Parenting questions not covered in the manual

by DaniGirl on September 24, 2007 · 21 comments

in Mothering without a licence

So I was reading through the operating manual that came with my kids last night (what, you don’t have one?) and I realized that there are a few pages that have fallen out over the years. Or been yanked out. Or been used to draw pictures of Luke Skywalker locked in mortal combat with SpongeBob Square Pants.

And since I don’t have the definitive answer on these questions, and since I’m just making this shit up as I go along, and since you mostly seem to – at least collectively – know what you’re doing, I’m opening these questions up to the bloggy peeps.

  1. How do you respond to a three year old who insists “But I don’t WANT a baby brother!” while glancing balefully at your gestating belly? Somehow, my current response of “Too bad, you’re getting one” doesn’t seem terribly sympathetic.
  2. At what age do you switch your kids over from the happy, primary-coloured, endlessly durable Ikea plates and bowls to stoneware (read: breakable) plates? And how old is too old for a sippy cup? I’m thinking twelve?
  3. Is it okay to let them beat the snot out of each other? Part of me wants to quell any act of physical violence, even play wrestling, before it gets out of hand, but another part of me recognizes that they are boys, and boys have this odd need to exert their physicality, and while I don’t want to turn them into wimps I also don’t want to nursing black eyes and running to the ER for stitches any more frequently than I have to, which I already suspect will be rather regularly over the next 15 years or so.
  4. How do you know when you’ve crossed the line between building self-esteem and creating an egomaniac? Is it bad to occasionally want to bust your five year old down a few pegs when it seems like he’s maybe a little bit too assured of his place at the head of the household and centre of the universe?
  5. If you had a hypothetical three and a half year old boy who, hypothetically of course, took late to potty training, and then when he finally mastered it developed some really odd quirks about pooping, inasmuch as he would not poop AT ALL, in the potty nor in a diaper, without resistance and crying and hysterics at EVERY SINGLE bowel movement, and say this went on for TWENTY days, but on the 21st day, that child nothing-short-of-miraculously hopped up on the potty and pooped right in front of you, as you were hypothetically just getting out of the shower, no less, and pooped with a complete absence of fanfare as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and you nearly cried with the relief of it, and then at around 2 pm that day the same poor child developed diarrhea, and pooped in his underwear three times in twelve hours to his own complete bewilderment and dismay… would you curl up in a ball on the floor and weep for fear that this poor hypothetical child would NEVER get over his newly developed poop issues?

Clearly, I’m in dire need of an updated version of my parenting manual. Or some therapy. Maybe both.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris (Mombie) September 24, 2007 at 8:29 am

I have no idea about the poop issues, we are still doing battle with those over here.

For the baby talk and the fighting, I would suggest picking up the ‘other’ manual – ‘How to talk so kids will listen, how to listen so kids will talk’ by Faber and Mazlish. I originally snickered at the implied cheery pollyanna-ness of the whole thing but there was a lot of useful talking techniques in there.

For example, you could respond to ‘But I don’t want a baby brother’ with ‘Hmm, it can be scary when things change can’t it?’ and see what he says.

They handle the fighting issue too, but the only thing I can remember is that you are supposed to ask them if they are both having fun (i.e. is it a play fight?) and if so let them carry on. I can’t quite remember what you are supposed to do in a real fight situation.

I think I took notes on the book, if I can fidn them I will send them to you.

2 andrea from the fishbowl September 24, 2007 at 8:54 am

I’m not touching your poop issues, but I vote for bringing the stoneware out now. Every kid needs to know how to use “real” dishes at some point. Your boys are totally old enough. Just show them how to carry them (always with both hands holding the rim) and no balancing acts with half-empty milk glasses on it when clearing the table!

About a year and a half ago I bought a new glass soap dispenser for the downstairs bathroom. There was some hand-wringing. Should we use it? Is it dangerous? Will someone drop it and will it shatter into a zillion pieces? Well, we’ve been using it all this time and nothing has ever happened.

Sometimes I think we worry too much.

3 b*babbler September 24, 2007 at 8:55 am

I have no real concrete answers to this, with the Peanut being 11 months old and all, but I had a good laugh at #4. I’ve felt this way about a friend’s daughter, where I just feel like bringing her back to down to earth. Just a little bit. Righting the balance of the universe if you will.

Good luck with restoring the missing pages of your parenting manual.

4 daysgoby September 24, 2007 at 9:13 am

1. Truly, though, isn’t that the ONLY answer?
We got Cass (who was three) a baby doll and tried to teach him to be gentle, etc….this worked out well except that he was COMPLETELY MYSTIFIED when the real baby started crying.
2. Rosey will be three soon, and I switched them both to stoneware (although not the set I REALLY like, and obviously the SMALL plates) about a month ago – for some reason, using grown-up plates makes the table manners a little better…
Re: The sippy – I went out and bought innumerable fun and funky sport type glasses (the kind with the squirt-top?) and curly straws and fun stuff…they went over really well.
3. Okay, this may be naive, but I think of this as part of normal growing up. At least until someone gets bloodied or I have to get involved.
Cass just started school and the stuff he and his friends do to each other on the playground? Makes me glad he’s had some experience roughing it up.
4. SHE SPEAKS THE TRUTH! I have one of those. He’ll be six in a few weeks. He starts talking when he gets up and doesn’t stop until I tiptoe out of his bedroom at night. And Wonder Boy thinks HE should parent his small sister. (Y’know, because he KNOWS EVERYTHING. AND WILL TELL YOU THAT.)
5. Scoot over honey, I’ll bring more Kleenex. We had a hard time poop-training my son. After about five months (no lie) of this, his day-care worker finally told me that a lot of kids have troulble pooping because they feel like they’re…well, pooping out pieces of their bodies. And then we flush it away! And it’s gone forever!

My manual is missing a few pages too. Anyone know how to make a three year old stay in her bed? Because the method of trotting her back to bed without saying anything? IT’S NOT WORKING.

5 Susan September 24, 2007 at 9:20 am

Hmmm…we go back and forth between real dishes and plastic here for all of us. CG (now 5) likes her plastic plates b/c of the colors and patterns, and we all use plastic out on the deck–it’s lighter to carry back and forth. Some nights she wants a real plate that matches ours, that that’s fine, too.

We have had a very long and slow road to potty training, and one issue that came up in the middle of it was that CG was constipated, but not quite so constipated that we noticed it (but one of her teachers noticed, a year and a half ago, that she was pooping about 6 times a day). When we mentioned it to our pediatrician, she had us start using a laxative (M!ral@x) which we gave a full dose of for three days, and then titered back, using it every day in a very light dose for almost a year. These days we use it sporadically. All of which is to say perhaps there’s a physical issue (our ped. claims this sort of low-level constipation is pretty common and ends up helping to confuse the physical signals about when to poop and sometimes pee).

Otherwise, my experience has taught me that waiting a year and a half will bring me to a place where I notice a lot of progress on the potty, and that there’s not much to do while I”m waiting besides lots of laundry and deep breathing.

Hang in there, and do blog about the manual when you get it expanded :).

6 bubandpie September 24, 2007 at 10:07 am

I’m pretty sure my manual said that the breakable dishes can be saved for after they turn twelve.

(And poor little pooper. Aw.)

7 Veronica September 24, 2007 at 10:39 am

My experience:
1. We read our eldest “I’m a Big Sister Now” and it helped (there’s a big brother version too). We also stressed, without apparent concern, “Babies cry a lot. It’s their job.”

2. We switched our kids (ages 3 1/2 and 2) to normal dishes for only supper just this month. So far it is going well, but that may be because my husband is not rational about the dinner table. If my children judge right and wrong based on his reactions, they will almost certainly grow up believing that theft and murder are petty crimes but wasting food or breaking dishes are HEINOUS ACTS OF HIGH TREASON.

3. I have no idea.

4. Bust away. When they still know you love them, a little maternal sarcasm is a good thing. Or so say the generations of women in my family, and I turned out all right.

5. This exact same thing happened with our daughter. It took eighteen friggin months to potty train her and then snap! she did it all on her own like it was nothing. Then she got diarrhea for a few days. She got over it, and manages on her own now just fine. There will be an end, honest.

8 Sara September 24, 2007 at 10:51 am

As you know I have NO experience in the parenting department, but I died laughing at #4!!! For the record I don’t think its wrong at all to do that… if you don’t do it now, some kid will in 4 or 5 years, and your son will most likely be devistated or embarassed… so I think you would actually being him a bit of a favour as opposed to a disservice!

9 kgirl September 24, 2007 at 10:54 am

Aw, the poor pooper.
oh, and hey, when you get that manual, make me a copy, pretty please?

10 Loukia September 24, 2007 at 11:52 am

I’m a Big Brother book – great suggestion from above poster. We also got that book as a gift for Christos and he loves it.

11 patois September 24, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Am I late to the party or has no one suggested yet that you’ve got a great start at the manual right here? Pity the pooper (and the mom and pop of pooper). I didn’t start the breakables until each one was 7’ish. Cross our fingers — still none broken yet. Sippy cup? Finally killed it for the youngest at 4, when we switched to covered cups with straws.

12 chris conrad September 24, 2007 at 1:42 pm

As the oldest of 5 kids I’d like to tackle the “I don’t want a baby sister/brother” issue. Imagine your husband coming home one day and telling you he’s getting another wife. “I’ll love you both, don’t worry”. “It’ll be fun.” “You can help me look after her.” Would any of that make you feel any better? It’s a betrayal to a child for their parents to get another child. HE is your love object — what has he done wrong that makes you want a different child? Now he’s not going to be important anymore. It’s even worse if the baby is the same sex as the older child — a different sex makes some little bit of sense. It’s a delicate issue and leads to kids fighting, competing (sibling rivalry). One day when they have kids of their own they’ll understand

13 Fryman September 24, 2007 at 1:49 pm

D –
Why do I think this post was all about #5, but you couldn’t figure out a way to just ‘dump’ it on us so you used the other 4 as bait???
My comments:
1. I didn’t want one either, and look how that turned out. Personally, S wasn’t old enough to really get what was going on. I have heard of using examples of other relationships (brother/sister doesn’t matter) and trued to highlight all the good stuff. My wife, the engineer/MBA, would have most likely completed an excel based pros & cons spreadsheet, but she’s a little strange…
2. We have been more or less situational with our choice – made it gradual and much easier. Started with dinners are ‘good’ plates (anything breakable but cheap) and then certain foods got the ‘good’ plates, and now the neon plastic only comes out when the cousins come to visit….but they’re another story. Sippys were replaced with the straws and sports bottles…no questions at all.
3. Speaking from WAY too much experience, let them duke it out unless you really feel one really has the upper hand all the time. Being boys, they will find a way to vent physically, so if you can let them do it many times in smaller doses, its usually better than stopping them.
4. I am pretty sure no kid under 7 or so can have too much self esteem – for the right reasons. It’ll be battered around over the next 30+ years so build it up now and let them enjoy it while they can.
5. Hypothetically, its a guy thing…..and I have no idea….

14 colleen September 24, 2007 at 3:56 pm

1.What could be more fun than being a big brother just like Tristan?
1.Plates, sippy cups…how important is that anyway. To kids they are all dishes.
3.Play wrestle..good! Other kind with red faces and tears…bad.
4.Bust when you feel it necessary. Kids are resilient and will still think they are the centre of the universe.
5.Bathroom issues have a way of resolving on their own. Just be patient.
Therapy is good but a good night sleep is even better. Don’t worry so much. You are a first class Mother.

15 Jennifer September 24, 2007 at 5:04 pm

I have a boy and a girl and I let ’em go at it until one cries or they seem about to break something, or until visitors arrive. Usually my daughter (two years younger and half my son’s weight and size) is the one getting creamed, but I’ve been watching her — she’s learning to get even in a quiet way. I think it’s healthy. We’ll find out, eh?

I kept my son in sippy cups until he was 5 because he was a TOTAL KLUTZ, but my daughter has been using a regular cup since she was 2. Personally I’d do whatever’s easiest on you.

16 Mom On The Run September 24, 2007 at 8:27 pm

I dunno the answers to any of your questions – however, it has sparked me to re-read my owner’s manual – apparently the page on bottle weaning and big girl beds is missing….

17 Cyn September 25, 2007 at 6:34 am

{{{hugs}}} Sounds like a lot going on! Your 3 y.o. sounds pretty typical of 3 y.o.’s expecting new siblings… he’s getting a new place in the family but doesn’t quite know what to do about it.

Are you supposed to give your kids “real” dishes??? I’d say go ahead and give them stoneware plates (maybe pick up a few at a yard sale for practice so if they do get broken while being cleared, you won’t lose part of your set). We use Corelle plates so they are pretty light and durable. I inherited them from my mom. We replaced sippy cups with plastic cups with lids and straws for a while (like those you get from restaurants) and then eventually removed the lids and only filled the cup 1/2 full. We still all use plastic cups because they are easier to get to and just the right size for our cabinets ๐Ÿ™‚

As for the fighting thing, my boys both used to take taekwondo lessons and every now and then I would ask their instructor to pair them up for sparring. They needed to pound on each other and that way they both had protective equipment on and were supervised. He told me any time I needed to use the academy, bring the boys and their pads and let them go at it ๐Ÿ™‚ But seriously, as long as one isn’t always pounding the other one and as long as it doesn’t seem to make one more upset than the other, a little pounding between brothers isn’t going to hurt – unless one is pounding too much or too hard. I know my boys have both been trained how to block, so if they get hit by their brother, then I tell them I didn’t spend all that money on their TKD lessons for nothing. FWIW, they are 10 and 11 now and don’t pound each other… haven’t for a couple of years, but I’m sure they’d like to – they’ve just learned it’s not a good idea.

Hope your hypothetical 3 y.o. gets the poop thing figured out. I’m sure the accidents were the result of not having pooped in 3 weeks and once he went successfully, his body was “moving” and cleansing. But yeah, ick.

18 Mad Hatter September 25, 2007 at 11:16 am

Yes. You and Jen (of Rosebud and Papoosie Girl) should get together. She has a daughter who likes to hold it in too.

19 liz September 25, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Stoneware yes. Sippy cups yes (for car trips and drinks in the living room. Heck _I_ still use them for that!) Save the Ikea ware for picnics.

The Prime Directives in our house are “No hitting. No Lying. No taking things that don’t belong to you.” Kicking and biting count as hitting, in case you’re interested. So rough-housing, yes. But not near sharp edges and no closed fists, thank you very much.

And I’ve got no answer for you on the poop issues as MM also has/had them. Two things we do are push water and limit milk (softer poops) and (on advice of the ped) we give a teaspoonful of mineral oil at night. This doesn’t help the holding, but it does make for a much less painful poop when the poop occurs.

20 Fawn September 25, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Since I couldn’t find non-stoneware plates that I could microwave (except Corelle would’ve been a good idea!) Jade has been using our regular plates – the ones we got FOR OUR WEDDING! – since she was about 10 months old. So far so good – she’s shoved them a couple of times, but no long drops to the ground. She also uses a cup at the table some days, though these are always plastic because they require a lot more handling. But of course it’s sippy cups anytime we’re on the go!

Other than that, you’re a lot more experienced than I am, so I won’t presume to advise! Goshdarnit, you made me laugh!

21 chichimama September 25, 2007 at 8:33 pm

Laughing and crying all at once.

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