29 December 2009

The Domestic War and a Secret Weapon Unveiled

Do you know what I hate? Nooo, not that. No, not that either. Well, maybe that but…listen, it was a bloody rhetorical question so just pipe down and let me continue, will you? Sheesh.

I hate cleanser commercials. I do. I have an extra special hatred for any cleanser commercial that adds fake shiny sparkles to a bathroom or kitchen surface that has been swiped once by a brand new sponge held in a perfectly manicured hand…and OMG if there a “TING!” added somewhere in there, it’s enough to make me want to commit TV-a-cide. But generally speaking, I hate all cleanser commercials on a relatively equal basis.

The reason is quite simple really. They all LIE. Never once have I been able to manicure my hands and then take a fresh, new Scotch Brite, give a surface a quick spritz and swipe once and be done. Let’s also never mind the fact that no freshly cleaned surface of mine has ever sparkled and glinted or gone, “TING!” afterwards. Well, I say, “They All”, but what I really mean is, “All but one” and that (finally) brings me to the point of this post. Almost.

28 December 2009

Our Second First Christmas

There are first Christmases with children – the ones where, generally speaking, said child is too young to care about much more than playing with wrapping paper and boxes or, more accurately, eating wrapping paper and boxes…

And then there are First Christmases with children – usually the next Christmas after the very first, when the basics of Santa, Christmas and the notion of presents are starting to really come together and form a vivid picture in the child’s mind.

The very first Christmases are great. It marks a turning point in the family dynamic and, frankly, the only protest received when dressing the baby up in a reindeer onesie, complete with antlered hood, comes from other, more sympathetic adult family members than you.

But the second First Christmas is something I recently learned is to be cherished and laughed at. A lot.

09 December 2009

Juvenile Curfew for a Town With Nominal Juvenile Crime?

Yes, this is the town I live in. And I'll be honest that, as both a resident and a parent, I am actually angry about the fact that our city council is going ahead with discussions surrounding the topic of implementing a juvenile curfew here.

It's certainly not the first in the state of MA. The city of Lowell made news recently when the MA Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) struck down criminal charges for youth found to be violating the city imposed curfew, in effect since 1994.

In towns across the state where some form of juvenile curfew has been imposed, it has been in direct response to increased numbers of violent crimes committed by youthful offenders, but in Malden, MA, even the police chief has remained opposed to this idea. He cites the arrest of only 11 juveniles after 9 pm in the last year, out of 941 overall arrests (both juvenile and adult). Of the 941 total arrests, only 55 in total were of minors.

04 December 2009

It Takes A Lot of Money to Raise a Child?

Who knew?

The ever prolific Lylah M. Alphonse wrote a piece the other day with respect to a study that's been done that says that the average cost of raising a family tops a million. It's not the article, it's the comments that got me. The thirdcomment railed against fear mongering and alarmism and noted that it's numbers like these that are preventing her own family members from starting families of their own. Many others followed suit in that same train of thought.

But what's all the outcry for? Kids are damn expensive. I probably won't spend but half a million in the end with my own. We don't have the incredibly high cost of daycare to contend with for one thing, and we're out of the formula stage (I failed at breast feeding).

So,I did some math and came up with a figure of 12 grand for everything we've spent in the last 19, almost 20 months that was solely on or for her. That didn't factor in my OB visits and tests during pregnancy, or the cost of my own hospital stay after she was born - but it did factor in hers because we got whacked with a 3,000 dollar bill that our insurance didn't cover.

I wouldn't trade her for the world, but the cost and the making ends meet struggle is one of (not the only) the reasons we won't plan to have more children.

In fact, I have some friends who keep asking when I'm going to give her a brother or sister. I hate that. My response is, "When you carry the baby to term and foot the bill." Usually, that works. Sometimes though, I get this: "Oh, you'll always find a way."

You know what? We found a way once. There is little else to sacrifice and I'm not going to cut any more just to have another child. It's selfish and frankly, I don't think it would do our mental health any good.

So, why can't we just be happy parents making do with one child? Why does understanding that kids are expensive, even without the fancy toys and classes and day care and all of the other stuff that adds up, make us bad and not, instead, simple realists?

As it is, I'm of the "get a job" school of thought when it comes to gadgets and toys and clothes that aren't necessary. If that job is chores and I end up paying for it vis a vie an allowance, at least the kid learns the value of things (and when the overpriced cheap piece of crap breaks, she will learn the worth of things too). As she gets older, the job can be at McDonalds if necessary, but I'll not be buying this phone or that iPod or that laptop or that Prada just because. She can save and do it herself. Thankfully, her father and I are not only on the same page, but fighting for the same punctuation mark on this score.

If parents don't mind shelling out, well, to each their own. But if the cost of raising a family being public knowledge offends you, you, honestly, scare me and you may well be one of the asses who pesters me about "finding a way" to have more children. So you annoy me too.

What do you think? Would you have children anyway or would this reinforce your decision not to?

03 December 2009

Making Holiday Magic

Christmas has been my favorite holiday for a while now. It's not the gifts or the shopping frenzy. In fact, Christmas shopping makes me want to break out in hives shaped like dollar bills, that's how much I hate doing it. Instead, it's the music, the lights, the warm glow of a Christmas tree at night and the combination of all of these things is enough to make me die happy.

It's also the family. I don't like the chaos that comes with large family holiday gatherings, but I do like being with family, especially as things have wound down and the only lights are from the candles in the window and the Christmas tree...oh...and there's a glass or two or...er...yeah - of wine involved.

This year, it's going to be a quiet holiday. We're not visiting family, nor is family, such as it is, visiting us. Like most Americans, we're also flat broke (I'm not sugar coating it), so there is no shopping frenzy in the near, Christmassy future. Instead, most of the gifts under the tree will be from friends and family and for Little One, with maybe two or three exceptions (at most) from us...wait, no. From Santa.

In spite of that, I think it's going to be more memorable than most. Last year was A's first Christmas, but you could see that it didn't matter to her, as we thought it might not. This year though, her memory is developed. Her language is exploding all over the place and you can see the little concept lights flashing - and staying  - on. She's getting stuff now. She even says, :"Kissma'?" when she hears the music and sees the lights.

So, here's the basic Holiday Plan:

In the next couple of weeks, we'll get a fresh cut tree and one of our best friends will join us again this year to decorate.

Because A loves animals and because she loves one of the hack horses outside Faneuil Hall named Big Charlie in particular, we have booked a carriage ride through the city on the evening before Christmas Eve. Big Charlie actually said "hello" to her by stuffing his face into hers and making her laugh. He's a friendly lad and we thought that spending some quality time with him and his handler would be a fine way to kick off preparations for the arrival of Santa - and the True meaning of the holiday.

On Christmas Eve, we want to spend some time at the Boston Homeless Veteran's Shelter (I have grander ideas than that for the shelter and supporting it, but will save it for another time), then make our way to Christmas Eve mass.

Christmas Day, 3 friends will join us for dinner and warmth and we'll bore them to death with pictures taken that morning, of Little Miss tearing into her presents and finding more interest in the boxes and paper.

I can't tell you how happy the simplicity, lack of travel, and the relative calm pending for this holiday will make me. I'm giddy with the prospect of it! I'll miss my family dearly, but to not travel for a change is sort of novel. Maybe we can even start some family traditions of our own out of this. As it is, the tree decorating with S seems to be catching on...maybe carriage rides will too?

How do you make family tradition? Have you made any? Are you simplifying this year too?

02 December 2009

A Return to Sanity

Earlier this summer, we found ourselves in the Boston Public Gardens (as we often do), trailing behind a fast running baby with a pinecone clutched tightly in one of her hands, a water bottle in the other, rocks and twigs and leaves and possibly a snail falling out of her pockets...and a stick in her mouth, a la Fido. She was attempting to shriek with joy around the stick as she went blazing by onlookers, intent on catching a squirrel. Or maybe a duck.

I followed languidly, keeping her close but not too close, when a woman stopped me with a look of panic on her face. "Oh my God! She's got a stick in her mouth!!"

I checked to make sure that she hadn't tried to put the stick in her mouth like a straw - no, still carrying it like a dog. Good to go. "Yes," I remember replying. "She does. Her hands are full so that's the only way she can carry it right now." As the woman spluttered, I walked off to catch up with A who was now plopped on the ground, playing with prickly seeds from some tree or other.

Not too long before that, we had taken her to Wollaston Beach for a day. While there, we met another mother with a baby a couple of weeks older. The girls gravitated to each other and Mom and I started chatting. As she watched her daughter eat some sand, she said, sheepishly, "Does it make me a bad mom that I let her do that?" She seemed to be worried that I was going to scream, "OH MY GOD SHE'S EATING SAND!!!!" Apparently, this has happened.

When my own daughter started licking likely rocks, checking for flavor in the strata, I said, "Um. No. I hope you don't mind but my daughter is sharing rocks with yours." Yes, both babies were now licking rocks, sampling and holding them out to share. And eating sand. And dumping sand over their heads.

They were exploring as babies do, with their mouths. Mom and I were relieved, I think, to be in each other's company and we started talking about our similar parenting philosophy which boils down to: Kids eat dirt. We ate dirt. Dirt doesn't kill. Let them eat dirt!

The Mommy Drive By (thank you, Lylah!) in the Public Gardens wasn't the first I've encountered, nor was it the last. As I noted in my musings on Michael Specter, however, brilliant people tend to turn stupid quickly and I really take offense at you taking offense because my child was somewhat innovative and was carrying a stick in her mouth (not in such a way as to have stabbed her if she fell) - but you think it's fine to endanger my child by bucking the vaccine trend with some junk science for a backer (there are always exceptions, I understand that and I am not speaking about those here).

So it was with relief that I read this Times article today. I whooped for joy inside. Maybe there's hope that my daughter will be able to enjoy the childhood I did, one that didn't take place in a "safe" era but one that I managed to survive in spite of the fact that I was more often than not out of sight of my parents than in.

In our house, you won't find antibacterial cleaners or soap, hand sanitizer and you won't find me following after my child at every waking moment. She needs her space now as much as we need ours and she takes it quite often, in her room with her toys or sitting in her rocker "reading" books.

In fact, she just came over to show me how she's painted her face with her "wa wa cowors". [facepalm] She's a kid. She makes messes, eats dirt, falls and hurts herself (and I believe that sometimes letting them do so is integral to the "Don't Touch" and "Don't Do" learning process - "No" has no meaning, no matter how wonderful your explanation, without the experience behind it) and yes, she eats the cat food and picks up things I'd rather she not outside on the streets.

So far though, she's confident, daring, and generally just a normal, happy kid whose biggest stress is being told that she cannot, in fact, juggle knives or put pennies in outlets. As she grows, I'll be damned if I'm doing her homework for her or accompanying her on college or job interviews. After school activities will be limited to "free", school sanctioned and play time with other kids. Hopefully she won't hate me for it later, but I just can't understand parents who overbook and hover over their kids' every move and I'm so glad to see that finally, FINALLY, a return to reality and sanity may be in sight.

Are you a helicopter parent or more relaxed and relieved that maybe there's an end in sight?