Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Gifts From My Mother

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Recently, while cleaning someone else’s bathroom floor, I thought to myself, ”My mother would have had a fit.” Although the middle of the floor had been kept clean, the sides, corners, and behind the door hadn’t been cleaned in years. I was taken back to my teens, with my mother telling me how important it was to clean thoroughly, and me arguing back, ”Who cares; no one ever sees it anyway?” She was teaching me the right way to clean, and as a teen, I was arguing for the easy way. Now, years later, I was witnessing what happens when you don’t know how to clean properly. Not only had I never thanked my mother for teaching me this valuable skill, I had argued with her about it.

My mother passed away before I owned a house, was married, or had children. While she was alive, I was in frequent touch and told her how much I loved her, but while cleaning this bathroom floor, I realized she gave me so many gifts I had never really thought about — gifts I use or benefit from to this day. So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mother for all the gifts I didn’t know were gifts:

• Teaching us that a clean house is important, but family time was more important.

• Showing us that people were more important than things. No matter what broke, spilled or went wrong, you always asked ”Are you ok?” before you asked about the things.

• Having us work beside you until we could do the job right by ourselves.

• Making us clean the kitchen and stay there until everyone was finished. At the time, I thought you were just trying to make sure the whole job was done and no one said, ”That’s not my job.” Now I realize you were also creating bonds between us siblings.

• Making us go to our siblings’ activities. This increased our circle of support and helped keep us out of trouble.

• Teaching us to be polite to older or lonely people — sometimes that is the only chance they get to communicate all day.

• Being there to listen when we needed someone to listen (I doubt anyone realizes what a gift this is until their mother is gone), and listening to us with your full attention — not only to us but to our friends as well.

• Believing in me. To this day, I think of you when I am having challenges.

• Teaching me how to iron, stand up straight, and swim.

• Enjoying my company and biting your tongue when I came up with my grand philosophical ideas.

• Letting me learn and accepting that Chemistry was as hard for me as Spanish was for you.

• Showing me that even after failures or problems, we can pick ourselves up and go on with life.

As we approach this Mother’s Day, I hope we can all take the time to think about the intangibles gifts from our mothers and the other important women in our lives.

Safety or Insanity: What the Press Didn’t Tell You

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Remember the lead-in-toy-paint scare during the Holiday season of 2007? While we all remember the recalls, the most significant offshoot of the situation is a law known as the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Information Act) which Congress passed the following year - an election year. A well-intentioned but deeply flawed law, it has resulted in the demise of many small businesses and cottage industries and economic hardship for all but the most enormous of companies.

As written, this law made felons out of handcrafters of one-of-a-kind children’s items, including organic and natural wooden toys and baby afghans sold at craft fairs (unless the finished item had been tested — often redundantly — by one of a handful of accredited labs in the US at a cost of several thousand dollars or sent to overseas labs, both of which typically result in the destruction of the item itself). Incredibly, the law also has the potential to make criminals of anyone having garage sales and reselling anything (clothing, bedding, toys, books printed pre-1985, etc.) for children 12 years old and younger if any item is found to be out of compliance with this law. For a short while, libraries and schools were anticipating having to dispose of, in hazardous waste fashion, all of their books for children 12 and younger. There are still storerooms of boxes filled with books printed before 1985, which are currently banned as children’s products.  Schools and libraries are no longer planning to dispose of post-1985 printed books, but science programs are still being held hostage by the rigid regulations, resulting in at least one school using posters to teach geology rather than using real rocks, and leaving others without access to items like microscope bulbs due to the necessary lead solder used to make them. The absurd fact is that CPSIA law covers virtually anything — not just toys — for children 12 and under — even shoes. Using the logic that made CPSIA a law, we should never let our kids go barefoot outside because the lead content naturally found in dirt could easily exceed the legal allowable lead content for anything intended for kids 12 and under.

Keep in mind that there were already laws in place concerning lead in paint in toys when the 2007 situation occurred. What we were seeing and hearing about at that time were toys that were not compliant with existing laws and should have never ended up in the U.S.  What would have made sense to ensure child safety with regards to lead paint would have been to enforce these existing laws. Instead, in a knee-jerk and politically-driven reaction to public concern, our legislators passed a law that has been, and will continue to be, tragically, the undoing of many makers of the very best and safest in children’s products. What started out as a law with bipartisan support has now become good ol’ politics. Congress has continued to push back scheduled meetings about the CPSIA, leaving everyone involved scratching their heads and guessing how to best move forward to comply. (There are more interpretations of this law than you can shake a stick at.)   On top of all this, there have been 11 proposed amendments that are going nowhere.

This is a law that is so monumentally extreme and cumbersome and, in our opinion, misdirected, that it will benefit few but huge retailers and toy manufacturers, and most importantly, not parents and children. Ironically, many of the toys we want for our children - those that are lovingly hand-crafted, inspire creativity, are made with the purest of materials, and won’t end up as landfill after several months of use - are now unavailable to us because of CPSIA. Ironically, what will make a toy CPSIA-compliant are expensive material and component testing that is cost-effective only in vast quantities — which brings us back to toys “made in China” in most instances. A bizarre turn of events, eh? And while European toy safety standards have typically been recognized around the world as the most stringent, many of these toy manufacturers have discontinued doing business in the U.S. because this law is so clumsy and unnecessary, safety-wise. It is a sad day when Grandpa in Minnesota, who crafts wooden toy trains in his garage, has been put out of business because he can’t afford several thousands of dollars of component testing, while factories in China the size of football fields - many with questionable regard for workers’ health and the environment — spew out toys made of plastic because they can afford the testing.

While this law has squandered literally millions of people-hours of those interpreting it, researching it, communicating about it, and attempting to be compliant with it, it has little to do with safety. Ineptly reported by the media, and passed in knee-jerk fashion by Congress, CPSIA is changing the landscape of items we can offer our children. Our legislators have created this mess and parents should be aware that their choices for items they purchase for their 12-and-under kids are being drastically reduced.

For more information about CPSIA, please visit the following sites:

http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html

http://learningresourcesinc.blogspot.com/

http://www.whatisthecpsia.com/

A Spoonful of Sugar

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Mary Jo, our Accounting Manager and mother of two adolescent boys, is sidetracked right now with a bad knee injury. The fact that she’s under doctor’s orders to lay really low, knee in a brace, isn’t helping her feel as organized or in control as she’d like to be. She was already behind with some housework when the accident happened. Additionally, her very elderly and relatively incapacitated grandmother is 2 months into a 4-month stay and guests are in town this weekend-enough to make nearly any mother’s head spin.

We’ve probably all been in this spot to some degree or another. Whether it’s because of doctor’s orders to lay low, because we’ve got such a bad bug that we can’t even think of getting out of bed, or because we’ve been called out of town to be with an ailing loved one, there are times when we just can’t do all that we expect of ourselves or that our families have come to depend on. We can go crazy with stress about it or do our best to surrender to the situation (which, I grant you, is no easy task). And there is a lot to be said for knowing that somewhere in the situation there may be an unforeseen gift.

In Mary Jo’s case, she’s using her incapacitation as an opportunity to show her boys how much she does as their mother and as the person who manages the household. (A priceless lesson, I’d say.) The first night, her younger son cooked his first dinner for the family: hot dogs, sliced oranges, potato chips, pineapple, and carrots. He also had to set the table and make tea for his great grandmother. And he had to time everything so that they ate at some semblance of the dinner hour! The next night, her other son concocted a dinner around sloppy joes. Acknowledging and wisely surrendering to her limitations, she called in a day care provider to help with her grandmother. Her husband has kicked it up a notch, too, despite a busy time at work, and her brother is driving the boys to school for the duration.

She told me that she watched “Mary Poppins” one night and was intent on looking for all the spoonfuls of sugar that she can find in this whole kerfuffle. When I last heard from her, she said that there really are quite a few spoonfuls. “The crutches should motivate me to do more pushups. My upper arms needed this workout,” was her last report. I had to chuckle-and marvel-at her willingness to find what makes this whole knee thing more than just an inconvenience. While she’s finding the silver linings, perhaps the most valuable gift in all of this is the fact that her kids get to step up to the plate and help with daily chores that they assumed (as most kids do) just miraculously happen. A gift for the boys in that they are learning how much their mom does and they now get to contribute to her, and a gift for Mary Jo in that her family now appreciates her on a whole new level. Silver linings, indeed!

Multi-Tasking Mama Syndrome - It Can Happen to You

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

I had 2 leg injuries last year from falls (and I’m only 45). The female doctor said injuries are actually quite common among busy moms. I decided this “disease” needed a name so I named it Multi-Tasking Mama Syndrome. Do you have it too? I think we need a support group — the meetings should take place at a medical facility. Make sure to bring along your laptop, cell phone, kids, diaper bag… 1-800-555-MTMS

Tony Hawk: San Diego’s Coolest Dad

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Tony Hawk: San Diego’s Coolest Dad talks about babies and boarding

By Kirsten Flournoy, Editor of San Diego Family Magazine.

Mention the name Tony Hawk and one thing comes to mind: skateboards. But the man who transformed skateboarding from a rogue street sport to a lucrative competitive industry is also a devoted dad to Riley, Spencer, Keegan, and Kadence.

A San Diego native, Hawk attended Torrey Pines High School. Since turning pro at age 14, he’s traveled extensively and inspired kids around the globe. An astute businessman, Tony is an entrepreneur, designer and philanthropist on top of the world. He’s made more than 130 appearances in fi lm and on TV, and won six gold medals at the ESPN X-Games.

Hawk’s Boom Boom HuckJam was a sold-out success. The punk- and rock-driven touring showcase featured the world’s best skateboarders, BMX and Motocross riders. Hawk shares his expertise in books, DVDs and a series of highly rated videogames, and he designs skateboards and a kid’s clothing line for Kohl’s. The Tony Hawk Foundation has given more than 2 million dollars to help build 390 skate parks in lowincome areas across the United States. Despite the celebrities, awards and accolades, what’s most important to Tony? The answer isn’t surprising. It’s family.

Tony’s wife Lhotse Merriam is a skier, former publicist and boutique owner, and the former Vice President of the International Free Skiers Association. She met Tony in Colorado, where she promoted extreme skiing events.

Married in 2006 to live music by the band Rancid, Lhotse and Tony spent a year and a half year trying to conceive using in vitro fertilization. IVF can be a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment.

“It’s a pretty rough road,” Lhotse says. “I really admire everyone who goes through it and goes the distance. We were pretty lucky on our fourth try.”

Their daughter Kadence Clover was born in July 2008. Lhotse and Kadence now accompany Tony on his travels. When we spoke to the Hawks, they’d returned from visiting four countries in just three weeks—business as usual for this dynamic family.

“There is no typical day in our household at all. If we’re not on the road, we are at home,” says Lhotse. “Tony’s usually in the office or an interview. [He] tries to get in skating three to four times a week at the warehouse or at home because we have a skate park in the back yard.”

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Marry the Disturbance

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Recently I went to an evening of brilliant storytelling by Laura Simms. In the midst of this astonishing night, one line stood out above the rest, staying with me for days. Laura was in the middle of telling one of
those classic shipwrecked-sailor stories in which a man must use his wits to overcome obstacles and demons and to somehow find his way out of impossible circumstances so that he may return home. Danger
and peril mark every turn he takes. In the middle of the story (when the man was asked to marry a demon’s ugly daughter or lose his life), Laura paused to say, ”Whenever you are on a journey, you must marry the disturbance.” Marry the disturbance? Wow! Now there’s an idea! What did she mean, exactly? I carried those words around in my heart for a few days, knowing they were profound and wishing to understand them better. The whole idea of ”marrying the disturbance” struck me deeply.

How much of our lives do we spend running away from or trying to otherwise escape the disturbances of our lives? For most people, the answer is ”a lot!” What does it mean to ”marry the disturbance”? My
sense is that it means to take our troubles to heart, to accept what is, to simply be with what is. Instead, many of us try to change others so we don’t have to experience our disturbances. I thought of how easy it is to discount a child’s feelings or try to tell her that she isn’t feeling the way she is obviously feeling, just to move forward with the day. ”Oh, you fell down; you’re okay now.” Marrying the disturbance in this instance would require a different response. It would mean stopping what I was doing and consciously acknowledging what was really happening. ”Yes, Aidan, you fell and it hurts. I’m so sorry you are in pain.” (Even though he has been crying for what seems like an inordinate amount of time over a little thing.)

Who am I to determine how long is enough for someone else to cry over his pain? Is not my job as a mother to be there as a kind witness to the pain and a source of comfort; not lending undue attention,
mind you, but offering just simple comfort? How long would he really cry about a little owie if I held him close on my lap and didn’t say anything, if I just listened to his woes and offered him my heart? Would it
take all day? Can I do this without reserve?

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The Joy of Discovery

Monday, May 11th, 2009

This past weekend my son and I visited a science center. One of the more popular exhibits with the smaller children was a fan that faced the ceiling with a clear plastic tube sitting over the top. There was space underneath the tube to place items and then see which ones the fan would carry up through the tube and subsequently out the top and back down to the ground. There was a plethora of experimental bits and pieces lying on the carpet: scraps of paper, little strings, ribbon, Styrofoam packing peanuts, tiny paper airplanes, etc.

My son was absolutely fascinated with the fan. For about ten minutes he placed items inside the tube, jumping up and down with excitement as he watched the pieces shoot up to the ceiling, some slower than others depending on the weight. Then he discovered a small plastic tray, the kind that would hold about three pieces of chocolate candy in a box. He set the tray inside the tube and the air from the fan shot it up and out quickly. He then placed little scraps of Styrofoam inside the tray, watching the tray rise a little slower out of the tube. He finally found a happy medium by adding and removing enough of the pieces in the tray so that when he put it on the fan, the air caused the tray to levitate about midway in a mystifying way in the center of the tube.

I stood back, watching his mind work as he tested his experiments and I was reminded that as parents we sometimes need to take a “hands-off” approach. It’s difficult at times to bite our tongue and let our children experience the World at their own pace and in their own way. If I’d offered suggestions or taken the pieces and shown him myself, his course of learning wouldn’t have been the same as when I’d left him to discover it on his own. It’s our nature as parents to want to jump in and attempt to “teach the lesson” instead of letting children discover and study the cause-and-effect on their own. It’s tough watching our children struggle as they learn, but it’s necessary in teaching them independence. And isn’t that what raising children is all about, to guide them toward full independence and autonomy? I reminded myself of this again yesterday as I watched my son wriggle teeny-tiny buttons through buttonholes on his shirt. I sat quietly and watched, ready to help if asked, but not offering. He didn’t ask for my help.

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

Create a “science center” in your own home with the ideas from 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials.

Who’s the Kid and Who’s the Parent?

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Recently three of us were walking through a convention hall. A 5- or 6-year-old boy carrying a red sports drink was ahead of us, with his parents several yards in front of him. At one point, the boy stumbled and caught himself, but as he was recovering, half his drink sloshed onto the floor. Seeing the slippery mess he had made, he ran to catch up to his parents. We watched as he stopped his parents, they turned, and he pointed to the spill. We also watched in disbelief as his parents shrugged, turned around, and kept walking, leaving the spill for someone else to either slip in or clean up–not their problem, I guess.

I could tell that this bothered the child because he kept looking back to check on that spill all the way out of the building. His parents? Not once did they turn and look back. Not once.

What message did those parents convey to their child? He obviously knew on some level that he had made the mess and needed to clean it up. They taught him that if you just walk away, someone else will clean up your messes for you. Wow.

I know it was the end of a long day and everyone was super tired. But as parents, we need to always be careful of what lessons we are teaching our children. Maybe on a different day, when the parents weren’t burned out from having walked miles at a convention, they might have stopped to clean up the mess. But on this day, they shrugged it off, and that boy will never forget the lesson they taught him. Let’s all try to be aware that children are watching us, whether it is convenient or not, and they are looking to us as adults to show them how to be good citizens of the world.

Have a peaceful and restful summer and enjoy every spectacular day that you get to spend with your children.

National Geographic’s Mothers & Children

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Review from Tina at Chinaberry:

In this stunning photographic gift book, National Geographic has once again compiled pictures that tell a story more eloquently than words could ever do, in this case capturing the essence of a mother’s love. No matter the place or the language, the universal truth of the connection between mother and child is the same: “I am here for you, you are safe and you are loved.” In southern Indiana, a young mother nurses her child while driving a tractor. In India, a beautiful young bride tearfully clasps her mother’s hand to her lips before driving off to her new life as a wife. In the People’s Republic of China, a mother and daughter share a gleeful moment of pure joy, and in Iceland, a mother braves the frigid air as she skates across the ice, her child warm and safe in a covered carriage.

The beautiful photographs, interspersed with quotes honoring mothers and musings from Craig Wilson combine to make a lovely gift for Mother’s Day or at any time. You will want to share this treasure with all the mothers in your life.

Adventurous Eater Jumps Right In

Friday, April 10th, 2009
Adventurous Eater Ian

Adventurous Eater Ian

Last night I took my son out to dinner at an All-You-Can-Eat Chinese food buffet. Generally buffets like this are wasted on me because I just don’t eat enough food to justify the price. However, my 5-year-old Ian is a bottomless pit so buffets are right up his alley! As we perused all the food choices, I piled his plate with Lo Mein noodles, sweet and sour pork spare ribs, and crab wontons. One of the food trays caught my eye and I read the label out loud, “Frog legs.” “Frog legs?” said Ian, “Frog legs! I want frog legs!” Okay, onto the plate went one frog leg. Back at our booth, the frog leg was the first thing in his mouth and he proceeded to eat every little bit and requested more.

As someone who was an extremely particular eater as a child, having a son who will happily eat frog legs is oddly interesting. When I was three years old, I told my mom, “I know I don’t like it because I’ve never had it before.” In elementary school, I would actually turn down dinner invitations to friends’ houses because I was afraid they would serve something I wouldn’t like and then I would get that dreaded label…”picky.” Oh, how I hated that word! I wanted to like everything, to be able to eat whatever crossed my lips without the gag reflex kicking in, without worrying what I was going to eat at a big event, without fear of getting labeled a picky-eater. In my early twenties, I noticed a list tacked to the refrigerator of my boyfriend’s mom. She’d been writing down notes about what foods I didn’t like so that she wouldn’t cook them when I was there for dinner. The list was at least 3 pages long. I was so embarrassed that I became determined to try new things without prejudice, even foods that I’d tried as a kid and disliked. I discovered that there were quite a few things I’d been missing out on, foods that my adult taste buds liked and my childhood taste buds had previously rejected.

Back to Mr. Frog Legs, when Ian was born I was set on having him try foods without the pressure that I’d gotten as a child. I offered him a wide variety of flavors and textures, encouraged him to try new foods, but never pushed the issue if he turned it down. If he didn’t care for something, I’d offer it to him again on another day. I think I just lucked out with a child who is more adventurous than most because it’s obvious that he didn’t inherit his gourmet taste buds from me. When he offered me a bite of his frog leg at dinner last night, I refused with a polite “no thank you!”