Are men more lonely?

Sometimes when I see my son playing by himself in his room on a Saturday afternoon, I stand in the doorway and ask him a very complex question:

Are you lonely?

I ask this for several reasons. First of all, he is an only child with no siblings to boss around. So, if my husband and I are not doing an activity with him, he is usually playing by himself. (Which I encourage - everyone should learn how to occupy their own time without dependence on another person.)

Secondly, he has parents who both spend time doing solitary activities, providing him with examples of grown-ups being alone.

Finally, he is a boy. And studies show that men traditionally spend more time alone - either through time in their own spaces or at the end of their lives when they have fewer social options. There are evidently few opportunities for men to feel comfortable bonding together in older age.

To the men out there: Why is that? Why are the things that bond you together when you are younger (sports or hobbies or whatever) not seem relevant when you are older?

Most times when I ask my son if he is lonely, he shakes his head and tells me no. If he tells me yes, then we talk about what would make him feel less lonely and then I give him the time/attention he needs. (This is how I've amassed all my dinosaur and construction truck knowledge.)

But there are times when I don't ask the question, but I can tell that he is lonely. Those are the times he will randomly appear by my side and tell me, "I just want to be in whatever room you are in." And I hug him and tell him that he is more than welcome to be with me, even though we are doing different activities. He is here with me now as I type this, building a complex train track and when he is done, I will watch him play conductor. We are each doing something solitary, but we are not alone.

And maybe that is a good compromise for us.

Do your children ever vocalize their loneliness? How do you help them with it? Share with me in the comments.

Something is growing in your car seat

Sometimes when I am at work I look at my keyboard and am disgusted because I can't remember the last time I cleaned it. This is usually followed by a bout of spraying and swabbing it.

I'm not a neat freak by any measure, but I like a clean house and a fairly clean life. But there is one area that I often neglect to clean:

My son's car seat.

Do I vacuum it when I vacuum the rest of the car? Yes. Do I take it apart and scrub it down? Umm...no. But clearly I need to after reading that car seats can harbor twice as many germs as the toilet bowl.

First of all: Ewwww.

Second of all: That makes sense. My son eats snacks in that seat, spills beverages back there, and I'm sure it collects dirt and dust from his shoes.

So, now I need to become an expert at taking that car seat apart (hint: take a picture of it or dig up the instructions first), washing it down and putting it back together.

Do you clean out your child's car seat often? If so, what tips do you have for putting it back together on the first attempt? Please share them in the comments.

Grandma wants you to have more children

For the decade I was with my husband before we wed, my extended family had one question for us: When are you two getting married? Every family reunion, wedding of one of my cousins or catch up phone call somehow elicited that question.

Then we married (on our schedule, not theirs) and the question changed to, "When are you two having children?" This, of course, has been followed up with "When are you having another?" after the birth of our first (and only) child.

To my mother's credit, she wasn't one of the people asking those questions (thanks, Mom!) Although, I am sure that if I were to have another child, she would be over-the-moon ecstatic, because she is one of those nurturing grandmothers.

And it turns out that the nurturing grandmother can actually influence parents into...

Actually, hold on for a moment. Ummm...Mom? Can you just stop reading here? I don't want to give you any ideas. The rest of this post is totally not interesting. Really. I'll call you later. I love you!

It turns out that the nurturing grandmother can actually influence parents into having more children. In a study done by the University of Eastern Finland, researchers found that grandparents who were available for emotional support and childcare help could actually sway their children into expanding their families. The study also found that children who had a high level of interaction with their grandparents were less likely to have behavioral problems.

Last year I talked about a very cool study which posited that grandparents were evolutionary necessary to the survival of the species. Of course, the human race is doing just fine these days, but I can't help but wonder if this is what the modern-day equivalent of that evolution looks like.

Do you rely on grandparents for help with your children? Share with me in the comments while I wait for a text from my Mom about having another little one.

You should text your mother

As mentioned before, my Mother is really good with technology. She blogs, she texts and she FaceTimes with her grandchildren. It turns out that this is really good - not just that she is adept at embracing new things, but it's good for my relationship with her.

Through a series of surveys, researchers found that adult children and their parents had the highest satisfaction in their relationship when there were multiple communication channels to choose from. Long gone is the phrase, "Call your Mother," as it has been replaced with the notion that adults now text, tweet and post updates to their Mothers and - most importantly - Moms are using those communication channels back. (The same is true of Dads, of course.)

This news, unfortunately, may just bolster my Mom's argument that I need to join Facebook. It would provide another way for us to keep in touch. I don't know why I fight her - Mom is usually right.

What about you? What communication channels do you use to stay in touch with your parents? Share with me in the comments.