I like to think I’m not a helicopter parent. I certainly worry but I try not to hover. And as much as I want Fia and Emmett to stay with me forever and never leave (kidding, but I do have my moments of wanting to bottle this time in my life with them) I consider it my duty to teach them independence from me.
I see friends who coddle their kids incessantly. I had a playdate once where Fia took a toy from a kid. She was 2. The mom kind of freaked. “Fia, give the toy back. You can’t take it from her,” she yelled. I remember thinking, seriously? Sure I want to teach my kids to share, and no, I don’t believe in the RIE movement of letting your kids work everything out on their own. But come on. Hovering over them at every moment is ridiculous.
Sidenote: here is my favorite RIE moment: a mom brings her kid over and he finds a 4 foot long tree branch and starts waving it around, nearly pummeling Fia. Instead of taking the stick away she says, “I try not to get too involved because I want him to learn the space around him.” Um, okay, what about my child’s brain that almost got fractured? RIE parenting at its finest. Needless to say she never came over again.
So now I ask: who is aware of Stephanie Metz and the blog post she wrote, about helicopter parenting and bullying, that went viral? Who agrees and disagrees with what she is saying? On many points, I agree with her. But on others, I think she needs to realize that with bullying, we do live in a different world than the one she and I grew up in. There were not the Columbines and the Newtowns of the world. I’m guessing since she lives in North Dakota, she is pro-gun. Most people in that part of the country are. So her “world” is probably different from someone who is raising a kid in LA, Chicago or NYC.
Nevertheless, here are some of her points (and click here to read the entire blog):
Many years ago, there was a time where young boys could run around with their toy guns, killing the bad guys. You could take the toy guns away from the little boys, and they’d find something else around them – a stick, their fingers, etc – and pretend it was a gun. Today, those little boys – if caught doing that – are labeled as threats, and immediate action is taken to remove that threat from the group.
I don’t totally buy that. I know plenty of little boys who run around playing pretend gun who don’t get removed from their group or school. But with gun violence at record numbers, shouldn’t gun-playing other than the Lone Ranger and Tonto, be, if not discouraged, at least not encouraged? And I do know that boys typically do display that behavior even if they grow up in an anti-gun house. They just pick it up somewhere, like preschool. I will say that I am not going to encourage Emmet to run around “playing gunfight” and I’m not going to buy him a toy gun. At least not now. Maybe when he’s 7 my perspective will change.
Your child, who you cater to every need, who you shelter from all things “evil.” How will this child react when he or she grows into adulthood? ”Debbie” graduates from high school and goes to college. She writes her first paper and meets with her professor about that paper and the professor tells her that it’s junk and it will get a failing grade. How will Debbie cope with that if she’s always been made to feel that no one should ever make her feel sad, or criticize anything she does?
I totally agree with her. That’s why I’m against giving rewards for every little accomplishment. Or when they play team sports and “everybody wins.” Kids need to learn how to lose. Just like they need to learn how to be bored (in regards to my technology post this week that frankly scared the crap out of me with the new research related to kids and boredom). And I do think technology has a lot to do with this as well.
Stephanie writes about how kids grow up and find rejection in the workplace and the real world. She writes about how they can’t handle it. I agree. Kids can’t learn coping skills on any level when they grow up buried in their gadgets. They can’t learn proper socialization either. So for me, this is a combo of helicopter parenting and parenting with your iPad. She seems on the mark with that too.
My children are all but ignored when they ask for something without using manners. They understand that when someone addresses or speaks to them, they are to speak back. When we go out to eat, we don’t take 5 electronic devices to keep them “entertained” for the 15 minutes we have to wait for our food. If Hendrix is “bored” (and I use that term loosely), then he can put on his jacket and go play outside.
But where I don’t agree with her is in her stance on bullying.
There was a time – not too long ago – when bullying was defined as slamming someone up against a locker and stealing their lunch money. There was a time when kids got called names and got picked on, and they brushed it off and worked through it (ask me how I know this). Now, if Sally calls Susie a bitch (please excuse my language if that offends you), Susie’s whole world crumbles around her, she contemplates suicide, and this society encourages her to feel like her world truly has ended, and she should feel entitled to a world-wide pity party. And Sally – phew! She should be jailed! She should be thrown in juvenile detention for acting like – gasp – a teenage girl acts.
Again, factor in the technology. Factor in that peers can totally f–k with you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is the first generation where this is happening. And it’s not good. Add that to the peer pressure of a teenage boy and girl and we’ve seen tragic results. I don’t think kids who are bullied become suicidal solely because they had helicopter parents. But once again, when kids aren’t taught to lose, cope or be bored, it’s a lethal combination on many levels.
So go read her post, weigh in and let me know your thoughts. Her post went from 8 readers to over a million, so it’s worth taking a look at.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
I had a sitter the other night who the kids love. But this time they were antsy. Bored. They wouldn’t let me get ready. Emmett wailed when I tried to leave the room.
“Fine, you guys can watch a Super Why,” I said.
Yes, it was the path of least resistance. Yes, it was easier. But according to some new studies, there is a real danger in what I did.
Research is showing that kids who watch a lot of television and play on the iPad, iPhone, etc., are growing up to have “sustained attention” problems. Now before you stop reading and think, “Yeah, yeah I’ve heard this before,” hear me out. There’s some really new–and interesting– information surfacing. You have to remember that middle and high school kids who are growing up with this modern technology are giving us more and more insight into what it all means and the impact it is having. This is important stuff. Here’s the scoop:
When you walk in the door with your phone or text in front of your kid, you are sending a message to them that they aren’t as important (yes, we’ve heard that before). But you’re also sending a message that this device keeps your attention a lot of the time. When’s the last time you sat in the doctor’s office doing nothing while waiting for your name to be called? Or just sat quietly, not on your phone, waiting for your take-out meal to be ready? How many times have you given the phone to your kid at a restaurant because you want to enjoy your meal? I’m guilty on all counts.
All of the above is teaching them that technology soothes. What’s happening is kids are losing the ability to “self-soothe.” They aren’t just sitting still, using their imagination. Kids need to be bored in order to figure out how to become “un”-bored. They need to misbehave to learn how to behave. If they are being difficult at a restaurant, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that giving them your phone is the wrong thing to do. Have them color or play some sort of game. Or leave and give them a time-out. Yes, your meal gets cut short. It sucks. But giving them a phone when they whine is not in their best interest. Especially as they grow.
The brains of infants through preschoolers begin making deep connections that teach them to use their imaginations and creativity to “soothe” for lack of a better word, when they’re bored. Researchers are now finding that kids who grow up watching television when they’re bored and playing on the computer/iPad, are getting to middle and high school and not being able to complete “boring” assignments. For example, if you have to read a boring book and write a term paper about it, which when I was in school, was a reality, you had to just push on through. Nowadays they are finding kids don’t have that deep connection to even get through the work. So academically many kids are hitting a wall. It’s a wall that apparently could have been prevented if parents hadn’t been so quick to let them watch a lot of television or play on the computer.
It then trickles into the work world. They get a job. They are bored. They quit. The consequences are dire.
My pediatrician gave me some tips.
- Don’t even let your kids see the phone. Put it in your purse or your pocket when you walk in the door.
- If you have to go send some emails, leave the room to do it. Tell them you have some work to do for a few minutes and to entertain themselves.
- When you are with your kids, focus on them during the crucial times. She gave an example: 30 minutes of play, then dinner, bath, book, bed=NO PHONE.
- No more than an hour of television a day.
(I’d say we usually let them watch 1 1/2 hours a day. On weekends more. Yikes).
- No TV for kids under 2 (which I know we’ve heard and has been hotly debated by the American Academy of Pediatricians).
I’ve failed on that and now Em gets excited when Fia gets to watch a show, so I’m not backtracking. What I will do is cut down on the TV she is allowed to watch, so he naturally will, too. And honestly, he watches for about 10 minutes then leaves the room and plays with his cars or something.
The thought of my kids growing up not knowing how to use their imaginations to their full ability because their brains weren’t trained properly is really scary to me. I am not one to sit still and I’m not promising when I’m at the doctor by myself, that I won’t pull out my phone while waiting. But I don’t have to write term papers in 8th grade. My brain development is done. Actually I’d say it’s on the decline judging by my meat fiasco last week. So I take that back: Maybe I should work on sitting still and doing nothing. That’s what my meditation app is having me do. Okay, I’m going to make a commitment to do this.
My guest blogger Joe Deprospero decided to stop playing Words With Friends on this phone because he could feel the distraction it was causing at home. If we each decide to change one part of our technology lifestyle, think of the ripple effect that could have. Especially on our families. And you don’t have to go all or nothing. Just tweak.
I did cut down a lot on technology after I wrote about it last year. But this is a good reminder. Anyone else want to join?
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ADD, ADHD, boredom, computer, imaginations, ipad, iphone, sustained attention, technology, technology addiction, video games | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
It’s easy to learn things from people who won’t shut up. For instance, I learned a great deal about college basketball and why I should be excited about it from famously boisterous announcer Dick Vitale. I learned about democracy from my know-it-all politics professor in college. But the important stuff? The lessons that help mold you as a person, facilitate connections with others and help you to become a functioning member of society? I learned those from someone who never had to shout them in my face.
My mother was (and I still don’t feel comfortable using the past tense) the kind of person you wanted at your party. She was the kind of person you’d call when you wanted to escape the stresses of your career and the evils of the world. But one thing she wasn’t was preachy. Never. I always appreciated that about her. Sure, she let the hammer fall if and when I failed many, many science tests in school, but she tended to mind her own business when it came to my decisions beyond the age of 18. Regardless of that fact, I learned invaluable lessons from her, sometimes intentionally and sometimes completely by accident.
Mom and me at my band’s show, 2008
In no particular order, here’s what I’ve learned from mom, either through her actions, words, or lack of words.
Kindness is contagious
It was nearly impossible to dislike my mother. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my mother. She was unbelievably amiable, always pleasant in her dealings with others and her smile and laugh were downright infectious. Because of that, people around her tended to be friendlier, happier and in better spirits. It’s often stated that “misery loves company,” but what doesn’t get said enough is that happy people create more happy people.
If you have something to say, even something negative, say it
You may hate the reference, but that John Mayer song holds a great deal of truth. In the song, “Say” he includes the line, “It’s better to say too much, than never to say what you need to say.” I remember it often, especially how it relates to my parents’ marriage. Hard feelings fester and eat away at you over time. Despite my mother’s cheerful disposition, I often believed that she held her negative thoughts inside so as not to hurt feelings. This probably explains why she rarely had anything to say to my father, who she was divorced from by the time I graduated college (to be clear, I’m not pointing a finger at either of them, but it was obvious that communication wasn’t bountiful). Whenever I’m at odds with someone, I think of the silence that too often surrounded my childhood, and for better or worse, I say (or type) what’s on my mind. If you’re a regular reader of mine, this much you know.
Be remembered for your smile, not your title
Put another way, work to live, don’t live to work. I don’t think my mother was ever passionate about her career, but she still left one hell of an impression on people she worked with, co-workers from two and three jobs ago attending her funeral services, devastated. The thing is that, while she wasn’t passionate about her job, she was passionate about her family and how that job provided for them. And you pretty much never heard her talking about work at the dinner table, nor would anyone distinguish her by what title she held or what company she worked for. When she died, people remembered her laugh, her sense of humor, and “that time we got silly drinking gin and tonics.” I’d prefer to be remembered for those things, too.
Don’t waste time on a bad friend
More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve tried breathing life into a friendship that was clearly dead on arrival. Since I’m such a loyal person, I tend to clutch onto relationships, even if the other half of the equation isn’t doing the same. Many years ago, when I was just a teenager, I noticed that mom’s best friend, who normally was a mainstay in our house, hadn’t been around in months. Glumly, mom informed me that, despite her best efforts, this woman was showing no interest in continuing the friendship, so she was no longer pursuing it. I know it hurt my mother to accept that, but I understood that we all come to a point where we’ve “done all we could.” Unfortunately, immediately following mom’s death, I also lost a close friend, who no-showed the funeral services entirely. I stopped reaching out afterward, and not surprisingly, he followed suit.
Treat your guests like kings and queens
Coming from an Italian background, this one was a given. But I learned at an early age that, when you have people over the house, you feed them. A lot. Almost to the point of making them physically ill. And you make them comfortable. It’s an Italian thing. It’s what we do. Mom’s opinion was always that, if you didn’t want to treat your guests like family, why bother having them over in the first place?
Don’t be defined by bad news
Shortly after my mom died, I overheard someone describing me to another person on the phone. I was explained as, “That guy whose mom died at age 59, he found her body, and then he told his grandmother, and she died too.” I know it’s an easy point of reference, but I truly hope that at the end of my life, I’m remembered more for the way I reacted to bad news than by the bad news itself. Losing mom forced me to flex a muscle I never knew was there. But despite the inherent sadness and gloom, her death also provided a learning opportunity. I learned that I can either succumb to life’s challenges or grow stronger from them, for me and for my children. Every single day, I’m striving to accomplish the latter, no matter how unnervingly sad her absence makes me.
I think the most important lessons are ones we learn from the actions of others, and not necessarily specific words that were said. As parents, whether we like it or not, our children will learn their most important lessons from us. That fact may terrify you (it certainly does me). But I try my best to encourage my kids to make a positive impact on others, the same way my mother did for me. I can only hope that in 30 years, my boys have similar words to say about their parents.
So, before you go to bed tonight, think of the lessons you learned from your parents and how many of them you wish to instill in your own kids. Thanks for reading, as usual, and I strongly encourage you to join this conversation by adding a comment below.
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I get a bit giddy when it comes to snot. Slightly obsessed too. I am also happy to report Fia is actually beginning to blow her nose. She can push out some good stuff when she’s in the mood and really tries. I also have to beg her. And bribe her.
But I’m a bit confused on the color for snot when it comes to sickness. I always thought that clear meant no infection and you could be around other kids, but yellow or green meant an infection/contagious. However, my friend just told me that both her son’s teachers and her pediatrician said the opposite. They said that when the snot is clear it is contagious, since the cold is just starting. Yellow and green snot means it’s on its way out and you’re okay.
I looked online and got more confused. WebMD lists so many colors and variations, I need a color wheel and more brain cells to break it down. Dr. Oz said the opposite of what my friend was told:
- Clear/white: healthy
- Yellow/green: bacterial or viral infection
- Pink/red: bleeding or damaged tissue
So what’s the truth? Anyone?
I will tell you all about one device you must run out and get if you have a kid 3 or under. Not sure over 3 would tolerate it. Fia won’t. It is the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s a snot sucker called The Nose Frida. But YOU suck out your kids’ snot. It sounds primitive (and gross to some). But it was developed by doctors in Sweden and we all know the Swedes are brilliant. You put a tube in your kids nose. On the other end of the connecting tube, you put your mouth. Then you suck. What comes out and the gratification that follows is nothing short of glorious. For the sucker. Not the one being sucked. Emmett shrieks. But what kid likes any of that stuff? Fia of course always wants me to do it to Emmett because when it comes to her little brother, she’s a bit of a masochist.
Warning: It’s not for the faint of heart. Phil gets so grossed out, he can’t even be in the same room. I, on the other hand, confessed recently to being a picker. So I think if you have the “picker gene” you’ll be as excited as I am.
BTW– It’s totally hygienic because there is a filter by your end of the tube. You never swallow your kids’ snot. It’s impossible.
Okay, let me know your thoughts on the color of snot so we can continue what I hope will be a very lively discussion.
Use this handy quiz to decide whether your kid is too sick for school. Plus, find out which 12 sick kid symptoms you should never ignore.
Image of snotty baby via Shutterstock
Photo of Nose Frida from Amazon
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
I hope my level of bad judgment has hit rock bottom. If it has, then if can only get better from here. It doesn’t get much worse. Unless you’re an elderly lady who buys into scams. If you are, you at least have an excuse: you’re old. Your brain isn’t working the way it is supposed to. The AARP has warnings for you. For me, I wonder if someone gave me a lobotomy in the night. Or fed me a 24-hour mentally incapacitated pill. Here goes:
I bought 33 pounds of meat. From a door-to-door meat salesman. He drove what looked like a 1980 beat-up Datsun pick-up. I wrote him a check for $400.00.
I’ll start the sentence with my main problem: “I was in a hurry.”
It seems I’m always in a hurry. This is where bad decisions happen.
So…I was in a hurry to pick up Fia from school. I was putting Emmett’s shoes on when the doorbell rang. A young kid, probably 25 with baggy jeans and a t-shirt was at my door smiling. He told me he had just delivered meat to my neighbor “Nancy” and he had some left over. He could sell it to me at a really great price.
“You know, like Omaha Steaks, except it’s better.”
(Side note: door-to-door scammers often reference a neighbor named Nancy, Susan or Mark, because there is usually one on every street).
Totally frazzled and frantically looking for my keys, I said, “I don’t have time. I have to go pick up my daughter from school.”
“It will only take a second,” he said and disappeared to his truck (which I hadn’t yet seen or I think–and dear god, I hope–I would have reacted differently).
Next thing I know he is in my living room pulling out cases of burgers, filet mignons, T-bones, 4 types of marinated chicken (8 breasts each, so 32 total), etc. Everything is wrapped tight and stamped. With what, I’m not sure. Just some numbers to probably make it look “official.” The boxes say “VIP Steaks” or something like that. It seemed legit. If you’re a moron.
“We’re moving in a few weeks,” I said. “It doesn’t make sense to buy all this.” Then I added (stupidly), “Though I do have a lot of family coming in for Thanksgiving to feed.” Boom, he had me. He even offered to find room in my freezer. He said he could stock it in 30 seconds.
How can I be a strong-willed, semi-paranoid, decisive, generally smart (I think) woman and mother and wife and do such an idiotic thing? My only excuse is months of broken sleep (Em is still a wildcard in the night) and a huge house renovation that I’m in charge of. Not to mention the schlepping of Fia five days a week (though Phil takes her to school in the morning), along with the timing of Emmett’s naps which have to be over before I get Fia, blah blah blah. It’s a daily puzzle and a constant race against the nap clock, the school clock, the packing-up-the-rental-house clock, the we-are-soon-moving-and-our-new-house-is-still-a-construction-zone clock. That’s why I haven’t been posting as much lately.
I regularly have 17 things swirling in my brain. I’ll be driving and suddenly words like “POLISHED CHROME FIXTURES!” will come into my head. I have always prided myself on multi-tasking but the daily decisions are killing that talent. I’m not dealing with life or death things either. My kids, thank god, are healthy. We are happy and comfortable. But my brain is clogged. I need a plunger.
Back to me and Meat-Man: I realize there are so many wrongs in this story. I let a complete stranger into my house and my freezer. Phil was working from home in his study above the detached garage. I like to think that I would not have let someone in if I had been home alone with Emmett. But it’s not like Phil would have necessarily heard me if I screamed.
I am paranoid already of the food chain. For god’s sakes, I wrote a blog about how upset I was when I found out I bought tainted berries. I buy organic. My relatives are ranchers in the cattle industry and I have long debated buying directly from them so I know exactly where my meat comes from. And yet, yet…I let this total stranger/potential axe-murderer in my house????
Me and Meat-Man finished up our money transaction in which he gave me a business card that proclaims him owner of his company. Then he asked me for a tip.
“You’re the owner of the company and you want a tip?” I said.
“I do a lot of driving and I have an almost 2-year old daughter. I’m just trying to make it, ya know.”
He reminded me of a far less polished version of Jesse on Breaking Bad. (Yo.)
Guess what? I gave him $60. Cash. He left; I grabbed Emmett and went to put him in my car. It was then I saw his truck. There was cooler in the back that had S-T-E-A-K stenciled on in red.
As I drove to get Fia I began to curse myself. I picked her up, high-tailed it back home and started to search the Internet. His website was a shell of a site. I could have designed it and I barely know how to turn on a computer. But more worrisome were the many news reports across the country of people getting scammed into buying meat. Bad meat. Unrefrigerated and unregulated meat. The reports went on to say that if you do buy it, make sure you buy from a licensed dealer who drives a refrigerated, well marked truck. I failed on every count.
I think that white Datsun will forever haunt me.
Now his meat may have been perfectly fine. I am pre-judging. But the bottom line is I had a major lapse in judgment.
I frantically called the bank while throwing Panda Puffs to Emmett to keep him occupied. I had already plopped Fia in front of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
I managed to stop payment on the check–a $30 fee. I could live with the tip money plus this, so $90 lost for a lesson learned. But then realized, I still have all the meat. F–k. Which meant…. breathe, breathe, mantra, mantra…. I had to go tell Phil. It was better to involve him than find myself turned into cube steak.
I took Fia and Emmett to his office. He was in a meeting with a director. I had to confess to two very smart men how dumb I was. I profusely apologized for bringing Meat-Man into our lives.
He told me to go call the guy, tell him my husband doesn’t want it, pack it up and leave it on the doorstep. I did as I was told. Mid-way packing, the doorbell rang. Luckily at this point Phil had walked in. I looked at him pleadingly.
He carried the boxes to the door. He was very polite but firm. Meat-Man was frustrated and getting defensive. Then he asked if he could come in and cook us some steaks to prove how good they were. If I could have I would have signaled the slit across the throat gesture to Meat-Man because that, well, um, was never going to happen.
Shamed and embarrassed, I told him this was my entire fault, I was sorry, and that I had also stopped payment on the check.
“I’m going to incur a fee for that, ya know,” he said. (No “Yo”… for anyone who watched Breaking Bad).
Phil didn’t–and still doesn’t–know I tipped him (hopefully he won’t read this).
“Do you want $30?” I asked. I just wanted this over with.
“No,” said Meat-Man. “I want your business.”
Phil stood firm and Meat-Man left.
Phil went back to work with the director.
I went inside and watched Daniel Tiger.
The doorbell rang again.
Through the window I saw Meat-Man.
“Yes?” I said, while opening the top of the door (it’s a Dutch door).
“I just called my bank. It’s $35 for the bounced check. I want it.”
Phil was suddenly behind me. I went and got $35. Phil shut the door and walked away, not saying a word to me.
In total, I lost $125.00 and my dignity. I have a husband who doubts my sanity. I have no food to feed the flock that is coming for Thanksgiving. And I feel like an imbecile. This is not my finest hour.
I hung this sign on my door. I downloaded a meditation app. I hugged my kids.
I think I might become a vegetarian.
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