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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

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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.

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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?

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If you’d like more information about why Disney is evil, check out the documentary, Mickey Mouse Monopoly.

For more information on media awareness, look at the resources in the Unbranding section of this blog.

This is for all y’all who might think I’m a potential tinfoil hat society member for my thoughts on protecting my children from marketing ploys. According to this New York Times article, representatives of Disney’s new “DisneyBaby” line have been making the rounds at maternity wards. Here are some choice quotes and snippets:

“This is taking advantage of families at an extremely vulnerable time,” said Jeff McIntyre, director of national policy for the advocacy group Children Now.

“If ever there was an opportunity for a trusted brand to enter a market and provide a better product and experience, it’s this,” said Robert A. Iger, chief executive of Disney. “I’m extremely excited about it.”

How do you spell evil? I say I-G-E-R.

…the company gains access to the maternity hospitals through a company called Our365, a business that sells bedside baby pictures. Our365 pays hospitals for exclusive access, and companies like Disney pay Our365 to promote their own products. Our365 also has Fisher-Price and Procter & Gamble as clients. It is unclear whether mothers know of Our365’s financial ties to these companies.

No – they don’t – I know this for a fact because both times while I’ve been in hospital having babies, this junk has been passed off to me under the premise that it’s related to healthy baby raising.

A representative visits a new mother and offers a free Disney Cuddly Bodysuit, a variation of the classic Onesie. In bedside demonstrations, the bilingual representatives extol the product’s bells and whistles — extra soft! durable! better sizing! — and ask mothers to sign up for e-mail alerts from DisneyBaby (link removed ~ Mamá Leche).

Apparel is only a beachhead,” said Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products. Also planned are bath items, strollers, baby food and an abundance of other products — all pushed with so much marketing muscle that Disney Baby may actually dent operating margins in Mr. Mooney’s division in the near term. But this is a long-term play, and it could have its greatest value far beyond the crib.

To get that mom thinking about her family’s first park experience before her baby is even born is a home run,” Mr. Mooney said, adding that a surprisingly large number of families do not become consumers of Disney products until their children reach preschool age, when they start to watch Disney Channel programs like “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”

Really? A surprisingly large number? We are well into preschool age with our children and have seen hide nor hair of Disney in our house. Sadly, even Winnie the Pooh has been compromised. I really like that f-ing bear.

How do you spell evil? I also spell it M-O-O-N-E-Y.

Rachel Bernstein, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is pregnant herself, said she was concerned about marketers using hospitals as customer hunting grounds. “But Disney is a nice company,” she said, “and I think my patients would actually be thrilled to get free Disney stuff.”

Can you say “Stockholm Syndrome?” Hello Patty Hearst! You are completely inculcated into the cult of Disney. The mass media assault works.

Elizabeth Carter gave birth to her daughter Olivia on Jan. 19 in Piedmont, Calif., and was given a Disney Cuddly Bodysuit as part of an Our365 photo package. “It surprised me that Disney was in there promoting something right as the baby was born, but we figured as new parents we weren’t in a position to turn free things down,” she said.

Mrs. Carter put the garment on her hours-old baby immediately. “And I have to say Olivia looked fabulous, much better than the rough, bulky thing the hospital had her wearing,” she said.

Piedmont, for those of you not in the know, is an extremely affluent area. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I equate affluence with education and education with awareness. Shame on the parent with no excuse to be so blind to this blight.

As for me, I’m happy to wear a tin foil hat, if that means keeping my family away from this stuff.

For more info, check out the section on Unbranding.

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Or, How to Stay Sane with a Super-talker

My daughter is a super-talker. By that I mean that she is a non-stop, incessant babble machine who enjoys little more than an in-depth interview of nearly limitless questions, only 4 of which she’ll listen to the answers of. My daughter is approaching 4 and, yes, I know this is the age of inquiry, but you know you’ve got a super-talker on your hands when your child’s preschool teacher pulls you aside and says, “I have never taught a child who asks so many questions. How do you handle it?”

So, here’s how I handle it (so far).

A) Full attention

I mentioned my daughter has a nigh-limitless set of questions. I have found that it’s tremendously effective to actually get down on her level, give her 100% attention and answer each question thoroughly. I have to remind her to not interrupt while I’m answering her question, but in giving full answers I am able to slow the rapid rate of inquiry. This, in turn, slows her mind and gets her to focus on qualitative questions and insights rather than blather. When I really hunker down and give full attention, the dynamic shifts from a non-stop pinball machine of verbal spewing to an actual conversation… a conversation that, after between 5 & 10 full questions… ends!!!!!!!!

B) The Quiet Game

This is an oldie and goodie and is very effective in the car. We usually play it during the last mile or two driving home and it gives my daughter a focal point – to see if she can make it all the way home without talking. Of course, even during the “Quiet Game” she is compelled to be the commentator. So, every 30-40 seconds she’ll peep out a “Mommy, I’m being so quiet, I’m going to win!” At least there’s a little gap between updates!

C) The Butterfly Song

I invented this one night while we were visiting my parents. Everyone was sitting around the table after dinner and, despite the rather loud hum of our general conversation, my daughter was still capable of dominating the room with her incessant chatter. She was overtired and the “second wind” switch had been flipped. Her prattling was not about conversation or real interaction with others, but just a way of burning off energy. The children had just gone to a butterfly museum with their grandparents the day before so, in a moment of desperation and divine inspiration, I proposed we all sing a rondo of “The Butterfly Song.”

This is how it’s done: Everyone gets quiet and one person starts the “song” by bobbing their head like they’re belting out a huge melody, but keeping their lips pursed tight. After a few bobs, they point to another person and that person picks up where the unheard tune left off. Round and round the rondo goes until it makes its way back to the starter…. Voila!!! At least a minute of blissful silence achieved AND the tenor of the moment has shifted to a more sedate energy.

My daughter now loves the Butterfly Song and will often propose we “sing” it in the car 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

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This is the counterpart to the original “Axiom on Leaving the House with Small Children.”

If you have nowhere to go and no particular time to be there, you will successfully have everyone out of the house in ten minutes.

If you have somewhere to be, even if it’s somewhere that the children would like to be, such as gym class, accomplishing the aforementioned feat will take twenty minutes. Add another ten minutes if you are feeling particularly stressed for time.

Nota Bene: When you get where you’re going, you may notice that you were able to get out of the house in comparative lightning speed because you negelected to pack diapers, wipes, snacks, sunscreen, sun hats and water bottles. You may not notice this, however, because any speedbump that presents itself during your outing with the littles can easily be resolved by the dad-household-budget-busting-“I’ll-just-pick-it-up-along-the-way-if-I-need-it,” salvo approach. Also, in a pinch, a dad has no problem getting “MacGyver” in his approach, using a flannel shirt as a back up diaper.

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I recently started using StumbleUpon and it’s just added a whole new level of time-suck to my Internets experience. I came across this lovely piece, “Preparation for Parenthood,” which is painfully accurate in some respects, especially #8 on leaving the house. There really are some smahties down there at Stanford. It makes me think of my bit about “Leaving the House with Small Children.” Here’s a snippet from the Stanford one:

# 8 Get Ready to Go Out. Wait outside the bathroom for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette butt, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

This is so true it hurts. I have no idea when I’m going to master the “let’s go outside for a stroll” mom move, much less the “get in the car so we can go to the grocery store and get milk and diapers already!” maneuver, but for the time being I’m trapped in my house and I can’t figure a way out that doesn’t involve some sort of meltdown. I can’t even bribe my children with the idea of a tricycle ride to make the home exiting go smoothly. “But wait!,” you  exclaim, “Your children love their tricycles! Why can’t you get them outside to ride them?” Because I inevitably make a very bad decision just before leaving – like getting the divine inspiration to bring snacks (which means that the second we are three feet away from the front gate onto the sidewalk, the two of them will pounce like starving piranhas onto the snack bag, as though they’ve never seen Cheez It’s or bananas before. The following 15 minutes will be met with me becoming increasing frustrated as they swap off fighting over who gets which tricycle and battling over who gets to stop and eat a Cheez It after getting themselves on and off their tricycles 15 times and not moving farther than 4 inches from the starting line — this always ends in someone screaming. It might even be me, but I’m not telling), or divinely forgetting snacks (after remembering the previous disaster with snacks this seems a smart move, but A-ha!!! There’s the little kid turn-around – if you genuinely forget the food, your children will be unduly starving for their 7 minute outing and will be excessively cranky), or forgetting something else equally basic, such as reminding the 3 year old to pee before leaving (luckily, urine washes off of tricycle seats lickety-split). No matter how you cut it, the only method I’ve found to get out of the house without popping an important temple vein in my head is to just pick up each child and insert them into their car seats or strap them onto their tricycles and push like crazy – that’s why God made ’em with push handles.

What are your top tips for getting out of the house? Or are you like me and just stuck melting into the couch because the battle doesn’t seem worth it?

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