from person to person, but fever, bleeding or weight loss unrelated to eating less aren’t IBS symptoms.

*The causes of IBS are complex and incompletely understood, but research has established abnormalities in how the brain and digestive tract communicate, how the brain processes pain and how the colon moves. Many other factors are being actively studied. Some children have genetic relatives with IBS or a related chronic condition like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Post-infectious IBS after illness or exposure to contaminated food or water is also a high risk, but many children and adults develop IBS with no known risk factors.

 *IBS is not the same thing as inflammatory bowel disease, food intolerances or allergies. It’s not life threatening and doesn’t increase the risk of cancer. It’s been found all over the world in every culture and ethnic group for generations and isn’t a modern fad or catchall label. While diet and stress may affect symptoms to varying extents for each individual, they don’t cause IBS.

If you think your child may have IBS:

*Please see a doctor. Many other conditions have some similar symptoms.

*Depending on your child’s symptoms, any family history of Crohn’s, colitis, celiac disease, etc, the doctor may order tests to rule out other conditions. However, there’s currently no test for IBS. The international diagnostic standard, called the Rome III criteria, is based on symptoms and is considered highly accurate if used correctly. IBS experts now discourage a lot of testing in most cases because it can be costly, time consuming, invasive, stressful and with IBS, all tests will be normal. The overwhelming odds are that a Rome III diagnosis is correct. If your doctor doesn’t know what Rome III is, find another doctor. A pediatric functional GI specialist is ideal, but they’re rare. A knowledgeable pediatrician or general gastroenterologist may be able to manage your child’s needs well.  Studies show that people with IBS tend to do better with health providers they trust to work with them and take their concerns seriously.

If your child has IBS

*Each person with IBS is different in symptoms, severity level and experiences. There are various conventional and scientifically-accepted complementary interventions that may help, such as diet, exercise, stress management, medication, gut-directed hypnotherapy, probiotics, and psychotherapy, but what helps one child or adult with IBS may not help another.  No doctor, adult with IBS or fellow parent can predict specifically what will help your child. Be prepared for trial and error. For some, this will be a short process, for others, a very long one.

*There’s currently no cure for IBS, despite hype from various sources. Some children and adults, fortunately, have mild or sporadic IBS symptoms. Most people, even with moderate or severe IBS, eventually find some things that decrease symptoms somewhat, but this may take a while. Each year, a small percentage of people becomes symptom-free, but again, nobody can predict exactly whom or how. Symptoms often return eventually, and most people with IBS are in it for the long haul. Educate yourself from reputable sources and choose wisely. There are many questionable entities simply out to separate families from their money, and many myths and misconceptions too.

*IBS is a hidden illness/disability. If you’re in the U.S. and your child is in school, consider a 504 plan for accommodations like unrestricted bathroom access, extended time or modified absence policies if needed. Other countries may have similar provisions. Support and advocate for your child. The pain, fatigue and other symptoms are real and not in his/her head. For some people with IBS, these can be intense and unrelenting or change from hour to hour or day to day. Help relatives, friends and teachers understand that your child isn’t faking, lazy or being picky about food. Encourage your child to do as much as he/she is able with your family and his/her peers. Many people with IBS isolate themselves because of feeling ill and fearing accidents or others’ reactions.  Some schools may suggest homeschooling rather than accommodate such an unpredictable condition. However, research evidence shows that confronting fears often helps decrease stress that may trigger symptoms in a vicious cycle.  Being matter of fact instead of viewing IBS as a shameful secret will prepare your child to deal more easily and independently with these challenges in the future.

*Moderate or severe IBS can affect the entire family. Seek help for your child, yourself or other family members if needed. Unfortunately, local support groups are rare, but there are reputable resources that may be able to help. If not, be proactive and consider starting a group. While research and social supports for IBS have a long way to go, there’s a pending bill in Congress for functional GI disorders and the beginnings of grassroots advocacy that’s historically been scant in the IBS community. We welcome you to join us and accelerate better circumstances for all children and adults with IBS.



Nina and Shawn, both adults with IBS, run IBS Impact (http://www.ibsimpact.com/), a grassroots advocacy and awareness-focused website, blog and discussion group with original content and links to reputable resources in 6 countries.

Back to school blues

Some of you are still on spring break, but my kids went back to school today. I'm looking for suggestions on making it through the rest of the year emotionally, for parents if not for kids. Today they were pretty sugar-fueled and were happy to see their friends, but I know that by the end of the week they'll be feeling weighed down by homework and expectations again.

And that weighs me down with homework and expectations. (Which is kind of funny, because my own homework and expectations at school don't weigh me down that much. Lesson: It's always better when it's optional.)

We're in a long stretch now, with only Memorial Day Weekend to break up the weeks until school is out in June.

How do you all make it mentally through this stretch?

And the winner is…

Food Allergy, by a landslide!


Thank you for playing, everyone. I particularly enjoyed the comments and how thoughtful everyone was.

I realized that some of the problems were things I was still struck by, viscerally, even though my kids are years away from most of those issues (Case in point–I was awakened yesterday morning by the sound of my son vomiting into the toilet. Not my face. He even wiped it clean, so I got to deal with the emotional part but not the puke. LOVE big kids.)

But it was interesting to me that things I'd thought were awful seemed like nothing to other people, and things I'd put on the list because I thought they were funny were real problems for other people.

Did you get any insights from playing?