Tag Archives: parenting

Vive les French Parents!

For me, there are few things not to love about the French. And I’m not talking solely about food or wine. So, I was psyched to read an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the joys of French parenting. The headline says it all: Why French Parents Are Superior.

If you’re not a francophile like myself, an article head like that seems so, well, French. After all, the French are known for their high estimation of their cultural worth and an annoyingly condescending nature. (Part of why I love them, I have to admit.) But having spent a significant amount of time in France, I can say this article is pretty much spot on.

My first real experience as an adult observer of French parenting came when I was living in Paris in my early 20s. I was invited for dinner at a 30-something couple’s apartment. They had a preschooler and an infant. Around 7pm, the mother announced that it was time for the children to eat. The preschooler quietly and politely ate her meal. However, the baby was completely uncooperative. Screaming, fussing, and totally refusing a bottle. After about 15 minutes of futile attempts to quiet and feed the infant, the mother said very matter of factly that she was going to put the baby to bed for the night. I remember thinking, “Without dinner?” And then the French logic kicked in. The mother said, “This is the time we eat. If the baby doesn’t want to eat, fine. She can go to bed. But this is the time we eat.” (Only it was in French.)

At the time, there were so many things that were foreign about that whole scene. At that stage in my life, I couldn’t imagine having kids. In fact, I was ridiculously weirded out by especially tiny babies. And then there was the whole French-ness about it. I mean, I had never heard of an American mother doing such a thing. In fact, all I ever heard about was how new moms were always up at all hours of the night, breastfeeding or fetching bottles.

But there is a simplicity in the French parenting ethic that somehow completely escapes us as American parents. Maybe we just try too hard. The French have that sort of breeziness about them that allows them to do things like wear totally mismatched clothing and still look chic. Maybe it’s the same with parenting.

Unlike the article’s author, I have not spent the last three years studying French parenting principles and techniques. But I do agree with a number of the points that the writer makes about what makes French parenting effective:

  1. Family is about the parents first then the children.
  2. Independence is a virtue in a child.
  3. Structure and routine are paramount.

But I’m not fully subscribed to a couple of the writer’s other theories. First, I whole heartedly believe that discipline is alive and well in French parenting–and I dare say it is dealt much more swiftly and severely than most American parents can imagine. I’m not talking corporal punishment; rather, I’m saying that it seems like most French parents have a much lower tolerance for misbehavior than American parents. Maybe the word I should use is strict. I use a wonderful woman from my French mommy class as an example. At around a year old, she was sending her son to stand in the corner every time he did something she didn’t like. (She was inspiration for starting timeouts at around 16 months with my son.) There’s something that sounds a little horrible to me when I write that, but her kid is a fantastic, super well behaved kid. Obviously no permanent damage done.

I think the writer was also onto something when she talked about the French concept of educating a child. However, I still think she missed the mark a bit. For as much as the French are about education, they are arguably even more obsessed about the idea of formation. Formation is really about a curriculum or training. It’s about mastering a certain topic area or skill. And that’s really the ethic that permeates French parenting. It’s not just about teaching their kid stuff; it’s about training them to behave appropriately in any given situation.

With all that said, I wonder what the real French moms in my French mommy group say about us wanna-be French mamans.

 

 

 

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Filed under daily life, discipline, family, parenting

World’s Worst Mother

There are moments in a mother’s life that simultaneously confirm that her baby is smarter than she thinks and also is possibly much smarter than she thinks she is. Mine happened the other morning after my dog dug up a planter for the fourth time.

I had spent the entire Saturday before in my back garden, mulching, planting spring bulbs, and replacing plants that had fallen victim to my dog in one way or another. The day after I finished, my dog ran through my freshly mulched flower bed, trampling three mum plants that had yet to bloom. Later that night, he dug up a planter, leaving a heap of dirt on one of my benches and all over my deck. Press repeat two more times and I was considering permanently chaining my dog to the picnic table.

So, the morning of my incident started out as usual. Got baby up, let the dog out, and proceeded with our normal morning breakfast routine. As I started filling the coffee pot, I looked out and saw the dog standing on my bench, elbows deep in my planter once again. The broom that I had been using to clean up his messes was just a stick with a straw nub and all the straw parts were strewn around the yard and deck.

I saw red. I flew out the door, hurling obscenities at the dog and basically chasing him around the backyard because I was literally going to wring his neck. I finally grabbed him by the scruff, dragged him into the house, put him on his leash, and then tied him to the kitchen table. I armed myself with another broom and marched outside, muttering wicked things under my breath the whole time I was  cleaning up. I could not imagine beginning my day with such a disastrous mess in my yard, so I was determined to clean it all up before resuming the morning routine.

And baby was cool with that. He was wandering around, playing with his toys and having a pretty good time. Especially with the door that leads to our back deck. He’d open it and close it. Open it and close it. Open it and close it. It was great fun until I finished sweeping up the dirt and headed inside. I grabbed the door handle, turned it, and pulled. Nothing. It was locked.

I won’t say a wave of dread washed over me because it felt more like a Niagara Falls of dread inundating me. This couldn’t be happening. My kid is 16 months old. Figuring out a lock is not something he can do. (Or is it?) In my rage, I had flown outside sans phone or keys. I mean, who really takes all that when they pop into their backyard for a couple of minutes? And then I started to feel stupid. I was imagining myself having to walk over to one of my neighbors’ houses to ask to use the phone to call the police. I had decided I would feel less stupid asking the single dad next door than the lesbian couple on the other side of us; he might be able to relate, right? And then I started thinking about what would happen post police. How would I get my lock fixed? What were the repairs going to cost? And worst of all, what trouble could my kid get into inside on his own, completely unsupervised while all this was happening?

I took a breath and kneeled down. There was my little man smiling at me through a thin pane of glass and pulling on the door handle to let me in. I looked at him in a pleading way and begged for him to let me in. (Like he even knew what I was saying.) But by the grace of god, the lock toggle was still very interesting to him, so he continued to fiddle with it. I heard one click and lunged on the door handle. Perfect timing; the door was open once again.

All’s well that ends well, I guess, but I was seriously having a heart attack the whole time. I am still amazed that my toddler got the lock unlocked. What are the chances that he locked it in the first place? But I learned that I can’t take anything for granted anymore. So, I went out and had a spare set of keys made–that was a process in and of itself because apparently my door doesn’t have a normal lock–and hid them outside for the next time something like this happens. And lord knows with the busy body I’m raising, something like this is bound to happen again.

While I can laugh about the whole thing now, I felt–and still feel to some extent–like a crappy  mom. My kid was basically free range while I was flipping out on the dog. And it could’ve been disastrous. It was confirmed as a really bad situation when I recounted the whole incident to my best friend and all she could repeat was “no, no, no, no” at every turn of the story.

But it pays to have a lot of mommy friends on days like that. Because just as I was feeling like I was the world’s worst mother, another mommy friend texted me to say that she was the world’s worst mother. Somehow she locked her son in the car along with her cell phone and the keys. Again, it all turned out okay thanks to a stranger with a cell phone and AAA, but that didn’t help her from feeling any less guilty.

So my question is, do we as mothers hold ourselves to unreasonable standards? Has stuff like this happened all the time through the ages and we moms just take it personally because we feel like we should be SuperMom? Or is there a generation of women out there today that is just juggling too much in their daily lives that consequently their parenting skills are slipping (myself included)?

Always in retrospect, there’s the woulda, coulda, shouldas of any situation. If I could do it all over, I would’ve have grabbed my keys, and I could’ve also pocketed my phone, and I definitely should’ve just propped the door open to keep baby away from playing with it. But is it realistic to expect moms to think that proactively and preventatively on a daily basis? I mean, I know my friend and she’s not only a great mom but a vigilant one to boot, so I don’t take her claims of being the world’s worst mother seriously. But I know she does. And I definitely can relate, worst mother ever to worst mother ever.

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Filed under babies, moms, parenting

The Write Choice

A friend of mine recently went to work for the mom-founded, mom-run upstart Juice in the City. So, I was using my Friday night to troll the company’s site since it’s expanding to the D.C. area soon. Basically, if you subscribe to stuff like Living Social or Doodle Deals, you’d probably be a fan of the Juice. It’s similar in that it offers discounts to cool stuff in your metro area, but it’s totally targeted to the mom in us.

Every day the site features a deal on anything from mommy-and-me painting classes to family portraits to mini van tune ups, all provided by locally owned businesses. Not only are the discounts great, but you can have the assurance that it’s a good deal on a good product or service because it’s been totally checked out by a local mom. I think it’s a really cool concept–a buy-local business built by moms for moms.

But that’s not really what this post about. While I was scavenging the site, I ran across this blog post, A Writer Mom’s Balancing Act. From one writer mom to another, it really struck a chord with me. Especially this part:

“We [writer moms] have an ever-present need to put words down. No matter what else demands our attention, no matter how severe our sleep deprivation, our personal muse is always hovering nearby whispering, ‘Write.’ We must write. But finding the time to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard can become more challenging than finding a needle in a haystack the size of Mount Everest.”

I write for a living. And that’s fun and rewarding. But what I really find fulfilling as far as writing goes are the hours I spend feeding this site. And I so have those same muses whispering in my ear to the point that if I go too long without posting, I start to feel bad, kind of guilty or something. It’s pretty silly–I mean, who’s really reading this thing anyway–but blogging has become a major part of my weekly routine. It’s very similar to when you get into a good exercise routine and then you miss a few days; you get all anxious to get back to the gym.

And so while it’s always hard to find free time when you’ve got a baby, it wasn’t until I had a baby that I was ever this disciplined about writing for myself. And I am grateful for that. Writing is just good for my soul and, until I became a mom, I didn’t really realize how much of myself I had been missing by not writing for fun frequently enough. Funny how for as much as babies can take from you–time, energy, patience, and all the rest–they give back more without even knowing it.

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Filed under babies, daily life, first year, moms, working mom, writing

Diary of a Diaper-Eating Doberman

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know my dog eats a lot, and specifically a lot of things he shouldn’t eat. Twice his strange eating behavior has landed him at the emergency vet and once he even had to have a scope to remove the foreign object from his stomach. So far his menu of banned items includes countless baby socks, two leather-soled baby booties swallowed whole, a seat belt, and most recently a diaper.

I never really worried about him eating diapers before because we have a Diaper Champ, which not only keeps dirty diapers from fouling up baby’s room but also keeps them safe from thieving Dobermans. But every once in awhile, I’d get lazy or forget and just chuck a dirty diaper in a regular trash receptacle. Now my dog will never let me live that mistake down.

I thought he was being good, chewing on the bone that I had just given him. But that was not the case, as I soon found white papery chunks littered around my living room. Upon inspection, I found that the dog had eaten the crotch clean out of what had obviously been a dirty diaper. I just kept imagining super absorbent diaper bits getting bigger and bigger in his digestive tract and knew that couldn’t be good. Fortunately, I was able to get a couple neighbors to take shifts watching the baby while I drove out the emergency vet to get the dog’s stomach pumped. The whole way I was kicking myself for not putting the damn diaper in the Diaper Champ.

So, with another lesson painfully learned, here’s a little poem in honor of the antidote to diaper-eating Dobermans:

Ode to the Diaper Champ

When I put you on my registry
I wasn’t sure you’d please me
Or if I really needed you
To stash all the baby poo

But wet, full, or just slightly damp
There’s a reason you’re the Diaper Champ

Baby’s britches are a hot mess
We’ve definitely put you to the test
You’ve kept the room from stinking
Which is why I’m totally thinking

Wet, full, or just slightly damp
There’s a reason you’re the Diaper Champ

Bring on the diaper blow out
You make it easy to throw out
A week’s worth of dirty underoos
Without leaving smelly clues

Wet, full, or just slightly damp
There’s a reason you’re the Diaper Champ

Not only can I use my own sack
But you keep the dog from a tasty snack
Of diapers, dirty, ripe, and wet
And ending up at the E.R. vet

Wet, full, or just slightly damp
There’s a reason you’re the Diaper Champ

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Filed under babies, babyproofing, diapers, pets

Why Car Seats Might Be One of the Worst Things for Kids’ Health

I absolutely hate removing my car seat from its rightful spot in the back of the car, mostly because it’s an endeavor that that usually leaves me sweating and exasperated enough to have to dial for back-up to get it back into the car correctly. I also hate it because it’s confirmation that, yes, my car seat is just as nasty, if not more so, than I had imagined.

And it’s not like I don’t try to keep it as clean as possible. I brush my kid’s car seat free from crumbs and other debris nearly every time we use it. And about once I week I probably take a rag to it to try to rub out obvious stains. But it’s when I actually get the time to do a deep clean that I start to really get grossed out. Because for as much as moms focus on  health and cleanliness for our babies, spending small fortunes on products like hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, and immune boosting vitamins, the car seats we put our kids in day in, day out are crawling with germs.

Or at least I know mine is.

My first step in de-grubbing the car seat is always just to get the darn seat out of the car, which comes with its requisite huffing, puffing and pushing, pulling to get it free. Immediately, I remove the cover and hose it down while aggressively going at the crumbs smooshed into every corner and crevice with a hand-held scrubber brush. (Sometimes I also just throw it in the washer.)

Once the cover is hanging up drying somewhere, I move on to the actual seat. It also gets the hose and a soapy water rubdown. I’ve learned that I need to actually flip the seat upside down and spray the bottom as well to be sure it gets really clean. Why? Because sometimes stuff like this is hanging out under the seat:

Ewwwwwww!

Yes, that is a Wheat Thin stuck to some gunk that probably was milk at some point. I still don’t understand how this stuff managed to harden into a solid and adhere itself to the underside of the seat, but it did.

Next, I move on to cleaning up the back seat. Also disturbing:

Yuck!

This stuff actually required scrubbing to remove it. But it’s curious to me how much stuff ends up under the seat given how much seems to end up either in baby’s belly or all down the front of him.

And of course the door:

Not so yummy

It sort of freaks me out when I think about how many germs the typical coffee cup contains, you know, the ones that kind of hang out in people’s cubicles never getting a truly thorough washing. So, when I see this, my inner germ-a-phobe comes rushing to the surface. Can this really be healthy for our kids?

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Filed under babies, baby travel, car seats, cleaning, daily life, health, hygiene, transportation, travel

Dadchelor Parties: A Dream or a Disaster?

I saw this segment on ABC Nightline last week about “Dadchelor” parties becoming all the rage among soon-to-be daddies. In fact, according to one expert interviewed during the segment, roughly 1 in 5 dads has a dadchelor party.

If you’re like me and don’t know a single dad whose had such a party, a dadchelor party is a man’s version of baby shower. And because its usually given by men for men, it tends to end up looking seriously similar to a bachelor party, with loads of booze and questionable entertainment generally lasting well into the wee hours of the morning.

It would appear that most soon-to-be mommies aren’t exactly big on this idea. It’s totally immature, but I personally think it’s brilliant.

Leave it to men to figure out how to take the idea of a baby shower to the next level. How lame do ladies lunches with traditional shower games seem next to a party bus full of raucous friends with a final destination of the nearest casino? And the diaper keg is ingenious. Basically how it works is every dadchelor party participant brings a box of diapers to the party in exchange for booze. I also really like the idea of bringing a new stroller full of beer or drink-with-me Elmo games, as shown in this dadchelor party spoof:

But while I find this whole dadchelor idea totally creative on the part of soon-to-be dads and their degenerate friends, I sincerely do think it’s a good idea. From what I gather from a lot of my mommy friends, nearly every husband has a freakout moment before the birth of his first child. (Mine most definitely did.) It most often looks nothing like a soon-to-be mommy freakout. Rather than coming on fast and furiously like a freakout does for soon-to-be moms (thanks, hormones!), soon-to-be daddy drama usually builds builds slowly and sort of festers before exploding, usually after some serious nagging by the moms to get off their duff and do something on that honey-do-for-baby list.

That trigger for a lot of soon-to-parents is the issue of the nursery. Moms totally stress about getting the nursery ready and especially about setting up the crib. Dads generally don’t have the same urgency in dealing with those tasks, which drives most moms absolutely nuts. I see this lack of urgency almost as a subconscious refusal to deal with the reality of having a baby. It’s like a last grasp to hold on to life as they’ve known it. No crib roughly translates to more time to still be the kind of married-without-kids carefree that they’ve enjoyed for some time. Conversely, the crib is a physical reminder that those days are seriously numbered. And this reticence has nothing to do with not being excited about a baby or the prospect of being a dad.

So, maybe a dadchelor party is just the cathartic experience that some dads need to reconcile their fears with reality. Sure, life changes in a big way post baby, but it’s in a good way. You don’t just stop being the person you were, but you do start to learn more about the person you are. I get that for a lot of dads it’s scary to be looking at an overnight change. Personally, I wished I’d have known about these dadchelor parties back when I was pregnant. I think my husband would’ve totally benefited from one last blowout before getting down to the real business of baby.

Admittedly I would’ve also been jealous had he had one. I’m not sure when I’ll get a night on the town dadchelor style. But maybe that’s where a compromise is in order. Dad gets a dadchelor night out and mom gets a post-baby moms-gone-wild night. Sounds like a deal to me.

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Filed under daddy care, dads, diapers, family, infants, marriage, maternity, mom style, mommy care, moms, nesting, newbie parents

Cool Mom or Just Crazy?

Every once in awhile the reality of my life slaps me right upside the head Joe Jackson style. Today it was the fact that I was driving home from baby’s French play group, rocking out through the rain and the traffic to Kidz Bop Monster Ballads.

I had often seen the Kidz Bop CD series and had no trouble taking a pass. The idea of a bunch of 8-year-olds singing anything from Lady Gaga to the Glee soundtrack sounded absolutely painful. But in a moment of weakness, the impulse buy got the better of me and I shelled out the $10 or so for the Monster Ballads version. I mean, seriously, bands like Poison, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Scorpion, and Firehouse definitely should have a place in my child’s musical education.

For as ashamed as I am to admit it, I love this CD. The playlist is amazing. How can you go wrong when it starts out with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and wraps up with “Love of a Lifetime”? It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think it’s a toss up between “Winds of Change” and “Love of a Lifetime.” Probably because they remind me of dancing with a boy named John Goodenbury at a junior high dance at the local YMCA. I was seriously crushing on him and couldn’t believe he picked me for the most amazing slow dance double header of the night.

But while I kind of feel like a cool mom for moving beyond “Old McDonald Has a Farm” and other classic nursery rhymes for musical entertainment, I also have a sinking feeling that my listening to Kidz Bop makes me officially lame. I can imagine that if I had gotten a glimpse of myself belting out kid-ified versions of “I Remember You” or “High Enough” in my Volvo with a baby stuffed into a car seat in the back when I was young, single, and free, I would’ve been mortified. I’m pretty sure I would’ve thought, “Man, she needs to get out more.”

And maybe I do. But chances are next time I do, I’ll be rocking out to Brett Michaels’ kids covering his classic “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” And I’m okay with that.

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