Challenging the Challenges

I have seen news coverage of the “latest” teen challenge craze, snorting condoms, and I can hold my peace no longer.   Here is a doctor’s warning about the risks associated with snorting condoms.  Again, I am shaking my head that we would even need to warn anyone that this is a stupid idea, on top of all the other warnings issued regarding gulping spoonfuls of cinnamon, eating Tide Pods, wrapping yourself in duct tape, car surfing, and choking yourself until you pass out.

It would seem that condom snorting is a resurrection of a fad first making the rounds in 2013.  It has made a reappearance along with bell bottom jeans, cold shoulder sweaters, jelly shoes, and many other things that should just stay in the past.  In my opinion, kids snorting condoms should wear them to guarantee they don’t breed, and the Tide Pod challenge should include a teenager doing his own laundry and putting it away.

But are teens alone in stupid challenges?  I think not.  Adults are just as guilty, men especially (come on guys, you know it’s true), of doing ridiculous things in rituals called “Hold My Beer” challenges.  These range from jumping off a roof using umbrellas as parachutes to roller-skating on frozen lakes.  Things I have personally witnessed grown men doing include:

  • The firecracker challenge: I am not kidding, I have seen grown men challenge each other to light firecrackers in the waistband of their pants … “to see what happens.”  I mean, honestly. What do they think is going to happen?? I can attest it’s about what you’d expect to have happen.
  • Chicken: I have witnessed versions of this classic played out in trucks, on four wheelers, and on tractors. It never ends well for the drivers or the vehicles of choice. And once, it ended really badly – in the form of a mud bath (it was in a field, so we were all hoping it was mud at any rate) – for a particularly well-dressed bystander who had not planned on said mud bath that evening.
  • Impossible Obstacle Challenge: Let’s pile some debris and boards together and jump them with bicycles, four-wheelers, motorcycles, or heck, even roller-skates and skate boards. One guy thought he would impersonate Superman — you know, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. What could go wrong? Broken bones. That’s what can go wrong. But hey, at least he held onto his beer.
  • The hot pepper challenge: My ex-husband and his friends used to see who could eat the hottest peppers whole. This was fun enough on its own, until wasabi became a thing and the challenge expanded to a whole new level. I think some of those guys still have clear sinuses even today. Of course, the subsequent ulcers are a constant reminder of the “good old days.”

With kids, this sort of behavior is really not too far out of the realm of somewhat kinda sorta normal … I mean, their brains and their impulse control are still developing. However, you’d think the adults would “know better.”  But they don’t. I do think that adults doing stupid things and teens doing stupid things comes down to a few similarities.  Boredom is probably a running theme for all of these challenges.  The need for recognition plays some part, as well; the people performing these challenges feel the need to be acknowledged for doing something, hell, ANYTHING, even if it is dumb.  I think another common trait among people who perform these stunts, adults and teens alike, is a pervasive feeling of invincibility. I’ve talked about this before. These people know that they are doing something stupid and dangerous, and they have read that people have been seriously hurt performing these stunts, but hey; it will never happen to me!

I think that every now and then, things are put into place to promote evolution; this is Darwinism at its finest.  Only the smartest and the strongest will be able to resist snorting a condom, therefore, only the smartest and strongest survive.  If they somehow survive the teenage round of stupidity, they will be tested again as adults in the “Hold My Beer” challenges.  After this, they are granted the wisdom needed to reach old age, and to impart that great wisdom to the next generation. Who, in turn, will ignore the wise elderly citizen, and chomp on a Tide Pod anyway.  This is definitely the new “circle of life.”

Luckily, there is a growing number of young people who not only resist these asinine challenges but show more courage and intelligence than many adults … these are the leaders of the future. Hell, they’re the leaders we need now, but sadly, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for them to come into their own. So, there is hope yet.

As for me, just check my Instagram for the latest challenges I will be performing.  There is the couch-a-thon which involves sitting on my couch for an entire episode of a QVC show while the remote is on the counter in the kitchen, totally out of my reach; then there is the gluttony challenge where I will eat an entire pizza by myself.  It’s dangerous, but I like to shake it up a little and live on the edge.  Then there’s the “rope the remote with the phone charger” challenge. It’s not as easy as it sounds – I almost fell off the couch performing this one, so there’s an added risk to be taken into consideration. Of course, my all-time favorite: eating a whole container of Oreos without milk (bonus points if it’s because you forgot milk at the store when you in fact purchased the Oreos).  Required Disclaimer: Don’t try these at home, people, I am a trained professional.

Dear Mom – Things They Don’t Teach in School

Yesterday. Whew. What a long day, for all of us.

Dad had the biopsy on his lungs yesterday.  To say I was nervous and afraid is an understatement.

I decided to tag along to keep you company.  You’re my mom, but you’re so much more.  My friend, my confidant, my rock.  And dad?  He has always, always been there for me, no matter what. So of course, I was going to be there for him.

While thinking of you both last night, after all was said and done, I took a moment to reflect on the differences that separate us, and also those that connect us, as they do in any family.  Politics?  Please.  Social issues?  Ugh, no way. I have no doubt that you feel the same. I mean, I got my attitude from somewhere, right? Yet, through it all, I love you.  More than you will ever know.  You’ve done so much over the years for me; I want to be there for you like you are always there for me.

This is not to toot my horn, so to speak. Instead, it’s meant to offer up a heartfelt apology.

Yeah, I choked.  Sure, I’m great at the lighthearted stuff.  I can gossip about the mailman and tell terrible jokes with the best of them in an attempt – perhaps, a misguided attempt – to keep your mind off things.  I can distract you from the bigger picture, if only for a little while, with any number of sarcastic and witty (in my own eyes, at least) observances. I can get super-charged and angry on your behalf; whether it’s at people or situations, I’ll gladly take it on to save you the stress or heartache.  But the serious stuff?  I’m at a loss.

They never taught this stuff in school.

Mom and dad, I wanted to say the right things.  I wanted to do the right things, to offer comfort, hope, and a bit of light in the darkness.  I just am so ridiculously backwards and awkward in serious situations that I don’t know what to say or do. It’s almost funny. Except, it’s not.

I’m sorry I’m not good at small talk or knowing what to say in a painful, frighteningly serious situation.  And I was scared.  Just like you were.  I’m sorry I’m not better at comforting you; I truly wish I knew how.

I hope you both know that I love you more than anything in this world.  I will always be there for you, no matter how awkward or backward I may be at the reassurances and encouragements and comforting phrases.

My heart feels it, oh boy does my heart feel it; if only my mouth could say it.

 

Devolving Toys for Today’s Kids   

Back in the good old days, we had toys that left lasting memories.  Sometimes, these toys left lasting scars, burns, and fractures as well, but mostly just good, warm memories.  One of my fondest memories growing up was playing with the Holly Hobbie Oven.

The Holly Hobbie Oven was a stove that was made to look old-fashioned.  Like, really old-fashioned.  The old black cast iron wood stove your grandmother used when she was young kind of old-fashioned.   Picture Little House on the Prairie old-fashioned.   It came with pots and pans, a rolling-pin, and a few mixing bowls and spoons.  It cooked, like its predecessor the Easy Bake Oven, with the heat of a light bulb.  It was sheer genius in its simplicity.  It was safe to use if you didn’t put your hand in too far (don’t ask me how I know this) and may be the reason some little girls grew up to be fantastic cooks.  I said some, not all (cough cough).

click the pic to learn all about Holly Hobbie!

I got mine for Christmas in 1975, if I remember right.  What I do remember clearly is just how excited I was to play with it and make real food (of a sort).  I played with it all the time too; this may be one of my favorite toys ever from childhood, next to my Curious George stuffed monkey (which I still have, by the way).  I still get warm fuzzies when I think of this toy and the hours spent cooking, creating and imagining.

In today’s world, where is the source of a child’s warm fuzzies?  It seems that kids are growing up too fast to enjoy life’s simplicities.  Adults feed a child’s need for distraction, myself included, but maybe we’re choosing the wrong kinds of distractions.  Where is the imagination and excitement of the simpler toys in life, such as building blocks and good old-fashioned board games?  I wonder if the kids get the same sense of wonder when they unwrap an iPhone for Christmas that we used to get while unwrapping our Barbies and GI Joes.   In a microwave world, maybe I am hopelessly camp-fire addicted, but I believe that we need to allow our kids to have an “innocent stage” for as long as we can. It’s hard to do in today’s world, though.

There are some kids who still enjoy the simpler toys like yo-yo’s and Legos (my son was NUTS about Legos growing up) but in general, it seems society has outgrown these things.  I find that sort of sad.  There is no imagination needed in today’s scripted world of video games and smart phones.  What are we teaching our kids about self-reliance?  Are they learning how to simply slow down and enjoy the fun things in life, like cooking with a light bulb or ripping off Stretch Armstrong’s arms to see what his gel insides looks like?

I am glad that society is moving forward, don’t get me wrong.  I think there is a time and a place for electronics, but I also believe technology needs to be balanced out for our youth with good old-fashioned toys that spark the imagination and employ creativity; toys that evoke a friendly competitive rivalry like Monopoly, Uno and Sorry (umm…well, in my house, to this day, when we play these games, someone usually almost always gets killed before it’s all said and done, but still, they’re fun games…yeah, that’s right, fun games!)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t embrace progress. I’m all for progress. Maybe it’s good that toys have evolved, along with everything else. And maybe it’s sad that things like the Holly Hobbie Oven are tossed to the wayside.

Color Me Confused

Earthquakes abound.  Hurricanes are wreaking havoc and leaving trails of death and destruction in their wakes.  There is rioting and looting in major cities, insane dictators launching nuclear missiles, flooding and famine throughout the world and people who still like the Steelers.

But nothing going on in this world today compares to the awesome destructiveness of Crayola’s newest color unveiling, Bluetiful.

Yes, this may be the most important subject and timely topic we can be divided over, hands down.

You see, Crayola has upset the space-time continuum by daring to name its own product.  After a naming contest for its newest color creation in the blue family, the winning name was Bluetiful.

Immediate outrage ensued and predictably, a boycott was threatened.  How dare this company name its own product?  Don’t they know that millions of children rely on crayons to learn colors and spelling and vocabulary?  It is no longer the responsibility of parents, or even teachers, to teach children that any shade of red is still red or that any nuance of blue is, in fact, still blue. And that they’re spelled r-e-d and b-l-u-e. Darn you, Crayola!  How dare you, the most popular art supplier of colored drawing implements in the world, neglect your duty of teaching our children?

What’s next?  Now that this insult is in place, will I be expected to teach my own children other things as well? Perish the thought!  Kindergarten teachers everywhere are in a tailspin.  They cannot be relied upon to teach our children colors!  Only you, Crayola, could accomplish this feat.  And you, Crayola, YOU just let us down!

I’m not sure I can continue to use my adult coloring books any longer.  Yes, yes, I still play with crayons. But more important, the confusion of naming crayons something other than their original color is just too great for me to handle.  What if I picked up the wrong blue and used it? Gasp! I mean, it could ruin a perfectly good drawing of Starry Night or Rainbow Dash.  I simply cannot be held responsible for my refrigerator art if Crayola continues to confound me this way.

The majority of people who chose the clever name of Bluetiful in the contest obviously have no respect for the role that Crayola plays in tutoring our children.  I suppose next I will have to teach my child manners?  Crayola should do that as well; Please Pink and Thank You Turquoise, for instance.  Yes Sir Yellow?  The possibilities are endless.  Crayola is falling behind the times here, and we are forced to teach our own children.  It is an outrage, an outrage I tell you.

Apparently, Crayola is only confusing us on a limited basis, since they discontinued my favorite color, Dandelion to make room for the mixed-up-not-a-real-word Bluetiful.  If you are going to baffle our children, Crayola should keep Dandelion and just add Bluetiful as an extra.  I was just getting used to Dandelion, and had finally begun to accept that Dandelion was a shade of yellow after twenty-some years of confusion.  And now, this?

A purple pox on you, Crayola, you destroyer of Denim Blue dreams!  Our Eggplant egos have been dashed to the ground, and trampled on by your Salmon sandals.  I can only hope that, together globally, we will overcome this Indigo insult.

Until we do, my friends, stay strong and Bluetiful.

 

click pic to read about all the hubbub

What’s for Dinner?

I came across a parenting article recently and even though my kids are older, with diapers and daily tantrums over “tie” vs “velcro” shoes a thing of the past, I was curious, so I took the time to check it out.  Actually, I found this particular piece of child-rearing commentary on the same mom advice blog that I’ve brought up before, the one that decries “mommy shaming” yet mom-shames religiously.

This new wave of helpful hints was about dealing with “picky eaters.” The writer’s solution? Let the kids choose. Sounds simple, right? Turns out it is simple. Basically, as the mother (or I guess, father…this article happened to be directed at moms), you fix whatever dinner you want and if the kids don’t want to eat it, fine. In fact, you start out the meal with the announcement that “eat or it not, it’s up to you.” Having no punishment for abstaining from any of the foods presented is the key here. Further, rejecting the main meal does not preclude being given dessert. Dessert is a given.

Now, this is all fine and good for kids who might eat “something.” But what about kids who won’t eat anything? My daughter is just that kind of kid. Not so much now that she’s older, but when she was little? Oh boy.  She took picky eating to a whole new level. There could have been a buffet in front of her – a veritable feast – and she would decide for whatever reason that she liked none of it and simply would not eat. No, that tastes funny. That’s brown or green or yellow. That’s slimy. It’s got onions in it. I don’t like gravy. Or my all-time favorite, a simplistic “Ewww.”

Or what about the kid who will eat dessert (since that can’t be withheld) and nothing else?  I can easily envision my kids, when they were young, having dessert every night for dinner – if it were available.  Hell, I would too if I had those rules. Come on! Who wouldn’t?

Force feeding kids by making them sit at the table until they eat something doesn’t work either. Been there, done that. On both sides of the table. I remember sitting at the table in an ever-escalating series of “battles of wills” with my mother over some vegetable or another. I recall a particularly long evening spent at the table brought about by Brussels sprouts. It wasn’t fun for me and I can’t imagine that it was a great time for my mother either. I’m sure she had better things to do than deal with my mulish dinner habits. Sorry, Mom. My kids inherited that same stubborn behavior willpower.

My son took it even further. I mean, of course he did. Why wouldn’t he? The curse my mother flung at me all those years ago worked. Like gangbusters it worked. I now have kids who act just like I acted. In case I haven’t said it lately, thanks for that, Mom. When my handsome, intelligent, ever-so-charming son was about five or so, he threatened that if I insisted he “eat those stupid peas already,” he would throw them back up. And. He. Did. Ahhh…memories. Hey, he gave fair warning. He still won’t eat peas and the boy is 24 years old.

I suppose we could just live by the old adage “oh, they’ll eat when they’re hungry” as they forego their mid-day and evening meals night after night. Indeed, that’s what this suggested routine seems to be, just done in a nicer way. I imagine the success of such a campaign all depends on the temperament of the child and just how hungry they’re willing to be to prove a point.

The thing is, you can’t force kids to eat. You can’t force them to sleep. It’s the two things really, besides bathroom habits, that they ultimately do have control over. Unless you’re a monster who literally force feeds your kids as they’re tied to a chair. But if you’re a normal human being, you can lead them to the table, but you can’t make them eat.  Threaten, cajole, humor, and beg…but you can’t really MAKE them. They choose to give in, or not. Same with sleep – you can put them to bed and order them to sleep, but only they can really make that happen.

I guess I was never overly finicky about what we had for dinner…I didn’t care if my kids ate hotdogs with mac and cheese while I ate the eggplant parm that I liked. I didn’t mind if we had home-made chicken nuggets (à la Chick-Fi-La, but my own recipe, which is healthier) three times a week. That tuna casserole they both love? Sure! Why not?

It’s different now that I’ve cut out the majority of meat for myself, but hey, the kids are old enough to feed themselves now, so I don’t really care…they’re on their own. But when they were little, I decided after a while that dinner time was simply not a battle I particularly felt like fighting. Of course, this decision might’ve taken place right after the “peas fiasco of 1997,” but it’s a solid decision nonetheless.

I also knew my kids were stubborn assholes strong-willed individuals who would go without food long enough that eventually social services would be called. So, dinner often had a kid-friendly menu in our house. Why deliberately put food on the table that you know someone won’t eat while hoping for the best? I didn’t really see this as catering to them – and still don’t – I view it as a way of enjoying the time we had together at the table. Instead of arguing or long, sullen silences, we had rousing talks about everything under the sun, jokes, and laughter, and joy. And everyone ate. I still make their favorites when we’re all together for a visit. But then, food has always been a big deal in our house, a way of bringing the family together. Meals are meant to be enjoyed, not fought over.

I figured – and rightly so – that they would branch out from hot dogs, mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and French fries prior to getting to college. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. With the exception of very specific things like peas (go figure), mushrooms, onions, and sushi (can’t blame them there), they eat quite a variety of foodstuffs these days. Truth be told, they’re a lot more adventurous in trying new foods than me, I must say.

I suppose the idea presented in the article would work for some families…I mean hey, it worked for the writer, right? But if it were MY house? I would have had two children with amazingly high blood sugar from all the dessert they were stuffing themselves with and tons of uneaten leftovers cluttering up the fridge.

Meeting Place

When I was growing up, our house was the one where all the kids in the neighborhood would congregate. It was a meeting place, a drop off spot for bikes, a checkpoint for organizing the next set of adventures, and a lounge for just relaxing. If my mother ever had a problem with the steady stream of scraped-kneed kids filing in and out of the front and back doors, she never said anything. Or if she did, it was never loud enough for us to hear at any rate. We just lived in a time and place where you could literally yell out the window for someone to come over and they’d be skipping up to the porch 30 seconds later.

Not quite the case when my kids were growing up. Their friends weren’t always in shouting distance. Sometimes a car was necessary to get them where they needed to go. But they did have a few neighborhood friends in walking distance, and for those few, I kept the same policy as my mother. They were always welcome in the house and could always return there after their daily shenanigans through our unsuspecting neighborhood were done.

It was important to me to let them know their friends were always welcome. I mean, so long as their friends weren’t mini drug-dealers-in-training or something…which they weren’t as far as I know.

I will say that there were ulterior motives to letting my house be a meeting spot. I could eavesdrop on the latest juicy gossip. Not only is gossip just fun to listen to, but it also gave me important insights in to my kids’ lives that they might not be comfortable sharing with me directly. Then, I could use these slivers of information to better my parenting. I could support them in ways where I might otherwise be lacking. There are so many pros here and very few cons. It wasn’t always cost-effective having an extra mouth or two or three to feed, but hey, the local dollar store always had cheap snacks and these were passed around to the crew while they were visiting so that everyone had a little something to keep them from starving.  It’s not like they needed a full buffet or 7-course lunch platter.

Not everyone shares this parenting outlook. I recently found an article written by a mother who is simply tired-tired-tired of having her kid’s friend over every day in the summer. Apparently, she feels taken advantage of for the “free babysitting.” Now I’m assuming this kid is not a toddler, I mean, he shows up at her house on his own in the middle of the day, which means he has to be old enough to navigate the neighborhood on his own – so I’m not really sure how much “drop everything I’m doing and watch the kids like a hawk” kind of babysitting this mom is really forced into doing. Oh sure, the kid may be taking up space in her house, but is he really taking up that much more of her undivided time?

When the doorbell rings, this put-upon mom claims her son looks at her funny because his friend is there yet again. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the deer-in-the-headlights look from her son is because he knows his friend was just there and shouldn’t be there again today – I think it’s because he knows his mother is irritated because it’s likely she doesn’t hide her irritation well.  If you ask me, she’s the one feeding that energy, not the neighbor kid.  Or at least, that’s just my opinion (without knowing any of these people…just a wild guess, mind you).

And as the mother states herself, she wouldn’t even think of sending her kid to his friend’s house. My question is, why the hell not? I mean, flitting around the neighborhood, hitting up friends to see who is home, and hanging out is what summer vacation is all about. Plus, when he’s out of the house she would get a little time for R & R (which she so obviously needs if you ask me). Maybe when the friend comes over, she can say, hey, how about you guys go to YOUR house today? I bet they’d love that (so long as he’s not actually trying to escape his own house for some very real, very sad cause…in which case, all the more reason he should be allowed to hang out).

These kinds of spontaneous friendships are special. Instead of trying to squash them, we should be encouraging them.