Thursday, September 23, 2010

Something to this...

I recently picked up a copy of SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years and have begun reading it. When I first started seeing the announcements for this books release I was immediately turned off by the title. However, I kept feeling like I was seeing it everywhere (the publishers were apparently doing a good job advertising it) and after reading a few of the reviews on amazon, (and being in a situation where I needed to spend more money to get free shipping, combined with the fact that I had a store credit) I went ahead and ordered it.  I am only on chapter two, but chapter one talks a lot about treating your child with respect. I mostly felt like I was already doing that but I read through it anyway. Today I was able to apply this lesson in a situation I wouldn't have thought to before and wow did I get immediate results.
Colin has been fighting his nap lately. Not really outwardly fighting it, but he just will sit in his crib and talk to himself for up to two hours (he would probably go longer but after two hours I give up on the nap). This has happend maybe a half dozen times in the last two months, but he was gearing up to do it for the second time this week. Generally I ignore him but will occasionally put on my 'stern mommy' voice and go in and bark something like "lay down, stop talking, go to sleep" then I re-adjust his blanket and leave. Having done that three times already and seeing that we were already an hour and 45 minutes into nap time and he was still talking I decided to take a different approach and try to "connect with respect". This time I went in and said "Colin, I see you are having some trouble falling asleep today. It is very important that you take a nap because you are sick and you had school today and need your rest. Please lay down, close your eyes and try very hard to go to sleep. I love you" and I left. I didn't hear another peep out of him.  Go figure. I never would have expected that to work, to be honest I almost expected him to laugh at me.
There are definitely parts of this book that make me think the author is crazy, but apparently I'm learning something anyway.  I'll let you know what I think of the rest once I finish it, and since I have the hard copy (no kindle edition yet) I am happy to loan it out if people are interested in reading it.

Here is a totally unrelated photo of my little slugger:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Preparing my 'slow to warm up' toddler for Preschool: Part 3

We did it! Colin's first day of school could not have gone better! He was a champ and was not phased in the least by me leaving. All of our hard work paid off!
 Colin and I arrived at school about 20 minutes early so he could have some time to adjust to the classroom before other kids would be getting dropped off (and potentially be crying). One little boy in the 3yr old classroom was being dropped of as we arrived and he was a mess so Colin was very distracted and concerned about why he was so upset. Colin and I had discussed that other kids might be sad and that this was okay. So he kept telling me "he's sad" "he wants his mommy" (something the boy was saying over and over again) and I reassured him the best I could.  He quickly found some dress up clothes, including hats and choose a duck hat to wear around.

For the first 40 minutes we were there, Colin stuck close to me but rarely actually in physical contact with me. He was sitting at the table pictured above, when his teacher came over to say hello. The last time he met her (at the orientation) he buried his face in my shoulder and wouldn't look at her. Today he told her his name, and sat and continued playing while she sat at his little table and talked, mostly to me but interacting with him too. She remembered his reaction at orientation and we were both very encouraged by his progress. He would occasionally ask me to come with him somewhere but I encouraged him to go explore while I sat where I was.  Leo and Kip both arrived (both on their third day since they aren't on the same schedule as Colin) and their presence and easy reaction to the classroom really encouraged him and he started venturing further into the room.

It wasn't long before it was 'circle time' and all the kids went to sit on the carpet. It was around this time that most of the lingering parents left (it was just me and one other mom now) and Colin got a bit nervous and asked me to join him on the carpet, so I walked over with him but once he was settled moved back.  From circle time they moved onto playing with play dough and I was basically out of Colin's sight the entire time without him even noticing.  When they got up to wash hands for snack time he saw me again and wanted to tell me everything that was happening, and it was at this point that I realized my presence was hindering his progress not aiding it. When he came back to me after his hands were washed (while the other kids were still washing up) I told him at snack time I would leave. He basically said "okay" and then asked me to help him with yet another hat. The kids all sat and sang songs (well, the teacher sang the kids just listened mostly) while snack was prepared.

As soon as he sat for snack I told him I was leaving and asked him what would happen after that, he responded "Mommy will come back" and so I knew he understood. What a huge relief! I was able to walk out without tears or even a "don't go". My timing was perfect. I left and he still had 2 hours left of the day. Since he was doing so well I didn't return until just before pick up time. I wasn't sure how he would react if other parents showed up and I wasn't among them so I tried to be early. Another mom and I spied from outside of viewing range and Colin was happily kicking a small soccer ball with another little girl.
He ran over when he saw me and said "Mommy came back!" gave me a big hug and snuggled for a second and then went back to playing.  He did have a small altercation with another boy (I'm not sure what they were discussing but Colin was holding his hand, either away from the car Colin was currently driving or just to hold it I couldn't be sure) the other boy started to cry and then it wasn't long before Colin got upset too. I suspect he thought he was in trouble for making the other boy cry. I let him play for a little longer after he recovered so we could end on a positive note and then took him home for lunch.

All in all it was a VERY positive experience for both of us and Colin is ready to go back for more! 

n.b. I did not want to put up photos with unfamiliar children's faces clearly visible in them so I had to leave a few out I might have included otherwise. Not everyone has the same comfort zone with the internet so I wanted to err on the side of caution, rather than upset someone.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Preparing my 'slow to warm up' toddler for Preschool: Part 2

Now that you know a little bit of Colin's history as a 'Slow to warm up' child. Here is what I have been doing to prepare Colin for preschool:

First the stuff we have been doing ahead of time.
  1. Talk about it! We discuss the concept of 'school' quite a bit, typically multiple times a day. I really try to work it into whatever we are doing. For example, if we are coloring I'll tell Colin that he will probably get to color pictures at school with his new friends and teachers.  If we walk or drive by the school, I will point it out and tell him that is where he is going to school. I think it goes without saying that I use a very positive and excited voice when I'm doing this.  I really try to hammer home the concept (and give him catch phrases) that "Mommy will leave you at school but then...Mommy will come back!" He will now tell me (while pointing his index finger) that 'mommy will come back'. I've also tried to tell him that some kids might be sad, and if he is sad too that is okay, he just needs to remember that mommy will come back, and while he is waiting for me he can have fun with his friends and teachers. I also emphasize that his buddies will be at school too.
  2. Have play-dates with the kids who will be going to school. I have really made a point to schedule Colin to play with the kids he will see at school. Kip, Leo, Roxanne, etc. This way there are some familiar faces in the crowd and not so many strange children. Like I said in the previous post, children are not always the comfort you would expect them to be, particularly large numbers of children.
  3. Visit the school. Fortunately the school runs a summer program so Colin and I were able to visit one morning and take lots of pictures.  I put those pictures in an album and we look at the album and talk about everything and everyone frequently. I really hope this helps, there are a few toys (particularly a large firetruck multi-kid ride on) that he sees in the pictures and gets really excited about. Hopefully the chance to play with those toys will help distract him from the fact that I'm not around. We also visited during the orientation last week and he got to see the school again, while that was a bit overwhelming for him because there were so many people around, it did give him time to interact with the space without the stress that I would leave. 
  4. Get him a backpack. A 2-yr old likely does not need a backpack for preschool. However, I thought it was important for Colin to have one. It is a something he has total possession over but that is related specifically to school.  I want him to carry it to school and put his own choice of comforting items in there. I have no idea if the items will be needed or ever even taken out, but it seems like a good way to solidify in his mind that we are 'going to school'. I think it will be part of our routine for him to 'get his backpack' when it is time to go to school 
  5. Expose him to as many different situations as possible. This is not something I did specifically with pre-school in mind, but I did do it intentionally knowing Colin's temperament.Things like, MyGym, music classes, swimming lessons, the Preschool Place at the NY Hall of Science, being babysat by Dawn, traveling etc.  If we kept him cloistered in the house all the time, I would go crazy he would never have the opportunity to push his own limitations.
Now the plan for how we will 'warm' Colin up to preschool once we get there.
  1. Arrive early!  I am planning on getting Colin to school at least 15 minutes before he is supposed to be there. I'm hoping this will allow him time to see the room without the intimidation of all the other children.
  2. Stick around. At least for the first day, I'm not planning on leaving for more than maybe 15 minutes. If he walks right in and acts like he owns the place, I'll obviously just leave but I don't anticipate that happening. I'm going to watch him closely and try to time my exit to match his comfort.
  3. Tell him I'm leaving and how long I'll be gone. A big thing with this temperament is to never try to sneak out. It would cause even more anxiety if he thought I was going to disappear at any given moment. I also will tell him on the first day that I will be back in 15 minutes, and then come back in 15 minutes regardless of how he is doing. If he isn't doing well, he won't have suffered long and he also won't think I'm coming back because he is upset. Does he have a good concept of 15 minutes? No not really but he knows it isn't that long, we have talked about this as well. 
  4. Depending on how well he does I'll be gradually increasing the time I'm gone. I 'hope' to go from 15 mins to 45, then 90 then the full three hours. So by the start of the third week I should be able to drop him off and go. If he is doing well that time table will slow down but if he is doing great it will speed up. 
I know that to most people this probably seems silly and a 'better' plan would be just to 'ripe off the band-aid' and let him work it out.  There are two reasons this won't happen. 1) Everything I've read about the 'slow to warm up temperament' says that this is a bad idea because it will prolong the period of time it takes the child to get comfortable (or just backfire altogether and cause him to get 'kicked out'). 2) It isn't my parenting style, at least it isn't my style-of-parenting-Colin. I've seen other kids Colin's age get upset when their mother leaves, only to be clearly faking it, or get over it quickly.  Colin has never done that. He has never cried when I leave him. That has a lot to do with  me not leaving him in situations where he isn't comfortable, but the times he does get upset, it is after I've been gone, and when it happens there is no way to distract him from 'wanting Mommy'. He might be good for a minute or two but he looses it all over again.  TV is sometimes an acceptable distraction but that can only be used for so long and obviously not at preschool.

That is it! I have done everything I could possibly think of to help him adjust as quickly as possible. Now it is up to him to instruct me on how to proceed from here.  Erin commented that she wasn't sure she would have the same level of patience if one of her boys had this temperament. I think we all play the hand we are dealt to the best of our ability, and to be honest, it seems (to me) like small potatoes compared to getting up with your toddlers at 5am every day (I think you win the patience award on that one Erin!)

Wish us luck!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Preparing my 'slow-to-warm up' toddler for Preschool: Part 1

As I've written this I've realized that this post requires a lot of introduction. So in my attempt not to bore people to death I'm going to write it in two parts. Part 1: Introduces you to Colin's particular brand of 'Slow-to-Warm Up'  and Part 2: Preparing Colin for Preschool. I suppose Part 3 will be a follow up on how well this preparation worked.

Right around Colin's first birthday I became confident enough in my assessment of Colin's temperament to write about it here.  Colin is older now, and his ability to communicate his needs are better, but the temperament is the same. He takes a little bit longer to adjust to new situations and people than most kids. Since Colin is my first child, it is often easy to forget that his reactions aren't 'typical'. I've heard lots of stories of children just like him so it is easy to project and think all kids react this way. You can imagine my surprise when we showed up at Colin's preschool orientation. The vast majority of the children were running around playing, their parents 'out of sight-out of mind', while Colin was glued to my side, or sitting in my lap.  For the first half hour he wasn't even conflicted about it, this was a room full of everything a toddler could want to play with, but if I wasn't near the toys he didn't give them a second glance. The best way to describe it is that when he first enters a situation he can't see beyond the 'unfamiliarity' of it all to see any individual object or person. It is as if his brain gets overloaded and he can't process things efficiently. Slowly and deliberately he will observe from a safe distance and eventually his interest will be piqued by something and that is when he starts to be conflicted. This means there is a lot of pulling and prodding to get me to go with him to explore whatever object has captured his attention. Generally I entertain his need to have me close for a while but the biggest challenge with this temperament is finding the right balance between making him comfortable and pushing him to increase his confidence and widen his comfort zone.  Colin's biggest issues (at least right now) are:
  1. Unfamiliar people in familiar locations (that don't usually have lots of people)
  2. Unfamiliar locations with lots of unfamiliar people (particularly children who are less predicatable)
Even if Colin is in his own home (or another place he knows well), adding a new person to this location unexpectedly causes him to get nervous and not venture too far from me or too near to the new person. The weirdest part is that certain people really set him off and other people don't. It would make sense if people who set him off were odd looking or distinguishable in some way but usually its is the most benign of individuals who he has the most trouble with.
It isn't simply unfamiliar locations that make him nervous. We travel a lot and very often we have to walk into a new place and put him to bed. He has never freaked out (granted we bring his 'sleep environment' with us but still...) It is also not simply unfamiliar people alone. There are many situations we run into (grocery shopping, the post office, the hallways of our building) where he is very friendly with strangers.  He, totally unprompted, told the postal clerk to 'have a nice day' the other day and then reached out of the shopping cart to grab an old lady's hand at Target.
However, preschool is the tri-fecta of situations that freak Colin out.
  1. Lots of unfamiliar adults, particularly ones who are keen on interacting with him
  2. Unfamiliar location.
  3. Lots of other children (which means lots of noise and lots of chaos)
This just means I have had to work extra hard... Exactly what I've done to prepare him is coming in the next post...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Typical Busy Weekend

We are coming off of another very action-packed weekend.  I'm having a bit of trouble getting back into the 'working' routine so I figured I would take a minute to post this and hopefully help my brain put a period on the weekend and transition back to our routine.We'll see if it actually works.

The weekends events started Friday afternoon, Colin's buddy Leo was over for few hours so his mom could get some work done. We had a good time, Colin was very happy to see Leo after a couple of missed opportunities.

For dinner I served one of Colin's new favorites: Onigiri or 'rice balls' (here made with peas). I hope to explain these is more detail in another post.  Leo was less than impressed with my rice balls, but ate his whole spinach patty, something I have yet to get Colin to eat.

Leo really enjoyed dessert! Some mango coconut fruit pops I picked up at whole foods. Yummy!

Leo got picked up at 7. Sean and I marched Colin through his bed-time routine and quickly turned the house over (two toddlers can do a number on an apartment) for our next guest Jayson, who arrived around 8:30.

Saturday morning we went over to Astoria Park. (Another beautiful place to view the Manhattan skyline!) and then got some bagels before Sean and Jay went to see a Yankee game. I took Colin home to nap, but he had other plans and just talked in his crib for two hours.

"Uncle Jay Jay" teaching Colin how to ride a turtle. It wasn't long after this picture that Colin fell (in an un-pictured location) and got a bloody lip. Colin handled it surprisingly well considering the inside of his lip was (and still is) really cut up. 

Jayson left early Sunday afternoon and first thing Monday morning Colin and I drove to CT to visit Erin, Sam and Ben.  Erin had a job interview Tuesday morning and was unable to get a babysitter so her options were me come up, or drive the boys to her parents (4 hrs away).   Colin and I love visiting them so it was an easy decision! Sean stayed home and went to Columbia for the day to get some school work done.

Playing with water and sand resulted in some messy boys, so we tossed them in the shower for a good rinse. We just couldn't bring ourselves to hose them off with that icy Ben took a nasty fall and was bloody so he needed something a bit more sanitary.

Colin is saying 'Cheeeese!' Notice he is the least wet. Water over the head is still not his thing.

Tuesday am: I get to see what having triplets would be like! Here we are warming up to the day with a little blues clues and Cheerios. Shhh don't tell Erin I let them eat in the living room! (Actually only Ben and Colin ate, Sam wanted no part in it)
Their "real breakfast" included some Strawberry soup which was a huge hit! (It came pre-made from the grocery store but is essentially a strawberry yogurt thick smoothie)

Erin's interview went well and after lunch Colin and I headed home.

We arrived home at 2:30. I rapidly threw some meatballs in sauce and changed our clothes for Colin's preschool pot luck/orientation. I took no pictures during that event, so I'm including one of Colin posing with his new backpack for school. (It is a Kiddie Play Backpack by ORE originals if you are wondering). The orientation went well. As expected Colin spent the first hour clinging to me but did eventually warm up and play away from me for the second hour. He also became much more outgoing after Sean arrived... Because of his schedule Colin doesn't actually start school until next Thursday so you can look for our 'first day report' after that. I have a 'flexible plan' for easing Colin into preschool, and hopefully our attempts to prepare him will help with the transition (more on that later).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jane Green: Promises to Keep, Review / Warning

I've been reading a bit more lately in an attempt to cure my insomnia. Putting my school work away a full hour before I expect to be asleep, carrying out my bedtime routine and then reading for a while. This was Sean's idea and it seems to be working. Since I know a few of my friends are Jane Green fans like me, I wanted to write this and give you the warning I didn't get.  Jane Green comes out with a new book every summer it seems. Pre-Colin I would actually know the release date and have the book pre-ordered so it arrived as soon as it was printed. This year I didn't notice until Amazon sent me a 'books you might be interested in' e-mail (sucker!) I actually contemplated ordering the hard cover since I have many of her books displayed on our bookshelf but ended up going with the kindle edition. I wonder if this was my downfall. I didn't get to read the jacket, I had no idea what was coming. I am very conflicted about this book. It was in equal measures the best and worst book I've read in a while. I'm not really one to cry over a book, generally I just don't pick up those kind of books and when I do I know its coming and can stonewall it. Talk about being blindsided! It is no exaggeration to say that I cried for most of the last 1/3 of the book. That is a lot of emotional torment! It hit me from all angles, as a mother (particularly of a adoring son), as a wife (although particularly due to the married with children aspect) as a sister, and as a daughter, this book left no heart string un-pulled. I expected a light summer read, I did NOT get that. If I knew what was coming I probably wouldn't have ever picked it up, or at least I would have prepared myself a little better for it. I don't want to give away too much for people who want to read it and be tortured by it (I've heard there are people like that...) but be warned... this one is going to mess you up.. particularly if you have young kids.

If you are new to Jane Green and would like to read something a little more typical of her style (a la a light fun summer read) I suggest Dune Road or The Beach House .