Friday, July 20, 2018

Sharing your money mistakes

A cruise mailer has arrived at our house. It is filled with images of families having adventures in gorgeous locations. My son is enthralled. He is staring at the circular while he is supposed to be eating breakfast. Finally, he asks if we can go on another cruise.

Since we don't have to be at camp for a while, I sit down with him and show him the costs outlined on the brochure and have him add up the sums and then explain that it doesn't include all the additional adventures that he is looking at. The amount of money looks impossible to him, but I explain to him that if we really wanted to do that we would need to budget and save.

He seems satisfied with all of this and I am pleased that I am meeting my goal to talk to him more about money.

It's an ongoing struggle for parents to teach their children financial literacy. We give allowances, we talk about savings and we give math lessons about vacations. It's hard to remember (or find the time!) for these teachable moments. So although I hate to add another item to the list: We should also consider sharing our financial mistakes.

That one seems harder to me. No one likes recounting their mistakes, especially financial ones, but I get the point. If I can tell my son about some real dumb things I did with my money when I first started out, maybe he won't have to learn those lessons the hard way.

All of this just reminds me that like the sex talk, money is an ongoing conversation.

What do you want your children to learn about money? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Thinking about the middle child

For someone with only one child, I read a lot about birth order. While there are some experts who say that it is all speculative - characteristics that are applied to first born children can be applied to children from any place in the family line - there are many others that point out how nurturing is a major factor in the type of adult we become.

When reading birth order studies, I am always fascinated by the way that middle children are described - usually as patient peacemakers or as struggling to determine their place in the family. I know adults who are also middle children that fit into both of those categories - ones who are determined to help their siblings get along and mellow out, and those that point out that there are almost no baby pictures of them because they were often overlooked.

What I didn't think about until I read this long article in The Cut, is that middle children are a dying breed. As more and more families settle on only having one or two children, there are fewer and fewer middles being created. This movement has been a long time coming: The modern parent wants to stay involved with their children's lives and that task becomes a lot harder when both parents are working and the children in the household outnumber the adults.

The bigger question is what will happen as this generation of singles and pairs grows up? Will finding out someone is a middle child be an anomaly to them in the same way a single child was 50 years ago? And, maybe even a bigger question: Who will be around to keep the peace?

Are you a middle child? Tell me what you like about it in the comments.

Monday, July 16, 2018

An app to reduce smartphone use

My son and I talk about his future phone use. He tells me that some kids in his grade already have their own phones. So we talk about how phone use should be limited at his age and that oversight is required. He still asks when he will be able to have his own phone, and I still don't have an answer yet. Lately I've been telling him that we may want to start him off with a flip phone that has no apps or games on it. (He is open to that.)

As we talk about his future technology use, I try to be mindful about how addictive it can be. I know so many adults who can't make it through a conversation without checking something on their phone. I have read about how apps trick our brains into going back for more and all the tips out there to help you disconnect (turn off all the color on your phone so it is black and white only; put your phone in a basket at dinner time and the person who checks it first has to clean up; give it a bedtime).

What I hadn't reviewed were the apps designed to keeping you off your phone.

But, they exist. A bunch of them. And, I for one like the idea of using an app to combat other apps. I am sure that if you are at the point in your phone use in which you are ready to face how much you really use it, then you may also be at the point where you are ready to change if you don't like the answer.

I spent a week a few years ago manually tracking my overall screen use, and got pretty good results. But I have always wondered if those results were influenced by the fact that I was monitoring my use that week.

Since I feel like my phone use has gone up since then, I am now thinking about downloading an app to track myself all the time and help me disconnect further.

Are you willing to try an app to keep you off your phone? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The fighting is coming from within the house

Once upon a time, right after our son was born, everyone started asking if we were going to have another baby. And the way they asked it, they expected to hear the word "yes" right away, and not the litany of answers that we gave, which included "we aren't sure," or "we just had this one, can't we just enjoy him for a little while?" or "do we know you?"

But people asked, and we were not sure, and then we were sure: Our son was going to be an only child. There are times when my husband and I think about what life would be like with two children, and then we tell each other stories that we hear from friends with multiple children, and we reassure ourselves we made the right decision for us.

Is my son missing out on something because he doesn't have a sibling? I am not convinced. Because while siblings can be close and a support system for each other, that isn't a guarantee. I know lots of adults who have great relationships with their siblings, and lots of adults who are happier leading separate lives. And, I know lots of adults who fall somewhere in between.

As an adult who fought with her sibling a lot, I feel bad about the way we dragged Mom and Dad into most of our fights. I also feel bad knowing that it is only recently that scientists have culled together the best advice for parents who need to handle fighting siblings. They could have used the help on that link.

What I found the most interesting about that collective knowledge was the advice that parents aren't going to be able to come up with rules to cover all the scenarios that they need to, so basic rules like "no hitting" just don't work. (Any child with a sibling probably could have told you that.)

What tips do you have for keeping sibling fights in perspective? Tell me in the comments.