Category Archives: Parenting

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry (in and out of the sock drawer)

In the latest SockKids book, The SockKids Go Dancing, Wooly the middle sock, is kind of jealous of his big brother Stretch. Stretch is a tube sock, so he’s always out and about, helping the humans play games. Wooly is a dress sock, so he doesn’t get out much, and when he does, the  human boy takes him off as soon as possible and throws Wooly under the bed.

If you have more than one child (or if you grew up in a family with a lot of kids, as I did), you’re more than familiar with sibling rivalry. Did one kid get a slightly larger slice of cake than another? You’ll hear about it. Does Child B’s bedtime match Child A’s bedtime at that age? No? Oh, the horror! What you might not always hear are the feelings of being second-best to an older sibling. Here are a few suggestions to help keep sibling rivalry at bay.

1) Don’t compare one kid to the other. Just don’t.  Child A will lord it over Child B for the next year (or vice versa). When they ask “How old was I when… How old was so-and-so when…” use it as a teachable moment to talk about skills each of them have. For instance, Child A may have learned to ride a bike at a younger age,, but maybe Child B learned to tie shoes at a younger age. You can talk about gross motor skills and fine motor skills and how different people develop those skills at different rates. You can use yourself and other adults in the children’s life as examples, for instance, “Mommy is a faster runner but Uncle Mike is better at art.”

2) Teach them empathy and how to be happy for others. Learning to be happy for your brother because he knocked in three RBIs or for your sister because she won all of her events at her swim meet doesn’t just add to family harmony, it’s one of those infamous life lessons. Realizing that a sibling or friend’s accomplishments don’t diminish our own accomplishments is something that carries on far past childhood.

3) Make sure the younger kid(s) get something new once in a while. Every parent wants to economize, and, more often than not, kids outgrow clothes long before the clothes become unwearable. I grew up as the youngest of six children, so I have more than a passing familiarity with hand-me-downs. But everybody, young and old, wants to feel special once in a while. Every kid deserves to have some things that weren’t worn or used by an older sibling.

4) Sibling rivalry goes both ways, so try to give the older kids  a break too. Older kids are bigger and stronger than little kids. They have more stamina, more patience, and more maturity. Don’t always aim to the youngest common denominator. Make sure family outings and family time includes things that are interesting and challenging to the big ones too.  Sometimes you need to divide and conquer–one parent takes the younger kid(s) and the other takes the older kid(s). If you’re a single parent, try to enlist a friend to go on a family outing. Or let the kids take turns choosing activities.

5) Read as many SockKids books with your family as you can! Seriously, reading books together is a great way to spend time together and spark some meaningful conversation.

6) Love them unconditionally.


The SockKids Meet Lincoln Discussion Questions

When you think about discussing a book, the first thing that comes to mind may not discussing a children’s book with your child. But little kids can and do find their own meaning and relevancy in what they read.

In The SockKids Meet Lincoln, Stretch, the oldest child in the Socker family, time travels through the spin cycle and onto the foot of Abraham Lincoln during the delivery of the Gettysburg Address. The 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address is November 19, 2013. We’ve come up with a list of discussion questions for The SockKids Meet Lincoln. Not all of the questions will be appropriate/helpful for all ages of children. The first questions are best for younger kids, the later questions for older kids.  Let these questions be a springboard to talking about other books or learning more about Lincoln, Gettysburg, and the Civil War.

1.) What was your favorite part of the book?

2) If Stretch lived next door to you, do you think you and he would be friends?

3) If you were Stretch, would you have done anything differently?

4) If Meade time traveled to our time, what do you think he and Stretch might do?

5) What do you think happens after the story? Do you think Stretch will ever try to go back and find Meade again?

6) Stretch, the tube sock, is white. He ends up on President Lincoln’s foot next to a black sock. The socks look different and come from different times, so you might think they wouldn’t like each other, but they quickly become friends. Has there ever been a time when you became friends with someone who was very different from  you?


How to Become a Parent in 37 Easy Steps

We celebrated the 7th anniversary of my daughter’s “Gotcha Day” last weekend. That was the day we met–the day we became a family.  The day I became a parent. Most people become parents the old-fashioned way. There are really only two steps . Step 1: Get pregnant. Step  2: Deliver a baby. Yes, there are all sorts of doctors appointments and stuff along the way, but that’s the gist of the process as designed by Mr. Spock. Simple, logical, and straightforward.

The process by which I became a parent was designed Rube Goldberg (or maybe M.C. Escher) . It went kind of like this.

Step 1: Yay, we want to have a family! Attempt traditional step 1.

Step 2: Step 1 does not work. Consider other options.

Step 3: Take a bunch of tests to see why Step 1 does not work.

Steps 4-7: Attempt various medically induced methods of achieving Step 1.

Step 8: Cry a lot.

Step 9: Realize that the love in our hearts does not need to be confined to bio-kids.

Step 10: Decide to adopt.

Step 11: Go to parenting certification classes through county.

Step 12: Complete home study with county social worker, who inspects your house and has to ask some very personal questions.

Step 13: Wait around for county to match you with a child.

Step 14: Get disappointed a few times and wait some more.

Step 15: Switch to a private adoption agency.

Step 16: Make the decision to go with an international adoption.

Step 17: Repeat Step 12.

Step  18: Fill out a gazillion forms.

Step 19: Collect copies of every important document in your and your spouse’s life short of high school transcripts.

Step 20: Mail everything off to the adoption agency in a starry-eyed dream of parenthood.

Step 21: Wait 12.5 months (note that this is one trimester longer than the old-fashioned method but less than half the gestation time of an elephant, so we’ve got that going for us).

Step 22: Receive a photograph from the adoption agency of Your Kid. Fly over the moon as many times as necessary.

Step 23: Get visas and other travel documents together.

Step 24: Make arrangements to leave the country for two weeks. (If you don’t have pets, perhaps you can skip this step.)

Step 25:  Pretend to go to work and do all the things you’re supposed to do while surreptitiously looking at photo of Your Kid and flipping out.

Step 26: Fly to Beijing, where you spend a nervous few days trying to remember every moment so you can share it with your child later while you acclimate to a time zone 12  hours opposite your own.

Step 27: Fly to the city where you’ll meet your child. Walk into the hotel room in this city and see two beds, a crib, and a stroller an realize This Is Really Happening.

Step 28: Sit nervously in said hotel room in new city for two hours waiting to meet your guide while your husband finds an NFL game from four days ago to occupy his time (and takes a video of you babbling your excitement so your child has future documentation of what a spaz you were before you met her.)

Step 29: Meet the guide and other family who is adopting in the lobby and walk down the street to the civil affairs office.

Step 30: Sit down in chairs across from the door of the waiting room so you can see people walking down the hallway. Wait

Step 31: Other family is adopting an older set of twins. They get there first. Watch this new family take shape before your eyes.

Step 32: Hear the elevator bell ring and know that in two more heartbeats, a stranger will turn the corner and walk down the hallway toward you, carrying the baby who is destined to be Your Child.

Step 33: Wait the longest two heartbeats of your life.

Step 34: Have your breath taken away by the first sight of Your Child.

Step 35: Sit down with your guide/translator and people from the orphanage.

Step 36: Have person from the orphanage hand Your Child to you. Reach out your hands, wondering if you are really prepared for this, if you are totally going to screw up this whole parenting thing, if someone made a terrible mistake somewhere because this can’t possibly finally be happening, if you’ll ever manage to be as good a parent as this little human deserves to have.

Step 37: Hold Your Kid in your lap for the first time. Breathe. Feel an unimaginable wave of gratitude wash over you. Repeat as often as necessary.

Of Guys and Dolls and Second Grade

All through elementary school, I was one of three “Susans” in my grade (and one “Suzanne”). We also had five “Johns” and a few “Michaels.” Names are different now. There are Brookes and Jordans (or “Jordyn,” and they’re all girls) and Brandons and Dylans. No Susans. No Johns (or Jons).

Name trends are funny things. You can track my daughter’s maturity level by the names she’s given various stuffed animals and dolls throughout her life. The pink blanket she was given as a baby (and still sleeps with) is, appropriately enough, named “Blankie.” One of her pillow pets is named “Purplish Unicorn.” I leave it to your fine powers of deduction to imagine what this pillow pet looks like. As she’s grown older, the names have become a bit more original. The American Girl doll Bitty Baby my sister gave her when she was three is named “Baby Reindeer.” That is, perhaps, my favorite doll name of all time. The uber-adorable pink flowered Webkinz pig is named “Mercy” (after Mercy Watson, from the wonderful book series by Kate DeCamillo). And the big-girl American Girl doll that my other sister gave her is named “Ken-Yan.” I’m not sure where this name came from, but I like it.

My kid has what might be termed an old-fashioned name (one that’s now seeing a huge resurgence, which I didn’t see coming when we named her). What can I say? I like to kick it old school. And I’m kind of a nerd. She’s a nerd in training. Case in point: I took her to see the Great Lakes Theater’s fantastic production of Guys and Dolls this summer. The kid absolutely loved it, and since then we’ve been listening to the soundtrack (from the 1992 Broadway revival) in the car, and watched the Sinatra-Brando film version from 1955 (which, sadly, doesn’t hold up). We wander around the house singing “Fugue for Tinhorns” and “Oldest Established” at the top of our lungs (well, I do. She’s still learning the lyrics.) And she learned some new old-fashioned names like Nathan and Adelaide.

She started second grade last week, and when we saw the class list the day before school started, we saw that there is a kid in her class named “Ken-Yan.” Now this just might be a hipster way of writing the name “Kenyon,” but I thought it was pretty fun coincidence. So did my husband. When our daughter came home after the first day of school, my husband asked “Do you like having a kid in your class with the same name as as your doll?” She replied, “That’s okay, but there’s a kid named Nathan! Like Nathan Detroit!”

What are some of the best names your kids have come up with for their dolls or stuffed animals?