Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Should parents pay a fine if their kid misbehaves in school? - Parental Guidance - Amber Watson-Tardiff - NJ.com

Should parents pay a fine if their kid misbehaves in school? - Parental Guidance - Amber Watson-Tardiff - NJ.com

Parents should definitely be held responsible for their child's behavior in school. I've often thought (and heard) that kids are better behaved in school than at home, so my question is this- if kids are so misbehaved in school, what are they like at home? I'll admit, I'm not a perfect parent, but I will only tolerate so much before implementing a heavier than usual hand with my kids. They need to learn respect from someone, somewhere and if it's not the parents, then where is it supposed to come from?

One parent commented in this article that she's too tired to deal with her kids. We're all tired. I've been tired for 7 years, but that doesn't mean that I get to "dump" my kids behavior on someone else. How can teachers be effective if they have to be the primary disciplinarian too? There needs to be order in a classroom for kids to learn and that has to start with promoting order in the home. There are days where the last thing I want to deal with is reinforcing the need for good behavior, but that's my job. Even if I were working outside the home all day, and not seeing my kids until 6pm, it's still my job to make sure that they are raised well.

In the end, my feeling is that if parents will only listen and take responsibility for their kids once hit "where it hurts" (like the checkbook) then so be it. Sometimes parents need a little discipline too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Confession is good for the soul

or so the saying goes. In the case of moms today confession helps but I do believe here is more to this puzzle than just confession. It's the loneliness that we often face as new moms that drives us to do certain things. In the video that opened on the Today Show on April 16 (see article here:Maternal sin: Moms confess their secrets - Working Mom's Guide there are funny, questionable, and heart wrenching true stories of motherhood and the challenges we face. True Mom Confessions was born out of one mother's need for an outlet and the realization that we all need an outlet and perhaps family is not quite the right outlet.

My outlet has almost always been friends. It's not their fault, but husbands, partners, and our mothers just do not understand. A few weeks ago I had a long conversation (well, several long conversations) with a friend who had found herself unexpectedly pregnant with her third child. She didn't know where to turn or who else to talk to, so she called me. We discussed the blessings and challenges of having a third child. At the end of the conversation, she still wasn't sure what to do about it, but said she felt better. Within two days the roller coaster ride she was on took one of those upside down flips at lightning speed and she felt as thought she was spinning out of control with out the seat belt. It turned out that her pregnancy was ectopic. Another wave of emotions. Almost immediately after the "happy" shock of being pregnant came the inevitable sadness of a loss.

While we spoke, I said that if it were a hundred years ago and we were having this discussion while washing clothes in the river I'd stop what I was doing and give her a hug and tell her I was there for her. All I could do was send a hug via cell phone. We agreed that the village is missing. In our harried lives, we are missing that very important network of friends who understand and want to help. Who can help just by listening ,something my friend's mother and sister were not able to do.

There seem to be a myriad of new books and popular web sites and blogs out there recognizing the honest struggles of mothers today. Are the struggles any different from what they were when we were kids? Lifestyles are different- yes we are busier, but I think just in a different way. My mother often tells me how easy it was when I was little- a group of moms would get together and all drop the kids at one person's house and everyone else would go off and play tennis. This way, everyone got a turn to babysit and everyone got a turn to play tennis. I have to say, I'm not sure that as a new mother I would have wanted to watch 5 other kids- handling my own was enough. Even if it meant some free time to myself. At the same time, if a friend of mine is watching 5 other kids, how well is she watching mine? Instead, we now take our kids to gym, swim, or music classes for group stimulation and something to keep us busy during what can otherwise be a very long, lonely day.

I found my sanity in my first friend. I finally had someone who I could confess to (I never hoped the dog would get the vomit, or pushed my kids over while they were learning to walk) but at least I could complain to someone who might also have had a recent bad night's sleep and who understood. At the time, having an online community would have been great, but 7 years ago, it was not what it is now. I needed the village no matter how small it was , and believe me it was small! For a long time.

I think we still need the live village, not just so we can spew after a bad day, but so we can support and share. The most important thing, whether you are confessing or just talking, is having someone to listen so you do not feel alone. Sharing is ok, but be careful for who's listening. The proper audience is paramount to the "succcess" of the confession.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Shared History

Judith Warner's most recent post had me captivated. She shares her upbringing as a combination of Judaism and Christianity in the following NY Times.com post: This I Believe - Judith Warner Blog - NYTimes.com and raises questions around how we all treat our own faith and religion as well as the value placed on that for our children.

Personally, I admire the dedication of the Jewish people I know who fast every year for Yom Kippur and honor the tradition of Passover by eating Matzoh for 8 days following two very long Seder dinners. We Christians tend to decide one way or another if it's proper to take communion every week or once a month. To use real wine or grape juice. To give up something for Lent or not. (Personally, I spent the first 6 years after having kids not giving anything up for Lent because I felt I had already given up enough. I trust God understands where my perspective was at the time). However, all of that said, what I was missing from my Christian upbringing was the emphasis on the fact that Jewish or Christian, we all started from the same place - if you follow the story of Genesis. And I do.

I was about 30 years old when I realized that Jesus was Jewish! His final meal with his disciples before his Crucifixion was a Seder dinner. It makes so much sense as an adult to think about this, but one must keep in mind that while I was in Sunday school 30 years ago this was not a widely publicized fact.

So, how do we present faith (and religion) to our children in a way that doesn't take them 30 years to figure out how intertwined the Jewish and Christian faiths are? This is something that, as with many other things, only became important to me once I had kids. It's as much in the spirit of giving them an accurate understanding of the Bible (as much as one can really digest the complex path and stories of the Bible) as well as to teach tolerance. Just because we share different holidays doesn't mean that there has to be such a strong separation between faiths (although it seems that gap is shrinking every day). In theory, when we Episcopalians take communion every Sunday we should go home and have a Seder in honor of Jesus' last meal with his disciples. Or maybe the Seder should be on Saturday night and then Communion on Sunday. I don't have the answer but I for one had a much greater appreciation for the bread and wine served in church after watching The Passion and seeing how the last 12 hours of Jesus' life played out.

My goal as a parent has always been to give my children the tools they need to make their own decisions; and faith is no exception. You can choose which religion to follow (these would be the rituals we follow while enclosed in the walls of a religious institution) but faith, I believe, goes much deeper. Faith comes from that which we cannot see. It comes from, as in Warner's case, a Jewish upbringing with 9 years in an Episcopalian church or in my husband's case a mother dragging 4 kids to church but a father reading the Bible, or in my case, a light bulb going off. At the time of Easter and Passover, when many sacrifices were made to get God's point across, it's good for all of us to take a step back and be thankful for what we have.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bad Parents and Proud of It: Moms and a Dad Confess - WSJ.com

Bad Parents and Proud of It: Moms and a Dad Confess - WSJ.com

I read this article today. Twice. My head is spinning around all that's in here. While I have yet to meet a perfect parent, why promote "bad parenting?" I think it's because we need to know that we are not alone in this- that's why. Whether good parents or bad parents we all have our moments of each. The ability, the need, to share with one another is paramount to getting from one day to the next.

Parents need friends- especially the new ones. The popularity of these confessions lies not solely in the fact that we have ALL made mistakes, but more so that we need someone to share it with. Misery loves company, but so does happiness and so do new parents. We need to know that someone else isn't sleeping, can't lose the baby weight or is dreading the ever "helpful" visit from parents or in-laws who for sure will be FULL of advice and stories of how they did it.

Now, back to "bad parenting." Aside from over sharing (I agree with the author on this one) is anyone looking for solutions? For Heather Armstrong, author of It Sucked, I Cried...., the fact that she openly admitted to having postpartum depression, checked herself into an institution, and then wrote about it is admirable. I know I was depressed (my mother said hormonally imbalanced) after our first child was born. I refused to admit it and honestly didn't really know it until I saw how different I was after our second child. I was normal that time. By the time we had our third child I had my game on. I knew that lack of sleep was the primary cause of postpartum depression and will never forget the night I listened to my pediatrician and didn't feed the baby in the middle of the night. I cried and immediately felt the anger, despair, and sadness of not sleeping. It shouldn't have to take 3 kids to figure it out, but sometimes it does. I listened to myself, and my child, did what needed to be done and got some sleep. This doesn't mean that I needed to start a website about how I tortured my child by not feeding a two month old when hungry in the middle of the night just so I could feel better about it. It means I learned a lesson the hard way, but also realized enough to make the situation better.

So I wonder, while admitedly we are imperfect and parenting is probably not what most of us expected it to be, where is the help for the new parent in publicizing "bad parenting?" Perhaps there is not meant to be any help and that is not the market for these upcoming publications. But, if we're going to share bad parenting stories, shouldn't they come with positive parenting advice such as, "what I learned from this experinece..... here's what a friend did that helped me." That kind of thing. Admittedly, I have not read any of these new books coming out and what is cited in the article is I'm sure only a small portion of what is out there. However, if I were a new parent, I think I'd be looking for advice as well as the comfort of knowing that I am not in this alone and that others have made the same mistakes I have.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Breaking the Rules

I broke one of my own rules tonight. I spent a whole chapter in my book talking about what is needed to make dinner for a family. Feeding a family just takes a lot of food, cooking for one is totally different. One of my rules for surviving "dinner" is to not try a new recipe on a Tuesday. Guess what day it is and guess what I did? Stupid. Stupid. I knew better than to do this especially on a day when there were after school activities and my house looked like a bomb hit it.

Lucky for me, I have become the master of the 30 minute clean up. This means I do what I want to during the day and take 30 minutes to clean up toys and vacuum so it looks like I've been cleaning all day. Today I was busy doing some writing so I totally blew off my disastrous looking house and looking at the recipe for dinner before making it. The result- I raced through a quick 30 minute clean, burned the oil in the pan, had no patience with my kids and crossed my fingers that dinner would be decent.
Let this be a lesson to myself. I know better. Next time I'll make a chicken.

Money In My Pocket

I was heading out today to get started on my "honey do" list (most people think this is a husband's list, but in my world it's a wife's list) when I thought, "do I have any cash?" I had some from yesterday that I had put in my pocket. And then I remembered with a peaceful sense of calm that I was wearing the same jeans I today I wore yesterday and for that matter the day before. I reached in my pocket and found $8.
I often wear the same jeans for days in a row. I'll throw them in the laundry with the kids clothes when I need to but otherwise, I can go for days in the same jeans. Most of my friends do it too. Seriously- what's the point? Someone is going to either wipe a greasy hand on me, spill something, or give me a hug with a permanent marker. In fairness- I wipe my own hands on my jeans because it's easier. I'm anxiously awaiting the permanent arrival of Spring so I can wear some different pants. I have at least 4 pairs of comfortable capris that I can wash in between hand wiping- whether is mine or theirs.
A full story of my life in jeans will be in an upcoming fall issue of NJ Family magazine.

Monday, April 6, 2009

It Doesn't Look Like the Picture!

Well, what does????
I consider myself more or less able to get through most projects that my kids ask me to do for them. Not because I'm perfect but because for the most part they are pretty simple. This morning I tried making a Palm Cross. I have tried for a couple of years to do this, but this time I actually had directions. Seems simple enough but all I can say is the same thing Super Boy said so sadly, "It doesn't look like the picture." And it didn't- I have to admit.

I'll try again, but I think this time it will be to prove to myself that I can do this. If I'm lucky the kids will like their Palm Crosses even if they don't look exactly like the picture.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Little Red Butt

I always feel bad for my kids when they get diaper rash. Sensitive skin, a little red butt, and pain when being wiped. There are a ton of products out there for diaper rash- most of which (as far as I've seen) are all creams. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from my pediatrician was to NOT use any of those creams or ointments. The problem with them is that they lock moisture in when it was the moisture on the skin causing diaper rash in the first place!
My youngest, the Climber, seems to be the one who has had the worst experience with diaper rash. As the third child, he gets carted around from place to place and probably spends too much time in the same diaper. As much as I try to focus on changing him regularly, that just doesn't always happen- ask any mom of more than one kid. The result diaper rash. And for the Climber, it can easily and quickly turn into little open cuts and scabs.
So here is the advice. First: change the diaper every hour- even if it isn't soaked. Second: Use a hairdryer to dry the newly wiped and clean area. Third: Do not put any creams or anything on the area.
I have used this process for all 3 of my kids and it works. Within two days the rash is cleared and even at times when there are scabs- they are already in the process of healing. As with many other things in life- early detection is key- the second it looks like diaper rash is happening, start this three step process. It will be much better for you and the baby.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mom.... How did he get on the table?

And I knew it the second I heard that question. My youngest child was standing on the table! How did he get up there? Easily- he climbed. It's what kids do. The problem is there is no warning. One day you see them trying; struggling to climb up something and, quite literally, the next there they are. On top of a table with the biggest smile you've ever seen. Typically, I'm not one to stifle the climbing aspect of development- I actually think it's cute they way kids struggle and then are so proud of their accomplishment. As a kid I used to climb a huge spruce tree in our backyard and jump off. Climb higher the next time. Jump off again. I did this until it hurt to land and then decided that was high enough. To this day, I'm not sure if my parents knew about my climbing adventures.

I can appreciate both the thrill and pride my kids experience climbing onto tables. For them, it's joy and independence. For me, it's clearly time for a toddler gym class.