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Written by Mama Monday

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

Swimming Alone With Three

Swimming Alone With Three

It was a hot summer day here in Boulder, Colorado. The sunscreen was flowing, the grown-ups were sweating and pools everywhere were filled with children and parents enjoying summer vacation.  My friend Jen invited us to join her and several other mommy friends and their varying numbers of offspring at her neighborhood pool. Lauren was seven and swimming independently, Kate was five and swimming underwater quite well—as long as she could either stand to come up for air or if there was an adult nearby who she could use as island. Fear as a life—preserving instinct was not present. Cooper, was still a cloth diaper-wearing two-year old, with very blond hair and a big belly poking out from under his sun shirt.

The number of children, ranging in ages from birth to seven years, made for a noisy, chaotic event. The air was punctuated by screams of glee as the children splashed with their friends and occasionally frustration when they were pulled from the pool to have sunscreen re-applied. There were so many friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen in ages–some since even before Cooper had been born. There was catching up to be done, parenting notes to compare and the rare and glorious opportunity to engage in conversation with another adult. It was, however, hard to concentrate on both keeping track of my litter around the pool while trying to pay attention to what an adult friend was saying. I would listen, making what I hoped were appropriately-timed murmurs of interest, but the whole time my eyes were scanning the pool for my children. Several times I’d have to stop someone mid-sentence to look for my two younger children whom I would eventually find on a swing or in the sandbox. My oldest daughter never left the pool.

It couldn’t have been more than an hour before the amount of stress I was experiencing began to outweigh the fun of being at a pool with too many friends and their children. I couldn’t visit, I couldn’t relax and I certainly couldn’t keep track of my children who were going in three different directions. I worried Kate or Cooper would fall in while I wasn’t looking and both of them hated wearing floatation devices despite my best attempts. My breaking point occurred when I saw Kate, sans floaties, heading towards the deep end of the pool. Being over-stimulated by the level of excitement, prone to selective hearing, and more confident in her swimming abilities than she should have been, she jumped right in. I ran over and pulled my daughter out of the water who, despite potentially drowning, was annoyed rather than being appreciative, that she had been saved. I had had enough. I grabbed my blond baby, pulled Kate by the arm and barked at Lauren to come get changed into her clothes. I rushed around for several minutes, snapping orders at the girls and searching for the diaper bag so I could put a dry diaper on Cooper, who was perched on my hip.

Imagine my surprise when I laid Cooper on a lounge chair to change him out of his wet suit…only to discover I had grabbed the wrong blond toddler. I found myself staring into the face of an equally surprised two-year old, the daughter of my friend Jen. So where was Cooper?? I scanned the pool and found him sitting on the first step, not wearing the despised float suit he must have somehow pulled off himself. He was looking dangerously close to toppling head first into the deeper water of the shallow end. I could see the other moms, some of whom I didn’t know well, looking at him and each other like “Who does he belong to and where is his mother?” I have no doubt they would have pulled him out had he fallen in, but that didn’t make me feel much better about what felt like a Parenting Failure of Epic Proportions.

Needless to say, we left the pool. I was trying to “play it cool” and “laugh it off” but I was shaking inside. It wasn’t until Kate and Lauren were both fully swimming on their own that I ever took all three children to a pool by myself again.

When have your felt “over your head” as a parent?

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?