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Shall We Play a Game?

Do you remember asking your parents to play a game with you when you were young? We would play dominoes and card games, like Gin Rummy and War. The cousins would get together a play epic, marathon games of Monopoly and Risk. The parents and grandparents played Canasta. (That was the only game I ever heard my sweet, adorable grandmother cheat at).

My kids enjoy games as well. We play cribbage, chess, and Cranium games. We also play video games together. Recently, I’ve heard a few parents tell me they don’t play video games with their kids. I think they’re missing out. We’ve had some rousing games of Super Smash Brothers Brawl or Wii Sports and Wii Play. There are more times than I can count where we’ve had to pause the game because everyone is laughing so hard that we’re crying.

When I play, it gives them the chance to teach me something:

Hey, Baby, What's Your Sign?

When a baby is 9-months-old and waves bye-bye, they are using the sign that you’ve taught them. The baby has the motor skills to sign and communicate but not the verbal skills yet.
Using sign language with babies can greatly reduce the frustration that is felt by both the parents and the child.

There comes a time when your child wants something but they can’t verbalize what it is. They will usually point and whine. Then we play the guessing game.

Mom: “Would you like juice?”

Child: shake of the head, more point and whine.

Mom: “Would you like a snack?”

Child: stomp the foot, more point and whine.

Mom: “Ugh, I don’t know what you want. Would you like a cookie?”

Child: (Through body language) Oh? A cookie? Sure, why not!

Mom: Whew!

Child: (Learns that point and whine will get me either what I want or a cookie. I’ll need to do that more often.)

Starting at about 6 months of age, you can expose your child to signing. By about 9 months of age, they can communicate their needs.

Signing will not slow their speech; in fact, by showing them that communication goes both ways, they can learn to speak sooner. You’ll want to show them the sign and say the word with it, so they learn to associate the word with the sign.

Here are a few basic signs that are easy to teach, but very helpful:

Which car seat should I get?

Picking out a car seat is one of the most daunting chores when having a baby. I can tell you the least important aspect of which car seat to buy is the color. The baby doesn’t care what color, and in a crash it won’t matter.

When expectant parents find out I’m a car seat technician, the most common question is “Which seat should I buy?” I will not deny that car seat technicians all have their favorites. There are some car seats that are easier to install than others, but I am always apprehensive to name a specific seat. There is not one seat that fits every situation. (The examples I have in this post are just examples, not endorsements or recommendations.)

Ease-of-use is a huge selling point. It can mean that parents are more likely to use it properly.

For newborns, there are two ways to go. You can start a baby in either an infant-only/rear-facing only car seat with a carry handle, or you can start them out in a convertible that typically stays in the car and will eventually turn forward-facing.

The features to look for in a car seat for an infant (either type) are:

Domesticated Pedestrians.

At what point did we stop teaching our children about road safety? As I drive around, either near work or home, I find there are people walking to and from completely ignoring the crosswalks or signals. Sometimes they have their headphones on and couldn’t hear a car coming even if they wanted to. Sometimes they are talking on their cell phone. And sometimes they’re even running with their kids across a busy street, teaching them this dangerous activity. I find these incidents disconcerting.

I’ve come to call these people domesticated pedestrians because they’ve lost their fear of cars. It’s sort of like when someone feeds squirrels or any other wild animal and they get so used to the food source that they lose their fear of people. This is not a healthy practice to get into.

These domesticated pedestrians may be kids or adults.

Hold the baby

In the US, we have a culture that encourages independence but are we performing our babies a disservice by isolating them in a car seat carrier or stroller?

Think about what we do when we’re holding the baby and walking around. We are bonding through touch, smell, eye contact, and talking. We can talk to them and teach them about the trucks and airplanes, the art work on the walls and flowers or the different colors on the packages at the store. Even when they listen to us talk to a companion or on the phone, they’re being exposed to communication. The more you talk with your baby the better. All of this starts with the children as newborns.

What sort of interaction do babies get when they’re isolated in a car seat carrier or stroller covered with a blanket or staring at the ceiling?

Food matters

Cooking with kids is a great way to expose them to new flavors and cultures.  It teaches them math and science in a way that they don’t even realize.  It brings families closer and having family dinners has shown to reduce depression and drug use, and make for happier, healthier kids.

There is a wonderful not-so-new concept that is catching on like the latest cute cat video on YouTube. This experience is bringing communities together and helping families bond.

Community Kitchens.  

Once a week, multi-generational families from a community come together and cook with local foods from their Farmer’s Market to make wonderfully nutritious meals.  There are conversations over chopping carrots about the community, families, and cooking.  Then everyone sits down and has a fantastic meal together and have lively discussions about anything.  At then end, everyone cleans up, and takes home leftovers to freeze for easier and healthier meals during the week.

Parents just don’t have much time in the evening to prepare such time intensive dishes, after work and between homework, laundry, dishes, and bedtime.  Home Economics and Cooking classes have been cut from most school districts’ budgets, so where do our kids learn to prepare barley, or homemade apple pie?

What were we thinking?

When we decide to have a baby (or the idea was placed upon us by an unexpected positive pregnancy test), we start to think about the idea of what it means to have a baby. We imagine all these wonderful thoughts of a sweet baby sleeping and walks in the park with a stroller. We also start to look at our friends who have children. You know, those children who whine, complain and throw temper tantrums and the exasperated parents then just give the child what they want to quiet them down. We think to ourselves, “That won’t be us. We’ll do things differently.”

Now, we find ourselves back on our couch after the monumental event of giving birth and a way too short stay where we had room service and a nurse call button 24 hours a day.

We look at each other, then at the beautiful baby in our arms and simultaneously say, “Now what?”.

Let’s look at the changes for everyone involved to gain some perspective.

Changes Mom Partner Baby
Physical Yes, Labor Yes, Stress Everything changed
Hormonal Yes Yes
Psychological Yes (now a mom) Yes (now a dad)
Emotional Yes See above
Disturbed Sleep Yes Yes

How do we navigate the concurrently tumultuous and joyous waters that is being a new parent? How do we keep our relationship strong while enduring the impact of having a baby?

To start, we need to get back to basics:

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