4 Things That I’m Thankful For

As the holiday season begins, I wanted to share a few things that I am thankful for:

1. The 2012 election cycle is over

As a resident of Ohio, I was bombarded with political ads for almost a year.  By the time it was all said and done, my daughter could tell you all of the names of the candidates and why to vote for or against them.  According to her, word was even out on the playground about whose parents were voting for who.  Funny and sad at the same time.  On another note, I’m also thankful that I won custody of my uterus.

2. I’m not putting up a Christmas tree

Living green things and me just don’t get along.  I have never been able to keep a plant alive for longer than 10 days, much less a tree!  The thought of having to provide water, food and shelter for one more is overwhelming.   But since we moved to Ohio, I have not even put up the artificial one—and I don’t miss it.  Hey, don’t judge!  We don’t spend Christmas there anyway and I make sure Journey gets to help decorate a tree—somewhere.

3. My child has outgrown Nick Jr.

I have mixed feelings about my baby growing up so fast, but at the same time, I am glad that some milestones are behind us.  Although I will miss some of my favorites like Mrs. Spider’s Sunny Patch Kids, Jack’s Big Music Show and Wow Wow Wubbzy—I don’t care if I see the irritating Wonder Pets or the oh so annoying Fresh Beat Band ever again!  And what’s the deal with Max and Ruby?  Clearly, the grandmother or Ruby’s Bunny Scout Leader should have called child protective services on the parents of this nortoriously unsupervised duo by now. But anyway….

4. I will have an extremely well-behaved child for the next 30 days

I love having an arsenal of threats to use this close to Christmas!  Even the mere thought of Santa not stopping by still carries a lot of weight around my house.  And I plan to take full advantage.  Last year, I added an Elf on the Shelf to the mix, which made it even better.  Each night after she goes to bed, the elf “reports” the day’s behavior to Santa.  Between the Elf on the Shelf, Santa and Santa’s elves, Journey thinks she’s under surveillance 24/7 from now until Christmas Day.  Then her payback begins.
On a serious note, I am so thankful to be spending another holiday with my friends and family with “no link broken in the chain” as my grandmother always says when she blesses our meals.  In case you don’t know, it means that we all lived to see another year and are able to gather in good health and good spirits.  My daughter also recorded a video to share what she is thankful for.

Happy Turkey Day!


Lost: Does Your Child Know What To Do?

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Do you know who Paula Ebert is?  She’s the overprotective mom in the funny Capri Sun commercial.  It’s funny because if you are a parent, you totally understand Paula’s desire to protect her child at all costs, even at the risk of making a fool of herself.  But for every parent, there is that gut wrenching moment when you realize that you cannot protect your child from the world.   And if you don’t want to think about it, there is usually some awful news story that will remind you.  The reality is that no matter hard you try, at some point you will lose sight of your child.  If and when this happens, you know what to do.  But does your child know what to do?

Teaching your child how to stay safe as they continue to explore their independence and test boundaries, is as important as teaching them their ABC’s.   As the frenzy of holiday shopping and large crowds is upon us, take a minute to see how your child might answer the six questions below:

1. What is a stranger and why are they dangerous?

When Journey was about 3, I bought a book to help lead our safety discussion called   “Don’t Talk To Strangers.”  This easy-to-follow book covers various situations that children face each day—from being approached by someone they actually know, to internet danger, to being offered candy—and the safest way to handle them.

 2. What does a “bad person” looks like? 

When asked this question, Journey (like most kids) described a scary, monster-like figure.  I had to explain that a bad person does not wear a mean face and may look just like mommy, daddy, their teacher and many other safe people they know.

3. What are the rules to remember before leaving the house?

I realized that telling Journey not to talk to strangers was not enough—especially when often times, I asked her to do the exact opposite.  How many times have you made small talk with a stranger and encouraged your child to “say hello”?  Journey actually brought this to my attention and made me realize I was sending her mixed messages.  So to be clear, I emphasized that she is only allowed to speak to strangers if we are together.  If she is not by my side, she is not to speak to anyone.  Period.   She also knows that she must stay close to me (which = 5 paces away) and not run ahead of me or wander away.

 4. Do you know what to do if you get lost?

No matter how many rules are in place, at some point or another, they will be broken.  Journey knows if she does get lost, she should:

  • NOT leave the store or whatever area that we are in.
  • Go to a counter or register to ask for help (if we are in a store).
  • Ask a police officer, security guard or a mom (described as a woman who has children with her) for help.

Depending on where we are going, I have also found it helpful to identify security guards and employee uniforms upon arrival so that she knows exactly who to look for if she gets lost.

 5. What do you do if someone touches you or tries to take you away?

In the event that the absolute WORST happens and someone tries to abduct your child, they should know what to do to escape to a safe place.  I tell Journey to:

  • Yell as loud as she possibly can.
  • Kick, scream, scratch, do whatever it takes to alert those around her and get away.

6.  Do I talk to you enough about saying safe so that you remember what to do when something goes wrong?

None of these tips will matter if you only tell your child once or twice.  When I first bought the book, we read and the discussed it several times a week at the beginning and continue to read it often so that she remembers the helpful tips.  I also use weekly outings as opportunities to casually quiz her about safety dos and don’ts.  Depending on the nature, I may share a news story or show her a video of an attempted abduction and what the child did to get away.   The point of this is not to scare her, but rather give her the strength and courage to handle herself in different situations.

Journey thought this information might sound better coming from one kid to another, so she recorded a video that you can share with your child.

In Journey’s words, “Stay safe kids!”

Got any other great safety tips?  Please leave comments and I will share.

Can You Bully-Proof Your Kid?

Bullying has gained increased public awareness over the last few years.  If you think back, I am sure you can recall a time when you were bullied, or when you were the bully.   Recently, it hit close to home with my 6 year-old daughter Journey.  She came home about a month after school complaining that she had a scrape on her hand from being pushed down.  We had a conversation and I chalked it up to playground roughhousing.  About a week later, it happened again.  This time I got more of the back-story and found out that she plays football everyday with the boys during recess.   The boys starting teasing her because she is the only girl who plays.  She ignored them and kept playing.  Realizing that the teasing was not having an effect, eventually the boys stopped and she continued to play.  Except for one little boy.  This time he tackled her, even though it is not allowed on the playground.  “Did he apologize”, I asked.  “No”, she replied.  “Did you tell the teacher?”  “Yes, she made him take a break.”  I also told her to ask for an apology the next day at school.  A few weeks later, it happened again.  This time, I contacted the teacher to fill her in on the situation.  It was the beginning of October and there was no way we were going to deal with this behavior for the entire school year.  I was very careful to acknowledge that I only had one side of the story, but we definitely had a problem.  The teacher spoke with both kids and thankfully the issue seems to have been resolved.

There are 2 things that I learned from this experience:

It’s hard to bully a confident kid

I’m sure the boys teased Journey with hopes that she would quit the game.  But she didn’t let it phase her one bit.   She was confident enough to be different and not let others stop her from doing what she wanted to do.  When I asked her why she didn’t stop playing, she said, “I had to fight through it, that’s what brave girls do.”

The fine line between “kids being kids” and when to get involved

It is a parent’s instinct to want to jump in and “handle” every situation that your kids get into.  My husband was ready to roll on the kid at recess like Cam did on the boy who pulled Lily’s hair in a recent episode of Modern Family.  But letting them figure out some things for themselves is part of what will make them strong and independent.  While it was appropriate to step in when it was obvious that this was a pattern of unsuitable behavior, I don’t believe it’s my place to fight all of Journey’s battles.   But it is my job to give her the tools she needs to learn how to fight them herself.   Asking for an apology is one example.  Kids push and hit each other quite often at this age—most times by accident, sometimes on purpose.  A teacher or parent won’t always be there to prompt an apology, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.  When you ask for an apology, what you are really asking is that the person acknowledges the hurt caused by their actions intentionally or otherwise.  Realizing this at such a young age will certainly have a long-term effect on how Journey treats other and allows others to treat her.

Journey has since moved on to play other games on the playground.  I’m sure this won’t be our last encounter with a “bully”, but as long as she has the confidence to fight through it like brave girls do, I know she’ll be fine.