On Friday, we made a big announcement on social media. We are joyously awaiting our second little blessing! Finding out was a surprise, to say the least, and to tell you the truth, I didn't really believe I was pregnant until I had been to more than one ultrasound. I guess because we had struggled so much to get pregnant with Caleb, it was just surreal.
Last summer, we went to see our reproductive endocrinologist (aka fertility doctor) in the hopes of getting the process started for baby #2. Since Zika was a huge concern last summer and we had a trip to the Dominican Republic, he told us to come back in January. So in January, we went to see him. After going back and forth for a little bit, I told Eddie I didn't think it was the right time. He was in the middle of a transition with his job, and I felt like the added stress of having a baby wasn't something we needed at the moment. So we decided to hold off.
We went about our lives and figured we would come back to the doctor sometime in the fall after Caleb had started preschool. In June, my husband's work situation got resolved, we spent nearly 3 weeks at the beach, and then I went to BlogHer. We also booked a trip to Napa for the first weekend of August. A couple of weeks later, I realized my period was 4 days late. I didn't think much of it since I don't have totally regular cycles. But four days after that, I figured I should probably take a test, especially since we had weekend plans that involved drinking.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw that there were two blue lines less than ten seconds after I peed on that little stick. I took two more tests just to be sure, then ran and got some bloodwork to confirm that I was, in fact, pregnant. Eddie was as shocked and as thrilled as I was.
My parents were out of town for three weeks in the month of July. I found out the Friday after they left, and we decided to hold off on telling anyone until they were back. We told my in-laws the night before my parents returned, and we surprised my parents at the airport with the news. Nobody was expecting it, and everyone is as surprised and ecstatic as we are!
I'll have a "bumpdate" for you in the next week or so and I'll let you know all about how I've been feeling, but for now, I'm feeling immeasurable joy at the fact that we are growing our little family!
Caleb is excited about his baby brother or sister, too!
To all my teacher friends - don't hate me for the reminder that summer is almost over. I remember being in your shoes.
In two short weeks, Caleb will be starting preschool for the first time ever! It's a half day program, but it's at a school that goes from preschool through 8th grade, which means it functions similarly to a regular school.
I like to be prepared early, so back in early July I made sure to take care of all his supplies so that I wasn't running around in the mad rush during the few weeks before school. Here's a list of what I picked up for him. Items may vary depending on your child's age and what their school requires, but I think across the board you'll find that most kids need similar items.
I think that's everything! Are you ready to start the school year with your little ones?
I was provided with a subscription in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
I have been an avid reader my entire life. One thing I always imagined as I got older was reading to my kids. We don't necessarily have formal story time every day around here, but I do make it a point to read to Caleb throughout the day. Sometimes it's in the bath with a bath book, or right before we nap. New books are my favorite, and he loves exploring new reading material, too, but sometimes it's hard to figure out what new book to get!
Enter Bookroo, a monthly children's book subscription. They have two options for subscriptions: a Picture Book Box, which contains two picture books perfect for ages 2-6, or the Board Book Box, which contains 3 board books perfect for ages 0-2. Each book comes individually wrapped, and Caleb had so much fun unwrapping them. He kept saying, "Mommy, present!" I feel like this made him even more excited to receive a book as a gift!
Our first box had two really fun books, and Caleb has enjoyed them both greatly. His favorite of the two is "A Dog is a Dog," and he loves to point out all the animals.
They have one month, 3 month, 6 month, and 12 month subscriptions, so there is really an option for every budget. And while this is something great to get for your own children, I also think it makes a FANTASTIC gift.
Why not give a gift that keeps giving for months after a holiday or a birthday? And a gift that will allow them to keep learning and growing for so much time to come? As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to add this to Caleb's Christmas/Birthday wish list right now!
And guess what? If you use the code TOPKNOT, you will get 15% off of your Bookroo Box Subscription!
What are you waiting for?
I try to limit Caleb's usage of my phone and iPad as much as possible. Truthfully, he doesn't use it very much at all when we are home - he typically uses it when we are out and he is tired and starting to pitch a tantrum. It's just the easiest way for me to cut the tantrum and not ruin others' dining experiences. Otherwise, though, the phone is solely an emergency use basis. I keep the iPad mounted on the headrest in the car and he watches it like a TV when we are on road trips.
With that being said, there are a few apps that we go to for just such occasions.
The folks over at Kidloland sent us a subscription for unlimited access to the content in their app. It's been such a great resource for me to use. Even if Caleb isn't using my phone, sometimes I get stuck on what nursery rhymes or songs to sing. Their library is absolutely enormous. They have songs for counting, ABCs, and phonics, and they all involve some kind of interaction, so your kids aren't just watching the videos. They have tracing activities and coloring activities. Have a picky eater? They have songs about fruits and vegetables. They have a phonics module, and tons more. The app is recommended for toddlers through age 5. Their website also has some great resources and coloring pages! I know that I will be renewing my subscription for this app!
The awesome people over at Kidloland have given us some free subscriptions to give away to you all! Read all the way to the end of this post to find out how to enter!
To download the app:
Because, duh. Mickey and Minnie and Goofy and Pluto. Caleb likes to watch the episodes. They also have games, but we haven't explored that very much. You can sign in with your cable provider account info and have access to all full episodes for your kids' favorite shows. This is convenient for those moments when your child (well, my child) is yelling for a specific show.
These apps are adorable. It's basically Elmo & Cookie Monster FaceTiming your little one! The app accesses your camera so it looks like they are really on a FaceTime call. There are pauses for your child to respond back, and this is another one that makes Caleb crack up.
This app kept Caleb calm basically the entire flight when we flew from New York to Denver this past December. You can build Mr. Potato Head with all kinds of accessories and then put him into different environments. Then he interacts with the environment and does silly things, which always elicits a hearty laugh! (I have to say that Mr. Potato Head is Caleb's favorite real life toy. He plays with it every single day.)
This app is great for identifying things around the house. Caleb loves to have Daniel use the potty and he loves to put him to bed. It's not an app he will use for an extended amount of time, but it doesn't keep him busy for a few minutes at a time.
This app is for mamas, not for little ones. I haven't used this much lately, but when Caleb was a newborn I did, a lot. I used it to track his feedings, and his wet and soiled diapers. I also kept track of his growth when we would visit the pediatrician. It is a very functional app with a lot of capabilities. If you're a pumping mama, it helps you keep track of your pumping sessions as well, including how long you pumped, and how much your output was.
We probably spoiled Caleb for life, but we have a sound machine in his bedroom that we put on for him every night. It helps to drown out the other sounds in the house, and I have found that he sleeps so much better with some white noise.
There you have it! Our favorite apps! Don't forget to enter the giveaway below for a 3 month subscription to the Kidloland app!
I was provided meals at no charge for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Transitioning from a full time stay-at-home mom to an almost full-time work from home mom has been a huge adjustment. It wasn't a conscious decision, it was something that just happened, and it's been a blessing in more ways than one, but it has definitely been a bigger adjustment than I ever imagined. Some days I feel guilty because I am not giving Caleb my full attention all day long, but I have come to realize that I need to find a balance. And if I can dedicate two hours to just working in the morning, then I can focus on him for the majority of the rest of the day, or at least until Eddie comes home.
On weeks where I know we will be extra busy, Babe Appetit has come to the rescue! Babe Appetit is an organic meal delivery service based in Miami, FL. They design food plans for children ages 6-36 months. Packages range from 6 meals for parents wishing to introduce new flavors a few days a week, to 10 meals, which would cover all weekday lunches/dinners. This was designed to offer weekend flexibility since many families (at least ours) eat out on Saturday and Sunday. Meals are delivered on Sundays.
The meals are delicious. We have tried several of the items off the menu, and I can honestly say that it is food I wouldn't mind having, either. With samplings like mojo chicken, vegetable lasagna, and turkey chili, who can go wrong? There are meals for every taste and they are all executed deliciously.
So if you're like me and you need an easy fix for your mealtime worries, don't hesitate to check out Babe Apetit!
For more details and pricing reach out to Debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of months ago, my friend and I were chatting about things we wished existed that would be a great service for moms. One of the things we talked about was a nail salon that somehow had a playground incorporated into it, where you could take your kids when you have nobody to leave them with while you go get your mani/pedi.
Lo and behold, about a week later, an ad for Pod22 showed up on my Instagram feed. It was exactly what we had been talking about. Pod22 calls itself an urban break room. It's an indoor playground facility with lots of kid friendly play structures and padded flooring. It also has a lounge area, wifi, and a nail salon. One of the things that called my attention about Pod22 is that they have supervised play. Your kids aren't just running around - they are being watched by someone else so you really can relax!
The first thing I noticed when I stepped in is how modern and open the space is. From anywhere in the space, you can see almost the entire playground area. You enter, sign a waiver, and hand your little one over to the play supervisor. In Caleb's case, he was one-on-one with her the whole time I was getting my mani/pedi. The playground area is very clean and well kept, and is visually appealing for kids and adults alike.
Once he was entertained, they led me to the nail salon, an enclosed area with a glass wall where you can see your child in the playground area. The glass is tinted from the outside, so it's not very easy for your child to notice you in there, and the attendants do a great job of keeping them away from the windows.
My manicure was lovely. My manicurist was friendly and did a really great job on my manicure and pedicure. As a matter of fact, a week later, and my manicure is still perfectly intact aside from new nail growth. The fact that I could see Caleb the whole time I was getting my manicure and pedicure was comforting, but since I could tell he was having fun, I was really able to relax. At one point I looked out the window and saw him dancing to the "Hot Dog Song" from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which made me crack up.
As a matter of fact, he had so much fun that as soon as we sat in the car, he knocked out for his nap and slept for nearly 2 hours! That's a successful playtime to me!
Another great thing about Pod22 is that you don't necessarily have to go and get a mani/pedi while you are there. You can use supervised play and sit in the lounge area. They have great wifi, so if you have work you need to get done, like oh - say - a blog post that needs to get posted, you can take your kids to supervised play and get some work done.
They also have memberships available, which include supervised play and give discounts on services. And they offer birthday party packages, which is definitely a super option, especially if your child's birthday is in the warmer months when doing something outside is really difficult. Another plus is dedicated parking in the back of the building, which can be hard to come by for some places.
For me, the one drawback is the location - it's a little over 13 miles from home for me. That being said, there is nothing else like this in Miami, which makes it worth it for me to make my way there, even considering the distance.
I really can't begin to say enough wonderful things about this place, and I guarantee Caleb and I will be back again soon! I only wish I had come up with this idea myself! lol
So if you are in the Miami area, check them out, and let them know I sent you!
*I received free services at Pod22 in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. They also provided me with photos to include in the blog post.
When I first started this blog, this was one of the things I most wanted to do with my readers... share places I love and have enjoyed with Caleb. I can't believe now is when I'm finally getting around to it! I haven't been to every single place on this list with Caleb, but I did get a lot of suggestions from other toddler mamas in one of my mommy groups. So if we are recommending it, you can bet that they are places we have taken our kids!
If you're from Miami, most of these places probably won't come as a surprise to you, but you might not have been to all of them. If you're not from Miami, but have been considering making a trip down here with your kids, know that South Beach isn't the only part of Miami that you can visit with kids (nor should it be the only place you visit!).This list isn't totally comprehensive, and I didn't include areas like Little Havana or Wynwood, which have their own attractions, some appropriate for kids and others not necessarily. I focused on places that really are entertaining and captivating for kids.
Without further ado, here's MY-ami!
1. The Beach
You can't mention Miami and not think of the beach. So that's why it's first on the list. Kids love the beach and can be entertained there for hours at a time. There is always the miles of beach on Miami Beach, although during peak tourist season parts of the beach can be particularly packed. South Pointe Park is a great option - there is a splash pad area that is great and some lush green areas as well. The biggest downfall here is that parking can get pricey and the walk to the beach from parking is a long one. If you've ever been to the beach with kids you know how much stuff a day at the beach requires, so this might not be the absolute best option.
One of our favorites because it is far away from all the hustle and bustle of Miami Beach is Matheson Hammock Park. Tucked away in the back of the park is a man made lagoon which is fed by the bay. It's lined with palm trees, has lifeguards, and parking is easy and close to the sand (and cheap!).
South Point Park
1 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL
Admission: Free (Parking fee varies, however)
Matheson Hammock Park
9610 Old Cutler Road, Miami, FL
Admission: Parking Fee About $5.00
If your kid loves trains - take them to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum! They have old trains that are no longer in use. Caleb loves climbing into the cars and running through them. At Christmastime they do a really cute Polar Express activity (we haven't done it yet but will probably do it this Christmas). They also have special activities throughout the year and Thomas comes to visit, too!
Gold Coast Railroad Museum
12450 SW 152nd St, Miami, FL 33177
Admission: Adults $8.00, Kids (ages 2-12) $6.00
3. The Zoo
Once your kids are old enough to recognize animals, Zoo Miami is the place to go. The zoo is huge and has some beautiful areas. Get ready for some walking! They have family bikes you can rent as well and tour the zoo that way. There are two splash pads and tons of cool animal exhibits. One of our favorite things to do when we go there is to feed the giraffes. It's $3 and you get lettuce leaves to feed to them.
The zoo and Gold Coast Railroad Museum are actually located on the same property. The zoo is massive but the railroad museum isn't, so you might be able to squeeze both in on the same day, but I wouldn't recommend it.
12400 SW 152nd St, Miami, FL 33177
Admission: Adult $21.95, Children (ages 3-12) $17.95
4. Miami Children's Museum
We haven't been to the Miami Children's Museum in a while, but this is an awesome place to go anytime, but even more so when the weather is crummy because it's indoors! They have tons of exhibits, where they focus on dress up, on careers and occupations, and loads of sensory activities. They have seasonal exhibits which are always filled with activities as well.
Miami Children's Museum
980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami, FL 33132
Admission: General Admission $20, Florida Residents (Must present I.D.) $15
5. Fairchild Tropical Gardens
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a beautiful botanical garden filled with lush vegetation and greenery. I actually haven't been here with Caleb but I was there last week for a photo shoot and all I could think while I was there was that it would be the perfect place for Caleb to run around. There are wide open spaces and plenty of interesting things for them to look at. It also has so many incredible photo opportunities!
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables, FL 33156
Admission: Non-member adults $25, Children: 5 & under FREE, 6-17 $12
6. Pinecrest Gardens
Another place with lush greenery, Pinecrest Gardens has a lot more areas geared towards kids. They have a playground, a petting zoo, and a splash pad. Its much smaller than Fairchild and comes with a smaller price tag. We have only been for a birthday party and haven't really experienced all that the Gardens have to offer, but it is certainly somewhere we will be going back to!
11000 Red Rd, Pinecrest, FL 33156
Admission: General Admission $5
7. Knaus Berry Farm
Knaus Berry Farm is open seasonally from November - mid-April. When they are open, they make these incredible cinnamon buns and outrageous milkshakes. Lines can get pretty long, but when you taste one of those buns you will know that your wait was worth it. Take a bunch to go. You can also go strawberry picking here. I actually remember going here when I was younger - it has been around since the 50s and remains family owned and operated. If you can make it out here before they close for the season, definitely do!
Knaus Berry Farm
15980 SW 248th Street, Homestead, FL 33031
8. Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
We haven't been to the Perez Art Museum Miami with Caleb. I'm not sure that the museum itself would entertain him for too long. But the draw of PAMM is that they have lots of family friendly events. The park outside is also so inviting for kids, and has amazing views of the bay, along with this incredible breeze. If you can swing it, enjoy lunch at their cafe, the food is delicious and it's such a relaxing environment.
1103 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132
Admission: Adults $16, Children (under 6) FREE, (7-18) $12
9. Robert is Here Fruit Stand
Similar to Knaus Berry Farm, Robert is Here is only closed in September and October. They specialize in rare and exotic fruits, but also have milkshakes and produce. They also have a petting zoo and a splash pad, as well as picnic tables. They have grown so much that they now have live music on certain days of the week as well!
Robert is Here Fruit Stand
19200 SW 344th St, Homestead, FL 33034
Admission: Free, Prices vary
10. History Miami
Truthfully, the last time I came to History Miami I was probably in elementary school! But it is a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum, and it has all kinds of exhibits that are meant to preserve the history of none other than, MIAMI! It's actually somewhere I would probably take Caleb when he is a little bit older, but it's still a cool option and an awesome way to learn about Miami's history! I'm actually really intrigued by some of their upcoming exhibits and may try and convince the hubs to do a date night there. ;)
101 W Flagler St, Miami, FL 33130
Admission: Adults $10, Children (6-12) $5, (6 & Under FREE)
A few bonus spots:
For those of you who live closer to or north of the Dade/Broward County line, I had some amazing suggestions as well. I'll just list them below along with links to their home pages.
And there you have it! A list of all things Miami for kids. Pin it, save it, let me know what you get to! I can't wait to hear all about your Miami adventures! Go ahead, make it YOUR-AMI!
P.S. I have to give a special thanks to my mommy group, who supplied me with a lot of the ideas you read about in this post! You girls rock!
I'm always interested to hear what other parents consider their absolutely must-haves. For some parents, it's certain toys, for others it's a food product. Our top must-haves in our house vary, but these are the things that have gotten the most use in our house over the course of the last 2 years. I'm including links to the products to make for easy shopping (I got you).
And there you have it! The items we absolutely cannot live without in our house!
I'd love to hear your must-have items - leave them in the comments section below!
*This post is not sponsored.
A couple of weeks ago someone posted a photo on Facebook, asking how many other moms looked like a hot mess while their little ones looked photo shoot ready every day. So many other moms commented (myself included!), "Yes!" "That's us over here, too!" "Heck yes, everyday!" It got me thinking about how often I really put together an outfit for everyday. It's definitely NOT everyday!
I would say that 80% of the time I am in yoga pants and a tee shirt with some funny mom quote. And that's fine, because why am I going to waste a cute outfit if I'm not going to really see anyone that day? But there are days when I have stuff to do. An appointment, lunch with friends, whatever - and I want to look put together. Actually, this week I spent more time out of yoga pants than in them, but I would definitely say that's a rarity! Anyway, on those days, I want to look cute and put together, but I also need to be ready to chase this guy around, because let's face it - just because I have stuff to do doesn't mean he's going to behave perfectly.
So here's a look that you can put together in a hurry, when you need to look put together, but still be comfortable enough to chase after your kids.
I'm a jeans girl. I will probably always choose jeans over anything else if I know I won't suffocate in them. They're easy, and if you get the right pair, they are comfortable and flattering and make you feel good in them. I typically have 2 or 3 pairs in rotation, including a pair of "nice" jeans that I save for the weekends. So this was an easy look to put together once I threw the jeans on. It's just a sleeveless tank with a pretty chiffon detail at the bottom. I think I paid $5 for it at the New York & Company Outlet last summer. The lace bomber jacket and jeans are from New York & Company (the jacket is actually on sale right now and the jeans are buy one get one 50% off), and I ordered them recently. I love the feminine, yet laid back feel of the bomber jacket, and it makes me feel put together. Jackets are always an easy way to polish or update a look, and this one is no exception. The other thing I love about jackets is that they help to cover up any problem areas (or perceived problem areas, right, ladies?).
I paired this look with a statement necklace (that I also got from New York & Company, years ago), my beige Vauva Pack (so I can be hands free), and a comfy pair of pointy toe flats. Pointy toe flats are another one of my favorite ways to dress up a casual look. They pair great with jeans of all lengths, so they are definitely a go to when I want to look a little more chic than when I am in my sneakers.
There you have it - easy, comfy, and put together! It takes just as long as it does for me to put on yoga pants and a tee shirt, and I don't feel like a slob if I run into someone or end up having an unplanned lunch with a friend. And as usual, my makeup gets done in the car, and is very basic.
Get your style on, momma.
This post is not sponsored. I actually really love New York and Company and could probably be a spokesperson, but I bought all the pieces here and received no compensation for them.
When I was pregnant, I knew right away that it was a boy. When the ultrasound confirmed it, I was so excited to have a little boy. I get asked all the time when we are going to have our girl, and I honestly don't like that question. If God gives us a daughter, I will be thrilled. But I will not love my children any less because of their sex. My friend Justine over at Sunny in June is pregnant with her third baby boy. She recently wrote a great article in response to why this question in particular annoys her so much, because apparently raising boys is the worst.
I've noticed a lot of articles floating around recently about raising boys. Maybe it's because Facebook's algorithm is that good and notices I don't click on stuff with daughters so it pushes all the "boy parent" stuff up to the top of my feed. Regardless, I have read some interesting things out there in the last couple of weeks, with a particular resurgence since the Women's March.
I'm not making a political statement here. I'm writing from the heart on my thoughts, concerns, and fears when it comes to raising a boy. Girls and women get so much attention nowadays that it's hard to cut through sometimes and remember that raising our boys is so important too.
Firstly, however, I want to say that women's rights are important. We are equal to men. We are different, and those differences are cause for celebration. I mean, show me a man who can push a baby out his bits after carrying said baby for 9+ months, then continue to give that baby life by breastfeeding, and I will show you that pigs can fly. Women should be paid fairly for doing the same work men do, women should have the same opportunities men do, and women shouldn't have to feel like someone else needs to shatter glass ceilings for them. I am also in no way implying that every man is the same nor is every woman the same. Amongst us all, there are so many differences. Which again, should be celebrated, not shamed, in the way that some people do. If you want to work and pursue your career, go for it. If you want to stay home and take care of your children, do the damn thing. If you don't want to get married and travel the world with no strings attached, DO YOU GIRL.
But there are biological and developmental differences in men and women that can't be denied. We can't treat our boys and girls exactly the same because their needs are different. Having taught middle school for many years, I can tell you that the developmental difference is very much present. Their individual needs have to be met so that they can develop into the men we want a whole generation of girls to marry.
And while the old school mentality of "man up" doesn't necessarily sit well with me, neither does the notion that our boys have to be the same as girls, or that girls somehow deserve more of our attention than boys do. We want our boys to grow into men, into fathers, into spouses, and into incredible members of society. I don't want a son who is offended by everything, but I also don't want a son who is offensive. If we neglect them. or imply that somehow women deserve to be treated better than they do, then we are setting ourselves up for a generation of boys who is resentful.
So how do we raise our boys into men? I'm not sure that there's a right or wrong way to make our boys into men, but I know it starts at home. I don't know what the future will bring - I don't know if a few years from now I'll look back on these words and think, "Wow, Jenise, you had so much to learn." But I'd like to think that by doing some of these things, my Caleb will grow from a boy into a MAN.
Be the example.
Dads, you play a super important role here. The way that your sons see you treating women will be the way they treat women. You know that saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree?" Kids learn best by example. If you are demeaning women, making women seem less than men are, then that's what they will emulate. We are our children's first teachers. So hold open all the doors, allow women to go first, and give up your seat for the pregnant woman, for crying out loud. Same goes for us moms - whatever we allow to be done to us will be what our sons think is acceptable. But also very important will be how they see us treat other women. If we are bitchy and backstabbing and gossipy, they will think that behavior is okay.
Recognize their unique needs.
Some boys are sensitive. Others are not. Some boys are rough. Others are not. There is no mold for boys, just as there is no mold for anyone else on this earth. Pay attention to your child. If your son has an interest in trucks, let him play with trucks. If your son has a desire to rescue animals, let him do it. I come from a family with a diverse group of men. My grandfather was always a baseball-loving, scotch-drinking factory worker who loved to build things and use his hands. My dad is also great with building things and is super handy, but he loves to decorate and has never been interested in sports, really. One of my brothers is a priest who will occasionally play soccer and loves a good cigar, and my other brother is a lanky engineer who loves video games. Encourage the uniqueness in your boys. Don't ever tell them, "You're a boy, you should (or shouldn't) be doing this."
Let boys be boys.
Before you jump down my throat and say, "That's the most misogynistic phrase ever!" please let me finish. I don't mean that boys should be excused for inappropriate behavior because it's somehow ingrained in their DNA to be inappropriate. I do mean - let them play outside, give them activities that involve movement, teach them healthy ways of getting out stress or anxiety. I have friends whose daughters are content to sit and color and play with PlayDoh for hours. Caleb stands at the back door and begs me to go "ousside". He runs in circles while aforementioned girls are coloring. Their energy needs to be expended, and it's usually in super active ways. Let them go outside, let them get dirty. Let them learn to fix things. Take them fishing and let them bait the hook. Since when is being a man's man a bad thing (as long as you're not being a jerk while at it)?
Monitor what they watch/listen to/read.
I'm not saying to censor anything, but if it has a questionable message, (and their maturity level is at a place where this is an appropriate action) talk to them about it and discuss why the message is questionable. Mainstream media is full of smart, independent women, but it's also filled with terrible messages that heavily influence our boys. They think that if the celebrities they look up to say it's okay, then it's okay (don't even get me started on kids having celebrities as role models). We also live in a society where sex is "easy come, easy go," and a lot of things are no longer considered taboo, especially when it comes to what we are watching and listening to. If we teach them that sex is something to be valued, then they will recognize those messages as frivolous. It all comes down to talking to them openly. Having open lines of communication with your kids makes a world of difference in their perception of the world.
Teach them self control.
This one is huge. I think if more people (men and women alike) practiced self control, we would avoid a lot of the issues that we have. If we teach our boys to have self control and not act on every impulse, that will cut the issues we have tremendously. By teaching them to control urges of all kinds, we teach them about patience and respect. One of the things I always used to tell my middle school students was, no matter what a girl says to you, you need to exercise self control and think about the situation. I came across many situations where girls were baiting boys, and the boys would get in trouble when they really didn't think they were doing anything wrong, because girls were sending all the "green light" signals. When the boys got in trouble, they were dumbfounded, and a lot of that could have been avoided if they had exercised self control. My parents' favorite phrase to tell us was "There are choices and there are consequences. Every single choice has a consequence. Consider your options." After a few years, it was shortened to, "Remember: choices and consequences," as we were leaving the house to head out to wherever we were going. It makes you stop and think about what the reaction to your action will be.
Teach them that feelings are okay.
One of the most damaging things we can tell our boys is to "man up." They need to learn that a healthy expression of emotion is normal. Crying is normal, anger is normal. Punching or hitting someone isn't (unless they deck you first, in which case, have at it... and that's something I would tell my daughter, too, if I had one.). So many guys grow up thinking that they can't act a certain way or feel a certain way because it isn't manly. That just isn't true. Feelings are a normal reaction to events in our lives and should be felt, not squashed. And if our boys don't learn to deal with their feelings, then they hold them inside until they blow, resulting in rage, violence, depression, you name it. So go ahead baby boy, cry it out. I'll comfort you and tell you it's okay.
Teach them kindness.
Kids can be cruel. Teach your kids to stand up for those who are picked on, to sit at lunch with the kid who sits alone, to offer a helping hand. And don't just tell them to do it. Model the behavior! Don't talk badly about people or make fun of others. Be kind to everyone you meet, and your kids will emulate that behavior. Help those you come across who are in need, and teach them that being a silent spectator is just as bad as committing an act yourself. If our kids learn from a young age to be kind, then they will continue to practice that kindness throughout their lives. And really, that's what the world needs right now - a whole lot of kindness.
Don't make excuses for them.
My mom always tells this story about me. When I was in high school, I was in an Honors math class. I had a bunch of friends in the class, but since Math wasn't my strength, I always sat in the front of class and was ready for when the teacher walked in (go ahead, call me a nerd). One day, he walked into class and the rest of the class didn't settle down, so he said that since we didn't need him, he was just going to give us a test on the material we were supposed to have learned that class. Two of my bookish friends and I, all of whom were ready for class to begin, got up and walked out of the room, something that was totally out of character for us. My mom was the Assistant Principal at the time, and we marched straight to her office, indignant that we were being treated so unfairly by the teacher. She looked at us and said, "I don't care whether you think it was fair or not, he actually has the right to report you, and you could be suspended for your actions. I suggest you march right back to his classroom and apologize." We burst into tears and walked back to class, heads down, so embarrassed. We were lucky we didn't get into more trouble, but it's a perfect example of not bailing your kids out. My mom and that teacher still work together and laugh about this story every time we are all together, but it taught me a really important lesson, and that was that regardless of what my mom's position was within that institution, she wasn't going to let me off easy.
This is probably, by far, the most important thing. My mom could have made up an excuse for me and said it wasn't fair, the teacher was wrong, any number of things. But she didn't. Kids have to learn to deal with the consequences of their actions. All of these stories in the news where boys sexually assaulted a girl, what do they have in common? Mommies and daddies who swoop in and save them. As a parent, it's natural to not want to see your child suffer. But sometimes, a little suffering goes a long way. If they see that their parents are going to hold them to the same standards that everyone else is held to, they won't think they'll get off easy.
Will these things make a difference? Will these things help me make my boy into a man? I don't know. And the answer is that truthfully, nobody knows. And we can teach our boys everything we know, and they are still going to make mistakes. And at that point it will be up to us to reconsider our use of the phrase "boys will be boys." Because really, boys are human, and like every human, should be held accountable for their choices.
Stay hopeful friends, there are some good men coming your way.
And go check out Justine's latest post on raising boys, too! I promise you'll love it!
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.