The Dog Days of Summer: A Pep Talk for Parents

20130813-224258.jpg

So, you’ve exhausted your summer bag of tricks. You’ve tried 7 different parenting methods/ incentive strategies, you’ve guiltily googled several disorders you think you or your toddler may suffer from and you’ve had it. Like. Had. It.

Every morning I nuzzle each one of them so tightly but still somehow every day, I am counting down the minutes until nap time. So I can sit. And think. In quiet.

Some days Parker has negotiated his way through everything short of putting on his underwear. And has done it with such guile that I just want to wave a white flag and retire upstairs. For a long nap.

There are conversations you can only have 75 times before you start to feel crazy. And the conversation about how he wants to know which play doh ball was “his” on the table full of play-doh toys, that’s one you can only have once before you just turn into a puddle of squishy play-doh yourself.

So you bribe.

And you overuse the IPad, Kids on Demand and your DVD collection.

But you are doing it in the name of your own sanity, right?

In between convincing myself that I am doing penance for every time I ever stuck my tongue out at my mother and convincing myself that I am really just a great Mom trapped in a grouchy Mom’s body. I think this:

In three weeks, I will tearfully be bidding goodbye to another July and August with my little people. The new habits and words they have developed (Celia calls her blanket her “gippey”– no idea why) will become old news and we will all get caught up in the blur of life that is back to school.

And I will kick myself. For being so negative and for feeling so frustrated.

So, in prevention of that receiving that kick from myself, I give you this:

Watch them.
Splash in puddles with them.
Follow their gaze.
Listen to their laughter in the other room.
Sing songs together.
Put down your phone.
Read one more book.
Let them sleep with you.
Give them one more cookie or Popsicle or cupcake or hug.
And tell them what a special summer it’s been.

Because soon, you’ll wish you had it all back.

Gallagher Kids 001: Manners and Rascal Flatts

20130801-112142.jpg

Shortcut Girl has a new feature, The Gallagher kids! Here’s their very first interview where they give you some examples of good manners and even sing a little diddy.

These interviews were something I did on a whim to entertain my children, and viola! A new blog idea!

I’m working on learning Vine too. Just started a Vine account and learning the tricks.

Enjoy!

17 More Reasons My Toddler is Losing His/Her Mind

20130729-065804.jpg

1. There’s a balloon. In a store. And he doesn’t own it.

2. Tomatoes aren’t apples and she keeps biting into them expecting them to be.

3. I have showed him a dip in the vicinity of where he is consuming his chips and HE DOESN’T LIKE DIP!

4. There’s a black speck on his grilled cheese. Suddenly the sandwich “doesn’t taste such good.”

5. I have bought a new toy in his and hers colors and neither are a color he likes.(She, however, likes them both).

6. I’m making him/her brush his/her teeth more than twice a week.

7. I won’t let him bring 14 different stuffed animals into the grocery store.

8. I cannot make a show that he wants to watch come on the TV in the 3 seconds after I turn on the TV.

9. I’ve asked him not to wake me up at 5 am all summer long.

10. I won’t let him chase ducks and seagulls at the beach for fear of my children being pecked into submission.

11. I’ve asked her not to play with sand toys and eat goldfish at the same time.

12. Someone called his “circle toast” an English muffin.

13. Her gogurt is “broken.” (Read: she doesn’t know how to push up the yogurt yet.)

14. I’ve asked to use shampoo in his hair in the bath. He screams “My eyes! My eyes!” before I even squirt it on my hand.

15. I’ve told him he’s not the boss of me.

16. I didn’t pack a cold refreshing beverage to hand to him/her as soon as the car starts moving on a ten minute drive.

17. He or she is hot/cold/itchy/sweaty/ and/or has an invisible boo boo.

A Legacy of Words: Talking to [and About] Your Children

20130725-150743.jpg

Words are our legacy. No matter who you are, people will remember you by the things you have said. I am reading a novel right now—Looking for Alaska by John Green. The main character has memorized the last words of famous people. If words had no import, no one would take the time to catalog what people’s last words were. If words were fleeting things, no one would be able to recall exactly the insult you gave them on the exact date as an adolescent.

Words stick to us. They stay with us. They can live inside us happily or unhappily. Sometimes they make monsters of us. On occasion, they make us better people. But overall, words are a powerful, powerful legacy. And we need to handle them gingerly and use them with great care.

I’ve written about the impact words can have before. And, I’ve written about having a daughter before. But now that my own daughter is actually using words, I am thinking more and more and more about the words I use around her.

This all started when I came across the image below. Since I had always secretly hated calling little girls (or grown women) princesses, I was in full agreement with this one. Little girls need to be told they are strong, capable, bright and well, awesome. But don’t we all?

princess clip art

(Answer: yes. But take a minute to think. What do you remember more vividly—the last time you were complimented on your appearance or the last time you were complimented on your abilities? If your answer is the latter, then you are in great shape. And chances are, your parents used words that complimented your actions more than your appearance.)

Me, not so much.

My mother sang a song to me when I was a baby. “Bridgette Holmes, my Bridgette Holmes, pretty pretty Bridgette Holmes.” And still, I think about that song with ballooning nostalgia. The way my mother sang, the sweetness of the made-up song just for me—and the message. I was pretty.

Having suffered through a chubby phase and your basic, run of the mill teasing when I was in sixth grade, I could not help but be focused on the messages I received about my appearance. I have never, until now, linked the feelings I had about myself to the words that were used around me. I noticed the ways that I was different from my peers. But, the slippery slope came when you realized adults noticed it too.

But before I make the blanket statement that my sweet little mother messed me up by calling me pretty, let me tell you a story about her childhood. A childhood that was not full of roses, devoid of praise and bereft of any really attachment as a family. My mother was left at age four by her mother. I can’t imagine what it would be like knowing your mother left you and then learning to get along without her. My mother was shy, quiet and was very aware of the labels that were passed out in her family. My aunt was the funny one, my uncle was the smart one and she was the hard worker. She vividly remembers overhearing her father say what a hard worker she was and she has carried this with her through her entire life. At 71, my mother works 40 hours a week and maintains a 3 bedroom house, yard and pool all on her own. Anyone that knows her would say that she is one of the hardest working people they know.

If I asked my mother what her parents thought of her, this is what she would say. And while it is indeed positive and motivated her to do good things, think about what other words my grandparents could have used that could have impacted her even more. The legacy of those words could have led her somewhere completely different. Words are just that powerful.

So, when I started snapping pictures of Celia on Instagram and wanted to give her her own original hashtag (the true demonstration of Mommy vanity), I chose #prettycelia— for obvious reasons. I mean, my little Celia, is, well, so adorable!

And then this article threw me for a loop. Do I say pretty too often when talking about her hair, her clothes, her eyes, her painted nails? Have I already begun to define her thoughts of herself?

And this isn’t a girl-centric thing, in my opinion. Parker recently informed me that he was handsome, not cute and Celia was pretty. He said boys are handsome and girls are pretty. He frequently describes things as beautiful—our Christmas tree, horses, his aunt’s newly painted house. At three, he already clearly understands what beauty is . While it should be something simple every child learns, it makes me wonder—have I already said too much about the way things and people look around him? Have I described his sister as pretty, his father as handsome instead of emphasizing the other fantastic qualities that we have?

And this is not unlike when I wrote about Parker playing soccer. In reading this article, I saw that the way we talk about what they do is almost as important as being there and seeing it. Our response to them is so often communicated strictly with the words we choose. No pressure Moms and Dads.

This brought me back to the first piece of parenting advice I remember reading when Parker was just a baby. “Praise the action, not the child.” Instead of, “you’re so smart” you say, “wow, you know a lot of facts about animals.” Instead of, “you are a good boy” you say, “you really had good behavior all day.” And, although this article didn’t state this, I would expect that instead of saying, “You’re so pretty,” you might opt for, “I love the way you look in that blue dress.”

But for a Mom like me, who looks for positive reinforcement all too often in my marriage, parenting and career, this is a difficult shift to make.

So that leads me to this. As parents, we are the first people to both intentionally and unintentionally label our children. We all can recount the titles we were given in our families, in our peer groups or even in the workplace. If these labels are positive, we tend to rise to the occasion and make sure we fulfill expectations. This can be a good kind of pressure in some cases. However, sometimes it can really go awry. Fulfilling the label of smart, pretty, thin or funny might work well for some people— but over the course of your life might ignite unnecessary pressure. After all, these are words that become labels. Labels that are hard to always live up to. Labels that are hard to remove at will. Labels that could, in many cases, limit the children we give them to.

So, in talking to children, I am making a conscious effort to do the following: praise them on their actions, the words they choose and the behavior I see. Or, rather, stifle the need to praise them at all. Ask them about their day, their favorite color, their favorite super hero. Engage them. Learn from them. Listen to them. They have a lot to talk about. We have a lot of listening we need to do.

As adults, we know that if someone stood there and said how beautiful or brilliant or physically fit we were upon meeting us, it would seem a little awkward and shallow (but I would enjoy it, okay, I’ll admit it:). With children, it should be no different. Your words should neither define nor demand a certain quality of a child—be it beauty, intelligence or even just “good”-ness. Your real feeling about them should be communicated in how you react to what they think about themselves. Because what they think about themselves should be born inside them and should never be hinged on the words that come out of our mouths.

Screen Time and Other Rules I Break as a Parent

20130301-121738.jpg

Mt latest frustration is that my 18 month old won’t watch TV. There. I said it. I am actually ticked off that TV does not yet entertain her. Worse, I am worried that it never will, forcing me to have to come up with alternate ways to entertain the little bugger who is turning into quite the handful these days. What will I do? How will I cope?

I have similar horrifying reactions when people tell me their kids don’t sleep, nap or any combination of the two. Whaaaaaa? How do you parent without the carrot of a nap dangling above your head all day? How do you manage night after night of the family bed and being woken up by a three year old insisting on doing the Harlem Shake at 3 am?

I can’t really verbalize the wonder I have with non-sleeping children because I feel like I might get kicked in the teeth. I mean, no Mom wants to hear about someone else’s sleeping children. But, really, how are these people surviving when not one but two kiddos climb into their bed at night? I would not be able to handle it.

I feel similar in thinking about Celia NEVER watching TV. How will I ever mop the floor/take out the garbage/read my People magazine if she is ON me like, every minute? Doesn’t she know that this is part of the whole parent-child-peace agreement?

I have read the books, blogs, babycenter week by week emails and all the crap you read about screen time. I know that the fact that my three year old can spend the afternoon with a Netflix account and an Ipad all on his own is probably not something to brag about at the bus stop. But man, when you need to help quiet your mind after the latest brother vs. sister cagefight, it’s really the only means of survival. Peace, quiet and Doc McStuffins.

Of course prying said child away from Ipad or TV or laptop or Iphone is not for the timid. You need to give a six minute warning, a three minute warning, a 90 second warning and a “help me shut it off” directive before exiting the screen time situation. Otherwise, you have fallen into just what those smug parenting experts want you to believe: screen time is bad. Don’t fall for it.

How else can you find time to paint your nails? Fold laundry and keep it folded? Call your best friend? Eat a sandwich? All of these things need a little boost, a little helper— and that helper is whatever screen you can get your a-little-smudged-but-still-pretty manicured hands on.

I think I really became aware of how much the screen helps us when recently vacationing with another family. They have a newborn who is not yet mobile. We have two very mobile and very hurricane like children who came very close to a. writing on the furniture and b. maiming each other with low hanging sharp objects. However, if I could get Parker watching a Shrek marathon in the bedroom, things were a little more placid, a little more quiet and a little more like a “vacation.” Well, sort of.

And, thanks to the Internet, I can live in absolute bliss thinking that this article is the only article that exists about screen time, and, well, it says that I am an awesome parent and my kids will probably be geniuses.

Don’t be shy. Make your own confessions about screen time. I won’t tell.

 

Bye Bye Summer. Sniff sniff.

20120902-121902.jpg

Well, I was quiet this week for many reasons.

1. I had to go into school and get organized two days. That alone zapped my blogging energy and creativity. It also depressed me. Summer is over :(

2. It was our last week at camp so we tried to get in as much beach, fun, family and quality time together as we could. Read: We didn’t want to think that we were actually moving out of camp as well as moving back into our house and starting school, all in the next three days. Holy Moly.

3. I decided to turn our typical big Gallagher family gathering into Celia’s early 1st birthday party. That, as it turned out, was a great idea. A great time was had by all and PHEW, it’s all said and done before the craziness of school starts. Post to follow with the featured cake and party accouterments.

4. My Mom came for a visit. So did Mike’s Mom. Just squeezing in more quality time!

5. I didn’t want to face the facts. Start of September means the end of something. And that something is the end of the time with the kiddos. No more of their waking up and coming into my bed to snuggle me with their kid morning breath. There won’t be long, quiet naptimes where I get to decide whether to lounge outside or inside. There won’t be any more late nights watching documentaries with my husband. No more Goldfish on the beach, no more 2 mile walks as the kiddos snoozed. No more negotiating ice cream treats and naptime books. No more Oakley, the lake dog who followed Parker around. No more “Mommy? I’m awake! Are you down there?” from Parker’s lofted bedroom.

There will never be another summer where Celia takes her first steps or a summer where Parker becomes an official big boy- potty trained and all. There will never be another summer where Celia is 10 months and Parker is 2 1/2. And that is what I am mourning. Not that I am not ready for my house back, my job back, my routine back, but I will never, ever have another summer the same as this. And that makes this Mommy a little sad.

Yes, there will be other ones. And hopefully many, many more spent at this lake. I will not go on blubbering because I know I am lucky to have the time with my kids and so, so lucky to spend that time in a little lake town in the Adirondack Mountains.

So, see you later Summer. It’s been amazing. Hurry back. I’ve got two kids (and two parents) who can’t wait for your return in about ten months.

Things I Have Learned Upon Numerous Trips to the Beach

20120818-140232.jpg

1. Beach should be a work up to naptime or an after naptime activity. Maximize the kids’ good moods and the reward of quiet afterwards. It’s just the right thing to do.

2. Don’t bring a book. You will jinx yourself and never get time to read it. If you don’t bring it, chances are you can sneak a couple peaceful moments while they are playing with sand toys.

3. Bring lunch or a lot of snacks. Kids eat like vultures on the beach. Let them. Then you don’t have to feed them when you get home!

4. Sand castles. Get good at them. Seriously.

5. Invest in a good swimmie or life jacket. With a two year old that is convinced he can swim, you can’t be too careful. Also makes him easy to spot when he heads into the woods for a “pee pee in the forest.”

6. No more tears Kids sunscreen. If you use any other kind, you will be shedding tears of your own for sure.

7. Bring a sun hat. You’re a Mom, damn it. Look like one.

8. Diet Soda. Ice Cold. 12 of them.

9. Bring a table you can measure out your snacks on. Sandy hands in the goldfish bag never quite work out well.

10. Do a rinse off of all the crevices sand can get in before departure from the beach. That after beach diaper change can be full of surprises. I like to call them, “little butt sand cakes.” Make sure to check for your own, too. All those sand castles you built, sand can build up!

20120818-140245.jpg

20120818-140315.jpg

20120818-140337.jpg

20120818-140355.jpg