Archive for the ‘ Big Kids ’ Category

When (and How) Did You Find Out Who Your Kid’s Teacher Is?

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Seems that the answers vary wildly, if my informal digging is any indication. Many parents find out via mail, anywhere from 2-4 weeks before school starts. (One Parents mom is even provided with the class list.) Another colleague has a friend in California whose school posts the class list on the front door of the building the night before. Wow. But most surprising is the friend on Long Island who doesn‘t find out. The kids at this private elementary school all gather on the first morning and the teachers come and collect their students. That’s hardcore! Makes you wonder if there’s a correlation between how much time schools leave for parents to ponder the class placements and how much “feedback” some parents have offered over class placements in past years. In any case, it’s a big shift from my childhood in Connecticut, where our final report card of the school year contained the line “Your child will be in __________’s class next year.”

Where I live now, in northern New Jersey, we find out a handful of days before school. In my town this year, we’ll get the news on Friday after 12pm by checking a web portal, provided we’ve submitted all the requested info about our kids; school starts next Thursday. My younger daughter’s principal sent a letter yesterday outlining this, also mentioning that school will be closed on Friday. I took that to mean “So don’t bother calling us if you’re not happy with the class your child’s in.” And I can’t blame her! I can’t imagine how tricky–actually, how impossible–it is to make class placements that make everyone happy. (Just thinking about it takes me back to the many fully unpleasant hours spent working out my wedding seating chart.)

We all know that teachers’ and administrators’ decisions aren’t arbitrary, but I admit I hadn’t considered the many, many factors that go into determining which student goes into which class. A few schools spell them out online, and they include:

• The child’s intellectual, social, emotional, and behavioral developmental levels & needs

• The preferred learning style(s) of the student

• The child’s physical and social maturity

• The child’s interactions with other students

• The age of the child

• The “social dynamics” factors within the class

• Fair distribution of children with exceptionalities

• The best use of resource teachers & teacher assistants

• The male/female balance in each class

• The balance of leaders in each class (Interesting!)

• Student friendships

One particular school district in Wisconsin must get a lot of commentary on its placement system, because the administration has created an extensive FAQ document to address it. The questions range from the general (“Can I request a particular teacher for my child?”) to the specific (“I have noticed that a small group of my child’s friends have been together in classes for a few years in a row, but my child has been in different classes. Is favoritism going on here? Are other parents making requests, and my child is being placed anywhere because I am not making a request?”).

I’m really curious to hear how your town handles class placements–will you share in the comments? And here’s to a happy and successful school year for everyone!

What Parents Want Teachers to Know
What Parents Want Teachers to Know
What Parents Want Teachers to Know

Photo: Teacher in class showing students a nest via Shutterstock.

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Which Age Is Hardest to Parent?

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

I used to think that babies and toddlers were the hardest to parent, with all the sleep deprivation, bodily fluids and baby proofing that come with that age range. It felt like my children were trying really hard to get themselves killed, and we spent our waking hours standing sentinel and worrying that all that stood between my daughters and certain doom was a flimsy plastic cabinet lock. Those were the days of guacamole in the hair and 3 a.m. wakeup calls, but at least we got nap time to recover and get our groove back.

Now that I’m the mom of a tween and an almost tween, I find myself dreaming of those days. Because while the really physical days of parenting are done—no more bending in half and hunching my back for hours over a struggling-to-walk-toddler—parenting an older kid requires tremendous mental fortitude. And I’m not sure I have the skills necessary to survive the next few years. Here’s where I’m falling short:

Scheduling Prowess I need military-level precision to keep track of all the school projects, teacher meetings and extracurriculars—something a girl once voted most disorganized by a jury of her peers simply can’t muster.  I used to be horrified when I read stories of moms using their minivan as a traveling office/dinner table/living room, until my daughters began to fill every day with their various extracurricular passions. And now, my car comes stocked with paper towels, an array of snacks (and used wrappers), and is my regular conference call spot (thank God for Bluetooth!).

Mind Reader My daughter has developed a split personality, as she straddles the precarious line between childhood and adulthood. One minute, she’s begging me to let her watch The Fault in Our Stars—the next, she’s saying that she’s not too old for Sophia the First. And I’m never quite sure whether I’m talking to the grownup or the kiddo, which makes it hard to determine whether any suggestion I make is going to be greeted with a dramatic eye roll and sigh or excited exuberance. It’s hard to find that happy medium, where I’m allowing her to learn and grow, but not learn too much, too fast. So, despite the fact that I hear that every other parent in the fifth grade lets their children Snapchat on cell phones and watch Walking Dead marathons, we’re sticking by our guns.

Peace Maker I simply don’t have the negotiation skills necessary to get my girls to stop the battles and bickering and actually be the loving sisters I know they are, deep, deep (deep) down inside. I’d love to just tell my children to work it out themselves, but that often leads to tears and pain (and not just for me).

Book Smarts I was a straight A student when I was in school, but apparently I killed a lot of brain cells between then and now, or they decided to rewrite the curriculum just to make me look like the village idiot. Either way, there were things in fourth grade math that had me stumped, and I’m frankly a bit nervous about what comes next. I hope my daughters can teach me.

I’ve talked a bit about my struggles with tween parenting with my mom, and she just chuckles. “Wait until they hit the teens,” she says, ominously. “That’s when parenting really gets tough.” I hope I can survive it.

Tell us: Which age was the toughest for you as a parent? Why was that? Keep up with your kiddo through every age and stage through our newsletters.

Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail
Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail
Mom Confessions: My Latest Parenting Fail

Image: Busy mom by Angela Waye/

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Back-to-School Disorder (BTSD)

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

girl in shopEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

Now that Labor Day is approaching, it’s appropriate to review the most recent outbreak of Back-To-School Disorder (BTSD). This is a newly-recognized psychological diagnosis (so new, in fact, that I just named it) characterized by premature dismissal of summer, abrupt embrace of fall, and excessive accumulation of shopping bags on your kids’ bedroom floors. BTSD has quietly reached epidemic proportions, so I am hereby launching an awareness campaign to slow the progression of this growing threat to public sanity.

BTSD has crept up on us slowly. When my own kids were younger, we began noticing Back-to-School sales occurring earlier and earlier each summer. When the trend became undeniable, we took a stand as a family and began consciously ignoring those sales. It took a family meeting, careful censoring of newspaper ads and TV commercials, and pre-screening of all U.S. mail before dropping it on the table in the front hallway. (This was in the days before email and the internet, so censoring objectionable material was a lot easier).

It’s one thing to begin Christmas advertising just after Halloween–Christmas is a wonderful time of year, something to be looked forward to! Similarly, Valentine’s Day promotions beginning just barely after the New Year seem almost tolerable and understandable–there really isn’t that much time between the first week of January and the second week of February, right? And, after all, love and chocolate are timeless.

But it’s another thing entirely to begin threatening kids and their parents with Back-to-School imagery so far ahead of an event which, for most of us, is dreaded. Sure, some kids are excited to go back to friends and teachers, and some parents are relieved to resume adult routines. But for most kids and parents, summer days are precious and fleeting; why should we do anything to hasten their flight? This is my unproven theory, but history will likely bear me out on this: I believe that the recent year-round school movement has its roots in BTSD. All this talk about going back to school occurring so early in the summer probably prompted childless policymakers in windowless rooms in colorless administrative buildings to propose year-round school.

Who’s ready for Back-to-School sales closer to Memorial Day than to Labor Day? Who wants to think about school at the beginning of July? We’re still celebrating the birthday of our country, for goodness sake; let us enjoy our hot dogs! Back-to-School reminders early in the summer are tantamount to taunting kids about their dentist appointments weeks before they have to say “Ahhhh.” Parents know better than giving too much advance warning for upcoming unpleasant events in kids’ lives; going back to school should be no different.

So here’s my plan to combat BTSD, and my advice for enjoying every possible minute of your summer:

  1. Do not, under any circumstances, begin thinking about shopping for back-to-school until a maximum of 5 days before the first day of the school year. For some of you, that’s mid-to-late August, but for many of you, it’s still not until after Labor Day. No new clothes, backpacks, school supplies, or other paraphernalia until the very last minute. And if last year’s clothes, backpacks, and school supplies are acceptable, all the better.
  2. Schedule your summer vacation for the week (or two weeks if you’re lucky to get that much vacation) just before school starts, allowing, if you must, a couple days for shopping after your return. This will take you and your kids out of your usual shopping district until the very last minute and leave little time to develop BTSD.
  3. When you do finally go shopping, tell your kids it’s “fall shopping,” not “back-to-school shopping.” Heck, we use little white lies all the time to shelter our babies from upset–this is a really tiny white lie. By not using the “s” word in your shopping plans, you spare your kids (and yourselves) some of the BTSD anxiety that word conveys. Sure, if they’re old enough to read the signs in stores, they’ll get the message soon enough, but you can distract them with the cool selection of colored pencils and notebooks.
  4. Impose a quarantine by avoiding playdates and sleepovers at the homes of BTSD victims lest the contagion spreads.

And now relax—there are still 126 days until Christmas!

What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)
What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)
What Parents Don't Need to Do (When it comes to school)

Plus: Enjoy the last days of summer with this amazing activity finder

Dr. Harley RotbartDr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock.

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These women take mom humor to a new level

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: 

You Know You Have A Toddler When¿
You Know You Have A Toddler When¿
You Know You Have A Toddler When¿

What’s your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out!


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Companies Need a Lesson on What Kids Really Want

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Even though I’m the mom of two girls, I find myself shopping in the “boys’” aisles an awful lot. And that’s because it seems like most of the cooler toys and t-shirts (at least according to my girls) show up in that section. First it was Thomas the Tank Engine, then Star Wars, dinosaurs and robotics components.

It’s disheartening in this day and age that companies still cling to these old-school beliefs that all girls like pink sparkly princesses, and all boys want dinosaurs and sports. That’s what got Lands End in trouble earlier this month, as a mom started a campaign against the hearts-and-flowers motifs on girls shirts, for more realistic depictions of science. (I may just have to pick up one of the solar systems shirts for my science-loving youngest.) Lego finally decided to throw us a bone by offering girl scientist figures, after making loads of money off the pink-and-pretty Lego Friends, who seem to spend an awful lot of time on fashion, cuddly animals and talent shows. And Disney seems to have actually taken their latest acquisition, Star Wars, back to the stone ages, by stocking a single piece of Princess Leia merchandise—an “action” figure of her dressed in the revealing slave costume.

But I feel even worse for the boys who don’t fit into the trucks-and-sports mode. Because it’s a lot harder to make things from the girls’ side of the aisle, where there’s a plethora of pink and sparkly, work for a boy. On Lands End’s Facebook announcement of their science shirts for girls you could see a whole slew of comments from moms of boys, requesting shirts with “non-threatening animals” and hearts and flowers for their not-so-stereotypical boys.

Of course, there are some ways to circumvent the marketing powers that be. Etsy and other internet retailers seem to be built on people making more gender-neutral crafts that kids that fall outside the stereotype might actually love.

Maybe we need to get the marketers to make it easier for all kids to find their passions—whether it’s a girl who loves robots, or a boy who loves horses.

Want to know if your kid’s destined to be a scientist, a chef, or President? Try our future career quiz.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Image: Courtesy of Lego

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