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.

Get Out! Enjoying the Outdoors With Your Little One Everyday

It’s that time of year when it is starting to feel like it has been winter forever. In fact, in New England, where we live, it has been cold now for five months. Though we haven’t had much snow this year we have had dark, gray, and cold and we are all a bit ready for Spring. Today was the last official day of winter and Edith and I decided it would be the perfect beach day. And it was.

The temperature was right around 40, though the wind made it feel more like 26. The sun however was doing it’s thing and was lovely and invigorating. As we were climbing rocks and hunting for treasures I started thinking about how we had the place to ourselves. In fact, we went to two separate beaches and had both to ourselves, except for the birds and crabs.

As a stay-at -home parent being outside every day has been a priority and a real life saver. Not only does it give structure and meaning, it also helps us to stay healthy, calm, and refreshed. I read recently that Americans spend 97% of their time indoors. I also read that young children should be outside at least 3 hours, though preferably between 4 and 6! I definitely fall short of that some times though I’m always looking for ways to increase our time outside. It’s good for me, it’s good for her, and it’s good for the dog. If you are looking for ways to get out and stay outdoors more then here are some tips!

Top 5 Ways to Play Outside More:

1. Dress The Part

As the saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, just the wrong clothes.” We have found that layers are key. Edie is a real Yankee and is almost never cold unless it’s below 10. When it is that cold we definitely stay inside more. However, with layers we can stay out much longer. In the winter that means we wear all of Our LL Bean gear at once. This means snow pants and boots too, as well as good quality gloves. The cheap Target ones are cute but do not work for longer periods of time. Layer and stay!

2.Open Ended Play Is Best

While at times it’s good to have a mission or even a game as a focus, the best play is usually open ended. Backyards or beaches make great locations for this type of explorative play. In the backyard it’s good to have some old kitchen tools, buckets, old cookie trays, sticks, wagons, or other materials. After or during a rain storm these are even more fun. Always begin one of these play sessions by saying, “it’s ok to get dirty and make a mess as long as we are being safe!” I always tell Edith, “when you are dirty you know you’ve had fun!” This takes the pressure off and sets clear expectations.

3.Create a Mission Or Project:

Edie and I have a little wooden box with compartments that we use for all sorts of things. One way we use it is to organize and categorize our collections. Sea glass and shells are definitely our thing. We have multiple full jars and containers throughout our house. We use this box to help learn sorting and categorizing. It’s also aesthetically pleasing. The point is that you can set our on a mission. We will often collect things related to the season: pine cones in fall, sticks in winter, etc. It can be as simple as collecting rocks or looking for sticks in the backyard. Make it a mission and make it fun.

4. Grow Something Together

When you plant, feed, water, and wait together with your little ones there are so many fun and rewarding experiences to be had. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. We have a small vegetable garden. We love growing strawberries. Flowers are my favorite and provides an experience in most seasons. Even in winter, Edith will check the strawberry patch to see how it’s fairing. There are lessons on conservation and environmentalism to be learned as well as patience and all the amazing bugs. Right now, we are enjoying the birds at our feeder and watching the daffodils, hyacinth, and tulips slowly emerge.

5. Schedule It Every Day

We all live to follow a rhythm to our day that is predictable and orderly. This is particularly true for children. What do you do all day? Scheduling a Successful Day As a Stay-At-Home-Parent is one of my posts about scheduling if you haven’t read that yet. Schedule your time outside and make it a priority. Try and keep to the same time frame every day. Break it up if the weather is too nasty or cold (or hot). Schedule meals outside too when possible as a little picnic is good for the soul.

I’m curious…how much time do you spend outside with your children? What are other ways to get out more?

How can you get out more tomorrow?

Plastic Free Love

As stay-at-home-Papa I am the one in charge of keeping the home running smoothly and beautifully within a budget. See! The gay lifestyle is no different than yours.

One thing we have been focused on a lot lately is plastic. In fact I can get a little obsessive about it. The other day when Edie and I were shopping I knew that I was driving home a point as she was checking pieces of items that we were thinking of purchasing

Edie helping clean up

and saying, “metal, metal, glass, ok Papa are you happy? No plastic?”

Plastic is something pretty gross and it’s everywhere and in fact poisons our food, air, and water. Plastic is made using nasty chemicals and once it’s here it’s here for a long time. One thing that drives me nuts is the amount of unnecessary plastic that food is packaged in, particularly fruits and vegetables. We try and buy as many things from bulk bins and avoid having our broccoli with a side of petroleum whenever possible. Not only is plastic gross and avoiding plastic can actually make your home less toxic, it can also be cheaper!

Here are some things we do around the house to avoid plastic and excess packaging.

1. We love making our own laundry detergent. Choose any bar soap scent that you like (right now we are using cinnamon) and add a few other ingredients that all come in cardboard and you’ve saved your purse and the planet. Here is our recipe. Totally non toxic so kids can help grate and mix as age appropriate too.

-one part grated bar soap -two part borax -two part washing soda -mix and keep in cute glass ginger jar. -use 1/2 teaspoon for wash

2. Stop buying cleaning products! Not only are they harsh but they are expensive. We bought glass spray bottles and fill them mostly with vinegar and it cleans almost everything. Add your favorite essential oil if you don’t love the vinegar smell like I do. Why am I craving sauerkraut? Add some baking soda for toilets and tubs. Make a separate bottle with a little olive oil and vinegar for furniture polish. Again, all kid friendly so your whole family can clean together!

3. We discovered this store a few years back and they are amazing: Package Free. Love them! We buy our compostable toothbrushes here as well as deodorant, floss, and plastic free food wrap! It all comes without packaging and the quality is fabulous.

4. I know it sounds a bit pretentious to say you get your toilet paper delivered and I’m ok with that. For serious though, if you aren’t using Who Gives A Crap then give them a try. No plastic!! The wrapping is all compostable and they donate money to building toilets in underserved areas. PLUS, you don’t have to lug toilet paper around!

5. No plastic cups or straws. This one is tough when kids are super little and I would definitely recommend silicone then. Metal tumblers and plates are also great options. Teaching kids to wash their own plates and cups also helps them mimic grown up activities and become productive household members. Oh, and speaking of washing up we love the zero waste dish soap from Beehive Alchemy. Fun to use, pretty, and toxic free.

I’m curious to hear other simple ways you would suggest to make our home a little less toxic and plastic free? Edie and I are happy to share more ideas too!

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.