Friday, January 30th, 2015
It’s snowing right now in New York City, where I live, and I am thankful my children are already at school and that today won’t be a snow day. Because snow days are sledding days and I still haven’t recovered from the last one. We arrived at our local sledding hill a couple days ago to find a blond grade-schooler already splayed out at the base of the ramp, eyes closed, as strangers tried to elicit the child’s name so they could run up the hill to find his mother. He’d flown down the slope, over the small concrete wall at the base, smacking a park bench on the other side. Fortunately, he landed on his back not his head; after 10 terrifying minutes, he walked away from the scene unaided.
But my heart skipped more than a few beats. And I found myself, as I do every time, positioning myself at the bottom of the hill and, like Lucy in the chocolate factory, racing to catch toddlers, grade-schoolers, even the odd grownup as they flew toward the wall. These days it isn’t my own kids I’m worried about. My youngest is 10, and for his entire life he’s worn a helmet while sledding. He’s always the only one in a helmet on our hill. He also knows not to sled head first (you’d be amazed how many children do this).
My heart pounds as I work the hill. Preschoolers, I can simply catch if necessary. But a bigger kid barreling toward my kneecaps is frightening sight. To those kids I yell, “Roll off!” or “Dig in your heels!” or, my particular favorite, “Brake with your feet, not your face!” I’m friendly about it, but it’s no laughing matter. In one 2011 study, 30 percent of children hospitalized after a sledding injury suffered significant head injuries, most often because their sled hit a tree. And my area has already seen one heartbreaking sledding-related death this season after a teenager on a snow tube struck a light pole. Over the decade between 1997 and 2007 there were more than 229,000 sledding injuries that required treatment by an emergency department according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. That’s an average of 20,000 per year.
The city government places bales of hay at the bottom of our hill, although never enough to cover the entire wall. At best, you have something to steer toward if you’re a)old enough to understand that concept, and b)in possession of a sled that can actually be steered. I’m glad the city has taken this approach instead of the strategy employed by the city council in Dubuque, Iowa: a sledding ban at all but a couple local hills. I’m not out to ruin all the fun. But no amount of hay can replace the attention of a responsible grownup. So join me on the hill, won’t you? And repeat after me: Brake with your feet, not your face.
Dana Points is a mom of two and the editor in chief of Parents and American Baby. She is also a member of the board of Safe Kids Worldwide.
More safety advice from fellow Parents moms:
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Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for children 4 to 10 years old. Buckling a child safely into a car seat or booster seat can dramatically reduce the risk of serious injury, yet 9 in 10 parents are switching their kids from boosters to seatbelt-only restraints before the children are big enough to be safe sans booster, according to a new survey from Safe Kids Worldwide and the General Motors Foundation. (Disclosure: I sit on the board of Safe Kids Worldwide, so this issue is especially near to my heart.)
Here’s where the tape measure and scale come in: Seven in 10 parents surveyed didn’t know that a child should be at least 57″ tall (4’9″) to ride in a car without a booster seat. So pull out your measuring device and check your child’s height before you yield to his appeal to ditch the booster. Weigh him too: Your child should also be at least 80 pounds before going boosterless. Lots of children won’t hit these marks until they are 11 or even older according to this info from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Check your child’s stats even if you previously reviewed your state’s booster regulations (rules vary from state to state). Many states don’t require boosters after age 7, much less until age 11. These are also among the states with the highest rates of motor vehicle fatalities among kids ages 4 to 8. (I’m talking to you, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky.)
Carpools are particularly worrisome, according to the Safe Kids Worldwide report. Anyone who even occasionally shuttles around extra kids should keep a spare booster in their trunk. I sometimes find that my own child is out of the booster zone but we ferry a friend who is not. Indeed, one in five parents in the survey said they bend the rules when carpooling.
Of course all this is moot if you don’t buckle your kid up in the first place, and an astounding one in three fatalities in 2012 happened when a child was completely unbuckled during a crash. So let’s all resolve to buckle our kids, every time. And if you have younger children who are still in a car seat (as opposed to a booster) it’s a good idea to check to make sure the seat is installed properly. This Saturday is National Seat Check Saturday, so take a moment to review these safety smarts. And visit Safe Kids to find out where you can get guidance from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician on proper installation of your seat.
Keep your kid safe no matter where they are with our Parents’ Home Safety Guidelines.
Photograph: MikhailSh via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 18th, 2014
From left, guest Castiglia with the Pump and Dump moms
Social media has made humor a constant undercurrent in the average mom’s day, but it can be beyond therapeutic to get together with real friends “IRL” as my kids would say and watch something funny happen right before your eyes. That’s the beauty of The Pump and Dump show, which a few of us from Parents caught in New York City not long ago. There is something about seeing other moms (and a few brave dads) laughing uncontrollably at the same crazy stuff that you’ve noticed happening in your own life that is very freeing–and more powerful than getting your laughs watching YouTube.
The PND team, Shayna Ferm, a comedian and mother of two, and MC Doula (aka Tracey Tee), mother of one, host an evening packed with inappropriate lyrics set to live music, games (such as a motherhood-themed version of “Never Have I Ever”) and other audience interaction, and often a local guest comic who is also a mom. In New York it was the hilarious Carolyn Castiglia, whose riff on dating as a single mom was upstaged only by her own freestyle rap to audience members’ anonymously contributed confessions of “The Most F—-d Up Thing My Kid Did This Week.” (See a sample of mom confessions here.)
Ferm and her “coach” MC Doula are on tour now, leaving their kids at home in Denver, so join their audience of “breeders” (their words) if you can. Songs include “Eat Your F—ing Food,” and “When I Die, I Want to Come Back as a Dad.” Yes, the F word features prominently here. I was counting the number of times it was used but was laughing so hard I lost track. Underlying the irreverent lyrics is a message of acceptance for all our many mommy shortcomings and an embrace of all kinds of mom. “We have placenta-eating moms and moms who’ve never even tried a cloth diaper. We just all have to remember that we are doing the best that we can,” Ferm said at one point. Or, to quote her lyrics: “You’re an awesome mom and you’re not alone. You’re doing fine. Just pour yourself a whiskey during bath time.”
Can’t get to Chicago, Mill Valley, or Denver, where the show is playing this fall? Download the tunes, gather a few friends, decide on a signature cocktail and have a listening party. Keep the tissues handy—you’ll laugh until you cry.
Here’s a video from another fun mom, Honest Toddler’s Bunmi Laditan:
What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!
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Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Most days I can’t recall what I ate for breakfast. The passwords necessary to access my work files and bank accounts often escape me. But I can remember the names my favorite childhood teachers—the really great ones, who helped me along to an educational breakthrough, whether mastery of multiplication (Mrs. Tuttle) or my first long-form essay (Ms. Price). I also saw the impact of great teachers in my home while growing up, as my parents, both teachers, were both loved by many of their students. And now I see it as a parent as well.
I met more greats recently as I helped host the 2014 Blackboard Awards, given annually to New York City teachers by New York Family magazine. As the award recipients spoke, I learned a little about what has helped these educators flourish. They’re things you could look for in your own child’s educational experience and qualities that might make you speak up to say thank you during the final days of the school year:
A great teacher considers herself a student too: Many of the instructors spoke about how they’ve never stopped learning on the job. Fran Vogel, band director at MS 167, the Robert F. Wagner Middle School, has taught for 23 years, yet she says, “I consider myself a student. I am still learning. I’ve learned about patience, and not to get too attached to what I need in the classroom.”
A great teacher works in an environment of trust. Lisa Schalk, who teaches nursery at Chelsea Day School, praised the administrators at her school who, “trust me to run my classroom the way I feel it should be run.” Schalk, who became a teacher in her late 40s after a first career as an advertising copywriter, knew a great deal about how a business runs when she came to her classroom. Having supervisors who respected her knowledge helped her thrive.
A great teacher knows each day is precious. At age 74, Eileen Shostack, a special education teacher at PS 75, has been teaching for 44 years and has seen first-hand how quickly childhood passes many times over. “Education is a race,” she says. “Every day in a child’s life is precious.”
A great teacher knows it’s ok to fail “I have been fortunate to be at a school where teachers are encouraged to try and fail, and I did so—spectacularly,” said Bayard Faithfull, a social-studies teacher at The Beacon School. In order for kids to learn, we have to let them get comfortable with failing—how can they do that if we don’t model the behavior for them?
Check out this Back to School printable to help your child with homework!
Photograph: New York Family Editor Eric Messinger celebrating with honoree Eileen Shostack, who at 74 may well be the oldest active teacher in NYC public school system. She’s a 5th grade special needs teacher at PS 75.
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Monday, May 12th, 2014
In the New York City neighborhood where I live, the streets are busy on the warm spring days just before the first Sunday in May. All stereotypes about rude New Yorkers to the contrary, it is a friendly place and it is common for people to wish one another happy Mother’s Day here. Even complete strangers say it to me, often when my kids are nowhere around.
I like to think I have recovered fairly well from the physical assaults of pregnancy. We are long past the sleepless nights of babyhood in our house and the tricycle is on its way to being a rusty garden ornament. So what is the giveaway? I look down…maybe it is my abs? I like to think not. Perhaps it is something else. My breasts? No, it’s been years since I nursed my babies, although they certainly were perkier before those midnight feelings. Hmmm…perhaps it is something more subtle?
In poker they call it a tell–the little unconscious signs that give you away. When it comes to motherhood I bet I have a thousand tells. Like the dark circles that cropped up below my eyes during the first sleep-deprived flush of new motherhood and never entirely left. Or those little lines that radiate from the outer corner of each eye. They’re called age lines but I know mine are a direct result of sun damage from Saturdays on the soccer field and hours spent squinting by the side of my in-laws’ swimming pool, doing duty as the designated water watcher for my sons and their cousins. Maybe it’s the little grey hairs that I’ve sprouted of late…it is just a coincidence that they came about just as our older son started to text and Snapchat and find his way around both the social and physical world with more freedom? The scruffy nails come from loads (and loads) of laundry–a thousand pairs of pants turned right-side out, pockets emptied.
But it might also be the laugh lines on my cheeks, born of many good times with the kids. Or the soft spots on my cheek, the lucky recipient of literally thousands of goodnight kisses. Or the happiness our boys bring me that radiates however subtle and not just on that rare day when I get breakfast in bed.
I know some women take issue with the rampant tossing about of “Happy Mother’s Day.” It can be a painful holiday, one that is all the more upsetting when a total stranger thinks every passing woman is a parent. So I am careful with my greetings myself, always mindful not to assume. But when another woman–a total stranger–has the sixth sense to read my signals, whatever they may be, I always wish her Happy Mothers Day right back. Anyone who knows how much I relish this little thank you also, I am sure, needs one herself.
Now about those abs…check out this advice about helping get them back in shape post-pregnancy:
What’s your parenting style? Find out here.
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