kids

I start with forgiveness

It’s been a while since I posted anything and instead of a Book Fridays post I wanted to take some time to sort through some thoughts and feelings I’ve been having. The past month has been challenging for me. My son is going through some phase wherein he is almost unbearable at times. He’s defiant, he refuses to use the potty, and bed time is a nightmare. I want to preface this by stating that I am not looking for advice. I understand the place where such advice comes from but I assure you that I have people and resources to turn to. Basically, if I want advice I ask for it. I am sharing this because I need to vent and because perhaps somebody out there is going through something similar and they need to know they are not alone. Whenever difficult things arise in our lives we tend to feel isolated. We always think that nobody else could possibly know what we are feeling. The truth is that we are never alone and most of our troubles have been experienced by others at some point.

Parenting is not easy. I know this. I think most people know this whether or not they have ever been around young children. It’s exhausting at times and very frustrating. Like anything we choose to do in life it has its highs and lows. There are days when my temper is hot and my fuse is short. I try to be self aware because I need to keep my emotions in check. It’s not always easy and there have been times when I’ve raised my voice or even yelled. There have been long days where I’ve been up until 3am because my son refuses to stay in his bed and after two hours of walking him back to his bed I give up and let him crawl into ours. I then wake up early to eat breakfast with my husband and because kids are evil Diego wakes up as soon as my husband is off to work and gleefully asks for something to eat. So much for catching forty winks.

At my lowest points I feel like a failure (something I’ve talked about before) and I start to question myself. It’s easy to shoulder blame. Diego isn’t potty trained because of me. Diego doesn’t sleep through the night in his own bed because of me. Diego makes a fuss about going to bed because of me. Logically, I know that kids often go through these periods of pushing boundaries and defying authority. I know that but I still sometimes feel like my worth as a person is tied to my success as a parent. I grade myself and award low marks.

In a few months this will all be nothing but a memory but right now it’s my life and it sucks. I know it will pass and I know this is not going to last forever. Knowing that offers little comfort to me. The frustrating thing about all of this is that I don’t know how long it will last. There is no schedule. Things change quickly and randomly.

What I have found helpful is to exercise forgiveness. I read a wonderful piece about writing by Daniel Jose Older that stated that you must start with forgiveness. I think it’s applicable to life in general. Start with forgiveness. I forgive myself for not being perfect, for falling short, for making mistakes, for being hard on myself. I forgive my son for being who he is, for inadvertently hurting me, driving me up the wall, robbing me of sleep, and making me eye that bottle of wine lustfully.

Whenever I demand too much for myself I fail. There are such things as unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves. When we don’t meet them we write ourselves off as failures. Why bother anymore, right? Whether it’s writing, doing laundry, sticking to Whole30 (I just did Whole30 and plan to write about my experience) or simply getting through a list of chores loving ourselves enough to forgive is paramount. Understanding that falling short isn’t a shortcoming. It means that we got out there and we tried. It means that we put forth some effort. Even if you only got as far as lacing up your shoes you still DID something.

Celebrating small victories has been the foundation of my journey to managing my anxiety and it’s something that I’ve applied to other areas of my life. I try to devote a few minutes each day to thinking about what I’m grateful for and to let myself feel and mull things over. These moments of introspection and self meditation are important to me. It helps me to process. Most of the time I do this quietly in the shower, or while laying in bed long after the house has become quiet. Tonight I am doing here in this blog post.

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I am a failure.

How often do we feel this way? When things aren’t going my way or the way I think they should be going I feel like a failure. When I am at my lowest I become very critical of myself. This is true for many things in my life. My most recent “failure” has been potty training my son. Intellectually, I know that I have not failed and that each child is different. I know this but I can’t help it, I slip up often and have little pity parties in my head. I wrote about potty training here and since then we had a good few days and then he decided he wanted nothing to do with the potty. Naturally, I keep trying to figure out why. He had only positive experiences with the potty and he enjoyed the sticker chart we were doing. His refusal is without tears, just very matter of fact. I suspect that this is not entirely unusual and I’ve responded by easing up a bit and bringing up the potty every few days.

Another struggle we are having relates to sleep. Diego is not fond of getting into bed these days. He doesn’t want to go to sleep and his refusal has him rejecting books as well. They are so tied into our bedtime routine that his disdain has not spared them. It’s annoying to deal with because bedtime is now a longer process that has me or my husband sitting in his room until he falls asleep. If we leave he gets out of bed. We’ve tried a lot of different things and so far nothing has worked. He has also been waking up during the night, something that he did not do just a few months ago. Whatever this phase is about I am ready for it to end. I’m coping by continuing to be consistent with our routine and I walk him back to bed and tuck him in when he wakes up at 2am and do so again and again on nights with multiple wakings.

I can’t lie and say that I don’t feel myself becoming angry at times. It is NOT easy to keep your cool while sleep deprived and the urge to raise my voice or even (gasp) smack him has cropped up. It ashamed me to admit it and that’s ok, I am human. There is no shame in being weak and finding ourselves in these situations where our patience is tested to its limits. I am not a fan of pretending that parenting is all rainbows and unicorns. No child is perfect and people can pretend that they birthed little angels but those angels have horns sometimes, haha. I’m not a perfect parent.

Diego is a very sweet boy and I have to admit that I have very few reasons to complain but he’s a two year old who is still not in control of his emotions etc, so of course he’s going to have bad days! It’s part of growing up. I’m growing up right along with him.

During the past couple of months I have not been posting here consistently and this is another source of feelings of failure. I don’t really know why. I decided to write this blog for me and I still write it for myself but I do enjoy sharing. I especially treasure the messages I get from people who read and reach out to me. BookFridays got away from me. I am about 8 books behind and this stresses me out. I got out of the habit of writing a post right after I finished a book and now I feel like it all got away from me. I plan on getting back on track but there are times when I berate myself for falling off my schedule.

I am a failure is this toxic, destructive mantra that we all need to fight against. I would say we need to get rid of it but I think it’s ok to be low, and feel down. It’s ok to give into those feelings every now and then. That’s human. I also think we need to be kind to ourselves and be forgiving. It’s so much easier to talk others up but when it comes to ourselves we reserve the harshest judgment. We kick ourselves when we are down and we tell ourselves the very worst lies about our worth. Even at our lowest we all have things to look back on and be proud of and feel stronger. Most of all, we are worthy of love, friendship, happiness and success always.

I am a failure is a lie.

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“Girl” stuff is good stuff

Our kids don’t live in a bubble. Eventually, we will share them with the world and that world has opinions. If we stop to think about our own convictions we can see how they have been shaped by our families, our friends, our communities, etc. What we read, what music we listen to, it all has messages. We internalize a lot of them. Society influences us, it has a voice and that voice whispers a lot of crap into our collective ear. I stopped buying what society is selling a long time ago.

Before I became a parent I knew that the whole pink is for girls blue is for boys dichotomy was not for me. I don’t believe there are toys for girls and toys for boys. There are toys. ONE category. If you browse a Sunday paper circular you’ll find that toys are gendered. The store TELLS you and your children which toys are meant for them. We see little girls playing with a pink vacuum cleaner and rocking a baby doll to sleep. In a way, it’s grooming girls for their role in life while reinforcing the idea that these toys are not meant for boys. Foregoing this is often seen as something radical. You buy your son a toy vacuum and your daughter a model airplane and you’re making a political statement. Personally, I am not seeking to make a political statement. I don’t consider my parenting style anything other than love for my son as a human being.

I’ve witnessed parents direct their kids to “gender appropriate” toys. It makes me sad. If you browse long enough at Toys R Us you are bound to pick up on something of the sort. I’ve never tried to influence what Diego plays with. Early on he gravitated towards toys with wheels. Cars and trains are some of his favorites. But his interests don’t end there. Whenever we visit the toy store we browse all the aisles not just the ones that are intended for boys. I let him explore without directing him. Of course toys that pose a choking hazard etc are out of the question but he has carte blanche over anything that’s safe for his age group.

Diego often uses my husband’s iPad. He has several apps on it that he can access. On YouTube he loves watching toy unboxing videos. ToyGenie is one of his favorites. On the Nick Jr. app he can watch cartoons. I often watch him navigate these and my observations tell me that he doesn’t have gender based preferences. He likes Peppa Pig, Lalaloopsy, Little Charmers, Paw Patrol, and Blaze the monster truck. He has no concept of our idea of gender. He’s brand new, innocent, uncorrupted and untainted by society. On Disney Jr. he watches just about every show, Octonauts is his absolute favorite but he gets excited about Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, too. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has a place of honor in his rotation. Within age appropriate shows he picks different things on different days but my point is that he does not reject a show about a princess. He hasn’t been taught to.

Today I took him to the drug store to buy some cold medicine for my husband. After we picked up what we needed we took a walk around the store. Naturally, we ended up on the toy aisle. We looked at different toys, talked about them, took a close look at a few and then we came to some metal lunch boxes that housed a puzzle inside. He recognized Sofia the First on one of them and grabbed for it. Behind it there was an Avengers one. He pointed to it and identified Captain America and then went back to the Sofia one. I thought, okay he is showing a preference for Sofia between the two of them. I didn’t question his choice because why would I put it in his head that his choice is somehow wrong? He saw the options and he picked what he liked. I decided to get it for him since I had been wanting to do a puzzle for him anyway.

We picked up a gallon of milk before heading to the register. Shopping with Diego can be tricky because when he has an item in his hand he is hesitant to let go of it so it can be scanned. He surprised me by handing it over to the cashier. The cashier looked at the lunch box and asked him if he had a sister. I answered for him in the negative. She addressed him again telling him that he couldn’t have that lunchbox as it was for girls and he was a boy. I told her that he wanted it and that’s all that mattered to me. Thankfully, Diego has no idea what she was talking about but one day he will understand and he will feel something. His self-confidence will be zapped and he will question his interests.

There are several things that bothered me about this interaction and I will list them below:

  1. The idea that it’s wrong for boys to like “girly” things. For one it suggests that “girl” things are bad. For the most part qualities that are regarded as feminine are considered weak and negative. Especially in boys and men. Why the put down? Sophia is a great role model for girls AND boys. She’s kind, values honesty and friendship, is brave and takes charge when things go south.
  2. Regardless of her intent she was ostensibly shaming my child for something he wanted and made him happy. Nobody should be shamed or made to feel wrong about what they like.
  3. Boys liking “girl” stuff is judged more often and more harshly than girls liking superheroes (traditionally considered to be for boys).
  4. The idea that children need to be indoctrinated about gender. We need to do away with this notion. It serves no purpose and it harms us. All of us.
  5. The fact that she was, for all intents and purposes, undermining me as a parent and questioning me through her interaction with my child. At the most basic level, whether or not you agree with my stance or not, she was rude. She should not have said anything.
  6. There is usually a reflex reaction to put down women, whether it be putting down “girly” things or femininity in general it’s internalized to the point where women themselves contribute and perpetuate this.

As a parent I don’t have the answers to everything. I am learning constantly but on a social level there are things about which I am certain. I know that I do not want to raise my son in an environment that values toxic masculinity. I want him to learn to embrace and express his emotions in healthy ways. I want him to feel confident about who he is, whoever that may turn out to be. There is this idea that our kids are blank slates for us to mold. As I nurture my child and watch him grow I am constantly reminded that as much as I nurture him he is an individual. He is a person that I have the honor and privilege to care for but he is not something for me to live through.

I am fortunate to be raising him at a time where conversations about gender are happening. We are questioning societal constructs, we are challenging them and in my own ways I am dismantling them. My son is not wrong for liking Sofia the First. I am not a hero for advocating for the freedom to like whatever he wants to like. I am merely doing what I consider to be the right thing.

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Teaching consent is not difficult

Today I was in the middle of responding to a text message from my husband when my son started climbing all over me and horsing around. He was happy, laughing and having a grand old time. I asked him to stop but he was in his own world thinking it was just a game. I quickly thought about how often this very thing happens to us throughout our lives, people violate our boundaries and have no regard for what we want (or don’t want) in the name of playing around. My son is two and a half years old but his age is no reason to put off starting a lifelong conversation about consent.

I gently told him that mommy didn’t like what he was doing and that I had asked him to stop but he hadn’t. “No means no,” I said to him. He looked at me and apologized then went on to play something else. It was such a quick moment but I have no doubt that it was an important one. I don’t believe that we should wait to start speaking to our children about consent. Consent encompasses a lot more than just sexual situations. It means that we regard everyone as fully human and respect their likes and dislikes. It’s about taking feelings and preferences into consideration. Consent means that my son is never under any obligation to show affection to anybody. Even to me.

Sometimes I ask him for a hug and he says no. I don’t try to guilt him into giving me a hug. I simply shrug it off like it’s not a big deal, because it’s not. My son comes up to me and gives me hugs and tells me he loves me all on his own. There is no need for me to feign hurt simply because he decided in that moment that he didn’t feel like hugging me. If we manipulate our children into showing affection they will think that it is okay to manipulate others into showing them affection as well. Affection should be freely given, not coerced. Naturally, I don’t encourage him to kiss and hug family members unless he wants to. Saying hello is enough.

I remember growing up and being made to make physical contact with people who made my skin crawl. It was considered impolite not to. The social anxiety that this caused made me dread seeing family. I just didn’t want to hug and kiss people. I wish back then I could articulate this and furthermore I wish that I believed my parents would even care. Now I’m of the mind that when it comes to MY feelings you can fuck your feelings. We are almost universally socialized to take other people’s feelings into account over our own. In some cases it is down right dangerous to offend someone or piss them off. Women have been killed by men whose advances they rejected.

So here is where I am at with consent. I will respect my son’s boundaries (although he’s not getting out of baths and naps!) and expect him to respect others’. This education has to start at home and it can’t wait. Children are never too young to start learning to respect and be considerate of others. Empathy, especially in boys, is important to nurture. No toxic masculinity here,  that is trash.

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Book Fridays: It All Starts With Alligator

I am always on the look out for fun books that my son will enjoy. I get especially excited about self published books because I strongly believe in supporting artists directly. Last month my brother mentioned having a friend who had written and illustrated a book for children and he generously sent a copy my way. I had no expectations but I was thrilled when it arrived. This ABC’s book is so original and colorful!

The book was written and illustrated by Carlos A. Gonzalez Ramirez who hails from Mexico. According to his author page on Amazon.com he is a freelancing graphic designer. So far this is his only publication but I am hoping he will write and illustrate other books for children.

The book features a luchador from Mexico, a pink-clad unicorn superhero and best of all X is for Xavier Xoloitzcuintle. I’m still researching how to correctly pronounce that one. Five stars!

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What is a Christmas Eve Box?

Growing up it was tradition in my family to get new bedsheets and pajamas for Christmas Eve. I remember loving having something new and it added to the excitement of getting into bed as early as possible so that Santa could hurry up and stop by. I’ve continued the tradition, at least the pajama part, but this year I am starting a new tradition with a Christmas Eve box. I have no idea as to the origins of this practice but I read about it somewhere and then searched Pinterest and, of course, found tons of ideas.

A Christmas Eve box is a collection of treats and goodies that will make up the entertainment for the evening of the 24th. I’ve seen everything from pajamas, slippers, socks, and hot cocoa mix to movies and popcorn. I thought it was a wonderful idea and so I set out to create my own. Some people buy a cardboard box, or even have a wooden box that gets reused each Christmas. I used a shoe box and I wrapped it so that the lid could be removed without tearing the wrapping paper. For the moment I have a book, a movie, a set of pajamas and a Christmas themed activity book.

The best part about these boxes is that you can customize them to suit you. As your family grows and changes the contents of the box will as well. I hope to do this every year. If you like making things this might be a project for you! It doesn’t have to be for kids, you can create a box for you and your significant other to enjoy together. The possibilities are endless.

Here is the box I made. I used things I already had in my crafting supplies. I can’t wait to give it to Diego!

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Book Fridays- ¡Vamos a jugar!

¡Vamos a jugar! is a wonderful book featuring a collection of traditional games played by kids in Puerto Rico. It was written by Josefina Barcelo Jimenez and illustrated by Juan Alvarez O’Neill. I had never heard of this book until my mom sent it for Diego. It was a lovely surprise to see that this book exists. It helped jog my memory to all those games that I used to play as a child. Some of the games I had never heard of (or just don’t remember playing) but a lot of them were childhood staples.

The book is a collection of these games along with explanations as to how they are played. Each game has an illustration that goes with it. It’s a simple book but a great resource. I can see this being used by parents and teachers alike. Older children can read for themselves and then try out the games. A great activity that involves, reading, reading comprehension, following instructions and teamwork.

Playing games was such a big part of my own childhood. I played outside a lot. I wonder if Diego will have that experience. Part of me knows that things are different now and that he probably will not enjoy a lot of the activities I once took for granted. I hope that this book (and books like it) can change that. That it will serve as a reminder of the wonderful games we once played as children. Right now, Diego is too young for most of these games but I will treasure this book and pull it out often as he grows up.

The illustrations are one of my favorite aspects of the book mainly because they reflect the many different shades of Puerto Ricans! Often times media is whitewashed and so I was happy to see different skin tones and hair textures featured in these illustrations. I think that’s important.

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Changes and making friends

This post will probably be all over the place but I wanted to sort out my thoughts and feelings by way of a blog post. I have a love/hate relationship with change. Big, sudden changes that I am not anticipating tends to rattle me in a negative way but I do enjoy change. I think that even small changes can have positive effects on us. Every now and then an article will pop up about the benefits of making big changes in your life. Moving to a new city or even country is touted as an important part of our journey of self-discovery. Many people feel this is so and use their own experiences as anecdotes of this. While I do agree that having lived in Botswana was a very positive, and privileged time in my life I don’t think that it’s for everybody. Obviously, at the time I was a child and did not have a say in the matter but regardless of how difficult the transition was for our family I cannot deny that the move afforded me many opportunities I probably would not have had otherwise. For one I became fluent in English. I also took five years of French. I also got to experience different cultures and had many friendships with kids from around the world. I learned all about the bush, went camping, had the pleasure of diarrhea while camping (while in the middle of a Kalahari thunderstorm) and got to visit beautiful places around Africa. Those experiences made me who I am today. Traveling opens our eyes and our minds. I firmly believe everybody should do more of it but I also realize that it’s easier said than done. For one thing traveling costs money and lack of money is prohibitive for many.

For me, change can be very exciting and even small changes can have big effects in our lives. I recently sold our guest bed and desk in order to turn Diego’s room into a toddler room. It has been very exciting to see the transformation and the fact that our living room no longer resembles a disaster zone is an added bonus. When there is clutter and mess around me I feel frazzled. Sometimes I can’t tell this is so until I tidy up and a sense of calm washes over me.

This month I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo (I have written 16,698 words so far!). This is also a change. I added something to my plate which will challenge me. It has challenged me to change my routine and it has also challenged my writing and my creative mind. I am not writing this novel because I have any hopes to ever publish it, nor do I fancy myself a great author but it’s something different and an exercise in starting something and finishing it. Meeting my daily writing goal fills me with an immense sense of accomplishment. In fact, this sense of productivity is what prompted me to finally convert Diego’s room. I am getting things done, why not do this, too?

Changes  can tie into each other. Changing around some furniture might make you see the space in a whole new way and that will prompt you into something else. My point is, that even small, seemingly unimportant changes can have a big impact in our lives.

One of the biggest changes of the past two years was having my son. The impact of my pregnancy was huge. I stopped working and became a stay at home person. I look at motherhood as an addition to a house. It’s still the same house but with something extra. This ties into another thing I’ve been thinking about and that is friendships  between child-free women and moms. I was perhaps a bit naive to think that having a child should not make me an undesirable friend but it turns out that for some people it does. The complaint is that parents do nothing but talk about kid things with other parents. I have many friends who don’t have children and I don’t feel like our friendship has suffered but maybe I am wrong. Do they perhaps see me differently? I don’t feel like my identity is wrapped up in the fact that I am a wife and mother. I’m still me. I still have other interests besides my son. I love him dearly but I don’t need to monopolize conversations with tales about him. That’s just not who I am.

For me, being a mom felt lonely in the beginning. I hadn’t realized how most of my socialization came with working. That’s where I met my friends. We had lunch together daily and even hung out on weekends. Now some of those friends have moved to other states and others I simply lost contact with. I remember trying to engage with a few but I quickly learned that out of sight out of mind was true. We didn’t see each other everyday and maybe they assumed since I had a baby I had ceased to exist. Most of my friends are now living inside my phone. In my messaging apps and contact list. I don’t get to see them in person often. I haven’t joined a mommy and me group (I fear I won’t fit in since I’m not an overachieving mommy) and Diego is not yet in preschool. I also dislike the idea that all women with children should be lumped together. I don’t need playdates for myself.

I have made a lot of friends online, which I never thought was possible. These aren’t just people I occasionally shoot the breeze with, these are wonderful women who share their lives with me. We exchange packages and even meet each other in person. Some of them have kids and some don’t. It’s not something that ever makes the slightest bit of difference to me.

People change all the time. It’s part of life. Some of these changes cause us to drift apart but that’s not necessarily the case. I remember when my friends started to have babies and I recall feeling very much left behind. Even though at the time I was not sure that I wanted to have a child the fact that my peers had taken the plunge made me scrutinize my own choices.  I quickly learned that there was nothing wrong with my life. I was traveling my own journey. Being genuinely happy for our friends is wonderful. Leaving doubt, and self-judgment behind is liberating.

To me, change and friendships have an obvious connection which is why I decided to write about it. Changes in my life have brought new, amazing people into my life. I did lose some along the way but the people that truly matter to me have all stuck around. I still keep in touch with a few high school friends. Perhaps not as often as we’d like but we reach out to each other from time to time and it always feels like it always did. Those friendships are special to me.

Back on the topic of inciting change in our lives, travel and a move are obvious big ticket items but how about reading? Reading allows us to travel for free. Most libraries have e-books now which means you don’t even have to leave your house in order to borrow a book. My goal this year has been to read more diversely. I had been reading a lot of fanfiction and a lot of romance and I was itching for something more. I will pretty much read anything but I had fallen in a rut reading the same stories written by the same people. By becoming more aware of what I was reading I have been able to discover new voices and perspectives.

I have also tried out a lot of new foods this year. New recipes that have expanded my skills in the kitchen and challenged my abilities. These changes did not take me far from home but they took me far in other ways.

My take aways from this venting session: it’s difficult to make friends as adults. I believe that having or not having children shouldn’t affect a friendship, unless it does… Change is necessary, big and small changes matter.

How about you? How do you feel about change?

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Are picky eaters a myth?

I see this debate every now and then and often wonder if picky eaters are born or made. I am specifically referring to healthy, neurotypical children and adults. I was often cautioned that my son would eventually hate all food except for chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. That day has not yet come. He eats what I eat and turns up his nose at nothing. Am I just lucky? I hear about parents who really struggle to get their kids to eat and who resort to giving them whatever the kid will actually put in his mouth.

Often, picky eaters will only eat a handful of things and they’re sometimes not the healthiest options: frozen nuggets, boxed mac ‘n cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, grilled cheese, etc. I’ve seen kids who will only eat pizza or some sort of frozen chicken product dipped in sauce. All of those things are ok every once in a while but I wonder how do we get to that point? Obviously, convenience plays a role. Who wants their child to go hungry?

The next time you go out to dinner take a look at the kids menu. Most restaurants offer the same tired things for kids: macaroni, nuggets, pizza, mashed potatoes. It’s all so uninteresting. Why do we limit our children to these options? Even the food that’s marketed to kids is made up of the same bland stuff. Sure, there are better options available but the companies that spend the big bucks to advertise and thus have the most prominent placement in stores are often the same companies that produce all sorts of junky food products.

I believe that there is a very tiny amount of kids who are truly picky about what they eat. Some children may not even like to eat. It’s a struggle that I am sure many parents face with a lot of anguish. Being constantly worried that your child gets adequate nutrition when they refuse to eat most things is a headache I can’t even imagine. I also believe there are things we can do to encourage healthy eating habits in our children and avoid the stereotypical picky eater behavior. A lot of the habits they form now will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I am, of course, not an expert but here are a few things I have learned and applied to my own son with successful results:

  1. Don’t give up too soon.  Sometimes kids reject foods several times before they decide they like them. If your child tries carrots once and spits them out don’t decide that she hates carrots! Offer them again at a later time prepared in a different way. For example, Diego will eat cooked carrots but has not yet accepted raw ones.
  2. Don’t force a child to eat anything. Some nights Diego will eat his way around his plate and eat some things but not others. Making a clean plate a requirement causes a negative association with food and mealtimes. Allow your child to make choices by offering options on their plate.
  3. Make mealtimes family time. When kids see us do something they are likely to follow suit. We try to eat all of our meals at the table as a family and we all eat the same thing.
  4. Involve them in meal prep. How much they can be involved in will depend on their age but even a two year old can get a kick out of watching or even dumping ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Don’t be too quick to assign a label. All kids will refuse something or other at some point, but don’t slap the “picky eater” label on them. It will cause you to give up.
  6. Before you offer your child an alternative meal ask yourself if what you’re giving them is out of convenience. The very few times Diego refused to eat something I instead offered him some cottage cheese, yogurt and fruit. I never cook a separate meal for him but I am flexible enough to have healthy alternatives for when something just doesn’t jive with him.
  7. Kids develop bad habits because we allow it. Whenever I hear people say that their child eats ONLY pizza, or nuggets, or peanut butter I wonder how the child developed this taste for the food. The answer is always because the parents provide it. It’s so tempting to reach for something you KNOW they will eat. Resist that urge whenever possible!
  8. Variety is key. I have started cooking a lot more veggies. Even ones I had never tried before. The more things they try the more opportunities they have to discover things they like.

Food preferences will arise but to me, a preference is different to “doesn’t eat ANY vegetables” and “doesn’t eat ANY fruit” or “she ONLY eats xyz”.  I guess I am a bit on the fence about the whole picky eater debate. While I think that sometimes parents do play a role I also think that some people are just picky. My husband is one such example. I have no idea how he was fed as an infant but I find his palate to be very different to mine. He rarely tries a new food and so I am often at odds with his preferences and my desire to try new things and introduce Diego  to as many foods as possible. What I resort to doing is simply sneaking stuff in. Most of the time he is none the wiser although I always come clean once he’s finished eating. He’s not a fan of my method but I think he’s slowly realizing that more veggies in his food is not a bad thing at all.

I know that my experience is different to that of a parent who struggles each day to get their child to eat anything at all. Coming home tired, cooking dinner only to have it rejected by your child would wear me down as well. So, why not give them the boxed macaroni with nuggets?!  It’s food, it won’t kill them and it will get them fed. Sometimes whatever works is all we have left. I don’t like it when parents get judged for doing the best they can. I know that I wouldn’t feel good feeding my son PBJ sandwiches everyday which is why I don’t, but how other people cope with the curveballs of parenthood is something I don’t feel is my place to judge.

Lastly, I am well aware that I am privileged to have the time and financial resources to cook from scratch, and be choosy about what I serve my family. It’s not cheap or easy to be picky about what we feed our picky eaters 😉

How about you? Do you have a picky eater? How do you avoid a food rut with your kids?

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Not much of a talker

Diego is only two months away from his second birthday and he is not talking very much. He says mama, papa, dada, and no. He uses the sign for “more” and has even expanded his use of it to include asking for anything he simply wants. He will point and sign to me. He gets his point across. He can also shake his head no, and wag his finger no. It’s quite amusing. What is less amusing is knowing that by this age he is supposed to have a vocabulary of about fifty words. It is not uncommon for toddlers to develop outside the established norms and while these can cause unnecessary worry for some of us they also provide early intervention for others.

I am committed to raising a fully bilingual child. I want Diego to speak Spanish fluently, as a native speaker. I want him to read and write it as well. When he goes to school all instruction will be in English so he is more than well covered in that respect although I worry that he will be underestimated and discriminated against simply because Spanish will be the first language he learned. I will, of course, deal with that issue if it ever comes up but for now I am mostly interested in encouraging him to develop his speech. Like I said before, we speak to him in Spanish but he is exposed to English as well. I have read that this duality can cause children to take longer to talk but that by age five they are caught up and speaking two languages.

There are days when I worry and question myself about his lack of speech. By all accounts my husband was a late talker and since Diego is a carbon copy of his father in every other way, perhaps he also takes after him with regards to this as well. During his next visit to his pediatrician I am sure this will be addressed should nothing change between now and then. I am open to any intervention deemed necessary as long as it will include Spanish as the language of instruction. Living in South Florida I do not anticipate this being a problem.

I think it’s important for parents to leave pride aside when developmental delays are suspected or present. We do not help our children by denying them or ignoring them. There is no shame in requiring a little help and if parents show children that there is shame in it they are doing them a great disservice. Something that always bugs me about development in toddlers is that some parents want to make it about intelligence. If your child is a late talker he is not stupid, or less intelligent than a child who has a larger vocabulary. Intelligence manifests in different ways and to project our own insecurities onto our children is wrong.

I have been doing a lot of research on speech development and have found some great resources. I have also started looking into Spanish language curricula for pre-school and beyond. Children spend about 8 hours a day at school, that’s only one third of their day! Education starts at home. Parents need to be involved and stay involved in order to give children the tools they need to succeed. I can already tell it’s going to be challenging (and fun!) but I am committed to Diego’s education. If I want him to learn Spanish I will need to be a very active participant and facilitator.

Finding materials to aid me in my journey is not easy but when I find something I feel like I’ve struck oil. My list of bookmarks continues to grow as does my list of materials I want to check out. I am still a disorganized mess but once I get myself sorted out I will share my findings here in case any one out there is as lost as I have been.

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