Yelling and Apologizing

Recently, an adult in Avery’s life thought she was touching something she wasn’t supposed to. This adult yelled and scolded her. And then they realized that she was in fact not touching anything off limits. They said nothing. I was entering the scene from a distance so I could see what was happening but I wasn’t seen. When I approached, Avery ran to me, hugged my legs, and her bottom lip started quivering.

We don’t yell in our family unless she is about to get seriously injured and needs to be startled out of doing something dangerous. That, and the time she started pulling my baby plants up out of the garden… I yelled like a Banshee at that… Not proud of it, but we all have buttons more easily pushed than others.

Anyway, I was struck by the fact that this adult didn’t apologize to Avery when they realized they were mistaken. They had yelled at her for touching one of her own toys. She was confused and sad. An apology would have fixed the situation, and shown Avery a valuable lesson about admitting when we’re wrong, and showing kindness to people.

But I didn’t have the nerve to correct the person. I didn’t ask them to apologize. I think I need to learn the valuable lesson of standing up for myself so I can model that to my daughter, and then we’ll both be able to demand apologies for ourselves.


Strong woman, soft mother

My wife is a do-er. She’s handy with tools, she can carry heavy things, and she always gets asked to help when there’s a building project or when someone’s moving. I used to be that person, too. When my wife and I moved in together we enlisted no help – together, we moved in every piece of furniture, every appliance, every box, by ourselves. We also fixed up our home together. I did as much sanding and painting as she did.

But when we became parents, I ended up taking on (or being given) the role of default parent. I love the role because it means that I’ve been the first person Avery asks for and comes to, but the problem with that role is that it supercedes the roles of helper-outer, heavy-lifter, project-maker, etc. I no longer get asked to help with things because it’s assumed that I’m busy with Avery. Or it’s assumed that I’m too “soft” because I’m a mom (which is the most ass backwards logic ever).

Is this just happening to me, or do other primary caregivers experience this shift in how people see them as well?

Dreaming of your unborn child

I was looking back on my old blog posts from early in my pregnancy with Avery and I came across an account of a dream I had when I was just 7 weeks pregnant

I had my first baby dream since getting pregnant, and it was magical. I didn’t want to wake up. My wife and I were cuddling a beautiful brunette baby girl… It was so real and so wonderful…

And although Avery turned blond when her newborn hair fell out, here’s a picture of her as a newborn:

Did I have some intuition that actually allowed me to KNOW the sex and future hair colour of the embryo that was growing inside me? I’m not inclined to believe so, but it’s certainly interesting to consider…

Am I going to be assaulted?

I’ve never been raped. In my years as a hetero- and then bisexual identifying person (in my teens and early 20s), I was sexually harassed and sexually coerced by men numerous times, and long before I knew what consent was I definitely had sex without really wanting to, for various psychological reasons. But I have never experienced the horror of having a man enter my space and force himself on me explicitly against my will.

And yet, the fear of having this happen is at the forefront of my thoughts when I interact alone with any man I do not know intimately well.

Someone I used to volunteer with – a white man in his 50’s – came to my house the other day just to catch up. He requested a get-together at my house so he could see my chickens. He’s a nice person and I was happy to catch up and show him our set-up. But we were going to be meeting at my house on a day when I was going to be alone. My wife and daughter were out of town. On the days leading up to our get-together, a dark thought started running through my mind:

What if he plans to assault me?

I had horrible images in my head. As the hours to our visit ticked closer, I became scared. But I also felt ridiculous for being scared. I’d worked on odd projects and had board meetings with this person for a year prior. We weren’t close, but he was really nice and easy to get along with. While I KNEW he wasn’t actually a threat, I also KNEW the statistics around sexual assault occurring mostly in the victim’s home, by people the victim knows.

Our visit came and went, and I was unharmed. He was a perfectly pleasant human who legitimately wanted to catch up and learn about my chickens. And I felt horrible for fearing the worst of him.

But that’s what it’s like to be a woman.

6 Cute Halloween Books for Babies and Preschoolers

I love daily blogging challenges. I also love October. Hence, I’m joining in on #blogtober! And to kick off the next 31 days of daily blogs, here’s a list of Halloween themed books for babies and young kids. These books have all been read and thoroughly enjoyed by me and my 2 year old.

Haunted Halloween

The rhymes in this counting book are cute and rhythmic, and the subject is spooky Halloween creatures. “1 bat hangs, pointy fangs. 2 toads sleep, earthworms creep.” The illustrations are bright and vibrant, but also in creepy Halloween colours, and the board book pages are cut out around some of the images for a cool tactile bonus. The book ends with a Halloween party full of kids who were glad that they weren’t too scared to make it to the party, because Halloween spooks are just for fun, afterall!

Good Night, Little Monsters

This is a Halloween bedtime story that (hopefully) won’t give your kids nightmares. Its poetic phrases are sweet and loving, despite being about little Frankenbaby and a baby zombie. Here’s a sample: “Goodnight precious zombie. Enjoy your last snack. Know that we love you, through the gloom and back” [image of baby zombie in a high chair taking a bite of a gingerbread person’s head]. Eight spooky monsters are represented in the book’s pages.

Eek! Halloween! (Boynton on Board)

By the author of the popular Pyjama Time, this cute Halloween book is about a flock of chickens who are wondering what the heck is going on in the world as they start to see witches and monsters and pumpkins with glowing eyes… The chickens are nervous. They hide their eyes and are too scared to peek. But then a helpful pig in a costume reassures them, “Relax silly chickens! It’s Halloween!” This book has cute and goofy illustrations and my 2 year old really gets a kick out of the story.

Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat (A Click Clack Book)

This book is so fun to read with its creepy onomatopoeias! “There is a crunch, crunch, crunching as the mice scurry across the field. There is a creak, creak, creaking as the sheep slowly push open the barn door…” In this book, Farmer Brown is afraid of Halloween, and hides himself away under his blankets in bed. But his farm animals are really into the Halloween spirit, and invite him to a costume party in the barn. This one is available in paperback and hardcover.

Happy Halloween, Mittens (My First I Can Read)

This book is cutesy and contains no scary monsters like the other books listed here, but it still portrays a Halloween message for kids. Mittens, an adorably mischievous kitten, just wants to help his owner decorate for Halloween, but he keeps getting in the way. Think of a kitten trying to help a kid paint and getting paint on his paws and all over the place – Mittens might remind you a bit of your kid…. But finally, Mittens finds a way to help using his natural kitten-talents. Unfortunately this isn’t available in board book format, but it is a read-along book that’s ideal for young readers as well as for those kids still being read to.

Little Blue Truck’s Halloween

We love the little blue truck series in our house. Avery loves the animal sounds we make while reading, and the friendly “beep, beep, beep!” of Little Blue. We were excited to discover that there’s a Halloween edition. In this story, the Little Blue Truck is on his way to a Halloween party. Little readers lift the flaps to see what farm animal is behind the costumes.

Happy Halloween reading!

The Overthinking Parent Thinks about Time-Outs

That’s me – the overthinking parent. My wife’s the same way. So tonight when we tried a time out for the first time, we were so wracked with uncertainty and doubt that it went kind of badly. She hit the new kitten with a drum stick after being corrected for her behaviour 100 times before, and refused to say sorry to him. My wife tossed an empty threat into the void – “say sorry to Albus or you’ll go to a time-out.” We have never done a time out. We didn’t have a game plan. But Avery has time outs at daycare, so she knew it was something she didn’t want. Nevertheless, she laid there on the floor and said “no!” defiantly.

So I improvised. The threat had been made, and I felt like I needed to follow through. I picked her up and took her to the front hall. I told her she was going in a time out until she calmed down. I closed the baby gate that separates the front hall from the rest of the house. I walked away. The screaming was ear shattering.

I started to panic in the other room after about a minute had passed and the crying didn’t subside. So I went to her and explained again why she was there. I reminded her of the misbehaviour and told her she was there until she calmed down. I tried to get her to take a deep breath. My wife and I were both standing with her at this point. We started to give each other glances that said “what do we do if she never calms down?” Then I worried that Avery had noticed our glances and we had made it worse.

She started to make up excuses to get out, like needing to go potty or blow her nose. She wiped snot all over her face through her screams. We were probably oozing uncertainty. We were coming and going, trying to help her calm down and then leaving when she would hit us in a rage.

After 5 minutes she still wasn’t calming down, so we changed the requirement for getting out of time out – she didn’t have to calm down while alone in the corner, but she at least had to say sorry to the cat for hitting him. Our consistency was slipping.

At this point I was feeling like I caused the whole meltdown. When I first hauled her off to the time out, she was just pouting, face down on the floor, for being told no. The hitting had stopped instantly when we told her to stop. If I’d just been more patient with her and waited another minute for her to say sorry to the cat, we wouldn’t be in this mess. The consequence had become so far removed from the original offending behaviour. It was the time out that caused the misbehaviour to escalate. I felt guilty for imposing a disciplinary measure that I wasn’t 100% on board with, and that I didn’t really know how to execute.

Eventually, she said sorry. It took about 7 minutes, but it felt like half an hour. The sorry was empty – which is all we could expect from a 2 year old who can’t fully process empathy yet, and who was apologizing for something that happened a long time ago, in toddler time.

After my wife took her to bed I spent a long time scouring parenting resources on the internet for time-out advice. I picked apart every aspect of how our first, unplanned time-out experience went, and I’ve made a mental list for how we’ll attempt it the next time. I’m still not convinced that it’s a form of discipline that’s right for Avery, and certainly not one to overuse, but since she gets it at daycare and my wife is inclined to try it, I sure as hell am going to overthink it until we have a solid plan.

Oh Crap! A mom’s experience with potty training

Potty training is exhausting. I think that the rip-the-bandaid-off style of the Oh Crap! Potty Training method might be the most exhausting. But for us, at least, it worked well and fast. In under 3 weeks from start to finish, my 24 month old was day-time potty trained. Here’s my review of the method, and my honest recollection of how it went for us. Link to buy the book at the end.

We embarked on potty training using this method a couple of days after my daughter turned 2. After the birthday party, we had a full 7 days at home with no daycare. So we ripped the bandaid. We got rid of diapers. Priority numero uno of this method is having a solid game plan. You have to be totally ready – mentally, emotionally, physically, to embark on what will be some of the most tiring and frustrating days of your parenting career (and you have to remain calm and collected during those stressful days, or it’ll backfire!) The book recommends taking 2 weeks from having read the book and deciding to go for it, to actually starting the process. There really is a lot of mental preparedness that goes into this, as a parent. Here’s what you’re preparing for:

The Oh Crap! method breaks down a condensed and rather intense process into blocks of learning. Blocks do not represent days, but I’ll share how many days we spent in each block.

Block 1

Block 1 requires your child to be naked all day, no leaving the house, all eyes on their little butt so you don’t miss a single pee or poop as it happens. That’s not even the exhausting stage. My kid did great in Block 1, and I thought we were going to get through the whole process unscathed.

The idea is to move them through the stages of bodily awareness, from:

  1. “clueless”
  2. “I peed”
  3. “I’m peeing”
  4. “I have to pee”

In that first morning, she had 7 pees on the floor (thanks to the juice box we gave her to give us more opportunity to practice). I caught all of them mid stream and relocated her to the potty, explaining that pee doesn’t go on the floor, it goes in the potty. She started out clueless to the sensation of peeing, but after all that practice of me naming it when she felt it run down her leg, she quickly progressed to “I’m peeing,” and even started to get a two second “I have to pee” warning. By 10am she had it figured out and peed in the potty every single time for the next day and a half. Poops were the same deal – she just GOT IT.

But then block 2 happened, and we had to really work for it. Turns out that cleaning up tons of pee and poop off the floor isnt the exhausting part – it’s battling your own internal voice that’s telling you you’re failing, not making progress, doing it wrong, or that your child isn’t ready afterall.

Block 2

This block introduces clothing, without underwear. The idea behind going commando is that underwear gives them the sensation of wearing a diaper in that it clings to their bums and makes them feel concealed, like no one will see if they pee or poop. That sensation triggers muscle memory to pee or poop anywhere/anytime, as they’ve done for every day of their existence thus far (that’s the logic behind the complete ditching-of-the-diapers approach with this method, as well).

Block 2 usually involves some resistance as your kid realizes you’re serious about this new arrangement and digs in their heels. We got the resistance. We saw the pee dance and had her sit on the potty, and then she’d get up, say “all done pee”, and then pee in her pants 30 seconds later. Or she’d full out refuse to sit on the potty with a terrible-two’s style tantrum. We felt like we were failing. We started to lose hope. We were frustrated. I caught myself getting short with my child for having an accident. These were dark days.

During Block 2, she started acting out a lot. She was under a lot of pressure. Even though we tried to be supportive and helpful to her in the process, she was being asked to suddenly stop doing something she had innately done every single day of her life prior, and start doing something that required a lot of body awareness and self-control. While necessary to learn, it’s a huge responsibility for little kids. The pressure was getting to her. She started waking through the night again, crying out into the darkness, “peed in bed! Pee goes in potty!” Heartbreaking.

This brings me to the fact that we didn’t even try night training. We chose to take it one step at a time – daytime potty training, while allowing a diaper to sleep in (totally permissible in the Oh Crap! book, by the way). So the fact that she was waking up freaking out about peeing the bed showed how deeply the potty training pressure was infiltrating her thoughts.

I’m lucky that we had a couple of friends who had used this method, and when we felt like ripping our hair out and drowning ourselves in vodka, we could check in with our friends and hear that they, too, went through the gamut of emotions: like sadness, disappointment, anger, guilt….

But just as the book and our friends promised, if you stay true to the cause and keep the stress and tension as low as humanly possible, and keep your eyes on your child every waking minute for any subtle sign of a pee/poop dance, you will succeed. The training will “click” for your child. For us this happened on about day 10.

Block 3

Block 3 doesn’t necessarily coincide with having the training “click” for your child. Block 3 is about testing their new skills outside of the home environment, and for many people (us included), this happens at daycare. My daughter started back at daycare on day 7, when she was still missing the potty (and I was missing her pee dance) about 30% of the time. Daycare was no different. Luckily, our daycare provider was willing to work with our game plan (and was willing to clean up pee off the floor all morning until it “clicked”). There’s a whole chapter in the book dedicated to working with daycares, though, as not everyone is as lucky as we are when it comes to flexible providers.

Block 4 and Beyond

This block of learning contains the details that you encounter in everyday life after potty training, like using public restrooms and introducing underwear (yeah, your kid is still commando after about a month).

By this block of learning, you’re starting to feel better about yourself and this whole process. Our real test of block 4 came with a trip to Avery’s cousin’s house. It was a 3 hour round trip in the car, a new environment, a trip to the park, and a restaurant trip, and she had zero accidents and even peed in the restaurant restroom. Accidents are much less common (we only had one this week, 3 weeks after starting), and only happen when she’s far too engaged in play to stop for a potty break and think she can hold it for longer than she can). But we feel justified in saying that our daughter is potty trained now because we no longer have to really think about “potty training”. We now have to think about things like if she pees before we need to leave the house, where the public restrooms are at every place we visit… But we no longer have to think about her peeing her pants while we’re out for a walk. We can take her to daycare, to the library, on car trips, and we know that she knows – reliably – that pee and poop go in the potty, not in her pants/carseat/the floor.

Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right (Oh Crap Parenting)

Potty training with the Oh Crap! method, like with slower, child-led methods, is a long process. It’s going to be another couple of months probably before we get rid of the little potty and just have her always go on the big toilet. It’s also going to be a few months before we night train (even though she always wakes up with a dry diaper, she seems relieved to know that she won’t have to worry about going potty when she’s sleeping, and we’re going to give her that break). We’re going to bring the potty with us in the car for long car trips, pack a spare pair of pants, and continue to remind her to go pee before leaving the house, probably for the next year. But right now we have a kid who knows how to get her pee and poop in the potty, rarely has accidents, can hold it for long enough to get to the potty within a reasonable distance, and feels confident in pulling her own pants down and using the potty even when we’re not in the room with her. And it took a little over 2 weeks.

If you think you can handle the intensity of this potty training method without showing your frustration and stress to your child, I absolutely recommend the Oh Crap! method. It’s fast, it’s dirty, and it works.

*side note: If you’re thinking of trying this method based only on what I’ve written in this blog post, know that the book contains all of the step-by-step instructions for the Blocks of Learning in just one chapter. That’s the simple stuff. The rest of the book is chock full of supportive, myth busting info, and SO MUCH TROUBLESHOOTING. It’s worth the $7.