I don’t like kids….sort of

Do I have your attention?  “You don’t like kids?!” you ask.  “But you’re a homeschool mom! You’re Mormon! How can this be?!!”

Here’s my dirty little secret….I don’t naturally and instinctively love kids. I don’t hate them, but I’m not a “kid person.” I love my kids, but I’m not overly fond of other kids. I’m okay with them in short doses.

If truth be told, my own kids took some getting used to.

I became a mother at nearly 39 years old. I had spent years working in a career in which I excelled. In an industry I found interesting and exciting.  And then I had my oldest son.

Don’t get me wrong, he was desperately wanted and planned for.  We tried for him for years.  When he was born I felt an almost overwhelming love for him.  And then I was at home, alone with a newborn baby and it was hard. More than hard, it was emotionally exhausting in a way I’d never experienced. I’m 10 years in, staying home with 2 kids all day and straight up, it’s still hard.every.single.day.

In my working life, I’d dealt with deadlines, long hours and stress. But as a new mother the emotional demands were something I’d never experienced.

You see, I am not a natural nurturer.  I can nurture, but it’s not really my default position and it’s not overly comfortable.

Now as a Mormon homeschool mom this can be perceived as a problem. It’s also a bit of a surprise to most people who know me.

You see, I’m fighting two stereotypes.  First the Mormon woman stereotype.  We’re all about our families, we’re naturally sweet, nurturing and super service oriented.  Well, I’m kind of snarky, a bit sarcastic, not overly nurturing, and while I’m always up for helping out a friend (and often a stranger), I find contrived “service opportunities” well…contrived.

Second I’m fighting the Homeschool mom stereotype.  It’s kind of a combination crazy helicopter parent/Mother Teresa/religious fanatic thing.  None of those descriptions come close either. There’s also the assumption that since I like my kids and I homeschool my kids, that I must like other kids and want to teach and take care of them as well…not so much.

At the moment I lead a cub scout den at my church and a teach a homeschool astronomy class at a co-op we participate in.  Each of these requires me to spend 1 hour a week with a group of around 11-14 kids.  And overall I enjoy that, or at least cope with it fairly well.

But, ask me to do child care for you? The answer will be no.  Look I’m happy to watch your kid for an hour or two here or there so you can make an appointment or catch a movie. I can cope with the occasional play date. But, everyday afterschool or really any type of set schedule and I’m not your gal.  Really, I’d rather go scrub toilets everyday at a truck stop to make money than babysit on a regular basis.  Sure the toilets are gross but they demand nothing of me emotionally and mentally. They don’t whine or complain, their parents don’t show up late to pick them up.

My kids know and understand who and what their mother is.  They understand that after 3-4 hours of schooling them, doing projects with them, reading aloud and all that, Mommy needs a break. My kids know that they need to find something to do and leave me alone for a while.  They go play Legos, ride their bikes, play in the backyard, make some art or whatever.  But they give me an hour to read my book and have a break. The only time I hear complaints about a need for me to entertain a kid, it’s someone else’s kid.

My kids know that if they bug me with complaints of boredom, I’ll happily assign them lots of chores to do.  Oddly enough I never hear cries of “I’m bored” unless it’s from someone else’s kid.

My kids know that we’ll eat when its a meal time and we’ll have a snack in the afternoon.  The only time I hear incessant whining about constant hunger and begging for snacks every 30 minutes is from someone else’s kids.

My kids know that if they hit their brother, odds are he’ll hit back and I won’t be overly sympathetic.  So tattling to me won’t accomplish nearly as much as keeping one’s hands to one’s self.  Other kids don’t seem to get this concept and often seem to spend and inordinate amount of their play date time running over to tattle about some real or imagined infraction.  It wears me out.

I used to watch those love radiating, super nurturing, kid loving, earth mother types with a wistful envy. For a while I even convinced myself that if I went through the motions and faked it long enough I could morph myself into one of them. But alas, no joy on that front for me.  I am what I am, and that’s okay.

 

 

Colic the great big pediatrician copout.

When my oldest son was born he cried, a lot, I mean all the time, like 20 hours a day, for months, and months, and months.

My oldest was a remarkably healthy little guy, with a bunch of little problems. He had reflux, he had torticollis, he couldn’t coordinate his suck to nurse, he almost never slept and he cried.  For the 1st year he generally slept no more than 20-45 minutes at a time and then cried for 2 hours, 24 hours a day for a year.

I can easily say it was one of the hardest, most exhausting years of my life. I begged my pediatrician for help. I was told it was “colic” and there was nothing we could do.

Do you know what “colic” is? It’s a way for the Dr. to say, “I have no idea why your baby cries a lot, he just does, so let’s give it a name to make you feel better.” Hey Doc, why don’t we figure out why the baby is crying instead?

For my son, it turned out that after 5 months the reflux and torticollis were resolved. But, the crying and lack of sleep continued.

At 2 1/2 he was still waking up 8-12 times a night like a newborn. My pediatrician’s only advise was to get some therapy for myself to learn to deal with it. I just don’t think therapy would teach me to deal with acute sleep depravation and exhaustion. So I found a new pediatrician.

I knew that my son’s reactions to things were a typical. I knew he should be sleeping more by then. I was logging both of our sleep…it wasn’t enough for either of us. My original pediatrician kept dismissing me an overwhelmed 1st time mother.

The new pediatrician sent us to a pediatric pulmonologist for a sleep study, and to a pediatric neurologist for testing. My son had a sleep disorder and sensory processing disorder.  The SPD was addressed with a year of occupational therapy. It made a dramatic, night and day difference. The sleep disorder was strangely enough addressed with increasing his iron intake. Again it made a huge difference, for all of us.

My son is almost 9 years old now. We still monitor his sleep condition and work with his SPD. But all of our lives are so much better, happier and easier now.

Moms out there, colic is not a real diagnosis. Saying, “your baby cries a lot and we don’t know why” is not a diagnosis. Work to find out why. There is a reason. Don’t accept “colic” as your answer, particularly if it goes on for a ridiculously extended period of time. Advocate for your child, because if you don’t, no one else will.

Books our boys have loved

Wild About Books by Judy Sierra

The Captain Underpants Series

The Fangbone Series

The Magic Treehouse Series

The Jeronimo Stilton Series

The Harry Potter Series

The Last Dragon Chronicles

The Diary of a wimpy kid series

The Oragami Yoda Series

The Jedi Academy Series

The How to Train your Dragon Series

The Stink Series

The Spirit Animals Series

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Holes

James and the Giant Peach

Listening for Lions

The Kite Fighters

The Candy Shop War

 

 

Tips for raising readers.

I talk with a lot of parents, and a lot of them are frightened about teaching reading.  In our homeschool journey so far without a doubt teaching my boys to read has been my favorite part.  It has been personally rewarding and so far both our boys LOVE to read.  Raising readers was a huge priority to me.  I believe that if you can read well, you can learn just about anything you decide to study.  We’re still early in our education years, (our boys are 6 & 8) but here are some tips that have worked for us:

1. Read to and in front of your kids.  Get them interested in great stories. We started reading to the kids as infants.

2. Talk to your kids all the time and about everything.  I talked to the boys a lot and about everything long before they could speak.  I believe this helped to build their vocabularies and language skills.

3. Give them access to lots of books. My husband and I love books and we have a lot of them around the house. We have tons of kids books.  Our boys have always had access to lots of books and the freedom to look at them at will.  The library is a great resource, so are yard sales.

4. Have bookcases full of books in the kids rooms.

5. Don’t let them see the movie until they’ve read the book.

6. Use a phonics based curriculum. I am simply not a lover of the whole language method of teaching reading, for a number of reasons. Before you jump on all the “exceptions” to phonics, read up on it.  Phonics actually only has 13 legitimate exceptions. We just weren’t taught all the rules of phonics.  There are 33 rules of Phonics that cover 90% of the words in the English language. I taught my kids to read using Hooked on Phonics and it was very effective for us. I also love The Logic of English curriculum and All About Reading and All About Spelling.

7. Don’t worry about reading levels or lexile scores. Let your kids pick out books that look interesting to them. If they start a book and it’s too hard or uninteresting, let them move on to another book. Obviously as the parent you will want to make sure that the content is appropriate.

8. Don’t worry about great literature in the early years. My boys have read a lot of Captian Underpants, Fangbone and Stink books.  Are they great literature? No. But my boys love them and read them voluntarily and voraciously. Here’s a link to a list of books and series that my boys have loved.

9. Don’t make your kids read for 20 min a day. Reading shouldn’t be an assignment, it should be a reward. My boys get to stay up after bed time if they’d like to read in bed for a while. Also, an arbitrary 20 min. may not align with chapter breaks or the natural flow of reading.

10. Give them a reason to read. For example, we have 4 hummingbird feeders on our patio and we get a lot of hummingbirds that feed on them. I found an Arizona birds field guide for the boys and asked them if they could figure out what kinds of hummingbirds we had at our feeders. They grabbed the field guide and sat and watched the feeders for a couple of hours. They ended up identifying 3 different kinds of hummingbirds and learning lots of other facts about them from the field guide. This ended up leading to a couple of cool science experiments (does the color of the hummingbird food or the type of feeder make a difference) and some additional research on google.

11. Accept that your kids may not love the books you did as a kid. I loved the Little House on the Prairie series as a kid. The books and the TV series. My boys hated it. I tried to read them the entire series and we made it through 2 books. They were bored to tears. So we moved on.

12. Accept that your kids may love fiction, and they may not, and that’s okay. You can still read well even if you’re reading non-fiction and reading for information rather than entertainment.

13. Let peer pressure work to your advantage. I can’t tell you how many times my youngest has wanted to read a book because his older brother did. I am convinced that part of the reason my youngest loves to read is because his big brother thinks it’s cool.

14. Get your kids library cards and go to the library on a regularly scheduled day. Going regularly will save you a ton on library fines. My kids love picking out whatever books catch their fancy. I’ve taught them to use the library computer to request books be put on hold and shipped in for them (really handy if they’re reading a series) and how to self check out their own books. They both feel really competent and grown up doing this. For convenience both boys library cards are linked to mine and overdue notices come to my e-mail address.

15. Read books together aloud. It gives you a shared entertainment and literary experience. Audio books are great for this as well. We often listen to audio books in the car together.

16. Talk about what you’re reading and what they are reading around the dinner table.

17. Comic books are fine. If it gets them reading it’s a win.

18. Have a family or group book club.  You don’t all have to read the same book. Have each member of the club bring their favorite book, or a book they’ve recently read, and tell the group about the book. My boys love hearing about what their friends are reading and we get some great suggestions for new books and series to check out.  I’ve seen kids as young as 3 participate.  There is nothing cuter than seeing a 3 year old hold up a board book and excitedly tell you why it is their favorite book.

19. Be impressed and amazed about your kids reading ability.

20. Have your kids read instructions for you.  We’ve done this building Ikea furniture, reading recipes, reading driving directions and maps, signs in stores.  Anything you see can work for this.