Clipping your child’s fast growing and surprisingly sharp nails can be quite a task. Babies often flail their arms and do not sit still long enough for you to do the precise work of clipping 10 fingers and 10 toes as carefully as you can, The traditional advice is to clip your baby’s nails while they are sleeping, but if you are exhausted and the baby falls asleep in your arms, you might not want to risk getting up to search for the nail clipper, which is almost always in the least convenient location. It’s much easier to have a handful of nail clippers around the house for quick access in those moments in which your baby is in a calm state.
Your kids respond to music and sounds and get distracted just like we do. Saying “stop” or “no” is not as effective if you have the TV in the background, nursery rhymes playing off a device, or your child is holding a stuffed animal that talks or makes noise. When your child starts moving independently and you’re trying to shape behavior and teach lessons, try turning the TV or music off before you do. A stern voice in silence beats yelling in noise.
Do you say the word “no” and then pick up your child, give them their favorite toy to distract them? Do you say “no” and then move them to their play area? You might not realize that you are unintentionally giving them rewards and attention for their problem behavior. When they are exhibiting bad habits, try picking them up and taking them to an area with no toys using slow, deliberate steps (so it doesn’t seem like a “fun” game,) or try saying “no” and then sitting with them for a few seconds in silence.
Think about this…
If your child grabs an object, such as your phone and screams when you take it away and your next step is to immediately give it back… what is that telling the child? That is telling them that SCREAM-ING will ensure they get what they want. Praise them for exhibiting positive behavior with words like “You let daddy change you so fast!” Or “You turned the page on the book!” Make sure to smile so the baby can recognize your body language.
Teach your kids with movement. As you pick your child up, tell them “now we’re going up”, or “now we’re moving down.” Say things like “daddy’s closer – now he’s far away,” or “daddy’s here, now daddy’s there”, and make sure to mimic the actions with physical movement. The word “Up” was one of the first words my daughter ever said and I believe it was because she saw the physical action that corresponded with being lifted in the air while also hearing the word. Babies have a variety of ways to determine language and using different methods to demonstrate the meaning of words can help them get an early start on building their vocabulary.
The day before Thanksgiving break, I asked my students what they were thankful for… several of them thought carefully and said that they were just grateful to be alive, breathing and happy. It was profound to hear that from 10 and 11-year-old fifth graders because it’s a message that so many adults (myself included) need to be reminded of.
Back to work:
I have not updated this blog since I started teaching again and it was weighing on me, but I am finally back with some semblance of normalcy in my schedule. To give you an idea, my day starts at 5:30 A.M. as I wake up, get ready and then arrive at school at 6:20 A.M. My day is completely focused on lesson planning, printing, teaching, grading and communicating with parents until I get home at 4:15, in which my day is completely focused on my daughter. I take a “break” when my wife gets home at 6:00 so I can go upstairs and work on more lesson plans. Then we make dinner and have family time until my daughter goes to bed at 9:00 P.M. (I know it’s late, but she sleeps through the night and often wakes up at 8:30 a.m., which is awesome on weekends.) After she goes to sleep, I usually do laundry and/or run errands while listening to podcasts… It’s a busy day but at this point in my life, waking up at 5:30 A.M. and working on tasks straight through until late night is surprisingly LESS exhausting than it was being a stay at home dad (even though I got more sleep when I was at home with my daughter.)
I don’t know how it’s possible, but it means that we need to recognize and value the hard work of other stay-at-home parents. I’m so happy for my family and I want to say that it’s essential we act as a community to raise our kids and make an effort for more family-friendly activities.
The Au Pair Transition:
As I decided it would be time for me to go back to work, we decided to try the Au-Pair program and have a live-in nanny in our house. Initially, It was a strange transition to be a part of this program as we had differences in communication and expectations with our first Au-Pair, but our second Au-Pair has been amazing and is like a member of the family. The value of an Au-Pair truly comes in when you have more than one child, since the cost is per family and not per child. While there can be a transition process to have someone living with you in order to take care of your child (Au-Pairs work a maximum of 45 hours a week), However, it can be major time savings, since you do not have to transport your child to daycare and can simply leave each morning and head off to work, without making an extra stop to drop off your child. The program has been essential for my ability to return to work.
I’m definitely not an expert:
Thinking back to what my students said about being thankful reminds me of what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my family friends and for the ability to write whenever I can. As another day passes in which I fail to follow my own parenting advice (which my lovely wife always thinks is comical), I wonder every week if I’m making the right decisions and choices. I started this blog because I remember the initial weeks of being dad, where I was clueless. It seemed like I could have spent a lifetime reading mom blogs, but the rare circumstance in which I found a useful dad blog, it was often a collection of jokes or memes that were interesting but didn’t always offer useful and specific details. As I see dads navigating multiple kids and facing a variety of challenges and making it work, I recognize that I’m not an expert. I’m a dad with only one kid and I don’t face the same circumstances or challenges as everyone else. But I do know that for friends of mine who recently have had, or are having their first kid, it’s pretty fun to share advice based on what I’ve already written down.
I challenge you to do the same!
If you’re a parent reading this, I invite you to add your thoughts and insight to others. It can seem overwhelming initially, but sometimes all you need is another person to guide you in the right direction and tell you that you’re going to be fine. I wish I had more time to dedicate to this, but I am proud of the concept of sharing thoughts and answering questions that I wish someone had told me. It’s a different world since I’ve been back to work, but it’s one that I’m thrilled to live in.
All the best to you and yours.
Babies are instantly attracted to the brightly colored, noise making devices that we always seem to be reaching for. When the baby gets a hold of your phone, they can be locked in and often fuss if you take it away. However, if you go to accessibility settings for color filters on an iPhone, you can make the phone a grayscale color that is far less appealing to baby. Accessibility shortcut also allows you to toggle colors on and off by tapping on the home screen three times. If you use android, go to Developer options and select “Simulate color space” to enable “Monochromacy”. Grayscale also saves battery life and when you’re not around baby, feel free to switch it back to normal
If you utilize day care or babysitting services, you should consider using the pre-tax dependent care Flexible Spending Account. You can contribute any amount up to $5,000 for married couples and a maximum of $2,500 if you are a single parent. The Dependent care FSA allows a larger portion of your paycheck to pay for the care of your child under 13, as well as adult dependents if necessary. The child care provider must be “on the books” to utilize the FSA for payment and the funds must be used before the end of the year or they expire. When your child gets older, you can also use Dependent care for other eligible expenses such as summer day-camp. (As always, consult with your HR Rep or an advisor before making financial decisions).