Bookish Thursdays: Reading With Your Child

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My son has been looking at books since he was four months old (read more about that here). My daughter is now doing the same. It is the most special time of the day to have my baby on my lap as we read the alphabet, count to ten, or flip through a cute and cuddly touch and feel board book. Or to laugh out loud at the antics of Captain Underpants as my son now proudly takes on some of the reading himself.

It is the book-lover in me and the English teacher in me that drove me to instil a love and respect for books in my son and I hope to continue that with my daughter.

There is something about reading that teaches us to slow down, to appreciate the written word and to use our imaginations in ways that modern society does not challenge us to do in our every day lives.

The importance of reading to children and babies is firmly supported by a plethora of journals, researchers, parenting websites etc etc etc.

I do not pretend to be well versed in this research – but, I do know that as a mother of two my heart is warmed by my son’s excitement when we discuss our favourite parts of a book and  my 7 month old’s little fingers grasping at her book when I say “turn the page”.

I admit that as an English teacher, I am aware of the connection between being a good reader and being able to inquire, research, deduce, create and write well. So instilling a love of books is as much about their education as it is about loving the written word. This is easy for me because I love reading. But what about those adults who don’t? If you’re at a loss for how to give your child something that you may lack, but you know is important, here are a few tips that might help:

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They deprive me of sleep, push me to the borders of irrational rage, squeeze every last bit of patience out of me – but when we sit to read everything dissolves around us. My children and I willingly lose ourselves in the magic of the words and pictures.

Love for reading is a gift that will last forever. Teach it with passion. Give it with abandon. Your children will thank you.

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Mommy Mondays: Second Time Around

Mommy Mondays WM

When I became a mother for the first time it seemed like I was constantly on high alert. I was stressed about my baby boy’s sleeping (or, non-sleeping) habits. It was all organic, home made foods. I rushed to wash his hands, change his clothes or his barely used diaper whenever a hint of germs or spit up or whiff of foulness was detected. My radar was sharp. I missed nothing.

I would invariably catch the attention of a more relaxed mother, perhaps on her second or third child, who would smile (condescendingly? nope, I think remembering her own hysteria) and say “he’s your first…it’ll be so much easier with your second”. I would nod and laugh and say something short like “I bet” while groaning inwardly.

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The blissfully relaxed smiling face would say “You’ll be so much more relaxed with your next child” and I’d say “I guess so.” But what I really meant was:  ‘Really? You mean you can see my anxiety-ridden shoulders that are practically in my ears and my tight smile that is about to make my cheeks explode?”

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Mother of Year would say “You’ll worry less with your second”. No response. Just a head nod as I would think, “Mind your own f***ing business because if I decide to have a second I’m not going to let that child swim in their own shit, be covered in vomit and drag themselves all over the grocery store because I’ve learned that babies/toddlers are tougher than we think.”

Ahhhhh. Even though there’s nothing worse than someone belittling your present experience because in the future it’ll seem like a trifle, I know that they all meant well.

Well, I’ve had my second child. And, while I still strive to give my daughter the same attention and care I gave my son…it is different.

Am I more relaxed? Yes, but not in her care. I am more confident in my abilities to care for her and to read her. I don’t necessarily find her easier – it’s more that I don’t feel like a baby-idiot any more.

I accept that the intentions of those mothers who were trying to help me relax with my first baby were good. Don’t we all love to impart the lessons we’ve learned to ease the hardships or trials of others. Except it doesn’t really work that way. We learn through our own experiences. Period.

I’ve been a mother to two children for three months now.  So, how have I changed my approach to motherhood as a consequence of my experiences?

  1. I will carry and hug and kiss and cuddle my children as much as I want. They grow fast and I will never, ever have this day with them again. I want my children to look back at their childhood and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they were loved.  And even if they do get a little spoiled with hugs and kisses…better that than feel less than important.
  2. When my baby cries I will pick her up. If my baby needs to fall asleep in my arms, she can.  If she wants to sleep with me, she can…because her brother did…and now he’s fine and sleeps independently…well not since his sister was born (but that’s another story)…and I doubt either of them will require to sleep with us when they’re adolescents…
  3. If I am in any way feeling irritated or less than patient, it is better to wait a few minutes before tending to my children. A deep breath, a moment to myself will help me be there for them without feeling exasperated.
  4. I can leave my baby in her play pen to simply take in her surroundings, check out her toys, get to know her hands and the sound of her own voice. I am not neglecting her because a baby does not require constant stimulation.
  5. I know that dirt won’t kill them. I get it that it is good for their bodies to be exposed to germs. I know that rolling around on grass, kneeling in soil, playing in sand, and jumping in mud puddles should be done with abandon. And, afterwards it should be thoroughly cleaned off. I cannot leave them dirty or in dirty clothes for long. Making the memory is awesome…smelling the memory, not so much.
  6. I will now approach my first born with the same confidence that I do my second born. My experiences with my son will always be a first for me…it’s not fair to him that I muddle it all up with anxiety to then breeze through life with my daughter.
  7. Babies just want to feel loved and protected. All the extra stuff that marketers wish to push down our throats … it doesn’t matter. The same goes for older kids too.
  8. Everything else can wait.
  9. My health matters. I will take care of myself because I hope to be with my children throughout their journey. As my son loves to ask me, “Mommy, how old will you be when I’m 100?”

Now that I’m doing this for a second time…I’m still on high alert but my shoulders are squared where they should be. These are a but a few ways…if you’re a first time mom and these help you out, great! If not, revel in your anxiety and worry…should you choose to do this again, the anxiety will magically disappear. However, I would never dream of telling you so.  

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Bookish Thursdays: My Son’s Life In Books

Bookish Thursdays WM

For the past 5 years my husband and I have been adamant about instilling a love for books, an appreciation for literature, a mind that thinks beyond the screen in our son. And, so, my son’s books could very well stock a day care, preschool and library. No regrets on the money spent on books or the fines on overdue books. We are left with rich memories of bedtime stories, rainy day tales and early morning reading when it was way too early to be up and about.

Age 0-2 years:

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These were some of our favourites. I exaggerate not when I say I read Good Night, Sleep Tight every night for 2 years. Every. Single. Night. We even took it on holiday. At 3 he was able to recite most of these by rote. I recited them in my sleep. By seven months he knew what “turn the page” meant and loved flipping to the next part of the story.

Age 2-3 years:

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We graduated to more sophisticated, longer reads. He loved reading about his favourite television or movie characters. The best part was giving life to the characters with different voices and intonations. Oh, and we read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas well into July.

Age 4 – present:

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This phase of his reading began with Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (Read about that here). It was love at first word. He was hooked and now LOVES chapter books. We read them to him, and now that he’s learning how to read he helps with the reading too. It is incredible to see his brown eyes light up with delight, joy, laughter, curiosity, intrigue…as we read each book and listen to the plot unfold.

My son’s journey through literature has been exciting, fun and adventurous. There is nothing we love more than cuddling up to a great read. I can’t wait to see where his journey takes him next.

Friday Five Favourites

My Friday Five Favourite Things WM

My son was home from school today because of a pd day for his teachers.  We spent the day together, chatting, reading, we headed to the library and throughout our chats I realized that there are things that he’s going to stop saying because he’ll learn proper pronunciation and grammar.  And, I will miss each and every one.

So, today’s Friday Five Favourites are in honour of my son.  These are my favourite words/phrases/rituals that he says and that we do. When he learns the correct versions or when he no longer needs them, I will mourn and miss.

  1. Lellow for yellow.  This is one has been around for a while and I would love for it to stay forever.
  2. No I amn’t.  He has abbreviated “am not” into amn’t.  I can’t correct him.  It’s too cute and in a weird way, makes sense!
  3. Aminal for animal.  He just can’t invert that “m” and “n”.  Love it.
  4. Top. Tar. Stop. Star.  This is one is slowing being lost, but still creeps up on him and it’s awesome.
  5. The Love Bubble.  The love bubble is a ritual I started when he was 3 years old.  The love bubble is supposed to ward off all monsters and scary things at night when he goes to sleep – because mommy’s love is so strong that monsters will bounce off and he’ll be able to sleep soundly and be safe.  I still have to do the love bubble every night.  Every night.

I wish he could stay 4 forever; I’ve wished that at every age yet watching him grow up has been nothing short of amazing.

Any favourite words/phrases/rituals that are unique to your children?

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Having a Baby Does Not Mean You Will Lose Yourself

I follow an organization for parents in the Greater Toronto Area on twitter: Life With A Baby.  Today they had a great tweet and link to their blog:

When my son was born, my world stopped.  It all revolved around him.  At first I was so out of sorts.  I had no idea what I was doing, felt completely incompetent and in true Karen fashion, decided I would master this whole mothering thing. I failed to realize that I didn’t need to master anything.  I was enough the way I was for my son.  I also failed to realize that he wouldn’t be a newborn forever.

Since this is my second go at having a baby, I know what I need to hang onto myself: stop trying so hard, time to sleep, write a blog post or two, read something other than parenting books, ask for help, rely on my friends. These things will all help me to remember me and to survive the demands of a newborn. However, I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that it is all temporary.

Those first few weeks of figuring out feeding and sleeping are insane.  It is so much work as you get to know the little person that lived inside you for 40 weeks!  It is overwhelming.  It is exhausting.  It is frustrating and amazing and awesome. And, it won’t last forever.

Very soon there will be time to go on dates again, go back to the gym, read books I love, keep up with the twitter/facebook/blogging world, meet friends for lunch or coffee etc. Once those first 6-8 weeks pass and the craziness passes, I will have a chance to reconnect with myself.

I will be able to play with my son,  play with my daughter and revel in being a mommy without being defined by it. I will enjoy every minute, be grateful for what I have and remember that I am living in a temporary reality that will change and change and change.  The demands of a baby will disappear into the demands of a toddler and I’ll eventually have another pre-schooler saying “I Know Mommy!”  when I remind her to pick up her toys or finish her veggies. The baby that demanded my time will be gone forever and I’ll have myself back.

Above all, I think the most important thing to remember is to keep in touch with that internal voice. If it says “I am happy”, then all is good.  If it says otherwise, then I will listen to it and act accordingly. After all, this is what we do when we are being true to ourselves.

How did you hang on to yourself after having a baby?  Any strategies that helped and you’d love to pass on?

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