Posts Tagged ‘ harley rotbart series ’

Home Field Advantage

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

dad and son playing soccer indoorsEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs 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.

You might be surprised, but this month I’m not writing about the holidays, gift-buying, or instilling the spirit of the season in our kids. Rather, I’d like to devote this piece to a topic that doesn’t get enough attention: the weather. People just don’t talk enough about the weather, right?

I live in Colorado, and it’s been quite chilly. The recent “polar vortex” that brought sub-zero temperatures to much of the country also brought back memories of cold spells when our kids were small and had disproportionately ginormous energy levels.

We are a sports family, and sports families can’t be hostage to the weather—every day is a sports day. Like the U.S. Postal Service, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” kept our kids from playing ball (well, thankfully, gloom of night did slow things down a bit). That meant we had to design “all-weather facilities” in our small home.

With a playroom that was barely big enough to store all the sports equipment and toys, our dining room became the default basketball court, the living room became the baseball diamond and hockey rink, and the hallway became the soccer field. The dining room was the hardest to adapt because of the inconvenient chandelier—but unscrewing just four Phillips screws brought down the lights and made room for the six-foot indoor hoop. The square faux Oriental rug in the center of the living room had the right number of corners for all four bases, so we only had to move the coffee table to make room. Since our fireplace never worked, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice to convert it into the indoor hockey goal. Soccer was the most dangerous because the hallway was narrow and every kick went straight at the goalie or ricocheted off the hall wall right towards the goalie. Our solution: The goalie wore an old catcher’s mask. Yes, we could have used the living room hockey rink as a soccer field, but the only part of soccer that our kids loved was the penalty kick, so the hallway was perfect. Even though all the kids played tennis outdoors, we never managed to successfully adapt it to the indoor venue despite our clever deployment of an old volleyball net and racquetball racquets.

It’s safe to say that our indoor arenas didn’t improve our home’s property value. Although we made the kids use soft foam balls, bats, and hockey sticks, every wall got scarred, scuffed, chipped, and dinged. We could have patched and painted, but we preferred to see the vivid testament to a house well lived and childhoods well played.

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

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 noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

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How Nick and Nack Rescued Bedtime

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

reading a bedtime storyEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, guest blogs 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.

The release this fall of the film version of the beloved children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day, brought back wonderful bedtime memories from when our kids were little.

The best part of bedtime, of course is not the battle over brushing teeth or the call-backs after the lights are turned off. The best part of bedtime is the story! Like most parents, we loved the cuddling time with the kids in pajamas, bathed and brushed, and settling into a long-awaited calm.

But there were also nights when we caught ourselves daydreaming during the umpteenth reading of the kids’ favorite books, and Alexander was among their very favorites. We realized we were daydreaming because the kids had to remind us to turn the pages (we knew Alexander’s story so well that we were robotically repeating it without even bothering to keep up with the actual pages!). Typically we were reviewing the events of the day in our mind, or worrying about our obligations for tomorrow. But we were wasting these magical minutes with our kids by mentally wandering away mid-paragraph—leaving them stranded with unturned pages and uninspiring storytelling. Although the kids seemed satisfied even when we were zoning out, bedtime can be about so much more than just making kids sleepy. These should be special moments for parents, too, and we were often missing them even though we were there.

So, we fixed the Alexander problem by creating Nick and Nack, two microscopically tiny space travelers from the planet Orb. Nick was the adventurous one, always begging to be the next astronaut assigned a trip to Earth. His best friend, Nack, was a reluctant explorer, looking for any excuse to avoid Earth travel, and afraid of even his own tiny shadow. But Nack had another weakness that Nick could reliably exploit to coax his friend on yet another voyage: Nack was a chocoholic, and chocolate could only be found on Earth. No matter how hard Orb scientists tried to reproduce the rich and gooey brown delicacy using samples that Nick and Nack brought back from Earth, the recipe eluded them. So after his chocolate-stuffed pockets from the previous trip were empty, Nack had to confront his fears and venture back to Earth. Nick, on the other hand, could live without chocolate, but he couldn’t live without the thrill of the next Earth adventure. There was one more obstacle in Nick’s way besides convincing Nack to join him. Nick had to devise ever-more clever reasons to justify his trips to the Commander of Orb Space Exploration. Although the declared mission was rarely accomplished, Nick and Nack always came back to Orb with so much unexpected new wisdom that the Commander would let himself be talked into one trip after another.

Nick and Nack had grand adventures, especially because their spaceship guidance systems were not perfect, and they could never really predict where on Earth they might land. And because they were so very tiny, it was hard to know where they were even after they arrived! Nevertheless, with a whir, a chirp, and a rattle (sound effects hilariously, if inharmoniously, provided by parents and kids together), the Orb spaceship repeatedly took off for parts unknown on the planet Earth. When Nick and Nack landed, they had four jobs to attend to: 1) trying to find out where they were; 2) finding enough chocolate to keep Nack committed and relieve his unrelenting fear of the unknown; 3) avoiding the inevitable scary events that happen when you are microscopically tiny on a giant foreign planet; and, finally, 4) somehow managing to rev up their finicky and noisy spaceship and find their way back to Orb. Miraculously, there was always a happy, chocolatey ending.

And that’s how we saved our nights from the infinite loop of Alexander’s horrible days. If your bedtimes need a re-launch, put the usual storybooks down and improvise. Socks on your hands become an instant puppet show. Your wedding album, high school yearbook, old family photos, or the world atlas make great alternatives for bedtime stories, and won’t allow your mind to wander to the dishes in the sink. Or make up your own superheroes, magic lanterns, and space travelers.

Nick and Nack forever changed bedtime, letting our kids’ imaginations—and ours—soar with a whir, a chirp, and a rattle.

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 noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock

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Pearls from the Diamond

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

kid playing baseballEditor’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.

For baseball parents, those whose kids either play the game or are fans, October is huge—it’s the month for the Major League Baseball playoffs and World Series. The bright spotlight October shines on baseball’s finest teams and players also “loads the bases” for teaching moments.

I’ll never forget the cloudless Colorado Saturday afternoon 16 years ago that found our 10-year old son at shortstop when a line drive off the bat struck his team’s pitcher square on the face. As the boy crumpled to the ground, writhing in pain and bleeding from his nose and mouth, our son and his teammates all rushed to the mound and surrounded their stricken pitcher. We in the bleachers collectively gasped in horror, and then I and another doctor-parent ran onto the field to stem the bleeding and send someone to call an ambulance (yes, this was during the Jurassic Period before many of us carried cell phones).

As the other young players sifted through the pebbles for our pitcher’s presumed missing teeth, our son backed away from the crowd, shaking. He slowly sat down on the infield dirt, desperately trying not to throw up from the sight of his good friend—and his friend’s blood and teeth—now lying motionless on the ground.

The ambulance was there in minutes and our pitcher was whisked away (he went on to make a full recovery, although he needed a tooth implant). But it’s what happened after the ambulance left that changed our son’s life. As he was hyperventilating, his back to home plate and his head between his legs, the coach patted him on the head and matter-of-factly told him to quickly warm up because he would be the new pitcher. Despite his love of pitching, when the coach broke the news, our son looked like he had been the one hit with the baseball. Somehow, he rallied, got his legs back, and took the hill.

My son is all grown up now, a lawyer, and married. But in the years since replacing his injured friend on the mound, there hasn’t been a hurdle or challenge he’s faced when he didn’t call upon that little league moment to find strength and courage.

Embedded in kids’ passions are priceless parenting moments. We were lucky because our kids loved anything that bounced, and sports have always brought forth metaphors for life. But lessons abide in everything kids undertake with commitment, from art, writing, music and theater, to math, science, technology, and history. Commitment itself is an important message for kids. Parents needn’t wait for dramatic episodes like ours to teach life lessons.

Sticking with my October World Series theme, baseball offers mundane but meaningful teaching moments every inning. A runner leading off from base learns to balance risk and reward. A called third strike teaches the consequences of inaction and missed opportunity. Batting averages prove success in life doesn’t require perfection—after all, the great hitters in baseball, those who hit “300,” still get out 70% of the time. Standing in the “on deck circle” reminds kids to learn from others’ experiences, while the fielder in the “ready position” reaps the rewards of forming good habits. “Calling for” a pop fly ball requires taking responsibility for a task, and then following through. The sacrifice bunt…well that’s obvious, as is “backing up” teammates on throws and ground balls. These will all be on display on the national stage this month.

And then, when you’ve passed enough wisdom on to your kids for one evening, pop some popcorn, cuddle on the sofa with your little ballplayers, and enjoy the best baseball of the season.

How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer

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 noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock

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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 noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image via Shutterstock.

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The Fort That Came in an Envelope

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Boy reading under tent fort made of sheetsEditor’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.

When my brother and I were kids, there was nothing more fun than pulling all the sofa cushions onto the floor, stacking them, and covering them with sheets to build a fort. Hours upon hours spent in our forts, with flashlights, crayons, and toys. In the summer, there was a corner of our backyard that became our outdoor fort – hollowed out bushes, with a leafy camouflage cover, gave us shade and secrecy with our friends. So, it was natural for my mom to get sucked in by a special magazine ad…

Of course, all these years later neither my mom nor I remember if the ad was in the Ladies’ Home Journal or Reader’s Digest or in one of the kid magazines she saw in the doctor’s office or on the back of a cereal box. This was back in the day when “truth in advertising” wasn’t a well- established concept yet.  In fact, it was in the day when cigarettes were still promoted as healthy. The ad was for a log cabin fort. For one dollar, and maybe some box tops required as well, kids could enjoy a realistic Old West fort of their own. The picture, my mom remembers, was of happy kids playing inside a richly colored and textured log cabin fort. And, best of all, there was “minimal assembly required!”

Money was tough to come by for us as kids. My dad sold fruits and vegetables on a truck (a peddler, as he was known then) and my mom was at home with us trying to balance the family budget on the meager profits from selling bananas and onions. A dollar, with my mom’s frugality, could buy a shirt for school, or on Month-End sale days, a pair of dress pants from the clearance rack. She struggled mightily over investing a whole dollar on a log cabin fort, no matter how realistic it was. But, she knew we really did love forts, and she loved seeing us happy in our forts. So she sent in the dollar, and eagerly waited, never spilling a word about the surprise she anticipated in the mail.

When the package with the name of the fort company came, my mom immediately knew there was a problem. The envelope was standard issue manila, no thicker or larger than one might ship an issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. With trepidation and remorse, mom opened the envelope to find a plastic tablecloth, the size of a card table, with log shapes imprinted on the outside. The “minimal assembly required” referred to the hole that the satisfied customer was supposed to cut along the perforated line to create the door. And then all one had to do was set up a card table, spread the tablecloth, and voila, a fort worthy of…nothing other than a plastic covered card table ready for a game of canasta or poker.  Mom was devastated. But…

She set up a card table, covered it with the plastic fort, and with trepidation called us into the living room for a big surprise. Our unabashed, utter delight at the log cabin fort is something she remains grateful for to this day. When you are 7 years old and 3 years old, your taste in forts isn’t very sophisticated. And to us this was a real fort, not a bunch of sofa cushions! We ran for our flashlights, our crayons, and our toys. Let the fun begin!

As parents ourselves now, we are very lucky that our kids appreciate the little things, and have modest tastes and realistic expectations. My book No Regrets Parenting is about keeping things simple. And sweet. It’s about forts in the living room — and being grateful for what we have rather than wishing we had more.

It Worked For Me: Parent Hacks
It Worked For Me: Parent Hacks
It Worked For Me: Parent Hacks

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

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. 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 noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Image: Boy reading in a fort made of sheets via Shutterstock

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