It’s not that I don’t spend time on the computer or Facebook or email — I do — but I grew up, as you surely did, in an era when you talked on the phone or you went outside or you read a book. Sure, our generation had TV. And my parents fretted about it. But according to the New York Times article, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction,” TV doesn’t have the same impact on the brain that multitasking with several technologies does. The article explores the lure of electronics, the effects on kids’ brains, and kids’ ability to focus. It’s worth reading. It’s also overwhelming. Are we raising children with brains unable to focus, concentrate, or listen? Will their adult brain capacity, like I imagine their standard of living, be lower than ours. Or just different?
When your kids are little, it’s easy to monitor what they’re doing with technology. But once they’re older, whether they own the technology or not, it’s much more difficult to know what they’re up to (and if you think you know, you might have your head in the sand) — the pull of friends’ houses, for one, or the time at home on their own while, if you’re like me, you’re grocery shopping in peace. You can bet they’re not doing their homework. Well, my daughter will be doing it. The boys I know, including mine? Not so much.
And yet, despite my Luddite sensibilities, I know the impact of not allowing your kids access to modern technology when everyone else has it. It becomes the forbidden fruit, the reason your kid hangs out at other kids’ homes, even those kids who aren’t really friends. According to one parent I know, your kid is out of the social loop if she doesn’t own a cell phone. Not good, she says. I didn’t know.
I’m a big believer in balance, but once the technology enters your home, the slope is as slippery as they get (watch out), and despite all good intentions, your idea of balance becomes skewed indeed. Constantly tricky.
Who knew there would come a day when watching TV together would be considered quality family time? How quaint.]]>
However, shopping for cars is not what we had planned for December — never mind borrowing money, making multiple phone calls to insurance agents, claims adjusters, the loss department, and the rental company that told us our rental car was due (it wasn’t). Total headache. It could be worse, I know. I could have terminally ill children.
But right now I am thinking a lot about new drivers and the fact we will have one in our family in about two years, sooner than I would like. Yikes. And oh, baby, she can’t wait. But if, as a veteran driver, I wasn’t sure what to do at the scene of an accident, you can bet she won’t. It kinda freaks me out.
So here’s the cheat sheet I will be posting in our car, numbered in order of importance and laminated for durability. (I may also conduct surprise quizzes once her license is issued. Don’t tell her I said that.)
What To Do at the Accident Scene
1. Read this list before getting out of the car. (Okay, maybe that’s unrealistic.)
2. Don’t move your car from the scene of the collision, except perhaps to pull to the curb. Even if it’s a minor accident, don’t park elsewhere to trade insurance information because people can change their stories, i.e., lie about what happened, and the police can’t help sort it out if you’ve moved the cars. (No one lied at my accident scene.)
3. Make sure everyone is okay. If not, call 911. (We didn’t have to do this.)
4. Grab a witness and take their info so you can contact them later. Better yet, have them hang around until the police arrive. (We had no witnesses because not a single person stopped to see if we were okay.)
5. Don’t talk about whose fault it is. Don’t argue. Don’t apologize. Don’t go there.
6. Call the police, even for a minor accident (see #5). Girls and boys, DO NOT let the other driver talk you out of it. It’s not a big deal to involve the police. All they do is take statements, fill out an accident report, and then you have the paper trail you need when it comes time to bargain for a settlement.
7. Take pictures of the damage to the cars. I will be putting an instant cardboard camera in the glove box when we get a new car. Of course, my daughter has a cell phone that she knows how to use.
8. Exchange insurance information with the other party. While you’re at it, do not say say you’re fine. Whiplash sets in later.
9. Call your insurance agent.
10. Somewhere in there, call Mom and Dad, preferably after you grab that witness.]]>
My husband admitted it was a bit froofy for his taste, and, yeah, it does have a sophisticated feminine appeal with a black and pink theme throughout that Leah and I particularly liked. But the chocolate trumped any décor opinions. You can order yourself a hefty slice of chocolate cake big enough for two or three, although my kids put serious dents in their slices before they asked for help. My favorite was the peppermint patty chocolate cake, but there’s also creamy coconut (next time) or German chocolate or triple chocolate or… if you’re not a fan of chocolate, try the gourmet cookies and dessert bars. I’m betting the choices change often, but I forgot to ask. Anyway, it’s all great.
And, for the best of all worlds, Chocolate Necessities is right next door. After we ate our cake, we stopped in to see what they offer—we never managed to visit while they were at the Public Market—and we taste tested their yummy gelato. Have you seen the chocolates here? How did we not know about them until last night? They are pure artistry at work: chocolate high-heeled pumps, instruments, dogs, motocycles, turkeys, and the quaintest little cottage you ever did see.
So if you’re looking for a special treat with your kids (or without them), I recommend dessert at this pair of delectable Bellingham establishments. And for those who don’t live here, well, you’ll just have to come visit.]]>
Okay, I’m truly a slacker parent—the votes are all in. Here’s why: we let the kids eat their Halloween candy. No night sprite comes to trade toys for candy in the middle of the night (I’m way too cheap for that). We don’t throw out the candy after the kids go to bed, and I didn’t throw it out when they were young, either—my husband and I prefer to help ourselves and hope the kids don’t notice. We don’t separate candy by health quality, we (they) separate by type of candy—an important ritual—and they eat it. We don’t hand out toys to kids at the door because we get too many kids in our neighborhood (see cheap, above).
I know sugar is rampant. As are chemicals. The Spoonfed blogger is more concerned with chemicals than sugar, and I’m right there with her. And I get she’s just trying to dialogue on health with her kids. I applaud her energy.
I also know what happens when you ban kids from the sweet stuff (or television or polyester or skateboarding). They crave it all the more, and you run the risk of creating, or at least contributing to, food fixations and even eating disorders. Really, I know adults in this boat. I’ve also seen kids get pretty bossy and judgmental with their candy-eating peers, and who needs that?
But mostly, I’m just trying to walk a line. When I was a kid, our sugar consumption was seriously controlled. In fact, my dad told the local store owner—we had exactly one store in our community—not to sell candy to me and my sisters. I didn’t know about the edict until I tried to buy candy one day (I was about 10) and the store clerk had to break the news. He was embarrassed, and I was mortified. After that, when my friends bought candy, I would feign disinterest in the sweet stuff and buy an apple instead because I was too embarrassed to admit my parents’ sugar ethic. My sister? She took to stealing candy and hiding it in her dresser drawer.
So, I’m all for feeding kids a healthy diet, but I don’t go overboard on the control issues. Call me a slacker, but I have put some thought into this. When Ty was 3, we let him “eat” all his candy in one night, about 15 pieces (incidentally, your dentist will agree this is better for your kid’s teeth). Ty opened every piece, took one bite, and put it aside. Okay, yes, I did throw it all away when he went to bed. But he thought he’d gorged on candy, and the issue was over. The reality is I’m just too lazy to monitor and negotiate candy for weeks on end. Slacker.
These days, I don’t have any say in what the kids eat on Halloween (and they’re quicker to notice declines in their candy stash)—nor do I think I should be controlling a 13-year-old’s choices. She needs to figure that out. But I do remind her to brush her teeth. And my kids are quick to spot the difference between fun food and healthy food (Leah told me recently our house was healthy but not crazy healthy. I think she meant it as a compliment). They eat vegetables and fruit, and they steadfastly refuse to eat hot lunch at school.
Personally, I say trick-or-treat to fewer houses when your kids are young and skip the downtown business trick-or-treat scene. The best way to cut down on candy is not to bring it into the house at all.]]>
I keep thinking it’s a metaphor for parenting. Similar to a recalcitrant toddler, the car can’t be forced. Wrenching on the shifter only serves to remind me I might break the mechanism and be stuck for good. Last week, picking up Leah from middle school, I got stuck for ten minutes jiggling the shifter and feeling mightily irritated.
Like most parents do with tough kids, I’ve taken to anticipating the issue, except instead of warning my charge we won’t be buying treats while grocery shopping or wondering whether today will be the day I will abandon a full cart due to a meltdown (I never abandoned a full cart and now, looking back, I wish I had), I park so I won’t ever block anyone (that happened in a driveway last week, and naturally it was when the blocked-in driver was in a hurry). I also park in the outer reaches of parking lots where there are fewer witnesses to watch me go through my round of tricks.
I’ve tried all kinds of tricks: wheeling the steering wheel around as I pull down on the shifter, turning the engine off and turning it back on again, setting and releasing the parking brake several times, and taking deep breaths to minimize the red flush that invariably crawls up my face.
But, like a toddler bent on independence, the car only does what it wants to do when it wants to do it—I never know what pops it into gear, although recently when I took to stomping on the brake pedal (my husband’s trick), I discovered more consistent success. Hmm, the car equivalent of spanking?
Luckily, with a car, you can just call in the mechanic. In fact, it’s in the shop today. I hope it’s easy to figure out—they have never run into this issue before. Story of my toddler parenting life. Thank God I’m done with it.]]>
Who is LEV? It is a political action committee comprised of educators, policy makers, parents, students, and community leaders that advocates for education.
Here’s what they do in their own words: “At LEV, we believe reforms plus resources are the keys to improving outcomes for children. That’s why we wrote and passed Initiative 728 in 2000 to lower class sizes and provide more learning opportunities like preschool and all-day kindergarten for students. I-728 was just the beginning. LEV was founded one year later to ensure state lawmakers fulfilled their promises and the will of the voters. LEV has successfully passed a statewide initiative, worked to pass two constitutional amendments, defended an important education revenue source and pushed for the creation of a seamless public education system.”
There’s a lot at stake for our kids this election. It’s worth reading up.]]>
“I don’t think I want up-to-the-minute coverage,” he said. “I’ll read the paper tomorrow.”
My husband doesn’t dwell in dark places. He doesn’t like to think about what-ifs, and he doesn’t want to hear the details about children’s deaths. I, on the other hand, allow my mother brain to go to the darkest of dark places. I know I’m not the only one—I’ve read entire essays devoted to this female phenomenon.
Imagine, then, the last week and a half here in Bellingham. I cannot stop thinking about the 2-year-old girl hit by a car in front of one of our high schools. Or the girl who never in a million years expected to cause an accident on a sunny afternoon, and, oh, I can’t stop imagining my own daughter in her shoes in two and a half years. And I can’t stop thinking about Dwight, a boy whose world was his oyster, who had just arrived in town to begin his college career at the university. He was five years older than my daughter is now.
I feel the urge to pull my kids close and keep them close. And yet life must be lived, and children must walk without you. They will learn to drive, encounter strangers, use their own judgment, make their own decisions. You can’t stop the process—it’s like trying to dam the ocean.
And even when they’re old enough to leave home, they will not be ready. They will learn on the fly, through experience, through mistakes, through others’ mistakes, through their parents’ mistakes, and most of the time, they will be fine, but sometimes not. It’s the nature of being human in a fragile, delicately balanced, beautiful world that brings heartbreak every day.]]>
A couple years ago, we—I, rather—promised Ty an iPod for his eleventh birthday, back in the day before we knew what iPod touches were (had they even been invented yet?). We had given Leah a nano for her eleventh birthday and it only seemed fair to give Ty the same.
But now that Leah owns a touch—a refurbished first generation gadget that she bought off the Internet with her own money—and Ty’s friends own touches and play games incessantly, Ty has decided the lowly nano is not worth his time. He’s told us straight out if we give him one, he will return it and contribute his own money to upgrade to a touch.
This weekend, while Leah was upgrading her cell phone (on her own dime), she mooned over the latest touches at Best Buy. Then she came up with the bright idea that she would deed her touch, which works just fine, to Ty and we would give her a new, fourth generation touch for Christmas, because she is older and more responsible and more deserving.
Ty was open to the idea at first when Leah proposed it on Saturday, much to her acquisitive delight, but by the next day, he’d realized she was using him to get herself a new touch, while he, whose birthday is looming, would wind up with a second-hand, old touch that doesn’t have the speakers Leah so badly wants. And now so does he.
They argued. Even as we explained that no one was guaranteed a touch.
As the parent of a teen and tween, I yearn for the electronic world to slow down. The ever-evolving smartEverythings drive me bonkers because they’ve got my kids in perpetual I-need mode. Never mind that their parents are frugal beyond reason, modeling living within one’s means every day (are we setting them up to rebel by going into credit card debt by age 20, I wonder?).
Case in point: I am still using the same cell phone I bought three years ago, to Leah’s horrified amazement, because, guess what?, it still works and why should I upgrade just to upgrade, even if it’s for free? Honestly, how many discarded cell phones does the world need, and who cares whether you can go online while out on a run? (I have this feeling I’m in a minority of about ten.)
In the midst of our culture’s (at least on the West coast) eco/recycle/buy local/eat local/eat at home/staycation kind of sensibilities, our electronics industry is operating on a different model, and it has created a frenzy with our kids. All that money saved on hotels? Gone, I suspect, on games and gadgets. (If I read “there’s an app for that” one more time…)
This NYT article, “If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online,” paints a dismal picture of the invisible time spent on electronics, mostly online, and the difficulty regulating it as kids get older and more independent. It doesn’t address the wish-frenzy syndrome, but certainly that is part of the picture, as most parents of older kids have experienced. But perhaps most pertinent, the article shows me our wired future. I can’t get my head around it.
We don’t know how the birthday iPod is going to resolve itself yet, but we’ve declared a moratorium on the topic. And I’m trying not to feel like a 20th-century Luddite when I tell Ty to close out of Green Day’s You Tube videos and put on a, gasp!, CD of theirs instead.]]>
Not surprisingly, he couldn’t get to sleep until after 11:00, each trip down the stairs to let me know accompanied by bigger and bigger bags under his eyes. He also tends to go a shade of pale when he’s beyond tired, and by 11:00 he was the color of new snow. There wasn’t a thing I could do to help him.
But when he told his dad (who had been out of town) about it the next day, what Ty recalled with a broad smile was the joy of jangly nerves and the half hour of a movie he got to watch with me at 10:00pm. No memory of the hangover at school, the deep fatigue that dogged him through the day.
According to a variety of articles on the Web, kids’ caffeine intake is growing, and you’re just as likely to stand in line at Starbucks behind a sullen teen as a hurried businessman (and we wonder why the kids can’t sit still in class). But there’s been little research on kids and caffeine, according to the Washington Post’s “Rousing Kids to Caffeine’s Consequences.”
I’m all for adults drinking Red Bull during sports—indeed there was a time when I couldn’t get through an ultimate Frisbee tournament without the promise of performance-enhancing caffeine, but for kids, not so much. I’m thinking it’s time the research kicked in.
Meanwhile, I’ll have to trust that Ty doesn’t drink Mountain Dew. After, uh, 10:00am.