Dear Kids Clothing Retailers From Parents Everywhere

(This post originally appeared on Huffington Post Parents)

My 7-year-old needs new shorts. The ones labeled 4-5 have lasted us two years but they are now worn and stained. We could probably squeeze one more summer out of them but there’s a high probability of a wardrobe malfunction at camp. So I went out and bought her a few more pairs of shorts from Gymboree. The label said 7 with a parenthesis saying 6-7 so I assumed they would fit. Wrong. Too big. (P.S. Gymboree, it’d be really helpful if you had a changing room so we could discover this before buying the shorts and coming home.) Then I realized that, this time last year, I did exactly the same thing. Bought her two pairs of shorts from Target labeled 6-6X. She was six at the time so I figured I was safe. But no, those were also big too and, for the record, we tried them on last week and they are still too big.

I always run into similar issues with pants in the fall with my son, now 9-years-old. He always seems to grow, like, a foot during the summer (an exaggeration, I know, but it’s always when they seem to shoot up) and the pants that fit him fine in the spring are now four inches too short. So out I go and blithely buy him pants that are sized to match his age. And every time I discover they are either enormous around the middle and/or a foot too long.

Now, before you say it, I know that kids come in all shapes and sizes. I happen to think my two are perfectly average. They don’t appear drastically taller/shorter/thinner/fatter that their peers. (I couldn’t tell you their percentiles because their pediatrician never tells us — he’s a firm believer in not labeling kids and I love him for it.) I also know that kids have random growth spurts. One day you can’t get more than a slice of cucumber in them. The next, they’re chowing down on an 8-oz steak and a gallon of milk.

So, dear retailers, here’s a plea from me and, I suspect, parents everywhere: please don’t label clothes aspirationally. I mean we all know that kids are going to grow — it’s their job. But I’d very much like to walk into a kids clothing store and purchase clothes with the confidence that, if it says 7, it’ll fit an average 7-year-old. At least until the next growth spurt. On the flip side, when you label things 8-10 (I’m looking at you Target), that’s way, way, way, too large a bet too hedge.

Because here’s the thing: kids are usually proud of their age. My 7-year-old does not want to have to wear clothes for 5- or 6-year-olds because the stuff labeled 7 won’t fit her until she’s 8 or 9. My 9-year-old doesn’t want to continue to wear pants labeled 7 because they are the only ones the fit his waist: but the ones labeled 8-10 could fit a giant, by comparison.

By the way, we kept my daughter’s new shorts even though they could drop down to her knees with one jiggle too many. Fortunately, we have safety pins that will have to keep them up until her 7-year-old body decides to expand sufficiently to fit these shorts labeled 6-7. Maybe by this time next year, they will fit.

Pacific Specific

Some hilarity during the car drive home today from school. It appears neither of my kids can wrap their teeth around pronouncing the word: “specific.” Their attempts included:

Pacific

Speficic

and such other mutations.

Then I asked the seven year-old to spell it. She thought, and then slowly and seriously said:

S-P-I-F-I-C-I-F-I-C

We laughed and laughed!

Separation Anxiety

Last week my kids offended me.

Not with any rude behavior or flatulence or other biological substances, but rather because they did not give one hoot that I was going away for a few days.

Yes yes I know. It’s a good thing. They are independent, confident, grounded, yadayadayada.

But please, surely one of them could have squeezed out a teeny tear? Or clung to me just for a moment? Maybe uttered the words, “don’t go?” I mean, no one even asked when I’d be back!

Have I done such a thorough job that they have no worries that their every need has been thought through, seen to, anticipated? I really should let something slip through the cracks next time.

Kids: here’s a tip from your loving mother. Please make her feel like you’ll miss her, even if it means faking it just a teeny weeny bit.

Australia

Guest post by Gabriel McGarry, aged 9. Dedicated to Hugo, Milo & Luca Friedman, his Australian cousins.

Australia is a great continent. In other words, going to Australia when it’s in winter in America is like going into a giant hot tub. Australia is a great continent because it has amazing animals and it has great foods. This essay will persuade you that Australia is fantastic.

For example, there are super unusual animals like a white cockatoo and a ququliegh (sp?) bird. Both are so strange. Also kangaroos are unusual because they jump really high. The highest jumping kangaroo is the grey kangaroo that jumps 20 feet high. That’s big. The longest jumping kangaroo is the red kangaroo with a 12 feet jump. That’s long!

Also, my classmate McKayla mentioned that Australia is a great continent. She learned that Australia has animals that no other continent has. One of them is a koala. McKayla knows a lot of information about Australian animals.

Australia is a great continent. For example, it has awesome foods. French fries are in almost every restaurant. One restaurant called Mr. Wolf had so much French fries and pizza. The French fries tasted like fried potatoes and the pizza tasked like pizza.

It is true that Australia is a country and a continent. I hope that everyone goes to Australia in their lifetime.

Why Australia is a great continent

 

 

The Understudy

Guest post by Tarah Cammett

Writing for me has always been simple.  A therapy of the mind.  A way to release my past.  Process breakups and major life changes.  Throw it out there in the Universe and remove it from my spirit.  What I have realized as I have tried to write about my experiences so far of being a ‘Stepmother’ – or ‘Understudy’ as I so often refer to it, is that I’m struggling.  Greatly.  It’s easy to write about the past; things that no longer exist or serve me anymore.  It is however, extremely difficult to write about something deeply personal and ever present in my day to day life.  More so, how do I possibly encapsulate all that I have experienced?  How this has changed me?  How wonderful and frightening it’s all been.  I can’t.  Not in a simple blog post but I have to start somewhere.  So consider this a Preface.  An introduction.  Perhaps this will be a breakthrough and a journey into a new place as a writer.  Perhaps it will be an utter disaster.  You’ll have to be the judge.

About a year and a half ago I was coming off the tail end of my own version of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and unwinding from an incredible spiritual journey of the soul.  I had spent months traveling, talking, seeking.  Hours on therapy couches and a lot of time spent with an overly priced Shaman (which by the way was worth every penny).  My mind was at peace.  I finally felt at rest, that I had let these ‘things’ that had followed me around, plaguing me, go.  I had discovered acceptance in the not knowing and in the just being.  I was fiercely content or more so adamant about being alone and savoring every moment of it.  It was of course, in that moment, that my now husband walked into my life and brought with him his wee 1-yr old baby girl.

My life for all of its chaos has always been very controlled.  Well, because I have controlled it.  Controlled chaos.  Maybe even on some levels planned chaos.  But I didn’t plan them.  I didn’t plan on him regardless of the secret hope of one day finding someone who my soul sort of melted into but I most certainly did not plan her.

He was easy.  Every day that we spent together I fell more and more.  He became funnier.  Smarter.  Sexier. The boy that I had assured would never be anything more than a ‘buddy’ and/or ‘lover’, I found myself wanting to rush home from work to see.  He was just there, and never left and it was as if we had always been.  It just made sense.  And then, well, then I was introduced to his daughter.  She wasn’t what got me – regardless of how beautiful she was, it was the way he was with her.  So hyper conscious.  So madly in love.  So gentle and patient.  Nail in the coffin.  I was a goner.  There is nothing sexier than a good father.

She and I weren’t so easy at first.  It wasn’t that children made me uncomfortable.  I love kids.  I have god babies and nephews and until I met the Peanut they were the center of my Universe.  It was that upon meeting her I realized that I had to shift what I understood of love.  I knew in an instant that I would have to accept my place in my husband’s heart.  I would never be first.  And that was something that I had never experienced.  There would always be someone ahead of me.  It was something my ego wasn’t accustomed to.  Maybe in the beginning I was weary of her because of that.  Or because she was so painfully shy she didn’t immediately come running into my arms.  Perhaps it was the horrible relationship he had with her mother that I internally projected distaste for on to her.  All I can express, if I was to be completely truthful was that it wasn’t love at first sight.  For either of us.

It was ultimately a slow evolution of learning about unconditional love in a way that I had not yet known.  Getting to know a person, who is older and has sort of worked out their idiosyncrasies is one thing.  Getting to know an infant who’s changing every instant is another.  It was like navigating a mine field.  Ok.  It still is.  As a parent, it’s your choice and there’s a sort of genetic bond that prods you through.  As a ‘stepparent’ it’s a bit different.  This little intruder kind of appears and you’re supposed to just love them.  I guess in writing that, I just realized it is the same for any type of parent – genetic or not.  Perhaps it’s just that as a ‘stepparent’ I found myself being hyper cautious, and hyper positive.  Both of which made me feel off kilter.

Not long into it I found this weird ‘instinct’ I wasn’t aware existed.  I knew what her cries meant.  I knew what we should do for her.  I would always wake up 5 minutes before I would hear her on the monitor and wait knowing that she was about to wake as well.  As we adjusted to each other we began to play and laugh and every time I got her to smile or giggle my heart melted as my internal ego high fived herself at the minor accomplishment.  I found myself personalizing her whims less.  It’s ok if she wanted Daddy instead of me. It just makes the times that she does ask for me all the more sweet.  She became my first thought in the morning.  My last thought at night.  Her well-being.  Her future.  Loving her made me feel closer to him.  We had a shared goal.  Her existence.

Well, and then I became the cliché.  Poopy diapers, booger filled noses.  Singing weird made up random songs that made her laugh uncontrollably.  Reading books in funny accents and making silly faces to combat hers.  We became a couple.  The same way that two stranger’s sort of fall in love I guess.  Losing inhibitions, slowly being yourself.  Getting to know one another and then finally just realizing that everything weird about them is something great about you.

It’s not to say that this love isn’t without struggle.  I despise the word ‘stepmother’ or ‘stepchild’.  I don’t think of her as something in lieu of.  She’s part of my soul circle.  Souls travel in circles throughout lifetimes to find each other again and I believe she found me early on in this one because I’m supposed to teach her something.  But what?  Sometimes that thought plagues me.  I have no creepy notions that I’m her ‘true’ mother.  She has a mother.   I respect her mother’s genetic and emotional role.  I have no desire to replace it, circumvent it, or trump it.  I just want to be a positive force in her Universe as well.  Someone that she believes in.  Yes, when we’re at the grocery and the cashier wants to recap the perils of childbirth and gives me the, “Well you remember what that was like…” line, do I nod in vaginal unity?  Of course.  It’s easier.  But I am not her mother.  Maybe that does hurt on some level given my affinity for her but maybe what hurts more is that I don’t know how to ‘label’ our relationship.  To find a word, or a phrase that encapsulates it so that when it’s said people nod knowingly – that’s what I would like.    A word that means more than ‘step’ anything.

There was a moment a couple months back.  She and I had been dancing in the kitchen (we do that often).  It had just been one of those fantastic weekends where we laughed and played all weekend, everything was just happy.  We were packing her up to return her to mother’s.  It’s always a shit feeling that sweeps over hubs and I.  We don’t want it to end, but it is what it is and in essence the only way the Peanut has ever known.  I digress.  I was on my knees giving her kisses, telling her how much I loved her and that I would miss her and how proud I was of her and she began stroking my hair, then my cheeks.  “Mama” she said.  “Yes, you’re going to see Mama in a few minutes and you’re going to have so much fun with her” I responded.  She shook her head no.  She again stroked my cheeks and said, “Mama” and she stared intently into my eyes.  I knew what she meant.  It was her way of acknowledging my presence as a maternal figure in her life, she of course wasn’t calling me her mother. It was the only way at two years old she knew how to express herself.  I cried for pretty much a solid three hours after she left, just out of love, and wonder, and maybe a twinge of sadness.  I’m quite sure when I saw her a few days later she put out her hand and told me to, “Go!” so that she could be alone with Daddy but that’s how it works.  The ebb and flow.

I can’t possibly write about all of this in any succinct logical way.  One day I was wild and single and the next day I was picking out a crib and baby proofing a house.  I could create 80 chapters on each moment, emotion, phase, understanding, point of being, crushing moment of sadness, elation….you name it.  For now, I know this.  You are always exactly where you are supposed to be.  My husband brought me a beautiful gift.  A dowry if you will.  He brought me a teacher.  Someone who will challenge all that I have and will come to know and see of this world and myself every single day.  She might not be mine but god dammit she is part of my tribe and I will do whatever I can to protect her and to give her light.  My compass broke a long time ago so I’m navigating by moon phases, toddler emotions, laughter and levels of exhaustion but somehow, I still wake up every morning excited at what the sounds of the monitor will bring.  So I’m going with it.

Thanks for listening.

Tarah is a hippie corporate sell-out Marketing Director by day and a soul seeking Moon follower by night, hiding away in a tiny town by the ocean.

tarah

My Kid’s 8 Illogical Picky Eating Habits

Much like me, my daughter loves logic. She likes it when everything follows its designated order and structure. So I find myself perpetually bewildered by her highly illogical picky eating habits which include:

  • Only eating corn on the cob, never off the cob
  • An aversion to most spherical fruits and vegetables including grapes, blueberries and cherry tomatoes
  • “Dry” meatballs
  • Orange cheese only in the form of a square, not in tube/string cheese shape
  • A dislike for raspberries (seriously, how can anyone not love raspberries?)
  • Only muffins that resemble store-made muffins (even though my home-made ones are so much better)
  • Only chocolate sauce – never apple sauce or tomato sauce
  • Peanut butter NO jelly

Now, I’m not a short-order chef when it comes to our family’s meals but I do try to accommodate her, when it makes sense and doesn’t require too much effort. After all this is the girl who is also a self-professed broccoli machine, loves meat/chicken/fish and drinks milk by the gallon.

But seriously, an aversion to spherical fruits and vegetables? That’s just weird.

 

After The Car Crash & What My Kids Are Teaching Me

I could write about how a nanosecond can shatter your self-confidence, rendering you emotionally and physically fragile.

I could write about how I feel like puking at every intersection I encounter when driving.

I could write about my stiff back and bruised clavicle.

I could write about the depths of fear at the possibility of my kids being in harm’s way. And the goosebump-inducing, engulfing relief that they were not hurt.

I could write about the bewildering amount of paperwork and phone calls associated with insurance and personal injury claims.

Instead, I am going to write about what I can learn from how my kids’ have responded to and dealt with last Tuesday’s car crash, when we were T-boned at the traffic lights near our home.

Everyone says that kids are resilient but seeing this in action is remarkable. Yes, there were screams and panic in the moment. Followed by tears and anxiety in the hours following. But there’s no evidence of trauma or emotional scarring. They accept what happened. They understand it’s not normal, that is was the exception, not the rule. They show no fear getting back in the car with me. They defend their Mother. They trust in me.

As we drove our new car home last night from the dealership, my youngest said “It feels good to be in this car.” This, for me, was the most reassuring moment of the past seven days. I too must accept that what happened, and not judge or doubt myself. I must get over my fear. I must trust in me.

 

Seven!

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On this day, seven years ago, you arrived – two weeks early. You’ve not been early for anything ever since.

You are my funny girl, my ray of feisty sunshine, my karate ninja, my pop diva.

You know your own mind & I love that.

You can now read (oh the places you will go!)

You are blissfully unaware of your beauty. Your exquisite almond eyes and deep red lips.

You love love love your “rocky” music. And you move like Jagger.

You are my concert companion: first Bruno Mars, then Maroon 5. (Sshhh, there’s more in store this summer!)

Your appetite has grown as your beautiful body (that I made) has lengthened & strengthened. But you still consume food molecule by molecule. Meatballs, Mac & cheese, milk and chocolate rule your world. You are a broccoli machine. But NO SAUCE. Sauce is evil.

Your remain loyal to your main man Optimus Prime, but welcome his pals from Hero Factory, Lego Chima, and Ninjago. And Pokemon, of course.

You still want to be vet when you grow up. Or a pop star. Or a normal person.

You’ve mostly conquered your fear of new toilets.

You still burp like a beer-swilling trucker. (Grown men have been known to snort with laughter upon hearing such sounds emanate from one so small and cute.)

I’m training you to load the dishwasher to my exacting standards (this thrills me!)

You still maintain a freakish mental database of everyone’s ages and birthdays.

Most of all, you love to snuggle and give the tightest hugs!

Happy 7th birthday, my T!

 

Encouraging Children to “Follow Their Grief” When A Pet Dies

(As many of you know, our golden retriever Angel passed away last December and, for me, one of the hardest parts was observing my kids’ grief and supporting them through it – an ongoing process, for sure. When Lisa reached out to me with a proposal to contribute a post on this very this topic, I said “yes please!”)

Guest post by Lisa Cohn

When our Golden Retriever, Lucy, died suddenly a year ago, I was devastated. I couldn’t sleep or eat. Every part of my daily routine felt empty without her—walking in my neighborhood, shopping in a dog-friendly store, or playing with my son in the park.

For my children, age 4, 14 and 24, Lucy’s passing was their first close experience with death. They looked to me to understand how to cope. My youngest, Michael, didn’t understand what death was.

Again and again, I encouraged them to follow their grief, to avoid pushing it away, and to see where their feelings of sadness and vulnerability took them. I tried to model this philosophy—and hope, in doing so, I didn’t overwhelm them with my own sadness. I cried every day, talked about Lucy to my friends, and engaged in conversations with people on the street about dogs they had lost.

Interestingly, my youngest, Michael, was most open to and accepting of my sadness. He listened to me, held my hand, and reminded me over and over that I had “three other babies,” (my three children). To him, Lucy was another one of my children.

Our family’s efforts to cope with grief over the loss of “my other child” focused on art, writing and communicating with others. First, we gathered photos of Lucy and posted them on Facebook and talked about our loss. It was comforting to hear from all our dog-loving friends.

Next, we created a few collages of Lucy, and hung them up in high-traffic areas of our house.

We also organized a “Remembering Lucy” party. We invited our friends and people who had cared for Lucy over the years. I thought it was especially important for Michael’s preschool friends to attend this event because they had all played every day with her on the playground (She happily went down the slide with them, which endeared her to them).

During the “Remembering Lucy” event, we shared stories about and photos of Lucy. I was touched by our friends’ and neighbors’ passion for dogs, and their comments about how much dogs give to them. Some of Michael’s friends spoke up, sharing stories about playing with her on the playground. And my 24-year-old son’s friends surprised me with their comments. One young man said he was always jealous of the fact that we had such a great dog. Another young man said that whenever he babysat Michael, Lucy guarded the two of them closely.

I believe our “Remembering Lucy” event deepened my kids’ understanding of the gifts our “best friends” give us. It certainly strengthened mine.

Following my grief also led me to write a children’s book, along with Michael, that stars Lucy. This helped us keep her alive in our hearts. Michael and I even started Skyping with classes globally, encouraging them to express their grief through writing and other art forms.

“Follow your grief,” is the message we send over and over. We followed ours, and it led us to Skype with children from all over the world—kids who touch us daily with their emails, letters and enthusiasm for pets.

Writing, organizing a Remembering Lucy party and Skyping with kids globally has impacted Michael the most. There’s only one way to deal with death, in his mind: Share your feelings publicly.

Just the other day, his friend’s dog died. “Let’s help them write a book about their dog,” he said. “That will make them feel better.”

 

Lisa Cohn, along with her son, Michael, are co-authors of the award-winning children’s book, “Bash and Lucy Fetch Confidence,” and were recently featured on the Today Show for Michael’s love of books and his role in writing the book. Visit them at www.BashAndLucy.com

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Wanted: Me Time

Like most busy Moms, the tradeoff for all the joy of motherhood and family life is the loss of “me time.” And we all know and read about the need for self-care: if we don’t look after ourselves, then how can maintain our multi-tasking superMom status for everyone else?

I don’t blame my kids, my husband or my full-time job. In fact, my husband, knowing me as well as he does, often asks me what am I going to do for myself each weekend. I’ve tried my hardest to make “me time” a priority at the weekends; sometimes it works, more often than not, it’s 30 mins grabbed here or there that, in truth, doesn’t amount to much of anything in the way of soul-soothing.

Truth is, there’s just not enough weekend in the weekend for “me time.”

So this morning, I decided it was time to take some action. I am demanding one whole Saturday per quarter for me and me alone. Because I need a whole 12 hours to unwind my mind and body. To do things for me. At my pace and to my agenda.

I am claiming my “me time” because I need to know that it’s there, carved out on the family schedule. It’s something to look forward to, to plan for. To decompress the depleting stress that creeps up on my brain and rattles my sleep. To recharge my silly.

I know that everyone will benefit from my “me time.” Not just me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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