Tag Archive | kids

Being a Kid is Tough Work

It’s not easy being green…or a kid.

Lots of adults – too many adults – think that childhood is an easy time.  They think that kids are carefree and have nothing to worry about.  Well, childhood should be an easy time, with no cares or worries, and in a perfect world it would be, but we do not live in a perfect world.

Kids face stressors of all kinds and always have. They have to go to school – and if they are not good students that’s one type of stress, and if they are good students, that’s another kind of stress, and if they have to deal with bullies that’s another type of stress, and if they are shy and have difficulty making friends – even if they aren’t subjected to bullying – that’s another type of stress, or if they’re popular and have to maintain a certain circle of friends even if they don’t want to because “it’s expected,” that’s another type of stress.  Well, you get the picture. Stress.

Nowadays there’s more than ever for kids to be worried about. Take for instance, the chat my daughter’s teacher had with her class last school year about possible shooters in the school and how they’re basically all screwed anyway.  And then there’s the fact that my daughter went to a college conference in Baltimore recently – one of her concerns included whether or not the convention center would be shot up…given Baltimore’s latest activities in that regard. Many kids face this fear in this day and age and truly, that’s just a sad testament to our society as a whole.

Then there’s home life, which can be more complicated now than ever before, considering the proliferation of different family units – single parents, same-sex parents, step-parents and step-siblings, and so on. Which can be just fine and dandy inside the home or it can be incredibly complicated depending on how the family meshes – but the external stressors that kids in these situations sometime face can be overwhelming.

And then there’s the parents. Regardless of the type of family unit, most parents are loving and treat their kids well…but there are always the exceptions. And while the percentage of “bad parents” may be low, that still means there are hundreds of thousands of parents who have no idea how to treat kids, and shouldn’t be parents in the first place, frankly.

And all that brings me to the real subject of this blog entry, which is how frustrating it is for teenagers to be lumped into a single mass.

“All teenagers are sullen.”

“All teenagers are moody and antagonistic.”

“All teenagers have teenage angst.”

I disagree with all of these statements but none more than the existence of “teenage angst.” Not all teenagers have teenage angst! And what the hell is teenage angst anyway? There’s no “adult angst” and believe me, I’ve seen plenty of adults that ought to have it.

Oh, and just because a teenager doesn’t want to be social or outgoing, even among family, does not mean they are sullen or moody or antagonistic. Perhaps they’re introverted. Perhaps they’re shy. Perhaps they have a lot going on in their mind and life and they’re distracted. Perhaps they just don’t like you. They should be allowed to do their own thing so long as they’re not being outwardly disrespectful. Speaking of which, I’m a firm believer of “respect is a two-way street.”  There is no minimum age for deserving respect. All too often adults think that kids, simply by virtue of being kids, do not deserve even a modicum of respect, thereby completely invalidating their feelings, and this is just wrong.

But how should we treat teenagers who do have angst? (Note the intentional lack of “teenage” preceding the word angst.)

Are they to blame for giving into their feelings – when adults certainly never hesitate to give in to theirs?

Kids have a lot to be anxious about. For some, it’s worse than the norm.

Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzing numb.”

That’s a quote to think about, and to remember.

All of the stresses that affect kids are magnified a hundred fold if they do suffer from anxiety and/or depression.  First off, anxiety and depression are medical conditions. That’s what a lot of adults don’t seem to understand. Oh, they might “get it” regarding themselves or other adults.  They just don’t seem to understand that kids can suffer from these same conditions.  I mean, why would they?  They’re kids, in the prime of their carefree days for goodness sake.

Second, a lot of this angst is caused by external forces.

Take girls, for example. It’s well documented that boys and girls do equally well in school until they get into their teens, when the scores for girls (speaking overall here – there are always exceptions) go way down in certain subjects. Like math and science. Why? Because even today – even today! – girls are not expected to be good at math or science! And they are treated accordingly. No wonder their scores go down.

Then there’s the fact that once girls become teenagers, they “blossom” as the saying goes, and all of a sudden they’ve got to deal with the “opposite sex” coming onto them (or not). Not to mention ridiculous dress codes that make it abundantly clear that their education is much less important than a boy’s and instead they should focus on not distracting the male students from their studies.

Of course boys have a similar and equal kind of stress when they hit puberty, as there’s a blinding rush to turn them into adults and no innocence seems left to any kids anywhere!

Bad parents also cause their kids a lot of stress and anxiety. Some parents emotionally abuse kids, even if they don’t physically abuse them, threatening to withdraw their love if the kid fails a test, for example…or irrationally and insistently pushing the kid into sports when he or she would rather be on the stage let’s say, just so they can relive their old high school quarterback days.

Something else to think about: When parents have a bad day, who are the first ones they take it out on?  Their spouse, sure, but who’s next? The kids. Right. (I’m not talking abuse here – that’s a whole other issue – I’m talking about being in a bad mood, snapping at the family, being curt or short in your tone, and having no patience for anyone.) When kids have a bad day?  Who can they take it out on?  No-one. Why? Because they get punished. For belligerence. For having a bad attitude. If they go to their room and try to stay to themselves because they’ve had a bad day? They get punished. Why? For being sullen.  For being anti-social with the family. For ignoring their parents. For bringing the mood of the family down. Kids are expected to be on perfect behavior at all times or face the consequences.  Who can live sanely under those kinds of expectations!? Yet many adults expect them to do it.

My point in all this rambling?  Simple. Let’s cut our kids some slack, shall we? Kids have feelings and personalities all their own just as adults do. They shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re kids.


having a good kid meme

Cartoon Role Models, Or Not

As all of you know, I love cartoons!

I’m not talking about animated TV shows like King of the Hill or The Simpsons, or even that stuff on Adult Swim. Those are shows intended for adults. I don’t like to adult.

When I was a kid, more years ago than I care to count, the only cartoons available were on Saturday. In fact, “Saturday morning cartoons” were quite the tradition. It’s a tradition that has died out – now that we have cable and satellite, there are channels every day that show classic cartoons – the Disney Channel, the Cartoon Channel, and so on.

So, regardless of when kids watch cartoons, they watch them a lot, and so of course a lot of how they behave can be affected by what they watch.

I have to admit that when I’m watching my cartoons (I’m a Looney Tunes kinda gal), I’m always curious to see how male and female characters are presented in other cartoons.

And I’m thinking of the female characters in cartoons aimed at pre-schoolers. The “educational” cartoons. Just what are they teaching young boys and girls about male and female roles?

Well, watch the opening sequence to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse some time.  Each of the characters introduces themselves. The male characters wave or smile, the female characters (Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse) thrust out a hip and raise a hand in a “come-hither” gesture.  It can’t just be me.

If you watch these shows, you’ll quickly see that Daisy is a flirt, who uses her “feminine wiles” – i.e. sex appeal – to get Donald to do what she wants. What is this teaching little girls about how they should interact with boys to get what they want?

Ever notice the stereotypical girl characters in these educations shows? For example in Rugrats, the girl Angelica is “spoiled and selfish” – and of course, bossy. (When a boy tells his friends what to do, he’s just “a leader,” but let a girl do it, and she’s just a bossy know-it-all.)

Ever notice in those shows with young male protagonists…the protagonist is usually a genius, while their sister is, if not a bossy-know-it-all, then an airhead? In fact, I can’t think of a pre-school cartoon where there is a girl genius.

Of course it’s not all bad news. Sheriff Callie’s Wild West presents an excellent female protagonist. Then there’s Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins.

But take a look at the other female characters in Doc McStuffins. While they’ve had episodes featuring a Bessie Coleman doll (the first African-American female licensed pilot) and a female rescue helicopter named Rhonda, many of the female characters are stereotypical with voices that just grate on my nerves.

There’s Dress Up Daisy, who speaks in a high falsetto and changes her outfit every few minutes. There’s Gloria Gorilla who loves to hug and who also uses a high falsetto voice. Spritzi Mitzi, the same thing.

It’s interesting to see how female characters have changed, but also in many ways remained the same, over the years.

What do you think of today’s cartoons for kids? Which are your favorites, and why?

Scary Parents

Halloween normally conjures up thoughts of ghouls, goblins, the afterlife, and phobias. The holiday itself is pretty simple: the dressing up, the trick-or-treating, the scaring people, etc. But the underlying metaphors of the deceased seeking vengeance or just acknowledgement, and bringing to light the things in life we most fear, are quite complex albeit common thoughts.  However, watching a movie marathon the other night (of course, me and movies, right?), which included The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values, had me linking this Spooktacular celebration to an area of my life I never thought it would intersect: parenting.

Yes, this Halloween season I’ve been thinking about parenting. More specifically how I believe that Gomez and Morticia Addams might just possibly be the ultimate parents. Okay, I know, but hear me out, hear me out.  Seriously, from the movies and the early t.v. show (which was amazing by the way), there is a good argument here.

gomez and morticia retro

They never shout at their kids. They never force them to be who they’re not. They’re always supportive, constantly giving Wednesday and Pugsley encouragement, and regularly back them up on their ideas no matter how crazy they may seem. If anyone speaks out against either child, these devoted parents immediately jump to their defense while also checking to make sure the kids didn’t, in fact, do some horrible good deed. They put up with the explosions from well-timed dynamite, the science experiments that set the house ablaze, and foster a love for animals by allowing the odd pet or two such as an alligator, octopus, a lively bear (rug), and a poisonous spider, just to name a few. In fact Gomez and Morticia actively encourage Wednesday and Pugsley’s individual hobbies and eccentric creative interests. They deal calmly with the sibling rivalry that often involves medieval weaponry and amazingly complex booby traps. And like all parents, they wonder if they’re “doing it right.”

morticia retro

In case you don’t remember, in The Addams Family Values, Gomez and Morticia send their kids to a summer camp because they are persuaded by external forces that it’s best for the kids. Of course, it’s a terrible idea and they never would have sent them to a place that didn’t appreciate their umm…individuality… if they hadn’t had a seed of doubt about their parenting skills planted in their heads by the nefarious villain of the flick. So here they are worried, like all conscientious parents would be, just trying to do the right thing by their kids to make sure they grow up properly.

morticia and gomez current

Also, in that movie they showed their vast reservoir for acceptance in the face of diversity. Or at least Morticia did. When their baby is “ill” and turns blonde (gasp!) and “normal” (in the All-American, Stepford, take-you-home-to-meet-the-parents sort of way), Morticia reads him The Cat in the Hat. Mind you, she doesn’t want to. She’s dreadfully sad that all of the characters live at the end. It’s rather obvious that she’d be more comfortable reciting Dante’s Inferno, something from The Brothers Grimm, or perhaps a few chapters from Faust, but instead of trying to force her own personal affinities onto this changeling in her arms, she instead recognizes what he needs and sucks it up with a little Dr. Seuss.

morticia gif

Empathy, love, acceptance, and support. These are the pillars of the Addams parents. I mean, honestly, can you think of a better pair of parental role models?

Mom Speak

There’s a saying that goes “the best tricks are the old tricks.” At least I think that’s a saying. I might be coming up with that one on my own. And if so, consider it hereby trademarked.

I thought of this phrase when I ran across the picture below. Of course no one really thinks that they’ve turned into their mother. In fact, that would probably be the cruelest thing you could ever tell a ‘tween girl. It’d send her running for the hills in fear…and most likely tears.

But guess what…it’s sort of true. I blame the kids. Yup. That’s right. Just as they drive us to moments of insanity, I think our children drive us to become our parents — mothers especially. We Moms may start out with the best of intentions, but let’s face it. We all start to sound alike after a while regardless of our “I’ll never do things the way my mother did them” mentality.

Classic phrases like “because I said so,” “go ahead, keep it up,” or “try me,” and “don’t think I won’t do it” (usually said when threatening bodily harm that rarely actually occurs) are tried and true comebacks that get results…oh, not because they make any kind of sense whatsoever, but rather because they are the debate stoppers in every mother’s toolkit sure to deal with a kid that’s in Brat Mode.

Yes, our children goad us to a level of inanity that beggars belief.  And yet, here we are, babbling absurd phrases like “yeah, well, if Holly jumped off a bridge, would you??” and “don’t put that in your mouth, you don’t know where it’s been,” and “if you must kill each other, for god’s sake, go outside!” (for moms of more than one), or my all-time favorite “don’t come running to me after you break your leg on that [insert skateboard, bike, 4-wheeler or other unwanted item here].” Of course that’s when we’re not standing there like fools counting down the fuse to an imaginary time bomb to some horrific, albeit as yet unknown, punishment that never materializes.

The mother’s curse works. Namely, I hope you have children who act exactly like you act.  That’s why all mothers end up sounding exactly alike. It’s the children. It always comes back to the children.

So, yes, sometimes when I speak it’s like I’m a ventriloquist doll with my mom behind me working the mouth lever. The thing I’ve come to realize now is that this is not a bad thing. We may have different perspectives on life. We may still hold conflicting viewpoints on any given day. But by and large sounding like my mother is okay with me. Need proof? Just look how awesome I turned out!


my mother2

Kids and Noise: Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly?

Well…another week…another entry about bad parents getting on my nerves.

Maybe it’s not so much that some parents don’t have parenting skills, but that they don’t seem to understand their responsibilities to their kids and society as a whole. They have this idea in their heads of what “kids will be kids” means, and if it’s the wrong one – and I think it is – they never know it and will ignore anyone who tries to educate them about the proper way for kids to behave during certain situations.

I was reading an article awhile back about this woman in England who had apparently spent several weeks apologizing for her kids being so noisy – everywhere they went. And she was upset because none of the adults her kids came in contact with seemed even the slightest bit tolerant of her kids.

And I’m thinking…well, just how tolerant do you expect these adults to be?

I mean, when you describe your own children with a myriad of adjectives that describe noise and chaos…it sort of makes me wonder if they even know the definition of “inside voices.”

That’s the thing – young kids need to be taught the difference between outside voices and situations where they can yell and scream all they want. There are no walls outside, so there are no echoes of those shrill little voices just searing into your brain. And then there’s the inside voices, which kids – and adults for that matter – are supposed to use when they are inside and around other people who should not have to be bombarded with a “wall of noise.”  Oh, and that’s just one description the author gave of her children entering a room. Wall. Of. Noise.

As a fellow parent I’m not looking for an apology for noisy children – I’m looking for less noisy children in spaces where noise is not really appropriate.  I have children too, so yes, I’m speaking from experience.

Maybe it’s not so much that people are intolerant of children in general (the author’s claim), but just HERS.  She even said herself:  “Others who are less charitable might say they are, well, just loud! As they battle to be heard over one another – the noise level often escalates to multi-decibel levels.”

Multi-decibel levels?  Something she is apparently used to with her own kids and may very well be able to ignore – yet she blames other people for looking askance at them and their “wall of noise?”

I don’t think this woman needs to apologize all of the time to complete strangers for her kids being noisy. Instead, I think maybe…perhaps… a novel idea, I know, but…she could actually just control her kids in the first place.

If they’re galloping through an airport singing at the top of their lungs causing EVERYONE to look at them, then there is definitely something wrong. It’s not that everyone else is intolerant.  It’s the kids.

The whole point of the article was that this woman had gotten tired of apologizing for her kids. BUT she wasn’t going to teach them manners or respect for others or “inside voices.” She was just going to let her kids be kids.  In other words, allow them to continue to run roughshod over the personal space of others, bombard the public with their wall of noise, and completely disregard the discomfort of everyone around them.

Frankly, it’s lazy parenting. And it’s not fair to the rest of us who have to put up with them.

There is a time and a place for roughhousing and loud behavior. An airport, a doctor’s office, an airplane (all scenarios in the author’s article) and many other shared public places are NOT IT.  Whatever happened to teaching inside voices, respecting others, and plain old manners?

A Boy Named Ian

When my daughter was in the 5th grade, I received one of the “dreaded” calls from the office notifying me that she had done something horrific enough to earn a referral to the office. Now normally Sarah’s referrals to the office at this age were “M & M phone calls” which students enjoyed and Sarah normally racked up week after week.   Students would receive these positive referrals for things like going out of their way to help another student or teacher, taking initiative in class, getting caught being polite (holding doors for others, etc.) and the like.

However, on this dark day, she was sitting in the office for a more sinister reason: standing up for herself. I know, right?  How dare she!? Well. You guys know me well. You can imagine my response.  But I’m jumping ahead. Let me tell you what prompted the referral.

In my daughter’s elementary school, the students would leave their main classroom to attend Art (or Music) and then return to the main classroom again. In a state of flux, the class would stand out in the hall in a line for a long period of minutes (who knows why, though I think it was simply to test the students to see just how long they could stand still and whoever thought that was a good idea was a complete idiot).  Well, during this period of flux one day, Sarah and her friend were being harassed by a boy named Ian. Great name. Not so great a boy. He kept knocking their books and folders out of their hands and hitting them each in turn with a pencil. Now I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been cracked on my knuckles and my hands with items and it hurts like hell. Not to mention the annoyance of having to pick up your things one too many times to the amusement of the bully harassing you.

Well, I imagine for my daughter and her friend this little game of Ian’s got old and quick. Now my daughter’s friend, being more soft-spoken than my daughter, didn’t voice her dismay over the treatment. My daughter on the other hand had no qualms about speaking up. And she gave fair warning to Ian to stop or face the consequences. Ian, being brave or stupid, pressed his luck one last time and that was…as they say…all she wrote. My daughter snatched the pencil and stabbed him in the leg with it. Oh, not enough to even break the skin (so poking would be more accurate, but stab is what they put on the referral, so stab it was), but it was enough to startle him and make him cry and therefore embarrass him in front of his friends and the other kids.  And, since this big, strapping boy (much larger than my daughter) was embarrassed, by a girl no less, he told on her.

So. A referral was given, to both of them actually. I was a little surprised to tell you the truth. I figured it would just be Sarah since the boy claimed innocence (which he continued to do in the office) and Sarah readily admitted what she had done. And since our school system makes complete sense, they sent them both together, unsupervised, down the hall to the office which was on the other side of the building. What could go wrong there, right? They made it alive, another surprise.  I was told later, that on the long trek to the office Ian informed my daughter he no longer liked her (lo and behold the real reason for the harassment!), and that she hadn’t hurt him, he only wanted her to get into trouble for it.  To which she informed him, “Yeah, I guess that’s why you were crying then.”  My girl.

My response? Certainly not one the office staff was happy to hear. But it was the same one it has always been and always will be for my children. If someone touches you, you defend yourself. Period.

The ironic thing about it all?  Upon return to the classroom, Sarah was named Student of the Month and received a prize.  My girl.

advice for daughters

What’s in a Name?

Okay, so I just came across yet another parenting article.  No issue in the child-rearing world seems to go untouched…every little thing apparently needs to be hashed out, which really makes me think I should get a gig writing for one these publications, because I could seriously give out some good advice.

But I digress.

The writer of this particular article takes issue with the fact that her kids’ friends call her by her first name.  In fact, her “biggest pet peeve” is any child calling any adult by their first name, which she apparently takes as a sign of grave disrespect.

She gets her point across in a joking manner, but makes her point just the same (which I can truly appreciate). What I found funny though is she doesn’t like the idea of being called Ms. or Mrs. either.  So what exactly is a child supposed to call her?  The author is unsure.  She just knows it shouldn’t be her first name only. A modern quandary indeed.

Personally I never had this problem when my children were very young. I didn’t have a name then, you see. I was simply Jacob’s mom and Sarah’s mom for the longest time.  As in, “Hey Jacob’s Mom, can Jacob come out and play?” Or “Hi Sarah’s Mom, can she go to the park with us today?”

When I eventually earned a name for myself, I requested they call me “Ms. Wendy.”  It was my choice, not theirs. I mean, kids won’t know what to call you unless you tell them, right?  One of my son’s friends (who has been around since forever) still calls me “Jacob’s Mom,” and does so with quite a bit of mutual humor and nostalgia. Would I ever consider him disrespectful?  Heck no!  The boy is a hoot.  Hearing “Hi Jacob’s Mom!” coming from a strapping 24-year-old as he yells across a crowded room without a care in the world is always comical to behold, and interesting to explain.

My view is, if you want to be called Mr. or Ms. or Mrs. insert first or last name here, then simply tell the child that so they know. Don’t leave them to their own devices or their own choices in the matter if you care that much about what you’re called. But don’t expect them to respect you simply because of what you choose to name yourself.  Respect isn’t a “given” based solely on a title.

Beyond the whole name dilemma, which each parent has to figure out for themselves (hopefully before the kids get to college), I did find one thing about the article that was disconcerting, in a sort of a red-faced, wow, okay, that sounds like me, kind of a way.

She did it to be humorous I’m sure (although probably serious too) but the author wrote out a detailed list of the reasons why she will never ever be friends with her children’s friends and therefore, why they can’t be on a first name basis.

The list consists of things that adults – that is to say, peers – wouldn’t or rather, shouldn’t, do, you see. And, I have to admit that I failed her list by half. That’s right. Half. So. No new friendship on the horizon for me. But that’s okay. I’m sure we’ll both survive.

When you think about it though, following Southern custom (calling on my family heritage here), the author would have to call me Ms. Wendy cause I’m older than her. (Okay, so I’m guessing here at her age, but it’s a good guess –her children must be young given the topic of the article and she knows who the hell The Tings Tings are and I suppose LIKES them since she knows the lyrics to their songs – all of which points to her being way younger than me.) BUT since I failed her test, I’d end up having to call her Ms. So and So or whatever it is she decides she wants to be called…this name game, it’s all so very confusing!

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