Parenting

My Kids Didn't Learn That Sh*t in My House

I do not curse. Mostly. Almost never. I have slipped up only a handful of times since my oldest child was born four and a half years ago. I know my kids are going to be exposed to that type of language, but it is not going to be through me or through the media to which I expose them. It is not going to be a part of their everyday vocabularies.

Knowing that is how I feel about it, you can imagine my dismay when I heard my two-year-old clearly say, "Fuck," a couple weeks ago. I asked her what she said, just to be sure I heard her properly. I had. Then my four-year-old piped up with it. I asked them where they learned that word, and the four-year-old told me that a new kid named Sterling, in her preschool class, said it to her. I sternly told them that "the F word" is a "very, very naughty" word that they are to "never, never" say again. A little too sternly, actually. I made the four-year-old cry.

The next day, I mentioned it to the four-year-old's teacher and she said they had been working on that with Sterling. It wasn't that big of a deal. I knew my girls wouldn't be saying it again. They are normally the naughty word police. Watch out if you slip and call something stupid. Those girls will be all over you.

Last night, the girls were chattering away. My attention was elsewhere until the four-year-old said to me, in a teary voice, "Sissy called me a 'bitch.'" (Actually, she said 'binch,' which was totally cute.) I asked where they heard that word. Again, from Sterling. I told them that it is a very naughty word, almost as bad as they other one, and that they are absolutely not allowed to say it. Then I asked them if Sterling had taught them any other new words. Thankfully, no. I told them that Sterling says naughty words, which is not ok, and that if they hear those words, they should not repeat them.

This time, I was livid. I am mostly a "let kids act like kids" kind of person. I know my kids will eventually learn all sorts of precious gems from other kids but, right now, when they are so small, I am trying to lay a foundation that will help them stay out of trouble. I didn't think I would have to be talking to my preschoolers about why we don't say fuck and bitch.

This morning, I talked to the director of the preschool. She was not suprised to learn that Sterling had taught my children those words. Actually, she was a little surprised about the two-year-old because her only exposure to Sterling is before school and after, when all the classes are the playground. I was a little surprised to learn that Sterling had been kicked out of his last preschool for language. This is a four-year-old kid I'm talking about. The director assured me that they have worked with him extensively on this and they keep a very close eye on him so that the other children aren't exposed to it. Not close enough, clearly. I can understand about the first incident, when he was new to the school, but it is still happening. The director assured me she would speak to my daughter's teacher about Sterling.

There is nothing else I can do, I suppose. My girls won't be using those words again anytime soon. I won't give Sterling's parents the evil eye in the parking lot, even though you know I want to. It can't be easy parenting that kid (I didn't mention that he is also physically aggressive), but they need to do a better job. He is FOUR YEARS OLD. Those parents are doing a lot of things wrong.

What would you have done? Anything different? Nothing?


More Toddler Tips: Raising a Talker

Oh, my goodness is my toddler ever a chatterbox. Thankfully, she can talk and talk and talk to herself. She does not always require a response. My kid is well ahead of the game when it comes to language development. Most people are confused about her age out in public. They think she is abnormally small for a three-and-a-half-year old, but she is two-and-a-half.

I have some background in early childhood education, and I have read twenty gazillion books on the subject, so I knew what I wanted to do to instill good language skills in my child before she was born. I'm not an expert on it by any means, but maybe you can benefit from knowing what has worked for me.

1. Talk to your baby all the freaking time

I am actually not much of a talker, so this was really awkward for me in the beginning, which is why I started practicing when my baby as barely a week old. I narrated everything I was doing ("Mommy's changing Kenna's diaper.") and everything the baby was doing ("Oh, Kenna doesn't like getting her diaper changed. Kenna is crying.").

I also held conversations with my mute baby. Ask the baby a question, leave time for the baby's response, and then say what the baby would respond if the baby were super freakish and could talk.

Example:

"Does Kenna want to wear her giraffe onesie today?" [pause]

"Oh, Kenna does want to wear her giraffe onesie. She loves her giraffe onesie."

I read something about kids not understanding pronouns until a certain point, so we always used names when talking to the baby, at least until she was using multi-word phrases.

2. Don't correct improper word usage

Once your kid does start talking, don't correct improper word usage or verb tenses. The goal is to get your kid to talk more, so you don't want to do anything that might make her feel bad, like telling her she is saying something wrong.

3. Repeat and model

When my toddler first started talking, I would repeat what she said, or what I thought she said, for two reasons. First, to make sure I understood her and, second, to model proper word usage and verb tenses.

Example 1:

"Jibber jabber cookie blah blah mama"

"Would you like a cookie? Oh, you do want a cookie."

Example 2:

"Jibber jabber cookie blah blah mama"

"Would you like a cookie? You do? Ok. Kenna said, 'May I please have a cookie, Mama?'"

I still do this but now, instead just trying to build my kid's vocabulary, it is also about using proper sentence structure. Also, I still don't know what the heck she is saying sometimes. She speaks pretty clearly, but if it is a word I've never heard her use before, I takes me a few tries to get it.

3. Don't use baby talk

This one is in every book there ever was, but there is some confusion as to what "baby talk" means. Baby talk refers to made-up words. It does not refer to using a high-pitched, sing-songy voice, which actually helps babies with comprehension and helps to calm them.

Example (not baby talk):

"Ohmygod you're so cute, I love snuggle your little neck and smoosh your cheeks and give you so many kisses." (I may have said this every single day that I was on maternity leave.)

Example (baby talk):

"Does my little shmoopykins need her dipey-wipey changed? Someone has a mess on her tushy-wushy."

You should not use baby talk mostly because you sound like an idiot when you do.

4. Have conversations with your child

This is harder when your child is a baby and you are holding both sides of the conversation yourself. It is infinitely more fun when your child can participate. This is a great parenting tip, not just for building language skills.

Have a conversation with your kid. Your entire relationship should not consist of you barking orders at your kid or even instructing your kid in a nice way. Your kid is going to need conversational skills in life and you are going to want your kid to talk to you about things as she gets older, so you might as get her used to having a normal conversation now, before she can resist.

This part is easy and it is enormously entertaining. My toddler cracks me up every single day. She is just starting to really pretend and tells me stories about monsters and her dolls and her friends at daycare.

One last note

I was talking to my hair stylist about some cute things my toddler says and she said she doesn't always understand what her nephew says, but that his mom seems to. She was worried about being able to understand her own kid when she has kids. I reassured her that she would understand her kid even if other people couldn't. It isn't like a psychic bond thing, it is just that your kid uses the word in context around you so you begin to pick up which words mean what because you are much more exposed to them than other people are.


Please and Thank You: Teaching Your Toddler to Be Polite

I get compliments about how polite my toddler is. At two-and-a-half years old, she greets adults by name; she says please, thank you, and you're welcome when it's appropriate (most of the time); and she is very complimentary herself ("I like yours shoes. They're so pretty.")

It isn't by accident that she is this way. This is behavior that I actively tried to instill in her from the time she was born. I have seen conflicting advice about teaching keeds to be polite so I think it might be useful for others to know what I do.

1. Model Good Behavior

I think this is a key step in teaching kids how to do anything. We say please and thank you to the toddler. When I ask her to do something, I say please. When she complies, I thank her. It's not difficult. I started this when she was a newborn so that I would get into the habit. ("Don't roll off the changing table, please. Thank you.") I read in a book that you should only model behavior and never tell your kid to say please and thank you since they will naturally pick it up, but I don't agree. Kids need prompts.

I compliment her every day and I compliment other people in front of her. I tell her she's funny, or I say that her hair looks cute, or I like the picture she colored. She says thank you, and she copies that behavior with others.

2. Remind, but Don't Demand

I read in a book that you should not force your tiny toddler to say please and thank you. You should remind them to do so and let it go. If my toddler forgets to ask for something in a nice way, or to say please, or thank you, I remind her, but I don't force her to do it right then. Using this method, her use of please and thank you gradually increased on it's own.

This was another thing I started when she was a newborn. It was a little ridiculous at first because I would be holding my tiny baby who couldn't even hold her own head up and I would say, "Say hi to Aunt Marie," and then I would say it for her, "Hi, Aunt Marie." But, at her two-and-a-half-year check-up, she greeted her doctor with, "Hi, Dr. Altmann," when the doctor walked in the room so, as ridiculous as it seemed then, it has paid off.

When I started this post, I thought there was more to it, but as I got into, I realized it really has been as simple as that.


Disciplining Other People's Children

I confess. I discipline other people's children. Family, friends, strangers. It's a reflex. I don't think twice about doing it and I don't feel any remorse for having done it.

Last night, I had dinner at Souplantation with Amy, from Parenting with Duct Tape, her 10-year-old, her 2-year-old, and my 2-year-old. I came back to the table with a blueberry muffin. I gave my toddler half. She shared a little with Amy's toddler. Amy asked her daughter if she would like a blueberry muffin, too. Her daughter nodded and demanded, "Get me blueberry muffin!"

I immediately responded with, "Excuse me, you need to say, 'Please,'" which is exactly what I would have said to my own daughter. It wasn't until later that evening, or maybe even the next morning, that I realized I had disciplined someone else's kid right in front of her and wondered if she had been offended. As I said, I don't feel any remorse for having done it, but it did make me wonder why I do it.

My large extended family is filled with cousins, aunts, and uncles. Growing up, we all lived in the same town and everyone congregated at my grandmother's house. There was always some mix of kids and adults around. If you were a kid, you were expected to listen to any adult present and you could expect to be disciplined by any adult present. It's still that way in my family. If I ask my cousins' kids or my nieces and nephews to do something, I expect them to do it. If I see them doing something they shouldn't, they should expect me to respond to it.

The kids play area at the mall is the worst. Inattentive mothers let loose their tiny hooligans and glue their eyes to their iPhones. My polite, friendly, small-for-her-age toddler doesn't stand a chance against some of those beasts. It's not like I'd put someone else's kid in a time-out or beat the ass of a deserving mini-thug, but I will point a finger and say in a slightly-too-loud, stern voice, "Watch it!" I will also follow that up with a distasteful look at the mother in case my tone caused her to look up to see what sort of trouble her future criminal has gotten himself into now.

I haven't asked Amy if it bothers her if I discipline her children. (I didn't even tell her I was posting this.) I don't think she requires my assistance and I don't think her children require additional discipline. As I said, it's reflexive, and I don't plan to stop.


Working Mom Guilt: Dr. Phil Says You Shouldn't Have It

I don't have working mom guilt. I choose to work and that is the best decision for my family. A couple months ago, I attended a taping of a Dr. Phil show on the subject. As he so lovingly put up on the graphics, it was really "Stay at Home vs. Working Moms" with Jessica Gottlieb representing the stay-at-home moms with the opinion that if you can't stay home with your children, you shouldn't have them.

Romi Lassally summed it up nicely on Huffington Post:

Basically, Jessica equates the hiring of a babysitter, or use of a daycare facility for the kids with the hiring of a surrogate (a hooker perhaps?) for the husband. While this is an interesting concept...it's just dead wrong. Working, or staying home full time is [sic] not be the litmus test by which we evaluate the quality of love a mother has for her kids. There are plenty of full time moms who aren't that loving and probably just as many working moms who love with a vengeance.

I responded to Jessica's post about her appearance:

I was in that audience on the Working Moms side. I choose to work and I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t miss my children’s milestones. If my daughter giggles for the first time at daycare, she is also going to do it for me later, when I get home from work. Our wonderful daycare provider is not raising my children for me, she is simply caring for them for part of their day. They thrive under her expert care in ways I doubt they would at home with me all day. They are appropriately bonded and attached to me and their father. And I am certainly a much happier person for being able to use my talents on daily basis in a way that makes us a lot of money that gives us opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have.

One thing that I posted about when Sarah Palin first appeared and was getting so much heat for her choices about work and family, is that some women CAN do it all. Some women are more capable than others when it comes to balancing their lives. Some women can simply do more than others can.

One thing you asked during the show was something like, “You wouldn’t outsource making love to your husband, so why would you outsource mothering your children?” I laughed when you said that because, honestly, if I could get a girl in to take care of the blowjobs, I would.

She responded to me thusly:

Not “making love to your husband”, just “loving him”.

I’m sorry you don’t enjoy marriage or parenthood.

I showed surprising restraint in my follow-up response. You can read the rest on her site. Also, please note that my husband is holding auditions this weekend for the blowjob girl.


I Curse You and Your Baby

I wonder why it is the first instinct of so many people to wish ill upon an expectant mother. When I was pregnant with my toddler, it was the honeymoon period of motherhood. Everyone was so excited for me. They were excited to find out the gender of the baby. They were excited to find out what we were going to name her. They were excited to know how I was feeling every minute until I gave birth. Then, they were excited to see her for the first time.

Once we realized we had a pretty easy baby with no health issues and not a lot of drama about sleeping or eating, the honeymoon was over. As people found out she was an easy baby, we would hear things like, "You're lucky," implying that we had absolutely nothing to do with her behavior. We acknowledge that we are lucky, but we do not feel that luck has everything to do it. We were pretty chill as parents and we believe that helped our baby relax as well.

When I was pregnant with my newborn, you would not believe the amount of ill-wishing I received. As soon as people found out I was pregnant with my second child, they asked how my first child was as a baby. When they found out she was an easy baby, they said, "Oh, this one will be a nightmare." That lovely sentiment was usually accompanied by an unkind bit of laughter. I heard variations on this from so many people that I started to get angry about it. It is such a rude thing to say to a pregnant woman.

There was one exception. A co-worker of mine, when he found out my first child was an easy baby, said that my second would probably be easy, too. He has two kids who were both easy babies. I clung to that thought through the rest of my pregnancy.

When my newborn slept through the night at three and half weeks old, and kept on sleeping through the night, a resounding, "Suck it!" could be heard through all the land. She is even easier than the first one. Yes, I am lucky again, but I am also more relaxed as a parent this time, so I am still going to take some of the credit.

You would think that would be the end of the ill-wishing, but you would be wrong. When people find out that I have had two easy babies and we are not having anymore, they say, "Wait until they're teenagers." Why doesn't anyone say, "That's great!" or, "How wonderful!" No one can be happy for me or say something nice.

The next time someone says something like, "Wait until they're teenagers," I am going to ask why she would say something like to me and why she would expect that we will be unable to raise well-behaved children.

(Please note that I was able to write this entire post uninterrupted in my silent house because my baby is sleeping peacefully in her moses basket.)


Gift Ideas for New Moms

Dawn asks:

I was wondering if you had any recommendations for gifts for new Moms; not really baby-stuff for new moms, but Mom-stuff for new Moms so she gets a bit of attention, too. I wanted to get the Mom something, just for her, like a pampering-type gift or a helpful book or... something. I was thinking about a spa or mani-pedi gift certificate, but (1) I don't know what's around the area she lives and (2) I imagine it's difficult to get out of the house with a newborn, even if you want to.

It sounds like you want to get the new mom a post-baby gift (not a still-pregnant gift) and that she lives far away from you. I have a few suggestions, each with a different level of commitment on your part.

Meal Delivery - High Level of Effort, Low to Moderate Cost

When I was on maternity leave, not only was I sleep-deprived, but I also was so in love with my baby, all I wanted to do all day was hold her. I was super grateful whenever anyone brought food over to the house. I didn't even care what it was. I suggest doing a little bit of online research (you could try Yelp, but the amount of review there varies greatly by area) and finding out a few places that deliver in her area. Large chains would be best because then you could buy gift certificates online or in your own area and mail them to her. Seriously, I would have eaten pizza every night if I'd had gift certificates for it.

House Cleaning - Moderate Level of Effort, High Cost

This one can be pricey ($100-$200 depending on the size of the house) but if you are willing to foot the bill and your friend isn't super anal-retentive, this is a FANTASTIC gift. I guarantee the new mom is falling behind in the housework and hates the fact that she is. Merry Maids, Molly Maid, Maid Brigade... it should be pretty easy to find a chain in your friend's area.

Gift Cards - Low Level of Effort, Low to High Cost

Everyone is feeling a bit of a financial pinch these days and it is exacerbated by having a new baby. If you work, you are probably only receiving a portion of your pay while on maternity leave and that is probably only for the first half of your leave. Whether you work or not, you now have the added expenses that come with a new baby. I wasn't as concerned about pampering myself as I was about making sure we could pay all our bills during my maternity leave. I was so grateful for the gift cards that I received at my shower and after the baby was born. The ones for Babies R Us were great, but the ones for Target were better, because I could use them for baby stuff or household stuff or personal stuff - whatever I happened to need at the moment. If your friend has a Target, K-Mart or Wal-Mart nearby, you really can't go wrong with a sweet card addressed to her with a gift card tucked inside. You could even send the gift card separately because you can order that online. (I linked directly to the gift card pages for all those stores.)

DVDs - Low Effort, Low to Moderate Cost

I don't think I read many books while on maternity leave, but I watched a lot of TV. A great DVD for a new mom is Happiest Baby on the Block. Every single new mom should have that DVD even if they already have the book. A gift membership to Netflix would be fantastic. Your friend wouldn't have to leave the house and she would be able to have some variety in television viewing. (I saw every single episode of Everybody Loves Raymond in reruns during the three months of my maternity leave. I don't even like that show.)

Now that I wrote all this, I think the Netflix thing is the way to go unless you know your friend needs some financial help, then I would go with the Target or Wal-Mart gift card.

(Dawn said she had already checked out my First-Time Mom Must-Haves list, but that is another place to look for gifts that have more to do with the baby.)