village people

My children and I are "regulars" at our own mommy and toddler version of Cheers. Yup, it is true.

We go to a place where everybody knows our names, they're always glad we came, and very often the people and our troubles are all the same.

They have even named a drink after me! (And I may have been sitting there, without kids, drinking one while I wrote this!)

I am of course speaking of our local cafe and play place, the wonderful Cafe O'Play.

This parent's dream of a cafe was the first of its kind in our fair city and it is a very busy, bustling and yes, often chaotic place to be. There are kids ranging from 0-5 years of age running around, playing, eating, sometimes crying, and otherwise behaving as kids of that age often do. And their parents all sit and sip yummy lattes and watch them play (or play themselves on their various mobile devices)!

With that many kids around there are bound to be some tussles, there will be hitting and/or pushing, play car crashes will occur and someone will fight over a toy. Really, it is all to be expected if you ask me (if you need some insight into toddler behaviour, check out my guest post over at PhD in Parenting).

But I have a beef. Not with Cafe O'Play, nor any of their great staff.

Nor is it with all the crazy, cute and chaos-inducing kids running around.

I have a beef with the parents.

Let me explain.

When we go to the cafe, we go in and get settled at a table. I then do a 30 second assessment of who is there. I check out the kids and try to match them up with their parents. If my kids start playing with or around another kid or group of kids, I try to make eye contact with their parents, so that we all know who is with who.

For the most part the layout of the cafe is great. The play area is in the middle and the tables and chairs surround it. You can see most of the action from just about any seat in the house. But there are a few blind spots, and kids go in and out of the play structures and you may not be able to see them 100% of the time.

Yesterday, about 5 minutes before we were about to leave, I heard my 3-year-old screaming. I could not immediately see her (she was behind one of the play structures), but I knew it was more than just a "someone hurt my feelings' cry, this was an "I am HURT" cry. And as I got up to go get her, I took a look around and saw a room full of blank stares. Everyone could HEAR her and some parents were very close to her, yet, no one DID anything.

When I finally got her calmed down enough to tell me what happened and also found her brother for corroborating evidence, I found out that another child had pushed her off the top of the stairs going on to one of the play structures.

And here is the crux of my beef...

Did not at least ONE of the parents on that side of the cafe see this happen?

Quite possible they did not, but when L started screaming and crying AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS, you would think that someone would pay attention, perhaps see what the problem was and oh, I don't know, check to see if she was OK??!!

Have we become so far removed from the 'it takes a village' mentality that we can not even make the effort to say or do something when a child is hurt or crying?

I don't know.

Maybe it is just me.

Motherhood changed me. A LOT.

Sometimes I feel like it made me a universal mother of sorts.

I don't mean that to sound all high and mighty.

What I mean is this.

Spring 2006

If I see a kid about to do something dangerous or stupid and there is no other responsible adult around to stop them, I WILL.

If I see a kid about to hurt, hit, push or otherwise do something to another child (especially mine) and I am within reaching or reacting distance, I will remove one or the other from said situation.

If I see a dad with two older kids and a set of infant twins waiting to get a table at the cafe and trying to wrangle all of them and their winter gear together when they finally get called to go in, I will walk over and offer to help carry a kid, a car seat or a handful of coats and boots in for him.

If I see a mama struggling with her toddler while also trying to calm a crying newborn, I will offer to take the baby for a few minutes.

If I see a child stuck in a play car, about to fall off a play structure, who has slipped and fallen on the floor, or whatever else may happen RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, I will check to see if he or she is OK and look around to make sure mommy or daddy is coming over or take said kid over to them.

I will say something to an older child if I feel that he or she is consistently breaking the "house rules" and no one else seems to want to intervene.

Some may think this makes me a busy body.

Some may think that I should never say things, especially disciplinary type things to children that are not my own.

I just don't agree.

I believe that it does take a village to raise our children. At a large play date or at our beloved Cafe I think this concept applies even more.


Because quite often we are outnumbered!

There are always more kids than adults and although the effort is made to keep an eye on them while they play and wreak havoc have fun, another parent's eyes and ears can easily become the ones you have always wanted in the back of  your head. I say use them!

Now, don't get me wrong. My kids are not perfect angels and more than a few times, I have had fellow moms come up to me at the cafe to tell me that one or the other was starting to get a little aggressive. Am I slightly embarrassed by this? Kind of. But more so, I appreciate that they took the time to find me and let me know what was up.

Letting a kid know that biting or hitting or pushing or whatever is not acceptable behaviour is NOT a judgment on your parenting skills. They are kids and mostly toddlers for that matter and certain behaviours are age-expected. Any discipline that occurs likely involves removal, re-focus and often a snack break. And I don't know about you, but hearing another mama say something about behaviour or rule breaking seems to have a lot more credibility with my kids and makes them sit up an listen just a little bit harder!

I think we would all benefit from more of a village mentality and if we all made the effort to looked out for each other and each other's children more, especially when we are sharing a space together.

What do you think?


Photo Credit: Toddler fight over the Car from joannamarieharris on Flickr







I hear you....

I have a four and a half-year old who "doesn't love me". No wait..., no, now he wants, needs me.... yeah, he's pretty sure he doesn't love me anymore....

....and now he needs a hug.

The above is a fraction of a 'conversation' that is happening on a daily basis at our house right now. Interspersed within this 'conversation' are the ear-piercing screams and stomping of feet and crying and a myriad of other rather unpleasant behaviours. The boy's, not mine (I swear)!

And I know it shouldn't, that I should not let this get to me, that it is a 'phase', but I can't help it... is breaking me down.

Today after the third incident of screaming and 'I don't love you'/'I need a hug' and I want to do everything MY way or else, etc.... I had to walk away and go and have a good cry myself.

And I just don't know what to do. I wonder every day where my sweet boy went and who this defiant, mood-swinging maniac is??

We try to talk to him, but when he gets worked up it is completely useless trying to communicate with him. He can't even hear himself, let alone what we are trying to say to him.

Our usual reward system is not working (he earns points for good and loses points for bad behaviours, and once his points have accumulated to a certain level he gets the reward of his choice). He has lost ALL his points this weekend!

We talk to him after the fact and once everyone has calmed down and he seems to understand what went wrong and that his behaviour is unacceptable. We offer him alternative ways to express himself at the times when he is getting worked up and angry and he says he will try harder.

This past week I had my Reiki practitioner come over and do a session with him before I had mine (I am seriously willing to try anything at this point).

C was very excited for the session and was so calm while Kim worked her energy flowing and balancing magic on him. One of the main things that came up during his session was that Little C seems to be having feelings of 'not being heard' lately and mainly by me.

And as much as it pains me to admit it (on a lot of levels), the kid is not wrong...

I have been extra busy with a lot of other things lately. Work, volunteer work, more volunteer work, and then more work have been dominating my mind and my days for the past few weeks. There has been no time for proper scheduling of work hours versus play hours because it all just has to get done and as a result our play hours have suffered.

And so, it seems, have my children.

I fully admit that the TV has been on too much, I have asked them to go play by themselves too much and my mind is always on a billion things at once and my phone or laptop never leaves my side. Little C has said to me on more than one occasion..."Mom, turn off your computer and come and play with us." and he has even modified it to, 'Mom, come play in my can even bring your computer with you." And I have said, "just one more email, or "just one more phone call", more times than I want to admit.

(heart breaks and sinks to stomach. BIG sigh.) 

So what is a Mama to do?

Something has to give. And soon. Because it can NOT be my kids anymore. We are all suffering because of this now and I don't want to continue like this.

I think I also need to re-read a few of my go-to books again:

Playful Parenting to get my head and myself back into the games (and off the computer all the time)!!

and Discipline without Distress to help us all find better solutions and ways to deal with attitude, anger and frustrations.

In the end, no amount of work, or anything else for that matter is ever going to be as important to me as my child. And perhaps {publicly} admitting that I am not doing such a great job at this Mommy gig at the moment is what I need to get me back on track.

Well that and I visual reminder too... of the very cute reasons why I get up in the morning...




Gentle Discipline - AKA 'Damage Control'.

I have a toddler and a pre-schooler. Discipline is a daily, if not hourly, part of my life. So when I heard that the Attachment Parenting Edmonton Society was bringing renowned Canadian speaker and author, Judy Arnall, to Edmonton to speak about gentle discipline, I bought a ticket to the event immediately.

Because I need help.

I don't spank my kids, but I have smacked hands and I have tried time outs, reward systems, 123 Magic and my biggest tool-my voice. Yes, I am a yeller. And now, both my kids are turning into yellers.

It typically goes down something like this. Mommy lets herself get to the point of anger and then yells at preschooler to do/not do something, preschooler sees this and then yells at toddler to do/not do something, toddler yells back at preschooler because she is frustrated and them Mommy yells at everyone to just STOP YELLING!!

You see the problem here right? VERY bad modeling of the desired behaviour. And trust me I see it too, I see it as it is happening and I don't know how to stop it!

At least I did not know until tonight.

Judy does an amazing job of breaking down kids into age groups and the reasons for why they behave the way they do and then gives some very simple and basic tools and rules for how to deal with said behaviour.

I have ordered her book (and a few others that she recommended) and until it gets here, here are a few of the take home points that I got from tonight's presentation.

  • Discipline means self-control and THAT is what we need to be teaching our kids.
  • You can't solve the problem, whatever it may be, until everyone is calm! Most of all YOU.
  • Children often need a parent to help them calm down, this is called a 'time-in'. (So, all the time I have been sending C to his room until he calms down--not really the best idea!)
  • When you learn to handle your anger, your children will see this and learn to handle theirs. **This was a big A-Ha moment for me!
  • Don't punish a toddler for having a tantrum, they are thinking it through and working it out the only way they know how.
  • From age 0-3 our job as parents in basically Damage Control. As in control the environment and control the situation, but never the kid. At this age they do not 'get' the rules or have any sense of self control.

And her lists of tools to use for each stage of the game:

  • For Babies 0-12 months - Use substitution, distraction, redirection and and prevention to handle discipline.
  • For Toddlers - Plan ahead, give attention, use positive commands, allow child his/her space, model the behaviour and in the end learn to accept it-it really is just a phase.
  • For Pre-schoolers - Use 'time-ins' and stay with your NO. Gives choices, make it a game, pick your battles and try to connect with your child first and then redirect them.
  • For School Age Children (where Judy says most of our parenting work really gets done) - Use 'I' statements, as in "I feel frustrated/sad/upset when you.....", model the desired behaviour, use active listening and acknowledge their feelings, clarify expectations and know when to walk away from a power struggle.

The biggest take home message for me tonight was that it all has to come from me. I am the one who needs to be calm in order to discipline my children effectively. Judy's last slide of the night said that the best discipline tool ever has good modeling and comes from a place of love. That any teaching we do sinks in only after everyone is calm and that this gentle way conveys unconditional love and sets us up to have honest, open and respectful relationships with our kids for a long time.

Tomorrow is a new day and I am going to go at this with a totally new mindset. I am going to try to be zen mama, I will find my calm before I attempt any kind of discipline (so this may mean some 'time-outs' for me) and hopefully we will start to see some changes around here, in terms of the yelling at least!

I'll keep you updated and let you know what is and what is not working for us!

Stay calm Mamas (and Dads), even in the stormiest of times.