Lost in Translation: Preschooler Edition

I am the master of languages. Need an interpreter for your family? I’m your gal. Spouse speaking Greek? I am at your service. Confused about what your meteorologist is trying to tell you? Allow me. Unsure what those pesky labels mean? I can clear things up. Today, I’m here to help you better understand your preschooler.

At the table:

“I’m full.” – I have a more pressing engagement. Like sticking Legos up my nose.

“I don’t like this.” – It’s not a hot dog or peanut butter sandwich.

“I’m ready for dessert! I ate all my dinner.” I gave it to the dog when you weren’t looking. Ready for some cake?

Getting Dressed:

“This shirt is too small for me. You need to give it to a baby.” It doesn’t have Spiderman on it. It has Bob the Builder, and I will look like a dweeb.

“This shirt fits me just right!” Even though it’s three sizes too small and is compressing my rib cage so hard you can see my heart beat from across the room. It has Spiderman on it. Spiderman!

Out and about:

I want to walk myself. No stroller.”  – I have just enough energy to last until we are equidistant from any exit.”

“I’m ready to go home and take a nap, Mommy.”  – I just broke something.

“Sharing is fun!” – Ah, I see that you have ice cream.

At Home: 

“When is Daddy getting home?” I need to ask for something I know you won’t let me have.

“I’m your big helper!” – I just scrubbed the toilet with your toothbrush.

“I’m not doing anything.” I hope you have good insurance.

Bedtime:

“I need a drink of water!” I need to make sure everybody’s fun stopped when my light went out.

“Can I sleep in your bed?”  – I just peed in mine.

'nuff said.

’nuff said.

Guess what?!! Today is release day for The Big Reap!  Buy The Collector series now, thank me later.

It’s All In How You Look At It

I’ve been in a terrible mood.

A to-do list looms over my shoulder that contains such minor tasks as learning a new computer operating system well enough to teach it to others. The job I was hoping for has been shelved for a few months. I spent ungodly amounts of money yesterday registering Squish for preschool and buying kids’ clothes for fall and two pairs of glasses, one for me and one for Girl-child. (Oh, yeah. I also learned I need bifocals. I was hoping my vision issues were just because my arms were too short.) After wrangling a Squish through a consignment sale, two vision appointments, and a grocery trip, we went to the car to discover our tire was flat. Two more hours of Squish-wrangling and another large chunk of change, and I was feeling kind of sorry for myself.

I did have a delightful dinner with the most wonderful person. It was the bright spot of my day. But when I returned home after 9:30pm, I discovered my kid who has a 7 o’clock bedtime was still wide awake. Daddy had let him stay up for a bit in the hopes he would sleep in. When does he ever sleep in?

When the kid’s feet hit the floor at 7:15 this morning, I was ready to run for the trees.  But then.

Breakfast_buddy

It’s funny how a perspective can shift when looking into those blue eyes.

I bet I was the only one in the world who got to have breakfast with Captain America.

 

Squish is ever the problem-solver. He was ready to fix the tire with some duct tape. That’s my boy.

What Your Kid’s Camp Leader Wishes You Knew

I love kids. I have spent the last ever many years steeped in them. Not just my kids. I like your kids, too. I have led enrichment-type programs in different venues for a very long time, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that parents aren’t always clear on the expectations. Most of them want to do the right thing, they just aren’t sure what that is. If I could sit down across the table from a parent signing their kid up for their first enrichment adventure, here’s what I’d say.

1) Don’t sweat it if your kid is shy the first time around. Picture it. You walk into a place you have never seen before, and a bunch of strangers are waiting for you. And they already know your name. It’s enough to make the bravest adult want to run for cover. Now imagine you’re three feet tall and the person you love most is poking you in the back saying “You’re not shy! Why are you acting like this?”

We aren’t judging your parenting because your child is hiding behind you. I promise that your kid won’t be the only one who has a moment of doubt when they walk in the door. A good instructor will know how to break the ice, and by the second or third class, your kid may be a pro.

2) They don’t have to know all the answers before they get there. When I teach an art class, for example, I don’t care if the kids know their Dali from their Deco. I can teach them that. Leaders ask questions not because they expect that the kids know the answers, but to encourage critical thinking. If no one in the class knows the answer, a good instructor won’t let the crickets chirp for long. They’ll ask the question a different way, or even share the answer.

Your child’s academic knowledge doesn’t matter. It’s far more important that that they know how to interact with other kids. If they’re toddlers or preschoolers and it’s their first time at the rodeo, you can help guide them in that process. Which brings me to my next point.

3) If it’s a Mommy and Me type of class, your participation is mandatory. I cannot stress this point enough. The activities in these classes are ones that require your assistance. Staying glued to a cellphone or talking to the parent beside you in the back of the room is rude and sets a bad example for the kids. If mom and dad are chatting, the kids will, too. These classes are designed for grownups and the children they love to interact together. And if Little Missy is misbehaving, it’s up to you to take care of it. You know her best, after all. There’s a code of conduct at most programs, and refunds are rarely given if a participant is ousted for bad behavior. Don’t let it get to that point. Nip it in the bud.

Image credit: icanhascheezeburger.com

Image credit: icanhascheezeburger.com

At my toddler programs, I completely expect the kids will act like toddlers, the good, the bad, and the throwing-themselves-on-the-floor-and-shrieking. I get that. But there’s a line between just being a three-year-old and disrupting the entire class. Know where that line is. If you’re unsure, ask your leader. They can give you guidance and also help you find a quiet place to let your little critter get control of themselves again.

4) You aren’t expected to know all the answers, either. And even if you do, it’s a good idea to keep them to yourself. Unless the leader asks the adults specifically, the instructor is usually looking for an answer from the kids. You’ve had a few more trips around the sun than the kids. We’d be shocked if you didn’t know at least some of the answers. Keep a low profile unless the instructor asks. If you’re whispering the answers in your child’s ear, examine your motives. If you’re enjoying having a cool discussion with your kid, awesome. If you’re hoping they will blurt it out to the group, it’s best to sit quietly.

5) Dress your child appropriately for the activities. The most terrifying sight in the world to me is a little girl in a darling heirloom, hand-smocked dress. On finger paint day. Or a kid who shows up for camp at the nature center in flip flops. Because you know who gets to hear about those red paint stains that won’t come out or make the decision on whether to cancel the planned hike for the whole group or send a kid out on the trail in footwear they could get hurt in? The teacher.

The kids don’t get points for matching bows and slippers. I don’t care if they show up on the doorstep dressed like orphans. The important bit is that they are safe and comfortable. It’s hard to be comfortable when someone is hanging over your shoulder saying “DON’T WIPE THAT ON YOUR DRESS!” Close-toed shoes and an outfit they can get dirty in fits the bill in almost every situation.

6) Respect age guidelines. Camps and enrichment classes are designed with particular ages in mind, and to try to slip a kid into the wrong age-bracket does no one any favors. Many years ago, someone begged the director of a program I worked for to let her kindergartner into a class with his first-grader best buddy. The director reluctantly agreed. It was a disaster. The younger child couldn’t yet read, and many of the activities involved basic reading skills. The kid was miserable. Don’t throw your child in over their head. Don’t let them be bored by sending them in with the younger kids, either.

It always makes me giggle when parents call me and insist that they have a “very mature four-year-old.” Giggle and then sigh because then it’s my job to explain that we can’t put their preschooler in the kindergarten camp.

7) Don’t keep disabilities a secret. Sometimes parents are afraid to disclose disabilities for fear the program won’t accept their child, but as their teacher I’d sure like a heads up if a kid has an issue that impacts the way they function in a group. I want every child to succeed, but success is a lofty goal if I don’t have a basic understanding of what a child needs. On papier-mache day when we’re messing about with balloons, I’d like to know ahead of time if a participant is triggered by loud noises or has sensory issues and doesn’t like to touch things like paste, or if they need some assistance navigating the pitfalls of prepubescent social interaction. There’s nothing I like better than seeing a kid try out something they never thought they could do.  Help me to help your child. And for the love of muffins, please, please, please let us know up front if your kid has any life-threatening allergies.

8) You aren’t the only paying customer. I understand that parents pay a bundle for kids’ activities. I respect the monetary investment. But remember, unless it’s a private lesson, other parents paid for the experience, too. Your child can’t be the star of every show. If your kid is hogging the spotlight or is being disruptive, you owe it to the other parents to rein them in. You’d expect the same consideration, right?

9) It’s supposed to be fun! Enrichment classes are just that, a fun way to experience new things. Hanging over a kid’s shoulder at art camp and insisting they color in the lines or critiquing racing form at track camp is counter-productive. Kids need to feel safe trying new things without the expectation of perfection. So do all of us, really.

10) Keep expectations realistic. You read #8, right? The bit about it being fun? Not every kid is Pavlova or Baryshnikov. Some of them are just regular kids who like to dance. An enrichment camp isn’t for the budding professional. It’s a starter experience. If your kid tries the diving board for the first time because of swim camp, you can count it as a huge success, even if the resultant dive was my personal favorite, the belly flop. If they had a great time at track camp, does it matter that they never ran under a fifteen minute mile? I think not. Don’t expect your child to be ready to win Olympic equestrian gold at the end of the week if the closest they had been to a horse before camp was a merry-go-round. The name of the game is try. And fun. Try and have fun. It’s a good motto!

Now Where Did I Put My Groove?

I just got back from the weirdest spa. I think it was a spa. I had a nice, quiet room and an entire staff at my beck and call. I even had cable television, including a special station called “Hand Washing to Avoid Infection.”. I highly recommend the acupuncture. One needle stick, and I was out for hours. I was a little surprised at how often they asked for a urine sample or poked around for my blood, and they woke me at all hours to check my blood pressure. There were never any mints on my pillow, either. Maybe the occasional alcohol wipe or specimen cup, but whatever. Got to take the bad with the good, right? And at least this time they didn’t give me a baby when I left.

So now I’m home. Yay. I am slowly getting back into the swing of things. Yesterday, my husband took me for a car-ride, which perked me right up and confirmed my long-held suspicion that I am part golden retriever. I am no longer taking meds that restrict my ability to drive, so in theory, I am good to go. So for the first time in two weeks, I am alone with Squish. And I am terrified.

It seemed like a good idea. I can safely operate heavy machinery, after all, so how much more trouble can it be to keep up with a four year old? Quite a bit more, as it turns out. I’ll take the heavy machinery. It’s easier to win an argument with a belt sander than with a preschooler, and table saws come with an off-switch. Pray for me. I did not think this through.

Yeah, he's laying on the back of the couch. Because why not. He'll be good, right?

Yeah, he’s laying on the back of the couch. Because why not. He’ll be good, right?

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Class Time With Professor Padawan

Dear Professor,

I am a student, and I keep my nose to the grindstone during the school year, so when it’s time for a break, I want to relax as much as possible. How do I know that I have squeezed all the fun out of Spring Break that I can?

Signed,

Want My Money’s Worth

Dear Money’s Worth,

An excellent question. And also an easy one. You will know that you have properly utilized your Spring Break when at 10am on a Friday morning, you look like this:

Well done!

Well done!

***Editor’s note: I know it looks as though he has spent his Spring Break deep in study. Rest assured he did not. Having carried all his bedding downstairs the night before for a sleepover (or a stay-up-all-night-er), he was forced to use his books as a pillow.

The Best April Fool’s Trick EVER.

My daughter has an evil streak. I admit I kind of like it. A couple of years ago, she perpetrated the greatest prank in the universe. I may have put her up to it, but I’m pleading the fifth.

Anyway, it all started when I got a “tween kit” from Kotex, a nifty little pamphlet that contained coupons and suggestions on how to talk to my tween about first periods. Which was weird because my only tween was the Padawan, and I always considered it his teacher’s job to teach him about punctuation, but whatever. We got the little packet, and an idea began to take shape.

Girl-child immediately found a piece of junk mail addressed to her dad. She carefully removed the address label and affixed it to the packet with a bit of glue. Then she mixed it in with the day’s mail and waited for her prey.

Yes.. I saved it. Evidence of her evil genius.

Yes.. I saved it. Evidence of her evil genius.

When my husband came home, he flipped casually through the mail. And then he stopped, casting furtive glances to left and right. His brow crinkled, and I heard him mutter “Why do they think I want to know this?” as he began to hyperventilate. He fell for it, believing for a moment that Kimberly-Clarke in all its wisdom had singled him out to have The Talk with his daughter, and wondering desperately how to get out of it. What a glorious day!

Was it cruel? Maybe a little. Unusual? Not for this family.

Well done, Girl-child.

Virgin Shaming

I had another post all lined up for today. It was a happy one. I wanted it to run this morning, but I am frustrated. Yesterday, I was too angry to write about it. Today, the rage has faded, leaving me sad and without a lot of hope.

I’m not sure exactly how to start. I don’t even know quite how to tag this post. Is it about religion? books? stupid things that people say? stereotypes? I guess? yes? all of the above? This is hard. I don’t want it to be a long, rambly rant. I have points, and I’d love for other people to understand them. Here goes.

I unfollowed two blogs this weekend. I don’t do that often because I am pretty selective about who I follow in the first place. But I clicked “unsubscribe” with no hesitation at all. In the last few days, I dumped two blogs whose authors vilified parents who teach abstinence to their teens. Don’t leave yet! Hang with me for a few more sentences.

Let me be really clear here. These authors weren’t merely disagreeing with the stance. I follow all kinds of blogs whose authors have views different than my own. It’s a big world. If I only hung out with people who see things my way, I would have a very small circle indeed. In this circumstance, the authors were angry, disrespectful, and tried to present us as stupid. Not just ignorant. Stupid. Me no likey.

This is a loaded issue, and a personal one. That’s what really gets me. It was so personal. One of the authors went so far as to say that she felt sorry for our kids. She tried to clarify that statement in her comments, but her explanation was even muddier than the original phrasing. What I did see quite clearly is that there are underlying assumptions about teaching abstinence that border on myth.

Myth #1 – People who believe in abstinence are uptight. 

You might be surprised.

Myth #2 Teaching abstinence means that sex education involves saying “Don’t have sex until you’re married. I’ll give you a pamphlet on your wedding night.” 

I am not going into too much detail because it’s not necessary, and I’m also trying to keep this post under a million words. Suffice it to say that sex ed in my opinion should never be so black and white. There are many shades of grey. (Insert requisite Fifty Shades reference  and guffaw like a middle schooler here. Because I know I did.)

Myth #3 – By teaching my children to wait until they are married to have sex, I am judging those who do not. 

I think this may be the biggest one. There’s often the assumption that by saying something is wrong for my family, I am pointing a finger at the rest of the world. Trust me. If I’m looking for a someone to shake my finger at, I need look no further than my mirror. I’ve got enough to be going on with right here, thanks.

Myth #4 – Abstinence is unrealistic. 

I won’t disagree that it’s difficult. Learning to drive is hard, too, but if I think it’s not a good idea to run into mailboxes and school children, I’m going to teach my kids the skills to avoid them. I would be selling my kids short if I didn’t have high ideals for them. It would be inconsistent, actually. I’m going to tell my kids that they can be a marine biologist or an artist if they’re willing to work hard enough, so it would be strange to say I don’t have faith that they can delay certain pleasures until they’re married.

Both blog posts in question were in reference to things that are happening within the publishing industry, specifically with young adult fiction. I’ll address that particular topic in a future post, now that you know where I’m coming from.

If you’re new to my blog, welcome! If you’ve been here a long time, welcome back! Feel free to leave a comment below.