Parents of the 80’s- An interview from the future

I recently sparked a debate with my mother when I suggested that just maybe parenting these days is more difficult than when she raised me. Sure, the improvements in disposable diapers alone give a good amount of leverage to her argument, however, there’s no comparing the scrutiny of every little decision today’s parents make. International discussions can be launched when one family makes an informed, calculated decision to allow their kids to take a walk to the park. At any moment you’re one click away from a steady stream of photos and anecdotes of people who are doing it better than you. Battles are waged in comment boxes over everything from breastfeeding to staying home with your kids. It gets exhausting.

So instead of taking the low road and fighting with my mother, I’m proving my point by conducting an imaginary interview from the future with a mother in 1985.

How do your kids ride in the car?

Well, when they were babies, we had a seat that we’d usually set down in the back, unless we weren’t going far. Then we’d just toss it up front. When they outgrew that we had a giant vinyl monstrosity. It weathered carsickness well, but caused the poor kid to sweat from every pore in their 28 pound body. Thankfully a good old seatbelt suffices for the three year old, and stretches across the laps of a couple of them when we carpool.

Where is your 3rd grader right now?

At the school playground a few blocks away. He’ll come home when he’s hungry. Or it gets dark.

How much screen time do you allow?

We have our regular line up of shows we watch as a family and they can play Super Mario Brothers until the machine gets too hot or they start fighting.

Can you confirm that the plastic in your kids’ toys and eating utensils is BPA free?

What?

How much of your kid’s food is organic? 

Are Spaghettios organic? No? Then I have no idea.

What is your policy on your child having a cell phone?

Cellphones cost $4,000. And who do they need to call?

How many ideas do you have pinned in your “kid’s birthday party” folder?

I’m not sure I understand the question. I don’t even have a folder for their birth certificates. Why would I have a folder about birthday parties? What’s to decide? I order a cake from the grocery store and we buy a pack of character plates from Kmart and call it a day. A few times we’ve sprung for the party package at the roller skating rink. They warm pizza with a light bulb and throw in some ice cream cups with tiny wooden spoons.

Without checking, how many bottles of sunblock are currently in your house?

Do you mean baby oil?

When is it acceptable to leave your kid in the car alone?

When I lock the doors?

There. I win.

What do you think? Does anyone ever have it “easier”?

Posted on Categories Back Talk

Oscar-Nominated Movies You Can Watch From Home

Several people suggested that we share Julie Whitaker’s article “2015 Oscar-Nominated Movies You Can Watch From Home.” After all, it’s usually difficult for parents (especially of younger children) to find time to get out to a movie.

My partner and I still go to the movies, though it’s only about once a month for the latest special effects bonanza. We prefer to stream more thoughtful movies at home. You know, with a glass of wine.

 

Your Ultimate Snow Day

With the northeast poised to be slammed by the type of snow storm that clears grocery store shelves of everything from cartons of milk to decks of playing cards, it seems likely many kids are going to be home from school tomorrow whether they sleep with their pajamas inside out or not.

We know there’s a range of emotion that occurs when you’re staring down the barrel of being snowed in with children. Panic, excitement, and anxiety, followed by a mental inventory of toilet paper, alcohol, and hidden junk food stashes. So in an effort to take some of the work off your shoulders, we’ve scheduled your ultimate snow day. And if your kids argue about any of the plans, well, tell them you’re sorry but it’s on the list.

Night before preparations

  • Set bowls outside to catch the base for your sugar on snow
  • Put the cereal on the table and the milk on the lowest shelf for easy access and perhaps snag yourself a few extra moments of snow day “sleeping in”.
  • If your driveway is long, park at the end of it. Save yourself a few feet of necessary snow removal.

Morning Prep

  • In the event the cereal didn’t cut it, throw down a real snow day breakfast by whipping up these no frills pancakes, or pull out the bisquick. Out of eggs? No problem. Blow their minds by using snow. (WHAT?! It’s true. We learned it on the internet.) Two heaping tablespoons of it can replace 1 egg. Freshly fallen works best, which is great. You might be up to your eyeballs in it.
  • Challenge all participants to a winter gear round up. Capitalize on their inherent need to win and be fast while sparing yourself getting everyone dressed.

Outside

  • Sure, you could build a regular old snowman with a jaunty hat, carrot nose, and some rock buttons. Or you could be the house on the block that makes the rules by building one of these bad boys.
  • Drag your sleds to the nearest hill and bring along a serious shovel. How else do you plan to engineer an epic jump? (Pro tip: Bring some water if the snow is powdery.)
  • Fill spray bottles with water and food coloring. Turn the white canvas into winter graffiti. Don’t use just red. Unless you’re going for a look that’s more hunter/maniac chic.
  • Stage a snowball fight, or if you want to minimize the likelihood of tears, hang a cardboard target from a tree instead.

Are they asking to come in yet?

Any dissenters who aren’t old enough to stay outside alone? Haul some snow inside by the bucketful and fill the bathtub. Retrieve the sand toys you never got around to packing away properly anyway and let them have at it while you move on to warmer things.

Inside

  • Here’s the part of the day where you get all jedi mind trick. Do you want a clean house and happy entertained kids? Inform the crew that the house is about to become a movie theater. However, first that’s going to require a bit of organizing and cleaning up, for which they will earn (fake) money to be spent on the afternoon’s blockbuster. Pillows, blankets and cushions can transform the viewing area, and the craftier among the group can fashion tickets and signs. The cash they earn can pay the entrance fee and all the popcorn and hot chocolate they can eat.
  • Post movie, turn the theater into an ultimate fort for the evening’s board game competition.

Hopefully you’re well stocked on the essentials. And if they’re home longer than a day, remember if they’re old enough to walk, they’re old enough to shovel.

Playlist – Making & Baking

You could pull out a box of mac and cheese. But you’re taking it the extra mile and cooking a slammin’ dinner. Here are some kid-friendly tunes to blast while you make it happen.

You could pull out a box of mac and cheese. But you’re taking it the extra mile and cooking a slammin’ dinner. Here are some kid-friendly tunes to blast while you make it happen.

Songs in this mix:

Lost in the Supermarket – The Clash
Flipsiide – Last Splash
Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang
I Got The Feelin’ – James Brown
Let’s Dance (Single Version) – David Bowie
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire
Wild Wild Life – Talking Heads

Tacky Parenting 101

In a world where people un-ironically name their children Unique and produce enough bizarre maternity photo shoots to provide fodder for entire blogs dedicated to the genre, it’s hard to believe that the Tacky Parenting ante could be upped. But ladies and gentleman, we may have a new unit of measure.

Being billed for flaking out on attending a 5 year old’s birthday party.

Yes, this actually happened. Here’s the story if you haven’t heard it yet. 

As a parent, I’ve been billed for a lot of things. Doctors appointments, karate uniforms, school field trips, and bike tune ups are the sort of things I’ve come to expect as the cost of raising kids. Yet in 9+ years, no one has ever slipped an invoice into my child’s backpack for an afternoon of snow tubing that he declined to participate in.

I suppose if I had, I’d be writing this with my head fused to the carpet.

Sure, saying you’ll show up for something and going full MIA on the day of has its own level of tacky, but there’s an endless list of acceptable excuses for such an offense. I can’t really come up with a decent one for side stepping an honest conversation and demanding payment from another parent for not following through on accepting a birthday party invite.

For one thing, five year olds are not reliable people. Hell, some of them still lick things they find on the ground. Being unwilling to absorb costs associated with the decisions of people who likely still pooped in their pants less than one presidential election ago is unrealistic.

And for another, when did elementary school birthday parties hurl themselves into the stratosphere of wedding planning? I get that some people elect to throw parties that have a per head cost. However, if $15 puts enough of a dent in your wallet that you need to recoup the loss, maybe next year bake a cake, toss up some streamers and beat the crap out of a pinata in the backyard.

 

Posted on Categories Back Talk

5 Links: Screentime, Bedtime Reading, Kid App Trends

Trendy topics last week included the importance of reading to kids, and the potential overuse of technology by children.

Over on Medium, Gary Vaynerchuk writes “I refuse to limit or restrict hours on a screen for my children” because “it’s prepping them for the world that is going to to be. Straight up.” Read it here.

Meanwhile, the Guardian posted 10 children’s app trends for 2015 by Stuart Dredge that’s definitely worth a read if apps are part of your family life.

A study discussed in The Telegraph shows that books at bedtime can help children learn more quickly. In the New York Times, a new study unsurprisingly shows that Reading to Children of All Ages Grooms Them to Read More on Their Own.”

This is a good time to again recommend @gweinger’s Medium post, “Be selfish: keep reading to your kids.”

Wrapping it all up, on the Daily Beast @Samantha Allen writes that “men will have someday have kids without women.” I thought jetpacks and hoverboards were the priority.

Football, Sportsmanship & Learning What You Teach

No one in our house is fanatical about pro football (we’ve never prayed for our team, for example.) However, hanging out with a game on TV is relaxing part of our winter weekends.

I (mostly) enjoy answering my six-year-old girl’s millions of questions about the game. “Why did he do that? What does that mean? What do you think they’ll do next?”

We’ve had many, many conversations about where the teams are from, their players, where they stand in the rankings, how many Super bowls they’ve won, and what their team emblems mean.

I grew up cheering for the Patriots. I was born in Boston. They’ll always going be my team. At first, our kid also loved the Pats, even though her mother is a 49ers fan.

However, this winter I noticed a dark trend: increasing chatter about the Green Bay Packers. Then, one day in December, she confessed. Green Bay is officially her favorite team. Why? Because green is her favorite color and because for some reason she’s obsessed with Wisconsin.

We joke about how we all follow different teams. We also talked about how important it is to enjoy the excitement of competition while also being a good sport. I’ve seen my friend’s kids cry, weep and fight over professional sports affiliations.  Unfortunately, many people fail to grow out of that behavior.

Six year olds are pretty much sore winners and losers by default. It’s kinda cute when they’re young, but quickly becomes obnoxious. Fortunately, watching sports together provides hundreds of teachable moments about sportsmanship. (Actually playing sports provides vastly more, of course.)

I’m not going to lie – as a Red Sox fan, I’ve yelled “Yankees Suck” at many games at Fenway Park. But around the kid, I consciously try to model good sportsmanship in five ways:

  1. Explain and discuss the concept of “sportsmanship” – don’t take it for granted they understand what it is.
  2. Recognize good efforts and good plays by both teams.
  3. Don’t put individual players down.
  4. Discuss controversial plays, but respect the ref when he makes the call (easier said than done)
  5. Cheer, clap, hoot and have fun when your team makes a good play or wins, but remember respect the fans of the other team. Don’t be rude.

As in many areas of modern parenting, I’m learning what I’m actually teaching as I go. Exemplifying good sportsmanship for my daughter has helped me become a better sport. I’ve supported my kids choice of football teams, and even cheered for Green Bay once or twice.

Totally different matter if she ever supports Yankees, of course.

FURTHER READING

Dads have the overwhelming influence  for how kids choose their sports teams.[stag_icon icon=”external-link-square” url=”http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/10/24/141649929/how-we-become-sports-fans-the-tyranny-of-fathers” size=”16px” new_window=”no”]

Some further tips on sportsmanship from PBS Parents [stag_icon icon=”external-link-square” url=”http://www.pbs.org/parents/food-and-fitness/sport-and-fitness/raise-a-good-sport/” size=”16px” new_window=”no”]

Take an Internet Field Trip: 5 Links to Share with Your Kids

Today Box curates fun and educational daily facts, videos, photos, and jokes for curious kids and the grown-ups who raise them. We share five of their top posts every Saturday. It’s an easy, safe way to share the best of the Internet with your kids.

 

Space XLast week NASA launched Space X into space. The rocket arrived safely with supplies, research materials, and even replacement parts for a broken toilet aboard the International Space Station. Watch the launch at Today Box.

 

United StatesTaking a road trip across the United States was never so easy. Enjoy the clever rhymes and music of Renald Francoeur and drawings by Craighton Berman in this music video by Marbles The Brain Store.

 

 

sea otterHow do sea otters stay warm in icy waters? Learn about the fantastic fur of sea otters in this video from Deep Look.

 

 

BottleTwo strangers exchange messages through a bottle across the ocean. The whole family will love this charming and quirky stop motion animation by Kirsten Lepore. Watch it here.

 

 

jugglingThe four members of Carpool Lane will blow your family’s minds with their next level juggling and acrobatics. See it here.

 

 

 

View over 750 amazing kid-friendly posts on Today Box.

 

Need to Know: The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up

tidying-upLess Clutter, More Joy

Life clutters easily with two working parents and a young child. We toss around the word “systems” a lot in our home. The hall closet is messy again, so we need a new “system”. Towels aren’t getting hung up properly, so we need a better “system”. We need to plan a trip to IKEA to find a better home office storage “system”. And our “systems” often work – for a month or two.

We’re a fairly tidy family. We regularly weed through unused items to sell or donate. We do what we can to declutter our home, yet we’re stuck in a constant cycle of reorganizing and shuffling our belongings. This is why I didn’t hesitate to read Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up after three different couples raved about how it’s changed their lives to me within the same week. I decided to try the latest minimalist home organization trend for myself.

Marie Kondo is a bestselling author and home organization specialist from Tokyo, Japan. She’s spent decades perfecting the KonMari Method, her own personal system for decluttering homes and spaces. There’s a three-month waiting list for her services, and she boasts that clients who follow her method exactly never need her services again.

What makes Kondo’s method so different is that it is relentless in its process of weeding out clutter. The purpose of decluttering the home is to weed out all unused and unnecessary items until the only items left in one’s home are those that “spark joy.” It’s meant to be a once in a lifetime purging process that will cure your family’s clutter problems once and for all. Kondo claims the process can take up to six months to complete, but then clients never have to do it again.

Kondo says the main home organization mistake people make is focusing on what items to get rid of or throw away. Her method emphasizes what to keep by asking the question, “Does this bring me joy?” If it doesn’t, get rid of it. But it’s not always that easy. People have a hard time getting rid of things they can still use, items that hold information they might need one day, objects that hold emotional value, or things that are hard to obtain. Rational thought often makes it difficult for people to discard of items they no longer use that just sit in storage or clutter up space. Kondo recommends sticking to intuition and focusing on what currently brings you joy.

Another mistake people make is organizing room by room. All this does is reshuffle clutter around and create a revolving door of decluttering room by room. Kondo suggests focusing on categories instead. She recommends purging items in the following order: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and mementos. By focusing on a specific category, people declutter every item in that category from their home at once, rather than shuffle it to another room.

Our family made a commitment at our last family meeting: to declutter once and for all and only surround ourselves with items that bring us joy. We know it means sacrificing some of our time the next few weeks. It means making tough decisions and letting go of items that have meant something to us in the past, but we’re ready for a more minimalist lifestyle. The first project we plan to tackle is our clothes. Kondo claims that “not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover.” The same can be said of the items we keep in our home. We’re ready to discard of past lovers and friends that once brought us joy or never brought us joy. You can follow us here on Parent Co. as we purge our way to joy each week and learn some decluttering tips along the way.