Tag Archives: preschool

Car Seats and Emerging Independence

First, the car seat was a baffling contraption that soon became our most-relied-on baby necessity. Besides the obvious reasons, the infant seat won us over for how easily it snapped in and out of the base. You just buckled the baby in and could go in and out of the car — and stroller — with ease. Napping was a breeze. He conked out in the car, and we carried his seat wherever we needed to go (or not go) and he slept peacefully. Uninterrupted dinners. Bliss!

Then he wised up — hey, I can move! — and the car seat turned into stress city. Back arching, thrashing, howling, any way he could resist getting into that seat, he tried. Flop sweat ran down my face as I fought him. So what if I was running late to work. We weren’t going anywhere until he cooperated, and I struggled to get him buckled.

Which resulted in the bribery phase. Also the phase of never going anywhere without goldfish or animal crackers. I doled it out for his cooperation, praying the need would pass and I wouldn’t have to bribe for the rest of his childhood.

It passed. I moved on to bribing him for other reasons. That’s the kind of parent I am, I guess.

He got more cooperative with the car seat, procrastinating but not fighting, which was easier to deal with. He learned to talk and entertained me on our drives with questions and stories and songs.

And then recently, we have entered another phase. The “I can do it myself” phase where he successfully buckles and (mostly) unbuckles himself, and woe to the parent who steps on his independence. It takes a long time, I am still running late for everything, but when he is done, he looks up and pauses for approval. With pride on his face.

So I wait, nod enthusiastically and praise him, regretting how time has flown. But at least I don’t have to pack goldfish and animal crackers any more.

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The Truth About Snips and Snails

I thought snips and snails and puppy dog tails was meant to be just a description of little boys’ personalities. I was unaware that it was actually describing the contents of their pockets.

Nate can’t pass up anything shiny, colorful, different, interesting, etc., on the dirty, dirty ground. Some of the stuff (leaves, acorns, hard berries, teeny flowers, yarn, twisty ties, broken pieces of colorful plastic) he presents to me as a special gift. Some goodies get shoved in his pocket for me to find later when I do the laundry. Unfortunately, I am a lazy laundry-doer, so I find it in the bottom of the washer or the dryer lint trap. One of these days, it is going to be a crayon, and I am going to be furious with myself for not checking his pockets before throwing his shorts in the wash. I know this. But let’s face it, just getting the laundry done is an accomplishment. Please no extra steps.

So today I dutifully clean out the lint trap and there is a small peacock feather caught in it. His school has peacocks roaming the campus, and he loves them. Clearly, this is a treasure.

I picked off the dryer lint and saved the feather.

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Red-hot Birthday Party in Tampa

I wanted to postpone the birthday party madness as long as I could, knowing full well I would spend too much time and money and make myself crazy when something more low-key would mean just as much to the little dude. That theory worked OK for birthdays 1, 2 and 3, when we spent the party money instead on an overnight at the beach, a trip to Adventure Island and an aquarium day with the grandparents.

But then we started getting invited to parties. Really fun parties. And Nate wanted to know when his party was going to be.

I started Googling. It’s really hard to find something different but not crazy expensive. I wanted indoors (August in Florida, enough said) and I did not want to have to clean my house. I remembered a friend’s party a few years ago for her little boy — at the Tampa Firefighter’s Museum. I gave them a call, the price was right and it was available. I booked it.

Nate loves firefighters, so the theme was a good fit, and I liked knowing the fee would benefit the nonprofit. I went a little nuts on the planning, but less nuts than I could have, because the venue really did most of the work for me.

Which is to say, if you have a small child in Tampa with even a passing interest in firetrucks, you need to check this place out. You can tour it on your own, but for birthday parties, it is really magical.

The museum is housed downtown in the former Station 1, built in 1911. It’s a wide open space with exposed brick (automatically making your decorations look better), two antique fire engines, hoses and a play firetruck for the kids, outfitted with hats and jackets. The museum sets up tables for adults and children, as well as an area for you to set up food and gifts/favors. It’s an odd time of day (10-noon) but if you have a small child, it’s not that bad. You’re probably up by then anyway, and you’re done in time for naps. If you’re lucky — we couldn’t convince our birthday boy to nap after all the excitement.

The kids were content to run wild and go on and off the firetruck, and the parents got to relax or check out the displays on their own. But what made it truly special was a trip across the street to a working fire station. The guys were so great with our pack of 4-year-olds, explaining all the cool things the trucks did, putting on their gear for us and even sliding down the pole. We weren’t rushed, and when an alarm did go off (they had to check out a false fire alarm), they had us step aside while the truck pulled out, and then another firefighter finished the tour.

We returned to the museum for “lunch” and cupcakes, and the kids all left with my favors and a huge goodie bag from the museum — complete with a hat, pencil, activity book, stickers and temporary tattoos.

The Tampa Firefighter’s Museum really is a hidden gem in this area and amazing option for parties. And you are free to keep your house as messy as you want.

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Bad Parenting With Good Intentions

I don’t believe in having a parenting philosophy, because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that children are not consistent and no matter how many books (or blogs or message boards) you read, they will find ways to surprise you.

But one semi-philosophy I have, one guiding belief, is in disappointment. It’s OK to experience disappointment on occasion. It’s good to not get everything you want. You’re not going to be the best at all you attempt, and learning how to respond to to that graciously will serve you well.

I blew this lesson last week.

My son is drawn to a boy at his day care who (on good days) is a bit bossy and (on bad days) a bit of a bully. We hear stories of bad language, roughhousing and more from my son, all of which we take with a grain of salt because, well, he’s not even 4 yet. But Friday, as we pulled away from day care, my son told me this kid had taken my son’s show-and-tell, a beloved toy helicopter, and chucked it over the fence.

Day care was closed, son was snapped into his car seat, and I started to drive away, thinking the lesson here was that it stinks to lose a toy but you need to learn responsibility. Go through the disappointment and stop letting certain kids take advantage of you at show and tell.

But. The crying.

I made a U-turn, returned to the scene of the crime and tried to grill my son on where exactly they were standing when the copter took flight. This did not help (something about a tunnel, a door, not that door and a guess). I tried. I drove slowly, turned around, drove by again, scanned the ground and nothing.

We drove away. There were whimpers this time, and I felt awful. Felt like all I was doing was punishing my kid for something a bully did.

Before I knew it, we were at Target and I was looking through all the bins and racks for a similar helicopter. Which I found. Not the same one, but close enough, the last helicopter surely in the whole freaking Target.

I bought it. He was happy. Three days later, he was even happier because daddy managed to track down the original lost helicopter and return it to him.

And now he has two helicopters. And no lessons.

I’m OK with that.

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First-Time Mom Worries

I didn’t realize parenting would involve quite so much worrying.

Early on, we were regulars at the pediatrician’s office — not unusual for first-time parents, I know. Some of it was routine stuff, some was us being overly cautious, some was because everything was so new we had no idea what was normal for him.

(I remember getting his first prescription filled — Zantac for reflux — and the pharmacist asked me what flavors he liked. I was like, um, I don’t know, we just met.)

Gradually we stopped calling the doctor all the time. His immune system strengthened thanks to day care (ha), and he outgrew the reflux. But the worrying and the immediate assumption of doom and gloom? Still there.

He bumps his head? I’m running all the tests for concussions.
Doesn’t eat much at dinner? Might be the flu.
Runny nose? Why is it going on forever?
Cough? Pneumonia and/or collapsed lung.
Mosquito bite? Looks unnaturally large, might be a severe allergic reaction or possibly a poisonous spider bite.
Sleepy? Flu.
Fever? Meningitis.
Mole I don’t remember seeing? Oh, god, skin cancer.
Bruise? Oh, god, leukemia.
Rash? Measles.

I probably need to think less about symptoms and worst-case scenarios and more about how lucky I am to have such an active, smart, engaging kid. I have seen parents handle news far worse than I have gotten with grace and determination. I hope to never have to find out for myself how I would react. And maybe I’ll outgrow the constant worrying?

Except, oh God, he is going to be in elementary school before I know it and eventually he will be driving and going to parties and meeting girls and all kinds of bad things can happen. And I don’t even want to hear about college.

Outgrow worrying, ha. Not likely.

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