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Thursday, April 24th, 2014
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.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Since my older son’s fifth birthday party was held last weekend, I find it appropriate to discuss exactly what goes into planning, and ultimately executing a child’s birthday party. Now, I know plenty of parents who will scoff at this and ask, “Why bother stressing over a kid’s birthday?” Well, the short answer is because stress is in my blood. The remainder of this blog is the long answer.
Planning a birthday celebration for an adult is fairly simple. You pick a date, you pick a place, you send a mass text, and whoever is around shows up for a drink. And generally speaking, there’s very little stress (if any at all) and plenty of alcohol involved.
So, about that kid’s party…
The very first thing to consider is theme. As in, which animated character makes your child cry the hardest when pried out of his or her hands? For my son, this was undoubtedly superheroes. Batman, Incredible Hulk, Spiderman, Iron Man. You name it. He’s obsessed with it. Sure, he’s never actually seen any of them on television (or even the comics). But why should that insignificant detail deter him from infatuation? Regardless of what you choose, though, the inevitable theme ends up being “parents spend an obscene amount of money that their child will never fully appreciate.”
So for my son’s party, my overly driven wife decided to make HOMEMADE SUPERHERO CAPES AND MASKS as party favors. In a way, I was impressed by her determination. In another way, it felt like going swimming with cinderblocks tied to each ankle. Ambitious, yet not entirely desirable if you’re already having trouble keeping your head above water.
I wish I’d put half the effort into college that my wife puts into party favors.
The next thing to consider, naturally, is the date the party will take place. Choosing the date closest to the actual birthday of your child is ideal, but not always feasible. What if your child’s birthday coincides with Labor Day weekend, or the birthday of another child in your kid’s class, or the anniversary of Titanic’s sinking? Ultimately, you’re either the type of person who says “screw it” and books your party the date you want it, or the type to play nice and make sure you’re not stepping on feet. No matter how hard I resist, I typically fall into the latter category. I just refuse to touch anyone’s feet.
Choosing the location and party package (assuming this isn’t happening in your backyard) quickly turns into a game of “Which business owner is trying to screw me the hardest?” There will be the basic party package, which they’ll actually title “Basic Party Package” to make you feel like a heartless cretin selecting it. This package typically includes six party guests, 30 minutes of jump-rope, and maybe use of paper goods and plasticware. The basic package is the party equivalent of ordering the 8 GB iPhone. So, ultimately, because you’re having more than six kids at the party, you’re ordering the Jumbo Kid Orgasm Package that costs roughly the same amount as your mortgage payment. But that includes cleanup, saving you the trouble of taking paper plates and napkins and tossing them into a trash bin. So, there’s that.
Then, reluctantly, comes the creation of the invite list. And make no mistake; no adult wants their kid to be on that list. There’s no alcohol, there’s little refuge from their kids, and there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll have that party hat elastic band snapped onto their face. This may explain why we invited 32 kids to my son’s party and a whopping seven replied by the RSVP date. You would think we were asking them to sign up to be a foster family for a homeless groundhog with the hollowness that encompassed our phones and email inboxes. Add on the fact that we mistakenly invited his entire class, and we were met with a whole sh*tload of indifference. For potential ideas on how to quell this RSVP issue, check out this recent article.
Once the date, location, invite list, theme, and alcohol to be consumed afterwards is all laid out, it’s time to “execute the party.” So you cart the balloons, cake, party favors, and every stimulant imaginable to the party place. And you start to realize that holding a child’s birthday party is not unlike having a wedding. First of all, there is virtually no socialization (for you) at all. You’ll greet people as they walk in the door, mindlessly shout “thanks!” as they’re leaving, and practically nothing in between. You’re too busy taking and posing for pictures. You’re too busy documenting who gave which gift so you can mention it in the “thank you” card later. You’re too busy ensuring every soul in the building is happy, eating and hydrated…except for you. And that’s when you decide that your child’s next birthday will be at the Outback.
My task the night before the party was turning Poland Spring into “Super Water”
But there’s something intrinsically important that happens during your child’s party. There’s a moment when the music is colliding with your relentless thoughts, when your spouse is anxiously asking you where you left the camera and you feel the sweat start to bleed through your shirt fabric, when you see your child absorbing every stimulating element surrounding him. And he’s so incredibly happy that you can’t help but smile through the chaos. Because you know, despite the price tag, your sweat is worth his joy.
Another thing that was actually worth it? This cooler than cool superhero cake.
Yes, the fist is edible. Yes, I ate the fingernails.
Alternatively, if in that moment you don’t see your child exuberantly smiling, at the very least you’ve brushed up on your project management skills.
Thanks for reading, and please join the conversation by adding a comment below, checking out my Facebook, or following me on Twitter. And if anyone in the New Jersey area wants the number of the cake creator, drop me a line.
Get started planning the perfect birthday party for your little one using our Birthday Party Planner!
* Balloon photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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batman, birthday, incredible hulk, iphone, iron man, kids, outback, parenthood, parenting, party, spiderman, superheroes, superman | Categories:
Sunday, February 9th, 2014
We had Em’s 2-year appointment last week. All the routine stuff checks out fine. She did say if he gets pneumonia again, they would have to look into some immunology testing (gulp) to see what is the underlying reason. All kids get colds and coughs. The issue is, if his continues to turn into pneumonia, then there is some reason his lungs aren’t clearing it on their own. Every time he coughs, my ears tune in and I hope that it’s not turning chronic.
I told my doctor how, um, active he is–a Tasmanian devil on steroids. Albeit, a gleeful, exuberant one. I am actually surprised it took him almost 2 years to have his first ER trip. I also told her how impatient his is. If he wants milk and doesn’t get it 3 seconds before he wanted it (because I’m a mind-reader), the absolute screaming and crying becomes instantly epic. I feel like a racehorse rushing to get him what he wants as soon as possible before the meltdown begins. It’s absurd. It goes against my parenting style of not catering to their every whim immediately. But trying to tell him to wait, and even show him, “Look Emmett, mommy is getting your milk right now,” has no impact. Once he realizes it’s not instantly there, there is no consolation until he gets it. Then he’s fine–as if the multitude of tears and tantruming was as routine as a laugh. Or a cough (bleh).
I told the pediatrician, “It’s like he needs instant gratification.”
Her response was strong: “This is a kid you absolutely cannot hand an iPhone or iPad too in those situations. Kids need to learn to be bored, to be patient, to wait. If you hand him a device, he will never learn. You just have to make him wait. But don’t give in to the technology temptation.”
It reminded me of an earlier point she made at his 18-month appointment about what new studies are showing for kids who are raised electronically (meaning given devices to play with all the time). It is scary sh-t. Luckily Phil and I are pretty diligent in our efforts to keep both kids away from that sort of reliance.
Nevertheless, I thought it was a good reminder to pass along. I wrote a few days ago about how marketers and developers continuingly come up with things to make parenting “easy.” But if you want the easy way out, then don’t have kids. Because if you’re a parent, you need to actually parent. “Easy” now will make it much harder later when they can’t function without constant stimulation.
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apps, attention span, impatient toddler, instant gratification, ipad, iphone, pneumonia, technology, toddler attention span, toddler iPhone, toddler technology | Categories:
Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
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.
* To those who know me personally, this blog is going to come across as extremely hypocritical. Bear in mind that, while I’m encouraging others to follow these steps, I’m directing this advice at myself as well.
I fail at my job as parent pretty regularly. Every day, in fact. I yell too loudly, I laugh in my kids’ faces when they mispronounce words, I sometimes even forget that they’re due for an afternoon snack until we’re pushed right up against dinner and it’s too late. But since I still show up for my “job” the next day, no matter what, I think I’m on the path to ultimate success. I also believe that my tendency to scrutinize myself, while occasionally leading to personal anguish, yields a self-aware, prepared father at the end of the day. At least I hope so.
Naturally, the road to self-improvement goes through self-awareness. So, I decided to come up with a list of potentially harmful common themes I’m finding in my own life, and quite frankly, in the lives of too many parents.
Here are the most direct ways I think we can ensure we don’t miss our children growing up while we’re busy doing too much:
Put Down the Camera
Look, I get it. I’m guilty of it myself. But your kid doesn’t want every waking hour of his/her life dedicated to film. And if they do, you’re raising a narcissist (or a reality TV star). There are certainly times when I hover over my son like the paparazzi in hopes of a magical moment. But neither of us are enjoying it as I’m stressing over getting the perfect shot, already thinking ahead to the Instagram filter that will go best with my masterpiece. In the end, my kid gives less than a sh*t about social media and much more about me playing with him, hands-free. And another thing, not every single picture you take of your child is post-worthy. Trust me on this. I’ve had to remind myself on Christmas morning to put down my phone and/or camcorder to focus more on enjoying the look on their faces and less on documenting it.
Stop Cleaning Up
I hate cleaning an entire roomful of toys after my sons are finished wreaking havoc on it. So what I often find myself doing is shadowing my kids, picking up things and putting them away not even a minute after my boys have moved onto another toy. I do it for two reasons: one, to avoid having a much larger mess to clean later and two, to avoid the inevitable struggle of convincing my kid to clean it up himself. I’m not saying it’s right, but it happens. And I need to stop. If even ¼ of the time I spend with my kids is taken up by snapping pictures and clearing the floor, am I really spending time with them?
Talk to Them at Length
You’ll find that if you do too much of bullets 1 and 2 listed above, you’ll have less time for this. I’ve discovered some of the most fascinating things about my children by simply asking them follow-up questions about their day, what they dreamed about, their fears, etc. Sometimes if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. Probing your children for further information is like listening to a musical artist’s entire album, rather than just the singles. You’re bound to find a gem or two.
Let Them Fail
I’ve written about this in the past, but kids need to know what it feels like to fail. It’s the only way they’ll be motivated to succeed. I’ve spotted my older son trying to tie his shoes at age 3 a few times. I knew full well he wasn’t going to make it happen, and initially tried to step in. But more and more, I’ve been letting him try to figure things out on his own. I like to think it stimulates his brain and encourages self-empowerment. The one downside is it also leads to frustration, but it’s worth the risk.
No Phone Zone
Like anyone with an iPhone, a constant battle for me is Joe vs. the perpetual social media tick. Instinctively, we pull out our phones when we’re in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Or when we’re on a dreadfully boring conference call. Or, sometimes we even take it out as an escape from the chaos of our routine, daily lives. It becomes a problem when it’s interfering with our parenting, specifically when your son or daughter actually calls you out on being on the phone too much. Whether it’s for work, play, or a simple check because you *gasp* heard a notification sound go off, don’t overdo it. I know I’d hate for my kids to grow up thinking, “Dad was here, but he really wasn’t here most of the time.”
I suppose the best advice I can give you is the advice I try to follow everyday: The most important gift you can give your children is your time. Surely, there will be days when we snap one too many pictures or we get so distracted by our own thoughts that we don’t even listen as they gleefully regale us with a story about a new friend they made at school. But if we make a concerted effort to live in the moment and give our kids the attention they deserve, I have a feeling we’ll look back on these years with significantly more pride than if we hadn’t. After all, no one ever looked back wishing they spent less time with their kids and more time with their iPhone.
If you enjoyed this, check out a previous post I wrote about choosing my kids over an iPhone app and what made me wake up.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to tweet me @JoeDeProspero or add a comment below! I also welcome email, and have been blown away by the effort readers have put into their messages to me. The greatest gift a writer can receive is knowing he/she made an impact on a reader’s life. Keep them coming!
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* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Sunday, November 17th, 2013
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?
What do your everyday decisions say about your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out.
Pic of girl on iPad via Shutterstock
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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
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
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. He is the author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
There’s an app for that.
You’ve heard it time and time again, both as a serious suggestion and as a punch line. Want to track your daily caloric intake? There’s an app for that. Want to get locations and ratings on all Italian restaurants within a 20-mile radius? There’s an app for that. Want a constant distraction from your daily life that will serve as both a healthy mind-stimulator and immeasurable impedance on your parenthood and overall productivity? Unfortunately, there are several apps for that. Most are free, but can be quite costly in other ways.
For me, that app is ultra-popular, Scrabble-inspired Words with Friends. Now, before I go any further, I have to be clear that I’m not criticizing or trying to discourage use of this addictive app. I happen to love the game. In fact, I’m obsessed with it to an unhealthy degree. And that obsession got to be too much one particular day while reading a book to my son. Rather, trying to read a book to my son. At the time, I had 21 active games going, and frankly that number would’ve been higher had the app allowed it. And as it turned out, my kids’ bedtime always seemed to correspond with when my opponents were at their most prolific. Naturally. So, I was right in the middle of Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons book when I looked over at my iPhone to check if any plays had been made in the past 45 seconds. Antonio, my son, frustratingly asked, “Daddy, do you ever put your phone away?”
I did put my phone away. That very moment, in fact. I was completely surprised by the question. More importantly, though, I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. My son had playfully tried to grab my iPhone out of my hand in the past while I was playing my turn in WWF, but this was the first time he’d verbally expressed disappointment. And it was clear. He thought I cared more about playing some game on my phone than reading to him. That night, after the kids were asleep, I resigned from all my current games and deleted the Words with Friends app from my phone. Considering how addicted I was to it, I even surprised myself at how I was able to do it without the slightest bit of hesitation. But considering how it was starting to make my kid feel, the decision to eliminate it from my life wasn’t difficult in the least.
I won’t lie. I miss playing. Like any part of a daily routine, it had become ingrained in my psyche to the point where any idle moment (and sometimes, not-so-idle moment) was devoted to punishing my opponent with a Triple-Word score. I know there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly capable of striking a healthy balance between their responsibilities and hobbies. But when a hobby becomes so consuming that it’s affecting how your boss, spouse, friends, or especially your children view you, it’s time to walk away. For me, the time had clearly come.
It would be foolish for me to believe that I’m completely in the clear when it comes to distractions. In this day and age, if it isn’t Facebook, it’s Twitter. And if it isn’t Twitter, it’s Instagram. And if it isn’t Instagram, it’s some other social app that’s as attractive to a wandering mind as a fire hydrant to a urinating dog. As parents, our minds need relief more than anybody. But I’ve learned that seeking such relief while your children are awake and in your care is as selfish as it is dangerous.
So, if you have a similar distraction that’s taking you away from something far more important, know that there’s somebody, maybe even one of your children, that have noticed it. And no matter how tempting a Triple-Word score is, no point total is worth ignoring, even for a moment, that very important somebody.
Do you have a habit you’re looking to break? Know someone who does? Let me know about it by leaving a comment below! Or tweet me with the hashtag #appaddict!
And if you are looking for fun activities to do with your kids, check out our free Activity Finder.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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confessions, facebook, instagram, iphone, pete the cat, scrabble, shutterstock, social, social media, technology, there's an app for that, twitter, words with friends, wwf | Categories: