Won't you be my neighbor?

When I was little, we spent a lot of time with our neighbors. The teenage daughter was our babysitter, the older son cast us in the adventure movies he liked to direct and we would go over to their house for parties often.

As we moved and I got older, I knew less about my neighbors, culminating in my next door neighbor waving to me in a supermarket and me snubbing him because I didn't recognize who he was until much later. (Dear neighbor: Sorry about that!)

I know I'm not the only one who doesn't know her neighbors. But, it turns out that the decline of the neighborhood community is negatively affecting our health. People who have wider social networks - which include neighbors - tend to live longer, healthier lives. This long article by Maclean's casts a wide net of information on how relationships with our neighborhoods have changed over the last few decades.

That article sounded familiar to me - because we are becoming less trusting of our neighbors and because we have full schedules we are less inclined to get to know the folks next door. I, for one, couldn't pick my neighbors out of a lineup.

But there may be hope for me yet. And it's because of my son.

Because we have a community pool, we've been exposed to lots of the other families we live near. Maybe we don't have a talking relationship, but we generally keep an eye on each other's children and nod our hellos.

And, because my son is a talker, he naturally wants to talk to everyone in our neighborhood, and he will occasionally invite the neighbor's grandson into our backyard to play. So, maybe he is my key. Maybe it's time that I'm not just friendly with strangers but with the people next door as well.

What about your neighborhood? Do you know your neighbors? Would you even want to get to know them better? Tell me in the comments.

Traveling companions are better than apps

We recently took a 10-hour drive to New Jersey for a family reunion. (Not in one day. That's craziness.) This trip went significantly better than the last really long car trip we took because of several things:
  1. I wasn't the only adult in the car with my son. My husband was able to come, too.
  2. My mother (thanks, Mom!) came with us as well, so our son had his favorite traveling companion in the backseat with him.
  3. Electronic devices.
When my son got bored of using his LeapPad, he asked for the iPad. When he got tired of that, he asked to play games on Nana's Kindle. Granted, he did other things in the car as well (drew pictures, played games, told us stories), but because he was cooped up in the car for so long I relaxed my normal limited media use rules.

When we returned from the trip, I started thinking about my media rules and wondering (once again) if they are too strict. And then I read this study from the folks at UCLA, which shows that children who spend a significant time staring at electronic devices have difficulty reading other people's emotions.

What this is really about is social interaction. (Which, when you are in a car with people for 20 hours in a span of five days, is not really a problem.) But I think I'll leave our rules in place for now. My son gets less than the recommended 2 hours of screen time per day, and most of it is educational. Like many parents, I'm striving for that balance of integrating technology into his life without it becoming his preferred gateway to communication (as in, I do not want to receive text messages from him if we are in the same house.)

Any tips for distracting children while you are in the car would be greatly welcomed at this point. We are about to take another long trip in a few months, which means I should start planning now. Tell me in the comments.

Footing the bill for college

A decade from now when my son does an Internet search on me and comes across this blog, I want him to read this post in which I state the following:

I love you, and I am not footing your entire college bill.

This is not just because by the time my son will be in school, a college education will be around $200,000. It's because I want to teach you some personal responsibility. And I want you to have values. And character.

OK. It's mostly about the money.

But, at least we are talking about it. It turns out that most parents are not talking about splitting the bill with their children. Children believe that their parents will foot the entire bill for their education, and parents have different ideas in mind. And that's a lot of money that no one is talking about.

I went through college in less than four years. I had scholarships and grants and worked hard in school to keep them to knock some money off the final price tag. I also had student loans and my wonderful mother paid them off until I left school and then they became my responsibility.

But that is the point - I knew that was the plan because she talked to me about it ahead of time. While I was in school, it was my job to be a good student. When I came out, it was my job to be an adult. And I am really thankful she talked to me about it beforehand so I was in on the plan.

Thanks, Mom.

So, son: We're going to talk about money. Because it's your education and you need to help pay for it. Let's work on a plan together.

Who foot the bill for your education? Tell me in the comments.

Just five more minutes, Mom

As mentioned before, when it comes to mornings, I am awake and ready to go. This ability served me well in middle school and high school when I was responsible for getting myself awake, dressed and to school (via the bus or my own two feet) on time. I set my own alarm and I didn't hit the snooze button.
I know that there are other bees out there like me, just not a lot of them are teenagers.

Most of us learn (usually when our teen years are over) that teenagers actually need more sleep than adults, and they are getting much less than what they should be getting. (Are you thinking back to your teenage years right now? Are you yawning?)

I wasn't really surprised when I read the American Academy of Pediatrics was advocating pushing back the start times of school from 8 am to at least 8:30 am to allow students get more sleep. And, on the surface, it all makes sense.

But I remember being a teenager; and I remember being up late at night for various clubs, activities, homework and other random reasons. So, maybe that should be addressed as well. Teens who do too much in the evening hours are cutting into their sleep on that end, too. I'm not sure that a later school start is the only answer here.

Every school day when I wake my son I am greeted with a sleepy, "Mommy, can you let me sleep for just a few more minutes?" which is funny to me, because my son is too little to tell time and doesn't know what a "minute" is. But he is not too little to tell me that he needs more sleep.

Must be time to take another look at our bedtimes.

What time does your little one go to bed? What about you? When is your bedtime? Tell me in the comments.