Third Time's the Charm

What counts as luck depends on what you're looking for…

My Better Half gave birth to our third child in May of 2017, so he's coming up on a year and a half on this earth as we roll through fall. He's about as close to perfectly adorable as one baby could ever be. He's generally happy and adored by his siblings; he loves social gatherings and being held by lots of friends. He goes by a lot of different nicknames based on his behaviors.

But he loves to wake up more often than our previous children and has less variety in his diet. He has not hit his speech and motor milestones at the same time and rate as our first two kids. So in many ways, our third child has held the mirror up to my face when it comes to my work. 

I work with a lot of people who work hard at improving their sleep or that of their loved ones.

I work with a lot of people who work hard at increasing the types of foods their loved ones eat.

I dispense a lot of advice and guidance around eating and sleep routines in my work, and the process of parenting our third child has been quite humbling and eye-opening. Put simply:

Sometimes the evidence does not work so well.

I have read (and re-read) the literature on sleep hygiene, and we consulted with our providers to put in place a well-organized evidence-based approach to increasing the variety in his diet.

And still every day feels the same.

This is all not to say to heck with science/medicine and to go rouge on reality because of it. But this is me acknowledging as a human who happens to be a psychologist that sometimes the ideas and the plans that derive from the scientific method don't apply equally well to all.

That is a sobering thought to hold. 

Our third child has given me a different type of appreciation for those who face these issues and deepened my empathy (and my resolve) for how stressful, challenging, and rewarding these things can be.

When I became a parent, I did not know that love could come in so many forms. The way I feel and I respond to each of our children is so different and implicit it defies the words I have here.

Our youngest is his own unique person - challenges, successes, personality, and all. The big kids often call him “Boss Baby” because he has a huge head on a small frame. And, because he wants what he wants when he wants it and he lets us all know it. So as luck would have it, his smile and his laughter are so infectious that our joy clearly continues to outweigh our work.

Boss baby.jpg

Back to School

Summer sizzled into September and hastened with heat the beginning of the new school year.

Many families worked with their loved ones over the Labor Day weekend to ready themselves for new classes and fresh faces in places both familiar and entirely new. Some boarded a bus, some shared a van, some saw their home return to a school setting, and some left their home.

There are so many moments in life where the next level feels so unclear, but not with school.

You start a new grade that's a higher number or greater distinction. You literally "level up" in the video game of your educational and vocational life. But even still, the grade level tells only a small portion of the story.

Are you ready for what comes next? Have I prepared them well?

The bus comes, the van pulls away, the kitchen is now class, and the class is in another state.

Students of every age and ability likely approach the school year with anticipation, but this feeling careens between the boundaries of hope and doubt as the first day dawns anew here. 

Will I feel safe? Will I learn something new? Will I make friends? Will I be included in this?

They arrive in bunches and in droves of a diverse beautiful sort on the threshold of their school. Their teachers greet and guide them down a path they have worked so hard to prepare, and the thankless endeavor of raising our children's minds and hearts begins anew for them. These teachers and their tandem forces work silently to set the occasion for learning and growing.

How can I reach her? How can I help him? How do I talk with their parents? How can I do this?

Upon teachers and their teams are foisted the blessing and burden of educating our children. They ready their classrooms and unpack their belongings and beliefs in less than one week and they do so with a smile and a scientific method to their presentation for our general benefit.

Whether you are a student or a teacher, a parent or administrator, I would encourage folks to hold fast to the belief that we are quite literally all doing it "for the kids" as we start out now. Even if we don't see eye to eye on every moment between meetings and miscommunications, I believe we are playing for the same team that is our children and their future as it unfolds.


More Do Less, Well

The March 2017 edition of the Monitor on Psychology included an article on how " smartphones are affecting our health and well-being..." I thought this piece dovetailed nicely with my recent post on Doing Less, Well and wanted to share it with you here in hopes of generating future discussion around this topic. I hope you find it useful and interesting to read.

The key points of the article that jumped out to me (as illustrated ecard):

Smart devices can wreak havoc on sleep routines and rhythms.

My recommendation: Initialize parental controls or Do Not Disturb at a specific time.

FOMO is real

My recommendation: Keep your account, but delete the Facebook app from your phone. Try it. I did and I've been mobile-Facebook-free for two months. It has really changed my perspective.

How we use social media (actively vs. passively) impacts how it affects us personally.

My recommendation: Limit your scrolling and commit to initiating conversations with others.


Call someone instead of texting them. I'll bet you enjoy it and wish you had done it more often.

A habit I started over the last few weeks (and miss when I don't do it) is calling my mother on the way home from work. It reminds me of when I was in high school, and we could give each other a hard time every morning on the car ride to school and still say "I love you" at the end of the conversation.

I always feel more connected after hearing her voice.

Great Guidance

I really like this post from The Baby Center on teaching responsibility: 

The responsible child: How to teach responsibility (ages 3 to 4)

I subscribed to this blog/email list back when our oldest child was a year old, and I've really enjoyed the updates and anticipatory guidance this website provides. It's something I can hold onto, think about, and then incorporate into my style of parenting both of our children.

The title of this post from the Baby Center is "How to teach responsibility," and I really, really like how it breaks down the broad/abstract concept of responsibility into steps/principles. From my point of view, responsibility is something that is demonstrated and learned over time; I believe it reflects a concerted effort to demonstrate, label, and praise specific actions daily.

While this particular post references preschoolers, I think the bold face points can apply quite well to individuals throughout childhood and into adolescence. I also feel like there's a lot of value in reframing child-centric recommendations like these in terms of life principles for caregivers. For example, establishing routines, providing praise, and allowing for space and ups-and-downs is a critical skill for parents to practice and hone as they support their children through development. The principles, rather than the specific application of them, work well for most children regardless of their current language and motor abilities. The challenge then is in translating these principles into action items for both caregivers and their children, and this is something I try to work with families on addressing in a clear, concise, and concrete manner.

What I have often found is that families feel stuck about where to start with teaching a specific skill, and I try to encourage them to break down the steps associated with a task. I then ask them what their child can do without help, with some help, and with lots of help. This gives us a reference point from where we are most likely to be successful and then find the place in that chain where we want to start teaching one aspect of this new behavior chain.

Picking the right place to start can be a matter of finding the "sweet spot" for raising the bar for a child so that they can almost walk over the bar rather than having to jump over it. When trying a new approach, I perseverate on how to set people up for success out the gate so that it feels attainable initially and rewarding once achieved. This incremental, focused approach can work well for a range of social skills and adaptive behaviors across childhood.

Stay tuned for next week's post where I walk through how we try to implement this principle in our house on a daily basis as part of our mealtime routine with our cherubic youngest child.

I'm on the news!

Each day during the "Week of Miracles," 13 WHAM News profiles a 2016 Golisano Children's Hospital Miracle Kid. Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to talk with Norma Holland about my work with Fauna and her son Daniel. Their story aired on Wednesday, September 14: 

You can read more about the story here. I also previously wrote about my time with Fauna and Daniel in the BIFF clinic at URMC in my blog and on the website. The work Fauna and I did together is quite literally why I do what I do for a living. I would not be who I am if it were not for the amazing opportunities I have to work with families like them everyday.