23 June 2010

Never Mind Hanging Up and Driving. Hang Up, Tune In, and Parent!

Early last week, before my TDY (translated to civilian-ese, "business trip"), I stumbled across a rather poorly written OpEd piece on distracted parenting. While I felt that the piece lacked cohesion or a good conclusion, the central point was clear (if only because I'm a parent). Parents who don't focus on their babies' needs or who interact with them in a vague manner fail to teach them key things about themselves and the world around them.

I remember reading up on newborns when A fell into that category of child - and thinking, "This makes perfect sense". Babies imitate. Your faces are their meter for their actions. Your expressions and tones teach them about the world around them and their relationship with you. In fact, time and again, experts emphasize the fact that the best new baby toy you can "get" for your child is...your face and your voice.

With that in mind, both M and I focused on A. We talked to one another on the phone when she was sleeping and hung up straight away when she woke or screamed or cried. We didn't let TV or telephones or even music distract us while we fed her or interacted with her. In fact, for the first almost 12-months of her life, the TV was on all day - tuned to the classic music channel. Nothing to watch and soothing music all around helped avoid distractions.

Now, of course, things have changed. A is a toddler and a very independent one at that, but I haven't been able to help but notice more and more "distracted parents" when we're out and about.

In Faneuil Hall's North Market on Sunday evening, a young baby began crying while his mother sat, eating her dinner and yelling into her cell phone. As his cries got more persistent and angry, she raised her voice to be heard and idly messed with the carriage. It took 10 minutes (yes, I timed it) before she finally took him out

14 June 2010

Meet the Fall Guy

His name? Well, according to the Official Ugly Doll website, it's Secret Mission Ice Bat. He can live in the freezer and steal your noms. Be that as it may, according to our daughter, that is Wombat. It is her lovey and God forbid you ever do something like forget him in the doctor's office on a Friday because then you'll have to invent a story about how he was sick too and he had to stay for observation. Over the weekend. But isn't Fishcakes nice? (Don't ask - it's another lovey, second best.)

Ahem. So anyway...

With A's imagination in full swing these days, wwe've discovered that she has adapted to her single-childhood well. I grew up with two younger brothers that were close in age (and later, a baby sister who's 10 and a half years my junior, so she missed out on this...) and M grew up with an older brother. That meant that we always had a Fall Guy.

The Fall Guy was the one you pointed to and said, "HE DID IT!!!" while you were standing in the middle of a pile of broken pottery and your brother was playing innocently across the room. The Fall Guy wrote on the walls, made the mess, jumped on the bed until it broke.

Sometimes it worked, most times, our parents gave us the hairy eye and then a good talking to or, more likely than not, a sore rear and sent us to bed, even if it was only one in the afternoon.

Single children, however, don't have that luxury. Or do they? Wombat, as he is lovingly known,

11 June 2010

The Switch is Flipped

It has been a long week. In fact, it feels as though it's been the Longest Week Ever. Between M having serious issues with his job (to the unintentional detriment of the household mood) and A suddenly and ferociously exhibiting every negative aspect of Toddlerdom you can fathom, I am ready for some Mommy/Daddy Alone Time tomorrow night.

The thing I've realized about this coming of age saga is that it really is as if a switch was turned on, starting Monday. It's the week where Mommy Can Do No Right. A kiss has been enough to set off a litany of wrongs perpetrated unto her, beginning with, "MY HEAD MOMMY! NO TOUCH MY HEAD!! NO KISS MY HEAD!!!! MINE!!!!"and culminating in, "BWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

This, of course, will set the tone for the remainder of the day.

It's also tough to watch. It's hard to see your child losing her mind and inevitably, we can see when things have gotten to the point of no return - that stage of the tantrum wherein the child has forgotten what they were mad about and is now just mad because they're mad and they don't know why they're mad so now they're scared and mad which scares them more...

You can see where that's going - and seasoned parents, you can please stop pointing and laughing at me now. Really.

We try to rationalize it anyway. She's mad at me because I've been TDY a lot lately and this started after I returned from drill. She's in a growth

03 June 2010

Play-Skool - It's Work Too

I often think that it's a damn shame that we don't really seem to view children as actual people. Usually, these thoughts come when I see light to nearly non-existent sentences for parents found guilty of physical abuse or pedophiles found guilty of repeat offenses. It's easy to see it in those cases - light sentences for those who assault other "almost-but-not-yet-quite-people" just smacks of a certain level of de-humanization to me.

And I realized last night that on some level, no matter how much we may value our smallest of humans and their very humanity, even the best intended and most loving parents do it too. It was my mini-epiphany for the night when, after ensuring that A was snug in bed, I took a moment to breathe and revel in the silence and reflect on the evening to that point.

She was quiet, as she often is for a while, on the car ride home. Sometimes, when I ask about her day, she just sticks her thumb in her mouth and gives me The Look which is when I leave her alone. But yesterday, we got home early

02 June 2010

Un-Schooling - Child-Centered or Parental Laziness?

A few days ago over at In the Parenthood, Lylah M. Alphonse asks us, "Would you support your teen's decision to drop out of high school?" Most of the answers in the comment section were predictable - parents stating that they'd drag their child kicking and screaming if necessary;  that anyone who lets their kid do this is trying to be cool, hip, a friend and is, therefore, a bad parent.

I take a slightly different view because, frankly, in spite of my parents very best efforts, I was a wayward child and no amount of punishment, discipline, dragging (kicking and screaming inncluded), or other more serious efforts could curb my desire to live life on my terms, in my way. So, I support a parent who realizes that ultimately, there comes a time in a child's life when the parent has exhausted all available options except for prison (which seems a wee bit extreme here...) and it may be easier to support their child in their endeavors than fighting them tooth and nail.

But this afternoon, I came across a flipside to this coin: Un-schooling. At first blush (a light, grazing, almost non-existent blush at that), un-schooling seems to be an interesting method of exposing your children to the world. No cirriculum, no tests, child-driven learning through-and-through....a little like Montessori on serious steroids. Except, after reading more in depth and checking out this Nightline article where an un-schooler and her family were observed at "work", I had some serious questions about the veracity of this "radical, new school of thought".