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!