October 4, 2011

Do You Lie to Your Kids?

We all do in a way, don’t we? Little white lies or omissions of certain facts that may not be appropriate given the age of the child in question.

I remember a certain friend dutifully – skillfully – providing a biologically sound explanation to her six-year-old daughter when she asked how babies were made. The mom’s scientific repartee with the child, answering question after question as they drove through town heading for home, was quite impressive. Each subsequent question, though, intensified and required more precise information.

Where was it all leading? How long could the mom honestly answer her child’s questions without veering into murky territory? How much could her daughter handle? How much could the mother handle?

As the interrogation neared its climax and the two neared home, the daughter finally exclaimed in frustration, “Yes, but how does the sperm reach the egg?” The mother swung into the driveway and shouted, “Who wants ice cream?”

And that settled that.

April 20, 2011

I Hate Playdates

I even hate the word playdate. I don’t think any dates should be involved in playing. Kids should just play. Preferably outside or at somebody else’s house.

What ever happened to being locked out of your house by your mother and forced to play with your only sibling on the rusty swing set out back?

Growing up, every Saturday of my life until I left home for college was exactly the same. My sister and I would get up around dawn, watch the “Smurfs” and “The Flintstones” and trash the basement. At a reasonable hour my mom would call us up for breakfast, which signaled the end of our weekend. Breakfast was immediately followed by chores.

We’d be sent downstairs (protesting was not an option) to deconstruct the sprawling Barbie village we had lovingly and painstakingly erected that morning. Then we’d dust and Windex every item of furniture in our rooms, mop and vacuum before we were rewarded by being locked out of the house to play.

Those are memories my children will not share.

April 18, 2011

Bath Day

That’s right in my house we have Bath Day. A day assigned for bathing.

My kids opt out of hygiene not for any strongly held philosophical or environmental reasons. No, my kids’ motives are really quite simple. They like filth. Or, rather, they prefer grime to the effort required to wash it off.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this unfortunate situation, but I may be alone in my enforcement of bath time.

I’m not militant about it. When my daughter was a terrible toddler and I was in the trenches fighting her on myriad issues, I just couldn’t take on one more. Now, with karate, girl scouts, boy scouts, homework, work work, dinner, dirty dishes and laundry some days there just isn’t enough time.

April 16, 2011

The Quandary of the Wannabe Tiger Mother

Okay, before anyone starts getting upset, I don’t really want to be Amy Chua. But, to be honest, I would like to be half a Chua. Not the crazy, Mommy Dearest half, but the half that stresses education, maintains high standards and requires commitment and hard work from her children.

Of course, to some degree I do. I’m not letting my kids fail out of elementary school or anything, and I make sure they do their homework every night, but I think I could and should be doing more. Or, rather, I think my kids are capable of more. But to get them to put forth more than the absolute minimum of effort means I would need to both raise the bar on them and hold them to it.

Let’s face it my daughter’s certainly not going to pick up the violin and beg to practice it until she’s proficient. (We already know what happened with the trumpet.) Likewise, my son is never going to ask me if he can please not watch T.V. so he can study some more.

Kids are kids. That’s understandable. But it’s the adults and the culture and the society that make the rules and set the standards. I must admit I long for higher ones.

April 16, 2011

Can We Have a Pet?

Look at that cute little guy. How can you say no to him?

It’s the inevitable question, and one I was adamantly against until recently.

While I had pets growing up, I never wanted one as an adult, and once I had kids, I had all the wild animals I could handle. Of course, my kids asked, but I always skirted the issue. I simply couldn’t clean up after one more member of this family.

I was sure my husband would crack way before I did. Kevin had his beloved dog, Ginger, growing up, and he also took care of a neighbor’s bunnies for a little pocket change. He’s a nature and animal lover who claims to have established close personal relationships with neighborhood squirrels. According to Kevin the little critters would line up and stare longingly through the glass patio doors of his childhood home, waiting for him to come out and play.

So, I was surprised when I was the one to cave first. I can’t even call it caving. I actually wanted to get the kids a pet. We were on vacation down the shore (and, it is “down the shore”), and I wanted to get them both hermit crabs. I know in some circles hermit crabs don’t count as pets, but for me this was a big step.

Kevin, though, was not having it. I had to work on him the entire week at the beach.

April 15, 2011

The Day My Computer Died

This weekend my computer died. Or, more accurately, the computer used by my husband and kids died. I have my own, which I do not allow anyone to touch for reasons that will become clear.

We weren’t completely certain as to the cause of death, but most likely it had something to do with the gallon of ice tea my daughter dumped on it and failed to tell us about.

Late Friday night as Kevin went around the house preparing for bed, he heard a buzzing emanating from the basement. He went down to investigate and found the fan in the desktop whirring like no fan should ever whir. The computer was engaged in a battle for its life.

Cautiously, Kevin approached. As he neared the computer he noticed amber splotches splattered across the keyboard, sticky smears along the desk and suspicious wadded-up paper towels strewn on the floor. He stepped closer to examine the desktop, and when he reached to pick up the little white box a tsunami of ice tea poured out.

I place the time of the crime around 5:30 p.m. when my seven-year-old son ran through the house searching for me looking to report the assault. I probably should have investigated myself when my daughter repeatedly sought copious amounts of paper towels, but she insisted she merely dripped water on the keyboard from the homemade ice pack she created to relieve her of the heat on that steamy summer day. She simply needed to wrap the ice cubes in more paper towels.

Either way I didn’t, and by the time the crime scene was discovered it was 11:00 p.m. I was already in bed and immobile even with a computer in its death throws. Conversely, my husband, the appointed IT guy in our house, was livid and ranting. He stormed in and out of the bedroom, in between attempts to resuscitate the soggy computer. His failed efforts only further infuriated him, and he raged on until he decided the best action to take would be to wake Sasha and scream at her.

April 13, 2011

Panda Dad vs. Tiger Mom

Last week a Maplewood man calling himself the Panda Dad took on Tiger Mom Amy Chua in his appearance on the Today show. That was after he wrote about his annoyance with the debate in a Wall Street Journal Blog. Alan Paul – aka the Panda Dad – was not happy the debate left out one half of the parenting component. He asked, “Where are the dads?”

I’ve been wondering the exact same thing but not because of the Tiger Mom debate. I’ve been contemplating this question for slightly over a decade now, ever since my first child was born. Where are the dads – particularly when the baby needs a diaper change or the kid has a school Holiday Spectacular in the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday?

April 12, 2011

Summer Camp for Adults

rockclimbing.jpgWhy don’t they have camps for adults?

If anyone needs it, it would be us. I mean how stressful can life be for a kid? They don’t work; they don’t cook; they don’t do laundry or go food shopping or even put their clothes away. They don’t have a mortgage to pay. They don’t plan for their future. And, more importantly, they don’t have kids to raise. Why in God’s name are kids going to camp instead of adults?

When I saw the myriad camps Barista Kids listed this year in the summer camp section, I was astounded. I knew of precisely one, the Montclair Y, beside the crappy summer camp my town offers. Clearly, I was lacking in camp intelligence, but the sheer magnitude and breadth of camps in the immediate area mystified me. There is, quite possibly, a camp for every single activity on earth.

April 12, 2011

Happy Half Birthday to You

halfbirthdaycake.jpgI’m sure the concept of half birthdays is not new to some of you, but recently I was jolted by its mention.

I first encountered the half birthday a few years ago, but back then I thought it was the bizarre notion of some over-protective, over-parenting, stay-at-home-mom who made her own organic baby food and thought her child was too special to have to endure the inhumane injustice of a summer birthday.

Simply, I assumed it was the work of one crazy person who would not allow her son to be denied all the rights and privileges the preschool life had to offer. Gradually, I became aware the concept had slightly broader reach. When I heard it mentioned again recently, I was struck by its longevity and ubiquity.

And its acceptance concerns me.

April 4, 2011

Chores and Today’s Child

Slowly, ever so slowly, I have embarked on a mission to engage my children in domestic housework. I’m not hiring them out or anything. I just want them to participate in the routine maintenance of the household of which they are a part.

As toddlers they really weren’t good for much, but I did always have them clean up their own toys. (Okay, help me while I cleaned up all their toys.) As they grew older, getting them to do more than that required a Herculean effort, and I often lacked the strength.

Then last week my new best friend and favorite commenter, jennymilch, wrote in on my Playdate Post with chore statistics. If you missed it, she said years ago a study stated childhood chores were the number ONE predictor of adult happiness. I have no idea if that’s true or not, and I’m sure there’s another study claiming childhood chores are the number one predictor of adult misery, but I’m going with the former. It helps me out. I can get some relief with housework and believe I’m doing my kids some good.

Even if I’m not doing them any good, I’m still a big believer in child labor. My kids are the primary reason my house is a wreck in the first place. They should have a hand in cleaning it up.

But it has been difficult process.