Parenting Pedantry: Being Lazy is A-okay

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Most of the time, I post about how I’m confused and/or miserable as a mother.

As Child gains in cognition (which it seems she does by impressive leaps almost daily), I’m figuring out a trick that I want to share.

Lazy Parenting = Good Parenting.

So let’s back it up for one second.  I’m not talking about ignoring your kid while she writhes in agony on the couch or about never helping with homework or making her find her own ways to get places.

I’m talking about not doing stuff your kid can do for herself.

I’m talking about supervising and self sufficiency.  About a kid who can fold her own laundry and put it away, a kid who knows how to pick up after herself or take care of a small milk spill.  A kid who can do her homework while you cook dinner and ask questions as she encounters them.

If you want your kid to be good at life, you have to teach her how to do the stuff she needs to do to get by.  The sooner the better.  The earlier a kid figures out that time is hers to manage, the better she’ll be at meeting deadlines and finishing tasks early on.  Do you really want to babysit your 15-year-old’s day planner for high school?

I didn’t think so.

A great way to do this is to–from very early on–make your kid do stuff for herself.  Mine has been toddling her own trash to the garbage can since she could understand, “throw that away.”  We used to sing a made up song every day and put away toys and trash before bed. Now, she can pick up her own room, she takes her dinner plates and such to the sink.

She throws away garbage without being prompted.  She even does this in public.  Yesterday, at Fort Muncy, she found somebody else’s empty coke bottle in a cut Xmas tree, and insisted that we throw it away.

Last night, we combined her reading with her room-cleaning.

I made her a simple list:

1. Put away clean clothes
2.  Put dirty clothes in basket
3. Put away toys
a. Put away books
4. Throw away trash

She takes a HUGE amount of pride in being able to read the list and cross things off it.  And it’s a good way to help her learn to assess a mess, too.  I ask her what she thinks should go on the list, and last night, she was sure to remind me that I forgot number five.

“What’s number five?”

“Make your bed!”

She’s six, though, so I have to lower my standards a little bit.  Her idea of “putting things away” is sometimes piling them up on a surface that is not the floor.  Every time she employs this method, we have a little chat about what it means to put something away, and every time she cleans her room, she gets a little better at it.

As parents, we have to take advantage of this period during which our children yearn to please us.

If there’s something that your kid is cognitively capable of doing, teach her to do it.

This will show her the joy of learning new things, the thrill of taking care of herself, and give you a few minutes to NOT do something kid-focused.

It is hard.  It is hard because she will be very, very slow and probably do a shitty job.  Sometimes you will have to assist and/or redo he work.  But both of you will feel better if she can take care of herself in small ways.

Of course, we all pick the ways in which we baby our kids, and that is good, too.  Cutting too many cords too early can backfire.  I think my folks would agree there.

I intend to pack Child’s school lunch as long as she’ll hold still for it.  But I’m seeing the fruit of this independence-inspiring methodology already.  She is interested in doing things for herself, and learning how to complete chores.

My mom employed this method.  A slightly more extreme version of it, and more by necessity, because she had two small ones and a very, very busy (read, never home) husband when I was an older elementary student, but having met people in college who didn’t know how to do their own laundry, and even still–at 31–being surprised by things some of my peers don’t know how to do, I’m grateful for my competence.

I hope Child will feel the same way.

Alive Baby’s Dead Friendship

I robbed this image from anther wordpress blog.

Child is a really sweet kid.  Her birthday’s late summer, so she’s one of the youngest in her class.

Her BFF is one just a few months shy of being a whole year older than she is.

The girls met at Little Lambs, the preschool to which they both went, about 2 years ago.  It’s a great place, even though it’s parochial.  Aside from that I got an incredibly good vibe from the place, it was affordable, and all the other places I visited were scary for one reason or another, my thinking was that knowing stories from the Bible can be a real help when one is writing college papers in literature courses.

When we moved this fall, we moved so we live around the corner from BFF, and Child opted to switch elementary schools from where she went last year so she could go to the same school as BFF.

Our school district lets us pick to an extent.

Child and BFF played together a lot this past summer.  BFF came over to our house a lot of days, and the girls had sleepovers and Child went to the lake with BFF and her family.  They go to each other’s birthday parties and have had a really good friendship.

In a happy twist of fate, Child wound up in the same class as BFF.

And all was beautiful and harmonious until yesterday.

Child said, “I want to play with BFF today.”

Since it’s child appreciation day, and Child will have no homework, I say, “Okay, I’ll text her mom.”


So I text Mrs. BFF, and she says of course BFF can come play.

I go to pick up Child and I’m herding Mrs. BFF’s kids, too, because she’s going to be a few minutes late.  And I say, “Hey BFF, wanna come over and play at our house for a while?”

BFF says, “No.”

Child immediately starts weeping, but she’s hiding her face in my hip.  BFF does not see her weeping.  My heart breaks a little bit, even though I get it.  I remember.

BFF’s tastes have matured to the point where Child–who is just not mature in any respect–does not interest her anymore.  Sure, if she’s thrust into a situation where she has to play with Child, she will, or if it’s between Child and her brothers.  But she’d rather play with the girls who are those 6-10 months older.

Plus there’s the brutal social stuff: BFF definitely has what it takes to be a cool/popular kid.  Child is sensitive and strange (no surprises there), and I am not the kind of mom who refuses to let her go to school wearing insane things, or who tells her not to be weird.

Maybe that’s a failing as a parent, but the best people I know liked the learning parts of school but could’ve done without the social aspects.

And Child will be better off socially than I was.  They have become insanely aware of bullying and its dangers, and Child is gregarious and funny and coordinated.  I expect that she’ll play some sort of sport, and that’s a social network built in.

She’ll meet new friends and adapt.

But part of me wanted to say, “Hey Mrs. BFF!  Tell BFF she has to play with Child!”  Even though I recognize the myriad problems with such behavior.

On the rest of the way home without BFF, Child alternated between weeping and telling me how BFF won’t play with her at recess anymore.  How BFF plays with M__ and K__, but not with her.

I asked if she knew why, and she said, “she just won’t.”  I’m certain there’s more to the story than I’ll hear.  But still.  Sad, sad stuff.

And it didn’t occur to me until right now that Child’s exceedingly poor behavior last evening may have been a result of this tragedy.  In fact, Child said another thing that saddened and angered me in equal measure.

We were on our way home from Zumba and I told her that she was not allowed to stay up because she was being highly snotty, she said, “Maybe I should just kill myself.”  Which she then tried to deny saying, which is good, I think?  But still.  Caught me totally off gurad.  Rendered me speechless.  Made me angry in ways I was not expecting.

I sent her to bed and did not tuck her in or read her a story. I do not know if that was the right tack, but she was asleep instantly.  And now I will be vigilant.

What kind of six-year-old even suggests suicide?  Is this foreshadowing of dreadful teenaged years to come?  Will I be one of those tragic, 40-something alcoholic moms with a dead kid?

I hope not.  But this is one of those times where having her sperm donor’s input might be helpful.  I think that he felt sad about being alive from a very early age.

He said, when he found out I was pregnant, that he didn’t want to be a father because he always felt like he shouldn’t have been born, and he didn’t want to put another person through that.  Strong words, but felt ones nevertheless.

I was too busy pitying myself at the time to notice how sad that was, but I’ve thought of it often.

What are Child Pageants like in Real Life?

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I tried to watch an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras.  It made me sick to my stomach.

My good friend Judy is a real fan, though, and thinks the whole thing is just surreal.  She doesn’t think moms are really so crazy in real life.

So this weekend Judy and I will be blending in at a child pageant in New York.  I’m doing some investigative journalism.

Next week’s blog posts will be all about it.

I’m taking my spy pen.  Wish me luck.

Moms are Boring!

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I have always thought so.

Listen, other moms, don’t bristle and run away.  I know your cursor is hovering over the back button, and you’ve got this wild offended look and you’re almost in tears.

It’s true and you know it.  What other group of people can babble, ad infinitum, about poop, school projects that involve pipe cleaners and egg cartons, petty-five-year-old tiffs & inappropriate mom reactions, good or bad teachers, report cards, pencils, after-school activities, and be so interested in these topics?

Only moms.

I’m a mom, and I don’t really think that stuff is interesting.   It’s undignified to let our kids take over our lives.  Like we help our kids grow into whole other people, we have to maintain our own identities!  If we forget who we are, how can we help them become who they are?

When I was pregnant, I used to tell dead baby jokes.  I did it because I was rebelling against the mom babble.

I was more heroic and successful about avoiding that when I was pregnant.  It’s easy to do anything in theory.

But I reckon that if my fabulous child knows that I have something else going on for myself, she won’t come across any zany ideas when she reaches her late teens and early twenties like that she can’t take that awesome internship in Zimbabwe because if she does I’ll be a wreck.

Hell, I want her to go to Zimbabwe!  I want her to travel the world! I want her to know how to be a whole person outside the definition of our family.  I want her to have that understanding early, and to take it and run off into the sunset and build herself a mountain of success and experience and heartache and trouble.

There’s this video:

But I think that in some ways it doesn’t get better after the spawn emerges.  Us moms have this unspoken club of martyrdom, and nobody without kids belongs OR could understand.  And whenever I catch myself clucking my tongue, smiling knowingly at one of my childless friends (who is horrified at how little it bothers me when my busy, busy kid is all in my face about something absurd or interrupts our conversation) and on the verge of some ridiculous statement like, “someday you’ll understand,” I get a little bit sick inside.

I get embarrassed.  It’s the equivalent of saying, “I don’t care what it is as long as it’s healthy.”

Listen, I WANT free time.  I WANT to be unfettered.  I WANT to go back to being April, and not Mom: the grown up who goes with the kid.

And I’ll totally indulge in the conversation about poop or homework or projects, about Mrs. Smith, Mr. Deacon, or the principal.  But once all that can be said has been, I want to talk about Breaking Bad or Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I want to go out after 8:00 p.m. and take in things that aren’t appropriate for children, either because of the content or the attention span required.

I want to drink beer and practice my guitar with abandon, and read for three hours without interruption.

I am pining for the day that 75% of my time is not spent on teaching my kid how to get dressed, do her own homework, checking on her when she’s playing with her friends, volunteering at her school, making sure she gets culture, making sure she eats well, making sure she has clothes to wear.

Yes, all that stuff is more rewarding than I could possibly describe.

But, I don’t want to be at a loss when it’s over.  I do not want to have to be 75% overwhelmed by the care of another being in order to feel like myself.

So let’s quit being boring, Moms!  Let’s be ourselves AND moms.  And when we’re done being moms, let’s have a bucket list as long as the distance to the moon of awesome stuff we’ve been dying to do/think/read/be/try.

Our kids will be better for it, and then when they’re pre-parent grownups, we’ll have stuff to talk about with them.