Thursday, 21 February 2013

A Modern Mom’s Guide to Birthday Parties

Source: via Erica on Pinterest

When I was a kid, my parents used to host our birthday parties the way everyone else did: cram 30 of your closest friends and relatives into your home and feed them pizza and cheezies and homemade birthday cake. Then proceed to try and corral a bunch of sugar-high unruly children into playing games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey and some game my mom probably made up which involved holding a coin between your knees and seeing if you could walk five feet to drop it into an old pickle jar. Of course, when I was a kid, this was the epitome of awesome and most likely created a huge amount of stress for my parents.

Last year for my son’s first birthday party, we had a party at home with all the relatives who had an interest in attending. My husband and I cooked up a storm and stressed out as we planned the whole shindig, which we hosted at my parents’ house because our house is too small to host 35 people in February. It lasted for hours as everyone lingered and chatted and ate and hung out. It was great because that’s what you do for a first birthday party. Plus, I was just coming off a year of maternity leave and I was desperate to manage some kind of project to stimulate my brain. The party planning was the perfect integration for my brain to ease back into the working world.

Fast-forward one year. After spending months trying to keep my life balanced, my kitchen floor (relatively) clean and the clutter of toys in my basement under a semblance of control, I decided it was time for a new approach. This year, there was no way that I was going to cook and clean and have tons of people in my home to celebrate my son’s birthday. Not on top of trying to maintain work-life balance!

After an afternoon of research into local options, I found an awesome venue (Ethan’s Playground) which would have enough space for a whole whack of adults and lots of great stuff for toddlers to play with. They provide everything but the food and take care of mom and dad like royalty. I scheduled the party nice and early on a Saturday morning, so the whole thing would be over by noon. Just in time for a nice long nap after the party. And all the guests could still enjoy the rest of their day. Finally, I ordered a cake, threw together some loot bags and bought a bunch of food at Costco. Ta-da! Instant birthday party. No cooking, no clean-up, and all over in two hours. Everyone was happy, especially the birthday boy. And most importantly, the birthday boy’s mom.

Realistically, which this approach may have cost a bit more than having a party at home (but really not that much more), it was well worth the added expense. I’ve never organized a party that was less stressful. It was the perfect party for a two year old. I think as time goes on, this will continue to be my approach for kids’ birthday parties. The venue may change from year to year… but one constant will probably remain – it won’t be at my house!

That, my friends, is a short and sweet story about this modern mom’s guide to birthday parties – sealed with a KISS…keep it simple sweeties! Mwah!

Friday, 15 February 2013

The Biggest Loser

Valentine's Day is one of the most challenging days of the year at any age. When you're a kid at school, it's the popularity contest of who will get the most cards. When you're in the throes of teen angst and you are desperately hoping your crush will take advantage of the most romantic day of the year to return your love. When you're in a new relationship and you don't know just how far to take the romantic overtures. When you've been married for years and you both agree not to do anything on this crass, commercial excuse for a holiday but then one of you brings home flowers and the other doesn't. Or if you're single and wishing you had someone special to share the day with.

Personally I've always felt it's more important for the one you love to demonstrate romance on a regular basis than on one day of the year. My husband and I usually celebrate with hugs and kisses and the odd giant Toblerone bar. That's about it. And since my son's birthday falls a day before Valentine's Day, we put more of an emphasis on that celebration now.

However this year, I really fell flat on my face when I screwed up at daycare. Let me explain. It's become something of a thing that at every holiday, the parents give little presents to the other kids in their child's class. I missed the boat at Halloween when one mother gave all the kids toothbrushes. But at least I wasn't the only one. So at Christmas I gave each kid a little gift bag with some fun stuff in it. I really didn't think Valentine's Day was major enough to warrant more than the traditional little cards. Boy was I wrong.

When I dropped my son off and went to place our dinky little cards in each kid's cubby, I found a pile of goodies in my son's cubby. Shit. With no time to run out and get gifts for the kids I resigned myself to placing the lame cards in each box, noting the plethora of matchbox cars, play dough, stickers and bubbles, all wrapped up with cute Valentine themed packaging. Clearly I was the clueless mom this time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to compete with the other parents. I just felt terrible that my son came home with tons of loot without giving anything in return. I guess I just didn't think that at two years old, this was something important. I mean, let's face it, these kids have no idea what any of is about. It's the unwritten rules that are sometimes the hardest to follow. And apparently Valentine's Day is a big deal with the preschool set. It's not like I didn't walk by the Valentine's displays at Wal Mart a hundred times in the past month. I just didn't think it mattered. It does. Is it all a little overboard? Probably. But when I'm the only one who doesn't do something, I definitely feel like the biggest loser.

So I apologize to my son's classmates and I promise to make it up to them at Easter and heck, just for good measure, at St Patrick's Day too!

As I swallowed my pride and wrote thank you notes to the other parents, I hoped they wouldn't judge me and silently promised to do better next time.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Love Bites

As Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, I thought I would share a tale of love between toddlers. It all began (for me) with a phone call from the daycare this week, asking me if my son’s tetanus shots were up to date. Not the kind of question you want to hear from the daycare.

I immediately wondered if any of the children had rabies. Or perhaps there was a box of rusty nails lying around that they had been playing with. But it’s just not that kind of daycare (and I really hope there is no such daycare in existence).

As it happened, my son had been bitten by another child and the bite had broken the skin on his finger, so there was (as the accident report outlined) “blood to saliva contact.” Ew. Fortunately, both parties in the biting incident had up-to-date vaccinations, so it was a low-risk incident.

As per daycare protocol, the educator will not tell you who the biter was, nor will they tell the other parent who was the victim of the biting. However, toddlers have no filter and are very eager to rat out their friends. Plus, parents just know. Especially in my daycare, since all the parents work together.

The biter in this case, was my son’s daycare BFF, also known as “Buddy” (as he calls him). These two are both the biggest kids in their class and they both have very boisterous and dominant personalities. Since the beginning they have been inseparable friends – they love to hug each other, they get excited to see each other, and they can play together for hours on end. They are also, however, the first to fight with one another and scrap it out over toys. Usually, my son is the instigator who steals toys or crayons or play-doh from Buddy, who retaliates and defends himself with a bite.

Since September, my son has been bitten at least six times. I’m not sure if it’s always the same biter, but I know he’s been the perp on a few occasions. Nonetheless, I don’t feel like my son is the victim, because he almost always does something to cause the attack.

Anyhow, they are classic frenemies. They love each other, but they also love to hate each other.

When I received an e-mail of concern from Buddy’s mother last night, I just had to laugh. Because what else can you do? Toddlers go through phases and biting is completely normal. There are many reasons that toddlers bite but most often, it’s a question of frustration. For two-year-olds, communicating is a challenge and when they bite, they’re often expressing anger or fear.

My son used to bite too. Fortunately, I’ve never heard of him biting other children at daycare, but he most certainly bit me and his father on a number of occasions. In his case, once he had been bitten a few times himself, I think he learned not to do it to others. He has often gotten upset with us and in a moment of anger, would bare his teeth like a vampire about to strike and then stop himself.

Like most behavioural issues for toddlers, this is a phase. And just as other kids will eventually learn that biting is not a good way to take out their frustration, my kid will have to learn about sharing and playing nicely.

The beauty of this situation is that two year old boys rarely hold a grudge for very long. By the end of the day, when I picked up my son, he and Buddy were playing very nicely together. But not without a little remnant of the day’s earlier incident, as Buddy looked up at me with a remorseful expression and my son held up his finger and announced “Buddy bite! Bobo!”

The next morning, the two hugged each other happily and all was forgotten. Now that’s love!