Surviving Surprisingly Messy Milestones

Your kid’s teeth track your parenting journey.  Dental milestones mark your child’s growth and life experiences, from infancy to adulthood. As a parent we get to feel the gamut of emotions while experiencing childhood once again, from the passenger seat. Some milestone markers feel pretty awesome. Nothing’s better than sharing our child’s  excitement and delight when they proudly reach a milestone. But some are painful. And when your kid hurts, you hurt.

So I’m doing a little internal mom dance because—I’ve ticked off my final tooth milestone as a parent! Not that I’m keeping score; but I’ve gone three times round the cutting teeth track, three trips down the loose tooth-lost tooth- tooth fairy trail, 3 bouts of braces, and now my third and final time nursing a teetering-on-adult child through wisdom teeth removal.

 

It’s been a journey- times three. So many awesome moments! The thrill of seeing those first teeth poke through! The anticipation of having those same teeth fall out, or having those braces finally off. (And, let’s be honest, that final ortho payment!!)

A NEW TRIP EVERY TIME But as a mom of three I experienced, over and over again, that just because I’d been through a milestone with one child, didn’t mean I was any more prepared to do it again next time around. Our kids are very different, so each of my daughters’ teeth experiences were unique. Where one breezed through cutting molars, another spiked crazy fevers and developed a rash. One child attacked any baby tooth that threatened to be wiggly with obsessive intention. While another one battled tooth-losing anxiety; leaving teeth dangling from her gums like Chiclets.

SURVIVING THE MESSY ONES But milestones should be celebrated… right? Let’s be honest, some are surprisingly messy. Uncomfortable. Painful. As an Early Childhood Educator I came into parenting armed with a list of how-to’s for successfully steering a child through growth and development. As a mother, I experienced, over and over again, that my daughters obviously were not consulted with this list. I had to accept that, sometimes, in order to make it to the other side, you have to think on your feet, throw away that list, and even break a few of your Well, I would never do that rules. Because when you and your child are stuck in the middle of a messy milestone, just like in THE BEAR HUNT, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you can’t go around it- you gotta go through it! And the right way to survive a messy milestone- is whatever way you can!

So what do you do, when a milestone isn’t going according to plan?

ACCEPT SUPPORT I mean real, non-judgy support, from friends or family who might not have the answers but do have some time to listen and maybe even an extra hand to help you out. Let your friend come by to give you a hand. Take your mother-in-law up on the offer to help. You need to be at your best when going through a difficult milestone. Because, just like in an emergency flight, you have to put the oxygen on yourself first, before you help someone else. And when things calm down (and they will!) it can be your turn to help your friend pick up the pieces.

FIND ADVICE THAT WORKS FOR YOU Look for advice, from books, from parenting sites, from friends. But you have to sift through this advice to find the tips that work for you. You already know how sleeping through the night or toileting is supposed to go. You need help getting through your child’s unique experience. And although no one has been through the exact thing, a tip here or there that you can tweak a bit can be the perfect fit for you.

My Top Tooth Tips that I found most helpful are:

TEETHINGIMG-2796(2) Wet a baby facecloth and stick it in the freezer. It’s a great teether!

 

 

 

 

IMG-2797 WIGGLY TEETH– For those wanting relief or a little help getting that tooth out, fold a piece of paper towel and wet it. Biting on this is soothing for those who hate that ‘wiggling feeling’, and it can be just the trick to having that tooth finally let go.

 

 

braces colourful equipment healthcare

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

BRACES: Have their favorite soft foods ready, for up to three days after each tightening. And when they first go on, be prepared for some insecurity. It’s a tough age, and adding braces can make your pre-teen/teen even more self-conscious. (I always found that a little retail therapy was much appreciated at this stage!)

 

 

 

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WISDOM TEETH: Plan it well! They are going to need 2 weeks before they recover. This can be challenging when dealing with graduations, summer jobs or starting school. I made the huge mistake of not planning enough time for healing and sent my daughter off to collage with an ice pack and pain medication.

 

 

 

DANCE IN THE RAIN Vivian Green said, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Parenting is a journey of maneuvering our children from one milestone to another. We have to steal some joy in the bad times, along with enjoying the good times. I’ve endured some pretty scary nights, with a child who is sick and suffering. Yes, I am upset that my daughter feels so sick, but in this moment I am so grateful she is snuggling into me. I’ve been surprised at myself, even felt guilty at times, that during a crisis I’ve laughed- at the most absurd thing. Give yourself permission to find a moment of joy in a bad situation. It can honestly clear the air, ease the tension, and give you the extra breath you need to keep going.

And while I’m at it, eat, and sleep. Don’t be a parenting martyr and ignore self-care because you are temporarily stuck in a tough milestone with your child. Taking time for self-care not only gives you the strength you need to parent during trying times, it also models for your child that self care is an imperative part of maintaining strong mental and physical health.

FIND SUPPORT IN LITERACY for you and your child. Nothing relieves a mind more than hearing that other people have survived a similar situation (or one much worse). You not only gain advice from literary support, you also feel the reassurance that you are not alone in your struggle.

Pick your milestone and you will find books to help you and your child.

My new favorite book on the losing-teeth topic is:

1771386150 WADE’S WIGGLY ANTLERS written by Louise Bradford and awesomely illustrated by MY TEACHER’S NOT HERE!’s Christine Battuz (Kids Can Press) https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/?keywords=Wade%27s%20Wiggly%20Antlers#internal=1

It’s about a young moose named Wade who notices that his antlers are loose!

 

readlearnrepeat.blog recently listed some great books “All About Teeth” I really like the non fiction:

0823422062 THE TOOTH BOOK: A GUIDE TO HEALTHY TEETH AND GUMS by Edward Miller (Holiday House)  https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-tooth-book-a-guide/9780823422067-item.html?ikwid=the+tooth+book&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=4

 

Un-Planning Perfect Summer Memories for Your Kids

So it’s the second week of summer and you might be feeling summer planning stress. As much as I tried to enjoy schedule free days when my three girls were young, in summer I often turned me into my own version of cruise director Julie from The Love Boat. For the under 40 crowd, Julie carried around a clip board in this 70’s TV show, with an endless list of perfect vacation activities. I tackled many summer days stressed to make this the best summer for my kids, and piled up the mom guilt if there wasn’t a fun activity, an organized day trip, or a magazine worthy summer snack (because hello, this was pre-Pinterest days- thank God!)  As a seasoned early childhood educator and Mom of three girls who all survived summer breaks through post secondary education, I’m here to tell you to enjoy your young child’s school free days— Because the secret to perfecting super summer memories is all in the un-planning.

Looking back, my girls say that some of their favorite summer memories involved a handful of water balloons that turned into days of entertainment. (I’m not joking- days! They wouldn’t throw them- they kept them, named them, created little water balloon habitats for them out of tissues and shoe boxes, and wept for them when they broke.) My girls spent hours playing store, or performing in home made shows. Some of their best summer experiences were those unplanned afternoons where adventure was created with the spark of their own imaginations. So here are 3 easy steps for un-planning perfect summer memories for your kids:

Time! Your kids need time. I’m talking unstructured, unplanned, uninterrupted time- with no screens within scrolling distance. Not every day. And I’m certainly not telling you to cancel your vacation. But now and then, strike a few things off that list of awesome summer activities and let your kids figure out what their day looks like. If your kid’s typical summer day is buckling in and out of car seats to get from swim dates to bowling to junior tai chi in the park then they won’t get the chance to stretch their imaginations and find out what adventure lies just past, “I’m bored.”

You’ve got to steel yourself. It’s kind of like those parents who sleep train. You know the beginning will be tough, but it will be worth it in the end. And, just like sleep training, you’ve got to trust the process. When the whining and lamenting starts about how very awful this incredibly boring day is, just shoo them back to wherever they came from- the backyard, the playroom, or wherever they are congregating -and tell them to ‘go play’. It’s common, during this transitional phase, to hear lots of groaning and moaning, but trust me! The magic starts right after the last, “There’s nothing to do!”

Warning: If kids aren’t used to stretching their imaginations, it might take a while. But every child has a magic sense of play inside them, and when you give a child time and space, they will find a spark. Not only that, but creativity and imagination, like many things, grow when you feed it. The more practice your kids get at using their imaginations and coming up with their own fun, the better and faster they will get at it. At some point the whining will stop and there will be an eery quiet…Your parent instinct kicks in… ‘What are they doing??’ You’ll head into the room to see spaces being created, characters divvied out, props being gathered. It might look strange at first. What exactly are they doing? You see the spark of imagination ignited in their eyes. That, mom and dad, is playing.

Support the Spark. Nothing supports a spark more than adding a few simple props. If the game involves a store, hand them a few pens. If they are creating a circus, give them an empty box or two. Clothespins, bed sheets, a deck of cards- simple props added to a spark of imagination are like dry kindling to a campfire.

Warning: Don’t butt in! Nothing squashes a spark faster than a well-intentioned adult who takes over the game. “You should add the clips here so the tent is more stable,” will have your kids abandoning the game and reaching for their iPads faster than you can say Fortnite. As a seasoned ECE who’s stepped in too far and squashed a spark on more than one occasion, I’m here to tell you that there’s an art to this. Position a few enticing props in their range, (like placing food within reach of an un-trusting stray) make a broad statement like, “Hey, maybe you’d like to use these,” then leave them bee. You can spy on them from the next room. Believe me, you’re gonna feel your kid’s excitement when you hear them exclaim, “Hey cool! Let’s use these for….” And they are off!

Ignore the Mess. The good part, when my kids played store, was that they created an intricate dramatic play game playing with each other for hours. And I am here to tell you, as I place my Early Childhood Educator cap on, that this type of play is essential for your child’s growth and development, and will make them a better student come September. Children develop problem-solving skills, increase their communication skills, learn to appreciate and deal with multiple perspectives, all while building their confidence as an innovator, and increasing their imagination and creativity. Tell me those things won’t come in handy when put in groups at school, told to work together, come up with an innovative idea for their project…etc.

Okay, so the bad news about this type of high-level dramatic play is that it can trash at least one of the rooms in your house. Not permanently! Just in the- ‘this room looks like it sneezed’ kind of trashed. Teeny tiny ‘price tag’ paper would be everywhere. Every toy and stuffed animal was out of it’s ‘tidied up’ spot and displayed. The mess would make me crazy! But those hours of play were worth it. And honestly, my girls are 19, 21 and 24 years old. There is no better feeling as a mom who no longer tidies up toys, than listening her girls reminisce, “Hey, remember when we played store! That was the best!”

So un-plan a few days, and let your kids create some great summer memories.

Some of my favorite stories about that magical sense of play are:

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The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gillman

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/?keywords=The%20Wonderful%20Pigs%20of%20Jillian%20Jiggs#internal=1

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My Think-a-Ma-Jink by Dave Whammond

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/?keywords=My%20Think-aMa-Jink#internal=1

 

0340988193 Stanley’s Stick by John Hegley

https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/stanleys-stick/9780340988190-item.html