Sunday, November 16, 2008

What is Wicked?

My husband and I just saw "Wicked" in Minneapolis. The show affirmed for me that we feeble humans can never judge what is truly good and what is truly wicked. We have to examine the intent of every individual and the context of the situation. But we must also realize that good and evil lie within each of us and we must consciously choose the right path in every moment. When I mean right path, I mean a path that does not result in harm to us or to anyone else.

Sometimes it might seem that the right path is to be selfish, to take care of our own needs before others. Put your own air mask on and then you can help someone else, right? The problem is that we often take this idea too far. We put on our own air mask and then we suck up all the air. We take and take and take. Or someone hurts us and we think it's our right to be selfish and take what we rightly deserve.

Okay. I'm sure many of you are saying, "Wait just a minute. I give and give and give. When IS it my turn to take?"

Well, there is a difference between giving and a feeling that we are "sacrificing" for others. If we are afraid that we will never get anything back for what we give, that is a position of sacrifice. Sacrifice feels yucky and draining. It leads to resentment and more taking. But giving is a joyful position because our hearts are open. We don't need to get anything back. We are receiving joy from the giving.

How do we get to joyful giving? We must practice believing that we live in an abundant world and that everyone we meet is a member of our family. No matter their attitude or how they choose to act, we can show up with a sense of peace, gratitude and service.

Someone who appears wicked may in fact be doing good. Someone who appears good may in fact be acting wickedly. We know this. We also are not the ones to judge. We can only practice good judgment with regard to our own lives in every moment. Don't get drawn into wicked attitudes and deeds. Be fearless. Be your own person. Give with joy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Parenting an "adult" child

Question: When is your child not your child?
Answer: Never

A beautiful woman I know just turned 30. Her life never seems to launch. She is involved in a dead-end relationship. She has used drugs and is probably still using. She loses jobs and is repeatedly homeless. Her family feels like they can't help her because she is an "adult."

If you are a parent and one of your children is in trouble, it is heart wrenching regardless of the child's age. You want to help, but may question whether you have any control to change the child's course. You might resign yourself to watching your child slowly deteriorate. You might cut off all ties because it hurts too much to witness the self-destruction. You might fear for yourself or possessions because of your child's behavior.

It struck me how Britney Spears' life played out before our eyes with a fall from grace, drug use, bad relationships. And how her father finally stepped in and said, "Enough."

Parents...if you can do anything, do it now. Go to the courts. Request restraining orders. Request custody or power of attorney. Show your child how serious the situation is and how much you care. This doesn't mean giving them money when they come around. It means offering support for them to leave an unhealthy relationship, to stop using drugs or alcohol, to get healthy and have a good life.

At the very least...send your child emails of encouragement. Send letters. Continue to reinforce the beauty inside of them by putting your heart on the line. Maybe it won't make a difference in their personal journey. But it might in yours as you keep your heart open, soft and ready to receive them.

As a song I recently listened to said, "Everything easy has its cost." It's easier to write people off who don't act as you expect. But you suffer as much as they do from a closed heart.

I wish you strength and patience as you parent an adult child who is lost. It's never too late to be the parent you always wanted to be. If they refuse you, be patient with them. You never know what impact you're making until much later.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Basic Politeness

I came across this policy on a CPA blog, but it's a great list of tips for basic politeness, respect and conflict resolution in everyday life. Common sense, but how many of us are good at following them? Never too late!

1. If you have a problem with someone, talk about the problem only with them and in private.
2. Use positive conversation.
3. Blame a system not a person.
4. Apologize and make restitution if someone is upset by your actions.
5. When you talk about a person who is not present, speak as if they are listening to your conversation.
6.Use the person’s name in each sentence in which you refer to them.
7. Speak very politely using a person’s name - - ‘please’ & ‘thank-you’ as a minimum.
8. Greet and farewell everyone by name and with eye contact.
9. Tell the truth.

Ultimately, following these tips will make our lives better, too.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thanks Parents Magazine!

Just wanted to announce the featuring of my children's book, "Green Yellow Go! Nat Knows Bananas" in Parents Magazine, September 2008, under the Ages & Stages area for toddlers, page 216.

Keep in mind that the best and cheapest way to order my book is through my website, The big retailers list it, but then it shows out of print for some reason and this gal doesn't have a lot of time to follow up on such issues these days.

Hey Amazon and Barnes & Noble, if you see this blog give me a call! (Yeah, right.)

Anyway, it's really cool that an editor of Parents Magazine would find my book online and want to include it with other amazing books for kids. Thanks Wendy Toth!

I also recently taught a "Patience & Responsibility" class in Buffalo, MN, to about 20 child care providers. They were a great group with lots of good ideas. If any of you would like to share what you've implemented from the class, please comment here or email me through

Anyway, back to my job as a wordsmith. In my free time, I'm revamping my website, so hope to have an announcement on that before the end of the year.

In the meantime....mindfulness, empathy and leadership my friends. Be present. Try to understand others. Be of service every day. We are all someone's child...and sometimes we act like one. So let's cut each other some slack in this crazy world, eh?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Teacher Troubles

I hate to talk about school yet when all of you are still trying to enjoy summer, but it is around the corner and I was reminded of that when talking to a friend about her children's teachers.

Last year, she had trouble with one of her daughter's teachers whose only comments were that her daughter didn't try at all. My friend thought this was odd, given that her daughter had been nominated for student of the week by her primary teacher for completing her homework before any of her classmates.

The primary teacher told my friend not to worry, that this other teacher was "always like that."

This reminded me that we need to be strong advocates for our children throughout school. I don't mean that we should undermine or second guess teachers (my husband is a teacher; let me make that clear), but if we sense a problem between our child and teacher we need to address it as soon as possible.

I actually recommend taking steps before the school year even starts. Some schools allow you to request a certain teacher for your child. Talk to friends whose children have gone through the grade or ask for direction from administrators after explaining your child's potential needs.

Another proactive step is to meet with your child's teacher before the school year begins and ask the teacher about teaching methods, routines and how the teacher handles challenging students. If you sense any red flags, bring them up immediately to the teacher and talk about it.

If you sense resistance from the teacher, explain that you want to ensure that your child and the teacher have a good experience and you want to be available and provide as much information as necessary to support them both.

These steps are especially helpful if you have a child with a feisty or fearful temperament. Feisty children have a lot of energy, may come across as bossy to other children and may need more time for transitions. They can get frustrated if routines change and can tend to rush through activities. Fearful children will need time to warm up to group activities as they adjust to new classmates and the teacher. They like to plan ahead and observe things before jumping into activities.

If you can communicate these characteristics to teachers, they will be more prepared to support your child's learning needs and will appreciate that you took the time to make them aware.

Granted, some teachers may ignore you or unconsciously label your child (or you!) as a potential trouble maker. The best you can do in that situation is to stay calm, invite the teacher to focus on potential solutions instead of rehashing problems and, if necessary, request that your child be moved to another classroom. Remember that you can't change another person, but you can choose to maintain your composure and seek the best options for your child regardless of the challenge.

Stay calm. Stay involved. Stay focused on your child's best interests.

One caveat to that: If your child's behavior IS causing disruption or danger to other students, own and acknowledge that. Then try to move everyone forward to solutions. Between you, teachers and administrators, you can find solutions. Work on discipline consistently between school and home. Try to visit the classroom and observe your child (with and without the child's awareness) so you can get an idea of what might be causing the behavior.

In the end, you know your child best and can support the learning process if you focus on positive action steps. If discussion breaks down into venting and complaining, again stay focused and calm and ask about potential solutions...firmly if necessary.

Another mom I know did have to stand up, take up more space in the room by putting her hands on her hips, lean over an administrator's desk, and use her mean mommy voice on him. It had the desired effect; she had the gentleman's attention! Then they could begin the discussion...calmly. Or schedule another appointment!

If you have had a challenge with a teacher or administrator, I'd like to help. Leave a comment or email me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Great Press at BabyZone

Many thanks to Lisa Samalonis who interviewed me for on how to avoid disciplining with anger.

She covered all of my stress personalities and my three magic elements of patience and included examples of real parents who owned up to their Old Yellers and Houdinis. It's a great article on managing anger and teaching children to be leaders, which is one of my main goals in this work.

Always exciting to get my message of patience out to more parents! Thanks Lisa!

Click on the title of this post or the link to read the full article. And give me your feedback.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Bad Mother

I was recently at a family reunion where the main attraction for the children was an in-ground pool. My girls were excited to dip into the pool as soon as we arrived, so we put on our sunscreen and headed out.

My 7-year-old decided to leave her life jacket behind and use a floaty toy instead. I put a life jacket on my 4-year-old and hung out on the edge near her, my feet dangling in the water.

Suddenly, my older daughter lost hold of her floaty toy in the deep part of the pool. The toy remained a finger length away; all she needed to do was reach for it. Instead, she panicked and began to dog paddle frantically in circles. I stood up in alarm but calmly encouraged her to grab the toy. She continued to swim and call for help when a man I didn't know jumped into the pool — fully clothed — and grabbed her.

All of this played out in a few seconds, but the shame I felt for not jumping in immediately to rescue my own child may last a while. What made me hesitate? What could those few seconds have cost me?

There is a fine line between encouraging our children to rescue themselves and knowing when they are about to drown. Life threatening situations call for us to put our needs aside and even sacrifice our lives (day-to-day or literally) for our children. But a situation like a forgotten piece of homework or credit card bill may require some thinking before we rush to our children's aid.

The lesson in my experience at the pool is a big one but I'm too close to it yet to fully comprehend how I or my daughter will come to terms with it in the future. When things like this happen in our parenting, it's important to accept that it happened and to take some positive action that will honor its significance. I'm so grateful to the person whose reaction and proximity were faster than mine. Even in that there is a lesson: we are not isolated in the love and care of our children. We need others to assist and help us to see the solution before it's too late.

Bless your little ones and big ones this summer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Declaring Prohibition

I'm 38 now. There, I admit it. My birthday was Thursday, June 12. I decided to celebrate it with a little one-on-one time with my oldest girl, a little me time with a massage and a little we time with girlfriends.

It was a female bonding day.

But I learned something big about myself while enjoying dinner with about five or six lovely women. A martini and a glass of wine on an empty stomach are not what they appear to be. They are not an innocent way for me to socialize. They are, in fact, the tool of my inner devil.

Yes, in the last year I have made friends with my physical, indulgent, passionate self. But the truth is, alcohol seems not to bring out my true self, but my worst self. It's one thing to be with your women friends and vent about your spouses, but it's another to do it loudly and obnoxiously...and rag on the spouses of your women friends.

I have realized that if I don't like myself the next day because of what I recall saying or doing while influenced by alcohol, it probably isn't the wisest choice to try again. Now my friends may say that it wasn't as bad as I'm making it out to be. Two drinks doesn't mean I have a problem. Still...

Living with patience, with mindfulness, is my vision for myself and the world. If I truly want to be the role model for this value and skill, to be present and of service to others, it makes no sense to muddle up my head...even if I'm celebrating, especially if I'm celebrating.

So I am declaring to the world on this evening, June 14, that alcohol is no longer a part of my life. Help me to keep this vow. I want to be a solution to the world. I want to be present to my friends. I want to speak of others kindly. I want to use my passions and physical, indulgent self for good. In the presense of chaos, numbness, resentment or despair, I want to be awake.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

News of Patient Parent and Nat Knows Spreading

So my goal with this blog is to write at least once a week, but apparently it hasn't happened yet. I'll keep it as a goal, though!

A lot has been happening on the marketing side of my patient parenting work. My patient parenting manuscript is going out to more publishers. My comments on patience will be featured in an article in First for Women magazine in June, which you can find on newsstands. I have also contributed information to articles that will be posted on and

Stacy DeBroff of wrote a book review about Nat Knows Bananas on her site. Thanks Stacy! The alumni magazine for Mass Communications at St. Cloud State University, my alma mater, wants to feature me in their maiden full-color magazine this year, too! And...Parents magazine wants to run information about my children's book along with an article on toddler patience.

Exciting stuff for a feisty mom of two and introverted writer who never thought she would publish a children's book, speak regularly in public or teach patience! Just goes to show that life is full of surprises.

I'll be 38 next week and it has been quite a year. I feel like I'm coming into my own as a woman and communicator and I pray that I will have the continued strength and passion to spread the message of patience to more people. I truly believe it coincides with the movement toward more enlightened human beings who are staying present and embracing this moment to act in service to others.

To check out a great free teleseminar series on this topic, visit

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I awoke this morning to see my 7-year-old carrying a metal broiler tray with a bowl of soggy sugar puffs, water and a homemade card into my room. I have to admit that I really wanted to sleep more, but the sight of her smiling face urging me to dig into my breakfast was enough incentive to please her. I thought back to all of the years I snuck into the kitchen with my siblings to make breakfast for our parents. Our talents evolved from jelly toast and cereal to scrambled eggs and sausage and blueberry pancakes. I empathized now with my parents who were forced to choke down a full breakfast so early in the morning as we sat smiling on their bed.

Later in the morning, my husband and two daughters and I tromped to church to enjoy a Sunday school teacher appreciation breakfast. (More food!) My girls presented me with cement stepping stones decorated with shells and broken tiles, one saturated in hot pink craft sand and the other already losing its plastic beading.

But the highlight of my morning had to be when my girls stood up in front of the church and sang, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," complete with hand motions. I felt myself get teary with the knowledge that they were my children. I was a mother. And even though my eldest sometimes suffers anxieties that give her facial tics and my 4-year-old is dragging around her 30th leg cast to correct a club foot, they are the most perfect children I could ever imagine.

Yes, I would step in front of a bus for my children if necessary. And yes, they drive me crazy. The bickering and messes and fighting for my attention throughout the day while I try to log 40 hours for my job AND keep the family in clean underwear — impossible. To say that mothers need patience is hardly sufficient to explain our plight.

But gosh golly, when I am fully present to the wonder of these two little human beings — one who states that her latest interest is ornithology and the other who claims that "I'm her favorite mommy," — well, nothing else seems to be all that important.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there. I don't care if you are mothers to your own children, to your pets or to the neighbor are the glue of the world. Okay, I need to head to the gym and work off my breakfast.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tina Nocera: Founder of ParentalWisdom.Com

I wanted to introduce you to some other parenting experts I've met in recent months to give you a flavor for their perspective on parenting. One great one to know is Tina Nocera, the founder of, a forum where parents can quickly get multiple answers from experts for their questions. Here's what Tina had to say about her business and the challenging but rewarding job of parenting:

What was the spark that urged you to found Parental Wisdom?

I was 9 months pregnant with my daughter, I remember the day exactly - it
was August, terribly hot and I had my 18-month old son who refused to put on
his shoes. You know when kids put their toes into a ball? Anyway, it
dawned on me that I had no idea of what I should have been doing so I
questioned the premise that people could have children without any prior
qualifications, licensing or training.

I also realized that each child and situation was unique and found that as
I read the books, the authors were understandably not always correct.

What is the benefit of having several experts answer a parent's questions?

Because no one person is always right for all the people all the time.
There are numerous idiosyncrasies and values that come into play. Parents know their child best but don't always have ready access to the information that an expert does.

What's the average turnaround to get an answer?

Usually 24 hours.

With all of the information out there about "good parenting" how can parents avoid feeling like they are never doing enough for their children?

Easy - every night before you go to bed, play back at least one good interaction with your child. And notice how even after a bad day, kids are so wonderfully resilient.

What do you enjoy most about being a parent?

The fact that my perfectly normal children have become good people.

What's your idea of a great mini-vacation?

A spa!

What one thing are you thankful for today?

The good health and happiness of my family.

Kind of shows you that material stuff doesn't mean a thing in the long run and no one has the right answers all the time. Trust yourself, choose your resources carefully and remember the good things along with the challenging parts of parenting. Your kids look to you more than anyone for guidance and security...even when they don't show it! More from Tina in the near future!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Burning off the Energy

I had a great time presenting to a nice group of parents, educators and child care providers last night in Alexandria, Minnesota for Week of the Young Child. I wanted to let you know that I will have videotape of the presentation up soon on YouTube for anyone who is interested. Just send me an email,, and I'll forward the link when it's ready.

Also, on the question of helping feisty kids burn off energy, I would like to refer you to the Brain Gym site at Some of the Alex educators just had some training on this and mentioned it to me. Sounds cool! This group has been around for a while but is seeing new interest due to the needs of feisty kids and other focus issues in the classroom. I plan to interview an instructor about this soon and publish her thoughts in a future post.

Another question was about books that adults can read to deal with stress reactions and anger. I'm going to do some research on that and recommend some books, websites and other resources. My upcoming parenting book will also include some of this information; if you would like a sneak peek or know anyone who would like to review it who works in early childhood, let me know!! I'd love feedback!

As part of future posts, I am interviewing other experts related to parenting and patience, so watch for that!

Thanks again for your support, and remember the three magic words of patience: Empathy, Mindfulness and Self-Leadership...

It's not all about me.
This moment is all I have
How can I make a difference?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tips on Teaching Patience/Week of the Young Child

For all of you who are attending my keynote at the Week of the Young Child event in Alexandria, Minnesota on April 15, I am posting some notes here from my presentation. Hopefully the snow will be on its way out by then! Sheesh!

I am speaking about the importance of patience skills for school readiness. Below are three primary temperaments of children (remember that children can cross over into more than one, so get to know them all), their characteristics, and how to work with each on patience skills...You can begin to incorporate these ideas around age 3.

High Activity Level
Slow to Adapt/Transition at times
Approaches New Things with Vigor
Intense, Sometimes Physical Reactions (Positive and Negative)
Low Persistence
Low Focus

Teaching Patience to Feisty Kids:
•Need Opportunity and Challenge
•Leadership Options ("little helpers/little mommies or daddies"
•Faster-Paced Activities & Games
•Work on Cooperative Play (pass the blocks; roll the ball; clean up time)
•Work on Etiquette (please and thank you)
•Burn off the Energy!
•Coping Strategies - breathing, touchstones like a smooth rock or soft toy, anger dance (silly physical dance to calm down), counting, self talk ("He didn't mean to bump into me.")

Empathy –
•Cooperative games (It's okay to lose.)
•Discussing feelings (After given some space to calm down)
•Problem solving (giving three options and allowing them to choose)
•Work on social cues…facial expressions, body language, hands to self, quiet voice, personal space
•Recognize that they need to burn off energy for focus

Mindfulness –
•They’re going to want to argue about what happened and why they are right. Instead...
•Rather than focusing on the past, ask what can be done now to solve it.
•Offer mindful coping for frustrations like breathing, counting, bringing them back into their bodies; touchstones; anger dance (shake it off physically and in a silly way; get them to lighten up)

Self-Leadership –
•Getting control of selves will be very important (allow time for that)
•Give space to cool off (so they don't hurt themselves or anyone else)
•Make lists to build a routine during play to reduce frustration with others (everyone gets to choose an activity to add)
•Helping skills
•Put them in charge of something each day (feeding pets, watering plants, bussing dishes, snack helper)
•Talk about language of a leader, please and thank you, calm voices

Slow to adapt in new situations
Physically sensitive
Distracted by other children; noise
Crave routine
Intense reactions if stressed or pushed

Teaching Patience to Fearful Kids:
•Need Time and Practice
•Build in Time for Decisions/Transitions
•Be Their Safe Harbor
•Work on Repetitive Activities
•Maintain Daily Routines; Prepare them if things are going to change.
•Provide Coping Strategies/Touchpoints
•Encourage Talking Out Problems

•I feel…
•Taking turns, respecting their personal space; practicing affection to gain a comfort level with others (shaking hands, high fives, holding hands to start)
•Respect fears; take them seriously to teach them to trust themselves; talk through fears; explain differences between fantasy and reality; dreams and awake time

Mindfulness- tend to think of what ifs…help them to focus on now and what’s happening now; are they safe now?

•Being in control of their emotional responses
•Relaxation exercises to calm anxieties (close eyes and think of a beautiful place or their favorite activity)
•Practice helping others; can take away focus on self
•Work with them on projects if they feel overwhelmed

Sunny Disposition
Regular Feeding, Napping
Fairly Persistent
Low Intensity/Low Sensitivity
Highly Adaptable

Teaching Patience to Flexible Kids:
•Need Acknowledgement
•Show Interest in Their Ideas/Play
•Promote Natural Cooperativeness
•Share Your Lap
•Praise Skills Specifically

•Naturally empathetic but can lose this if needs aren’t met
•They tend to be popular, so praise them for including others in play
•Watch for times when they hide emotions or use as attention devices; use as opportunity to talk through feelings and acknowledge them; explain why you have disciplined them

•If they are being silly or acting out, ask how they’re feeling right in that moment…happy, sad, angry, alone, excited?
•Working together; what can we do to make things better right now?
•Give choices to work out feelings

•Encourage helpfulness and cooperation…tend to get along well with others; provide opportunities for group play as well as solo play
•Like lots of people, so talk about the importance of including others who may feel left out
•Ask for help in solving problems; they will enjoy being included
•Work with them on projects to give them one-on-one time
•Keep it fun; allow practice before criticizing

Watch for more ideas for teaching patience in future posts. I'll include ideas for younger and older children. Thanks for your interest! And remember, you need to model patience to teach patience!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Kid Juggling

This week, my husband and I played a game called "kid juggling."

In this game, you juggle kids back and forth between each other as you arrive home and leave again for some work or personal obligation. The object of the game is to make sure at least one of you has the kids and no one gets dropped accidentally.

Have you had a week like this? Maybe you have entire months like this. I know many couples who are on opposite shifts and see each other only in the doorway or asleep in bed.

This is not a fun game to play. It is hardly a game you can win. And certainly not a good environment for practicing patience.

My husband, who is a band director, had something going on every night this week, from a board meeting to color guard practice, to shuttling students to a jazz concert at a local university, to assisting with new principal interviews. I am trying to work full-time between an office more than an hour away and my home office. My girls, 4 and 7, were scheduled in the midst of our schedules with school, a piano lesson, preschool and daycare. Did I mention that both my husband and I had bad colds?

Made me wonder what needed to give. And it was probably me.

When a 4-year-old has to get up at 6:30 a.m. and doesn't get to bed until 9:15, there could be something wrong with the family schedule. Thank goodness that isn't the case every day for my family, but it made me wonder if we had our priorities straight. Maybe I've taken on too many hours than are feasible for my family right now. Maybe a little less money in exchange for a little more home time and sanity is worth it.

Then again, any of us with full-time employment that is fairly secure should be feeling gratitude rather than wondering if we are sacrificing our children's happiness. Times are tough right now. Maybe all of us, the kids included, have to dig in our heels and do the best we can under less than ideal circumstances.

The fact that I'm worried about being a good parent should count for something. Your worries count for something too.

Just know that you're not alone. We're all struggling through each day with children...just trying to eke out a living and a life.

Kudos to the kid-juggling, hard-working parents out there. I'm right there with you.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Okay, so it's been a while since I posted. But my new goal is to post twice a week and to post a question at the end, so please keep me on my toes and leave a comment to motivate me!

I just taught a great class in St. Michael, Minnesota, with about 12 parents in attendance. It was my Introduction to Patient Parenting class. One of the questions I asked was how many of them took vacations.

Two raised their hands, a couple waved their hands in a noncommital way and the rest stared at each other.

I thought so.

So I asked the ones who had raised their hands whether they had vacations that involved doing nothing or that involved lots of activities. Uh-huh. They were just as busy on their vacations as in the rest of their lives.

Because our lives are so busy with children, our brains never have a chance to settle down from "fight or flight" beta waves. So I suggested to the parents that they take mini-vacations.

Sit for 10 minutes and look at a magazine. Stare out the window. Lay on your bed and close your eyes for 15 minutes. If you are afraid you will fall asleep, set the alarm. Listen to soothing music. Call a friend and laugh about how crazy your lives are. Go fishing. Take a walk...a slow leisurely walk. Write in a journal. Read from a book of quotations or poems.

These mini-vacations are just for you. So make sure the kids are in a safe place and then allow your mind to drift to a happy, sunny, relaxing space. Let your muscles relax. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

This is not only healthy for your mind, but also for your body. It will counteract the production of stress hormones that surge through us each time we are worried or frantic about the next thing on our to-do list. It also helps you to practice patience because patience requires mindfulness...staying in the moment. My favorite mini-vacation? A bubblebath with my ipod cranked up. But I have to be careful not to get the ear buds wet!

You deserve some down time, too! So what's your favorite way to take a mini-vacation? Tell me about it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Advocate for Your Child

Just when I thought we were free of health woes for our children...

Four years ago, my second little girl was born with a club foot and other joint contractures, which put us on a long road of medical visits, castings, surgeries and rehab. So watching her smile and interact for the first time — let alone start walking at about 18 months — were joyous and poignant occasions. My husband and I could relax our shoulders and breathe a sigh of relief, feel gratitude that this was nothing compared to the experiences of some parents we saw at the children's clinic and hospital.

This year, we finally paid off the last $100 from her latest foot surgery more than a year ago. We are down to one annual check-up. We know that her physical challenges and doctor visits aren't over, but at least we aren't visiting the clinic every week for another cast. She can take a bath. She can run! Oh, and she's quite the comedienne...typical of the second kid I'm sure. "Look at me! Look at me!"

Now this.

At the last parent/teacher conference, more than one teacher mentioned concerns about our older daughter. She is 7. She reads at a third grade level. She has the imagination of Willy Wonka and the vocabulary of an adult. Just today she told me that she learned what "hypothermia" meant...and proceeded to tell me. This evening she dictated a story to me that she intends to enter in a young writers and illustrators contest.

Her teachers weren't worried about her academics. They were worried about her interactions — or lack thereof — with other children as well as some physical facial tics. So I went online to learn more...and freaked myself out. Is my daughter autistic? Does she have Tourette's? Or is she simply lacking enough spinach in her diet?

My husband and I took her to her pediatrician. The ped assured us that it was probably something she would outgrow. And proceeded to charge us $80 above the well-child visit for her referral to a neurologist. God love her.

Our experiences with specialists in the past steeled us against taking the first answer as the only answer. At one point with our youngest, a neurologist recommended that we sedate her and conduct an MRI to rule out any "syndrome" associated with her joint problems. I walked out angry and refused the test. As far as I can tell today, my 4-year-old daughter is as smart as a whip...and hilarious.

This time, we agreed on a simple option. We started our daughter on multivitamins and a magnesium supplement. After a few weeks, the sometimes wild facial tics began to fade to occasional blinking. When she is tired or has too much sugar, we notice them more. But we're maintaining a vigil for a few months before we consider a CT scan.

As for the anti-social behavior, I see myself in my daughter. I wasn't a team player for a long time. I liked being in charge...or being left alone. As I got older, however, my quirkiness turned to shyness and a defensive arrogance as my peers began to avoid me. I was proud of being smart, but didn't realize that I also needed to be open to the ideas of others. It was a painful road to that I prefer to make easier on my daughter.

So she isn't autistic. Just feisty and bossy. I can work with that.

Long story short. Before you panic and take the first piece of advice handed down by a teacher, doctor, a wiki or your mother, realize that you know your child best. Be strong. Be a champion for your child's best interests. You'll know the right answer when you find it.

Stay in touch with teachers and ask them to help you find those solutions. Talk things out with your spouse so you are on the same page. Above all, let your children know that you love them any which way they think, talk or walk. You're a team. You'll get through this crazy life together...with lots of patience.

And the occasional brownie.