Category: parenting

‘When I Was A Girl’ No Longer Has Any Relevance To Today’s Parenting

What happened to the days of our childhood when we cycled everywhere, and played unsupervised without cell phones?  When the most trouble we could get into was getting our clothes dirty and being home late for the family dinner. 

Why are so many teenage girls suffering from anxiety and depression?  Why can we no longer draw on our own experiences as children to guide our own children through their adolescent years?   Because the majority of kids do not have unscheduled play time.  Because the majority of kids do not eat with their families. 

It was something that my 16 year-old daughter said to me that made me finally stop comparing my own childhood with what was lacking in hers? 

I had been asking my daughter why she hadn’t greeted a girl in her grade that had been next to her in a line.  I knew the kid’s mother well, and the girls were in the same grade in the same small High School.  I watched her stance change and she became anxious as I repeated the same old observation.  “I understand she is in the so-called ‘popular crowd’, but why can’t you be more friendly?  What’s the worst thing that could happen if you said hello?” She looked at me with big sad eyes and quietly sighed “Mom you just don’t understand”. 

What did she mean?  I’m the cool Mom of four girls who thinks that she understands everything.  I let her have a purple streak in her hair to make her feel good about herself and bought her floral Doc Martens!  I invite her friends over on a regular basis.  I thought I totally got it with bells on.  Wasn’t I just teaching basic politeness? But it wasn’t until I attended a talk by Elizabeth Englander – top doctor and specialist in kid stuff to do with the internet, Facebook, social networking etc etc.

The talk was called “Helping Your Child Achieve Social Success In School and Online” and it started well for me.  ‘Talk to your kids’ – check.  ‘Spend time with your kids (more important than any basketball game or trumpet class)’ – check.   ‘No kid under 13 should have a Facebook account – it’s breaking the law’ – check.  ‘Monitoring Facebook accounts etc is not snooping – you are teaching them that EVERY thing they post is public and there is no such thing as privacy’ – check.  At this point I’m feeling rather smug and hope that all the parents who think that having their kids’ password infringes on their privacy are finally getting the message. 

Then Elizabeth explained how we need to understand that our children’s childhood IS TOTALLY different than when we were children.  And we cannot and should not try to compare them.

But what is responsible for this total change?  The answer has to be technology.  It happened so fast!  One day we got a cell phone, the next our kids were  needing to be on-line, attached 24/7 to some electronic device for fear of what?  Missing something?  We have become voyeurs.  Needing to constantly be looking at other people’s everyday lives which only results in us being less satisfied with our own.    We read about other people’s trips, children’s achievements, and the parties/weddings they attended that we weren’t invited to. 

All of the above are resulting in our children not being able to handle many social situations.  The one that is particularly damaging is being unable to handle ‘resolution’.  In OUR day when we had a ‘tiff’ with a friend during an unsupervised playdate we usually figured it out before we went home at the end of the day.  By the next day it was forgotten.  Elizabeth explained the harrowing reality of today, especially with girls.   To start with they rarely play unsupervised and in their ‘spare’ time, so a ‘tiff’ will usually arise at school.  The hurt party will typically go home and tweet her friends about her unfair treatment, or her annoyance that someone has talked to her boyfriend or copied her hairstyle.   She will then go on Facebook and rant a bit resulting in others joining in and fanning the flames.  By the morning the ‘tiff’ is well underway with many more people involved.  This can go on for days until some other drama replaces this one.   Our children are simply not in a position to learn face-to-face, one on one, how to resolve personal issues on their own in a timely manner. 

For the first time I realized that my daughter saying ‘hello’ to the cool kid, is enough to put her on the cool kids radar…Being on that radar could quite possibly result in a Facebook posting or Twitter message about her.  Which may result in several responses, which could result in looks and sniggers at school the next day, which would definitely result in increased anxiety.  The worst thing that could happen is not that they will ignore you.  It’s that they will notice you.  You will be perceived as trying to suck up to the cool crowd.  And ‘who do you think you are? ’  Pretty devastating stuff to a shy 16 year-old.  No wonder she won’t even make eye contact with those she perceives as the cool kids.  They yield an incredible amount of power. 

I felt sick that I had been pestering her to get in their face and be friendly.  Because what could be wrong with that?  Everything in today’s world could be wrong with that.

Bad news, parents.  Elizabeth tells us that the only way they are going to learn about resolving disagreements is from us.  We need to ask our kids about their day.  About their dramas.  About postings that YOU have seen on their Facebook pages.  YEs, their Facebook page is a window into their lives but remember you can only view through a one way mirror.  Never be tempted to comment.  Just be grateful that you can see.

And ‘if’ our perfect daughters were to ‘add’ to a mean Facebook posting we need to educate them WHY it isn’t acceptable.   And ‘when’ our kids come home from a stressful day of navigating all of this they need to enter a calm and happy home, because to many of our kids, school is a battleground.  Our kids need a place to retreat to for peace and support.  Letting our kids scream at each other, swear at each other or you, or eye roll at each other isn’t teaching them independence or letting them ‘express themselves’.  It’s teaching them that these family-rage behaviors are acceptable when they are not.  The same goes for how WE treat our partners and our children.    Our children are watching and learning from us.

 Please check out Elizabeth Englander’s web site   She’s done all the years of research, the focus groups and all the number crunching.  We just have to put into action the wonderful gems she has uncovered.  

By keeping an open mind and with her help we have the best chance of navigating through the often-painful years of adolescence, which are so totally different from our own.

Beautiful Oops

It’s very noisy here, and hard to imagine that two 11 year olds girls coming down stairs really do make furniture shake.   The phone rings constantly and I’m the only one who seems to hear it and have to be chase down one of four missing handsets usually found under beds or in sofa cushions.  

Within our chaos naturally we have plenty of oopsies.   The fridge is always overful.    OK, OK.  I’m a leftover person.  And I like to have four types of mustard, several salad dressings, and at least three jellies just in case someone asks for them.  When the fridge door opens anything can happen.   We have learned to bend at the waist when we open the door to protect our toes from crashing yogurts or glass jars. 

And then there are the cupboards.  Things are precariously balanced in every cupboard, especially pots and pans.   This is why I am a huge fan of plastic.  Thank goodness the quality is so good now you don’t feel like you are eating a picnic.  Target’s melanine plates this year actually look like Spanish glazed plates – incredible.  And even more incredible they go in the dishwasher, and bounce when you drop them. 

I have a noisy eater and a messy eater from birth.  She’s 11 now and I still have to say ‘slow down’, ‘take the food to your mouth, not your mouth to the food’ and then always the final check before school – it’s usually an oops shirt change situation.  I’m usually in a rush, because I love life and want to do it all.  But with that comes more oops.  I’m bad at typos as I type very fast, to keep up with my thoughts.  With speed comes errors.  And I slink into a corner when I hear people say that a typo is absolutely a reason not to interview someone for a job, or use a company.  A typo means unprofessional!  I’m not unprofessional, I just type too fast and ok, should go back and carefully check…. But I’m on the next email by now making typos in that one too.

But I just discovered a wonderful new children’s book called ‘Beautiful Ooops’.    I love everything about it and particularly the message that it’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator.  Barney Saltzberg, the effervescent spirit behind Good Egg, offers a one-of-a-kind interactive book that shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope”—each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.  The smudge becomes the face of a bunny, a crumpled ball of paper turns into a lamb’s fleecy coat—celebrate the oops in life.   Reading level: Ages 4-8.  Hardcover: 28 pages measuring: 6.8 x 6.8 x 1.2 inches

Summer Lessons Learned

The cooling air, the bright blue skies, the turning leaves, a quieter house, leads me to face the fact that summer is drawing to it’s beautiful close.

Today I want to celebrate the things I learned this summer. 

I learned that you can grate hard boiled eggs?  I kid you not.  They grate like a dream to make incredibly smooth egg salad….

I learned that Carvel blue ice cream cake frosting makes great make up!   Or so I found out at the twins 11 year old birthday party as one little friend caked it on her cheeks, lips, and eye lids…

I learned that when your 19 year old daughter is in love it’s a wonderful thing.  And when they are in love with someone who brings out the best in them and with someone that your whole family simply adores – it’s WIN WIN WIN! 

I learned that I couldn’t do most of the 6th grade summer math packet!

I learned that when I took TV and computers away from my kids as a punishment, after a sulky 5 minutes THEY had the best day ever!  They actually seemed ‘relieved’ that it was gone.  It’s just too hard for them to make that decision on their own and I need to do that more often for their own well being.

I learned that puppies like children cannot raise themselves without direction.  Our new puppy got lost in the chaos of summer and needs some urgent training.  She can still be found standing in the middle of the dining room table finishing up breakfast and it is entirely our fault for not finding time for her.

I am incredibly grateful for 12 fabulous weeks with my patient husband and incredible four girls.   Our house rang with laughter and music (they learned the ukelele and harmonica).  Our home was a constant mess.  It was way too noisy.  It was the best summer I can remember!