Archives For Jack

After Jack turned one I decided that photographing him every month might be a little bit of overkill–even I think he looks pretty much the same from one month to the next these days–but I still wanted to take some not-on-my-phone photos at least a couple times a year. I think every three months is a nice middle ground.

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This kid is not as easy to photograph as he used to be! He has no interest in sitting still and when I do catch him looking up I’ve got mere seconds before he makes a grab for this interesting contraption I’m holding up to my face. No time to elicit a smile!

222 (380x570)He’s trying to learn how to get up into the child-size chairs on his own. I’ve got my old laptop set up on the play table and he likes to sit there and pretend that he’s typing–just like mama. On numerous occasions I’ve turned around to catch him standing on the chair and looking out the window. I’m not sure whether to applaud or scold him. I’m leaning toward applause.

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His interests these days include: toilets, anything that can be reimagined as a phone, being carried around, cuddling, sleeping, and, as always, eating. He still takes two naps (knock on wood that that lasts FOREVER because mama likes to write in the mornings), breastfeeds twice a day (first thing in the morning and right before bed, though I think he may give it up completely soon), and says four words: mama, daddy, dog, and hey. As I mentioned recently, he still doesn’t walk, and I’m completely okay with that. We’re going in for his checkup this afternoon and hopefully the pediatrician doesn’t make a big deal out of it either. His legs and hips seem to be working just fine, he just needs to work on his balance I guess.

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I hope this week is treating you well! Thanks, as always, for reading and have a fabulous Wednesday!

Disclaimer: this is not meant as a criticism of anyone else’s parenting, past or present, including and especially the folks who raised us. My background in both education and social work have informed my opinions on certain aspects of child-rearing, but it’s just what I believe in and what works for our family. This is meant to explain my choices, no more, no less.

Jack is almost fifteen months and still has yet to take his first unassisted steps. He can pull up and walk while holding onto the furniture, but when he really wants to get somewhere he drops to his hands and knees and crawls.

He’s been slow to hit all of his milestones–rolling over, sitting up, and crawling. He did all of them in his own time and I refused to rush him. When he was ten months and still not crawling well meaning folks insisted that I try to teach him how to get around. I didn’t know how to explain my opposition eloquently so I joked about not wanting him to be mobile because it would be more work for me. But it was more than just laziness–it was a parenting decision that I wasn’t able to articulate clearly in the middle of a party or the grocery store checkout or whatever. And now that the months are passing by and everyone wants to know whether he’s walking the topic has been reawakened.

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image from here

I believe it’s important for Jack to be allowed to figure things out on his own. It’s a chance to let him learn to take on challenges and self-direct his own learning. These are part of a broader group of skills called executive functioning, something researchers now know is critical to success from elementary school well into adulthood. I won’t be spending a lot of time teaching him shapes, colors, letters, and numbers, either. That’s what kindergarten is for. The preschool years are for learning to focus, use your imagination, think critically, engage in learning, and develop empathy and self-control. None of these skills are anywhere near fully developed by school age, but executive functioning skills at school entry are more predictive of academic (and life!) success than any other measure–including IQ (see links below for more info on this).

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image from here

I’m under no illusions that this one decision to let my kid learn to walk on his own will make or break his ability to self-regulate come kindergarten, but it’s part of a broader approach to parenting that I feel strongly about. Honestly, I’m ready for him to walk. I can’t imagine it’ll be much harder to keep up with him than it already is and it’s getting awfully tiring having to carry him around everywhere. But it’s not about me. Learning to walk may very well be the most monumental accomplishment of these early years and I want him to do it on his own. We’ve got three months left before his crawling is cause for concern and I feel confident that he’ll take his first steps before then. And if he doesn’t we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Again, please don’t take offense if you’ve chosen differently with your own kids. This is not at all intended to tell other people what they should or should not do. I do a much better job of expressing myself through writing than when speaking and this is the best way I know how to explain to the world at large that I’m not dooming my son to crawl forever because I’m lazy. Thank you for reading and for always being so supportive and wonderful in general. I love y’all!

Here are some excellent articles about executive functioning if you’re interested in learning more:

Executive Function Skills Predict Children’s Success in Life and in School

Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?

Relations between Preschool Attention Span-Persistence and Age 25 Educational Outcomes

From External Regulation to Self-Regulation: Early Parenting Precursors of Young Children’s Executive Functioning

Executive Functioning as a Predictor of Children’s Mathematics Ability: Inhibition, Switching, and Working Memory

From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development

Let me just put this out there: Jack was a lot easier to deal with when he couldn’t move around. I could just plop him on a blanket, he’d sit there and play, life was good. Now he is so inquisitive and into everything and I feel like I’m on constant suicide watch. Saving him from himself is exhausting.

Alas, I just cannot bring myself to surrender quietly to turning my home into a totally babyfied environment. Grownups still live here and, actually, we pay the bills, so the place should be attractive and functional for us as well. Necessity + limitations breed creativity and I’ve spent the last several months coming up with creative ways to make our home safe and comfortable for all ages. Exhibit A: cords. Maybe all toddlers are into cords, maybe it’s just my kid, but it’s a problem. He wants to chew on them, wrap them around his neck, etc. I try to hide as many as I can behind furniture or whatever but the lamp and baby monitor in his room were really giving me a run for my money. I was so proud of myself when I came up with this solution. First, I stuck the monitor to the wall behind his crib with a command strip. He can’t reach it unless we move the crib and it can be easily removed and replaced to bring with us when we travel out of town. Next I used painter’s tape to secure the cords to the wall. Stay with me here.

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This is where the magic happens. I painted over the cords and tape with leftover paint from the walls. Jack’s no dummy and I’m sure he could spot these cords if he was really looking and of course he could go all toddler-hulk and rip them off the walls, but my suspicion that out of sight = out of mind seems to be holding true so far. Making the cords less obvious was all it took to make him forget about them.

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Next problem: old doors don’t close. Before Jack became so obsessed with toilets I used to lock him in the bathroom with me so I could shower. The only problem was that the door in our master bath not only doesn’t lock, but actually doesn’t even latch closed. So I installed a hook and screw eye on the door. I’ve since used this technique on several doors I needed to toddler-proof, like the closet where we store all of our tools and clutter. I have one on the tiny door to our attic as well but it’s within his reach and he’s figured it out.

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I’ve posted about this shelf before but it bears mentioning again. I put a big basket on the bottom shelf full of Jack’s toys and honestly he hasn’t messed with anything else on the shelf since, but just to be safe the second and third shelves are full of books (obviously unbreakable) and items stuck down with museum putty. I was so excited when I discovered this stuff. I use it to secure lamps, whatnots, etc. so that cats and babies can’t knock them down. Works like a charm.

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Last but not least, the baby gate. Ugh, I was so hoping to avoid them altogether but reality had other plans. Jack can and will scale those stairs at any available opportunity so they must be barricaded during all waking hours. I was happy to at least find one that was both inexpensive and on the attractive end of things. And it’s made of sustainable materials so I can pat myself on the back for that. (if you’re in the market for baby gates this is the one we own and love).

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Jack is also really into the dog’s food and water bowls. It took me weeks to figure out how to keep him away from them without blocking the dog as well, but finally I got the idea to just mount the baby gate a foot or so off the ground. Jack probably could crawl under but he doesn’t know it and I plan to keep it that way. I used to just block him out of the laundry room behind the kitchen (where we keep the dog bowls, cat litter box, etc.) but I recently started blocking him from the kitchen after he learned how to turn on the gas stove knobs and it’s a brave new world. It’s so much easier to cook without a toddler underfoot.

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I was talking to my friend Cassie the other night about how our babies have changed our lives and she repeated something she’d heard from someone else; to paraphrase: they’re not just an add-on. The entire landscape of our lives shifts to accommodate them. And for Nick and me negotiating the new normal in a post-Jack world has been fascinating, exciting, painful, frustrating, and unexpected in so many ways. We’ve had to figure out everything from how we spend our free time to who changes diapers on the weekends to a daily routine that keeps everybody fed, clean, and happy. Is having a cute house the most important thing in the world? Obviously not. But it helps me keep a little bit of my identity in a world that’s dominated by sippy cups and snack times.

Do y’all have any tips for keeping some semblance of sanity in a home with small children? My number one tip is to get a dog–Juliet happily cleans up every crumb that falls to the ground. And my newest thing is to sing the clean up song while picking up Jack’s toys before naps and bedtime. I notice that he is actually more interested in them when they’re not all sitting out all the time and I’m hoping that as he gets older he’ll start joining in with putting them away.

We’ve spent this weekend at my favorite place–the beach.

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Unfortunately between Jack’s sleeping/eating requirements and some bleary weather we really didn’t spend much time at the beach at all. Yesterday we finally got tired of sitting around waiting for the sun to come out and went to a local arcade. Jack was mesmerized by all the lights and sounds and the grownups had a good time acting like kids again. My favorite was the skee-ball, but Nick enjoyed trying to beat his own high score at the sledgehammer game.

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Forty bucks later we traded our 1,350 tickets for a finger puppet, a small toy ball, and three packs of twizzlers. Here’s Nick’s brother Tim displaying our bounty. Of course the sun had come out while we were inside playing.

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We shared a cabin at Alabama’s Gulf State Park with Tim and his girlfriend Jessica. The state park is a great budget friendly lodging option and the cabin, while small and outdated, was really quite comfortable. It helps when the company is so good. We spent our evenings playing cards and drinking beer on the screened porch.

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Last night on our way home from dinner we realized the sun was out and we had an hour until Jack’s bedtime, so without even running back to the cabin to change Jack into proper swimming attire we seized the opportunity to finally introduce him to his mama’s first love, the ocean.

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Baby, meet sand. He loved it so much that he screamed in protest when we picked him up to go home, so we put him back down and let him play a little more.

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Of course when we woke up this morning there was not a cloud in the sky. So while Tim and Jessica were still sleeping we slathered Jack in sunscreen and brought him down to the beach for a proper romp in the sand and surf. And this time I put the iPhone down so I could focus on seeing the ocean through the eyes of my sweet boy. So I don’t have any pictures, but I do have some solid memories.

We’re driving back today. It’s so nice to be able to sneak away for a weekend like this, but I’m not ready to get back to the grind again. I wish we could’ve stayed longer!