Friday, August 30, 2013

Is your child replaceable?

In today's world, it is strange to think that children were replaceable. If you ask any parent if they would consider having another child if they suddenly lost theirs, the struggle of emotions on their face would be difficult to watch. 

And yet, there was a period of time when children were not considered as valuable as they are today. This post which touches on Pricing the Priceless Child by sociologist Viviana Zelizer explores the way we value our children and the evolution of the revered child.

I've written before about the current cost of raising a child, but cost and value aren't the same thing to parents. The way my son greets me when I pick him up for school or the way he smiles at me when he first wakes up in the morning with his bed head and blanket wrapped around him. Those are the priceless moments. The ones that aren't replaceable.

A job for the inner child: Making toys

Image by dacotahsgirl.
There is a lot of talk about toys at my house. Mostly when it comes to cleaning them up. I recall that happening a lot when I was little. Mom just wanted us to keep our toys in our room. Maybe that is why I am fascinated by this video about people who make toys. It's really just about adults who like to play.

At one point in the video, a toymaker admits that part of his job is to "obsessively observe" everything around him. I've known people like that - the people who notice every detail and can't let the little things go. It's wonderful to think that he found the perfect outlet for it.

But, I'm a mom. And sometimes that means letting the little things go to keep the peace in my house. This includes not getting frustrated when the toys aren't cleaned up.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Modern day screen time

Image by apdk.
I watched way too much television when I was young.

If I couldn't admit to that on my own, my husband would happily remind me. He has found out that I can sing the theme songs to way too many sitcoms and remember major plot points of too many cartoons. (He thinks it is either funny or scary, depending on his mood.)

So, I've taken the opposite approach with my son. He watches very little TV, and the items he does watch are almost all PBS shows with no commercials. 

Strangely, though, I've been a lot looser with letting him use apps on my phone and on his LeapPad. Somehow I've equated those apps as being educational, even though there seems to be little evidence about their educational value.


Overall, though, I think I do a pretty good job of limiting his screen time overall. I mean, he can't sing any theme songs yet.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Let's learn something: How to scare away monsters

Background image by Shawn Campbell.
I remember my mom checking under my bed and in my closet for monsters when I was little. The nighttime ritual made me feel better, even when I wasn't sure what a monster was. I love these ideas for getting past things that go bump in the night:

Talk with your child
Are they afraid of actual monsters? Or did they hear about scary monsters at school? Can you get your child to draw the monster or describe it? It helps to know if you are dealing with something that is real in their minds or if they are scared of the dark.

Introduce some fun monsters
Sesame Street taught me that monsters can be fun. And some of them really, really like cookies.

The dark is scary
Read books like The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big Big Dark to help your child learn about the dark. Also invest in a nice nightlight - it helps if your child picks it out.

Security friends
Make sure all your child's bedtime friends are close at hand. My son has woken me at 3 am because he couldn't find his favorite cat.

Spray monster repellent
This works if your child has a tangible fear. You can buy it, but it looks like more fun to make your own.

Repeat the routine
Whatever routine you have for night, make sure to keep it the same. This goes for babysitters, too!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Exactly how social are we going to be?

Image by apdk.
Like most parents, it's really hard for me to imagine what kind of technology my son will enjoy when he hits his teens.

I have visions of him looking at me funny as I try to explain life pre-Internet. It makes me cringe. It also makes me sorry for whatever reaction I had to my mother's high school stories.

But what really stretches the limit of my imagination is where we will be with social media. The already-blurred line between virtual and IRL could be nonexistent. (There's a scary thought). For one viewpoint, this mashable article discusses what the future of social media might be like.

The only questions now include what will take over Facebook? And how long will children stay on it once their parents join up?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Can you spare an extra $300K?

My son is at an age now where lots of his school friends are getting siblings. So, I shouldn't have been surprised when his teacher asked me if I was pregnant.

But I was surprised. Very surprised.

Evidently, he had been telling people at school that he was going to have a little sister. Actually, he was telling everyone. (Sorry, Mom, it's not true.) When I asked him about it, he seemed certain that he really was getting a little sister and that I could just "go ahead and make one."

Sorry, buddy.  I'm just not ready.

Add to that the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture just calculated the figure for raising a baby born in 2012 and the price tag (adjusted for inflation) hits around $300,000.

That's one expensive decision. Maybe I should just get him a new toy instead.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How peer pressure now will probably backfire on me later

There is a webcam at my son's school. I like it because I can check in on him at any time. But it is definitely a window into some strange behavior.

At home, he is a pleasant child who creates chaos and sometimes argues with me about picking up his toys, taking a nap or breaking for lunch. I am used to that. It's normal for us.
At school he is part of the swarm. I watch his group at play - how they all assemble at the door to go outside, sit patiently on a mat waiting for their next activity and even lay down for nap time without a fuss. It's amazing (and a little scary).

I get it. At school, they are supposed to participate in group activities and learn to play well with others. It's really about conformity and doing what the rest of the group is doing, which I am pretty sure is peer pressure at its finest.

But, wait, aren't I supposed to help him avoid succumbing to peer pressure and think and act for himself?

Being a parent is so confusing.

I am sure that 10 years from now when I am trying to teach my son about the negative effects of peer pressure, he will throw the whole, "but you told me to take a nap like everyone else in my class did" back in my face.

And I will try my best to take a deep breath.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Holy crap: The end to potty training is near; Why bribery is essential

Potty training is awful.

Parents already know this. People without children suspect it. News sites actually report on it and collect articles on it.

If you are going through or have been through potty training with your own child, then you will know the truth: Some advice may work, some advice may not work. You will get headaches.

We are just about done potty training in our house. We used bribery. There is a lot of debate over the effects of bribery, but my son now proudly tells us when he has to go poop and marches off to the bathroom to do it, so I'm pretty happy with the results. I put a lot of time and effort in discovering the correct reward trigger for him. It turns out it was PEZ dispensers. He poops and he can pick out a dispenser and the candy to go in it. No one argues. No one fights. No one cries. (That is considered a parenting hat trick.)

I'm really glad that potty training happens when we are so young, so that we don't really retain the memories of it. I don't think any of us really want to relive memories of crying on the potty that we don't have to poop and that life isn't fair. There are far better memories for us to relive over and over, like that time I fell into an anthill and was completely covered by ants. (Thanks for saving me, mom!)

But, here's the rub: We don't remember the ordeal, but our parents do. We probably owe them an apology for what we put them through, but I'm not exactly sure how to word it. Maybe just find out what reward/bribe your parent used for you and incorporate that somehow. Like if your mom used M&Ms to bribe you, I suggest creating a portrait of her out of M&Ms.

I am totally looking forward to getting a bouquet of PEZ dispensers from my son in about 30 years.

Favorite superheros - learning to be big

My son learned about superheroes from his friends. 

We thought he was still too little for them, and we hadn't introduced them to him yet, but one day he came home exclaiming that he was Superman. His version of Superman involved him running around the house with his arms above his head telling me that he was flying. He giggled as he ran, asked me for a cape, and I envied his confidence as he leaped off the couch to take flight.

After I reminded him not to jump off the furniture, I thought of one of my favorite TED Talks by Amy Cuddy. Since I have watched her talk about body language, being big, and faking it until you make it, I have struck my own version of the Superman pose before interviews, family functions and difficult phone calls. It definitely works: It's such a simple way to build up the confidence I lost growing up.

It's hard for me to think that one day my son will no longer feel invincible. That one day he will wonder too much about what others think and worry that he isn't the perfectly amazing hurricane of fun that I think he is.

So I am starting early. I encourage my son to be big when he is scared; to fake it until he makes it; and to keep believing that he could be Superman.

But he is still not allowed to jump off the couch.

Hoarders scares me: A lesson in staying in touch with your parents

Whenever I need to motivate myself to do some cleaning, I watch an episode of Hoarders. That show scares me. It is the only show I watch that I consistently yell at the people on it. The trapped children and the passive, semi-abused family members get to me every time.I understand that hoarding is a disease, but since I am not even a pack rat, I can't completely wrap my head around the mentality that stuff = joy/safety. But watching the show always makes me think about the things I hold on to and why.

I moved around a lot when I was young, so every few years I would have the chance to go through all my belongings and purge them. Now that I've lived at one address for a few years, I make it a point to go through my stuff once a year. And I make sure that I do it in front of my son.

I think that emotional attachment to objects is a learned behavior. Thankfully, my husband feels the same way. We let our son watch us donate items and encourage him to go through his own possessions.

Of course there are things that we still hold on to. But those are the things that go on display, the items that we tell stories about and the objects that we want others to see.
This past time we purged through our house, I took a close look at the stuff that was still packed in the original moving boxes we brought into the house. If we hadn't touched it for three years, did we really need it?

Probably not.

Yes, there were fun discoveries (that's where the light timers were!) and funny finds (I'm embarrassed by the cassette tapes, especially when my son asks about them and I have to explain them).

But back to Hoarders. Watching the show reminds me of some scary homes I visited as a child. I've been in friends homes that weren't at hoarder status, but looked like they were on the way in a few years time. I have family members who constantly ask me if I want things - everything from furniture to decorations to old clothes. I always say no, and they always look disappointed. But I'm glad I say no. The objects come with too much responsibility.

One final thought about Hoarders. Go check on your parents. They are probably holding on to your stuff and you should get it out of their house.(Sorry, Mom. I'll come and get it now.)