Frozen: We Don’t Have to “Get It”

frozen-partyLast weekend, my 3 year old daughter and I were graciously gifted tickets to attend a “Frozen Princess Party” (please read that phrase with a feigned and exaggerated lilt) at a local music venue. I knew the sort of train wreck I was agreeing to. The entertainment equivalent of  McDonald’s, it’s the sort of thing you love to hate; like Facebook drama, candy corn, or the Kardashians. But, it hasn’t been above freezing in months and as I’ve maintained for years, despite living in Vermont, we are not winter people. (Ironic, given my kid’s crack like addiction to the Ice Castle of Commercialization That Elsa Built.) I’m getting desperate.

Because I’m not completely selfish, I did offer to let my husband take her. However, he mumbled something about self immolation and disappeared into the basement.

She painstakingly got ready, choosing her Anna dress over the Elsa one (because “Elsa’s sparkles are too itchy.” BTW, I did not purchase EITHER OF THEM.) and draped enough Mardi Gras beads on her neck to warrant chiropractic care. She requested a “sparkle crown” but upon inspecting herself in the reflection of the oven door, decided that was just too much. No need to be tacky.

As we pulled up (in the middle of a snowstorm, mind you), a line of little girls dressed in chintzy polyester and impractical shoes along with their appointed guardians (who likely also drew the short straw) extended out of the building and snaked through the parking lot. We waited in the car. I have my limits.

Once inside, I was greeted with the full realization of just what a parental bloodletting this was going to be. I snapped this photo to send to the man who had dropped us off and burned rubber out of the parking lot to go quietly sip coffee at a nearby Starbucks. I’ll send it again every day until Valentine’s Day when I’ll sit back and wait for the Hope diamond.

IMG_4101

Haphazard lines of overzealous parents with bewildered princesses clamored for meet and greets with high schoolers in crooked wigs. It was more or less Disneyland without the rides or fun, yet based on incubation periods, I can’t guarantee it was without the measles.

Eventually, they made their way to the stage, and 20 minutes of the 2 hour time span was a medley of the songs that at this point in the Frozen fever give most of us the shakes. Like the rest of them, my Anna ate it with a spoon.

Until she saw Olaf.

I guess, up until that point, she hadn’t noticed him lurking like a 7 foot nightmare in the corner.

Instantly, she burst into tears and attempted to disappear into the space between my knees. She’s never had a problem with the character in the movie, but that one doesn’t resemble Igor in Young Frankenstein.

PicFrame

The breakdown was short lived, as I pointed out that she could easily outrun a snowman, and he likely couldn’t see her anyway. The crowd was beginning to thin and the characters who didn’t look like Donny Darko extras had assembled near the stage for a less chaotic photo op than we’d stumbled into earlier. She shuffled into the fold, and beamed as Elsa draped her arm around her waist.

Like any decent parent, I want my kids to spend time immersed in activities that expand their minds and help them grow as people. But as I stood there, under the glare of the lights, I watched my three year old excitedly attempt to play it cool. I was reminded in that moment, indulging the interests I can’t find the value in, is valuable in and of itself.

So, come to think of it, assuming we haven’t contracted any communicable diseases or require therapy to help manage fears of oversized, deranged cartoon characters, it was the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

 

Comedian Greg Fitzsimmons on Parenthood: “The main thing for me is staying engaged”

Greg Fitzsimmons is an Emmy-winning TV writer, comedian, and producer. He also hosts a weekly radio show and bi-weekly podcast. His book, “Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox” was published in 2013. He lives with his wife and two children in Venice, CA.

Parents: Greg and Erin Fitzsimmons

Kids: son Owen, 14; daughter JoJo, 11

[stag_divider style=”dashed”]

Parent Co: So, 14 and 11, huh? You’ve got some good experience under your parent belt. Mine are six and four.

Greg Fitzsimmons: Oh, you’re still in the woods.

You’re telling me there’s hope? Do you feel like you’re out of the woods?

Yeah, well, out of the woods and then entering the rapids. You know – when they get to the age when you don’t have to necessarily be trailing them all the time and making sure they’re not eating glass and falling down. Then all of a sudden they can do their own thing and you’re supposed to do your own thing, but now my son is 14 and it’s time to start paying attention again.

You have a bit in your Comedy Central special in which you talk about birth being the pinnacle and then it’s all down hill from there; about how we go through life with more and more rules being placed on us. How does this notion effect the way you parent?

It’s tough, and like I said, my son’s 14 so we’re having to tighten the leash a little bit, but we let him get on his bike with friends and ride to the beach and the 3rd Street Promenade… My daughter’s on the surf team so she’s out there, possibly drowning, three days a week.

One of the things my wife pointed out to me is that kids seek thrills. If you keep them from having those thrills they’re gonna have them in bad ways. It’s much better to let them fall down, let them get into trouble, let them scare themselves surfing or whatever it is so that drugs don’t become the thing they turn to, or sex, or anything that’s more destructive.

I think it’s much more about communication and freedom as opposed to rules and punishments.

How do you think that’s working out so far for you and your kids?

Well, my wife has been a full-time mom since our son was born and I can’t really extricate anything from the impact of that. I think that having her be there with them all the time is such a gift and we’re very fortunate that we’ve been able to do that. It builds the confidence and the independence that allows them to go and be more trustworthy as teenagers.

Do you guys have any family rituals or good habits that help keep you close as a family unit with life going on, as it tends to do?

Yeah, we learned something from the Obama family. We do “Roses and Thorns” at dinner most nights. You have to say your rose – something great that happened today – and then something bad that happened, and each person does it. It sounds kinda corny but it’s a great way to get them to talk about stuff.

And we watch “America’s Funniest Home Videos” a lot and just laugh hysterically.

We also do a lot of camping and ski trips. I feel like if you set up the tradition of doing things as a family, on vacation, then hopefully that’s something that they’ll still wanna do when they’re in college and in their 20s. I’ve seen families grow apart, but we just have such a good time together. We genuinely really love being together. When we go on any kind of trip nobody’s on their phone and we’re not watching TV, we’re just with each other and having a blast.

How did parenthood change the way you approach your work?

I think I’m more focused on it, like I prepare more for when I go on stage as a stand-up. I show up right before I go on and leave right after I finish my set – I don’t really hang out the way I used to. And it’s the same thing when I’m writing on a show or producing a show. I try to work really hard and contain the hours because the number one priority for me is that I’m around for my family. If I’m not, I feel very guilty and I feel very lonely. If I don’t keep that cup full then nothing else really works.

Did you ever struggle with finding that balance?

Of course, it’s a work in progress. I mean, the thing is, I do stand-up. I go out on the road 20 weekends a year, so that time is lost – and those are weekends. That’s when couples are inviting you over for dinner and kids are having soccer games – so I try to manage all the big events.

A year in advance I know when the school concerts are, and the graduation and the plays, the tournaments. I try to book my stand-up schedule around that, but inevitably you’re still missing stuff and that always makes me feel bad.

Do you talk about that with your kids? Like, “I’m really bummed I’m missing this, but it’s part of the deal.”

At a certain point they thought that I was going on vacation all the time. So I started to explain to them that this is work, it’s not a vacation and when I’m gone I’m making money for us to live on. But then my wife pointed out that it’s also important that they see I’m passionate about what I do for a living and that I not say that I’m completely bummed when I’m gone, that I come home with good stories and good energy about how I was able to pursue my dream while I was away.

It’s pretty special that you get to model that for them.

Yeah, and I explain to them that there are sacrifices, but they still come first.

Is there any bit of parental wisdom you’ve gained that you like to share with friends?

Oh God. I mean, to me it’s about doing stuff with your kids. Otherwise you just end up watching TV a lot and being in separate rooms. I think doing any kind of project – you know, yard work or having them do chores and then helping them – activities for us are important. I think my mother sees us as kind of manic because we do so much stuff, but it feels gratifying and you feel close when you get out.

Do you ever feel like you’re fighting against how you were parented?

Hmmm. You mean what’s my overriding thought in life? Well, depression was a big part of my parents life and bringing me up and it’s something I deal with. So the main thing for me is staying engaged and not withdrawing too much, not using guilt and somehow trying to be myself as much as possible and fight that urge to shut down.

What brings you out of it in those moments?

You just have to engage. You just gotta go put yourself in the room and try to talk, try to go do something. I don’t really sit and read very much in the house, because I feel like I could (instead) be doing something with my family.

[stag_divider style=”dashed”]

[stag_icon icon=”twitter” url=”” size=”20px” new_window=”no”] Follow Greg on Twitter

[stag_icon icon=”volume-up” url=”” size=”20px” new_window=”no”] Subscribe to Greg’s Podcast

[stag_icon icon=”bookmark” url=”” size=”20px” new_window=”no”] Read Greg’s Book

Who’s Your TV Parent Spirit Animal?

It’s possible that there are currently half as many children in the world as there are words written about raising them. With so much information being thrown at us, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Sure, you can attempt to dissect the commentary on any given subject and boil down anecdotal versus scientific evidence to find the answers you’re looking for. Or, you can put those complex little creatures to bed and fire up the television.

For decades, we’ve used fictitious families to help take our minds off our own. Inserting ourselves into the day to day struggles, triumphs and fumbles of mothers and fathers with problems we have no ownership of, can be a welcome diversion from the ones we do. Yet if the subject matter is relatable, it’s impossible to step outside yourself completely. After consuming enough hours of imaginary people’s lives, I’ve realized I find it way more fun to take parenting inspiration from fake people I can see rather than real ones who write books.

The families I grew up watching in the 80’s and 90’s took on the tough stuff and tied it up with some cheesy music and a bow in less than half an hour. Danny Tanner, Roseanne Conner, and Clair Huxtable, were the sort of parents who really listened to their kids. Skipping school, sneaking around, getting caught with drugs, driving a classic car through the kitchen (listen, I never said these shows were completely realistic), it didn’t matter the offense. There was a baseline of mutual respect and admiration which proved believable no matter how far fetched the plotline.   For those of us who spent childhood alongside these kids, would it be so far off to suggest that maybe we are better parents because of it?

When I was pregnant with my second, I spent countless (pantless) hours on the couch watching Friday Night Lights. While Tim Riggins was reason enough to go on a Netflix bender, it was Tami Taylor, the series (almost sole) matriarch, who really ignited something in me. (Ok, fine. Riggins ignited something too. What am I? A robot?)

At the time, I had no idea if the tiny person robbing me of every ounce of energy would be a brother or sister to my 5 year old son. I always imagined having a little girl, and while I truly had no preference the first time around, I also had no plans of having more than two kids. I tried to maintain the attitude of not caring either way, though it slowly became less and less convincing. Until eventually, I shouted at strangers who gazed in my direction, “I’M FINE IF THIS KID IS A BOY, REALLY. THAT WOULD BE OK. I MEAN, I’D GET USED TO IT AND STUFF.”

I tried to mentally explore all the angles of why, should I go on to live a daughterless existence, that I would be totally fine. Maybe even relieved. For one thing, I’d never have to navigate the world of raising a teenage girl and from what I remember of being one, that alone should have been enough to close the case. And yes, I know I would have been thrilled/lucky/blessed, all of that, to have another boy, yet I feared for the rest of my life, I’d be haunted by a tiny nagging feeling that something was missing. And that’s the cold hard truth.

I never expected my desire would grow even deeper by becoming immersed in a show about high school football. Hell, I never expected to become immersed in a show about high school football, period.

However, there was no way to avoid being sucked in by the drama in Dillon, Texas. And with each episode, my love for Tami grew out of control. She didn’t always have all the answers, but was never afraid to admit it either. She threw out nuggets of wisdom like candy in a parade.

“The most important thing to me is that my daughter be able to talk to me. A girl is entitled to that with her mother.”

“Well… you’re gonna win… or you’re gonna lose.  Either way the sun’s still gonna come up tomorrow morning.”

“I would tell her to think about her life. Think about what’s important to her and what she wants. And I would support every decision she made.”

She imparted her glorious wisdom on an entire student body, in addition to her own kids, and in so doing, inspired and encouraged them to be the best possible versions of themselves. Tami saw in them the potential they often had yet to notice. I wanted that. I’m from the northeast, and she even convinced me that “y’all” was a necessary addition to my lexicon.

Because there’s clearly more to developing my own brand of parenting than watching tv, like, say, real world application and working without a script, I’ve developed a simple way of compartmentalizing this inspiration.

I think of the (fake) women I admire as my parenting spirit animals.

For me, it’s really a hybrid of Tami Taylor  and Clair Huxtable. They are authoritative yet loving and approachable. Kid comes home drunk? Stage a family drinking game, 10 year old sister included. Come ON! That’s FANTASTIC. This could have been one of my subconscious reasons for having my own kids 6 years apart. I have no desire to become the principal at my kid’s high school, but I’m going to hope that I’m the understanding mom my kids and their friends can trust to pick them up late at night, judgement free, when they’re in over their heads. I don’t have teenagers yet, but I’ll have these ladies in my back pocket when I do.

Who are yours?

 

 

Like a Girl

A maxi-pad commercial in the Super Bowl last night made me tear up.

You may have already seen the Always commercial from last summer called “Like a Girl” where men and women of all ages talk about what it means to “play like a girl.” It has over 54 million hits on YouTube. That one made me tear up too.

I teared up because it reminded me of my own frustrations playing and learning new sports as a girl. I was competitive. I wanted to do anything the boys could do, but better. I have been known to grab a boy by the hoodie and pull him to the ground after he beat me in a race. It was that bad.

I find my daughter shares the same frustrations. One day in the car she asked, “Mommy, how do you change the law? Because I want to change the law that only boys can play professional baseball.” She’s only six-years-old, yet she’s already frustrated by the limitations she feels as a young girl who loves sports.

It’s important to me that my daughter grows up with strong female role models. I never want her to think “playing like a girl” is a bad thing. I want it to make her proud to play like a girl, throw like a girl, and run like a girl.

This is why I get out on a snowboard or skateboard with her. It’s why I put her in skate clinics with other girls. It’s why I constantly look for videos or films with strong female athletes in them, so she will always know that playing like a girl is exactly what she wants to do. And every once in a while it’s nice to hear her say, “Look at my mom! She’s killing it!”

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

Share awesome, fun links with your kids on an Internet Field Trip curated for Parent Co. by Today Box. Today Box curates fun and educational daily facts, videos, photos, and jokes for curious kids and the grown-ups who raise them.

FOR THE WEEK OF JANUARY 31, 2015

 

Chloe Kim
Photo by Brett Wihelm, ESPN

This week 14-year-old Chloe Kim earned a goal medal at the X Games. She holds the title for youngest competitor to win a medal at the X Games. Watch her rip it up on her snowboard on Today Box.

 

 

Yuki-taro

 

Meet Yuki-taro, Japan’s newest snowbot. This robot eats up snow and poops out snow bricks. You can see Yuki-taro in action in this short video.

 

 

 

Flow Visuals

All NASA spacecraft go through a series of flight tests. Engineers use these tests to improve designs and flight. NASA released a video showing a series of air flow visuals from different NASA spacecraft over the years.

 

Surfing Dolphins

 

There’s nothing like watching a group of dolphins surfing in the sun. Watch this footage of dolphins captured by a drone in Australia.

 

Googly Eyes

Have endless fun with googly eyes in this music video by Caspar Babypants from the Today Box archives.

 

 

View over 800 amazing kid-friendly posts on Today Box.

 

 

 

 

The Future Belongs to the Brave

Today is NASA National Remembrance Day. We celebrate the lives of all the men and women who died for the sake of space exploration. It was 29 years ago today the Challenger space shuttle exploded, killing six astronauts and a high school teacher aboard the flight.

Approximately 17% of the country watched the shuttle launch live on television that day. I was one of them. Our third grade class got to see the launch, as part of our space unit. Mrs. Slater bounced with anticipation and excitement as we crowded our chairs together in front of the television wheeled to the front of the classroom.

I cringe at the memory of Mrs. Slater’s tears streaming down her face as we watched the shuttle explode. Teachers didn’t cry. Teachers didn’t die. My eight-year-old self vowed that day to never go to space. It was too dangerous.

Today I am a teacher and parent. I live for “aha moments” and mind explosions in the classroom. I take my six-year-old daughter on Internet field trips to space and conduct science experiments with her at home. Together we celebrate the joy and wonder of man’s quest for new knowledge.

President Ronald Reagan gave one of the best speeches of his career on the day the Challenger exploded. He was supposed to give a State of the Union Address that evening. Instead he addressed the families of the NASA tragedy and the nation’s school children:

Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

Today let’s celebrate those men and women. Let’s take the time to share our curiosity and passion for learning with our kids. Take an Internet Field Trip through space in the Today Box archives. Play in the cockpit of a real space shuttle. Discover the red surface of Mars.

When the kids go to bed, enjoy Reagan’s speech. It’s a beauty.

7-ish Alice in Wonderland Quotes That Sum Up Parenthood

Alice in Wonderland, written in 1865 by Lewis Carroll (who would turn a youthful 183 today), is considered the best example of the literary nonsense genre. In such writing, the effect of nonsense is often caused by an excess of meaning, as opposed to a lack of it. By that definition, parenting is full of nonsense. And because life with kids is often as long and strange a trip as Alice’s, I’ve rounded up my favorite snippets from the story that could just as easily describe my day to day.

“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.” 

Pregnancy in a nutshell. Toddlers. Teenagers. Every person in my house when they get hungry.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.” 

There’s nothing that can truly prepare you for being a parent. No books, no classes, not even time spent with other people’s kids. Because the only alternative is being scared shitless, I’ve found great comfort in admitting that I have no idea what I’m doing. Yes, I’m doing my best. Yes, my kids are happy and healthy. But on any given day, I’m blowing through intersections, and driving in circles. There’s no map, barely even a compass.

“How long is forever?”

“Sometimes, just one second.”  

The era of life filled with nose wiping, kid slinging, and snack preparing can feel a little Groundhog Day-esque. Yet as I recently dug to the bottom of the toy box, I turned up Sophie the Giraffe, a former “don’t leave home without it” of the my 3 year old’s. Surely, I’ve noted that she’s no longer a baby. But when exactly did that happen? Wasn’t it just last week I was plucking that overpriced dog toy off the floor and back into her chubby hand after she launched it there 400 times? (Clearly she’s my second child.) Nothing bends time and space quite as much as raising a kid.

“We’re all mad here.” 

The undertaking of raising a human is madness. From day one, you’ve signed up to send your heart out into the world with a bagged lunch and double knotted shoes. It’s a job which when done best, leaves you little job to do at all. It’s beautiful and terrifying. Rewarding and draining. And it would hardly be worth it any other way.

(*This also applies to exceedingly long car trips.)

“If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.” 

I venture to guess there is no group of people more used to being told they’re doing it wrong than parents. Unsolicited advice lurks everywhere from waiting rooms to the grocery store line. While it’s usually dished out with the finest of intentions, it gets exhausting none the less.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” 

Curiosity and made up words. A solid definition of years 1-4.

“I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”

Are there times I wish I could spend a Saturday in bed watching back to back episodes of Law and Order:SVU? Do I sometimes fantasize about dropping everything and spending a weekend in a city eating at restaurants that don’t have a kids menu? Bet your boots. But would I trade it for being woken up by a brown eyed sprite with wild hair who asks, “Mama, the sun is not awake yet. But can we go downstairs? I think I have to poop.” Hardly. Yesterday was great. But there’s no going back. And that’s ok by me.

“It is better to be feared than loved.” 

Ok. Not this one, I guess.

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.