Thursday, December 27, 2007

Anyone else ever feel this way?

From the Daily Babble:

Bad Parent: Game Over
Shelley Abreu
"You be Ariel, and I'll be Prince Eric," instructs my three-year old daughter Julia. Then she dives down into the pretend ocean that is our kitchen floor and beckons me to save her. I scoop her in my arms, and we swim safely to "Ariel's Grotto." I attempt to return to chopping vegetables, but she begins the game again. I try to get out of it. "Ariel has to cook up some crabs for Prince Eric's supper," I say. But she's onto me. "Ariel doesn't cook the supper," she retorts.

It's not the first time I've dodged Julia's games today. After a short stint playing a mind-numbing game of Dora The Explorer Candyland, I fake a bathroom emergency. When I come out, I casually begin folding laundry. When Julia calls me back to the game, I tell her I'll come back soon. I'm lying.

Sometimes I'm not even that suave about averting playtime with Julia. After a few laps around the house playing Tag, I simply run away mid-lap. For a moment it delights her when she realizes I'm missing. She's thinks I've turned it into a game of Hide and Seek, but after a few minutes she begs me to return. Then I use my arsenal of verbal excuses, including: I need to get the house picked up and make a phone call. When she whines, I urge her to play with her younger sister, Elise, who is old enough to toddle her way through a round of any running game. And that's what siblings are for, right?

I'm not a complete failure at playing. I'm content to do puzzles, and I'll take time-out from any adult activity to read a book. I'm a musician, which means anything musical is pretty much okay with me. I'll also last a good while at "I Spy" during walks through our neighborhood. But generally speaking, I hate playing with my kids. Games of "Horsey" — in which I'm asked to giddy-up through our yard — or "Payer," where we use a toy cash register to enact pretend transactions — are enough to make me lose my mind. Of all the negatives that parenting has brought — sleep-deprivation, a constantly messy house, never a moment to myself — it's the playing that I hate the most.

And yet, read any mainstream parenting magazine today, and you're made to believe that playing with your children is essential to their well-being. I recently read "Fidgety Kids: 10 Fun Games You Can Play in an Instant." The article suggests I pass the time waiting at the pediatrician's office by using the exam table paper to draw a village. It's not that I can't appreciate the inventiveness of this crafty game, but truthfully, I'd rather read a magazine and let my kids entertain themselves with the germy toys (which, by the way, they love).

Another recent article suggests that at holiday get-togethers, adults take all the children outside and enjoy a jaunty game of monkey-in-the-middle. I don't know about you, but when we have get-togethers around our house, we let the kids play with each other while the adults enjoy festive drinks. In his book Raise a Smarter Child by Kindergarten, Dr. David Perlmutter hails the importance of playing with our children to promote intelligence, and in support offers pages of tedious activities.

Luckily, the jury's still out. The Boston Globe recently reported that playing with your children is actually a modern phenomenon and not necessarily all that beneficial. According to anthropological studies, three-fourths of the world's parents don't participate in the kind of parent-child play so popular in our current American culture. In fact, the article, titled "Leave Those Kids Alone," suggests that most cultures think we're kind of nutty.

Still, deep down, I consider playing with my kids something I should do. Not because I think it will raise their IQs or because it will make me a better mother, but because they want me to. After all, what's so hard about sitting down for a tea party with twelve furry stuffed animals and two cute little girls? Maybe it's the fact that as a mother who works from home, I have so much to do every day that squandering twenty minutes on fake tea and pretend friends — while I think about unanswered emails and piles of laundry — makes me fidgety.

And when I think back to my own childhood, I don't recall my parents ever playing with me or my brother. He and I played together, building elaborate forts, rescuing stray animals, hunting for frogs, and thinking up creative ways to execute my Barbies. Would we have done any of this if my mother was right there orchestrating elaborate games instead? I don't think so. So I'm going to follow her lead. I'll stick to the grown-up things — making a living, picking up toys, doing dishes, vacuuming floors — and I'll let the kids have fun for all of us. Although I may not care to swim around the house dressed up as Ariel the mermaid, I'm happy to do all the things that allow my daughters the time and space so that they can.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Introducing the concept of charity

Every year, I have Daniel pick out a toy for "someone else." I tell him this "someone else" doesn't have mommy and daddy who can buy a lot of presents, so it's our job to help out. He always picks out something he really wants for himself, and is then disappointed when I put the present in the Toys for Tots bin. I think the message is sinking in, though; he got a Star Student award for generosity a few weeks ago.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Avoid spoiling the kids

We've all seen them - we've all thought it: The kids who have everything and get everything they ask for and the parents we thenk "are going to regret that later." But how do you know your kid is spoiled? And how do you avoid spoiling them? has some tips - they might even put a stop to that annoying whining!

Set clear, simple limits

Think of it this way: If you leave no room for reinterpretation, you save yourself arguing later. Listen to the difference between "Oh okay, you can have a cookie..." (plenty of room for hope that a second one might be okay) and "You can have one cookie, but don't ask me for a second one. This is it."

Stick to those limits no matter what

One really means one. It's happened to all of us: We say no to more than one cookie, and then we start second-guessing ourselves. The trick here is to take a long-term view. Maybe a second cookie really would be okay just this once, but do you really want to be second-guessed every time you set a limit? That will happen if you change your story.

Never give in to begging

This one's simple — once you do, you've taught your child that begging works, right? Ditto with whining. If your kid is a whiner, chances are that's because they know the tactic works on you. If you're just annoyed enough, they think, you'll give in. Be strong! (Buy earplugs)

Make your child convince you

If she wants something you're not sure about, ask her to make a case for it. She wants to watch a favorite TV show? If she explains that all her homework is done and she's practiced piano, you can feel comfortable saying yes.

Require that chores get done before fun

You don't do your child any favors by being a softy. Studies show that being strict on chores and responsibilities helps him develop the ability to cope with frustration. (Not to mention it instills good long-term habits.)

Don't be afraid to disappoint

We hate to see our kids sad, but the Stones said it best: You can't always get what you want. And studies show that learning to accept disappointment will give your child important coping skills to deal with emotional stress later in life.

Let them work for what they want

Many experts believe that kids become spoiled when things come too easily, encouraging them to take those things for granted. If your child wants a new bike, set up a reward system for good behavior and let him earn it bit by bit. (I remember as a teenager thinking that the kids whose parents or grandparents gave them cars - even used, beat-up cars - didn't take as good care of them as those of us who had to buy our own first cars with our own money.)


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Macho Man

Daniel lost his first tooth last week. Being Daniel, the tooth didn't just fall out. No, my son pulled the tooth himself.
Here's the back story:
He's been pestering me about opening a present since the tree went up. "You may only open a present before Christmas," I foolishly said, "if you lose that wiggly tooth."
Now mind you, the tooth has been loose for a couple of months. It would wiggle, then tighten up. Wiggle, then tighten. But I really didn't think it was that loose.
Well, I made the satement on Wednesday, and Friday when I picked up my little darling from school, he announced: "I lost my tooth!"
"Right," I thought to myself. Then I looked at the now-gapped smile. "Holy cow - you sure did!" I exclaimed right there in the school lobby. "How did that happen?"
"My teacher told me to stop playing with it, so I pulled it out and put it in my pocket," replied the child.
I almost passed out. "You did what? Where is the tooth now?"
"She took it and put it in my agenda," he said.
So the tooth fairy recovered from her bout of shock and gathered up four quarters to slip under the boy's pillow tht night. Bravery like that gets a little reward.
Of course, the tooth next to the lost one is loose, now, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

When mom's down for the count

Twice this year I've had pneumonia. While neither time has been a party, the last three days have simply wiped me out. And what to do with Daniel while I'm passed out in a haze on the couch?
Well, dad has stepped up. But I've also been stockpiling "Things For Daniel To Do" in preparation for rainy days and school holidays. So he got a new Hidden Pictures book from Highlights, some finger paints (thank God he can clean up after himself) and all of his trains back.
Of course, now I'm staring a week of vacation in the face. Here's hoping there's good stuff under the tree!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More on manners

Liz's post on "Please" and "Thank you" reminded me of a pet peeve of mine.
Parents, please teach your children what "RSVP" is and why it's important. I entertain a lot. As a PartyLite consultant, I coach my hostesses in getting their friends to attend shows. And as an event planner (only part of my job description), I regularly issue invitations to everyone from teenagers to lawmakers. The one constant in all these roles is that I never really know who is going to show up
RSVP means simply "Respond to my invitation. Let me know if you're coming. Let me know if you're definitely NOT coming. Just let me know you got the invitation, for crying out loud. And if you say you're coming, then change your mind, or something comes up, let me know of the change."
I know formal entertaining is not a big part of our children's lives. But does a mom need to order (or make) cake for 10 kids or 20? Do I need goodie bags for 5 or 15? Because if I make 15 and then am stuck with 10, I'm going to be irritated.
So if you're attending any holiday events, let your kids see the invitation, then let them see you respond to the hostess. Remember, e-mail is as good as a phone call for most hostesses - e-vite is my favorite means of contact these days. But please don't let this common courtesy die out. Hostesses everywhere will thank you.
--Misty Cline

Monday, December 03, 2007

Thanks, but no thanks

On the whole my daughter is pretty polite but we just realized we need to brush up on her manners. We need a refresher on "please," "thank you," "maam" and "sir." Just the other day, she received some gifts for her birthday and was reluctant to say "thank you." I wasn't there, but I understand she pulled her shy ploy and didn't appropriately thank the giver. As a result, we have stressed the need to show appreciation for gifts whether she likes them or not. Now that she is getting more creative, she is making cards. We're going to work on writing "Thank You" notes in addition to greeting cards. 'Tis the season, after all. Perhaps that will be a good way to encourage her thankfulness. Sometimes I feel like she is showered with so many things that she doesn't fully understand the debt of gratitude she owes someone. I painfully remember the consequences for not sending a note acknowledging a gift from my father's cousins. My brother and I were cut off from future gifts. I'm sure that's a lesson she doesn't want to learn the hard way.

- Liz