2013 Parenting

 

2013 Parenting:

6 a.m. Wake-up

6:17  Hit snooze for the second time

6:30 Get up, make bed, let the dog out, make the coffee, wake the kids

6:36 Scream upstairs “If you don’t get out of bed now you’re going to be late and miss the bus! And I do NOT want to drag everybody out of the house just to drive you to school!”

6:45 Pour the cereal. Pretend it’s nutritious. Deliver silent self-lecture on how eating cereal with milk is no worse, and probably way-better, than something totally unhealthy like Toaster Strudel. Give the kids vitamins as a back up measure. Remind self to buy kid version of fish oil to add to their regimen.

7 – 7:37 Walk in circles around the living room, alternately yelling at kids to “hurry up!” and “put on your shoes!” Add in three extra laps while trying to remember what I was walking to get in the first place.

7:38. Crap. Totally forgot to let the dog back in. He’s not in the yard. Must have jumped the fence. Again.

7:47 Walk with kids to the bus stop, two minutes late. Again. Spy the dog in the distance, running in circles on a neighbor’s lawn. Reason that he must have learned that trick from me. Debate whether to a) go with the kids to get the dog and risk missing the bus; b) leave some or all the kids at the bus stop and run for the dog, risking them being kidnapped or hit by a car(s); or c) wait for the bus and hope the dog stays put or finds his own way home. Opt for c. He doesn’t stay put. Silently hope that he doesn’t find his own way home.

8 Turn on “Oscar’s Oasis” for the preschooler and put the baby in her “cage”. Turn on my computer and check Facebook. Recall that once upon a time I had dreams and goals but am too tired to remember them, much less care. Play “Gems with Friends” on my phone instead.

8:12 Notice that I have 43 emails alerting me to LinkedIn connections and endorsements. Vow to figure out how LinkedIn works. Tomorrow. Perhaps that’s the key to making this work-at-home thing profitable.

8:17 Read an article about how tween girls are bullying each other on Instagram. Now I have to figure out Instagram, too, including learning that the cool kids just call it “Insta.” Post the article to Facebook.

8:27 According to friends’ comments on my Facebook Instagram story post, predators are stalking kids who play online video games (like Gems? NO!!!) and using social media like Facebook (duh), Twitter (that’s still around?), Pinterest (thought that was just for craft projects…what’s next, Etsy?), Tumblr (huh?), Reddit (wha?), GooglePlus (that took off?) and MySpace (WTH – MySpace? I have to worry about Facebook’s trashy cousin again?) to meet and groom kids… Sidebar: start wondering why anyone needs StumbleUpon? Stumbling upon things is the easiest thing to do online without help… My friends recommend keeping track of all of my kids’ accounts and passwords and monitoring these daily, if not hourly. A few even reference the violence in video games and how it causes sociopathic behavior. They say that kids should never be allowed to play video games without a parent watching. (What?!! Well, then what is the point of video games?!!)

8:43 Eye the liquor cabinet and wonder if it’s too early for a cocktail. Maybe one with coffee in it? I’ve had LinkedIn and Twitter accounts since 2009 and still haven’t made time to monitor MY OWN feeds. I don’t even know MY OWN passwords. Realize that there’s no way I’ll ever remember those long-buried dreams if I’m up to my earlobes in under-age Insta feeds.

9:05 Click on Pinterest to look for a crock pot recipe. Am re-directed to a galaxy, nay, a universe, of mommy-blogs. Wonder who in the hell has time to photograph a sage-rubbed roasted chicken with all this newsfeed stalking (and, um, parenting) we’re supposed to be doing?

9:37 Have finally cleared the inboxes for my seven (why?!) email accounts. 236 messages (in addition to the LinkedIn alerts) have come in since 11 p.m. 222 are advertisements from companies I’ve bought something from in the past. Seven are newsletters from charities I’ve donated to. Four are related to the kids activities. Three are actual, honest-to-God, missives from actual honest-to-God people. Remind self to unsubscribe from all these mailing lists. Attempt to do so but 12 minutes and 2 successful unsubscriptions later, quit. Maybe if I just start a new email address I can ignore these accounts…

10 Google various therapeutic programs I’ve been meaning to research for the kids. Horseback riding, scouting, karate, swimming…  Realize that every kid needs therapy today because every kid has been diagnosed with a condition. When I was a kid we called these therapy sessions “lessons” and “sports” and we called the conditions “weird”, “annoying”, “energetic” and “rude”.

10:15 Put the baby down for her nap. Thank God. She was making me feel guilty with all that quiet play she was doing in her cage.

10:32 Phone rings. Lady says she has my dog. Consider asking her to keep him… Get the baby up, put the kids in the car, go get the dog.

11:30 It’s too late to make up the missed nap. Lunchtime!

12 Try to keep the baby awake for just a little bit longer by playing “crawl parade” on the floor with both girls. Crawl parade is hell on the knees. And boring. The girls love it.

12:17 Still crawling. Maybe this will be the next exercise craze. Maybe next year Beyonce will release an exercise video called “Crawling Back to Sexy” or something. It could be like hula hooping. Reflect on the posse of overweight ladies I saw hula hooping on the sidewalk last week. They would look no more ridiculous crawling.

12:19 The TruGreen guy is looking in the window. Watching. How long has he been there? Put the preschooler at the table with a coloring book and lay the baby down for a nap before answering the door.

12:43 Am now a TruGreen customer. Not really sure what TruGreen is, just wanted the pushy salesman to go away. Google TruGreen. It’s pesticides. Realize that pesticides on my lawn don’t really mesh with my commitment to eat organic this year. Vow to cancel TruGreen. Decide to blame it on the hubs in order to spare myself the last ditch “don’t cancel” sales pitch.

1:04 Back to the computer to do some worky-work, as opposed to mommy-wifey-work.

1:30 Still haven’t put anything in the crock pot. There’s still time if we eat late and use the “high” setting. Look at JustaPinch.com and Recipe.com, then decide to use the tablet because it’s more portable. Browse the Epicurious and Cook’s Illustrated apps for recipes.

2:30 Crap. Got lost in a world of electronic recipes and phone calls from doctors’ offices. Throw some chicken breasts, potatoes, onions and carrots into the crock pot, make a wish, and hope the crock pot will work its magic. Toss in garlic salt as an afterthought. Wonder if the garlic salt contains iodized or sea salt. Briefly consider if any of the veggies are on the “Dirty Dozen” list of things to always buy organic. Glance at the massive size of the chicken breasts on top of the veggies and guiltily recall the “Food, Inc.” documentary. Consider building a chicken coop and raising chickens in my own backyard. Remind self to call TruGreen and cancel. No point raising chickens on chemically-treated grass.

2: 39 Ugh. Realize that if I raise my own chickens for meat then I’ll have to slaughter, pluck and disembowel them, too. Google “slaughter chicken.” Vomit in mouth. Decide that steep price for organic chicken is really not so steep.

2:47 Google “pest control”. What use is going organic and chemical-free inside my home if I’m paying Terminix to spray the outside. Maybe I should cancel Terminix, too? Still haven’t called TruGreen…

3 Who knew you could kill ants with Borax? Damn you, Pinterest! I’m sucked in again!

3:23 Child #1 is home from school, soaked. Wants to know why I didn’t pick him up from the bus stop. Doesn’t understand when I explain that I was busy saving our family from pesticides and hormones.

3:47 Homework is hell — on me. His meds have worn off and the privacy cubicle we erected as a homework station has only peaked his little sister’s curiousity. She keeps whining that she wants a cubicle, too. Fine, let her think that. Twenty years from now when she’s working under florescent lights in a room filled with softly playing radios and cat meme screensavers she won’t want that cubicle so much, I think.

4 Recall something about lost dreams. Start walking circles in the living room. At least the chicken in the crock pot smells good.

4:13 Yell at kids to get their cleats and shin guards on for soccer, er, therapy. Yell, “If you don’t get in the car right now you’ll both be late!”

4:32 Realize, five minutes away from the soccer field, that today is my day to be “snack mom” and I have brought no snacks. Give self silent lecture on how ridiculous it is for parents to sign kids up for sports/therapy so that our little fatties will burn 220 calories and then we fill them with 550 calories worth of Rice Krispies Treats and Gatorade. Decide to pretend I didn’t know it was my turn. Aren’t these kids all about to eat dinner, anyway?

5:25 Home for the nighttime rush: dinner, more homework, baths and bed… and then it all begins again tomorrow.

Lean in? Lean in?!! — I just wanna lie down.

Drone Parenting

 

Hi, I’m Rebekah. I’m a ‘drone parent’.

(The picture above is a ‘helicopter parent’ — my sworn enemy.)

I watch my kids from afar. I do not engage in their every activity. I let them argue with other children and I don’t try to settle the arguments. I let them fall down, sometimes getting hurt. When extreme danger in imminent, I swoop in and act, otherwise I just survey the scene from a distance, like the pilot of an unmanned drone.

This is not negligence on my part. This is my parenting strategy, one advocated by experts like these and these. I believe in letting kids make (and learn from) their mistakes while the costs of making mistakes are small. I believe that if I protect them from themselves when they are little, they will not develop the judgement they need to make good choices when they are bigger and the costs of making mistakes are much higher.

My polar opposite is the helicopter parent but, being a drone, I tend to just ignore the helicopters. (I’m letting them learn from their mistakes, too.) But, being helicopters, it seems to be outside of their natures to just ignore me. Case in point:

Last night Bo, my 8-year-old son, had soccer practice. He’s too young to just be dropped off for practice so I have to stay and watch with my other two younger children. Rudy is 4 and Lucy  is 10 months, and neither is AT ALL interested in sitting still and watching their brother play soccer. Rudy wants to run and Lucy wants to crawl, and not even in the same direction. But I’ve found a way to manage both. The soccer area (there are several fields side by side)  has a six-feet-tall fence around the entire complex. There are no breaks in the fence and only one gate, which stays closed during practice. There are usually lots of other siblings running around and Rudy likes to play with them. My solution: I put Lucy in a jog stroller and walk laps around the complex while Rudy plays with her new friends. I’m able to constantly watch Rudy as she plays, even though I am not right next to her, and Lucy stays entertained and happy as we walk. (And I burn a few calories.) Rudy is a pretty obedient kid and likes to follow rules. She’s stays off the soccer fields and doesn’t go near the gate. She can see me at all times and knows to come and find me if she needs me, and I tend to walk right by her every five minutes or so.

I’m pretty proud of this plan. Rudy gets exercise. Mommy gets exercise. Bo gets exercise. Lucy doesn’t scream for an hour. Everyone is safe. Everyone is happy.

Well, almost everyone.

Last night as I was approaching where Rudy was playing at that moment, another mother stormed up to me, flanked on either side by three children who looked to be between 9 and 15. When I was few feet away she spat out, “Is Rudy your child?” (Naively expecting her to tell me how adorable my little girl is) I smiled brightly and said, “Yes!”

“When I asked her who was watching her, she pointed at you,” the lady said accusingly.

“Yes, I am watching her,” I replied (not quite as brightly as before. I was beginning to see where this was going.)

“Well, don’t you think you should be with her if you are watching her?” she demanded.

“No, no I don’t,” I replied and I kept on walking.

The lady’s jaw dropped and when I glanced back over my shoulder she was walking in the other direction, leaving.

I’d love to say that the encounter didn’t get to me, but it did. As parents, I think we all worry that we’re screwing up, and nothing makes us worry more than another parent telling us that we’re screwing up. I spent the next 20 minutes reminding myself that I am a good mom; that I am not negligent; that Rudy really was safe and had never been out of my sight. Then I went to my mean place and noted internally that the woman had three kids, all at least middle school-aged, who were weirdly attached to their mom in public…

But that’s not fair, so I’ll stop.

The thing is, if you do parenting well, you’ll work yourself out of a job. If you over-parent, you’ll find yourself parenting those kids well into their 30s and even 40s, and possibly parenting their kids, too.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Jumping off the high dive

There was never a time when I didn’t want kids. Sure, there were plenty of times — perhaps even a majority of the hours of my life — when I didn’t want to raise children, but having kids just seemed like part of the normal progression of life to me, like cutting teeth, jumping off the high dive and learning how to ask for a bathroom in Spanish. (Donde esta el bano?)

I remember being a young teenager and realizing that, while I didn’t necessarily envision myself ever being married, I always planned on having at least two kids. My sister and I even worked out a deal on this. My aspirations back then teetered between being a rock star and a tortured poet — ideally, both —  and hers were to grow up to own a Volvo station wagon and wear pleated dress slacks from Talbots with sweaters that had ducks appliqued on them and earrings to match — but to never risk getting fat. We decided that it made sense for both of us if I would just have some illegitimate babies and let her raise them. It was a win-win plan. She even agreed to let me name one of them Wolfgang.

Even in my drug-addled early twenties, even when I dated men so wildly unsuited to fatherhood that they were almost a parody of bad boyfriends, I knew I wanted to have children. Even when I woke up in sweaty terror from an honest-to-God nightmare I’d had in which I’d dreamed I was pregnant by my then-boyfriend and would have to deal with him for the rest of my life, I still knew I wanted kids. Someday. Just not with him.

(By the way, you’d think that nightmare would have tipped me off that the boyfriend in question was not Mr. Right. Wrong. That moment only came when he kicked out the windshield of my car. While I was driving. What can I say? I looooooved him.)

So here I am, 35 years old with two children and a third on the way, shocked to find that I’ve spent most of the last decade filling my ears not with rock ‘n roll nor poetry, but with the uber-catchy tunes of the Laurie Berkner band and occasionally having discussions with other moms about how the previous host of “Blues Clues” was “way hotter” than the current one. I still shudder at the idea of playdates and have my kids partially convinced that such things only exist in cartoons — same as dinosaurs and talking rabbits. I truly believe that if you forced me to choose to between receiving a good, old fashioned, Singaporean caning or spending three hours at the park with a moms’ group and a herd of preschoolers, my only question would be, “how many lashes?” Because if it’s anything less than five, I’m choosing the caning.

All of that said, it is equally shocking to me that so many of my old friends have opted out of parenthood altogether, and mostly by choice. Faced with the same options that tempted me into shopping at Baby Superstore and buying a wardrobe full of Liz Lange, they walked back up the bar, ordered another Red Bull and Vodka and stayed blissfully ignorant about the narcotic effect of watching two and half hours straight of “Yo Gabba Gabba”. (And that really is their loss, btw.) Over the years I have deduced that the earlier people entered into the parent game, the less of a choice it was — which probably made it easier to choose. My friends who are in their mid-to-late thirties and early forties and don’t have kids find themselves wrestling with a do-we-or-don’t-we choice. But those who just drank too many Red Bulls and Vodka (or, in my case, Bud Lights at a hockey game)  and found themselves knocked up, didn’t have to wrestle much with the question. In other words, the longer people wait to have kids, the more of themselves they have to lose.

(For the record, I was already married and my husband was buying the Bud Lights…)

And I’m glad that parenthood was somewhat decided for us. In fact, the next two kids were totally intentional, because once you’ve jumped off the high dive once, it is much easier to jump a second or third time. And once you know where the Mexican bathroom is, you never have to ask again. And … well, you get the point.

My sister, by the way, has three kids of her own, a rather stylish wardrobe and … a mini-van that she detests. She keeps trying to get someone to hit her and total it so that she can get a new vehicle, perhaps that Volvo station wagon of her dreams. Oddly enough, these days I’m the one of us who does more of the stay-at-home-mom thing and she is the busy businesswoman. Neither of us are rock stars nor poets. And neither of us have a child named Wolfgang … yet.