Ages and Stages of Motherhood

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Kids often like to flip through the cards on my ID badge, which dangles from my neck into their grasp during their physical exams. Flipping through, they see first my main ID picture, taken very recently, and next an older photo from my first week of residency. The latter photo, now seven years old, shows a version of myself that feels like yesterday. I had just flown home from a Caribbean cruise, my skin sun-kissed and hair golden in its highlights. I was relaxed, well-rested, and healthy.

“Is this you?’ the kids often ask in bewilderment. Then I flip quickly between the two saying “yes, pre- and post-kids, pre- and post-residency.” This always gets a laugh from the parents.

I know there are women who have two children and seem not to age a bit. I thought after my first that I was mostly unchanged, but by my second, I realized how old I have become. After wrestling around on the floor with my children, my knees creak when I stand. I have wrinkles on my forehead from all the times I have raised my eyebrows in surprise, which with a preschool-aged son happens more and more these days. I surrendered both the expense and time needed for getting my hair highlighted to let it be natural, and the natural color seemed to change with each pregnancy.

Being a physician seemed to compound these effects. Time was even more precious, stress more acute, and habits unhealthy. The end result becoming that I didn’t love the ID picture on the front of my badge anymore. So as the kids gaped in amazement at my younger self, I did too, and wondered where she went.

While getting my hair cut recently, the stylist looked at me as I hurried in and out of her chair on my way from a meeting to school pick-up. “Honey,” she said grasping my shoulders, “you deserve something for you.” Of course she was right. It wasn’t about making myself look younger, because I know I’ll never look like the girl on the old ID badge again, but rather investing in myself now so that I am confident in who I am. So I’ve allowed myself some indulgences, like coloring my hair or painting my nails.

However, even if I primp and pamper myself, I am still a 30-something working mother of two. There are pieces of my children that I carry with me always now, parts of me that are forever changed from their being. But as I hold them in my arms and they run their hands through my hair and glide their fingers over the contours of my aging face, I see how beautiful I am in their eyes and love every imperfection that makes me their mother.

Preschooler Fashion

shoesI swore I would never buy light-up shoes. When these first came out in 1992 I was only eleven years old and already had enough fashion sense to know that these were utterly ridiculous. I put them in the same category as the shoes with imbedded inline skates (Heelys), which came out about eight years later. Suddenly kids were either stomping their feet or leaning back to glide on wheels as they walked around shopping malls and grocery stores. Before children, I rolled my eyes at these inventions.

My son has a habit of dragging the toes of his shoes to brake on his balance bike, which means that any pair of shoes we buy him from April to November lasts for only a few weeks. If he had a fashion style, it would be hobo chic. So knowing his shoes won’t last long, I rarely spend too much money on each pair. The upside is that we get to try out many different styles.

At the age of four, my son is starting to have opinions about what clothing he wants to wear and it is a little harder for me to pick out things that I like without running it by him. He recently informed me that he wanted light-up shoes and I groaned as he pointed them out to me. Eager to get him into any shoes that actually had intact soles, I conceded. Then, as I watched him dance around in his new shoes and tell me fantastical stories about the lighting shooting from his shoes, I realized how much fun it was to watch him assert his own sense of style. Although I’ll miss the days when I could buy anything in his size and dress him up, I’m enjoying seeing him express himself in fashion. And if anything describes his four-year-old self, it’s lightning shooting from the soles of his feet.

The Long Way Home

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The ten minute drive home from work is both the best and worst ten minutes of my day. I am fortunate that my husband and kids pick me up from work most days of the week and we all drive home together. As much as  I love my job, I cannot wait to see my children at the end of the day. As our car pulls up, I wave excitedly at them and see their beautiful faces smiling back at me, their necks craning eagerly to see me. Best part of my day. Then, I get into the car and the next ten minutes are a symphony of complaints and cries. Worst part of my day. I try to get my preschooler to tell me some tidbit of his day, but typically he responds with whining about what he wants to eat or what toy he wants me to buy for him and how upset he is that he isn’t eating said food or playing with aforementioned toy at that very instant. Meanwhile my toddler weeps that she is rear-facing (she’s under two!) and cannot see me as well as her brother. Sensing his mood, she surmises that she should also be upset. Then they argue over a few rogue goldfish snacks they found wedged between the car seats. Toys get flung around and we yell from the front seat some parental guidance about car safety that sounds like Greek to my children. I hear the echoes of my own childhood in each phrase (“do you want me to get in an accident?!”). By the time we pull into our garage, we are sometimes so exasperated that any fantasies I had about our evening plans are replaced with dreams of going straight to bed.

Hours from bedtime though, my children need entertaining, which this time of year typically means playing outside. So we all burn off the energy we worked up during the car ride by running, biking, and climbing. After playing together, things seem to calm down and we are all happy again. A few blissful moments before we begin to battle over eating dinner.

I know that we are not alone in the after-work/after-school witching hours. As a working mom though, these few hours between work and bedtime are the only time I have with my kids during the week, so it frustrates me when this time is spent negatively. Whenever we are in such a rut, I brainstorm strategies to make our time together special. Special is one of my preschooler’s favorite words, so any mundane task or food can be elevated by describing it as special. Such as, “I have a special snack for you,” elevates “here’s this thing I bought that you haven’t tried before and I hope you eat.” Or “we can’t  go there but we are going to another special place” improves the reality of “your favorite place is closed so let’s try the next best option.” So there are lots of “special” moments incorporated into our rides home. Sometimes it works, sometimes we continue to battle.

Each time though I find myself frustrated by the backseat yelling, crying, or fighting, I try to remember that this is their way of venting. If I were driving home with only my husband, or a coworker, I would use that time to air my grievances. It’s my version of therapy. Ten minutes later and I feel unburdened by the stresses of my work day and ready to tackle my home life. Similarly, my children have long days at daycare/preschool; sometimes their days are even longer than mine. So why should I begrudge their time to complain about it? Although they don’t give me tangible complaints, like boy mom, school was hard today, or guess what so-and-so said today, they give me their troubles in an age-appropriate expression. They let it out with a scream, a tantrum, a cry. Then as I sit there, wishing I could complete a sentence to my husband without a shrieking toddler or having my seat back kicked with the wrath of four-year-old feet, I remember that they are also trying to tell me about their daily worries and that by the time we get home we will all happily play together.

Now we play a game that my preschooler himself initiated. We take turns naming the best part and worst part of our day. Typically his best part involves some demand of his that I gave into and his worst part is something that he would like to apologize for but hasn’t yet. Then I counter with my best part being whatever said thing he has actually apologized for and my worst part is whatever we had just been yelling about, for which we have now repented. The game turns into an orchestrated way of verbalizing our frustrations, apologizing for hurting each other, and modeling how we wish things were better. So while the worst part of my day may be hearing my children greet me with high octave cries of their daily struggles, my best part is that I am raising children who created a way to make that worst part better for us all.

Spring Fitness

I am ready to embrace Spring weather, and so are my kids. As the temperature creeps back up into the 60′s and 70′s, we are shedding our layers and running to the nearest park. It seems that in my office, every time I see an overweight child, their parent explains away their weight gain as the result of a long Winter spent snacking indoors. I hear ya. My activity level drops while my waist band expands when the weather prohibits me from being active outdoors, so I am looking forward to reversing that trend.

This is the perfect time of year to not only Spring clean my house, but my bad habits. Fresh fruits and salads are filling my kitchen and we are dusting off our outdoor toys. We are lucky to live near a number of great Philadelphia parks and we augment our time there with trips to some of our favorite outdoor play places, like the Philadelphia Zoo, Smith Playground, Franklin Square, and Sister Cities. We are looking forward to the return of the Spruce Street Harbor Park (this year with a roller rink!) and will also return to the Washington Avenue Green. Of course, some of our favorite Spring events are the plethora of street festivals, like the upcoming South Street Spring Festival.

For all of my patients looking to add some healthy habits into their lifestyle, Spring in Philly makes it easy. I am also aiming to model healthier habits for my children this Spring and am looking forward to all the places this will take us together.

What is your favorite Spring activity in Philadelphia?

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Kids Parties in Philadelphia: One mom’s guide to planning your next party

Every January I begin planning my son’s birthday party.  I think about paries we have attended and liked, I look for ideas on the Internet, and I use his current interests as inspiration.  If his birthday fell in the Summer, I would probably have a picnic at a playground for him every year, but with the weather being unpredictable at the end of Winter, I am tasked with finding a venue that has indoor space.  Not only indoors, but affordable.  When I first started researching party venues in Philadelphia, I was surprised by how expensive a city child’s birthday party could become when hosted outside your own home.  As city dwellers, an at-home party is not always practical.  So each year I balance the creativity of our party with the cost of the venue and the ability to accommodate as many friends as possible.

first_cupcake

For his first birthday, we wanted to celebrate surviving our first year as parents with our friends, who just so happened to have also survived a year or so of parenting.  Our one-year-old barely knew it was his birthday, but nevertheless he enjoyed having presents and cupcakes presented before him.  Our venue was the playground at Franklin Square, where you can rent an indoor space in an adjacent pavilion.  The party package included tickets for the carousel and miniature golf, features that our one-year-olds did not yet appreciate.  Our theme was Dr. Seuss, in honor of his recent landmark birthday that year.  My favorite part of this party was the freedom that each family had to enjoy the park in their own way with children of all developmental levels.

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For his second birthday, I decided to return to an old school at-home birthday party.  As we had recently moved and had more space for entertaining, the children enjoyed playing with toys in our playroom and outside on our sidewalk.  Our theme was sports, and we demonstrated this with the variety of sports we learned while playing outside and each child left with their own ball.  It was unstructured and chaotic, much like a two-year-old would have planned.  My favorite part though was that it was informal and inexpensive!

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For his third birthday, we wanted to incorporate as many of his new school friends as possible, so we had an indoor gym party at Philly InMovement.  For three-year-olds, a bouncy house and trampoline were great ways to burn off the birthday cake!  Our theme was bugs, because what three-year-old boy doesn’t want bugs crawling around his party!  After I delivered our food and decorations, Philly InMovement allowed me to sit back and relax and that made the expense worth it.pizza_chefSlice_pizza

 

 

 

 

 

For his fourth birthday, I wanted the kids to have a hands-on activity.  Preschoolers enjoy learning new skills, so we headed to a pizzeria called Slice and made our own personal pizzas.  Our theme was based on one of our favorite books, Curious George and the Pizza Party.  The little chefs colored their own chef hats and then assembled pizzas, which they then ate.  My favorite part was watching them taste their creations.  It was short, but action-packed, and very affordable.  The staff at Slice were wonderful hosts.

Some of the other parties we have enjoyed as guests were at Smith Playground, Nest, Expressive Hand, and Queen Village Art Center.  The city certainly has a lot of options for birthday parties of varying cost and parental involvement.  In the end though, I have learned that simple, child-centered, and play-based parties are what kids want.  And all you need as a parent is to see the smile on your child’s face in the glow of their birthday candles as they sit there making their wish while you see yours come true.

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For more information about these party venues:

Franklin Square- packages start at $450

Philly InMovement- packages start at $250

Slice- parties cost $7.95/child

Smith Playground- party rentals start at $150

Nest Philly- packages start at $275

Expressive Hand- parties start at $75

Queen Village Art Center- parties start at $365

[I have no affiliation with these venues and I was not compensated for this post.  All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.]

 

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