Posted by: Kate | February 6, 2008

What’s Up Your Parenting Sleeve?

Jacob has a cold. He’s had various iterations of blech since December, mostly a runny nose and a cough, with some gastrointestinal nastiness thrown in for good measure. During the day, he seems pretty healthy and perky, with lots of running around and random acts of cute, but at night, once he lies down and starts to breathe deeper and slower, the cough gets nasty and barky, because why stop at a simple cough when you can have croup? Much fun.

So we have regular doses of Delsym and Tylenol as needed, but lots of times these don’t do the trick. Can’t give more meds too soon, and listening to the coughing, even if he’s able to sleep through it, is disturbing. We’ve got a humifier running in his room, and when it gets really bad we sit in the bathroom with the shower running hot and then step into cooler air for a minute, and those help. For a little while. Then, a few months ago, someone suggested giving a spoonful of honey an hour or so after medication, and while skeptical at first – I’m a firm believer in herbs-for-cooking and drugs-for-sickness – I’m now a convert. I swear that it slows his coughing almost immediately and works for several hours, and I have no idea why. I don’t even care.

As I sat and listened to the blessed silence last night, I was trying to think of other little parenting tricks we’ve used over time. Like, baby powder at the beach. Have you tried this? You know how it is: you get back to the car after a day at the beach, and they’ve insisted on “one last splash,” plus there’s sunscreen and sweat and enough stickiness that, when you add sand, you’ve managed to turn your child into human sandpaper. Brushing them off just hurts, and it’s not all that effective, anyway. That’s where the baby powder comes in: apply it liberally to the body part in question before brushing it off, and it’s fine enough that it gets in between the sand and the skin and dries everything up and lubricates, so you can desand your offspring with much less ado. Granted, now your car is filled with baby powder instead of sand, but that seems like an improvement to me.

Then there’s the millions of nutrition tricks we’ve had to unleash upon Emily. Jacob has always been a healthy and agreeable eater, but for the first four or so years of her life, Emily reacted to anything resembling nutrition like a vampire to sunshine. We called it her beige diet – she would eat peanut butter, bread, bananas, chocolate milk, cereal, plain pasta… you get the idea. So we had to get creative in sneaking those nasty vitamins and minerals into her. We used Carnation Instance Breakfast instead of chocolate syrup, and kept a snack drawer with acceptably healthy snacks that she could access on her own (when she was small, we’d separate them into individual portions, but now she can drive the packaging herself). And others. So many others. She’s past it now, but clearly I am not.

This one is more of a spousal/relationship thing, I think… but it’s helpful to know ahead of time who will deal with which bodily fluids, or who takes the child and who takes the room, when nastiness occurs within the house.  Negotiations in the moment of crisis are not especially effective.  Well-oiled machines don’t play rock-paper-scissors at 3:00 a.m.

There’s other things, but you get the idea. So, spill it. What are your tricks? What little things have you found that make your life easier, and your children live longer?

And if you’re looking for visual inspiration, check out Baino’s post. There’s some parenting at its finest, yes, indeed.



  1. Ummm, basic stuff. But honey is da bomb. It’s antibacterial, so it’s great for wound care too. You do NOT want to know how I know that.

    Anyhow, with the kids, I’ve discovered the miracle that is hunger. Dinners that look yucky when they’ve snacked are snarfed up if it’s been a long, outside day.

    Pulling out a book and reading aloud can change the flow of a bad day.

    Muffin tins make otherwise uninteresting snacks utterly irresistable — little bits in each cup. Gourmet delights!

  2. Ooh, somehow the muffin tins reminded me – both my kids went through what we called a “gazinta” phase – putting small things into larger things. So we cut a small slit in the top of a coffee can and gave them a deck of cards, or checkers, and they were entertained for HOURS.

  3. I just discovered how effective honey is when I had a bad cough that lasted 3 weeks. Besides the antibacterial action already mentioned, I learned it attracts water, so it holds moisture in the throat to reduce dry scratchiness. It’s calming, somehow, too.

    I don’t know how old a child would need to be to use a Neti pot–it’s a longtime yoga practice to pour mildly salty water (1/4 tsp per 8 oz of warm water) in one nostril and it flows out the other. You lean over a sink and turn your head sideways to do this. Takes some practice at first, then it’s easy.

    By osmosis, the salt water pulls out mucus, washes out allergens, and discourages viruses. People have many fewer sinus issues when they use a Neti pot regularly.

    My child is long grown, but this stuff works for all ages!

  4. Last time I was horribly sick, my aunt recommended honey and vinegar mixed together and to drink as much as I could take at one time. It’s nasty, but it helps.

    My youngest is turned off of anything vegetable, but I buy the V8 Fusions (veggie and fruit mix) that she loves and give her a sour gummy vitamin. Also I buy the spaghetti sauce with lots of veggies in it. She loves that (doesn’t see the rancid carrots! LOL).

  5. I’m a bad parent. My 19yo lives on french fries, pizza and various nutrient free foods. If I cook I can get him to eat chicken and/or flank steak but anything related to veggies, no way! He’s been a pain since he weaned himself at 17 months.

    My, he’ll be 17 on Saturday, child likes more variety and will choose healhtier foods all around. He was drinking those “energy” drinks but since the concussion he has stopped. YEAH!

    Since I’ve been going to school dinner is been more I supply food but they have to make it. quesadillas, frrozen organic dinners, soup, random other things. DH detests cooking anything so they’ve done way more fast food. I’m planning on stopping that by cooking dinner again.

  6. Hot tips Kate, a bit more valuable than the ones I posted over at my place. I tried putting spinach in Lasagne to make DrumerBoy eat his greens, worked like a charm until he was 16 but not any more (he was a slow starter!)

  7. Um… ummm… I must know SOMETHING useful… Nope, can’t think of a thing.

  8. We totally do the baby powder at the beach. It’s a great trick.

    Another congestion-clearing trick: right before bedtime, smear Vicks Vapo Rub on their heels before covering with socks. I do this one with the boyz, and swear it helps. I tested it on myself first, and whaddya know? I could BREATHE!


  9. I second the Vicks, but I use it on their chests and backs. Skip the lavender one for babies…it has less kick, though it does smell better.

    I find my kids are much more willing to eat meals they helped prepare, so we now pull two chairs into the kitchen for meal prep each night.

    My kid are big snackers…they would eat nothing but snacks all day long if I let them. Rather than let them fill up on chips/crackers/juice/cookies, I just stopped buying and making those things. If it’s not in the house they ask for it less and less, and it helps me lose weight, too.

  10. I’m with ya on the Vicks, we do the feet thing with socks and it works like a charm. Honey is awesome…but mine hates it.

    When I was younger maybe 7ish I think I had a really high fever and my mom couldn’t get it to break. I remember she made me walk back and forth in a tub of lukewarm water with onions under my arms. Fever broke…she swears it was the onions. I still think it was just the water, either way it was crazy.

  11. hi everyone…m not a parent yet… it was fun reading your experiences….kids are sooo cute…:)…

  12. I leave an onion, cut in half so you see the ring pattern on each floor of my house. I have an open-design house, but if there’s less air flow in your home, you’d need more. I don’t know how this works, but it has really cut down on the spread of contagions in my home. I teach out of my house, so the number of ill children I am blessed with in a week is more than your average home. You have to change the onion every 2-3 days.

    Also, at the first sign of illness, 3 drops of peroxide in each ear for 5mins each. If I really can’t afford people being sick at the time, everyone gets it as a preventative measure, including the adults (I have parental permission). I am a firm believer in allowing children to be ill when it’s convenient, to build up their immune systems and to teach them how to behave while ill. Some families do the peroxide treatment on a frequent basis to prevent illness.

  13. I am totally taking that baby powder tip and adopting it.

    When I was growing up, we used a spoonful of Karo corn syrup for a bad sore throat or cough. Worked like a charm.

    I am trying desperately to think of cool hints, but am coming up blank.

  14. I’ve started using a Saturday Basket, which is kept on high. I ask Lane to pick up a toy once. If I have to ask twice, it goes in the basket, and everything is returned on Saturday. Somehow she hears me more, now.

    I also have been known to mix wheat germ in with anything I can get away with (cookies, mac & cheese, pancakes, etc).

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