Ask A Mom: Bath Time Protocol, Covid Weight Gain, and Special Needs
Ten months into writing for Charlotte Parent, and you guys are bringing legitimate, tough questions. This month, editors chose three. I tracked down experts for #2 and #3, but opted to poll a few Charlotte moms to answer #1. It’s a question many wonder, and with no fit-all-families response, you’ll find a buffet of perspectives. (I polled moms in December’s column about returning gifts from in-laws and their answers were more clever than mine. No shame in revisiting this game.) Enjoy…
Q: Hi, Molly. My kids are 6 (boy) and 3 (girl). I bathe them together every night because it’s easier to do both at once. My husband says they’re getting too old for that and it’s getting inappropriate. At what age should I stop bathing them together?—Lindsey
Anna: “You have an out: Tell your husband he is welcome to bathe them separately. Bet that’ll stop the conversation. Seriously though, we drew the line when some of the conversations became more about body parts and the kids were asking hysterical questions we didn’t really have child-friendly answers for. As with all stuff children-related, things don’t happen because they turn a number… things happen because they’ve moved on to the next stage. So, I don’t think there is a set age where you say, ‘Okay no more baths together!’ If bath time seems to still be all about getting clean, and bathing them together gives you an extra 20 minutes with a book or a glass of wine, I say keep going.”
Sharon: “We found around age 6, our son was capable of showering by himself (with oversight) and enjoyed the independence. He also loved taking his own ‘play bath’ and never wanted to jump in the tub with his sister again. I’d start his shower and check at the end to make sure he rinsed well. Plus, we found as the kids got older, our bathroom setup got too crowded with bigger bodies in one space, and the mess became greater. Just became easier to separate.”
Pam: “I’m a mom of two girls, so I can’t relate to this exact situation but would say there gets to be a time where the older kid wants more privacy. They’ll tell you. If you are super concerned, speak one-on-one with your son. In the interim, save water, and let them play. This window of time will be over too fast.”
Shelly: “I asked the same question to many mom friends when my kids were young (I have two boys and our youngest is a girl). I often heard, ‘You’ll know when they are too old’ or ‘They will LET you know.’ I didn’t really understand what that meant, but it’s true. My older boys told me they wanted to start taking showers by themselves. I think this happened around second or third grade, so 7 or 8 years old. I welcomed the break from being so hands-on, but also questioned how much actual soap was being used. Pick your battles though, right?”
Krista: “There is a certain ease to bathing kids all at once. However, soon enough, questions start to get, uh…complicated. Trust me, I know. I have boy/girl twins! Generally, I think bathing kids together is fine until one of them starts to engage in questions or verbally addresses feeling uncomfortable. While 3 and 6 are still very young, you will quickly discover they start to notice body parts. No need to hide, but privacy and modesty are learned over time, so let the kids address their concerns and adapt accordingly.”
Jen: “I think the 6-year-old is ready to transition to the shower! It will be easier for everyone, especially you. I have boys so I say from experience, in the beginning you may need to stand there and call out each thing he needs to wash, but he’ll get the hang of it quickly.”
Angie: “Lindsey, tell your husband Gilead called. He wants to know if you’d like to apply for a Commander opening?”
Q: My 12-year-old daughter has put on weight in the last year. I don’t know how much exactly, but it’s noticeable enough that my mother-in-law mentioned it to me. It’s probably from too much snacking during homeschool and 9 months without soccer practice. I know she needs to eat less and move more, but I’m scared to bring it up to her and make her feel insecure or develop and eating disorder. Any advice?—Alex
A: My instinct is to never bring up weight gain with your child—especially a 12-year-old girl. She knows. She sees social media, billboards, magazines, TV, books, shows… she… and her friends… all kids… all ages… see what we see. A woman’s weight and body are images too pervasive to avoid and if you, her biggest protector and fan, bring up “gaining weight,” I fear she’d never forget the conversation.
Plus, our girls are a remarkable, special, magical breed living in a world that we as moms don’t fully understand. We didn’t grow up with cell phones. We didn’t have IG, Tik Tok, cyber bullying, and endless pressure to be available and always “on.” Our children are maturing faster than we did. I find it sad and scary. We can’t stop the pace—toothpaste doesn’t go back in the tube—but I feel like the least we can do is assure our girls they are absolutely perfect exactly how they are.
Now, are you concerned about your daughter’s actual health? Blood pressure, activity level, eating habits from the past year? If that’s the case, you’re not alone. There are lots of conversations right now about the long-term impact of COVID on kids’ physical and mental health, grades, sports, and friendships. I find it helpful when I’m ready to throw up my hands over one of those categories to remember that the past 12 months were about nothing but survival. None of us—or our kids—will get blue ribbons. There is no judgment and definitely no winners. Just survivors. Participation medals for all.
But what do I know? I’m just a mom.
Child Psychologist Michele Mannering, Ph.D., who has an office in Cotswold, has more professional advice.
“The pediatrician can help you understand your child’s BMI (body mass index), and whether there are indications for pre-obesity or obesity,” she says. “They can also see if your child has been relatively consistent over time on their growth curve, or if there is sudden change.”
Dr. Mannering says the impact of the pandemic is real and has affected everyone, especially our kids. “They’ve been out of their routines,” she says. “They’ve had more opportunities for snacking and less physical activity. If you choose to address it, think about how to change habits for the whole family, not just one child. And be sensitive and aware that weight gain/loss can be linked with anxiety and depression. Both have increased the past year. So, also notice if there are changes in their behavior. A pediatrician can help screen for emotional concerns as well.”
Finally, she said, be mindful not to create negative associations with food. “It’s pivotal not to label anything as ‘bad’ or ‘restrictive,’” she says. “Moderation is a healthier approach than total elimination. Don’t throw away all the, cookies or forbid ice cream.’”
Not that Dr. Mannering thought I’d relay this part, but she told me she replied to my email by dictating into her phone as she sat in carpool line after scrambling out of work to get another kid to a gym class. She’s doing the hard work, living the juggle, and advising from a real place. Love that.
Q: Hi Molly! I am moving to the Charlotte area with a great deal of nerves because my husband landed a new job. However, I have a 7-year-old second grader with special needs. He currently is in a great private school for students with disabilities where he is excelling. Am I making a mistake? What are some challenges I many face?—Marie
A: New experiences are what you make of them. If you go into something worried, you’ll see the worst parts first. But go into something open to the adventure, and adjustment comes faster.
I believe the above advice—I mean, I wrote it—but also don’t know details about your child’s specific needs so there’s no way to say if “you’re making a mistake” or what “challenges you might face.” But, momma, you’re clearly his strongest advocate. You care and are involved. He’s already winning.
As for Charlotte’s special needs programs, there are tons. We have some great schools, fantastic teachers, and really big-hearted people. Whatever wonderful situation your child is in now can never be exactly replicated, but at least you have experience with knowing a successful blueprint.
To get you specific help, I took your question to Kimberly Dillard, an EC teacher and compliance facilitator within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
“Our area has lots of options for students with disabilities when it comes to education,” she says. “Our public school system offers a vast range of support systems and services. There are parent information sessions and community partnerships. We invite you to talk with us, and with others, as you transition to the area.”
If you’re looking for private schools for special needs in North Carolina, there are plenty. According to PrivateSchoolReview.com, in the 2021 school year, there were 42 top special education private schools in the state, serving 1,823 students.
A few in the Charlotte area that get good reviews are The Fletcher School, Manus Academy, The John Crosland School, and Phillips Academy. You can research them here.
But don’t sleep on CMS, Kimberly says. The public school district in Mecklenburg County works hard to offer many programs to all types of kids. “The Charlotte-area also has lots of social opportunities for children with disabilities,” she adds. “Special Olympics is one. Best Buddies, a private organization, is another. We have joint partnerships with local professional sports teams, and lots of non-profits that aim to help local kids. Various countywide programs are also in place. Whatever interest your son might have, there is sure to be an activity of some sort already in place here.”
Kimberly did say the downside to having such a vast network in Charlotte is that our area is well known and highly regarded for these programs, so they fill up fast. “We do serve many local children,” she says. “It is recommended that you are extremely proactive in registering and getting on waiting lists, well in advance. Call around as soon as you see you will be moving, so your spot is reserved.”
In a month filled with school deadlines, summer camp schedule hell, and a Mother’s Day I bet half of you had to coordinate yourself (I told my husband all I want for Mother’s Day next year is a babysitter), just remember: We’re all in this together.
Submit your questions on the homepage of Charlotte Parent. Can’t wait to see what’s on your mind. Until next month…