Saturday, August 13, 2011

I'm Raising Them in Decatur, Georgia.

Earlier this summer, we decided it was time to leave our high-rise condo life and seek out our next abode.  When we began our hunt, we couldn't ignore the fact that our next home would (hopefully) be filled with our own little campers.  This can be slightly tricky if you are a city dweller of Atlanta as we are, wish to remain in the city, and desire to send your kids to a good public school.  Sadly, the corruption of Atlanta Public School officials has made national headlines, graduation rates and test scores are low and crime and behaviour problems are high. There are some great neighborhoods in Atlanta and some wonderful elementary schools to go with them.  But by the time most of these children reach high school, their parents enroll them in private school.  We wanted a neighborhood that could carry our kids to their college years.

So what's a would-be young urban family to do?  City of Decatur.  The answer had been pretty obvious from the start.  This gem of a town has gone through tremendous transformation in the last 20 years.  From getting shout-outs in hip hop songs to earning a new reputation for its strategic development.  It is miles from Downtown, has a small town feel with big city amenities.  And the schools are great!  Every school this year ranked "distinguished" on the APY report.  The Washington Post ranked Decatur High #9 in the state (223 in the country) and the system is experiencing unprecedented growth.  Enrollment this year is up 9%, more than what officials projected.

In addition to the good looking numbers and programs, the city of Decatur is progressive in other ways that align with some of our personal values.  They've created farm to school programs that gets locally grown food into the cafeterias.  They've also launched a safe routes to schools program that encourages parents to walk or lead "bike-pools" with their kids to school.  Additionally, there is a ton of transparency and communication between the school administration and the community.  The Decatur High principal has his own blog and the Assistant Superintendent makes himself available for interviews in local neighborhood fliers.

Then there's the testimony of the residents themselves.  Every Decaturite I've met is absolutely and unequivocally passionate about the community.  This place is forward-thinking, big picture seeing, inclusive, and just down-right friendly.  I cannot wait to count myself among them beginning in October!

So, when I have kids, I will be happy to bring them up as Decaturites.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Will Brace for the Battle of the Birthday Parties

There's nothing I love more than throwing a party.  My wedding registry was littered with everything you could think of for the entertainer.  I was thrilled to receive every piece of china and serving ware, from chafing dishes to chip and dip sets.  But more than getting these incredibly generous gifts from friends, I love getting to use them.  When it comes to hosting a party, I take on every imaginable role: planner, chef, decorator, graphic designer, DJ, server, etc.  And I'm a sucker for a theme!  If you want more proof, check out the wedding shower we hosted for our friends earlier this year here.

Tensions run a little high between my husband, Kevin, and me during the planning and setting up stages of the hosting process.  My party plans are always highly ambitious, usually calling for complicated gourmet recipes and custom signage and decorations.   Kevin becomes a parrot:  "K-I-S-S!  Keep it simple, Susan."  Sometimes, he'll throw in "This is too expensive." His other favorite word in our party planning dialogue: "No."  

This is only slightly problematic now.  Honestly, I do need some resistance in my life or I really will get carried away.  Despite our clashing priorities, I think our parties always turn out great.  However, I think this dynamic is setting us up for some trouble once the first birthday party comes along. 

My nephew's first birthday was a wonderful little affair.  It consisted of immediate family only.  A gathering and a cake.  Kevin thought this was ideal.  That all kids' birthday parties should be that simple and that he'd hope we'd follow suit with our own kids, especially when they're at age too young to remember anything.   I think my first reaction was something along the lines of "Do you not know me at all?!!" Of course I'm going to be one of those mothers that comes up with some cutesy, not too mainstream, theme and custom design the invitations myself, and spend hours in the kitchen creating a kid-friendly but elegant menu of hors d'oeuvres.  I know, a ton of work!  But I never really understood the term "labor of love" until I figured out how much I enjoy cooking.  I can't explain the gratification I have in pulling off a successful event, particularly when it involves food that I've created.

Also, birthdays were kind of a big deal in my house growing up.  I loved that once a year, the very fact that you were brought into existence was celebrated in whichever way you desired.  And my mother always knew how to throw a great party.  In fact, I can recall the details of every single one to age five, including all the new birthday outfits that accompanied each fĂȘte.

For me, entertaining family and friends, is a mutually beneficial form of affection.  I can't say it's a completely unselfish act to cook for others, because I sometimes feel like I'm doing it for myself, given all the joy and pleasure I take from it.  But when it comes to children, I can't imagine a more joyful experience than giving them one day a year that reminds them how special they are while creating a lifetime of lasting memories.  I can already hear Kevin's rebuttal in my head, "You can do that without spending a fortune!"  I know, dear.

In the meantime, I know that when I have kids, I will have to brace for the battle over the birthday parties.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm Keeping Them FAR FAR Away from Pit Bulls

While I am not a clinician or researcher by any stretch of the imagination, my work puts me in close proximity to some of the world's leading scientists.  I find myself at forums, symposiums, workshops, etc. where biomedical researchers share their knowledge, work, findings, and hypotheses.  While I usually understand only about 40% of what's being said, I am frequently fascinated and inspired by what these pioneers are doing for the good of humanity.  I frequent Wikipedia a lot more now than I ever have before, but I'm glad to be learning things outside of my discipline, even if it's mostly lessons in latin.

With that said, I found myself at Emory University's School of Medicine early yesterday morning for a pediatric technology and surgery research symposium.  I brought my laptop to work in case the terminology of the presentations became too overwhelming for me to understand.  I was pleased that I was able to keep up with most of the topics.  I did get a little lost during some presentations on stem cells and T-cells and isolating them and how they proliferate.  Even as I write this, I have no idea what I'm relaying. 

Well, there were a couple of presentations that really resonated with me, specifically one clinician's presentation,  "Pitbulls and Children: A Deadly Combination."  This clinician (meaning he is an M.D. who doesn't practice medicine per se, but mostly conducts research) decided to conduct a retrospective study using patient data from two years of children admitted to all of the Atlanta area children's hospitals with dog bite injuries.  You'll have to bear with me now, because I am terrible at remembering numbers and statistics.  (remember no where close to being a scientist.  could never master the numbers thing.) I know that I will misquote specific statics, so you'll have to take my word for it when I just go with term "majority."  So, their findings showed that children admitted with dog bite injuries, the breed that was responsible for the majority of the attacks were pit bulls.  (I think it's something like 60%).  And a child attacked by a pit bull had the most severe injuries, which was evidenced by some pain quotient physicians use and their length of stay in the hospital.  A child injured by any other dog averages a 3 day stay versus 7 days for children attacked by pit bulls.   Most pit bull attacks occurred in suburban areas and the overwhelming majority of the time (~80%, I think), the dog belonged to either a family member, neighbor, or friend.  

Unfortunately, his presentation featured some very graphic photos of injuries.  It was heartbreaking and disturbing for this sensitive, non-scientist person to see.  

I got a chance to chat with this presenter during the break.  This two year study was just the beginning of their work.  Now, they're conducting a prospective study which will allow them to gather more data such as socio-economic factors.  If I understand correctly, the end goal of this study is to draw some correlations to dog fighting and help influence legislation with regards to vicious dogs.  

I probably got to spend about 10 minutes talking to this doctor after his 12 minute presentation.  That's how long it took to set my mind against letting my future children near any pit bulls: 22 minutes.  Now, this is not a campaign against pit bulls.  I'm sure people have plenty of positive testimony about their personal experiences with this breed.  Allow me to give you some insight on my personality:  I am an excessive worrier.  I'd say that 75% of the time my thoughts are either in the past brooding over "coulda, shoulda, wouldas" or in the future fretting over hypotheticals.  (That should come as no surprise given the very nature of this blog.)  But I only have to hear of a tragedy happening once in order to fear that the same misfortune will surely befall me someday.  And my brain operates under the theory that if I allow myself to worry about something no matter how much the odds are already stacked against it of actually happening, then the less likely it will occur.  There is the flawed logic of me, the worrier.   

Just one photo or one story was all I would ever need to know that when I have kids, I am keeping them far far away from pit bulls and I won't care who they belong to. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Volunteering My Toddlers for the "No Fly List."

Babies on airplanes get a bad wrap.  We're all guilty of it.  We see a parent board an aircraft with an infant in arms and our anxiety levels immediately creep up.  Let's face it, flying itself can be uncomfortable and down-right panic-inducing for some people; add in an inconsolable crying baby in a confined space with no escape, and things can get quite unnerving or annoying, depending on your personal temperament. Or so, this is the perception people generally have when they think of a baby on an airplane.  I'm here to tell you friends, it's not the babies to fear or dread on an airplane;  It's the toddlers.  You know, the little people that have just recently discovered their own mobility on two feet.  Who constantly want to exert their independence but have limited communication skills.  (A toddler + limited entertainment options)  x  2 or more hours = a dreadful flight experience for all. 

I used to be concerned when I saw a baby come aboard any airplane I was on.  However, I've had quite a few flying experiences this year that proved my concerns to be completely misguided.   In my limited experience with children, babies cry when they are uncomfortable in some way.  And when they cry on an airplane, it really isn't that loud.  Their noises are easily masked by headphones.   For the most part, they can be consoled through feeding and eventually they fall asleep.  To me, a crying baby elicits sympathy for the parent.  On the other hand, a wild toddler garners contempt for bad parenting.  

My travels this year have taught me that having a toddler within ten rows of your seat will make your flight most miserable.  This is what I have learned about toddlers on airplanes:
  • They don't like to sit still.
  • They don't understand what the fasten seat belt sign means, nor do they care.
  • They don't respond well to forced restraint.
  • They scream much louder than babies and they seem to like to do it for fun.
  • They are much stronger than they appear, which is evidenced by the amount of force they use to jostle the seats around them either through full body banging or kicking. 
So, it's highly disruptive and annoying to have a crazy acting toddler on your airplane, but the frustration of the entire situation is exponentially compounded when said toddler is accompanied by a seemingly aloof parent.  One of my flights included a child that was completely calm and quiet until the Captain made us prematurely stow away all electronics due to turbulent air with more than hour to go in flight.   Once this child's DVD player was shut down, he was immediately in need of an exorcism.  He screamed and screeched for no apparent reason while seizing and banging his entire body around his seat, which unfortunately for me, was directly in front of mine.  I've never been at risk of being hit or knocked by the movement of the seat in front of me before.  In fact, it never occurred to me that it was a risk to be concerned about at all.  And mind you, no electronics.  No music to drown him out.  No peace for reading.  Just mounting irritation as the mother whispered in a hushed and much-too-calm voice, "No, Sam. That's not nice." All the while, he manages to throw some punches her way in between his seizing and screeching.  

It reminded me of my flight to Salt Lake City earlier this year and I watched another toddler continuously kick the back of my friend's seat with no attempt by the parent to stop or correct the behavior.  I think I would have rather been back on the Salt Lake City flight.  Despite the annoyance of getting your seat kicked, it was a much calmer scene.  

Handling toddlers is difficult, I get it.  I'm sure those parents felt all eyes on them and everyone within ear shot judging every parental move they did or did not make.  I guess the best you could do is to make an earnest effort to at least distract or entertain your child, or hold them in a way that keeps them from kicking the seat in front of them. Just do something that lets the people around you know you're doing everything you can to try and make it better. 

I can't imagine that the presence of my toddler-aged child is so completely necessary anywhere in the world that it would require them to board an aircraft.  I also would like to avoid the judgement of fellow passengers that my parenting efforts aren't enough to quell the disruption of a tantrum-tossing child.  Therefore, when it comes to travel, I will make other arrangements, be it driving, leaving my toddler at home with a family member or friend, or staying behind myself.  

From the time my child is walking until about age four, I will keep them on the ground until their behavior can be more easily controlled.  When I have kids, I will volunteer my toddlers for the "No Fly List."

Friday, April 15, 2011

They'll Be Potty Trained at 18 Months

One of the things I dread about parenthood is diapers and everything that comes with it.  I would definitely not be aunt of the year if it came down to diaper changing.  I avoid it like the plague that it is.  I can tolerate the number ones.  Once, I got stuck with a fully loaded diaper and I thought I was going to be sick.  The stench was so offensive and as I was changing it, I felt this lump rise up from the pit of my stomach and get lodged into my throat.  I became nauseated and I couldn't stop gagging as my eyes from welled with water.  It was as awful as I thought it was going to be.

I hear parents joke about disgusting bodily fluids becoming projectile and getting in the worst places, like in mommy's hair or on daddy's rented tux.  I have to say that I am not amused by these stories.  It completely grosses me out.   Some claim that it comes with the territory, you're earning your stripes, or that you get used to it.   Parents like to downplay how horrible something like this is.  I don't think I'll ever stop being disgusted by someone else's excrement, even if it is from my own child.

Of course, I will have to learn to cope with this at least for a little while.  I guess I technically could move out to a farm somewhere and let my children wander around without anything on and teach them to squat in a field or something and just hose them off when they're done.  Alas, I do like city life and this condo will be really hard to sell.  So, I guess I'm stuck with learning to cope and potty training them as soon as possible.

According to my husband's family legend, my husband was potty trained at 18 months.  I don't think I knew this was even possible, but now that I know it can be done, it's on.  I will buy up every book and employ every technique I can to minimize my exposure to anything becoming projectile that shouldn't.

So, when I have kids, I will potty train them at 18 months.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I Will Send Them to Camp

Anyone who has known me since childhood shouldn't be surprised by what will follow in this post: a full out gushing about my summer experiences at Camp Juliette Low.

I was first introduced to Camp Juliette Low through a cousin who I accompanied to a Camp Reunion at the age of nine.  It only took a very short weekend to spark a love and fondness for a place that remains with me to this day.  I don't remember the details on how I sold my mother on the idea of sending me back the next summer as a camper, but whatever methods I employed, I am so glad it worked.  Camp was expensive, but the experience was priceless.

When I began at CJL as an official camper, it was the summer of 1990.  We were sorted into one of four units by our age group.  A unit consisted of approximately 28 girls and 4 counselors.  The unit as your at camp homestead, featured a cluster of tents, four girls to a tent, generally arranged around the centrally located counselors' tent.  Our tents were perched upon large wooden platforms with army-like canvas that provided more than adequate shelter from the rains.  The tents remain, but in my early years as a camper, the American Camping Association had yet to frown upon latrines and cold showers as bathroom facilities for young girls.  That's right, no flushing toilets.  I promise, it was not as traumatic as it seems.  In fact, I would regard it to be much less disgusting than today's port-a-johns at your local concert or festival.

As I write this, I am beginning to realize that I could spend this entire post just describing the set up and facilities.  In an effort to make this as succinct as possible, I will move on.  The all girl's camp is nestled on top of Lookout Mountain.  Trails and paths wind throughout the property to the lake, the swimming hole with the sliding rock and swinging bridge, the soft rocks, which I think my words would fail to capture the magic of, woods, and open fields.

Days at camp pass far too quickly in a whirlwind of daily chores and kapers, activities (such as archery, sailing, horseback riding, arts and crafts to name a few), incredible home cooked meals, unit time, swimming, and campfires at night.  All of this happens to the camp's own personal soundtrack boasting a choir of angel voices which happen to be those of all the girls there.  The culture of song and singing that is so inherent to camp life is almost a phenomena of camp living on its own.  We had songs for EVERYTHING and we sang all the time.  We had unit songs we sang on our way to meals or activities.  We sang all of our blessings for our meals.  We sang while we were doing our chores.  We even had a singing competition at the end of the session.  I sincerely believe that the gift of song and music in some magical way fostered the sense of sisterhood and friendship that had an ability to grow at an exponential rate.

Friends at camp are made so fast.  As a young girl, I guess I didn't think much of it.  Now that I am grown, I am kind of amazed that intense bonds form between friends in a matter days.  Some of these bonds still exist today.  One of the things I loved about camp was the friends I made and only got to see year after year each summer.  We would keep in touch throughout the school year with letters.  Remember pen pals?  I regret to say that I've lost touch with a good number of girls that made my camp life the amazing experience that it was.  Fortunately, I can at least keep up with them now through Facebook.  :)

Outdoor life was pretty familiar for me before I started camp.  My parents would take us camping, so the rustic atmosphere of camp life wasn't completely foreign to me.  CJL really fostered my love for the outdoors and I think her primary way of doing this was through lessons in outdoor skills.  Even at the tender age of 10, I learned to safely use an ax to chop wood, collect firewood, build a fire, cook a meal on said fire, extinguish it properly, and make it appear as if I was never there.  I also learned knot tying, lashing (creating things and structures with only rope and sticks), and how to pee in the woods.  These activities were exercises in team work and confidence-building that have remained with me throughout my life.  There is something quite empowering about a 10 year old girl learning essential life survival skills.

CJL created a sisterhood of young girls and women in which a strong character and spirit of community were esteemed and celebrated.  Being a young, growing girl can be wrought with the pain of social peer cruelty, self-doubt and self-conciousness.  For some reason, CJL seemed to be an escape from all of that for me.  I never found those dynamics among my peers at camp.  In fact, I always felt like I was the best version of myself during my days at CJL.

My husband and my friends have heard my drone on and on about individual stories and excerpts of my camp life that support all of my sentiments.  In fact, I think I could write an autobiography on the impact of a camp experience for a growing girl, but no amount of words could do justice to the essence that is just CJL.   I think you have to experience it for yourself.   I fear my words now fail to truly capture what it means to grow up through CJL.  So I will close with this:  CJL remains one of the most meaningful and influential experiences I have had in my life.

I hope that if I am blessed with a daughter, that she will share the same love and affinity for Camp Juliette Low.  I know I need to prepare myself now that she may not adore it to the same degree as me, and rest assured I will be heartbroken if she doesn't.

At the very least though, when I have kids I will send them to camp.  Even if it's not my beloved Camp Juliette Low and even if it is only once.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This Is What I'll Tell Them About Why I Started This Blog

I have always been a couple of years behind my friends when it comes to transitioning into the next stages of life.  I guess this started in college.  I probably really wasn't ready to be on my own at 18, but that's a story for another day.  Long story short, I didn't graduate college until 24.  I didn't become interested in settling down and becoming more responsible until about 27, and I didn't get married until I was 30.  On a global scale, I probably am among the average.  In comparison to my friends and family, I'm a little behind.  I am perfectly okay with this.

With that said, I am not completely ready to have children.  I will celebrate my first wedding anniversary next weekend and I am really enjoying my life as a newlywed.  I feel like we have a very limited time to enjoy each other as husband and wife in a way that is much more simple now before kids are brought into the picture.    Currently, I want to focus on building a strong marital foundation and continue learning about my husband in ways that were impossible before we were married and living together.

Although I am not ready to actually have a baby yet, I am interested in parenthood in ways I've never been before.  For some time now, I have been devising plans and ideas of what kind of mother I want to be and what kind of people I want my kids to grow up to be.  I think it's pretty natural.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that most parents have all done the same.  I've always enjoyed writing, but I've never really had anything to write about other than my own life and let's face it, this blog is much more interesting than my personal blog.  At least, that's what my blog statistics are telling me.  I figured that people might take some of things I write personally.  I wrote about this on My About page.  Another thing my blog stats tell me, that people haven't read it, which further justifies the reason for this post.

My whole intent here is to write a blog that interests and amuses people and creates conversation around a topic that I am obviously very interested in.  I want to remember all the things I say now.  What I write are genuine thoughts and opinions and in 10 years, I will be curious about what I thought and felt about these things now.  Hopefully, in the future, it will help me keep perspective when I encounter non-parental types like me who have all these fabulous ideas and notions about a life experience they haven't had yet.

As I've watched my friends and family members enter into parenthood one by one, I've observed a very natural occurrence:  parenthood is like its own fraternity. I've watched my own friends become closer and bond with each other over their children.  Honestly, parenthood can be socially divisive in some ways. Children are a natural and frequent topic of conversation.  Parent-only friends get together for play dates.   And let's be honest with ourselves, no one likes to be left out of anything, well, at least not me.   So, this blog for me, even though I am on the periphery with my parent friends, allows me to engage in some of the dialog about parenthood in ways that I otherwise wouldn't be included in.  Even though I don't have kids, I am interested in them.  

I know I've started something on a very touchy subject.  People take parenting very personally.  I imagine that you should. I don't need kids to know that being a parent is a really hard job.  I also realize that most parents are doing the best that they can.  Some of my thoughts or opinions may seem critical and judgmental, but I don't see anything wrong with that.  This is why:  criticism and judgment have their place in our society.   I think they are essential tools in helping us observe what's going on around us, categorize how we feel about certain things, and thus, allow us to develop and strengthen our own personal value systems.  So yes, I sometimes cannot decide what I will or won't do without observing what some parents are doing and figuring out where it aligns with my ideals and priorities for raising a kid.  But please make no mistake, if you do something that I write against, I do not think less of you as a person (unless you are letting your kids run wild through a restaurant.)  Rather, I am merely putting an idea out there and offering it up for rebuttal.  I learned a lot from my post about kid leashes.  Some of my readers gave me perspectives I had never even considered.  I welcome that dialog and conversation.  It allows my opinions to evolve and gives me a better understanding on parental behavior and perhaps, the world at large.

My aim in my writing about these topics is mostly to entertain. I thought it would be amusing for myself and others, if I documented these thoughts.  I am well aware that, well I'll let Robert Burns take it from here:

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

I know I am taking a big risk with this blog.  I am offering myself up for what could be future humiliation and certainly, the same criticisms and judgements that I've unleashed on my readership.  What has surprised me most about this blog is the sense I get from people, that they can't wait for some kind of revenge that will naturally occur once I do have kids, just because I've journaled my opinions and ideas about parenthood without actually being a parent.  I reserve the right to change my mind about anything I write here and for some reason, I imagine that if I do change my mind, there will be readers out there who will think they've clinched some some of victory at my own admission of erroneous thought and will boast "I knew it! or I told you so!"  And that is fine if they do.  I will take all of that then the way I hope my readers take what I write now, with a grain of salt.

If you do not agree with what I write, I welcome you to offer up a counter argument and help me understand your point of view.  I regard myself as an open-minded person and I am happy to consider other ways of thinking.  My theory on this blog is that if you take anything I write personally, then you are taking me too seriously.

I hope you all will stay with me on this journey, not so that you can rub my face in my wrong words in the future, but so that you can find amusement in some of my naivety, and hopefully offer your own opinions and experiences to help shape and mold my ideas, and witness first hand (one day) the evolution of a woman to a mother.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'll Take Them To Restaurants All the Time

One of the things I look most forward to when I have kids is all the fun I'll have with them taking them out to restaurants.  It probably won't be anywhere too nice, I assume that we'll stick to places that are more family-friendly.  My husband and I already frequent Taco Mac a good bit, I'm sure that will remain a go-to spot once little ones come a long.  For the most part, I foresee a lot of family dinners at the likes of Chili's, Applebee's, or any place offering a kid's menu.  

A family dinner out will probably be a much needed mental break for my husband and me.  I'm sure we'll save the nights out for days that our family has been so slammed with activities that our kids will have not eaten properly and skipped naps.  We'll decide to suck up the hour wait with our kids.  I'm sure it won't be that bad.  Hubby and I will grab a drink from the bar and let our sweet little ones (who should've been in a bed an hour a go) have free reign on the lobby. Certainly, the reason they make waiting areas in restaurants so open, is to allow ample room for children to test their skills in speed and agility.  Besides, they'll be so cute that strangers won't be able to resist interacting them, thus 'entertaining them.'

When it comes time to eat, i will put everything that my kid can throw with in his reach and laugh and laugh and laugh as he launches items to the next table and make a gigantic mess out of the sugar caddies.  They're dual purpose: sweeten your drinks and a toy for your kid.  I will also run my server to death for crackers so that after my kid doesn't eat the first two, he can crush the rest and ground the remains in the carpet beneath his highchair.

When my child is a little older, I won't force him to sit in a seat.  I think forcing your child to do anything against his will is a little draconian; so if he objects, I'll let him go.  I'll make a game out of it, just to make sure he comes back to the table periodically.  For example, if we're at Taco Mac, I'll only give him $1 of quarters at a time.  This will make sure that as soon as he's spent that dollar on the arcade, he will race back to me with no regard for servers  carrying heavy trays full of hot food and interrupt my adult conversation with all the urgency and annoyance he can muster.  But don't worry folks, I'll ignore his "Mom! Mom! Mom!"s until it's at the decibel of a jet breaking the sound barrier or until I feel the burning glare of people's contempt on the back of my neck.  Then, I will pretend to not notice when my kid knocks into those people's chair on his reckless way back to the arcade with his new quarters in hand.  

I don't know why parents complain about how having kids is such a hard job.  All they have to do is take them out to eat every night.  It's practically free entertainment and babysitting.  Restaurants are like a big playground for kids and parents get the benefit of eating while not having to worry about their kids for a couple of hours.  Of course, feeding a family always results in a big mess.  At a restaurant, you don't have to worry about cleaning up!  You only have to pay people like $3 or 10% of your bill (whichever is less) to do it for you!  That's what I call a win-win for the family.

When I have kids, I will take them out to eat all the time.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

There'll be no "Swagger Wagon."

Back in January, I stumbled upon a NY Times article that discussed how the mini-van was trying to make a comeback and automakers were employing new and creative advertising methods to help the mini-van shake off it's uncool, mom-mobile image.  I shared this link with a "Never will I ever" in my status, so I felt like it was only appropriate to include it in my list of "When I have Kids..." mantras.

I know minivans are incredibly practical and my husband and I are not on the same page with this one.  He doesn't think I should be swearing off minivans at all.  "Really, Susan, what else would we drive?"  Me: "An SUV."  Husband: "A gas-guzzling SUV?! I don't think so.  We aren't going to be able to fly anywhere with them. Maybe if we don't ever plan on ever taking them anywhere.  It's just so much more practical."  Me:  "I still don't want one."  By the way friends, we currently drive an SUV.

So, what is it about the minivan that makes the idea of driving one make, not just me, but several of my mommy friends, cringe?  I've been mulling over this one for the last couple of days, and this is where my layman sociological and psychological theories have lead me.

One of the very few things I learned from my high school sociology class, was how people use things to identify themselves in the world.  How you dress and what you drive are the primary ways people show their personality and in some degree, the status they have or that they seek.  When one of the primary social identifiers you have (your car) screams "MOM!" it conjures up a whole lot of assumptions about the person driving that vehicle.

Again, the biggest argument for the mini-van is its practicality.  It's undeniable.  But isn't that a huge indicator that we're getting old:  choosing the practical option over something much cooler?  And no one likes to think about getting older.

The minivan strips you of your identity in some ways.  Back to the using-your-car-as-an-expression-of-yourself notion, the mini-van only says one thing about you: Mom who doesn't care what people think anymore.  Next stop: mom jeans and appliqued jumpers.  Yeah, yeah, I know you're not supposed to care what people think in theory, but that's just crap.  If that was really true, well, that's a whole different blog post.

Also, I loathe getting stuck behind a minivan on the interstate.  It's usually a mother with a carload of kiddos, ON HER CELL PHONE, camped out in the far left lane going 50 mph.   Sorry ladies, I tried for years to defend our sex on the issue of driving, but I no longer can.  Women suck at driving.  I have  yet to ride in a car with a woman that I would consider a good driver, myself included.

Honestly, I will probably lose the minivan battle one day and I don't believe that I will take back anything I said here.  A lot of people on the web and elsewhere admit the defeating blow a minivan purchase makes on the ego.  I don't imagine that it will be any different for me.  Perhaps there are more benefits to the mini-van than I originally considered.  It also serves as a symbol of warning on roadways: "Caution: Distracted driver subject to erratic maneuvers and inconsistent speeds." I am sure that my driving sometimes warrants that kind of caution for other motorists.

So, when I have kids, there'll be no "swagger wagon."  I won't try to make a minivan cooler than it is and  I will do my best to fight the good fight against it as long as I can.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I'll Save the Leashes for the Dogs

When you take your dog into a public space, it's very responsible as the owner to keep it on a leash.  There are several valid reasons to support this practice:
  1. It's usually required by law.
  2. Dogs are flight risks.  You never know when a squirrel will taunt them in a manner than requires their immediate retaliation.
  3. Your dog can probably outrun you.
  4. You can't reason with your dog, so your leash is one of the few tools you have available to control or restrain him. 
  5. Leashes protect the safety of your dog and others.  
  6. Unleashed dogs are more likely to defecate or procreate at inappropriate times and places.  
There are many more reasons not listed here, but I think you get the point.  Unfortunately, there are well-intentioned parents out there who have blurred the lines on restraint devices for animals and children.  

Certainly you have seen in this at one time or another in the mall or the airport: a child outfitted with a harness, usually guised as a furry faced backpack, and tethered to the hand of their parent.  Some might argue that the reasons to use a child leash are not all that different from the same safety reasons you leash your dog.  To that, I counter this:  

It's de-humanizing.
Most humans are not on leashes (involuntarily or not), most dogs are.  Logic then allows us to deduce that putting a leash on a child is in some ways putting them on the same level of canines. 

You are bigger and faster than your child.
If you cannot catch your child and you have no medical reason to impede your ability to even try, you are either grossly out of shape or lazy.  Either way, you can change that and probably should seriously consider doing so.  Aside from the benefit of catching your child, you'll be setting a good example for him too. 

Mortality rates for dogs supports leashing,  but this does not translate to children.
I have no real statistics to back this up, just common sense.  I mean if unleashed children perished at a high rate close to dogs, I wouldn't be writing about this at all.  However, I did check Wikipedia for child mortality and the causes did not include "was not properly tethered to adult." 

You have many other tools in your parental repertoire to keep your child close at hand.
  • Holding them or their hand- seems to have worked so far for billions of children across countless generations and nations.  
  • Strollers- kids can't keep up at an adult pace, so you probably have one with you anyway.  And last I checked, they can be comfy and secure in one of these.    
  • Training - You can teach your child to mind you.  Imagine that!
  • Discipline - For when your child acts against the other methods, listed above.  I've heard it's quite effective in getting children to do what you say. 
Honestly, I don't know anyone personally that uses a leash on their child, so I am curious as to what a leash-wielding parent believes the benefits to be.  My best assumptions would be that it gives the child the "freedom" to wander within a tight radius of the parent or the child refuses to hold hands, sit in a stroller, be held, etc.  If a child is young enough to be harnessed, then I don't think they deserve any restricted roaming "freedom" and if the child freaks out over methods of control, well, I think that goes back to training, discipline, and persistence on part of the parent. 

So, when I have kids, I will keep them close at hand, but it won't be with a harness and a leash.  I'll save that for the dogs.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Will Stay Home

I've worked ever since I was 15 years old and I've been supporting myself for the last 10 years.  The breadth of my working experience, both blue-collar and professional, has given me a pretty good understanding of what I want to be when I grow up:  a stay-at-home mother.  Of all the jobs I've ever held, I'm pretty sure being a caretaker is the one that comes most naturally for me.  I'm pretty domesticated for a working girl.  I love to cook and I get a lot of joy out of taking care of my husband.  So, it stands to reason to me that I will get the same joy and gratification of taking care of my children.  

Now, my personal preference is not a proclamation for or against the essential question that most women have to grapple with and what has evolved to, what I have noticed my whole life:  a secret war between working moms and stay-at-home moms!

I first noticed this in my own childhood.  My mother was among one of the few women in my very large family that worked while raising us. Mom was a pioneer of sorts.  It was way harder back then to be a working mother.  She risked losing her job to stay with a hospitalized infant.  There was no Family Medical Leave Act and never mind the social stigma.  And the guilt.  Her sisters had no problem sending her through the ringer on the issue of her being a provider for our family.  But I knew what it meant for my mother to be working, even it at the early age of seven.  I remember my cousin teasing me about how spoiled my brother and I were because we had a nice house and nice toys.  {sidebar: we were not rich, just typically middle class}.  My defense was that I got to have nice things because my mother worked hard for us and that meant that I went to after-school care while he got to go home to his mom and a snack. It was an even trade-off to me as a child.  I knew the exchange and I'll be honest, it was fine.  It was not better or worse than what my aunt had chosen for him, just different. 

Fast-forward to present day, and among the litany of friends with kids, my ears are not deaf to the comments working women make about staying at home and vice-versa.  For working mothers, there is an impression that stay-at-home mothers have an easier life.  For stay-at-home mothers, I think there might be an air that they believe themselves to be better mothers because they have wholly devoted themselves to their families.  Now, I've never really heard anyone say any of this outright.  But don't forget, women can be tricky!  It may not be direct, but those sentiments are there I assure you.  

I have a different point-of-view on the to work not to work debate. Everyone is born with a different temperament.  Some women prefer to move a thousand miles per hour and thrive on every minute of their day being filled with some kind of productive endeavor.  Some women prefer a more leisurely pace.  I believe that for some of my working mother friends, it sincerely is in the best interest of their family that they work outside of the home.  This can be recharging and fulfilling for them in a way that allows them to be the best moms they can be when they are home.  Then, there are women like me, who do their best work when it's tied to something deeply personal and meaningful like their family.  

I think all women are born with an oversized guilt gene that just proliferates in some inexplicable manner when you have kids.  No matter what you choose for your family, a woman will always feel bad about the what ifs of the the other option.  

Honestly, I think the working mom gig is probably the hardest job in the world, but that's not why I would like to opt out of that role.  It just so happens that the job I think I'm best qualified for and would give me the greatest happiness happens to be one that is not paid by a third-party.

So, when I have kids, I will stay home but I will NOT spend my days on Facebook trying to convince everyone how hard my life is!