Skip to Content


Written by Mama Monday

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

First Day of School,  Our third-grader and first grader!

First Day of School,
Our third-grader and first grader!

As the mother of three children, two of whom are now in early grade school, I’ve noticed the trend of parents keeping their children home another year. Lauren, our first child and now a third grader, was born on October 7th. The kindergarten cut-off for our school district is September 25th. Lauren was a bright, active and very extroverted toddler and was the same as a preschooler. I couldn’t keep her busy enough on our limited budget for preschool and five-year old dance classes. Had she been been born two weeks earlier, I would have gladly sent her to kindergarten. In hindsight, was it better to keep her home the extra year, even though I didn’t have a choice, so that she was older and therefore better able to meet school age expectations? Probably. But I still would have sent her.

Lauren was, however, not the oldest in her class. Not by a long shot. There were many kids, both girls and boys, who had been born right around mid-August, who made the cut-off for kindergarten by well over a month, but who didn’t attend kindergarten until the following year. This trend has not worked out so well for my April baby, Kate, who wasn’t “close enough” on either side of the cut-off to keep home for another year or not. Kate, now in first grade, has classmates who were born in August while she was born in April of the following year. What concerns me is this: the educational milestones that children are expected to meet in kindergarten are a far cry from what they were when I was a kindergartner in 1979. I remember coloring and singing and playing house and doing some work with letters and numbers. But it wasn’t until first grade when I remember learning to actual read—“the cat sat on the mat.” Now it seems that kids are practically expected to be reading at that level when they enter kindergarten. As a July baby, I was exactly five when I started kindergarten and six when I started first grade. But my five year old started kindergarten with kids who turned six before kindergarten even started. Looking at what is expected of children now, I can honestly say, I wish we’d had that option. But it is what it is and I have a feeling that as the kids get older, the gaps start to close. Babies change so much from one month to the next and until they are seven or eight, six months to a year can mean eons of change emotionally, physically and socially as their little brains and bodies continue to grow.

Two years ago, when Lauren was in first grade, she was reading at “grade level.” Even in the two years that have passed, what would have been grade level then, is considered “under grade level” now. So Kate, even though she is now reading at the same level Lauren was in first grade, is considered below grade level because the bar has been raised. I absolutely believe in giving our children a good education and it saddens me how far the United States has fallen behind compared to other countries. But here’s one of the problems: Grade schools are demanding more and more skills from our kindergarteners and first graders but all kindergartners come to school with different levels of preschool experience and some are much older than the other children. Some might have been in daycare, some might have been in a curriculum based school or even pre-K, some might have had a Waldorf background and some might enter kindergarten with no previous school experience whatsoever. We have private preschools and public elementary schools. With the higher expectations on kindergartners, it means some kids are more likely to be labeled as “under grade-level” right from the start. Is one option better than the other? I don’t know. But I do know that preschool is far from free, in fact, it’s pretty darn expensive.

Have you held any of children back from kindergarten even though they made the cutoff? Or do you wish you had? What are your thoughts on the expectations your school has of your young children?

Photo Credit: E A McKenzie

Photo Credit: E A McKenzie

You’ll never guess where I am as I sit and type this, completely uninterrupted with a pleasant white noise humming in the background and my water bottle and a few snacks sitting at my feet. I’m on a plane…(drumroll, please)…and I am all by myself! On Friday I flew direct from Denver to New York City for a quick trip and it’s the first time I have flown without a child in over nine years.

Living in Colorado but having all of our extended family and childhood friends on the East Coast means we have spent a lot of time flying back and forth across the country. Those with family closer by might do extended road trips, like I remember as a child.  Several times a year we would drive from Vermont to Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey to visit family and spend anywhere from two to four to eight hours in the car.  Since I’ve been lucky enough to be a stay home and do some free-lance work writing from the comfort of wherever I can set my computer, I’ve been able to travel quite a bit—as long as I bring the kids with me. Over the years that has gone from one infant, to a toddler and an infant, to a six year old, a toddler and an infant, and so on and so on.

This weekend was my first weekend flying alone has been rather unreal. My luggage is light, my carry-on practically empty and I’m appreciating every single minute of sitting alone in this cramped seat. My flight from Denver to New York was delayed about 35 minutes before finally taking off. I was practically giddy with delight  that it was so easy. I found myself wanting to tell strangers how wonderful this experience was. “I don’t mind just sitting here on my computer, or reading (reading!!) or even just…sitting! It’s so RELAXING! And EASY! How could anyone ever complain about flying when they aren’t traveling with children?”

When I’m traveling with the kids, I usually spend a good deal of time bent at an unnatural angle with my head stuffed under the seat in front of me trying pull something out of my carry-on for Lauren, Kate or Cooper with one hand while the other holds onto whichever child is the current “lap baby.” I can get write this blog, I can snooze, and best of all, I can get up and use the restroom by myself without needing to nervously leave any children sitting alone for a few moments or worse, trying to cram them all into a dirty airplane bathroom with me all at once.

I was in New York for business (which is still sounds strange as I write it) doing some networking for my nonprofit Big Hearts Big Soles Inc. and I actually had the pleasure of bring shoes to the kids at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, New York. The faculty and students were friendly and welcoming and I got to hug a lot of new friends good-bye when I left. I met Nadia Lopez, the amazing principal of the school and even saw Vidal himself, dressed in a suit and tie, in person. Later that night, the friend from high school with whom I was staying, dragged me all around New York at night, to see the nights. At first I protested that I was a tired mom who needed to rest up before heading home to my children, but finally I gave in. I ended up feeling very grateful that I was able to walk around and marvel at a special place in our country, without worrying that I would lose one of my precious children if I focused on anything else for a moment.

On this flight back, I’m appreciating both the little things and the big things that I often take for granted. It’s so easy to do things without having all three of my kids being with me and I really appreciated being able to take a two night break. But I also miss them and I can’t wait to see their smiling faces in a few more hours and to wrap my arms around them and give them big hugs. As a stay at home mom, who often feels so busy and overwhelmed by parenting, that I feel like I can’t enjoy my children the way I think I am supposed to, this trip has been a gift to me in many ways.

Have you traveled without your children recently? How did you feel on your first time away from home?

Photo on 2-23-15 at 6.48 PM #3

“A tantrum or temper tantrum is an emotional outbreak, usually associated with children or those in emotional distress, typically characterized by stubbornness, crying, screaming, defiance, angry ranting, a resistance to attempts at pacification and, in some cases, hitting. Physical control may be lost; the person may be unable to remain still; and even if the “goal” of the person is met, he or she may not be calmed.[1][2][3][4] A tantrum may be expressed in a tirade: a protracted, angry, or violent speech.”—Wikipedia

I have to admit, I chucked as I read Wikipedia’s definition of a temper tantrum because it’s so spot on. My favorite part is “even if the goal of the person is met, he or she may not be calmed.” This pretty sums up the inexplicable, incomprehensible, mind-bending and exasperating part of dealing with a child who is having a fit. Whether I am in the middle of a public place or in the privacy of our home, it seems I am often trying to prevent tantrums, stop tantrums that could not be prevented or dealing with the aftermath and the self-doubt that occurs after it’s over. If I give in to the tantrum, I feel like I am enabling bratty, spoiled behavior and that my child is doomed to grow into Veruca Salt. Or worse, if lose my own temper, but I don’t give in, have I scarred my child with my own anger and been a walking talking contradiction: Do as I say, not as I do. The perfectly calm voice of authority, who doesn’t express emotion in response to his or her child’s ridiculous raging is often a lofty goal for a tired and busy parent. Sometimes, the best way to perceive a child’s tantrum even the most trying, stressful, grey-hair and bags-under-your eyes producing behavior, is through the lens of humor. Because for the most part, the reasons for most tantrums are pretty funny, even if dealing with them in the moment isn’t.

Lauren, age 3, had an absolute conniption fit because her Polly Pocket’s hair was “too radiant!” And she kept screaming about how this radiant hair was NOT OK. My mother and I tried not to laugh while we simultaneously marveled at her advanced vocabulary. She was mad because the dolls hair would not lay flat and was sticking up (yes, like rays of randiant sunshine) around her head. After that, I only bought Polly Pockets with plastic helmet hair.

Kate would lose her mind if Lauren got the purple bowl when SHE wanted the purple bowl for her cereal. So we’d switch bowls and suddenly, the PINK bowl seemed much more appealing and Kate would be losing her mind because she should have that bowl and Lauren shouldn’t. This is a perfect example of the “goal being achieved” (i.e. getting the bowl you want) not ending the tantrum. Any logical human being, with properly firing synapses, would be baffled by this completely irrational display and might try using reason, “But you GOT the purple bowl. You wanted the purple bowl. Here have it.” This same person would be amazed when the previously coveted purple bowl was thrown on the floor, even if it was full of ice cream. This is when you know the problem isn’t the color of the bowl. The problem is an over-tired, over-stimulated or overly-hungry child who is just plain cranky and just needs an excuse to have a melt down because that’s how they tell us all is not right in their world, even if they don’t know why.

I can’t even remember what set Cooper off yesterday, I can only remember him yelling and pointing at his sister, saying “But Lauren is standing on the FLOOR!” He was obviously very, very ticked off about something and he needed to vent so he stood there furious and raging about how she should NOT BE “standing on the floor!” Lauren just stood there looking confused and I made a funny face at her like “Aren’t little kids just silly sometimes?” And then later I made sure to tell her all of the things that she used to get very upset about, like dolls having radiant hair or her stubborn insistence on wearing a certain shirt even if it was in the dirty laundry basket and covered in mud stains.

 

What is the funniest or most ridiculous thing over which your child has had a meltdown?

 

 

 

I make no secret of the fact that I’ve had three c-sections and zero vaginal births. Sure, I made a valiant effort to push my first daughter out “the old fashioned-way,” as I jokingly call vaginal deliveries, but the fact is, were it not for modern medicine, both Lauren and I would have died in childbirth. Had we lived in the 1800s or early 1900s, maybe one of us would have survived at the expense of the other. This is why I offer you some retorts to anyone who talks about childbirth, labor, epidurals, cesarean sections or even breastfeeding in anything less than a respectful and tolerant tone.

“Women have been giving birth for thousands of years without pain meds or epidurals.”

This is true. You can’t deny it. And yet, those cave women also didn’t have a choice. You can’t speak for the cave woman who after three hours of agonizing back labor, probably would have jumped at the chance for an epidural. Not having the option of an epidural is not the same as choosing not to have an epidural. Just because women have been giving birth naturally for centuries (because they had no other choice) doesn’t mean they would do the same thing today.

“Too many women are having labor induced so their doctors can make their tee times.”

This also may be true. It depends on if your OB plays golf. If it’s something you are worried about, be sure to ask your doctor, “Do you play golf? Because I don’t want to be induced just so you can make your tee time.” Or, you could also say “No thank you, I’d rather not be induced and I’d rather let nature take it’s course.” But back to our friend the Cave Woman. We can’t be sure she didn’t use her own primitive methods to stimulate labor. Just because she didn’t have modern medicine at her fingertips, doesn’t mean she wasn’t just as anxious, uncomfortable and sick of waddling around like the rest of get when we know we are about to “pop.” We do know that women have been trying various methods of stimulating labor since, well, forever–like eating spicy foods or engaging in certain rigorous activities–all in the hopes of trying to get the inevitable started sooner rather than later.

“Breastfeeding is the way nature intended women to feed their babies.”

Well, you certainly can’t argue with that. But, if you have any tact, you should refrain from saying it to a bottle-feeding mother. I actually did end up nursing all three of my children but because of my extremely stressful three-plus hour attempt at pushing out Lauren, followed by an emergency c-section, my body was so “out of wack” that my milk didn’t come in for almost a full week. We supplemented Lauren with formula but I continued to try to try to nurse her. She lost a lot of weight in that first week and I was on the verge of giving up. Hours after I left the pediatrician’s office in tears, my milk finally came in. Breastfeeding is the way nature intended us to feed our babies, that is, those mothers and babies who weren’t killed off during the birthing process. Nature is efficient but that efficiency is brutal. There was nothing about the process that was “natural,” especially since we both lived! Judging mothers who are bottle feeding is the same and whether it is by necessity of choice, if both mom and baby are healthy and happy, it’s really no one else’s business.

As mothers preparing to give birth, the best we can do is to educate ourselves and to make ourselves aware of the different options that exist when things start to unfold. There are a lot of things that you simply cannot know until you are in the moment. This is true whether you are in labor with your first baby or your sixth. If you hear someone who means well, or maybe someone who has really wide birth canal and a super-high pain tolerance (not to mention a superiority complex and a competitive attitude about giving birth) remind her that there is no shame in using modern medicine during childbirth—and because of it, the mother and infant mortality rate has dropped A LOT in the last century. Besides, that cave woman might have really appreciated an epidural.

The Cave Woman and the Epidural by Elizabeth A. McKenzie

The Cave Woman and the Epidural by EAM

Yesterday, after I noticed Cooper licking a very public bench, I started to think about things like germs, viruses, bacteria, pathogens and infectious microbes. Imagine that.

Though today parents are often armed with an arsenal of hand-wipes and hand sanitizer and are strict enforcers of the hand washing rule, it’s only been since the mid-nineteenth century that we had any idea at all how illness was spread. As I did some research for this blog, I was surprised to learn that all of the advances in modern medicine in the last several decades have had less of an effect on the spread of disease than changes in human behavior.  Hand washing wasn’t even a common practice until after 1847 when Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis noticed that many more new mothers were developing life-threatening infections and high fevers just after giving birth if his students took part in delivering their babies than if a midwife helped to deliver the baby. Why was this? Many of the medical students attended the births right after performing autopsies and educational cadaver dissections.  Instead of washing their hands between the two, they’d simply wipe their hands on their clothes as they walked to the delivery room. I think every single parent today would like to thank Dr. Semmelweis for this discovery. Aaaack! (Evolution and History of Personal Hygiene by Ingrid Koo, Ph.D)

petri-dish-colonies-microorganisms-33055930

Other important discoveries were made by Dr. John Snow who discovered that drinking water sources often played a major role in the spread of illness. Drinking water that was prone to contamination from animal or human waste coming from upstream or direct contamination from sewage (that was emptied from chamber pots right into the streets) were related to deadly cholera outbreaks. Thank you, Dr. Snow.

Last, but not least, was Thomas Crapper of England, who played a major role in the development of the “flushing toilet” which took waste through a series of pipes, to a location far from the humans who had excreted the waste to begin with. Not only was the waste far enough away and contained so that it would not contaminate drinking water, it no longer needed to be disposed of by hand. Thank you, Tom Crapper!

Unfortunately, despite being aware of these invisible dangers, parents can’t always prevent their curious offspring from putting disgusting things into their mouths—like Cooper sucking on the bench, or the time I caught Lauren licking the armrest on an airplane or crawling baby Kate tasting a piece of dried up dog poop in the backyard. We also need to thank Dr. Alexander Fleming for stumbling upon the antibiotic properties of penicillin during his study of bacteria and American Dr. Jonas Salk for coming up with world’s first vaccine.

 What is the grossest object you have caught your baby mouthing?