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Abstract: There is an inverse relationship between the amount of peace and quiet required for bathroom time and the amount provided, depending on the lengths to which one goes to secure said “peace and quiet.”

If you want total solitude while going to the bathroom with young children in the house, leave the bathroom door wide open. If possible, use the most central bathroom in the house, such as the main floor WC where, if the door is left open, people standing on the front steps could peer in and catch a glimpse of you.

If you would like to be interrupted while on the toilet with an occasional and relatively brief series non sequitur questions, such as where last year’s Halloween costume may presently be located (in April), what makes play-doh play-doh, why corners are so sharp or what are the numbers on the car’s license plates, be sure to shut the bathroom door.

If you would like your children to become bloodied, or at least emit sounds of dying elephants ad nauseum, while you aspire to the sanctity of a quiet moment to oneself in the bathroom, by all means, both shut AND lock the bathroom door.

Please Note: If seeking respite and privacy for a worthy and time consuming bowel movement and the door is shut but not locked, expect young children to enter with their querulous faces at the exact moment maximum privacy is desired. If door is locked, expect children who had previously been quietly playing by themselves to suddenly attempt an uprising throughout the household involving much ruckus, potential injury to themselves and the dog, and general mayhem. It is wise to hide all tubes of glue, glitter tubs and steak knives before proceeding with such a risky proposition.

Read more of Mamá Leche’s Parental Axioms

Uncle Sam Wants YOU to be Internet Literate!

Uncle Sam Wants YOU to be Internet Literate!

I write a fair amount about media literacy on this blog. It’s a topic I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about. I also have a professional background in SEO (search engine optimization), which means that I have a solid enough grasp of how the Internet works and how pieces of information make it to each person’s browser. That being said, after watching this nine minute TED talk, I realized I’ve had my head in the sand about some critical shifts in the ways information is delivered to each net denizen. This is disconcerting both as a consumer of Internet information and as a parent striving to teach media literacy to my young children. I’m grateful to now be aware of the ways in which people are getting dramatically different information on the Internet and how the algorithmic calculation of information distribution is totally invisible to the end user. As my children get older and begin to use the Internet as the incredible information gathering tool it is, I will be able to help them be more critical consumers of what they discover.

I feel like I’m gumming up the message and importance of understanding filters, personalization and Internet literacy. Fortunately, TED presenter Eli Pariser does a far better job, explaining it very simply and compellingly. Take nine minutes to watch this video. I promise you will be grateful you did. It will probably be the best thing you’ve ever experienced on the Internet. Well, except maybe the insanity test.

TED Talk on YouTube (posted by WikiLeaks… I’m still not sure how I feel about them)

Here’s the link to the video on the TED site:

http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html

And here’s Eli’s website, where you can find loads more information about the Filter:

http://www.thefilterbubble.com/

Finally, if you are looking for resources to learn more about media literacy, check out the unbranding section here.

If you don't get the cultural reference, go watch the movie "Austin Powers." This is the character, Dr. Evil, telling his son to "zip it."

I’ve already posted about how my daughter is a super-talker, but have I mentioned how draining this can be at times? It seems that especially in the afternoons, as she’s getting tired, instead of becoming more placid, my daughter gets even more amped up. Her chatter shifts into warp-speed mode and her ability to rapid-fire questions (rarely pausing to listen to the answer, mind you) simply sets my head spinning. I can’t even think of responses, much less form words in my mouth before she’s pounced onto the next thing. It would seem that that best strategy to handle this would be to simply ignore her, but that just makes her double her efforts.

I’m assuming this is a phase and from others’ posts I’ve read around the Internets, by the time she’s fifteen I’ll wonder if she even knows how to speak at all. We’ll see about that!

In the meantime, I’m looking for ways to settle down the jabber, as the more she spins up, the faster she seems to go. This lead me to a great article on dealing with backtalk. My daughter isn’t quite five, so even when she does talk back, I don’t think it’s genuine “backtalk” in the sense of the sassy, disillusioned teenager. All the same, I can’t help but interpret her responses as being sassy, much as I tell myself they are not intended that way – she genuinely seems to be trying to convey her understanding of things, not questioning my statements.

I found the article on backtalk to be pretty refreshing because it got me thinking about the subtext of these exchanges. It doesn’t matter that I’m dealing with a preschooler instead of middle schooler. Her intentions may be pure, but my interpretations of her interruptions and questioning are what lead to my agitation. The article helped me recognize that I don’t have to convince my children I’m “right” or why my judgment is sound (“No, you may not have cookies right before dinner”). When my daughter lobs a counter point to something I’ve just said, I get annoyed because I feel like she’s constantly questioning my authority. It turns out that if I don’t engage in feeling like my judgment is being questioned – I don’t need to prove a point, I just need to state it – things will go more smoothly.

What do you think? How do you handle back talk and constant chatter from your five year old (or under)?

Posts That Relate to This Topic:

The Butterfly Song

Shut Up and Parent Better

Welcome to the Moonies. Parenthood.

Warning: Having a baby is just like joining a cult. No, I’m not talking about the “cult of parenthood,” wherein your childless “child free” friends suddenly feel insulted that you’ve crossed over to this strange world where all you want to talk about is your kid. Actually, that’s exactly what I’m referring to. It’s just that what your childfree friends don’t understand is that you haven’t made a choice to get subsumed into this weird parenting cult. You’ve been brainwashed.

Think about it – everything that happens to you when you have a baby pretty much follows the play-by-play of Brainwashing 101. Just read the following and swap out “cult” for “baby.” Welcome to parenthood, sucker. Please leave your brain at the door.

1. The Cult Weakens Your Senses Through Sleep Deprivation

First, your sleep schedule is interrupted. You are no longer master of your slumber. You can be awoken at any time, day or night. Sleep comes in short bursts at highly irregular times. It is also interrupted by loud noises, a classic mind control technique. Sleep disruption is probably the most basic and essential step in brainwashing. Someone who can keep you up very late and wake you up very early, much less interrupt whatever spans of REM time you do pull together… they control you. They own you.

2. The Cult Further Disorients You By Altering Your Basic Routines

Second, your most basic routines get altered. Ever notice how it’s impossible to find sunlight while wandering around a casino? That’s because in between the loud music, the glaring lights and almost maze-like hall systems, you become disoriented and lose sense of time and place in a casino. By numbing your orientation, you become more vulnerable to making mindless decisions. Babies change what you eat (I don’t recall getting to eat a warm, freshly prepared meal for at least the first six weeks after my daughter was born!), when you eat (odd hours here and there), and how you eat (huddled like a starving animal scarfing it down as fast as possible!). They also change when and how often you shower and what clothes you wear (there are days when you never make it out of your pajamas in those early weeks).

3. The Cult Separates You from Your Support System

This is a super biggie. I had a roommate who the Moonies once tried to indoctrinate. She and a friend were invited to a “dinner” at a Moonie gathering place. They were picked up in San Francisco, driven about 40 minutes away (so they had no means of returning on their own) and then, once there, immediately separated from one another. Diana, my roommate, realized later that while everyone was friendly, she and her friend were kept in two distinct groups for the whole night.

Babies separate you from your support network just as handily. Because your sleep schedule is so off, good luck making plans and actually being able to fulfill them! Childless friends quickly drop off, taking your sudden lack of availability as a sign that they’ve been replaced by the baby. Friends with children are so busy raising their own brood they can’t make it. One day, you look up and realize it’s been MONTHS since you had a decent conversation with another adult.

4. The Cult Makes You Feel Vulnerable and Badly About Yourself

Now that the cult has got you alone, look out for your self image! It doesn’t help that your body is already in its worst spot – looking at the mirror post-baby is sheer depression-inducing. Plus, due to #3, you haven’t had a stimulating conversation in ages and your brain is completely fried. It’s very easy to lose perspective of all the wonderful gifts you have to give to the world and solely see yourself as a 24 hour baby-feeding, poop-wiping slobbering idiot. Now that you need it most, you are least likely to summon the courage to get out of the house and connect with folks in the outside world because of how low you are feeling.

5. The Cult Makes You Look to It as Your Sole Source of Value and Self-Esteem

Remember the feeling you got the first time your baby truly smiled at you? Enough said.

6. You are Now Obligated to Give the Cult All Your Money

Now that the cult has completely oriented your world around it, it demands that you commit all of your finances to its health, well being and development. The cult’s survival and growth is your highest obligation in life and every decision you make from here forward for the rest of your life will be filtered through the “is this what’s best for the cult?” modifier.

But It’s Worth It – I Swear! (says the brainwashed one)

After all – doesn’t this just make your ovaries jump?

I'd give up my life for this little brainwasher, and it's not even mine. I mean, really, how can you say 'no' to cuteness like that???

By the time we all make it out to the other side of early parenting, when we start to get some simple routines and normalcy back – like sleeping for at least four hours in a row – we have no idea we’ve been brainwashed. This is the new reality for us, our complete and total dedication to our young spawn. Little by little, we reclaim small pieces of our former lives: an occasional dinner date with a friend, some witty repartee with a stranger in line at the grocery store, wearing shirts not branded with baby spit up. We creep back into the sunlight of a world that seems just like that which we left the moment before our child was first born, totally and completely oblivious to the fact that we are now 100% owned by our charges. Sure, our child-free friends can see it, but they’re not going to tell us. They think we choose  to pleasantly bear through our toddler’s  temper tantrums, preschooler’s constant interruptions and nagging,  teenaged curfew blow offs and sullen, ungrateful consumption of thoughtfully prepared meals. They don’t know that we are so totally absorbed into the cult that we can’t even see we’re in it. They think we are aware of our shift from autonomous adult to parental automaton.

But, thank goodness nature works this way. Otherwise, how would we continue to propagate and thrive? Without it, babies would simply be left on their own and, well, it wouldn’t be pretty. Speaking from personal experience, without the decent brainwashing I know for a fact that I’d be incapable of fulfilling everything parenting demands – the late nights, the odd hours, the sacrifice and in the end, the terrifying letting go. So, here’s to a good brainwashing! May it never wear off!

—-

Thanks to my fantastic new friend, MBAMommy, who let me subject her to my quirky idea about baby brainwashers the other day :-) You can read MBA Mommy’s post about it here.

Dead Squirrel Parenting

Little Girl Dead Squirrel

I am, without a doubt, a high-test parent. When my first-born was an infant, I had somehow missed the memo that breast-fed babies were protected by their mother’s immunity. So, the first two years of my daughter’s life were literally swathed with an advance-guard of Purell. It was like a parting of the Red Sea, only opposite. In my daughter’s case, wherever she was set down, or happened to crawl, a splooge of Purell was slathered in front of her. My parents joked that they should have bought stock in Purell prior to my daughter’s birth, but it was only a half point of humor… I think part of them really regretted the chance to make some money!

After my son was born, my germophobic standards dropped, thank goodness. By this point I’d learned about the protective properties of breast milk and, honestly, I was simply worn out from being wound tight all the time. I’d known all along that my perspective would change with the second baby. After all, it’s easy to view someone else’s toddler as a snot-infested disease machine that’s trying to slop wet kisses on your newborn’s forehead, but when it’s your own boogery kid giving super squeezes on their little brother’s face… you just see them differently.

Now I’m pregnant with #3. I wonder how much I will get to let go of this time. Hopefully, a lot. It’s nice to let go sometimes and just see what happens. I wonder how much I’m damaging my children’s fragile sense of self mastery and ability every time I grab their hand to prevent them from exploring something less than sanitary, or lurch in front of them to prevent a minor fall that ultimately could help them learn about gravity.

I watched a YouTube video a few weeks ago that I keep reflecting on. It pops to mind every time I want to yank my son away from a gicky looking puddle, or tell my daughter to keep her shoes on in the sandbox. The video truly can only speak for itself, so in all it’s glory, here’s the “Little Girl, Dead Squirrel” video.

Look how cool and calm those parents are! Mortified, sure, but that girl is simply joyous. Plus, really, what’s the harm? The animal just died – it’s not like they found some festering piece of road kill and decided to let their daughter lick it like a lollipop.

When I write about lowering my standards, and point to this video as an example, I mean it as the highest compliment. Instead of swathing the world with Purell or gasping at every near-fall, clutching the dashboard of life (I can still see my mother’s snow-white knuckles gripped solidly to the dash of our Chevy station wagon as I learned to drive), how about I relax a little and learn to let go? After all, it’s one of the best ways to let my kids learn so they can be prepared for the real world on their own.

Airport Seats

Most airport seats are not this clean.

For now, when I catch myself wanting to seize my children and yank them from false harms, I remember this video and smile. There are other low water-marks of childhood sanitation to reflect on as well. Like the time when I was traveling with my 18 month old daughter alone. Airports, airplanes and hospitals are by far the skeeviest germ places for me, where my hackles are constantly raised and my hand keeps a tight grip on the Purell bottle in my pocket. While standing in line to board a flight, my daughter broke away from me, sauntered to the nearest row of chairs and proceeded to slowly drag her tongue across three of the seats, all the while eyeballing me in a challenge to see who would break first. I held firm and didn’t flinch, knowing that if I leapt at her she would think it the funniest thing and surely make this part of her airport repertoire.

Flamingo Exhibit San Francisco Zoo

Flamingo Exhibit San Francisco Zoo

And then there’s the story my neighbor told me of the time when she caught one of her twin boys licking the snot-glazed glass wall in front of the San Francisco Zoo’s flamingo exhibit. For those who’ve never been, zoos are (A) inherently filthy and stinky and (B) the flamingo exhibit at the SF Zoo is set conveniently next to the food area, so every child who visits the zoo has the chance to smear their snack-strewn fingers all over the glass, much less sneeze on it.

Finally, there’s the swell little story I read today about the adventures of a dad taking his three year old for a  grand poop in a filthy men’s restroom. The article is aptly named “Aiming Low, the Bowels of Hell.”

Rather than making my germophobia worse, these stories liberate me to get reasonable and ask myself, truly, what’s the worst that could happen?

Aaah yes, this is the message I want to send our daughters. Reminds me of the “Polite as a Princess” book… only so much worse.

JC Penney CEO Mike Ullman is too pretty to do homework

JC Penney CEO Mike Ullman is too pretty to do homework

JC Penney is selling a jersey shirt that reads “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” The description reads “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.” I suspect that the item will be yanked from the site within hours***, as news of the offensive shirt is hopping across the internet – mostly thanks to a great catch by Pigtail PalsMelissa Wardy. The sweatshirt, which comes in sizes 7-16, is on sale for only $9.99, so if you act now, you too can own this fabulous piece of evidence of culturally condoned misogyny.

***as of 9:08 AM, 8/31/11, the shirt was no longer showing up for sale on the US version of the site. It was still available in the UK and Ireland and probably elsewhere.

Where JC Penney can shove that "I'm too pretty for homework" shirt.

JC Penney can shove it.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to let JC Penney know where it’s at and where they can shove this shirt (see example above), feel free to call 972-431-8200 to speak to a person at  JC Penney’s “Customer Concerns” line. When I called at 8:21 AM PST on 8/31/11, the woman I spoke to stated that the company was aware of the issue with the shirt and was preparing to pull it down off the site. If you’d like to go further up the food chain, I’m encourage you to drop a line on over to CEO and Chairman of the Board Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III. I called the corporate headquarters and asked for Mike Ullman. I was put through to the customer concerns line again, but I know that the company has now gotten two calls at two different lines to voice my issue. Mike, who has four sons and two daughters and whose significant work with Mercy Ships should make him far more culturally aware than this serious misstep by his company indicates, can be found at:

Mike Ullman, III
Chief Executive Officer
J.C. Penney, Inc.
6501 Legacy Drive
Plano, TX 54024

(972) 431-1000

I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me

I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me

The Corporate Babysitter blog has a great round up of recent news stories about unethical marketing to children. If you’d like to get familiar with the problem of childhood branding, this is a great place to start: http://www.parentsforethicalmarketing.org/blog/2011/06/06/concerns-over-unethical-marketing-to-kids-grow/

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