Yes, I’m posting my Tuesday Triumph on Wednesday. It’s just been that kind of week. (And I’m not the kind of blogger who has 32 posts scheduled ahead of time.) Three-year-old Lucas is the spotlight of this week’s triumph. Lucas is often outshined by his brother when it comes to behavior. It’s partly my fault. I wasn’t very consistent with him while my husband was recently deployed. And I was blindsided when it became apparent that he had saved his evil ways for his third birthday. He was incredibly obedient at 20 months!
Anyway, our triumph this week is that Lucas has gotten infinitely better about saying “yes, mommy” when I call his name. My slow talker struggles a bit to get the “yes” part out, but it’s clear to me what he’s saying. He also consistently gives me eye contact when he responds.
He’s doing really well in school, too. My baby boy can barely string ten words together, but he can spell his name! He’s always so pleased with himself when he does.
If there’s any doubt that parenting is a process, Lucas offers explicit evidence. I started working with him when he was a baby, and my efforts paid off. I still remember comments from friends and strangers who were amazed by his obedience. Then he followed my lead when I slacked off a bit. We’re now back on track and seeing the fruits of our labor.
Do you know your child’s love language? One of my favorite aspects of the Ezzo books is their discussion of love languages. The idea is fully explored in a separate book, The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, but it is a philosophy the Ezzos endorse. As parents, it is our job to learn how our kids express and receive love and to love them according to their unique love language.
The concept applies to any age. Have you ever given someone a gift and received a lackluster response? Has your spouse ever complained about not feeling loved while you feel like all you do is show him love? Everybody communicates and receives love in different ways. No way is better or worse. The key is knowing the specific love languages of your loved ones.
Here’s a basic rundown of the five love languages and ways to recognize them in your child:
Words of encouragement
Words of encouragement means exactly that. Someone with this love language expresses love by offering words of praise. Examples include:
- That dress looks great on you.
- I loved the way you helped your brother today.
- You do a great job of showing your best manners at the table.
This might be your child’s love language if he is regularly giving you and others words of encouragement.
Acts of service
Some people communicate love by doing for others. If your spouse goes out of his way to do things for you, acts of service is likely his love language. Examples:
- Your spouse puts gas in your car without you asking.
- You make a special dinner for your family.
- Your spouse puts the children to bed while telling you to rest.
Children express acts of service by helping you out with chores. Do you find your child helping you sweep, wanting to help fold clothes or do an extra-special job putting away his toys?
Often a simple gesture, giving gifts is a way to express love. Examples include:
- Your spouse brings home a souvenir from a business trip.
- Your dad spontaneously brings home flowers for your mom throughout the year.
- Your spouse’s eyes light up when you give him a gift.
Think of gifts from a child as something that has value to him, not necessarily to you. Sharing his dessert, drawing a special picture and wrapping up a toy can be signs that gift-giving is your child’s love language.
Quality time requires that you invest yourself in the other person by offering your undivided attention. Do you find your spouse complaining that you don’t spend enough time together, while you think you do everything together? The key is making sure that time is quality time. Examples:
- Your spouse turns off the TV and asks you sit next to him.
- You plan a special date night.
- You spouse is thrilled with the idea of couch time.
For a child, spending quality time together means doing his favorite things with him or taking him out for some one-on-one time. You might recognize this in your child if he often asks you to play with him.
My oldest, William, loves his quality time. Before his brother was born, he was always asking me to play. Now, they are each other’s best friends. I’ve also discovered that timeouts are really effective with him because he hates to be alone.
Physical touch and closeness
Physical touch is simple to understand. Yet, this love language also includes spending time together in the same room. Different from quality time, it doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as you are together. Examples:
- You’re reading a book and decide to go sit in the same room with your spouse.
- Your spouse doesn’t want to watch the show you’re watching, and rather than leave the room, he will bring his newspaper and sit with you.
- Your child wants you to sit with him while he does his homework.
This love language is easy to spot in children. They tend to be overly affectionate and easily respond to any touch. My little one, Lucas, is this way. He would hug and kiss me all day if I let him. If I play with his hair or rub his neck, he goes into a little trance. So cute.
There are a few things to keep in mind with love languages:
- Some people have one or two love languages. Usually, one takes priority over another, but both should be considered.
- Some parents can’t recognize a child’s love language until they are age 5 or older.
- Sometimes our loved ones know our love language better than we do ourselves.
There is a whole series of books on love languages by Gary Chapman. Plus, the Growing Kids God’s Way book includes a test where you rank certain acts of love to discover your love language. It’s an enlightening exercise for the whole family.
Yesterday morning, while we were getting ready to leave for school, I happened to mention that we needed to start brushing teeth in the morning as well as at night. Horrible, I know, but I just never incorporated it into our routine. When I said this, I was just thinking out loud and didn’t really expect a response from either child. William asked me about it and I told him that I brush my teeth twice every day. In the morning, I do it as soon as I wake up.
Well, first thing this morning, he came into my bathroom when he woke up. He was still half asleep, but said, “Mommy, I brushed my teeth this morning.” Then a big smile showed me his shiny white teeth. Not only did he remember something I said in passing the day before, but also he took the initiative to brush his teeth the minute he woke up.
We’ve had our fair share of struggles with this boy, but almost every day I’m amazed by how far he has come. It makes my heart smile to know that he loves to please me so much. It also makes me appreciate how much he has inspired me to grow as a parent. It’s incredible how these little beings come into our lives and end up teaching us as much as we had hoped to teach them.
Join me as I share our Tuesday Triumphs. Do you have any of your own? Post them in a comment.
I don’t usually use this blog as a forum to give advice on naps and specific schedule items, but I see this one come up so often, I thought I would address it here. When our children drop the morning nap, it marks a shift in the child’s development. Dropping the morning nap is a big milestone in the lives of many parents of toddlers. Yet it’s almost one of the most frustrating. Many Babywise parents don’t know how to drop the nap without affecting baby’s sleep too terribly.
Here’s how the situation typically plays out. Baby is napping well and is able to overcome teething and various disruptions without too much trouble. For the most part, things have been going well for quite some time. Then suddenly, baby stops falling asleep for his afternoon nap. He’ll play in his crib for the whole nap, or he’ll go down fine but wake up after just 45 minutes. Mom gives it a day or two before deciding that something is going wrong. She knows that baby needs his afternoon nap and he seems to nap so well in the morning that she’s a little dumbfounded.
It’s true, these babies would nap a couple hours every morning if left to their own devices. But mom knows that there’s no way baby can go from late morning until bedtime without turning into a monster. The afternoon nap must be saved!
Before I give you my advice on dropping a nap, let me explain how I would not do it.
Don’t #1: Get out in the morning
Some say that the best way to preserve the afternoon nap is to cut out the morning nap entirely, cold turkey. To avoid a cranky baby in the morning, you should go out. Run errands. Take baby to story time at the library. Whatever. Just get out. It’s true, that getting out will help keep baby alert enough that he won’t get as cranky as he would at home. But still, it deprives the child of sleep.
Don’t #2: Every other day
Another approach is to allow baby to have a morning nap every other day. It’s true that this could help baby drop the morning nap, but the problem is it still deprives the child of sleep. By allowing him the nap every other day, you are depriving him of sleep and then letting him catch up on sleep on the days you allow it. His sleep is not on an even keel. The other problem with this approach is that it’s still likely that baby will not nap well in the afternoon on the days he takes a morning nap.
Don’t #3: Early bedtime
One idea to drop the nap is to let baby nap in the mornings and then do an earlier bedtime to compensate for the lack of sleep in the afternoon. Mom gradually moves the morning nap later and later while doing an early bedtime. Eventually, the morning nap becomes an afternoon nap. There are two problems with this approach. First, mom is messing with both naps and bedtime. There’s no need to mess with bedtime (if you’ll finish reading this post). Second, baby is still cranky and overtired until the transition process is complete.
My advice: Shorten the morning nap
When you’re sure that baby is ready to drop the morning nap and that the afternoon nap disruptions aren’t due to anything else (noise, teething, etc.), start shortening the morning nap. For this approach to work, it’s important to know your baby’s optimal wake time. When I did this with Lucas, his wake time was 2 hours. I realize that not all babies can go to sleep after just 2 hours, which is fine. The key is knowing what your baby’s optimal wake time is. It’s different for every child.
Before his afternoon nap disruptions, Lucas would usually nap for 1.5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. When I knew that nothing else was causing the problem, I started waking him up after one hour of sleep in the morning. I would allow him his usual wake time of 2 hours and then put him down for his afternoon nap. This meant that his afternoon nap started 30 minutes earlier, but it worked because he was still getting used to a shorter morning nap.
I continued allowing him a one-hour morning nap until his afternoon nap was again being disrupted in some way. I let him tell me when he was ready to shorten the nap even more. So then I started waking him up after 45 minutes. Again, I would put him down after 2 hours of wake time. Throughout the transition, I would let him sleep as long as he wanted to in the afternoon and I never messed with his bedtime.
After a few months of a 45-minute morning nap, we reduced it to 30 minutes. After a few months of that, we ended up going on vacation and it was the perfect time to drop the morning nap altogether. If we were home, I might have allowed a 20-minute catnap, but it also became apparent to me that he would have done fine without the morning nap entirely.
Bear in mind, this is not the fastest way to drop the morning nap. We started shortening the morning nap when Lucas was about 14 months old. He didn’t drop it entirely until he was almost 23 months old. Did I mind? Not in the least. Would I have minded a cranky baby all morning or afternoon? For sure. Would I have minded difficult bedtimes due to an overtired baby? Of course.
This gradual approach ensures that baby still gets the sleep he needs while allowing for an easy transition to drop the nap.
To spell it out more clearly, here’s how our schedule looked during the transition.
Transition months 1-3
Morning nap: 10:00-11:00
Afternoon nap: 1:00-3:00-ish
Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am
Transition months 4-6
Morning nap: 10:00-10:45
Afternoon nap: 12:45-2:45-ish
Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am
Transition months 7-9
Morning nap: 10:00-10:30
Afternoon nap: 12:30-2:30-ish
Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am
You’ll recognize that the time between Lucas’ afternoon nap and bedtime got longer and longer. He handled this well. I realize, however, that some might not. The alternative is to keep the afternoon nap at the same time regardless of the child’s optimal wake time. There is something to be said for babies who are used to falling asleep at the same time every afternoon no matter how the long the morning nap was.
Finally, be sure baby is waking up at the same time every morning. No matter the method, the nap transition will not go well at all if you allow baby to sleep in every morning to compensate for a lack of sleep. The afternoon nap is where you will allow him to sleep as long as he needs.
The most emotional aspect of my first pregnancy was the raw panic I felt when I thought about returning to work. I never thought I would panic. I thought I would love returning to my routine, my field of expertise, my adult world.
Almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started feeling a nibbling anxiousness. It continued throughout my pregnancy and heightened as my delivery approached. All through my maternity leave, I was distraught. It was always in the back of my mind, even when I was enjoying the most tender and sweetest of moments. I knew it was inevitable, so I put on my best game face as I got ready to leave my little one.
I did great the first two weeks back. I was tough. I was brave. Then I lost it. I sat in my office and bawled. I couldn’t talk to anyone about my son without tearing up. If I got stuck in traffic on my way to pick him up from daycare, I started to have a panic attack. If I saw his picture, I broke down. My husband took him to daycare and let me pick him up because he knew I was incapable of leaving him. I made an appointment with a counselor and my OB and could not even speak a word without starting to sob.
My OB suggested that I had a form of late postpartum depression (PPD). I never had thoughts of harming my child. But when I started sobbing and choking because I got off late from work and was missing time with my baby, I knew something had to change.
My OB prescribed me a very low dose antidepressant, but I just could not bring myself to take it. It was not the stigma. Goodness knows I probably should have gotten it filled. I am a pharmacist. I dispense those needed antidepressants. I still just thought I should be tougher, better, stronger than that.
I decided to work through it on my own. It took me a year to make my peace. PPD is scary. It is horrid. It is dark. It does not discriminate. It terrifies many stay-at-home moms, too. Nonetheless, it was leaving my little baby daily that sent me spiraling. Oddly, I was depressed and even anxious on the days that I did spend with him. It was unnerving to know that it was fleeting.
Staying at home or even changing my work schedule was not an option. Period. What changed? My acceptance. My attitude. I had to look for the positives, as badly as I did not want to. I learned that in that moment in time I would not have made a very good stay-at-home mom. I would not have appreciated or valued that time. I was such a nervous first-time mom.
I also had to appreciate the differences between myself and moms that worked part time. I had to realize that many of them were even more torn than I was. They felt like they were supposed to stay at home and work, too.
Eventually, I accepted that I was providing so much in so many ways to my child and my husband. During that very dark year of making and finding my peace, I came away with a few observations.
- Counseling may not be able to change your situation, but it can help you reach acceptance.
- Medication is okay and sometimes necessary. It’s also a faster and less painful road to recovery.
- Balance can be achieved without medication but may take a long time.
- Working mom forums are a great way to find companionship and share frustrations.
- PPD can easily be serious. Seek help.
- Know the power of your attitude. Look for the advantages of being a working mother.
- Find ways to be happy for your children. They should not have to deal with displaced emotions.
If you ever find yourself struggling with depression, please know that others have been there. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need.
Bethany is a wife and working mother of two young children. Married 8 years to her supportive husband, Lee, Bethany says that without Babywise her life would be impossibly chaotic. Babywise has helped her children, 2 ½ year-old Kai and 11 month-old Caitlin, become happy, healthy, well-rested and obedient. Despite her busy full-time job as a neonatal pharmacist at a fast-paced children’s hospital, Bethany loves to write about her family’s adventures on a family blog, and she has recently started a healthy-living blog called Babysteps to Organic Living.
Here we are at the beginning of a new year. What resolutions have you made? Despite all the failed resolutions I’ve made over the years, I feel particularly inspired this year. Yes, January 1st is just another day, but I’m choosing to see the new year as a fresh start.
I’ve decided that many of my former resolutions failed because they weren’t specific enough. This year, I decided to forgo the usuals: exercise more, lose weight, be healthy. This year, I’m being specific. I’m giving up soda. Completely. Cold turkey. I’m doing it primarily because it’s a healthy thing to do, but I also hope that I’ll shed a few pounds.
While making healthy choices is important, the new year also gives us a chance to make new parenting resolutions. It’s a great time to take stock, reset our goals and make sure we’re on track.
So in the spirit of the new year and the fresh start it affords, consider the following:
Evaluate your schedule. Is it still working? If you’re having a hard time sticking with it, pare it down.
Take stock of your child’s freedoms. Does he have too many? Too few? His freedoms should grow, not as he ages, but as he shows more responsibility.
Revise your discipline plan. Make sure your child’s most chronic behaviors are at the top of the list. Add new ones as you tackle the old ones.
Pledge to do couch time. Make your marriage a priority. Set a specific day, time and place. Be realistic and shoot for three nights a week if you can’t do five.
Evaluate your attitude. Are you encouraging your child enough? Correction must be balanced by encouragement.
Vow to be consistent. Nobody’s perfect. We all slip sometimes. Just remember this: Say what you mean. Mean what you say.
Have fun. While our job as parents is to train and teach our children, we can’t forget to live in the moment. Play and be silly with your child. Before you know it, your toddler will be in preschool, your preschooler in elementary school and your teenager in college.
Here’s to a fresh start and a fruitful 2011! Happy New Year!