‘Bright Beginnings’ class offered to parents

Parents of young children wanting more information about their child’s growth development may be interested in this class. “Bright Beginnings” is a five-session class that explores early brain development and attachment, social and emotional development, physical development and the importance of reading and play. It is sponsored by the North Dakota State University Extension Service and the Region V Parenting Resource Center, both great resources for parents.

The class will be held 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Head Start, 3233 University Drive S., Fargo.  It is focused on parenting children ages 0 to 8. Participants should plan to attend all sessions: March 29, April 5, 12, 19 and 26. There is a $15 fee, which includes materials. Childcare is provided, but should be requested when registering.

For more information, call (701) 241-5700 or e-mail diane.langer@ndsu.edu. To see a list of more parent education classes, read the Spring Parenting News newsletter.

Watch what you say …

For awhile now, my husband and I have been having the talk … the “do we have another kid or not?” talk. 

I don’t know that we’re any closer to a decision than when we started these deliberations, right about the time Eve turned 2. We’ve both fallen all over on the spectrum, from “never-no-way-no-how” to “bring-on-the-baby,” usually both landing on either side of “maybe.”

Last night, as I flipped through the issue of Parenting that had arrived in my mailbox this week, I was won over by the diaper ads featuring sweetly sleeping infants. “I want another baby,” I cooed.

This morning, my husband asked if I’d meant it. “Maybe,” I said, having made my way back to the spectrum’s middle.

Eve was with us during the conversation, so we asked her if she wanted a baby brother or sister. She seemed agreeable. Then I asked which she would prefer: a baby boy like her friends Beck or Joren, or a baby girl like our neighbor Lydia. She wanted a Lydia.

A few minutes later, she declared proudly: “I’m going to have a baby sister!”

My eyes grew wide in horror, realizing what we’d done. I imagined her telling her grandparents and daycare provider and total strangers. I feared people would immediately comment on my baby bump, which is not due to a baby. “No,” I told her. “No, you’re not going to have a baby sister. Don’t say that.”

Not yet, at least. Perhaps not at all.

Or … maybe.

Who knew toddler’s day planner could fill up so quickly?

My Parenting Perspectives column from Feb. 9.

My daughter’s not quite 2, but already she knows the days of the week.

Granted, it sounds a lot like that line from “The Godfather” – “Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday …” – but she’s beginning to understand that each day is different. And I’m beginning to realize I need to provide structure to each day.

So we started an Early Childhood Family Education class, “music-gym-cracker” as Eve calls it, on Mondays. She goes to day care on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And I just signed us up for toddler story time Wednesdays at the library.

Add in a couple hours a week at my gym’s day care, trips to the grocery store with me and time to play on the dinosaurs at West Acres, and suddenly she needs her own Fisher-Price day planner.

Who knew I’d worry about over-scheduling a toddler?

Even before my husband and I had a baby, we knew we wanted to avoid that trap. He used to work with a woman whose preteen children were in so many activities, we wondered when they slept. One sport and one other extracurricular, like Girl Scouts or piano, seemed like plenty for a grade-school student.

But here I am talking about a preschooler.

If we had the financial means, Eve could concurrently be in swimming lessons, gymnastics, ice skating classes and Kindermusik, all by the age of 2. In another year, she could add dance and karate. There’s even soccer for preschoolers.

All good things, but not all together. We rush enough.

Kids need free time to play, read, color and cuddle. To learn about numbers, letters and those days of the week we’re so eager to fill.

I think parents can get caught up in all the activities offered, feeling like they have to provide their child with opportunities early on, to nurture their talents, and to keep up with the Little Johnnys.

And stay-at-home moms rightfully want to add some adult interaction to their days. Cabin fever sets in pretty quickly at my house.

But balance is the key, to provide structure and stimulation without over-scheduling.

A class here and there can offer that. But more important is offering consistency and calm.

That’s why the most important appointment in Eve’s virtual day planner is probably her nap time.

I don’t just pencil that in. It’s in marker.

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Sherri Richards is mother of a 22-month-old daughter and an employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com

Teething Toddler

I realized this week that I’ve been blogging about my daughter, occasionally, for more than a year now.  This was a middle of the night realization as I tried to comfort Eve, who had awakened screaming, perhaps by a bad dream. Or, more likely, by the eye tooth that’s slowly working its way through her gums.

Rocking her, I remembered that almost exactly a year ago I wrote a blog titled “Jekyll and Hyde,” about the late-night transformation of my sweet, cuddly 9-month-old girl into a screaming, inconsolable, teething terror.

A year later, here I was again trying to comfort her in the wee hours of the morning. Again, she’d start crying as soon as she felt the mattress under her back.  But that’s where the comparisons ended. She’s a toddler now. With her head on my shoulder, her toes nearly reach my knees.  As I held her on my lap in the rocking chair, my stomach gurgled. “Mommy’s tummy,” she said sleepily.

A year has passed. She’s such a different person, able to walk and talk and so much more, but she’s still my Eve.

And, still teething.

Toddler glasses open mom’s eyes to parenting techniques

My Parenting Perspectives column for Dec. 1 …

It was the best news the ophthalmologist could have given us.

My husband and I knew our daughter’s crossed eyes weren’t perfectly straight six weeks after surgery. But little Eve wouldn’t need another operation, the doctor said. She just needed eyeglasses.

I was thrilled. Until I realized she was going to have to wear glasses.

And I was going to have to be the person to make sure she’d wear them.

My mother repeatedly wondered aloud how a toddler like Eve would ever keep glasses on. The first ophthalmologist we visited told us he wouldn’t put a child under age 2 into glasses for that reason.

But I knew this was the best option for her and the health of her eyes.

I was encouraged when we picked out the wire-rimmed frames that she didn’t immediately pull off. She giggled when she saw herself in the mirror.

After an adjustment to the nose pads, she’ll usually keep the specs on for several hours at a time. “Eve glasses,” she’ll say when she passes a reflective surface. They make her look so grown-up, like a mini-teenager, her day care provider said.

The problem is trying to put them on her once they’re off. She deflects my attempts with as much skill as Curly blocking Larry’s eye pokes in “The Three Stooges.”

This daily battle has forced me to fine-tune my parenting strategies, something I’m sure all moms and dads have to do as their toddlers become ever so independent.

I praise her for wearing them, clapping and cheering when she lets me put them on her without a fight. I tell her how important it is to wear her glasses. We talk about how Mommy and Daddy have glasses. And Uncle Carl and her friend Hayden and Papa and Grandma and anyone else I can think of. And I will give her a minute-long timeout when she continues to defy me.

But the best tactic has seemed to be simply explaining a new set of rules. She has to wear her glasses when we read a book. She has to put her glasses on before we watch a video. And, of course, glasses are required attire for drinking apple juice.

It’s worked well, though I do worry I’m tip-toeing awfully close to bribery, a parental no-no.

I’m not giving her apple juice for putting her glasses on. I’m saying she can’t have any until she wears them. But does she understand the difference? I’m not sure.

For now, I just have to hope she’s not learning to expect a reward for doing something that’s expected of her.

And I have to keep doing what’s expected of me: to be a loving mom, consistent in discipline and positive reinforcement, even if I don’t always know the best way to do that.

Eve’s glasses have brought another challenge into our home, as well. I never imagined how smudged or filthy they could get.

I asked the woman who adjusted the nose piece if she had any suggestions for keeping them clean.

She gave me four bottles of lens cleaner and wished me luck.

I guess the answers to parental dilemmas are never crystal clear.

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Sherri Richards is mother of a 20-month-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com

Terrible One-and-a-Halfs?

I got into what many men would dub a cat fight yesterday, complete with hair-pulling and face slapping.

Except it was with my 18-month-old daughter, during her first full-blown, public temper tantrum. For any of you at Once Upon a Child yesterday: Yeah, that was me.

I went to the gently used children’s clothing store hoping to pick out a Halloween costume for Eve (trying to beat the rush), as well as some 2T jeans and size 5 shoes (trying to keep up with my ever-growing daughter).  I thought Eve could play in the toy section while I perused the nearby costume rack. But she quickly found a push toy, meaning I needed to chase her as soon as she got out of sight, steer her back toward the toy section and repeat. This was not effective, as more time was spent chasing and steering than perusing.

I tried putting her in the walled-off play area. That lasted about 13 seconds. 

I picked her up. “GET DOWN GET DOWN GET DOWN GET DOWN GET DOWN,” she wailed.

I held on tight, determined to look at the costumes one more time.

That’s when the hair pulling started.  She grabbed onto my ponytail and yanked so hard tears sprung to my eyes. I had to pry her hands from my hair. (I’m surprised I don’t have a bald spot.)  She wailed and flailed and made me feel like that mother.  The one who has no control over her child.

I dropped the few articles of clothing I’d collected and we left.

We had a fitful ride home, followed by a daylong battle of the wills over beverages.

“APPLE JU APPLE JU APPLE JU,” she’d cry. “You already had a glass of juice today. You can have water or milk,” I’d say. “APPLE JU APPLE JU APPLE JU.” Sigh.

It took all my will and about 349 deep breaths to keep my composure through it all.  And it’s only just beginning.

We’ve got another 6 months until Eve turns 2, when the terribleness is supposed to start.

I have no idea when I’ll be able to get her shoes that fit or a Halloween costume.

But right now, a cat outfit seems like an appropriate choice.