Category Archives: Advice

What’s the deal with 7-year-olds?

I was thinking of writing this post, called "What's the deal with 7-year-olds?" (subtitle: "Who ARE these people??") but then thought I should try to figure out if it was just mine, or if other people are experiencing the same frustration.

Let's put aside the fact that for years you all have been saying "Seven-year-olds are so frustrating!!" but my older one was totally fine at age 7 so I just didn't get what you mean. I get it now. Boy, do I get it.

And it makes so much sense that 7 is a rough age, because we already went through the crappy developmental leaps-slash-sleep-regressions at 4 months, 9 months, 18 months, then that massive personality implosion of 3 1/2 years. So if we double that we get to 7 years. (And then 14 sucks, too, if you will recall your own life. I felt out of sorts at age 21. And 28, too, come to think of it.)

So it makes sense. But, also, I'm tired of it.

So I went to see if our friends Louise Bates Ames and France Ilg from the Gesell Child Study Institute had written a book on 7-year-olds. Their "Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy?" book saved my sanity twice, but I hadn't read past that one.

So I went to Amazon to see what the book for seven-year-olds looks like. (It turns out that Ilg wasn't on this project, but Carol Chase Haber was.) I was not disappointed: Your Seven-Year-Old: Life in a Minor Key

Well, yes. Here's the blurb about the book:

"Your Seven-Year-Old is devoted to the delightful but often
anxious and withdrawn child of Seven. Although any seven-year-old will
have moments of exuberance, security, and happiness, in general this is
an age of introspection. As it begins, parents and teachers may welcome
the quiet after the tussles and tangles of Six. But once the child of
Seven starts to withdraw it’s almost as though he doesn't know where or
when to stop. Seven-year-olds feel picked on by family, friends, and
teachers alike; they worry that no one likes them; they expect every
little task to prove too difficult to handle; tears come easily at this
With wit and wisdom, Dr. Ames of the highly respected
Gesell Institute and Carol Chase Haber offer insights into what children
this age are feeling and thinking, and how parents can best deal with
these moody, serious Sevens."

Yes! Moody moody moody. Easily set off. Dramatic, as if every little slight is a deep wound to the soul.

I ordered the book, but am almost afraid to read it when it gets here, lest it confirm that this is really happening. Still, knowing is half the battle, so I'll read it.

Who's got a beef with a seven-year-old? Who's all cocky because they had an easy seven-year-old like my first one was? Who remembers being seven? Someone tell me it's not just my house, please.


* Good news! The internet tells me the name of the book about 8-year-olds is subtitled "Lively and Outgoing." That's hopeful. Nine more months.


Q&A: Weaning a 1-year-old

Megan writes:

"My daughter is 1 year old now and I'm ready to wean her from breastfeeding.
She only nurses at night. I've managed to wean her from day time nursing
by just laying her down in her crib and letting her cry herself to
sleep. Problem is, I've recently moved into an apartment and I don't
feel that I can let her cry herself to sleep at night for fear of
disturbing the neighbors. It's not that big of a deal when she first
goes down for the night, I let her cry part of the time then, but when
she wakes up during the night she won't put herself back to sleep, she
wants me to nurse her back to sleep. She's to the point where she's
waking up almost every 1-2 hours and my boobs can't take much more of
this, she digs her little teeth in. The other thing that compounds the
problem is that we now share a bedroom so she knows I'm right there and
will scream and cry until I come nurse her. I've thought of trying to
make my breasts unpleasant to her, but I'm not sure what I could use. I
joked about tobasco sauce. Help! My boobs are killing me! Oh and I
think she's waking up so much partially due to teething. I give her
Advil and Orajel before bed, but that doesn't seem to cut it anymore."

Problems I vaguely remember but am so so glad I don't have anymore for $1000, Alex.

First, let me say that there's a sleep regression at 13 months, so it's possible that your daughter is in the middle of that, and if she is you'll have better success if you wait a few weeks until the sleep regression passes. Or it could be teething, too, and there's not much to do about that until the teeth come in.

It seems to me that you have two problems:

1. Your daughter wants to nurse in the middle of the night and you're ready to stop.

2. She cries when she can't nurse in the middle of the night and you don't want her to cry.

To attack the first problem, instead of putting Tabasco sauce on your breasts (which made me cringe and laugh at the same time), why not try drying up your milk? All kinds of things will dry up your milk when you don't want them to (like red wine, mint, stress, etc.), but if you're trying to specifically, I'd go with sage tea and/or old-school Sudafed containing pseudoephidrine. Beware, though, that if you go with the Sudafed, it dries you up all over, so you may feel like a desert and you'll need to drink extra water while you're taking them. So maybe you want to try sage tea first. Buy sage (fresh or dried) at the store and then just brew it with boiling water. Yes, it tastes like the dressing you eat with turkey at Thanksgiving, but whatever if it works to dry up your milk.

Now, for the second problem, can you give her something else that will comfort her when she wakes up? A bottle of water? A pacifier? Anything that will comfort her back to sleep while keeping your boobs out of the loop is fair game.

I would also, in support of the other plans, talk to her during the day about how your breasts don't have milk anymore, but if she wakes up she can have [whatever substitute you give her]. A lot of talking about it and rehearsing verbally during the day will help her have the right tapes playing in her head to stay calm and accept the substitute in the middle of the night.

Who's night-weaned recently and has some tips or words of support for Megan?


(I was going to link to Dr. Jay Gordon's nightweaning method, but his whole site seems to be down. Not sure what's up with that. So this message board has summarized his method. It sounds like Megan is already doing basically this whole thing without success, though.)

Ew, lice

Last week on the post talking about getting your confidence back after something knocks you down, Tine posted that she just found lice in her child's hair.

I do not cry very often. But a few things have made me cry during my parenting career, and one of them is lice. I think I may have cried every day for a week the last time we got lice.

At any rate, Jamie from Light and Momentary told me she's found The Treatment for lice, which consists of Cetaphil. Yes, it seems too easy, but people, Jamie has five (5) children and a PhD, so I'm ready to take her word for it. Here's the post she wrote with instructions for the Cetaphil lice treatment: Lose Your Head Lice Without Losing Your Mind.

I asked her if it was true that you really only do the treatment once a week, and expressed skepticism. She assured me that I was reading correctly.

Here are the original instructions for the Nuovo Cetaphil lice treatment, and the article in Pediatrics about it.

If it really works, it might combat what felt like the biggest problem last time we had lice, which was that it felt like the kids were passing them back and forth between my place and their dad's place. Last time we had lice we were still in NYC and I did more of a modified version of this treatment, but the beginning step was getting both my boys' hair buzzed all the way down. (For my own hair, I just used a blow dryer on my head twice a day so hot it hurt enough that I knew I'd killed any lice or nits. I can't really recommend it for common sense and scalp health, but it did keep me lice-free.)

This Cetaphil once-a-week thing sounds fantastic. I, however, hope not to have the occasion to try it. Who's got lice and can try it and report back in?

How do you pick yourself up when something knocks down your parenting confidence?

How do you recover when something you read or watch or hear knocks down your confidence as a parent, especially when your baby is little?

I've been thinking about this since I found out that a friend is feeling like she's doing things wrong and has lost her nerve ever since she read a Very Famous Sleep Book. I'm not going to say which one, since any of the sleep books can make you feel inadequate and incompetent if the book doesn't happen to correspond to what your child needs*. Any book that's more about pushing the author's agenda than it is about helping you track and pay attention to your own child has the potential to make you feel pretty worthless.

Unsolicited advice: Don't read any sleep books while your child is in the 4-month sleep regression. Please. If you want to read a book during this crucible of a time, read The Wonder Weeks, which will explain why the 4-month sleep regression happens and how it's totally not your fault. Or read the comments in any one of my posts about the 4-month sleep regression and feel the collective exhaustion of the universe of parents of 4-month-olds.

But now back to the topic of getting your confidence back. I kept my confidence because of my mom. I'd call her and she'd tell me I was doing ok and it would all be ok. I believed her because a) she'd always told me the truth, even when it hurt, and b) she'd let me see that parenting wasn't always easy for her but that it was worth it, so I knew she knew how hard it was and wasn't taking my asking for help lightly.

(This makes me feel better even now. Because I know that no matter what else, I tell my kids the truth. And they certainly see that I actively work at parenting well and sometimes fail. That's not just about their development now, it turns out, but also about being able to be there for them when they need me as adults. This is something that we can all do, is tell our kids the truth and let them see that we're real people working on things. And it's way easier than faking it.)

(My mom says she knew I would be ok when I stopped calling her three times a day and got down to twice a day.)

If you do not have a mom like mine to call, let me tell it to you here and now:

You are doing a great job. Not just an ok job, but a great job. You're making the right decisions, and when something doesn't work you're regrouping and figuring out why and trying something else. You're paying attention to your baby, and your baby is lucky to be yours. You're the best parent for your child.

I wish I could give you a few minutes to see it in hindsight, so that you'd know that three years from now you won't even remember whatever** it was that's making you feel so defeated today. That your child is turning into the person they're supposed to be. That a bad feeding or a bad naptime or six months in a row of waking up too many times at night hasn't impeded their emotional development one bit. That your child is going to start hugging you more and crying less. That you're doing really, really well at this.

Who's got something to say?



* I've been pissed about this for almost seven years now–it was the topic of my very first post ever.

** I initially typo'd this as "shatever." Hahahahaha. Truth.

When are kids old enough to get themselves ready for school?

My children will be home from vacation before it gets dark out tonight!

Today's topic is inspired by a discussion with a friend with two 5-year-olds. She is frustrated with being angry and stressed every morning about getting everyone out the door to camp (and soon, school).

I started thinking about how my morning stress level has been going down progressively over the last year (obviously, the miracle of not having a 45-minute subway commute to school helped) and about how a lot of that is that I've been deliberately shifting more of the responsibilities in the morning to my kids. (For them, not for me. Although if this keeps working, maybe in a couple of years they'll make my coffee and help me get into my clothes in the morning, too. That would be sweet.)

I feel like Kindergarten is a big time of increasing responsibility for a lot of kids. I know it was for both of mine, but I wasn't able to capitalize on it. I was so stressed myself, and our living situations and school situations lefft no ease whatsoever for me to take advantage of the new things my kids could do and wanted to do. If I could go back in time I'd give myself the time to go get a pedicure and think about our morning routines and think about what I could shift to which child while I wasn't in the heat of the moment.

It feels to me like there are physical tasks, and there are responsibilities. After a few weeks of Kindergarten, kids are more and more able to do the physical tasks. Last year in 1st grade, my younger son could easily choose his own clothes (I put his clean folded clothes in the right drawers and he picks them) and put them on when I asked him to.

Then one morning I was making bacon for breakfast (on a weekday!) and jokingly said "Bacon's for dressers" (little Glengarry Glen Ross joke, clip NSFW) so they ran and got dressed, and the next thing we knew, the expectation was that they'd be dressed before they came out of their rooms and did anything else in the morning.

The next step was to have them pack their own lunches the night before. I thought my younger one might be challenged by this, but he gave me the "Duh, Mom" attitude and sailed right through the packing and then putting his lunch in his backpack the next day.

All of this made me realize that I'd been thinking I was teaching my kids responsibility and not holding them back by doing everything for them, but there were still a ton of areas in which I thought I'd have to push, but they were easily ready to take on those tasks.

The responsibility seems to kick in later than the ability to do the physical tasks, and seems to have more to do with personality than age, at least for my two. We saw some good success after my friend Susan Messina told me about having her daughter come up with her own morning schedule and put in time markers so she knew when to do what to get herself out the door in the morning. Just having my older one walk through his schedule to know what he needed to do when was a big shift in his responsibility. My younger one doesn't seem to feel it as much, he just does it, if that makes sense. So once we talk about it and walk through it, he does it.

At what age do you think your kids can do aspects of the morning routine? I think Kindergarten, and by age 7 they can probably do the physical parts, and at least by age 10 that they can be resonsiible for themselves. Is this your experience? What do you think? How has shifting responsibility been for you emotionally?

What do you need for twins?

For those of you wondering what life is like for a single almost-40 mom who's back in school and therefore has a bunch of friends who go out all the time, here's a teeny slice of the underbelly.

Now. My dear friend Julie is expecting twins. And I know nothing about twins. So tell me what you need for twins. She tends toward the natural-parenting side philosophically.

Also, they're moving across the country in two weeks, so if anyone has tips about moving while huge or finding a new OB in a new city in the second trimester with twins, let that rip, too.

Annual school fear post

My kids are actually still gone until Thursday (and I'm not doing well, and wrote about it here: but school starts for us in three weeks, and I'm seeing people across the US posting pictures of their kids who are going back to school already this week!

I've finally accepted that the beginning of school is going to bring a lot of fear for me. The kindergarten teacher my older one had, and then his teacher last year, both created so much stress and sadness for us that I can't get past my dread and feelings of helplessness as the new school year approaches.

I know he has a new teacher this year. I don't know anything about her, but I'm assuming she's a rational, good-hearted person. There's still a knot in my stomach, though.

My younger son, thankfully, has only had great teachers, and he's going to have the same teacher this year as last year. He likes her, she likes him, she's got a handle on his speccific academic and social personality, and we've worked out all the two-household-but-parents-are-both-involved kinks. So I'm thinking effortlessly good thoughts about her and the coming year for him.

I know that my missing the kids is making me even more worried about the school year for my older one. And that I'm going to be triggered by the beginning of the school year until he's out of school, probably.

I can't imagine I'm the only one.

So tell me what you're afraid of school-wise. Or what you're happy about school-wise. Or what you're mildly annoyed by school-wise (bus schedules, anyone?). Homeschoolers may gloat and/or lament.

Getting braces

This is the best thing I've read this week: How To Slowly Kill Yourself And Others in America: A Remembrance by Kiese Laymon. Totally worth your time to read all the way to the end.


Now, talk to me about dental braces.

My rising fifth grader is going to need them, and I know a lot of friends whose kids have spacers or know they'll be getting braces soon. I had braces on my lower teeth for a year when I was 31, but I don't think that can be compared to having braces when you're developing your idea of yourself socially and figuring out if you're attractive or not, etc. I know what the physical and financial (knife through the stomach) part of braces entails, but I'm worried about the emotional part of having braces at age 12.

Talk to me about what it was like if you went through it. What you wish your parents knew. What would have made it easier.

And if your kids have braces now, how is it going? What do you wish you'd known before you went into it?

Buying school supplies

Kristen wonders about buying school supplies:

"Parents of elementary aged kids, do you buy all of the supplies on the list?

Teachers, do the kids actually use the things on the list or are there some things that you don't use or would rather have something different?"

I think it varies from school district to district, but in general, if the list comes directly from the teacher, you should buy exactly what's on it because the teacher wrote it and will use everything on it. If it comes from the school or district, hold off until the first day to find out what the teacher really wants.

How do school supplies work where you are? I went from NYC public, where the teacher gave us the list on the first day of school, to Ann Arbor public, where we don't buy any school supplies at all.

Teachers, how much input do you have on supply lists that you don't type up yourself? How much overlap is there usually between a list that comes from your school and what you actually use?

Is buying school supplies a purely American thing? Or do the rest of you have to buy your kids' crayons and paper, too?


(Unrelated: Here's a story about my almost sending out an obscene Christmas card a few years ago.)

Q&A: Five books for parents

Mireille tweets:

"What 5 books would you recommend to a new parent? And do you have any "mom" blog suggestions? Thank you!!"

Good question. I often half-jokingly say that you should either read all the parenting books or none of the parenting books, because the likelihood that your specific child will happen to match up with the philosophy in any one book is slim. But that really just means that I think people will feel better if they avoid books that tell them what to do, and instead stick to books that tell them what's probably going to happen and present them with options.

In that vein, the book I recommend for pregnancy is The Big Book of Birth by Erica Lyon. (Full disclosure: Erica taught my newborn prep class, and also my sibling prep class when I was expecting my second child.) What I love about this book is that it covers all the different stuff that can happen during birth in an even-handed way, so you can find out what the real deal is with homebirth, schedueld c-sections, emergency c-sections, epidurals, etc. and not be treated like a moron or a criminal for wanting to know. It's also the only birth book I've seen that has truly useful stuff for partners (like how to figure out during labor if you need more support even if you can't talk).

Now, for the 5 books I recommend for new parents:

1. The book I'm writing. (You know I had to say it.) Now that my exams for this semester are over (thankfully!) I'm kicking it into high gear so it will be available before we all know it.

2. Either Your Baby & Child by Penelope Leach or The Mother Of All Baby Books by Ann Douglas. You probably want one of these day-by-day guides to eating, pooping, sleeping, etc., but you want one that's mostly descriptive and not so prescriptive. Both of these will tell you what you need to know without guilt-tripping or telling you you're holding the baby too much or too little, etc. And they both provide a sense that your child eventually will grow out of whatever it is that's going on now, so there's a little hopefulness, too.

3. The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van der Rijt and Frans Plooij. This explains when your baby hits mental and emotional developmental spurts, and therefore why they're crying more or not sleeping as much. The feedback I get on this book is always something like "It made me know I wasn't nuts" or "I'm not worried there's something wrong with my baby anymore" or "It was freaky how dead on the book was." They also have an iPhone app you can download if you want the weeks without the narrative.

4. Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott. The book is just so real about what it's like having a newborn. Her story is kind of crazy, and if you're a big fan of George H.W. Bush you'll need to turn your head a few times, but I go back to the story of the futon every time I do something inadvertantly bad to my kids STILL now even though mine are 10 and 7. Also perfect for reading in the middle of the night while feeding a baby.

5. The other books I really love are not for babies, per se. So I'll give the number 5 spot on this list to either Haim Ginott's Between Parent and Child, which will help you stay in a team-based frame of mind with your child (which can be very hard during that first year), or NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, which will help you start to look at the things we all assume are true about having kids and be a little skeptical.

And now for the momblogs. Well, I don't know, as I don't have new babies anymore, so I tend to read things about older kids. What do you all read about new parenthood that you think are helpful and encouraging? Extra points for funny but not dogmatic.