Ok, so am I the only one here who thinks the rapt media attention this week on some of pop culture’s most troubled moms is.... well.... sad?
I don’t mean sad as in “pathetic,” although one could certainly make that argument, too. I’m thinking “sad” here as in heartaching.
I'm not trying to be preachy. But really, let’s take a look at some of the news that’s come out this week about Teen Mom reality star Amber Portwood and “Octomom” Nadya Suleman – moms who pretty clearly fit that “troubled” category.
Yesterday, a judge ordered that Ms. Portwood, who starred in the MTV reality television shows “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant," serve a five year sentence for a felony drug charge. (Her sentence had been suspended on condition of finishing drug rehab, but she dropped out of the program.) Prosecutors say the now 22-year-old mother was arrested on May 24 after she failed and lied about a urine test.
Meanwhile, Octomom is publicly wavering about her new solution to strip to earn more money for those 14 children. Celebrity news reports say Ms. Suleman had booked a gig at a Florida strip joint (where she would only have to take off her top, she insisted), but that she backed out after she felt the club owners weren’t showing her enough respect. This comes after she filmed her own porn movie (due to be released this summer), which she called the “most liberating thing I’ve ever done.”
The Internet world and celebrity media are loving every second of these mama train wrecks, with posts, news tidbits, comments, you name it.
And it all kinda makes me want to cry.
Because, you know, both of these women have kids. They may have turned themselves into caricatures (or maybe we turned them into caricatures for our own enjoyment and ridicule), but they’re still people. And mothers. I mean, Portwood has a three-year-old daughter, whom she will for the next couple of years see primarily in a detention center waiting room. And Octomom said she got into the commercial sex industry – however positively she spins it for the media – because she was broke.
“If it’s a job, and it’s a well-paying job, and it’s going to allow me to get out of here and move in a safe, huge home that they [her kids] deserve, I’m going to do it,” she said.
So, we have moms with drug problems. Incarcerated parents. Impoverished women selling their bodies for money.
It should be sad. Even more so because these are real, important, and troubling social issues that impact scores of women across the country, albeit not often in the spotlight of television cameras.
Maybe you'd think we’d use these gruesomely public examples to delve into a debate about solutions for the underlying social problems. Or maybe we could just take a look at our own lives, say a blessing for how fortunate we are, and resolve to think more of – maybe even try to help – the less fortunate.
But no. We watch instead with horrified, judgmental glee.
Maybe this is because public moms like Portwood and Suleman are outlets for all our privileged mommy angst; a release after worrying about which car seat is the best for baby, or whether we’re doing well by Junior to put him in soccer practice rather than extra art class.
It’s like the snarky media coverage of New Jersey’s Tanning Mom, Patricia Krentcil, accused of endangering her daughter by taking her into a tanning salon. (Coverage that is still as glibly nasty today, with new photos of Younger Tanning Mom, once an aspiring model, making their rounds online.) We love to bring a Bad Mommy – usually one lower down the socio-economic ladder, always caught in the media glare – to a public hanging.
It shows that the rest of us might be struggling moms, but we’re not Bad. Not like Tanning Mom. Or Octomom. Or Teen Mom.
No, we’re Good Mommies, at least in comparison.
And because we feel self satisfied, the social problems underneath those Bad Moms’ struggles can continue.
You may have noticed a Wall Street Journal article on Monday about Facebook “developing technology that would allow children younger than 13 years old to use the social-networking site under parental supervision.”
If so, that’s great news. A year ago, Consumer Reports did a study finding that 7.5 million children under 13 are using Facebook, so why would it not be good to have a social site suitable for kids under the “brand name” they love? They’re already there! And – though, in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Facebook says it deletes thousands of under-13 accounts a day – it’s clear that the federal law has not put much of a dent in under-13 use of social media. So what’s needed is a service actually designed for them, and that’s what Facebook is working on, reportedly.
Parents right there with them
The research shows parents aren’t unsupportive. Pew Internet reported last summer that adult use of social networking had doubled since 2008, and an earlier study from TRUSTe found that 95 percent of the 80 percent of US parents who have social networking accounts are on Facebook – and of that 95 percent, the vast majority (86 percent) are friends with their teens in Facebook.
Then researchers looked specifically at the underage question, finding that a lot of kids under 13 have their parents’ blessing. A study last fall, “Why parents help their children lie to Facebook about age,” found that, among parents of 10-to-14-year-old Facebook users, 84 percent were aware their children signed up and, of that 84 percent, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) even “helped create the account.” The study was led by social media researcher Danah Boyd, who for a CNET interview told my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid what she heard from parents of these young Facebook users:
"'They want their kids to have access to public life. Today, what public life means is participating in commercial sites. They want to help their kids get on these sites and use them responsibly. These are not parents who are saying, ‘Oh, get on Facebook’ and then walk away,' Boyd continued. She’s found from talking with young people and their parents around the country in her field work that “these are parents who have the computer in the living room, they’re having conversations with their kids, they’re often helping them create their accounts to talk to Grandma. They’re helping them actually negotiate all of this. And they want to do it often in the middle school years, when they can actually have reasonable conversations about how to act responsibly and where they can be present in this."
That presence and guidance from caring adults is even more important for kids of younger ages who are just beginning to negotiate social life on their own. Purely logically, a social network service designed for younger ages and supportive of parental engagement – rather than one with neither of those elements – would be better for the under-13 kids already there. Better than leaving kids to work the online part of this challenging part of growing up completely on their own. And if the service supports parental engagement, parents not already using social media will get on-the-job training.
An educator’s view
“I approach the idea of ‘restricting’ use of these newer social tools in any way with great reservation,” Hawaii educator and behavior health specialist Donnel Nunes told me two years ago. He continued:
"In a perfect world, parents would keep the computer in a visible area and monitor usage and that would solve so many of the problems that we see. As this is rarely the reality and sometimes parents are the ones modeling the problematic behavior, I understand the sense of urgency in trying to find a solution to protect kids. I fully support that urgency. I’m also a little cautious about making correlations between social networking and deviant behavior. I don’t believe there is any evidence to support that social networking = bad choices, bad behavior, etc. I do believe that mobile devices and media have created an opportunity for impulsive behavior to have greater consequences. I also hear about behavior from seventh and eighth graders that, when I was a kid (forgive me for that), did not really start happening until 11th, 12th, and beyond. I like to encourage adults (myself included) to really think about how the paradigm of social interaction has changed with new mobile devices and online tools (such as Facebook, etc). My experience with kids has led me to believe that these forms of communication are every bit as valid as the old way of doings things (face-to-face, phone calls…)."
It’s time for Facebook to do this – and listen to feedback from parents and educators, as well as their young users, so together we can figure this next, much more sound phase of social media the way it logically should be done: in and with participatory media.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews.
It’s Father’s Day No. 3 since my marriage ended. Thing is, the hoops I jumped through to get my kids to properly acknowledge their dad while I was married stayed the same after marriage. I still cajoled them to make a card and orchestrated the creation of an endless parade of paper weights, pencil holders and hand-decorated coffee mugs.
This year my kids are both teenagers, 13 and 15, and last week as we walked through the mall we passed a store window with a kitchen gadget in it. My son said it was something his dad might like.
I said, “Should we get it for him for Father’s Day?”
Both kids let out a long whining “Noooo.”
My son said it was Father’s Day, which meant the children – e.g. he and his sister – would figure out what to give their dad. No moms needed.
Really? I thought. No car, no money, and without me, I thought self-importantly, no direction.
Last year I had them make little “ode-to-daddy” themed collages on canvas. Original works of art you could hang! Try and top that, I thought. And what would their father think, if they forgot to make a card? That’s when I realized Father’s Day wasn’t about my kids’ father anymore, it was about me.
In fact, it raised a whole lot of issues I would never have connected to Father’s Day – like my own parenting insecurities, old resentments (how come he never has the kids make me Mother’s Day cards? Or buy me gifts??) and, probably hardest of all for me, the fact that I have a lot less control over my children than I once did.
At first it was a slow erosion of control, as they pushed against my decisions about what they should wear to school, eat for breakfast and whom to invite to their birthday parties. Then my marriage ended and the three of us kind of dove back in toward each other, holding on tight while the world spun out of control, looking for comfort and protection. But that was almost three years ago. This past year my children have both been pulling away from me. (I’m not allowed to touch my son in public, for instance.) Letting go has been harder than I ever imagined. I know if I’m doing my job right that’s what is supposed to happen, but it’s not easy. And there’s no “What To Expect” book to help with this phase of child rearing.
When my kids say they’ll handle the Father’s Day cards, and that they will decide what gifts to make or buy, my first instinct is to protest, to supervise the card-making and gift-creation. It’s not only on Father’s Day that I do this – it’s everyday. I realize on some level I want my ex-husband to see me as competent, efficient and organized, still the one who, of course, has the cards made and gifts wrapped, who – despite divorce and its generally sad, angry fallout – can still get her kids to make their father a popsicle-stick pencil holder.
But the truth is, we’ve changed, all of us, and not just from divorce (or lots of yoga) but from the sheer force of time passing, of soul-searching, of children moving from tweens to teens.
So this year, I’m not having a Father’s Day card-making session at the dining room table just to prove to my kids and my ex-husband how extraordinarily magnanimous I am! Look at me, I’m so healthy! This year I won’t roll out the crayons, paints, colored pencils and glitter glue, I won’t suggest what they should write.
That day at the mall last week, when I offered to buy the Father’s Day gift, my daughter glanced over at her brother and then put her arm on my shoulder. “Mom,” she said, with an infuriating hint of adolescent condescension, “We got it.”
I started to object, then stopped.
“Okay,” I said tentatively, looking at both of them. “You got it.”
When Frederick Froebel invented kindergarten, in early 1800s Germany, he pioneered the idea of early childhood education — of reaching children during a period of dramatic brain development and introducing a holistic style of learning through play, music, movement, paperfolding and games. He recognized that children learn differently from one another (the precursor to Multiple Intelligence theory), and that one child may learn best by sorting objects, another by talking with peers, and another through sensory experiences like physical movement and touch. He influenced Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner (whose work led to Waldorf Schools), and the Reggio Emilia approach to education, all of which are popular and well regarded today.
Kindergarten, as recently as many of our own childhoods, was a laboratory of discovery and social skills, as well as the preparation for grade school.
Fast-forward 150-plus years since Froebel and we arrive at a time in which online parent message boards are crammed with questions from anxious parents: “Is my child ready for kindergarten?” There are scores of kindergarten readiness tests and commercial kits, which denote and teach precise skills one should know before starting kindergarten, such as the ability to count from 1-10, identify colors, cut with scissors, create rhyming sounds, and skip. (The last includes the especially ridiculous coda that preschool children around the country are being taught to skip, in order to prepare them for kindergarten. Sadly, many children do not have enough outdoor play and free time to develop this skill on their own and are now taught it, not as a joyous life skill, but as part of the readiness curriculum.)
Of course, if a child is not ready for today’s kindergarten, by all means, have the child wait a year. My issue is with the sped-up nature of education. The rush toward school and academic curriculum robs many children of the age-appropriate experience of learning through play, discovery and activity. Given the fact that early childhood has accelerated to the degree that my kindergarten has become my daughter’s pre-K, is it any wonder that the ritual of graduation has also trickled down, from high school and college to pre-school?
I don’t believe I had a preschool or kindergarten graduation. I remember a ritual of autograph books when moving from elementary school to middle. I’m pretty sure there was no middle school graduation either. High school graduation was exceedingly special. I wore a mortarboard cap and gown and screamed with excitement in the school quad, and I actually got to attend a Grad Night at Disneyland that ended at dawn.
Perhaps, then, a blend of personal history and a feeling that childhood has dramatically accelerated leads me to think that elaborate preschool graduations that imitate high school and college graduations are silly (not to mention possibly expensive). Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s wonderful, and even helpful, to have an age-appropriate ritual for young children to help them note the fact of their moving on and perhaps address some conscious or subconscious grief and fear. The trappings of diplomas and caps and gowns do none of those things, however, and are another example of a culture that views children as miniature adults (when convenient). Fortunately, there are some simple rituals that might have more meaning for a child and help them ease and celebrate their transition.
This is a ritual that Anna did at her preschool to mark summer and winter solstices. It can be altered to mark a graduation. Have children stand in a circle and hold hands. An adult leader can then lead children to walk around the circle, or can break free and lead them in a spiral to form smaller circles. The children chant:
We circle around,
We circle around,
We circle around the universe,
Wearing our long tail feathers
As we fly.
I find this a gentle ritual that is symbolic of the movement of time and of change. Because small children make the circle with their bodies, I believe that act has more meaning for them than receiving a piece of paper (that many can’t even read).
Another ritual can be taken from Girl Scouts: The bridging ceremony is typically done when scouts “bridge” from one age-group level to another. They symbolize their passage by walking over a bridge (footbridges work well), under an archway, through a path or over stepping stones. Symbolic bridges can also be created with rows of ribbons, chalk or flowerpots on a lawn or in a driveway. Archways can be created with people’s arms. Sometimes older children greet the ones who bridge over. Bridging is a simple, lovely and meaningful ceremony.
What do you think of formal graduations from preschool? Do you have a favorite alternative?
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Susan Sachs Lipman blogs at Slow Family Online.
No more Cheetos for Cinderella.
Walt Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger says he is planning to announce later today that by 2015 his company will advertise only healthy (or at least healthier) foods on its kids-focused television programming.
That means items such as Kraft Lunchables meals or Capri Sun drinks – existing advertised products – may no longer be promoted on the Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney, Disney.com and Saturday morning programming for kids. (Disney owns ABC.) Also on the outs will be any number of sugary, sweet, nutritionally vapid candies, cereals, and fast food items, although “healthier” versions of these items may still make the cut.
The company will also reduce the amount of sodium by 25 percent in kids' meals served at its theme parks, according to press reports, a move that puts it in line with other public health efforts targeting American sodium consumption.
First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to be on hand for the announcement. Ms. Obama, whose “Let’s Move!” campaign works against childhood obesity, has partnered with Disney’s healthy living efforts in the past, and says she hopes this latest step will be a model for other US companies.
“This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children,” she said in a statement. “With this new initiative, Disney is doing what no major media company has ever done before in the US – and what I hope every company will do going forward. When it comes to the ads they show and the food they sell, they are asking themselves one simple question: ‘Is this good for our kids?’”
Well, perhaps not just that one simple question.
While he told The New York Times that “companies in a position to help with solutions to childhood obesity should do just that,” Mr. Iger added: “This is not altruistic. This is about smart business.”
Disney markets health food for children, and says consumers have purchased billions of servings of its fruits and vegetables.
But so it goes. Better than Disney fries, right?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the country – triple the rate of a generation ago. Most of the CDC's recommendations for helping the problem revolve around access to either better food or more activity.
Many children’s health advocates, though, say advertising is also a big problem. Companies have long targeted poor nutrition products at children.
In 2005, nine out of 10 advertisements shown during Saturday morning children’s television programming were for unhealthy foods, according to a Center for Science in the Public Interest survey, and 74 percent of these ads used cartoon characters to sell the products. (One hundred percent of the cereal ads also pushed their products as part of a “complete” or “balanced” breakfast, the group found.)
And it’s not just cartoons. The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, for instance, is petitioning PBS to end a collaboration between the children's show “Martha Speaks” and fast food purveyor Chick-fil-A. The group noted that in 2011 some 56 million Chick-fil-A Kid’s Meals were distributed in “Martha Speaks" co-branded bags.
“PBS deserves a ton of awards,” the group says. “But not for selling kids on fast food.”
Now, we hear, parents of younger kids can start to get worried, too. (Or excited, if you fall in the “social networking is good for children” camp. Which we respect, also.)
The Wall Street Journal reported today that Facebook may do away with its (poorly enforced) age restrictions, allowing users to be less than 13 years old.
With parental consent, of course.
According to sources at the social networking site, the Journal reported, Facebook is exploring technology that would connect younger children’s profiles to their parents’ accounts, allowing mom and dad to control Junior’s applications and to approve (or reject) his “friends.”
It would also let Junior buy games and other services and link those charges back to his parent’s account.
Clearly the social good in mind there.
Anyhow, a lot of people who study social media say this expanded access is a smart move. A 2011 Consumer Reports study found that 7.5 million people younger than 13 already use Facebook, and often with parental knowledge. It would be far easier to apply proper privacy settings if Facebook knew its users’ true ages.
And for better or worse, many technology-watchers say, people today communicate over Facebook. That’s true for adults, teens, and, increasingly, younger children. Rather than bury one's head in the sand, they say, it's better to embrace the reality and encourage safe online communication.
But there are others who worry that Facebook is simply trying to expand its marketing audience and that this will open yet another avenue of unregulated electronic advertising to kids.
"With the growing concerns and pressure around Facebook's business model, the company appears to be doing whatever it takes to identify new revenue streams and short-term corporate profits to impress spooked shareholders," said the CEO of advocacy group Common Sense Media, James Steyer, in a statement.
"But here's the most important issue: There is absolutely no proof of any meaningful social or educational value of Facebook for children under 13. Indeed, there are very legitimate concerns about privacy as well as the impact on the social, emotional and cognitive development of children. What Facebook is proposing is similar to the strategies used by Big Tobacco in appealing to young people – try to hook kids early, build your brand, and you have a customer for life.
"What's next? Facebook for toddlers?"
I can see it now.
Status update: Mom tried to get me to nap. LOL!!!
I wonder whether my one-year-old would friend me.
This in from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Although the vast majority (85 percent) of new moms say they intend to breastfeed their babies for at least three months, two thirds of them (or half of all moms) fail to meet their goals. A full 15 percent of these breastfeeding-intentioned moms stop nursing before they even leave the hospital.
The stats are part of an article in today’s “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and are based on monthly questionnaires completed by thousands of moms between 2005 and 2007 as part of a joint Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration study.
While there are a number of trends that one can sift out of the data – mothers who were married were more likely to achieve their exclusive breastfeeding intentions while moms who were obese or smoked were less likely to do so – some of the biggest indicators of breastfeeding success were connected to what happened at the hospital.
New moms who began breastfeeding within an hour of giving birth and those whose babies were not given supplemental feedings or pacifiers were a lot more likely to achieve their breastfeeding goals.
Which takes us back to what breastfeeding proponents see as a really big problem in the United States: a hospital and commercial system that is set up to hinder, rather than help, nursing.
Despite a lot of hype about women breastfeeding (hello, Time Magazine), the US lags well behind other developed countries (and a lot of undeveloped ones, too) when it comes to nursing. It ranks last on a recent Save the Children “breastfeeding policy scorecard,” with only 35 percent of moms exclusively breastfeeding at three months.
And although there’s a lot of talk in the medical world about the benefits of breastfeeding – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months of exclusive nursing – there’s also a lot of contradictory behavior.
That Save the Children report on global motherhood, for instance, found that only 2 percent of American hospitals are “baby friendly.” The “Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative” was launched in 1991 by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, and designates a hospital as “baby friendly” if it does not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitute and has implemented a number of breastfeeding support measures, such as having lactation consultants on staff and encouraging moms to nurse their babies soon after giving birth.
In a lot of ways, these seem that they’d be pretty basic steps. According to the all the information about breastfeeding out there, it’s clear that nursing soon after birth – preferably with the help of someone who knows how the whole thing works (not as obvious as you might think, I tell you) – is hugely important to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship. So is avoiding formula.
But that’s not the way it often works in maternity wards. According to the advocacy group Public Citizen, nearly two-thirds of US hospitals still give out free formula samples to new moms. That goes along with stories that I’ve heard from friends (totally scientific, I assure you) who have come home from giving birth in a hospital with “goodie bags” packed with formula and bottles. I remember seeing formula pamphlets in a doctor’s office that compared the nutritional component of “milk” unfavorably with the advertised products. (The advertisement noted in tiny print on the back that it was talking about cow’s milk, not breast milk.)
The formula onslaught is even worse outside of the hospital, with Enfamil samples showing up on your doorstep after you buy a carseat, and formula coupons printing out at the drug store every time you buy a nursing-related item.
A lot of people in the new mom world talk about the need for breastfeeding mothers to “have support.” And sure. A supportive partner, a flexible employer – these are important for nursing success. But a lot of women might simply not have these.
Which brings me to another statistic in the Save the Children report, taken from a University of Michigan study.
We know that a lot of moms who plan to breastfeed don’t meet their goals. But among low income moms the situation is even worse. Almost none of them – only 2 percent – nurse according to plan.
Those are the moms who are least likely to have “support” at home, and more likely to be influenced by the policies at a hospital.
And for this, say breastfeeding proponents, there is no excuse.
Graduation season is here. Soon millions of students will be leaving for college or other pursuits. But I wonder how some of them will be affected by the speeches and awards at their commencement ceremonies?
I, along with other relatives and friends, have listened to hours of speeches and watched dozens of the 4.0s come up to the stage for award after award. As I've watched the faces of those not called, I've wondered what it must be like to be a solid "C" student, or one who struggled to hold on to a "B." Did those "average" students feel that, after all the hoopla for the award winners, their fate of mediocrity was sealed?
As I sat through one of the longer events, I started composing an address for those "other" kids:
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, congratulations to the valedictorian and the 4.0s. I wish them well, but this is for the rest of you.
You're not off to Stanford or Harvard. Maybe you're going to community college or state college, or your second or third choice. Or maybe you're going to try something different. Good for you! You are all about to do great things. Ahead of you are opportunities for success that you haven't even imagined yet. Maybe success by worldly standards; maybe success by your own standards.
I have one piece of wisdom to share. Much more of our future than we sometimes realize is a matter of chance, and a lot is what we make of those chances.
You might, for example, get a part-time job with a landscaper, find that you love it, and go on to create beautiful environments that bring joy and pleasure to others. Your college roommate's dad might own a business that gives you a summer job, and you might end up running the company. Or you may find the only class that meets a requirement one semester is "Geography of Water" — and you get hooked and eventually design clean-water systems for developing countries.
One of my favorite sayings is, "God laughs, when man makes plans." I don't mean don't plan. But some of those perfectly planned 4.0 lives may take unexpected turns and so will yours. Be ready to make the best of them. The doodles that always got you in trouble may be the groundwork for a cartoon series, the design for a new building, or might enhance the lessons for your future students.
One of those 4.0s might find a medical cure for cancer. But you might find a cure for loneliness. One day you might comb an old woman's hair into a neat little bun, push her wheelchair to a spot next to her favorite rosebush, and listen as she tells you about her garden.
Whoever you were on Commencement Day, whatever others expected of you – well, that's done. Now you get to reinvent yourself. If you were always the super-neat one, you get to loosen up. If you were the class clown, you get to try being serious.
Treat every class as if it's important. You never can tell. Even if you don't become an astronomer, that astronomy class that filled a requirement may turn out to be valuable. You'll acquire study skills that will help you in the next class. Or some star-filled night you may lie on the grass with your children and teach them about the wonders of this universe.
Have faith in yourself. Most wonderful, successful people never went to the stage for an award. Many were a lot like you. They kept their minds and hearts open, found a niche, and made the most of it.
So can you. Congratulations.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Susan DeMersseman blogs at Raising kids, gardens and awareness.
Every year, just after Mother’s Day (and I totally base it on just how much of a fuss was made for me) I start thinking about what to do for my husband for Father’s Day. I’ll be honest and say that I usually come up with some great ideas for gifts but my efforts are always thwarted by him.
Two years ago, I had planned to buy him a nice package at a local barber shop that promises an “exclusive gentleman’s barbering experience.” A straight razor shave, with facial treatment, beard trim (he has a goatee) and a “precision hair cut.” Sounds nice, right? Instead, a few weeks before he said, “I was thinking about getting a thingamabobber (can’t remember what it was now) for my motorcycle…it could be my Father’s Day gift!”
Last year, since I didn’t get to treat him to the “exclusive gentleman’s barbering experience” the year before, I had again planned to get him the gift card/package…sure enough, he had his own idea. “I was wondering if I could get some ice climbing tools as my Father’s Day gift this year.” Fine.
This year, I was walking around the grilling section of Lowe's and saw smokers. Knowing he has always wanted one, I planned to pick one out and surprise him for Father’s Day. I made a mental note and went about my day. I kid you not, later that week, “Hey, I was thinking about picking up a smoker…it can be for Father’s Day!” At least I was on the right track?
Every year before Christmas, my birthday and Mother’s Day, he asks me, “What do you want for (insert holiday here)?” If I have an idea, he usually just tells me to go ahead and buy it/order it. The bottom line is that he wants me to get something I really want, that I wouldn’t normally buy for myself. I feel the same way – so maybe I should try his approach instead?
How do you shop for Father’s Day? Do you let them pick out their own gifts or do you try to surprise them?
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Lauren Parker-Gill blogs at Spill the Beans.
Our beloved nanny who worked for us for five years – Joan – recently called to say she’s on the job market again. She’s been working for the family after ours for the past decade, and they’re helping out in her job search, of course, but could we help, too?
With pleasure! I put a notice on a local parenting website: “Our extremely kind, smart, warm, funny, organized nanny seeks new full-time job.” I got a call from a woman who had been tasked by her pregnant daughter-in-law to help out in the nanny search.
Great! I told her how I’d met Joan when I was home on maternity leave and hanging out at the same playground where she took the kids she was babysitting at the time. We became friendly, and I dearly wished she could be my kids’ nanny – that’s how much I liked her. Then, lo and behold, the family she was working for moved away, just as I was getting ready to go back to work. Such serendipity! Joan came to work for us, and I got to be a happy, non-stressed mom going back to my job, because I felt my kids were in such capable hands.
The lady on the phone was listening to all this but finally interrupted: “So you say she hasn’t worked for you for 10 years?”
“Well, then she hasn’t worked with a baby in that long?”
No, I explained. The “new” family she went to work for eventually had three kids. The youngest is 4 or 5, so she worked with a baby about three or four years ago.
“I’m sorry,” said the caller. “This isn’t going to work. My daughter-in-law wants me to find someone with recent baby experience.”
“Well, four years is kind of recent, isn’t it?” I swallowed and tried not to let my voice go shrill. “I guess I should have mentioned that Joan didn’t only help raise my kids, she’s raised four of her own. The youngest is in college now. So it’s not as if babies are something new to–”
The woman apologized again: “I see what you’re saying. Believe me, I understand. But my daughter-in-law made me promise to find someone who is up on the latest baby information. You know, so much has changed in just the past few years. She wants a person who’s up-to-date on all the new things. This is such a crucial time for the baby’s development.”
If there’s a spanking new version of the Diaper Genie or the car seat (and I’ll bet there is), I’m sure Joan could master it. But is there really a “new” way to raise a baby? Has human evolution taken a sharp turn in the past 36 months? Do nannies and parents really have to be up on the latest studies, products, programs, manias and mantras to do their job “right"? Does that mean anyone who raised her kids before 2012 did it wrong?
The grandma couldn’t hold out anymore. “I completely agree! But there’s no way I can tell her this. I promised I’d look for someone with recent baby experience, and I have to shut my mouth.”
That I understood. It is hard for anyone (especially a mother-in-law) to tell a new parent anything that isn’t in the latest book or magazine. And it is hard for a parenting magazine not to endorse all the new products and programs that grace (and pay for) its pages. And it’s hard for the media not to flog some new, surprising study as the most important stop-whatever-you-were-doing-before thing to do for your kids.
But the latest, greatest thing to do for your kids is also the oldest and boldest: Trust yourself; trust your kid. Babies do not need everything to be perfect. And besides, whatever is “perfect” today may be denounced tomorrow. (Remember when we were supposed to use trans fat-filled margarine instead of butter?)
Thank goodness that our kids are far more resilient – and brilliant – than pop culture tells us they are. Believe it or not, they don’t even need a black-white-and-red heartbeat-playing mobile above the non-drop-side crib.
The grandma apologized again, and we said our goodbyes. Off she went to find the “perfect” nanny. And even though that means Joan is back on the market, it also means she dodged a bully. Er, bullet.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Lenore Skenazy blogs at Free-Range Kids.