Having a social child

My parents tell stories about me as a child.  Hiding under the chairs at social gatherings or church.  Clinging to their legs in the company of strangers, or even people I’d met but didn’t see on a daily basis.  My stranger-danger was always on high alert.  And being the older sister, I made sure to protect my little bro by keeping him hiding out right along side me.  It wasn’t until I was in high school and part of the Speech Team (kind of like a  competitive theatre team) that I started to come out of my shy-shell.  I just wasn’t created as a social butterfly.

We had friends of the family who’s kids were younger than me and far more outgoing.  Always talking to everyone and anyone.  Always the center of attention.  I never understood how they were that way, and just assumed it was because of their parents being social butterflies and passing that along to them.

Then J came along.  He’s almost 3 now (OMG) and he is the quintessential social butterfly.  Everywhere we go, he’s making conversation with random people.  He’ll ask strangers at the store what something is.  He wants to tell anyone in earshot about his favorite toy.  The clients that come into my office hear all about his adventures, or his small water bottles that Pop-pop bought just for him.  He’s a talker.  A sharer.  A little spit-fire.

I have no idea where he gets it from.  Me and the Hubs are not particularly outgoing – at least not to that degree.  J’s stranger-danger seems to be dangerously low at times though.

I love that he’s so trusting in a lot of ways.  His trust makes him outgoing and adventurous.  He has no boundaries for trying new things, meeting new people, sharing his story with the world.  His ability to easily and effortlessly put himself out there will help him all his life.

I try and keep all that in mind on the days where my parental worries kick in.  When I get anxious that all his trust will put him in a dangerous situation.  It’s an internal struggle.

C isn’t old enough to see her whole personality yet.  She loves to flirt with anyone that smiles at her, but she’s only now walking and is still fully focused on people she knows.  Guess we will see!

Potty Training 101 – aka: reality is crap

It’s been about 2 weeks since we entered into the serious phase of Potty Training our 2/5 yr old.  Let me just say, I taught preschool/toddlers for 5 years.  Somehow I missed out on the full-on potty training involvement though.  Just like everything else with parenthood, it’s never the same until YOU are the parent and YOUR kid is the one who’s wet undies you are obsessed over keeping dry.

We’ve known the potty training phase was on the horizon for a while.  But with the little bit of knowledge I do have on the subject, I knew we were NOT going to rush it.  Boys are notorious for being hard to train.  Like their older counter-parts, little boys seem to have some control issues with regards to the potty…if my hubby’s 20 min poop sessions are any example.

Now that J is getting closer to the big 3, school suggested that we push a little harder so that he could move into the big kid room.  (BTW – suddenly realizing your LO is getting older NEVER gets easier.  I will be crying every year or more for the next eternity).  We already had the little potty set up in the bathroom.  He’d managed to use it a few times randomly since we got it.  One time about a week after we bought the potty, J pooped in it all on his own! Hooray! Except that I was in the shower at the time.  Lovely to jump out of the shower with your hair still soapy so that you can wipe a tiny ass before poop ends up all over the bathroom.

Now that we’re a couple weeks into the “serious” training, J has pretty much got it.  And my pretty much, I mean that he gets it when he wants to.  He held it for almost 4 hours when we went to the zoo the other day (phew) but then peed 2 times in an hour this morning within 5 feet of the potty.  Yay parenthood.  Guess we aren’t done with wet pants and laundry every other day yet!  Not that I had any misgivings about potty training.  I expected there to be an ebb and flow.  But at some point I’m going to get really tired of pee on my…well everything. On another note, we totally should have gotten furniture covers when we started this journey.  Turns out J’s favorite place to pee his undies is while sitting in Daddy’s favorite chair. LOL.

Really though, he’s doing so great.  Such a smart little boy with such a strong spirit.  He’ll get it 100% soon enough.  For now, we’ll deal with the accidents and slight pee smell in our house, and love him all the same.

Play places as “no-sorry” zones

Play places are a god-send when parents decide to take their little ones out of the house for a few hours to get some interaction with other kids, get some fresh air, or just a little change of scenery. Parks, indoor or outdoor playgrounds, gyms, and other for-children-only play places all provide that much needed location for social interaction, plus the added bonus that you don’t have to clean up after the mess your kids make while they play. No need for the destruction of your own furniture when you can let your kids climb, slide, and jump all over heavy duty “child-proof” play things.

But, here’s the catch. If you spend any amount of time in these play places, surrounded by other kids and their parents, you’ll soon realize that you spend most of your time there apologizing for your kids behavior. Yes, it is your responsibility to make sure that you kid isn’t being the bully of the playground, but is it really necessary to have to say “sorry” every time your 2 year old decides that it’s their turn on the slide and jumps in front of the 3 other kids patiently waiting in line?

The whole idea of visiting these places is so your children get some social interaction and start to learn from the things and people around them. Sharing, taking turns, playing nice, not pushing – those are all valid lessons they will *hopefully* pick up on. But why, WHY, do parents feel obligated, or guilted into feeling like their child is constantly doing things that need apologized for?

Yes, my kid probably did steal that toy. And guess what, if I saw it happen then I will use that moment, or another one of my choosing, to teach the lesson about not stealing and instead sharing the toys. But right now, I don’t want to have to turn to the other child’s parent and say “Sorry, he’s still learning about sharing.” “Sorry, she takes a while to go down the slide” “Sorry, we are still learning about taking turns.” Why should we be sorry that our children are learning lessons, learning how to play nice, learning what happens when they don’t? Why should parents have to apologize constantly for kids being kids?

I know what you’re going to say, “What about the kids who are being purposefully mean to other kids and the parents aren’t intervening?” Well, frankly, you chose to bring your kid to a place where that might happen. The way that you teach your children probably isn’t the way someone else teaches their own. That’s life. Instead of passing judgment or expecting that kid’s parents to apologize to the whole playground, why not instead move your kids to another area of the swing-set and move on. If your kid was being the mean one, would you really want to say “sorry” to every parent present? Probably not. Wouldn’t it be much nicer to have your 2 hours of playtime and be able to head home feeling like naptime will be a huge success today? Instead of being on-edge the whole 2 hours as you constantly micro-manage your child so that when they forget to wait their turn you are there to apologize for their child-like action?

It should be one of the unwritten rules that these play places are gathering spots for parents and children alike, where there is less judgement, less parent-to-parent guilt. These should be “no-sorry” zones. Let’s let parents off the hook here. Let them watch their children without feeling constantly aware of the judgment of every other parent in a 10 foot radius. Let them and their kids play without the need to apologize for every action. Play without the “sorry” around every corner.

I want my kids to eat dirt

Yes, you read that correctly.  I want my kids to eat dirt.  Not only eat it, but roll in it, play in it, dig in it, discover everything about it.  And not just dirt.  How about grass, sticks, sand, rocks, and anything else they could possibly come across.  When my husband and I were younger, that’s what we did.  Our parents kicked us out of the house right after breakfast and we were expected to be outside until dinner time.  We got dirty, played in the mud, ran around the neighborhood with all our hoodlum friends, and no one even blinked an eye when we came home covered in pine sap coated in gravel with bits of bird feathers sticking out.  That’s how I grew up.  And that is exactly how I want my kids to experiance their childhood.  All the fun, all the mess, and less fuss about every germ and possible disease they could catch from this or that.

In the 29 years since I was running around making forts out of tree branches and playing house in the woods, the mentality that used to exist amongst parents changed.  Now that I’m a parent myself, I see other parents constantly worried about what germs their little one will pick up whilst out at the grocery store or at the playground.  Newsflash – my kid has sucked on those nasty plastic covered cart handles until they were sparkling clean and he has yet to come down with more than a runny nose.  So unless you kid has some medically specific reason to avoid all possible cooties, I suggest you take a breath and let them have a little exposure.

And speaking of exposure…these are a few of the things (in no specific order) that my kid has managed to get into his mouth before I could intervene..

goose poop
wood chips
pine needles
dust bunnies
dog & cat food
the clippy end of a dog leash
the name tag on my dogs collar
restaurant menus

all of which are presumably covered in every type of nasty, dirty guck.  And none of which have seriously harmed my kid.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’d never stand idle and watch my kids stick broken glass in their mouths without a serious lesson in “NO means NO”, but I do my very best to not tell them “NO” every other second.  Especially when you are dealing with children nearing toddlerhood…you’ll drive yourself insane if you have to watch everything they touch, roll in, step in, or get anywhere near their mouth.  You know that age old saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? I try and keep that mentality hovering around my periferal through these wonderful and few years between infant and teenager.

The Magic Word

We begin drilling this habit into our children even before they can talk.  “What do you say?” We ask them, expecting this magic word before we will hand over whatever it is they are asking for.  We lead them to believe that the use of this one word will magically grant them whatever it is they desire.  At the drop of one simple word, they will receive anything and everything that they ask for.

Please

Such a simple word, even for little unpracticed tongues.  But little did you know that as a parent, teaching this delightful and polite word would eventually and continuously turn against you…

Especially as they enter toddler-hood, your little one will start to figure out all the ways that they can manipulate you.  That sweet smile, the ear-piercing scream in the middle of the grocery store, or the one word that you taught them…”please”.  You delight the first time your little one uses the word when asked “what do you say”.  “pease!” They answer, and clapping and acknowledgement ensues this good deed that they have finally accomplished.  Positive enforcement continues as each time they use this magical word they are showered with treats, toys, and often the items they need to survive…like food and drink.  Manners, right?  Please and Thank You’s…right?

That’s all great, until you’re standing in the middle of Target and your toddler see’s their favorite treat or toy.  After searching their brain for the magic word – that you will ask them to say first before you hand over their item – they, so very politely, ask “please?” as they point towards that coveted thing.    Heaven forbid that be the first time you actually say “NO” to their plea…watch out Mama cuz here comes the tantrum!

And can you really blame them? You are the one that taught them this magical word.  The one word that grants them anything and everything at the drop of one syllable.  And as you find yourself fighting with a screaming toddler in the middle of the candy isle, you will suddenly hate this word with a passion!  Damn you, manners!  Ahh, the hipocracy of parenthood.  You must say “please” to get this item, and 99% of the time you use this word, it will be magic.  But that 1% of the time, it will send a horrible mixed message to your poor little toddler who thought they had it all figure out…!

And speaking of that 99%…you will find yourself laughing so hard you’ll almost pee yourself when they are throwing a giant fit, wailing and still managing to say “pleeeeeease”, causing you to give in, once more, to their very pathetic and strangely adorable tantrum.

If only they could ask us to Please stop being hypocrites, as it can be very confusing! 🙂

The _________ phase

It seems in a matter of months we have entered into a number of “normal toddler phases”.  At least we hope they are simply phases…or else we’d better figure out a way to deal with them long term!

The……..Phase

…I’m going to scream at the top of my lungs for no reason…
…climbing onto everything…
…I will do everything in my power to avoid getting strapped in the car seat…
…I will not behave in a restaurant for more than 30 seconds…
…I want to do everything myself, so don’t even try to feed me without letting me hold the fork…
…crayons are not for drawing silly Mama, they are delicious…
…I suddenly hate getting my diaper changed…

Then there are the phases that we hope will never end…

…I give kisses on command…
…I understand what “night night” means and finally sleep through the night…
…I dance to music…
…Mama let me sit on your lap while you read to me…
…hugs and snuggles for no reason…
…playing peak-a-boo makes me smile…
…I can brush my own teeth…
…I don’t fight waking up in the morning…
…the littlest things are the most amazing…

Time flies these days…15 months already and not slowing down anytime soon 🙂