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My Kids Loved Summer Camp. This Is Why I Made Them Quit.

My kids could not have been happier as they splashed in the water, playing with their friends.


I felt like I was going to throw up.

I’d dropped them off at their first day of summer camp that morning, thrilled to have four hours to myself. When I’d enrolled them in the camp run by the gym where I work out and teach group fitness, I asked about the ratio of adults to kids in the pool. They told me it would be two adults with a maximum of 15 kids, plus a lifeguard.

“Isn’t that kind of a low ratio?” I’d asked. The camp was for kids ages two-and-a-half and up. The pool has an infinity edge that gradually extends to a depth of three feet. The camp director, a mom herself, assured me they’d always done it this way and it had been fine. She encouraged me to sit by the pool and watch if I wanted. Perhaps I was being overly protective, I thought. Obviously, the other parents didn’t seem to have a problem with it.

My kids are three and five years old and neither of them can swim well. Though I pride myself on being a pretty hands-off (read: lazy) parent, when it comes to water safety, I don’t take chances. On the first day of camp I sat poolside and watched during swim time. My initial feeling of, “I can’t see how this is going to work” progressed to, “Oh my god this is a total shit show” to, “I don’t know how much longer I can stand to watch this before I start hyperventilating.”

There were 13 campers, many of them under five years old, two adults, and zero lifeguards. Plus there were kids with their parents who were not attending camp swimming. I could hardly keep my eyes on my own two kids through the sea of people. At times, one camp staffer would take a kid to the restroom, leaving one adult in charge of 12 kids.

I waited for them to blow a whistle and have the kids buddy up like we used to do at summer camp when I was a kid. That never happened. I waited, my eyes darting wildly to keep track of my girls until finally, they took the kids out of the water. At that point, I gathered my things, went to the locker room, sequestered myself in a bathroom stall and exhaled. Tears of frustration and anxiety spilled out while I choked back a little sob.

Was I overreacting? I didn’t think so. But when I brought my concerns to one of the administrators of the gym, they were brushed off. I was offered only reassurance that the staff was extremely responsible. “I’m sure they are,” I countered. “I just don’t think there are enough of them for all of the kids to be safe in the pool.”

To meet the American Camping Association’s (ACA) standards, camps must adhere to minimum staff ratios, which pertain to overall supervision, but not specifically to aquatic supervision. While these ratios vary according to age, requirements change according to whether the children are on land or in the water is at each camp’s discretion. ACA-accredited day camps require a minimum ratio of 1-to-6 for children ages five and under, 1-to-8 for children ages six to eight, and 1-to-10 for children ages nine to 14. Ratios are slightly higher for overnight campers: 1-to-5 for children ages five and under, 1-to-6 for children six to eight, and 1-to-8 for children ages nine to 14. ACA accreditation is completely voluntary, however. If a camp has the credential, they have gone through a rigorous, costly accreditation process, and will typically display proof of certification on their website and/or in their office.

While the ACA accreditation is a valuable credential, it is no replacement for doing your homework. According to Becca Mack, the executive director of camping at Colorado’s Boulder Valley YMCA, ensuring that your child’s camp follows state licensing guidelines and provides adequate staff training is just as important as the ACA stamp of approval, if not more so. Whether or not they’re accredited by the ACA, camps must meet certain minimum standards set by their state. These requirements vary widely from state to state. While some states’ requirements are consistent throughout, in others they are specific to the city or county.

Meanwhile, there are a few states that have adopted the same standards as the ACA. An index of resources for each state compiled by the ACA can be found here. While some states’ websites are very transparent about their staffing ratios, including specific requirements for aquatics (Maine is a great example), others, like my home state of Colorado, are clear as mud.

Mack recommends parents talk directly to camp administrators to find out how they train their staff to manage swim time and make sure they know and adhere to their state’s licensing standards. For example, staff training at the Boulder Valley YMCA includes a water safety segment where they go over every aspect of swim time, including face checks, staff presence in the pool, and more. Says Mack, “[at the Boulder Valley YMCA] we do a mock pool time, so everyone learns what needs to be done.”

While the ACA standards dictate that camps must institute a system to quickly account for all campers involved in aquatic activities, it is at the camp’s discretion to decide which system to employ. While there is an app for nearly everything, they still haven’t come up with one to replace the Buddy System, a common water safety check that has not changed much, if at all, since my youth, whereby the lifeguard blows a whistle signaling campers to pair up with a pre-designated swim buddy. The Boulder Valley YMCA, which is not ACA-accredited, takes that requirement a step further, stipulating that every 15 minutes a staff member “must physically see each child. Instead of just a head count, they are specifically matching the child’s name on a list to their face.”

Some camps take the initiative to exceed state minimum staffing ratios. Boulder Valley’s YMCA Inspire Preschool is one such example. The state of Colorado requires a minimum staff ratio of 1-to-10 for preschoolers (ages three to four years old). According to Lisa Swainey, the preschool’s director, Inspire raises the bar by requiring not only a lifeguard dedicated exclusively to the preschoolers but also a minimum of two preschool staffers anytime the kids are swimming. Additionally, preschoolers are allowed only to splash within the confines of the baby pool, which reaches a maximum depth of one foot.

Beyond my casual questions about the swimming situation at my kids’ camp, it never occurred to me to explore my state’s licensing requirements until I witnessed the swim program firsthand. (I use the term “swim program” loosely.) I admit, my main camp selection criteria were convenience and price. After my poolside near-panic attack, though, my concern was safety. And rightly so, according to experts like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, senior medical correspondent at CNN Health. In an article posted there, he says toddlers are at a relatively huge risk of drowning, even in water as shallow as one inch, due to their top-heavy bodies: “Children 4 and under actually have the single highest drowning death rate according to the National Safety Council.” And according to Alan Steinman, MD, former director of health and safety at the U.S Coast Guard, drowning is a highly inconspicuous event. It happens quietly, without any arm flailing or cries for help.

Though I hated to break my kids’ little hearts, I felt I had no choice but to pull them out of camp. My kids got over it within a couple of weeks. I, on the other hand, would never have gotten over it had anything happened to them at that camp. I never would have forgiven myself for not trusting my instinct. As parents, we can research every topic, ask every question, and Google until our eyes burn, but at the end of the day, selecting the right camp is like the rest of parenting: Mostly we go on instinct.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Three was not enough for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Mom and dad to North, Saint and Chicago are expecting again.

The story broke earlier this month, but this week Kim appeared on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" and confirmed everything People and E! have been attributing to inside Kardashian sources.

Host Andy Cohen, a father-to-be himself, asked Kim to confirm if the leaked sex of the baby was also accurate.

    "It's a boy," Kim told him, revealing that she's the accidental source of the leak. "It's out there. I got drunk at our Christmas Eve party, and I told some people, but I can't remember who I told."

    Like Chicago, this baby will be born via surrogate, and Kim says he's due quite soon.

    Kim has previously talked about how the decision to grow her family through gestational surrogacy was a hard one, but the only one that made sense for her after two difficult pregnancies.

    "Anyone that says or thinks it is just the easy way out is just completely wrong. I think it is so much harder to go through it this way, because you are not really in control," she told Entertainment Tonight when expecting Chicago.

    "Obviously you pick someone that you completely trust and that you have a good bond and relationship with, but it is still … knowing that I was able to carry my first two babies and not my baby now, it's hard for me," she explained at the time.

    One of six kids herself, it's not surprising that Kim wants a large family (considering how close she is with her siblings) and, according to Kim, Kanye's been campaigning for more children for a while.

    "Kanye wants to have more, though. He's been harassing me," Kardashian said on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "He wants like seven. He's like stuck on seven."

    Four is still pretty far from seven, but maybe Kanye and Kim will compromise a bit on family size. Kim has previously said four children would be her limit.

    [Update: This post was originally published on January 2, 2019. It was updated when Kardashian confirmed the news.]

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    Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

    For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

    That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

    We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

    Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

    If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

    Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

    Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

    According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

    The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

    The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

    That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

    Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

    Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

    That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

    What does that mean?

    It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

    Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

    Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

    When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

    This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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    Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

    As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

    It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

    Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

    1. Use positive reinforcement.

    Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

    2. Be simple and direct.

    Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

    For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

    3. Re-think the "time out."

    Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

    4. Use 'no' sparingly.

    When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

    The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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    To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

    If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

    Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

    But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

    Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

    It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

    I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

    Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

    This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

    Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

    So here's what I want you to know, mama.

    If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

    There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

    There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

    And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

    It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

    Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

    But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

    And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

    We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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