Dr. Jekyll & Little Miss Hyde

There are two children that a mother knows.
One is talked about at a parent-teacher conference.  She is called “sweet,” “mature,” “caring,” and “aware” by her teacher.  She is “a pleasure to have in class.”
This child is welcomed on playdates.  Her mother is told by the moms who hosted her that the child is “so easy,” “polite and sweet.”
During doctor visits this child sits calmly, only getting agitated at the thought or sight of needles.  When the doctor looks her over she laughs at the touch and knows to be still when her ears and mouth are checked.  The doctor says she is a model patient.
The mother knows of another child.  This child does not know a time of day that is not appropriate for testing any and all boundaries.  She listens but then does the opposite and says she never heard you.  She screeches for help to put on her socks, something she has been able to do for the past three years.  This child does not know how to share or clean up or how to have a bath without splashing water outside of the tub.  This child’s natural state is pouting.  These two children were born on the same day, from the same mother, and reside in the same adorable body with the same brown eyes and the same soft hair.
The child outside of the home that the world sees is the child her mother has raised her to be.  She listens, is respectful, is aware, is kind, is smart.

The child inside the home collapses from the weight of the daily expectations put upon her.  The child inside the home knows she is unconditionally loved and cared for.  So it is there she unleashes the need to react and engage and test without fear or rejection.  This child inside the home explores her boundaries often with consequence of lost toys or time outs, but never with love lessened.
And sometimes these two children meet and figure out they can co-exist.

The mother waits for these moments, sometimes patiently and often times not so patiently.

For the child knows of two mothers as well.


In Defense of Goody Bags


Lately I’ve been hearing some grumblings about birthday party goody bags and how it would be great to do without them. These grumblings are more than understandable. With birthday parties these days already expensive enough, the idea of saving money by not buying cheap, breakable, and sugary items that few parents appreciate and most kids forget about thirty minutes after the party, why wouldn’t it be great to forgo this tradition altogether?

But as I carefully assemble party bags full of cheap, plastic and sugary items for my own son’s upcoming birthday, I wonder why I don’t really consider forgoing them myself.

Here are some reasons I thought of why party bags can be a-okay:

1. Sometimes, not always, not even often, but sometimes these gifts are pretty awesome. Like the kites that maybe only work for one afternoon before breaking but that’s one afternoon of entertainment that you didn’t have to pay for. Or the homemade pillow sheets made at a friend’s sleepover party that my daughter with likely treasure forever. Or the mini gumball machine that is just insanely cute. Or that small pad of white paper with the small box of small crayons that got your kids through waiting at a restaurant for the food to arrive.

2. Then of course, are the not so freaking awesome gifts. Like the sugary candies and small bottle of bubbles that never seem to blow many bubbles and the stickers that are put onto paper or clothes or furniture and are soon no longer of any use. So what’s so great about these? Well, for one thing, kids are like regular people in the way they love free stuff. Think about when you were at college and you signed up for a new credit card during orientation days simply because they gave out free pens. You know you did. Kids get a bag of free stuff and aren’t even risking their future credit scores with it. It’s fun to get free stuff, even crap free stuff. It just is.

3. Birthday parties are fun. But also tiring. At the end of them many kids are exhausted and they’re not thinking rationally about how it’d be better for them to leave after an hour and a half of fun to recharge their bodies but instead want to stay and run around the gym just five more times. So you tell them they won’t get their goody bag until they put on their shoes and thank the birthday kid for having them and get out that door into your car. These bags are strategy for leaving people. Necessary evils, sure, but necessary.

4. In a way, giving out goody bags at some parties is even helpful for those parents who have decided enough’s enough and make the decision to not have any for their kid’s party. It’ll be difficult for your child at first as the birthday party may get confusing and seem incomplete. What is happening here they whine as they leave empty handed. But this provides an excellent time to teach them about appreciating the experience of the party for what it is. A chance to celebrate their friend’s birthday and have fun and sometimes that’s enough and that’s okay.

Guest Post: How to Become Your Child’s Favorite

Please check out my guest post on Toni Hammer’s awesome blog!

toni hammer

Hey everyone! Today I’m super stoked to have a guest post for you today by the hilarious Ariel Bernstein!

When you’re a mom and you have a new baby, you’re likely it’s favorite person in the whole world.  You give them food, keep them clean, and have the voice they’ve heard the most for the past nine or so months.  They might cry when others hold them or only fall asleep in your arms.  You love them and know you are loved right back.

Being their favorite person can last for a while, maybe even a whole lifetime.  Or maybe you have a child who wakes up from every nap and asks for their Dada, even though every freakin’ weekday you explain that Dada is at work, where he always is during the day, and it’s just you.  And your son looks at you, disappointed but resigned, and you know…

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Potty Training & Free Giveaway!

If you’ve read my post, https://a3bernstein.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/5-reasons-its-better-your-child-isnt-potty-trained/, you’ve probably realized things are not progressing quickly on the potty training front for one of my kids.  Indeed it’s true as my youngest has decided diapers are for him, he’s for diapers, and no one should get in the way of such a wonderful relationship.  Honestly, part of his reluctance to even listen to the words pull-ups and potties and underwear is because of my reluctance to address it.  For one thing, he’s both our youngest and our last so anytime he reaches a milestone I celebrate it and also get a little sad knowing we’ve left behind a phase I won’t experience with another child.  I do baby and coddle him because of it and in terms of things like potty-training, it does him no favors.  Another issue is that because of his speech delay, something like potty-training hasn’t been a high priority for me as my main focus has usually been on his therapy and progress.  Still, I’ve tried reading him potty books and talking excitedly about going on the potty like ‘big boys’ but it hasn’t had much impact on his desire to try.

Therefore I was pretty excited when Gina Blatt, President and Co-creator of the Let’s Potty! board game, contacted me to review it. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the experience as my son, who will be three soon, hasn’t played much with board games other than to expertly take all the pieces out of his sister’s Candy Land game and hide them in every crevice of our house.  I’m pretty sure I see a white card with a red square peeking out of the couch cushions as I write this.  Luckily my daughter doesn’t mind as her favorite part of the Candy Land game is to look at the pictures of candy on the board and decide which ones are her favorite.

Like most kids, my son was very excited when a new toy came into the house.  He opened up the Let’s Potty! lid and took out all of the pieces.  He also enjoyed looking at the colorful board, designed by Danny Skurow, which is filled with illustrated scenes from a household.


I explained to him the game which is very simple. There are four player pieces (he immediately took the boy in green and gave me the girl in purple) which start at the beginning of the path of a long roll of toilet paper. There are no dice or spinning wheels but each player takes a turn reading one of the index size shaped cards.  The cards all have very positive sayings on them such as “Hurray, Hurray! You gave your diapers away!” and “You’re becoming a pro! You let a grownup know that you had to go!” The cards then tell the played to advance to either the next star or ‘rolly’ (roll of toilet paper).  Every player gets a chance to win when they reach the end of the toilet paper where a drawing of a very happy boy is sitting on his toilet seat.

My son clapped when his player piece reached the end first and seemed to enjoy listening to the cards being read.  After we put away the game I asked him if he wanted to use the potty and he said no.  Later that afternoon when his sister was home from school I took out the game again and we played it together but when I asked again if he wanted to use the potty, he again declined.  Later that night before bath, after his sister had her turn on the toilet I told my son he could try if he wanted.  To my surprise he started to take his diaper off and I helped him on the seat.  He sat for about five minutes with nothing coming out before deciding he was done trying.  Still, it was great to see him try.

The next morning after breakfast both kids left the kitchen to play and when I found them they were looking at the Let’s Potty! game with my daughter trying to read the cards. I asked my son if he wanted to use the potty but he was too busy playing with the board game to go to the bathroom.


It’s now been about a week since we first started playing the game and have played it about once a day since.  Is my son potty-trained?…..no.  However, I can say he seems more excited about the idea of potty training and today is the second day he’s wearing pull-ups which he refused to put on before.  He’s also successfully gone on the toilet three times, almost always before bathtime.

My goal is to use the week after pre-school ends and before camp starts to switch him to underpants and fully commit to potty-training as it’ll be a time I won’t need to take him to activities and can just focus on him learning to use the potty and understand his body’s signals.  Now that he’s played the Let’s Potty! game and is obviously more excited about potty training, I have more confidence we’ll soon have success.

If you are interested about the Let’s Potty! game please visit their website at http://www.lets-potty.com.

Now for the really great part, we have a free giveaway!  Please leave a comment about either the best or the worst potty training advice you’ve heard of by Wednesday, June 4th at 4:00PM EST and one winner within the U.S. will be picked at random and announced on June 5th.  They will receive a free Let’s Potty! board game shipped free of charge. Good luck & happy potty training!