Friday, June 1, 2012

Summer Reading is a Joy (Well, maybe for me)

This afternoon I was browsing through Amazon on line to purchase a book my daughter plans to read this summer and I want to read it too so we can have our own private book club. It also serves another purpose because I can’t have her gaining any knowledge over me. (That just would not be fitting considering I seem to be getting dumber by the day. I need to keep up!) I should mention that this is no light reading that she is attending a week of a college summer course work and the book she has been assigned to read (prior to her attending) is Phaedrus, and the author is Plato.

This change in her summer reading list is very welcome because the last three years she has been assigned 4-6 books on very depressing subjects such as mental health & suicide, ethnic cleansing, and the plight of woman around the world.  This is her school’s attempt to educate the student populace about the human condition and moral ethics. And while I really do appreciate that goal… one or two key books would be enough... a reader would be educated.. but after 6 books well…that reader is downright depressed.

And speaking about being unhappy with summer reading.. we all know our children feel this way. For most kids summer reading is a chore. (Too bad. So sad.) Last year I went out and purchased some classics for my middle school son to read over the summer: Last of Mohicans (nothing like the movie), Treasure Island (the original pirate book), Tom Sawyer (such a clever lad) and Gulliver’s Travels (short and sweet and so much better than the Jack Black movie) and while my son was not pleased I was, because I love, love, love to read. Being able to discuss books and characters with my children (who one day will be so much brighter than their dimming mom)makes my summer.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Who is the Favorite?

It has been quite a sometime since I have heard the words "you don't care about me" or "why do you get them something but never for me?" My youngest is 14 and I thought those days were behind me. Yet once again I was confronted with the ageless "I am not your favorite" remark. 

When my three children were young and old enough to voice their thoughts I am positive that this was one of the first complaints that I heard. What's a mother to do? Well... I have a solution. (It's quite simple really.)  Simply confess that the other child is the favorite! (It works. Try it.)  Let's run through some possible scenarios so you get the technique down...

Child questions: 
How come (sister's name here) gets to stay up later than me?
Mom answers:    
Because she is my favorite. (Real answer is because she is older.)

Child questions: 
How come (brother's name here) gets to have three sleep over this month and I don't?
Mom answers:    
Because he is my favorite. 
(Real answer is he has been invited to 3 sleep over birthday parties.)

Get the picture? (It helps of course that you smile and answer with all the sarcasm you can muster.) Not convinced? Try it at least several times when the situation arises. I guarantee it will work. (And besides our dog is my favorite. But don't tell anyone.) 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Helicopter, Lawnmower, or Scooter Parent. Which one are you?

Recently, I was pondering helicopter parents.  If you have never heard the term helicopter parent it is a term that is used to describe a parent who constantly hovers around their child anticipating that they will be needed.  These types of parents interfere constantly.  Behaviors can range from complaining about a perceived injustice (possibly a poor grade that their child earned but that they feel the child should have not gotten); to becoming angry that their child is not a starter on a sports team; or writing reports and papers for your child.  Sometimes parents need to step in when something may be happening that is unfair, but I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about those individuals who engage in over parenting to the point that they are not protecting, but actually hurting their child’s development into adulthood. Over parenting to the extreme.

Usually this type of over parenting behavior does stop after the child leaves the nest. At the college level the term applied is Lawnmower Parent. The type of behavior seen at the college level is one where the parent clears any or all obstacles to make life easier for their child. Whether it is to wake them up in the morning to get to classes, get a job, pay bills… (Would you believe it?) Instead of college age students making decisions on their own the parents do it. (If your 18 year old can’t get themselves dressed and out the door in time that is their own darn fault!)

Does it stop after college? (Nope.)  Recently I watched a news report (with my mouth open and on the floor) that reported how hiring companies now have to deal with parents negotiating their adult child’s health insurance, as well as contract and salary negotiations.  (Really?)  I would have been embarrassed if my parents ever had called a future employer, and frankly if I was a future employer and mom and dad called to discuss and negotiate with me (on behalf of their adult child) I would retract my job offer immediately. This type of behavior demonstrates to me lack of life skills development. If a parent interferes at this level then they have been interfering forever.

One parent interviewed explained that they were doing only the things that they wished they had been told about when they were young.  I think they miss the point. If your child needs your life’s wisdom then offer it, but let your adult child make the decision and gain knowledge and experience from the act. Don’t do it for them! 

I think the main job a parent has is to prepare your child for adulthood and life. You must be there to provide love and guidance, give them opportunities to gain knowledge and learn, and to grow into competent happy adults. Constantly hovering about, making things easy, or doing it for them when they could do it themselves does the child a disservice. 

I would suggest that is you see yourself over parenting you try to slow down. My suggestion would be to become what I call a scooter parent. Take things slower and as they come. Enjoy your time more with your children doing simple things like playing. This makes life enjoyable, adds value to your relationships, and takes stress and pressure off of your shoulders and your child's.  It may also improve your relationship with your spouse. (An added benefit!) 

Personally I don't understand it. My experience has been that all children grown up at different developmental rates and sooner or later get to adulthood and become successful.

(Well, I guess I need to stop lecturing you… I need to do my 25 year old's laundry, rewrite my 16 year old's English paper, ask my mom to call my employer to negotiate my next round of pay raises, and make sure my husband is building our 14 year old's science project correctly….)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

School Lunch Challenge

I can’t make up my mind if making school lunch is one of the most boring jobs a parent must do. It certainly is one of the most challenging. Don’t get me wrong I want my children to eat a nutritious and delicious lunch. It is the variety and the daily grind that I have a problem with.

If you are parents chances are you have a daily routine. (We certainly do.) The making school lunch is scheduled around 7:30/8pm which is (after our family athletes and musicians are back from activities) and after dinner has been served and cleared. Chances are my husband and I prior to dinner went through a “what in the heck should we make for dinner?” phase and thankfully one of us had some sort of brainstormed idea that resulted in dinner. Now an hour later I am back at square one to figure all over again what we have in the house, and what will be an acceptable lunch for my children. Sometimes I just don’t want to make lunch. Sometimes I just want to break the vicious cycle and be lazy. (To heck with this grind. Go buy lunch kiddos!) Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I plan and do execute lunch effortlessly, but it just gets challenging on a daily basis.

I should tell you that I have the added challenge of children that do not like sandwiches. (Yup. You read correctly. No sandwiches! Unheard of right? Or maybe my children were SO smart by telling me they did not like sandwiches I would then have to deliver something else, something more exciting?) This anti-sandwich situation was an enormous hurdle at first, until my husband and I started purchasing microwaves for their classrooms and school lunch rooms. Even so the variety and how you cycle your leftovers can be just as challenging.

To make matters worse the school year is winding down. This is a dangerous time for me. What was once an acceptable and enthusiastically welcomed lunch when the lunch box was opened, has now received comments like “not this again”. Naturally my children break the news to me gently..”Mom, if I have pasta salad to eat again I think I will be sick!” “Ok, thank you dear.” (Damn another lunch crossed off my list.)

I actually have figured out that during my children’s school years I have (so far) made a total of roughly 5,249 school lunches in my lifetime. By the time my youngest leaves for college I will have made over 6.000 school lunches. (No wonder I’m tired of the grind!)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dog Park Drama

Going to the park with your kids is a great idea, however; sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it when there are others that just don’t play well or know basic etiquette. As a parent this can result in a great opportunity to teach, but when your baby is a dog and you have a bad experience at the dog park that is just not the case.  Since we now take our high energy, love to play all the time German Boxer to the dog park several days a week to burn energy, I have been pondering the similarities between taking kids and dogs out to the park.

I think the fundamental rule of any parent is that you should watch your kids (or dog). Either way lack of supervision can result in problems and issues. And some parents don’t have a clue. Here are some of my (and most likely other’s issues/pet peeves) that cause dog park drama….

Pick up after your baby.  (It’s that or diaper your dog. Poop.)

Some kids don’t share well with others. Same with dogs. 
Don't bring outside toys. A dog sees anything new brought into the park as open for their own enjoyment. Denied that opportunity, any dog can act up, and if your baby doesn’t like to share …. well opportunity for dog drama increases.

Territorial dogs are a pain. Whether they are protecting their human, guarding the park water bowl, or taking procession of the entrance gate area- no one likes a loud, unsociable hog.  (Anyone should be able to play when and where they want, and not be harassed.)

Don’t bring in a puppy less than 4 months of age. (It reminds me of bringing an infant and laying it down in the sand box with 2 year olds to learn how to play.) If you want to socialize your baby take your baby to puppy events specifically designed for socializing.  Arrange appropriate level play dates. I can’t tell you how many fights and bites I have seen because of a younger out of control behavior. (Kids too.)

SIck dogs should stay home. Do everyone a favor  and do not expose others to an illness or disease. 

Dogs in heat. (Ok, there really isn’t a kids parallel.  Perhaps young teens in lust?) Quite frankly I think it is in extremely poor taste and very inconsiderate to bring a female in heat. For goodness sake this is play time not “shagging time” and (while I’m not a prude) it is embarrassing!

And finally…parenting skills dictate that if your child is misbehaving then you need to correct them. Same goes for dogs. If your dog plays too rough, is too unruly or starts a fight… correct the behavior, leash your baby, and leave the park.

Ok… I know what you are thinking. We are talking dogs here not humans, but really I have to confess that while I am not a dog trainer by profession, I am a pretty good parent of three great kids and one great dog. What they all need to know from their parents are: rules, clear expectations on behavior and boundaries  (of course followed by love, acceptance, and lots of play).

I feel better know having got this off my chest, however life experience has taught me that it takes all kinds, and I’ll just have to except people and dog drama. (But that won’t stop me from fuming silently.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wasting Time – Ban Left Turns

I didn’t give the subject of a left turn much thought until the other day. 

Jeff remarked,“ There should be no left turns.”

“Come again?” I asked. “ Did you say no left turns?”

“Yes. I did. Think about it. Do you know how much time is wasted waiting 
to make a left hand turn or waiting in the left turn lane?”

“No”.  (Wow… this is something that never even crossed my mind.)

“No left turns, Jeff repeated.

“I’m not sure that banning left turns saves time”. I answered “It might 
actually take you longer to get anywhere if all you do is make right turns.”

“Three right turns and you’re there.”
(Obviously Jeff had given this some thought. More than me.)

“Yeah, but making only right turns will take you out of your way. 
It will be less direct.” I countered.

“Sure, but faster than waiting 3-5 minute every time you wish to 
turn left.” (He may have a point here.)

Ok, but perhaps It’s just the perception that left hand turns take longer 
because you are not moving. While with right turn you at least feel like your moving?”

“No. It’s the waiting. It’s a waste of time. Not to mention unsafe. 
Do you know that more accidents happen when people are turning into 
oncoming traffic? Left turn. We need to ban left turns. 
Write something in your blog about that.”

(While I hate to admit my husband is right. I did some research on left turns.)
 National statictics back Jeff up. I’m finding out that besides the accident rate 
there are other reasons to ban left turns. UPS officially minimizes left turns
(Not for safety, but for fuel efficiency and time savings) 
And Myth Busters (One of our favorite family TV programs) confirmed that 
turning right while driving improves fuel efficiency.

Some communities and designers are giving the no left turn idea real thought. 
Some states have roads with no left turns .)

“Did you write about no left turns yet?” Jeff asked.

“No.” (I hate it when he is right!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Unconditional Love will only get You so Far

Last week our 16 year old daughter was in no mood to be trifled with. All the signs were there… gray clouds, petulant looks, low monosyllable answers…. (Those who have teenagers know the signs.) This time even her brothers had the good sense to stay away.  Somehow though Dad missed the signs (either that or he is incredible brave).

Dad actually approached his daughter and had the chutzpah to talk to her (while the rest of us cowards stayed away).  I can’t tell you what the conversation topic was during the brief interaction. I can tell you however that it left an effect on Dad.  Upon completion of the father daughter exchange Dad was overheard muttering “unconditional love will only get you so far”.

Wow…. I wonder if our daughter realized what a close call she had?
After all… unconditional love can only get you so far.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Why Online Gaming is Good

For those of you who have children old enough to play with their friends via online gaming I thought I would list for you some reasons why online gaming is good. (This is just in case you stay up late pondering the evils of our society, and what effect all these killing/fantasy games have on your child.) Perhaps this will give you some peace of mind knowing the positive effects for you and your family.

You never have loud noisy children over anymore. 
 Since play dates are conducted over the internet. 
You don't have a lot of kids running around, and your home stays cleaner.

You never hear "I'm bored" and have to make activity suggestions.
No more straining your creative parenting skills.
Your child's hand eye coordination improves daily.
 This should help hone sport and music skills. 
Anger management is easy. 
With access to violence it is easy for your children to take out 
their frustrations elsewhere. This makes for a calmer environment.
Don't have to worry about where the kids are.
Where are they? Why exactly where you left them 7 hours ago.
The monthly food bill lowers considerably. 
Kids can't hear you calling for mealtime, therefore; they don't come to the table.
If they don't come to the table why cook? And if not cooking... stop purchasing the food.
Builds self esteem.
With all the kids online playing together your kid feels popular.
Online gaming is green and great for your yard.
Less wear and tear on trees -  no more tree climbing. 
Your grass grows greener - no more worn patches from too much running 
Flowers and small shrubs do not get trampled.
Don't have to be troubled driving them anywhere.
Why would they want to go anywhere or do anything else?
Instant babysitter. 
Turn it on and watch them tune out. 
You can holler at them and they can't hear a thing!
Love those headset. 
Since you can't get online for your anger management this is the next best thing.