10 Years of Mommy Tips: Part II
My daughter recently turned ten and rather than sulk about it, I thought I’d share some mommy tips I’ve gleaned over the (gulp!) decade. Last week I wrote tips from pregnancy – age 5, so this post focuses on the glory of kidhood.
- Nothing stressed me out more than trying to figure out where to send my kids to school. We did private nursery school, public school, lotteries for charter school and now homeschool.
- Private school is amazing…if you can afford it. Rates will of course vary by location but the nursery schools we sent our kids to cost $5k-$6k per year for part-time classes. I felt like they were very beneficial for my kids because it taught them how to have social interaction with other children, how to behave in a school setting and gave them a quality education of the basics. Once kindergarten started, however, the prices all seemed to jump up from $8k – $20k per year and I had two kids! Unless I won the lottery this wasn’t going to happen.
- Public school is a mixed bag. The class size is typically 18+ kids per teacher and she just doesn’t have enough time in the day to cover everything that is expected. Success is based not only on how good the teacher is, but also if the other kids in the class are well behaved or little punk bullies. (We’ve dealt with both.) Public school is very good at offering help with special needs, like speech therapy, but can be inconsistent with gifted programs where the funding (at least for us) was cut to just once-per-week pull out classes.
If you send your kids to public school, show up as much as your schedule allows. Go to after-school nights, volunteer for class parties and meet the parents of other kids in the class. My kids’ teachers used an app called Class Dojo, which I thought was very helpful. I could message their teacher and check in on their behavior throughout the day. The more active you are, the better everyone’s experience.
- Charter schools may be open to the public, but to get your kid in you have to enter them into an annual lottery. My kids were not lottery winners, sadly. So they were put on waitlists. One time my child did get called on the waitlist, but the regular school year had already started and I didn’t want to mess up schedules when things seemed to be going well. Most of my friends who have their kids in charter schools love it. Maybe some day my kids will get in and I’ll love it too. Who knows?
- Homeschool. Last year I started homeschooling my daughter and it was really good for both of us, good enough that I will be homeschooling both children this year, at least for the year. I’m not sure I want to commit to this until high school graduation, but for now it works. I even started a blog about it called MinnieMonsters.com. I only have written a few posts so far because I was busy, you know, homeschooling but plan to add more posts over the summer.
- Birthday parties can be as affordable or as extravagant as you want them to be. When my daughter turned one we were in the crazy stages of the Great Recession and no one knew if we would have a job the next day. The party consisted of hot dogs and cake and just our family. Last year we went all out and did a Harry Potter themed birthday complete with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. Both were fun because it’s more about the company you keep then the party décor.
- Stay-at-home parties are less expensive, but also require you to clean the entire house and keep your husband, dog and kids under tight guard so they don’t mess it up before the party.
- Party destination places are a lot of fun and require a lot less work, but you have to pay for that of course. It’s almost always cheaper if you buy your own pizza, but not every place lets you do that.
- Best part of birthday parties (in order): cake, gift bags you can recycle for years, fun memories.
- Goody bag tip: DON’T PUT CHOCOLATE IN THE BAG. It will end up everywhere. I like Smarties because they don’t stain anything and still taste good. Also, you don’t need to go crazy here, making the bags coordinate with the cups and the cake, unless you are into that. Most kids will be happy either way.
- Opening gifts: When you’re throwing a party for children ages 1-3, spare yourself drama and open the gifts after everyone leaves. Toddlers don’t understand etiquette and their friends may start to cry/fight over the birthday toy they’ve just given. (Four-year-olds can handle it.)
- Ease up there Tiger Mom! I know that enrichment is good and you want to give the world to your child, but it can be overdone. Going to school is tiring and usually followed by at least 40 minutes of homework.
Do you really want to schedule dance, soccer, Girl Scouts, chess club, Spanish immersion and violin lessons every day of the week too? For my own kids I found that doing one sport and one social activity each semester worked out best. We rotate the activities each semester so that they have a chance to try out multiple sports and clubs until they find the ones that really rock their world.
Going Back to Work Part-Time
- I’ve been a full-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom and am now a part-time working mom. For me, part-time is best. I like the adult interaction and salary that only working seems to offer and still feel like I have enough time to hang out with my kids and get the laundry done. Not everyone can (or wants to) work part-time, but it works for me.
- Everyone has to step up. The days of mom doing everything are gone. My husband and kids now help me with the laundry, dishes and general cleaning duties. It goes a lot faster with four people splitting the workload!
- My phone calendar has a bazillion reminders and alarms entered into it. Sometimes I also write big appointments down on an old-school calendar that hangs in the kitchen. I will also verbally go through the calendar items with my husband several times during the week so we are on the same page.
- My daughter turned ten and was in 5th grade, so it was time to talk to her about the birds and the bees. This wasn’t just one conversation, it was broken up into many conversations throughout the year, starting with changes that would happen to her body and by the end of the year covering the basic concepts of sex, marriage, birth control and ramifications of all of the above.
- Books that I found helpful were the American Girl: The Care And Keeping of You Part I and Part II. They covered everything from self-care to common questions about puberty in a factual, easy going format.
- Teachable moments. The first year I homeschooled my daughter coincided with her learning American history from the colonies to the election of 2016. Some things that popped up in the news completely caught me off guard, often making me say, Thanks Donald Trump… i.e. “Blood coming out of her wherever” (What’s her wherever, mom?), “Mexicans are rapists” (What’s a rapist?), “I just grab them by their p****” (What’s a p****?). And I also had to explain pro-life vs. reproductive rights, transgender bathroom rules and a whole slew of other topics I wasn’t particularly planning to discuss at that moment in time. Thanks politicians! I just answered her questions as honestly as I could, giving her my own opinion as well as the counter-opinion and told her that ultimately she would decide for herself how she felt about these topics and that it was ok for her opinions to evolve and be different from mine.
The teen years are just around the corner. Dating. Driving. Hormones. Rebellion. College applications. Dear God, give me strength and a cocktail! For now though, I’m enjoying all that the golden age of childhood has to offer and I hope my kids are too.
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Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!!
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