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Archive for August, 2010

This is the counterpart to the original “Axiom on Leaving the House with Small Children.”

If you have nowhere to go and no particular time to be there, you will successfully have everyone out of the house in ten minutes.

If you have somewhere to be, even if it’s somewhere that the children would like to be, such as gym class, accomplishing the aforementioned feat will take twenty minutes. Add another ten minutes if you are feeling particularly stressed for time.

Nota Bene: When you get where you’re going, you may notice that you were able to get out of the house in comparative lightning speed because you negelected to pack diapers, wipes, snacks, sunscreen, sun hats and water bottles. You may not notice this, however, because any speedbump that presents itself during your outing with the littles can easily be resolved by the dad-household-budget-busting-“I’ll-just-pick-it-up-along-the-way-if-I-need-it,” salvo approach. Also, in a pinch, a dad has no problem getting “MacGyver” in his approach, using a flannel shirt as a back up diaper.

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I recently started using StumbleUpon and it’s just added a whole new level of time-suck to my Internets experience. I came across this lovely piece, “Preparation for Parenthood,” which is painfully accurate in some respects, especially #8 on leaving the house. There really are some smahties down there at Stanford. It makes me think of my bit about “Leaving the House with Small Children.” Here’s a snippet from the Stanford one:

# 8 Get Ready to Go Out. Wait outside the bathroom for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette butt, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

This is so true it hurts. I have no idea when I’m going to master the “let’s go outside for a stroll” mom move, much less the “get in the car so we can go to the grocery store and get milk and diapers already!” maneuver, but for the time being I’m trapped in my house and I can’t figure a way out that doesn’t involve some sort of meltdown. I can’t even bribe my children with the idea of a tricycle ride to make the home exiting go smoothly. “But wait!,” you  exclaim, “Your children love their tricycles! Why can’t you get them outside to ride them?” Because I inevitably make a very bad decision just before leaving – like getting the divine inspiration to bring snacks (which means that the second we are three feet away from the front gate onto the sidewalk, the two of them will pounce like starving piranhas onto the snack bag, as though they’ve never seen Cheez It’s or bananas before. The following 15 minutes will be met with me becoming increasing frustrated as they swap off fighting over who gets which tricycle and battling over who gets to stop and eat a Cheez It after getting themselves on and off their tricycles 15 times and not moving farther than 4 inches from the starting line — this always ends in someone screaming. It might even be me, but I’m not telling), or divinely forgetting snacks (after remembering the previous disaster with snacks this seems a smart move, but A-ha!!! There’s the little kid turn-around – if you genuinely forget the food, your children will be unduly starving for their 7 minute outing and will be excessively cranky), or forgetting something else equally basic, such as reminding the 3 year old to pee before leaving (luckily, urine washes off of tricycle seats lickety-split). No matter how you cut it, the only method I’ve found to get out of the house without popping an important temple vein in my head is to just pick up each child and insert them into their car seats or strap them onto their tricycles and push like crazy – that’s why God made ’em with push handles.

What are your top tips for getting out of the house? Or are you like me and just stuck melting into the couch because the battle doesn’t seem worth it?

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This is just a heads up, in case you have an as yet un-housebroken child meandering the halls of your house and didn’t know about this fascinating bit of child development already.

Your small child is not a freak if they finger paint with their poop. At least, they’re not necessarily a freak. They could still be seriously disturbed in the long run, but if you catch your kid schmearing poop on the side of their crib or their bedroom walls during the pre-or-mid-potty training phase, that’s not (necessarily) an indication you’ve got a future serial killer, Enron executive or parking space stealer on your hands. It just means your child is, well, interested in their poop. And that’s A-O.K.. Don’t just take my word for it – read some of the responses that show up from a Google search on the subject.


Some children… not all children, but some children (“some” as in “many”) get a little visit from the poop fairy when they’re starting to figure out their body functions. What this means is that the child, usually when left alone during nap time, pinches a loaf into their diapers and gets interested in seeing what’s stinking up their drawers. Since little children aren’t too good at thinking things through, they end up with poop on their hands which inevitably gets on everything else they touch.

Some children are absolutely mortified by this experience. That won’t necessarily stop them from repeating it in the future (again with that thinking things through bit), but at least they’re mighty contrite when you open the door to discover a freshly painted boudoir. Other children absolutely revel in playing with their poop and go out of their way to make a massive mess. Either way, this goes with the territory of toddler stripping that usually precedes and joins potty training.

I was at a friend’s house the other day whose eldest is younger than my daughter. This is a woman who will give full-fledged 3D descriptions of every moment of her labor to perfect strangers on an airplane, but it took over an hour of us chit chatting before she mentioned (sheepishly) why all the drapes were removed from her son’s room. The reason? He was a poop reveler and had just had his first experience with poop smearing the day before. My friend was so mortified and concerned, she could barely talk about it. I readily appeased her with stories of how totally normal it was for kids to play with poop (though 100% disgusting, I concur). I regaled her with the story of a friend for whom the idea of poop smearing was so normal that she’d posted an (unrelated) videotape of her two year old being goofy on Facebook… without ever explaining why he had duct tape wrapped around his diapers. I was lucky to get my Poop Fairy cherry broken when a mom friend’s son (three weeks older than my daughter) busted out his big move a month or so before my daughter gave it a try. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted had I not already known that this is a normal phase when I walked in on my daughter a few weeks later.


What To Do If the Poop Fairy Visits Your House

Calm Your Shit Down


That’s right, you heard me. Calm your shit down. The worst thing you can do is freak out over a poop painting fiesta. All that will do is make your child even more fascinated by the power of their poop. Even if, initially, the little one was a bashful poop partier, all he or she will need is a whopping reaction from Mom or Dad and – presto!- you’ve got an instant committed poop painting enthusiast on your hands.

So, when you enter the room and see little Susie’s gotten turdy during time out, force yourself to keep a deadpan look on your face. Calmly back out of the room, close the door, take a deep, deep breath, assess your clean-up plan and wordlessly re-enter the room. It’s probably best to just proceed with the whole clean-up attack without uttering a word. Your child will be awed by your level reaction and quickly bored into thinking poop fingerpainting is so much of a non-event it’s not worth the hassle.

How to Prevent Future Visits from the Poop Fairy

Lock Your Shit Down


Now that everything is nicely cleaned and cloroxed, it’s time to implement Phase Two of the Poop Harm Reduction plan. Namely, figure out how to keep your child from doing this again! When our daughter discovered poop surprises, we immediately started putting her footie jammies on her inside out (zipper on the inside). This really takes some technique! We took a huge sigh of relief after the first night passed incident free. We honestly thought the whole thing was licked… until three weeks later when she figured out how to undo her jammies, even with the zipper inside. Some folks will tell you the best technique is duct taping the diapers on, but that’s arduous to remove later and still not foolproof. Our 100% effective method was putting the footie pajamas on backwards (zipper in back). By the time my daughter houdini’d herself out of this tactic, she’d outgrown her fascination and was well on her way to productive potty usage.

Best Technique for Preventing Poop Parties: Backwards Footie Pajamas

Finally…

Remember this is a phase your child will outgrow… in fact, they’ll certainly move through it faster the more you help them to become independent with toileting. Try to view this as an opportunity – by the sheer virtue of the fact that your child has figured out there’s poop in his or her soggy bottoms, she’s telling you she’s ready to start figuring out potty training. If anything, a Poop Fairy visit could be regarded as a thing of joy. Behold! Your days of non-stop diapering are soon to be over! Help your child with potty training ASAP. You’ll soon discover that as they master the fine art of pooping in a potty or toilet, their previous fascination with holding their poop will be replaced with producing a poop in the right spot — one that can quickly be whisked or flushed away!

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Check out the resource guide on princesses and fairy tales.

It gives some options for directing “princess passion” away from Disney misogyny and includes great information about media awareness for girls.

Image used under Creative Commons Licensing, attributed to iboy_daniel

There’s an interesting post that made the WordPress.com home page today about some young girls in Beirut. The post is about the “whitening effect” related to race and how some cultures are pretty upfront about preferring lighter skin – so much so that they openly advertise skin lightening products. At one point, the blogger conveys how much “white” is preferred and how it’s exemplified by her young pupils who have taken to playing a Disney Princess game where they can create their own version of a princess. Though they hem and haw over details like clothes and hair, they reflexively choose the “white” skin color on the princesses.

Since I already have an axe to grind about Disney Princesses, this post practically leapt off the screen for me. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that media influences self-image and that there’s considerable cause for alarm, especially as it relates to children. Boys and girls are limited by media influence, but I’m more concerned about my daughter than my son because the majority of roles portrayed for girls and women in media are that of supporters and objects, not leaders and protagonists. Some day, when I have more time I’ll get into the boy part, but the girl part has me for now. Part of it is that, when it comes to girl physiques, all types come with their risks — stereotypically attractive girls will be objectified and sexualized as they mature, more physically challenged girls will hold themselves in comparison.

As a mom, I’m driven to creating a sense of inner character and beauty in both of my children, male and female. In order to do this, I think it’s important to keep them from the dominant media culture as much as possible, as long as possible (they’re both <4 yrs old right now).This especially applies to the cabalesque influence of the Disney Princess regime and the Barbie empire. Both of the aforementioned perpetuate unrealistic physiques for girls and shuttle them into cattle shoots the feed the girls into cookie cutter versions of who they should become. This may sound extreme, but if you doubt my mentality, take a few days to breeze through Packaging Girlhood. It makes a pretty good case for the fact that there genuine intent in the crafting of marketing schemes to produce ultimate consumers. Or read this wonderful letter petitioning Pixar to create an un-Disney movie with a female protagonist to get a sense of the need for more.

When I try to discuss this subject with other adults, I’m surprised at how often my concerns are met with an attitude of “what’s the big deal? You’re taking things way to seriously.” or “You’re overthinking things.” Really? Am I? Take a moment to look at these short videos produced by Dove. Sure, it’s just another take on a media campaign, a fresh spin, but at least they’re pointing out something that’s deadly serious.

Watch the videos and then ask yourself if you still think the influence of media on girls’ body images is benign. Tell me there’s not something to be worked up about.

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As I noted in the previous post, my daughter is starting to develop a concept of money. She understands that you spend money to get things and that there are different amounts of money. She also understands that you need more money to pay for some things than others. As I’ve written, I’ve started developing a strategy for teaching her about spending habits – that you need to consider your purchase carefully and fully comprehend that once you buy something, you have less money to use to buy something else.

This weekend, a family friend gave our daughter a homemade wallet which was crafted out of duct tape. My daughter was thrilled! The first thing she said was that she needed a purse to put it into. The second thing she said was that she needed money to put in it. My husband gladly pulled a dollar out of his wallet and put it in hers. She immediately turned to me gleefully and said, “Mommy, can we go to the museum tomorrow so I can buy something else?” (the local children’s museum is where she made her first purchase).

I realized this, too, was a teachable moment. I responded, “Yes, sure, if you want to we can do that – we can go to the museum and spend your dollar, if you want.” “YAY!!!,” was her response. I continued, “However, if you want, you might consider putting your dollar into your piggy bank. If you put your dollar into the piggy bank, then every day it stays there, you’ll get a new penny.”

We had to review the logic of this several times. Up until this moment, I don’t think she was aware she had a piggy bank. I took the beautiful Eastern European clay painted pig down from a shelf in the living room and showed it to her. I explained that when we save our money in a bank, we get more money. After a review of the situation, she decided, at least for the night, to put her dollar in the piggy bank. I made a big deal of congratulating her on a great decision and showed her how to fold the dollar to fit in the slot.

The subject of the dollar has come up a few times and I’ve reminded her about the pennies. I put a penny in every day, but I usually do it at night. I don’t want her to think it’s like the tooth fairy or anything else magical, just that it’s not about money coming from Mommy and Daddy. I want her to understand that this is just what happens when you save your money – you get more.

Sometime down the road she’ll remember the dollar and decide she wants to buy something and I think that’s great. I just hope enough time will have gone by for there to be a meaningful amount of pennies in the bank so when we withdraw the dollar, she can see that her money has grown!

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The subject of money has recently come up for my daughter. A while back, she got a hold of a dollar bill. I think we were headed to a special event and I gave her the dollar so she could buy whatever treat she wanted, as long as she could afford it. Obviously she doesn’t understand the value of a dollar, but, as the day progressed, she forgot all about the dollar in her pocket and she never spent it.

Fast forward six months and she came across her dollar in her bedside table drawer. We were headed to a children’s museum and she decided she wanted to buy something. I thought it would be a great lesson for her. After we were done with the museum, we went into the gift shop and perused the aisles of small tchackis. She was tempted by many things, but almost all of them cost more than a dollar – $1.50 $1.25, etc. I just kept explaining to her that she didn’t have enough money and we kept looking for things that did cost a dollar. Finally we discovered a small rubber duck, some stickers and a miniature watercolor paint set. She carefully chose the paint set. I reminded her that once she paid for it, she would have the paint set, but wouldn’t have the dollar. Was she sure she wanted to do that?

After much thought, she determined that she wanted the paint set. I congratulated her on a great purchase and assured her she’d love painting with it (to keep the lesson simple, I paid for the tax). As soon as we got in the car she told me she wanted another dollar and I told her that wasn’t how it worked – she only got money on special occasions. A few times since this incident, she’s asked for money and asked me to buy unnecessary toys. I’ve reminded her that we don’t have the money for things like that right now, but when she has some money she can choose how to spend it.

I don’t mean to be draconian with her, but I want to inculcate her to an understanding of the seriousness of money early on. Soon enough she’ll be surrounded by peers with their own fluid grasps of how money works so, while I’ve got her mostly to myself I want to instill these values.

She loves her paint set and she’s quite proud of it.

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