Lessons from my toddler for healthy living

What my toddler needs for healthy growth and development:

  1. Calcium, protein and iron, although he only eats what he wants to eat at the end of the week his diet is balanced.
  2. Rest (8+ hours of sleep and naps)
  3. Fresh air (time playing outside)
  4. Brain stimulation (puzzles, exploring, satisfying his curiosity)
  5. Love, lots of unconditional love, positive regard, and positive feedback

Add good red wine + ice cream to that and I think that’s the recipe for what we adults can also use to be healthy and happy….maybe….

It’s my birthday. I’m 25 years old (ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!). Anyway…I make resolutions on my birthday instead of on New Year’s Eve/Day because my b-day happens to come at the end of the academic year (and as a teacher that’s significant); New Year’s comes in the middle of a bunch of holidays and celebrations (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Wedding Anniversary, other birthdays, Easter….) and it’s too confusing to think clearly; and it’s cliché to make resolutions on New Years that I then don’t remember/keep.  So inspired by my toddler, here are my birthday resolutions:

  1. Do what I want and I know is right for me. My toddler has no clear concept of other people’s feelings yet, although he is able to read emotions and moods; so he does what he wants, when he wants and stops when it seems to not make someone else feel o.k.
  2. Say “no” more often. My toddler says “no” and laughs, but means it when he says “no” and I’m learning to hear him and respect him. It works for us…not so much for daddy…
  3. Get more fresh air. I’ve never been much of an outdoors-type of girl, but I can definitely take a walk once in a while, sit outside and eat my lunch and take my toddler for a walk or play with hi outside which will also benefit me.
  4. Advocate for myself. My toddler always tells me what he wants/needs – “no,” “up,” “down,” “outside,” “more,” etc. It is simple language and I get it. I can do the same for myself with my employer, my doctors, friends, family, and hubby!
  5. Eat and not worry. It all balances out at the end of the week.
  6. Love and laugh! He does that, I think, without thinking about it and so can I.
  7. Drink wine and eat ice cream. This does not need an explanation…

Sevenm is more than enough because tomorrow when my red wine buzz wears off I probably will only remember “do what I want”

Women and Self-care (or lack thereof)

This is somewhat about the life-work balance, which came to a head for me because I recently had to stay home and rest after a medical emergency.  I realized that even when sick or unable to go to work I am still unable to find that balance.  Since hubby works full-time outside of the house and the boy child goes to day care it was a potentially nice opportunity to breathe, relax, reflect, and maybe meditate in quiet stillness…Yea right!

I’m a social worker by training and I now teach future social workers. One of the most important things that we preach is “self-care.”  You cannot help and take care of others if you do not take care of yourself.  I just gave my dad this lecture as I practically forced him to get help in taking care of my mom.  This is true not just for social workers, nurses, doctors, psychiatrists (highest suicide rate), teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs…but especially true for moms and wives. Right before giving birth, all of my mommy friends said “sleep when the baby sleeps,” which I did not do because there were 100 other things to do – even with friends and family helping and that’s a pattern that persists.

Knowing that self-care is important for physical and mental well-being, I spent my bed rest time:

  1. Emailing colleagues and students
  2. Reading rough drafts of final papers
  3. Preparing lectures for the final week of class
  4. Feeling guilty that I missed committee meetings and scholarship interviews
  5. Making dinner (albeit in the crockpot)
  6. Doing laundry and washing dishes
  7. Feeling guilty that I wasn’t resting

Part of the issue is that I was not raised to sit still. I was raised to take care of myself (get hair and nails done, get regular physical check-ups, have dinner with friends, see funny movies, exercise, eat well, etc.). My mom would literally “run away” for a weekend to engage in self-care (we had a nanny so that helped some).  But just laying around and healing seems like a frivolous privilege I should not take….this is THE problem with many women I know.  Either guilt or boredom or need to control how/when things are done, or…is it really how our society has shaped and programmed us? Americans and especially American women need to do better at slowing down and caring for self.  I might start a petition to get a national siesta instituted, which may help us on the road to being healthier…maybe.

Just STOP, SAY NO (or “not now”), seek & follow good advice on self-care, receive help when offered.

So maybe I’m in denial, delusional, or maybe I’m turning into my grandmother (a stereotypical woman of the 50s and 60s who always put others before herself), but part of my joy and self-care come in caring for our son and seeing him happy, holding him before bed, and cuddling him.  When my baby or my husband eat all the food on their plates and smiles, when they smile at me or hug me I feel cared for and am at peace. So maybe step 1 to self-care is feeling loved by family….still trying to figure out that balance thing…even when sick….UGH!

The bittersweet similarities between my mom and toddler

My mom does not have a formal diagnosis, but we all know she has some form of dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s.  I’m hoping to get her one of those 3-hour long formal geriatric assessments this summer. The trick is what to say to her to get her to go and then sit through the whole thing?  She’s an educated, independent, stubborn, former entrepreneur who even with severe memory loss cannot be easily fooled into doing something she does not want to do.

She came for a visit last month for 5 days (that’s our limit together and her limit away from her comfort zone = home). The saving grace is always her grandson (1.5 years old) and he son-in-law.  I may have mentioned in previous posts that no accomplishment I’ve had is as great to her as me being married and having a child.

So here are the ways in which my mom and my toddler are similar – it’s cute and amusing, bitter sweet, and   just the reality of who they each are and where they are in their stages of development (every good social worker recognizes that):



  1. I love them both unconditionally
  2. They both assert their independence and resist assistance with most tasks
  3. I have to repeat what I say to each of them, at least 3 times, maybe more for mommy
  4. They both eat small meals and require snacks throughout the day (1 for overall growth & development and the other to keep her brain turned on)
  5. They both should take naps
  6. They both need assistance with bathing, although one resists the assistance more than the other
  7. They both need help picking out clothes and getting dressed
  8. Neither can sit still for longer than 1 to 2 minutes – both are easily distracted
  9. They both use words in interesting ways – one just learning new words, the other having forgotten what words to use or how to use them
  10. They are perfect companions for each other because they love each other unconditionally

Uninspired and Overwhelmed x 6 weeks!

I don’t think I’ve posted anything in several weeks. Well…since my mom came to visit back in mid-March. After that I had lots to share. I wanted to write about her visit and being the daughter of an adult with Alzheimer’s. I wanted to write about her interactions with her grandson. I wanted to write about my students. I really wanted to write about women advocating for themselves especially in health care settings. I also really wanted to write about if “helicopter parents” is a term appropriate for those of us with toddlers – isn’t helicopter parenting what we do right now?… but life got in my w…so I wrote nothing….

The highlights:

1)  My opinion piece got printed in the online Boston Globe’s Podium.

2)  It is important for care-takers to take care of themselves and my dad finally came to that realization! YAY!

3)  Toddlers, while lots of work are so cute, funny and precious. Mine now is able to say over 30 words and recognizes the U.S. President on t.v, and says “Marrack Bama” – close enough right?

4)  My sanity and health are priceless!

5) I can’t control everything.

6) Summer is almost here and I’ll have more time (yea right) and maybe more inspiration to post