Potty Mouth

My 20-month-old daughter has a potty mouth lately.

She’s not repeating her father’s naughty words. She’s just talking about her potty, a lot.

We haven’t started toilet training yet. But Eve is obsessed with the two small potties I bought in preparation, one for each bathroom.

She picks them up and carries them around the house. I tripped over one in the kitchen the other day. “My potty,” she says.

She constantly wants to sit on her potty.   And, of course, Mommy needs to sit on the big potty, too.  So we take off her pants and diaper (lately, she’s started to take them off herself and streak around the house) and she sits on the potty. For about 3 seconds.

“All done,” she declares.

“No,” I say. “You didn’t do anything.” But I don’t force the issue. We put the diaper back on. For about 10 minutes, until she wants to strip again.

I’m getting fed up with all the potty talk, and all the time I’ve had to spend in the bathroom, but I guess I should be glad she’s expressing an interest and seems to understand what it’s all about.

A couple weeks ago, while her dad was getting her bath ready, she squatted down in front of the red chair and went potty on the floor.

I thought only boys needed to work on their aim. ;)

Mothers too often go on an unnecessary guilt trip

My latest Parenting Perspectives Column, from Aug. 11.

When women begin the journey into motherhood, we inevitably book a concurrent voyage: the guilt trip.

Mommy guilt is a special brand of self-reproach and a universal experience, evidenced by an abundance of books, blogs and articles offering tips to overcome it.

It’s the nagging feeling that clouds the work-life decisions we make, found in stay-at-home and working moms alike.

It’s the remorse we feel when we just don’t want to read “Goodnight Moon” for the 12th time or play Barbies for an hour, again.

And it’s the shame that comes from the faulty thinking that somehow we’re not enough – for our spouse, our child, our employer and everyone else who relies on us.

For me, it’s the emotion that pierces my heart when, despite my best intentions, harm comes to the child I’m charged to protect.

I feel it at bath time when soap slips into my daughter’s eyes. It hit hard when I helplessly watched her tumble down the stairs. It’s the wave that crashes down when, in some way, I feel I fail her.

The mommy guilt got me especially hard last week. I’ve written about my daughter’s crossed eyes, how I came to terms with my child’s imperfections and struggled to decide on the best treatment.

We’ve continued to visit the ophthalmologist after a corrective procedure in April, and have been delighted by improvements, until last Monday.

The doctor decided Eve has a congenital condition that caused her eyes to cross and still prevents her left eye from looking outward. It’s called Duane syndrome.

Crestfallen, I researched it online, and recognized its characteristics in my daughter. Then, I read about its causes.

It’s a birth defect. A nerve in her brain failed to develop around the sixth week of pregnancy. It could be hereditary, environmental or both.

My heart hurt. I wondered if something in my genetics is the root of her problems. Or, worse, if something I did a month before realizing I was pregnant caused this “mis-wiring” of her brain.

I wondered if I truly had made the best decision for treatment, given this new information. I beat myself up for not noticing this particular problem earlier.

Then, like I always try to do when I feel the weight of mommy guilt, I remembered the words a kind pediatrician told me several months ago.

We were at the walk-in clinic, having Eve’s ears looked at. I hadn’t realized she had an ear infection until my own ears started to ache.

Tearing up, I asked him how bad it was, how much damage I had caused by not bringing her in sooner.

“Whoa,” he said. “Unpack your suitcase.”

He didn’t want me to go on that guilt trip. It’s difficult enough being a mother without all that baggage.

She was fine then. And she will be fine now because I have the best intentions for her well-being.

Now I just need to read some of those books, blogs and articles to figure out how to change my guilt trip itinerary, and check that suitcase once and for all.

Sherri Richards is mother of a 17-month-old daughter and employee of The Forum. She’s also “Top Mom” at http://moms.inforum.com

Online Eligibility Screening Tool for Families

Today, I got an e-mail letting media know about a new Web site for North Dakota parents.

Bridge to Benefits is a one-stop online screening tool where you can check your eligibility for many public assistance programs, including children’s health insurance, energy assistance, school meal programs and Medicaid. You simply answer a few questions about your family and income (I tried it and it took less than 5 minutes).

Here’s the address: http://nd.bridgetobenefits.org/

Minnesota also has a site: http://mn.bridgetobenefits.org/

Upcoming Parenting Classes

A great resource we have in our community is NDSU Extension’s Parent Resource Center (as well as the UMN Extension). Today, I got the NDSU Extension summer Parenting News newsletter, and it lists several great classes coming up for parents with kids of all ages. I wanted to share them here:

Gearing up for Kindergarten, for parents who have a 4-year-old who will enter kindergarten in Fall 2010. Two FREE 8-week sessions (fall and winter) work with both children and parents to prepare them for the school years. The program is offered at six locations around Cass County. Call (701) 241-5700 to register.

Active Parenting of Teens, for parents of tweens and teens. Learn methods of discipline, skills for communicating, strategies to prevent risky behavior. Free, with workbook available for $15. Three weekly sessions beginning Sept. 17 in West Fargo. (701) 241-5700.

Transforming the Challenging Child Training Opportunities, for parents and professionals, July 28-29. Visit www.ext.nodak.edu/county/cass and click on Parenting Resource Calendar, then Calendar of Parenting Classes.

Love and Logic Series, common sense parenting approach. Class is free, with workbook available for $10. Weekly Thursday classes (6 to 7:30 p.m.) offered in Fargo beginning Sept. 17. Call (701) 241-5700. Weekly Monday classes (6 to 7:30 p.m.) offered in Wahpeton beginning Nov. 2. Call (701) 642-8328.

Technology Safety for Families, 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 12, Festival Concert Hall, NDSU. FREE. Call (701) 231-7015 or register online at www.ndsu.edu/dce

Parents Forever, educational program for couples going through separation and divorce. The four-hour session is held each month. Cost is $55. (701) 241-5700.

Nurturing Parenting Program, 15-week series offered on Thursdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m. beginning in September in downtown Fargo. Free. For families with children ages birth through 5. Learn how to handle feelings, communicate needs, be empathetic, have fun, establish nurturing routines and handle stress and anger. (701) 241-5700.

Kids, Cars and the Danger of Summer

The list just kept going. And going. And I felt more and more nauseous reading it. Incident after incident of American babies who died last summer from hyperthermia because their parents had left them in the car.

My mind immediately rushed to my sweltering backseat. Did I drop Eve off at daycare? Of course I did.

I’d like to think this could never happen to me, or to my family. I’m not that kind of parent. But as the founder of the organization Kids and Cars pointed out, the parents who suffered these losses are mostly highly educated, loving, doting parents. It can happen to any parent.

All it takes is a forgetful moment. A change in routine.

About 36 infants and children die each year in the U.S. from being trapped in cars. Ironically, one reason we’re seeing this happen more often is because kids are now in the backseat — out of sight — because it’s safer.

So, here’s my PSA for the day: Don’t leave your child in the car. Here are a few tips from Kids and Cars that may help:

1. Starting today, put a teddy bear or stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When your child is in his or her car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder your child is in the backseat.

2. Keep your lunch bag, employee badge, or purse in the backseat. That way, you’ll always reach into your backseat or open your back door when you arrive at your destination.

3. Have an ironclad policy with your day-care provider that if your child does not show up, that person will call a provided list of contacts to confirm his or her whereabouts. “In so many cases, if the day-care provider would have called, tragedy could have been averted,” says Kids and Cars founder Janette Fennell.