Life in General

Children’s Museum or Judgement Museum?

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It really should be called the Judgement Museum.

It’s very subtle.

Quiet looks and silent glares. Forced smiles and controlled tones. 

I can’t think of another place that is quite as stress-filled as a Children’s Museum.

It’s well masked by all the gleeful chatter and banter of kids exploring, running, playing and squealing.

But behind every excited child is a tense mom with clenched fists.

The tension of the unknown …. 

Will my kid share?

Will my child have a tantrum?

Will my child listen to me?

And there’s hope.

Maybe just maybe my child will be that magical kid-from-the-books who will not shove and will not push and will remember to share. The one who will quietly wait his/her turn in line and follow directions.

Oh, there’s so much unknown.

And here’s the thing. The unknowing child is full of joy and optimism, totally unaware of his/her watching and praying parent.

The reality is that in public children’s venues, our motherhood report card is being blasted for all to see.

And reality also is that 98% of us mere mortal mothers are blessed with the kids who are the like of imperfection. The ones who need to be constantly taught and reminded about sharing and caring and pushing and shoving. 

The very small 2% that are blessed with those kid-from-the-books children – those are the very worst to meet at a children’s museum. Truthfully, they should have museums of their own, so we don’t have to interact.

Another interesting phenomana of a Children’s Museum is seeing all the parenting books coming to life and butting heads in one location.

The Whole-Brain Child, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, Raising an Adult, Peaceful Parent Happy Kid …. and a bit of Brenee Brown thrown in for good measure, as mothers desperately try to get all the wisdom and methodology of the books to work in real life.

Unfortunately, chances are that it will not work … because that’s real life. Our kids didn’t read the books and they don’t necessarily know the right answers. They don’t know their part in the script. Reading the books are so invigorating and empowering. And then when tried and tested in public…not quite as empowering.

So there I sit with mothers from all walks of life, trying to keep busy at the Children’s Museum. I notice some moms come prepared with a friend for the mom and a friend for the kid. Some moms get to be the friend of the kid, which is the only reason I can think of as to why a grown adult would want to be squished up at the little kids table enjoying a gourmet lunch of plastic food.

And some moms…those moms that everyone talks about… those guilty of the ultimate crime … are checking their phones.

And I admit.

Guilty as charged. 

Yup, that’s life too.

No one is hurt, no one is neglected and no one is insulted.

It’s an adult acting like an adult.

We check our phones. 

Scroll through our to-do list.

Reply to emails that are waiting for answers.

Send a few texts.

Make an order at Target.

Check the status of an Amazon order.

The kids are still all happy. Not a single child is bothered.

But the other moms are watching. Out of the corner of their eyes. Trying to be discreet but not succeeding.

As my kids munch on their snack of non-organic white flour pretzels, I try not to notice the snack bag of the kid sitting on the same bench. The only part I can see is where it says Fair Trade and Non GMO… and that’s enough for me. I can feel the shock and horror.

And then there’s always one mom who reports.

Reports to you that your kids are doing something they shouldn’t. Or being a little too rowdy.

Thanks fellow mom. I’m feeling the kindness.

My 2 year old comes to tell me he really wants a shopping cart. Those mini adorable 2-year-old-sized ones. I see a kid standing near his cart, busy with something else. I take my 2 year old by the hand (yes, I first put away my phone) and ask little fellow toddler if he’s done with his turn. His mama-bear mother quickly grabs the cart, and informs me in no uncertain terms, “No, he’s still playing with it.”

Little toddler looks at me with a grin and says, “Here, I’m done, you can have it,” pushing it towards my 2 year old. 

Who to believe, the mother or the toddler? Maybe the mother wanted to play with it? Maybe she hasn’t finished reading the chapter on sharing…?

Children’s Museums are a funny place. They make mothers act funny.

And there are kids who don’t share.

And kids who have tantrums.

Sure, there are so many differences between our children. Some are advanced, some are delayed. They have different likes and dislikes. Different moods and different temperaments. But us moms, there’s so much that unites us.

Behind the nerves, tension and tight smiles of every mother is just a worn out and sleep deprived human, who worries about her child and is trying her very best and just wants her kid to succeed. That’s it. 

So why are we always judging each other?

 

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Life in General

They grow so quickly … or do they?

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I’m not really sure when it happened.

For the longest time, just by my being, I was able to assert my authority over my kids. After all, they had to look up to talk to me. I was taller than them all.

And then suddenly, without much warning, I am the one looking up.

I can’t even see eye to eye with my oldest. I have to look UP.

I’m not familiar with this and I don’t know how this happened.

Yes I know, all the “theys” of society have been warning me for years – “They grow up so fast! Hold on to the years when they’re so small and fit in your arms!”

See, but here’s the thing. When you’re in it, it’s not so fast. The years might go by quickly – but the bedtimes are S-L-O-W…

The long afternoons when it just won’t get dark outside; those are not quick at all.

While my son was busy growing taller than me, I was still waking up too many times a night with my baby and those nights were L-O-N-G.

As baffled as I feel as to how I am suddenly the mother of two teenagers, one thing I do know for certain; time didn’t fly by. Because despite what they say, it doesn’t fly. There is sleep deprivation, cooking, cleaning, driving, countless hours of waiting at doctors and dentist and traffic and fighting and spills and messes and plane rides – all of which make the minutes just drag.

In reality, the advice of holding onto the days when the kids are small because before you know it, they’re bigger than you – in the here and now, it’s really not practical.

Because when you’re tired and the baby wakes up for the fifth time in one night – the clock moves very slow. And you’re too tired to be poetic.

It only works in hindsight. When the house is quiet and you suddenly have the luxury of having thoughts. Not just small spurts of thoughts that are constantly interrupted but never finished.

Real long thoughts, the type that make you see life differently. But that doesn’t mean the years flew by.

Sometimes I get stressed when I hear these warnings; as if I’m committing a sin by looking at the clock and waiting for everyone to be asleep or wishing toilet training is a quicker process than it is.

Which brings to mind another commonly heard forewarning … little kids, little problems, big kids big problems.

Ok, so now what? When my two year old is coloring with a black sharpie across my kitchen table, do I hug him and say I’m so happy for small problems? When my baby is waking up every hour on the hour and I’m so tired I can barely walk a straight line to his crib, should I do a dance and say hooray for small problems? Or when a child in the shopping cart is knocking down everything he can possibly reach while I’m trying to get the shopping done, do I smile at those around and say I’m so happy for small problems?

No, I don’t do that and I think it’s ok if you don’t either.

It’s ok to feel like you are about to lose your sanity when three kids are crying simultaneously and you desperately need the bathroom. That’s not called wishing the years away or making a big deal out of small problems.

It’s called being very present.

Feeling it all.

It’s not called complaining. It’s called stating facts.

Because we don’t live in the future. We live in the here and now. We can deal with the bigger-kid -bigger-problems when they come because we survived the little-kid-little-problems first. It goes in that order for a reason; the little problems stretch us and challenge us to be better equipped for the next stage.

Perspective is important; constantly remembering that each stage is a phase and each phase will pass is what keeps us going. But still, we must live in the present.

So here I am feeling like I’m living in a dual reality – my teens seemed to have gotten here so quickly, before I was ready and my little ones are still so little and I’m still so tired. Time can’t move slowly and quickly at the same time.

So maybe it’s not just the time or the teens or the years that are the issue … maybe it’s also that we are never ready. We are never fully ready for new stages and to let go of all the old ones. New stages are daunting. And time just pushes you along, regardless of the size of your kids or their challenges.

And like all of motherhood, all the learning is done on the job.

 

Life in General

Shopping for toys the smart way…

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For a moment I forget that this is baby number 9, not my first born.

See, I love the car-toy-playing-seat the second I see it; it is so perfect. Closed in on four sides and enough knobs to keep a baby sitting and busy, it was just so cute. 

But then I remember. I have other children at home. This is not my first.

I take a deep breath and allow reality to take over.

The joy would last 10 seconds, 12 if I’m lucky. My 2 year old would squeeze his way into the little seat, right on top of my 10 month old. My 4 year old would try to join in. My 5 year old would take matters into his own hands and try to remove the whole piece of equipment. My 8 year old would probably take up the disciplining and successfully lift the car station over the kids heads and walk off with it. Everyone will come tumbling down and there will sit my 10 month old, on the rug, with nothing to play with. And the car toy will disappear into someone’s room indefinitely and be upgraded to some high powered supersonic gadget.

Right. So no, I will not buy this toy.

When it’s your 9th, you shop differently. Sometimes it feels like your smarter than everyone and sometimes it feels like you’re the party pooper, because you know what the toy really promises.

But I love this particular consignment sale. It’s twice a year and it’s huge and has every toy and baby object imagineable.

I continue with my browsing. I’m determined to buy at least one thing.

Race tracks. Train tracks.

Anything that can be turned into a dagger, sword or gun is black listed.

That eliminates ALOT of stuff.

And besides, so much of the stuff I see for sale are things we’ve already owned, used, broken and gotten rid of.

But I do admit, I like stuff.

I am not a minimalist.

Don’t tell Marie Kondo, but I keep stuff even if it doesn’t spark joy inside of me.

I keep it if I know it sparks joy in someone else in my house. I keep things for many different reasons. Some are nostalgic, some are functional, and some are just because.

The opposite of a minimalist is not hoarder. It’s just plain normal people.

I enjoy the process of buying and bringing home good stuff. And most importantly, the difference between a hoarder and plain normal, is knowing when something needs to be tossed.

I’m being prudent in my choosing, but I do want to bring something home.

Then comes the pink. And more pink. And dolls. And dolls. And dollhouses. All the things I love but don’t have time to play with.

And all the things my 13 year old daughter doesn’t play with either.

I browse just so I can touch it all and continue on my quest.

I am a seasoned mommy. I will not be fooled by noisy toys that don’t have an off switch.

By toys with a gazillion pieces.

By toys that won’t fit into any bin or shelf.

By toys that will not withstand the use of multiple children.

By toys that can’t be used without adult assistance.

My years of experience have taught me serious lessons. Years of lost sleep but gained knowledge.

Then I spot it. It’s a one piece, self contained, no additional pieces, easy-to-fold-and-unfold racetrack.

It is perfect.

It is approved by a seasoned mom.

It makes a lot of noise.

I locate the battery department – and confirm it’ll be a quick fix.

I pay for it and leave with a big smile on my face and a sense of accomplishment. My kids will be so happy and so will I.

And they are happy. The younger ones love it. I’m cooking in the kitchen watching out of the corner of my eye, once again complimenting myself on such a good choice.

And then I see it. They’re playing with it. It’s folded up. Tight and secure. And…it makes a good stool. To reach everything sitting safely on the higher bookshelves. And it even has an easy carry handle.

A stool. This toy also functions as a stool.

Oh, the sweet taste of humble pie.

Because how can I forget. Motherhood is a game with moving parts and pieces. Knowledge, age and experience doesn’t mean you’ve outsmarted it. Truly outsmarting it is realizing that it’s a work in progress, always. And winning means enjoying the ride – even when you’re tasting humble pie.

 

Life in General

More about Real Family Chol Hamoed Trips

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“Where are we going today?”

“When are we leaving?”

“Are we going somewhere today?”

“We have to go somewhere today!”

Yes, you guessed it – it’s day #3 of The Chol Hamoed Trip Extravaganza – when you have a whole week to plan trip and after trip and spend quality family time together.

Except the degree of quality can fluctuate.

“Let’s go to Virtual Reality!”

“No, Laser Tag!”

“That’s boring, could we do an Escape Room again?”

“Could we go to the Zoo?”

“Not the Zoo again!”

“Wacky Tacky!” Chimes in my 2 year old, referring to yesterday’s trip for the younger division.

“No way!!!” Comes the chorus.

So it’s official; we have 8 different opinions.

“Daaa da!” Shouts the baby.

Make that 9.

And we still haven’t made it through breakfast, with the regular chorus of “there’s nothing to eat” and “could I have chocolate.”

“The decision is already made, there’s no need to discuss it,” announces my husband.

The heated conversation continues anyway.

Oh, it sure feels like Chol Hamoed!

Now that our family had grown to an official younger division and older division and outgrown our Sienna, these trips are not so easy to plan.

But today was going to be a trip for everyone, using both vehicles.

No, I don’t dare think we’d make everyone happy! The age range is 10 months to 14. Not even possible.

Sometimes that’s just not the goal. As long as everyone is happy for some of the time and we are all spending time together, it’s good enough.

By the time breakfast finishes, the baby is napping and by the time the baby wakes up we have to eat lunch first.

So at 2 pm sharp, the best and most common  time of day to start Chol Hamoed trips, we set out. I ignore the constant stream of pictures on WhatsApp of everybody’s Perfect Chol Hamoed Trips coming in all morning.

Lunch is done and it’s time to hit the road.

Divide and conquer.

My husband deals with the seat assignments and arguments, I assemble the snacks. Considering the options, it’s a pretty simple task.

Homemade brownies, chocolate, water, apples and a knife. Oh, and macaroons.

I join for the tail end of “He got the window yesterday!” And we are on our way.

We chose a gold mine tour and exploration as our “whole family” trip, for both older and younger division.

The little kids are scared in the dark mine and want to leave. The big kids are fascinated and want to stay.

The little kids love running up and down the flights of stone steps.

The big kids are fascinated by the machines that grind the stones to powder.

The little kids are scared of the noise and play with the rocks.

My 4 year old is starving.

My 6 year old needs the bathrooms.

My 12 year old has a headache.

The baby wants to get out of the stroller but there is no where to put him.

We chat and stroll and hike and watch and shvitz.

We eat chocolate and brownies and apples. No one wants macaroons.

I freak out every time anyone goes too close to the little stream.

When we get to the the gem panning station it is five to 4 and it is closed already – even though closing time is supposed to be at 4.

Everything is exactly how it is supposed to be, because that’s what family trips are all about.

It’s not about everyone always happy, fun or perfection.

It’s about quality time together in all shapes and forms.

We didn’t even get a family picture, because we are too busy just being a family.

And everyone agreed it was a great day, well, except for one. Because in real families, there’s always one who insists they’re starving and there’s nothing to eat.

 

Life in General

Sleep training …the REAL method!

sleep training

Sleep.

Every mother’s elusive dream.

Sleep training.

Every mother’s nightmare.

It doesn’t matter what number child it is, the mere mention of the words strike fear of incompetence in the heart of every mother.

Why is everyone else’s baby sleeping and mine doesn’t?!

It doesn’t matter how many books you read or what method you believe in, the reality is that there is no shortcut.

Every mother dreams of that day when she can walk into the room, eliminate the step of rocking and jumping and dancing and nursing the baby to sleep and rather just lovingly place the baby in his/her crib, give the baby kiss, and walk out.

And so, after all my studying, reading, clinical trials and as I embark on the journey of sleep training my 9th child ka’’h, I’ve compiled my own method of sleep training; this method combines all the tried and proven techniques that promise you the sleep of your dreams by just being calm and making the magic work.

Some disclaimers:

Some methods only work if both parents don’t work, have nowhere to go and there are no other children at home, leaving the parents days and weeks to dedicate to this daunting task. When trying this particular method, you may find that the roles will be reversed; your baby will be happy with all the extra attention and you will be the one crying. You and your husband.

Other methods encourage sleeping in your baby’s room to monitor their baby’s sleep patterns and non-patterns, but considering the mother’s already sleepless life, I did not think that this type of bonding would be a positive experience either

There’s always tears. The difference is if it’s the mother’s or the child’s.

I present to you:

The Non-Cry Cry-it-out Method

It works. Fool proof. Guaranteed. The only thing that’s not certain is at what age it will finally click, but it will definitely be between the range of 4 months-14 years.

No one wants their baby to cry. Babies shouldn’t cry. Babies want the comfort and trust of knowing they’ll be answered when they are in need. And that leads us to the million dollar question.

How is a mother supposed to know when the baby is crying because they are in need of a basic need or in need of sleep?

Sleep is a need.

So when a baby is crying because they are tired, they need to go to sleep.

So the cry is not a cry.

Let me say that again, and this time read it slowly.

Letting your baby is cry is answering your baby’s needs, so the cry is not a cry. It is a non cry.

Hence the name of the method, The Non-Cry Cry-It-Out method.

The first step is, believe in your gut feeling. If you feel your baby is ready, then your baby is ready. (Interestingly enough, scientific evidence has proven that this usually coincides with when one or both parents are ready.)

Start by setting up your baby training station.

You will need:

And iPod or iPad, or any gadget with WiFi

High quality earbuds

1 tub of your favorite ice cream

3 bars of chocolate of your choice (preferably dairy)*

A watch, clock or phone

(*There is no low-carb replacement for this method. I apologize.)

Begin by getting  your baby ready for sleep, carefully explaining to your baby in a loving and soothing voice that there will be a new night time routine. Explain the changes are for his/her good. Explain that there will be no more rocking and jiggling and jumping and dancing until he/she falls asleep.

Say Shema and any other nighttime songs softly and soothingly, so the baby gets the vibe that this is all done with love and because you love him//her.

Gingerly and slowly lay baby down and leave the room.

Eat one bar of chocolate.

Check the clock, add five minutes and that’s the next time you will check on your baby. Remember, unless your baby already knows how to tell time or has a natural tendency to punctuality, the five minutes can be approximate.

If your baby cries, despite the clear communication you provided, it is not a regular cry. It is a Non-Cry cry, because it is a cry that  they need sleep and not going in is giving them the tool and skill they need.

This is not a cry of feeling abandoned or forgotten; the Non-Cry Cry-It-Out method vehemently disagrees with the cry-it-out method, which leaves a baby alone crying, only checking in periodically. The Non-Cry Cry-It-Out method encourages the mom or dad to go check in on the child at set intervals, so the mom or dad can encourage and support their baby to find those hidden skills of falling asleep on their own.

Do not pick up up your baby. Pat your baby gently, reassuring your child that you are there. Stay for a few brief moments and then leave the room.

Some methods believe that patting your baby may trick them into thinking that you will pick them up and only worsen the crying. With this method, we do not believe it is a problem. You are simply training your baby that patting is just as good as holding your child, a skill they will need for life, especially through the toddler and elementary school years.

Check the time, add ten minutes (approximately) and that will be the next time you check in on your baby.

Eat a few heaping spoonfuls of ice cream and put in your earbuds, selecting whatever form of media that will refocus your attention.

When the time is right, one parent should make their way back into the room, shushing as you go, creating a warm and pleasant sound to distract your baby from their Non-Cry crying,

Sending positive vibes isn’t enough. You need your child to feel it and more so, hear it.

Look at the clock, and add 15 minutes. That will be the next time you check. The Non-Cry crying-like response to the need to sleep may have stopped already – and at that point, all the remaining chocolate and ice cream should be consumed, in celebration of this victory and milestone.

Once phase 1 is complete, the same process is repeated for phase 2,3,4 etc of wake-up times during the night, until the day comes – and it will come!- that your child will sleep through the night. It will happen. Definitely between the ages of 4 months – 14 years.

And that is the complete Non-Cry Cry-It-Out Theory and Method.

Now if you’re reading all this and trying to make sense out of it because your child is one of those gifted children that are born knowing how to sleep through the night, then this is all not relevant for you.

But there is something you can do to help the sleep deprived segment of society.

Next time you find yourself sitting with another mom, whether it’s at the doctor’s office, the park or passing each other while shopping at Target – and you see those eyes, those sleep deprived eyes of a mother who clearly hasn’t slept more than 2 hours straight in months, and she asks you the questions; Does your baby sleep through the night?

Do me a favor and LIE. Just LIE. Yes, I’m telling you to lie. For the health and well being of this fellow mom, it is OK to lie just this once. Tell this mom that your baby is up all night. Say you are sleep deprived. Say you need to sleep train your baby and you don’t even know where to begin. Say all the things that will make this poor sleep deprived mom feel that she is not the only failure.

Because the only thing worse than a baby who wakes up every hour is speaking to another mother whose baby sleeps through the night. Trust me, I speak from experience.