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Entries in crashtest (84)


To My Son On His 2 1/2 Birthday


My big boy! Today you are 2 1/2 and I can't believe how independent you have become. I love you more every single day, even though you are bossy and don't like my singing. 

I can hardly remember a time when I couldn't communicate with you so comprehensively! Which is why I want to make another list of all of the things that I don't want to forget about you at this age. 

  • You need help getting settled onto the potty but once you are on, you put your hand out and tell us "I need privacy!"  
  • You can identify most of your emotions such as: "I'm mad!" "I feel frustrated!" "I got a little scared." I secretly love the last one because it means that you are going to climb into my lap and put your head on my shoulder. 
  • You like to sing to yourself in the mornings. You are well versed in all of the common nursery rhymes but you've made up a particularly funny one called "I am Miles Morris." 
  • You love to dance but your dance is more of a bunny hop/run across the floor. 
  • You really hate Mommy's singing. When I start to sing, you yell, "Don't sing that!!" 
  • You call your sister Baby Goyl, Pretty Goyl, or Ava Goyl, which is your adorable way of saying Girl.
  • You are an amazing traveler! You have been to Canada, Germany, the Dominican Republic, Hawaii, Florida, California, Arizona... and you have handled each and every flight and time zone change effortlessly. I'm so proud of your resilience and spirit of adventure. 
  • You love oatmeal, pancakes, and Nutella sandwiches. Whenever you are asked what you want to eat, the answer is always "Nutella sandwich." 
  • You remember really specific details of various events but you always references them as happening "last night." 
  • You gave up the pacifier about 2 months ago and were very easy going about it. You weren't ready when Ava was born but when Daddy asked you to give it up a few months ago, you readily agreed. 
  • You love wood puzzles, IRL and on iPad. You also love your wooded train tracks and can play quietly by yourself with them. I watch you figure out their configurations with pride without you knowing it. 
  • You love to make your sister laugh. 
  • You take toys away from your sister but when you do that, you replace it with something you don't want to play with. We're working on that. 
  • You can partially dress yourself and feed yourself too but you still like me to feed you when we are at home. I know it is a bad habit that I indulge you but I also know that you'll outgrow it all too fast so I abide. 
  • You can be combative and logical. The other day when I confronted you about not napping at school you looked me straight in the eye and said, "You know what? Just don't talk about my nap, okay?" 
  • You have tried many times to fly and climb the walls like superheroes. You were not discouraged by your inability to do so. 
  • You cried during Dumbo when the elephant visited his mother in confinement. You said, "He wants his Mommy back." It was one of the most touching moments I have ever seen and I was so proud of your ability to empathize.  
  • You love going to the movies with your Daddy. 
  • You still like to be held and I love hearing, "Pick me up!" 
  • You are cautious and safe. You don't take risks like climbing things or touching hot objects. You get a very serious face on when you say, "I have to be very very careful!" 
  • You think you can see through walls. You lean in and squint extra hard and tell me that you have X-ray vision like Superman. You also think your hands emit "repulsor technology" like Iron Man. 
  • You can name every superhero and their alterego and like to play a game where we name them off and say whether or not each of them fly. 

Son, I love watching you grow into this person. It's a pretty great person. Happy 2 1/2 birthday. 


Raising Boys


A friend recommended Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys. I am about one third through.

I can't stop wondering at how our society is simultaneously patriarchal and yet unfriendly to men. The authors are therapists who have worked with troubled boys in public schools. They paint a picture of small but consistent subtleties that isolate boys from learning, punishing them for their natural instincts to play faster and learn slower than girls. These boys learn to think of themselves as unsuccessful in organized institutions and behave as the "problem kid" that they have been labeled for the remainder of their educational career. 

Is this not also an important step towards preventing school violence? Understanding the "emotional miseducation" of young male students? 

The authors point out that toddler girls are more likely to understand their own feelings and acknowledge them, using words like "love," "sad," and "scared." Young boys feel the same things but are seldom given an explanation for these feelings. They are taught to mistrust and ignore those feelings, to the detriment of themselves and anyone who will ever love them. 

This is an important read and I'm glad it was recommended to me. I intend to bring it up on this week's MommyBeta podcast but in the meantime, here are a few more poignant excerpts that stuck with me:  

  • "Stereotypical notions of masculine toughness deny a boy his emotions and rob him of the chance to develop the full range of emotional resources. We call this process, in which a boy is steered away from his inner world, the emotional miseducation of boys. It is a training away from healthful attachment and emotional understanding and expression, and it affects even the youngest boy, who learns quickly, for instance, that he must hide his feelings and silence his fears." 
  • "If a boy this age were unable to decipher the alphabet or read any better than this, every adult in his life would recognize that he needed help. But emotional illiteracy is so pervasive among boys that no one notices until something drastic happens. It takes a schoolyard shooting, a hole kicked in a wall, a drunk driving arrest, or a suicide for a boy’s emotional needs to get anyone’s attention." 
  • "Many men readily acknowledge that the generalization is true: they do prefer to avoid emotional people and situations. That doesn’t mean, however, that men lack the “wiring” for expressing or understanding emotion. Newborn boys, on average, are actually more emotionally reactive than girls. For example, studies show that baby boys cry more than baby girls when they are frustrated or upset." 
  • "As much as she would like the school environment to be just a place where instruction and expectations present both boys and girls with the same opportunity for success, the fact that it’s clearly easier for girls to adapt to it means that, in some unseen way, the expectations reflect girls’ abilities and sensibilities. This is the reason that David Trower, the headmaster of the all-boys Allen Stevenson School in New York City, says, 'If boys need the protection of the single-sex environment at all, they need it most in elementary school because of the developmental disparity.'"
  • "Studies that track children’s development through the school years suggest that, by the third grade, a child has established a pattern of learning that shapes the course of his or her entire school career.1 We see this clearly with boys: the first two years in school are a critical moment of entry into that world of learning, but boys’ relative immaturity and the lack of fit they so often experience in school set them up to fail. Many boys who are turned off to school at a young age never refind the motivation to become successful learners." 

More to come as I finish this book. 


Demagogue On The Shelf


Demagoguery. That's what I think of this whole Elf On The Shelf charade. It's fear mongering. 

I'm a little late to the game but my son was too young for it last year. We decided to play this year and ours arrived yesterday.

The idea is for this little snitch elf that you give a name - ours is Dino - to act as Santa's tattle tale. You place him in random locations in your home and tell your children that he comes back every morning after snitching their behavior to Santa Clause.  

The hiding part is fun but pretending that Dino is watching out for bad behavior, in my opinion, reinforces bad behavior. We use Positive Discipline in our home so constantly pointing out bad behavior that the elf would have to report was bringing more focus on bad behavior. 

I also don't like having to threaten my child with something I'm not really willing to follow through with. 

Oh if you don't get your coat on Dino will have to tell Santa and Santa won't bring your presents!

You better eat your breakfast or Dino will tell Santa! 

Now really, am I going to withhold presents on Christmas Day because of this? No.  

This feels so manipulative. 

We went along with it for about two hours. By midmorning I told my husband Clayton that I was not down with this. He agreed that it felt odd to be using such threatening language with our son in a way we usually do not. And in his words: 

"Does it teach him that he doesn't need to be good the rest of the year? Won't he think, 'Well the Elf is gone so I can be a little shithead'?" 

You may be thinking, "Oh knock it off, it's just a game." Perhaps. But if I follow through with the game then I'll have to parent with negative reenforcement which is not my style.  

We decided to ease up on the threatening-to-tattle-to-Santa part and instead pretend that Dino is a friendly Christmas visitor who likes to tell Santa how much our children have grown and changed in the last year. Besides, my two year-old is scared enough of Santa Clause -  no need to give him another reason to dislike the dude if he thinks that he sends creepy little elves to spy on him! 


A Message To My Childless Self


In my reading on early child development, I come across the same message over and over again: children need to connect. In fact, it is a basic human need to want to connect with other people. 

This is a good message for parents but I wish I had taken it to heart before I was a parent. I wouldn't have felt so bad about being lonely. 

Before I had a family I had a blossoming career but I was lonely. And I somehow thought that loneliness was a weakness. 

I went home every night to an empty studio apartment and ate the same boring dinner. I hated Sundays because they always made me somehow feel more single than other days of the week. 

Nowadays a quiet Sunday seems like a luxury. But I'm not so far removed from those Sundays that I can't remember that not only was I lonely, I felt embarrassed about being lonely.

I don't want my children to feel like that. I'm sure they will go through loneliness but I don't want them to compound the loneliness by feeling bad about it. I want them to recognize that Babs really did have it right: People who need people... 

The child psychologists stress to parents how much our children need us, crave our love and attention, and succeed in life because of the safety in their relationships. This doens't end when childhood ends.

I recently read Brain Rules For Baby and the author talks about famous research called the Grant Study. Researchers studied male Harvard undergraduates, all with seemingly bright futures - among them longtime Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and President John F. Kennedy. The men were interviewed throughout their lives and guess what the biggest predictor of happiness was? Relationships! The author writes: 

"After nearly 75 years, the only consistent finding comes right out of It’s a Wonderful Life. Successful friendships, the messy bridges that connect friends and family, are what predict people’s happiness as they hurtle through life. Friendships are a better predictor than any other single variable. By the time a person reaches middle age, they are the only predictor. Says Jonathan Haidt, a researcher who has extensively studied the link between socialization and happiness: 'Human beings are in some ways like bees. We have evolved to live in intensely social groups, and we don’t do as well when freed from hives.' The more intimate the relationship, the better. A colleague of Vaillant’s showed that people don’t gain access to the top 10 percent of the happiness pile unless they are involved in a romantic relationship of some kind." 

Sobering, isn't it? It makes me appreciate my relationships and want to invest more in them on a daily basis. It also helps me forgive myself for feeling a bit empty without them.

I don't want to sound like one of those obnoxious women who swear that their lives were meaningless before their marriage and family. That isn't true. I was happy and I found healthy and satisfying ways to use my time. But if I'm honest, there was also an element of emptiness too. 

I wish I could go back and tell my 20something self not to feel bad about that. I would say, "Natali, it is okay to be lonely. You're supposed to feel lonely. A beautiful family will come in its own time and there will be a lot of chaos so just enjoy the silence in the meantime. Oh and go out to eat more often. You will not be able to enjoy restaurants the same way once you have kids so go out to eat at nice places - even if you have to go alone." 


Adventures In Baby Fooding


New baby food rules! I'm excited about these rules given my daughter Ava just started solids two weeks ago.   

First off plastics. You knew I was going to go there. Last time around I used the Beaba Babycook but this time I just can't. Knowing what we know now about heating plastics, I can't in good conscience steam my baby's food in plastic. I've been using my glass blender instead although I'm considering a food mill as my next purchase. 

Now to more fun topics. I can't use plastics but here is what we can do now! This month's Parenting Magazine has a great summary of the new "rules" written by pediatrician Alan Greene. Baby Center also has a pretty good article here but I will sum up: 

  • Skip the rice cereal. Pediatricians say that sticking with bland foods can create a picky eater. They recommend whole grains and foods with spice, sourness, sweetness, and more. They say to go ahead with bold flavors. It will help your baby get used to a wider palate of foods. We occasionally use brown rice cereal and whole grain cereal from Happy Belly but I mix it with fruits and vegetables. 
  • No need to wait so long between every new food. The old rule was to wait three to five days to introduce a new food. No need! Dr. Greene says that "introducing new foods rapidly leads to more adventurous, happy eaters." 
  • Danger foods no longer so dangerous. Dr. Greene says that there is no reason to delay foods we once thought were risky such as egg, fish, nuts, etc. Research shows that delaying these foods too long could cause allergies, not prevent them. I was pretty adventurous with my son, giving him egg and peanut butter before the recommended age. Now I don't feel bad about it! Not that I ever did. I'm reckless like that! 

So game on! I'm fixin' to get crazy with my blender this holiday season! 

Although my brood is crazy enough, don't you think?