Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Rear-Facing Car Seats: The New Way Forward for Toddlers?

My dad recently forwarded me this article from the New York Times that contests the widespread notion that toddlers should move to a front-facing car seat around 20 lbs / 12 months. The article cites new advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which suggests children under two are 75% less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries if they are rear-facing.

Chris and I have been talking about buying LLC’s next car seat. Her feet are starting to look cramped in her current Maxi Cosi seat. Many of her little contemporaries have been front-facing for some time now, and I don’t know anyone who has purchased a Group 1 (the progression from an infant seat) rear-facing car seat that accommodates a child up to 35-40 lbs.   It definitely seems to be the common impression that when children outgrow their infant carrier, they move to a forward-facing seat.

This UK site advocates rear-facing toddler seats and has information about where to purchase them; interestingly it says that many British child seat manufacturers are refusing to sell their safest, rear-facing products in the UK because British parents don’t buy them. Instead they ship them off to Sweden, where it’s common for children to remain rear-facing until around 4 years-old.

If you delve into these links, you’ll also see information that refutes that children whose legs appear cramped when rear-facing will be uncomfortable and more likely to break their legs if in a car accident. They suggest that it’s a misconception that keeping toddlers rear-facing will lead to them being unhappy and frustrated.

Baby “how to / when to” advice seems to change over the years significantly but the evidence here, to me, makes sense and is pretty compelling from a safety point of view.

LLC’s head isn’t at the top of her Maxi Cosi seat and we are waiting until it is to buy her next seat. But this advice has got me reconsidering our next purchase, and I expect LLC’s front-facing “milestone” has just been pushed further into the distance.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Pop Culture Crash Course All Over Again

The first several months I spent in London I lived with fellow Americans studying abroad through our US University.  Then the term ended, everyone returned to the States and I was still here, gradated, moving in with Chris, getting ready to give British life a go.

What struck me in these early expat days of adjustment, more than anything, was the vast abyss of British pop culture that never got exported to the States, that I'd never engaged with before.  It created a void in my ability to contribute to conversations, I often found myself asking, "Who's that," and I'm sure I wasn't a popular team-member for the UK version of Trivial Pursuit. 

It took time but as I read the news and my friendships grew and England became another home for me, I learned about Porridge, the Manic Street Preachers, David Jason, Noel Edmonds, Jordan, Alan Hansen, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall .... I'm not fully up to speed and won't know who the presenters of Blue Peter in the 1980s were but still.  I didn't feel in the dark anymore.

But now as a mother, I'm on a crash course all over again.  Roly Poly - say what?  Who is the Grand Old Duke of York?  One, two, three, four, five....and something about a fish?  And 'The Gruffalo' - how fantastic, once I learned what he was!  No I didn't grow up with Postman Pat.  Is he a cat, oh no wait, he has cat?  I'm more used to The Farmer in the Dell and 'Where the Wild Things Are'.

Lucky LLC - she's going to benefit from children's ditties and books from both England and the USA.  There are so many great ones.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

When Pound Affects Preference: The Rise of One-Child Households in the UK

At what point would finances dampen your desire to have a second child?

According to the Office for National Statistics, over 25% of British children are only-children and this figure has been steadily increasing over the last several decades. The US Only Child website tells a similar story in the USA.

According to Margaret Driscoll’s ‘O Brother, Where art though,’ in The Sunday Times Magazine , “as the tectonic plates of finances and work bump up against the desire for a comfortable lifestyle, something has to give and that something is often the desire for a second child.”

Driscoll’s report alleges that for many middle class parents, a second child would mean surrendering “the so-called good things in life” (foreign holidays, flat-screen TVs) as well as opportunity in itself for their children (not being able to afford to privately educate two kids). (Her examples, not mine). She also asks, in collaboration with white father of 6, middle class researcher Jeff Brazier if British only-children are increasingly cosseted and indulged by helicopter parents.

It's all relative. I would like to have a second child – the desire is there. I would consider our finances before trying to get pregnant again, but mainly to weigh up our ability to adequately provide the basics for a family of four, to afford child care and also transatlantic travel (a forever feature of our lives). But if in our hearts, Chris and I wanted another, I can’t imagine us not going for it for fear of not providing enough for LLC or further reducing our disposable income.   But we don't plan to privately educate LLC and we might not have the newest clothes or flashiest electronic gadgets while we are growing our family.  That's why I guess it depends on where we are all prepared to make sacrifices, though the statistics indicate that for many the cut falls in the baby department.  Where do you stand?

And do one child families breed helicopter parents (hovering over their "fragile" children's every move) and risk aversion.  Probably to some extent by virtue of only children being the central object of their parent's affection, but we can't overlook that parenting approaches are the key issue here, whether a parent has one child or eight. I fear helicopter parenting is becoming more of a generational tactic both in the UK and US, and one which parents at large should sit back and try to put the breaks on, and fast.  Kids need support but also must learn independence and how to advocate for themselves and that trend sadly seems to be declining. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Blissful Innocence

We live in a crazy world. I look at LLC in her vibrant innocence and I want to protect that forever. I know I can't - that learning is part of living - and that she's got some way to go before her innocence fades. But still. I don't relish that day. Innocence is one of the best gifts of childhood, unappreciated until it has gone.

Along with the rest of the world I've been watching the fallout of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear debacle in Japan. It's gripping, harrowing, upsetting. The coverage is incessant and I'm brought back to the days when I studied journalism and debated the balance between telling a truthful story and sensational journalism that grates on reader sensitivity. The press is certainly having a field day; lines of reason are blurring. People are fleeing Japan. Americans are buying iodide tablets in fear of nuclear fallout. And following the recent natural disasters near Brisbane and in Christchurch, the world asks "what next?"

What am I going to say when LLC asks me about such things one day? That the "show must go on." Parenting is hard, I think at times like this. How do you help your kids understand without scaring them? I think more about things like this now that I'm a parent.

And while I'm going on about this crazy world, I have to mention how disgusted I was to read the following story in my *shrinks in embarrassment* 'Closer' magazine: 'I inject my girl, 8, with DIY Botox & filler I buy online.' How unbelievably sick and messed up is that? And how scary is it that this woman actually thinks her behavior is normal and right? Not to mention the fact she is dementing her daughter's physical and mental health by this tripe. This particular girl is American but Botox laws (as opposed to guidelines) are quite lax on both sides of the pond and with all the nanny state laws we are subjected to these days, couldn't they do something about things like this instead?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sick Note

It's been a tiring couple of weeks in our house thanks to a merciless cold making the rounds and bout of conjunctivitis.  LLC came down with a chesty cough and cold early last week.  Even though she was bunged up and hacking she managed to remain in fairly good spirits so it didn't appear anything too sinister.  I didn't think much of the eye gunk in the corner of her eye (probably just leftover from sleep) until she had a nap and woke up with her eyelashes caked in a sticky yellow discharge. 

A trip to the doctor soon confirmed conjunctivitis, meaning she had to avoid contact with other children for the week.  We had to regularly clear the gunk from her eyes, which she tolerated, but her patience wore thin when it came to letting us squirt a centimeter of gel from a small useless tube into the base of her eye several times a day.  This struggle nearly reduced me to tears a couple of times while on my own, until we discovered if given a bottle of milk during the proceedings she would remain still and docile. 

Being confined to the house could have spelled quality time for LLC and me.  No running around.  No distractions.  But then I caught her cold, which spread to my sinuses, which I've never had before but can confirm made me feel like I'd been punched in the face, in the eye, in the mouth.  Breath taken through my nose hit a brick wall.   I had a constant headache, which is still lingering.  All I wanted to do was sleep, but that is not an option with an ill but high energy little lady ready willing and able to play.

This is the first time I've been sick with LLC and I realized how hard it is to look after kids when you feel beat yourself.  I tried to play but couldn't really concentrate.  I tried to rest when she was sleeping but the cold seemed to make her nap less.  I tried to lay on the couch next to her but she kept climbing on me, throwing things in my direction or wanting my water / tissues /etc!  Does anyone have any tips for coping with a sick but high energy little one while you are sick yourself?  I need them!

Fortunately LLC's conjunctivitis is now cleared and her cold is nearly gone.  And I'm getting there, but I still feel tired.  Why am I blogging at 11pm you ask?  I was in bed earlier in the evening and I now have a second wind.  I'm all out of sync!  I need to sort myself out....

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Misplaced fantasy…?

No, not THAT kind of fantasy, stay with me…sorry to disappoint. This fantasy was merely one of those stories that you make up in your head about people that you come across in day to day life. You must know what I mean. Someone strikes you and you put them into creative context in your head. You think up a little back story about them. For me, this is particularly fun for people I see day in day out, like fellow commuters. You can really get their vibe, and you can really think of some fun back stories.

There’s this one woman that used to always board the train with me every morning. I see less of her now working part-time, but I still see her. She’s professionally dressed but always with a bulky backpack and fluffy hat in the winter. She’s stern looking, and never cracks a smile. She’s the epitome of the commuter on autopilot who will run you down to get on the train and not give you second glance as she crushes your toes.

To me this woman screams all work, no play. She’s determined but has no softer side in sight. She probably works late hours and eats in the office. I doubt that she’s married, or that she even socializes much because of the strong standoffish air she exudes. I’m certain she’s successful, because she seems determined, but determined in the sense she puts her head down and does her thing, railroading her way to success as she does to get on the train.

But that’s just judgmental me. I know nothing about this woman; this is all just my little fantasy.

Then the other day, I saw said woman leaving a house with three relatively small children. They kind of look like her, in fact, wait a minute, it looks like they might be hers. She looks stern and un-amused as ever, but unless she’s aunt on babysitting patrol, I think this woman is their mum.

And that really surprised me, and brought me back to reality. I’m sure now that I’m in the “mom club” I find myself guessing who else is too. That lady that moved aside to make it easier for me to navigate the corridor with LLC’s pushchair – a mum. The woman that gave me a knowing smile as LLC chattered loudly on the train – likely to be a mum.

It’s like I think I have mom-dar when I don’t really know anything about these people. Is this really strange, or do you find yourself doing this too?

Back to my unlikely mum, my instincts do seem to have been correct in that she doesn’t come off as a jolly mum, even with her brood in tow. Chris and I have discussed her before and I got the following text message from him yesterday:

“Just saw that crone woman who pushes past people. She was with her family. Her poor kids were being moaned at by her!”

And that’s why Chris and I are married.