About Lesley Bolton

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5 Tips for Good Parenting

3879111346_b191905bcd_zFollowing are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way. You aren’t likely to find these in any parenting magazines, but they’ve worked quite well for me!

 

 

 

  1. Pick a fight. Story was worse than a teenage boy when it came to sleeping in. I could jump up and down on the bed, tickle her, drag her from one corner to the other—it didn’t matter; she wasn’t going to budge from her slumber. I tried nearly everything and then hit the sweet spot. Story loved to argue, and she just had to correct anyone who got her name wrong, so I picked a fight. Over and over. “Wake up, Story Banana.” “My name is Story Bolton.” “Oh, yes, Story Banana Colton.” “No. My name is Story BOLTON.” “Right, right. Wake up Bolton Banana Story.” “Mom-my! My. Name. Is. Story. Bolton!” And she was up! This worked for at least a year.

2. Instill a healthy fear of sugar bugs. We can all agree that oral hygiene is very important and that kids don’t give their teeth’s health a lot of attention. To give Story a better reason for thoroughly brushing her teeth, I told her that every time she ate, she would get sugar bugs that would eat holes in her teeth if left long enough. (She wasn’t really sure about this until I asked her to see if she could feel them crawling around and let her imagination take over.) The only way to kill the sugar bugs is to brush them with toothpaste. I’m happy to say that Story has excellent brushing habits. She especially likes to drown any that may have survived the brushing with mouthwash.

3. Lie. Don’t judge me. We already do it: Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Elf on a Shelf. I just take it a bit further. Story is not allowed to have caffeine. She understands and accepts this (after a longer-than-I-cared-for question-and-answer session about the effects of caffeine on children’s bodies). Her acceptance was too good to pass up. So now, anything that I don’t want her to have has caffeine. That glass of red stuff I’m having with dinner? Oh yeah, that has caffeine. You want a root beer float in the car? Sorry, that has caffeine. Of course, I can’t use it on everything or Story would figure it out, but it certainly comes in handy when avoiding an argument or endless questions,

4. Use her competitive nature to your benefit.
Story is verycompetitive. I tried tempering this somewhat but eventually gave up and used it to my advantage instead. For instance, Story was quick to potty train, but she was afraid to use public restrooms, or maybe it was just her way of manipulating me into going only where she wanted to go. Who knows? But the fact remained, her stubbornness took the spotlight anytime it was necessary for her to use a public toilet. I was able to help her past this fear by challenging her with a timed event: “I bet you can’t go pee by the time I count to ten.” Her eyes would sparkle and there she’d go. I’d count faster every once in a while to make her lose and stir up that competitiveness a bit. I certainly didn’t want it to become too boring for her.

5. Teach the meaning of grounded early. I had the wonderful opportunity to instill the fear of this particular punishment early on. Story asked me if the older neighbor girl could come over to play, and I informed her that she couldn’t because she was grounded. This, of course, piqued Story’s interest and led to several questions. I used a broad definition: “Being grounded means you cannot do anything fun.” One evening, when Story was being particularly disobedient and asked me if she was going to be grounded, I said yes. Anytime she asked if she could do something, I would respond with, “Is it fun?” If yes (which was every time), she couldn’t do it. At one point, she was sitting on her bed doing nothing, and I asked if she was using her imagination. She said yes, and I told her to stop because that was fun. That one evening had quite the effect on her, and now I have an effective replacement for the now-ineffective time-out.

Let’s hear from you! What parenting tips and tricks do you have?

 

 

I Can Fly!

I heard a story this week about a young man who makes unusual life choices, such as becoming a monk, deciding to quit the monkhood and ride his bicycle back to Indiana from Arizona with no plan or map, and waking up one morning and running a half-marathon. This is amazing and all, but what the storyteller said last struck me the most: “He did these things because no one ever told him he couldn’t.”

How many times do I tell Story she can’t do something? All the times.

“You can’t go potty in the backyard.”Flying

“You can’t be a dragon at school.”

“You can’t have candy for breakfast.”

“You can’t ride the dog like a horse.”

The list goes on and on. Of course, aside from the dragon transformation, she actually can do these things. It’s just not preferable. So, why then do I tell her she can’t? Why don’t I just explain to her why she shouldn’t do these things instead? I’m familiar with Carol Dweck’s work; I’ve read Mindset, and I know the effects of growth versus fixed mindsets. I also know that if you continuously impart negativity on someone, he or she will likely grow to believe it. I know all of this but still, “Story, you can’t.”

While the things I tell her she can’t do now don’t seem like such a big deal, I don’t want Story to grow up to have an “I can’t” attitude. So I resolved to change my downbeat ways.

My first challenge: Story has decided to fly. She began practicing by jumping from one piece of furniture to another. Once she was successful with this, she graduated to jumping from the deck railing. She kept at it even after quite a few falls, which means she’s serious. After practicing from the middle of the slide and not getting much further with her goal, she decided that she needs wings. She’s reassured me that once she has her wings and flies away, she will find me again by using echolocation like a bat.

And this is where I am. Do I make the wings she wants (and has described to me in detail) and let her figure it out on her own? I have to protect her from harm, of course, so I can’t just let her try to fly from a tree. That takes me back to “can’t.” Do I tell her that humans can’t fly, not on their own anyway? Maybe I should just pretend my resolution hasn’t started yet and tackle the next challenge instead. But who knows what that will be? What do you suggest, friends? What would be your chosen course of action?

Preschool Graduation

It’s been an emotional week for Ali and me. Maddie turned one, and we had to say
Story Preschool graduationgoodbye to “baby.” Story graduated preschool, and we had to say goodbye to “little girl.” I knew these transitions were going to be tough, but I had no idea of the effect they were going to have on me. I was always curious about mothers’ reactions to preschool graduation and the first day of kindergarten. Why on earth were tears always involved? Wasn’t this supposed to be exciting? Not being much of a crier myself, I thought that maybe those moms were just the emotional sort. Never did it occur to me that I might react the same way. I thought I was fine and dandy for preschool graduation; Story certainly was. It turns out I wasn’t.

Monday, Maddie’s birthday: I left my work computer at home. I live too far away to just run home and get it, so I had to borrow one, and it did not care for me. I forgot our summer intern was starting that morning and had to rush to pull things (and myself) together enough to get her going. I lost my to-do list and forgot a deadline. I left my workout clothes at home, too. I lost my wrist brace. (I have carpal tunnel syndrome.) I forgot Maddie’s balloon and birthday card for the party.

 

Tuesday: I wore my leggings backwards all day. I made coffee with leftover grounds. I still could not find my wrist brace and guessed it was under the mountain of laundry on my couch. I also could not find clean socks for Story, so I sent her to school in mine. I wandered around at work, periodically forgetting where I was going and what I was supposed to do.

Wednesday: I forgot my lunch. I also forgot to look under the laundry mountain for my wrist brace. By this time, my wrist was killing me, so a coworker made a sort of brace out of wooden craft sticks and rubber bands. (Thanks, Rachel.) I cried a bit at the end of Book 10 of the How to Train Your Dragon series as Story and I listened to it on the way to school and felt a strong kinship with Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III.

Thursday, Story’s preschool graduation: I cried a bit in the morning as sweet Story ticked off all the ways she would still need me even after graduation. I don’t remember the work day at all. I teared up during the program as they showed the kids growing up. I held it all together though until after my family left and Story fell asleep. Then I sobbed into my pillow until I got the sup-sups.

 

Friday: I felt supremely better! I found my wrist brace. I remembered everything. I got through my to-do list. Story told me I was the bestest mom in the whole wide world. And she let me put the toothpaste on the brush for her, without reminding me that she could do it herself.

I understand now. Thanks for the lesson, Universe. And I’m sorry, moms, for judging you.

Sisters

Story is an only child and lucky to be so. All my extra energies (and income) go to her. Every time I look at her, really look at her, I’m overwhelmed by how much love it is possible for me to feel. I understand now where the phrase “my heart is going to burst from my chest” comes from. That’s really the only way to describe that so-intense-it’s-scary emotion. It is very difficult for me to deny her a smile, whether that comes from a gift of a toy or allowing her to sleep in my bed. I do it (sometimes). I can’t give in to everything or I wouldn’t be a good mom—at least that’s what I tell myself—but it hurts a little. Like any other mom, I want to give my child everything.

 

Story is an only child and unlucky to be so. She doesn’t have that special bond that is only between siblings. My family is the absolute best; I don’t know what I did in a past life, but I certainly won the lottery in this one. One of the many things that makes it so special is my relationship with my two younger sisters. I would not be who I am today without them. They each own a piece of my heart, and the really cool thing about their being my sisters is they always will be. We’re all stuck with each other; we’re family. There is an invisible but incredibly strong ribbon that binds us. If one of us tugs on that ribbon, maybe without even knowing it, the other two feel it and show up. My point is, Story doesn’t have that. Her ribbon is only wrapped around her.




So, I had the great idea to give her a sister. This is a bit problematic for a couple of reasons. First, I would need to procure sperm from somewhere. Second, it is not yet scientifically possible to predetermine the sex of your child. Bummer. So my great idea took a turn and extended to adoption. I really thought quite hard about it and was excited. And then I talked to my mom. My oh-so-wise mom asked one question: “Lesley, do you want to adopt because you want another child or because you want a sister for Story?” Well, damn. There went that idea.

I’d come to accept that Story is going to be an only child. I didn’t know how it would be possible for me to love someone else that much anyway; my heart is only so big. But Story said something the other night that made me rethink all of it. As she was getting ready for bed, Story was practicing her letter sounds. “Hey, guess what! Everybody in our family here [my family lives in different towns throughout the state] has an E sound at the end of their names: Mommy, Story, Remy [dog], Henri [fish], Ali, Riley, and Maddie!”

Story is an only child, and Story has sisters; she has a toe in each pond. It’s not at all what I pictured for her. I think it might just be better.

All the World’s a Stage

Story has chips in her two front teeth. They were made by a coffin. (Ahem, before I get hate mail, I want you to know this did not happen during my watch.) At age two, Story climbed up on a coffin after funeral services and fell, knocking her teeth into the hard surface. I’m sure she thought the coffin was a stage.

My daughter is very theatrical, and she has the personality to sustain it. I’ve told you how she wakes as a different animal every day and is that animal for a time. This sometimes carries over outside the home. She’s been put in time-out at school because she ignored the teacher’s requests for her to sit on her pockets. When placed in the time-out chair, she told the teacher that she couldn’t possibly sit on her pockets because snails don’t have pockets.

IMG_0552She has led a coup in tumbling class. She stood on a tall mat, declared herself the new leader of the group, and told the kids in her class to follow her to a different station. They did.

During outings in public places, Story will recruit strangers, kids and adults alike, to be a part of her play. She casts them in roles and gives them directions on dialogue and action. Sometimes she says hi first.

One of her favorite places is church. It has a built-in audience, after all. The children’s message is delivered with all the children in front of the congregation. Story answers every question posed, tells stories of her own, declares things such as “But Jesus is dead,” and once stood up, opened her arms wide, and stated in a strikingly booming voice that she would give a hug to everyone so they wouldn’t be sad and always remember she loved them. She also does interpretive dance in the aisles to the choir music.

I love to see Riley and Maddie let their personalities shine too. This week, Ali signed Riley up for a kids’ fun run. She showed me the adorable outfit she had picked out for Riley, and then she showed me what Riley was wearing: an Elsa costume. Riley said it was her running dress. And it was! Riley was all smiles as she ran by wearing the dress. Maddie is turning out to be nothing like what we thought. Sure, she’s sweet and all, but sly and sassy takes the dominant spot. She may also have a little bit of diva in her.

There are a lot of things about Story that are just like me. There are a lot of things about Story that are nothing like me. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as a mom is to let her grow into herself, not a vision of what I want her to be, not someone who would stuff her personality into a box to please strangers, and certainly not someone who forgets what happiness is. It took me a lot of years to remember how to love life and be me. Story, Riley, and Maddie have that now, and I’ll do everything I can to help them keep it.

Lessons learned: Don’t come to the rescue of strangers; just watch in amusement as they try to respond to your child’s directions. Don’t even bother with the pretense of embarrassment; it’s just wasted energy. And never let your child know that something she’s done has made you uncomfortable; that something will become her mission.