What little sacrifice are you making today?

1. The Free Pass is still in effect today if you need it. Pass it on to someone else if you think they need it.

2. My friend Meggin McIntosh is hosting a free teleseminar called "Peace of Mind for the Caregiver" next Monday. It will be recorded so you can listen later if you can't call in live. In light of last Friday's talk about Alzheimer's, I thought some of us could use some peace of mind.

3. Today is 90 days out from Christmas, so my Christmased.com website starts up again today. Today's question is about what gift you'd want this year if you could have anything. (Not so easy to think about what YOU want, is it?)

4. Peaceful and reflective Yom Kippur to all who observe it.

 

I can't go to soccer tonight because of scheduling problems, and I'm sad about it. I've gotten just decent enough to know what I can't do yet and to try to get better every time I go out on the field. I'm missing tonight specifically to take care of my kids and keep their activities on track. This would have been a bigger deal a few years ago. It feels like less of a big deal now, so I'm noticing it to see how I feel about balance of priorities, obligations, putting on my oxygen mask first, and all of that.

What are you giving up for your children today, big or small? How do you feel about it? Does it feel like a static sacrifice, or something that won't change?

 

Free pass

Yesterday Facebook offered me the chance to do a promo coupon for the AskMoxie Facebook site. I was allowed (for free, this first time) to offer a discount or offer and people could click through to redeem it. I decided to try it out, so I put up the following offer:

"Free pass. One free pass for anything you could have done better today with your kids."

13 people clicked through to "redeem" it. But holy cats! The private conversations I had from people thanking me for that offer.

So here's the offer for you from me here, not on FB. You don't have to click through, and it doesn't expire:

You get a pass when you do something you could have done better. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt. You're a good parent, and you do a good job, and when you make a misstep it's just a misstep. Even a whole week of bad days is a week of bad days. You're smart and loving, and you'll figure out how to get into a better pattern.

Your kids are lucky to have you.

 

If you have anything to say (a confession, or lament), or want to offer anything to anyone else, post it here.

Innovation in morning routines: It’s the little things

I was thinking a lot over the summer about how I could make the morning routine easier during the school year. Those of you who have been reading forever know that I lost at least four levels of complexity in the move from NYC to Michigan: my kids walk across the street instead of all of us taking the subway together for 45 minutes, I am working from home instead of going to an office so no more commute for me (45 minutes plus another 25 minute leg on days I took the kids to school, 65 minutes when it was just me), because of no subway ride we can leave for school 50 minutes later, that means 45 more minutes of sleep for me.

But still, by the end of the school year last year I was feeling pushed by all the stuff I had to do to get the kids out the door. I am tempermentally unsuited to do everything the night before, and have accepted this about myself. But I did shift duties around in time and reassign responsibility, and it's going so well this year.

Here's what we're doing:

1. Final homework check and signing off on assignments we do at night, so everything's packed except lunches. I appraise the lunch and breakfast and clothes situation.

2. The boys are responsible for getting themselves dressed and making their own breakfasts. Once they're dressed and have eaten, they may play video games, and this carrot means I only have to remind them once and they both hop to it. (They're 10.5 and 7.5.)

3. I pack lunches.

4. We sit around chatting about the upcoming day and week for fifteen minutes before they have to leave the house. Super-chill, and they go off happier, and I'm more ready to sit down and work as soon as they leave.

The whole lynchpin of this system is that the kids are making their own breakfast (toast or oatmeal and fruit), and they come out of their rooms dressed.

I feel like a supergenius. What innovations have you made this year that are making things go more smoothly? What thigns are you struggling with that we could help you troubleshoot?

What Alzheimer’s takes

A lot of you know that my grandmother–my dad's mom, who we always called Mamama–has Alzheimer's. A few years ago, when she was still mostly there, we moved her out of her house to an apartment in a senior living center. Then last Valentine's Day she fell and broke her hip. She was in the hospital, then a recovery center, and is now in a nursing home especially for people with Alzheimer's. She has a huge window. Her caregivers are good. We visit her regularly.

But she's already gone.

She's not Mamama anymore. Layer by layer she's left us. Her opinions, her thoughts, her desires. She used to be so vain about so many things, and now she doesn't even notice. She still knows our names but not how we're related to each other. She looks at the picture of her with her maid of honor at her wedding and remembers that day, but doesn't remember what the last meal she ate was.

I don't know what to make of it.

Friend and reader Kristen told me that her husband is struggling because his grandfather is gone, too. "My husband's grandpa doesn't remember him. They were as close as could
be and now after spending the day together he has no clue who he is."

They were as close as could be. Now he's gone.

Kristen asked me how she could help her husband, what she could say that wouldn't make it worse. I wish I knew. I think a hug would be the best thing she could do. The only thing she can really do. How can he be here but not?

I don't know what to make of it.

My friend Meggin lost her mom to Alzheimer's before her mother died. My friend Gina is losing her mom, piece by piece, as I write this. My uncle cries in his car when he leaves a visit with Mamama. She's not his mom anymore.

It is grueling. It is desperate. It is so crushing.

I was sent a children's book about Alzheimer's to review, My New Granny by Elisabeth Steinkellner. It's a sweet little book, about how Granny used to be, and how she is now, and reducing expectations and showing love even when the person isn't the same anymore. I think it would be good for little kids who have noticed some changes in someone with Alzheimer's. I love that someone wrote a children's book about Alzheimer's. But it almost seemed too rosy for me. I still don't know how to explain to my children who Mamama WAS. What she liked, and how she made us feel, and what was great about her and how she drove us nuts. How she was my role model of a working mother when I was little. How she took an enormous chance on my grandfather and they made the kind of love people are lucky to have.

When we moved Mamama out of her house she/we weeded out a lot of her jewelry, and she gave me a pair of earrings. When I wore them and got compliments I'd say, "They were my grandmother's, and she gave them to me. It's nice that I get to have them and she's still with us." But that's not true anymore.

She's not with us. But she's still here.

I don't know what to make of it.

 

 

(I'm wearing purple on Friday, September 21 for Alzheimer's Action Day. If you see someone wearing purple today, please give them a hug.)

What is spoiling?

Talk to me about "spoiling" kids.

I was in an online discussion a couple of weeks ago in which one of the participants was lamenting trying to referee expectations at her house vs. the neighbor's house, about food but also material possessions. At one point she said that she gave her child presents for birthdays and holidays, and didn't "spoil [her child] by buying them toys all the time."

That kind of brought me up short, because I do buy my kids toys, fairly often. Essentially, I see something they'd like and get it to give it to them, because I know they'll like it. These aren't high-value items (I don't have the money or the inclination for that), but to me it feels just like making their favorite meals on the days they're at my house, or letting them choose the radio station, or leaving a note in their backpacks. It's a way of showing love in a personal way that acknowledges their personalities and preferences.

But I totally get her point, that an avalanche of things (especially if they're given every time a child asks for something) feels like spoiling.

I wonder if somehow this is related to the Love Languages concept. (It's a book, but essentially the idea is that people experience feeling loved through different modalities, which is why sometimes you do something you think is super-loving but the other person receives it as if it's no big deal and vice versa. Once you know someone's Love Language you can a) understand how they show love, and b) understand how to show love to them in a way that connects with them.) One of the Love Languages is giving gifts, and that's pretty high up on my scale. (Not surprisingly, Words of Affirmation is my top Love Language.)

(You know I'm really into personality testing and all kinds of measures of understanding ourselves. I can tell you my cat's Myers Briggs type.)

(It was my brother who turned me on to the Love Languages thing, which he figured out while dating his now-wife, and once he broke it down for me it completely explained Christmas, birthdays, and every interaction with our parents, ever. Also a really funny New Year's Eve with my friend Kelli.)

So for someone who feels giving and recieving gifts (even teeny ones) as a form of love, of course you give them to your kids. For someone who doesn't feel gifts as connected to love, giving a lot of gifts seems wasteful and pointless.

So I'm wondering how much of ideas of spoiling are different priorities and how many are about something else that I haven't exactly put my finger on yet. Is it really about behavior? In the phrase "spoiled brat" there's an implication that a child is acting poorly, but also the idea of excess, somehow, of greed.

What do you think is the essence (if there is one) of "spoiling"? Do you do things that other people could see as spoiling your kids? Do other people do things you see as spoiling but they don't? Is there always an element of "excess" or can it be purely behavioral?

Shunned because of being a single mom

I got an email from a mom who is feeling isolated at her kids' preschool because since she announced that she was getting a divorce, the other moms have shunned her. She thinks they think she is going to try to "steal" one of their husbands.

Which is interesting, because I recently had a conversation with a single mom I know who has felt excluded by the partnered moms at her school, and doesn't know if it's because they think she might be after their partners or if they just don't like the idea of a single mom.

This makes me tired.

I mean, I guess there must be some women out there who would be interested in people who are already in relationships, but the single-mom-on-the-prowl stereotype is as inaccurate and played as the single-black-mom-who'll-never-get-married stereotype or the divorced-white-suburban-mom-who-doesn't-do-anything-but-live-on-her-ex's-money or any other stereotype about women that allows people to dismiss us and not take us seriously as women and mothers.

Being a single parent–whether it's through divorce or choice or things just not working out–is tiring and stressful and difficult sometimes. As is being a parent in a relationship. Parenting is hard, and getting through life is hard, and believing the worst about people without even bothering to know them only makes it harder.

I wish I had some advice for these moms about dealing with the exclusion. It's happened to me, too. I don't know what to say, though, except that your real friends will stick by you. And anyone who excludes you is doing you a favor. (I really sound like someone's mom, don't I?)

I wish we had some kind of international Reaching Out To Another Parent Day, in which we all made an effort to get to know someone whose demographics were not like our own.

Can't we all just get along?

 

Breathe in, breathe out

Mini announcement: I'm switching to WordPress over the weekend, so there may be some unavailability of the site Saturday night (US Eastern time) and I'll be tweaking the design Sunday so it might look like a smacked ass for a couple of days. Apologies in advance, but the move has to be made before we all die of spam comments.

Now: Is anyone else just getting super-stressed by media of all sorts these days? It feels like everyone gets internet-weary every August, but I'm getting increasingly stressed and anxious as we grind closer to our US elections here. It's a combo of the internet and tv and just everything.

I'm trying to figure out how to deal with it, and have come up with a few tips by accident:

1. I usually watch one of the morning shows in the morning after I get the kids off to school and while I'm writing. On Sunday night I was watching the show "Being: Liverpool" on Fox Soccer and I didn''t switch channels before I turned off the tv. On Monday morning I had a replay of the Reading/Liverpool game on during the time I usually watch the morning shows, and it was like night and day. No stress whatsoever. I may go all soccer all the time until November 6.

2. I'm staying strictly on my own FB page and keeping Twitter on "interactions" so I only see things people directly send me. I lucked into "interactions" and was amazed by how easy Twitter is to manage when you only speak when spoken to. And after being enraged by yet another troll on a friend's FB page I'm sticking to my own.

3. I'm making playlists for my Christmas-themed website that's starting again next week, and it's shocking how relaxing Christmas music is in the off-season.

4. I'm back running again! Woo-hoo!

Are you all feeling as super-stressed as I am by media right now? How are you dealing with it? (Or aren't you?) Were we all this stressed during the 2008 elections? Why don't Canadians seem to get as bent out of shape by your elections?

What time do your kids go to bed and wake up?

Now that everyone's been back in school for awhile, let's share some data points.

What time does your child go to bed?

What time does your child wake up? (If your child wakes up in the middle of the night, include that, too.)

Does your child still nap?

How old is your child?

What time do you need to leave the house in the morning?

Anything else of note? (Where your child sleeps, any special routine you must follow or sleep all falls apart, etc.)

 

I'll start:

My children are 10.5 and almost 7.5. Both go to bed on school nights at 9:30.

The older one wakes up around 7:15 (but has never needed as much sleep as other people at any given age, and was a classic tension increaser who was either awake or asleep, no "drowsy but awake" for him). No naps. Sleeps in his own bed at my house. If he wakes up in the middle of the night I have no idea.

The younger one wakes up around 8. No naps. Always wakes up in my bed at my house, and his dad reports that he likes to sleep under his bed at his dad's house. I have no idea if he wakes up in the middle of the night, except for one night last week when he woke up crying about being "so hungry" so I told him to go get some cereal and in the morning I found a box of Cheerios in the bathroom.

They leave the house at 8:42 am.

 

Now you.

The new infant sleep study article

I usually don't like saying "I told you so." But this time, well, I told you so.

You know how the tagline of this site is "You are the best parent for your child"? Well, you are. And now it's been proven by a research study.

(OK, "proven.")

The article "Five-Year Follow-up of Harms and Benefits of Behavioral Infant Sleep Intervention: Randomized Trial " published September 10, 2012 by the journal Pediatrics details the methodology and findings of an Australian study conducted in 2003-2005 called the Infant Sleep Study, along with the methodology and findings of a follow-up with the participants in the Infant Sleep Study conducted in 2009 and called the Kids Sleep Study.

The initial study was designed to discover if there was any harm to infants above the age of 6 months whose parents used "interventions" (meaning various so-called "sleep training" methods, some involving crying), and the follow-up was designed to see if there was any harm to these methods after five years. What they found was that the babies in the group of parents who had used interventions had better sleep (as rated by the parents) and the mothers were less likely to be depressed than those in the control group during the initial Infant Sleep Study, and that there were no noticable differences in the two groups five years later during the Kids Sleep Study.

A lot of the headlines around the study are misleading at best, so I read the article and looked at how the Australian researchers did the initial study. Here it is, in non-scientific language:

First, parents were asked the question "Over the last 2 weeks, has your baby’s sleep generally been a problem for you?" abouth their 7-month-olds. Those who said "yes" were eligible to become part of the study. Note that there was no objective measure of "good sleep" vs. "bad sleep." Instead, they went by how the parents felt about the way their child was sleeping. That's important, because as we've seen here over the years, it's more about how you feel about how your child is sleeping than about any objective measure. If you're happy with where your child is sleeping and how attentive you have to be in the night, it's all good. (And you wouldn't have been able to participate in this study.)

Then, the researchers separated the participants into the "interventions" group and the control group, with the participants having no choice over which group they were in, but they were told which group they were in once they were assigned.

Next, the participants in the control groups came to their regular well-child visits and could ask the nurse about sleep, but weren't specifically told about any interventions they could use.

Meanwhile, the participants in the "interventions" group were told about a variety of sleep interventions, including controlled crying (aka "the Ferber method") and what the study calls "adult fading" or "camping out," which sounds to me like the old "I'll lie on the floor next to your crib until you fall asleep" that many of us know and still have the rug marks on our faces to show for it. Here's the kicker: Participants in this group were allowed to choose how many and which interventions they wanted to use.

Yes.

To recap: Parents said that things weren't working the way they were currently going, so were given a whole bunch of techniques, and told they should choose the ones they thought would work best and try those with their child. Who else thinks this sounds an awful lot like what's been happening here in the comments section of this site for the past almost-7 years? Because I do.

Essentially what this study did (which is not the same as what the study proved, which I'll get to in a minute) is provide support to parents to try techniques they may not have known about or understood or felt they were able to try before with their kids. I am not one bit shocked that the parents reported fewer sleep problems and greater maternal emotional health compared to the parents in the control group, who didn't get the same support.

The control group participants were not prevented from trying any method/intervention to get their children to sleep. They just weren't taught/informed about any interventions by anyone involved in the study. The difference in the two groups was that one got information and support, while the other didn't.

It is important to note that (contrary to all the headlines about this study) the study did NOT show that "CIO is good" or that every baby needs to be trained to sleep or anything like that. What it showed was that parents who chose controlled crying or other interventions for their own specific babies felt better about how their babies were sleeping after doing those interventions and felt better about themselves. In other words, controlled crying doesn't do harm to babies and parents when the parents think it will work and try it.

I think this study says way more about how beneficial support for trusting your instincts about what your specific child needs is than it does about any specific sleep intervention.

The new findings of this study (based on follow-ups with the original babies and families when the children were 6 years old) are that by the time the kids in the study were 6 years old, there were no differences in the kids and families in the control group and the intervention group in terms of stress level, sleep, child-parent closeness, and other measures of wellbeing of the family. In other words, how or where or what you do about your child sleeping when they're a baby has little correlation with your lives when your child is 6. Don't get too cocky or depressed when you're in the baby years, in other words.

So: Carry on with what you're doing if it's working for you. If it's not working, try something different. (It might help to figure out if crying helps your child release tension or if it increases tension.) Surround yourself with people who are going to support you, and protect yourself from the people who are giving you crap and telling you you're doing it wrong.

You ARE* the best parent for your child.

 

* Scientifically proven!

Older sibling and baby sharing room in a small space

For the record, I think the reasons so many mothers put up pictures of their kids as their Facebook profile pictures are that 1) we have way more photos of our kids than of ourselves, and 2) we think we're fat and don't want people from high school to see that. I don't think it's any big social statement or grand conspiracy of sacrifice and sublimation.

Gennaro writes:

"I'm wondering how others have managed the logistics of having an older
child and a new baby in a house / space designed for a single kid? We
have a 2nd baby on the way and a 5-year-old boy and live in a 2-bedroom
bungalow. I'm guessing we'll have the baby sleep in our room for the
first while, and then transition s/he to share the other bedroom when
the time is right. I'm interested in strategies and experiences – what
worked, what didn't work, how your first child handled sharing their
room, etc."

I think this will probably be fine because your older child is 5 already. Once the baby is in the same room with your older son they won't have the same bedtime anyway, so you can put the younger one down first and then deal with the older one. Plus, the older one can understand that sometimes little kids wake up at night, and just go back to sleep.

It's my suspicion that this will go pretty smoothly, because the age difference is great enough that your older son won't want to be the baby anymore and won't be jealous, and will understand that babies need to be taken care of and helped to fall asleep, etc.

The suggestions I'd offer about putting them in the same room are based on having kids closer together in age (making sure the older one feels like a big kid, etc.). Who's got experience with siblings sharing a room with a 5+ year age gap they can share?