Friday, August 17, 2018

Looking out for our Moms

Some days I worry about my Mom. Not for any particular reason - she is in good health, she lives nearby, she is brilliant. But a general worry sometimes enters my active thoughts: I am sitting at my desk at work and start to wonder if my Mom is OK.

I think this is a variation of Mom-dar - the ability to recognize that I haven't talked with my Mom in awhile, and I need to call or text her. And maybe we will exchange a few text messages and I will feel better.

I know that as a parent the worry you feel about your child will never go away, but I didn't realize how much I would think about my parents after I left their house.

We leave the nest when we are young and still a little stupid about the way the world works and we find others like us and say things like "my friends are my family." And sure, that may feel true, but your parents are still your parents. And science has proved that with this study showing that we tend to put the needs of our parents before our friends.

I like people's conflicted emotions coming out of that study. That they were claiming that they felt closer to their friends at the beginning of the study, but that they felt their parents did so much for them that they had to work harder for them.

Maybe that is something we all need to be reminded of: Our parents work really hard for us because they love us. And they are our family.

Do you feel closer to your parents or your friends? Tell me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Everyone needs to practice math

When I was in fifth grade, I had a math teacher who would drill us on our multiplication skills by giving us a timed quiz with 50 questions once a week. You had to be super fast to complete questions correctly. I hated it. I hated it because I was never fast enough to finish all the questions (very few children did), but I did get better throughout the year.

As an adult, I can appreciate what she was doing. She was trying to ensure that our fundamental math skills were practiced often, so they would become second nature. But, at that point, I had already decided that I was better at language and reading subjects and that I wasn't as good at math.

So, it is interesting to read that most girls think that way without realizing they are just as good at math as boys are. There's a dangerous thought cycle described on that opinion piece: I am just as good at math as the boy sitting in class next to me, but I am better at language skills. So, I am going to focus on the language skills and not practice the math. Eventually, because I am not practicing, the boy will become better than me at math.

I am not sure how to explain all of that to a young girl though.

My takeaway from the article is that math is one of those subjects that everyone needs to practice - boys and girls - to get better at it. And it is through that practicing that parents can remind their children how all their hard work is paying off.

We just have to encourage them to practice first.

How are your math skills holding up in adulthood? Tell me in the comments.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Alexa, can you understand me?

"Alexa, what's the weather?"

"Alexa, play a song I like."

"Alexa, tell me a joke."

Those statements cover the span of my son's interaction with our Echo device. And I am OK with that. He used to ask her the time, but I told him that he knew how to tell time and he needed to stop asking that and go look for himself.

Most of the time, she understands him. There are moments, however, when his request to play a specific song gets lost in translation, or he is asking from too far away, and she doesn't understand. Since my son is a little older, he usually takes this in stride and tries again. But, if he were younger, I could see this being one of those scenarios that would have really frustrated him.

And no one wants their child to have a tantrum because the digital assistant didn't understand them.

The voice assistant industry is now trying to face that challenge: Of learning how different ages in the household request things. But the bigger question is still: How much interaction should your little one have with voice-assisted technology?

Since we haven't had it long enough to know the repercussions of it, my vote is still leaning toward the limited interactions that my son has today. I'm not looking for our device to be able to tell him stories or answer all his questions. He should still spend most of his interactions with me and his Dad.

Do your children have access to voice assisted technology in your home? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, August 10, 2018

To volunteer or not volunteer

I am fortunate enough to work for a company that gives time off to volunteer, and I am trying to be better about taking advantage of that time for activities that directly affect my son's life. 

When he was very little and still in pre-school, I chaperoned a few field trips and visited the classrooms. It was enough that I knew most of the other children's names.

As he has gotten older, I've helped with a few activities, but I know that I should be doing more. He is at an age where my volunteering can benefit his academic success.

The thing is: I don't want to embarrass him.

So, I ask him: Do you want me to come to this event? Do you want me to help out with this? Or, I tell him: This is something the school needs help with, so I am going to do it.

I know the truth of these years: He is getting older and no child wants their Mom to be at school with them. He should have his own experiences throughout the day and decide what he wants to tell me. While I need to visit the classroom enough to know his friends and peers, he will want his space.

As we head toward back-to-school conferences, I intend to let his teacher know that I can volunteer when she needs me, but I will make sure that my son is onboard, too.

Do you volunteer at your child's school? Tell me all about it in the comments.