Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Judy - Keep Them Safe #13

The main thing to remember about the toddler years is that they are insatiably curious and absolutely fearless. Consequently, you have to watch them all the time! You cannot turn your back on them for a second. This is the time when people talk about “baby-proofing” their homes. Here are a few suggestions to keep them as safe as possible, but which is never as safe as you’d like.

1. Put all hazardous material far out of reach, or better yet, have as little hazardous material in the house as possible. Of course “hazardous material” is more than Drano. It includes all medicines, even over the counter ones, household cleaners, hairspray, paint, any small objects that can be swallowed, etc.

I heard of one instance where a grandmother came to visit and left her meds out in her room. The family toddler got into them and had to be rushed to the ER to have his stomach pumped. So it’s not enough to be super vigilant yourself, you have to make sure everyone who comes into your house is the same way.

      2. Put child safeguards on all the lower cupboards. Putting them on the upper cupboards depends on whether or not your child is a climber. The safeguards are a pain, frankly, but if you don’t use them, the contents of every cupboard in the house will be on the floor most of the time. One mother keeps all her kids toys in the lower drawers and cupboards. She says this usually keeps him from exploring upward.

3. Put covers over the electric outlets--all of them.

4. Put gates on the stairs, but at the same time, teach the child to go down the stairs, backwards. I know one little girl who is still crawling who always heads for the stairs, no matter where in the house she’s put down. It’s like they’re magical, or something, and she can’t resist them.

5. Lock the outside door so they don’t wander off when your back is turned. You will be surprised how soon they learn to use door knobs. One of my toddlers used to go out the front door in the morning when things were hectic. At least twice when I was getting everybody ready, I answered the front door in my bathrobe. There was  a teacher from the school down the street holding our current toddler still in jammies and wet diaper. She had made her way to the school and been intercepted by one of my kids’ teachers who knew us. The truly awful thing was that I hadn’t missed her. (There are lots of things we have to forgive ourselves for as parents.)

6. Put locks high up on the outside of doors to all the rooms you don’t want him to enter, especially the bathroom. Not only will this possibly save their lives, it will save you untold messes. For example, there is something fascinating about unrolling a roll of toilet paper. And one resourceful toddler is famous for putting a whole roll down the toilet.

7. Put a lock on the fridge. I know one little boy who loved pickles and was always opening the fridge then climbing inside looking for them. After several jars of broken pickles and other disasters, his mother learned it was possible to lock the refrigerator. One mother kept snacks in one of the bottom kitchen drawers so her child could “self feed.” Personally, I didn’t like this idea because it sounded messy, but it might work for some people.

This list is not complete because there are as many ways for these zany little people to get in trouble as there are zany little people. But do you best, be aware of possibilities and remain super vigilant. That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Meantime, here’s a little video to give you nightmares:

Next time: Need for structure and limits

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Judy - Two Truisms in the Time of Toddlers #12

Let us assume by the toddler years, you’ve assimilated the child into the household, and life is more or less under control. This means if you have two under two (or as in my case, four under four), there are going to be times when at least two of them are crying at once. First of all, don’t panic. All you can do is calmly take care of one child at a time. It sounds too simple, but it’s true and sometimes it’s not easy.

I used to dither around both of them, not doing either one any good, until I discovered this truism. You have to make a judgement call about which one needs the attention first (exactly like triage at an accident site), then do it. Nurses call it critical thinking.

We have several pithy sayings from Lloyd’s Army days and the most pertinent for this discussion is, “Piss on the highest flame.” But in this case our response needs to be more nuanced. For an example, babies need to eat NOW (remember pregnancy?), but it takes a while to feed them. If there is something quick you can do for the older child, like put on a band-aid and kiss it better, do that. But if comforting is going to take longer or he needs more attention, start feeding the baby and then let the toddler snuggle up against you and read him a book. Just remember like a mantra: FIRST ONE, THEN THE OTHER.

There’s another truism I’d like you to put up on the refrigerator. One evening when my oldest girls were two and three and my son was a baby, I was trying to fix dinner. I was shuffling around the kitchen with a little girl hanging on each ankle, and a baby crying in the bedroom. Lloyd came home, took in the situation at a glance, and said these unforgettable words: “You don’t have to suffer like this!” Then he put both girls in their room, told them to stay there and play until we called for dinner. He put me in a rocking chair, brought me the baby to feed and said, “Now tell me what else has to be done about dinner.”

From then on I remembered these immortal words: YOU DON’T HAVE TO SUFFER LIKE THIS, and acted accordingly. I fed the baby before starting dinner, then carried him around in sling which left my hands free. I put the two girls in the bedroom and told them to stay put while I fixed dinner. Side note: it helps to have a golden husband both to help and to put things into perspective.

Several years and five children later, I was having the same dinner-hour problem when number eight was tiny. This time, using the resources at hand, I sat in the kitchen feeding the current baby while the four oldest children took turns fixing dinner under my supervision. An added bonus here is that today my kids are all great cooks.

Whenever you feel yourself start to tense up, feel overwhelmed, ready to fling children right and left, remember, “You don’t have to suffer like this!” Then figure out an alternative to the situation. Maybe you just need to step away for a while, or make them all go to their rooms, or whatever, but there are almost always alternative, non-traditional ways of doing things. (I’ll discuss other creative solutions in a later blog.)

Next time: Keep them Safe

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Discharged Mental Patient Teaches Our Gospel Doctrine Class / Lloyd

This morning we were assembled in Gospel Doctrine class working through Jesus healing the daughter of a woman of Canaan (Matthew 15), when our instructor was suddenly called out to assist with a medical concern.

We were deciding what to do next when a tall black man sitting in back of the class stepped up to the front and continued leading us through the scripture. He had lots of confidence, but it was clear from his street clothes and manner that he was probably not a member of the church. He said he was Lutheran but was making the rounds of other churches today. Eventually, our teacher returned to resume her prepared lesson.

We later learned that Joe (not his real name) had recently been discharged from the maximum security, state psychiatric hospital in the area. His current domicile was a sleeping bag on the banks of a river that ran through the city, he was getting showers twice a week at the local Baptist church, and he was looking to see what assistance might be available until his Social Service benefits kicked in.

Joe volunteered that he originally went to the psych hospital from county jail because he was considered incompetent to stand trial. He said he eventually stood trial, was convicted, and served his time in several California prisons. He was sent back to the psychiatric hospital as a Mentally Disoriented Offender (MDO). In other words, California Corrections thought Joe was too dangerous to be paroled directly to the community. After several months, however, a Judge decided otherwise and paroled him to the street.

According to Wikipedia the cost of caring for patients at this state psychiatric hospital is over $200,000 per year in contrast to about $50,000 a year to house prisoners. But a man cannot be arbitrarily kept in prison after he’s served his sentence.

comment: In previous blogs I’ve written that the goal and reality is that the majority of the patients at the state psychiatric hospital where I work will eventually be released to the community. This is the first time that a man who claimed to be from this maximum security facility has appeared at church on Sunday, certainly the first time one has stepped up to help teach the Gospel Doctrine class. The experience has demonstrated more than ever the need to be successful in treating the men at the hospital where I work.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Judy - Leaving Babyhood and Involving Fathers #11

Believe it or not, when babies pass their first birthday, they become even cuter and more delightful. Watching the antics of toddlers is like having a private viewing of a hilarious comedy act. And it goes on non-stop!

Sometimes, however, you might wish life during these years were a little less, um, exhilarating. At these times remember my basic motherhood motto: don’t sweat the small stuff. I knew one couple who were so worried about their baby girl getting germs that they boiled everything long after it was necessary--all her toys, eating utensils, everything. If they could have boiled her mother’s breasts before breastfeeding, they would have. Then one night the father came home and saw his fragile one-year-old daughter eating mud off his boots. When she didn’t die, or even sicken, they were able to relax and enjoy her more.

Having said that, I have to tell you about my friend, Mary. One day she was carrying her bundled baby around a store and trying to keep track of several other rambunctious children. While waiting in line at the checkout, someone asked to see her baby. She unwrapped him and discovered his feet were up and his head was down. She said ruefully, “I guess it is possible to be too casual with your children.

After you have a child, the husband/wife dynamic will naturally change, and it’s important to realize that it’s going to happen. For some people this change will be small, whereas for others it will be enormous. According to Lloyd, this change will be hardest on the husband. He says after we were such a close couple for two years, the sudden introduction of a third member, even a long-awaited and beloved third member, created a “three’s a crowd” feeling. He felt like the odd man out. As much as he loved our little daughter, he was jealous of all the time I needed to spend with her. Then he felt guilty for feeling jealous.

The best way to prepare for this is to realize it may happen and talk about it beforehand. Discuss what to do about it, and both of you try to understand how the other feels. In our case, I could have been more sensitive if I’d known how he felt, but I didn’t know until he told me years later. Also, decide together how to share caregiving activities as much as possible. Even if you breastfeed, there’s still a lot a father can do. I’ve read that often the problem is the mother doesn’t think the father can do anything as well as she can, so she doesn’t let him try, or show him how. She just nudges him out of the way and takes over. On the other hand, I’ve watched with approval as my daughters who are now mothers work together with their husbands as they both take care of their children.

Perhaps there is something Dad can do on a regular basis so he becomes part of the routine. As our first baby got older, Lloyd started taking her out for long, early-morning walks so I could sleep in a little. Talk about a win-win situation!

According to the web site, Researchers have shown that having dad around and involved in both positive parenting and play with todders makes a massive difference in their childhood.

An active, present, and positive father has been shown to:

  • Reduce behavioural problems in boys
  • Reduce psychological problems in girls
  • Reduce later criminal behaviour in children
  • Enhance intelligence, curiosity, reasoning, and language development
  • Decrease the incidence of children smoking (as teens)
  • Have better friendships and social skills
  • Even have better marriages (at age 33) if their relationship with Dad was good at age 16.
This is only a brief snapshot of a handful of the positive behavioural aspects when dad is involved in parenting, rather than absent or merely a spectator. Kids are happier and they function better when they have their dad involved in their lives. The earlier the involvement begins, and the more constant the involvement remains, the better the children's outcomes.”

In fact, it is often during the toddler years that the father comes into his own in the parenting department. They not only respond differently than mothers do, they also play differently and the child is the beneficiary. We used to have a psychiatrist friend who always said, “The best thing for a child is to have less mother and more father in the early years; then less father and more mother in the teen years.” Something to consider.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Have a Baby / Lloyd

It was customary in our mission for missionaries to review their patriarchal blessing with the president. During my interview the mission president took out a red pen and actually underlined a part about paying attention to the Spirit and said that’s where I really needed to put my attention.

It turns out that Judy was the one who paid the most attention and turned our lives around.

I was a graduate student at Yeshiva University on a fellowship with a living stipend that included my wife and children.  We had Jennifer and Kristen, ages two and one, and we were stretching that stipend by living with another family and providing child care and household chores for room. And we paid a share of the food budget. They had two boys ages two and six and worked full time.  We planned to continue having children after I finished my schooling and after Jennifer and Kristen were in school themselves.

Then Judy had an acute and painful health condition over several days. We had given her a blessing that said Heavenly Father needed to communicate with her, and she needed to listen. That fast Sunday the rest of us went to Church leaving her at home in bed. She expressed frustration at not being able to hear what Heavenly Father was trying to tell her.

When I returned she said she had been attempting to control the pain and at one point knelt down and prayed to Heavenly Father that she would clear her mind and do whatever came to her mind. She heard, “Have a baby.”  There was no way that could be correct given our situation and plans. So she cleared her mind once more. Again, “Have a baby.” And a third time, “Have a baby.”  So she told me that even though that seemed crazy, we probably should consider having a baby right away.

You know that feeling when a member of the bishopric or stake presidency calls and asks if he can stop by to visit? And after we accept the calling, and he takes his leave, our whole life is turned upside down. Heavenly Father can do that very directly without going through anyone else. Once we realized that Heavenly Father was taking a personal interest in our having children, we found ourselves rethinking our long term family planning.

In the end we’ve had nine children interspersed with four miscarriages. There was barely time to work everyone in. All nine are married and later this month Judy will be flying to Utah to help our most recently married couple with the birth of their first child. It will be our 40th grandchild.

In these 47 years of marriage I’ve learned that Judy is the one authorized to receive inspiration about having children. It’s been my role to sustain her in that decision. I believe our children have also come to understand that this is the proper order and meaning of family planning.

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Have a Baby / Lloyd

It was customary in our mission for missionaries to review their patriarchal blessing with the president. During my interview the mission...