When Rooney was 3 weeks old, we watched The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. It was made in 2002 and could really stand to be updated, but we actually learned a lot from it. Dr. Harvey's tricks and tips worked really well for our family (my favorite is his pacifier trick to teach a baby how to keep it in their mouth!). We liked it so much that we lovingly refer to it as "The Happiest Parents on the Block."
So, when I found out there was a The Happiest Toddler on the Block DVD, I ordered it right away. We haven't had to deal with a full-on tantrum yet (Roo is just starting to test her independence), but I can see it coming. This information is geared toward parents with children age 8 months - 5 years. Honestly, it's still a little awkward/kooky to us, but maybe it works?
Anyway, here's what we learned:
- Although it may seem like it, your toddler is not a mini adult. Their brains are unbalanced (leaning toward impulse instead of reason). Think of them as little cavemen.
- When your child starts to whine or cry, use the fast food rule (see below). FIRST acknowledge their feelings and THEN tell them why they can't have what they want. Calm them down before being rational or explaining to them why you are saying no.
- Speak in "toddler-ese" -- short phrases (1-3 words) repeated over and over, using the same level of emotion they do. You would say something like, "You want to go outside! You're so mad you can't go outside!" Once they understand that you "get" what they're saying, they will calm down and listen to what you have to say next (which is why they can or cannot go outside). Every moment is a teaching moment!
The Fast Food Rule
- Just like a fast food clerk, repeat back to your child what they are asking ("You want to go outside and play!") before telling them what you want ("We can't go outside because it's raining."). Be empathetic!
- Everyone wants to know that they are respected and understood.
- Show that you care about their feelings before telling them no or explaining why they can't have what they want.
- Avoid common problem areas (hunger, fatigue, caffeine, being ignored, change, violence, being stuck indoors)
- Keep good communication/respect with your child all day long (use toddler-ese even when you're giving them what they want)
- Feed their meter (with rewards, routines, limits and focused playtime)
- Teach patience (don't always give them what they want as quickly as they want it)
Encourage Good Behavior
- Gossip about your child. Let your child overhear you praising them to your spouse. For example, I might say to my husband, loud enough for Rooney to hear me, "I heard Rooney ate all her peas at daycare today! What a big girl!" (Hint: Only use this method positively.)
- Let them win little victories or help you with a chore (pretend that you can't lift something, and they feel big and proud when they help you). This makes them happy!
- It's hard to be a toddler! Everyone else is bigger and stronger. Toddlers have ideas of their own but don't always know how to communicate them.
- Blow in your child's face if they hold their breath when they are mad (although Dr. Harvey says it doesn't hurt them if they do pass out).
- If your kids laugh at you when you tell them no, make sure your tone is stern, and you can even use a growl if needed (which is how they speak - they understand that language).
- It's never right to lose your temper with your toddler. If you get to your limit, ask your spouse to step in and put yourself in time out until you can calm down.
- The "terrible 2s" begin at the child's second year of life and peak around 18 months.
- If a child asks the same question over and over, ask the question back to them and have them answer you.
- I've also read that repeating your child's words back to them is the greatest validation they can have at this age. Hooray for communication!
The DVD reinforced my feelings that when Rooney seems fussy, she usually craves one of three things: attention (love), rest (sleep), or energy (food). When we are alone together in the mornings (for about 90 minutes after Eric leaves for work), she occasionally will crawl after me and fuss. I try to go through the list to see what she needs from me. Sometimes it's all three!
Has anyone else seen the DVD? I think it will feel awkward at first, and I'm not looking forward to doing it in public (even Dr. Harvey admits it's embarrassing), but I think it may actually work!
Every family situation is different. They all have their own dynamics, so I am by no means trying to say this is how everyone should do it. But, here's a little story about my first year of experience with daycare.
When Rooney was just a few months old, she started going to an in-home daycare in our neighborhood. It had all sorts of awesome benefits including, but not limited to:
- Low ratio of adults to children
- At-home feeling
- Relaxed rules and regulations
- Accommodating hours (7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
- Her own room to nap in
Aside from these benefits, perhaps my favorite was that in those early months, Kelsey and I worked at the same company and would often drop off and pick up Rooney together. This meant we both got to share in the relationship with our daycare provider, we both were able to hear about her day and we both got to spend the same amount of time with our daughter.
As time went on, my wife realized she needed/wanted to spend more time with our daughter, and yearned for a career move that would allow her some flexibility to spend more time with Rooney. We were excited when she was offered a job with our church for 32 hours a week. This granted her what we now call "Wednesdays with Rooney."
This offered some great benefits as well:
- An extra day at home for Kelsey and Rooney
- On-site daycare so Kelsey can stop by anytime throughout the day
- Faith-based learning environment
- A more structured program
All was good except one thing that has been a pain point for both Kelsey and I since the switch, and that is that Kelsey is the only one who drops off and picks up Rooney from daycare almost every time.
Aside from a few illnesses, this responsibility has fallen on Kelsey for obvious reasons. And to be honest, it's been a rough part of the job transition for both of us. I feel like I'm missing out on a lot, at times feels a lot of burden having to keep track of it all by herself and then relay the details to me.
Bah! Having to communicate can really suck sometimes! We've been working hard at it, but still have a long way to go. Kelsey's gotten really good at finding crafty ways to keep me in the loop including email updates like:
"Rooney ate 5 French toast sticks and pooped twice already today!"
"Only napped for 10 minutes today. She's going straight to bed when we get home."
The email updates are great, but my absolute favorite is the surprise photos! Here are a few snapshots of Rooney in action at daycare.
Sometimes, it's the little things that keep us going every day.
Minivans are one of the greatest inventions ever. Ten years ago, I would have laughed in your face if you said that to me, but today, I'd tell you that you are most definitely right. Not only do I have a kid now, but I've also grown up a lot and I'm a lot wiser.
Minivans might not be the coolest vehicle on the market. But I'm not interested in cool. Here are six reasons I'm a minivan mom:
- Stow 'n Go. I mean, really. I could make my case on this point alone. I grew up with a minivan, and whenever we needed to haul something, my parents had to take out the entire bench seat from the back and leave it in the garage. Well, some genius decided that was a horrible way to do things and made it so you can collapse all the back seats in the minivan and they fold right into the floor! Not only that, but while the seats are up, you can store things underneath the seats. With our Jeep, we had to borrow a 15-passenger van to Ikea. Now we Stow 'n Go!
- Easy access to Rooney. On longer road trips, I often have to sneak into the back seat to feed Rooney. Or console her. Or clean up throw up. This could not be done as easily in an SUV with a center console.
- The price is right. Sure, a new minivan isn't cheap. But we are. So we bought a six-year-old used minivan and handed the salesman $1,200 and traded in our Jeep. The price was definitely right for us, and we don't have a car payment hanging over our heads.
- Automatic doors. I was on maternity leave when we bought our minivan. I was getting really tired of using my arm to carry the infant car seat and diaper bag and using the other to open the Jeep door. Not only that, but I then had to hoist the car seat up into the vehicle. Now I press a button and the door magically opens. I even use this feature when I'm just carrying groceries. My back has never been happier now.
- Gas mileage. Honestly, I don't care much about gas mileage or keep diligent track of it. But, spending less on gas means spending more on other things like food or clothing. We used to have a Jeep Grand Cherokee, so it's not surprising that we get about five more miles per gallon with the minivan.
- Eric is a minivan dad. Honestly, my husband really wanted a minivan. He loves all things practical. I would have had to put up a huge fight to NOT buy a minivan, and it just wasn't worth it. As soon as we found out we were pregnant, he was planning this purchase. He went to look at minivans, and then, would come home and tell me how awesome they are. He was the one talking me into it. And I'm so glad he did.
I get this question a lot. And the title is full of confidence...but the truth is...I don't think I was ready to be a dad. What I was ready for was a challenge, but even still I think I severely underestimated that challenge. It's so hard to explain. And I received a lot of advice from others about what the first few months of fatherhood would entail. Heck, I even took a Father's Class to prepare. While information is good, there is absolutely no substitute for on-the-job training.
There were many challenges I faced over the first few months of being a father, and they all helped me grow and become a better person. Yet, in the midst of the challenge, it really seemed that there was no way out. Here's a look at a few of the challenges and what I learned along the way.
On the first night in the hospital, we opted to send Rooney to the nursery to get some rest. We actually had a pretty smooth delivery, but it was an emotional day, and we were zapped. We settled in and were sleeping instantly. And just as swiftly as the Sandman came, we were awoken by the nurse for the first night feeding. We had been sleeping for maybe two hours.
You hear about sleepless nights and night feedings, but until you experience interrupted sleep from someone who 100% depends on you to tend to their every need, you don't have a clue what it means to be a parent. And that was night one, with nurses keeping our daughter company between feedings. I learned that night that I was going to have to learn how to function without a full night's rest.
How a Father Deals With Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a real thing. My wife had it. And that's not a knock on her. She's a strong woman, but she couldn't control how her body's chemicals reacted to having a baby. It was rough for her; it was rough for me. The challenge of having a baby sounded like a fun adventure to have with my best friend. But, in those first few weeks when my best friend wasn't herself, I didn't know what to do.
I felt alone, probably similar to what my wife was feeling. I didn't know how to take care of my baby, and I didn't know how to take care of my wife. I felt useless. So, I did everything I could to keep myself busy: cleaned the house, washed the bottles, put up a storm door, bought some patio furniture, planned a big landscaping project, bought a minivan, and trained for and completed my first 20K. No joke. I did all of those things in the first few months of my baby's life. I ended up spending a lot of money and getting a lot of things crossed off my to-do list. I needed something to do while my baby and wife were resting. I'm not very good at resting.
I learned from those first few weeks that it's OK to sit around and not accomplish anything other than time spent with family. It's hard for men to do that, but hopefully next time (if there is one) I will be ready.
After the first three months, the hazyness of being a new parent started to lift. Not completely, but I could at least see my hand in front of my face. And just as soon as we started to hit a stride and develop a routine, it was time for a growth spurt, sickness or teething, which meant more night feedings, clueless new parent situations and uncertainty of what the new normal would look like.
Maybe I'm just a naive man who doesn't think about these types of things, but I appreciate routine in daily life, and there is a theme of parenting which directly contradicts routine. I think it's God's way of reminding us that we're not in control.
I've started to anticipate transitions and try to adapt quickly, but I'm not sure I'll ever completely get used to the constant change that comes with parenting.
Formula, diapers, baby food, table food, vaccinations, flu shot and the list goes on and on and on...
We find ourselves huddling up to call the next play multiple times a day. It's kind of exhausting. And with sites like Pinterest, and a wife with a board dedicated to our daughter's first birthday party, we spent countless hours deciding what cupcake liners we were going have at Rooney's party. This included no less than five trips to the local party stores and scanning dozens of sites.
In all seriousness, though, we try to weigh the options of the serious stuff heavily to make the most informed and best decision for our family. In doing so, we've also learned not to take ourselves too seriously. There are two sides to every decision and in hindsight, we turned out OK, right?
Parenting is tough stuff. I don't anticipate it getting any easier anytime soon. If we ever add to our family, that will only create a new dynamic. As our children grow, new challenges will arise for sure. Heck, Rooney can't even talk back to me, yet...
One of the biggest decisions you will have to make as first time parents will be selecting a daycare! And I recommend all expecting moms to start looking right away and secure a spot.
I will share a little bit of my experiences along with a few tips. Please let me start by stating, every family has to be comfortable with the place they choose and some of my must haves might be completely different from what your family's needs are. There are some really awesome homes and centers out there, as well as some not so great ones! This article will lean more towards centers because that is what my experience is, not because I think one is better than another.
When we started our daycare search, we lived in Minnesota. Instantly, I was a bit surprised that I was on a waiting list! The second thing that floored me was the expense, as we paid more towards daycare than we did our mortgage. Luckily, Iowa is a bit more forgiving, especially with three kids in a center. We selected a center there because it worked best with our work schedules and being a big city, we didn't know any home providers personally.
A few reasons that pointed us towards centers:
- We did not have family around, so we liked that a center had longer hours and was always open. Generally, centers start drop off at 6:30 a.m. and pick-up by 6 or 6:30 p.m. Not that I like being away from my kids that long, but sometimes you have work meetings or travel.
- We really like the consistent hours, they always have a bigger staff so if a teacher is ill others can cover. I quickly found we were missing plenty of work with the kids being sick, it would be hard to take additional time off if your provider was ill or on vacation.
- I always feel more comfortable having more people around - an example, when Dylan was just 11 months he broke his arm at daycare, so one teacher stayed with him and held him until we arrived and took him to the hospital.
Here are a few things to consider when you start your search:
- A great resource to start your search is www.iowaccrr.org, they can help you find a licensed home daycare in your area as well as many other helpful information.
- Home or Center, ask around; I find referrals go a long way. And if a person has negative feedback, be sure to learn why because that may or may not impact you or your child.
- When you do secure a spot at a place you really like, be sure to have a back-up in mind. I've heard several stories of last minute switches.
- Determine your comfort level with your child being transported. Centers often times do bus trips, some home providers may do school pick-ups/ drop-offs or other trips.
- Location: Generally, I really like close to home, and this is what our family does because my husband and I work opposite directions and we like that our children will go to school with some of the same kids. However, at this baby stage, it would be nice to have my baby closer to my work, which is right by our clinic. So, think about if your child has a doctor's appointment, how long will it take you to pick them up, take them to the appointment, drop them back off and go back to work? If that takes a half-day, you might run out of vacation time fast.
- I ask how long the staff has been there, lots of turnover might indicate issues.
- Learn how many other children will be there. I believe all centers follow state guidelines, which is a 4:1 ratio for babies.
- Ask what is provided. Some daycares provide formula, food and wipes.
- What are the activities your child will be doing? One fun thing about our daycare is they participate in a Jump Bunch program, which basically a PE teacher is coming once a week. They also have a drama program and go on a few field trips each year (these are generally in addition to your weekly fees).
- Do they provide pre-school curriculum? Ours does, which is great so we don't have to worry about a mid-day pre-school drop-off.
- In general, homes are more affordable and may give you a more warming feel for your baby, opposed to the center.
- Are you comfortable with the playground area? Our daycare has a gym, which I love since it is too cold to go outside many days of the year.
- What are their discipline strategies? Believe it or not, those sweet little babies tend to get into mischief.
- Ask about vacation policies, most will give you one free week for vacation each year.
- Be sure to check into dependent care credits, so for us, we are able pay the max of $5,000 towards daycare, income tax-free.
Overall, I recommend checking out a variety of places, go on tours and above all, use your instinct! I usually either walk away strongly disliking a place or feel really good about a place.