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Parenting Imagination Versus Reality

This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience. I hope you enjoy these stories and musings.

Before a child is even born, the impact of parenting on the mother begins, since we are the vessel for life. The physical and hormonal impact is obvious, but mothers also begin parenting the child before the child is born. I was parenting Page as soon as I found out I was pregnant, from changing my eating habits for her health to thinking about her child care, i.e. would I work or stay at home. (Side note: I just shorthanded that major decision in the way our society does, and it makes no sense to allude to such a massive decision as if it were anywhere near simple.)

I had always imagined I would stay out of the workforce and work within the home once I had a child, until the child started school. But as life would unfold, it took me a very long time to conceive, and was looking like it might never happen, at which point I began my own private practice, signed a five-year lease, and promptly got pregnant. This was a great reminder that a big part of life is about rolling with what happens, regardless of whether it fits the well-laid plans you set in your own imagination.

Even though I planned for Page to be cared for in the home by myself and a nanny for the first two years, I toured the day care center at my husband’s workplace while pregnant since it was known to have a long wait list. As we pulled into the parking lot, I began crying. I explained to my husband that there was no reason to go in because I was never going to leave my baby. My husband was perplexed because we had scheduled a personal tour to begin in five minutes and he had a distraught wife (truth be told, I am sure he was thinking he had a hormone-laden nonsensical wife). Because, had I had my wits about me, even if I’d changed my mind about child care, I wouldn’t be sobbing and repeating the mantra of “I will never leave my child,” but would simply explain to my husband I had changed my mind. But here I was, parenting Page before she was born, trying to make good parenting decisions before I even really knew what I was doing. (Yes, I am a child psychologist, but text book knowledge and even experience with other people’s children isn’t the same as trying to make your own emotionally-influenced decisions, as I was immediately learning.)

Peter calmed me down and cajoled me into keeping the tour since (he said) it would be rude to cancel at the last minute; at the time, I thought it would be rude to waste their time taking me on a tour since I would never in my life leave my child’s side, but nonetheless he persuaded me to go in. It was a lovely day care and preschool facility, and at some point later I decided I would probably send Page there when she was two or three years old and developmentally engaging in reciprocal play. However, the universe had different plans, with a spot opening up for Page when she was 15 months old, and us uneasy to let it go lest we not get another spot when we needed it. We had also been learning over those first 15 months how unpredictable nanny care can be. And I had been learning that I loved being a mother but disliked child care, meaning I found it oftentimes mind-numbingly boring. I was a better mom when I could have the balance of spending some time engaging my mind in adult work pursuits, and some time engaging in child care.

So much for my well-laid plans to control the timing of my pregnancy, stay at home until Page entered school, and enjoy being a stay-at-home mom. Nothing worked out the way I imagined it. I certainly didn’t plan to tackle the two most important and time-consuming goals of my life at the exact same time (having a young child and starting a business). And yet it has all worked out better than I imagined, because imagination is about the details, but living is about the deep joy I experience in loving and parenting Page.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/dr-tina-lepage/parenting-imagination-versus-reality/

Parenting Page: Potty Training

This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience.

It isn’t uncommon for day cares to have a rule that to enter the 3-year-old classroom the child must be potty trained. Thankfully, our day care has no such rule. I’m not sure when our society decided that three was the magic age by which children should be trained, but Page missed that memo.

I dutifully began potty training around two-and-a-half, and Page tricked us into thinking it was going to be easy at first. For about a day she came to me to announce when she had to potty; I was thrilled! Easy-peasy as Page would say! But then…

The second night came, and even though Page had a diaper on at night, she woke up screaming and running in circles in her bedroom yelling, “Pee is coming, pee is coming!!!!” This was much like you might imagine Chicken Little yelling, “The sky is falling!” There were a couple of nights of that and then she lost all interest in the potty, and in any talk of the potty, no matter how I coaxed her or how many tricks I had up my sleeve from the many parenting articles on this topic. Even the Dr. Phil method didn’t work.

Next I tried a gift from Dora when Page turned three, who Page adored at the time. We went on a week-long beach vacation and one birthday gift we made a big deal of was from DORA THE EXPLORER! Dora sent her a Dora folding beach chair and a very cool Dora backpack filled with Dora underwear. Page spent three days peeing continuously while sitting in the Dora chair wearing her cute Dora underwear with us cleaning it up, before Peter put his foot down and said he didn’t care if Page was never potty trained, he wasn’t cleaning up any more and to put the damn pull-ups back on her. As far as he was concerned, some day she would magically be interested in potty training and he was pretty sure he didn’t know any adults not potty trained, so it wasn’t a concern. I still thought we should take a more active approach, though the pull-ups were back in play for sure.

For a brief moment I resorted to my mother’s method, which she had always described as working well and being a snap. She potty trained her four children using M&Ms; three M&Ms if you pee in the pot, five M&Ms if you poop. “Worked like a charm,” she said. Using food to train children is frowned upon in this day and age, but I was desperate, so I reasoned, “how much damage could it really do?” (I seem to have turned out OK, though in fairness I do have a weakness for chocolate.) But Page was disinterested in the M&Ms! I had hit rock bottom and resorted to candy, and even that didn’t work! It was like the gods were torturing me!

When Page was three-and-a-half, Peter and I attended a regularly scheduled mid-school-year parent-teacher conference at her day care. At one point potty training came up and we expressed our frustration that Page had been so disinterested. The teachers said, “Would you like us to train her for you here?” Peter and I looked at each other in shock, and clearly of one mind said in unison, “Do people say ‘no’ to that?!” “Oh yes,” the teachers explained, “Some parents say no even if we offer because they want to do it themselves.”

Overachievers, those parents.

We graciously (greedily, excitedly…) accepted their generous offer. Anytime a teacher wants to help Page learn a developmentally appropriate skill, that’s fine by us! And in no time, Page was potty trained. Apparently focusing on it at school where the other kids were using the potty daily was helpful to her learning and motivation, since she had examples to watch and subtle peer pressure to do what the other kids were doing.

I love teachers, from day care to school, now for a million reasons. Teachers are priceless. I only wish they had offered to train her earlier, so I wouldn’t have had to live with the shame of having resorted to the candy approach in my dark days of utter desperation…

Dr. Tina Lepage is the owner of Lepage Associates Solution-Based Psychological & Psychiatric Services, a group practice in S. Durham/RTP. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. www.lepageassociates.com. You can find her on Twitter at @LepageAssoc or at Facebook.com/LepageAssociates.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/dr-tina-lepage/parenting-page-potty-training/

Parenting Page: Mama Bear

This is a parenting page, about parenting Page. I am a child psychologist and a mother. So I specialize in children, yet I am human, thus I am full of knowledge and yet as full of emotions as any other parent. So I decided to write this Parenting Page since it might be informative and funny for others to take an insider look at a child specialist raising her child. I also wanted to create a way to show Page when she grows up, if she chooses to have children, a real-life view of the experience.

MAMA BEAR

I don’t consider myself tough. Most people could take me in a fight with one hand tied behind their back. Somehow my brief stint in adolescence as a juvenile delinquent did not toughen me up. Though apparently, nothing turns you into a ferocious bear like motherhood. As it turns out I am far tougher as a middle aged mom than I was as a teenage delinquent.

When Page was an infant some stories had been on the news about mothers with infant carriers being targeted for theft. Some were minor thefts such as grabbing a purse while the mom is preoccupied with the baby. Some were horror stories where the car is stolen and the baby thus snatched along for the ride. It was noted that women may be used as decoys to make a mom feel safe while a man then swoops in and robs you or steals your baby. Scary stuff!

One afternoon when Page was about six months old I was at the Southpoint Mall packing up the car to leave. I had placed my shopping bags and purse on the trunk and was strapping Page into her car seat when a woman approached me and asked for a dollar for the bus. It’s hard to describe how my body reacted to that. It felt instantly like I was devoid of emotion and hyper-focused; an eerie calm. My brain was immediately assessing the situation – we were far away from the bus stop way out in the parking lot where almost no one was; it made more sense to ask for money for the bus at the bus stop where many people were passing by, and no sense to be asking for money where we were. It was as if I had many thoughts at the same time, though not jumbled and quite clear. While thinking about our positioning I was noticing where my car keys were and taking those, placing my body close to Page, and scanning for a man or van or anything looking scary and suspicious. That all took place in the few seconds it took her to say she needed a dollar for the bus. Then I started talking like a crazy-lady tough-chick. Here’s how it went down.

Woman: I’m sorry to bother you but I lost my purse and I need a dollar for the bus. (She’s walking toward me.)

Me: Stop. You should not approach a woman with her child. You need to step back.

Woman: Oh, I’m sorry, I just needed a dollar… (I interrupt)

Me: Why are you still talking? I told you to step back. You need to walk away.

Which she did, walk away, and once she was far enough away I could turn my back to her for a moment I jumped into the car and locked the doors and we left immediately.

When I reflect on this I think how funny it was to be possessed by mama-bear hormones and talk in a way that is far more forceful than I ever feel otherwise. Really, I said with force and conviction, “You need to step back,” and “Why are you still talking?” The poor woman probably just needed a dollar for the bus and thought a mom would be just the understanding and kind type of person to give it to her. Instead she gets a crazy lady who watches too much scary TV.

Dr. Tina Lepage is the owner of Lepage Associates Solution-Based Psychological & Psychiatric Services, a group practice in S. Durham/RTP. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. www.lepageassociates.com. You can find her on Twitter at @LepageAssoc or at Facebook.com/LepageAssociates.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/dr-tina-lepage/parenting-page-mama-bear/