Category Archives: Big kids

Send help–my older son is turning 7

I'm not dead! Just having all kinds of crazy good things happen, some annoying things, and a whole lotta not near the internet.

I need help with the 7-year-old thing. I know this isn't so exciting for those of you in the baby stage, except that we already figured out that all of this is connected: 4 months, 8-9 months, 18 months, 3.5 years, 7 years, 14 years, etc. (I know my 35th year has been a doozy, personally. And 28 frankly sucked.)

But here I am with one kid still in the throes of 3 /2, and the other one closing in on 7. I feel like I'm in the middle of a big "Mom I hate you!" Sandwich. Sulking, bad attitude, resistance to any plan no matter how much fun, constant fighting with his brother, and just being someone no one wants to be around.

It's demoralizing. I know it's going to end at some point. The younger one will grow out of his phase, and then eventually the older one will grow out of his phase. But when? Anyone with older kids, how long does the 7-year-old phase last? Months? A year? Until I just can't take it anymore?

And remind me of some of the coping techniques we used for younger kids to breathe through it, please.

Q&A: grandparents moving abroad

Kate writes:

"In one week, my in-laws are moving abroad. This is not a temporarymove; they bought a house there and have shipped their worldly
possessions across the ocean. They are moving to a country that we
visit regularly, though not terribly frequently, and to which we have
many connections–familial and otherwise. We are actually seriously
contemplating following them, but we don't know when, anywhere from six
months to six years, say.

I am happy for them, although I haven't come to grips with the
fact that I am losing free babysitting. My husband is pretty devastated
(but out of the purview of this arena).

My 4.5 year old daughter, who to this point has had this set of
grandparents living 5 miles away, is starting to realize that the hour
is nigh for their move. She's heartbroken. We went to a big send-off
for them today, and while she was fine at the party, beforehand she was
SO upset about them moving. She knows where they are going, that they
will be in the same country as her cousins, that we will try to visit
them soon. But she realizes that we won't have the casual drop-in
relationship that she has now.

They will have a U.S. VOIP number, so we will of course let her
call whenever she wants, time zones permitting. Unfortunately, they're
not terribly tech savvy, so I think it would be like pulling teeth to
get them to use Skype or some sort of internet video system. But maybe
they'll change their tune.

In the meantime, is there something we can do to make this easier
for her? (My 2.5 year old son also claims he's sad and is going to miss
them, but I am not sure how much is him and how much is feeding off of
her. He is also close to them, but doesn't quite have the long view
that she does.) We just don't know what to say.

P.S. We are also, for a variety of reasons, driving them to the airport next weekend."

Oh, this sounds so tough.

I wish I had some answers, but my parents have always lived too far away from us, so I don't have anything to ease the pain of the separation. My kids miss my parents, but it's not a new situation, so I don't know how to help the transition.

It seems like it's the transition that's the problem, as she's upset about it now. Kids adapt, and in a few months she'll be used to not having them around, but it's the sadness of the separation that's the problem right now.

Do any of you have any experience with loved-ones moving away when a child is old enough to know that the separation is going to be hard? Is there a way to ease this? Or is it just something that is going to hurt a lot, and the parents just have to be there to help pick up the pieces?

Another feeding kids post

Can we talk about food for kids yet again? But this time for older kids.

I'm feeling in a distinct and pernicious rut. My children are old enough to eat real, adult food, but they just seem to refuse to eat things that aren't the old stand-by foods (burritos, pizza, Cowboy Supper –hot dogs and baked beans–and homemade baked chicken nuggets that they help me bread).

Frankly, I'm sick of it, but demoralized that when I make the effort to put together something better they just turn their noses up. It doesn't seem worth it to put together something decent if I'm the only one who will eat it. But I'm not going to do the two meal thing.

I guess I'm looking either for ideas that will bridge the gap between homemade chicken nuggets and  braised monkfish with asparagus risotto. Last Sunday I roasted a chicken (it was amazing) and the kids barely even touched it.

So I need ideas, or assurance that at some point they will eat what's offered. (At this point they just refuse and go without eating, pretty much, and don't seem to care.)

Q&A: four-year-olds and weird social issues

I didn't really think of it in the name reveal post, but you can call me whatever you want now, as long as it isn't late for supper. (Thank you–I'll be here all week.)

Since this was an IM question posed to me late at night by a friend, I'm going to have to paraphrase it here:

"My 4-year-old daughter has a close friend with lots of Disney princess stuff–dolls, nightgowns, etc.–and she only has one or two DP things. She's constantly talking about the things her friend has, and how she wishes she had things like the friend does. How can I deal with this, while also not completely losing my patience with her?"

I think a lot of this is about the age. 4 seems to be a time when kids really start to be aware of social things in a way they never were before. Before this it's like they're really interested in one-to-one interaction. But at 4 they start to figure out social dynamics and how people related to each other in different groups.

One of the things that was striking to me when my older one was in preschool was how squirrely all the kids got about attending birthday parties. Even the parties of kids they'd been friends with since infancy. They'd be excited about the party, and then the day of the party decide they didn't want to go.

I think it's just the beginning of figuring out who they are in relation to other people and to groups of other people.

So I don't really know what to say about the friend situation. It's not really going to help to point out what she has that the friend doesn't (toys, baby sibling, etc.), because a 4-year-old can't see things in that way.

The only thing I can think of is to talk to the mom of the friend to see what her daughter has been saying. It's possible that the other girl has been making similar statements about your daughter, so the issue really isn't the actual toys at all, but the "why am I not her?" thing. Which is normal, but still perplexing. And annoying.

Readers? Have any of you gone through this? How did you deal with it?

Q&A: Keeping kids safe on social networking sites

I am not even going to pretend to know the answer to this question, but I thought I'd bring it up and see if we could come up with anything. It's actually a bunch of questions I've gotten from readers with children of different ages, but it all seems to be part of the same issue of keeping our kids safe on the internet.

I got a couple of questions about sites like Club Penguin, in which the kids create characters and their characters can interact with characters created by other players. My 6 1/2-year-old plays CP, and I have to say that it looks safe to me. The things the characters can say to each other are pretty locked down, and you can report other players for saying things they shouldn't.

Again, the real key seems to be keeping the computer in a common area so you can monitor what your kid is doing, and so your child knows you know what's going on. Talking a lot about what's OK and what's not helps, too. My son has clicked off games he's run into a few times because they had shooting or other things we've talked about not being appropriate for him.

The tougher questions I got were from moms of kids old enough to be on Myspace and Facebook. I'm not on Myspace, so I don't know all the intricacies, but it looks like it's easier to run into trouble there, but also easier for parents to monitor. Your page is just kind of out in the open so anyone can stumble on it and talk to you, but at the same time this means all your business is posted right there for your parents to see.

Facebook is trickier. In some ways it's way safer, because your profile is locked down (assuming you set your privacy settings!) so only people you add to your friends list can see anything about you. But there are also ways to communicate privately with other members on your friends list, so that there's no external evidence of that. One mom who wrote me said that she joined FB to monitor her child on it, and her child knows that and they're FB friends, and she regularly monitors her child's wall. I think that's excellent communication, BUT 1) her child could have her on "limited profile" so she doesn't see everything the child has posted, and 2) no one sees the private messages people send each other. (And, thinking about some private message conversations I've been party to,  well, yeah. There's all sorts of stuff you can't see by looking at people's walls.) So there's no way to know how much she's really seeing of what her daughter does on Facebook. As long as she understands that, it OK.

My 15-year-old cousin is on FB and I know I pop over there every other day just to make sure nothing untoward is happening on her wall (her parents aren't on FB so I feel like I need to watch out for her), but I also know there''s all kinds of stuff I can't see.

I think the trick, though, is that your kids know that you care. And that, yes, they can sneak around you and do stuff they're not supposed to (like we all did), but that you are there trying to keep them safe. The same mom who joined FB also has an agreement with her daughter, so her daughter has written down her usernames and passwords in a sealed envelope just in case her parents need them. That, I think, is an awesome level of trust, on both sides–that the child deserves privacy but her parents need to be able to protect her.

What do you guys think? I'd especially love to hear from parents with kids on social networking sites who are willing to talk about the process you went through with your kids to establish guidelines that respect kids' privacy but also adults' responsibility.

Tooth-losing rituals

The big news around here is that my older son (6 1/2) finally has a loose tooth.

He's not really enjoying it, since it's at the point at which it hurts and is hanging on by the root and it's making it hard for him to eat.

We started talking about the Tooth Fairy yesterday, so he knew to keep the tooth if it fell out at school. Then his dad and I got on the same page about exactly what the Tooth Fairy was going to leave (we'd decided on a dollar coin, although that may actually be low for Manhattan–I know a couple of kids who got five dollars! per tooth). They're at their dad's for the weekend, so the Tooth Fairy will probably come there. (Let's not talk about how sad it makes me not to be there for his first Tooth Fairy experience. Probably as sad as it made his dad not to watch him see the election results come in on Tuesday night. Divorce sucks.)

I love the Tooth Fairy, as it's all about myth and ritual. So I'd love to talk a little about what your own tooth-losing rituals are, if you're from someplace that doesn't have a Tooth Fairy or Tooth Fairy Equivalent (that would be a good name for an electronic music project, wouldn't it?). If you do come from a Tooth Fairy culture, do you do anything special?

More unformed thoughts on those rough times (3 1/2-year-olds)

So I've been thinking a lot about this 3 1/2-year-old thing. And how it really seems to me like all the "difficult" stages seem to be at times that double: 4 months, 9 months, 18 months, 3 1/2 years, 7 years, 14 years. I don't know if that means anything, except that if you're 28 maybe you're having a tough time, too. And 56 might also be rough…

Anyway, it seems like the difficulties start out more weighted toward the physical but become progressively more emotional as the people get older. So that first rough stage at 4 months is mostly about being fussy and not being able to sleep. Then at 9 months it's not sleeping but more generalized crankiness. 1 months seems to be a tie between physical and emotional distress, and then by 3 1/2 it really seems to be mostly emotional (even if all of this is caused by some physical process of development in the brain).

It feels to me, from being on the outside of it, that the developmental spurt that's happening somehow seems to remove the protective emotional layers somehow, so that all the person's emotions are right there, waiting to bubble over at any second. The person on the inside can't process or deal with or control them. Which is why they get stuck in a "Pick me up!! Put me down!!" loop. It's like they have an exposed nerve, and any time anything brushes against it they just go off from the overload.

I've noticed that when I'm feeling emotionally fried, my child being in one of these emotional wack-out times just sets me off, too. But when I'm on an even keel, my response just instinctively seems to be more one of "Oh you poor sweet little thing. Let me give you a hug."

Does this resonate with anyone? About any of the stages? About yourself? Or do you think there's something different or more going on?

For those of you who have or are having or considering second children

So a few more questions came in over the last week or so about second children. A couple of them from people who were either newly pregnant with the second or about to give birth, and were wondering if they were setting themselves up for disaster. The real concern for both those writers seemed to be the overwhelming sense of guilt at breaking up the little party the first child had, combined with the worry that they'd never be able to love the second child the way they loved the first.

I don't know that I have so much to offer here. I definitely felt both those feelings when I was having my second son. And I think it's a mistake to resort to the old "a sibling is the best gift you can give" line to comfort yourself, even if you do believe it. (I do for myself, because my relationship with my brother is the most important relationship I've had, aside from the one with my children.) Because even as wonderful as it is to have a sibling, there is loss for the older child. If nothing else, there's loss of having all the focus (which, again, could also be a good thing), but there's loss of the immediacy and the cocoon.

Does the good outweigh the bad? For my kids, yes. But it's important to acknowledge for yourself that it's not all happiness all the time. Allow yourself to feel a little sad about it, even as you look forward to the baby.

Can I ask a favor? If there's anyone who truly doesn't love their second (or later) child as much as the first, could you comment on it anonymously? I've never heard of it happening, but of course it's something you could never say in public. So if there is someone, please put it here anonymously, and we'll see if it's a realistic fear, or if loving the second one as much as the first is just something you can't imagine until you're there.

The other questions I got were from a very new mom-of-two and one about to pop any second now, who were really terrified of what was going to happen when their help (spouses and family) were gone and they had to be alone with the two kids. The spacing was right around 2 years for both of these moms, and the primary concern was how to keep the older one calm and happy while they got the baby to sleep. And yeah, that's a concern, because a 2-year-old's needs are very immediate, as are an infant's, so it could turn into a donnybrook easily.

Mine were 3 years apart, so my older one watched a lot of Bob the Builder DVDs while I was getting the little one down to sleep in those early days. For those of you with kids spaced closer than 2 1/2 years apart, how did you keep the older one chill while you were getting the little one to sleep? Any and all suggestions welcome.

Q&A: special needs child

Katie writes:

“I have a 3-year-old son with autism and figure at least some of your readers have experience with special needs. My boy was diagnosed as having moderate autism just before he turned 2, and I am so proud of how far he has come. (I could write a whole separate e-mail about all of the therapies and interventions he has endured.) He is very verbal now and, though he is in a special preschool class, I believe he will be mainstreamed into a regular classroom by elementary school and be almost indistinguishable from his typical peers.

My dilemma is whether I should ever tell him about his autism. He hears me speak of it often now; I have no qualms about telling someone he is on the spectrum, partly because it explains some of his behaviors that new friends may find odd, and partly because I am so proud of all the progress he has made. But he is getting closer to the age when he will really pick up on what I’m saying when I speak to others about him.

I don’t want to completely ignore it or act as if it never happened or make it into this big secretive talk–“Son, let’s sit down for an important talk about something terrible about you.” It is a part of who he is, a part of his past and present. I guess what I’m looking for is wisdom from others who may have gone through this before. Do I stop mentioning it so much? Do I wait for him to ask me something down the road? Do I phase out the word “autism” as his symptoms show up less and less?”

Hmm. On the one hand, I feel like he’s going to know there’s something different about him. On the other hand, you don’t want him to grow up thinking there’s something less about him. So how do you balance the two–acknowledging that he’s got some things that are different about him but also letting him know that he’s great the way he is?

I wrote that first parapgrah three weeks ago, and have been sitting on this post ever since, trying to figure out what to write. The fact is, I don’t know what it’s like to have a special needs child. It would be disingenuous of me to talk about it, I think, because I’ve never had the experience of parenting a child who isn’t always going to be received easily by the world. (I definitely think I have a special responsibility in raising two white men in America, but that’s a different post.)

I’d love to hear from moms and dads of kids who don’t fit neatly into the boxes that we expect kids to fit into. Not just kids who have autism, but kids who have any other kind of developmental issue, kids who have chronic illnesses, kids who look different.

How do you manage their “issues” (treatments, therapies, medical inteventions, etc.) while still loving and respecting them as people? How do you straddle the line between living your experience as the parent of a special needs child and honoring their experience as a special needs person? What if the “special need” is something that isn’t recognized by the larger world (like being a highly sensitive or spirited person)?

Please talk about it. If you want to link to other supportive areas of the internet, please do. (If you type in the http:// before the www part of the address it’ll automatically hyperlink so people can just click through your comment.)

100th day of school

Brief question below this post for people who’ve used formula.

I apologize for making this all about Kindergarten so far this week, but I really wa nt to talk about this 100th day of school thing. Do the Kindergartens in your area make a big deal out of the 100th day? It never happened when I was a kid, but it’s a big deal at my son’s school and other schools in NYC. The kids had to do a project containing 100 things (not containing food) and bring it in to school on the 100th day.

My son chose his own project, which was drawing 100 pictures. He’s crazy for drawing (explosions, cars, and robots are his favorite subjects) so it wasn’t a huge undertaking for us to put together a portfolio of 100 drawings.

One of the girls in his class did a gorgeous necklace make out of yarn with ten pieces of yarn hanging off the "chain," and ten beads on each hanging piece.

I didn’t get to see most of the rest of the projects.

Did anyone else have to do this? Want to share some ideas, so people can get help if they’re stumped? And how did this get to be a big deal?