Monday, November 30, 2009

Learning to help Moms

I had a moment today where I considered my place in the mommy universe. We were traveling home from Thanksgiving vacation and stopped by a rest area. As I walked in with my two girls, there was a mother changing her baby's diaper. I looked at her as I walked alone into a bathroom stall and realized I had passed through that phase of my life. My youngest child is six and perfectly capable of going to the bathroom all by herself. How did I get through the diaper changing part of my life so quickly? At the time I never would have believed that I would look back and think that is all went by quickly, because the image of caring for a baby is the one that seems to say "Mom" more than anything else. I'm still "Mom", but I don't change diapers anymore.

I will always carry with me the experience of that part of my life and I am different because of it. I now notice mothers and I know that they sometimes need assistance. Having taken care of my three, I also have a much better idea of what kind of help would be most appreciated. I remember the challenges of taking one or two or sometimes even three babies or toddlers into a public restroom. I remember how on some trips it seemed an impossible task to negotiate if I was alone. I just had to hope that I didn't personally need to use the facilities. A little help would have been wonderful sometimes.

The mother I saw had it all under control. But then I walked out and saw another mother with a baby standing close to the door of the restroom as if she was waiting for someone to come out. My first thought was that it was her husband so she could hand him the baby and go in herself. I thought of offering to hold the baby, but wasn't sure she would let me do that. Then, I saw her son walk out and her instruct him to wait at the door of the women's restroom for her. He balked at the idea – he looked to be about 7 or 8 in age and didn't want to be near the women's restroom. After a few seconds of listening I offered to let him stand with us. I was there with my husband and two children awaiting a third to finish inside. She let him stay with us and he looked much relieved. The mother was lightning fast in the restroom, however, and I wonder if she really did what she needed or if she was too concerned about her son with me to take the necessary time.

I hope I never forget the overwhelming physical challenge of young children and always remember to help other moms.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Assessing Risk

The night before I read the article in Time about over-parenting, I had a discussion with a member of my church about risk. I am having discussion follow the article because I think the basic issue with over-parenting has to do with improperly assessing risk.

In my discussion with this friend, he made the comment that he would never again fly in an airplane, but preferred to drive everywhere he went. Flying is statistically just as safe or safer than driving in a car (I can detail the stats, but they get rather tedious). But, does my friend realize that? He has heard the numbers, but he still doesn't feel comfortable flying. My personal opinion is that his issue is one of being in control. In driving a car, he believes that he is in control of his fate, but in an airplane, he has no control. But, being in control doesn't make him any safer.

What does this have to do with parenting? As humans, we are mostly bad at making good decisions when having to weigh risk factors. The way individuals invest in the stock market shows this time and time again. How likely is it that my child will be kidnapped if let him play outside my house, or ride around the block? About the same as your chances of winning the mega lottery if you bought 4 tickets – 1 one 1.5 million. So, are going to buy 4 lottery tickets now? Are you going to let your child play outside unattended? If you are smart enough not to play the lottery thinking you will win, you should know that your child is safe outside without you. It's always easy to increase those odds by teaching your child some important safety skills.

So, the next time you are pondering a freedom you do or don't give your child, think about the risks in terms of something else you do or don't do. Doesn't it still make sense to be afraid?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Here is a great article in Time on parenting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Cell Phone Contract

My middle daughter - aged 8 - has been asking for a cell phone for about a year now. I personally think it's ridiculous for an 8-year-old to have a cell phone, so she has gotten nowhere with me so far. That is all about to change. Let me explain why.

When my oldest (now 10) was 8, he was introduced to video games. He worked, saved his money, and I matched him dollar for dollar to purchase a GameCube. He was hooked. We have to stay vigilant to make sure he doesn't spend every waking minute playing games (now in a Wii or the computer), but it has had benefits. One HUGE benefit I discovered rather quickly was that the punishment of taking video games away got his attention. It still works wonders. All it takes is the threat of losing game privileges and he straightens up immediately. Every parent needs something like it. I have a friend here who told me she was challenged by her children because no punishment bothered them. They didn't care about losing anything. So, how do you discipline when you have no punishment that works as a motivator? Fortunately, for my oldest boy, I do.

I thought the same tactic might work with my middle child as well. Add to that the fact that she has been getting herself up and ready for school every morning and catching the bus at 6:30. She doesn't have to ride the bus. We carpool with a neighbor and get to school even earlier that we have any other year. But, she likes the time to herself and getting to school as early as possible. School starts at 7:45, and 6:30 is early (she is the first one on the bus and the last off in the afternoon), but she has been faithfully doing it. I think that shows a lot of responsibility.

So, we are going to negotiate over the cell phone. I told her I would write up a contract for her to get a cell phone. There will be rules like she has to turn the phone over to me after bedtime and she has to pay the $10 a month extra for the phone service (which means she'll have to earn her $5 a week allowance at least twice each month, see my earlier post for how that works). Of course, grades must be maintained and homework done without a fight.

I hope this turns out to be a good thing. As much as I have heard about the dangers of cell phones, I still don't think she needs to have one, but if she can show responsibility and I set some very strict rules about usage that she follows, I think this exercise can be beneficial.

We'll see how it works. Our cell phone contract is up in January, so I'll be shopping carriers and getting her phone then. Suggestions for service offerings or rules are welcome.

Busy Mom

I realize I didn't post all of October. Why is October so busy? I need to learn that planning and decorating for Halloween should start in September or it will never get done. We got costumes this year, thanks to Wal-mart. Last year I spent enormous amounts of time sewing cheerleader outfits for my girls, mostly because my sewing skills are next to nil. But, it was a good exercise and I'm glad I did it last year. Don't know when I'll do it again.

Much of October has been focused on keeping up with school. We finished the first nine weeks and so the teachers are seriously getting into schoolwork. I volunteer in my children's classes every week - getting to teach Spanish to the fifth graders now. Money may be tight, but there are still local field trips and special events. Oh, and soccer season started, though with the rain many games have been postponed.

Some months of the year are relaxed months, some are for holidays and family and some are just "get down to work" months. I think October is a "get down to work" month. Even taking time out to post on my blog seemed frivolous this past month. Or maybe it was just that I couldn't figure out what to post about.