The Rockwood Files: From tummy time to life skills

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

When you bring a baby home from the hospital, all the baby books say you should do something called “tummy time.” It means you should let the baby spend a little time on his tummy when he’s awake. Tummy time helps the baby strengthen the muscles in his neck, shoulders and upper body – muscles he’ll use to sit up on his own one day. There’s only one problem with tummy time: Babies hate it.

Because the baby hates it, parents tend to hate it, too. I remember watching my babies the first few times I put them down on their tummies. They’d squirm and struggle to lift their giant heads. They’d turn their face to one side, furrow their brow, grunt, whimper and then eventually cry after only a few minutes of being in this “beached whale” position on the living room floor. It was hard to watch.

adorable-20374_640My maternal instincts would yell “Pick her up! Hold her! Comfort her! Make it easier.” But that’s not the point of tummy time. The point is to get stronger so the baby can one day help herself.

After an initial “I hate this” period, babies get used to tummy time and even come to love it when they figure out how to roll.

My three kids are now 14, 11, and 9 – many years past tummy time – but, in a strange way, I feel like we’re going through a second phase of it as we teach them how to take care of themselves. In only four short years, our oldest will leave the nest and, if we haven’t taught him properly, he’ll nosedive right out of it or make a U-turn and fly straight back.

So my new maternal mantra is “life skills,” and right now I’m focusing on three main areas: food, clothing, and shelter.

Food: I stopped packing lunches. These days, if the kid doesn’t want to eat what the school cafeteria is serving, the kid packs his or her own lunch. But a bag full of jellybeans and Pringles doesn’t count. (They tried it.) They’ve also learned how to make a simple dinner, and they’re getting pretty good at hosting Taco Tuesdays.

Clothing: Slowly, they’re learning to use the washer and dryer. I posted detailed instructions for how to wash whites, darks and towels, and we make them do a load on their own at least once a week. (Note: If you try this at your house, be sure to write the words “EMPTY ALL POCKETS” in bold, capital letters, lest you find shredded tissues and gum wrappers in every load.)

Shelter: I’m beginning to wonder if they’ll ever master the art of cleaning up after themselves. I still find stray socks all over the house, which I believe is part of their secret plan to drive me insane. (Almost there, kids!)

Last weekend, we had them help us rip old carpet out of a room, prep the walls, paint and then move furniture back into place. They didn’t really know what they were doing. They got frustrated easily. We heard quite a few grunts and whimpers, and they definitely didn’t like it.

As I watched them furrow their brow and grudgingly work at it, I flashed back to those “tummy time” days when they strained to hold their heads up. Then I flashed forward to a vision of the future, when they might need to rip old carpet out of their own fixer-upper house.

So despite the moaning and groaning, we forged ahead and they learned a few things. The experience made me realize that the real struggle for me will be allowing our kids to struggle. Part of me desperately wants to step in and manage the world for them – to make things easier.

But those of us who are a few decades past “tummy time” know that life doesn’t always serve up a big plate of easy. And during those times, it’s important to know how to carry on, work hard and hold your head up.

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

The Friday 5: Fun things to do this weekend in NWA

friday 5 png file

1. Mardi Gras parade in downtown Fayetteville. Saturday is the 25th anniversary of Mardi Gras Fayetteville and the Parade of Fools will be downtown at 2 p.m.

Fayetteville Mardia GrasThe Grand Marshal is Dan Skoff. There will be costumes, beads, floats and fun!

Click here for more information.

2. Glow Swim at the Bentonville Community Center. The community center (at 117 Central Ave.) is providing the exciting nighttime experience of swimming in the dark on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 5-6:30 p.m. The center will turn off all the pool deck lights, and leave on all the water features (slides, adventure river, and play structures).

Swimmers are encouraged to bring glow sticks to play with, and they’ll give glow sticks to the first 30 participants. This event will be lifeguarded and the lights inside the pool will stay on for safety reasons.

The event is free for Community Center members and non-members can purchase a day pass for the event.

For more information, click here. 

Bentonville Community Center pool

Bentonville Community Center pool

3. Monty Python’s Spamalot. This Tony award-winning “Best Musical” is ripped off from the classic film comedy Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

Spamalot retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and features a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits, and French people. The show will be at the Arkansas Public Theatre in downtown Rogers on Feb. 5-7, Feb. 11-14, Feb. 18-21.

Click here for more information.

4. Paula Poundstone comedy show. You may know Paula Poundstone as a regular panelist on NPR’s popular weekly news quiz show “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” We’re lucky to have her on stage at Walton Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. to enjoy that wry, intelligent and witty comedy.

Click here for more information.

sona5. SoNA Presents Valentine Pops: American Songbook. Enjoy America’s beloved popular music from the first half of the last century, with a generous helping of songs about love.

This Symphony of Northwest Arkansas show will feature guest vocal soloists at Saturday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at Walton Arts Center.

Click here fore more information.

5 Minutes with a Mom: Jerri Dwyer

Jerri Dwyer Family

Name: Jerri Dwyer

Kid’s names and ages:

Elizabeth, 6

Kaytlin, 11

Kaleb, 16

My nephew, Kaleb, moved in with us after his mom passed away last year. He has been such a fun addition to our household.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions or do you avoid those? 

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions because I tend to find them difficult to follow for the long term if I label them as a resolution. However, I have committed to lowering sugar and processed foods in my family’s diet.

Tell us about a day in your life:

Like most moms, my typical day is busy. As a homeschool mom, my daily routine revolves around my kid’s school schedules. Except for weekends, my days look something like this:

I wake up at 5:30 am and get my nephew ready for his early bus ride. On most mornings, while I am energizing myself with my morning coffee, we have a visit from a young man in our neighborhood who waits with us for his bus, occasionally, he will bring his electric guitar which really livens the house up early. When the weather is good, my family treats our pug to a mile walk in the neighborhood, while I stay home getting ready for the day. By seven o’clock, my husband and I enjoy our green smoothies and he is off to work.

Then, the house becomes full of energy and life, while the girls practice their Irish Dance. During their workouts, I am usually motivated enough to get some of my own therapy exercises done.

By 8:30, we are in full swing for homeschool. The girls have eaten breakfast and are crafting, while I read aloud a living history book. Right now we are studying Early American History and have enjoyed some great books like Amos Fortune: Free Man, The Witch of BlackBird Pond, and Johnny Tremain.  Throughout the school day, both my Kindergartner and sixth grader complete courses in Bible, Writing, Botany, English, Math, Reading and Spelling.

My oldest makes lunch for her and her sister, while my husband and I enjoy another green smoothie. After lunch, my 6th grader completes her day with Latin and Typing. With the exception of Friday, homeschool is completed by 2pm. Fridays are designed to be lighter school days leaving time for field trips and trying new recipes out at home.

Most afternoons, we are cleaning house and completing chores followed by running around somewhere. On Tuesday afternoon, my girls attend Ecclesia Prep where they enjoy class time with peers. Tuesday nights, we attend Bible Study Fellowship and an additional three nights a week, we have Irish Dance practice. As we all know, being a mom is living a life full with activities and love. Such is my blessed life!

What’s the best part about being a mom?

For me, being a mom was a dream come true. We struggled with miscarriages, adoption waiting lists, and failed adoptions for ten years. Then God blessed our family through adoption. I try to enjoy every aspect of motherhood, but some of my favorites are the hugs, kisses, snuggles, and laughs.

Tell us about some traditions you’ve started with your kids:

Touring and taking photos at the Fayetteville square during Christmas. Going to the Christmas festival at Silver Dollar City. Making a gingerbread house at Christmas. Making tie-dye t-shirts before the end of each summer. Collecting ornaments from every place that we travel.

What has been one of the most surprising things about motherhood?

The amount of grace that my kids display to me. I could make a long list of all the things that I regret saying or a reaction in a given situation. It seems that I remember these more than my kids, they forgive me and keep on going.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Fishing, taking the kids to the park, watching movies, reading books, hanging out as a family.

What was the last thing you really laughed out loud about?

My kid’s impersonations of different family members. They have an interesting view of each other!

If you could vacation anywhere in the world this winter where would it be?

Australia

Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?

Drew Barrymore

What would the movie be titled?

“Team Jerri: Winning the Spirit Award”

God knew my life would be a wonderful adventure, yet would also include some struggles, so he surrounded me with His LOVE. Love expressed in all the family, friends, and strangers – beautiful faces – cheering me across the finish line.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn?

Scuba Diving

How do you relax at the end of the day?

Watching a Netflix show and enjoying a cup of hot tea

What’s one thing you’d want people to remember about you?

That I lived a life trusting in God and encouraging others

One word to sum me up:

Persistent

Inside His Head: Mom hates playing bad cop to her husband’s good cop with the kids

insidehishead, 500

Dear Inside His Head,

Unfortunately, it seems I have become the “enforcer” in our family and my husband is the “fun dad”. I get tired of being the bad cop, while my husbands gets to play good cop all the time. I try to be fun, but it just doesn’t work and the kids see through my act. I really want to break out of this, but I need my husband to step up and tell the kids NO once in a while or to clean their rooms. Our kids are in school and we both work, so we’re with them about the same amount of time.

GRAY: I don’t think it’s uncommon for moms to be viewed as the enforcer. I mean, I’m a grown man and if my wife didn’t insist I get my hair cut or badger me to get the garbage together every week it’s entirely likely neither would get done.

So I think you have to start out with the understanding that your husband doesn’t have the same expectations of your children that you do.

Dressing properly and keeping rooms straightened are things I’d wager most men don’t see as a high priority and will unintentionally undermine your efforts. You and your husband are going to have different ideas of what’s important.

I’d suggest three things: talk about what each of you want your children to learn and then divide those lessons between the two of you, playing to your individual strengths. The third thing? Have each other’s back and don’t contradict each other.

goldfish in bowlYour husband can make sure the kids get the garbage together and you make sure they keep their dirty clothes off the floor. Maybe he makes sure the kids feed the pets and you make sure they do the dishes after the family gets fed.

For example, in my home I have to take my daughter to the dentist (which my daughter hates). You get the picture. If that’s no good then maybe you take different roles. You’re the enforcer and he’s responsible for discipline when they don’t get things done.

And remember, fun is what you bring to the table. Homework can be just as fun as a pillow fight (well, maybe not AS much fun) if you approach it with the right attitude. Sometimes we all feel put out and resort to yelling and badgering people instead of treating them with respect. That’s no fun for anyone. When you and your children have fun together, they’re less likely to be resentful when you ask them to be responsible. Respect isn’t earned by who can yell the loudest.

Finally, kids go through phases where they’re simply going to enjoy the company of one of you more than the other.

You and your husband can say the exact same thing, but get radically different results. Don’t turn yourself into a bad cop forever because it’s how you feel right now.

Instead of trying to be fun, ask your kids what’s fun for them and then be present and loving in their company. They’ll love you for the experience and keep you from pigeonholing yourself.

Inside His HeadMAVERICK: You don’t establish roles in a marriage or in parenting in a day and they’re not something that are easy to break.

Likely your husband is the fun one because he’s sorta fun, while you have become the heavy because, well, you like the trains to run on time.

You can’t go from the role of The Terminator to family funny person in one day. But with some cooperation from your husband maybe you can both move toward a more happy medium.

There are two parts to this:

1) The first part of the plan requires your husband to do some stuff.

yes or noTell your hubby that he’s getting the benefit of your tough stance but he’s not taking any of the heat for it. He likes it when the trains run on time but he doesn’t have to pay for the ticket.

Tell him he needs to say “No” more often. When he weasels out or acts like a wimp, point it out to him after the fact. Practice your new “fun” nature here. Be nice. Be supportive. Reward him with a passionate kiss later that night for each for every “No” he dishes out, or when he oversees homework or brings the heat for wet towels being tossed on the floor.

Be sure he benefits from the new “fun” you too.

If he refuses to act, well, congratulations, you married a load. I can’t help you there.

But being Mrs. Load doesn’t not mean you can’t be fun. Just don’t TRY to  be fun. Nothing is less fun than someone trying too hard to be fun. Don’t be Fozzy Bear. “Want to hear a funny joke: Wakka-Wakka-Wakka.”

2) Ease into the new you.

Try finding a TV show or some other activity you and the kids can share, laugh over, and joke about. Try forcing yourself to be less stiff and more spontaneous. Sure, this might impact some things like — fewer vegetables may be eaten, or bedtimes might be extended here and there — but usually these little acts of rebellion result in fun.

And remember, it’s not a contest, just because you’re trying to be fun doesn’t mean your  husband has to be less fun. Try both being fun.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will take time. But do it. And have fun.

Have a question for our anonymous panel of husbands? Email it to mamasATnwamotherlodeDOTcom and we’ll get it to them ASAP!

On Your Mind: Old abuse, new baby

on your mindNOTE: The question below reached us through our “online hotline” button which lets anyone send a question to a local counselor at Ozark Guidance — in a completely anonymous way. The email comes in with no email address and no identifying information. We set it up this way so women would feel free to write about anything on their mind.

I’m a new mom to a 3-month-old baby. My husband got upset at me and when I answered back because he was being rude and name calling, he shoved me to the ground in front of our infant son! This is not the first time he has been physical with me. I got up and tried to fight back but he just pinned me to the wall. I’m fed up.

Response by Ozark Guidance Clinical Director Jared Sparks, LCSW, PhD

I’m glad you’re reaching out about this. The verbal and physical abuse you’re describing is not okay. More to the point, from what you’ve shared, you and your baby are in danger.

This can be hard to see when the abuser is someone you care about…and who says he cares about you. However, it’s not only about you and your baby’s immediate safety but also the long-term damage that exposure to this violence can take.

woman-1006102_640What people working in behavioral health and domestic violence have learned over time is that, once there is violence in the home, it is likely to continue and worsen. We’ve also come to understand that witnessing violence in the home (even at a very early age) can result in long-term mental health problems.

It’s really beyond the scope of this blog format to go into depth about this, especially since this feels more like an immediate crisis. The good news is that there is excellent help in this area available to you.

Peace at Home Shelter, provides a 24/7 crisis hotline (Local: 479-442-9811 Toll free: 877-442-9811), and their website has really good information about how to keep yourself safe while getting help.  http://peaceathomeshelter.org/get-help/domestic-violence/

Of course, if you’re in immediate danger, call 911 immediately.

Therapists at Ozark Guidance would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback.

Disclaimer: This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.