Monday, May 4, 2015

When I grow up, I want to be a...

My son is practicing for his graduation. There are some songs and a skit that his class is doing, and part of the skit features the children saying what they want to be when they grow up. This is particularly funny to me, as my son changes his mind constantly:

Monday: When I grow up, I want to be a scientist.
Tuesday: When I grow up, I want to be one of Mommy's coworkers (awwww!)
Wednesday: When I grow up, I want to be a race car driver.
Thursday: When I grow up, I want to be a space explorer.
Friday: When I grow up, I want to be a policeman.

I wonder how the practice in other households is going - if other children are giving different answers every few days or if they have settled on their go-to answer (at least for the purposes of the skit). And after reading this study by the Institute of Engineering and Technology, I wonder how those conversations are going for households with little girls. According to that study, parents are not encouraging their daughters to pursue careers in engineering, despite an uptick in girls' preferences for science, technology, engineering and math subjects in school. Instead, parents have reported that their daughters will probably pursue careers in education, healthcare or the arts.

My husband and I have really enjoyed adding a bit more science, math and computing skills into our son's daily life. And he has already astounded us with that little nudge. (Watching him write addition problems on the bathtub walls with his bath crayons is both adorable and wonderful.) But the more I've thought about my son's list of professions, the more I've realized that I know very little about what a career in engineering looks like. So, that is something to add to my list of things we need to explore together. I'd like to learn how to pique his interest in that, too. (And does it involve Legos? My son is very into Legos...)

All this nudging on our side isn't intended to be pressure. Our job is to just expose our son to lots of different areas of the world and let him try something new. In the meantime, as he practices for his graduation ceremony, I've reminded him that he doesn't have to pick a career now - there is plenty of time for him to decide. For now, he just has to remember that he'll always be my son - even when he is all grown up.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Mommy complaint guide

I have single friends who like to tell me how busy they are or how tired they feel during the day. I also have Mom friends who do not work and who have nanny services who like to tell me how rough it is being a mom. Know your levels, people.

Look, we all have good days and bad days, but it's important to have a healthy dose of perspective when you are venting to other parents. Here are some general rules to keep in mind.
  1. Complain laterally, not vertically. Child-free folks cannot complain to people with children about exhaustion, being too busy or not having enough time to themselves. Sorry. No, you just cannot.
  2. If your child is healthy, you don't get to complain to a parent with a non-healthy child. Ever.
  3. Mothers can only complain to other mothers if they have the same amount of children. I have a healthy single child. I would never tell a mother of three that I need more "me time." (Nope, never.) I can, however, engage in a friendly game of "this is why I'm tired" to another mom of a single child.
  4. Moms who stay at home and moms who work should not compare notes. Jealousy and conflicting points of views will emerge and friendships could be at risk.
  5. Parents of newborns do not sleep. If your child is sleeping, remember all those months of waking up in the middle of the night before you mention being tired.
  6. Yes, people really love their pets, but it is an awful mistake if you start comparing your furbaby to a child. Let me put it this way: You can leave your pets at home alone and no one is going to get upset.
Hopefully, this helps clear things up. Any general rules to add? Leave them in the comments.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Something new to worry about: Passing along anxieties

When I let my son watch Finding Nemo, I always start it at the scene where Nemo is waking his dad up for the first day of school. I know that fairy tales and children's movies have a long history of removing mothers from stories because moms represent safety and security. But in the case of Finding Nemo, I think that the opening scenes are a little too traumatic. My son is perfectly able to understand that Marlin is an over-protective dad to Nemo without viewing the tragic origins.

And, overall, Finding Nemo is a great story about adventure and friendship and growing up and being brave. But there is one thing that it really gets wrong: Anxiety-ridden parents don't produce brave, independent-thinking children; they produce anxiety-ridden children.

Yes, I know that I am using a movie with talking sea creatures as an example. Go with it and let's focus on the important part.

In a study by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London, researchers have found that overprotective parenting skills tend to make children feel more anxiety. By researching both twins and non-twins, researchers were able to determine that anxieties are more "contagious" than they are "genetic." How serious is this? Some children in the study were being treated for anxiety disorders by the time they reached age 11.

How can parents help combat their overprotective natures? Here are a few tips:
  1. Relax more. I wrote about this earlier in the week, and I know that it is easier said than done, but it really does help.
  2. Let your child take age-appropriate risks. Maybe back off a bit from the playground and let them explore on their own, or at the very least, don't run over to your child every time they fall. They are probably fine (maybe just a little dirty).
  3. Avoid your triggers. If you are one of those parents who always wants to talk about the latest news story about a child abduction several states away from where you live, then maybe you should stop watching so much news.
  4. Seek out therapeutic exercises to help you control your own fears.
  5. If know you'll be in a stressful situation (like if you are at a children's birthday party but don't like crowds), maybe pass that parenting chore off to your spouse or someone else in your family.
I know that all this is easier said than done. But isn't it worth trying?

Do you have any other tips for ways to keep your anxieties under control? Leave them for me in the comments.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Adding up the little things

Our dinnertime conversations have become quite formulaic: We talk about the events of our days and if we are close to a weekend, we share any upcoming plans. (If it is slow going, I will tell a fanciful story about my day that features a dragon just to see if anyone is paying attention.) Some nights this goes better than others. We ask a lot of specific questions about our son's day, but we find that he doesn't have a good recall for the mundane (questions like "what did you eat for lunch?" and "what games did you play outside?" usually prompt shrugs or no responses).

My husband and I try to include our son in the conversation around our days - he knows who our coworkers are and we try to explain concepts to him in simple terms. And it is when we are breaking down these simple concepts that we end up talking to him about math. This usually happens when I explain that mommy just got four new members on her team and we add them to the existing number or when daddy makes up a math problem to solve.

And this is what we are supposed to be doing: Talking about math at the dinner table. In this - albeit small - study, researchers found that talking about math at the table gave preschoolers a better grasp of concepts and that they did better with math academically. Two things I felt after reading this study:
  1. This seems like common sense. I would think that any topic that is reinforced at the dinner table would help a child's performance - from math, to vocabulary to science.
  2. There is an organization called Bedtime Math that has a daily math problem to challenge your child with, which I will be signing up for as soon as I am done writing this post.
All of this conversation around dinner table topics reminds me that I have these flashcards of conversation topics for children and adults. I should really leave those out at the dinner table. I can only talk about seeing dragons at work so many times.)

What are the hot topics for discussion around your dinner table? Leave your suggestions in the comments.