Preschooler Pandemonium

What those other moms really think of you…

I have a friend who always seems concerned about what others think of her as a parent. She worries what people think of how her daughter is dressed, what she says, the lunch she sends with her to preschool, and so on.

I only had a few moments of “what must they think?” in my parenting life up until a year or two ago.

For instance, there was a mom I really wanted to get to know better but every time she brought her child over for a play date, my son would do something like throw up or pee on the floor. I know she thought we were loony, though my son was perfectly behaved 95% of the time when she wasn’t around. Did your child ever do weird things in front of one particular person?

Now, I think I finally understand how moms can fret about what others must think. Kids will always have their moments – and it seems they happen in front of those other moms whose children are so well behaved.

But know this: those moms also have trying moments. You might be seeing their kids at their best, but there is no mom on this earth who doesn’t want to pull her hair out over her kids at least five times in a week.

And if they don’t feel that way now, they should know it’s coming down the road. I know, because my son was one of those who shamed others with his seemingly impeccable manners and calm demeanor – until he turned three.

Certainly, children are a reflection of their parents and home life. But should we really get wrapped up in what other moms think when they witness a meltdown at the end of a play date? Or when your kid tells a stranger they’re fat?

Kids are going to do and say embarrassing things, probably for the rest of their lives, I figure. I am going to try to give less thought to what others are thinking of me and my family while we’re doing our best to wade through the trying moments of parenting. After all, that other mom has her own embarrassing moments to contend with, right?

As I write this it’s sounding quite noble and perhaps a tad unrealistic.

Tell me, how much do you worry what others think of you and your children?

Toddler Tenderness

Handwriting – get your baby or toddler ready now

If you have a baby or toddler, you may feel like learning to write is a long way off. But did you know that some things you do now can help ease your little one into writing letters later on?

Some kids really struggle with writing the ABCs when they reach their school years. No wonder! It requires a massive coordinated effort from a young child: everything from holding the pencil correctly to remembering which way the d and b are supposed to go.

My sister has passed along some tips from an occupational therapist who works with kids struggling with handwriting. These tips focus on building the muscles and motor skills needed to let your child hold and move a pencil and maintain the posture needed for basic handwriting.

Upper body strength

  • Let your child play on playground equipment, climb ladders, swing on monkey bars, even push a swing.
  • Teach him or her the crab walk or wheelbarrow walk.
  • Do activities on a vertical service, like on an easel, chalkboard or even paper taped to the wall.
  • Throw and catch balls of different sizes.

Fine motor skills

  • Let him or her tear up paper for recycling.
  • Play with spray bottles, water droppers, or squirt guns.
  • Find toys that require fine motor skills. Choose ones that really hold his or her attention. For our son, it’s Automoblox cars. For yours, it might be Legos. Tweezer or tongs are great, as well as play dough (see how to make your own play dough here).

Visual-motor coordination

  • Practice shapes and letters with sidewalk chalk, shaving cream on the side of the bathtub, in sand or dirt, with finger paint as well as crayons on paper.
  • Teach concepts like top/bottom, right/left, in/under, etc. This will be helpful as you encourage formation of letters from top to bottom, left to right.
  • Work on making simple shapes like a line, circle, cross, x and a square. Then use those shapes to create a picture or scene.

My favorite tip

Encourage the proper tripod grip by giving your child a short piece of crayon to work with (after she is no longer putting things in her mouth, of course).

Who would have thought, right? There are so many products designed to make it easy for children to hold (triangular chalk, fat, round crayons), but those are not really appropriate for small children, nor for learning proper writing basics, according to occupational therapists.

Toddler Tenderness

Mom-talk on a play date

If you’re a mom with a baby turning into a toddler, you may be looking forward to setting up play dates. It sounds like a great excuse to dress up your kid, get out of the house, and spend time with another mom while your kids play together happily.

Looking forward to stimulating conversation? A heart-to-heart with a kindred soul?

Actually it goes more like this: You ask a question, miss the answer as you spend the rest of the time playing referee for the kids, then forget what it was you really wanted to know from your friend.

And then you remember when you’re on the way home in the car. So you text her later during naptime. Or send her a message through Facebook. That’s where moms really talk.

The play date conversation is more like this. Imagine you’re meeting your friend at a park.

YOU: So, how are you doing with the new job? Caleb, don’t put that in your mouth! Give me that!

OTHER MOM: Ugh, do you need a wipe? The job? I’m settling in. It’s harder than I thought…

YOU: (Interrupting) Where did he go? He was just here. Caleb! Caleb! Oh, there he is.

OTHER MOM: Oh, I wanted to ask you, is Caleb going to summer camp this year?

YOU: Yes, I’ve got him signed up. What about Jaden? Oh no, he’s trying to take that boy’s truck. I’ll be right back…

JADEN (OTHER MOM’S KID): Truck! Truck! I want my truck!

OTHER MOM: You didn’t bring it honey (followed by tears and screams).

YOU: What were we talking about?

OTHER MOM: Yikes it’s 11:30 already. We’ve got to run. It was nice seeing you!

At least it feels that’s the way it goes sometimes. How about your play dates? Any secrets to happy play and a great conversation? Or does it all smooth out at a certain age? Do tell!

Toddler Tenderness

I won’t be going back to THAT playground anytime soon!

Is it just me or are kids these days scary? Three interactions during one visit to a playground the other day had me running to my car with my son in my arms.

I guess I shouldn’t say “these days”. I’ve always known kids can be mean. Emotions are quick to well up and few kids can help saying what’s on their minds, even when it’s not nice. But this day just seemed to be extreme.

Here’s what had me rattled at the park.

Incident no. 1: I was told off by a toddler

First, as I helped my two-and-a-half-year-old son up onto the playground equipment, I took a quick look around to survey the other kids playing there. One little tyke, smaller than my son but obviously much older, glared at me with cold eyes and yelled, “Don’t look at me!” in a voice that I couldn’t believe came from such a cute, little exterior.

Fine, I thought, as I spun the revolving number blocks with my son. We’ll play over here.

Incident no. 2: My son was pushed down the slide by an older kid

Next, I thought I’d get my son to go down the tube slide. He’s not very adventurous on his own, but after some coaxing, he went for it, giggling all the way down. Next time, I went to the bottom to wait for him (he loves to look down the tube and see me there).

When he had only one leg in, a little girl came behind him and shoved him! He tumbled down the slide sideways scraping his elbow. I was SHOCKED! I am not one to look the other way when there’s foul play, so I said to her, as calmly as I could, “Don’t ever push another child like that.”

Still, I was glad to see my son wanted to go down the slide again. So I went to the top with him to make sure he could get on safely this time. The little girl stopped herself midway on the slide so he couldn’t go!  She looked at me squarely and said, “I don’t like you. I don’t want to look at you.”

I‘m guessing she was about six years old. Where does a six year old learn to talk like that?

Incident no. 3: Another kid shakes up my son on the bouncy airplane

Giving up on the slide, we went to play on a little airplane mounted on a spring. It moves back and forth when you lean this way and that.

My son can barely reach his feet to the pedals on this fun little toy. But he loves to sit and pretend he’s flying the plane. Another little boy, probably about five years old, wanders over and grabs onto the handlebars. As he chatters away to me about his brother, he starts violently shaking the airplane my son is sitting on.

I really don’t think my son minded. And I’m sure that kid wasn’t trying to be mean. But I was outta there. That’s about all this mom could handle in a short visit to the playground.