Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Blankey, The Soother, The Teddy Bear

Every one who has had an infant, toddler and preschooler know that their comfort tool such as a soother, blankey or teddy bear, is most important to them. They cant sleep without it, relax without it, sometimes even eat without it. But when is the right time to toss that comfort tool and allow them to carry on without it?

Ben has a blankey, he calls it "Baba" When he was 6 months old and we had just left his father I began rocking him in his stroller to fall asleep because he would not go down on his own. Id transfer him the minute he was asleep and he was fine, but eventually realized that I should not be spending 2 hours rocking my baby to sleep. That is when I introduced him to "Baba". He took to his blankey right away, and he began to suck it like a soother which helped put him to sleep (Ben never took to a soother). After that he could not go anywhere without "Baba". He could not fall asleep without it, relax without it, enjoy a car ride without it, and he even had to have "Baba" on his chair while he ate his meals. Today Ben still needs "Baba" for the majority of these things and he is already 3 years old. I have asked his doctor how to put a stop to his attachment and she only suggested cutting it up into smaller pieces. She did not see an issue with him having such a strong attachment to his blanket.

We were in Florida last year and Ben had lost his "Baba" at an outdoor shopping centre. We decided to wait until the following day to buy him a new one thinking that he would not take to that new one. The night without "Baba" was excruciating, Ben cried all night like he had lost his bestfriend and I cried right along with him. The next day we bought a new blanket and amazingly Ben took to it but he did not suck it which I was so happy about. For 2 weeks he did not suck new "Baba" and thought that he had broken that habit until he fell ill. He was sick with the flu and needed that comfort so he began to suck on his new blanket. It has not stopped since.

Now my question for all you single mothers out there, how did you take away your child's comfort tool? When is the right age? What is the right way? Do you ease into it?

Would love to hear your advice on this subject!

-Staci SMFS

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Okay.. I think I'm ready!

Well, the blog topic of discipline really put me in a spin. It's always such a difficult thing to discuss because there are so many opinions and so many people ready to judge. There are certain taboos about disciplining children. It's hard to know whether you are making the right choices because there is always so much outside input. I think being single parents makes it even more difficult because outsiders feel more that the need to give there opinions and "help out" about the right ways to raise children. I appreciate and thank everyone who thinks they have great advice, but please, STOP! Too much information makes me over think all the decisions I am making as a mother which has caused me to flip flop between discipline styles leading to a lack of controlled and routine discipline. I've only recently figured out what really works with us and what Layton responds to. I'm not going to sit here and pretend I'm mom of the year and do everything exactly as I should... things were a MESS. I had an uncontrollable menace of a child, and it's definitely taken time to figure out what works with him. He is an extremely strong willed boy and very sensitive to negativity. If I am calm and react to situations in a very mellow way, he listens to me contently. The moment I raise my voice, he fights back. The most important thing that I have learned is that love will solve most issues we face. Almost every time Layton acts out and wants to battle, a hug will calm him right down. So, in short, I guess my discipline style revolves around the expression of peace and love.

SMFS Kimmy

Thursday, January 17, 2013

And Tonights Episode of the "BIG DINNER PRODUCTION"...

Whether you have a toddler, preschooler or a child of school age, we all experience the dreaded dinner production. It goes a little like this, us single mothers work or go to school all day, we come home and cook dinner for our kids only to see their "what the F is this" face. They proceed to wiggle, worm, scream and yell that they don't like what you are serving for dinner. What do you do?? Do you make them something they will eat? Do you fight with them and force them to eat what they have in front of them? or do you send them to bed hungry?

I really enjoy cooking and try many different recipes and creations. I try to get Ben to eat different foods and although he is not picky he will often tell me he "doesnt like this" even though he has not even tried it before. I will always ask him to try one bite to see if he likes it, most times he will try it and continue to eat it and others he will kick and scream and wiggle his way out of his booster seat. Some nights he will like his dinner but he will take almost 2 hours to finish it. He will talk and play and sing at the table, pretty much everything else but eat or chew.

When these issues began to arise at dinner time my solution was to go back into the kitchen and making something that Ben will actually eat, but what is that doing for him? Well its giving him the power, allowing him to dictate dinner time and what he will be eating at dinner as well as limiting his pallet to only the things he likes such as grilled cheese, hot dogs, chicken fingers, rice and french fries. Where is the nutrition in those items? In my opinion vegetables are a very important ingredient to any dinner. After many months of making double the meals and spending double the amount of time in the kitchen I came up with another solution. If he does not eat what I have made he does not get desert. That trick did not last too long because eventually desert was not as important to him as refusing his dinner. Recently, I have been telling him that if he does not eat his dinner he goes to bed early and hungry. Although the first few times were unsuccessful I really stuck with it and recently he has been eating his dinner even when he tells me he does not like it. The only issue I am facing now is, how do I get him to eat and chew in an acceptable time frame without spending 2 hours at the dinner table?

What are some of your dinner stories? How do you cope with dinner time? Do you use any strategies that work with your children?

-Staci SMFS

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Talking it out

Oh the D word. Yes. Discipline. As kids, we all dreaded it... be it a time out, a toy taken away, no dessert or a simple N-O. I always thought the terrible twos and threes and fours would be the biggest test of patience before the teens. What I didn't quite anticipate was an expanded vocabulary, a cunning mind and a sassy personality. I was brought up being physically disciplined with a spanking for misbehaving (and I'm not complaining or judging... I did turn out amazing-ish). As a parent myself, I don't really see the point. I attempted time outs and just never felt it helped either.

If Aliyah is out of line, I'd rather explain what went wrong and how to fix it. What's even more important is that she's able to explain it back to me, too. In her own words, of course. We can all learn to read, but what's important is comprehension or else it's just words on a page. It's much more of a learning experience if she understands not just what she did wrong, but why it's wrong and how she can behave better next time. We value talking about our emotions and expressing if something makes us feel bad (as parents or even as the child). It's important that she feels comfortable and willing to talk to us. It means there is always an open line for communication and that's the kind of family relationship I want to build. She understands the concept of trust and honesty and these are very integral traits to teach your child. 

Soooo, I never said this all didn't end up in tears. She is only six. Fake or genuine, the hardest part is ignoring the tears and waiting for them to subside. Kids can be persistent, especially with crying, testing every ounce of your willpower to not acknowledge them or every last effort will have been lost. I'm still working on this part! It's not easy to ignore, but when I do it actually results in a bona fide apology on her part and pinky promise it won't happen again. This part is majorly important! She comes to me on her own will to do it (and sometimes this can be 1-2 days after the fact). I think I've done something right! 

I know every parent struggles with all kinds of child behaviour and discipline. We'd like to know which ways work for you and your family?

Valerie SMFS

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Discipline...How? and When?

I think that this might actually be the most difficult aspect of parenting. Are we doing it right? When do we discipline? How will it affect our child? In what way is most affective? Its quite confusing and I think it takes more than one way to find what works best for you and your child.

I have done a lot of reading and spoken with a lot of parents about this topic. Most people usually say that if you are going to discipline using the concept of reinforcement to always follow through with the terms and conditions of the said punishment. This could be very difficult to do especially when the water works begin. As mothers we have this side of us that can not ignore those tears of our innocent babies, but unfortunately we have to stand strong because if we do not implement some type of discipline our children will think that what they are dong is right and in most cases they will begin to rule the household.

I started implementing discipline when Ben was old enough to understand what the word "no" meant. If I told Ben he could not touch something and he did I would sit him on a small stool for 1 min (the famous time out technique). When he got a bit older I started the famous "count to 3" trick. Most parents I know will count to 3 but after will not implement the discipline after 3. I on the other hand most certainly do. I remember not to long ago Ben refused to clean up his toys, he kicked and screamed, so I got down to his level and I told him that I will begin to count to 3 and when I hit 3 and he hasn't begun to clean up his toys I will throw them into a garbage bag and give them to the garbage men. He did not believe me at first and tried to call my bluff so I grabbed a garbage bag and began to count. I got to 2 and started to pick up a toy and inched it towards the garbage bag at that moment he screamed and began to put his toys away. Some may think this is cruel but I actually would have followed through and thrown his toys in the garbage because if I didn't he would then know that I was bluffing and he could do what he wants. Needless to say, whenever it is time to clean up his toys he proceeds without a fuss. Clearly it worked!

Recently I have been doing the 3 strike rule with Ben. If he does 3 things in a certain time frame he will have something taken away that he enjoys or another consequence if it fits the day and schedule. Tonight during dinner I asked him to eat his dinner about 15 times. When he began to play with his food I told him we are no longer going to the store as scheduled. When he heard that he began to scream and yell at the top of his lungs so I told him he needed to go upstairs and get ready for bed (this being 5:45pm). He did not like that very much and decided it would be a good idea to hit me twice, I did not take kindly to that so he was sent to bed at 6pm no questions asked. Did I do the right thing? Im not sure, I guess only time will tell.

What are some techniques you guys use to discipline your children? Does it change with age group?

Staci SMFS

Monday, January 7, 2013

middle of the night wake-ups

On a similar topic to Kimmy's, sometimes kids lack the proper perception of time. It happens! As a tired mom, sometimes my choice on how to deal with the problem just enables it. In the past, if Aliyah woke up my first solution was for her to sleep with me. Bad idea. Second solution was to sleep with her. Also bad idea. To get her used to sleeping on her own it should stay that way and I just had to push myself not to give in (or become lazy).

Aliyah is a wonderful sleeper. In fact, I've never been one to hush down whenever she'd go to bed or have a nap. There wouldn't be screaming or loud music or anything, but I wouldn't put everything I was doing on mute and become a mime for the time being. Aliyah sleeps soundly regardless of what's going on around her and I'm actually proud of that! The problem is when she wakes up in the middle of the night when it IS quiet and Adam and myself are in bed. Our wake-up emergency reasons consist of 2 things: nightmares or not feeling well. Otherwise, it's no reason to wake us up and she is perfectly capable of going to the bathroom on her own. (I've even witnessed this when I AM awake, and she's half asleep... and does her business complete with washing her hands and stumbling back to bed all on her own.) 

Lately, she wakes up for silly things. "I can't find my doll." "My glow stickers aren't glowing anymore." "I can't find my pants." <- because she removed them in the middle of the night when she was asleep LOL. This sounds like it's not that big of a deal and YES, as parents, it involves sleepless nights. This is not about how it affects my sleep, but I'm concerned with her not getting enough shut-eye. Her bedtime is strictly 730. On holidays, weekends it's a more lenient 8ish. She functions best, mentally and emotionally, with a solid 12 hour night. If she's waking up, she's not getting that and her day is now affected. She's either grumpy, sensitive or a bit clumsy. All this is avoided with that 12 hour night.

We've talked about it together numerous times, but then it just happens again. Independence is highly encouraged with her and she's great all day... to the point she's just plain stubborn about doing everything herself. In the middle of the night, it's a complete 180 and she's all about dependency for minor minor things. 

Is there a reason?  How can I fix it? We all just want our sleeps back!! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

When nights are never ending and mornings come to soon

We all dread the 6am wake up call. Mine usually comes with a jump on the head. But the question is, how do you avoid 6am mornings and never ending nights?

I feel for Kim. As mothers especially single ones our sleep is probably the most important thing we need to lead a successful day. I have a few secrets of my own and I must say they work like a charm.

When Ben was a new born we stuck him in his crib the minute we got home from the hospital. For most that is hard to do especially because the night time feedings seem to come in intervals. I was lucky for the first 3 months I was still with Ben's dad and he was willing to get up in the middle of the night to feed Ben. Unfortunately I was one of the unlucky ones who could not breast feed. I had no milk to produce and our poor baby was starving and I had to move to formula. I did not give up on breast feeding though I continued to feed Ben through a tube so he would still latch but afar 4 weeks of pumping 20x a day and 16 supplements I still came up dry so we resorted to a bottle. I guess in a sense that was lucky because his dad and I could take shifts but that all fell apart when I was sent off on my own.

I moved out when Ben was 4 months old and bedtime was something I had to handle in my own way now. I began to rock Ben to sleep in his stroller because he wouldn't go down in his crib. This carried on for 3 months until I got fed up with rocking for hours on end, so I sleep trained Ben at 6 months. I let him cry the first night and that only last 30 min, the second was 15 and the 3rd he was off to bed without a fuss. It was easy to do. I know most parents are against it but I was alone and did not see another option. It worked and thats all that mattered because I needed my sleep in order to provide for Ben and be alert through out the following day. Ben slept through the night and he usually woke up between 8-9 am which was great. It was only recently that he has been waking up very early. Doesn't matter what time I put him to bed, he was getting up at 6am. I to used Kim's tactic and told Ben that he should not be getting up if the sun isn't awake. That worked but backfired at nap time. "but mommy the sun is awake so i can't go to sleep now"

So here is my secret. The iPad. Some may not have access to an iPad, I was lucky enough to get it as a birthday present and boy does it save my life.
When Ben wakes up early I hand him the iPad and he lays in bed with me watching netflix or playing educational games until about 830-9. Now I know some children are very energetic in the morning time and this would be a difficult tool to use for those kids. My suggestion is to find something that keeps your kids sitting for a long period of time and put it in your room the night before. Crayons and a piece of paper, a tv and their fav show or maybe a few books they can flip through. I also keep a bowl of cheerios beside my bed. If Ben is hungry as soon as he wakes up (which is rarely) he is able to snack on the cheerios before its breakfast time.

So bedtime routine. Ben has a bath and a book and some milk before bed. We sit together and chat about what happened that day and then I give him a kiss goodnight. I had to put a lock on the outside of his door when we moved to our new house because Ben would leave his room in the middle of the night and his door is right beside the stairs so it was extremely dangerous. Well that lock also comes in handy for bedtime. When it is bedtime Ben now knows he is not allowed to leave his room. He can lay in bed and look at a book or play with a stuffed animal if he isn't tired but he usually is able to put himself to sleep. We have had issues of him wanting to sleep in bed with me in the past because of circumstances but we get passed that and I make sure I am stern about bed time.

Some people my not agree with my approach and that is ok. Hopefully we are all not here to pass judgement because we all have a different and unique way of parenting and as single mothers we tend to do what works best for us. This is what worked best for me. My son is a happy little guy who sleeps well and that gives him more energy throughout the day to learn and engage.

We would love to hear your stories on how you manage to get your little one to sleep and what you do in the morning time.

-Staci  SMFS

Go back to sleep.. it's not morning time yet!

These are usually the first words that come out of my mouth in the morning.
*poke in the face "mommy... mommy.. mommy... I want breakfast"
Me "It's not morning yet, it's still dark out! Go back to sleep."
The times that this doesn't work completely out weighs the times that it does. But I love my sleep, and even an extra 20 minutes of shut eye is all I need.
I know moms have a lot of little tricks and ways to get that extra sleep. Especially being single mothers, we tend to get more creative with it. So spread the secrets ladies! My son just got back from his dads after being gone for 11 days. It's so great to have those days to sleep in, but once I go back to waking up daily at 6 A.M., it's like torture. But worth it of course :)
My son has never been a great sleeper. He co slept with me exclusively for a year and then we attempted the crib. He ended up back in my bed at some point every night! When I left my husband, I lived with my mom for a while and we shared a bed there. I tried to get him to sleep in a playpen (can you believe I just had to google 'portable crib' because I forgot what they were called... exhausted mommy brain) He would stay the night in it but eventually he made his way back into my bed. When I moved to Barrie for 2 years, I tried and tried to get him to fall asleep on his own and stay in bed all night, but the battle was too much and too exhausting. He's never been able to fall asleep on his own, or stay the night in his own bed. This blog is not a blog of advice but a plea for help! I still spend an hour with him in bed until he falls asleep, and get woken up constantly through the night (he is a sleep talker/walker like his mom). My goal is to have him fall asleep on his own, and stay there until morning. My ears are open....
This picture was taken when I woke up after i fell back to sleep after Layton woke up. The work of a sharpie and a 3 year old:

Kimmy SMFS

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Custody, Court, Child Support

I am sure that every single one of us are excruciatingly familiar with either one or all of these 3 topics.

As a single mother these 3 topics were probably the first that were addressed when you split form your child's father. Custody, Court, Child Support.

It is amazing when two parents can come to an agreement outside of using the court system and stick to the terms from then on out, but I find that to be very rare. Going through court is tedious and extremely expensive but that is where most of us end up at one time or another. When it comes to a proper agreement we all want the same thing when addressing the issue of custody and support and that is, the best interest of our children. How much time should they spend with their father? Depending on the circumstance should you have sole custody or joint? How much support are you entitled to on a monthly bases? Should your agreement be legalizes? These are all questions we ask when we are in the situation of becoming a single parent. In most cases these issues must be addressed in court because most parents can not come to a proper agreement and most of the time our judgement is often clouded by the way we feel about the father of our children in that specific moment.

I believe from my experience that a court ordered legal agreement is always the best way to go. Yes some may be able to work out an agreement without using the court system but that could come back to bite you in the ass if anything ever went south with it.

In Ontario, if we have less then a $30,000 annual salary we are entitled to legal aid. That is the route I took when I began drawing up our legal agreement for Ben. The lawyer was amazing and drew up a very standard agreement which gave his father every other weekend access and gave me sole custody as that is the way his father wanted it at the time. Ben's dad ended up taking off for 5 months without a trace or word and so I had to go back and revisit the custody agreement to protect Ben just in case. When he resurfaced we revisited the agreement yet again and I made the decision to move closer to him so that he can finally form a relationship with his son. The agreement had a few stipulations as I did not fully trust his father and there were many issues surrounding Ben's Grandmother. In the summer I refused an over night access at his grandmother's place (for many reasons most of which consist of excessive drinking and smoking in the home when my son has asthma. I made the decision to protect my child not because I wanted to keep my child from his fathers family but because the environment was unsafe). So my sons father did not like that very much and decided to take me back to court and into mediation trying to get access and rights for Ben to go up to his grandmothers place. He was denied that right but I suggested that I would take Ben up there myself to make sure it was stable and safe and then he can begin to take Ben up there on his scheduled weekends. I only want the best for Ben and I want him to have a relationship with the other side of his family.

As you can see this process of access and coming to an agreement is tedious, time consuming and extremely stressful and often times it is not always finalized in just one sitting, the process could take months or even years. The question for most who are newly facing these issues is how and where do I begin? That is why my friends and I are making a website. All the questions for legal custody, court and child support will be readily available for you to view. Unfortunately when I was going through it all 3 years ago I did not have that type of resource available and had to call around to many places. When you are learning how to be a single parent you do not want any added aggravation and stress. The three of us are going to try to eliminate that for single mothers in the GTA and hopefully all around the world.

When addressing custody, court and child support always keep your child's best interest in mind. In some cases it may be difficult but in the end it is well worth it.

-Staci SMFS

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Since we're on the topic of men...

I definitely thought I would have something good to say.
But here I am half an hour later, 8 drafts in, and I've got nothing. Realistically, I feel I do understand men. I grew up with 5 older brothers, and I've always been a guys girl, but without fail, I'm still always the one that gets burned. I don't blame men for anything. I can take responsibility for my actions. I feel like on subconscious level though, I always put myself in relationship situations where the guy is going through some life changes and my job is to help them get the ball rolling. Then once they are on their feet again, I'm tossed aside. I've dated a few men since my separation from my ex husband. And it's like clockwork; we meet, it's amazing, incredible, out of a fairytale, they get down on themselves, need to work on themselves, it's not me it's them, they still want to be friends and say hopefully we can try again once they're happy with themselves. Dating's hard... I've wanted to give up and throw the towel in but my love for love always exceeds my hatred and fear of dating and failing. I guess it's worth it right?

I guess that I'm no expert on men at all. I just always remind myself that they are simple creatures. Like my mom always says "The way to a happy man is to feed em and fuck em".

Short and sweet!
Kimmy- SMFS Crew