Motherhood

How we're handling screen time

1705_boys_screentime 

I had strong thoughts about how we'd handle screen time with our kids even before I was pregnant. I'd love to share an update on how we're handling screen time with the boys. 

In short, they get very limited screen time and our approach is essentially as I imagined it would be. Among my in-person and online friend circles my sense is that our family is among those that have the most restrictive screen time rules with their kids. I wanted to share our approach to screen time not to make anyone feel guilty about the screen time their kids have. Just like anything parenting related that I share, my intention is to be honest about how we're handling something that can have many options. This is how we're choosing to approach screen time right now, and it will surely change as the boys get older. 

Our approach to screen time for the boys is based on how I grew up (no television was allowed on the weekdays), how Chris and I currently consume media via screens, what I've read about the importance of active versus passive activities for kids, and also just my own parent gut feeling. Trying to synthesize the different articles, studies, and recommendations about screen time for kids leads me to believe that there are wonderful, age-appropriate programs and games for kids. And that allowing them to watch or play these within reason* is not detrimental to their development. However, I haven't read a study that says that it's MORE beneficial for a child to be using a screen versus not using a screen. For us the conclusion is we'd rather create an environment with very limited screen time. It's certainly not the only conclusion. 

But the boys don't have a completely screen-free life. Here are the ways our boys do get screen time right now at ages 2 and 4:

+ During haircuts.

Chris cuts the boys hair every 4 - 8 weeks at home. So far the most reliable way to get the boys to sit still is to let them watch something on the computer. During haircuts Dash has watched part of The Incredibles movie and parts of Lego movie. More recently we have put on episodes of Sesame Street for them and I'd love to show them Reading Rainbow, which I still have vivid memories of watching and loving.

+ During airplane flights.

We fly about once a year with the boys, usually a two-hour flight to Austin. We pack lots of activities and snacks but queue up a couple shows and games as plan B. Cedric is only just now getting to the age when watching something might hold his attention.

+ To see pictures of themselves or friends.

When we take pictures of the boys they usually want to see the picture we took so we'll show them. Sometimes that leads to swiping through pictures but it'll only be for a couple of minutes. 

+ At school.

In Dash's preschool class they occasionally watch short videos related to what they are learning. Dash is also enrolled in a preschool computer class that is offered through his school. He attends once a week for about an hour. I don't feel it's essential that he learns how to use a computer at this age but he really enjoys it so we've been happy for him to go. Cedric gets very limited screen time at school. 

+ At grandparent's houses.

When we visit my parents in Austin or when Dash has a sleep over at Chris's parents we let the boys watch a movie or show. 

By limiting screen time our intention is to teach them to be resourceful about entertainment and inspiration. When they are old enough to choose how to live their lives and how much time to spend watching screen-based programs I hope we've given them a foundation for being more likely to choose a book or to be outside or to hang out with friends rather than passively consuming via a screen. I am not saying that letting your kids use screens means they won't read or be outside or have friends. But I do feel concern over the amount of television Americans watch on average (5 hours PER DAY) and also the effects that it can have on health and happiness (a blog post that Chris wrote but with some great references linked). We're biased, of course, because we chose to ditch our television. But then what is parenting if not instilling the values you deem important in your kids?

I'll admit that at times I have thought, "It would be so much easier if I could let them watch something right now!" Although ultimately allowing regular screen time actually feels like it would be much more difficult rather than essentially never allowing screen time. In instances where we've shown the boys pictures on our phone or when they have been able to watch a video they has asked for more pictures and more videos. Usually a "no" from us leads to whining or a melt down. So in our house no screen time also means one less thing that might cause a melt down. This feels significant! 

I remember when Dash was around 18 months or 2 years old when he first started noticing our phones. We would show him a picture occasionally or a Blue's Clues episode. This was around the time when Cedric was born AND when Dash was waking at 4 AM most days and sometimes we really did need a way to get Dash to sit quietly in one spot for a few minutes. However, this led to Dash being even more interested in our phones and getting upset when he couldn't hold it or watch something. It reinforced our thinking that essentially no screen time is just easier to manage than some screen time. 

 

* The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends no screen time except video chatting for children 18 months and under. They recommend and hour or less of high-quality programming watched with a parent or caregiver for children ages 2 - 5. 


What I want to remember vol. 5

What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING

What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING

I'm overdue for a roundup of things I want to remember about the boys. Right now my boys are 4 years old and 2 years old and this is what I want to remember: 

The way Cedric always has a song in his heart. He'll be chattering along and then burst into song as if it was the natural next part of the conversation. In current rotation: "Finkle, finkle little tar," "Hello, how do you do?" "Baby shark, do doo, do doo doo," and "Five little ducks went out one day..." I've often told him that he has a song in his heart and the other day he looked at me with a beaming smile and said, "I have a song in my heart."

Dash being such a sweet big brother - hugging Cedric, scratching his back, and patiently asking, "Well, what DO you want?" when Cedric is having a two-year-old moment. 

Watching Dash do the Magnetic MightMind game and watching his mind work. 

Cedric's toddler meltdowns being a bit easier to manage/handle than Dash. Perhaps it's the personality difference, or that this isn't our first toddler rodeo. Or maybe both. Thankful either way. 

How wild and riled up the boys can get. Separately my boys have energy but together - whew! I love how much they love to wrestle and play, especially with Chris.

Cedric's beloved stuffed animal cat, Sevy. When Cedric stayed with my sister-in-law while we adventured in the PNW he fell in love with their cat. For Christmas my sister-in-law gave him a stuffed animal cat that looks just like their Siamese cat and for his birthday he got another stuffed animal cat. He calls them both Sevy and sleeps with both every night.  

Cedric's bedtime routine: reading books with him lounging in my lap, saying "night night" to the characters in the book we're reading, gathering him in my arms, getting a last drink of water, and depositing him into bed. As I lay him down he just grins, and sometimes even chuckles, so happy to be going into his crib. He turns onto his belly, gathers his night-night (blanket) and two Sevy cats underneath him and then tucks in his feet. I pull his shirt down to over his lower back, cover his with a blanket and tuck him in, pat his little bum and say, "I love you," and leave the room. He says, "Bye-bye, Mama," as I leave.

Cedric tucking his little fists under his shirt and then suddenly revealing them with a big "TA DA!"

All the audiobooks we listen to in the car. (I mentioned a few of them here.)

Finding Dash in the front room cleaning up all the toys, unasked, after I had put Cedric to bed.

Cedric bursting into tears at the sight of a suited-up firefighter at a birthday fire station tour. 

How excited the boys get for new library books.

Dash loving being read chapter books before bed. He especially loved Amy Namey in Ace Reporter, Stuart Little, and Three Tales of My Father's Dragon (just a few word like "hate" and "whip" that we change on the fly).

Cedric's constant commentary as we drive to and from daycare each day: "I see sunset!" "I see bus!" "New road, new houses, guys!"(when we pass a neighborhood being built) "Fire engine!" "Mis-mis lights!" (christmas lights)

How happily each of the boys runs to their daycare classrooms each day. Around December drop-offs suddenly became so much easier and happier with Cedric. 

After his birthday, Cedric thinking the two candles we light at dinner time are for him.

How focused and intent Dashiell is when he is coloring. When we pick him up at preschool he's often completely absorbed. Often he'll stick his tongue out to the side of his mouth.

Explaining to Cedric the day after his birthday that it's not his birthday any more. Cedric taking matters into his own hands and bursting into, "Happy birthday to Thedic!"

 Cedric being Zingo obsessed. Just a few minutes after waking up he'll look into my eyes and say, "Mama, want to play Thingo?"

Enjoying taking Dash on outings. He's such an awesome sidekick. 

Dash's growing pains.

The earnest look of their shining brown eyes.

The way Cedric says, "Oh-tay."

Eating out at restaurants as a whole family and finding that it's something we can actually do and enjoy now - hip hip!

 

 

P.S. What I want to remember posts from the archives


A date night trick

A date night trick | RISING*SHINING

When Chris and I have a date night planned I find the time leading up to the date night a tiny bit stressful. We're trying to get the house tidy, prep the boys' dinner, get pajamas out, and get ready ourselves. On top of that the boys started getting clingy and emotional when we would leave them with a babysitter. A crying child is not the ideal way to start a fun and relaxing date night.

Enter: the snack pack. Based on the logic that a little treat can go a long way with toddlers and preschoolers, we started putting together little cups of fun snacks for babysitter nights. I randomly put two snack cups together one night before a babysitter came and we must have had cookies or graham crackers on hand, which we don't normally buy. I told the boys that I had "snack packs" for them but only when we were leaving the house. Instead of crying children we were able to leave our babysitter with delighted and engaged children. It was amazing. Now when we tell the boys we're having a babysitter they ask, "Do we get a snack pack?" Yes you do.

A snack pack doesn't have to be overly indulgent or unhealthy. The two key components are to have variety (at least three different kinds of snacks) and novelty. A few things the boys have found in their snack packs include a fruit leather bar, a granola bar, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, a few chocolate chips, peanut butter Puffins cereal, or small cookies (like the Trader Joe's dark chocolate mint stars in the photo above - one of my seasonal favorites!).

They always did great with a babysitter even when there were tearful goodbyes but they would seem to dread the evening. Now they are excited to have a babysitter and we love having a happy transition while we leave the house. Hooray date night!


The Women's March | January 21, 2017

The Women's March | RISING*SHINING

On Saturday morning I bundled up (which counts as a few layers plus a fleece here in Arizona), kissed Chris and my boys goodbye, and headed downtown for the Phoenix Women's March. On the way I stopped to have a poster made of the awesome graphic shared by Joanna, which I also had printed in a smaller size to frame. 

I hadn't been sure what to expect but when I got downtown the parking lots were full and people were streaming towards the capitol. Young people, old people, families, people of all colors and abilities. I nearly started crying! At the capitol I met up with friends, took in the scene and marched through downtown. It was my first political protest and it was such a positive and invigorating experience. Throughout the day I saw pictures from friends or on social media of marches around the country - and the world! My own aunt and uncle marched in Paris. It was inspiring and powerful.

Here is what I wrote in my own social media posts about why I marched:

"Marching for equality, kindness and love. And because while our country is divided on some issues I reject the notion that we are "carnage." If we were we would not have had a peaceful transfer of power between two vastly different ideologies or peaceful protests across the country showing resilience. I am proud of our country and committed to being engaged to make it better."

Posting about something political on my blog makes me feel a little anxious. Not because I'm afraid to talk about politics or that I don't have strong opinions. But because I'd prefer to talk to you about politics and these very important issues over coffee and when I can listen to what you have to say, too. Social media is such a one way conversation and that's not the kind of conversation I want to have, or that we need to have.

But.

I decided I did want to share this experience because I feel that it is so important, and because this space is where I chronicle my life and thoughts. Participating in the Women's March is something that is going to stay with me. So is choosing action and I want to share how I'm going forward.

To choose action I am committing to:

+ Saving the phone numbers of my U.S. and state elected officials to my phone. I've saved the U.S. senators and representative numbers already and have made use of them. This week I'll save those for my state representatives. 

+ Calling my U.S. and state elected officials each twice per month. I'm thinking I'll alternate Fridays: one Friday I'll call my U.S. officials, the next I'll call my state officials. 

+ Subscribing to email list serves for organizations I want to support. I've already signed up for several including the Arizona Democrats, Arizona Planned Parenthood and the NAACP. I also the a weekly email from Wall of Us

+ Making donations throughout the year. Chris and I budgeted $600 for donations this year. (We chatted about our entire 2017 budget in a recent Matrimoney episode.)

+ Staying informed. The abundance of fake and skewed news (from both sides) is alarming and infuriating. Although I've mostly disconnected from the news I do want to find ways to stay aware. I get theSkimm daily and subscribe to Slate Political Gabfest (admittedly has a liberal bias, probably why I like it), Pantsuit Politics (many of you recommended this to me, thank you, LOVE it! Highly recommend, includes views from the left and right) and NPR Politics. I haven't been listening much since the election but maybe I'll tune back in. I also have an online subscription to the New York Times. 

+ Share what I'm doing and stay accountable. I have a circle of friends who I've been texting what I plan to do. We've agreed to keep checking in with each other to be sure we're following through on what we committed to. Sharing my commitments here also makes me feel accountable.

Do you have any other ideas for me or tips on what makes the biggest impact? 

If you feel energized and moved to take action I encourage you to make concrete plans for what you want to do. Then tell a friend and hold yourselves accountable. Sharing an article, picture or video on social media feels good but if that's where the action stops it doesn't achieve much. We can't confuse sharing an article that supports our views with taking action. Change comes from conversations, phone calls, donations, showing up, volunteering and voting.


Conversations with Dashiell & Cedric

D_c_driving

Cedric is officially joining these posts! Mostly everything he says is cute right now but he's had a couple zingers that I've been able to write down and remember. He seems to have good comedic timing already and loves doing little "bits" once he sees that he's making us laugh. Right now there's a lot of poo humor. :)

We haven't quite hit the stage where the boys are having long conversations together although I think it's super close. Ah, can't wait to hear what they'll have to say to each other.

Here's what Dashiell and Cedric have been saying lately...

A few Dash-isms that we love so much
This day = today 
Last day = yesterday, or last week
Next day = tomorrow

How Dashiell spelled his name out loud for a long time
D-A-S-H-I-E-L-L-L

Me: Good night.
Dash: Be careful in your bed...

Me: Do you know any facts about dinosaurs?
Dash: Dinosaurs have fossils in their belly!

Dash: I'm fast like emergency!

Dash: I'm not 3. I'm 61.

Dash: I want you to have another popsicle so your belly can get big like mine.

Chris has trained both boys to respond with "the bomb!" when he starts, "Daddy is the..." On a recent morning Chris made Dashiell hot chocolate at his request. But he made a pretty big mug, which Dash drank quickly and then complained of a stomach ache...
Dash: Daddy's not the bomb anymore...

Dash: We don't say poopy butt. (He's told me this several times. Ahem)

Me: How did you sleep?
Dash: Five.

Dash: There's a thousand dollars of sand in the bathtub!

Dash: After I turn 3 - you're not going to like this - I'm going to turn 4. And you're never going to see me because I'm going to be taller than you.

Me: Dash, what do you call your blanket?
Dash: Judy.
(have never heard him call it that before or since)

Dash: I'm sweaty. I need a snack. Sweaty means I'm hungry.

Dash: Don't put up your windows Daddy, or you can fall out of the car.

After bedtime one night Dash, looking very sad, walked into the front room where we were. He had one arm pulled into his shirt (a new trick)...
Dash: I'm sad because I don't have an arm.

Dash: I have chemicals in my office
(no idea on this one)

Me: What woke you up?
Dash: Well, my brain!

Dash: When I grow up, I'm going to be a T. Rex.

Dash: I have million. I'm giving away dollars.

We were playing hide and seek from Chris. I was hiding in a closet with the boys and we were pretending to be scared of Chris finding us.
As he pushes Cedric out of the closet...
Dash: Go Cedric, be brave. 

Me: Cedric, what do we have for Thanksgiving?
Cedric: Horses!

When we turned on the windshield wipers...
Dash: That's the car's tears!

Me: Dash, what's the biggest number you can think of?
Dash: ...38!

Dash: Where ever you are, you are with me.

Me: Dash, what's the most important thing.
Dash: To love your family.

Cedric: Toots, guys!

More conversations with Dashiell & Cedric