Summertime often feels like an endless cycle of applying sunscreen and tugging wet bathing suits on and off my children. I am constantly tracking down and tallying sunglasses, goggles, hats, and flip flops. Knees are skinned, bug bites speckle their legs, and sand is pouring out of every purse I own. The late sunsets have ruined our bedtime routine and some days the humidity leads us to watch more TV than I care to admit. I am sweating off all of my makeup and my hair is twice its normal volume.
On the other hand, we have collected shells, ate scoop upon scoop of ice cream, and belly-flopped in every pool we found. We have lost 1 tooth and gained a handful of freckles. We pack bathing suits with our school lunches and come home with paint splattered arms. Playgrounds are our second home, where we picnic with pizza and watch pinwheels spin. Our garden is bursting with flowers and the evening sky is our favorite shade of pink.
This summer we have traveled more than usual, including North Carolina, New York City, and the Jersey Shore. We have relived childhood memories through our children’s eyes. In each place, we have reconnected with old friends and extended family. We explored new museums, rode rollercoasters, visited historical sites, and ate fresh food off the grill most nights of the week. We have not passed a fountain without throwing a coin and making a wish.
These are the things I know I will remember when I remember the summer of ’17. Luckily, it’s still only July and there are still so many fireflies to be caught.
“So what did you do to kick off your weekend yesterday?”
A simple enough question, but at 4:30 PM on a Saturday I had to pause to consider how I should phrase a response to my 24-year-old hair stylist. Should I start with how I picked my daughter up from daycare, then helped my children ride their new bikes to the playground and celebrated that we avoided any trips to the Emergency Room? Or how we had pancakes for dinner and I was asleep by 11 PM? The exciting event of the night was when my son and husband built a new Lego set that came in the mail earlier in the day, while my daughter and I played with her stamp set and we managed to create a beautiful Autumnal tree. I laid on the dark floor of my daughter’s room for 20-minutes while she fell asleep, only to come downstairs to find my son awake and waiting for me. I pinned three recipes I will likely never cook to my Pinterest board. Before I completely passed out myself, I helped my husband repaint our basement, splattering myself with tiny white paint freckles that I would later have to scrub off. Ahem, not white, the “Swiss coffee” shade I spent 30-minutes choosing at Lowes last week. All after seeing patients and sitting on a 3-hour conference call.
“Nothing special,” I summarized. Looking downward at the black gown draped across my lap, serving not only to keep the trimmed hairs from my clothing but also hiding the 10 extra pounds I now carry around my middle since having kids. While I was embarrassed to recount this entirely mundane Friday night to this millennial stylist, it was actually a Friday in which I could be proud. There was a STEAM project, exercise, a home-cooked dinner, family bonding, and a home-improvement project. In the few hours that I have between leaving my office and crashing into my pillow, I consider this a success.
There is no doubt that my weekends as a parent are quite different from when I was her 24-year-old peer. While she reminded me that there was a band playing locally, I remembered that there was a children’s art shop hosting their grand opening, and while we missed it I made a mental note to visit it soon. My phone lit up on her console with a texted video of my daughter riding her bike and yelling “I love mommy!” Is there any other way to spend a weekend?
“How would you like your hair styled?” she asked in preparation of sending me out into the hustle and bustle of Saturday night in my neighborhood. It didn’t matter though, as my plans included making dinner, watching a movie, and doing some work on my laptop. The ringlets she made in my hair made me smile while walking around my house in my yoga pants though.
What I wanted to tell her was that this hour was the highlight of my weekend. An hour to be pampered, sip my iced tea in leisure, and zone out. No one could ask me for another snack. I didn’t have to wipe anyone else’s butt. I did not step on any Legos while walking to the hair-washing station. There were no decisions to be made, other than wavy or straight. Getting out to the salon was a weekend victory in itself. This news could make me the envy of any of my mom friends.
“So what did you do to kick off your weekend yesterday?”
I spent it with the best people I know in our favorite place.
Rushing off to work with a frozen Lean Cuisine lunch in my bag and a small hole in my stockings threatening to run down my legs, I brushed my hair while driving and thought about how my work-life integration was falling apart. If only there was more time in the day, I thought. Or substitute time with any number of things… energy, love, money, ease, gratitude, efficiency, peace. Every week I have working mothers in my office with their children telling me about their struggles: making time to play, cooking nutritious meals, and finding a high-quality childcare provider. Their struggles are ones that I have had and continue to have regularly. Others had more dire issues, such as obtaining FMLA leave to take care of her ill child, a high-risk pregnancy, food insecurity, and inability to pay her gas bill. We all have our personal issues– some big, some small– that make us feel like we are failing at motherhood at one time or another. Some of us just do a better job of camouflaging it.
One of my coworkers said that when choosing her outfits she thinks about whether or not she would want her doctor to wear it. Certainly our appearance conveys a degree of professionalism and is important. At the same time though, there is a bit of chaos in my life that sometimes I like my patients to see. If the doctor, who on the surface seems to have things put together and seamlessly integrated work-life, has similar challenges to her patients it can be relieving. One patient told me that she read my blog specifically to see if my family had similar struggles to hers. So here’s the secret: yes.
I ran my fingers over the tiny hole in my stockings while listening to a mother lament her messy, poorly childproofed living room and how she is too tired after work to fix it. I imagined the floor in front of my own couch blanketed in Legos and how I would step over them nightly before eventually having the energy to sort them into their proper containers. My nail then snagged on my stockings and I snapped out of my daydream. I hear you, I said. My stocking hole may have been too small and just high enough to be hidden by my hemline, but I was conscious of it all day, much like the imperfections I know are always behind my professional veneer. Every now and then, a patient family needs to hear that I too sometimes fall apart at the seams.
Parents often complain that their children should have come with an instruction manual. Never does this feel more necessary than when you leave the hospital with your newborn. Sure you know how to change a diaper, in theory, but how do you do it while sleep deprived and warming a bottle. Then you master that and your child starts moving around or standing up during diaper changes. Just when you think you are winning the game, the game changes.
In clinic, I love giving out parenting advice. Some of it is more in the realm of do what I say, not what I do, since I know some of these parents will run into me at Target bribing my children with toys. Often though I am asked for additional resources– books, websites, and classes– to help supplement their parenting knowledge. I often refer to healthychildren.org, which is an educational site by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Right now they have some great resources on talking to kids about tragic news. As it is run by a medical organization, the content is very health oriented. Another favorite is a book by my college mentor, Dr. Tovah Klein, called How Toddlers Thrive. As a psychologist and toddler expert, Tovah helps parents navigate what can sometimes be a battleground and instead puts parents and toddlers on the same team. Unfortunately though, Tovah’s book is geared toward the under five crowd. And as my children are under six, my parenting expertise gets a little fuzzy in the older years. That’s why I was excited to find the newly revamped Parent Toolkit website, produced by NBC News Education Nation. This site is more broad, in that it covers pre-K to 12th grade and a variety of topics.
The Parent Toolkit is written by a variety of experts, including psychologists, teachers, and physicians. You can find everything from current event news articles to immunization advice to college prep materials. The website is easy to navigate too because you can search by grade level or by topic. As the parent of a kindergartener, I looked at the resources for that grade level and loved how it was divided into academics, social and emotional, and health and wellness. The site feels comprehensive and yet not overwhelming.
As a pediatrician, I am always viewing resources through the lens of my patients’ families. I loved that the Parent Toolkit is available in Spanish! I also saw images of children of all races and abilities, as many dads as moms in pictures. This all made me feel better about referring my patients’ parents to this site, knowing that they would see inclusive images and language.
So while your child didn’t come with step-by-step instructions, there are many places to look for credible advice. Nothing replaces the advice of your pediatrician, friend, or mother, but when they all disagree, the Parent Toolkit may be a good tie-breaker.
[I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer. I am not affiliated with the Parent Toolkit or NBC News Education Nation.]
May is National Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Month. As I have mentioned before here, this is a topic that is dear to my heart as someone who grew up at the New Jersey shore. Although my children are growing up urban, we find ways to expose them to water frequently and work on practicing our water safety skills. The below content was provided by the Goldfish Swim School in Fort Washington, PA, where my family spent last Friday night at one of their daily open family swims. My daughter put all of our water safety skills to the test as she attempted to drown herself within an arm’s reach of her dad. It is never a dull moment in our household. Thankfully, mommy is a good swimmer and the Goldfish Swim School has lifeguards.
The swim and water safety experts at Goldfish Swim School Fort Washington and Mount Laurel share practical tips and skills.
May is National Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Month. This important topic impacts all families. Every adult that supervises children in or around water needs to know basic information on how to keep kids safer in around water.
When it comes to drowning, the statistics are pretty staggering. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death to children ages one to four—and the second leading cause of injury death for children ages one to 14, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, statistics show that thousands of children are hospitalized each year for nonfatal drowning incidents. Accidents can happen quickly. A child can drown in as little as one inch of water and in as little time as 20 seconds.
Every parent and caregiver needs to keep the following water safety tips in mind:
Any time kids are around water, designate a “water watcher” who will avoid cell phones, conversations, magazines and anything else that might distract the adult from watching swimming children EVERY SINGLE SECOND. After all, most children who drown are supervised.
The American Red Cross says that the number one thing that parents can do to keep kids safer around water is to enroll them in swim lessons. Swimming is an essential life-saving skill with numerous physical, mental and intellectual benefits.
Get swim lessons for yourself or any other caregiver who cannot swim or is afraid of water.
Realize that floaties, noodles and plastic inner tubes do NOT protect against drowning. They are created as water toys, not life-saving devices. Life jackets should be designated as U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
Know that even the most seasoned swimmers can still encounter trouble. Make sure swimmers don’t overestimate their skills and that they understand the importance of never swimming alone.
In addition to these tips, there are several basic skills that the water safety experts at Goldfish Swim School work on with students every week. Parents can practice these skills with their kids anytime they are in the water together:
Work on getting in and out of the pool safely. Elbow, Elbow, Tummy, Knee! Help your little ones learn how to get out of the pool by manipulating their bodies in this order: elbow, elbow, tummy, knee. Practice this often; you can even do this on your living room floor by having your baby climb onto a couch or chair! After you practice, always remember to celebrate. Eventually, your little one will be strong enough to manage the movement on his own! This is a skill that kids continue to use to safely exit the pool — even when they are older!
Jump, Turn, Swim to the Wall! Once they have the movement down, let your child jump off the side of the pool to you, help him physically turn back to the wall and then assist him in getting out of the pool by using the elbow, elbow, tummy, knee method. Do this over and over again as he gets more confident let them go under the water and come to the surface on his own. This teaches kids to automatically turn back to the wall behind them to climb out. If a child were to fall into a pool, this skill could help him find the quickest way to safety.
Sea Otter Float. Work with your child on turning over and getting his face out of the water to take a breath when he fatigues.
We’d love to see you and your family in the pool to work on essential swim and water safety skills this summer!
About Goldfish Swim School
Goldfish Swim School provides swim instruction to children ages 4 months to 12 years-old in a unique setting with highly trained instructors, small class sizes (max 4:1 student to teacher ratio), shiver-free 90-degree pools, and a state-of-the-art water purification system. In addition to swim lessons, Goldfish Swim School also offers weekly family swims (for both members and non-members) and birthday party packages. For more information or to register for lessons, visit the website .
We loved the facilities at Goldfish Swim School, which were convenient and clean. First of all, the pool is so warm! I loved how cozy it was. Next, we were able to shower the kids after swimming and change them into their pajamas in their warm, private changing rooms. Then, the kids got to spin their swimsuits in the bathing suit drier and blow dry their own hair at the blow dry bar. On the way out, they each got a lollipop for the ride home too. If only it was closer to our home, we would be there all the time!_______________________________________________________________________________
[This is a promotional post. I was not compensated but did benefit from a free open swim session. All opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Please talk to your own health care provider about medical concerns related to swimming, or anything else.]