Category Archives: Big kids

One of my friends busted a molester!

Maybe, like me, you've seen creepy people hanging around the playground and wondered if they were really up to no good or if they just didn't understand they were acting creepy. It was a common topic of conversation with the other parents on the playground when I lived in NYC.

So imagine my delight when one of my good friends from our awesome preschool caught a registered sex offender by snapping a pic of him with her phone and showing the police, after he touched her daughter.

Here, read the story:

How bad-ass is she?

Her kid tells her the man touched her (good for her daughter!), and she doesn't hesitate. She just snaps the pic and takes it to the police, and now a convicted child rapist is behind bars again.

I knew my friend was a super-star the first day we met, but this is just beyond beyond.

Trust your instincts.

Don't be afraid to break social norms.

Fight for your kids.

Have a excellent day.



Q&A: 6-year-old won’t sleep at night

Anonymous writes:

"I am at my wit's end. My 6-year-old will not sleep at night. He has never been able to sleep by himself, and I thought it would get better when he was older, but it hasn't. He sleeps in a twin bed in the same room with his older brother, and there's a nightlight right next to his bed. But he stays awake and won't fall asleep. And when he does fall asleep he wakes up to crawl in with his brother or to come into my room to tell me he loves me.

We're only in the second week of school, but the school nurse called to ask if he was on medication because he's falling asleep in class. So clearly he's exhausted. But he just won't fall asleep. We do all the stuff of no TV before bed, calm, relaxing time before sleep, regular bedtime routine, etc. But it's like he just can't fall asleep at night.


My first suggestion would be to look at what he's eating in the 6 or so hours before bed. Kids can be affected really strongly by all kinds of things, from caffeine to artificial colors to artificial flavors to preservatives, etc.

So for the next week, have everyone who's with him write down everything he eats or drinks from after school until bedtime. Take a look and see if there are any things that jump out at you, and see what happens if you eliminate them.

If it's not something he's ingesting, I'm kind of at a loss. It just doesn't seem possible to me that a person could be unable to sleep during a certain stretch of hours. So there's got to be *something* that's causing it. I followed up with Anon, and this has been happening for years, in different housing situations and family dynamics. So it's not something in the immediate bedroom environment or some new stress.

Has anyone been through this? Any ideas of things she could look at?

Q&A: Taking a baby to see fireworks? (aka fitting your baby into your life)

Lisa writes:

"As a new mom I find myself now thinking hard about all kinds of thingsthat were once no-brainers, like whether or not to go see the fireworks
on the Fourth of July. I have gone out to see fireworks as long as I
can remember and enjoy them, but now I have a son who just turned 8
months I'm concerned going to the show and keeping him out late at such
a loud and stimulating event might be a form of "sleep suicide" for
everyone (and that is only considering the late bedtime…we have no
idea how he'll react to fireworks). In our area, the fireworks don't
start until 10pm, and usually last about 30 minutes. I would definitely
give him a really late nap if we did decide to brave it. But the closer
we get, the more I'm having second thoughts about attempting this. So
do I listen to my gut, or do I practice "you never know until you try"?
And what do families do when they have a range of kids…like an older
child and an infant? Do they have to split up the family so one parent
stays home with the infant or toddler and the other takes the older
kids, or just take everyone and bear any consequences? Does it only
matter how much I value seeing those firework shows? Maybe I'm thinking
about this way too much, but if you'd like to throw this out there for
everyone to discuss I'd be really interested in any experience or words
of wisdom in making this kind of decision."

Well, number 1: Always go with your gut.

And, number 2: Yes, you are overthinking this particular issue, but it seems to me that this is just a stand-in for the greater question of "How do you fit your baby in to the life you've loved without sacrificing too much of yourself or too much of your baby's wellbeing?"

Balance is really hard to achieve. We touched on it a few weeks ago when talking about weaning, but it's an ongoing process. There are some things that are clearly good for everyone: eating vegetables, sleeping, dancing around in the living room to your favorite album from high school. But there are so many other situations in which you have to make decisions, whether big or small, about whose needs are prioritized.

There's no way anyone else can make that decision for you. You have to come up with your own process for making these decisions. In some families, everyone does it or no one does it. In other families they split up so kids get alone time with parents and to do special things only they enjoy. Some families have kids in bed at 7 pm no matter what, while others let their kids stay up hanging out with the adults talking long into the night. Privacy, communication, schoolwork–the list of things that are going to need negotiation goes on and on.

It might be worth your time to talk with your partner and see if you can come up with some guiding principles. Is it more important to you to keep his sleep normal now? Is it more important to celebrate the holiday the way you always do (bearing in mind that you should come home if the sounds freak him out)? Do you want to make a blanket policy decision, or play it by ear every year as he gets older? There are so many variables, so if you can isolate a few things that are more important to you than the others, that will help you make your decision.

How do you all approach making decisions like this? And what are you doing for the holiday weekend (in the US)? And did Canadians get the last few days off, too?

Q&A: why do 4-year-olds suck so much?

Melanie writes:

"Why do 4-year-olds suck so much? My daughter is like a mini-tyrant who throws a tantrum every time I say anything. A-ny-thing. I offer her food–she freaks out. I tell her I love her–she freaks out. It's making me feel like a crap mother. The only "good" thing is that all the other kids in her class are doing the same thing. All the moms hang around after dropoff and just complain about how mean our kids are now. Why? And how long is this going to last?"

So publishing this letter is completely self-serving. My own 4-year-old is also acting like this, to a certain extent. It's definitely some Jekyll and Hyde behavior, because he can be the funniest, sweetest, most loving little sprite, but then in an instant he just wigs out at some imagined or minor injury.

It's like living with one of the Real Housewives.

I remember when my older son was going through this. It was milder with him (because of his personality), but I absolutely noticed the moodiness and a sort of brittle quality to him and the other kids in his class.

The other thing I noticed (and the other parents noticed, too) that made me think about what was going on developmentally was how weird the kids got about social things. Birthday parties were crazy, because the kids would get all excited, and then at the last minute scream and cry that they didn't want to go. It seemed like they were becoming aware of themselves as social beings, and this was stressing them out.

So I wonder if this isn't part of it–the boundaries. In order to establish and enforce their own boundaries, which are confusing the heck out of them, they need something to push (flail wildly) against. And that's you.

Now, bear in mind that this is all just out of my head (ahem) based on observing two sets of kids go through this. But we'd all probably do well to get the Ames & Ilg book on 4-year-olds ("Wild and Wonderful") to see what they observed with hundreds of kids.

Now, what I do know is that this phase doesn't last forever. And it really has nothing to do with you–you just bear the brunt of it because you're the one your child feels most comfortable with. So if you can try to stay above it and know that it's something your kid is trying to work out, and not a battle that you have to emotionally invest in, you might be able to come out of it with less scarring.

Tales of 4-year-olds? Tales of run-ins with 4-year-olds? Assurance that 4-year-olds do grow up and become less prickly?

Q&A: tantrums from end of school year?

Molly writes:

"My oldest son turned 5 last Tuesday; his kid birthday party was the Saturday before, and we got together with family for dinner and cake on his actual birthday.  On Monday (the day before his birthday), he had a rough day with the nanny and even turned over some chairs in the living room (!).  Every day since then, except Sunday, he has had an angry outburst where he ends up moving and overturning furniture. Twice he had been sent to his room when the behavior started, and moved his brother's crib, then turned the rocking chair and ottoman on their sides.

This is totally freaking me out! He's definitely a challenging kid, but has never behaved like this before. We are reacting more calmly than we did at first, and things seem to be getting better, but I am still very concerned.  Have you ever heard of behavior like this that comes on so suddenly? I am wondering if it's a combination of sadness that his birthday is over and the transition of the end of school (and he knows that he will be at a new school next year, which may be causing him stress).  At what point is this a problem that we need some help with?"

My first thought was that Molly's son may have eaten a lot of things at the birthday party and during his birthday week that could cause these sudden tantrums–artificial colors or flavors or sweeteners are big culprits in sudden bad behavior. The chemicals just overwhelm the kids and they can't control their behavior.

But I checked with Molly, and he didn't eat anything he doesn't normally eat.

So that makes me think it's the sadness from the end of the school year and fear of going to a new school in the fall. This can be really, really hard for kids. they get used to a routine, and to the friends in their classes, and then it just stops. And the summer routine can be too much fun or kind of boring for kids, so it's a toss-up about how they'll react once they're really into the summer routine. But at this point, all they're feeling is that things are changing, and they're not going to do the same things every day anymore.

Loss is hard enough for adults to deal with. Kids need extra help. And it's important to acknowledge their loss and not try to distract them or cheer them up before you acknowledge how real their pain is.

It's probable that your child (under the age of 10 or so) doesn't even really know how to label the emotions as loss. So you might need to instigate the conversations about the end of the school year. Without leading your child ("Boy, you're really going to miss your friends, aren't you?") you can open up the topic of not seeing them every day anymore, or not going to school anymore and just ask how it makes your child feel.

Being able to talk about it may be enough help to end the tantrums, or you may just need to ride them out. As usual, the feelings that cause the tantrums aren't wrong, but hurting people or animals and causing physical destruction is not allowed.

Are any of the rest of you going through this? My older one is thrilled for school to be over in a  few weeks, but my younger one is feeling a little strange about school ending. Molly's son and mine can't be the only ones feeling bad about things ending.

The future of the world

I’m in an auditorium right now waiting for 10 middle schoolers to face off against each other playing math video games. Their classes have come to cheer them on, and the place is pandemonium. For math, people.As long as the swine flu doesn’t get us, I think we’ll be OK.
Q&A up this afternoon.

Q&A: talking and thinking about conflict

So sorry yesterday's only post was about laser hair removal! I had every intention of posting another one, but then got completely engrossed in the inauguration here in the States to the extent that I forgot to edit and post my inauguration-related post. So, now I'm a day behind. Here's what was supposed to post yesterday:

Jennie writes:

"This isn't a burning question, but it's causing me some stress. My third-grader has been coming home from school kind of upset because he's been hearing kids talking about some of the stuff we talk about at home–politics, religion, etc.–and the kids are saying things that are the opposite of what we teach at home. How do I explain that people can have different opinions so that he understands that the other kids not agreeing with us doesn't mean we're wrong?"

This is a tough topic. And I disagree that it's not a burning question. Especially on the day we get a new President here in the US, this question and how we deal with it is going to have way more impact on our children and countries in the long run than anything having to do with sleep, eating, pooping, tantrums, etc. All that stuff is going to end (even if we do nothing about it), but how we get along as people with diverse positions on important issues is something that never ends and affects every aspect of our lives, in big ways and small ones.

It seems to me like this is kind of a matrix, and if we could agree on the dimensions we'd be in business. On one axis I see issues that have an absolute value vs. issues that are subjective. On the other axis I'd put things that we need to have dialogue about to come to better understanding vs. things we can just agree to disagree about. So you'd have four squares: absolutes that we need to talk about, absolutes that we agree to disagree about, subjective things that we need to talk about, and subjective things that we can just agree to disagree about.

The problem, of course, is that there's no way to come to any common understanding about what fits into any one category. I think most of us would say that "basic human rights" are in the absolute category. But what's one person's basic human right is another's privilege or even frill. And what's worth talking about and what's OK to just leave alone and disagree about?

It seems to me that each needs to be able to stay meta enough in the process to realize that what's important to you may not be important to someone else. And that sometimes people just don't have enough information to make an informed decision, and sometimes they have made an informed decision and it's just not the one you came to.

Once you understand that disagreeing doesn't mean good vs. bad, then you can move forward and figure out what goes in which categories for you, and help your kids get to that point, too. Helping them figure out what they really believe (even if it's different from what you believe!) is a way of helping them develop both strong analytic skills and a strong moral code. And the way to do that is to talk and talk and talk. Let in information that conflicts with what you believe, and talk about that. Ask your son what the other kids are saying, and try to figure out how they came to that point of view. Understanding that side will help you see things from other angles and refine your own views (and be able to defend them intelligently without getting upset).

Disagreement and being able to assimilate and analyze new information is what creates sharp, layered minds. So don't be afraid of the conflicting views. Turn it into a game at the dinner table if you want to by talking about why a view makes sense and why it doesn't. (For those of you who've taken the LSAT, remember the section in which you read an argument and figure out where it's weak?) Let your kids know that information won't hurt them.

How much talking do you guys do about current events, religion, politics, ethical dilemmas, etc? (We've been having lots of discussions about Gaza right now, and were talking constantly during the 2008 elections.) Are there areas in which you feel like you get stuck? How affected do your kids seem to be by the things their peers say? Do any of you live in places where your views are the minority, and how does that affect how you talk to your kids? How old are/were your kids when you started talking about differences?

Q&A: post-holiday tantrums

Theresa writes:

"Anyone else have a rough week last week now that the holidays are over? My son (6) was back to school, I was back to the miserable commute, the
babysitter (whom he loves) was back – and by Thursday we were in
full-blown tantrum mode (we haven't been there for a while).  From
Thursday through the rest of the weekend, we had multiple tantrums a
day.  I think the major triggers were interruptions on his time with me
(not so much his dad, who is more of the primary caretaker now that
I've got the commute from hell), but they could also start over being
asked to practice piano, being asked to finish dinner, stuff that is
never usually a problem.

So I'm wondering if this is just a temporary "end of holidays/vacation"
reaction or something more serious.  I'm also wondering how people deal
with tantrums generally.  I'm a bit at my wit's end right now (to the
point where yesterday, I just ended up resorting to pure bribery)."

Oh, what's a little bribery between friends?

Seriously, though, there's all sorts of stuff I never thought I'd do as a parent, including bribery, that I do without a second thought as long as it gets the job done and prevents those ridiculous, out-of-the-blue, sucker-punch tantrums that make you want to throw yourself on your sword.

And, yeah, we've been having some crazytime here Chez Moxie. I'd been attributing it both to the return to "normal" from the winter break and also to the kids having spent several days in a row with either one or the other of their dad and me (usually they see both of us on most days).

Now, I do think some of this with my older one is that he's almost 7, so I'd say definitely go read through the assessments of what being 7 is like in the comments from hedra and Sharon Silver especially.

But I really think it's just trying to get back to a regular routine after a few weeks of everything being different and more relaxed. Whether your child did better or worse with a less structured day, it's still stressful to go back to a routine and school. I think the key is just to stay consistent and calm (as calm as possible) and know that your child will adjust back within the next few weeks.

How has everyone else been doing? This is the second week back for most of us, so I'm imagining that things are settling way back down from last week. How did you get through the shift?

Q&A: His own bed!

John writes:

"Okay – nothing new or original, but it's driving us crazy:

We can't get our 4-year old to sleep all night in his own bed. We've
been working on this for more than two years now. We've finally got him
to the point where he will go to sleep in his own bed (eventually), but
by midnight or so, he's back in bed with us.

He's got a rigid bedtime routine – dinner, toilet, bath, feed the fish,
3 books, hugs and kisses, go to sleep with audiobooks on the iPod (on
speaker – no headphones). We've used bribes with mixed success and if I
have to, I lie down with him in his bed until he falls asleep
sometimes, but both of those seem like iffy ideas at best.

We try to take him back as soon as he gets into bed with us, but we are
both so exhausted at the end of the day that a lot of the time, we
don't realize that he's in our bed until a couple of hours later, when
our backs give out from clinging to the edge of the bed. He's the
Stubbornest Boy in the Universe (potty training has been a little slice
of Heaven) and if he wakes up enough on the trip back to his bed, he
gets so into the power struggle that he wakes himself up completely and
then the fun REALLY starts.

We're both big.

The Boy is big.

The bed is not.

One of us is going to fall asleep at the wheel and drive into a cement
truck one day on our way to or from work.  (Which may be part of his
plan, because then he'd inherit half of our bed.)

Yours in total, mind-numbing exhaustion,


Think about what a successful life your son is going to have with his refusal to back down. He is going to have the drive to succeed, and the will to keep going in the face of adversity. His stubbornness will serve him well in The Game of Life.

Your sleep situation right now, however, sucks.

It sounds like you've tried a whole lot of things, from bribes to lying down with him. And the problem isn't getting him to sleep in his bed initially, but getting him to stay in his bed.

It seems to me like you have three options. One is to keep going the way you are, but it sounds like you really don't want to do that, so let's not even talk about it. The second option would be to use brute force to keep him in his bed. The third option would be to try to get him involved in the plan.

The brute force option would be to barricade him in his room somehow. I think it's a bad idea for a lot of reasons, but I also know people who've felt like it was the only thing they could do. When you're that sleep-deprived for that long, you try whatever you can think of. The real kicker here, though, is that I think some kids wouldn't really mind being shut into their rooms, but the ones who are coming into your bed every night are the exact kids who would hate it. And then you're setting up a power struggle and control-based situation that's just going to end up making everyone feel horrible and eroding trust between the two of you.

Since these spirited kids need help managing their emotions and impulses, setting up an oppositional situation is just going to backfire by making things worse. Instead, you might want to see if option three works, by enlisting his help in the project of keeping him in his own bed.

It seems like there are a couple of dimensions here. The first is that you want to talk to him and make sure he understand that he needs to stay in his own bed, and why it's very important for the whole family that he does. But the other, key part to this is to get him to tell you why he doesn't stay in his own bed but instead comes into yours. Once you know that, you can try to replicate the conditions he's going for without having him come in with you. Is he cold? Maybe more blankets or a space heater are the answer. Is he scared of being alone, or just wants to be with other people? Maybe you could put a small mattress for him in your room that he could come sleep in in the middle of the night.

There could be any number of conditions that are making him wake up in the middle of the night. (Some kids at this age sleep all the way through, while others seem to wake up, so I don't think it's abnormal for him to wake up, but there also could be some specific reason he's waking up.) Until you figure that out, you really don't know what to do to make it easier for him to sleep through.

Has anyone else been through this? What did you do to help your child finally sleep through in his or her own bed?

Q&A: 4-year-old and death

Ally writes:

"My grandmother is dying of cancer, and I am conflicted over whether ornot it would be ok to have my 4 year old boy at the funeral home for a
little while. We've talked to him about death plenty, as my mother
passed away unexpectedly last fall although they were not close enough
for it to have a long-lasting impact. What I am unsure about is that
there will probably be an open casket. I have issues with that myself,
partly because I want to be cremated once I die because to me once
you're gone, you're gone and your body is just the vessel that is left
behind. But I also was very deeply impacted by my grandfather's passing
when I was 14. He and my other grandmother raised me, his death was the
most awful thing that could possibly happen at the time, and I was
completely freaked out by my grandmother kissing and touching his dead

So, a 4 year old and an open casket – inappropriate? Or is it just me?

since I am writing about death and my 4 year old, I may as well toss
this in. We have a 13 year old dog that has cushings disease and at
some point we'll either no longer be able to afford to treat it or
we'll have to put him to sleep because the medication isn't effective
any more. A couple of years ago before he was diagnosed and there was a
good chance he'd die of old age my husband and I talked about what we
would do if he died at home. In that scenario we are both comfortable
with giving our son a chance to say goodbye before taking care of the
body. Now that we are facing euthanasia, I don't know what the best
thing to do is. I don't want to make up something and just have him
disappear. But I don't know how up front to be about the euthanasia
part. How do you explain to a preschooler that you are putting a pet to
sleep? Is it appropriate to do so?

I typically shoot for honesty above sugar coating things, but
again, I have a bad situation in my past where we had to put a beloved
dog down because she started behaving in a way that couldn't be managed
by us. So I can't think very clearly about this."

I completely think the open casket thing is cultural, nothing more. In my culture of origin, open casket is the norm, and to not do it would be disrespectful to the deceased person, and also everyone would worry that the survivors didn't get to have closure because they couldn't actually see that the person was dead.

I didn't know that everyone didn't do open casket until I was an adult, and my first reaction was that people who had closed casket were avoiding the normal grieving process! So it just goes to show that different things work for different people. One person's unbelievably creepy is another's normal, and one person's repressed and avoidant is another person's respectful.

Having said that, I can remember going to open casket visiting hours from a very young age (around 4) and not being creeped out by the body, but finding it interesting that it was so obvious that this was just Uncle Joe's body, but Uncle Joe himself wasn't there anymore. It made the difference between alive and dead really concrete for me as a kid in a matter-of-fact way. But that probably had to do with the fact that the adults there were all confortable with open casket themselves, and had grown up with it, too, so it was just a given.

So my answer is that it's not going to hurt your son to see your grandmother's body in the open casket, but if you don't think you will react well to it yourself, then you shouldn't be the one with him, or you shouldn't bring him. As to your question, it sounds like you think open casket is inappropriate in general, so this really doesn't have anything specifically to do with your son. If you decide you can deal with it, bring him. If you think it'll be too strange for all of you, then don't come. He'll be fine either way, as long as you're honest about what happened to your grandma and he gets a chance to express and feelings about her being gone.

Oh, the dog. It's so hard to lose a pet, and anticipating how your kids will react to it makes it even worse. But kids seem to be way better at accepting the circle of life than adults are.

When I had to put my sweet, elderly cat down a few years ago, my older son was 4 and my younger one was still a baby. I told my older son that Siggy was in a lot of pain, and that we had to "help her die" by giving her some medicine that would make her die. I believe in heaven so I added that in, but the "help her die" angle works pretty much universally, I'd guess. Euthanasia is an act of kindness, so approaching it that way is going to let you be honest about all angles of it. You can still be sad that the dog is sick and in pain, and that you'll miss the dog, but you know you're doing the thing that's best for the dog.

Anyone want to share what you told your kids about putting down a pet? What have your experiences been with death rituals for humans–open casket, closed casket, cremation, kids at visitation/wakes/shiva, etc.?