By Jenna Smith
As a parent, you always prepare for the birthdays and big holidays, spending weeks preparing for a fun party, shopping all year long for Christmas gifts. These are important times in a child’s life, but there are other very important milestones that parents don’t always see coming -getting and losing the first teeth, crawling and walking, a baptism or first communion, a first haircut, the first day of school, high school graduation.
Teething. Babies normally start teething around six months, but it can happen anywhere between three and twelve months. Primary teeth are breaking through the gums which can be painful, causing some babies to get fussy due to swelling and soreness -but some babies seem to be unaffected by teething. For those babies experiencing pain, try teething rings, frozen wet wash cloths, or even frozen bagels.
Crawling and Walking. At six to nine months parents need to be prepared to start child-proofing their homes because at this age babies begin to crawl and reach for things and even pull items off the shelf. At nine to twelve months you can expect your baby to start taking their first steps; a huge milestone in a child`s life and extremely important to their development.
Baptisms and First Communions. Not physical development but rather spiritual. Although an infant may not understand the significance at the time, they will be able to appreciate it later in life. Make sure to commemorate a milestone such as a first communion or anything similar by buying a gift they can save (and therefore remember) forever . For tips on first communion and similar gifts, see them here.
First Day of School. Many parents cry at their child’s first day of school (some each year), because it’s hard seeing your child go into the world without you and to realize the rapid passing of time and g rowth in your little one. In these ways, it is often more difficult for the parent, but still a child can be terrified at the thought of leaving a parent’s side. It is important to prepare your child for the first day of school so that she understands where and why she is going and how she should behave. To memorialize the occassion, take a first day of school photo, mark each child’s height on the wall, and maybe surprise him or her with a small gift.
From infancy to adolescence, a child will experience many more milestones, some significant for physical development and others for emotional wellbeing. All milestones in a child’s life are imperative to their growth as a person. The important thing is to be prepared for each and every one of them.
Being ready will make you a better parent. You can help your child prepare for these events that might be overwhelming, and also, in the end, commemorate them for future enjoyment.
By Jenna Smith
Parents are always worried about their child’s safety. And even though we do our best to protect our kids, there’s always a possibility of injury.
Danger lurks everywhere. Even at home, there’s still no guarantee that our kids are free from freak accidents.
Injury is the leading cause of death in children between 0 and 19. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 9 million children experience injuries in the United States.
And while we have no control when and where accidents happen, we can always minimize the chances of it happening to our kids by practicing safety precautions.
Examples of common child injuries and how to prevent them
Burns. More than 300 children suffer from burns every day. That’s very alarming. Scalds from steam and hot water commonly injure younger kids while older children get in direct contact with fire.
To avoid burns, do the following:
- Always check water temperature when bathing your child. It has to be lower than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Install smoke alarm systems at home.
- Have a fire escape plan and make sure to explain it to your kids. Older children need to know what to do in case of a fire.
- Keep away matches and flammable substances.
- Use safe cooking equipment. Always make sure that gas stoves are shut off after use.
Suffocation. Infants and toddlers can be easily smothered when sleeping with adults or choke on something.To avoid this, you must:
- Make sure that babies have their own bed or crib to sleep in, especially if you move a lot while sleeping.
- The crib has to be free from hanging toys or anything that can be accidentally swallowed by kids.
- For older children, teach them that games that involve choking are dangerous.
- Teach them basic CPR just in case.
Cuts. These can be really serious. Major cuts can cause extreme bleeding and even damage veins. Plus, it can be very traumatic for a kid. The good news is it’s easy to prevent cuts as long as you do the following:
- Keep knives, scissors, and tools out of children’s reach.
- Make sure that kids’ playgrounds have adequate floor protection, like mats, to keep them from scraping their knees.
- Always make them wear helmets when riding a bike.
- Supervise play time to ensure they don’t get in contact with something sharp.
Poisoning. Poisoning can be fatal. Two children die every day as a result of poisoning. And it’s not only due to hazardous chemicals that are typically used at home; even household cleaners, medicine, and toys that contain lead can poison children.
- Keep all chemicals locked in a cabinet that kids can’t reach.
- Check that all toys you purchase are free from lead.
- Carefully read labels for any medication.
- Throw away substances you no longer need at home.
- Teach your kids to not touch, smell, or ingest anything that are not toys.
- Most importantly, know the number for the nearest poison control center.
Falls. These are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries in kids aged 0 to 19. Small children fall on stairs, from windows, playgrounds, etc. These can cause fractures and even serious head injuries. To protect your child from falls, make sure to:
- Install rails, stair gates, and window guards at home.
- Make kids wear helmets when riding bikes and other similar activities.
- Check that playground equipment and location are safe—must have paddings to cushion falls.
An effective course of action a parent can take to keep children safe, especially during times when they have no control over the situation (like when the kid is in school or any place outside the home), is to get help from a child injury firm. They offer plenty of information and resources about the topic.
A child injury firm can offer assistance to families dealing with child injury cases. Children will often find themselves in situations that put them at risk of injuries. And while we can never watch over them 24/7, it’s good to know that there’s someone willing to help in case injuries happen.
By Audrey Davidow Lapidus
Courtesy The University of Virginia Magazine.
Calvin didn’t roll over. He didn’t crawl. When all the other babies were babbling and taking wobbly steps, he was just lying there, smiling. Always smiling.
I tried to convince myself that he would catch up. And that one day, as he streaked across the Lawn, we would all laugh about how we worried something was wrong when he was just a baby. I tried to convince myself, but deep down I knew; I had this terrifying feeling that it wasn’t going to turn out that way.
That’s about all I remember of my son’s first year. They say that happens with trauma—you block it out. But I’ll never forget the night the doctor called to tell me what was wrong with my baby boy.
He said Calvin had a mutation in the 18th chromosome, an extremely rare genetic syndrome called Pitt Hopkins. Fewer than 200 cases in the world had been diagnosed—and when the doctor took his genetics boards 20 years ago the syndrome had yet to even be discovered. By this point in our conversation, I was already frantically Googling.
The papers online said my son would not talk. They said he may or may not walk. He would likely have seizures as he got older. And he would be severely impaired, both intellectually and physically. He was only 13 months old and already his future felt grim, if not totally lost.
That was exactly a year ago. On that day, in that darkness, I never would have imagined where we would be now. Old friends stood by us. New friends rallied to support us. And so many friends we’d lost touch with, in particular so many U.Va. alumni, came back into our lives. Their phone calls, emails and meal deliveries buoyed us through that difficult time.
This past year has been an education in the things that matter. All the smiling Calvin does is actually part of his syndrome—children with Pitt Hopkins tend to be very cheerful. I have met many special-needs parents whose children do not have the muscle control to smile or whose sensory disorders leave them so uncomfortable in their own skin they can rarely enjoy their surroundings. My heart aches for them. My son can smile. It used to seem like such a little thing.
In the early days after the diagnosis, I tried to take solace in mantras like “everything happens for a reason.” The truth is I don’t believe some divine order led Cal to me, or me to Cal. But I know that I have two choices—hope or despair—and that the latter gets us nowhere.
Of course, not everything is so clear cut. I worry that I will still be changing his diaper when he is 30. How will that work, I wonder? Then there’s the big question, the one I can’t bring myself to utter out loud—will my son have a meaningful life?
I know that Cal has made my life immensely more meaningful. He is a constant reminder to look not at human deficiencies but at the quality of souls. Perhaps it’s just the desperate hope of a mother trying to make sense of it all, but I like to believe that his brain, unclouded by judgment and ego, knows only light and love.
Our son’s diagnosis has given my family a new purpose: to find a cure for Pitt Hopkins. Because Pitt Hopkins is an extremely rare, recently discovered disease, there was no foundation, no research and no hope of clinical trials at the time of Calvin’s diagnosis. My husband and I decided to change that. In the past year, together with a small group of families, we have raised more than $300,000 for Pitt Hopkins research. We recently made our first grant to David Sweatt, an esteemed neurobiologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
A large part of the grant was for Sweatt to hire the best researcher he could find to assist him. After a nationwide search, Sweatt found Andrew Kennedy (Grad ’11), toiling away in the chemistry laboratory of Timothy Macdonald at U.Va. To me, this felt like kismet—a U.Va. scientist will be the one helping to find a cure for my son.
Of course, finding a cure is my wildest hope—one that I have to keep in check at the back of my mind and tucked deep in my heart. My realistic hope is that there will be a treatment within the next decade that won’t necessarily cure Pitt Hopkins kids but will give them much higher functioning, fuller lives.
Still, that is a long time from now. For today, for now, I try to live in the present, to focus on the blessings I have, rather than what I want. It isn’t always easy, but when I forget, I need only look over at my son, beaming his bright, beautiful smile—reminding all of us to do the same.
To donate and learn more, please visit PittHopkins.Org.
Audrey Davidow Lapidus lives in Los Angeles with her husband Eric and their children, Sadie, 6, and Calvin, 2. She is president of the Pitt Hopkins Research Foundation.
By The Next Family
Conservative Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who has voted against gay marriage in the past, has had a “change of heart” about the issue of marriage equality.
Why? Because his own son Will, age 21, is gay.
Portman tells CNN, “I am announcing today a change of heart….for me personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do…to get married, to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years. I want all three of my kids to have it, including my son, who is gay.”
Portman’s name was tossed around frequently during the 2012 election, having been on the short list as one of Mitt Romney’s possible vice presidential candidates. The Senator says he told Romney “everything” during the vetting process, including that he had a gay son. He does not believe that this was a deal-breaker for Romney.
The Republican Senator was never completely outspoken on gay marriage, but he did consistently vote against it, by supporting not only DOMA and a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but also a bill prohibiting gay couples in DC from adopting children.
When asked why it took having a gay son, rather than simply caring about the rights of his own constituents, to change his mind, Portman answered frankly, “Well…I’ve had a change of heart based on a personal experience…the budget committee, finance committee…(those) have always been my primary focus…now it’s different…having spent a lot of time thinking about it….this is where I am for reasons that are consistent with my political philosophy including family values… families are a building block of society.”
Portman also feels that, because the Supreme Court is weighing its decisions on gay marriage, now is the best to time to make his newfound support of gay marriage clear.
The Senator describes the moment two years ago when his son came out to his wife and him and his reaction as “loving”, although admitting he had no idea his son was gay.
The CNN reporter who interviewed Portman said the Senator is usually “press savvy” but was nervous during the interview, and struck her simply as “a dad wanting to do right by his son.”
Bravo, Rob Portman. You might take a little criticism for not coming around until you had a personal reason to do so, but The Next Family applauds you for looking into your heart and doing the right thing. And it’s nice to see a conservative politician who finally understands the true meaning of “family values”.
I have never been on Facebook.
There. I said it. Funny how I’m perfectly ok to admit that in person. Well, ok to a point – people are simply quite baffled by it -it’s beyond comprehension. (I like to mess with their heads by asking “What’s Facebook?” They get so offended.) But I’ve never felt safe to admit it out in the open. Out there…in… space. I guess basically because I know it’s baffling and beyond comprehension.
So it goes without saying that I’ve also never tweeted. The thought terrifies me. Partly because it should really be “twitted”. Or people should be on Tweeter. Either one. It simply makes no sense to be tweeting on Twitter. That just bugs me. I do kind of like the idea of funny people throwing out funny shit to the world all day long, but really, how often does that happen? Be honest. Plus, I can’t get past the abbreviations. I literally can NOT figure them out. I once texted someone a semi-important question to which I really needed the answer, and the response was “AFAIK”. I lost hours over that. Who or what the fuck is AFAIK? I just need to know if the carnival fundraising meeting is still set for Friday. Is AFAIK a new coffee shop? We’re meeting there now?
My husband hates the abbreviations more than I do. His texts are literally 4 inches long, with proper punctuation and everything. And don’t even think of sending him an emoticon. He will not respond. In fact, he may never text you again. He will write you off for that shit. He once gave me a hard time for using “w/” in a text. Really?
But back to Tweeter, how do you people understand the hashtag? How exactly does that work? Are you assigned a hasthtag? How does it end up out there…floating over our heads in the ether, to be… followed? So scary. And when in the hell did we all stop calling it a pound sign?
My very young son recently started signing his name (on sweet love notes to me!) with a hashtag before his name. I laugh – ha ha how does he even know what that is? – but that laugh is really just a mask to cover my deep-seeded fear that he’s crossed over, I’ve lost him, as all parents are bound to do at some point. But already? And might I add that I’d so much rather be like the parents of the 50s and 60s who lost their children to the sinning, hip-grinding Elvis Presley or to those crazy, moptop Beatles. I do not want to lose my precious boy to Mark Zuckerberg.
I recently decided to try Instagram. It seemed like a fair compromise for me, the non-social networker, to attempt to network. Or socialize. Or net some social work. So I now have an Instagram account. Yay. It took me no less than half an entire afternoon to settle on my username. And half of that time to figure out which was my username and which was my sign-in name, or if they were in fact different. Basically which name would people see, and how clever should I be with it? Is it safe to use my full name and if I didn’t use my full name would anyone even be able to find me? And fuck, what if they did find me?
And so the second part of that afternoon was spent turning my Instagram “privacy” switch off and then on and then off again. Frantic at the thought of anyone in the world seeing my photos eventually lost out to a completely unanticipated fear that, if I kept them private, no one would bother to “request” to see them anyway. How sad. (And also, should they make such request, I wouldn’t know how to allow them access. How sad.) The issue was finally settled once I searched “Lena Dunham” and her entire Instagram world just opened wide up to me in all its hazy orange early morning celebrity New York glory. Poring over her life took up all of one late night. If TV’s hottest new IT person is perfectly fine with weirdos from who-knows-where checking out her shit, then certainly I could leave my privacy button off.
Truth be told I do actually kind of enjoy Instagram, if only for the fact that I can take hideous photos of my washed out face and, by adding some burnt sienna here, a little 1977 dope vibe there, a touch of late afternoon sun, and some well-placed out of focus action… I look…voila! less pale and washed out.
But I do find Instagram’s whole caption and comment and “like” thing stressful. I thought “like” was only for Facebook, no? Can you actually still “like” something and NOT be on Facebook? I thought “like” – the actual word, as previously used in our English lexicon- had been replaced by something else (just as a pound sign is now a hashtag).
And really the whole picture content thing is pretty unsettling too. I mean, I don’t think you’re supposed to put normal photos of your kids or other people on Instagram right? A few now and then but only if they like, just had sex or are smoking a cigarette and the smoke swirling around the face looks like the pope or something. Really the shots are supposed to be of things – not the smoker so much as a dirty, butt-filled ashtray with the caption “Rehearsals went too long” or “I’ll kick tomorrow”. Anything artsy and cool, gritty and real. Always always, real. This shit is real, right?
And let’s touch on the issue of time, the actual mom-hours , it took for me to become an Instagrammer: to sign up, choose, change, change, and change my username (or sign-in name? I still don’t know which), edit, load, and caption about seven (only seven!) photos, search for followers, turn on off on off on off the privacy switch, view the shots of my new followees, craft comments (and then delete same for lack of wittiness), contemplate the huge commitment of “liking” a photo or two, and then obsess over Lena Dunham’s Insta-life. It was an entire day … and night. I have a job. And a child. A husband, pets. There’s homework and dishes and bills. Exercise to avoid, writing to block, dinner to pick up, TV to zone out to….So how in hell’s fuck do the rest of you have the time to post, Like, tweet, comment, and hash some tags?
What I’m trying to say is I’m lost in all this. And I realize, as much I’m loathe to admit it, that it’s my refusal to tweet or share or post that is to blame. I tried to stay true to that refusal, to stay staunchly opposed, but I’m losing out and although I might never acquiesce (remember, I’m terrified of hash pounds), I am ready to admit that I have lost. Because I am lost. Lost in space. You win. I have no network. No social. But you, the rest of all of you, you are Linked in and liked aplenty. But not me. I’m out here, face pressed to the glass, looking in. See, here’s a picture… don’t you like it?
A new report from Third Way finds that voters largely do not punish lawmakers for voting for marriage equality, regardless of political party. The study analyzed lawmakers in Washington and New York, the only two states where elected officials have faced re-election after addressing the issue of same-sex marriage. Of those who supported the freedom to marry, 97 percent of them who ran again won re-election. Two of the five who lost were under investigation for corruption or misuse of tax dollars, and one lived in a Washington district that voted to approve the marriage equality referendum, so it’s not likely her loss had much to do with the question of marriage.
The last two lawmakers on the list who ran for re-election and lost after supporting marriage equality were Republican New York Senators Stephen Saland and Roy McDonald. The National Organization for Marriage waged an expensive vengeance campaign against them, and while it had some impact, the net result as not in NOM’s favor. McDonald lost to his more conservative primary challenger, but he also raised less money than she did. Saland lost to an equality-supporting Democrat because he split his votes with a conservative challenger who stayed in the race after the primary election. NOM has claimed there are consequences for voting against marriage equality, but the only evidence that this is true is created by NOM spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in retaliation.
Supporting marriage equality does not have to be a political decision for lawmakers. Only NOM’s commitment to political bullying tactics stands in their way of continuing to win the support of their constituents.
Many times, the choice to fumigate isn’t yours — it’s your landlord’s. Four steps to know about before you tent your home.
Chances are, at least one house in your ‘hood is being treated for termites right now. And despite the festive clown-and-circus themed tent, the chemicals that go into the fumigation process simply aren’t funny.
The process used to include chlorpyrifos, which can cause neurological damage and was phased out beginning in 2010, according to the EPA. (That didn’t stop farmers from applying 10 million pounds of the stuff annually to our crops, especially corn. But I digress.)
Methyl bromide was widely used as a fumigant until the EPA determined that it depleted the ozone layer and violated the Clean Air Act and began phasing it out in 2005.
Here are a few of the many chemicals that are still considered safe to fumigate with, despite growing concerns:
phosphine: “Extreme actute toxicity via inhalation “ –EPA 1,3-dichloropropene: “Reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogen” -Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry methyl isocyanate “gas leak…resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people” –EPA formaldehyde: “probable human carcinogen” –EPA lodoform: “acute toxicity in mice similar to that of methyl iodide” –CDC sulfuryl fluoride: “poses an inhalation hazard” –Cornell University
Granted, the studies that yield these findings involve far higher concentrations than what you would be subjected to after having your house fumigated.
But the safety assessments also don’t take into account the fact that when you’re tenting, several chemicals are typically used at one time — and their interactions have never been fully measured, especially when it comes to kids.
Finally, there are studies that show the dangerous effects of pesticides in general: A UC Berkeley study published in 2002 found that the children of families who used professional pest control services at any time from one year before birth to three years after were associated with a “significantly increased risk of childhood leukemia.”
If you’re considering termite tenting, here are a few additional steps you can take to make sure the fumigation goes as safely as possible.
1. Remember, even “eco fumigators” can use any of the chemicals on the list above; the word “eco” is marketing, not fact. 2. Ask the company for a written description of the chemicals that are used in their fumigation process and do your own research on what’s involved. If the company won’t provide the list, find another company that will. 3. Common sense — and industry guidelines — tell us that you must make sure your home is fully ventilated for several days after fumigation. You may want to add a few more open-window days to the company’s safety timeline before moving your family back home. 4. Don’t rush it! Termite infestation takes a long time; the problem can wait while you measure your options.
Originally published on Mommy Greenest.Com
By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant
Poor, Poor, Pitiful You
Every once in a while I kinda wish we could all just sit down and discuss these parenting articles. Sitting together, maybe a little wine, talking face to face, instead of me sitting here all alone (with a little wine; it’s the weekend; don’t judge), so far away.
If you know me personally, you are rolling your eyes right now. It is no secret that I eschew most human contact outside of my job. I hide behind sofas and hit the lights when I see someone coming up my driveway. I look at my ringing phone and go through all the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. I am a wee bit protective of my solitude.
Still, this is one topic that warrants discussion because it can easily be misunderstood. Although as I sit here, it does occur to me that the clarity of my writing might be a factor in the misunderstandings. Hunh. Maybe I should have lain off that third glass of wine…
I want to write about rejection.
I am going to be stereotypical here by referring to the parent who is typically (oh wait. STEREOtypically) home with the kids. Please don’t give me any crap over this. I am not politically incorrect or misogynistic or chauvinistic or reactionary; I am merely lazy and it’s easier to just write “mom” instead of “mom or dad” or “mom or dad or grandma” or “adult caregiver who spends most of the day with the child” or even “ACWSMOTDWTC”.
First, a quiz:
1. When your child yells, “GO AWAY!” at you, do you feel:
C. Happy and FREE because the last thing you wanted was to have to deal with that obnoxious kid.
2. When your child prefers your spouse to you for bath time, bedtime, playtime, eating and everything else, do you feel:
C. Happy and FREE
3. When you walk in the door after being gone all day at work and your child looks up for a nanosecond, barely gives you a nod hello and returns to his/her activity, do you feel:
C. Happy and FREE
Are you beginning to get the picture? I want to talk first to those of you who answered either “Sad” or “Mad” to the three questions. The rest of you, those who checked off “Happy and FREE”, may be excused. You are not miserable so we don’t need to look at your happy and free faces right now. Shoo. Begone.
Okay. Let’s look around the room. You. The parent who is gone most of the day, the parent who only gets to spend quality time with your kids at night when they are exhausted or on the weekends, when you are exhausted. You. Les Miserables.
It can go like this: You finally get home from the cold, cruel world and you walk into your warm safe haven, brimming with love for your family, and you say to your four-year old, “I’m home! Give me a big hug and a kiss!” and your kid says, “GO AWAY!”
Or you make a huge Saturday morning breakfast for your child because you haven’t been able to spend much time with him/her and you make all his/her favorite foods, you even draw a picture with blueberries on the pancakes – a picture of Leonardo, your kid’s absolutely favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle – and you present it to your child with a flourish. And s/he says, “YUCK. I HATE pancakes. I like the breakfasts Mommy makes!” (Which, by the looks of the wrappers in the car is pretty much turkey jerky and Capri Sun) And then your kid adds, “Also? Leonardo is NOT my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, anyway! Go away!”
Yeah. Rejection blows.
But here’s the thing: it’s not exactly the same rejection as an adult’s rejection. I know that it feels the same, but it’s not. In fact, I wish there were a different word for it because the word “rejection” brings into it a whole lotta adult stuff that isn’t applicable.
Young children live close to their emotions. And they don’t have well- developed filters yet. They live pretty much in the world of archetypes – you are good if you give them a cookie; you are evil if you don’t – and not so much in the world of nuance and tact.
Plus, they are exercising their right to have some say in their lives.
This is so often where issues and hurt feelings happen, when imagine does NOT meet reality, and we get upset. In our minds, all the drive home, we are imagining a scene out of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, you know, Pa comes in from the fields and all the kids gather around him and shower him with affection.
Uh-huh. And they don’t want to stop what they were doing to get up and give you a hug. And you feel rejected. And pissed off because, let’s face it, what the heck did that kid do all day that was so hard that s/he can’t even get up off the sofa and hug you? Who appreciates you?
I hear you. I feel your pain. I – as my husband likes to say, – I am picking up what you are laying down. But I have some bad news for you: the kind of appreciation you are craving, the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE kind? Yeah, it generally doesn’t look like that right now when the kids are young.
Please don’t get me wrong – I am not condoning alienation of affection. I am not suggesting we allow our children to ignore us or be rude or blow us off. I am, however, suggesting that we help our kids find a less disrespectful way to tell us what they want.
Saturday morning. You declined an invitation to do something fabulous for yourself because you want (need, feel obligated) to spend the day with your child. You walk into your child’s room and give him/her a big hug and you say, “Guess what? We are going to the zoo today! Just you and me! YAY!”
And your kid says, “Gross. Your breath smells yucky.”
And you bury the rejection and say, “Okay, get dressed for the ZOO! Yay!”
And your kid says, “Go away! I am playing with this piece of used dental floss and a wine cork and I am having fun. I don’t want to go to the zoo.”
And you think to yourself, “Do you know how much I wanted a day to myself? And that I gave it up to be with you? Why are you so ungrateful? Did your mother make you this way? Because I am gonna level with you, she doesn’t appreciate me, either.”
And you wind up carrying yor screaming kid into the car and forcing a happy Daddy day at the zoo on him.
Now, let’s rewind and reconstruct. We’ll go back to the statement about your morning breath being gross. Because, let’s just be honest, it probably is. Your kid isn’t lying. She might be lacking a certain, I don’t know, finesse in letting you know. But she might have a point.
You can say, “Is it gross? Sorry. I will not put my face so close to yours until after I brush my teeth.” And THEN you can say, “Also, can you think of a way to tell me that my breath is bad in a way that is nicer and not so rude?” This way, you are acknowledging her right to not have to smell your funky morning breath but you are also defining the parameters of HOW she says it to you.
Okay. Next. S/he doesn’t want to go to the zoo.
Now I know that you have been planning this. I know what you gave up to do it. But is it possible, just possible, that maybe you are putting a little bit too much on the fact that you planned the zoo trip? That you are letting yourself feel a bit too much rejection over it? I mean, if your wife surprised you by saying she had planned an entire day for you, might you want to have been given the option of being part of the decision?
So, you reach deep into yourself to find the higher road, and you say to your child, “Oh. I thought you’d want to do that. Well, since I don’t have to work today, I want to spend time with you. What would you like to do?”
And then you have a conversation about it. And you share your ideas. And you come up with options and alternatives and compromises and finally, common ground. And you don’t take it personally that your child had initially said s/he didn’t want to go to the zoo with you. Because it really wasn’t a personal rejection. It was how a young child was learning to express his/her opinions.
Well, that brings us to a close. If you have questions or comments, please use the comment section below. You can try to come over or call me, but I will be hiding behind the couch.
By Madge Woods
I met her on parole, and now she’s AMAZING.
Keisha is my mentee (technically really not anymore as she finished parole April 29, 2011 – almost five years from the day I met her).
Meeting My Mentee
Keisha has become so much more than what she was the day I met her. She had trouble making choices about everything (she had no choices in prison). She was more like the teenager she was when imprisoned at age 15 1/2 than the 32-year-old woman standing in front of me.
Having been one of the first juveniles tried as an adult in California, she was sentenced to life plus 9. I never did understand this sentencing. When I first met Keisha, after she was out a month, we went to lunch with a program that we both signed up for, Volunteers in Parole (which is now de-funded). She was nervous and didn’t know how this would all work. But by the end of the lunch we were matched and the bond started.
Starting the Mentoring Process
For five years we hung out. We went shopping, and to museums, plays, lunches, dinners. Mostly we spent time just talking, in person and on the phone. We are very different. Our lives couldn’t have been further from the other’s, but somehow we waded through. I talked and asked questions and sometimes she answered me and sometimes she had no trust that she could tell me what she needed to say. But with time and work and energy we started to be friends rather than mentor/mentee. I guess this is proof of the mentorology cycle at work!
She’s Starting to Transform…
Keisha’s life after prison started back where SHE started. Living with her disabled mom immediately put Keisha back in the position of daughter, only now she was taking care of her mother. We talked about her roles in life, her roles in her family, and her dreams for her future, which needed a job to get going.
Keisha got a job right away and it took a while to find the right fit. A few jobs later she settled in and at the same time started thinking about helping those lifers still in prison and those outside. She joined groups and started speaking out on her story. She spoke on stage and with friends and among total strangers. She started to become the adult she searched for.
After mastering driving and cooking and making a place for herself within her mom’s home, Keisha flourished. She dreamed of the day she was off parole so she could move to her own place and start the life she so deserved and worked so hard to attain. Now, five years later, she is reaching all her goals. If she had buried a list when going to prison, I think she would feel she is moving farther away from that 15-year-old and more to who she believes she can be…and checking items off that list.
Continuing the Transformation
From that first day, I cared about Keisha. I tried to introduce concepts that she had never learned or seen in her family: saving, checking accounts, credit cards, and insurance. She thrived and started saving for emergencies and for her future. Did she always make the best choices? No. But she made choices and accepted consequences and grew from each encounter.
She had her tattoos removed from Homeboys and became active in prison reform. She started talking and couldn’t stop. She turned her life around. She took advantage of every possible program in prison, she graduated high school, she represented the women in prison less educated than she and helped with rules, regulations, and programs in prison. She even went to Toastmasters and became a great speaker. We worked on some language and pronunciation and she continued to write and publish and perform. She became a tax payer. She now can vote. But most importantly she broke the family cycle that had led her to crime to begin with.
I have full faith Keisha will never offend again and will not ever put herself in a position where her character could be questioned. Keisha is a success at solving problems and resolving issues. I can honestly say I have learned more from Keisha than she could have possibly learned from me. She became part of my family. She shared my joys and struggles. I have a lifelong friend that I love like my own family. I am so proud of Keisha and I just wanted the world to know it.
A Life Completely Transformed through Mentorology
It is now over seven years since Keisha was released. She has her own place and is moving soon to be with her mom in their own place. She has a wonderful job with a big global shipping company and has passed all their requirements with a 100% accuracy. She is going from a temporary employee to full-time and is respected by all her co-workers. She has continued to speak out and help teens and pre-gang groups to see if her lessons can be shared and prevent violence among youth in trouble. Keisha also is in a wonderful relationship with someone who respects her and is a good partner. But most importantly for me, Keisha introduced me to her life, her friends, and I am now involved with the Action Committee for Women in Prison as their board president. Also, when another of her friends got released Keisha encouraged her friend to select me as her mentor. That relationship also has been very successful as well for over six years. I love my friendships with these two women and am so proud of them. I truly feel they are my sisters and we share so many great conversations and adventures.
Mentoring works. I live it and breathe it everyday. It has totally changed me and showed me how a young, bright woman can get caught up in making bad choices -but with friendship, time, and energy she can change and become a remarkable citizen of this country.
Madge Woods is the board president for the Action Committee for Women in Prison, whch advocates for the humane and compassionate treatment of all incarcerated women, collaborates with other organizations dedicated to reforming the criminal justice system, works for the release of individual women prisoners who pose no danger to society, informs and educates the public, and promotes a shift of focus from punishment to rehabilitation and restorative justice.
Originally published on OverMyShoulderFoundation.Org
By Rob Watson
Some of those fighting marriage equality these days want you to believe that there is only a single possible right way to create a “real” family. The way they suggest is by means of unprotected, unplanned, procreative sex. Or, as Nan Hunter observes, “accidental procreation” which then warrants 1500 protections and benefits by means of a “bribe (for) heterosexuals “ to get married. Only the biologically created family deserves marriage -they argue- and all the rewards to stay together.
The notion is insulting and absurd, not only for same sex coupled families, but for opposite sex families as well. Real families come together in a variety of ways, the best of which is when all the members love each other and deeply desire a lifetime bond.
That is what happened in my family.
My partner and I had pursued various options to expanding our family beyond the two of us. We explored surrogacy, and we explored private adoption. All potential routes to family have pitfalls. As we were going through our evaluation process, I remember discussing the options with a total stranger at an airport. She saw me poring over literature and shared stories of her numerous miscarriage heartbreaks on her way to having a family. “Whichever way you choose, just know it can be hard, but it will be OK and worth it,” she stated as we said goodbye.
My partner and I ultimately chose fostercare/adoption. Having come from recovery experiences ourselves, it was a great fit. We understood the situations of the birthparents without judgment, and we understood the real need of the children as well as the obstacles they might face. We committed, trained, and waited for the call for a placement.
We got numerous calls for toddlers on temporary care. Those were great experiences. Then, we got a call about a newborn baby, born six weeks prematurely to a heroin-addicted mother. He weighted 4 lbs, and had heroin exposure himself. He was to be ours for the foreseeable future.
I carried him on a sling on my chest for the next few months. We had to make sure he got a sufficient amount of nourishment in each feeding to avoid brain damage as we went through the process of supporting his birth parents through possible reunification. When those efforts failed, we went on to full adoption. We named the baby, now ours, Jason.
As Jason passed his one year birthday, we opened up our home for the potential of adding a sibling. We got a placement. She was a beautiful baby girl, and she looked just like Jason did when he was a newborn.
We had warm feelings to keep her, but were equally enthused that her birth mother was responding well to the recovery program. We supported that momentum and looked forward to a safe mother and daughter reunion.
Meanwhile, good friends of ours, another foster family, had a 10-month-old little boy placed with them. He had been discovered abandoned in a trailer. My partner often did play dates with them, and the little boy in their care and our son Jason became very close and attached.
They seemed to speak a common language, playing well together. My partner called me at work one day, “You have to come see this little boy and how he and Jason are. I told the other family that if anything was a problem with their placement, to let us know and we would love to take him.” I was alright with this, but a little guarded as our plan had been to have a boy and a girl—not two boys. Plans change and life takes over.
When I got home that evening, the play date was still going on. I will never forget the moment that I first saw Jesse. He was crawling around the corner headed toward the dishwasher as I was headed the other way… and we locked eyes. It was one of the most profound moments of my life. Here I was with direct eye contact with this toddler and the look between us said it all… “Hi Dad, I am your son. Hi Jesse, I am going to be your dad.”
A week later, it happened. The fostermom called and asked if we were serious about our offer. It turns out that her family had to move into very tight quarters temporarily and she was much better equipped to care for the baby we were nursing than Jesse, the rough and tumble toddler . So, we called the authorities, and made the switch. Jason and Jesse, new best friends, were now on the way to potentially becoming brothers.
I was worried however, being the working dad, that I might not get to bond with Jesse as I had with Jason. I did not get to carry him on me for months, and saw him in the mornings before I left for work, and in time for a kiss goodnight when I returned. He was exposed to my partner, other fostercare providers, and others more than he was seeing me.
I wish I could say that road to brotherhood was trouble-free. It was not. Jesse was still on a unification plan with a birth parent, and it looked like things in that regard might be successful, until one horrible weekend. Jesse came back from an overnight visit battered and bruised. We called the social worker immediately and the reunification attempts were closed.
I slept by his crib for the next two weeks, and although he was normally a through-the-night sleeper, he awoke nightly screaming and crying. Controlling my own anger and pain, I grabbed him and held him. Eventually the reaction grew less and less until he was again able to sleep through the night.
I don’t know if being there for him in that way was the factor, but our bonding was not an issue. As he has grown, we are lock step and almost able to read each other’s minds. As I look at my sons, I am filled with the awareness of a love for each that I could never fathom in my wildest imagination previously. The love I have for each is unique, each powerful in its own right, but its own “color” if you will. Jason is the son of my heart, Jesse is the son of my soul.
Today they act as twins. Since he is physically bigger, they have decided that Jesse is the “big brother”. Since he was born four months earlier, Jason has been dubbed, by mutual consent, as the “older brother”. We do not have a “little brother” in the family.
That is how two little best friends became brothers. It is how my gay family came together. We have a unique story, but we are not unique. All same-gendered parent families have a story. While my friend at the airport was right, “all ways can be hard”, all ways can also be miraculous, loving and intensely wonderful.
How our families come together is being judged today, and in the next few months. It will be judged by the US Supreme Court. Our families are likely to be judged long after that as well, no matter what the results.
And, no matter what the judgments on our value, I will always know the truth. I know how thoroughly REAL we are. I live it and I have seen it. I saw it as I looked into a little boy’s eyes for the first time in front of a dishwasher.