Parenting Hacks: Learn From My Mistakes

We have a wonderful bedtime routine going right now. Edie and I and her other dad (I am Papa and he is Dad) all get into her bed after she tends to her oral hygiene and any waste management needs. We read. We laugh. Sometimes there are tears, depending on how tired she is (ok, sometimes I am the one crying). Usually she wants to say the Lord’s Prayer/ Our Father. I sit in a chair and Daddy lays on the floor for a bit as she drifts off while I sing.

Tonight we read a book that was given to Edie as a birthday gift from a friend. If you don’t have it you should order it right now. Here, it is:

It’s wonderful in it’s discussion about feelings and all the various ways that a heart can feel and why. Beautifully written and conversation inducing. Edie started asking us questions tonight as we were reading it. She wanted us to give instances when we felt certain ways: happy, sad, scared, shy, etc. She shared her examples as well and it was a really thoughtful moment and glimpse into her emotional development.

One of the things she asked me was what made me sad. I told her that as a parent the thing that can make me sad is when I feel I have made a mistake or acted harshly as a parent. I don’t think she totally understood what I was getting at. I do want her to know that I recognize my mistakes and shortcomings as a parent, and as a human. I also think that her understanding of such topics happens incrementally and often gradually, so it’s ok to talk about things that are still slightly out of reach intellectually.

So it made me think that perhaps I could share a few of my mistakes I have made along the way. When I was a brand new parent I was always interested in hearing from parents about the mistakes they had made. It helped me to feel capable of parenting, even as a flawed person,and also to look for ways to avoid the same errors. I share this as a way of sharing with other parents. A way to say that you are capable, flaws and all, and maybe a way to help you to avoid some of the same mistakes I make. I am usually my own biggest critic and I’m sure like some of you feel that I’m often making more mistakes than not. So, the list is long but I’ll share the top three.

My Top Three Parenting Goofs

1. Lacking Patience

I absolutely hate myself when I am not patient with Edith. This is a mistake I make as she has gotten older. I have to remind myself that she is not trying to “push my buttons”. She is a tiny awesome human learning to navigate feelings and desires in a world where she is trying to slowly assert some level of autonomy.

I find that when I slow down and explain things calmly and kindly she is more apt to listen and respond reasonably. I find the same to be true of having a negative or biting tone with her. I don’t like when anyone speaks to Edith in a condescending or negative tone. Even when frustrated, it’s important to stay kind. As I like to remind myself, my voice becomes her inner voice. Patience and kindness go along way. In doing so I am teaching her to be patient and kind to herself and others.

2. Buying Too Much Stuff

I love to shop. I try really hard to be green and consider the environment in everything that I do. I must say though, when it comes to shopping, I struggle. I like the feeling I get when shopping. I like pretty things. I like clothes and shoes. I even like going to the mall some times. And Target, oh Target how I love thee. I try and follow a spending plan. I also buy a lot second hand, particularly furniture and decor. I have gone through seasons of buying way too many clothes and clothes that were too expensive for a little person. Recently we got rid of our toy room and got rid of some things. Edie toys now all fit in her room and that feels a little less excessive.

I also have stopped buying too many clothes, well ok, maybe I am still working on this one. However, I do buy less expensive things. We are obsessed with Get 20% off your first order at Primary.com with code AFF20PCT Primary. Their clothes are adorable, soft, practical, and reasonable reasonable reasonable. Follow the link and get a great little discount and no shipping fees.

3. Spending Too Much Time On My Phone

This is such a tricky tricky one. Edie doesn’t watch tv ( see Set Free From TV) and is quite low tech. However, I do look at mine way too much. I mean I am trying to do this blogging thing and that requires some phone time. However, we all know that we are hooked and that is what the makers of the technology want. We also now know that kids feel neglected by grown ups looking at their phones when we should be focusing our attention and gaze toward them. Edie recently has been trying to turn the internet off so that no one can have access to their phones. Ugh. Lesson learned. Hopefully. There is a sign at a local establishment nearby that warns parents “Stay off your phone and give your kids the attention they deserve.” I don’t want Edith to be addicted so I have to work on my own addiction as well.

Maybe I will make this a regular topic here on the blog. Would you mind sharing one of your parenting mistakes? I would be very curious to hear what you think you suck at! Just kidding. I think it helps us all to feel more human and less awful when we know we aren’t in this alone. So, chin up parent. We can learn from our mistakes and each other’s. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go as my screen time minutes are a bit high for today. Edie is always watching.

Don’t Touch My Hair

As February is Black History Month we thought we would share some of Edie and her dads’ book recommendations appropriate to the month (and every month,really). Of course we are all about representation and the importance of all kids seeing themselves reflected in authentic, realistic, and diverse ways. We want Edie to read books about people that look like her and our family. We also want her to see all the choices and options that she has to be authentic and happy!

It is just as important for white kids and white parents to be reading books early on that expose white kids to diversity and kids of color, particularly if they are not around much difference in real life. White parents should be having conversations with white kids about inclusion and issues that kids of color can face. So, these recommendations are not just for black, brown, and multiracial families. They are for all families! In fact, as a white parent myself, I would say the onus is on us to work on issues of inclusion and racism. It is up to us to raise kids that are, well, not racist.

If your kid’s library is not diverse then please let us suggest some places to start. Then, use these books to help you start to have conversations with your little one about race, inclusion, diversity, and inclusion. It is indeed up to us to bring these topics up and not pretend they do not exist. Children pick up on our silence about topics and this silence can create more racism, homophobia, and other bad behavior.

Buy some new books!

Here are some of our recommendations:
1. This is one of our new favorites. The author also has a great Instagram feed. It deals with teaching kids to stand up for themselves when people touch their hair without permission. As any parent of a kid of color, or person of color can tell you: this is unfortunately a valuable skill. I have had to literally pull a few hands out of Edie’s hair.

2. It’s always great to have a book with multiple people highlighted. The illustrations are also wonderful in this book. Finally, it’s all women!! #girlpower

3. Great title right? Another one with super illustrations and a wonderful message. This one lays the self love on thick. And that is a message that all kids need: particularly kids of color.

4. This book, about an important and familiar man, teaches kids the importance of words and using your voice to stand up against injustice. A well written and emotional tribute as well as an inspiration for parent and child, alike.

5. More strong women of color? Yes, please. Many of you have seen the movie. This is a great children’s version of the inspiring story.

I could go on and on, but not this time. I would love to hear some of your favorites!

If you are looking for some discussion with your child after try very open ended questions:

1. What did you notice in this story?

2. How does it feel to be treated badly?

3. What can we do to make sure everyone is included?

Happy Reading! Now, go diversify your library!

Set Free From TV

(This blog contains affiliate links and our own opinions)

We did something drastic. No, Papa did not get hair implants (yet). Although as 43 gets closer… No, we got rid of our television. Like, it is gone. Our only tv is now in the cellar covered by an old sheet. What? We did it!

You see we all had the flu last week. (Also see future blog post about germy January air travel with a 4-year-old). Of course we all had the flu vaccination so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it was a bit brutal. To keep Edie entertained through our fever fog and coughing conditions we went a little nuts with the screen time. Yeah, that is probably ok. She will still go to Harvard, I am sure. But, it was really time for a technology reset, anyway, and it got us to do a little evaluation and caused us to decide to make some changes.

When we first became parents we were super committed to raising a low tech daughter who could actually have conversation at the dinner table. We didn’t give Edie any screens at all until she was 2. Then, she broke her leg. And we needed her to sit still. A lot. So, we cracked and she discovered tv. And her taste for technology started to flourish.

We often found tv to be a slippery slope. Technology and screens are addictive. I guess that can be argued but it’d be a flimsy argument at best. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/screen-time-addiction/

As a parent who has struggled with my own addiction demons I know how liberating it can be to just get rid of the stuff, whether you are talking about Cabernet or Calilou. And that is what we did today. We set Edie and our family free from screens again. I will of course keep you posted, but today went swimmingly. We read more than we have in a long time. She didn’t have any tantrums at all and we played and listened to music and even completed a puzzle. It was a really good day. I am sure we will have our moments, but it feels like the right choice…again.

One of the things we are totally into again is our record player. Edie is getting into records as well. If you have vinyls and still listen to records you know the pleasure that can bring. It slows you down a bit. You get to experience the music a little differently, with cool album art included. Here is the record player we have: If you don’t have one you should definitely check it out! We can now add looking for unusual albums to Edie and Papa’s Thrift Shop Friday adventures.

We are always looking for ways to read more and now we have any more time. We are really into our new book subscription from Lillypost. I am a fan of subscriptions in general but this one is great. Any organization that gives books to those in need is alright by me and they are committed to representation and diversity. I feel like subscriptions can get you into some things you might not buy otherwise. Also a great tool for teachers trying to build their library.

Lillypost

We would love to know what you think!

Always Somewhere: Discussing Death With a Child

 

Edie and her other dad left town for a few days today, so I am home alone. This is a rare opportunity to relax, take long showers alone, listen to whatever music I want to listen to, and to lay around a bit in my pajamas in between cleaning and organizing projects. Thanks, Marie Kondo for making me feel like a failure of a homemakerhttps://konmari.com.I always feel a little anxious and sad when Edie and my husband are gone.

As previously confessed, I am a bit of a worrier and when they travel I am always a little worried about them while at the same time feeling guilty and simultaneously happy to have my own time. Parenting can be such an emotional roller coaster. I usually follow along with a flight tracking website to see where they are every little bit and am always relived when they land. Tim is very good at sending me pics and text updates. I like to know where they are, that they are somewhere out there. Being somewhere out there is a bit of the theme for this post.

I have talked a bit about my dad and his dying. He is still here on this plane or in this realm or whatever you choose to call this existence. He is still present. He sleeps most of the time and his communication is a bit loopy and confused, though often funny and insightful. To be totally honest this has been one of the hardest times I have had as a parent and as a person. The grief and sadness can knock me down at times and being a full-time stay at home dad doesn’t allow for much time to think, grieve, and process. My husband as always is everything and provides me lots of space, time, and support when he can.

I struggled a lot with how and what to tell Edie. I guess I am just a big ol’ WASP but for some reason I didn’t want her to know that my dad was dying. I wanted to protect her from it, I suppose. She has only met my dad a few times so it seemed unnecessary in a way. At the encouragement of many and with guidance I did talk to her about it and told her that I was sad. I told her that I was not going to see my dad again and that I had to say goodbye to him forever.

I explained that sometimes as we age or get a disease our bodies get very tired and they can’t do their job any more. I assured her that daddy and I were healthy and we try our best to take care of ourselves in order to be around for a long time. I also told her that I didn’t know what happened to us when we die. We like to be honest with Edie about the mysteries of life and spirituality and this is certainly one of them.

Yes, we are practicing Christians, but for me, at least, there is still no clear answer. I am not one of those literalist Christians (obviously) but I do believe in Resurrection, I just don’t know exactly how it works. Is it a physical one? A memory that lives? Isn’t every day a resurrection of sorts? Every season? Every kiss? I told Edie that Dad will still be somewhere out there, but also in my heart, forever, and in fact in hers too.

As always, Edie is the one to do the teaching and the explaining. One of these days I will learn to just ask her. She told me that since I was sad she could make me feel better by kissing me and hugging me and sitting with me. She is right. She can help me just by being here. That is how we all help each other. Perhaps that is part of resurrection.

When I was young I had a lot of trouble sleeping. Night time made me anxious and sad. I would feel safe though if someone was still up in the house doing something. I would wait and listen for my dad to light a cigarette. When I heard the sound of his lighter closing I knew that he was still up and I could rest easier. It made me more relaxed to know that my Dad was somewhere out there in the living room. I felt safer and less alone.

Soon, my dad’s texts will stop. His “good morning” and “just checking in” will be no more. He won’t be here anymore. What’s next is a mystery to all of us. I am holding on to hope that he will still be somewhere out there and that when I am feeling scared or alone I can still feel his presence, still existing somehow and somewhere. In the meantime I can sit with Edie and hold her and she can help with the sadness. Together, we can hope for resurrection. 

Update :

My dad died. It has been brutal at times. It’s has been peaceful and hopeful at times. Edie has been the biggest help of all through all of this. She has been insightful and supportive and kind. She asks me if I’m ok and will hug me and say “Are you sad today, Papa?” Edie makes new life possible. She is part of resurrection too.

 

Sweet Strawberry Goes Sour

The first three Halloween’s of Edie’s life we had total control of her costume and dietary choices. This is the sweet spot for a couple of control freak type-A gays who like things “just so”. The first year she was an owl, because owls were super on trend and Papa (me) can sometimes really want to appear cool. The second Halloween we started pushing our liberal gay agenda a little harder and Edie was the cutest suffragette ever. At the time, we still had a little hope for our democracy before the Orange Guy became the president. Last year, we pretend to give her a choice and not so subtly guided her to be Frida Kahlo. She WAS super into Frida Kahlo books at the time and still has a cute little Frida doll.

We knew that our control would eventually slip away and this year she turned 3.5 right before Halloween. For those of you that haven’t experienced being a parent to a 3-year-old, or for those that might have blocked that portion of life out of their memory for the benefit of survival, let me tell you that you often times feel that you do not have control of much, at all, including when you shower or sleep. Our Edith Daring is very opinionated (wherever did that come from?) and fiercely independent. These are traits that we want our strong girl to have, particularly as she grows to face this crazy-ass world, but it can be tricky at times to parent.

This year Edie realized about August that she would have a say in what she would dress up as. At this age memory is a little fuzzy (hers, not mine, although…) around things from a year ago. Of course she is the most photographed child in the history of the universe so she had seen some pics of her Frida picture from last year. She had assumed though that she had to be Frida every single year. I should have probably just let her think that in perpetuity.  Of course we also live in Salem, Massachusetts where we have 50,000 show up for Halloween night so folks start thinking about it early.  We also have a weekly Target habit/problem, so we started seeing costumes there quite early.  She wanted to be a slice of pizza (gross), a plastic donut thing, and countless other characters from tv or movies that none of us knew anything about.  What the hell IS a shopkin anyway?

One thing resonated and that was a strawberry.  She eats strawberries by the bushel.  We grow strawberries in our little yard and she tends to them and harvests them daily.  We went strawberry picking several times (in an adorable little frock from Hanna Anderson) and have the framed picture on our mantle to prove it. This was cute and sort of crunchy and earthy and good.  I steered her away from several really gross plastic ones at several of those pop-up Halloween stores that come and go in a month and found a super awesome one on Etsy.  If you don’t waste half of your income and life on Etsy, then you really should start thinking about it. You can find things that you never even knew you needed, like the assorted vintage Halloween decorations, the mens vintage weejuns, and the tablecloth that I ordered last week.  I love doing as much Christmas shopping on Etsy as possible and day-dream about what my next purchase will be.  It also makes you feel superior, er I mean good, because it supports small businesses and makers of handmade items.  Here is where we finally got her strawberry costume.  It was a hit. She was obviously the cutest strawberry ever in the history of Halloween.  She had a choice and we had nothing to say about it, really, but that’s ok.  We should probably get used to it.

She went to 15 houses! That means she got over twenty pieces of candy which brings us to the tricky part.  We are a little strict when it comes to food.  We want her to be healthy and strong.  She is the best eater ever.  I don’t think we did anything special I think some kids are just great and adventurous eaters and others are super not. Some kids are even super tasters and that makes things even more challenging.  We don’t want to be totally regimented about anything and most rules are made to be broken, but we mostly think processed food and corn syrup are pretty gross for the most part.  Except for Doritos.  Doritos are awesome, but only after Edie’s bedtime.  We decided to let her have a few pieces and then a piece per day for a week after.  Even after a few years sometimes we can be so naive.  You see, candy for most kids, including Edie, is a drug.  Today, she had dark circle under her eyes and I am pretty sure she would have traded her favorite baby doll, named Baby, for one more package of Skittles.  I was not prepared for the intensity that is the day after Halloween.

Currently, the rest of the candy is on top of the refrigerator.  This is where things go when they are taken away or “given a break”.  She is currently sleeping it off after murmuring “please Skittles” as she dozed off for the night and tomorrow will be better and candy free.  Tomorrow we are rounding up the rest of the candy and it is being traded in for a new toy. ( Oh, maybe on Etsy…no probably Target.) A very special witch will come and take the candy away and leave money for Daddy and Papa to buy the toy.  I am sure there is some future ramification we have not thought through for this deal but, when you are helping someone get off the Skittles, you do what you have to do.  For now, I will eat my Doritos ( I mean apple), trying to concoct a way to convince Edie to be a strong black feminist icon for next Halloween.  Or perhaps, I can just let her choose and watch her grow up as one in real life.