Tips for Preparing your Tot for a Move

pool“It’s messy!” my son exclaimed when he saw the tiniest piece of tissue on his car seat this morning. Last night, when I was talking with another set of parents, the father mentioned that when the child wants something done a certain way, it’s because the child’s world is so small, a child tries to control it and have it exactly his/her ‘way’.

We recently moved to a new apartment in our town, and I have to admit it was a huge undertaking. The rental truck company told us the day before our move that they did not have a truck for us. In the end, we rented from a different company. And thankfully, several friends and family came to help us pack up, load, and unload…for four days! I can’t imagine what it’s like to move a multi-room household!

While we couldn’t prepare for last-minute changes, we did our best to try and prepare our son for the move for his own emotional well-being. Here are some suggestions that we found worked:

  • Have your child pack a box and allow him to open it at the new place (thanks to my co-worker’s suggestion)
  • Continue to repeat that you’re moving to a new home in a few days
  • Allow your child to say ‘goodbye’ to the old home (good suggestion, Daddy!)

What surprised us the most is that a few days after our move, our son used his wooden blocks to build a ‘new home’ for his stuffed penguin. We also pointed out the benefits to the new home: a turtle pond, a balcony, and the swimming pool! When we arrived to our new apartment one afternoon after work/daycare, Lucas said ‘I don’t want this one, I want the other one.’ He probably meant ‘I don’t want this ‘home,’ I want the other ‘home.’ I spoke to him, reassuring him that we no longer lived at the old home, but at this new one. Then I told him we could either go play on the balcony inside or see the turtles outside. He replied that he wanted to go play inside.

That tiny piece of tissue on my son’s car seat represents something that’s out-of-order to him; it’s something that’s not supposed to be there. Whether it’s getting into a car seat or changing apartments, transitions are tough on little ones. Sometimes the little things matter when you are going through a big change, and it helps to practice patience when dealing with them. Believe me, I know! I could have totally told him to just sit in his car seat and not worry about the tissue (I would have done this 9 out 10 times), but this morning I had a little more patience and made sure his car seat was cleaned just the way he wanted, which helped us get on our merry way!!!

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Balance, Strength, and Resilience

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I can still remember waking up really early during grade school so that my mom could give my brother and me to our nanny in order to catch a bus to the city (NYC). Or, I can still see my father standing on the foyer in his winter coat and cap, me in the kitchen preparing a sandwich, running down the stairs to hand off to him before he left for a night shift. Or, as we got older, how my mom and dad struggled every day to make it home after an hour plus commute to watch one of my track races, drive me to dance class, or watch one of my plays.

After commuting to-and-from work for a mere 30-45 minutes a day with a 2-year-old in my backseat, I ask myself this question nearly every day: “How did my parents do it?” Sometimes when I get home it takes me over an hour (yes, you read that right) to decompress before I return to my normal self. Some days I power through and have dinner on the table before 7 p.m. Other nights I curl my car around the fast food lane on the way home, thinking “This is it, I just don’t have the energy to cook, and there’s nothing wrong with fast food.”

It’s not just about how I am handling it. It’s about how are we handling it. My husband is a PhD student and I work full time. Fortunately my husband and I both partake in household responsibilities, but at times it can feel imbalanced. This past January, in the middle of my post-Christmas wintry blues, I found myself struggling, not just physically but mentally. And usually I’m good mentally. I mean, there isn’t anything a little shopping therapy can’t fix, right? Wrong. I needed help and set out to find it.

My husband and I changed a few things. First off, my husband started doing more pick-up and drop-off. Since my son’s daycare is close to my work, I just assumed that I would be doing it every day. I think one of the valuable lessons I learned is that with anything involving our son, my husband and I should talk it through. When I brought it up to my husband, we agreed that he would start taking Lucas to school up to two times a week (if Bill Gates can do it, so can you!). Even though it’s been only a few weeks, it’s made a big difference.

And I should stress my point about talking things through and being direct about it—things that I’m not very good at. I am slowly learning to open conversations, trying not to let my emotions overtake a conversation, and also trying to listen, really listen (I know that one is easy to say but hard to do).

I don’t know how my parents juggled everything, but I do know this—they did so much for my brother and me out of love, a love that is generous and faithful, a love that stands by in the midst of difficulty, a love that teaches strength and resilience.

I find myself trying to be there for my husband and son as my parents were for me. As we are working on balancing responsibilities, we are facing these questions: How can I love generously and faithfully? How can I love in the midst of difficulty? How can I love in order to build strength and resilience?

What are some of the questions you find yourself asking as a parent trying to balance responsibilities or childcare?

Valentine’s Day with the one you love

 

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#42 on Rotten Tomatoes ‘5o Certified Fresh Movies…and Chill This Valentine’s Day’

With my husband away and the baby asleep last weekend, I started watching The One I Love  starring Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss. Following their therapist’s recommendation, a married couple, Ethan (Duplass) and Sophie (Moss) spend a weekend away at a vacation house to ‘renew’ their relationship. The vacation house also includes a guest house, and it’s in this guest house where things get complicated. The guest house is where Ethan meets another woman who looks exactly like Sophie, but he knows it’s not her. Together Ethan and Sophie quickly discover that when they enter the guest house one at a time, they encounter another ‘version’ of the other person: Ethan discovers an agreeable, sugarcoated Sophie and Sophie discovers a hipper, more open Ethan.

So what happens to them? Does Ethan fall for the doppelganger of his wife and vice versa? I enjoyed watching Sophie each time she walked into the guest house to interact with Ethan’s doppelganger (Sophie and Ethan agreed to take turns going inside the guest house. They also came up with a set of ground rules). Ethan’s doppelganger says things Sophie wishes her Ethan could say. She becomes hooked and can’t get enough of Ethan’s mirror image. The guest house becomes a space where each person has positive interactions with his/her doppelganger, and of course that’s why Sophie falls hard for Ethan’s doppelganger. This is exactly what could happen in any marriage. We could be wishing instead of doing, imagining instead of realizing, damaging instead of renewing. We lead busy lives. Spouses or partners don’t carve out time for each other, and slowly the number of positive interactions decrease until it’s too late.

So find an evening with The One You Love and make that positive interaction happen!

And, if you want to make some love bites, try baking some almond mini cupcakes!

valentine cupcakes

 

The best gift ever

We all know the winter holidays is one of the busiest times of the year, and one of the best gifts you can give your kid is a little extra family time. My friend just posted this Youtube video on what kids really want for Christmas (hard not to shed a tear). Here are a few of activities we’ve done together and I’ve noted an upcoming free activity at Duke Gardens which sounds like a great event to introduce your kid to a myriad of holidays.

  1. Try baking cookies with your kid, let them stir the dough or put the decorations on the cookies. I recently made this M&M cookie recipe using mini M&M’s and let my son top some the cookies with the candies.
  2. Try painting some holiday ornaments. I purchased these wooden ornaments several years ago at an after-Christmas sale at Michael’s (you can’t tell but he’s painting a wooden soldier head). Cloth, construction paper, and newspaper are also good alternatives!
  3.  Go to some ‘free’ holiday events. We brought our son to the 11th Annual American Tobacco Tower Lighting in downtown Durham and he had a blast!

On Saturday, December 12th watch the Chapel Hill-Carrboro holiday parade between 10 am and 12 pm. 

On Saturday, December 19th visit Sarah P. Duke Gardens for a Holiday Celebration: Make & Take Crafts from Around the World.

Creating Home

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What does it mean to create a home? Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about this question. Settling down, as in putting down roots in one place, is something that I haven’t had to face before. But since my husband will be finishing up his PhD hopefully in less than two years, it something that I have to start mentally preparing for.

For the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in a class on immigration and migration in Asia. In the past week, I’ve been challenged to think about what “home” means. For migrants, home can have multiple meanings. It could mean one’s country of birth, family, different places one has traveled to, a car, a boat. While listening to author Ha Jin talk about home, he described “home” as more of an action or having agency rather than a physical place. Home is something that you enjoy and put your energy toward. These words really struck a chord with me, because for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about home as a specific place I’d like to raise my family in, a place where I’d like Lucas to grow up in. Anticipating what home could or should mean gives me anxiety. After my husband finishes his PhD, where will we go? Who will we become? Ha Jin’s definition puts a spin on the meaning of “home” which gives me comfort and assurance. I enjoy my job, I enjoy exploring the Triangle Area, and I enjoy being with my family. Putting my energy into these activities are my home. Creating an environment of love and care for my family is my home.

Usually when I pick up Lucas from daycare, he greets me and then immediately says “home.” This is because for the first few weeks he spent in daycare, I said “now we go home” when I picked him up at the end of the day. Last week, instead of going home after daycare, I took him to a store we normally don’t go to. After about 15 minutes he said “home” a few times. I realized then how much he loves routine, and also how much a strange place can elicit a longing for home, a longing to feel secure.

When we move in two years, a new place will be a strange place for Lucas. Home will have new meanings, but it will be the familiar things we do, like having dinner or playing at the park together, that won’t be strange. We put our energy into what we do as family, and this creates a “home” for ourselves in our interactions, dynamic spaces of surprise, hope, love, and longing. I’m no longer anxious about settling down or putting down roots. My roots are here, they’re now, they’re flourishing in fresh soil, the soil of my soul, actions embedded in memory and given to those I love, and shared in my efforts, my energy. Yes, my roots are home.

Discovery at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences

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On Saturday Lucas woke up early and in a good mood, so we finally trekked the whole 40 minutes to Raleigh to explore the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. Once entering the museum, we paid a suggested donation of $1 for a museum guide and asked the rep which exhibits were appropriate for a toddler. He mentioned the Discovery Room, which is a hands-on discovery room (playroom) for little kids. Before reaching the playroom, we looked at artifacts including a whole whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling as well as live creatures such as fish, snakes, and bugs.

The Discovery Room was abundant with things to do! I spotted a costume corner and couldn’t resist putting Lucas in a bumblebee outfit (I often sing a bumblebee song to him). Lucas also enjoyed playing with wooden blocks, natural objects, and stuffed toys. There are too many things to mention here about the ways Lucas has grown. His speech has taken off and he can identify a number of animals. I think what’s key is that the museum allows him to see animals and objects that we talk about in books, TV, and real life, and reinforces these associations. In other words, a museum trip is good for learning and of course, fun!

Paternal Leave and Paid Leave Movement

Netflix

Netlflix is one of the latest companies to offer paid leave to new parents (but the policy only applies to salaried workers). The subject of family leave became important to my husband and me only when we learned we were expecting. The Family and Medical Leave Act (F.M.L.A.) of 1993 allows parents to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. Your employer can require you to use your vacation or sick days during these weeks. After giving birth to our son, I used up my sick and vacation days to cover a few weeks, but I also had some unpaid days. I was fortunate to do this at my workplace; most low-wage workers cannot afford to take time off from work.

The U.S. Department of Labor is spearheading a paid leave movement and reports that the U.S. is the only ‘developed’ or ‘industrialized’ country without a national paid leave law (#LeadOnLeave). We’ve got a long way to go, but there are some successes at the state level. California, New Jersey (shout out!), and Rhode Island all have family and medical leave laws.

The paid leave movement already includes several cities, localities, and states and the District of Columbia. Pittsburgh was the latest city to pass a bill that requires employers to offer paid sick leave, which can include taking time off to care for your newborn baby. (And, if for whatever reason you have something against Jersey, you should click on the map below because Jersey is doing something right).

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 7.33.35 PM (source and detailed report: National Partnership for Women and Families)

If you’re a father and work for one of the companies on the list below (NY Times), consider yourself fortunate to have the option to take paid paternal leave:

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I realize this post is very scant in information and analysis, but I think it’s really important to keep an eye on these issues if you’re thinking of having a kid, or if paid sick leave is a priority for you!