Category Archives: Friends

Reader Tip: Spring Holiday Tips

We’re about to hit Passover, Easter, and Mothers’ Day (or is it Mother’s Day?), so I thought we could share some wisdom to help make things easier for each other. I’ll go first, then you go. (A reminder that if you don’t want to have your email clickable for the whole internets, put a URL, any URL–like www.google.com or www.fake.com–in the "URL" box and it covers whatever email address you enter. Only I can see the email address. If you don’t want me to know your email, either, then put a fake one in that box, too.)

Easter:

Instead of that nasty plastic grass that goes in the bottom of kids’ Easter baskets (and then ends up everywhere and clogs up your vacuum), use Veggie Booty instead. It’s green like grass, but it’s edible (providing a nice savory note amidst all the jellybeans and chocolate), safe if a baby gets hold of it, and easy to vacuum up.

You can buy fair trade chocolate eggs (milk chocolate only, unfortunately) from the A Greater Gift catalog. They also sell fair trade Easter baskets made by  a cooperative. (This catalog is also a good source for fair-trade Hanukkah gelt in December.)

If your family tends to get into fights at the Easter dinner table, consider replacing the traditional ham with turkey, so people will fall asleep before they can start fighting. (That tip is courtesy of my mother.)

Passover:

I’m not Jewish, so I’ve really got nothing here, except that I think I could eat a whole lot of these Raspberry Brownies from One Tired Ema.

Mothers’ Day:

If you end up cooking a brunch, make (or buy) a quiche the day before. Then on Mothers’ Day all you have to do is heat it in the oven and toss together a green salad and put out some scones and you’re set. No stress.

Q&A: postpartum bridesmaiding

Ria writes:

"I am expecting my first baby in late June or early July, and my brother is getting married in mid-August. It’s all very wonderful and exciting, especially as I am to be a bridesmaid (bridesmatron?) at the wedding.  My question is not related to parenting as such, but I’m hoping you and/or your readers can give me some advice on a few specific things.

First, I have to get measured for and order this dress now, almost into my third trimester.  Luckily, I have a set of measurements taken last August before I got pregnant. My instinct is to order a dress one or two sizes above what those measurements would indicate and have it altered at the last minute. I also thought about getting some measurements taken now and shooting for a size halfway in between those sets of measurements.  Does either of those sound reasonable, or one better than the other?

Second, the chosen dress is strapless. Even if they sold strapless nursing bras, I’m not sure I would want to invest in one just for one use.  Any wisdom or thoughts on the best way to be a newly-nursing mother *and* wear a strapless dress? Perhaps some kind of underwire or support sewn into the dress? A normal strapless bra with breast pads inside? (I know you’re going to suggest Lilypadz, but they alone don’t solve the support garment issue; I was a D cup before I got pregnant, and who knows where I’ll end up by next August.)

Third and lastly, dress alterations take time, and time is one thing we’re not going to have a lot of.  My chest and belly will probably still be actively changing size six weeks postpartum. Having never gone through this process, I have no idea whether to go see a seamstress two weeks after the birth, or four, or when at all. If I wait long enough to get the best fit, there’ll be very little time to get the alterations done. On the other hand, at a fancy wedding with eight bridesmaids and a dress that costs more than the baby’s crib, I don’t want to look like my dress doesn’t fit me. Any insight into this? And while we’re at it, any recommendations of places in the Boston metro area that specialize in working with pregnant/barely unpregnant bridal parties?

Someone out there has to have gone through a similar experience. All thoughts and advice will be gratefully accepted!"

I think that with dresses, as with the rest of life, it’s all about the boobs. If the dress fits the ladies correctly, the tailors can always alter the waist and hips etc. to fit you a week or two before the wedding. Since you’ll be fewer than 8 weeks postpartum for the wedding, it’s highly likely that your breasts will be the same size they are in the third trimester. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’ll be two cup sizes and one band size up from your prepregnancy size. You probably will have lost a lot of the swelling and water weight around your midsection, but it’s likely that you’ll still be at the same band size you were at the end of pregnancy at that point. Most women go up a cup size when they become engorged in the first week postpartum, but the engorgement will have gone down by the time of the wedding and you’ll be back down to the cup size you were in the third trimester. (For more data points on sizes postpartum, read the comments to my nursing bra post.)

So I’d go get measured right now and figure your breasts will be the same size then, and they can just alter down the rest of the dress for you.

A strapless bra is, by nature, a nursing bra, no?, because you can just pull it down when you need to nurse. I’m assuming that since your baby will still be so small you won’t be ready to nurse in front of a reception hall full of people anyway, so if you’re sitting in some ladies’ lounge on another floor somewhere you might as well just pull down the dress and strapless bra and nurse. So I’d go for a good, supportive strapless bra (maybe a long-line to give you a little extra support and slimming effect) in the size you are in your third trimester. But if you do your reconnaissance work now and find out the styles available to you, you can get sized closer to the actual wedding. OTOH, if you do want to find out if strapless nursing bras exist, I’d give the women at your local nursing supply store or Upper Breast Side in New York City a call at 212-873-2653 to see what they have to say.

(And I am going to suggest Lilypadz, but just so you don’t soak through the beautiful teal or burgundy taffeta of your dress, not for support, which they don’t provide.)

As for the timing of all of this, I’m going to hope that someone can suggest an awesome seamstress in the Boston metro area. When you get this info, you’re going to call and tell her your dilemma and ask how much time she needs to do alterations. She’ll tell you exactly when to come in for alterations, and you’ll feel better and it’ll all work out.

Congratulations to your brother, and good luck to you. If you find a good seamstress, it’ll all be fine and you’ll be able to enjoy the wedding with your little baby.

Q&A: aggressive 2-year-old

Linda B writes:

"My friend has a 2 year old son and a 3 month old son. Her older son C has always seemed older than his age. He walked at 9 months and at a year, was already out of his baby stage. He’s always been very active, running around and playing with every toy in sight. In the last few months, he’s been kind of aggressive towards other kids, walking up to them and pushing them really hard until they fall back. Sometimes he will get a running start so he can push the kids harder.

The reason I am writing about this is because our family spends a lot of time with this family and we are actually pretty good friends. We meet every week for a church group and we see them every Sunday. He’s always been really good with my daughter, but since the aggressive behavior began, he’s
been really taking it out on her. He will slowly walk up to her, wave hi and then BOOM. Push her to the ground or against a wall. His parents try so much control their son. They give him time outs, tell him to be gentle, sternly lecture him on why not to hit and continue to watch him carefully when he is around other kids, especially younger ones like my daughter. It seems like they’ve done everything they can. However, nothing seem to work. He continues to be rough. I think he seems to think it is a game. He is a smart kid and I know he understands what it means to be nice and not hit/push.

I feel badly for the parents, especially the mother, because I know she feels horribly when he pushes E. She feels hopeless and doesn’t know how to control her son from acting out this way. Why do you think he is continuing to do this and what are the ways she can get him to stop? Also, is it wise for us to discipline him as well if he harms our daughter again? We really enjoy spending time together but my husband is worried that one day he might really hurt E.

Any advice would be helpful."

This seems like a pretty classic scene to me. Many many many 2-year-olds go through aggressive phases because they’re frustrated and can’t express their thoughts as well as they want to. Add in the new baby, and it’s a real recipe for pushing, hitting, biting, and all sorts of other unacceptable behavior.

Essentially, C can’t process his negative feelings about the baby or his frustrations at not being able to say what he wants to say, so he pushes and gets rough. The important thing to remember is that his feelings are absolutely normal and valid, but he’s dealing with them in an inappropriate way. So to stop the behavior, we need to give him another way to vent his feelings that doesn’t hurt anyone. Being stern and giving time-outs are a way to try to modify his behavior, but they aren’t teaching him how to manage his feelings in a better way, so they aren’t going to stick in the face of the overwhelming urge to just hit someone.

I hit on a way to deal with this in this post on disciplining a 2-year-old:

One highly effective way to deal with this kind of violent outburst is
to recognize that it’s from the frustration and allow the kid to have
those feelings. Instead of trying to get the kid not to hit, give the
kid a a designated object to  hit/bite/scratch/push/throw. That way the
kid is still allowed to release the frustration, just not at people or
animals. If you’re consistent about using a designated object,
eventually the kid will ask for that object when the frustration
strikes.

(How pompous is it to quote myself, BTW?)

This method came from my grandfather in the 40s. When El Chico was 2 and biting all the other kids when he’d get frustrated, I called my mom sobbing that he’d be an outcast with no friends and she told me what her dad had come up with to curb the biting when her little brother was 2. Grandpa had gone into his woodworking shop and made two rounded, smooth pieces of wood. He gave one to my uncle and one to my mom (so she wouldn’t feel left out), and told my uncle his wood was named Toby and when he felt like biting a person or animal he should bite Toby instead. I’ve known my uncle for 33 years, and I’ve never seen him bite anyone, so apparently it worked.

I don’t have a woodshop, so I took El Chico to the pet store and let him pick out his own braided rope chew toy for dogs in the colors of his choice. I explained that the toy was named Toby and whenever he felt like biting someone he should bite Toby instead. Then I carried Toby in my pocket constantly for a few weeks, and when I saw El Chico start to open his mouth to bite a kid, I’d quickly shove Toby in so he’d bite the toy instead. After a few weeks of constant vigilance (and my being teased by the other moms in playgroup), El Chico stopped biting the other kids. When he’d get frustrated he’d run to me and ask for Toby and give him a hard chomp.

I think your friend could use the same idea by buying C a big stuffed animal or pillow that’s his designated hitting/pushing toy. You could help her out by taking some pillow duty since she’s got the baby and it won’t be as easy for her to be there constantly to shove the pillow at him when he starts to push. At the same time reinforce that "We don’t push people or animals" when he’s pushing the pillow. It takes constant vigilance for a few weeks, but it will pay off.

The good news is that the problem will ease in a few months because 1) the baby will start crawling and will be more interactive so C has a playmate instead of just an attention-grubbing larvae of a sibling, and 2) C will be able to express himself more and won’t have to push to tell people he feels sad or angry or whatever he’s feeling.

I think as the friend and not the mother, it’s your job to be vigilant and step in to physically remove C’s hands (calmly and matter-of-factly) before he shoves your daughter. Better to stop bad behavior than to let it happen and then punish it. I think having a pushing pillow will help him vent his feelings, but he also needs to know that it’s just not going to happen anymore because someone will physically prevent him from pushing your daughter down.

The next two weeks are going to be a pain because you and C’s mom are going to have to be helicoptering around him (and your daughter when she’s near him) constantly. But physically stopping the bad behavior plus giving him an appropriate outlet should do the trick in stopping the pushing.

Just a note about aggressive phases: IME there’s a first agressive stage that starts around one year for many kids. You know the one I mean–when your kid hits your face or pulls your hair or scratches, and laughs when you say "No!" sternly. I think that’s just experimentation and limited ability to control impulses, and the only way through it is to physically remove the temptation. The aggressive phase around 2 years seems to be a result of frustration so providing an outlet will help reduce or stop it.

Two Updates

Bobbie wrote in to let me know that she talked to her daughter’s teachers. Her daughter is one of the most prepared in the whole class, so it was no problem for her to be out. So they went to visit Bobbie’s husband with no worries. Yay!

Sheila C sent me the link to this article about an enzyme present in the blood of people who died from peanut allergies. It may be a way to tell who will have fatal reactions and who won’t ahead of time. Very cool, and why I love science. Thanks, Sheila.

Q&A: playgroup etiquette

Emmie writes:

"I have 11 month old twin boys. I’ve heard that twins are often a
bit undersocialized when they’re young because it’s easier to just stay
home rather than doing the things singletons do with their parents,
like go to the grocery store or to playdates. In an effort to combat
this tendency, I’ve joined a couple of playgroups.

This
is all well and good, but I’ve noticed a bit of, umm, tension, around
how the kids interact. Mine are the smallest in both groups and aren’t
particularly aggressive at this point, but they’re also pretty used to
having another kid in their space. The other moms in my groups get very
worried any time kids really get near each other, pull on each other’s
toys, etc. If anything, my kids are freaked out by the cries of
"genntle!, gennnntle!", "SHARE, baby!", and so on. We’re talking 10-24
month-olds here.

Am I wrong to not want to
intervene (and scold) quite that much? And why are we apologizing to
each other for our kids’ perfectly normal behaviour? I brought a friend
my mom’s age along once, and she was really shocked to see this. I do
intervene if someone seems to be upset or is going to get hurt, but
only by doing the "distract and engage" thing, in a calm manner, and
not also apologizing to the other kid’s mom. I do realize that the
other extreme is sometimes an issue too, but am I wrong to just want to
relax a little? When did a bunch of babies crawling around on the floor under heavy supervision become so stressful?"

Oh, for Pete’s sake. It’s not just you.

Older babies and toddlers are supposed to crawl all over each other, drool and teeth on each other, and grab toys away from each other. It’s how they operate, and it’s developmentally appropriate. Any parent who seriously thinks a kid around the age of 1 can share is deluding herself, or trying to gain approval from the other parents by cracking down on "bad behavior." Yes, you can condition kids not to touch other kids’ toys by negative reinforcement (yelling, scaring them, hitting them, etc.) but it’s more like training a dog than teaching a child anything.

What’s more, young toddlers don’t connect having a toy taken away with the fact that another kid took it. A 3-year-old will get upset because a friend snatched her toy ("Sebastian took my dumptruck!"). But a 14-month-old doesn’t get hurt feelings that someone else took his toy–he’s just upset that the toy is gone suddenly. And most of the time if another toy pops up immediately, it’s fine. That’s why redirection and distraction work so well as tools for adults dealing with toddlers. So it’s kind of silly to be reprimanding a toddler for taking someone else’s toy on the grounds that it hurts someone else’s feelings, since the kid doesn’t even have his own feelings hurt by getting a toy snatched.

A parent of young toddlers really just needs 1)to be on guard to make sure that no one is getting really walloped, and 2) to have a handful of toys so that when one gets taken away another one can appear and make everything fine.

IME, the window when kids can start to connect that they’re not supposed to grab or hit, etc, is around 16-18 months. And then with 2-year-olds you can really start working on stopping the biting and hitting and screeching. But that’s a different post entirely.

I think what it really gets down to is that you’re hanging out with the wrong groups of moms. It sounds like they’re trying to be Perfect Mothers who have Perfect Children who never do anything wrong (or age-appropriate). Playgroup should be about kids playing with each other (even swarming all over each other like puppies) and parents bitching to each other and supporting each other and making each other laugh. Kind of like the internet, only with goldfish crackers and wine. So I vote you find some better parent friends.

There have to be some other parents in your area who are going to have more realistic expectations of normal older baby/toddler behavior. I’d take a look at the groups you’re in first to see if there are other parents there who seem not to be as uptight about things. If so, invite them over for a playdate with just your two guys and see how it goes. Eventually you should be able to put together a group of 3-5 families with your same ideas about letting kids be at their appropriate developmental stages, and playgroup will end up being more fun for all of you.

Follow-up to the peanut allergy post below

(Sorry for boring anyone who isn’t interested in this discussion. I’ll answer another question in the afternoon.)

The peanut allergy post seems to have sparked a lot of discussion, and it made me think about the whole allergy issue. I think that many people not only "don’t get it" about food allergies, but think that people (or parents of kids) with food allergies are making them up, or exaggerating them, or will somehow lose the allergy if they don’t "give in" to it. It’s almost as if they resent the person for having the allergy and cramping their lifestyle.

I don’t get this (I mean, I get that people think that way, but I think it doesn’t make sense). In trying to work through it in my head, I compare it to making accommodations for other kinds of chronic conditions or illnesses. The best comparison I could come up with was accommodating a child with diabetes. If there was a kid in your child’s class with diabetes, you wouldn’t bring sugary snacks because you know that child couldn’t have one, and it wouldn’t be fair to make one kid have to sit out when all the other kids were eating the sweet. I think most people would agree to bring in something else pretty happily and without comment.

So why the push-back about allergies, which are much more serious because even inhaling the food can cause the allergic reaction?

Is it because we see this as a weakness that can be overcome with grim determination and positive thinking? Or because we see it as a luxurious problem to have? Or something else?

What do you internets think?

Q&A: dealing with other’s lack of concern for your child’s allergies

Megan writes:

"I have a four year old and an (almost) one year old.
The older one has tested positive for a peanut allergy, and we believe the
younger one may have it as well.  This took us by surprise as neither my
husband or myself, or anyone in our families have this allergy.  Before we
found out when he was 18 months old, I knew virtually nothing about allergies.

At preschool, playgroups, park and rec classes, playdates…any
time my son is around anyone else and especially if I leave him in the care of
others, I am constantly explaining and reminding other parents and teachers
about this. I must always leave an epi-pen with him in case of a potentially
lethal reaction.  Many moms (and dads) are sympathetic and helpful and
honestly do their best to help.  The teachers at the school my son attends
have been fantastic.

However, there are some parents who don’t seem to get
it, no matter how much I try.  They bring trail-mix to playgroups when
they know we will be there.  They allow their children to wander at a
playdate after having eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without washing
their hands.   They send things to school for snack that have peanuts
listed as an ingredient. These are people who know he has an allergy! 

Now Moxie, I know that this is primarily my job, and I am willing to police his eating as much as possible.  But, it would make it a lot easier if I could somehow get these parents to understand that, for my son, the peanut butter that is on their child’s hands as they swing could mean death for my son if he has a turn on the swing next.

Also, I have had to approach strangers at the park to ask them to please make sure that all the peanut butter is cleaned off their child before they send them out to play. I feel strange doing this, but luckily so far people have been very nice about it.

So, my question is:  How do I communicate to people how  important this is?  What can I say to them to make it sink in?  To  your readers out there whose kids do not have an allergy, if you were approached by a woman at the park with this sort of thing, what would you want her to say?"

I think this is a tough situation, and a tough question, but I think it’s an issue that’s going to affect all parents at some point. Every one of us is going to have to deal with allergies (especially nut allergies), whether it’s our own kid or one of our kid’s friends or classmates.

So, before I get to my answer, I’d like everyone to click over and look at the instructions for how to use an epi-pen. If a child is going into anaphylactic shock from ingesting nuts or some other allergen, you may be the only adult present, so you need to know how to use one. It could mean the difference between life and death for someone’s child.

Did you click over? Seriously, do it now, please. I can’t be the only one who thought you were supposed to plunge it into the heart like they did in the movie "Pulp Fiction." (Update: Be sure to read these helpful tips about the EpiPen. Yikes.)

Now, to me this is an issue of public health. If anyone in the school or playgroup has a life-threatening allergy to a substance, the group as a whole needs to make rules limiting the use of that substance. And everyone needs to help police.

I’d like to think that some of these parents don’t realize how serious a nut allergy is. They may think it means that if your child eats nuts he’ll get hives or a rash. They may not realize it closes off his airway and can kill him by suffocating him. I really hope they don’t know how serious it is. Because if they do know and they still send snack with nuts or bring trail mix to playgroup, it’s the equivalent of bringing a big bag full of candies made out of rat poison.

Yes, you have to be the main advocate for your son, but the other members of your community should take responsibility, too. Ask the director of your son’s school and his teachers to make sure all parents know they can’t bring snacks with nuts in them. (It may also be a liability issue for them, so I’m sure they’ll take it seriously.) Any snack with nuts need to be sent back home immediately. They could even institute a policy of having the kids all wash their hands as soon as they get to school to make sure there are no traces of peanut butter left. (This will also make sure the kids themselves get in the habit of checking to be sure they’re not nut carriers.)

At playgroup, do you have a friend who gets how serious the nut issue is? Maybe she will be the watchdog on your behalf. (If you were in my playgroup I’d rip anyone who brought trail mix a new one.) If more than one person is saying it (and especially someone who has no personal stake in it), then people start to listen and pay attention. Or, you could just start a new playgroup with the parents who get it.

My only problem is with the playground issue. It’s just not going to be logistically possible to make sure it’s an allergen-free zone. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to try, but I don’t think you can lock down a playground the same way you can lock down a school or private property. I think your best bet is going to be to make sure you wipe down any equipment your son is going to play on. You can also approach the parents of any kids your so is playing with to ask if they’ve eaten any nuts and to ask if they’d mind washing hands and faces if they have. Yes, some parents will be offended, but I’m betting most of them will be sympathetic and possibly even sheepish that they didn’t think of it themselves. Readers? How would you react?

The public space issue is one that will continue to plague you, although my guess is that it will get slightly easier when your son gets older and can be more of an advocate for himself.

I really think most people just simply don’t know how life-threatening nut allergies can be. That means it’s incumbent on all of us to keep educating so people don’t think peanut butter crackers are good snacks for preschool. We love peanut butter in my house. I’d guess we probably go through a jar or two a week. I’ve been absolutely anal about not having any at school, but the playground issue honestly never occurred to me. We’re going to have to insititute an "only on the house and then wash your hands and face with soap" policy about peanut butter. Maybe everyone reading this will do that, too.

If you have a peanut (or any other serious) allergy, please let everyone around you know. It could be the difference between life and death.

Q&A: missing the first week of Kindergarten

Tonya writes:

"I know your sons aren’t ready for Kindergarten yet, but I trust your opinion so here goes:

My sister lives in another state and she’s getting married this year. She wants to get married on Labor Day weekend.  My sister wants my daughter to be her flower girl. Unfortunately, my daughter is starting Kindergarten this fall. School will probably start the week before Labor Day, so I’d have to take my daughter out of school at least one day if not the whole week to be at the wedding. (We would be driving to the wedding because we can’t afford to fly, and the trip is about 13 hours of driving, so 2 days of driving.) I’m not willing to do this because I think that my daughter will miss out on the friendships that occur on the first few days of school. Do you think I’m overreacting? I feel bad for making my sister choose a different date for the wedding, but I also need to be an advocate for my daughter. My daughter goes to daycare/preschool everyday because I work out of the home, so I know my daughter will not have problems adjusting to being away from me. I also don’t think she will have problems making friends at Kindergarten, I just want to make sure she has every opportunity to do that."

Thanks for the vote of confidence–I hope I can live up to your expectations.

I’m going to completely leave your daughter out of it for a minute, and suggest that your sister should not have her wedding on Labor Day to begin with. It sounds like a great idea to have a wedding on a holiday weekend, because everyone has that day off so they can take an extra day after the wedding. But in reality, you’re costing them more money because all plane tickets are super-expensive on a holiday weekend, and hotels are more expensive. Plus, you’re robbing them of a holiday weekend they could otherwise spend going somewhere else or just sleeping in and drinking beer and barbecuing in the backyard or doing whatever they like to do best. Which is most certainly not going to a wedding, no matter how much they love you and want you to have lifelong happiness. (Unless they really love the Electric Slide.) So it’s actually a favor to your guests not to have your wedding on a holiday weekend.

You know, it just occurred to me that if you could convince your sister not to have the wedding on Labor Day weekend for the above reasons, then your daughter could be completely left out of it. Which would just make it easier for everyone involved.

The actual issue of whether or not missing the first few days of school is going to hurt her socially is a tough one. It’s absolutely true that she’ll be able to make friends even if she misses a few days at the very beginning of school. However, it’s also true that missing time in the first week will put her at a disadvantage and might make her feel insecure and confused. I don’t know your daughter’s personality, either. Some kids can just hop right in and not feel self-conscious. If it had been me at that age, missing a few days at the beginning of school would have made me even shier and hesitant than I already was (with the other kids–with grown-ups I was fine). Kindergarteners can be tough.

If you think it’s going to make it awful for your daughter to miss those days, then you have to go with your gut. But honestly, I’d try to see if your sister will move the wedding date (although it’s probably a little late for that by now since it’s only 8 months away) just to make it easier for her guests. If that works, then you won’t even have to consider the issue with your daughter.

Let us know what happens.