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REALITY CHECKAn Unconventional Guide about Conventional Parenting
By Kristen Benson
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Dr. Kristen Benson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneReality Check
It doesn't matter how you became a parent or what type of parent you are. Whether you are single, married, or divorced, the end result is the same. You are the life line to at least another human being, your child. When my former husband and I separated, my daughter was one and a half years old. She had many needs, and I was the one there to fulfill them. My life completely centered on making sure she was safe, fed, clothed, and loved. What would have been easy for me was to stay angry at the world for my getting into this situation. But that would have brought nothing into our lives, except a few more wrinkles from the ongoing stress or cause me to eat an entire box of Ho-Ho's—and all that would have done was added more cellulite to areas of my body that does not need it. Let's face it: when you're not happy, no one is happy. What helped me the most was getting into a daily routine. My full time job required leaving the house at 6:30AM to take my daughter to day care by 6:50AM. I was on the job by 7:20AM, and there was no room for deviation to this routine. After all, the school bell rang at 7:45AM, and I had to be there with my game face on. REALITY CHECK: Time management was critical.
You will hear a great deal about the term: "attention span." When we talk about attention span or the lack of attention span our children exhibit, we need to clarify the term. "Attention span" is the degree to which a child demonstrates sustained focus on designated tasks and activities, especially in school" (Guevremont, 1992). Experts say that attention spans vary in age, gender and type of activity. Older children tend to have longer attention spans, and girls have longer attention spans than boys. One researcher says that the attention span is equal to the age of the child. If your child is four, his attention span is four minutes (Hunt, 1985). Now that explains everything doesn't it? Keep that in mind as you read through the book.
The Daycare Drop Off
Especially in our society, it is inevitable that the day will come when you must go back to work. Perhaps during your maternity leave, your child has had the luxury of having you at their side unconditionally for months now. Maybe your leave time is up, or like me, you need to get back to work to save your sanity. Staying at home was driving me crazy. What can I say? I'm a working girl. Statistics reveal that 48% of mother's stay at home with their children under the age of two, and only 25% of mothers stay home when their children are between the ages of 3 and 6. postpartum-health.suite101.com/article.cfm/ choosing_to_stay_at_home
I guess I am just not one in those statistics.
You will face the moment of sending your child to some form of day/childcare. I am going to offer a little daycare prep. Let us just talk about leaving your little rug rat, princess, or whatever nickname you may have for your child, at daycare for the first time and then having to rush off to work. Now when dropping your child off, know without question that your child will cry intensely, begging you not to leave her. His facial expression may go from pitiful to raging in a matter of seconds. If someone else saw your child's face, they may think that your child was having sadistic rituals performed on her throughout the day while you are at work. In actuality, the second you pry yourself from your child and disappear, sometimes secretively, from the daycare, your child will be engaged in a bug climbing along the window sill of the classroom. Thoughts of you do not occupy her every minute. In fact, you disappear from their mind until 5:00PM when you unexpectedly arrive to pick her up to go home. REALITY CHECK: Your child does not sit by the door, crying for you. Her day is full of fun and new friends and new toys and learning. Although you may worry that you have ruined her life, the reality is that she is having fun and learning to be around other children.
The best advice is when your little one is clinging to your thigh, screaming bloody-murder, snot running from his nose, just squat down and hold him. Look him dead in the eye and tell him that you love him. Even if you think he is not listening, or better yet, he cannot hear you above his blood-curdling screams, tell him you love him over and over. Tell him you will be back to pick him after work and then walk away—tug that leg free from the grip of his little hands and walk away slowly not looking back—no eye contact. Feel free once you get into your car to break down and cry. REALITY CHECK: You will cry. While you are crying and thinking you are the worst parent in the world, just know that by the time you use your second Kleenex, your child has become interested in the little girl across the table, who brought in two toy horses, and she is now nursing the one with a missing leg.
Now, you might be a different story. While your two year old was busy with coloring, goldfish snacks and juice, storybook time, block-building, recess, lunch and naptime, you undoubtedly were at work, calling the daycare. Was she in hysterics still? When it comes to toddlers, anxiety withdrawal dissipates with a poof! "Out of sight, out of mind." Remember the term "attention span?" Their short attention span, under-developed brain, and over-developed imagination may affect their memory as you walk out of the door.
Now while you feel obligated to call three times throughout the day, know that half of you is wishing for the person on the phone to tell you that your child is doing great and was engaged five minutes after you left in a puzzle or with blocks. As parents we want to know that our child is happy and well-adjusted. REALITY CHECK: Do not be surprised if a part of you deep down wishes that the person on the other end of the phone tells you that your child has been miserable and cannot seem to function without you. If you think about it, everyone's alter ego wants to feel that her own life could have a life-altering effect on another. When you make that second or third call to the day care, the person on the other end will probably say, "Hold on. Let me check." You are thinking that Miss Lucy is running down the hall to poke her head into the room and see what your child is doing. REALITY CHECK: What she is really doing is putting her hand over the phone and counting to twenty before responding to you: "Mrs. Brown, everything is going well. Your Sarah is playing and enjoying herself." While that may sound underhanded, the good thing is that your child is probably really having a great day, even if Miss Lucy didn't check on her the three times you called. Believe me you would have heard shrieking over the phone otherwise!
There is good news to this chapter. Life goes on. What you experience that first day does not last forever. Usually it takes one to two weeks for your child to adjust to the new daycare routines and to realize that although you are leaving her you will be back to pick her up. According to Mental Health Channel, some degree of separation anxiety is a sign that a preschooler has developed healthy attachments to loved ones. In many cases, this separation anxiety stops within 3-4 minutes after the parent leaves ( healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/ main/separation-anxiety-in-young-children/menu-id-69/). REALITY CHECK: It might take two to three weeks, but before long, your child will run into the classroom and not give any thought to whether you stay or go.
Hopefully you have found some similarities between yours and my experiences when it comes to day care. In an article found on the website called, Sheknows Parenting named Easier Drop-offs gives some simple tips to follow:
1) Kisses to keep: Give your daughter a "pocket full of kisses" at the center right before leaving. Explain to her that if she misses you during the day, she can reach into her pocket (or pocketbook) and pull out a kiss. Kiss her several times on her palm, counting together as you go, and let her tuck each one away for safekeeping. If she wants, have her give you a few kisses to tuck away too.
2) Give a memory: Find a small snapshot of your family for her to carry around (or put in her daypack). I did this with my younger son and it worked beautifully. He carried it constantly for a few days, then lost interest in it and kept it in his backpack for "emergencies." You may want to make sure you have reprints of the photo or laminate it since they can get lost or ragged pretty fast. If a photo isn't appealing, see if your daughter wants to carry something else of yours (like a scarf or inexpensive bracelet).
3) Read up: Ask your local librarian to recommend some good children's' books on working moms to share with your daughter. Although she is young, she will still understand a good story about moms who go to work and always return home. Meredith's_Mother_Takes_the_Train, by Deborah Lee Rose, is my personal favorite, although your daughter may be just a little too young for it.
4) Sing about it! There is also a wonderful Hap Palmer song (on the Baby Songs DVD) entitled "My Mommy Comes Back" that shows toddlers who go to babysitters and have their moms pick them up later. Watch it a few times with your daughter, using your own narrative to relate it to her day, and learn the words. Try singing this happy song with your daughter as you pull up to daycare and she may start to join in!
5) Be strong, mom: Finally, remember that you must behave in a positive fashion during drop-off time — even if you are heartbroken with her crying. Avoid saying things like "Mommy will miss you, too," and instead try, "We are going to have so much fun when I see you later!" and "You're going to have such a great day — I can't wait until you tell me about it when I pick you up!" Your daughter will pick up on your positive attitude.
Chapter TwoWho is the Boss and Who is in Control?
Most adults of all kinds, grandparents, teachers, parents and yes, most of all men, feel that they wear the pants in the family when it comes to their children. In actuality, it usually starts off with the toddler being the one with the upper hand. Read the scenarios below and see if any of them seem vaguely familiar.
Mom is in the kitchen preparing dinner when the child begs mom for a snack and mom says, "No, we are eating in 20 minutes—no snack, you will spoil your dinner." The child continues to follow mom around as if she were a hyena circling its prey. Her whine is like that little piece of corn that gets stuck way back in your tooth and you just cannot seem to get rid of it. And then it happens ... eighty percent of the time mom will get a bowl of gold fish and say, "Ok just a few," just to get a little peace and quiet.
Everyone is at the table, eating and the toddler is not eating her meat and vegetables. Instead, she is chowing down only on the buttered bread. So what does the adult say? "You need to finish your whole plate—or no dessert." If I had a dime every time a parent said that to their child, I would be a rich woman. In the end, the child takes one, maybe two bites, doesn't even make a dent in the plate, and in the end, still gets the dessert.
It is a Wednesday about 8:00pm, already past the child's bedtime. As usual, Mom is multi-tasking, cleaning up from dinner, doing the laundry while paying bills. You come to a cross roads. Putting the effort and time into a bed time routine take about 45 minutes ... that's that mean 45 minutes away from your multi-tasking-getting-things-done-mode. So, you choose to finish what you're doing and your child gets to stay up later. They begged to stay up and you didn't want to give up prime opportunities to get your chores done.
Now I could continue with more scenarios, but in the end, they would all have one thing in common; the child is in control. The transfer of control from child to parent is imperative when trying to be successful as a working parent and just a sane human being. Regaining control does not mean you do not love your child or that you are a control freak. It means you are the adult and the child is, well ... the child. It will benefit both of you as the years go by, especially when the child turns into a teenager. My mother often reminded me that I was child and she was the parent as long as I lived under her roof. Now that is a million-dollar parental quote. As you continue to read, please note that the following are all right!
1) It is okay to say, "NO," to your child.
2) It is okay for her to cry, scream, and throw a tantrum.
3) It is okay for you to count to 10 and walk away.
In a Times magazine article titled "Parents and Children: Who's in Charge?" the baby boomers or the Me Generation's children have set staggering records in indulging their children.
"A TIME/CNN poll finds that 80% of people think that children today are more spoiled than those of 10 or 15 years ago, and two-thirds of parents admit that their kids are spoiled" (Time Magazine, 2001). Spoiling children gives the child a false sense of power. In return, parents learn that the false sense of power means that many times the child feels that she is the one making the decisions and in charge, and that the parent is just along for the ride.
Laying the Ground Rules
My organizational talents are well known to the point that most of my friends claim I also have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) tendencies. I truly believe that everyone wants to be organized and have a well-organized home or apartment. You're sitting in the doctor's office, flipping through magazines to pass the time, while waiting for your appointment. Now the point of the story is that whether you are looking at a log home, Southern Living or a Fine Homes magazine, everyone at some point or another will look at a layout of a home or photographs that are featured and say to themselves, "Now I wouldn't mind living there." You are not going to say, "Oh, that looks nice, but I would much rather live in my current house that has crayons marks on the walls, sour milk stains on the couch, yellow rings around the toilet, dust bunnies everywhere, dog hair on the chairs, and sippy cups filled with a cottage cheese substance." I know that I could have performed many of Bill Nye the Science Guy's experiments with what I found in some sippy cups. The best one was when I moved the couch to vacuum under it (and that does not happen often). I found a bottle with formula in it that had solidified into what looked like tofu (yuck). Now if you still disagree with me about wanting a well-organized, semi—neat house, you are lying to yourself. Acknowledge it and move on.
My sister who has three, beautiful children as well as a lovely home would say, "Oh yeah, my house would be spotless if I didn't have children." I think, for the most part, I would agree with her. Let me clarify. Her house is spotless, but she can also afford to pay someone to come and clean it for her at times. I do not fall into that category, and even if I did, I would probably either clean the house before the cleaning lady came or go behind her or clean after she left. No one cleans the way you clean your own home. When a child is brought into the mix, you cannot walk through a room without finding evidence of that child everywhere. Okay. Think of your house, or that of a friend who has children. Imagine walking in the front door. What would you see? Let me take you on a virtual tour, shall we?
Okay, once you walk into this home, you notice broken crayons on the end tables and floor. There are two coloring books on the table as well. As you continue into the kitchen, you have to step over a soccer ball lying in front of the sink. On the sink are two baby doll bottles. One is full of 'you're not sure', and the other one is empty, upside down. On the table are pieces of Legos that look as if they came off a larger structure. You wonder where you will find the rest of it. You now decide to venture upstairs.
As you begin to walk up the steps, you spot two pencils, a pair of Barbie doll shoes, and a pair of 3-D glasses. Please note that those items got there because the parent either told the child to clean up. To her, this means she should move everything off the floor and put it all on steps or it means the parent placed the toys on the steps in the hope of the child realizing that she needed to pick them up and place them in an appropriate spot. REALITY CHECK: Neither of those plans work.
Excerpted from REALITY CHECK by Kristen Benson Copyright © 2012 by Dr. Kristen Benson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: Reality Check....................1
Chapter Two: Who is the Boss and Who is in Control?....................9
Chapter 3: Responsibility—Theirs and Ours....................23
Chapter 4: Well Rounded....................45
Chapter 5: The Sick Child....................55
Chapter 6: When Things Go Wrong ... Because They Will....................59
Chapter 7: The Moment You Wait For....................69
Chapter 8: Final Chapter—That is all she wrote....................73