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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

The blog I posted last week about potty training led to some interesting discussions, especially on whether or not the fact that toddlers are training later today means we are doing things better or worse than we did 100 years ago. To be honest, I don’t have strong opinions on the matter. My kids did not potty train especially early and at four, Cooper still has accidents at school when he is distracted or too shy to tell a teacher that he needs to go. I am just as busy and on-the-go as any mom is today so the observations I made were based on my own experiences as well as those of my parent-friends who are also busy and potty-training. However, one of the reasons why children may have been trained earlier a century ago is because all children were cloth diapered and all diapers had to be hand-washed—i.e. Parent Motivated Potty Training because the results made the lives of parents easier. Some of the techniques parents used would be seen as cruel today—the use of suppositories to get the child to eliminate in a desired place at a desired time, for example. Today, our collective mindset is very different—let the child learn at his or her own pace, don’t force them to use the potty or train until they are “ready.” This made me think about other ways of “training children” today which are Parent Motivated and sleep immediately came to mind.

Lauren, 8 weeks

Lauren, 8 weeks

Parents of newborns (wiping the grit from their bleary eyes as they struggle to read this and cradle a new baby at the same time) know that night and day have little meaning to the brand new people in their care. In fact, my own babies often seemed to drift off best to the white noise and constant motion of a busy day and they perked up in the quiet stillness of the night. I haven’t heard of many parents who have unrealistic expectations about their very young infants sleeping through the night. Most of us accept that we will be woken up to feed, snuggle with or change the diaper of our new babies several times a night for at least the first few months of their lives.

Once our babies are plump, smiling three or four month olds, and we parents are puffy-eyed, sleep-deprived, coffee-siphoning zombies, we tend to wish our babies would actually SLEEP more at night. Once Lauren, our first child, had passed the scary SIDS stage and was 90% for weight (if her percentiles didn’t convince me, her thigh rolls certainly did), I thought, “Ok, baby, I know you are not going to waste away if you don’t nurse ALL NIGHT LONG, please stay asleep!” Lauren, however, was not convinced. She woke up several times a night for the first few YEARS of her life. Not to nurse, not to eat, but simply because she wasn’t a restful, deep sleeper.

At one point in the first year of Lauren’s life, a friend with a daughter just older than Lauren suggested I try sleep training to help her to sleep through the night. She recommended a book (which I bought) and swore that the method had worked like a charm for her daughter. We tried it. It didn’t work. Or rather, it didn’t work for me and I didn’t try long enough to see if it could eventually work for Lauren.

Here’s what happened. We were supposed to let Lauren “cry it out,” for as long as it took for her to fall asleep. Every 15 minutes or so (I don’t remember the exact increment) we could go in and check on her, rub back, let her know we were still there and leave again. She screamed bloody murder for an hour and fifteen minutes and showed absolutely no signs of tiring out or calming down. It was agonizing for me and for her. It was so easy to pick her up and nurse her to sleep and we both we were sighing with relief when we stopped the process. I asked my friend how long it had taken to “sleep train” her baby. She said her daughter cried (wept quietly) for 20 minutes the first night, ten minutes the second night and none the third night. Her experience had been nothing like the one night of pure torture that mine had been. Today, Lauren is 9 and still struggles with emotional regulation. Every method has different results for every child. What may seem unkind or unethical to one parent, may seem like a common-sense, practical approach to another parent.

Remember, sleep training is Parent Motivated just like Potty Training may or may not be. Whether or not the process involves compassion and gentleness, is unique to every situation. In our case, I didn’t feel that sleep training was an emotionally healthy experience for our family. If my daughter had the temperament of my friend’s child, I probably would have felt differently. What works for one family or one child, may not work for another. It’s really that simple. That early experience, and seeing how two moms doing the exact same things, could have vastly different experiences with a “method” was a great lesson for me as a mom. It taught me to take every bit of advice with a grain of salt and to trust my instincts. If something feels wrong, stop doing it. The fact that a certain process, technique or trick worked like magic for a thousand other babies, doesn’t mean it will work that way for my mine. And what works well for my child, might not work at all for my friend’s child.

Have you had success with letting your baby “cry it out” or was your experience more like mine?

 

Having three children, now (thankfully) all out of diapers, I’ve researched and written on the subject. One thing I was surprised to learn was that children today are potty-training much later than they were 50 and even 100 years ago. With technology, the internet and the advances in medicine and science, it’s almost hard to comprehend that potty-training has actually regressed. We’re so used to faster-better-new-and-improved-at-your-fingertips-millisecond EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME in 2015, that it’s completely contrary to all of the progress we’ve made in other areas. Why is this? I did some more research and a little brainstorming.

After a quick Google search, I found and enjoyed reading: A History of Potty Training. The invention of disposable diapers has actually negatively impacted how quickly children potty train—if you are using age as a measure. According to PottyTrainingConcepts.com:

  • In the 1950s, almost a 100% of children wore cloth diapers and 95% of these children were
    trained by the age of 18 months.
  • In the 1980s, about 50% of children wore cloth diapers, while the other 50% wore disposable
    diapers and only about 50% of the children were potty trained by the age of 18 months.
  • Today, almost 90-95% of children wear disposable diapers and only about 10% of children
    are potty trained by the age of 18 months.
  • Today, the average age for potty training is about 30 months with the age ranging from 18-60
    months.

Later potty-training has also drastically increased how much diaper waste goes into landfills each year. If 95% of children were potty trained by the age of 18 months in the 1950 but today are potty trained at an average of 30 months (and some as many as 60 months!) that’s between an additional 2,500 to 3,000 diapers for every year over the of age one-and-a-half years! I got this figure by using 8 diapers a day. Infants will go through more and toddlers less but 8 seemed like a good average number. (You don’t see disposable diaper companies complaining about this epidemic).

There are a number of reasons why potty training is happening later, such as disposable-diapering parents being less motivated than cloth diapering parents (though thanks to the invention of the washing machine, even cloth diapering parents today are less motivated than those who had to hand-wash diapers many decades ago), the change from the parent-centered approach to toilet training to the child-centered approach to training and the fact that we are just too dang busy. We want results and we want them now! Who has time for wet pants or poop nuggets on the floor?

Raise your hand if you have put-off potty training because: You had a 3 hour flight to the opposite coast to see family coming up? Or because you wanted to drive to see the Grand Canyon this summer? Or because your third child spends so much time in the car while his older siblings are shuttled to and from school, to karate, to playdates, or while you run to the grocery store? I am just as guilty as anyone. These days our lives are so fast-paced, we often don’t seem to have the time or the patience for things that mean slowing down, staying home, putting down our phones and letting the dishes sit in the sink. But that’s what we need to do to really pay attention to the cues our toddlers and their bodies are giving us.

How did you potty train your child? If you have another child, do you plan on doing anything differently the next time?

2014-02-16 15.32.23

More and more of our friends these days are having only one child. It’s interesting to hear them talk about their experience, read blogs on the subject and to hear parents of two or more children weigh in (whether or not it is their place to do so). Having three myself, I can tell you that life is crazy. In fact, life was crazy with two and then along came Cooper. Sometimes I feel like I am so busy caring for my children that I don’t have time to enjoy them and I sometimes I secretly envy “the One and Done” crowd.

You may have heard parents of more than one child talk about how they wanted their first child to have a playmate. The “playmate phase” of childhood does not begin, of course, until both children are older than toddlers. Toddlers meeting a newborn sibling for the first time often experience a myriad of emotions including joy, wonder, love, fascination and jealousy. For the first few years, if the first child is not of the calm and nurturing variety, plan on spending a fair amount of time protecting the new baby from the “love” of your older child. Even if your first child truly adores the new brother or sister, that adoration is often shown too roughly. I’ve pried both of our smaller children out of the squeezing, territorial grip of an older sibling more than once.

When your children are old enough to actually play together, it will most likely be a typical sibling relationship (Love/Hate). Instead of entertaining each other while I try to get things done around the house, I’m often interrupted several times (dozens) by a tattletale, a fight that needs to be broken up or the need to investigate a scream. When the kids are all together and QUIET, I get suspicious. Have they sneaked the iPad out of my room or a jar of Nutella out of the cupboard? Most likely both. Are they picking the lock on my closet door looking for Christmas presents? For some reason, they seem to cooperate and work together best when mischief is involved. Then they operate like a team of highly trained jewel thieves pulling off the world’s greatest heist.

People who have one child, either by choice, necessity or circumstance, are often asked to explain or justify their decision to have one child. The truth may be that other parents are simply curious, but I’ve gotten the idea that this can be a sore subject for parents of only one child. Maybe those parents struggled with infertility and feel lucky to have one child? Maybe a pregnancy was lost due to a miscarriage? Maybe they felt that their finances were best suited to one child or maybe they just wanted one child so that they could give all of their time, energy and love onto that one lucky child. Every family has their own unique story whether they have one child or seven. We personally have the “Two and Done …Ooops” story.

Does “Only Child Syndrome” really exist? I don’t know. But I can assure you if there are “Syndromes” one can acquire by either having or not having siblings, it goes both ways. Are only children more spoiled than mine? Well, it’s probably fair to say that they may spend more One on One time with their parents but that seems to imply that it’s not good for kids to have one on one time with their parents. IF that’s the case, why do I feel like I am failing when I can’t give any of mine enough One on One time? If my children would compete less for our attention, we’d actually be able to give them more of it.

Do only children get more treats and presents because there is only one of them? I doubt that too. I probably “give in” much more than any parent of one child because I am struggling to manage more kids. “Here take the cookie! Just stop bothering your sister!” I’m also quite sure I resort to turning on the TV as much as any parent ever has.  I’ve even said things like “If anyone gets up from watching this show, he or she is going right to a time out!” Ridiculous, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures and dinner is burning.

I certainly don’t regret having any of my children and I would never go back in time and NOT have any of my three–but I do worry sometimes that I am not doing enough for any of them….but hey, that might be something every parent fears, no matter how many children they have.

 

 

We you an only child or do you have an only child? What are your thoughts on the matter? And for parents with two or more, have any of your children ever told you they wished they were an Only Child? My oldest has let me know several times!

 

 

 

Kate turns seven next week. She’s asked to get her ears pierced so we’re going to head to the mall the day before her party that way she’ll be able to show off her earrings to her friends.

I got my ears pierced at the ripe old age of eight back when you had to go to a doctor’s office to have it done. I don’t remember my parents ever saying “You can’t get your ears pierced until you are X years old.” I didn’t even ask until I turned eight and by then it was fine. I’ll never forget sitting on the examining table, kicking my legs and waiting impatiently for the nurse. The only problem was this: the clinic only had one piercing gun.

I got one ear pierced and it hurt and the gun made a loud snapping noise. I freaked out and refused to get the other ear pierced for at least 20 minutes. I remember asking to go look in the mirror at my one throbbing lobe. I studied my dark red ear lobe with the gold ball in the middle with a look of terror on my face and told my mom I didn’t want to get the other one done. My mother, who had no problem with letting me get my ears pierced in the first place, did put her foot down on this time. I was not leaving the clinic until the other ear was pierced. She had to pay either way, I had insisted I really, really, really wanted to do it and I had one ear pierced already. I finally left with a gold ball in each ear and 32 years later, I still wear earrings almost every day.

Thankfully, most of the stores that offer ear piercing today have two guns so both ears can be pierced at the same time. That would have saved both me, my mother and the nurse half an hour of whining back in 1982. If Kate chooses to go through with it, I’ll let her. If she changes her mind at the last minute, that’s ok too. But if the store doesn’t offer two ears at once—we’re finding one that does. I can see the exact same thing happening with Kate.

I have a few friends who have gotten their daughter’s ears pierced shortly after birth. I don’t have any strong opinions on the matter either way. Ear piercing at a young age is often a cultural practice and it’s up to each set of parents to decide. I’ve heard a few moms say they don’t feel like it’s their choice to decide when put holes in their daughter’s body and that if she wants to do it, she can decide when she’s older. Yet, at the same time, I’ve never heard an adult who had their ears pierced as an infant feel as though she was harmed or emotionally scarred or even unhappy with her parents’ decision. So many ideas of what is right and wrong, when it comes to parenting, are really a matter of what is right or wrong for individual families and if others do differently, that’s their business.

If you have a daughter, does she have her ears pierced? How old was she? How do you feel about infants having their ears pierced?

Clover  February 2013-March 2015

Clover
February 2013-March 2015

I am typing this post in the lounge area of the gym, hoping that being surrounded by strangers will help me to contain the tears of grief that sting my eyes and throat. So far, it’s working, but barely. Last week I had to make the hardest decision I have yet to make in my 40 years of life. I had to decide what to with Clover, our two year old dog, after she attacked Cooper the weekend that I was enjoying my first trip alone in over 9 years. Here’s what happened:

After we put down our almost 13 year old Rottweiler Shepard mix a little over two years ago, I knew I wanted another family dog. Because Bear had lived a long and happy life and right up to the tippy-top of her lifespan giving her size and weight (115 pounds!), saying goodbye was hard but still both her life and death were the best I could have hoped for as she fell asleep forever on the floor of our house as my husband and I cradled her. I missed her dearly but had no feelings of guilt or regret. It was inevitable and we only made sure it was peaceful and that she was not alone. Six months later, we adopted Clover from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.

Clover was sweet and submissive but with a high level of stranger anxiety. She would bark continuously at anyone who came through the door or passed on the sidewalk. It was hard to break the trance, except with food. She was extremely motivated by food and would act like a trained circus dog if a treat was involved. This seemed great for training, however, we soon learned that this did not necessarily mean should would do any of her tricks if something edible was not involved.

To make a long story short, Clover’s behavior became more and more unpredictable. After over a year of living with us, she became more aggressive towards our eleven year cat. At times she would give the cat a wide berth and at others she would corner her, snarling and snapping until someone intervened. She had also started snapping at the children…not for any specific reason, just if they got in her space when she was resting and she would even bite me if she had found a string cheese someone had dropped and I went to take it from her. I knew things were becoming problematic. I did some searches on the internet and researched little dog syndrome—when little dogs are overly coddled and held by their owners and then become snappy at anyone who approaches “their person.” This didn’t seem to apply. I certainly didn’t walk around with Clover in a purse or even holding her. She did sleep in bed with us and was allowed on the couch. But no matter how strict or lax we were on those kinds of rules, her obsession with food continued, as did her dislike of people she didn’t know. She would even run out of the house and chase after people walking by.

While I was in New York doing work with my nonprofit, a life-changing event happened, and thankfully my husband didn’t tell me about it until I was home from my trip. He told me that one of Clover’s bones was in the middle of the living room floor. She wasn’t chewing on it and wasn’t even near it at the time. But Cooper walked over to pick it up and she launched herself on him from across the room, grabbing onto to his hand and not letting go, like a police dog practicing on a dummy arm. Even when Burton grabbed her, she didn’t let go immediately. As he told me the story, a black pit formed in my stomach and the post-trip elation I had felt vanished. Though Clover didn’t break the skin, Cooper did have several teeth scrapes on his hand and wrist. But I kept picturing him pretending to be a dog and picking up the bone in his mouth. What would have happened to his face? I felt sick. And oddly, I never felt a bit of anger for Clover. I felt very, very sad for her because I loved her so much and so did the kids. But something had changed and there was no going back.

The rest of the week was a gut-wrenching blur.The weight of responsibility to do the right thing for our kids and for Clover left me without an appetite or the ability to think of anything else. I looked at rescues that might take her but not being a “pure bred,” many wouldn’t even consider her. Several rescues only took shelter dogs on death row and would not take owner-give ups. Still others would not take dogs that have bitten. And I knew, based on her stranger anxiety, Clover would never be a good candidate for re-homing, whether from our house or a foster home she had settled into.

Finally, I talked to our vet and we discussed the options. We both worried she may be abused if she was adopted by another family who didn’t tolerate her nervous quirks around new people, or if worse, she snapped at someone. We thought of trying meds but when she checked her charts, we realized we’d already tried them when we first adopted her and they made her behavior worse. I knew we could not keep her with our children in the house and dozens of friends who come over throughout the year. I was crushed. I. Loved. That. Dog. She bit my child and I still adored her silly little face and her soft fur and the way she loved me. But my children came first and her safety came next. She would be traumatized by being abandoned at the Humane Society and that was the only option we had left. I couldn’t do it and imagine her sitting in a cold kennel alone and wondering where we were and left to an uncertain fate.

The vet and I decided we would put her down right then and there because I knew I couldn’t take her home and spend “a last night” with her, counting down the hours. The pain would be more unbearable than it already was. I held her and fed a treat with some medicine in it to help her relax and then the vet gave her a shot to sedate her. She snuggled on my lap as I sobbed, racked with guilt and fear, not knowing if I was doing the right thing but with the full support of the vet who had watched us struggle with training and socializing her for months when we first got her. Finally, she fell asleep. The vet asked if I wanted to stay for the final shot, but I had to leave to pick up Cooper and she had spent her last conscious hour in my arms. I knew she wouldn’t realize if I was there or not for the very end. I was so exhausted from the week of uncertainty and anguish that I left her sleeping peacefully, cradled in a towel by the vet, who she would never would have allowed to get near her had she been conscious. Euthanizing a healthy, vibrant little dog who brought our family so much joy, despite her unpredictable behavior, was the most terrible choice I have ever had to make and I will probably always wonder if I may have made a  mistake and if there was something I could have done better to have prevented this outcome.

I miss you, Clover, and I know you never meant any harm. You weren’t perfect, but none of us are and I loved you every bit as much as I did my dog, Bear, who never hurt a fly. Love is complicated like that and if it wasn’t, this would have been a lot easier.

Thanks for hearing my story.

Liza