Category Archives: reader questions

Is it wrong to fear summer?

Last summer, I cried at the thought of Charlie being gone at school all day long. And I still hate it sometimes. I wish he were home more.

But now as summer approaches, I’m mildly terrified of his being home all day long. What will I do with him? He’s often quite needy and clingy, wanting someone to play with him every waking hour of the day. And I’m just not ready for an entire summer of dealing with that.

I know that being prepared will go a long way. Having plans of things to do, places to go, activities to try.

If you’ve stumbled upon this little blog and have any insight to offer, I’d love to hear it!

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Sensitive boy: Will this ever possibly be a good thing?

To start off my afternoon, I put Lillian in bed, sent Charlie to quiet room time, and set about sweeping my floors and loading my dishwasher, all while thinking through what to write in this post on Mr. Ultrasensitive-to-a-Fault. I assumed I would detail all the grief Charlie has given me lately in a few key circumstances, and I still will. But first I have to mention: apparently Lillian didn’t want to be left out of this post, so she’s giving me a little grief of her own by refusing (yet again) to fall asleep. Finally I put a few books in her crib and said, “Okay, girl, if you’re not going to sleep, you’re at least going to stay there awhile.”

It’s been one of those days. I’ve had a few very sweet moments with my kids, and I’m clinging to those when I really want to throw up my hands, walk out the door, and let them figure out the rest of this day on their own.

I took Charlie to the dentist this morning. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Charlie has always been sensitive in unfamiliar situations with unfamiliar people. Being approached or, God forbid, touched by a stranger can send him spiraling into an uncontrollable episode of high-pitched whining and crying and gnashing of teeth. So last January, as we approached Charlie’s first-ever dentist appointment, I was extremely skeptical about his ability to last the entire appointment without a meltdown. But he was a trooper! I was blown away, and grateful to no end, that he did so well and wasn’t at all scared of the dentist. He got a new toothbrush and a cool matchbox car, and was pleased as punch.

Fast-forward to July. Early in the month, we attempted swimming lessons. Charlie was excited to go, even calm and happy as we sat around waiting for the lesson to begin. But as soon as he was given instructions, he went berserk. He refused to participate, even after I finally convinced him to at least get in the water. The failure of the day, however, was in my own response, which was obviously frustrated and disappointed at Charlie, two things that, in my ideal-mommy world, I would hope never to communicate to him so meanly. I was angry at myself, mad at the situation as a whole, and, to put it gently, a bit of an emotional wreck.

Later in July, Charlie was due for another dental checkup. I had no hesitation whatsoever, thanks to his stellar mouth-opening skills the first time around. So I was completely caught off guard when the appointment went downhill fast. He did great at the beginning. He climbed up in the chair, he was chatting with the hygienist, he opened up wide… but a few minutes in, the poor hygienist stuck his finger on the roof of Charlie’s mouth, unintentionally activating Charlie’s gag reflex, and the boy just lost it. No amount of talking or coaxing could convince him to settle down and let Mr. Phil get back to work. He was completely distraught. So we left, and I made an appointment for a month later.

Which brings us to today. Charlie and I have talked several times in the past few days about going to the dentist again, and he’s been great. He seemed ready to try again. I even had an appointment first, so he watched Mr. Phil clean my teeth and saw that it was no big deal. When it was Charlie’s turn, he started getting a little whiny and flaily like he does when he’s uncomfortable, and my heart sank. But at some point I must have said something that clicked with him, and he climbed up onto the chair, put on the cool sunglasses that the kiddos get to wear, and chatted with Mr. Phil about all the animals he had brought along. Things were going well. He opened up his mouth, got a few gentle pokes on his teeth, and I started relaxing. Then his tongue apparently bumped into the little mirror, which freaked him out, and all was lost. Whining, flailing, crying, squealing… A very kind female hygienist even came in to give it a try — maybe Charlie was just too nervous with Mr. Phil? — but to no avail. She was so sweet, and even “cleaned” the teeth of his toy dinosaur, snake, Buzz, and Woody. What a sport. But Charlie just refused to cooperate when it was his turn again.

And I’m completely flummoxed. I tend to think I’ve become pretty good at working with Charlie’s personality, but in these recent situations, I’m at a loss. And even looking back on them, I don’t know what would have been the best response from me. He needs love from me, most importantly, especially in situations where he feels vulnerable or afraid. But what does that love look like? Does it look tough, as in, “you’ll be punished if you don’t listen to and obey the instructor/teacher/hygienist”? Or does it look gentler, more compassionate? As in, “I understand that you’re feeling scared; let’s try again in a few months”? This brings to mind Ephesians 6:4 (“do not exasperate your children”): Am I not properly training/preparing Charlie for these situations, and therefore exasperating him by expecting too much? Or am I ultimately exasperating him by allowing him to control the situation with such out-of-control behavior?

I have no idea what to do. If this is a matter of his being too sensitive (Is it?), then I hope we can encourage him to be braver in these types of situations without squelching his sensitivity in other areas. Like, when he brings blankies and dollies to Lillian without prompting when she’s upset. Or when he thinks to pray for Lillian when she feels afraid. Surely this trait will benefit him someday and be a gift to the people he interacts with. Right now, though, it’s giving his mommy a headache.

Do any of you have sensitive kiddos and bits of wisdom to offer?

Cleaning schedule

Dana, this one’s for you!

I still need to tweak this a bit, but here’s my weekly schedule of household chores, as mentioned here:

MONDAY:
laundry
sort any piles of papers (usually on our kitchen counter or on the hutch in the dining room)
file papers

TUESDAY:
laundry
sweep hard floors (kitchen, dining room, living room, hallway)
steam mop if needed

WEDNESDAY:
dust (not necessarily every Wednesday…ahem.)
vacuum bedrooms and living room rug

THURSDAY:
laundry (sheets and towels)
clean bathroom

FRIDAY:
vacuum basement (not required every week)
sort any piles of papers

Now of course, many things have to happen on a daily basis and therefore aren’t even on the list (dishes, picking up toys and clothes, emptying the kitchen garbage, cooking meals). And some things on the list may actually have to happen more than once a week (sweeping the kitchen and dining room floors [often more than once a day, even], cleaning the bathroom, and sorting mail and other collected papers). But these things still need a dedicated place in my week, I think, so that if the past seven days have been a whirl and I haven’t once swept up the discarded dinner crumbs and stray cat food from my dining room floor (please don’t judge), I know that, if it’s Tuesday, that’s one thing I have to accomplish.

I’m still iffy about the laundry schedule. I’ve toyed with the idea of having one dedicated laundry day, but it just never seems to pan out. Our laundry is in the basement, and while this is a far better arrangement than multiple other homes we’ve inhabited, I still have such a hard time keeping up with load after load. I think I do better to spread it out through the week.

Another thing. I didn’t include grocery shopping on my weekly list, though it may be added someday. I still can’t seem to find a perfect time in my week for tackling this. So we typically pop by Dillons for shorter shops of more immediate grocery needs, then I’ll go one evening every few weeks for a bigger shop.

Do you have any tips on weekly grocery shopping trips? Or care to share your own cleaning schedule?

Preschool deliberations

I would like some input.

Charlie turned three in January, and ever since, my brain has been playing this foggy, back-and-forth game to determine whether to enroll Charlie in preschool this fall. And after much volleying of pros and cons, my brain has still not decided. I think it has; I think I know which way we’re leaning — and then I talk to another friend who offers very wise counsel on the contrary, though not intending to change my mind.

A little background might be helpful. I have always felt strongly about the value of my staying home with my kids. So when I learned in Chicago about the popularity of “three-school” (essentially pre-preschool at age 3), it didn’t surprise me that I didn’t even want to consider it for our family (though I fully understand that many other families do consider it for very legitimate reasons). I basically thought, “That is ridiculous. I can do everything for my children at home that they could do in a three-school —  I can teach them shapes, colors, letters, etc.; I can schedule playdates for frequent interaction with other kids.” And I did those things with Charlie, and I felt confident in his intellectual and social progress. I continue to do those things with Charlie, but since we moved to Kansas and turned his world upside down, I have lost some of that confidence.

Most of his interactions now are with adults, and consequently, he is very uncertain in situations with a lot of other kids. He is clingy with mommy and daddy when all the other kids are in another room playing together, which can make certain situations extremely challenging. He does enjoy running around one-on-one with kids he knows well, but even then, he can be really rough and possessive and not likely to play well alongside them, if that makes sense.

Now as I type this out, I realize that much of this sounds like typical 3-year-old behavior, and even typical Charlie behavior given his personality. And I think that’s true, to some degree. But I know that Charlie has always thrived on structure. And if our lives have lacked anything in the past seven months, it is structure. So with a little routine — set times during the week (two mornings or two afternoons) when he is away from the craziness of home and is encouraged to interact with his peers in a positive way — I’m pretty sure some of these, and other, behavioral and social challenges would decrease. Not go away, of course, but decrease.

But maybe not.

And so we have two decisions on our hands:

To enroll or not to enroll
Pros of enrolling: structure in the week, social learning, having someone other than mommy as an authority figure, time for me and Lillian at home

Cons of enrolling: He’ll already be in school for a minimum of thirteen years, so why rush it? He knows his shapes and letters and numbers, so will he be bored? Do I really want to spend that much money on his social life? He would end up being in preschool for two years: isn’t that a little excessive?

And if we do enroll him in preschool, Which one?
Option 1: I’ve heard great things about this school; it is located in our church, so Charlie would be familiar with the environment; Grampy works at the church; I know and really like the teacher; there is no waiting list

Option 2: I’ve heard great things about this one, too; it is located in a nursing home, and I love love love their emphasis on intergenerational activities

So those are the deliberations. When I sat down to type this out, I was pretty certain of my leaning toward yes for preschool enrollment. And now I’m not so sure! Arrgh!

If you’ve read this entire thing, thanks! It was mostly an exercise in getting my fuzzy thoughts out of my fuzzy brain. If you have any responses, I’d love to hear them!

Babies and sleep (or lack thereof)

It’s no secret that both of my children, as babies, would rather stay awake than sleep. Because they entered the world completely lacking this fundamental baby skill, I have uttered such sentiments as, “Charlie was a really difficult baby” and “Lillian’s naps are shorter than the time it takes me to get her to sleep.” Everyone says of newborns, “They just eat and sleep!” This would not accurately describe my experience. By day 3 of both the kids’ lives, it became clear that we would have to work to put them to sleep. None of this “eat and crash” business for my kids, no siree. I will say that Lillian’s babyhood has been much less stressful than Charlie’s overall. She sleeps better during the day than he did (but worse at night, actually). Still, I wouldn’t call her an “easy” baby. Adorable, but not easy.

Lately I have been pondering this great irony (because we all know that if there are any two parents in the world who love sleep almost more than anything else, it’s me and Jeff): Do our children not sleep much because of something we have done or not done? Would they be easier babies if they had been given to different parents? That’s not an idea I want to entertain for long, but still. I know of parents whose babies are easygoing, sleep at all the right times (and fall asleep on their own, babbling away in their cribs), and do everything by the books; consequently, the parents are confident in their roles, and well-rested to boot. Is this because they just got lucky with a super easy kid? Or maybe because of their approach or method of parenting?

I lean toward the former: they just got lucky. And on my worst days, I admit, I wish non-sleeping babies upon these parents.

What do you think?

Bedtime: edited

*Upon reading your responses, I remembered a few steps in my own routine. And since this is such an important subject, I’ve added those in.

Floss
Brush teeth
Wash face
Take contacts out
Toner
Moisturizer
Chapstick
Glasses on
Pee
Close the bathroom door behind me so the ticky clock doesn’t drive me crazy
Jammies
Collapse
Pray with Jeff
Good-night kiss
“Sleep well, m’love.”
“You too, m’love.”

What’s your bedtime routine?

Hand-me-downs

A friend and I were discussing recently our thoughts about dressing our kids in clothes that we wore ourselves as children. And so I wanted to ask you: Is this super cute in a sort of sentimental way, even if the clothes are outdated? Or does the outdatedness of the clothes just make the whole thing a little too silly and contrived?

Here’s Lillian this morning, looking just like her momma circa 1981, in a dress made by her Nana.

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She seems to like it:

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