Back to School

By now, whether our kids are in public, private, long-distance learning or home-schooling, we're all back to school. Let's take a day to reflect on the best parts of the summer and sketch out our goals for balancing work and family this coming year.

Looking back, I think this was the best summer my family has had since becoming a family. We had balance: two longish vacations (during which I truly laid off work), a mix of day camp and hanging out at home. Time alone mixed with time with friends and extended family. Perhaps the biggest factor: This was my second summer since scaling back from full-time work. Summer is truly summer again for us because I'm no longer a stressed-out hairball on a regular basis. (Although I don't want to paint too rosy a picture: I have many days where I wonder who I am without my ambition, and it's not pretty.)

My goal for the year is to keep the balance in our family. Each kid deserves his or her share of attention, chauffeuring and discipline. My husband needs time to hang with the kids, time at the gym, time to rest up on weekends, the freedom to go on business trips without guilt. I need time to work, to practice a little yoga, to see friends and chunks of unfettered time with my kids that doesn't involve the mad juggling act of answering homework questions, cooking dinner, feeding the dog, and checking their hair for lice at the exact same moment. I want to avoid the trap that sinks primary caregivers most often: no time to actually enjoy the primary caregiving.

So, tell us about your favorite summer memory. What's your hope for work/life balance this coming year?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 8, 2006; 6:53 AM ET  | Category:  Free-for-All
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This was our first summer away from our friends and family in DC. It was great because we were starting off on our own in our first house. It was sad, of course, because we felt lonely. But the summer was marked with many trips back home and visits from all the in-laws and siblings. It was one of our best summers.

This coming fall and holiday season will be balanced with fewer trips home and more time for just the two of us (hubby and me). Most of our alone time this summer was spent cleaning, preparing, and entertaining guests or spent away from home trying to fairly divide our time with loved ones and finding a place for our dogs to stay--basically dealing with logistics. We hope to have more time to spend doing things that we enjoy doing together, maybe even joining the local billiards league!

Posted by: Meesh | September 8, 2006 8:31 AM

Our son's not in school yet, but one of my favorite summer memories is that of my wife admonishing him during his very brief (10 minutes) fascination with the martial arts: "No karate on the potty!"

Immediate goal for us is to get our tag-team dynamic right with the arrival of our second child next month. It's nice to read comments from folks who already have gone beyond one kid in this forum.

Posted by: ConantheLibrarian | September 8, 2006 8:34 AM

Conan, I think in the long run, 2 is easier than one, especially if they are close in age and of the same sex. Even if they are fighting, at least they are not nagging you to entertain them!

Posted by: parttimer | September 8, 2006 8:58 AM

This has been an exciting summer for my family. We moved because my husband got a better job and we bought a house, but with that has came a lot of stress! I hope to balance the new school year with being able to just relax a little bit and hit the gym, take walks with my daughter and hopefully welcome baby number two and possibly some pets to our family.

Posted by: scarry | September 8, 2006 9:08 AM

ConantheLibrarian, I wish you the best of luck on your introduction of your protegy to the "outside" world. I think there is a big difference in raising a child and raising a family. I do hope you will tell us about it when you get a chance.

I'll be thinking up another cute story to post during the meeting I have to go to in a few minutes. I hope everyone else has a cute one too!

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 8, 2006 9:16 AM

I think there is a big difference in raising a child and raising a family.

Not to be snarky, FO4, but I have only one child and I consider our family as much a family as any body else's.

Posted by: Rockville | September 8, 2006 9:37 AM

I think I erred on the side of too much activity this summer -- swim team, horseback riding, speed skating, two weeks of sleepaway camp, a couple of awesome nights of camping out in the backyard, birthday parties, Girl Scout camp, a couple of long hauls back to New England to visit family. Whew! I think my kids are happy to be back in school where it's restful.

But I wonder if the rest of you struggle with this. The pressure on our kids is so intense, and already I'm hearing that if, for exmaple, they want to make the swim team in high school, then they should swim year round from the time they're 6? 7? 8?

How do you regulate the desire to have more family time and fewer programmed activities with the incessant, gnawing feeling that your kids will be left behind if they don't prepare for the competitive outside world? Am I paranoid or what?

Posted by: Armchair Professor | September 8, 2006 9:40 AM

You're not paranoid, Armchair Professor. In my school district's junior high, 44 girls are trying out for the modified (7th and 8th graders) soccer team. Only 26 will make it. So if my 10-year old has any shot of making the modified soccer team two years from now, she has to play on a travel team 10 months of the year and go to soccer camp during the summer. She says this is what she wants, so we drive her to practices and games several times a week. It does make for a busy schedule. But I'm glad she's having fun, getting exercise, and is part of a team.

Posted by: UpstateNYMom | September 8, 2006 9:57 AM

We started back with the insanity in the past week - parents have choir on Wednesdany nights and Thursday is bowling league night, daughter has Judo Tuesday and Thursday evening and Saturday morning, daughter and I both have Sunday school (she attends, I teach) - oh, and then there's those minor distractions, work and school. Not to mention the monthly church committees, monthly GLBT movie night at church, monthly family Friday...

I hope that I can get some sleep this year. I'm hoping that I can get pregnant this year. I hope that our Holy Union (four weeks from Monday!) goes well.

Cute story for the day - daughter is new to Judo. One of the traditions is that they seldom wash their outfit, and never wash the belt. DD comes up to me after the first night, puts her (smelly sweaty) arms around my neck and says "Hey, you can always Febreeze me when I come home - but can you leave the armpits stinky? They're a weapon!". From the mouths of (teenage hormonal stinky) babes.

Posted by: RebeccainAR | September 8, 2006 9:59 AM


I think you need to turn it around. If they swim year-round because they enjoy it, then they'll probably enjoy the High School swim team.

I think the secret is aside from school (which is a must) and learning the swimming basics (which is a safety issue), let kids choose what they want to do for their extracurricular activities. It should be their interests and talents that take them in the direction they want to go. Not parents or society dictating that for them. That will make for a much happier childhood--and will prepare them well for adulthood.

Posted by: to: Armchair Professor | September 8, 2006 10:03 AM

Here, here! I have one child, too--and we're just as much a FAMILY as a couple who has 6 kids.

Thanks for speaking up! Father of 4--BOO!!!!!!! HISS!!!!!!!!

Posted by: to: Rockville | September 8, 2006 10:06 AM

To Armchair Professor: to add on to my previous post about letting your child's interests take them where they're meant to go, I wanted to comment on "preparing for a competitive world." The world is only as competitive as where you're standing at the moment. Your child/children may choose a competitive profession, or they may choose to make their livelihood in a profession that's very low key. But the important thing--once again--is to let the child take the lead in what they want to do. The outcome, and happiness factor, will work out much better that way :)

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 10:12 AM

Leslie checks her kid's hair for lice? Guess she isn't so rich after all!

Posted by: huh? | September 8, 2006 10:17 AM

This year we officially become homeschoolers, as my oldest is officially "kindergarten age". We take a relaxed approach, and do it year round, so my kids' schooling doesn't change in the fall. However their activities do tend to follow the school calendar, so that's a change. We'll be visiting a lot of museums this month-- school has started, but it's too soon for field trips, so we have them practically to ourselves!

My goal for the next year is to find a professional outlet for myself. I want something that will keep my skills and contacts fresh, should I need or want to go back to work, and, ideally, let me earn credits toward social security.

Armchair prof-- my approach to the worrymongers who want every child way overscheduled is a mix of common sense and "who cares?" It's not reasonable that a kid needs to swim year round for 5 years to make the varsity team in HS-- if they are athletic and active somehow, they will be able to learn the sport they choose. And, seriously, why does a kid need to be on the school's swim team? I'm sure there are good things about it, but is it so valuable it's worth sacrificing tons of free time throughout elementary school?

We do a reasonable number of activities my kids enjoy now. Extra-curriculars are supposed to be fun.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 8, 2006 10:18 AM

I would also caution about letting your child become to focused on one activity. Children/teenagers in our society tend to overestimate their chances for success. If they put to much of themselves into one activity they can be devasted if they have to give it up (injury) or if they don't succeed as they planned (not make the college team and are unprepared academically for college)

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | September 8, 2006 10:20 AM

Lice can happen in even exclusive schools. Just wait I am sure sometime before your children leave elementary school you will receive the letter in the backpack that there has been lice at the school and check your children

Posted by: to huh? | September 8, 2006 10:24 AM

Huh, I didn't interpret Fo4's comment to mean that one-child families aren't families but that if you focus only on the child and the child's needs, that's different from focusing on the family as a unit (no matter how many kids there are). Sort of like discussions on other days that the parents need time together as a couple and the family needs to do things as a family that they all enjoy - not just focus on the kids' activities.

Armchair Professor, the world is nuts these days with pressure on kids. I agree with the posters who say your child should be your guide, though I would add that I've read that year-round training in one sport can be dangerous for young children bc their musculo-skeletal system is still developing and needs more diversity of activity. I don't know for sure though, but it might be worth looking into.

Posted by: Megan | September 8, 2006 10:26 AM

I agree with not letting one activity rule your child's life. My nieces (10 & 13, but it's been going on for a few years) are cheerleaders and they practice 25 hours a week almost year round.

However - my girls are both swimmers and swim 11 months out of the year. Not so they can "make the high school team" (swimming is a non-cut sport here, as it should be), but because they love it. My 12 year old practices 3 days a week for 1.5 hours during soccer season (fall & spring), and 5 days a week for most of the rest of the year. The 6 year old practices 3 days a week for an hour. That may sound like a lot, but it is fun, it's exercise, and they don't *have* to go to practice any more than they want to. If they're tired or have something else going on during practice, they don't go. No pressure.

They also take piano and play soccer, and the older one is band and runs track and still has time for homework, visits with her dad, friends, and just hanging out at home.

So in a nutshell - it just depends on how you handle things.

Posted by: momof4 | September 8, 2006 10:37 AM

'Here, here! I have one child, too--and we're just as much a FAMILY as a couple who has 6 kids.

Thanks for speaking up! Father of 4--BOO!!!!!!! HISS!!!!!!!!'

Oh, come on, I will defend FO4 while he is in the meeting day dreaming about cute stories to entertain us.
Once a long time ago I had one child, now I have four. There is a big difference. Of course a one child family is a family. I believe FO4 is speaking of logistics and the impromptu fun loving craziness that goes on when the children outnumber the parents.
In memory of Steve Irwin, let's have fun on the blog today.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 8, 2006 10:38 AM

mom of 4,

How do you balance all of those activities with husband and family time? You must be tired or have more energy than me! :)

Posted by: scarry | September 8, 2006 10:40 AM

poor steve irwin, that was very sad.

Posted by: scarry | September 8, 2006 10:42 AM

Rockville, I'm truly honored to have garnered some Fo4 snarkiness and I bow to his more extensive experience as a parent.
I should have known previously to correct people who referred to us at the "The so-and-so family" and call us "The So-and-so's with kid" instead. ;)

Armchair Professor does bring up an interesting issue I've been thinking about with younger kids. How much should parents push them into activities? How do kids develop "interests" at early ages without some kind of pressure from parents to get them out the door to try them? Is there a "right" amount or way, depending on the kid, without turning them off on an activity before they can truly decide if they like it or not?

Posted by: ConantheLibrarian | September 8, 2006 10:44 AM

Favorite summer memory - the vacation we recently took. We weren't out of town long, but I spent a full 2 weeks with my family (only one of which my husband was off work, though) and it was great.

I expect/hope this year to be more sane because my youngest is now in kindergarten. First and foremost, it's the first time I haven't resented having to work since my daughter was born. I wouldn't see them from 8:00 to 3:30 all day anyway, so I may as well be at work. They're only in day care 1 1/2 hours a day now. Then there's logistics of putting two on the bus in the morning and having only one place to pick them up. Yahoo!!! Today was my first day dropping off (usually my husband does it) and it was so nice not to have to run my youngest off to day care before the bus came. I got in a little exercise, and the kids each got to sleep later than they usually do when my husband and I switch. (If I took my son to day care after the bus came, I was in danger of getting no metro parking.)

Posted by: Sam | September 8, 2006 10:48 AM

Oh please do not remind me of Steve Irwin. He was an idiot, and an annoying and irresponsible one at that.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 10:49 AM

There was a good peice on Slate about how it was hard to take his death seriously at first, even though it was sad, because both his life and his death were just so exotic and out there. I thought that was very true.

Posted by: Megan | September 8, 2006 10:51 AM

'Oh please do not remind me of Steve Irwin. He was an idiot, and an annoying and irresponsible one at that.'

Not a kind way to refer to a tragically deceased husband and father, who was a such a hero to my kids. He stood for adventure and conservation, and would have been honored by a state funeral by the Australian govt., but his family turned it down in favor of something more low key. The shock of his death is felt around the world.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 8, 2006 10:52 AM

Conan... my approach to helping my kids find a range interests is to expose them to a wide range of things. We go to the library often, and take out LOTS of books (I'm guessing you do this too, based on your username), we have a wide variety of sporting equipment (soccer balls, basketballs, a teeball set, etc...), we take advantage of age appropriate cultural activities and I pay attention to what they like. If I hear about a class I think they'd like, I ask them if they want to go. I tend to think that forcing a kid to go to soccer, or art class or whatever isn't likely to foster good feelings about the activity.

It's possible to expose kids to stuff without a longterm obligation. Trust your kids to like interesting stuff.

Posted by: yetanothersahm... | September 8, 2006 10:56 AM

Not a kind way to refer to a tragically deceased husband and father, who was a such a hero to my kids. He stood for adventure and conservation, and would have been honored by a state funeral by the Australian govt., but his family turned it down in favor of something more low key. The shock of his death is felt around the world.

I would not let my kids watch his show. The way he baited animals and made dangerous actions look like horseplay was an irresponsible example for kids who did not know any better.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 10:57 AM

Husband and wife make a couple.

A child makes a family.

Two children make his and hers.

Three children make a zoo, run by the little primates.

And don't get mad if I didn't include your dynamics, just write what it is and be over it already.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 8, 2006 10:59 AM

I liked his show and I feel that he really cared about animals. I don't really think that my kid is going to go try and wrestle an aligator. Well, maybe if she could find one!

Posted by: scarry | September 8, 2006 11:00 AM

I wholeheartedly concur with yetanothersahm...

I've never enjoyed competitive sports, and the more my parents tried to enroll me in soccer, tennis, swim team, the more I hated it. I loved dance, hiking, and running around, but soon came to resent any attempt to get me into something athletic, which needless to say, was not good for me. Once everyone laid off and let me be, I started running on my own, got back into dance, and did a lot of mountaineering, and was much healthier. Trust your kids, give them the opportunities and follow their lead.

Oh, and I love the moniker ConantheLibrarian and wish you the best with your second! It sounds like you are a very concerned and thoughtful dad, I'm sure things will go well.

Posted by: Megan | September 8, 2006 11:03 AM

With little kids, parents have to take some of the initiative because they can't enroll themselves in activities. I try to let my son's interests be my guide. He loves to kick the soccer ball around with this dad, so I signed him up for soccer this year. He also likes music, so we also signed him up for group piano lessons. I will see how it works out. If he likes these activities, we will keep them up. If not, I see no shame in dropping something that does not work.

Posted by: Rockville | September 8, 2006 11:07 AM

"I have many days where I wonder who I am without my ambition, and it's not pretty"

You know, just about every human I can think of has his doubts and moments of pensive reflection. But I wonder how people think they can truly acheive balance when they themselves are so doubtful of their own choices?

Posted by: Liz | September 8, 2006 11:11 AM

Rockville, I just got out of my meeting and it looks like I'm in line for another spanking.

Over the knee? Granite countertop? Barebottomed? oouuh!

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 8, 2006 11:21 AM

I'm glad that we're back in school. Over the summer, my son did some great things (science camp with robots and rockets, especially), but we were cobbling together coverage all summer. Ten weeks of summer vacation is just too long.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | September 8, 2006 11:28 AM

Fo4: Spanking? So passe. You've got a time out coming to you and no telecommunications of any sort this evening.

Posted by: ConantheLibrarian | September 8, 2006 11:40 AM

'So, tell us about your favorite summer memory. What's your hope for work/life balance this coming year?'

Back to the point! My favorite thing about summer is spending so much time with my kids. Without getting up at 5:20am to make sure they are ready for the high school bus!

My hope for the school year is to balance kids, husband, extended family, home organization (major decluttering needed), meals, errands, kids activities, kids activities and kids activities. I think of Sept as the start of a new year, not Jan 1st.

Kids activities balance? I argree with the other posters. Let the children decide what they want. If they don't do something one season, they can do it another time.

Is participation in high school sports the goal? Why? For your gratification or because your child wants to? I have one who loves high school sports and excels, and one who need to come home and be alone for awhile. High school sports are two to three hours each week day in season, with weekend events too. Sports can keep a kid out of trouble, or introduce them to kids who know how to get into trouble.

For the budding athletes that don't want the intensity of high school sports, many communities offer club type sports that meet once a week.

Looking for a sports scholarship to college? Research that, there really is not much available.

I value down time for my kids. So do they. I once read that boredom is good, it teaches kids to be creative and make their own fun!

Posted by: experienced mom | September 8, 2006 11:42 AM

Gotta fess up on the lice front.

We were at Disney World getting the costly Princess Hair Do at Bibbity Boutique when the stylist took me into a private room to ask if I were familiar with "animal parasites." A moment that will remain etched on my brain for eternity. But at least they didn't charge us for the hair styling.

We have a lot of long and curly hair on our family. A haven for lice. Starting that day at Disney I have bought at least $200 of lice removal products and have become a veritable expert on lice investigations.

Just another chapter in the gross arts of Motherhood that no one (thankfully) tells you about when you are first pregnant.

Posted by: Licey Leslie | September 8, 2006 11:48 AM

My kids favorite activities this summer were the most low key, roasting marshmellows, camping with cousins and a visit to the zoo. The school year is so crazy I just take off most of the month of June to let us all relax a bit.

With seven kids the outside activities are crazy and make the evenings and weekends hectic. Each kid has their own activity and interest and we make time for each of them. Between music lessons, scouting, gymnastics, dance class and the oldest now having a job I am just hoping to have a sane school year. I try to let my kids be well rounded and do what they love with little pressure. If they hate it and the activity becomes a chore we drop it, no big deal.

I am very sad by Steve Irwins death. He was reckless and wild at times but his family loved and adored him. I will miss his over the top personality and my mom's dead on impersonations of him.

Posted by: magnificent7mom | September 8, 2006 11:49 AM

I've experienced both sides,and I side with Father of 4. I was an only child, and now I have two kids. The four of us are much more of a family than the three of us were. It was lonely as an only child.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | September 8, 2006 11:52 AM

My parents went from having 1 kid to 3 kids in the span of six minutes--from 'family' to 'zoo' No time for the 'his and hers' phase. Luckily, they never ventured into having a fourth of fifth kid, which I believe would be called the 'Congress' phase.

Posted by: twenty-five | September 8, 2006 12:00 PM

Oh my goodness, lice at Disney Land, now that is a story to tell your grandchildren.

Posted by: scarry | September 8, 2006 12:05 PM

"So, tell us about your favorite summer memory. What's your hope for work/life balance this coming year?"

I was happy that my husband and I both actually had enough leave to take two full weeks of vacation this summer. Took the kids to my parents' summer home which is near a lake. My elder daughter, who is four, has taken several sessions of swimming lessons but this was the first time she actually did what I would call swimming. So it was great to see her progress, probably due in great part that we went to the lake every day. And our vacation time was long enough that we had plenty of time with the kids but also enough time to go on a few days side trip without them while they and the grandparents enjoyed each others' company.

As for balance this coming year, I have no idea how that'll work. #1 kid just started pre-k. #2 goes to daycare. And we'll be adding #3 to the mix next month. Right now, my husband and I do a lot of divide and conquer but how does it work when the kids outnumber you? My hope is that no one gets lost in the shuffle.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | September 8, 2006 12:12 PM

'my husband and I do a lot of divide and conquer but how does it work when the kids outnumber you'

it's called the zone defense! baby proof the house, relax and enjoy. as they get older, the children entertain each other sometimes. and they fight, but that's how they learn negotiation and compromise. Then they get old enough that you don't have to watch them every second, then they start reading the newspaper and engaging you in interesting political discussions. Then they start driving, but don't worry about that right now!!

Posted by: experienced mom | September 8, 2006 12:19 PM

Leslie, that's hysterical. What a story.

I remember having to line up in the halls of my elementary school for lice checks - our creepy principal (who spanked with a paddle, Father of 4, you better hope Rockville doesn't have one of those!) would come through and check all our heads. I don't remember anyone I knew actually getting it, but ugh.

Posted by: Megan | September 8, 2006 12:21 PM

My daughter started 4th grade this week. We were all warned that this would be a tough transition year -- More work, more responsibility, much higher expectations. She has played soccer for the last five years and also rides horseback.

This week she informed me that she is dropping soccer (which she loves). "Mom, I'm already working so hard and I don't think I can ride and play soccer and still do 4th grade."

I was about to launch into the "sports are good for you, responsibility to your team", etc. speech, but what came out was "I understand why you made that choice." She's already feeling overwhelmed and at least she has the sense to set some limits and put school first. I guess sometimes kids know more about balance than we do. One of the proudest and most unexpected moments of my parenting life.

Our school had lice last year. It's a nightmare and very time consuming. If every parent doesn't work to get it out of their house, the school can't get rid of it. It doesn't matter how well off you are, your kids can get it. As volunteer head-checkers at the school, we found that some of the kids from the most affluent families had the worst cases and the most repeats. Often, the parents refused to believe that their children could possibly be infested because they weren't low income.

Posted by: HappyMom | September 8, 2006 12:24 PM

Oh my gosh, paddling! My sister went to school with a principal who paddled. He paddled one kid in high school and his mom went out and broke a bat over his desk and told him if he ever touched her kid again it would be his head. He didn't paddle after that and left the school district. I geuss us hillbillys were too much for him.

Posted by: scarry | September 8, 2006 12:24 PM

I am sure I will get blasted for this, but I think that a married couple is a family. I most certainly think of my husband as family and am very close to him. With a child, our family would grow.

Posted by: Thought | September 8, 2006 12:26 PM

Of course you are a family. People shouldn't try to or let other people define their family, including the government.

Posted by: scarry | September 8, 2006 12:29 PM

Scarry - "How do you balance all of those activities with husband and family time?"

Well...first of all, remember that I don't work outside the home, so the soccer mom thing is just part of my "job." :o) The kids' activities are generally done for the day by the time my husband gets home from work. They get out of school between 2:30 & 3:30 (three separate schools this year), so there's time to be done by 6:00 when he is usually home.

We also practice late bedtime around here, so the evening is longer than it is for most families. :o)

Posted by: momof4 | September 8, 2006 12:39 PM

Taught summer school ALL summer -- love my students -- but this left no time for a vacation. But beach is lovely AND possible in one day and back. Favorite memory is watching three boys play in the surf, still unself-conscious about their bodies. Yet I could see in my son and his frinds that the spare-tire around the middle is melting, shoulders broadening, etc. Men inside.

LICE STORY: I don't think the health department approves of this, but a small pre-school we attended asked us to bring in silicone swimming caps. If lice was seen on your child, they were "capped" and you were called. So funny to walk into class and see lolli-pop heads. BTW, we were "called" at the end of the day, so we didn't really have to interrupt the day.

Realistic solution to nagging problem. TB, lice are not.

Final tip: a mixture of oil oil (drowns them) and rosemary oil (kills or wounds them) UNDER A silicone swimming cap for a few days works fine. Take some breaks with the cap, but this is how we and several other families broke the cycle.

And no, we are not nature-earth moms.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 8, 2006 12:44 PM

For those who've commented that Steve Irwin was reckless and irresponsible: One thing I've noticed in the news coverage of his death is how much respect and admiration animal experts have for him. Jack Hannah and other experts in interviews this week and consistently referred to him as a "real zoologist" who showed a terrific understanding/knowledge of animals. None of them thought he was reckless. I have no idea how close I can safely get to a croc, so I'll trust the experts. His efforts to promote conservation were undeniably valuable. Sounds like a good role model to me. Watching his show with your kids could be a great teaching opportunity.

Posted by: IndefenseofSteveIrwin | September 8, 2006 12:55 PM

We spent many evenings coated in olive oil and covered with plastic caps. What great family photos those made! A true bonding moment for all of us!

Posted by: HappyMom | September 8, 2006 12:56 PM

yes, and better lice than BED BUGS, which my child managed to bring home from another child's house. AAAAAAACK! Impossible to get rid of without major destruction.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 1:44 PM

My hope for balance is that the cold, hard stone of worry that I find myself fingering again will slowly be forgetten-- or perhaps it will even disintegrate.

Last year my child started daycare and I was worried about the transition, but I was able to check on him anytime as he was in my building, and I knew several people at work whose kids had started much much earlier than my child-- so I named my worry as the typical "mommy guilt" that would predictably pass away, just as predictably it had appeared. And seeing my child screaming with laughter and joy while dancing with two other children two days after he started put my fears in their place.
But now comes again the cold stone. And now there is no middle of the day pop-in visit to erase those fears when they come up. And no sheet at the end of the day filling me in on all the delicious little details of the day's progression. And this time it is a surprize-- I thought I would be prepared-- after all he has been spending 9 hours a day in daycare-- what is really all that different about pre-K and aftercare? But I find the stone again in my pocket-- why? PErhaps because now my child can voice his thoughts-- before he couldn't have articulated, even in his own mind a thought such as "Mommy dropped me off and went to work-- why didn't she stay? Does she love work more than me"? But now my almost 3 year old can think such things and I wonder whether this is even more damaging than leaving a child as an infant in daycare. Maybe it's not damaging, or maybe it is but it is also beneficial. when I hear of parents worrying because their child is spending their first "full day" of school for an entire six hours at school, I admit I wonder if they think I'm a monster to have my child away from family for nine hours a day.

At any rate, upon pick up on the first day, the teacher told me that not only did my child not cry, NONE of the kids cried-- something that she often saw with kids a year or so older starting first day at school. So maybe I'm actually doing the right thing by introducing the elementary school experience to a child that isn't even 3, but I worry because so few have done this before.

Even with the refusal to provide details about what happened during the day, at least I get an immediate and joyous "YES!" when I ask whether he loves his pre-K teachers. That gives me lots of hope! And maybe I shouldn't flatter myself by thinking that no one can care for my child as well as I can-- or even that there is no one he would rather hang out with all day!

Posted by: Capitol Hill mom | September 8, 2006 1:51 PM

I have an only child, and I know he's far from LONELY. Lots of cousins, friends, and neighbors to play with!!!! I think it depends on how you're raised. You could be in a family with 10 kids and be LONELY.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 2:04 PM

Wow, Capitol Hill mom, what a thoughtful and well worded post. I empathize with you a great deal.

One of my neighbors, a woman in her 50s who has no children but has many neices, nephews and close friends, once observed to me that the growing up process is all about separations - sometimes it's initiated by the parents and sometimes by the child, and we both feel the pangs either way. I thought that was a good perspective - I try to remember that it is ok for my son to miss me and ok for me to miss my son, that's what growing up means.

Good luck to you and I hope that stone disappears or at least becomes much smaller and lighter with time.

Posted by: Megan | September 8, 2006 2:05 PM

We didn't do much this summer, but last summer we went to San Diego, which included a visit to Sea World. My daughter loved it, and I was happy to get out of Phoenix summer heat that averages 110 degrees for three months...

Yes, very sad news about Steve Irwin. When I was in college nearly 20 years ago in Florida, I dated a windsurfing instructor who also worked nuisance control (if you had a gator in your pool, he would come get it out). He was working on an earth science degree, and he was very much like Steve Irwin. My boyfriend was a risk-taker as well (he was getting a pilot's license at the time, and he would windsurf from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands). It's really impossible to label or judge these sorts of people, but they bring a great deal of excitement (and knowledge) to the world around them. Through my boyfriend, I learned to love my home state of Florida in a way I had never known.

Steve Irwin brought a great deal of joy to so many. My daughter adores him.

And I am still mourning the Miami Dolphins' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last night...

Posted by: single western mom | September 8, 2006 2:30 PM

Thanks Megan! I'm afraid some will find what I say hurtful, but it isn't my intent. I'm just voicing my concerns and I'd love to hear more advice and feedback such as yours.

I should say that although he perhaps wouldn't like to hang out with me all day, I can't think of anyone I'd rather hang out with!

But he already has friends! Actual friends with whom he shares special "yelps" and specific pitches of screams when they see each other --like inside jokes I'll never figure out. It is stunning how soon they become their own people. Sigh.

Posted by: Captiol Hill mom | September 8, 2006 2:33 PM

Daddy's Garden

I like gardening. it's another way for me to provide wholesome, organically grown vegetables for my family. Everybody stays healthy, and It benefits the entire community. the leftover zucchinis go out to my neighbors. So every spring/summer I make the sacrifices: sweat and toil, turning the earth, pulling weeds, nursing blisters,and slapping gnats.

Ha! To be honest with you, I just like to wallow in the dirt. Oink! It's another form of therapy. Snort, snort, oink!

My 3 year old son was with me every step. He had his own shovel, and spent many hours just digging along side me. when I dug out the rocks, he would take them and deposit them under the deck. We were true buds! I called him the "Garden Gopher". When we covered the ground with the bleech white lime we both took turns grabbing handfulls of the powder and tossing it onto the soil. We got completely covered ourselves and when we were done, we both looked like "Garden Ghosts".

I had my oldest daughter plant the seeds in paper cups. She planted tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, hot peppers and brocallie. Garden Gopher loved to water the plants with a squirt bottle. when the plants got big enough,they got transplanted in the carefully prepared soil. I showed Garden Gopher how to dig a little hole, gently place the young plant in the bottom, and cover the roots with dirt. Daddy's Garden was now ready to go.

It's a boy thing. They love to squirt hoses. So I naturally let Garden Gopher water Daddy's Garden.

The green beans go directly into the soil, about an inch or 2 down. Garden Gopher planted most of them.

Then it's kick back time. Play on the deck, drink some beer, watch the plants grow, and let God do the rest of the work.

We got back from vacation last Sunday. Wow! The green beans were delicious! Sweet, crunchy, right off the stalk, no need for steaming them. Another few days and they would be perfect.

The 3 older kids started school on Tuesday, and this is the story that morning as described by my Dear Wife:
I saw Garden Gopher come in through the back door. It looked like he was hiding something, you know, the guilty look. He wouldn't tell, but he held his hand behind his back. So I chased him down and pried his hand open. Do you know what he was trying to hide? A half eaten green bean.

And these were Garden Gopher's words, shamefully expressed as he apologized:
"I sneaked into Daddy's Garden and ate some green beans. I want to grow up big and strong like him."

The things kids say to make you melt.

The plot has been renamed "Gopher's Garden". And the official name for green beans is now "sneak beans".

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 8, 2006 2:39 PM

Faither of 4 -
I used to help my father garden - mostly flowers rather than veggies.

He passed away three years ago..great memories of "our" pretty garden!

Posted by: Missicat | September 8, 2006 2:50 PM

Also - can you imagine how boring the world would be without Steve Irwin in it? And his wife knew about how he was - she first met him when he was doing a croc show in Australia!

Posted by: Missicat | September 8, 2006 2:52 PM

AKA professional nitpicker. I don't think I am earthmothery, but my kids have had lice THREE TIMES! What an effing nightmare. The first time was the worst--so much work. You have to wash their sheets daily, especially the pillowcases, bag all soft toys, spray the cloth furniture, etc. Then you have to get the nits out of their hair. The bugs aren't hard--I never saw more than one or two (although I have heard of much worse cases--usually above 6th grade, when parents aren't as apt to wash kids hair), but those combs aren't that great. The first time was also private school, second time public, third time it was in the summer, so who knows? But after the first time, I was very motivated to organize my house so that if such a thing ever happened again I would be ready. Kind of like the emergency prep the gov't would like us to have, but for lice! I spent hours doing this. For the poster who talked about the kids in big houses re-infecting, you have to have some serious time to get rid of it. I do a lice check every so often, because it HAPPENS! And fyi, lice like clean hair, it is rare of African-Americans to get lice, and tea tree oil shampoo is said to guard against it. Teach your kids not to share hats, combs, brushes, etc., and if they have long hair, keep it in braids! I should start my own lice website....

Posted by: parttimer | September 8, 2006 2:53 PM

oops - meant "people like Steve Irwin"

Posted by: Missicat | September 8, 2006 2:55 PM

Father of 4: Gopher's Garden, what a great way to achieve balance and family time. We seem to run around focused on the child's interests (swimming, soccer, judo, etc...) but I think we forget that some of the most magical moments of childhood are created when a parent takes the time to share his/her interests and hobbies with their children.

Posted by: dcdesigner | September 8, 2006 2:56 PM

If Steve Irwin was going to be killed by an animal, it should have been a mean nasty croc, not some ridiculous stingray!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 2:56 PM

So I geuss it's safe to say that African American's heads are dirty therefore they are usually not infected with lice. What a dumb thing to say

Posted by: what the ... | September 8, 2006 2:59 PM

Excuse me? Rare for African-Americans to get lice because lice like clean hair? Do you hear yourself or does this garbage just pour out without effort?

Posted by: Yoki | September 8, 2006 3:04 PM

You know, I initially read it that way too and was appalled, but I'm hoping that she meant to present a list of three separate, unrelated factoids:

1) they like clean hair
2) tea tree oil shampoo guards against them
3) it's uncommon for african americans to get them

Maybe? Hello? Otherwise the statement is just way too outrageous.

Posted by: Megan | September 8, 2006 3:06 PM


Posted by: what does race have to do with lice? | September 8, 2006 3:08 PM

Well Megan let's hope so, but if not, partimer needs to go back and take english 101 again before she heads back to school to teach our children.

Posted by: what th..... | September 8, 2006 3:11 PM

Regarding the African American hair comment, she was just listing three facts, an unfortunate juxtoposition of facts. The lice larvae do not cling to kinky hair folicals. Likewise anyone with very naturally curly hair would be at less risk for contracting headlice. However, it is best to regularly check your child's head regardless of race or social class.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 3:12 PM

Lice like straight hair. People with curly hair have a harder time contracting it. However, if your kids get lice treat it with tea tree oil.

Posted by: re-write | September 8, 2006 3:16 PM

I didn't read parttimer's post as being offensive at all...I read it as three different facts/faccets about lice. And I vaguely remember hearing something along the same lines quite some time ago. In fact, less than 1% of african american children get head lice, as noted here:

Posted by: twenty-five | September 8, 2006 3:17 PM

Calm down and reread my post. Three separate comments. a) lice like clean hair 2) it is rare for African americans to get lice (and I will add here for your edification that it is because they generally have dryer hair than Caucasions and 3) and tea tree oil is said to guard against it. Jeez!

Posted by: parttimer | September 8, 2006 3:18 PM

Yes, it would be dumb thing to say, if I had said it.

Posted by: parttimer | September 8, 2006 3:25 PM

I love how people say what they want about their race because they belong to it. If a white person said that comment i'm sure you would have lit them up.

Posted by: what the ... | September 8, 2006 3:27 PM

It's easy to write something that is taken the wrong way on the blog. She said she didn't mean it that way, so let's move on.

Posted by: scarry | September 8, 2006 3:33 PM

"I love how people say what they want about their race because they belong to it. If a white person said that comment i'm sure you would have lit them up."

Who are you assuming is African American in this discussion?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 3:34 PM

Warning: Lice Story
When I was in elemaentary school, my sister noticed that the parasites had found a home on my eyelashes. Check your child's eyelashes and eyebrows.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 3:55 PM

We also live in a 4,000+ squ.ft. house so it was very hard to combat. We ended up bagging every unnecessary item, washing all linens after each use and making portions of the house "off-limits". I lost 8 weeks because I was re-infested after we volunteered to head check at school.

What does this have to do with balance? We learned what material things we don't need (Because most of our stuff was relegated to the basement). We learned to spend a lot of time in close proximity (because nit-picking brings you closer and takes an extraordinary amount of time) and we learned how valuable our community was because every time another kid got it, the rest of us moms were there to help the stressed out mom trying to de-louse her house.

We also did lots of research at the time and learned that African-Americans rarely get lice because their hair is ovoid in shape instead of round. The louse cannot hang onto the ovoid hair shaft.

Posted by: HappyMom | September 8, 2006 4:06 PM

OK all this talk about lice is making me itchy. Is there anything else we can look forward to this school year, besides balancing work, family and parasites?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 4:38 PM

I am single, but am so interesting that I consider myself a family. A wife and kid(s) would just make me a bigger family.

Posted by: fascinating | September 8, 2006 5:11 PM

Thanks guys for injecting some levity in a late Friday afternoon. For those of us still at work (have to wait until several jobs I've got running online to finish), it's well appreciated.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | September 8, 2006 5:46 PM

I like your logic, fascinating. You could also make yourself a bigger family by eating more! What a good excuse - "I'm not just gaining weight, I'm expanding my family." ;O

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2006 5:48 PM

[Is there anything else we can look forward to this school year, besides balancing work, family and parasites?]

Yeah! If you live in Fairfax County and send your kids to public school, every year you get to go on a treasure hunt with all the other thousands and thousands of mommies! I'm posting just the 4th grade supply list below. If you have 2 or more kids enrolled, multiply the number of items you are supposed to buy by the respective number of kids.

I would also like to draw your attention to the specific brand-name requirements. What's up with that?

We all know how mommies like to shop, and this treasure hunt is just what they need to kick off the back to school season! It's, like, almost as fun as Christmas... Oops, did I say Christmas? Umm, uh, what I really meant to say was the "winter holiday". My bad!

Here it is:
1 nylon pencil bag, clear top w/ gromt
1 box Ziplock bags (quart)
1 large Stanford Pink Pearl eraser
1 bottle Elmer's white glue (4 0z.)
1 box Crayola crayons, 24 pack
1 box Crayola colored pencils (12 count)
1 packs Mead wide-ruled paper (200 count)
6 black-and-white marble composition books (100 count)
8 2-pocket folders with fasteners
1 pack Bic stick pens, black (NO gel pens)
1 red Bic ball-point pen
1 yellow highlighter
1 doz. #2 Eagle pencils with erasers
1 package 5" x 8" white index cards
1 large boxes tissues (160 count)
1 sharp 5" Fiskar Student scissors

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 9, 2006 6:56 AM

Don't daddies get to go on this treasure hunt?

Posted by: to father of 4 | September 9, 2006 8:53 AM

[Don't daddies get to go on this treasure hunt?]

They can try, but unless Home Depot stocks these items, it would be a complete waste of time. Daddies will undoubtedly screw it up and the mommies would have to do it anyway.

Fathers are better suited staying home and spending quality time with their kids watching pre-season football.

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 9, 2006 10:06 AM

Back when we lived in Fairfax County, the PTA researched this and there are actually several companies (k12 springs to mind) that will hunt down, purchase, label with your child's name and box up the school supplies and deliver them to school for Open House.

Many PTA's offer this service by sending home a flyer in the spring. The company takes an addition 2-3 dollars per kid, the PTA takes a cut -- and you get all your supplies with no hassle for about an extra five bucks per kid. Working moms love this service -- and I love it, because when's the last time you went to Walmart and Target and came out with only what's on the list? Going out and purchasing these items yourself guarantees you'll end up spending a lot more by the time the kids finish asking for jeans and new lunch boxes.

Posted by: To Father of Four | September 9, 2006 11:03 AM

"Daddies will undoubtedly screw it up and the mommies would have to do it anyway."

LOL I know a family with a doctor mom and a dad who works part time as a consultant but is a SAHD when their boys aren't in school. He is in charge of their extra curriculurs and the school volunteering and all of that stuff.

Before school started this year, he commented to me on how he still needed to go school supply shopping and how he learned his lesson a few years ago because he broke the bank shopping for everything. Later he told his wife and she asked "ummm....did you check the closet?"....because of course they had tons of leftover stuff from prior years that she expected he would re-use.

Now he knows how to do it. ;o)

Posted by: momof4 | September 10, 2006 10:32 PM

Posting late, but doing it anyway.

The summer was balanced with family and friend visits and shorter, immediate-family-only vacations. We read and we wrote and we painted and we explored. We laughed A LOT! We did it on a rather tight budget, and it's amazing how much fun you can have like that!

This school year, I am all about balance, too....some time for adult work and interaction, time to study with the kids, time for fun and relaxation on the weekends. Hubby can help but will have his down-time too. Scouting troops for each kid in addition to active play on a daily basis. I can sell cookies and exercise and dabble in arts, but the house might not always be as orderly as I would like. Which is okay if we are essentially happy and productive as a family.

Posted by: kgotthardt | September 11, 2006 10:53 AM

Hi Rockville Mom, I read your post about the great family daycare that your children are in (June 21 post) and would love to find out more about it. Not quite sure though how to contact you or send my contact info without posting it on this board. Any advice?


Posted by: Lucy | September 17, 2006 6:58 PM

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