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It’s Like Learning How to Not Kill Your Child As She Learns to Ride a Bike

On Wednesday, I posted the following on Twitter:

Off to bang my head against the wall a.k.a. once again attempt to teach 5-yr-old Hadley to ride her bike.

I was only kind of joking. My husband Jamie and I tried to teach her last summer but to no avail. To be fair, it was a half-hearted attempt and we kept giving up out of frustration.

Last week, I decided this is The Summer of No Return.

All of her friends can ride on two wheels. In fact, many who are her same age have been doing it for a couple of years. I jokingly call one of our neighborhood families “athletic freaks of nature” because their boys were careening down the block at age 2.

Of course, they also couldn’t stop and could be heard howling “HELLLLLLLLP!”

With an emphasis on the first few letters.

I don’t remember learning to ride my bike. I guess I always assumed when I taught my children, it would be a bonding experience. In all my infinite bike wisdom, I would instruct them accordingly, then run along behind them as I guided their path. After a few failed attempts, I would release them and they would soar away as I sang out, “Fly little bird, fly!”

Instead, my experience has been “YOU’RE BEING ABSURD. YOU WON’T DIE!”

My daughter Hadley is athletic and normally fearless. She brazenly confronts most situations but learning to ride a bike is not one of them. Already at 5 years old, our relationship is a complicated one. We’re a lot alike–both the good and bad. She’s a spirited firecracker like me but also shares my lack of patience. It’s only a matter of time before one of us will eventually melt down.

With Bike Riding 101, we both did.

Mama Drama: Handling Disappointment

Dear Mama Drama:

My 5 year old son seems to be very sensitive.  He cries at nearly everything; if we say no, if things don’t turn out how he hoped, if he doesn’t win a game.  I’m not sure how to help him deal with his feelings.  I am not sure if he reacts this way at school, or just at home. I just don’t know what words to use.

Mom To A Sensitive Boy

(photo credit)

Dear Sensitive’s Mom:

Many children struggle with being told no or things not going as expected. Five-year-olds are increasing their autonomy, but often experience difficulty modulating their emotions. They are very rule oriented and can have strong feelings about justice and fairness. Five-year-olds are also still very ego-centric and struggle to see things from the perspective of others.

I encourage you to talk with your son’s teachers to determine how he is responding to similar situations at school. He may be doing well at school and you can build on that at home. He may be struggling at school and need more support there as well.

A trick to helping your son handle being told no is to say yes as much as possible, even if it is yes later. If your son asks for a cookie and you want him to have his dinner first, you can say, “Yes, you can have one after dinner.” Once we say no, children often don’t hear anything else. If we say yes, they are able to listen to the rest of what we have to say. Saying yes honors the desire of your child and the when sets the limits you need to set as a parent. Of course, there are times we need to say no, but finding a creative way to say it can help.

For losing games and situations not turning out as hoped for preplanning is a great strategy. Help your son prepare for the possibilities that may occur by having discussion beforehand. I addressed a similar issue with siblings in a column in October. Practice with your son how he can respond if he doesn’t win a game. Give him some simple phrases to say that can assist him in handling his emotions such as, “Good game. I had fun playing.” or “I’m sad that I didn’t win, but I’m glad I got to play.” Model being a good sport when you are playing games together. Talk through your thinking and about how you are feeling so he can develop a better understanding of how others feel.

If you are still having concerns after trying these strategies, it may be helpful to seek additional behavioral or mental health support.

Mama Drama: Moving out of the Family Bed

Send your parenting questions to

Dear Mama Drama:

My husband and I have been practicing the family bed with our son who is now eighteen months olds. We all sleep in the same bed, with him either in the middle or on the outside of me with a portable bed-rail next to him. He also sleeps in our bed during his naps. As he is getting bigger we think he is ready to begin sleeping in his own bed in his room.

We want to make this a smooth transition that maintains the trusting relationship we have built with him. Do you have any recommendations on how to proceed?

~Trusted mama

(photo credit)

Dear Trusted:

It’s great that the family bed option has been so successful for you. In our culture there can be a lot of pressure against co-sleeping, even when parents follow safety guidelines as you seem to be. Being thoughtful about how you move your son to his own bed will help you continue your pattern of attachment parenting. Offering choices and allowing him the time he needs to transition will maintain the trust you have cultivated.

Some families choose to create a bed in their bedroom for their child when they begin the transition from the family bed. This can be a pallet at the side or end of the bed or even a toddler sized mattress on the floor. Others go straight to the toddler bed in their child’s room. Making a big deal about the new bed and having your son help choose the bedding can be helpful in engaging him in the process.

You can begin with offering him the choice of taking his nap in his bed or in mom and dad’s bed. When he is mostly choosing to sleep in his own bed for nap, put him down for nap there without the choice. You can provide other choices about blankets, animals, or stories to read to continue supporting his independent decision making. If the bed is off of the floor, be sure to use the bed-rail so he does not fall out.

Once he is comfortable napping in his own bed and knows where he is when he awakens, offer him the choice of going to bed at night in his own bed. Following the same pattern as with naps put him to bed there regularly once he is choosing it consistently.

While your son may be going to sleep in his own bed, he may not stay there all night at first. You can choose to allow him to sleep part of the night in your bed or keep him in his own bed.  There is no set time period to complete this process. Listening to the needs of your son and trusting your instincts are the best guidelines to go by.

There are many books on attachment parenting that can support you in handling parenting decisions as your son grows. One of my favorites is The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition) by William and Martha Sears.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Trying not to be too ready

Guest Blogger Gwen is expecting…for the second time. And once again, no baby bump or stretch-marks will grace her with their pending bambino. Step inside their world of growing a family through adoption. Follow along here at Mile High Mamas and her blog and get a candid feel for the ups, downs, highs, lows and surprises that go hand in hand with the struggles of infertility and the miracle of adoption.

I went to BABIES R US…Why did I DO that?

We bought baby bedding. I know. Why would we do such a thing? We don’t even have the inkling of a placement at this point in time. I convinced myself that dude needed new sippy cups, so naturally, Babies R Us is the only place that I could go to find said sippy cups. And in lieu of sippy cups, I found baby boy crib bedding. And really cute onesies. And super soft blankets that every baby wants to be swaddled in. And I went home feeling giddy with baby glee and also really bitter at all the pregos walking around, ready to pop out their home grown newborns. It’s commonplace at BRU to look at every woman’s stomach as you pass by. How far along are YOU? They all look at me and assume that my flat stomach is shopping for gifts or that I’m overly gung ho in my very early stage pregnancy. And I have to tell you – I’m SO tempted to park in the “Parking for Expectant Mothers” spots every time. But I would be glared at.

Back to the “we bought bedding” issue. Why? Because this bedding is so beyond our “cute without being cutesy” standards and it was half off and we don’t like 99% of the boys bedding out there and I need something to get me in the baby mode. And so we bought bedding. And we’ll return it in 90 days if there’s still no sign of a bambino. And then my neighbor will come with me so she can re-buy it and we’ll then have another 90 days to hope for a reason to use it. And then if it’s still not happening I’ll return it again. And by that point I’ll be pretty darn depressed about it. What if we get a girl? Well, that’s a whole different issue. I haven’t found girly bedding that’s half off that meets my standards yet.

Welcome to my brain these days. I’m beyond the point of not thinking about our future family on a day to day basis. I think about it. And I daydream about it. And I make up birth moms in my head and analyze what our relationship will be like with her. And I wonder what color skin the little dude or dudette will have and what pitch their cry will be. Don’t worry – I’m not obsessing. It’s just becoming more of a reality than it was before. Why? I don’t know since my fingerprints are still sitting on an FBI agent’s desk somewhere, waiting to be rejected again. Yes, we’re still waiting on that. Our agency won’t put us online nationally until this happens. They say they’ll show our book locally if a birth mom matches us, so we’re banking on that promise at this point.

What’s the point of this random post? We’re ready. I’m ready. And trying my darndest not to be “too ready.” So for now I’ll be working on living my life as is and hope hope hoping for baby news sooner than later. And I’ll hide that super cute bedding in the depths of my guest room closet where I can only get a glimpse of the cuteness from time to time.

I forgot

Last Monday was one of those days. It was one of those days where tiny little things, as innocuous as single, solitary ants suddenly converge in a mass of creatures that can fell a rainforest.

(Stock photo credit: cbicenhour)

In the midst of this, was Claire. All she really wanted was for me to help her tie tiny ribbon bows on tiny chicks made of bits of feather or fluffy balls. And, while you’re at it, can you please help glue together more chicks? She’s making a baby bird family, and they need a nest. Why couldn’t I just take a break and help her make a nest out of ribbons? Any good momma bird would do that for her baby chick.

I’d take a break every now and then to tie a bow or press two fluffy balls together with glue. I mean, it didn’t look like I was doing anything at all…that is the danger of working and playing on the same computer. Momma just sits there, typing. Who knows what she’s really doing over there.

Plus, Claire couldn’t see all the ants.

Dinner wasn’t even the relaxing time it normally is.  It was over in a flash, and we were right back at it.  Daddy had to work late; the project I was working on was teetering on the brink of disaster, and when it was finally time to get PJs on, I was at my wit’s end.

The proverbial camel’s back was heaving under the pressure. What would it be that broke it in two?

And right on cue, we got in a huge fight about something silly.

Mother U.

It was a Monday morning. We were getting ready for another grueling school week. The kids were moaning about the injustice of heavy backpacks and state laws.

I told them I went to school and survived. Put your shoes on, spit-spot.

My oldest son asked how many years I spent in school. I told him 20 years—13 years spanning kindergarten through 12th grade and 7 years of college. I waited for the oohs and aahs and hearty congratulations to pour in.

They considered my lengthy sentence for a moment. My son asked if they had to go to college, too.

I said no. They would be adults and it would be their choice. If they wanted good jobs they should attend, however.

“But mom,’ my second-grader noted, ‘You went to college but you don’t have a good job.”

He noticed.

I thought about launching into a defense of stay-at-home motherhood. I am important! Don’t you watch Oprah or read blogs, son? Isn’t my life enough of a shining example of Goodness and Work?

But if I put myself in his shoes, he sees a person who must wipe people and things in a never-ending loop of clockwise motion. He sees a van operator who drives in a similar loop to school and store, sometimes in her pajama bottoms. He loves me and appreciates my cuddles and bedtime prayers and the matching clean socks always at his fingertips. He takes socks seriously. When he’s sick, I pour sports drinks and arrange crackers on a plate. I kiss his forehead. I help him with homework, making sure when I have him spell “creak” it is not the water type. It’s the spooky haunted house floor type.

I didn’t have to go to college to learn any of the above skills.

Were my college years a waste of time, money, effort?

Mama Drama: Flushing Fears

My three year old was doing great with potty training until we visited the museum and an automatic toilet flushed unexpectedly. He now screams and cries when we take him into any public bathroom. How can we help him get over his fear and handle these flushing monsters?

~Flushed away

(photo credit)

Dear Flushed Away:

Automatic toilets can be disconcerting to both adults and children when their powerful flush whooshes unexpectedly. For young children teetering on the edge of the seat and just beginning to trust in this whole toileting experience, the rushing water and powerful suction can be terrifying.

A quick and easy fix for the automatic toilets is to place a sticky note over the sensor. This prevents them from flushing until the paper is removed. Carry a pack in your purse or diaper bag and make sure anyone with whom your son goes out into the world does the same.

Your son will take some time in trusting that this will work. You will need to explain how it works and let him test it out. Even with this he may need to test it each time and may be apprehensive about going into the bathroom. Assure him you will prevent the flush until he is out of the stall and be patient with him.

If you forget the sticky notes you can also put your hand over the sensor, holding it there until your son is finished. If he needs any assistance pulling his pants up and down, this can be a bit tricky but it works in a pinch.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Bonnie Blair: Exclusive Interview with an Olympic Legend and Mom

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to stand on the medal podium at the Olympics as your national anthem is played?

What kind of life you’d have as a mother after being in the international limelight?

I recently interviewed five-time Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair. This speed skating legend was one of the judges who made the ultimate decision to send me to the Olympics for the Microsoft Office Winter Games Contest.

Which means we can ultimately thank or blame her when all is said and done.

This down-to-earth mother of two shared her humorous take on her triumphant past and present, as well as her predictions for the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Q: You come from a speed skating family. Tell me the humorous circumstances leading up to your birth.

Bonnie: Part of what you have to remember back then is that no one was allowed in the birthing rooms like they are today. I was the sixth child to come along so my parents had been down this road. When my mom went into labor, my dad didn’t even take her inside the hospital and simply dropped her off on the front steps.

He took my brothers and sisters to watch a skating practice. They found out I was born when it was announced over the loudspeaker that another female speed skater had been added to the Blair family!

Q: You competed in four Olympics, were inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame and are one of the most decorated U.S. women in Olympic history. What is your favorite Olympic memory?

Bonnie: It’s hard to narrow it down. For me, there were two stand-outs. The first was in Calgary at the 1988 Games. That was where I won for the very first time. Whenever you do something for the first time, it has an unbelievable power and emotion behind it that is difficult to capture again. Other wins were thrilling but that first was very, very powerful.

The other stand-out for me was

Mama Drama: Potty Power

Dear Mama Drama:

My question is about potty-training. We would like to start our daughter, who will be 3 next month, in a 3-yr-old preschool program that requires she be potty-trained. She was doing really well, then regressed to going in her diaper when the newness of the potty wore off. So, we’ve started only letting her wear a diaper during naps and night-time. Unfortunately, wetting herself over and over again hasn’t changed her behavior. Even telling her that she can’t start preschool (which she’s excited to go to) until she uses the potty isn’t working. Nor does peer pressure. Should we back off and put her back in pull-ups or keep her in panties and wait this out?

Thanks for your help!

~Mama with Diaper Drama

(Some additional background information from this mom is that her husband will be returning to work soon after two years at home with significant health issues.)

(photo credit)

Dear Diaper Drama:

Potty training can be a tricky issue. Children often show an interest in potty training at an early age. However, they need to be ready physically, cognitively, and emotionally in order to be successful. While some children are potty trained before the age of three, many are not fully independent until the age of four. Additionally, regression during potty training is also common.

It is important to determine if you daughter is really ready to toilet independently. Potty Training Concepts has a great article describing what it takes for a child to be successful. I recommend taking a look and seeing if your daughter meets all of the criteria. If she doesn’t, take a break. Support her when she expresses an interest and model for her by making a big deal of the signals your body gives when you have to go to the bathroom such as, “Oh my, I feel pressure in my belly. I need to go potty.” When potty training, many experts also recommend using cloth training pants instead of pull-ups as they don’t feel like diapers but do absorb more than regular underwear.

If she meets all the criteria for being able to potty train successfully, then you may want to look at other issues that may be interfering with her wanting to potty independently. You mentioned starting preschool soon as well as Daddy going back to work. While both of those are positive and exciting changes, they can also be scary and anxiety provoking. Exploring how your daughter feels about these changes and explaining very concretely how her days will look can help to alleviate some of her worries. Making a story about her daily schedule is a fun and age appropriate way to explain changes.

Lots of changes, or the anticipation, of them can be overwhelming. Children (and adults as well) may try to manage their anxiety by trying to control whatever they can. For a two year old, using the toilet is one of the few things they have complete control over. Preschool, Daddy going to work, and using the toilet may just be too much right now.

While many children can be independent with toileting at the age of three, pressure to do so from childcare providers raises concerns about their willingness to honor the developmental needs of each child. Developmental milestones are presented in a range of time as all children are different. Take a close look to make sure it really is the right place for your daughter.

An ode to the only child

Families with many children and families with one child have a lot in common. As a mom with many, I feel a special bond with moms of only children.

I understand what it’s like to field deeply personal questions about reproductive habits, fertility, and ethical and spiritual beliefs while waiting for library story time to commence.

I’ve been asked when we are going to stop as much as my sister, the mother of one child, has been asked when she is going to have another. I’m guilty of asking her that question, until the moment I realized it must feel just as intrusive and obnoxious for her to hear it as it feels for me to field the opposite question.

So I stopped asking. My niece is an amazing, lovely girl. She doesn’t need a brother or a sister to form her into some Better Version of herself. I think that’s pretty insulting, actually, to imply a person is less-than if they don’t have a sibling to spur them on to bigger and better things.

Our choices are outside the societal norm which gives everyone else in the room special license to gawk or opine on the perceived dangers of our family structures.

While my kids are probably starving for attention, her daughter gets too much attention. Bad on both sides.

While my kids don’t get anything they want, her daughter must get everything she wants. Bad and bad.

Society is built for families of four. When was the last time a vacation sweepstakes gave away a fabulous trip for 9 or for 3 to the beautiful Waikiki Hilton? In our family, we joke about who would have to stay at home for the 7 days, 6 nights. In families with an only child, they probably sit around trying to figure out who gets to tag along. May I make a suggestion?

Take my 3-year-old. You thought I was going to say take me, but she could use a vacation.

I realize this is purely anecdotal evidence, but every person I know who grew up as an only child is a wonderful individual. They are thoughtful, hard-working, and seem deeply interested in others. I believe they grow up feeling cherished and important. That is never a bad thing and it serves them and our society well. But I don’t know what it’s really like to be an only child because I grew up in a family with 3 children.

It’s a good thing we never won a sweepstakes where the prize was a trip to beautiful Waikiki. My brother would have had to stay home alone.

Families with one child face unique challenges, aside from the obvious where everyone wants to know when that little brother or sister is coming. I have nothing but respect for parents who need to carve out a parenting style in a world where there aren’t a lot of resources or others in their same boat.