Monday, 16 April 2012 22:00

Be Ready for Anything...

I've been trying to read more news articles - particularly on children and parenting recently, and there's a significant trend in reporting on the concept of 'helicopter parenting', and it's quite a controversial topic.

This article on the Today Moms website, talks about crawling helmets being made for babies - not for riding on a bicycle or anything like that - but for everyday crawling around the house.  To protect them from normal baby bumps and bruises. 

I doubt that a helmet on a baby at 8 months will significantly affect how this child behaves when he is older, but the pattern indicated by the parents who require this at this age might just indicate a level of paranoia that will probably significantly affect that poor child when they are old enough to realize just how abnormal their parents are.  By putting a helmet on a crawling baby, you might decrease his risk of a serious head injury, but you are also likely increasing his risk of a serious psychological imbalance.  I have seen children who are 'babied' to a small degree, and they become adults who are not really confident in being adults.  They have been told that they need help and protection from everything, so they go along with that, and never branch out on their own or do anything productive for themselves.  They become unproductive and unsatisfied people. 

I have a 16 month old daughter, and not a week goes by when I don't panic about some terrifying possibility or another.  My daughter could get hurt someday - but honestly, there are no lengths I could go to that would protect her from everything.  There is ALWAYS - no matter what I do - the chance out there that she could get hurt, or even killed.  My daughter is mortal - someday she will die - and I pray that it is not for at least another 80 years, but no one has that guarantee. 

So, with every choice I make with her, I have to think about the immediate consequences as well as the long-term ones.  Ultimately, what will this choice do for my daughter, and what is the likelyhood of each possible consequence?

If I allow her to go to the park unsupervised, is the 0.0002% risk that she could be kidnapped enough to outweigh the 48% risk of her having less confidence as an individual if I keep her home, and never allow her in public without an adult closely present?

Will she be required to wear a helmet while riding a bike? Absolutely.  Will I demand she wear a seatbelt in the car? Of course.  Will I teach her how to protect herself and be wary of strangers? Yes. 

But there will come a day when she will the leave the house and I won't see what she does.  She might be 13 and riding a bike with her friends helmet-free, or 17 and getting into a vehicle and choosing not to wear a seatbelt.  Someday, she may choose to trust someone who shouldn't be trusted and allow herself to be taken advantage of.  And I will have to pray and trust that I have taught her well, and that she will choose by herself - with no one watching her - to be as safe as she can be.

As her mother - from the moment she came into being, I began the process of letting go.  The process of realizing that she is not part of me, but an entirely separate being, and is learning how to be 'herself' more and more each day. 

Yes, I want her to be safe, but I want so much more for her to be HER. Even if that means taking a few bumps and bruises along the way.  I have to accept the fact that anything could happen, and that is part of life, but I will make every effort to make sure that she is free to be herself. 

Published in Blog
Sunday, 15 April 2012 22:35

Helicopter Town in Florida?

I just ran across this article about a town in Florida that has banned children under the age of 18 from leaving their homes without adult supervision.  This seems like insanity to me, anyone else?

I had a friend once who commented on how she couldn't let her 9-year-old daughter walk to the park alone because she didn't feel it was safe.  So, she was worried about her daughter getting the amount of exercise she needed based on the fact that my friend didn't have time to take her every day.  I thought this was crazy.  Has our world changed so much since I was a child that a few blocks' walk to the park is considered unsafe? 

Please let me never become that sort of parent...

I may struggle someday with letting my children out of my sight - I am an extremely paranoid person, after all - but I believe in the importance of independence, and my children will never learn how to survive on their own if they are not increasingly 'on their own' as they grow up.  Not that I'll leave them to fend for themselves, but at 9 years old, isn't a walk to the park a good place to start?

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Friday, 16 March 2012 10:50

Character Traits - from Dad

I've been a bit flaky with posting lately - between teaching piano, going to doctors appointments, trying to keep my house at least somewhat in order, look after my daughter and spend as much time as possible at the hospital with my Dad, I haven't had a lot of time to sit down at my computer...

Last week, the 'Toddle Along Tuesday' post was about traits you hoped your child did (or did not) inherit from you.  Since my Dad has been on my mind constantly lately, I started thinking about the traits I inherited from him.  I am proud of these things - even the ones that are not always flattering, and I hope that my daughter inherits them also...

1. Educating Yourself - Always. 

My Dad taught me to read when I was 3.  Really and truly, I could read full-length books before I entered kindergarten - there's a University study out there somewhere on me to prove it.   My Dad never attended post-secondary, but always voiced that he wished he could go back - as an adult, when he understood the importance of learning, and had developed a passion for learning that he lacked in his earlier years.  He was extremely self-educated, though.  Although he had mild dyslexia, and had trouble reading, I remember him reading constantly.  He learned how to build guitars and other musical instruments by reading books.  When he watched tv, he watched documentaries and how-to videos.  He spent all of his spare time learning.  Recently I've discovered the same desire in myself.  I've had to admit to myself that I rarely enjoy watching a movie - because it doesn't get anything accomplished.  I'd really rather do laundry, or do some writing, or play the piano - because these things are productive - than watch a movie.  Even when I'm watching a movie, I enjoy it much more if my hands are doing something at the same time... It's annoying for my movie-loving husband, but I'm ok with it.  It's a good trait, and when it comes to my children - the desire to learn and 'do' will always bring more success than sitting around and waiting for things to happen for them.

2. Attention to detail

This sort of goes along with the first one.  My Dad builds (or used to, anyway) musical instruments, which requires a lot of dexterity and patience.  My Dad is not the most graceful person, and he sometimes makes a lot of mistakes when he's building, but he will always go back and fix it. 

I remember my Dad learning specific songs on the guitar or banjo, and he would spend hours playing certain riffs over and over, making sure his fingers learned how to move exactly as they needed to. Sometimes I feel as though I could use more of this particular persistence to perfect things, but I also look back at things I have done - projects I have completed and songs I have learned - and realize there must be some of that in me after all.

3. Patience

This is also part of the first two... My Dad has an almost unending amount of patience.  Actually, I don't think I can recall a time when he really ran out of patience.  He had patience for himself when he was working on things, and he had patience with me when he taught me how to build with him, or when he was struggling through a particularly difficult book.  He didn't give up, for anything.

I hope I have inherited this also, although sometimes I don't think so...

4. Calm

I almost never remember my Dad yelling at me.  When he was angry with me, we would 'discuss' things.  He has a bizarre ability to remain calm in almost any situation.

I was in a car accident when I was a teenager, and my then-boyfriend voiced his disappointment later at how calm I seemed, when he was hoping to comfort me but I really didn't seem to need it.  Internally I was panicking, but I guess that didn't come across.  When I called my Dad later that day to inform him of what had happened, the tone of his voice didn't waver.  I heard a very calm and collected 'ok....ok....ok' as I explained to him that I was alright, but had been in an accident.  My Mom told me later that she could see the look in his eyes and knew something was very wrong - but he was able to keep it together for me. 

This has served me well over the years, as nothing can shake me.  Sometimes I almost wish I could lose it - throw a huge, angry fit just to let off steam - but I know too well that it wouldn't really make me feel better, and I'm just not that kind of person.

5. The ability to laugh at himself.

My Dad never failed to embarrass me in a public place.  Remember Mr.Bean? I hated that show.  I hated that show, because so many of those situations had happened to my Dad when I was with him, hoping that no one I knew would walk by and see us. We were entering (or exiting?) a parkade once, and he had gotten his ticket and the arm should have lifted to let him drive pass, but for some reason it didn't.  I don't know how long he waited, but there were people behind him so he got the brain wave to drive around the arm (we had a small car, he figured he'd see if it fit... or something... I don't actually have any clue what he was thinking...) and as he was trying to maneuver the car around the arm, it lifted and then lowered again - directly into the driver window.  I have no idea how... I just remember how embarrassing it was as Dad tried to drive the car forward and backward in an attempt to free us from the parkade arm...  I actually don't remember how we got out of there, but I was mortified - I remember that. 

But Dad was never embarrassed.  And you could always bring up the story later and he would laugh.  There was nothing you couldn't bring up, actually.  Once (when he actually did get really angry...) he started throwing apples in the house. (That's what was easily accessible, I think...).  Mom jokes about how she was cleaning up applesauce for weeks afterward, and Dad laughs too.  It doesn't bother him to bring it up - it's funny, why not laugh.

I think I'm this way too - mostly, anyway.  And I hope my kids can always laugh at themselves also.  Nothing is so serious in life, it's better to be able to laugh.

 

I'm sure I could think of more, but it's a pretty long post already, so I'll be done here.  I just wanted to talk about my Dad a bit... Thanks!

Published in Blog
Sunday, 11 March 2012 09:11

Choosing a Legal Guardian

I get regular emails from the 'Parents' Magazine website, and today their topic was choosing legal guardians.  I was intrigued, since my husband and I put a lot of thought and prayer into choosing legal guardians for our daughter and was interested to see if the article reflected the same considerations we had.

Unfortunately this particular article seemed to be more about informing the person already chosen of the guardianship and what comes along with it, which was disappointing.

Legal Guardianship is particularly important to me since I was taken into foster care as a child due to a large misunderstanding.  Due to the nature of the event, it may not have made a difference if I had a designated guardian, but I wanted to make sure to give my children what I didn't have so that even in an event like the one I experienced, they would not have to spend time living with strangers. 

So here is my own list of things to consider when choosing a Legal Guardian for your child.

1. Religious Beliefs and Worldview

It is extremely important to us that our children are raised in a Christian home - particularly one that closely reflects our own beliefs.  Along with that comes a number of perspectives about how we should live and act, and it was important to choose someone who emulated these things.

2. NOT Grandparents.

I was largely raised by my Grandmother, and although she and I have a closer relationship than we ever could have had otherwise, she was robbed of the ability to be 'Grandma'.  We do not want to do this to our own parents.  Also, then the question of 'Who?' is an issue that can do nothing but cause pain to someone...

3. Proximity to Family and Friends

Because Brian's family and mine are not close friends, it was important to consider a guardian who was either not too close to either family that our daughter would be brought up with a bias as to which family she spent time with (which would be unfair to the other family), or somehow equally close to both families and willing to ensure that she would spend time with both families.  Also, if she happens to have many friends in the area we live in, we hoped to find someone who lives close enough to make sure she can still see her friends, or has ties to the area so even if they moved away would likely return regularly for visits. 

4. Demonstrated Ability to Guardian

In our case, we chose a family who has raised a number of children already.  Our hope was to find someone who had already demonstrated parenting ability to us somehow, as well as showing signs of having a similar 'parenting style' to ourselves.

5. Financial Ability. 

Although our daughter will be well provided for if we kick off in her childhood, we wanted to know that any legal guardian we chose would not be financially encumbered in any way by an extra child.  In the event that it takes awhile for life insurance, etc. to come through - we wanted to be certain that any guardian we chose could handle it.   Also, in the event that our daughter requires a guardian, it would be nice for the family to be able to easily have room to give her a bedroom of her own.  We also didn't want to put our child in a situation where - if she were to receive a significant inheritance - her Guardians might find it tempting because of their own financial standing, to take her money. 

6. Age Considerations

Ideally the person chosen to Guardian would be of a similar age to ourselves, however we found this consideration to be less important than many of the others.  It was important, however, to choose a couple who would still be young enough to parent even when our daughter was reaching adulthood. 

These were the big things we discussed when choosing a guardian, and thankfully we were able to find someone who fit nearly all of this criteria perfectly.  Thankfully also, they were willing to accept the role of guardianship for Celia. 

What are your thoughts on these considerations? Do you agree or disagree? What considerations would/did you consider that I may have missed?

 

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 20:43

Little Princesses

I love a bit of controversy, so when I read an article, 'liked' it on facebook with a bit of a comment, and had a ton of people commenting on it also - agreeing or disagreeing on various parts of the article - I got a little excited.

The article was called 'How to Talk to Little Girls', by Lisa Bloom from the Huffington Post.  It was about talking to little girls, and trying to steer clear of telling them how cute or pretty they are in favor of more intellectual things like asking what they're reading and if they like books, etc. as well as telling them what you do and asking their opinion on some sort of 'grown up-ish' things such as 'What bothers you about the world?' and 'If you had a magic wand, what would you fix?'.

I thought it was great, and added a comment about another article I had read about the early sexualization of girls in our society today and how the 'Disney Princesses' helps to pave the way for this process.

What? Not the Disney Princesses - but I love the Disney Princesses!!!

Not to blame the Princesses, but with these toys there is a 'prescribed method' of play.  Princess is pretty.  Princess attracts the Prince.  The article suggested this subtle theme encouraged girls to start thinking about appearance - particularly in reference to attracting boys - at an early age.

Anyway, there were comments from moms who played with Barbies and watched Disney Princess movies, and didn't think there was any connection between that and low self-esteem.

There were also comments about the dangers of NOT complimenting your daughter's appearance, and how that might damage their self-esteem also.

I wish there was a clear answer to this, because I don't think anyone would deny that little girls in our society are sexualized WAY to young.  I think we also know that girls focus on their appearance too much and too early, and that eating disorders are rampant. I think this is probably not a really new problem, but I think something has changed in recently that has made this situation worse.  Personally, I do believe the media is partly to blame (another part being the parents who allow their children to watch anything and everything in the media).  I was recently in the vicinity of a nine year old watching music videos on you tube.  I was horrified at the message that was being directed at girls her age.  Some of the songs were obviously about sex, and one even mentioned something about a 'manage et troi' (I'm not French, so you'll have to forgive me if that was spelled wrong.

Anyway, there must be some way to combat these messages and raise strong and self-confident young women.  We need more of them in this world.

Published in Blog
Friday, 28 October 2011 13:33

Leaf Maze

Every year I try to make a point of raking all of the leaves in our yard into a maze.  When I was a teenager, I babysat for a family that did this every year with their kids and I enjoyed doing this with them and still enjoy it now!  My little sister came over and after the maze was finished, we took turns changing it and then trying to get through it again.

These are my cat's glowing eyes watching us through the front door...

Then we had to make a leaf pile...

And play in it...

It was a fun day, and it's exciting for me to finally have a child to do stuff like this with!

Published in Blog
Sunday, 28 August 2011 21:58

Homeschooling

After a recent Facebook post by a friend and homeschooling mom about a comment she had heard recently stating that home-schooled children are ‘weird’, I felt the need to voice my own uneducated opinion.

Although I’ll admit that I have had my share of experiences with ‘weird’ home-schooled kids, particularly in rural areas where it is easier for children to remain isolated from other people, I have also had an abundance of contact with ‘weird’ public schooled kids, and just as many home-schooled kids who had no defining characteristics that set them apart from their public schooled peers.   From my observations, it was less the method of schooling that affected the child’s ability to socialize and more the amount of time each child spends cooped up in their rooms or basements away from other people aside from the time they spend schooling.

In response to my friend’s post, another friend suggested that home-schooled kids are ‘weird’ because they do not have the same pressure to conform that publicly schooled children have (in the ways of social behaviors this may be considered a necessary skill, while in the area of a child’s talents and interests it creates the possibility of repression).   As a girl who was publicly schooled as a child, I recognize that my views and interests were shaped a lot by my peers in school.  There were things that were considered ‘cool’ when it came to clothing, activities and even who you were friends with, and there were things that were ‘uncool’.  To allow yourself to be labelled with something ‘uncool’ is opening yourself up to be ostracized and ridiculed, and maybe even to lose your friends.  This is a scary thing for a child, and most will bend to this pressure to fit in.  I admit that in a lot of ways, I altered who I was and what I might rather be doing out of fear.  I wonder to this day what sort of person I might be, what I might be interested in and even what type of clothing I might buy, if I had not been brainwashed to care about what the general public would think of me.   This is a curse that many home-schooled kids seem to be able to avoid.

I recently read the Wikipedia article on Homeschooling, and skimmed through some of the comments made in reference to research that has been done on home-schooled children recently.  It basically stated that recently, home-schooled students had been found to perform better on standardized tests than their public-schooled peers.  Another interesting point made was that the gaps between minorities and genders were much less prevalent in home-schooled students.

Might I suggest that a child’s ‘strangeness’ has nothing to do with how they are schooled, but rather how they are parented? These studies might also suggest that academic achievement also is not affected by the method of learning, but rather more to do with how invested a parent is in their child’s learning.  For example, a parent who is wanting to teach their child at home is likely going to be more involved in their child’s learning and development.  It stands to reason that a child who has invested parents is more likely to succeed than a child who is left alone.  Any child who spends the majority of their days in their bedroom in front of a computer monitor is more likely to be socially awkward than a child who spends much of their free time outdoors playing with other children – regardless of whether their ‘at school’ time is spent in or out of the home.

One advantage of home-schooling is that it typically takes less time in a day than public-schooled children spend in school, and so they have more time available for ‘playing’, which seems to be something we are sadly getting increasingly too busy for.

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