Claudia Quigg

Retired Host

Claudia Quigg is the Executive Director of Baby TALK and writes the Let's Talk Kids parenting segment and column that honor the expertise parents have about their own children and explores issues that are universal for families. From toilet training and sibling rivalry to establishing family values, Claudia Quigg provides thoughtful and accessible insights that are meaningful to families' needs.

The week between Christmas and New Years has long been my favorite time of the year.  When I was a child, it was a chance to enjoy nonstop the toys I got from Santa before the demands of a school schedule got in the way of my uninterrupted playtime.

At this point in my life, I relish that “week between” as a chance to catch my breath before facing the demands of the New Year.  It’s a great time to reflect on lessons learned in the year just ending and to set goals for the year ahead.

It was a noisy scene with lots of folks around having a generally good time at a holiday event.  Wondering how such a little fellow would handle the chaos, I walked over to where two-month-old Jacob was propped in his bouncy seat near his mom.  What I saw in Jacob amazed me.  Instead of being overwhelmed by the party around him, he had a laser focus on his mom’s face.  He was relaxed and happy as he gazed adoringly at her face.

A dad shared his regret at not being home more when his children were tiny.  While he succeeded professionally, he thinks his relationships with his 4 and 6 year-old daughters are beyond repair.

A mother told me her 5 year-old won’t stay in his own bed.  Every night she runs a relay, returning him to his bed time and again.  It’s her own fault, she moans.  She loved cuddling him to sleep as an infant, and now he can’t sleep without her.  According to this mom, she’s ruined him for sleep for all time.

The 9-year-old towhead leaned into his airplane window watching the scurry of baggage handlers below.  His mom sat in the middle as I approached and asked if the aisle seat was available.

She quickly nodded yes with a smile, and then asked me an unexpected question:  “Excuse me, my son has a severe peanut allergy.  Are you planning to eat nuts on the flight?”  I assured her I wasn’t and sat beside her, asking her to tell me more about her son.

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Walk into most preschool classrooms in America, and you’re sure to see it:  that oversized calendar near the floor, accessible to four-year olds, where children are led through a recitation of the days of the week and the months of the year, as well as a counting of the dates in the month.

From an early age, especially in this country, we’re determined to understand and focus on the passage of time.  Many Europeans chuckle over our obsession with timeliness, and folks from South America and Africa often really don’t get it at all.

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You plan a lovely outing to an art museum, hoping to awaken the Michelangelo in their hearts.

A week later, you share the story of your field trip with a friend, feeling a bit smug about your family’s brilliant foray into the world of fine art.  Playing nearby, your enthusiastic eight-year old pipes up with a big grin: "You wouldn't believe how loud the toilets flushed in the bathroom there!"

Wow. So the one compelling memory of this carefully planned afternoon was of the plumbing volume. So much for your hopes for raising the next Renoir.

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Being a parent starts with our letting go of the baby from the womb in order to be able to hold onto him in our arms.  And that’s just the beginning. The journey of parenthood consists of learning when to hold on and when to let go of our children.

“The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”  This adage has been confirmed by science demonstrating the power of the influence parents have on the development of their children.

Every day I see the truth of this notion, observing children who reflect the training of their parents.  Kids of thoughtful parents express their own thoughtfulness in the kindness they display on the playground.  The offspring of musicians sing with beautiful voices in a children’s choir.   

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Parents, if you watch television this evening with your children in the room, you’d best stand ready with your thumb on the remote, ready to hit the power button.  Am I expecting a scene of graphic horror or sordid pornography?  No, but I’m quite sure your television will carry a political attack advertisement.

Even as you daily teach him how to behave kindly and with respect, he will see our political leaders at their very worst.  He will listen as they vilify one another in a way that would never be allowed in his home or classroom.

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I’ve been noticing an increase in grandparents’ queries.  Much of the time, these loving grandparents express a concern about a choice the child’s parents are making, hoping I will weigh in on their “side” of the difference of opinions.

Grandparents are concerned about where their grandchildren sleep.  They agonize about two-year-olds still using a bottle or pacifier.  They worry about parents’ decisions to return to work following birth.

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Four-year olds Maria and Geoffrey were playing house in their preschool classroom.  She unloaded the grocery cart and he set the table.  Maria was carefully putting the food away on the shelves in their little play kitchen, but a few pretend cans of vegetables were left out on the counter top.

I inquired about those cans still sitting out.  Geoffrey spoke up quickly to set me straight.  “Oh, those are the cans we’re takin’ to the food pantry.  We have to give food to kids who don’t have enough to eat.”

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A charming fellow I know was referred for special services as his development had fallen off track.  Damien was losing pace with his peers and his teachers were worried that something was wrong.

I’m glad when grownups notice that a child’s development lags behind.  Sometimes, there may be a serious problem which—if identified early—has the best chance for remediation.  

But other times, there’s a benign cause related to his external life circumstances.  In Damien’s case, I wondered about this possibility.

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Sweet granddaughter Jane has begun the predictable passage common to most folks her age.  She is gradually losing her baby teeth, each time proudly displaying her most recent gap as a badge of honor.

And while I adore that scarecrow grin, I feel some sorrow that I’ll never again see that sweet baby tooth smile I knew since she was a toddler.  I wish I’d had enough forethought to appreciate that baby smile the last time I saw it.

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“Steadiness.”  It’s an old-fashioned word like “duty” or “diligence.” It can’t compete with more modern terms like “efficiency,” “speed,” or “multi-tasking.”  If we think to honor “steadiness” at all these days, it’s in reference to those with superb fine motor control, like brain surgeons and bomb detonators, whose steadiness has life-altering implications.

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The shadows under their eyes told the story.

Recently I listened to new parents share lifestyle changes they’ve experienced since their baby girl was born.  While their devotion to their daughter is obvious, their exhaustion was equally apparent. The increased accountability of parenting duty involves feeding, changing, rocking to sleep, leaping out of bed at night to attend to frantic cries, loads of laundry, and more.  

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Between my 18th and 22nd birthdays, I changed my major six times, transferred universities, tried out a variety of jobs and several philosophies, fell in love, got married, and began my career.  Those years were a period of incredibly rapid growth and change in me.

It occurs to me that most lives are like that.  We experience plateaus in which life remains fairly steady, but those plateaus are punctuated by events—like graduations—that create rapid growth and change.

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Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers have been underestimated since the beginning of time, rarely getting credit for the very real work they do each day.  To think of young children as simply “cute” is to objectify them rather than recognizing them as real people who are working to develop skills and understand the world.  

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Refilling my red feeder with sugar water, I chuckled to be reminded of the new parental stereotype in the blogosphere.  “Hummingbird Parents” are now on the scene.

Judgment has been heaped on “Helicopter Parents” recently—those parents who control and interfere. They’re afraid of allowing their children to fail, feeling such responsibility for their kids’ futures.  And they fear the judgment of a society that has come to be pretty hard on parents.

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A new sculpture park in my community connects artists from around the world with local families.  One such contributor is Doug Gruizenga, an artist who was formerly a social worker. Gruizenga’s piece is a large aluminum dragon entitled “Please Sit Down, Read Me a Story.”

When asked about his inspiration for the impressive piece, Gruizenga put it this way:  “It seems as though the dragons are probably just as scared of us as we are of them, or they wouldn’t be acting so weird and scary.  Fear drives anger.  What’s the solution to that?”

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

We recently enjoyed a summer visit from one of our daughters and her family.  But this time, in addition to the four grandchildren she and her husband transported to our house, they also brought some additional special guests: a litter of three newborn pups they’re fostering for their local humane society.  

These poor babes were dumped in a cardboard box along the side of a highway where a Good Samaritan found them and delivered them to the shelter.  But they have now landed in a tub of butter, spending their infancies in a home with plenty of love to share.

Claudia Quigg headshot / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

I recently served as an extra pair of hands for a children’s activity. There was a puppet show, a craft project, and cupcakes to decorate.  The amount of time spent in planning this event was impressive.

During a moment’s lag in activities, a smart leader suggested a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose.”  You remember that old standby involving children seated in a circle as one of them walks around the circle patting heads saying “Duck” each time, until finally shouting “GOOSE” and running around the circle hoping to beat the “Goose” back to the open seat.

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Jane’s shower seemed to be taking an awfully long time.  “You ok in there?” Mom asked with waning patience.  “”Yep!” replied Jane joyfully.  “Did you put conditioner on your hair?” Mom followed up.  With that, Jane leaned out of the shower curtain, beaming.  “Yes!” she exclaimed.  “Twelve times!”

With that, Mom made a mental note to add conditioner to the grocery list and helped a sweet smelling Jane exit the shower, with a tip of the hat to the vast divide that separates a child’s agenda from her parent’s.

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New parents quickly discover the truth of the saying that “the days are long but the years are short.”  While each night finds them falling bone-tired into their beds, the months on the calendar seem to fly by relentlessly.

Older parents’ perspective enables them to see that these years of raising children represent a really short season, after all, while young parents are suddenly caught up short by how quickly their babies grow up.

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Two preschool grandchildren once again taught me something I should already know:  Children live in the moment, even on vacation.

A short trip with Jane and Emmy brought this home to me recently.  We visited a favorite destination with an ambitious agenda of many things to see and do.  Favorite restaurants, shops, and recreational opportunities beckoned.

Claudia Quigg headshot 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Each year as the fireworks explode on the Fourth of July, I chuckle to recognize the explosive nature of our quest for independence.  Just as those fireworks remind us of our infant nation’s birth of freedom from Mother England, children’s paths to independence are also marked with noisy blasts.

Throughout their lives, children work to wean themselves away from dependence on us.  The process is often messy and uncomfortable for them and for us, but the impetus that drives them begs obedience.

Claudia Quigg headshot 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Poor Emmy.  She’s got a pretty tough case of FOMO—Fear of Missing Out.

Last month, Emmy’s daddy took big sister Jane to a Daddy-Daughter dance.  Jane had a new dress, and there was ice cream after.  Alas, Emmy was too young.  She could only gaze tearfully at Jane as she left, her mind full of the wonder of all she was missing.  She had a bad case of FOMO that evening.

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Apologizing communicates our recognition that we contributed to a conflict.  This recognition flies in the face of determination to always be the “injured” party, looking to cast blame on others in every situation.  Some people feel that apologizing reflects weakness, and pride keeps them from ever wanting to appear humble.

For many, the minute there’s a problem they begin posturing to figure out how to assign blame to someone else.  They go on the offensive without first wondering how their own actions may have contributed to the problem.

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When their babies are born, most parents are relieved to hear their newborn has 10 fingers and 10 toes and seems to be quite average.  But almost immediately, we begin seeing ways our baby is exceptional.  

Some exceptions mark our babies for positive distinction.  We beam with pride when our baby learns to crawl or walk ahead of his peers. We fix our minds on his physical prowess, engaging him in games of catching balls or running races.

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When Carly was a preschooler, she loved to dance.  She woke up mornings twirling on her toes, and she leaped and spun throughout her day.  “That girl!” her parents observed.  She’s going to be a dancer!”

In elementary school, Carly developed an interest in sports, excelling on several teams.  Her parents looked into Olympic opportunities and dreamed of athletic scholarships.  Carly was certainly on the road to a career in sports.

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One grandfather I know was recently treated for a knee injury following a rather vigorous football match with his grandkids. Another used his vacation time to hike the Grand Canyon with a granddaughter. And yet a third taught his grandchildren to water ski on a recent vacation.

Many of today’s grandfathers are active and engaged with their grandchildren.  Grandpas seem to have traded rocking chairs for rock climbing, enjoying their grandchildren with more active pursuits.