Category Archives: parenting

We are the Champions

In a few hours I’ll be heading off to a Junior Lego League event with my son.  And even though the email assured me this event is NOT a competition, it also mentioned that there WILL be prizes.  Because, as any modern parent knows, our kids are all winners, all the time.

I’m not trying to diss Lego League specifically.  It’s really no different from any of the other things my seven-year-old son does, like soccer or baseball, where we grown-ups mandate that “we don’t keep score” even as the children themselves tally up the points in their heads with a Rain Man-like precision.

Then, at the end of the season—which hasn’t been a competition, kids, it’s just about having fun—we hand out trophies.  But who doesn’t deserve a shiny reward after a long season of “having fun”?

The weird thing is, I don’t know a single parent who actually believes in this.  Not one.  We read the New York Times.  We’ve heard about the phenomenon of “tea-cup” children—kids whose parents overly rewarded them, protecting them from any unpleasantness or taste of failure, so that by the time they go to college, they shatter into pieces when the tiniest little thing goes wrong.

So why the heck do we keep on handing out trophies to five-year-olds?  Why don’t we have the guts to stand up to this silly trend and stop the madness?  Because if someone actually took away the golden statues at the end of a soccer season, I swear, I’d give them a prize.

ADDENDUM:  So yesterday’s Lego event was lovely.  And even though they handed out prizes to everyone, instead of trophies, they were cool, home-made lego statuettes (created by high school students) with very distinct awards given to the top three teams.  And despite the fact that my son’s team didn’t walk away with the biggest trophy or the #1 prize, he felt proud of his work and had a wonderful time.

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Can’t We All Just Agree? (An Open Letter to America)

 

Dear America,

 

Can’t we all just agree to put our own personal agendas aside for once and try to work together?  Most of us seem to behave ourselves pretty well in our day-to-day lives (the occasional toy store stampede death aside).  Whether we’re inviting the weird kid in class to our child’s birthday party so he doesn’t feel left out, or stopping our cars to let an old man cross the street (even though we’re running late)—we make decisions all the time that are based not solely on our own selfish desires, but on what works best for the group of people we find ourselves living among.

 

Which, last time I checked, included ALL OF US.

 

So here’s the annoying thing.  Whenever politics come up, so many of you kind, considerate people revert back to this Me! Me! Me! attitude, as if national policy decisions will effect only you.  I see it happening on a smaller scale, too, every time I go to a PTO or school board meeting and some parent stands up to the mic and says, “Well my kid hates it…” without even bothering to take even the briefest moment to consider how said decision might effect the other 3,000 kids in the district.

 

Of course, you and your family come first.  I get that.  And it shouldn’t be any other way.  But while you are thinking about what might work best for you and your family, I think it’s also important to pause at the metaphorical crosswalk to think about how stepping on the gas pedal might impact that old man crossing the street.

 

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Flashback Friday: The Great T-Shirt Experiment

If one t-shirt is good, 19 must be really awesome!  As a mom, it’s easy to blur the line between  Things Our Kids Do That Are Wonderful Only To Us versus Things That Have Actual Entertainment Value For People Who Did Not Give Birth To Them.   My undeniable bias aside, I believe this video succeeds in both categories.

This is an oldie but a goodie, made when Henry was only four.  Enjoy!

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Do-It-Yourself Spa Day

We live in a non-stop world and it’s easy to get stuck on the hamster wheel of work, kids, school, laundry, and other Things You Have To Do, and to forget about carving out time for self-care.  And no, busy moms, going to the supermarket without kids doesn’t qualify.

Self-care is about honoring one’s need for relaxation, a word that surprisingly can still be found in modern dictionaries.  For me, sometimes this means going away to Kripalu for a weekend of yoga, other times it’s just a short hike with my friends, or going to get a massage, or deciding to read my book when I find myself with an hour in the house alone, instead of, say, unloading the dishwasher.

This past Sunday, my friends and I had our first annual Spa Day, though some of us now refer to it as our first monthly Spa Day.  Spa Day was inexpensive, easy to organize, and we left feeling relaxed, renewed, and refreshed.

If you have friends and access to a house, you too can create your own spa day!  Here is our recipe, but feel free to improvise.

10 Easy Steps for Creating a Do It Yourself Spa Day

  1. Find a friend to host, preferably one with a lovely sun-filled home, good Pandora stations, and a fire burning in the wood stove.
  2. Ditch husbands and kids
  3. Find a hair stylist and massage therapist to come to the house to offer hair-cuts and 30-minute massages.  Trust me, they do house-calls.  (Sierra and Leah, you are goddesses!)
  4. Get everyone to bring pedicure stuff (including large bowls for foot-soaking, bath salts, and bath stones for a mini foot massage effect).
  5. If you have a friend with a juicer and she’s willing to work it to create yummy concoctions for you, take her up on the offer.  Especially if she has a fondness for ginger.
  6. Get everyone to bring smutty magazines.  If someone shows up with a copy of Harpers or the New Yorker, tell them their kind isn’t welcome here.
  7. Feast on a pot-luck of delicious, healthy, nourishing foods.  (The abundance of local in-season produce we had in our meal made my heart smile).
  8. Don’t forget to move.  This isn’t a training session for the triathalon, but it’s nice to do a little yoga or get outside and take a walk.
  9. Return home to your family (who didn’t actually miss you) and to your work (that didn’t get done, and the world somehow managed not to completely fall apart) a little more sane.
  10. Rinse, repeat.

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Cutting the Cord

For those of you too young to remember, phones used to be stationary items, positioned atop hallway side tables or attached to the kitchen wall.  When you picked up the receiver, you were tethered to the phone’s permanent location by a loop-de-loop cord, which if you were lucky enough, stretched all the way to the bathroom so that you could answer your fifth grade boyfriend’s quiz questions about how much you like him in private.[1]

Then came the cordless, quickly followed by the cell phone.  Oh, the freedom of being able to have one’s most intimate conversations in spaces that did not smell like Head and Shoulders and stale farts.

Of course, cell phones have been ubiquitous for a long time now, an ingrained a part of the landscape for kids today.  This current generation texts so much, some biologists[2] predict it just might speed up the evolutionary progress of the human species as the children today’s teens will someday bear will likely be born with tapered thumbs that end in a fine, text-friendly point.

And at the risk sounding like the crotchety old woman I secretly am, I’m going to suggest that some kids are being given phones way too young.  Take the sexting phenomenon, for example.  If you give your kid a phone, and their first instinct is to stick it down their pants and snap a photo of their junk, maybe it means they’re not ready for the family plan.  I’m just saying.

Popular parental wisdom says that cell phones allow kids be more independent.  How many times have we heard some mother justify the fact that she gave her fourth grader a cell phone because it allows little Billy to “have more freedom” knowing that if she accidentally forgets to pick him up from baseball practice, mom and dad are only a phone call away.  Not only is Little Billy safe, we’ve saved the poor child from the inconvenience of having to figure out how to solve the problem all by himself.

But my real worry about cell phones and the codependence they foster applies less to fourth-graders than it does to the teens these kids eventually become.  I see them in Target using their Blackberries to take pictures of boots because they really need mom to take a look and help them decide.  I’ve heard stories from multiple friends who just one week ago sent their kids off to college and have already received dozens of texts.

But who can blame these cell phone kids for reaching out so often when they always have their parents right there with them in their back pocket, accompanying them to every date and every soccer practice and keg party ever since the moment they shoved their first phone into their jeans, back in fourth grade. And why should these kids bother to make a decision on their own, or learn to find their own way when they’re lost, when they know mom and dad are always just a phone call away?

A note to my teen readers:  Separating from one’s parents is never easy.  Believe me, I didn’t pay my own car insurance (or even know such a thing existed) until the ripe old age of 26.  But unless your idea of a bright future includes living on the futon in your parents basement, it’s an important developmental milestone.  And part of that milestone means learning to navigate the world without your parents help.

Of course, when it’s time for my own son to head off to college, I have no doubt I’ll be a pathetic, sniveling mess, living and dying by the number of times a week I hear from him.  And yet, I want him to leave the nest (someday, when he’s older than 7).  I want him to leave our house boldly and willingly and to go out into the world and forge a good life for himself. And as hard as it will be for us to separate when that time comes, cutting the cord is the only way we are ever set free to live an independent life.  Cutting the cord from our telephones gave us the freedom to talk to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  But sometimes, the most important cords to cut are the invisible ones.


[1] Answer:  B) a wicked lot.

[2] Okay, it’s just me.  But I did take AP Bio in high school.

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What do being pregnant and being a writer have in common?

I made the mistake of doing a Google image search for the word CRAVINGS. Apparently there’s a big demand in the stock photo market for super contrived and/or inappropriately sensual food photos.

 

Now that I see this question written down, I’m tempted to answer it with a punch-line.  What do being pregnant and being a writer have in common?  Either way, you’re fucked.  Ba, dum-bum.

But seriously, folks.  It hit me today that the cravings I have for certain books and movies when I’m writing (deep into my writing) and the cravings I had for certain foods when I was pregnant—and let me clarify I AM NOT CURRENTLY pregnant—are quite similar.  Same with the revulsions.  There are specific books and films that I suddenly need to read or see that relate to my writing and will hopefully inform my writing, yet are not too similar to what I’m writing, just as there are other books and movies that could taint my work, and thus, must be avoided like the plague.

Both the cravings and revulsions are exasperatingly transitory.  When I need them, I need them RIGHT NOW.  But when I don’t, I shun these books and movies like Superman does kryptonite.  It’s like the time I was pregnant and I spent all day long fanaticizing about a very specific chicken parm sandwich from a very specific Italian restaurant, then, just as the waitress placed it before me, the thought of taking a bite made me want to hurl.

It is not coincidence that the word craving and the word crazy share the first three letters.

After all, how can you NOT go crazy knowing there’s a mystery growing inside of you that you don’t entirely control?  And yet, I enjoy being at the beck and call of my own weird cravings and revulsions, trusting my gut to steer me toward what I need (and away from what I don’t) as I continue to wrestle with the One Big Question That’s Not Yet Ready to Reveal Its Face.

Which is why I believe that the ephemeral state of mind that gives birth to ideas feels so much like it does being preggers.

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Flying Monkeys

One rainy Saturday afternoon, when my son was four, we sat down to watch THE WIZARD OF OZ together.  Having seen this movie roughly a zillion times in my own childhood, I was excited to share this cinematic classic with him.

Back then, my son wasn’t yet the expert moviegoer he is today, and he had the slightly annoying (yet also adorable) habit of wanting me to tell him what was going to happen in a scene before the scene played out.  So, I spent the entire film narrating it, like a living, breathing Spoiler Alert.

“Now, the little men are about to dance and sing a song about lollipops.”  I would say, predicting the film’s plot down to its smallest nuance.  And “Watch!  The Tin Man’s going to squeak.”

Then we got to the scene with the Flying Monkeys.  “This is the scary part,” I warned my son, pulling him closer.  “We might have to fast forward.”

“But I want to know what’s going to happen next, Mommy,” he demanded.

“Um,” I squinted at the screen. “I think…”

And that’s when I realized that I didn’t know what was going to happen next.  In the dozen times I’d seen THE WIZARD OF OZ as a child, even thought of myself as an expert on the subject, I’d never actually seen the scary parts.

Which brings me to wonder:  what are some of my other flying monkeys?  What are yours?

 

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