So, I have a parenting issue going on right now. It is complex. It is complicated. It is multifaceted. It is perplexing. Such is the social life of an almost four-year-old.
Bean has two “best friends.” One is a legit bestie. He talks about her at home, we hang out with her family, Bean might be in love with her. Her name is Elle and she is lovely. The two of them fight like an old married couple, but it is all very normal, healthy behavior for their age.
And then there is this other kid.
I am fairly certain that Bean is only this dude’s friend because he is being forced to be his friend. True, Bean likes to hang out with him. But from the interactions I have seen, it is more of a “I’m-smiling-because-you-scare-me” kind of friendship. The kid himself is always in Bean’s face, always talking/yelling/screeching in Bean’s face, always putting his hands on Bean’s face. He is just one of those face-talkers. Well, face-yellers. And it drives Bean crazy. I know this because when I am around the two of them, Bean will give me these pleading looks like, “Make him stop, please!”
Now, those are personality traits in a child, and I know more than to judge or throw my mom weight around because of something like that. In the grand scheme of things, those are annoyances and not behavior issues.
But then he crossed the line.
A few weeks ago, we were at a birthday party for one of the kids’ classmates. The other kid was there and so was his mom, and Bean was hanging out with him pretty much all day. This was the first time I had really gotten to see them interact, and it was the first time I noticed this annoying in-Bean’s-face behavior. It was driving me nuts, and I could tell it was bothering Bean, too. But I had never seen them interact for a long period of time before, so I sort of stood back in case this was normal behavior. I was just keeping my eye on things.
I happened to be talking to the kid’s mom for a minute, and when I turned back around, this kid had his hands around Bean’s neck and was shaking Bean. Bean, of course, was crying.
…And that’s when I almost beat that kid up.
I try to be a very polite person who respects other parents and gives the a chance to intervene when their child is misbehaving. But you put your hands around my kid’s neck and we’re going to have some words.
I pushed about 15 kids out of my way in about 15 seconds, and very quickly pulled the kid’s hands off of Bean. Then, as I pulled Bean into my arms to comfort him (he was pretty freaked), I said very nicely, but firmly to the other child, “Michael doesn’t like it when you put your hands around his neck.”
That Monday after the birthday party, I mentioned what happened to Bean’s teachers. I had this terrible fear that they would be on some corner of a playground somewhere and that kid would accidentally strangle Bean. I told the teacher that I would appreciate it if they would watch for any kind of aggressive or overly zealous behavior from that kid directed towards Michael. Even if the kid wasn’t intending to be aggressive in a mean way, I still didn’t want Bean to feel overpowered or uncomfortable – no matter what someone’s intention are.
Weeks have gone by since that birthday party, and Bean has continued to talk about his “best fwend.” He never says anything bad about this child, and seems to really enjoy hanging out with him. But last night we went to science night at the kids’ daycare, and this other kid was there with his mom. I couldn’t help but notice that the kid was still all over Bean. He had his hands all over his face, was kissing his face, and was pushing all these toys and things into his face whenever Bean would try to move on to something else or talk to someone else.
Bean gave me that look again that said, “Help me!” and then I think I made a mistake. I smiled at Bean and said, “It’s okay, Buddy.” And I didn’t do anything about it.
All night I have been thinking about what I said. The truth is that it is NOT alright for a child to be all over Bean. It is NOT alright for Bean to have to put up with behavior that bothers him. It is NOT alright to pretend that something is okay when it clearly is something Bean is uncomfortable with. I don’t want to be the parent who is overly protective or overly involved in my kids friendships. But more importantly than that, I don’t want to be the parent who teaches my children to endure what they are uncomfortable with for the sake of being polite. Because, God forbid, this was a situation where something was inappropriate and uncomfortable, I don’t want Bean to grow up thinking he has to be “okay” with anything that makes him uncomfortable.
This afternoon, I talked to Bean’s teachers again and said that Michael was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this enthusiastic child and he was uncomfortable with someone’s hands in his face or someone kissing his face or shoving toys in his face. I asked that the teachers remind the kids to keep their hands to themselves, and to keep an eye on Bean and this kid to make sure that even though Bean might SAY he was okay, that they help him keep a comfortable distance from any child if he wanted some space.
Then, I came home and talked to Bean. I told him that last night when I said that it was okay for that kid to put his hands all over Bean’s face, I was wrong. And that it wasn’t okay. I explained that when someone is doing something that we don’t like, it is okay to say, “Stop doing that! I don’t like it!” And then we practiced that a few times, which Bean thought was hysterical. Then we talked about how he should tell his teacher if someone kept bothering him after he asked them to stop, and we practiced talking to the teacher. He came in from our chat and walked right up to Chris and announced, “Dad, I don’t have to let people bother me. I can tell them to stop doing that because I don’t like it!”
I’m a pretty laid back person, I think. It takes a lot to rattle me, and I try not to rattle other people. But as a parent, I am learning. I’m learning to speak up for my child and to say, “Hey, this bothers me. Stop doing that. I don’t like it.” I need to learn to say that so I can empower my child to say it, too. My mom told me one time that being polite doesn’t mean you have to be passive. You don’t have to sit there while something goes on that you don’t agree with or that really bothers you. As a parent, I can speak up. And in speaking up, my children learn to speak up for themselves. Isn’t that what we want? We want our children to grow up knowing they have a voice. A voice to speak out, a voice to share, a voice to encourage, but also a voice to set boundaries and to hold their own when they need.
Then again, if I just beat up every kid that bothers him, Bean won’t really need a voice at all.
But I guess that isn’t the point…
This summer I am trying something new, and so far I am really loving it. During the summer, the kids and I can be found either out by the pool or at the splash park. We are water loving fools around my house. Last summer, though, one of the things that held us up the most was having the condense the diaper bag into a pool or beach bag. I was forever leaving sunscreen in my diaper bag and not having it when we went to the pool, or leaving my sunglasses in the pool bag and not having them in my diaper bag, or forgetting to pack things like sunglasses and hats altogether. This year I am trying something new.
First, I changed the type of pool bag I have. I used to carry the traditional fabric oversized beach bag, but I never found one I liked. They were never big enough to hold all my towels, and even the vinyl ones had to be hung out to dry if they got wet. And they ALWAYS got wet. This year I am using a large plastic tote from Old Tyme Pottery. If you don’t have an OTP near you, then I feel sorry for you, but I’m sure you can find something comparable or even the same from Walmart or Target (though I haven’t seen them at my Target). At OTP, this giant doozey of a tote cost $4.99. That’s right. A pool bag for less than $5! I also like this bag because it is lightweight and because it has a flat bottom, so it never spills over in my car.
This year, I decided to keep my pool bag packed and ready to go all the time. Rather than having to pack a pool bag every single day or rather than having to drag a thousand things outside every time we wanted to go out to the pool, I keep my pool bag packed and ready. Here are the things I always have in my pool bag:
1. Hats for the kids to keep the sun off of their face. For wee little ones, you can get hats with UV protection, like Bean has here. But I keep them pretty covered with sunblock, so I opted this year to get Gracie a cowgirl hat instead.
2. Sunglasses for each of the kids. I try to get the kind with UV protection.
3. All kinds of suntan lotion. I have a little of the WaterBabies left, but I’m not crazy about that brand because it never seems to stay on for long and it goes on pretty thick. What I use religiously on the kids is Coppertone Kids Broad Spectrum 50. It sprays the best! You don’t have to rub it in, and it isn’t greasy. I have Banana Boat SPF 15 tanning oil for me, but I use the kids stuff on my face.
4. Goggles. These are new for the kids this year, and so far they love them. In fact, I can’t get them to take them off long enough to even take a picture of them! They use these in the pool, but still like to have them handy at the splash park, mostly because they are still a novelty, I think.
5. Crocs for the kids. These are the BEST summer shoes. They are durable beyond belief, and I love them because they can get wet and never look any different. They don’t shrivel up like those cheap flip flops, do. Plus, they are easier for my kids to wear because they don’t like things between their toes. I also like them because they can be worn with bathing suits in place of flip flops, or even with shorts and t-shirts for playing. Bean has even worn his with khaki shorts and a polo to church. They are a little pricey, but we get one pair at the beginning of the summer and they has until fall. I buy them about half a size too big and use the strap on the back for the first part of the summer. Then when their feet grow into them a little bit, you can flip the flap up and make them backless. This gets me almost two sizes worth of wear out of them.
6. (Not pictured) An extra swim diaper for Gracie, just in case she has an accident in hers while we are out and needs to change.
7. Bubbles. Inevitably, when we are at the splash park, one of my kids wants to stay and one wants to leave. I’ve learned to keep bubbles handy for the one who wants to leave. I can usually convince them to hang out for 15 or 20 minutes longer with bubbles while the other one plays. Plus, bubbles are much easier to use when you’re around water because the kids can spill them and it isn’t the end of the world. They also help make friends when we are out because everyone loves bubbles!
Because this bag stays packed with all our essentials all the time, I can simply toss in beach towels and a snack and we are on our way. For the snack, I keep juice boxes frozen in our freezer, and toss those in with a bag of Goldfish. By the time we have been outside for a while, the juice boxes have melted and they are nice and cold. And the Goldfish we just eat straight out of the bag. I used to pack individual snacks in little Tupperware containers, but that got to be such a time drain. Now, we eat out of the bag. Just. Like. Animals.
The key to keeping it packed and ready to go is cleaning it out when we get home. But since everything stays in the bag, there really isn’t much to do when we get home. I take out the towels and hang them out to dry, clean out any remnants of a snack if we’ve had one while we were out, and then toss any wet clothes we might have collected that day into the dirty clothes hamper. It takes about two minutes. Then, I put the refreshed bag back in our front closet and it’s ready to go for our next outing.
Keeping a pool bag packed has saved us so much time, and a lot of stress, too. It is no longer such an ordeal to go anywhere. In fact, one afternoon after school this week we came home and the kids asked to go to the splash park. All we had to do was put on bathing suits and grab our bag, and we were out the door. Even a school night can become a splash park day now because we have streamlined our system.
Do you hear that?
What’s that noise?
IT’S SUMMERTIME KNOCKING ON MY DOOR!
Once a year, I want a picture with my kids. Just once. Just with the kids. On Mother’s Day, when we’re all dressed up for church and looking pretty, I always ask Chris to take just one picture of me with the kiddos.
Following is what happened after I made that request this year:
Okay, here we go…
No, wait. Bean has powdered doughnut all over his face.
Okay, let’s try again without any doughnuts in the picture.
Gracie really wanted her doughnut.
Bean sees a lizard. And he has managed to get his doughnut back.
And now we’ve lost Bean to the lizard hunt.
So, for the third year in a row, I have a beautiful Mother’s Day picture…
…with my husband.
Lately, we have been sending Gracie to her room when she gets really worked up. If we can’t play in water for whatever reason and I can’t get her to calm down any other way, then she has to go to her room until she stops crying. Then she can come out and play with us again. This is not a punishment. It is just to get her into a quiet place where she can calm herself down. And she usually does within about 3 minutes. It is amazing. This afternoon I sent her to her room and less then a minute later, it was quiet upstairs. I peeked down the hall to check on her, and this is what I found:
She was just sitting there quietly, happily reading her books.
Sometimes, she just needs some time away from everyone before the demons can leave her pretty little head. The good news is that now that her bedroom is finished, she has a pretty little place to exorcise her pretty little head!
We did Gracie’s room in stages. First we painted and then we set up her toddler furniture (you can read about that here). The last step was to put in a bookshelf and toy storage something, and then to move her changing table out when she became potty trained. We are in the process of selling our crib and so we decided to sell the changing table with the crib as a set. Gracie isn’t done potty training yet and still uses a changing table, though. So, we took the little mattress pad off her changing table and set it up on top of a dresser in the guest bedroom as a make-shift changing table until she no longer needs one.
We originally talked about building a bench seat under her window with toy storage, but when we put her furniture all in her room, we worried that a built-in wouldn’t leave us many options now or in the future when it came to moving furniture around. Plus, with the way her room is set up now, I really liked her table and chairs under the window.
Her toddler sleigh bed came from Amazon, and is made by Dream on Me. It is beautiful, but I would not recommend this brand. What you can’t see in the pictures (you can’t even really see it in person unless you know to look for it…) is that the slats on the footboard and headboard are chipped. When they packed up the pieces, the paint stuck together and so when we pulled it all out to put it together, the paint scraped away in some places. Plus, it was not easy to put together at all. Just an FYI if anyone is interested in the style. Now that it is all put together and the paint has been touched up, though, it is a very sturdy bed and Gracie loves it. My mom made the drapes and matching duvet cover out of fabric we found online. It is gorgeous in person! Even more than the pictures show.
(Note: I’m still trying to figure out what to do above Gracie’s bed. I’m very close to turning it into a huge fabric bulletin board to hold pictures and artwork. I’ll keep you posted.)
The only thing not yet in the room is a five-drawer chest of drawers that belonged to my dad. It was one of the things of his I wanted after he died. My mom and I are going to paint it white this summer and put new hardware on it. It will go in Gracie’s room to the left of her bed and hold a little lamp.
For her bookshelf and toy storage, we found one piece at Ikea to do it all. And I love it! I have always wanted to use one of their big storage bookshelves. I really want one of the 4×4 bookshelves in this same style, but her bedroom is too small. I might try one in our master bedroom, though, since this little one worked so well in Gracie’s room. The bookshelf was $70 and then we paid $4.99 for each of the storage bins. The bins are fabric and very light, but they are this suede-type material that gives the appearance of them being more expensive. I really love them.
I hung her butterfly mobile over it, and I’m debating about what to do above the bookshelf. I’m thinking either white letters to spell her name or just leave it blank. I kind of like the blank wall right now since there is so much else going on with the mobile and all the trinkets on the tabletop. I’ll have to keep thinking about that one.
I love everything that is on top of her bookshelf now, too. We didn’t have any place to put keepsakes in her room, and this tabletop has given us just the perfect place.
This lamb was in Gracie’s bassinet when she was a baby. And the little Precious Moments figurine was in Chris’s sister, Annie’s, room when she was growing up. Annie gave it to Gracie for her first birthday. I figure we’ll hold it until Annie has kids of her own one day. Until then, I love that it is part of Gracie’s room. I also have keepsake books that hold special meaning to us. Normally, this little collection of books includes a set of three books that were mine when I was a baby, but Gracie loves those and she was reading them when I took this picture so they aren’t shown here.
My favorite, though, is this bunny lamp. My mom made it for my nursery when I was a baby. It was in my bedroom from the time I was a baby until I left for college. I can’t tell you how much I love that it now sits in Gracie’s room.
Besides the bins under the bookshelf which hold an obscene amount of toys, we are also using Gracie’s closet for toy storage.
We have things she can’t play with on the top shelf, and then her clothes and shoes, of course. Her clothes hamper is also in her closet now, instead of sitting in a corner of her room. But we decided to use the bottom shelf for toys instead of clothes. I keep larger toys that would take up a lot of space in her room if we left them out in the bottom of the closet. We park her grocery cart and baby stroller there at the moment.
On the shelf itself are toy storage bins that both the kids use to sort and collect small toys. I have one for her tea sets (she has three; we drink a lot of tea…), one of little figurines and small dolls, and one for her Mrs. Potato Head and all its pieces. She and Bean both are really good about only taking out one bin at a time, and that helps keep those bins organized and cleaned out.
So, that’s Gracie’s big girl room. I really love it, but Gracie loves it most of all. It is the perfect, quiet retreat for her when she needs some space to herself, but it is also the central playground these days when she and Bean are playing together, too. I love a cute, functional room!