Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What to talk about after the sex talk

I am a big proponent of talking about sex in an age-appropriate way with your children. My son knows that he can ask me questions and he will get honest explanations. He knows the correct anatomical names for body parts, he understands how babies are born and he even understands the basics of how breast milk is made. As he gets older, we will continue to have frank conversations about sex.

We will also continue to have conversations about love.

My husband is a good, kind man who treats me with love and respect. We are partners in this world. And while our relationship is a wonderful model for our son to have, it may not be enough. Because, the truth is that parents sometimes get so concerned around having "the sex talk" they forget to discuss other important topics including how to have healthy relationships, respect and love.

I can understand how parents would be so focused on getting through the anatomy of sex that they forget to discuss all the other parts of a relationship, but they are also important topics of conversation: Children need to know what a healthy, loving partnership looks like and the way to maintain it.

And, just like talks about sex, that is not a one-and-done conversation either.

Which do you find easier: Talking to your children about sex or talking to them about healthy relationships? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Admitting when you are wrong

My son is seven. This is a fun age, because he understands puns, is generally eager to try new things, thinks the world of our family and still loves to snuggle up with me. This is also a trying age since he believes that he "knows enough things now," and is stubborn and vocal about it.

I hear a lot from him about how things are "my fault" or how he is "not wrong."

For example, it is clearly my fault that he was reading while walking, despite being warned about that, and then he walked into a wall. And it is also completely wrong of me to claim that there are birds outside the window in the morning, as he doesn't see them right away, therefore they are not there.

Whatevs.

Most of these counterclaims I take in stride, but if we hit a certain number of them in one day or he is particularly adamant, we sit down and have a reminder chat about consequences. We also discuss how it is uncomfortable to think about, but we are all wrong at some point in our lives.

I also try to lead by example: As a Mom, I try to admit out loud when I am wrong. (Probably not often enough to my poor husband, mind you, but to my son.) I then try to state why I was wrong and what I maybe/hopefully learned from it.

This doesn't really work yet - my son is still never wrong about anything and will fight for his stubborn beliefs. But, the hope is that it will sink in eventually.

That's the hope...I could be wrong.

Do you admit to your children when you are wrong about something? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The daily problem of what to wear

My son's school recently took a vote to decide if they were going to continue the uniform policy for next year. The votes were intended to be one per family and I am sure many parents voted for their children, but I let my son vote. It is, after all, his body and his day and I think he should have a choice in what he wears.

I work for a company of various dress codes. I am fortunate enough to be in a non-customer facing division allowing me to dress somewhat casually. But I am a manager, so I try to dress nicely. This doesn't work out every day (we all have our bad days), but more often than not, I am in heels and a skirt and look like a professional.

I know there are plenty of people who work from home. Usually this is in their pajamas or in "athleisure" (why is that a word?!?) for maximum comfort. My general rule is that if I am talking to someone who is working from home, I try not to wonder what they are wearing.

What I am saying is: There are a lot of days in which the struggle to find something appropriate to wear is very real.

As with most things in life, happily I am not alone. The casualization (also not a word...but let's go with it) of our clothing choices has increased rapidly over the last few decades. All of this movement makes me wonder what my son will be wearing by the time he has a job. (It better not be one of those metallic silver jumpsuits from space shows...)

But for now, he will continue to wear his school uniform: Khaki, denim or blue bottoms and any solid color polo shirt. That wasn't what he voted for, but he took the loss well, saying he could always vote again next year.

Do you like your school's dress policy? Tell me about it in the comments.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Switching between work and family

I've talked before about how my brain is compartmentalized. I have a hard time moving between work and family life without a transition period in between (which is why I've been able to make my peace with traffic).

What can I say? I like to keep my work stuff at work and my home stuff at home.

I wish I didn't have this problem, as it would make it easier for me to do things like work from home, handle family items in my work day and not get annoyed when I end up working late.

So, it is slightly comforting to hear that this inability to handle cross interruptions between work time and family time is normal.

There are tips, of course. (There are always tips.) They all have to do with the ability to schedule breaks in your day - to create times at work to handle family items and to set expectations for working at home (like after the children have gone to bed).

I'm just not sure my brain can handle it.

Are you good about dealing with work life at home and home life at work? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Getting permission to post

My son was looking at the Waze app on my phone, alerting me to potential traffic in areas that were not actually on our route. He must have closed the app, because he started asking me about the other apps and what they did.

"I know what Twitter is," he said. "Do you tweet about me?"

I said that I only used Twitter to read news and see my mother's latest recipes. I mentioned that I do talk about him on my blog, but that I never use his name. 

"What kind of stories do you tell about me?" he asked. 

"Good ones," I said. 

"Oh. That's OK then." And he continues asking me about the apps on my phone.

My son is very similar to most other children - they don't mind when their parents post about them, as long as it is positive. They also want to know about it ahead of time.

As parents, it is hard to remember to ask permission before we post information about our little ones, but it is really important to keep in mind. Children understand at a very early age that online is forever and they don't want embarrassing stories publicly posted for everyone to see.

That is fair: Would you want your most embarrassing moments online for everyone to eventually read about?

Do you ask your children's permission before you post about them online? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, May 19, 2017

How many times will you cook this weekend?

I feel like I spend a lot of time in the kitchen on the weekends. This is probably because I cook several more meals on weekends than during weekdays: While I regularly make my and my son's lunches in the mornings, breakfast is provided at his school.

I also know that I spend extra time in the kitchen preparing food: Chopping vegetables for salads and prepping mixes for easy additions later on in the week helps me keep my sanity when I come home from work later than I wanted to and still need to get dinner on the table.

Since I like being in the kitchen, I am not upset over this weekend trend. I would probably have a different mindset if I was cooking up to four meals a day.

That's...that's just not cool.

While this is just a survey of British mothers, I think the fundamental issue holds true: The big drivers of extra meals seem to be scheduling conflicts with children's activities and fussy eaters.

While I understand that soccer practices are never scheduled at a convenient time for parents, the fussy eater issue is one that can be helped with enough meal planning. But then the question becomes: Who has time for meal planning?

Well, I do. I took a look at all the time that I spent trying to figure out what to eat and multiple trips to the grocery store and did the math: Planning was just worth it to me in the end. As a bonus: I never get asked what's for dinner.

How many meals a day are you preparing for your family? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Thinking about ways to improve

At least once a week I have an argument with my son over homework. I fully understand his position: He doesn't want to do it. I am not sure that he understands my position, however: Homework is a part of school; it is a way to show comprehension of materials learned during the week. I am just trying to read him his spelling words.

It's a stalemate.

I'm looking forward to the summer, when there is no homework, and I plan on rethinking the strategy of homework for next year. In fact, it is this kind of strategic thinking that we all need more of in our lives. For example, when directed to strategically think about an upcoming test or paper they had to write, students far out-performed their non-strategic thinking peers. It's an interesting concept: Just preparing yourself for what you think the test will be about, makes you focused on the material you need to know to excel on the test.

I know that this skill set might not come in handy for my son as he heads into second grade next year, but if I can out-think my little guy's objections to homework, maybe it will be worth it.

What homework lessons did you learn this year to apply to your children next year? Share with me in the comments.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Your toys are listening to you

My son is asking our Echo to tell him a joke. To be more specific, he is asking it to tell him a good joke. The joke it repeats doesn't live up to his standards, and after a few more attempts, he complains that "she doesn't even know a good joke from a bad one."

He kisses me and scoots off to play.

I try to teach my son about using devices smartly: He has limited screentime, he knows not to click on ads, he can't download apps himself, and he hasn't figured out that he can ask the Echo whatever he wants (he only asks for jokes, music and weather).

The subject I haven't really gone into depth with him is on his devices tracking him. I am not sure why I haven't yet. As a kid, he is pretty used to being monitored all the time, but this topic should be handled delicately: At least one study shows that children are a little more wary of toys connected to the Internet.

Frankly, I am OK with that. I think we should all be a little cautious before we put our lives out there for anyone to search. It's like I try to teach my son: Some things are good to share; other things you should keep to yourself.

Do your children play with toys that are connected to the Internet? Do they play with them differently? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The friends we drift away from

My son is at the peak of his imagination game years - the years in which your best friend is the person who will pretend to be a Pokemon with you and then join into a fight with Bowser that is filled with explosions. (Side note: Children would make excellent improv artists, except that they have difficulty taking suggestions from outsiders.)

But sometimes we have to remind our son of the basic tenets of playing with others, like "learn names" and "seriously, you need to introduce yourself." I am sure this will get better with time. And while I enjoy watching his social life develop, the one thing I don't think I will be prepared for is the first friendship breakup.

Let's think this through: How many of you childhood friends do you still have? And I mean the type of friends that you regularly hang out with and speak to, not the ones who you keep up with via social media only. The numbers are pretty low, and even more interestingly, most of us lost those friendships at a crucial transition point in our lives. Friendships in which children were really different from one another (in interests, academics or otherwise) become doomed across the threshold years. So, it is harder to hold onto a friendship between elementary school and junior high, or between junior high and high school; there are too many influences around to break those apart.

While that all makes a lot of sense from the safety of my desk, I remember how hard it was to recognize that a friend and I had grown apart. And I imagine it will be just as hard to watch my son go through that as well - even if the act of breaking off relationships is actually a healthy part of life.

Do you still regularly hang out with any of your friends from seventh grade? Tell me how close the friendship still is in the comments.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You've probably peaked by now

I often wonder about the next milestones in store for my son. When he was a baby, the milestones were frequent and momentous: First rollover, first crawl, first words, first steps. As he has gotten older, the firsts in his life are further apart and sometimes harder to notice.

For example, sometimes he thinks he is doing something for the first time, but it is really only because he has reached the point at which he is starting to lose his memories. (He is also stubborn, so he doesn't always believe me when I tell him he has done something before until I show him photographic evidence.)

But back to the point: It is hard to determine when he is about to hit another milestone. So, I find it interesting to see the research pulled to show the average ages people peak at various activities, including language, creativity and being content.

While I know that we all experience our peaks at different ages, it's good to remember that life is full of milestones, and my son will have plenty to cross off his list as he gets older - whether we are able to recognize those momentous occasions or not.

Is there a major milestone in life that you are looking forward to your child reaching? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The ongoing balance of screentime

Like many parents, I struggle with my son's screentime. Sure, we have rules in place to limit the amount of time he has per day, but that is only a start. When we consider content that he is allowed to access, "play time" versus more educational materials, and his behavior upon learning his time is up (children have a hard time with the concept of how fast time can move), I find it is a subject that I need to revisit more often than I thought I would.

But, it is an important topic, so we revisit it often. The underlying issue is that children's use of screentime is still actively studied - meaning it is hard to pinpoint its long-term effects. I really enjoy reading all the latest research though, including this study about the effects of screentime on early language development.

Right now, I am testing out when our son is allowed to use his device: Does it make more sense for him to get to choose his time whenever he wants (which usually results in his using up all his time first thing in the morning) or have him wait to use the time in the afternoon (when he generally hits peak boredom)? We are trying out the latter scenario right now...let's see how this goes.

What limits do you place on your child's screentime? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Getting back to our routines

Last weekend, my son went to swim lessons. It had been three weeks since he had been, and on the car ride home he happily talked all about them. "It's good to get back to the routine of them," he said.

His simple statement made me remember how routines make up a great portion of our lives. So, yes, it is important to shake up our children's routines every once in a while, but it is fundamental that they have those routines to start with.

Getting enough sleep at night, eating at regular times and limiting screentime are all things that I make sure happen in my son's life. They are the simplest way I can contribute to his overall happiness. It turns out that these three things are also the simplest way that I can cut down on his risk of obesity. He has to have me set these rules in place so that he learns to follow them into adulthood.

Because, honestly, adulthood is where we mess up. There have been too many times in my life when I have not gotten enough sleep or eaten regular meals and had too much screentime (I work on a computer, so that last one is an unobtainable goal for me.) I need to practice these three good habits all the time, too.

Although those three things make up the basic rhythm of our household, I love all the little routines we have that make up our day. And my son is right: It is good to get back to them.

What's your favorite routine in your household? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The benefits of safe instability

On our recent vacation, I let my son go. I let him climb a Mayan temple that was taller than I was comfortable with, I let him swim on his own above the reef, I let him explore the world away from me.

The protective Mommy genes in me hated all these things, but I knew they were necessary. I know that my son is growing up and he needs a safe place to navigate the world a bit on his own. Because he was relatively safe in each of those scenarios, even though they seemed really unstable to him at the time.

And that is the point: All children need some safe instability to help them learn how to deal with real instability later on in life. Now, when I say "safe instability" I am not talking about a life in which children don't have enough of their basic needs me. I am talking about shaking up their normal routine and taking them outside of their comfort zone. Studies say that it is really good for them (and it is good for us parents, too).

The family on that article link above moved to another country to shake up their family routine. While I am not willing to go to that extreme, I am more than willing to have my son try a new activity, see a new city, or navigate somewhere on his own. Anything that makes him feel a little less safe and way more resilient when he gets through it.

It's just really, really hard to let him do all that.

Do you let your children explore more than you feel comfortable with? Tell me how you handle it in the comments. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The right to happiness

I love when my son comes on errands with me. I know errands can be boring, but when he chooses to come with me we talk about how errands are part of taking care of our home (which is everyone's responsibility) and how they are more fun when we do them together.

If I am completely honest, I also really love it because my son is so polite and helpful (especially in public), and I enjoy the positive comments from strangers as they remark on how good of a helper he is or how kind he is when he chats with people.

It was while driving between errands that I was listening to the Happier podcast hosted by Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft. I thought my son was in the backseat reading, but he suddenly piped up and said, "Should we be doing all these happier tips and stuff?" I explained to him that we already do a lot of the tips that they suggest and that while not all the tips work for everyone, if he is interested in trying a new tip, I would be more than willing to try it too.

He went back to his reading and hasn't mentioned any tips he has wanted to try. It's easy for me to forget that we live in a world where happiness is something we are able to pursue in a supportive environment. That wasn't always the case. (And for reinforcement of that, I should probably get caught up on one of my other favorite podcasts: Stuff You Missed in History Class.)

Most parents want their children to be happy, and that is a good thing. The key, however, is helping children identify what makes them happy and teaching them how to pursue those interests.

What makes you really happy? Tell me in the comments.