People Are People

Get ready to have your mind blown…

What the hell is wrong with these idiots?

What the hell is wrong with these idiots?

Did you know that your kids are people?  Even your newborn is a person!  A whole entire person, albeit a small one, with a whole entire range of emotions and ideas!

Do you know how I know?  I mean besides all of that science mumbo-jumbo that gets thrown around (read Dr. John Medina).  I know because I was once a child.  Crazy.  I know.  I consider myself lucky to have very vivid memories going all the way back to toddlerhood.  If for no other reason than I can pull from them in order to help myself understand children.

The most prominent thing for me is my “inner voice”, you know, the thoughts you think, and the “voice” that narrates them.  I do a lot of thinking.  I remember doing a lot of thinking as a child.  Here’s the thing, that “voice” is the exact same voice I “heard” when I was an itty bitty.  That voice HAS NOT CHANGED in the least.  You know what this tells me?  It tells me that I’ve always been me.  That children are always the same person.  Of course, as grown-ups we know many of the changes that lie ahead, but kids don’t.  They can’t, because they learn through experience.  And frankly, how much experience can a three year-old have?

On my fourth birthday (which is Christmas Day, go me!) I got a baby buggy, like an old-school pram thingy.  I loved it!  I remember thinking something along the lines of: WHOA!  THIS SHIT IS TIGHT, YO!  I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.  Anyway, bonus for me, not only did I have a brand new, sweet-ass ride for my dolls… I.  WAS.  FOUR!  FOUR!!!  Come on people, go there with me.  HOLY SHIT!  I’M FUCKING FOUR YEARS OLD!  This is as old as I’ve EVER been!  I am CLEARLY fully grown, and I’m ready to take on the world!  Look out, bitchez!  I’m four, and I’m coming for you!

Do you remember being four?  Try.  Try to remember how you felt.  Hell, try to remember how you felt on any day when you were little.

Yes, having your birthday on Christmas blows.  But at least no one was concerned about safety back then, and I got to walk my happy, four-year-old ass two blocks down the street to my “Gramma Charlie’s” house (where we had family gatherings), IN the snow… WITH my awesome baby buggy… ALL BY MYSELF!  Actually, I walked it alone before I was four, and in all kinds of weather.  But GOD DAMN IT!  Today I’m FOUR!  FUCK YEAH!

Seriously, I tear-up remembering how happy I was to be four.  I wore THE BIGGEST smile while I was walking, all the while, absolutely BURSTING!  When I got to Gramma Charlie’s with my buggy, I announced to everyone, “I’M FOUR!”  And the grown-ups were all like, “that’s great”, “happy birthday”, and shit.  Obviously they had never been four, because this shit was off the chizz-ain!

The point here is that no matter how young, in your child’s mind, they are always the same person.  Think of who you are now, and then think about how you like to be treated.  That is all your children want…  To be treated like a person whose feelings matter, and whose thoughts are validated, and to be respected as an individual.  Trying to control children, dismissing them, thinking that this time while they’re little is just an obstacle to a time when they can do everything for themselves and your life will be so much easier – is a recipe for disaster.  This time DOES matter.  Every fucking day matters.  Not all people have memories going back so far, but even if you don’t remember being little… it still happened.  And it shaped who you are right this very minute.

Your kids are people, treat them as such.

And PS, now that you’re a parent, your life will never be easy again.  I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but it’s true.  “Newborn” is as easy as it gets.  For the rest of your life you will lose sleep over, have your heart broken by, and worry about the safety of your children.  At least newborns can’t drive, say they hate you, or marry a total asshole.

 

If There Was a Problem…

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The first step is to collaborate and listen.

A wise man once said, “If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it.” Which has been my motto for, at least the last 10 minutes.

I think my thing is that I tend to work backwards.  Like with new computer software, I WILL make that shit do what I want it to do… somehow.  I mean it, I WILL get there.  You need me to break into your car?  Well, I’ve never done that before, but I WILL do it now (true story)!

I pick an end goal, and then start problem solving in order to make it happen.  After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.  Am I right, people!?!  Or rather, is Lewis Carroll right, people!?!  The other thing I tend to do, at least with kids, is to focus on what I can do, and not what I can’t.  I can make a whole list of reasons why I can’t do something, believe me.  But what good is dwelling on that?  None.  No good.  However, focusing on the things that can be done – even if you aren’t successful – will give you a more positive outcome, ESPECIALLY WITH CHILDREN.

I remember this one time when a seven year old asked me if she could get her “driving license.” The obvious answer, of course, was no. She wasn’t old enough, duh! End of discussion. But I didn’t say that. I explained to her that there are steps to getting a driver’s license. There are things that you need to do first.  I told her that she would need to know about traffic laws.  That she could get a permit to practice driving at 15 and a half. That she could take driver’s education classes, that she could learn about cars and driving, that she could even save money to buy her own car… blah, blah, blah.  Oh man, she was SO excited!  She decided that she can watch how other people drive, like her parents, while riding in the car, AND that she would, in fact, be saving her money for a car.  From what I could gather, she was A LOT happier than if I had just said, “No, you’re too young.”  A little disappointed perhaps, but now she had a goal in mind, and knew what steps she had to take to reach that goal.  Then, she went and made a bed for her dolls out of a newspaper and a box of tissues, using only a stapler.  Which I thought was pretty cool.

Maybe it’s just me, but what’s wrong with children having ideas, even crazy ideas? Even if your gut reaction is “THAT’S FUCKING RIDICULOUS!” Why wouldn’t you help your little one brainstorm solutions?  YOU might think it’s impossible, but what if you tried thinking about what IS possible? Actually… anything is possible.  For all you know, that problem has already been solved in another dimension (Personally, I like to think that that is true for all of my own problems).  One of my favorite talents is that I can take two completely unrelated events and demonstrate cause and effect.  One time I told Chase bank I was late on a credit card payment due to the birth of Jesus.  I’ll let you get there on your own, but I made a pretty compelling case.  So compelling, in fact, that the guy on the phone was speechless, and apologized to me.  He later hung up on me though, after I said I didn’t know what month it was because it’s not like that information is available to just anyone.  But I digress…  I’m just saying, put your thinking cap on once in awhile, it’s good for you, and you will raise kids who do the same.

Aww yeah... I got this, bitchez!

Aww yeah… I got this, bitchez!

If you think about it hard enough, you will find that there is a solution to every problem.  Don’t just be the mean old naysayer, be a thinker.  Be creative.  Think WITH your kids.  Brainstorm.  Write that shit down if you need to.  This is not “extra work”, people, this is parenting.  24/7/365…for the rest of your life (although it will feel like 25/8/one million-billion).

Don’t be afraid, yes parenting is work that you don’t always feel like doing.  The good news is that, at times, that’s okay too!  (We’ll talk about when don’t nobody got time for that shit another post.)

You don’t have to have all of the answers, but you do need to be willing to think, and to find out.

Rape Culture, Consent, and Young Children

With all of this talk about “Rape Culture” of late, I feel I need to point out some really fucking obvious things that often go overlooked by parents.  First, know that your child will be affected by rape/sexual assault; as a perpetrator, a victim, or a friend/family member of a perpetrator or victim.  Hell, or even all of the above.  If you are unaware of how prevalent rape culture is in our society, or if you are worried about how to raise your child in this ass-backward world, this is for you.

What it boils down to are some major flaws in the way we parent our children, the way we were parented as children, and the way our parents were parented as children, and so on…you get the idea.  God, I hope you get the idea.

Fear not! I don’t want any parents to feel lost or hopeless.  So, here’s what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna break it down for you. From where I sit, it comes down to three things:

1: Raising obedient children.  “Because I’m the parent, that’s why!”  Listen up, if that’s your attitude, you’re missing the point.  Your goal as a parent should be to raise a functioning adult, NOT an obedient child.  Children need to be taught how to make good choices, how to take responsibility for their behavior (both good and bad), and have a sense that their thoughts and feelings are not an extension of you, mom/dad/caregiver.  Here’s a hint that’s easy to remember; your child is not a mini you.  No matter how much you want them to be, they are not.  Get over it now, so that you can raise a happy, healthy child.  They won’t always make the same choices you would make, and that’s okay.  Give them loads of opportunities to make loads of choices, even ones that you don’t like. Remember, you’re raising a functioning adult!

2:  Not having and/or enforcing boundaries.  You know what I’m talking about, threatening a punishment you will never follow through with, giving-in to begging 30 minutes after you said “no” the first time, because you’re just sick of listening to it.  Both, really, really bad ideas.  Really.  I mean it.  If you want to confuse your child, do those two things.  I’m 1000% anti-spanking, but if you threaten to spank your child, you damn well better be prepared to do it.

So… Why do these things matter?  Because they teach your child that you’re the boss? No. The opposite actually. They teach your child that people have (and should have) boundaries, and that those boundaries are to be respected. It teaches them that it is okay for them to have boundaries too. AND that anyone who is not respecting their boundaries is not a good, safe person. (Right here I want to scream, “FUCKING DUH!!!”) Your child cannot set boundaries if they don’t know what boundaries look like. Your child cannot enforce said boundaries if they’ve never seen it done.
Boundaries are a huge deal in every aspect of life. It’s never too early to start teaching your little one about them. 

3: Teaching children that their bodies are not their own.  You know how you do that?  You physically snatch them up without a word when it’s time to go somewhere.  You use time-outs where you have to restrain them.  You tell them, “That didn’t hurt.” when they bump their head, or fall down. You use any type of physical punishment at all.  You force them to clean their plate, and/or use food as a bribe, punishment, or reward when it suits you.  You punish them when they miss their potty break.  You make them give Crazy Aunt Lisa a hug and kiss when they don’t want to. You intervene when they are not completing a task quickly enough for you, or to your liking.
No, I am not shitting you.  All of these things send the message to your child that their body doesn’t belong to them.  It may be subtle to you, but it’s loud and clear to itty bitties.  And the worst part (I love when parents say, “They won’t even remember…”), it gets wired into their developing brain.  So that later, when they’re grown-up, they will have all kinds of weird body issues…but won’t remember why.  And we wonder why people need therapy.

The above are also good ways to teach your child that they don’t need to respect anyone else’s body either.  Not exactly what you were shooting for, huh? 

This is what we’re talking about when we talk about “consent”. Your body belongs to you. And other people’s bodies belong to them. You don’t put your hands on someone without their permission. You don’t snatch toys away from another child. When someone tells you to stop chasing them, you stop. These are just examples, but again, you get the idea.

Please know that I understand that parenting is REALLY fucking hard, and that you’re a human being. So, let’s just say that there are ways around enforcing EVERY single rule, ALL of the time, that still respect your boundaries. There are many situations where you have to touch your child without their permission. But for our purposes here, I need to stress these points in black and white language.

And one last point: parents and caregivers, you don’t have to be perfect. Just do your best.

Social Life

These days people are super worried about their child’s social life.  I once had a mom who didn’t want her two year-old to hang out with any children younger than her, because she felt it would stifle her child’s development.  Parents are way over scheduling their kids for fear they won’t have any social skills.  This is stupid, so stop it.  painting

What did you do when you were a child?  I’ll tell you what I did before I went to school at the age of four.  Nothing.  That’s right, nothing.  My grandparents were my babysitters, and they had a fenced-in yard.  I played outside, mostly by myself, and sometimes with the neighbor girl who was three years older than me.  She liked to play “school”, which might have been fun, except she went to a catholic school…in the ’70s…need I say more?  So on the days that I would play with her, we played “school”, she was the teacher, and I would have to call her “Sister something-or-other.”  Class consisted of me sitting and listening to her while she sang, and periodically being hit with a wooden spoon.

Fuck that noise!  What the hell!?!  There must not have been any parents around, because I sure don’t remember any!

So, with all of my experience playing by myself, or with my grandma, or playing “school” with the neighbor girl, I went off to real school.  Guess what?  I know your mind is about to be blown right now, I WAS FINE.  I was a little shy at first, but it wasn’t traumatic, and my social skills weren’t lacking at all.  So how in the hell did I learn those social skills without Gymboree, and soccer, and dance class, and what-the-hell-ever else is out there?  I’ll tell you how.  I was a human being existing in a society.

I realize that I’m talking about only one child here, and that child is myself.  I also realize that anecdotes aren’t evidence, but just humor me for a minute…

Do you take your child with you to places like the grocery store?  Do your children attend family gatherings from time to time?  Do they ever go anywhere at all?  If so, your child is learning social skills.  Hopefully you are using positive guidance to help them along, but every interaction with any other human being whatsoever is socializing.  When your child sees you interact with other people, they learn social skills.  When your toddler rides the bus with you, because you live in a large city where mass transit is necessary, you’re teaching your child how to behave on the bus.  To children, everything is a learning experience.

For those of you who are put out by a child on a bus, or a plane, or anywhere else, go fuck yourself.  You need to realize that if a child is within earshot, or visible, they are learning social skills based on either your piss-poor attitude, OR your kindness and respect of other humans.  Pop quiz!  Which one do you think turns out better members of society?

The point is that every interaction with other humans shows children how they should interact.  So to the public, I implore you, be on your best behavior when children are around.  Say, “excuse me”, “please”, and “thank you.”

Let’s come back to all of the fun classes, early preschool, and playdates for which we schedule infants, toddlers, twos, threes, fours…  Totally unnecessary.  Yep.  Unnecessary.  Don’t get me wrong, those things are fun if you have the means, just not necessary for your child’s development of social skills.  And in moderation please!  No one needs to be scheduled every day of the week.  There is a lot for your two year-old to learn just by sitting and cutting up pieces of paper all by themselves.  Digging in the mud is hours of entertainment.  Let them be kids!

Now let’s say you agree with me, and opt out of all of the mommy-and-me crap.  How can you help bolster your child’s social skills?  Let them order for themselves at restaurants.  Let them hand the money or credit card to the cashier at the store.  Encourage them to ask another child to play at the park.  Let them speak for themselves when someone asks them a question.  Tell them what is appropriate and/or expected of them in different environments, like church, the library, or a Metallica concert.

There is absolutely no reason that a typically developing child needs you to sign them up for classes, and arrange playdates, all the time, everyday.  There is no prescribed amount of time they should spend participating in god-knows-what.  And there’s absolutely nothing that says children who play with older children have an advantage in school, or that playing with younger children delays development (just to reiterate for that mom in case she reads this, it’s fucking stupid).

Do your best to model appropriate behavior, and let your kids be kids.

One last thing, if you notice that your child is becoming mean and obnoxious, or exhibiting any other behaviors that you consider unsavory, before you read them the Riot Act, take a good, long look in the mirror.  Chances are, they learned it from you.  Yeah, you.

Preschool Entrance Exams

Let’s talk about the hell that is “getting in to preschool.”  This will be short, because it’s very simple really.

If you’re in a big city, chances are every preschool has a years-long waiting list.  Even my center has a waiting list, and we’re in the middle of nowhere.  Just so you know, we are first come/first served, but I would LOVE to switch to the most common form of preschool entrance…the interview!  Oh but let me tell you why…

It’s not that I want to “test” children…it’s not that ANY center wants to “test” children…they want to test YOU.  The parents.  They want to know what kind of wacked-out family they’re enrolling.

Parents, no one is “interviewing” your toddler.  They’re interviewing YOU.  If you come across as high-maintenance, kiss your chances good-bye.  If you display little to no interest in helping with school outings, fundraisers, etc., you’re not getting in.  If you seem controlling, uptight, or otherwise TOO interested, sorry about your luck.  Oh how I would LOVE to hand-pick my families…

My advice?  First, don’t sweat it.  Secondly, keep in mind these “Dos and Don’ts”:

Don’t:

  • Grill the director, the director will give you any and all pertinent information without being interrogated like a criminal
  • Make a point to mention that you used to be a teacher/nanny/childcare worker, as if that makes you special, it comes across as distrust
  • Ask questions that you don’t understand because someone told you to “ask…blah, blah, blah”
  • Throw out one million “what if…?” scenarios, everybody hates that shit, what if a spaceship crashed into the building?
  • Tell us your child is “advanced” and should be with an older age group, “advanced” doesn’t mean shit to licensing and accreditation, besides EVERYONE thinks their child is “advanced”
  • Think your child is “advanced”
  • Ask a “trick question”, we will just think you’re an idiot
  • Send someone else to accompany your child for the interview

Do:

  • Have a sense of humor
  • Know a little something about Developmentally Appropriate Practice
  • Mention if your child has any special needs, this is NOT a big deal for a center that is high-quality, and employs qualified people
  • Know that there is likely nothing these teachers haven’t seen before, telling us your child will cry when you drop-off is like telling us the sun is hot
  • Understand that you are talking to experts who have been to college, who have years and years of experience, who are often specialists, don’t insult them by asking if they know how to put the spill valve in a sippy cup
  • Know that any program worth it’s salt has a policy in place for every-fucking-thing, and they will all be explained to you upon enrollment, they will all be stated in multiple places in your enrollment packet
  • Get the proper paperwork in at the proper time

A “lottery” system isn’t much better, truth be told, but hey, what are you gonna do?  You’re at the mercy of the school administration.  Just be nice and friendly, and know that your child is good enough for any program.  No need to “cram” ABCs and 123s before the interview.  Early childhood professionals know that development is not linear anyway, so that would be pointless.  Besides, our job is to teach.  What the fuck is the point if they’re already know everything?

One last thing, there are ABSOLUTELY NO prerequisites for preschool.  Children DO NOT need to be potty-trained to attend a high-quality program.  If a center tells you otherwise, they’re lazy and full of shit.  Walk away.  Also,there is NO evidence showing that young children who develop earlier in certain areas (language, literacy, social, etc.) retain any advantage whatsoever after first or second grade.  So lighten up, let your kids be kids.  Your child does not need to be able to read, write, count, line up, pay attention, sit still, or be quiet to attend a developmentally appropriate program.  Period.

The same goes for Kindergarten (though that may be a separate post), the only requisite for Kindergarten is that your child be five years old…even if they turned five the day before the cut-off.  If Kindergarten teachers don’t want to teach five year-olds, they should teach first grade.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which comes from one of Lisa Murphy’s books: “Sitting still and being quiet is not a marketable job skill.”  Damn straight!  Smoke on your pipe, and put that in!  (See what I did there?  A little West Side Story for you show tune fans.)

Science Catches Up With Lisa Blye

I have been saying this for YEARS! Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics gets it right!
Check it out here!

 

What to Do With All of That Parenting Advice

I often say, “Parents should NOT give each other advice.”  But as much as I would love that to be so, parents are still going to talk to one another.  The problem is that most people are idiots.  You know what I’m talking about, because you think most people are idiots too.  Knowing that most people are idiots, why in the fuck would we take advice from them!?!  Because we get desperate, we don’t know what to do, nothing is working, we read ten billion books all with conflicting information, and lose our minds.  So, somebody tells us what they did with their kid, and we think, “Great!  I’ll do that!”

Here’s the problem: when someone doesn’t have a working knowledge of child development, and a whole lot of experience with a variety of children, in a variety of contexts, they’re just spouting off something they did, that appeared to work at the time, with their child.

Spanking falls into this category.  Anyone who argues that spanking works, doesn’t have much of an understanding of human development.  So, sorry about your luck if you’re one of the people who “believes in” spanking.  You need to do a little more research, and hone your skills.

So, how the hell do you sort through the hot mess of bullshit out there?  Like this:

1.  You need to think about what your goals are for your child.  Write that shit down.  What to you want them to value?  What kind of person do you want them to be?  Not what kind of job they’ll have, but what  characteristics will help define them when they are an adult, as adulthood will be the majority of the time they have on Earth.  Great news, if you want them to grow up to be a real asshole, your job is going to be super easy.  If you want them to be well-rounded, emotionally competent individuals who understand the importance of kindness, working hard, contributing to society, and delaying gratification; and who can function within healthy relationships…well…that’s gonna take a little bit of work.

Too bad you unknowingly signed up for this full-time, thankless job the minute you created the little bugger.

2.  Also write down your goals for yourself as a parent.  Again, if it’s to be an asshole, easy peasy.  If you want to excel at parenting, roll up your sleeves and get ready to work.  Get ready to be 100% engaged, 100% of the time.  You can boo and hoo about the lack of sleep when your kid is like 30.  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that your kids are going to bring you lots of sleepless nights well into their adulthood?  Yeah, that’s going to happen.

3.  Once you’ve established what it is you hope to achieve in this  new role of yours, and written them down so you can see them, you have a couple of options: You can either hire someone like me to talk through your goals and create a plan to get you there, OR you can go fishing on the internet, or at the library, and bombard yourself with information, which you will then need to sort through to decide what’s good and what’s not.

Believe it or not, there’s a whole new world out there of “parent development” books, classes, consultants, etc.  You see, we now know that parents grow and develop right along with their child, and are trying to give them the tools to help them along.

4.  Look at the relationships you have in your life.  Find a concrete example of the type of relationship you want to have with your child.  Find a concrete example of the kind of person you would like your child to become.  Understand that your relationship, and your child can possess many of the same qualities demonstrated in these examples, but still look completely different.  This is why professionals exist people, to help you understand this shit.  The average Joe Blow doesn’t get it at all, I promise.

5.  If a well-meaning friend offers you some “tips” based on how he/she parented their child, take a good hard look at the big picture of that child.  What is their level of fucked-up-ness?  Is that something you want for yourself, or for your child?  Yeah see, for most people, this thought has never even crossed their mind.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t hear what your friend has to say, but take it with a grain of salt, and always, always look at the big picture.  You don’t need a 30 year old living in your basement because they can’t hold down a job or maintain a relationship.

The thing is, it’s the little things we do in early childhood that form that 30 year old.  I assure you, all of the things you want for your adult child, can be taught to your toddler.

Most people muddle through parenthood doing what their parents did, who did what their parents did before them.  No good.  Stop that shit.  We know more now.  We understand human development in ways no one ever thought possible.  I’m not saying your parents were bad, though I’m sure some of them were, I’m saying that people should parent with the best information available to them.

I didn’t wear a seat-belt as a child and I turned out “just fine”, but I sure as fuck wear one now!  And so should everyone else!  Also, don’t text and drive.

The point here is that good parenting requires some thought, and some planning.  So get goin’!