Families in Austin comes in all shapes and sizes, and we'll take a look at issues and more every family can relate to.
Author: Nicole Villalpando
Nicole Villalpando writes about families in the Raising Austin blog and the Raising Austin column on Saturdays. She also offers a weekly and monthly family calendar at austin360.com/raisingaustin. She tweets at @raisingaustin.
Guideline 1: For infants “deemed at high risk of developing peanut allergy because they already have severe eczema, egg allergy or both,” they should be introduced peanuts as early as 4 months 6 months of age. Parents should check with their doctors before introducing the food. The doctor might want to perform an allergy blood test or send the infant to a specialist for more testing such as a skin prick test, in order for the food to be introduced safely.
Guideline 2: For infants with mild or moderate eczema, they should have peanuts introduced around six months of age.
Guideline 3: For infants with no eczema or known food allergy, they should be given peanut-containing food freely.
When mom Julie Lyles Carr drives up in her 15-passenger van and her family of 10 rolls out, people assume that she must have figured out the secret of parenting, and that that secret must come in a few simple steps that apply to all children everywhere. “Whether we’re great parents or not, we do get asked questions about how we navigate Kid World,” she says.
The truth is that each of her eight children ages 26 to 9 is incredibly different. The Austin blogger and pastor of the women’s ministry at LifeAustin outlines how to meet the needs of each child in her new book “Raising an Original: Parenting Each Child According to Their Unique God-Given Temperament.”
Parenting, she says, is one of the few relationships in which we don’t get to select who is in the relationship with us. With friends and romantic partners, there’s a choice and a getting-to-know-you
period. “When it comes to kids, you get what you get,” she says. “You can be part of the beautiful mystery or you could be pushing against it.”
As parents, it’s tough when kids don’t turn out to be who you thought they would be, she says. Sometimes that’s because they are very different from you. Sometimes, it’s because they are very similar to you and their faults are the things that you don’t like about yourself.
In “Raising an Original,” Carr tells the story of her family: eight very different children, even her two youngest, who are twins. Even in the womb, the twins were very different, Carr says. The girl, Merci, was relaxed and easy. “Her twin brother (Jake) was this frenetic little hamster in the womb,” she says. “They had the same nutrition, the same womb, yet they were such individuals … They were so different when they were born.”
That really helped Carr see that nature was a strong force, and it wasn’t all about nurture. “Is nurture or is it nature? It’s such an amazing collision of those things,” she says.
The second part of the book is a personality test for each kid that is based on the personality types developed by William Marston and further developed by Walter Vernon Clarke. Carr offers the test in different forms based on your child’s age.
Once you answer the questions and chart your child’s scores, she has a description of what type of guidance each personality type needs. She offers four big categories of personalities: The director, the inspirer, the steadfast and the curator. Then there are people who are distinct blends of two of these personalities.
“What really concerns me is about the respect for the individual,” she says. Who they are should matter more than what parents think they should be. “That’s not to say that at times we don’t push our our kids,” she says. “We need to be a bit of a coach … to draw them into a certain thing.”
That has to be done carefully. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you want or think your children need. “We invest so much in our kids,” she says. “We have such desires and dreams for them. When a child is very different than us or has a personality similar to ours it’s a reckoning of letting go of what might be.”
Carr says she does what she calls “a heart check” when she’s unclear of what to do as a parent. “Is it more about my identity and my agency or is it about respecting the person I have the honor to raise and have in my house?”
Even while recognizing the individual, her house is not one without rules and responsibilities. “We have a couple of bedrock rules,” she says, “but there’s room for improvement and choreography.”
She insists on respect and love and being generous to other people. Her family must be open to dialogue and conversation. “We’re going to speak to one another with respect,” she says. “We’re not going down the eye rolling and disrespectful lane.”
How clean their room is or how their grades are going, that is left to embracing who each kid is, but she says, that doesn’t mean she lets everyone live in a pigsty.
Of course, when writing the book, that did mean letting some things slip, which makes this parenting blogger human. She sees the irony of writing a book on parenting while trying to shoo her children away to write a book on parenting. “It’s amazing what can get done when you ignore the condition of your house,” she says.
One thing she really learned how to do when she first started blogging after moving to Austin five weeks before her 9-year-old twins were born was to not try to keep up with the Joneses. Early in her parenting days, it was easy to compare herself against what the parenting magazines recommended, but now with social media, it’s easy to feel judged, she says.
What might seem like an innocuous question asked and answered, she says, “all of the sudden there’s a rush of mom shaming, or parent shaming over the choices we’re making for our kids.”
Early in her parenting, she might have believed that “there was one perfect standard and I was going to achieve all of it for all of the kids.” But she says, “It was a fool’s errand.”
Parents often spend time worrying about things like how many toys to give at Christmas, what kind of education to give, whether kids should share rooms, and other day-to-day details. Instead, she needed to find out who they were and what they needed.
They all needed something different and that wasn’t just because two of her children would be considered special needs — Merci, (No. 7) had a stroke when she was born, and Mason (No. 4) has a hearing loss. “All of us have a little something, all of us have a challenge and a strength.”
Parenting, she says, should be about honoring the differences that children have. “How do you express what it is that makes them unique?”
That means really seeing and understanding your children. “There’s something really beautiful of seeing who they really are and not through the lens of who you want them to to be,” she says.
Tuesday we toured the under-construction site of Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin’s new location, which is expected to open at the end of March. The site will allow the bank to double its production in the next two years.
The site at 5925 Dillard Circle, was previously Trinity Hardwood, and is 29,000 square feet. The bank will occupy about 15,000 square feet of that and lease out the other 14,000 square feet.
It will be the bank’s fourth location since it opened 17 years ago. The first two were 900-square-feet and 1,500-square-feet and in an office building next to St. David’s Medical Center. The third site, which it has been in since 2010, is 4,200 square feet and at Medical Arts Street.
At its first three sites, the Milk Bank had its lease donated by St. David’s. Now it will have a mortgage. The bank has raised about half of the $2.9 million in construction costs.
“We’re counting on the community to rise up and say this matters to Austin, to Texas, to the U.S.,” said Kim Updegrove, executive director of the bank.
The new site will include a research lab to help the bank develop more targeted milk for the littlest babies and three other milk processing labs. It will have four walk-in freezers, replacing the 22 standard freezers it’s currently using. It also offers workstations for all of the bank’s 16 full-time employees with space for another 11 work stations and provides a board room.
The new site will allow the bank to become a community center for education about lactation and family support. The site also will have a lactation room and a children’s playroom.
“We do this because they do this,” Updegrove said. “It’s an exhausting year of their life. They take care of their own family, and they pump a little extra to give to the milk bank.”
About 75 percent of donors are from Texas, but the bank has donors from as far away as Hawaii who ship their milk to Austin. The bank serves 160 hospitals in 22 states as well as about 60 infants who are no longer in a hospital setting but get a prescription for milk.
The site being more accessible to donors because it is close to a train stop and a bus stop and across from the Austin Community College location at what was Highland Mall as well as doing more community support is part of the bank’s plan to increase the number of donors.
Libby Gimpel said she is grateful to the donors who helped her son, Xzavier Caraballo. He’s 4 now, but when he was born at 29 weeks and spent 64 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. David’s, she wasn’t able to make enough milk for him and he wasn’t able to digest formula.
She wishes she had known about Mothers’ Milk Bank when she had her older son and had extra milk. She now encourages her friends who are nursing to pump extra. “Babies really need this,” she says. “They don’t call breast milk liquid gold for no good reason.”
Kari Anne Roy’s son Isaac, who is 8, was born three months early and had to have a tracheotomy when he was 6 months old. He couldn’t digest formula or regular food. He had donor milk until he was 2. “It was the only thing he could tolerate,” she says. Even after Medicaid stopped paying for it, the milk bank through its charitable care program made sure they still got it. “No one ever gets turned away,” Roy said.
Jeanne Anne Pratt and Bryan Martin’s three children all got donor milk because of being failure to thrive or being born early. “We tried everything,” she said, especially for son Davis, 7, who needed milk that was high in fat, which she wasn’t producing. “They gave us so much,” Pratt said of the bank. “Even when there wasn’t enough milk to go around, if they had to get it from Indiana, we still got it.”
Yes, we’re still talking about Dr. Leonard Sax and his new book “The Collapse of Parenting.” When I wrote the blog about my interview, I thought it might get some reaction, but not more than 6 million views and tens of thousands of shares across Facebook.
Some of the comments on Facebook:
A lot of people do suck at parenting. The “entitlement” kids really chap my butt. How about earning a living? Ok. Blood is simmering.
Yes! Parents are way too permissive in fear that their child won’t like them. It’s time to get back to basics and remember you are raising future adults.
Not all parents are like what your saying. Some of us have learned from what our parents did wrong and are working really hard to make a positive impact in our children’s lives.
Babies don’t come with manuals … how can he say parenting was done wrong? I’m sure every parent does the best they know how and many are clueless-that is true. Maybe he should have the hospitals give manuals with each baby that way the instructions will be available at the beginning.
Bluh bluh bluh! To each his or her own. No books’ going to tell you how to love your child …
A voice of reason barely heard over the helicopter parents!
Wouldn’t be the first doctor to miss the mark in his “OPINION” on how to raise kids.
On Sunday, I asked parents if there is some truth to what Dr. Sax says about parents giving kids too many choices, not saying “No” enough and worrying more about self-esteem than self-control. Watch that video:
Family physician, psychologist and author Leondard Sax wants parents to know that they are “raising kids wrong.” The author of “Boys Adrift” and “Girls on the Edge” is back with “The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt our Kids when We Treat them Like Grown-Ups.” (Basic Books, $26.99)
“Most American parents are completely confused and going utterly in the wrong direction,” he says. “There’s a collapse of understanding what parenting involves.”
In his book he talks about a scenario in which parents and a 6-year-old child, who had a sore throat, came into his office. When he said, “Next I’m going to take a look at your throat.” The mom turned it into asking for permission by saying, “Do you mind if the doctor looks in your throat for just a second, honey? Afterward we can go and get some ice cream.”
That led to the child refusing to have the doctor look in her throat to do the strep test and the child having to be restrained to get the test accomplished.
“It’s not a question,” Sax says. “It’s a sentence: ‘Open up and say, “Ahh.”‘ “Parents are incapable of speaking to their children in a sentence that ends in a period,” he says. “Every sentence ends in a question mark.”
Some parenting expert told them they should always offer their children choices instead of telling them what to do and parents believed them, he says.
The hierarchy of parent over child isn’t there, he continues. Instead of parents exercising their authority because they know what’s best, they are focusing on making kids happy and boosting self-esteem.
“They now see their job as facilitating whatever a kids wants to do,” he says.
Instead, Sax says, their job is to teach kids right from wrong, teach kids the meaning of life and keep their children safe.
“In doing that job, you’re going to do a lot of things a child won’t approve of and not understand,” he says. You have to be the bad guy.
Parents should be focusing on helping kids develop skills such as self-control, humility and conscientiousness, meaning they think of people other than themselves.
Those are things that are the biggest predictors of future success in adulthood, he says, not education or affluence.
One point of irony: this is a generation of parents that is spending more time with children than any previous generation. But instead of spending time with family meals, this generation is spending time shuttling kids from one extracurricular activity to the next or spending time doing the work for them.
“It doesn’t help to spend more time with kids if they are spending it in the wrong ways,” he says.
Sax makes the case through citing numerous research studies that our lack of parental authority is the reason why obesity is on the rise, why more kids are on anti-anxiety and attention deficit disorder medication, why kids are have a culture of disrespect, seem fragile, and why American kids no longer lead the world in education.
Some solutions he’d like you to do right now:
Have family meals at home and make that a top priority. “You have to communicate that our time together as a parent and child is more important than anything else,” he says. One study found that for each additional meal a family had together the less likely kids had internalizing problems such as anxiety or externalizing problems such as skipping school. It also helped kids develop good nutrition habits, lessening the obesity problem.
Take screens out of the bedroom. This includes cellphones, computers, TVs, video games. Kids are chronically sleep deprived, which leads to poor behavior and can even be the reason why kids are getting mental health diagnosis.
Put screens in public places and limit how they are used. This generation is living life in a virtual world. Their online friends can quickly become more important than the friends they see in person. They don’t know how to communicate with someone face to face or have outside interests and hobbies. Video games also rewire the way their brains work. And remember, what they post online never goes away. Install software like My Mobile Watchdog, which will share every photo they take or post with you.
Teach humility. Give lessons that show kids that they are not the most important person in the world. They need to be able to see the world through another lens and be able to handle rejection or failure. It really cannot be “everybody gets a trophy.”
Have an alliance between school and you. If your kid did something, don’t come at teachers or administrator with suspicion and distrust. “Parents swoop in like attorneys demanding evidence,” he says. Instead lessons of honesty and integrity should be enforced. That means your brilliant kid who cheated takes the 0.
Parent what they do. No, your 14-year-old cannot go to a party with college kids or to the beach for spring break. No, they will not be at parties where alcohol is served, and you will not be the one serving it. You have to think of worse-case scenarios like drinking and driving, alcohol poisoning, and sexual assault, and know that these are not decisions that they are ready to make because they are not adults. They need an adult, and that’s you. And even if their peers’ parents are fine with something, you don’t have to be. “Other parents don’t have a clue at what they are doing,” he says. “That’s why what they are doing doesn’t have good outcomes.”
Know that some of these things, especially if they are new for your family, will be difficult and might be hard to enforce at first. You just have to keep at it. Your kids will thank you, not today or maybe not tomorrow, but some day, perhaps.
What do Austin parents and grandparents think about Dr. Sax’s ideas and the state of modern parenting?