Tag Archives: children

Another Year Older and What Do I Get?

I’m not sure which has been more exciting, sad, bittersweet, amazing: Ella turning one, or Cordelia turning one. Ella’s first birthday marked a major milestone. It meant many new things to come. But it didn’t mark the end of anything. Not really. She turned one and we had a new baby on the way. Cordelia turned one and it marks the end of so many things. As I type this, three girls stand in the kitchen helping pour, mix, and taste as they help daddy make muffins. There is no baby cuddled up on someone’s chest. There is no baby mewling to let us know what she needs. Instead we have a toddler screeching to let us know she’s excited, happy, or sad. Her words are tough to understand at times, but believe me she uses them all the time. Life is very different with a toddler, than it is with a baby.

A baby notices if it’s hungry, cold, tired…but it doesn’t notice the world around it. Cordelia notices.

She notices when her sisters run off to play without her. She notices when someone uses the iPod, explorer, remote, phone she copies. The first year is over. Time has flown and the years to come will be amazing to behold.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of her first birthday party. I didn’t really take pictures of the decorations, but maybe I will later. After all, a month later and they’re still up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five Years

Due to moving, and computers crashing I don’t actually have new baby photos of her right now, however from about six months on here is Ella over the last five years:

 

It’s amazing how much she’s changed. I’m so proud of all the things she’s done and all the things she’s going to do. I have a girl who’s so full of energy, spirit, life. I smile everyday, knowing I have some part to play in this awesome little person’s life.

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Growth Spurt

An experienced parent knows that a baby eating more than usual, sleeping more than usual, fussing more than usual usually means a growth spurt. Most babies follow a similar pattern: 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months mark large periods of growth. During this time a baby nurses for hours on end, many mothers incorrectly assume they don’t have a large enough milk supply for their baby. Many mothers unwittingly supplement. A baby nursing even after the breast is empty will be okay. They’ll feed more frequently, they’ll feed longer, they’ll increase the milk supply just by nursing more. It might take a day or two, but Mama’s body will catch up and baby will thrive and grow – without ever needing supplementation.

It sounds easy enough. Baby wants to nurse, let baby nurse. Baby wants to sleep, let baby sleep, baby needs extra cuddles, then cuddle your sweet baby.

But what about older children? What signs mark periods of growth after baby is walking and talking? Unfortunately, even though they have so much experience with it, children don’t automatically realize they’re growing. In fact they seldom know until one day they grab something that was a foot out of reach the day before.

Parents don’t usually realize their children are growing either, until they buy new clothes. The clothes come home from the store, slightly big. Daddy removes the tags, by nightfall the clothes don’t fit.

There are other clues that our children are growing. Some sweeter than others. At all ages and stages of growth children tend to eat and sleep more while they’re growing. But they also tend to upset more easily.

Recently we’ve been faced with a houseful of growing girls. One day the girls sang in harmony. The next day they insisted no one sing at all.

We see little girls that push each other, bite, kick, or hit more often. They have a more difficult time talking things through with each other. A little stumble creates giant tears, that last for hours. If one girl wants something, the other wants the opposite. No food is the right food, something we don’t have is always the preferred choice.

For us other signs of growing include:

loss of coordination, more likely to stumble

rocking

hand wringing or shaking

stuttering

toe walking

refusing to sleep

gulping/sucking air

burping (think of the sound Gollum makes)

Chewing (on fingers, clothes, anything in reach)

 

Mostly we ignore the tics while they pass, but we also try to help the girls cope with them. We provide chew toys when needed, straws for drinking, bikes to ride rather than walking, a trampoline to bounce on, soft cushions to crash on. And most importantly we try to offer patience and love. These will pass, and they’ll pass faster if we offer support, rather than consequences.

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Sibling Bonding

Everywhere I turn I hear parents lamenting sibling rivalry. I hear them asking how to get one child to leave the other alone. I hear them saying they don’t want the four year old to touch the baby, but then in two years they get upset when the six year old doesn’t want the two year old around.

When Agatha was born, we had our fair share of ‘problems’ as we navigated from one child to two. Our poor little Agatha was bumped and bruised, cut and scraped so many times. But she was so in love with her big sister (when she wasn’t afraid). We eventually figured things out and the relationship improved.

Now that Cordelia’s here things could be very difficult, but instead we find things even better than before. Our two big girls are so excited to help and share, and Cordelia is so in love with her sisters. She can’t get enough of them. There is no fear, there are no cuts or bruises, just love.

How did this happen?

First, the girls were involved with the pregnancy. They came to appointments, they helped us choose names, they touched my belly, they talked to the baby, they hugged and kissed her while she was still inside. They were present at her birth, and were invited to hold her as soon as I was willing to let my baby out of my arms for the first time.

When Cordelia came home with us, we encouraged the girls to hold her as much as they wanted. We’d sit them at the couch and hover. After all a newborn baby is rather floppy. As Cordelia became stronger, we hovered less. Now Agatha holds Cordelia on her own all the time, Ella carries Cordelia around the house. Whenever they want to do something with each other, or the baby, we try to find a way to help them play together, to accomplish their goals.

Some ways we do that include: playing tag with the girls, and tackle games. I carry Cordelia and chase the girls around the house. I’m sure to give all of them plenty of chance to see each others faces. In the beginning, I’d point out the huge smile, the look of intense pleasure, on Cordelia’s face, now we just play. They all have so much fun together. They all get a chance to be on an even playing field. As Cordelia gets bigger I’ll add in soccer. I carry her (when she’s bigger I’ll hold her hands) while she runs and kicks the ball, and the big girls try to get the ball away, or Cordelia tries to get the ball from them. They aren’t competition games because there is no win or lose. The whole entire point is to have fun. It doesn’t matter who has the ball because everyone’s playing together. As they get older these games could translate into competition, but for now it’s bonding.

During the day I spend a lot of time interpreting for the big girls. They rush over and pick Cordelia up and she whimpers. I point out the sounds, and let them know she doesn’t like that. I then offer a suggestion for what they could do that’d she’d likely enjoy. As she gets bigger, I’ll also help her figure out words to use so she can let them know on her own that she’s unhappy with a particular turn of events.

Right now it seems as though the most important part of having a positive experience with their sisters is me helping them figure out what the other means. They don’t have the knowledge base to figure out on their own that certain faces or sounds mean someone else isn’t having fun. They also don’t have the ability to put someone else’s needs or desires above their own. It’s my job to advocate for each of my children.

It doesn’t matter, for the most part, what happened, who started it, why someone’s crying, or anything else that divides the children. What matters is figuring out how to find a solution that preserves respect. It matters that they learn new methods of communicating, and playing together.

One day they won’t need me to step in as often as I do, one day they won’t need me to point out when someone else cries. One day they’ll take these skills and use them on their own, in the ‘real’ world. But for now they’re little girls playing together, loving each other, and loving life.

Is there something your family did – or does – that helps promote bonding between children, particularly children of vastly different ages and abilities?

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First Haircut

I came into the kitchen and this is what I saw: my baby girl cutting her hair. She wanted to look like Flynn Rider.

There’s hair all over the floor and less on her head. I could have been upset. She had gorgeous, long hair. It came half-way down her back. I could have yelled, I could have shouted, but it wouldn’t change anything.

 

 

Instead I took pictures, and waited.

The end result suits her very well. I did cut a couple long strands that she couldn’t see, but this hair cut was all her doing.

She also cut an Ariel wig and a Cinderella wig we had. Then she asked Agatha if she could cut her hair. Agatha said no and ran away. About two minutes later she returned. With her own scissors. She promptly gave herself her own first haircut. Her curls are gone.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m sad. There’s a lot less ceremony and curls than I prefer. I’m proud. They knew what they wanted to do, and they did it. Ella even practiced a few times before she tried her own head. She had an image in her mind that she wanted to copy, and she tried. She asked for help where she needed it, she also let us know she wanted to do it herself.

Agatha saw Ella cutting, and wanted to also. She asked first. Then she did it.

My girls are growing up, and they invited me to join them. I wouldn’t miss it for the world, even if that means my girls have less hair than they used to.

 

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The Hidden Danger of Toys

There’s nothing to do, but take it away. Someone gave Agatha a doll for her birthday, and she can’t have it. The head is disproportionately large, the eyes are huge, the one arm is stitched on a little crooked, and it has a cute little cupid bow mouth.

It has to go.

It’s nothing like a real baby and I’m concerned she’ll be upset because her eyes aren’t as large, or her mouth isn’t as small. I’m much too concerned for her mental well-being to allow her such a toy.

Everywhere you turn there’s another danger facing our children. One of the biggest, it would seem, are toys.

Don’t let your children play with a pretend phone, or their imagination will shrivel and die. Don’t let your child have a play sword, or a stick won’t be good enough. And what ever you do, don’t let your daughter play with Barbie, or she’ll forever feel inadequate and end up with an eating disorder.

I know what the studies say, but I think researchers are causing fear and panic where there needn’t be any.

No, I’m not taking any toys away from my children – unless you count the million and one bite size pieces Cordelia finds everyday.

Parents believe children are capable of turning a stick into a sword, a cane, a catapult, a bow and arrows, as well as a dog named Rover. Yet they can’t believe their children are capable of realizing a toy is nothing more than just a toy. For that matter they can’t believe their children will be capable of pretending a stick is anything, and everything, if they’re ever exposed to a real toy phone, or sword, or dog named Rover.

They use children from several generations ago as an example. “Our fore fathers never needed a toy, they just made do, and look at the fun they had.” But our Fore fathers only had stories about things they had experience with to some degree. A knight fighting a dragon was easy to imagine when they’d seen real fighting. Today’s children, thankfully, haven’t seen real fighting. There’s a lot today’s children haven’t experienced. Inherited memory only goes so far.

Through books we introduce our children to one idea or another. Mummies, pirates, kings & queens, as well as deep-sea diving and any other thought they care to explore. But sometimes they need an image in order to internalize it.

A toy sword is fabulous. They suddenly KNOW what the word ‘sword’ meant. From there any stick can become a sword, because they have the basic outline in their heads.

If we believe, have seen, that our children are capable of such a degree of imagination, then why are we concerned that a toy will interfere? To some extent a child may demand the specific toy in order to play, but I believe that’s more likely with older children, rather than younger children. A young child is still discovering the shape of the world. A hazy image can be anything. They have no basis on which to say it’s something specific because there experience ‘vocabulary’ is still so limited. But an older child knows that each item in the world has a true shape. And older children know that adults use the true shapes, not the hazy shadow children must settle for.  An older child insists on taking the first step into adulthood. A stick can no longer be a dog named Rover. A stick is just a stick, maybe a sword or a cane. In order to be a bow, it needs a string. As the child ages their awareness increases. Their willingness to remain blind to the true shape of the world diminishes.

Nothing can change that, not a million toys, and neither will the refusal to give toys. children are natural scientists, natural philosophers. The true shape emerges no matter what.

A Barbie is disproportionate. But a child knows that’s not the true shape of humans. I believe humans are more at fault for the poor self-image of children. A child told at five or six that’s she’s chubby may see a Barbie and wish she were thinner. But without the comments made by people, the thought wouldn’t occur to her that any shape other than her own is the true shape.

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Someone Broke Her Funny Bone

The girl’s discovered a new game – thanks to Daddy. For the past several nights we’ve had to play doctor. Before you get concerned, it’s not that kind of doctor. First someone must be injured in some way (pretend), then Mommy or Daddy give an ambulance ride on our back (Eoo, Eooo) around the house a few times. Then we diagnose the injury.

“Oh, no. Someone broke her funny bone. There’s only one cure…Tickles.”

We then proceed to tickle from head to toe, briefly. We stop and ask if they’re okay. They dissolve into fits of giggles and declare their funny bone’s still broken. This goes on until Ryan’s completely tired out and ready for bed. By then the girls’ve received enough love to allow daddy some space.

When it’s time for bed, everything runs smoothly. They ask for their story, they fall sleep. Easy. They’re secure in our love – and that makes all the difference.

We have many variations on this type of game. Another one we play quite often has been around since Agatha was about 6 months old. I’d hold baby in front of me, facing out, and we’d chase Ella around the house. When we caught her, baby would tackle Ella and we’d tickle her. Then it’d be Ella’s turn to chase us. I’d periodically turn so baby could see Ella, then with a squeal we’d turn and flee. This game helped the girls bond in such a wonderful way. It also wore them out in such a wonderful way. We now play this with Cordelia chasing the big girls. It helps put them all on even footing. It’s a game that allows everyone to play, and there’s no competition because everyone WANTS to get caught. After all, that’s the fun part.

We have many fights during our days.  “She took my toy.” “I want her toy.” “She’s sitting on me!” the list goes on. But ultimately those dissolve into nothing when faced with the many ways our girls do play together. They’ve both had moments where they don’t like the other – and that’s okay – because they overwhelmingly love each other.

If children can move beyond conflict by playing with each other, don’t you think parents can move past conflict by playing with their children?

 

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