Reading is Fundamental (and other related matters)

Nana is now officially a card carrying member of the public library. I was excited and made it into a big deal.  I took pictures of her with her spanking new library card which she solemnly presented  librarian for her inaugural checkout. So why am I still kicking myself in the rear end and writing blogs about how guilty I feel?

Let’s unpack, shall we.

I love the library.  My mother was a elementary school teacher so we went to the library…a lot.   We didn’t go to just any branch library, we went to the big downtown library that had a whole floor dedicated to little people.  I explored every nook and cranny of the library, reading through Judy Blume, Chronciles of Narnia and pick-your-ending books. Plus the libraries had computers!

My mother had the super duper teacher’s library card so when I reach my checkout limit, I could add some to her pile.  Our plastic bags with the strings (remember those) would be filled to the brim. I would sneak books upstairs into bed, my faced pressed up against the window trying to get the last light before dusk turned into full blown night.

What would make someone who has such an affinity for reading and a love for the library wait a year before taking their own child to the library?

I hated really did not like reading those books.

At first it was fun, our nightly routine of reading books and cuddling. I felt all mommyific.  But soon it became a struggle.  Those books for two-year-olds are mind-numbing.  They were hella interesting to Nana, but I was loosing my mind reading Boom Chicka Boom every night.

I tried to make it interesting and make up other stories to go with the pictures, but kids these days are so fussy.  “Mommy, that’s not the words!”

“Okay, Okay.  Goodnight kittens, goodnight mittens.”  Dang.

I tried making up voices, but they all sounded the same.  I started singing the books to entertain myself.  “If you give a pi-ii-iigggg a paa-aaan-cayayayake.”

Reading a children’s book is only 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes max. But those minutes were like dog minutes.  Nana didn’t make it easier, wanting to hold the book, turning the pages too early, then turning them back.  Imagine Nana and I wrestling over the book in the rocking chair.  If you don’t let me get through this book little girl.

As she got older, I couldn’t skip pages anymore.  Then she started reading the book back to me after I finished.  Noooooo!

I started skipping nights every now and then.  Then two nights would go by.  And then a week.  And then for the past couple of months we didn’t have reading in our nightly routine anymore.  And that just wasn’t right.

Wood and I had a conversation about the fact that when your child gets older, they will have lots of opinions about what you could have done differently.  I want to feel confident that I did the best I could. So when I find areas where my knowing better isn’t matching up with doing better, there is a problem.

Reading to Nana regularly, especially during these formative years, is incredibly important for our attachment, her language skills, concentration, and overall interest in reading later in life.  It was an incredible gift that my mother gave to me and I have a responsibility to pass that on to Nana.

So say hello to the newest regular visitors to the library.

 

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Imagine If…I’d Rather Not

A couple of days ago, I mentioned to Wood that my mother and sister really want to move closer so they can be a part of Nana’s daily life. My sister’s connection to Nana has been amazing – she is always sending her things in the mail and sending me articles about parenting. My mother loves to have Google Hangouts where she can see Nana running around in the background.  Moving closer is an ongoing discussion in our family. Wood agreed that their support was more than we initially imagined  (considering their personalities) but added, “imagine how they would act if this was your biological daughter.”

I got the screw face because whet? My entire family wants to move across the country for Nana. What more could they do for their niece or grandchild, biological or not?

It bothered me but I left it alone, assuming it was just a slip of the tongue.

But this weekend, it came up again. Wood and I were talking about Nana’s complete disregard for the Coach’s instructions at soccer this weekend. He said, “Imagine if that was your biological daughter, she would be even worse.” He went on with some joke about my independence and how stubborn my daughter would be.

*pump the brakes*

Two times in a week is starting to be a habit. And it’s clear that a comparison between Nana and what our biological child might act like is on his mind.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. Nana is his princess. There is nothing about his parenting that would make me think that he doesn’t love her fiercely and completely.   He is her biggest cheerleader and she is truly a daddy’s girl. So I know his comment didn’t mean to indicate that he doesn’t see Nana as his daughter.

But right now as Nana goes through this threenager phase, she is an enigma to both of us. She doesn’t listen, messes up her room in a CRAZY way, puts random things in her mouth, tears up her books, jumps on the couch, touches things that have BEEN off-limits, cries every night before bed, negotiates with ever direction given, pours water on her head, and in general just acts like every day is OPPOSITE DAY.

We are so out of our league with this. Most of the time we are wondering if an alien inhabited her body. It is annoying. And tiring. And funny sometimes. Like when she gave her dad the four-finger hand point and said in the cutest, but very serious, voice, “Daddy, do not close my bedroom door again. Okay.” You had to be there.

I read a book – okay, okay, I read an article – and it said that this is normal. So while it can be draining, I realize we need to just stay calm, find the humor in it and wait for the storm to pass. *shrug*

But maybe Wood sees this as a personality quirk that can’t be attributed to us as her adoptive parents and wonders if a biological child would act differently.

With a biological child, you can ask your mother about the craziness that your child is putting you through and she can assure you that you acted the exact same way and turned out okay. With adoption, there is no historical reference and so it feels like you are constantly walking into the unknown. With a biological child, you can point to certain personality traits and assume they “got it from they mama”, but with adoption, who knows where nature ends and nurture begins.

I’m not ready to call this an issue yet, but it is something that I will keep my eye on. If there are still some lingering issues related to our fertility and not being able to have a biological child, we need to address them. Parenting in the here and now is hard enough without having to consider the “what ifs.”

I’m Officially a Soccer Mom

Saturday was Nana’s first day of soccer!

Nana was excited, not because she had any idea of what soccer is, but because her “best friend” Gigi was going to be there. I totally got it.  Getting to hang out with your girlfriend outside of working hours is a guaranteed good time.

She chattered and sang the whole way to the fitness club.  We both share singing as an expression of happiness so I love listening to her random nursery rhyme remixes.  This was sing-a-long on steroids because she was constant and LOUD for the entire 20 minute drive.

The class was filled with little ones ranging from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years old with all that wonderful kid energy that keeps you young. Some kids were running around and shrieking, some were being tended to by their parents. Nana got swept up in the energy and immediately ran into the mix. Those little legs were a-running.

Speaking of running, home girl is definitively un-fast.  Tortoise slow. Matrix slow.  Ketchup in a bottle slow.  You know how in cartoons the character’s legs are moving but they are running in place. Yeah, that’s Nana.  She is forever trying to race somebody though.  It is amazingly cute.

We picked soccer very deliberately. Nana is extremely social and easily distracted. She tends to follow the crowd and wants to always be in the mix. She is so busy that she doesn’t listen and finds it hard to finish a task to completion.  These are all normal three-year-old developmental milestones that some kids reach a little later than others.  I was willing to wait it out and let her mature a bit, but since her teachers have mentioned this listening thing multiple times, we needed to do something.

We get it.  Our child doesn’t listen. *sigh*

We hoped that soccer will help her with listening and following directions, focusing on a single activity and burning off this incredible amount of energy that she has.  Unrealistic expectations, much?

After a couple of minutes watching the kids warm up, I realized that I was a tad bit anxious. Real talk? I was stressed. Most of my time was spent comparing Nana’s behavior to the other children and keeping a running commentary in my head.

The other children are all lined up and waiting for directions, why is Nana running over here?  Oh, okay, that kid is rolling around on the ground, and that one is crying to her dad. Nana is doing alright then.  Yeah! She kicked in three balls and some of those kids only kicked in one.  She’s a natural! Wait, why is she picking up the ball with her hands?  Seriously Nana!  Pay attention!  Aww…look at her. She is so cute when she is running in place. Yay! She did it!

Wood was tense too.  We both stepped onto the field multiple times to help redirect Nana’s attention to the coach.  We would retreat back to the sidelines, arms crossed, physically forcing ourselves to stay put and just let her have fun. We had to remind ourselves that she’s only three.  Having fun is the point, right?

We weren’t alone. Other parents would step in to help their children, but I was hyper aware of how much time we spent in correction mode. When we weren’t fixing her, we were smiling through gritted teeth, making small talk with the other parents and trying our best to have fun and not be “those parents.”

Why was it so hard for us to just relax?

I admit that it’s hard to disassociate myself from Nana’s actions. The reality is that people see your child’s behavior as an expression of your parenting skills. If your child is running around and not following directions, then folks may think you are too lenient. If you child is way too focused and seems introverted, folks may wonder what’s wrong with them.

And as quiet as it’s kept, there is also an underlying racial component. Studies have shown that black children are judged more harshly even when doing the same things as their white counterparts. A lot of my reactions stem from an unspoken fear that someone will write my child off as the little sassy black girl that can’t follow directions.

How can we raise a #carefreeblackgirl when we have all these standards and expectations? When will she get the opportunity to just be, if not as a three-year-old?

I’m sure this will continue to be a struggle for us as we try to balance her opportunity to have fun and be a kid with our own internal concerns about how she is perceived.  Who knew that being a soccer mom came with all these extra bags?

Doing it Wrong: Picture Day

Doing Nana’s hair every day is more than a notion. My supply of barrettes and bands continues to dwindle.  Plus, I’m not all that excited about manipulating her hair so much because of the breakage.

Plus the time.  Everyday – taking it down, moisturizing, parting, banding, twisting.  It’s one of the reasons why we are late running out of the door.  So, I usually try to braid it into cornrows on wash day to give me  an entire week of get dressed and go.

Two weeks ago, I gave Nana cornrows as usual but the end result was AWFUL.  I mean, when I got done, she looked like she had a mushroom on her head. It was so mannish.  She looked like a little boy.  It was uncute.  The opposite of cute.  Everything but cute.

But…it was done.  And she’s two.  I mean, who is she trying to impress.  I put a pink barrette on it and kept it moving.

That hairstyle was so ugly but it was extra hardy.  It held up with an acceptable level of fuzziness after a week.  I was impressed with myself.  So much so that when Wood asked me on Sunday if I was going to take it down, I thought nah.  It can hold up another week.

On Monday afternoon, the school director sent a reminder.  Picture day tomorrow!

OMG! Seriously?  She absolutely cannot take a picture with a mushroom head.

I am so grateful for Wood who, after receiving my panicked phone call, took down most of her hair by the time I got home.  The next day, I was able to put her hair in a cute side ponytail.

For picture day, the parents drop off a change of clothes and the daycare workers dress the children for you. Our fingers are crossed that the pictures come out okay.

Keeping on top of everything that Nana needs for school keeps me on my toes.  Every time I think I’m on top and am prepared for Nana’s activities, something happens to bring me back to reality.

 

 

 

 

Public Parenting Is Not Always Good Parenting

“Don’t talk to your kids unless you are loving them.”

That quote by Susan at Love Hurts keeps running through my head juxtaposed against the picture that Kevin Jones posted of his daughter on Facebook.  According to his post, Kevin Jones learned that his 10 year old daughter had acquired some social media accounts, was lying about her age and was dating a boy, all without her permission. In rkevin_jones_daughteresponse, he dressed her in an air-brushed shirt that read, “I’m 10 Years Old” on the front and “5th Grader” on the back and posted her from all angles on Facebook, with an update letting the public know that this was her punishment and that she was 5’9″ at 10 years old.

kevin_jones_facebook_post

 

The post went viral, passed around on Facebook and re-tweeted, which is how I found out about it.  Most of the responses were positive, praising the father for his work.  Randy Moneymaker Mills wrote,”It’s better than a shot gun or a grandchild. Keep up the good work. Other dads and moms should learn something from this.”


Before Nana, I don’t know if I would have thought much about this.  It’s definitely not the first time I’ve seen instances of public parenting.  A couple of years ago there was a lot of hub-hub about the father who videotaped himself spanking his two daughters that had posted YouTube videos of themselves twerking.

I grew up with public instances of parenting. I remember mothers showing up at elementary school after numerous calls from the teacher and whipping their children in the coat closets, upset about having to take off from their job to come see about them. I used to see children embarrassed by their parents  in grocery stores, in church hallways, on the street corner in front of friends, at the mall.

You were punished right at the scene of the crime and being a public spectacle was part of the punishment.  Parents that did the most in front of other folks were applauded, similar to the response that Kevin Jones received.  If you embarrassed your parents by getting in trouble, the parent had to right to embarrass you back exponentially.  Plus, it was almost a guarantee that your children wouldn’t do THAT again.

Except it wasn’t.  Because those same children that were whooped in the hall closet were cutting up in class the next week, kids that were dragged off the corner by their mother in curlers and house shoes were back outside after the street lights came on, and girls who got exposed by their fathers for talking to boys still did it, they just got smarter about it.


I find myself being more stressed when Nana misbehaves in public, not just because she didn’t respond to my request, but because of what her behavior might say about me as a parent. People might think that I don’t have control over my child, or that she doesn’t respect me, or that I always allow her to misbehave.  Since I’m really feeling vulnerable about being a good mother in that moment, I take her behavior personally.   My response is usually more harsh than normal.  I might raise my voice wanting those around me to hear that I disapprove of her behavior.  In reality though, I’m not at my best, nor my most loving, when I feel exposed in my parenting.

That’s how I see this story of Jones and his daughter.  Perhaps he was scared of what could happen to his ten-year-old daughter when talking to older boys or angry that his child defied his rules.  Regardless of the reason, ego or fear, he basically called his daughter a #fasttailedgirl in front of the entire world, something that will live on forever on the internet.

Contrary to popular opinion, this wasn’t good parenting, it was expedient parenting. It was much easier to embarrass his daughter publicly than to take the amount of concentrated time to focus on a child 10 years old but taller than most grown women and possibly dealing with body and mood changes due to early puberty.   It takes much less time to post pictures on the internet than to have conversations with her about her changing body, listen to her, provide safe spaces for her to explore social media or interactions with the opposite sex with parental guidance and oversight.

As a new parent, I’m constantly looking at instances in parenting, weighing them for legitimacy, determining which ones should be incorporated into our lives.  The situation with Jones and his daughter, and in retrospect, most instances of public parenting, are practices that I might skip.  Because there is always the possibility that ego or fear may override the love and concern that was intended.

doing it wrong: halloween

Doing it Wrong: Halloween

It all started with a frantic phone call to another parent.  Well, let me rewind this back a few weeks.

Wood and I started the conversation about Halloween a few weeks ago.  We’ve never been big Halloween people.  We don’t typically dress up, no children come trick-or-treating, we just hang out at home. We both were raised in church and have some familiarity with trick-or-treating but both of our families leaned towards something church-based and benign versus Halloween parties and spending a lot of energy on decorating and dressing up.  Sometimes I look wistfully at other folks pictures and think huh, that looks like a cute bonding experience for couples, but generally I’ve been fine with keeping the lights off on this holiday.

That all changed when Nana came along.

We started talking about if we would get Nana a costume, would we participate in any activities and generally how much we wanted to buy into the celebration.  Wood was still pretty strongly against Halloween while I kind supported the idea of getting our children dolled up, being creative and having fun.  I think there are two ways to celebrate any holiday, the religious standpoint and the secular part. If Nana is dressed up like a bumble-bee, are we really supporting a pagan celebration?  Plus, I don’t want her to miss out on the fun and the grandparents want pictures.  These are real issues, man.

So we compromised, as a good married couple should.

Wood didn’t have any strong objection while Nana was little so he was fine with her getting a costume and we will continue to revisit this conversation yearly.

So that was that.  Nana is getting a costume! She is going Trunk-or-Treating!

Sidebar: I really don’t like that name.  So if I don’t give them a treat, what happens to my trunk?  Why are we having pre-schoolers close to random folks in trunks anyway.  The whole thing sounds a little nutty to me.

I ordered a Doc McStuffing coat and bag from Amazon, a purple striped shirt and pink skirt  and some stockings from Old Navy for $14 and was ready to go.  I introduced Nana to the cartoon – she doesn’t watch much tv – and now she is lightweight obsessed.  But she had to know who she was, right?

So I’m sitting back, all smug about this Halloween caper until my Amazon Prime failed me.  As of Monday, my costume hadn’t been shipped even though it was supposed to arrive on Tuesday.   On Tuesday, they had updated the expected arrival date to Weds.  Uhmmm, the trunk-or-treat is on Thursday, that is cutting it close.  This morning, it still hadn’t shipped. I called Amazon and they were like, hmmm. That’s strange.  We’ll ship one overnight but it won’t get there until Thursday.   *sad face*

Plus, I had only focused on the outfit and NOTHING else.  What in the heck is a trunk-or-treat really? All of sudden, I had a vision of the parking lot with elaborately decorated tables in front of each trunk, parents decked out in their Halloween costumes with pinter-etsy inspired snack bags filled with organic fruit snacks made of burlap, stamped with pumpkins and tied with raffia ribbon.  Oh no!  I’m so unprepared.  I don’t even have any candy or fruit or anything.  I have so many questions. And the Trunk-or-Treat is tomorrow.

So I made a frantic phone call to another parent to get my questions asked.  Of course, Mimi is doing it wrong so it’s off to the party supply store.

Sidebar: Did ya’ll know that little kid costumes are 30+ dollars?  And these outfits can’t be worn again they are SOOO cheaply made.  It kind of tripped me out that people were in there buying these very expensive costumes for multiple children.  That bothers me.   I had no idea that there was so much consumerism and expectations around Halloween.  It just feels like one more thing that parents have to manage financially.  

After looking around the tutus, sexy vampires and scary masks, I high-tailed it out of there and ran to Target.  I picked up a lab coat (fingers still crossed that I get the one I ordered), some spider webby stuff, a green t-shirt and stripped undershirt, so I can dress up as Doc McStuffin’s mom, and two big bags of candy – no peanuts.   Oh wait.  They said no hard candy and I have suckers.  Does that count? Dang, Mimi is doing it wrong again.

I’ll be back this weekend to let you know how it turned out.

hair barrettes

Bows, Balls, Barrettes…Oh My!

I’m an old school momma so Nana’s hair is either in braids or ponytails.  If she has in ponytails, then she typically has balls on her ponytail holders and barrettes on the ends.

black girl hair style

After we had our first visit with Nana, I couldn’t wait to buy ALL the hair accessories.  I stocked up with all colors, pastels, primary, it didn’t matter.  I bought large and small ponytail holders in every color.  I bought all the good rubber bands.  One our good friends sent a Kaboodle with some additional accessories.  It was perfect.  Just what I needed to keep everything together.

But somehow over the past six months, my supply of accessories has been dwindling. I am now down to about 20 barrettes (in the worst colors) and I have no idea how this is happening.

The barrettes are on Nana’s head when she comes home but somehow they aren’t quite making it back to the Kaboodle.  If I didn’t know better, I would guess that Wood is secretly tossing them.  I’ve even ransacked Nana’s room thinking she might be squirreling them away. Nothing.

*shrug* It’s a mystery.  They are probably hanging out with the missing socks from the laundry.

Now this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem since the barrettes and beads were pretty cheap, but I just can’t find them in my neighborhood.  I have to make a trek over to the other side of town to find a beauty supply store.  I have tried Target, Walgreens, Walmart, Sallie’s Beauty Supply and even the Dollar Tree on my side of town and no bueno.

So until then, Nana will just have to make do with a head full of mix-matched colors.

In Search of Good Books About Parenting Toddlers

Remember when I was bragging about my wonderful child, Nana.  Terrible Twos?  What are you talking about.   And you say three is worse?  Pshaw.  She’s not that kind of child.  She is rainbows and sunshine, sugar and spice and everything nice.

Sooo. Yeah.  I was wrong about that.  Nana is slowly becoming a child who disobeys me while looking me straight in the face. She sometimes has the nerve to have a sly look while doing it. She is slowful,  taking forever to follow a simple direction.

That child doesn’t know that sometimes she is working that one nerve.  You know that last good one.

So in order to preserve that one nerve, and perhaps nurse the other ones back to health, I’ve decided to do some research through reading books about parenting toddlers.  I plan to read the books and share my thoughts about what things resonated with me and what parts wouldn’t work for our family.  I would love for folks to join along with me.

The first book will be “The Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful, and Cooperative One- to Four-Year-Old” by Dr. Harvey Karp.  It was recommended by the assistant director at our daycare when I expressed frustration with Nana’s behaviors.

Happiest Toddler on the Block Parenting Book

The synopsis reads:

In one of the most revolutionary advances in parenting of the past twenty-five years, Dr. Karp revealed that toddlers often act like uncivilized little cavemen, with a primitive way of thinking and communicating that is all their own. In this revised edition of his parenting classic, Dr. Karp has made his innovative approach easier to learn—and put into action—than ever before.

I’m not too thrilled with the words used in this synopsis but I’ll reserve judgement until I read the book.  I’ve ordered it through Amazon Prime so I expect to be reading it soon.

In the meantime, I would love for you to drop the names of your favorite toddler parenting books in the comments.  I have a feeling that I’m going to be reading a lot more books…

Doing It Wrong: Mustache Day

I got an email from the director, “Don’t forget it’s mustache day tomorrow!”

Ahh, good ole mustache day. Whatever that is! And yes, we had pajama day and mustache day on back-to-back weeks. I know, right!

So, I’m going to be honest with you.  I was out getting my toenails done.   #TreatYoSelf.  I could have ran over to the Target or the Dollar Store and found a mustache.  But I actively chose not to and now needed a good excuse to support my laziness conscientious objection.  Here’s a few that I came up with.

  • We don’t celebrate Mustache Day.  It’s against our religion.
  • We don’t support mustaches on women.  We’ve been fighting this battle in our house since 1999.  #truestory
  • None of the mustaches matched her hair texture.  This day is racist.
  • We don’t support this patriarchal bullhooey.  Why does my daughter have to look like a man to get any recognition around here?
  • There was a run on fake mustaches in my area.  Some sort of Walker, Texas Ranger fetish fan club convention last weekend.

We walked in and I felt immediate kinship with the other parents and their wild-eye looks, surreptitiously checking out children’s faces for mustaches. I, too relaxed my shoulders and released an almost inaudible sigh of relief when no mustaches were to be found.  It’s like we all had a secret parents meeting and agreed to not mention mustache day.  Yay for our secret rebellion.

Until I walked into Nana’s room and her teacher turned around and grinned – with a frickin’ mustache.   Nana started crying.  Mustache day.  Really?