November 17, 2014 · filed under parenting

crowdsourcing: most worthwhile things to do with a 2-year-old

I think we’ve talked about this before, how when you’re a parent no one gives you an annual review and constructive feedback about your job. No promotions or raises either – what’s up with that? It seems like the best you can get is a hug from your kid and a “Good job!” from the pediatrician. (Who knew I needed pediatrician validation so badly? Am I the only one?)

Now that the boys are two I decided I’m going to spend some time thinking about my strengths and weaknesses as a parent, and try to improve in a few areas. My job is less about keeping them alive and more about helping them be curious, thoughtful, independent, and kind. I’ve checked out this book from the library and I also decided to crowdsource a question to my twitter peeps. I LOVED the answers so I’ve compiled them here.

I grouped similar answers together to try to find some overall themes. I also did some light editing to ensure the tweets made sense in context. Thank you to my twitter friends who contributed these great and thoughtful ideas: @EricaLynn824 @fromthefurnace @LittleLeafAsh @2weddingbelles ‏@Tin_Pants @Kate_Welsh @katrinaRavioli @gingermaxim @PinkHerring @npralle ‏@jac_0610 @epsnider @RachelBRosen @AngelaNoelle @kyleyleger @pintof ‏@SangriaLover @Lifeinatinytown @notliketexas (eep…hope I didn’t miss anyone there!)

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Q for toddler parents: What is the most worthwhile/enriching thing you do with your 2-year-old?

Reading 

Reading together. Just watching his little mind absorb ideas and develop in front of me is so amazing.

Read and actively play with him on the floor.

L is a snuggler so he ends up bringing me books and cuddling up. I spend a lot of time on floor reading or telling stories.

Read books together. I read to them too, but now at age 4 I can see the reading “working.” They love to read to me.

Making the library a regular destination. We check out new books each week and generally have a rotating stack of about 15 books to read at home. We don’t get sick of reading the same books too many times and if we don’t love something we just return it. Plus, FREE!

Storytelling / Talking

A modified version of storytelling—a spoken journal of sorts. I usually do this at bedtime when I want them to settle down. I recount every single detail of the day. What we ate, who we saw, songs we sang, etc. I get them to help remember all the details. We talk about what a fun day it was. It ends up being the most intimate part of our day.

I tell him about things his dad and I have done. Or I tell him about trips we have taken or things I want him to see. My childhood. Special people he might not see often or ever meet.

Sit and talk about his world in whatever words he has. Everything and anything.

Just sit, I think. It doesn’t last long before he’s off running, but he loves when I just sit and “chat” with him.

Creative Playing

We play “I spy” at restaurants while waiting for our food to come. They love it and it encourages creative thinking.

Play. Sit on the floor with trains, color and let him pick crayons, paint, splash in the tub, sing, run around house.

Sing and have dance parties.

Travel

The day-to-day stuff kinda blurs together for me, but I can remember trips together really clearly. Like time stood still. I know kids can be hard, but it was worth taking time away together.

My favorite memory I have from our 2-year-old days was our trip to Puerto Rico. I think it was nice to spend time together as a family, away from everything. He even remembers it. It was really special.

We drove 1,800 total miles in a car with L this summer. He is still talking about it.

Getting out of the House

This is going to sound terrible, but his parents’ day out program. Socialization! Separation! I feel like it does a lot more for him than the little gym stuff we do together, and as a bonus, forces him to talk more.

Minnesota has early childhood programs in all school districts. We love it! It’s where I met all my friends too. (Someone else said: We have that too, it’s SO CHEAP and both my kids have loved it.) (Side note: Let’s all move to Minnesota!)

I love taking her to library story/singing programs. She loves them, excellent out of the house free activity.

My 2 yr. old loves the zoo and science museum. He talks about it for weeks after.

Taking her places and exposing her to different things! So many opportunities for learning about different things, but also how to behave in public, listen, be friendly, polite, etc. Even just trips to the grocery store to interact with people and point out different colors, names of fruits, etc. It doesn’t have to be complex!

We go to the park and local elementary school playground. Even if it is 20 minutes. Walk in neighborhood. Work in yard together.

I took her out to dinner on Saturday just me and her and it became a fun, silly “date.”

Everyday Activities & Rituals

Sitting at the dinner table and eating as a family, even when he throws food. We didn’t used to until we had him and now it feels weird to eat a meal in the living room, even though that’s pretty much where we always ate before. Crazy how babies change everything!

For me, it’s been letting him do things himself. Get dressed, serve food, close the door, etc. if you’re patient enough, it’s amazing what they can do on their own.

Baking “together.” He pulls up a chair and helps pour, stir, etc. He thinks it’s the greatest thing ever.

Reading is his fav, asking colors, some coloring, hand-eye toys, laundry, clean up toys. Everything is learning at this age.

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Seeing all of these answers together makes me feel much more excited and confident about Age Two. A few of them especially resonated with me. I’d love it if you shared any additional ideas in the comments!

 


November 15, 2014 · filed under twins

two years old

Whoa. My two are two. And they are really embracing it, I’d say. So far, two is a lot of talking (finally!). A LOT of jumping. A lot of opinions.

Two year checkup today. They are roughly 26lbs and 35"

Holden’s language has gone up exponentially in the last month. He went from about a dozen words to ~75 words to what feels like maybe 150 words so quickly. He knows just about all of his letters (uppercase and lowercase) and loves to talk about opposites (on/off, black/white, asleep/awake — which he calls “nap” and “wake”). He is still pretty quiet and soft-spoken, except when he and Teddy are pretending to be ghosts and yelling “Boo!” as loud as they can.

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Holden is very orderly. He cares about which shirt he wears, which cup he drinks from, where everyone will sit, etc. This means he is quite excellent at cleaning up a big ol’ mess (usually created by Teddy, who is possibly part honey badger). Holden is a super cuddler and loves to be rocked to sleep. He also LOVES to play soccer and kick a ball with anyone.

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Teddy is a force. He feels all things to the max. He is either the happiest, saddest, or maddest person in the room at any moment. He loves jumping and playing his ukulele and sucking on his paci and yelling, preferably all at once. We’ve been trying to limit the pacifier to the crib but mostly failing. Teddy will get frustrated and start yelling, “Nap! Paci! Nap! Naaaappppp!” He is also stringing three words together, including today: “More coffee Teddy.” (Note: do not let your kid take a sip of your iced coffee thinking they will hate it and spit it out. He will love it and want more.)

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Teddy likes to sit on the floor and read books to himself. He likes to take all of the {whatever toys} out of the {whatever container} and then be done with that. He is obsessed with the “All About that Bass” song and especially music video. He is at his most adorable when he puts his hands up, shrugs, shakes his head, and asks and answers his own gibberish question. Teddy is very much a mama’s boy and likes to take breaks from the action to give me a snuggle.

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Halloween was especially fun this year. The boys LOVED walking around the neighborhood and seeing all the pumpkins, spiders, ghosts, and other spooky stuff. They refused to dress up except for one minute to take a photo when I bribed them with candy. Their birthday was a week later and I think they really loved talking about how it was their birthday and how they are now two. They liked the singing and the candles and definitely the new toys. It’s pretty fun that the last two months of the year pack in so many holidays and it makes me excited that they are starting to enjoy special occasions.

Happy Halloween from two heavily-bribed and reluctant panda bears!

I feel like our biggest challenge is making sure they both get enough sleep. I’m not sure if it’s normal toddler stuff or because they share a room, but I’m constantly feeling like they wake up in the morning and from naps about 30 minutes too early and therefore get cranky sooner. I wish they would just! sleep! longer! But it’s something I can’t really control. Maybe it’s just a phase while their brains work overtime learning all these new words and concepts.

Both boys love: Super Why, waffles, letters, jumping, taking walks, swinging, baths, helping me cook, dogs, when we sing them songs or tell them stories, their grandparents, babies, and all things Halloween (witches and ghosts especially).

There’s hardly a remnant of baby left in either of them. Sometimes I see it, mostly when I’m rocking one to sleep. They are pretty much all boy now — rambunctious and curious and demanding and funny and sweet.

Oh! And how could I almost forget! Here is the video I made for their birthday. If it’s possible to encapsulate two kids and a whole year in 10 minutes, this is it. Happy birthday to my beloved boys!

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Previously: 22 months •  20 months • 1.5 years •  sixteen months • fourteen months • one year • nine months • eight months • seven months • six months • twenty weeks • four months • twelve weeks • two months • one month • three weeks • two weeks

 


October 28, 2014 · filed under life

on being a (mostly) stay at home mom

I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for two years now, so I thought I’d write up my thoughts. I’m not sure I have any fresh or new insights, but perhaps some part of it will be interesting anyway.

First, let’s start with the obvious:

I know I’m in a very, very lucky minority who has the luxury of not working. This is the thing at the top of all the other things. Most parents in America don’t have a choice about whether or not to work. And really, living on one income isn’t exactly sustainable for us so I’ve always viewed this as a temporary situation and I value it highly.

I also refuse (REFUSE!) to engage in mommy-wars. I don’t even want to read articles about mommy-wars because I feel like it’s feeding the beast. I don’t think there is any one right way to raise your kids/find professional success and I am mostly interested in how everyone (from individuals to companies to government) can help support ALL moms.

Working part-time is the key to my happiness. I actually do work, just very part-time. I currently have two non-profit clients and I help them with advocacy, fundraising, and research. Those few hours per week (anywhere from 2 to 10, generally) are enough to give me a mental break, engage my brain to do professional things like talk to other adults about complex topics, write/research/strategize, etc. It also gives my kids time with another adult who loves them and who teaches them things I don’t even think of.

Even though I’m grateful, sometimes I just need to vent. I may be one of the luckiest moms out there, but I have crappy days and sometimes my kids can be six notches too crazy for whatever amount of patience I have. Until you have swept the floor for the 7th time in one day, you just don’t really know how soul-draining repetitive cooking/cleaning can be.

I worry a little about the consequences for my professional life. I feel like I’ve kept my skills current over the last year, and even added some new skills through my consulting work, but I still worry it will be hard to jump back on to a career path. I went out with a group of new girlfriends a few weeks ago and as I looked around the room, all of them worked full-time and had pretty nice sounding jobs/titles and I honestly felt a little behind. They all manage people or complex projects or both. I hope that when I do go back to work, I can find something that is not a step backward from my last job.

And maybe something less obvious:

One of the hardest parts about not working is reconfiguring what an equal marriage looks like. Before we had kids, we both worked and made similar-ish salaries and worked similar-ish hours. We did somewhat equal amounts of chores and cooking and household maintenance. Now that I’m not working (out of the house), but also working (unpaid 24/7 child raising) and also working (paid part-time consulting), I’m not even sure what fairness looks like anymore. Is cooking and cleaning part of my job? Is sitting down with the kids to watch an episode of Super Why considered my break? Shouldn’t Andrew get a break at the end of his work day? When 5pm comes, we are both more than ready for some down time, but that’s the time of day when things get the most harried (dinner + cleanup + bedtime shenanigans). We are both tired. We are both itching to do what the other person gets to do all day long.

Ultimately, I think we’ve navigated our way through this and made changes as the boys have gotten older. Basically, no one gets a break between 5 and 7pm; there is just too much to do. We often split up dinner cleanup and the bath/bedtime routine, but sometimes we do both together. Andrew generally gets up with the boys in the morning and lets me sleep an extra 30 minutes or so. On weekends, we each get one morning to sleep in while the other parent gets up early. We try to give each other occasional evenings off, or free time on the weekends to exercise or just escape for an hour or two. But before, it was naturally equal. Now, we have to navigate issues of fairness all the time.

Me not working out of the house is easier on EVERYONE in the house. Yes, it’s a luxury for me to be able to focus most of my energy on my kids. But it’s also a luxury that when the kids are sick, I can be home with them. And when someone needs to come to the house to fix a broken appliance, I can be home to meet them. And when Andrew needs to travel for work, I won’t also have to travel for work. And in the mornings we don’t have to wake up the kids and hurry them to eat or get dressed or get out of the house by any specific time. I truly think everyone in the house has a lower stress level than we would have if we both worked full-time out of the house.

Everything could change tomorrow. I don’t really have an “end date” in mind where I will go back to full-time work. It could be next year or it could be never. I don’t really think it will be never, but perhaps I will find something really amazing that is part-time, and that would be hard to give up. My feeling all along has been that we will do what works until it is no longer working, and then we will do something else. I feel strongly that I like being with my kids every day and I don’t want to give that up yet. But I also know that as they get older, they will need less of me each day and more other things (other teachers, other kids) and that it would be nice to be making more money.

 

My guess is that most of you reading this will find my thoughts pretty familiar. I’d love to know what you think, though, whether you stay at home with your kids or not (or maybe if you think about doing it one day in the future). Work-life-parenting stuff is not a binary situation and I think it’s helpful to know how other families make it work.

 

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