Monday, May 20, 2013

Mr. Poopy Butthead

Oh the joys of working with young children as a parent and teacher.  Right around the fourth and fifth year of  life, the fascination with certain words begins.  Poop, fart, butt... these words are hilarious when you are four and even more hilarious for some reason if you are a boy!  Children are beginning to understand themselves, how their bodies work, and how language and feelings work.  They know these words get a reaction and they want to see what that reaction is.  It happened every single year around this time in my nursery school.  Someone would get called, "Poophead!" and that child would come to me.  My response was always, "Let me look!  Nope, there is no poop on your head."  That would always create a laugh and off the two children went.  Rarely did this word or the name calling stick around for long.

And NOW I am a parent and my son has begun his fascination with the word poop as he approaches four years old. Oh being a parent is so different than a teacher.  Watching your son call someone poop or having him scream that word in response to a kind gesture of "hello Elijah" can be quite embarrassing and upsetting for me.  It stirs up emotions I never quite had as a teacher.  Still, I understand that this is developmentally appropriate for him, I know that it makes him feel powerful (one of the important conditions for human growth), that making a big deal out of it will only increase his use of it thereby creating a power struggle between us.  And really, it is just a silly word.  To be quite honest, it is an important word, one we use everyday (at least we should).

Does this mean that when he calls someone poop, I simply ignore it.  I of course do not and I remind him that this person's name is "Mike" since tonight he called the head of our boarding school that (oy vey).  I use the ever powerful tool of humor to guide him telling him that when Mike was born, his parents didn't think Poop was a good name for him.  I ask him not to use it when I am eating or in our dining hall because frankly, it makes me feel ill and other people's needs are important too.  I will also explain the context and a little bit of child development to people along the way.  It is important for others to know that to Elijah, poop is a wonderful thing and not derogatory most of the time...they might even consider it a compliment.  Ok, maybe we won't go that far.

Common practice among early childhood programs I have seen in the past and definitely among parents is to stop the use of those words and quickly.  I assume they feel what I have felt as a parent and in some way deem the word inappropriate.  I often hear children told that they are only to use that word in the bathroom, that it is a potty word, etc...

I do not take that approach.  I think the more limits we put on it, the more some children (yes, mine) will push that limit and the longer the developmental stage will last.  I think it conveys that there is something wrong or gross about our bodily function which I do not believe, and it is simply not a battle I choose to fight with my child.

My husband and I instead play what Elijah has termed "poop games" with him now.  He says poop and we say pee or something even more "gross".  The belly laugh that this elicits out of our son is truly monumental.  Being able to enter into his world and share this humor with him truly brings us closer together because lets face it, I am a girl and I really dont get this whole "poop is funny" thing.  I think my husband understands the humor even more so and who knows, it may actually still be funny to him.  It is so important for me to remember that I am not male when parenting my son.  It was a huge wake up call as a teacher who grew up as one of three girls and no father in the home.  Understanding the differences and needs of the male species was and still can be a difficult road for me.

At Elijah's forest school, his teacher tells stories of Mr. Poopy Butthead (yes, one of the many things I love about Wild Roots) when the children enter this developmental stage.  Today, his teacher asked  him if he could help her find a stick strong enough for hammering and his response of course was an emphatic, "POOP!"  His teacher responded, "No, I don't think poop would work for this, I need a stick."

And that people is how you support children as they navigate this world we live in....
funny words and all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The problem with doctorly advice...

He was so excited
So recently E had his very first dental appointment.  We have been brushing twice a day since before that child had teeth so it was no surprise that his teeth were perfect, just beautiful.  His cleaning went well and we got the common praises from both hygentist and dentist.  And then came the advice...

"So he is a thumb sucker I see..."


He then proceeded to tell me about how his teeth are being pushed out of normal bite range and how that will affect his grown up teeth.  I asked some questions and got some answers.

The he turned to E and said, "you should really try not to suck your thumb if you can".

I was fine with all of his advice as that is his job to give it and to focus on his teeth, and to tell us what to expect, but then he went on...

"and Mom, you need to make sure he has stopped by the time he is five."

I responded with, "we will have to see how things go" trying to divert this conversation so I did not loose my cool.

He continued to explain how if he doesn't stop by age five his teeth will be permanently affected.  Yada Yada Yada.

That is when I used a statement I so often said to parents who came into my preschool distraught because their dentist had given them a hard time about their thumb or pacifier sucking child,
"Orthodontics is a whole lot cheaper than therapy."

The hygentist and dentist did not laugh, but they did get quiet.
On the way home, E told me he didnt want to stop sucking his thumb.  I assured him that it was his choice and that mama was not going to make him stop (as if I could).

But that session has stuck with me.  It was the first time I was the parent in a situation like this.  I was so thankful for my years in early childhood and my knowledge of child development because his stern warnings did not phase me like it had so many parents I has worked with.

I have always disliked it when doctors of dentists gave advice like that to parents.  I know we pay them for there advice, but when it comes across as there is no other choice, parents feel like they are doing something wrong in the best case and parents do something horrible to their child like this contraption in the worst case.   Of course, the dentist is only thinking of his teeth and it is a parents job to think of their entire child and way the pros and cons.  However, I strongly believe that doctors and dentists opinions carry a lot of weight with parents and should be careful how they use that weight to get across their point.

This kind of situation, I believe, is the reason most parents would rather use a pacifier and do whatever they can to keep their child from sucking their thumb.
I often hear, "because a pacifier you can take away" at even a few weeks old.  The pressure to force even that situation on a young child just because the adults in their world have decided they are too old for that comfort is just ridiculous.  Yet, we are thinking of these things while the little ones are still in the womb.

If you ask me, no one ever died from being a thumb sucker.  Some people had to have braces because of it, some had to have braces (like me) even though they never had a pacifier or thumb as comfort, and some have sucked their thumb for a decade or more and have perfectly straight teeth.  So braces happen, big deal.

And doctors and dentists have their specialty, but it is not child development, even pediatricians do not focus on much more than a child's physical development, so I hope we all keep this in mind when hearing what they have to say and then make up your own mind as the guardian of this special person.

My top priority as a parent is to listen to my child and to focus on his needs as a whole.  He gains a great deal of comfort from his thumb and his psyche will always take precedence over his teeth.

He got a toy afterwards, so glad they didn't tell him it was for being "good" or this blog post might have taken a whole different path. 
Until he decides to stop, I will tell the dentist we heard him and ask him respectively to drop it.
I may even start sucking my thumb as a sign of support ;)

Monday, March 18, 2013

On having two...

So since J is over 8 months old as I begin to write this and it is the first post since he was born, you can probably guess the theme of this one: life is crazy!  Crazy and joyful, but none the less crazy!

So how is life with two children you ask?  The best way I can describe it is to tell you about the last 30 minutes I just had.

So, E had woken up and was saying, "Mama" in a sad/scared voice that gets me to jump and run whenever I hear it.  I ran into our bedroom and E was speaking nonsense and gibberish as he often does when waking from a deep sleep.  It usually means he has to pee.  I asked him if he did and he said No and began to lie down.  I got into bed next to him and realized the reason he no longer had to pee.  He and the bed were soaked.
I told him I was gonna go get him some clothes and he said "OK" sleepily, but as soon as I left the room, he sat up and started crying loudly which of course woke J.  So now J is fussing and wanting help going back to sleep and I begin to change E.  As soon as I get E's pants off, he says he has to pee more, so he gets down out of the bed and I put J's pacifier in his mouth hoping it will last long enough for me to help E in the bathroom.
I turn around and E is standing on our bedroom carpet peeing.  I said, "No wait sweetie, lets go to the bathroom."  He stops and I get him to the toilet.
Meanwhile, J is crying and I can tell he has gotten up and is crawling towards the bed rail so I place E in front of the toilet and aim him just so as I run back into the bedroom and pick up my crying baby.
I help E finish up in the bathroom (with one hand) and come back to the bedroom with both boys.  I lie J down on the bed and he starts crying (loudly) again.  I quickly lie a towel down on the bed, pick up E, put on his dry clothing, cover him, and then lie down in the position.  The position is one in between the two boys where I can simultaneously nurse J in one direction while holding E's hand in the other direction.
Both boys scoot as close as humanly possible to me and drift back to sleep.

As I watch them sleep I have such mixed and intense emotions.
I hope that E knows how much I love him with all my heart even though my parenting has sank to an all time low and how I want to just scoop him up and savor each moment with him as I watch him continue to grow at an alarming rate.  How every time he goes through something new I worry and research and worry and research some more.  How I want to give him the very best of everything money cannot buy.
I see J cozy up in my arms (he has awoken and wants to be held), nursing, and so peacefully sleeping and think how little time he gets to just lie in his mamas arms like this and how sad I feel about that.  I spend all my day time hours making sure Elijah is loved, fed, getting his activity, loved, fed, not beating on J, loved, fed, not breaking things, etc...  I start to feel like the only time I have for J is to stop him from sucking on the toilet and electrical cords (although I am sure E thinks it is much more).  I know my little baby cries for me way more than I would like him too.

The hard truth is that my parenting has really taken a dive.  I hear myself say things I never would have said before like calling J a "handful" right in front of him or telling E at the end of the day to "stop touching me".  These moments keep me awake at night.

My house always has some sort of disorganization, the bathroom always smells like pee between a little boy with questionable aim and cloth diaper aroma, someone always needs me immediately, and I feel like I can never quite catch up.  They never nap at the same time, or for very long, and E hardly naps at all anymore, both boys want to nurse what feels like all day and all night.  I went from having a 90 min break in the middle of the day and several hours at night, to having an hour here and there at night maybe.

All that being said...
J laughs at every little move E makes and watches him ever so intently.
The look on J's face and the little laugh he utters whenever he makes it all the way to the toilet or tears off yet another leaf from our houseplants.
The way both boys want to touch me all day long and play with me.
The way they hold hands when they are sleeping.
Those rare moments when E and I can finally sit and talk or read without the baby needing mama or trying to grab the book.
The way E tells us he loves us at least twenty times a day.
The way they look at me when I enter a room.

and the moments when both boys are in my arms and I can smell each of them, feel there little arms and I know it is one of those moments I want to remember when I am old.
So besides maybe just a little less pee, I wouldn't change a thing.

My friend recently said, "these are the good old days".  I completely agree.