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New Peers Who Dis?

Marlowe Martino wears a hunter green dress and sits on the ground reading books at her home in Connecticut

I’ve always had a group of Mom friends in my circle with kids who are about 5-8 years older than mine.  It’s been great, because over the years I’ve gotten a good insight in to all the stages to come– and those more seasoned Moms have always been there to offer the calmness and sage advice in response to all the first time Mom jitters I had with my first.  One thing I remember them always saying was that one of the first most noticeable transitional changes with kids happens when they go off to school– and have an entirely new, peer-based environment.

As the Mom of a very headstrong little girl who is extremely independent and attached to her ways of doing things, I never really listened to these observations. I figured that my daughter was going to spend time in a new environment, with new people, and just stay exactly who she was– but I was totally wrong.  And it’s been one of the most interesting milestones as a parent so far to watch the changes that Marlowe’s peer-based environment has made in her.  I figure these changes with our school-age kids is something all Moms end up going through– and I thought it would be fun to share some of the little idiosyncrasies I’ve noticed over the past few months.

Marlowe Martino wears a hunter green dress and reaches up to pull a book from the book shelf at her home in Connecticut

New Routine, Who Dis?

At the beginning of the school year, I shared that Marlowe was having a brutally challenging time adjusting to school– and that it was really affecting our entire family.  The school had made some suggestions for how to get her acclimated, and I’m so relieved to report that those tactics worked WONDERS.  I would say the best of all was the curbside dropoff component.  She now is so used to her routine of meeting a teacher at the curb and starting her day right there.  They always have a tricycle out for her that she hops on it every single morning, and rides up and down the front of the school greeting the other kids and parents.  It’s become her little “thing”, and I can tell that having a specific role to play in the mornings has really made her feel safe and secure.  It’s amazing to watch her get excited in the mornings instead of heave with sobs (its also slightly more relaxing for Mommy.  LOL)

New Food, Who Dis?

Marlowe has always been pretty particular about food– the likes AND dislikes.  Turns out when your kid goes to school, that all goes out the window! I’ve never loved peer pressure more.  Before Preschool, Marlowe wouldn’t eat oranges, salsa, string cheese, SunButter (the nut free “safe” peanut butter alternative), or salad (among other things!).  At her school, they will often cook something special as a group for snack time, and it’s gotten her to eat a ton of new things– not to mention all the encouragement she gets by watching other kids tuck in to their lunches every day.  Imagine my surprise when her teacher commented to me one day at pickup: “Isn’t it amazing how much Marlowe LOVES SunButter?!” And I was like where’s my kid, though? Because this must not be her. LOL.

New Attitude, Who Dis?

Marlowe has never been a grabby kind of kid, but she was definitely your typical three year old when she started preschool– it was hard for her to give something up that she had been playing with in order to let somebody else use it (for example, *cough*, Major, *cough*).  Being around a lot of other kids who can speak up for themselves and demand equal time with toys has been great for teaching her about how the real world works– you can’t ALWAYS get what you want, kid! I’ve noticed her being a lot more understanding with Major, and generous about sharing with him at home.  In fact, on weeks where she is out of school for holidays or illness, I notice that she starts slipping a bit back in to “Mine” territory.

I’ve also noticed that she has become SO complimentary of others since starting school! For example (and this must be something they encourage in her classroom) she will look over at her brother’s artwork, or something her Nanny or I have colored or drawn, and say “Wow, that’s beautiful! Good work!” It’s so adorable– I love that she feels so comfortable building other people up!

Marlowe Martino hides behind a book in the kitchen of her Connecticut home

New Language, Who Dis?

Ok, so this can be a fun one, and a NOT SO FUN ONE.  Let me start with the fun.  Whenever we went through our Lice debacle, we spent about a million hours in a lice salon getting everyone checked and getting her lice taken out strand by strand.  By the time the day was over we were all exhausted.  I was pulling out of the parking lot, and our whole family was in the car.  Everyone was silent– until Marlowe’s little voice piped up from the back: “GREAT teamwork today, guys.  I’m proud of all of you!” I started hysterically laughing (and crying a little bit, too).  I feel like every week little things come out of her mouth that remind me how much she’s learning and growing since being in school.

On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps the most uncomfortable thing that happens when your child enters a new peer environment is that they get exposed to language and behaviors that you may NOT like or appreciate. One day about a month in to school, we were all eating dinner as a family.  In the middle of munching on a bite of food, Marlowe turned to me and said: “Mom? We don’t say ‘Stupid Fucker’ right?”  Kyle started choking on his chicken taco.  I tried to stay calm so that I wouldn’t make that type of language seem interesting, “Wow. Yeah, you’re right babe.  We don’t say that. It’s a bad word.  Where did you hear that?” She told me that a kid at school screamed that in her face on the playground.  SOOOOOOOOO.  They’re THREE! Of course I was horrified, and I ended up talking to the school about it (they were equally horrified, obviously) But the point is, different kids are exposed to different types of language, and that ALLLLL ends up coming out on the playground.  “Butthole” has been another fun one. I can’t say I expected to explain to my three year old why we can’t go around saying “stupid fucker” all day long– it’s been eye opening to see that a lot of these language and behavioral corrections we have to make based on school experience actually can happen at much younger ages than I would have thought.  Of course we can’t protect them from everything (and honestly, curse words are probably the easiest to deal with of all of these) but it’s made me think a lot about how important it is to model correct behavior and language at home so that our kids know what we approve of, no matter what they hear at school.

One little trick I developed for this has actually been working really well for us: once every few weeks, when I’m alone with Lowie, I ask her to tell me all the REALLY bad words she knows.  Her eyes get as big as saucers and I say “It’s ok to say them all right now.  Tell me all the bad words and then we won’t say them again for a while ok?” She says “Ok Mom,” and then lets them rip! It’s interesting to see if there are any new ones in the arsenal that I didn’t know she had heard (“Butthead” was a new one the other day)– but it’s equally adorable to hear some that actually aren’t curse words.  For example, Marlowe deems “Shut Up”, “Don’t Play with me”,  “I don’t like you”, and “Penis” to be curse words.  I told her Penis is a body part and not a curse word. LOL.  The other ones I’m letting stick, though!  Ha!

Marlowe Martino has the reflection of a sequined pillow on her face

Marlowe Martino has the reflection of a sequined pillow on her face

I’m curious to hear what the biggest changes have been in your school-age children, both funny and serious! What did you do to protect against the more harmful ones?

 

Adorable sweater dresses…

 

Photographs by Carter Fish

Marlowe’s dress by Janie and Jack

 

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31 Comments

  1. Tiffany says:

    Lol, I’m a teacher and I can say to all parents, be very diligent about everything you say in front of your child. Adults curse, your child will curse. Children have amazing hearing, regardless if they’re not in the same room as the parent or if they’re busy playing. Children hear and see everything, they model what you say and do. Children at ages 2-5 pick up on all the wrong and bad language. We have to stop believing they don’t understand. Trust me they’re smarter than us!

    01.15.18Reply
    • I always say that children are in fact actually more perceptive in certain ways than we are, and you’re right– they’re aware of so much more than we realize or are willing to admit!

      01.24.18Reply
  2. Michelle says:

    This is great! My daughter started preschool a couple of weeks ago and I’m already noticing things like this as well. One day after I picked her up and we got home she was super sassy (more than usual) and said “no! I don’t want to!” To everything I said she needed to do. She’s usually not as defiant as that and I’d bet a kid was behaving like that at school that day. It’s going to be interesting to see how this continues with other behaviors.

    01.15.18Reply
    • LaTasha says:

      I agree 100% with Tiffany. I just resigned after 8 years with the Philadelphia School District. I was the Dean of Students for (K-8 grades) in a Charter School. The issues I dealt with were heart breaking & shocking due to the urban areas. Parents set bad examples & so did older siblings. I can honestly say that even my 5/6 year olds in kindergarten carried out some heinous acts. The question I had which resulted in me working closely with the school psychologist, was did the student understand what he/she did and why it was wrong. It made punishing students difficult. Discipline is not always black & white, there is so much gray. I could go on all day about the things I heard, saw & read!

      01.15.18Reply
    • Hi Michelle!
      Yes, definitely. I also think that part of the learning process for children is sort of “trying on” behaviors and personalities that they see. Part of it is good for learning, I feel, and then it’s of course so important that kids have correct behavior modeled as an anchor for what to return to.

      01.24.18Reply
  3. Laura says:

    Oh my goodness! This blog is awesome! One of my favorites. Sounds like you handled the language issue really well haha!! But still absolutely shocking that she heard that from a 3 year old! Xx

    01.15.18Reply
  4. Liz Kaplan says:

    Hi Eva
    I’m not a person who typically comments but I wanted to let you know I love following you and look forward to reading your blog posts.
    I have my first daughter close to Major’s age (10/24/16) and they act so similar. Also it’s super interesting to read about and watch Marlowe since that’s what I have coming ahead! Your kids are awesome, which is a reflection on you and Kyle, and you are such a great Mom 👍
    It has really helps me reading your blog; getting style ideas, make up tips, and life insights. I even read my husband your post about getting that flame back after birth because we have faced similar obstacles the last year.
    Hope you have a great 2018, look forward to following along 🙂
    Liz from Toronto
    Xo

    01.15.18Reply
  5. Kelley says:

    So, I don’t even have children, and I’m not close to that stage of life yet. But, I still really enjoyed this post, it was very interesting and I learned a lot of stuff i clearly didn’t know. Great!

    01.15.18Reply
  6. Stephanie Almhem says:

    My son will be starting preschool tomorrow. I have been an emotional wreck but this is very encouraging to read. Definitely looking forward to all the positive changes with my son.

    01.15.18Reply
    • Hi Stephanie!
      Yes, there are many ups and downs in the beginning! Hopefully it’s going great, but in case it’s not, I would suggest reading the struggles we had with Marlowe in the beginning (I linked the article in the first paragraph of this post). Sometimes it’s nice to know that challenging behaviors can come out of nowhere and it is workable!

      01.24.18Reply
  7. Andrea says:

    I’ve found books to be a powerful tool in helping us protect our little boy. Berenstain Bears have a book for almost every situation.
    I also have ‘heavy duty’ children’s book that tackle dark subjects like molestation and bad secrets. I’m grateful because they visually show my little boy, in a friendly way, scary situations and how to be safe. They help start conversations. The back of the books have parental guides.

    No Means NO
    By – Zack and Kimberly King

    Do You have a Secret?
    By- Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

    Not Everyone is Nice
    By- Frederick Alimonti and Ann Tedesco PH.D

    We’ve already had a situation where a four year old girl, a school friend, came to play and attempted to be inappropriate with him (Not in a naturally curious kind of way). Even with me shepherding the activities my son was stressed and upset. I’m SO grateful they were at my house. Think if he had been at her house and her mom wasn’t watching them? We also say “no” to sleepovers except at my mom’s house. A dear friend of mine worked in a law office and 9 out of 10 times, with sexual abuse cases, it started at a sleepover. It’s just not worth it.

    01.15.18Reply
    • Liz says:

      Yesss! It is always someone the child knows and trusts. I’m a child therapist and a lot of my kids were abused by a close family friend, their parent, grandparent, uncle… everyone they trust. It can most certainly be at a sleepover and gives that person easy access

      01.15.18Reply
    • Meaghan says:

      If that little girl was doing something out of ordinary curiosity for that age then you might want to be concerned about what she’s been exposed to…

      01.15.18Reply
    • Thanks for these book resources!

      01.24.18Reply
  8. Meaghan says:

    The catiness (sp?). I thought that didn’t begin until grade school. I think the girls who have older siblings pick up on stuff and then repeat it. It was so disappointing when my 3 year old came home saying “So and so wouldn’t be my best friend today.” Sigh. Also, of course “penis” and “vagina” aren’t bad words!!! I appreciate other parents saying that. 😁

    01.15.18Reply
    • Oh, yes, I have heard that around 4 and 5 this can start in school. I’m not looking forward to it! 🙁

      01.24.18Reply
  9. Suzanne says:

    My daughter is 5 and she started going to school at 2. There were so many wonderful things she learned. One thing I was shocked by was when she was in pre-K 4 (the year before Kindergarten) a little mean girls group started. Two girls would walk around the playground and decided who would play with who and who would be left out. I was shocked this started so early but they were acting like their mothers. When I talked to my daughter about it I told her that it was ok those girls didn’t want to play with her and to simply be the happiest kid on the playground and find someone else to play with. She did and she got along with all the kids. I hope this sticks with her.

    I hope Marlowe doesn’t have to go through this but here is a little fair warning!!

    Thanks for the article.

    01.16.18Reply
    • When our kids encounter excluding type behaviors it can be so heartbreaking! Marlowe had an experience once when we were at a party and there were three older girls (around 6-7) and they weren’t letting her join them in their game because she was “too little”. I found myself getting disproportionately frustrated and realized that it was dragging out a lot of my own feelings and insecurities from my own childhood.

      I know it will be hard for me to watch Marlowe go through the ups and downs of middle school, that’s for sure!

      01.24.18Reply
  10. Taylore says:

    We have a 7 year old and you’re absolutely right about their language changing once they enter school. I mean, it makes sense but sometimes it’s tough! For us, we say that there’s grown up words and bad words. For instance, words like “stupid” and “shut up” are bad words. We explain to him that there’s other ways to get your point across and that these are never nice words to use no matter how old you are. (We obviously don’t use these words either.) Other words like “damn” and “shit,” when used appropriately, are grown up words & he can use once he’s much old. Above all, we just try to use our manners as much as possible and of course, it starts with us. We’ve been using “please” and “thank you” with him since he was a baby; the best and most often compliment we get about him is how polite he is. Score! We got this Mama.

    01.16.18Reply
  11. Tai says:

    Happy MLK Day!!

    01.17.18Reply
  12. Julia Perrotta says:

    Hmmm, guess there’s a shelf life on the amount of time my husband and I can keep exclaiming “BUTTHOLE!” to our 7 month old in order to make her crow with laughter. :-/

    01.17.18Reply
  13. Kelsey says:

    My son is three and a half and he has started doing the baby talk thing. I don’t know if this is related to school. I’m assuming it’s something another kid started doing because he has been going to daycare since he was 1. I was wondering if you have any recommendations or experiences with that. My husband and I try to encourage “big boy words” without being judgmental, negative, or making him feel bad. I also don’t want to draw too much attention to it thereby encouraging it.

    01.19.18Reply
    • Soooo, we just went through this with Marlowe. It also really frustrated me, so I know how you feel.

      (I also have a residual frustration from middle school of feeling really triggered when girls pretend to be less advanced/smart/capable than they are to get attention…so my daughter regressing with her language particularly bothers me)
      I realized that me getting frustrated wasn’t doing anything, in fact it was probably making it worse. So I started calling it out and saying. “Oh, I hear you switching to a baby voice right now. Why are you talking in your baby voice? Do you feel like you need some baby love right now?” Inevitably she’d say (in a baby voice) “Yes, Mama, I want to be a little baby right now” And I’d say “ok let me hold you like a baby, or let me feed you with this spoon like a baby. ”
      After about a minute I would say, ok, that was fun– now you’re a big girl again! What should we do that’s fun for Big Girls to do? Or I’d bring up a topic of conversation that I knew she liked. And she would revert back to her normal voice.

      I would advise spending some time thinking about why the baby voice bothers you so much. I found that when I did this myself and identified why it frustrated me, it helped me diffuse the emotions behind the interaction in the moment. I was then able to attack the issue with a lot more patience and understanding. It was like understanding it for myself helped me help her with it, if that makes sense.

      Isn’t it interesting how so many parenting “road blocks” we encounter are actually about ourselves and not about them? (at least for me!)

      xoxo

      01.24.18Reply
      • Kelsey says:

        Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful response!
        I think my frustration stemmed from not knowing how long it would go on. And maybe, on a deeper and more narcissistic note, I have been frustrated because I know he is more advanced and want him to be his smartest self.
        I also can appreciate what you said about encouraging Marlowe for feminist reasons. Hurrah! Girls should be encouraged to speak for themselves and not hide behind their beauty, sexuality, or being ditzy. I also think that children rise to the expectations that are set for them. So, if you speak to your child using big words and with respect and maturity they will learn that behavior.
        Perhaps, also the baby talk has been a response to the upcoming arrival of baby #2. Hmm… (insert thinking emoji) Duh.
        Thank you again for your advice. Parenting is the ultimate balancing act isn’t it?!
        Take care!

        01.27.18Reply
        • Kelsey says:

          I also am going to try your advice and give him whatever he is feeling he needs at that moment then try to move on. Support and push! Support and push! Hence, the balancing act.

          01.27.18Reply
  14. Taylor says:

    Eva, get that girl into ballet classes, STAT! Look at those FEET! Perfect arches!

    01.19.18Reply
    • Ha! You have no idea how many emails I get from ballet teachers about both my kids and starting ballet! Apparently their arches are noticeable even in Instastories! LOL! Who knew?!

      Definitely going to start her in the spring 🙂

      01.24.18Reply