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Ruth Mason

Ruth Mason

Since the birth of her first child, writing about children has been Ruth's hobby, passion and profession. An award-winning journalist, she has published in Parents Magazine, Family Circle, Woman's Day and many other national and local publications. She has worked as a child-care worker, newspaper reporter, 60's activist and farmer. Ruth is married plus three, and is a certified parent educator and infant massage instructor. during the year 1999-2000 she was the director of the WholeFamily Parent Center.

I'm walking through a field when I am struck by a realization. They've been coming more often in the last couple of years -- one of the gifts of getting older. Sometimes they are about God and the universe but more often they are about my life and relationships -- little crystallization of experience, ripples surfacing from the unconscious realm into the conscious one.

I'm seven years old and I'm in the living room with my friend Hannah. She's come over for the afternoon to play. My father is across the room, looking out the window, hands clasped behind his back in a characteristic pose. Suddenly, the sound of a loud, low, long Bronx cheer fills the room. "Did your father just let one?" Hannah asks. "No," I quickly say. "They're building across the street. It's from there." Five years later, I'm in the den with my father, my older brother and his baby son, Joey, who has just learned to get up on all fours.

Have you been wondering why your 12-year-old daughter is gaining so much weight? Have you been concerned that your 15-year-old looks too thin? To find out about teenage girls and body image, we interviewed Martin Fisher, M.D., chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine, North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York. Dr. Fisher shared his views, based on 20 years of experience in adolescent medicine. According to Dr. Fisher, girls experience their major height spurt early in puberty (the time of hormonal changes which bring about physical changes,) about six months to a year before their first period. (It's interesting to note that in the 1850s, the average age for a first period was 16; the average age dropped a year every generation until it stopped at 12 1/2.

Do you sometimes wish you could be a magical fly on the wall in your child's school, whispering little tips about appropriate social behavior, helping your kids avoid the pain of being left out of a game or being picked last for the team? We can't provide you with that magic but we can offer some excellent advice from Martin Seligman, PhD, author of The Optimistic Child (Harper Perennial, 1996.) The book addresses the ways in which parents can encourage their children to develop positive outlooks, how they can help a depressed child, how they can teach their children to more accurately understand and interpret the social events around them.

In part I of this three-part series, we wrote about psychologist Martin Seligman's suggestions for improving your child's social skills by teaching her how to slow down her thinking by replacing "hot thoughts" with "cool thoughts." In his book, The Optimistic Child, Seligman also offers suggestions for showing your child how to walk in someone else's shoes -- a valuable skill that can serve her throughout life -- and that can help her in school-yard conflicts now. Explain to your child that before we can decide how to handle a problem we're having with someone else, we need to understand what that person was thinking and why she acted the way she did.

When our son, Yosef, was four, we were having a very hard time getting him to sleep at night. He would get out of bed repeatedly with numerous requests or demand that one of us stay with him until he fell asleep -- which would usually take an hour or two. After several months of dedicating my entire evening to putting this child to sleep, I decided to try problem-solving -- one of the many fine ideas in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This wonderful, useful book is a popularization of the ideas of the well-known child psychologist Haim Ginott. Problem-solving works because it involves your child in the process.

It's a winter morning and the members of my mother's group and I are drinking coffee and tossing around ideas for getting more sleep. Our babies, all around six-months-old, are lying on a big quilt on the living room floor, gurgling and shaking rattles. I see my daughter, Ilana, gaze at Beth's son, Matthew, the one baby in the group whom she has "known" since birth. Ilana drops her rattle and starts kicking her legs, squealing with excitement. Matthew returns the look and chortles. That afternoon, I write in the book I keep for Ilana: "She seems to have a thing for Matthew - and I think it's mutual." Abby and Nancy, who met in a childbirth preparation class, jokingly call their kids, Leah and Elliot, "Lamaze siblings.
As any parent who has lived through the terrible two's knows, crying is a big part of a two-year-old's life. One day, I kept a log of my two-year-old's crying behavior. In the course of a typical day, he cries because: 8:05 a.m. - A rubber band with which he had been playing snaps against his hand. 9:25 a.m. - He bangs his bare foot into a kitchen chair. 11:50 a.m. - I have to take him away from a sink-full of bubbles and plastic dishes where he has been busily playing. 3:30 p.m - His older brother takes away a toy car that he threw at him. 4:14 p.m - He takes a straw out of big brother's soda can.

What mother has not almost pulled her hair out, stifled a scream, or locked herself in the bathroom out of desperation for a five-minute breather during that awful time known as "the witching hour"? Indeed, that hour before - and sometimes during - dinner, when everyone is more likely to be tired, cranky and hungry, can jangle the nerves of the calmest parent. Mothers (and even if both mom and dad are working, somehow mom is usually the one in charge of dinner) feel particularly pressured during the late afternoon hours.

In Stones From the River, by Ursula Hegi, five-year-old Trudi, the heroine, and her first friend spend long summer afternoons down by the river, exploring, playing with stones and leaves, letting their imaginations roam. Dudi Starck Thinking back to my own childhood, which was not that long ago but definitely before computers, my summer memories center around: Lying in the tall grass with my friend Naomi, arms and legs akimbo; then getting up and admiring the outlines of our six-year-old bodies.
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