Creating Time for Children’s Success

By: Martianne Stanger

“Mom, help me…” my son whines when asked to complete a simple, everyday task.

“I can’t.” I carry on with what I was doing.

“But, Mom…” He begins to wind himself into a tantrum.

“I’m sorry. I cannot help you.” I stand firm.

“Yes, you can. You just won’t.”

I go to my son and bend low, so that my eyes are on level with him. I smile. “You’re right, in a way. I am choosing not to help you, because you CAN do this yourself.”

He calms a bit. “But you help me do it sometimes.”

“You’re right again. I do help sometimes. But, I can’t this time, because if I did, how would you ever learn to do it on your own?”

My child makes a sour face that tells me he doesn’t like what he is hearing, but he “gets it.”

“Now, please try, and, if you get to stuck – honestly get stuck – I’ll help you.”

He grumbles, but begins the task at hand. As he works, I reassure him. “I think you’ll see you can do it on your own. All you need is time to practice.”

Conversations like this have been unfolding often in my home. In fact, this one happened just last night.

You see, one day after reaching an apex of frustration over something as trivial as getting on socks and shoes, I asked myself, When did my children go from their toddler and preschooler attitude of “I can do it myself!” to their current complaints of helplessness. And, Why?

The answer hit me hard: Because I let it. I did things for my children that they could do themselves for no other reason than to get those things done faster.

tying shoeInstead of offering consistent room for trial, error and success, I had increasingly trapped my family in a modern phenomena that is a bane to self-sufficiency: busyness.

It’s awfully difficult to learn how to tie shoes when rushing out the door.

“Hurry up. We’re late,” does not leave much room for “Hang on, Mom, I’m still mastering how to get my shoes on right.” Or, fixing my hair. Or, folding and putting away my clothes instead of throwing them on the floor or in the laundry pile. Or, tidying up what I was just doing instead of leaving it as mess to add to later.

Not that my children would ever say such words to me, but their actions speak them loudly.

When I add just a bit more margin space to our schedule on any given day, I find that my children become a lot more adept at doing things for themselves.

In fact, when I stop “helping” my children to do things faster in lieu of offering them time to do the same things on their own, I recognize a truth: Just a little more time can result in a whole lot more success.

My children can do so much for themselves already, and, increasingly I recognize that they can do even more when I just remember to offer them a few extra moments to fumble through their learning curves.

Indeed, today’s time-consuming mastery can become tomorrow’s peaceful proficiency. Children can do so much for themselves…when we let them.

Might you begin offering your children more unhurried, natural opportunities to master skills, too?

Posted in Family, Martianne Stanger, Mommy Advice, Parenting Advice | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keeping Our Kids Safe is a Team Effort

By: Jessica Aldred

Peanut Butter and Jelly. Chocolate. Ice Cream. Birthday Cake. These are just a few of the delicacies that my children enjoy without batting an eye. A PB&J is our go-to food of choice, actually, and I am fully aware of how lucky I am that (knock on wood) our family has come out virtually allergy free.

My eldest, at age 6, is capable of understanding the ramifications of one of his not-so-lucky friends consuming some of those foods he enjoys so easily. I can count three close friends off the top of my head with children that have not just food allergies, but SEVERE food allergeies. Having my son attend school with one of these children wasn’t burdensome, but rather was educational for him. He learned that having a food allergy was just another difference or sensitivity that his friend has that he should take the time to be cognizant of. food allergiesOf course while we encouraged him to embrace the differences of others and to be mindful of his actions when hanging out with this child, we have sheltered him a bit with regard to the implications of these children coming into contact with something they shouldn’t or needing to use the ever-looming Epi pen.

I like to consider myself a thoughtful person. I over think my actions and how they’ll affect others. While this can be a personality flaw at times, I think the parents of our allergic friends would be thankful to know how much thought I put into my daily travels and our consumption habits. My children will not have peanut butter on a day I know that they’re going to be seeing a friend with an allergy, and if by chance they do I am sure to thoroughly wash them up, change their shirt and scour them for any signs of allergens. I try to have an alternative at birthday parties or cookouts that these children can generally partake in so as not to exclude them in the festivities any more than absolutely necessary. And I’d never share a snack with a child without being sure that it was something they could enjoy without consequence.

I remember starting college, some 15+ years ago, and reading a plaque placed below a tree that was dedicated to a former student who had passed from an allergic reaction to nuts. At the time, it was the first exposure I had really had to the severity of some of these allergies. I remember being a bit confused, but it didn’t effect me so I moved on. As I’d pass that tree for the next few years I’d think of that girl and how difficult it must have been to keep her distance from such a common food product. Now, as a mother, I often think of her and her parents and how difficult their lives must have truly been in a time when allergens were not such a hot societal topic and not something so common that it has become a team effort for us to keep ALL our children safe.

Thankfully, my children do not have food allergies, but these days food allergies are a very big part of the world. Public schools are adopting allergy-friendly policies that keep all kids safe. Please understand that these policies are not an option, and they are not intended to make your lunch packing more difficult. They’re in place to keep all our children safe, happy and thriving in our schools. Because we have been around children with life threatening allergies, we understand their unique dietary needs. While at first this was confusing and scary, we now have a better understanding of what we need to do to keep these children safe from harm. In hopes of spreading a bit of awareness, I’ve combined minds with the parent of one of these children to compile a list of things to be aware of and little things you can to do help all our children thrive together.

  1. Sharing a ball, toy or jacket is not the same as sharing snacks/food. The teacher and adult are not always going to be watching. It is good to discuss differences with your child and make them aware that some kids eat different things. Tell them they aren’t being rude by not offering their best friend a yummy snack. They are keeping their friends healthy and safe from harm.
  2. Labels, labels, labels. All packaged food is required to contain some form of allergen information. When in doubt, read the label. If you are still confused after reading the label, save that food for home.
  3. Wipes- how did I ever survive without these? I’m pretty sure that even after my youngest is out of diapers I will still carry these things in my purse. Wiping your hands after eating solves lots of allergy issues and has an added bonus to keep us germ free, too!
  4. Asking questions- Do you have any allergies to food or things you eat? Allergy kids are trained from a very early age to avoid things they are allergic to. My friend’s daughter will gladly go through the list of things that affect her and she’s been able to do this since age 3.
  5. Allergy parents aren’t saying you have to change all that you do to accommodate them. An awareness of the allergies that could be around is all they are asking for. Although we make an effort to avoid those foods that my friends’ children are allergic to, it has never been a demand from their parents. At birthday parties they often bring their own cupcake or foods that she can have and does not inconvenience the party host at all.
  6. It doesn’t hurt to know how and when to use an Epi pen. Just pray hard you never have to put that knowledge to good use.
  7. If you send in any treats to school for the holidays check with the teacher to see if there are any food allergies first. Most schools ask you to avoid sending food items in at all but in case it is still allowed it is always good to ask first.
  8. If your child has a best friend who has food allergies, train them to keep an eye out for their buddy. Extra awareness is always welcome.
  9. Be an advocate for these children. Don’t let what is already a difficult lifestyle to maintain become a reason to shy away from or bully these children.
  10. Please keep in mind that this is not a dietary preference but a life threatening illness. Believe me, if they could rid themselves of these allergies they would.

Again, while this does not affect me directly it does affect us all. Keeping our kids safe should be our number one priority as a society. I’m sure each of us can list at least one person we know these days affected by allergies. If you ever find yourself frustrated or annoyed with the attention paid to these issues these days, think of your friend, family member or classmate and remember that this is even more frustrating or annoying to them. Embrace their differences and see how you can help the cause, rather than making the already difficult job of parenting these children even more challenging.

What are your tips for helping keep all our kids safe from food allergies?

Posted in Food, Health, Jessica Aldred | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Signature Healthcare’s Female Physicians

At Signature Healthcare, we thought that the Signature Moms Blog would be the perfect place to share our newest videos featuring several of our female physicians. (Check out our first batch here!) Once you watch these videos, you’ll see that our physicians listen to their patients and communicate with family members. It may seem old fashioned, but it still works.

Posted in Female Physicians, Health | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Flatten Out For Your Health

By: Kathy Trainor

Pink RibbonMost often, when woman hear the word “mammogram,” they think the following:

  1. I am not old enough.
  2. I really don’t want to go.
  3. I need to get there and get it done.

I fall under 1…2… and 3.

I am in my thirties. Many will say that you don’t need a mammogram until the age of 40 or older. I really don’t like to go. I really don’t like it at all.  Yet, I go every year, and flatten out for my health.

You see, not only do I have a very close friend who had a double mastectomy last year, my mom’s family has had breast cancer. This means we are watched closely. My grandmother was YOUNG – she was only in her thirties when she died of breast cancer. So, for my 21st birthday, my mom didn’t take me for my first drink; she took me for my first mammogram.

I was young, scared, and very rude about the whole day. I hated to have to skip deodorant. I hated that my mom was with me. I was 21…I could have driven myself. I hated the cold, dark room. I felt like I was violated when the woman grabbed a handful of my breast and put it on a cold, dark table and photographed me.

I sat there and thought to myself that I was fine, so I really didn’t need to do this. I wouldn’t even hear anything about my results. I was 21.

Then it happened, one week after my mammogram. I got a phone call. “We need to see you and you will need to have another mammogram.” I called my mom in a panic. This time, I needed her there. This time, I KNEW why my mom had wanted me to go so young.

We sat in front of my doctor and she explained that the tissue in my breast had some concerns. It was NOT cancer, but we needed to watch it and do a biopsy to get a better idea if we were looking at pre-cancerous tissue or just dense breast tissue.

I was in tears. I was thankful my mom was there, and I was mad that I had been immature about something so minor as a mammogram. I got my biopsy and my second mammogram, and within one month’s time I met with the doctor again.

She told me that I am at a higher risk due to family history and that I will need a yearly breast mammogram and lab work. We agreed and we understood that I was healthy for now, but that my health could change. I was ok for now and the pre-cancerous tissue didn’t need surgery. Now, I have gotten a mammogram every year for 15 years.

I CHALLENGE all women to get your monogram TODAY. It could save your life.

Posted in Health, Kathy Trainor, Mommy Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lockdown

By: Heather Desmond O’Neill

Safety drill“Mama, we had a drill at school today!”

“Wow! A fire drill?”

“Nope …. A LOCKDOWN drill!”

And my heart sank. Thankfully, I was on the phone with my son so he did not see the tears that immediately formed in the corners of my eyes.

My mind immediately thought of the Sandy Hook kids. They were first and second graders. Just babies. My son is in first grade. He has no idea about the importance or relevance of what a lockdown is.

I have a sense of helplessness.

This was just a drill. He was excited about learning something new. I was terrified that he may actually have to use it.

I work in a school. I get it. We practice lockdown drills so that everyone is on the same page as to what to do in an emergency. The kids get used to practicing these drills so if there is ever an emergency they are prepared. The fact that this even needs to exist disgusts me. But the realist in me knows that we need lockdown drills.

What did you do in the drill?” I ask.

We went over to a super secret place and all sat on the floor,” he replied.

What did they tell you was the most important thing to do?”

Be quiet,” he states matter-of-factly.

I’m afraid if I say anything else he will know I’m crying. So I stay silent.

Bye Mama. See you when you get home!”

And I am off the hook. “Bye baby. See you soon,” I choke out.

I can’t stop the tears. I think of the angels who protected as many children as they could that fateful day in December 2012. I pray there are people of the same caliber working at my son’s school. I picture the faces of innocent elementary school children and my heart hurts.

I think of the families, the parents, the siblings, the grandparents, the surviving classmates and faculty. I wonder if they practice lockdown drills.

I hate this feeling of doom I have while discussing the drill with my son. I want school to be a safe, secure and enjoyable place for him. But I know that this is out of my control.

All I can do is support his teachers and discuss with him how to behave during these drills. I want him to take them seriously, but not be scared. I want for him to never have to experience terror in school. I pray this will be the case.

Posted in Family, Heather Desmond O'Neill, Mommy Advice, School | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Coping with the Death of a Co-Worker

By: Carolyn Coleman

death of a coworkerI recently experienced the death of a co-worker. It’s been hard to process because you don’t always know how to cope with the death of a co-worker. Our co-workers are very much like extended family; we spend most of our waking hours with them.

There are many reasons why coping with the loss of a co-worker can present unique challenges. Co-workers are not always acknowledged for the significant role they play in our lives, so we may not feel supported in our feelings of grief. People may assume you should get over it quickly. Our family and other friends may not know the co-worker who has died; we may not know the family and friends of our co-worker. If we cannot grieve with our co-workers, we may feel completely alone, yet our employers don’t always encourage us to grieve openly or together. Emotions and work are not things that usually go together. Work has long been considered a place to be productive, not to shed tears, which can be a hard habit to break.

We spend a lot of time with our co-workers. They touch or lives every day. We laugh and complain to one another, experience successes and failures, and go through our good days and bad days together. But yet with the loss of a co-worker we often don’t have permission to grieve as we would a family member or friend.

I don’t feel as though grief should be lost in the workplace – we just need to be more proactive in handling it.

As with any loss, I’ve learned to value family more and to take care of our physical and emotional health.

Posted in Carolyn Coleman, Working | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Friends

By: Jessica Aldred

“Do you wanna have a play date?”

“Mom, I made a new friend today!”

“My new friend thinks spiders are icky, too!”

These are just a few of the statements I’ve heard from my cherubs as they started off the school year in their new classrooms. As an adult, I can’t remember the last time making a friend was so simple. A time when all it took to be BFF’s was bonding over a love of matchbox cars or Barbie dolls. A time when you literally felt comfortable just walking up to another human being and saying, “Hey, let’s be friends.” They’d say yes and you’d skip off, onto the next game or activity.

Can you imagine if it were so simple as adults? We’ve all become so insecure with who we are that we can’t imagine that other adults might actually like us. We’re so afraid of being rejected that we often sit on the sidelines, quietly busying ourselves so as not to be adult friendshipsbothered with. I can’t be the only one fighting this battle. In fact, I know I’m not, and I’ve made it a point to try to squash this fear by taking it head on.

It’s not that I’m antisocial, just insecure I guess. The cool kids in school can only psychologically batter you so long before it leaves its mark for life. In the past few weeks I have it made a point to actively walk up to groups of pseudo-strangers and start conversation. I’ve also gone solo to some town, adult-only, events in hopes of winning this war over my own psyche. While I haven’t been surprised by the response I’ve received, I still find it awkward. Why is so hard to feel confident in yourself and your ability to make friends just as you did decades ago on the playground? I don’t need them to come over and play with my stuff, but I do need these people, these other parents who will become some of my closest friends over the next 12+ years, to know who I am and appreciate what I bring to the table.

My husband has taken to calling me the definition of a soccer mom, as I show up at my children’s events, cordially say hello to half a dozen people, and almost immediately engage in conversation with someone. Like I said, I’m not anti-social. I can hold my own in most social circles, but defeating my inner demons is an ongoing battle. What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not into what they’re into? Come on! We’re all into our kids and that’s our innate bond.

Friendships of the past, while majorly still there, fall by the wayside when kids come along. We’re almost forced to unite with these kindred spirits who shiver on the sidelines with us. We’ll share stories of the trials and tribulations of child rearing. We’ll share our past or present careers and make random connections we didn’t know were there at the start. And we’ll allow these people to become some of our most trusted resources when it comes to our family, our town/city, and life in general. How can they not? I’m still in the early years, but I know many more hours will be spent at committee meetings, sporting events and conferences alongside these increasingly familiar faces.

If I have learned anything in my years as an adult, and specifically as a parent, it is that I am the example my children will follow. The choices I make will give them permission to follow suit. So, when my preschooler walks confidently up to another small child, offers his hand and says “Hi!” I feel good about that. Although I don’t always feel that confidence he exudes so effortlessly, at least I’m putting on a good show and he’s benefiting from that.

Posted in Jessica Aldred, Mommy Advice | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment