Posts Tagged ‘ harley rotbart series ’

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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Posting an All-Points Bulletin for Sesame Street’s Ernie

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Ernie from Sesame StreetEditor’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.

Sesame Street’s Big Bird is an octogenarian. Well, it’s more accurate to say that Carroll Spinney, the man who has played Big Bird (and Oscar the Grouch) for the past 45 years is an octogenarian. I learned this just this past week when reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about a new film based on Spinney’s book, I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story. The story brought back wonderful memories.

Sesame Street was a very important part of our home and our kids’ lives when they were young. Although our kids loved Big Bird and all the other Sesame “guys,” Ernie was the focus of much more attention–at least on one very memorable day in July many years ago.

Our oldest child may have been a little precocious in the area of miniature rubber figurines. Most kids who collect and play-act with little toy statuettes begin around 3 or 4 years old, but our home was a Sesame Street shrine from the moment our son started following Big Bird et al. at age 2. He was too young to even pronounce the characters’ names–Cookie Monster was “Cookiebader.” His love of Sesame Street miniatures made gift-giving easy–for about $2 each, we gradually accumulated all the critical players in the Sesame Street saga. They populated the replica Sesame Street neighborhood we all built together from recycled cereal boxes and cardboard tubes.  Sesame play-acting paused only long enough for us to watch the actual TV show when it came on the air each afternoon.

We vividly recall the time we first learned that Sesame Place, the show’s theme park, was in Pennsylvania, not far from where grandparents lived. This was a nearly miraculous development for our son—and, of course, the next trip to Mema’s and Grandpa’s included a visit to SP. That may have been the most memorable vacation of our boy’s childhood. He hid behind Grover’s garbage can, climbed into Ernie’s bathtub, and ate “Cookiebader” cookies for lunch. “Do they really live here!!??” he asked incredulously. The gift shop even sold a rare figurine that we didn’t have at home–Mr. Snuffleupagus, if memory serves–for two bucks, like all the rest of “the guys.”

It’s that devotion to Sesame Street that made Ernie’s (the figurine’s) mysterious disappearance one summer afternoon a day that will live in infamy. The characters never went anywhere without our son, and he rarely went anywhere without them. But on that fateful day, as play on the windowsill stage was about to begin, all the characters checked in present and accounted for, but where was Ernie?!! Breathlessly, our little boy ran to tell us of the disaster–Ernie was missing!

And so began a legendary search through the house that turned up just about every other lost toy from the previous two years–but no Ernie! We called friends, grandparents, neighbors–it was an all-points bulletin, we explained to our distraught toddler. Just as we were about to post “lost toy” fliers around the neighborhood, our next door neighbor sheepishly called–his grandson, with whom our son had been playing with the day before, might have accidentally slipped Ernie into his pocket.

Grateful that the crisis was over, we chose not to press charges. All the Sesame guys were reunited and, although I can’t be sure, I think I saw Burt shed a tear of relief. I know our son did.

Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks
Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks
Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks

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).

 

Photo: Image originally from SesameStreet.org

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A Jackie Robinson Moment for Dads

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Parents magazine June 2014 Nick Lachey dads coverParents magazine June 2014 Nick and Vanessa Lachey coverEditor’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.

I received my Father’s Day gift early this year when my June 2014 issue of Parents magazine arrived in the mail as always, a couple weeks ahead of the date on the cover.  There, before my grateful eyes, was a DAD on the cover, with his gorgeous son on his shoulders! Okay, it wasn’t just any dad, but celebrity dad Nick Lachey. Still, it’s a dad and his son on the cover of the best parenting magazine in the world (full disclosure: I am on the advisory board of Parents magazine, but it is the best parenting magazine in the world!). There are actually two covers of this issue of Parents. Flipping the magazine over, the “other” cover features Nick and his wife, Vanessa, with their son, Cameron.  So there are two pictures of a dad on Parents magazine this month.

Why am I so excited to see a dad on the cover of the best parenting magazine in the world? Because, in the world of parenting, this is a Jackie Robinson moment. A Michael Sam moment. An Emily Keicher moment. (Who is Emily Keicher? See below.) I love moms, and I would never want to diminish the importance of moms. I’ve been married to the wonderful mom of our kids for 27 years. But I’m a dad. And I have read every page of Parents magazine every month for many, many years. I’m a much better dad for reading Parents magazine. I’m also a much better pediatrician for reading Parents magazine. But in all my years of reading Parents and other national parenting magazines, seeing a dad on the cover solo with his child is a first for me.

Groundbreaking covers are not a new phenomenon for Parents magazine. Readers continue to buzz about the magical February 2013 cover story featuring Emily Keicher, a gorgeous 3-year-old with spina bifida who walks with the aid of leg braces and a walker. And how about the April 2014 cover featuring Chloe and Daniel Molina, 3- and 5-year-old siblings who both have autism?  And now this, a DAD on the cover with his son.

Last fall I had the privilege of giving the keynote address at the 18th annual convention of the National At-Home Dad Network. They estimate that at least 1.4 million dads are home with their kids. At the convention, I was witness to the extraordinary commitment these men have made to their families. Typically, my own “No Regrets Parenting” seminars focus on helping busy parents make the most of the time they spend with their kids, and finding more time, despite their frenzied lives. But, for the At-Home Dads keynote, I also described the two additional challenges that stay-at-home parents, dads or moms, must face:

1. Making sure the need for efficiency—getting everyone where they need to be when they need to be there, and getting everything done around the house—doesn’t overwhelm the joyous experience parenting should be.

2. Helping the working spouse or partner to get more out of his or her parenting experience.

I hope I was able to convey those important ideas to those dads. But whatever I was able to contribute, they contributed more to me in the lengthy and animated question-and-answer period following my talk. I started the discussion by asking what works in other families to make parenting more fun. I wish I had recorded the answers—it would have been my next book! There were fabulous ideas, including “Talk like a pirate (on International Talk Like a Pirate Day),” “Celebrate May the Force Be With You Day (on May 4, of course!),” telling practical jokes (like putting a fork in kids’ breakfast cereal for a hoot), arranging scavenger hunts and “geocaching,” making homemade ice cream, and hosting costume parties.

Jane Goodall, the famous researcher of primates who was childless, is quoted as saying: “One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun.” Well, one thing I learned (among many) from the At-Home Dads is that dads DO know how to have fun with their kids. Cover dad Nick Lachey sure looks like he’s having fun with his son.

Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere, whether you stay at home each day or struggle to get home most days in time for bedtime. Thanks for all the good stuff you are doing for your kids.

And pick up a copy of the June 2014 Parents magazine—Dads, it’s YOUR magazine this month!

Nick and Vanessa Lachey: The New Parents Game
Nick and Vanessa Lachey: The New Parents Game
Nick and Vanessa Lachey: The New Parents Game

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).

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A Graduation Speech for Parents

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Graduated boy wearing graduation capEditor’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 many parents, May and June are graduation months. Those of you with young kids may be planning to attend graduation ceremonies from preschool or kindergarten, or perhaps “continuation” ceremonies between grade school and middle school. But whatever ages your kids are now, I urge you to look into the future and picture them older, almost grown, preparing for high school graduation and almost ready to leave home. That’s why I wrote my book No Regrets Parenting, which asks you to do just that—to make present-day choices about the time you spend with your kids while also picturing the day when the choices will no longer be yours to make. Indeed, when your kids are out of the house and on their own someday, their schedules will be more important than yours in determining the time you spend together. So I ask you to parent each day with an eye toward the future, realizing that the time you spend with your kids now is precious and fleeting. If you’re still stuck in the sometimes overwhelming routines of diaper changes, bedtime struggles, car pools, sleepovers, and after-school activities, high school graduation probably seems like a distant mirage. But even though the days now may feel very long, the years are short, and high school graduation will be here in the blink of an eye.

When your kids begin making plans to move on—to college or other adult pursuits—you’ll experience a graduation of sorts yourself. You’ll graduate from being the parent of kids at home to being the parent of kids on their own, who are “semi-launched,” as we say in our house. Your parenting doesn’t end when the kids leave for college, but it changes dramatically. When that day arrives, when you “graduate” from being the parent of kids at home, here’s the graduation speech I’d like you to be able to give:

I’ve done it!

They’re in college or out in the world!

I raised wonderful children who love their parents and know their parents.

I turned countless childhood minutes, hours, days, and weeks that would have otherwise been lost in the name of efficiency into special moments that I’ll cherish forever.

I was there with them every chance I had, and I created chances to be with them that I never imagined I could.

And as reward for my commitment, passion, and love, I can now pass by their empty bedrooms, feeling fond nostalgia and missing them terribly. But what a blessing it is to feel No Regrets!

The days were long, the years were short, and the time I had with them was then. But I made the time and I took the time.

Now it’s my time.

I’ve earned it.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

And while you are at it, award yourself this “World’s Greatest Mom” certificate. You know you deserve it!

Mom Confessions: If I Could Spend a Day Without My Kids I Would¿
Mom Confessions: If I Could Spend a Day Without My Kids I Would¿
Mom Confessions: If I Could Spend a Day Without My Kids I Would¿

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 three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, 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: Graduated boy with mortarboard cheeringvia Shutterstock

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