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!

We Become What Is Expected

One of the things I learned as a teacher in Public Schools for almost a decade was that when teachers have high expectations for their students, they usually see students achievement increase.  This can be applied to several areas.  Unfortunately, in today’s school climate the philosophy is viewed in light of how to increase test scores. Gag. (That merits a whole other entry and is one of the reasons I don’t think I can go back to schools at this juncture).   A lot of the things that I learned as a teacher have helped me to better parent as well.  I am  pretty patient as a Papa, something else I owe to managing 20 little ones on my own for hours on end.  So, life prepares us for life and teaching helped me a bit to be a better parent for certain.  We get asked on occasion about the way we choose to dress Edie.  Mainly, we get questions around dressing her in Disney, or pink, or flowy princessy type clothes or more specifically why we do not. That is a tricky and complex question but here is a bit of our philosophy around clothes and really parental and societal expectations.

I guess the old quote, “clothes make the man..er the beautiful, strong, confident woman” is true.  When we dress our daughters in pink (only) or in Disney attire (only) or in those weird princess things that look like they might catch on fire if you are in the same room as a heat source we are telling them that there are very limited ways to be a girl (and a boy).  In fact, there has been a lot of research that shows that how we dress our girls (and boys) can influence and limit the career choices they make as adults.Forbes Article  Now, moderation in most things is the key, I suppose, and if your kid has a natural inclination toward these things then so be it.  As long as they know the options and that the girls see just as many options as the boys do.

The other issue at play here is entertainment and media.  I have to admit for the first two years of her life we had absolutely no tv or technology.  It was easy, because we just didn’t do it.  So, we didn’t know any other way. Plus we got to feel so smug about it. hehehe.  She does watch some tv now. In fact, on days like today when she is super tired and it is super cold and windy out she watches a bit more than I am comfortable with.  There are also many many days where she watches nada.  We are super careful and intentional about what she watches for the exact same reason.  A lot of media designed specifically for kids portrays girls as loud, mean, overly emotional, or unintelligent or flat.  Right now, she basically only watches Caillou.  I have to say (leave it to the awesome Canadians) that Caillou is pretty decent with regards to gender stuff.  The dad is kind and sensitive and does a lot of the cooking and cleaning.  Mom has a smart short haircut and has a life outside of her family.  Now the voices are grating and God awful but the content is good.  There is also a good amount of cross cultural relationships occurring. Win!

The point is that we control the images that Edie sees.  We think it is important that she see all the different ways to be a boy, girl, woman, man, or gender non-conforming. (Hey, maybe Caillou is gender non-conforming?) Maybe that is why we are all obsessed with this book- Julian Is a Mermaid We do dress her in a lot of dresses and tights and that is mainly because she prefers those.  She HATES jeans. I’ve tried them all.  We dress her as a little person in things that are comfortable and perhaps on trend. (Read gay dads who like to shop.) We also like things that are well made and that will last and we can gift or resell after she is done with them.  In the future we hope to share a few of them with you.  Ok, I will share one now. Sad that we discovered these folks at a point when Edie will soon be out of their size range but you will thank me for them when you check them out. Real shoes made by real people in the U.S.A. for generations. Obsessed…Zimmerman Shoes  If you follow our instagram, and you can right from this page, you will see a lot of the brands that we have come to love and trust.

I write this blog to share what I believe about raising my perfect kid. I do not have it all figured out and welcome comments and debate.  I do think our children become, in part, what we expect of them.  I want Edie to have all the options that an affluent white boy has and then some.  I want Edie to follow her heart, her dreams, and her passions, no matter what or where they are.  I want Edie to be kind and empathetic and interesting and interested.  Oh, and I want her to be well dressed too. I expect it.