Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

I will be more patient with my children and not lose my temper when they’re just acting like kids.

I will not overindulge my children, but will teach them to have pride in earning things for themselves.

I will be more grateful for my children.

I will quit worrying!

I will nurture my children’s spiritual health by taking them to my church, synagogue, mosque or other religious organization.

I will try to get my kids outside more and involved in activities other than video games, computers and television.

I will make sure my family has dinner together at least 3 times a week.

I will read more books to my children.

I will encourage my children’s grandparents to spend more time with them.

I will pray for those who desperately want children and have been unable to have them.

I will let my teenagers learn the consequences of their actions on their own instead of always stepping in to prevent them from making mistakes.

I will get my preschoolers potty-trained!

I will remember that my husband needs attention, too.

I will do more to pamper myself, and not feel guilty about it!

I will take better care of myself—lose weight, eat healthier, get check-ups, etc.—so that I have the energy and stamina to keep up with my kids.

I will prepare healthier foods for my family.

I will teach how my children how to care about others through volunteer work.

I will take a vacation without the kids and enjoy it.

I will tell my children I love them every single day.

I will rediscover the joy of life, just like a child.

Friday, December 29, 2006

When Children Have Imaginary Friends

My teenagers will probably be totally embarrassed that I’m telling you this, but they both had imaginary friends when they were younger. My oldest had a best friend that he dubbed "Scooter," while my second son had a whole cast of characters, including "Tinky" and "Tommy." It was quite amusing to have them in the house. Of course, these imaginary friends were easy scapegoats when one of my boys did something wrong ("Tinky broke the lamp"), but they were also great entertainment for the boys. "Mommy," they would ask, "can Scooter stay for dinner? He likes pizza, too." I loved to play along by setting a place for Scooter.

Some parents worry that their kids might be a little mentally unbalanced if they create this fantasy world, but, to the contrary, these children are often very intelligent. These same kids frequently become very creative adults; imaginary friends are just a natural extension of "pretend play." Often, these friends come in the form of children, but they may also be animals or other types of beings.

Experts say that about 65 percent of kids create imaginary friends, most frequently between the ages of 3 and 5. Some continue to play with their friends even when they enter elementary school. And imaginary friends help kids deal with sometimes difficult emotions, such as anger, frustration, or loneliness. They also help children maintain a sense of control, a natural struggle that young children deal with. You’ll notice that this imaginary friend rarely "disagrees" with your child and always follows his lead.

Parents need only be concerned if their child becomes so attached to this make-believe friend that he excludes all others, or if the attachment starts to interfere with his social adjustment. Most of the time, children naturally outgrow their imaginary friends. Sometimes there’s an abrupt break, and your child will announce that "Scotty" moved out of town. But most of the time, they gradually fade away. In the meantime, it’s often fun and informative to listen in on your child’s conversation with his imaginary pal. It provides a window for viewing your child’s creativity and emotions.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Best Christmas Gift Ever

My oldest "baby" is seventeen now, but for all his wisdom I’m sure he doesn’t believe he was the best Christmas present I ever received. The eighties were drawing to a close, and I was told to expect my baby around November 30, 1989. This would be a very special Thanksgiving for us, but November passed into December, and still there was no baby. My belly grew rounder and rounder, but my little firstborn seemed content to stay huddled inside. After all, it was unusually cold that year for a Florida winter! Eleven days into December, I received a call from my doctor. "This baby may be trying to greet Jesus on his birthday," he said, "but I think we’d better give him a little nudge." So, the next morning, I waddled into the hospital and delivered my beautiful almost-Christmas baby. An enormous 9 pounds, 13-1/2 ounces, he was perfect in every way . . . just as I always imagined the little baby Jesus had been. Dylan’s arrival just two weeks before Christmas put a little kink in my preparations for that year, but nobody seemed to mind. He was my parents’ very first grandchild, so he was their best Christmas present, too! And every year when December arrives, our family celebrates the best gift that God ever gave our family at Christmastime -- our very own Christmas baby to love.

". . . and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son." -- Luke 2:7

Monday, December 18, 2006

Trust Your Instincts When It Comes to Your Kids’ Medical Care

One year, I decided to take my two oldest sons to a new dentist. We had moved some distance away from their pediatric dentist, so I wanted to try someone closer to our new home. This new dentist was even recommended by our orthodontist’s receptionist. When the dentist finished examining my boys, he told me that they had two cavities each and, therefore, would need a total of four fillings. Immediately, red flags started to go up in my mind. One of my sons had had a small cavity several years before, but other than that, they had great dental health and hadn’t changed their brushing habits. Why would they suddenly have so many cavities? I decided to seek a second opinion with their former dentist. It was definitely worth the drive! The boys had NO cavities! There was no sign of decay. Obviously, the new dentist had seen an opportunity to make some extra income! (I also became suspicious when the receptionist refused to provide a discount for two children.)

Another time, I took one of my sons to a specialist because he’d had a history of sinus infections and snoring. When we got to the office, the room was just packed with people. It was a zoo, with children crawling all over the place. We had to wait an hour-and-a-half to get in, and the staff was incredibly rude. When the doctor finally showed up, he never even touched my son. He shined a light in his throat for two seconds and announced, “Yup, let’s schedule him for surgery.” When I tried to ask him questions, he treated me like I was stupid, and he answered very condescendingly. I also noticed that there were an awful lot of people being scheduled for surgery. This guy had an assembly line going on! Needless to say, I knew this was NOT the guy I wanted to perform an operation on my young son.

I tell these stories not to criticize the medical profession, but rather just to urge you to use caution when you take your children to the dentist or doctor. There are many, many wonderful professionals who will take good care of your family. But, just as in any profession, there are a few rotten eggs. If, at any time, a red flag goes up for you when you’re visiting a particular doctor, heed the voice within. Get a second opinion. Don’t be afraid to trust your judgment. It could make a major difference not only in your finances, but, most importantly, in the quality of your children’s health.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Birthdays and Barf

Where have I been lately? Celebrating birthdays and cleaning up barf. The twins’ third birthday was last Saturday. Austen threw up at the dinner table, and spent the rest of the night doing the same. He and I spent a very uncomfortable night trying to sleep on old blankets and towels on the living room floor! Sunday night was Caleb’s turn, and another night for me on the floor. Monday, my husband came home from work with the same afflictions. On Tuesday, my oldest son celebrated his 17th birthday by barfing all day. My parents made the unfortunate choice of visiting on Sunday, so now they’re suffering, too. Only my second son and I have thus far escaped the wrath of this mighty bug! Will we be next? Stomach flu is miserable. Several days later, my husband and the twins are still sore and achy, sleeping a lot. Times like these force us all to slow down and get some rest—certainly not a bad thing. Lying like a slug on the couch and watching Christmas specials on TV (during those rare waking hours) is actually kind of fun. Okay, not exactly fun, but a nice change of pace from our normal crazy run around the rat race. If you’re home sick right now, or find yourself in that position in the near future, alleviate your suffering by taking the time to appreciate a slower pace of life and a chance to do absolutely nothing but take care of yourself. You deserve it!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Kids Need Your Attention

I’m discovering more and more that my kids are more likely to act up when I’m not giving them my full attention. As soon as I answer the phone or pick up a magazine, they start racing around the house, wrestling with each other, or clinging to my legs. It can be extremely frustrating when I can’t even run to the bathroom or put in a load of laundry without worrying about the scene I’ll find on my return. But then, as soon as I put down the magazine and say, “Let’s read a book together,” they run off to get the book and climb onto the couch next to me. Yes, let’s face it, kids are self-centered and care only about their own needs, not yours. They want you to make them happy. They don’t want you to pursue your own interests; they want to be the center of your existence. This can be demoralizing for parents who feel as if they’ve lost a part of themselves when they had kids. For instance, I used to be a voracious reader, and could spend all day immersed in a good novel. Now, I have a ten-page list of books that I’d love to read “some day.” When a new novel comes out that sounds really good, I feel a pang of regret that I just won’t have time to read it. I might as well use my Barnes & Noble gift certificates for a Caillou or Elmo book. I have a list of movies that I haven’t had a chance to see either! But life is always a series of choices. We simply can’t have—or do—it all. When it comes right down to it, which would I rather do . . . have all the time in the world to read alone in a quiet house, or discover the joy of butterflies with my children in the garden? Some day my kids will be more interested in spending time with their friends than with me. They’ll want to be entertained by their video games or sporting events, not by their mother. Of course, knowing this isn’t going to take away my anger when I have to apologize to a caller for the screaming in the background, or when I have to miss a TV program I’ve been dying to see because I can’t hear it over the children’s noise, but those feelings are fleeting. My overriding emotions are love and gratitude for my children—who want me to be with them—and that makes me feel good.