Having a second kid

We have two kids now, one is three this month and the other is going to be one in September. Here are my thoughts on having two kids.

For starters my wife and I decided to have our second kid two years apart from our first. We thought this would be a good gap. Close enough that they’d become friends. At least that’s what we hope will happen. So far it seems to be going well. Our second one adores the first one and is always happy around her. The first one though gets a bit annoyed at the attention especially when she’s trying to read. This leads to our most surprising find; the first one will cry a lot more than the second one. OK, so this may not be entirely accurate. The second one is a baby so she does cry about food and sleep. When the two are interacting though it is the first one that will cry first while the second one looks up at us with an innocent expression. When this happens we usually rule in favour of the first one. We always encourage her to think of an alternative though. Asking her to find something our second one can play with. She’s generally pretty good at this.

One thing that we’ve found really helps our home life with the two is focusing more on the first one. This eliminates one of the biggest troubles with having two kids, jealousy. Our first one still gets a little jealous but generally she doesn’t because we give her a lot of attention. When I come home I hug her first then the second one. This way she knows she’s still important to us. It also has a carry on effect. Our first one will often give our second one hugs and play with her the way we play with her, often much to the second one’s surprise. As a result of prioritizing the first one our second one has developed a good deal of individuality. She can play by herself a lot better than our second one who I must say was a bit spoilt as a baby and requires a lot of attention. She isn’t good at playing by herself.

This brings me to the other thing we’ve learnt. When our first one was a baby I gave her constant attention. Carried her everywhere, played with her all the time. The result, she wants to be carried a lot and played with all the time. It’s a lot of fun but actually we didn’t need to do that. The second one enjoys crawling around on the ground eating everything in sight. I don’t remember our first one doing the same thing.

We’ll probably have a third one in another two years time. Perhaps three years. Our first will be five or six by then. Our second will be two or three. At that stage our second one will probably need the most attention but the first one will probably feel threatened as well. The third will probably be left to their own devices much like the second one is now. It seems to work for her.

Media Addiction and kids

We live in the age of media addiction. Find me a person who isn’t addicted and I’ll show you someone who was born ninety years ago. Whether it’s TV, computers, smart phones we all want it. So what about the next generation? They look to be primed to experience instant media gratification at any time. Thanks to Youtube and smart phones, if you have a whinging child you can just chuck their favourite show on and plant them in front of it. Is this a good thing though?

My first daughter is a media addict despite our best efforts to avoid it. If it was up to her she’d watch her favourite show all day long. When she watches she really watches too. I’m not talking about having it in the background. She is glued to that screen. As a parent you may think that sounds fantastic. What a great babysitter. It’s not though. Three months ago we were having a constant battle about it. She’d beg for one episode of her favourite show. We’d relent. At the end of the show she’d scream and cry for another episode. If we relented again her behaviour and attitude would visibly get worse. It was obvious to us that the more she watched the crankier she got. It made no sense to us to let her watch anything.

Zero tolerance didn’t work. She was cranky about not watching TV and worse after watching it. What to do? Our child is now two and a half. She’s reached the stage where she understands cause and effect reasonably well. It’s such a difference. So we’ve been using media as flat out bribery. We wanted her to go to bed early and get up early mostly because we wanted a break after 9.  We told her if she gets up before 7am she can watch two episodes of Peppa Pig, 5 minutes per episode. Now at about 8.30 she says to us If i go to be now and get up early i can watch Peppa pig. Actually she says it in Japanese which is only four or five words. The next adjustment we wanted was toilet usage. She was going well with her toilet training but suddenly stopped using the toilet in the house. She was fine everywhere else just not in the house. So we made a chart. Every time she used the toilet we’d draw a picture of Anpanman on her chart. When she gets three of them she can watch an episode of Anpanman, 10 minutes. That means she should be able to watch at least one episode a day. On the weekend she gets a free episode of Moomin, 30 minutes. So far it’s worked really well. She says it’s time to finish watching herself and rarely asks for another episode. When she does we don’t relent no matter how cranky she gets. To my wife and I the TV is a babysitter who gives our kids alcohol and cigarettes.

For our second daughter we’re trying for zero exposure to media for her first few years. After all if you don’t get exposed to it you don’t feel the need for it. What does a one year old gain from watching TV? For that matter what does a two year old gain? How about a three year old? Before you say they are experiencing language in use, think about what you are doing when you watch TV. What are your thought processes? If you are anything like me your brain is running purely on cruise control if that. Anyone who’s tried to have a conversation with me while a TV is on can attest to that.

Funny thing about all this is that it makes me feel like such a strict parent. Everything you do for your child though should be factoring it what it is doing for their development. What’s better, her watching TV or her playing with her toys or with one of us? The answer is pretty obvious to me.

active dad

Yesterday i took my daughter to the park. We used to go everyday but with winter that started to tetter off. While there i saw my neighbour with his three girls. One about three the other in grade one and the eldest in grade six. He was running around with them playing tag with a frizbee. Climbing all over the equipment. Being the type of dad I considered myself. whenever his play crossed paths with me he said i’m so tired. Hehad a big grin on his face. In a previous blog i mentioned different types of tiredness. Really there’s only two. There’s tiredness fron,running around playing with your kids and tiredness from not running around playing with your kids. One is satisfying and enjoyable the other isn’t.

Toddlers aren’t too young to help out around the house

Our oldest one is two and a half years old. We’ve been putting her to work around the house. She loves vacuuming and she loves washing the dishes. We’ve even got her cleaning the bath before we use it. The thing is that toddlers want to do this. It’s their instincts. They have reached an age where no only do they want to do everything for themselves they also want to do the things they see you doing. They watch you vacuuming and in their minds cogs and gears are turning. Humans vacuum, I’m a human, I should vacuum. Toddlers want to help out. They want to do what you are doing. Give them a dustbin and broom. Put a vacuum cleaner in their hand. Put them up at the sink with you and show them how to clean the dishes. Have them mix the eggs when making pancakes. Give them toys that replicate things you do. Do these things and be amazed to see your little two year old try. Don’t worry if they can’t do it well. Don’t think it’s menial labour that they don’t want to do. That’s bullshit. Their brains are geared to get them to do what you are doing so they can learn how to be human.You want to clean the house? Do it with your kid. Praise them for it. Guide them through it and reap the rewards.

How much attention is too much?

We recently had our second child. Watching her and our first tells us that we made a couple of mistakes with our first child. Not major mistakes mind you. Just little ones. When our first was a little bubs we were incredibly attentive to her. We never let her cry out for particularly long. Always entertained her. Reflecting on it I’m starting to wonder how much attention is too much? When do you reach the point where you are just spoiling your child?

This winter holiday I spent a lot of time with my two daughters and noticed a few things. For one thing I noticed that when I am around my daughter wants my entire attention all the time. I don’t mind as my girl is a lot of fun to play with but it does make me think. Our early obsessive attentiveness to her needs have led to a few positives and negatives. We have a little girl who loves us dearly and loves a good laugh. Another bonus that I’m sure is derived from the way we treated her is that she is an excellent big sister. She gives our second one a lot of hugs and often wants to feed her or help us change her nappy. Since she is copying our behaviour this must reflect on how we treat her. The downside though is our little girl is very dependent on us. She isn’t good at playing by herself. When we are around she expects that same amount of attention we gave her when she was a baby. Due to this I am unable to give our second one much attention. Fortunately this seems to have had a very positive effect on our second little one. She plays on her own for an hour or two without grumbling and she doesn’t need many hugs. She definitely gets more mum time than dad time. The first is my little girl and the second is mummy’s little girl. In a strange way I feel like it’s a bit of a social experiment.

The terrible twos aren’t so terrible if you think about it

We’ve all heard the term terrible twos well and truly before we even think about kids. I know the first time i heard it was in primary school. For those who don’t really know why the twos are considered terrible I’ll fill you in. Two year olds are just starting to flex their independent muscles. They start saying no to things they don’t want to do and they insist they do things for themselves even if they have no hope of being able to do it. So what’s so terrible about that? Well the thing that people think is terrible about it is that you tend to butt heads with your two year old a lot. It can get frustrating. The thing is though, it doesn’t have to be frustrating.

It’s all about how you look at it. A two year old is not a fully developed human. Their brains are still going through the process of growing and changing. They won’t have the full mental capacity of a human adult until 25 years old. Up until 2 they have been observing and absorbing everything they can about how humans live and function. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that babies are blank slates. This is so that we can adapt to every variant of human society there could possible be. At two your child is ready to start testing out what they’ve learnt. They want to try it all for themselves. The key to this age as the parent is to let them. Let go of your control and your fears and let your child try things for themselves.

The other trouble with this age is how often your child says no. Don’t get angry about this. Again it’s part of their development. They aren’t being disrespectful to you and they aren’t being insolent. You have to bite your pride and ignore any rising anger. They’ve said no to something. You shouldn’t force it on them. That will just lead to more resistance and resentment. They say no, you change the topic. Accept their answer. They’ve said no for a reason. You may not know what that reason is but they’ve said no and you should be the adult in the situation and accept it. Move on from it. Then perhaps after a time you can try and do what they said no to. You may know better than your child but until they learn for themselves they don’t know that. You need to hold their hand and support them as they explore the world. Not be a barrier against them.

The key to this age is embracing them because while it may be famous as the terrible twos it’s also an absolutely amazing time. It’s important not to waste your time on anger otherwise you’ll miss all the amazing things your child is learning and picking up. The terrible twos aren’t terrible. They are a time when your baby is starting to become human. Starting to act on their will rather than yours. The amount of first times that occur in this age is remarkable. A time that you should enjoy and cherish.

Tiredness and Parenting

This is probably more for myself then anything else. A mantra to stay in control and get it done.

I’ve been kicking this idea around in my head for a while. When your a parent you get tired. Real tired. It comes with the territory. This article is about how you act when you’re tired. So far I’ve spotted three different reactions when tired. I’m sure there are more.

The first reaction I’m going to call explosive. This is the one where as long as everything is going well and sweet you are your usual self. As soon as something goes wrong though, and in his state something goes wrong has a very broad spectrum, you explode. This reaction is not a good way to react especially when you are around children. The reason is simple. Up until the breaking point your child was probably showing model behaviour. One thing goes wrong and the entire night is out. If this is a reaction that you know you go to regularly when tired I strongly suggest you become aware of when you are feeling that pressure build and try and change the situation. Perhaps go out for a quick walk.

The second reaction I’m going to call too tired to care. This one you just couldn’t be stuffed doing anything. Everything seems too much hassle. The kids are going berserk and you’re just happy they are playing by themselves and giving you a chance to drink your tea. It’s true that you want your child to be playing by themselves. It’s something they need to learn. If they are misbehaving though and you are too tired to care this can establish a dangerous precedent. I would consider this reaction worse than the previous one. The first one at least establishes boundaries. It’s not an ideal way to establish them but they are there. The too tired to care reaction lets the kids go wild and that they will do. Have this reaction long enough and the situation is going to get much worse. You’ll be fighting an uphill battle to gain control. Basically this too tired to care reaction will beget more tiredness. If this is your go to reaction when you’re tired be aware that you could be teaching your kids they can do whatever they want.

The third reaction I’m going to call getting it done. This is the one where you make a quick list of everything you need to get done before you can rest. When it comes to parenting the list is something like; play with kid, feed kid, give kid bath, read books to kid, get kid to clean teeth, put kid to sleep, clean the dishes, wash the clothes, clean your own teeth and go to bed. You go through the steps that you’ve laid out in your head and you get it done. Each step may take longer than you thought but you’ve got a plan and your body is giving you what you need to do it. This reaction is ideal. There’s minimum stress and because you’ve got a plan if you keep it up every night you’ll make yourself a routine. Keep on egging yourself. Tell yourself, just gotta do it and then I can rest. Next thing you know you and your kid are asleep.

Of course it’s not as simple as saying there are three different reactions. Often the three go hand in hand in one night. You’ll be going along with your night time routine and your kids wants to watch TV instead of going through your carefully laid out plan. Suddenly your get it done persona slips and your explosive persona comes forward. Or perhaps you just don’t care this night and you let your kid watch TV. Suddenly it’s way past bed time and you’re still only on step two of the list. To conclude when you’re tired it’s hard to make sound judgement calls. Stay in control, stick to a routine and you and your kid can get to sleep early. Slip and your probably going to get tireder.

Boys should play with dolls

Boys should play with dolls. In this blog I’ll write why I think so.

Yesterday I took my daughter to the toy store. She wandered around most of the store and played with a range of demonstration models. One of the toys she played with was a doll you could feed with a fake milk bottle. She did it very deftly. We don’t have any dolls in our house. Not because we are against it or anything just because we’ve never bought one. At the time I wandered if she had been a boy would she have picked up the doll and played with it? In my opinion he would have and I’ll explain why I think so.

Children are geared to learn how to be human. One of the major ways they learn how to be human is playing. Children copy what they see adults doing. My daughter sweeps and vacuums the floor. We never asked her to do this it was something that she copied from us. Similarly she puts the teddy bears to sleep by giving them hugs, shushing them, placing them on the bed and putting a blanket on them. She is basically practicing how to be a parent. Dolls, and in our household’s case teddy’s, are a good way for children to mimic being a parent. They see how we act towards them and mimic it to the doll or teddy. This is why dolls are a good toy. Children can practice being parents with them.

Given that dolls and teddies are a means for children to develop their caring and parenting skills why does our society tell us that boys don’t play with dolls? It’s not because they don’t. It’s because people don’t give them the option to. It’s considered something that girls do. Some parents will even tell off their boys for playing with dolls. This is essentially telling boys not to learn how to be parents from a very young age. Our society should encourage boys to practice their parenting skills. Boys should practice babying a toy. It’s a natural part of development and will give them the skills they need to be parents when the time comes.

Parental Noir

I had to pick up the babe. It was raining so I had to go by car. She was inside waiting for me. She had short hair but you could tell she’d been trying to grow it out. Cute face and a laugh that could unfreeze even the coldest of hearts. She knew I was always due around this time. As usual she was glad to see me and happy to see the car. That changed when I accidentally bumped her head on the car roof. Clumsy me, Tears formed and she was screaming before long. I hugged her too me and climbed into the car. Fortunately she’s pretty easy to distract. I showed her her reflection and she was immediately mollified.I cruised off heading for home but get the idea it’d be nice to go to our favourite bakery. The wife had left some money on the table to get nappies. We could treat ourselves a bit. I took the back way to get there. No use driving on main roads. Too many cars, you never get to go beyond forty kilometres per hour. The babe started to get restless though. It distracted me and I missed the turn. I cursed. I’d have to take another street. It was always a risk in Japan. Take the next street and it was just as likely to add twenty minutes to your trip or put you on a road so narrow you weren’t even sure it was a road. I took my chances. I’d mollified the babe with promises that we were almost there. She seemed convinced for the moment. She was fine until I got to the next turn. I was grateful to see it. This road was going to link up. I turned in and almost had a head on with a four wheel drive. The road was two way but couldn’t fit more than one car. I backed up and let the woman go. She sat at the intersection not moving. I couldn’t figure out why she was just sitting there. Had she completely forgotten I was turning into her street and was waiting for me to go? Was she just stupid? Probably the latter. I cursed and babe started up again. The woman finally went and we got to the bakery.

The bakery is a nice little place nestled away in a little country town. It’s easy to miss unless you know about it. They’ve got a wood fire they use to cook the bread. I like this bakery. The bread is good and they give you free unlimited coffee. I had my fourth cup for the day. I should probably cut down. We snacked at the table they provided the babe satisfied that I hadn’t been lying. That she was going to enjoy where we were going. To top it off for her I bought a milk as we left. Dropping the change into my pocket. My wallet doesn’t have a coin section. It was a gift and looks nice but I’ve stopped carrying change for longer than a few hours. The next stop was to get the nappies.

Again the babe was getting annoyed at the trip. Annoyed enough that I promised myself I’d spend longer in the shop just to appease her. I found the nappies no worries but realised I was short two hundred yen. I couldn’t believe it. To get so close and be short two hundred. I cursed getting that extra milk. I wasn’t going to originally. But then I thought about it. It just didn’t add up. I was missing something. The bakery trip didn’t cost that much. The coins must have fallen out of my pocket while I drove. I went back to the car and searched like crazy. Checking every nook and cranny. To no avail. I turned up more coins but I was still short ten yen. Maybe they’d just let me have it. Not likely I sighed. I’d just have to except failure and try again. Have a conversation with lady of the house as to why there are no nappies and not enough money. I cursed. There had to be more money. I looked again. There should be a fifty yen piece somewhere. I know I saw it. I double checked under the steering wheel where a little ledge sat. There to my great relieve was a hundred yen piece. I gave a roar of triumph thankful that my mission wasn’t going to be a failure. I went back inside the shop only then realising that I had been narrating the whole experience to myself in the film noir style. I should cut down on the detective novels or maybe it’s just the coffee.

Encouraging Creativity

One of the things I appreciate the most about my childhood was my mum’s encouragement in all things creative. She was particularly encouraging of music and writing. I never really developed much of an aptitude for music but writing is now a hobby I hold dearest to my heart. My mum encouraged all of us to write short stories and poetry in our spare time. When we finished she’d type it up, print it out, bind the story with tape and get us to illustrate it. There are still copies of these stories around the house. They were quite good. The whole process was very enjoyable. My sister and I both share a love of writing and my brother is a genius on the piano. Although I don’t know if my brother would attribute his love of music to mum. Writing was more her thing. I hope to do the same for my children and continue the creativity streak running through my family.