Letting The Helicopter Go

free range parenting, helicopter parents, helicopter parenting, motherhood, parenting, outdoors

Remember when you were a kid, and you would go outside at 9AM, play at the creek, collect crawdads, dig holes, ride your bike to the furthest park in your neighborhood — without a helmet — run into your friend’s house for a quick bite for lunch, roll down a few hills, play tag, stomp through mud and make a little grave for the dead bird you found — only to return home at 5PM just in time for dinner, smelling like dirt, sunshine and creek water?

Remember that? Or something like it?

As a child of the 80s, I think my generation was the last to really experience that — to play freely and unencumbered by parental worry and hovering.

I look back and wonder if maybe my parents were a bit too relaxed. I was literally gone all day. I might pop in for a sandwich or a drink of water, but then I bounded back out to the field in the back of my house to dig for gold with my friends.

Too relaxed or not — I’m glad my parents let me have that.

And I wish my kids could have that freedom.

But I’m terrified.

This isn’t a new subject. The helicopter parenting, the over-scheduling, the shrink-wrapped and manufactured childhoods have all been discussed — it’s all been acknowledged. Parents wring their hands over the lack of freedom that children have today. They wring their hands and then tell their kids to stay in a three-house radius of their yard. They wring their hands about the lack of free-play and then refuse to let their kids ride their bikes to the corner store.

I know this because I’m one of those parents. I’m a free-range parent that’s scared shitless of free-range parenting. And I’m not alone in this.

When my nine and thirteen year old want to go to the park at the creek by themselves, I panic just a little.

Ryan, the thirteen year old is totally old enough. But Kiera? My nine year old Kiera? Why, anything could happen. Certain horrific scenarios run through my head and I just can’t bring myself to say yes. Just. Can’t. My husband, on the other hand, who’s a bit more relaxed about these things, has let them run down to the creek and play at the park much to my horror.

I don’t have to go into the many reasons why I’m afraid. Just watch the news for shits sake. It’s full of dead, kidnapped children.

So here I am, an adult who was raised free-range (I feel like a fucking chicken when I type that), and I’m too terrified to give my children that same freedom.

Now, I’m not crazy. My two older kids walk to the bus stop by themselves. I let them ride their bikes in the neighborhood — as long as they stay on our street (I know, I know.) I let them go to other kids houses on a whim to see if their friends can play — as long as I know the parents.

But what’s wrong with letting them venture further? Letting them go beyond the boundaries of our road — or more accurately, the boundaries of my comfort zone?

I certainly feel that parents should be cautious — there are real dangers in the world. But I have to let some of that fear go. Just a bit.  Perhaps let Kiera ride her bike further out — let her cross the main busy road by herself (or with her brother) and ride her bike through the sprawling neighborhood. Because the fear I have is really the result of the hyper-parenting that’s been pervading our culture.

I was reading Free Range Kids, a website devoted to the idea of giving our children more freedom to play and learn on their own, and came across this disturbing post where a mom posts her concerns on Facebook regarding a 7-year-old walking home from a bus stop by himself.

Fer realz. This is her post.

Hello everyone I’m not sure how to deal with a situation that I have encountered twice so far this school year,, today as I was waiting for the light on Morris and Springdale around 3:45 waiting to turn left I noticed an elementary age boy turning the corner and walking alone up the busy road of Springdale, this scared me to death!! a million things went through my head if something was to happen to him with so many cars driving by,,,, just imagine!!!! So I put my hazard lights on and called to police and followed him slowly till I started to talk to him through the car window to stall him till police would arrive,, and so they did and then took over the matter..

A 7 year old vulnerable boy walking alone along Springdale rd,,where are the parents? School? I don’t get it?!?!?! So dangerous and so many crazy people out there!!!!! I am bothered!!!!!!

You can read the full post here. The creepiest thing about her post was the fact that she slowly followed the kid in her car and tried talking to him through her car window. She obviously came off as the crazy one.

So there lies the problem. I sometimes wonder if neighbors think it’s strange that my nine-year-old walks to the bus stop by herself. It SHOULDN’T be weird — but in this day and age it could be grounds for calling CPS. No exaggeration.

Parents are crazy.

So in the end, I may be more relaxed than other parents — but I definitely need to relax a bit when it comes to letting my kids push the neighborhood boundaries. I want them to get dirty. I want them to be gone for long stretches of the day, finding bugs, and getting dirt under their finger-nails. But it’s a hard idea to wrap my head around. After all, we live right outside of DC.  Crime is not infrequent around here. It’s a fine line to walk, this safety thing. I don’t want to put my kids in danger — but I don’t want to shrink-wrap their lives.

Maybe we should look to north Wales for outdoor play inspiration. The Guardian just wrote an article about junk-yard playgrounds — playgrounds full of wood crates, nails, tires, ladders, old abandoned boats, etc. Apparently it’s a hit and the kids much prefer it to the anchored-down sanitized playgrounds that punctuate the neighborhoods. The part that makes me really uncomfortable is uh — the fires. Kids are encouraged to start fires. Contained fires nonetheless. But fires — so they can learn about safety. Read the article. It’s super interesting.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the risk of danger to your children outweighs their need for more freedom? What are your rules for outdoor play?

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Note To Self: My Husband Is Not The Patriarchy

I’m angry. Right now.

This isn’t just any run-of-the-mill anger. It’s the kind of seething anger that pops up every now and then without notice.

It’s anger without a reason.

This might sound crazy, but I’ll be perfectly happy one minute — and then ten minutes later I’m fuming. It literally comes from no where. There’s typically nothing that predicates it. It just happens.

I try to get rid of it — try to step away for a moment and breathe. The anger doesn’t happen all the time. But it happens enough. And I become bitter and resentful for an entire evening.

It’s truly awful.

It’s basically this — out of nowhere I become angry at the fact that I’m the woman in the house. And just to be clear — I LOVE being a woman. The anger stems from this feeling that there’s this unspoken, subconscious expectation of me based on my gender.

Don’t get me wrong — my husband is a feminist. A big one. He’s amazing. He pulls his weight. He supports me totally and completely. He loves his children fiercely.

Yet sometimes. Sometimes I can’t help but resent the fact that he’s a man (which I’m glad he is.) Although he cooks and helps with the cleaning, and splits night-time feedings 50/50 — I still feel short-changed as a woman.

Because I worry. I worry about every goddamn thing, and my beautiful husband looks so goddamned relaxed. The thing about Ernesto is that he knows how to kick his shoes off and read a book in the middle of chaos. He’s not being lazy — the man works his ass off. But he knows how to take a moment — a breather.

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And I don’t know how to do that. As a woman, it’s ingrained in me to care for everything — even when it’s not necessary. There is this deep-seated unspoken expectation within myself to run the household. To make sure the kids get their baths, to do endless loads of laundry, to maintain the kitchen, to wipe down the bathrooms, to change the sheets, to make appointments for the kids, to schedule playdates, to sign the kids up for activities, to make sure the kids are well dressed, etc, etc, infinity, etc.

My husband does a lot. Hell, dinner wouldn’t get made without him. I wouldn’t have any food in my house if it weren’t for his diligent shopping expeditions with the kids. And did I mention he brings home most of the money?

So why am I angry? Why am I complaining? I decided to have a family — I should be grateful. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Last year my husband bought me a stack of books on feminism from the used bookstore. It was a lovely gift. One of the books called, The Bitch in the House (trying to tell me something babe?) is a compilation of works by various female writers that highlight the daily trials and triumphs of being a woman. I didn’t read the entire book. As a matter of fact I only read the first 20 pages. It was difficult to read a book about angry women when I have so much anger of my own.

For god sakes. I just want to be content. And happy. Which I am most of the time — about seventy percent of the time if you want an exact number — a number I would like to improve on.

But the first essay I read in The Bitch in the House was a piece written by E.S. Maduro, titled Excuse Me While I Explode: My Mother, Myself, My Anger. She writes about her feminist boyfriend — a man who was the complete opposite of her traditional, sexist father. In it she explains her seething anger as she realized that even the most feminist men can’t escape male privilege — that these men with all their progressive ideas about women, still unknowingly bask in the glow of that ultimate advantage. And it’s infuriating.

Here’s an excerpt describing her anger upon returning home from work and seeing her boyfriend relaxing and downloading music at the computer in the midst of a messy, dirty house:

On such occasions I will be angry for thirty minutes, or maybe until I have eaten something. I will ruminate on the place of the woman in today’s “modern” society. I will cook and clean, and all the while think about how I am falling into the same trap of housework that my own mother fell into. As I scrub the kitchen sink, I will hear her voice saying, “You have choices,” and I will scowl at the concept of choice. I will decide that my modern, liberal, open-minded boyfriend, having been raised by a mother who did everything in the home (in addition to having a job), will never notice or care if his girlfriend or wife takes over those same domestic responsibilities. He is capable of doing all of them, but if they get done for him, my thoughts go, he might never even realize that they needed doing in the first place.

What she continues to say brings full circle the very conundrum that clutches me.

But then slowly, as I finish picking up the dirty clothes from the floor, I will think about his day, will remember that he works long hours, too — and that he loves music, that finding new albums to record off our computer is a way for him to relax, to wind down. It will occur to me that maybe he was waiting for me to come home so that we could eat together, that he didn’t know I would be arriving so late; that he was sincere, rather than just trying to avoid a fight, when he offered to cook for me {. . .} gradually my anger will start to wane, and in it’s place will come guilt and confusion and sadness.

Maduro talks about how she wants and chooses to be angry.

I feel frustrated by the guilt that accompanies asking Paul to take the initiative to run the dishwasher, to do the laundry without shrinking my sweaters, to buy groceries that are healthy. . . to ask for what my mother never would have, to be what she would have considered a “nag.” In wanting my home to be as well organized as my mother kept hers, I feel as though I must choose between doing everything myself and constantly asking Paul to do more.

And this is where the resentment comes in. I don’t want to have to ASK my husband to do more. Why would I do that when he already does so much? I don’t want to be a nag. But I have certain expectations of how a house should run — how a house should feel. As a woman, I know how to run a house. Why? Because that’s how I was brought up. My mom did everything — cooked, cleaned, and raised four children. I watched her do it all. And even though my mom is a feminist, I felt the unspoken expectation that this is what I would do when I grew up — raise children and run a household. As a matter of fact, it’s what I WANTED to do. As a little girl I dreamed of being a mother.

And here I am with four children. Cooking. Cleaning. Running a household. Except I have an amazingly helpful husband. And there are many duties that we try to split evenly. But I’m angry that it seems easier for him. Easier for him to get out of the house — or so I think. Couldn’t I go out for a drink at night if I really wanted to? Ernesto would totally support that. But I feel guilty for WANTING to — because, well — I have other responsibilities, and the dishes need to be done, and the laundry needs to be folded, and Kiera needs to clean her room.

And it’s so obvious that I’m doing this to myself. Ernesto isn’t to blame. I WANT to be angry — to bask in momentary bitterness. But I don’t want to WANT to be angry.

See how this is totally my problem?

My husband is not the patriarchy. He’s my partner. As a woman I’m lucky to have all the choices that I have today — even though we, as women, have a ways to go.

Ernesto says that I can relax too. Why can’t I sit down for a moment and read a chapter out of my book? Why can’t I draw or write for twenty minutes? Ernesto feels no guilt, no shame, no concern about taking that small amount of time for himself to recoup. And he shouldn’t. He deserves that. But that’s — in part — because he’s a man. Kicking his feet up is okay and smiled upon. Our society practically encourages it despite the fact that we’ve come a long way. There are just some things that don’t stress him out the way it stresses me out. BUT THAT’S NOT HIS FAULT. It’s this never-ending cycle that’s all just a load of shit because I’m doing this to myself.

Really.

So in the musical words of my nine-year-old daughter, maybe I should “let it go.”

Yes. I just said that.

I need to find a way to let go of this unrest I feel as a woman. This underlying rage isn’t doing me or my family any favors.

It’s time to move on from this stagnant place — time to be grateful for everything I have. Time to stop wallowing in these “first world problems.”

I think I’ll step outside and breathe in the fresh air. And just let all this shit go.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

First of all, I just wanted to welcome all the new readers. I’ve had a spike in traffic over the past few months — so I figured it was about time to say hi to all of you who’re so kind to read my little blog.

I’ve noticed that my most popular posts on marriage (found here and here) and breastfeeding (found here and here) have hit a real nerve — in a positive way — with many of you. I’m trying to catch up on all the comments and some of the emails.

As for the reason for my absence — I had my fourth baby in January. He came four weeks early so things were chaotic for a while — and still are! I needed an extended break from the stress of blogging. Because it IS stressful. Even though it shouldn’t be. Blogging should be something that I enjoy, and I want to get back to the enjoyable aspect of it.

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Our newest addition

As for the four kids — well — it’s a lot. I knew what we were getting into when we decided to take the plunge for the fourth (and last!) baby, but the newborn baby stage is never easy no matter how much experience you have.

And I’ve come to realize that being a parent of four children has set me apart from other parents.

I officially belong to The Four Kids Club. I say this because I get looks of awe mixed with horror when people find out I have four children. I’ve even heard a few audible gasps from strangers. In the DC area, a family of six is considered an anomaly — weird — maybe even a bit psycho. But that’s okay.

We ARE crazy. Crazy in an awesome, fabulous way. In my opinion, that is.

So thanks to all of you newcomers for stopping by. I hope to give you more posts to read and enjoy. Right now I can only post on a weekly basis due to my membership to The Four Kids Club or TFKC. But even then I can’t make any promises due to the crazy life that I lead. In the meantime, feel free to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter (although I don’t tweet much ) or follow me on instagram.

— Sonja

Parenting Forums Are Full Of Insane People

Parenting forums.

They’re nuts.

If you live in the DC area and you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve heard of DC Urban Moms and Dads. It’s an anonymous forum that at times can be incredibly helpful and informative. But because of the anonymity of the posters, DCUM can be fucking unreal. People have no fear of going crazy — and the lack of a screen name makes it easy for posters to be ultra snarky and just plain mean.

Because of this, it’s fun to read and scoff at.

For example. In the General Parenting Discussion board, there’s a thread called, “I hate it when moms two and more complain.” As you can see, basic grammar is not a strong suit of some of these posters. Anyhow, so the anonymous poster’s rant goes like this:

There, I said it.
I am not talking about those who had twins as their first children.
I am talking about moms who have two or more, who say how hard it is to deal with a toddler or preschooler while pregnant, how difficult it is to juggle kids for play dates and appointments, how hard it is to not have coinciding naps.
Didn’t you know how hard it is after having just one? Wasn’t this knowledge enough to either be prepared or not have any more children? 
Of course I cannot say anything in their face. But this is always my first thought. You made this bed, so deal with it.
. I feel guilty thinking this but I just can’t keep it inside if me anymore.
Flame away.

I love it. Parents of single children telling parents of multiple children not to complain. This response said it best:

OP I can understand where you’re coming from, but I think your logic is faulty. By your logic no one should be allowed to complain about the difficulty of raising any child who was “planned”, or really anything that the person chose to do. So no one should complain about their job because they chose that job? No one should complain about cleaning their house because they chose to live in a house? What are people allowed to complain about exactly? Only things that they had no say in whatsoever?

But then the snarkiness continues:

I’ll one-up you, OP, and say it’s annoying when any parent says they had no idea raising children would be so HARD, and how they’re so TIRED. As if they’d never seen a kid before.

And.

I hate when they bitch about money. You never know how easy or difficult your kids are going to be, but you sure as hell should have known how much they would cost the second and third time around.

And another.

I get it, OP. I’m always stunned when people complain about the work of having children. (I have one.) I was the last of my friends to have a child, so I heard all their stories. I knew it was going to be hard, and expensive. And I knew that second child sunk a lot of marriages, because the work, as other people said, was exponentially harder, not twice as hard.

While I get that you can’t know exactly what it’s like until you are in the middle of it, what is shocking to me is that women refuse to take a look around them and listen to other people’s stories, and learn from them. (Also why I didn’t get knocked up as a teen or marry a “bad boy.”)

And it continues.

PP here. Take responsibility for yourself! If you want to do something, you should have thoroughly vetted it and worked through all of the variables of what might be. Even if your friends haven’t been through it, there are books, newspapers, your mother’s stories and those of her friends.

I don’t do any big life choice without thinking through all of the ramifications it might have. It’s just common sense.

Ha ha! If you made a choice in life, then you’re not allowed to complain about it. You should’ve thought about all of life’s challenges, worked through all the possible variables, and accepted them ahead of time without complaint!

Because I’m sure moms of single children have never complained.

Now go and have a Merry Christmas! And stop your bitching about your squabbling children.

Let’s Play Uterus!

beckettblanket

Beckett LOVES it when we play uterus. It’s like his new thing.

It all started when he FINALLY let me read him the book called What to Expect When Mommy’s Having a Baby, by Heidi Murkoff, the co-author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

For some reason, Becks didn’t want anything to do with the book — perhaps it’s jealousy? I don’t know. He just didn’t want me to read a book about the baby.

But yesterday he let me!

And when we got to the part about the baby being inside the uterus — he got all wide-eyed and intrigued. I showed him other illustrations on google images of the baby inside the uterus, and he kept exclaiming, “Baby inside uterus!

For the rest of the day, Becks would climb inside the empty laundry basket with a red blanket wrapped around himself and say, “I’m in a uterus!”

Fer realz.

All day yesterday he was asking everybody to play uterus with him.

“Kiera! Let’s play uterus!”

“Mommy, can we play uterus now?”

Yeah, he may be a little weird (he likes to lick the couch), but he’s a cool kinda weird. And he may not be excited about the baby yet — but at least he’s excited about my uterus!

Love By A Different Name

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Me and Ryan

I really believe that the first born child has it harder than the rest. I guess that doesn’t sound fair to the middle children or the babies — but it’s true.

Oldest babies are the test babies. The ones who have to live through their inept first-time parents’ mistakes. The ones who have to live a life recovering from their parents’ neuroses and anxieties about raising a human being for the first time — a foreign, precious, and terrifying experience. The responsibility of being a parent doesn’t really hit you until you’re holding that helpless creature in your arms and looking into those newborn eyes that encompass endless possibilities.

My boy. My oldest. I made mistakes with him. I had him too young. I wasn’t ready for his amazing, life-altering presence. But I did the best I could.

Now he’s approaching thirteen. He smiles less. He rolls his eyes at me. But he’s still Ryan. Funny. Helpful. Neurotic. Imaginative.

He has a learning disability that makes school a challenge for him. Some nights, his homework is almost unbearable for him. Tears well up in his eyes. “What’s wrong with me?” he says, as he rests his head in his hands in utter defeat.

It breaks my fucking heart. I want him to be happy. To know that my love for him is vaster than a billion universes combined. When I give him hugs, he puts his head on my shoulder — and I know he’s slipping away. Away to that tumultuous, angst-ridden place called teenagerdom. And I don’t want him to leave. Because he’ll see me with new eyes. He’ll see the mistakes I made.

And as he stands on that cusp, I’m about to give birth to my last baby. My last boy. A baby I’m ready for. A baby who’ll have more than Ryan. A baby who (god willing) won’t have to go through some of the difficulties that Ryan went through.

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As I’ve grown older, I’ve become a better parent — more patient and better able to enjoy the moment. I didn’t have that joy and unceasing devotion when I was young. I wasn’t a bad parent; I just wasn’t ready. I was in a perpetual state of impatience, waiting for that next developmental stage, because — god. It sounds awful, but I just wanted Ryan to grow up already. I loved him with ceaseless intensity, but I didn’t know how to enjoy motherhood. And he had to have felt that. I know he felt that.

So now I’m in my thirties. I have a three-year-old and a new little one waiting to make his entrance into this world. And I’m ready and able to give them boundless patience and tenderness. I’m ready to enjoy every moment of their little lives. It’s not fair to Ryan, but as Ryan has grown I’ve become a better mother to him. And that’s something, right?

Damn it. Here I am, not even a week after writing a post on mom guilt, and it’s here staring me in the face. Fucking guilt. But I’m human, and the best I can do is forge forward as a better mother, giving all my children the love they deserve; love by a different name.

I Let A Third Grade Snob Get To Me

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Kiera being her fabulous Kiera self.

My nine year old daughter, Kiera, frequently comes home with a host of tales about a particular girl in her class.

I’ll call her Claire.

Claire is, like, uber fashionable. “So in style,” gushes Kiera.

Kiera was enamored with her at first. Claire is new to the school and just exudes coolness. Apparently. “She’s already soooo popular, mom,” says Kiera. To make things even more interesting, Claire gives Kiera all kinds of fashion and style tips.

“Claire says I have to flip my hair behind behind my shoulders because it looks better that way.”

“Oh my god. Claire has soooo many lip glosses. She showed me. She brought them to school in her backpack.”

“Claire is so into make-up and style, mom. She ALWAYS looks fashionable. That’s ALL she talks about.”

“Claire taught me how to walk like a model today. We sway our hips like this. See?”

Oh my sweet nine year old girl. I told her that Claire focuses too much on looks and that perhaps she (Kiera) should redirect the conversation to other interesting topics. Not that fashion and beauty isn’t fun. I loved that stuff when I was nine. But the focus is a bit excessive. In addition, Kiera started asking for particular clothes because “that’s what Claire’s wearing.”

But then Kiera’s stories started changing.

“Claire told me she wouldn’t be my friend anymore if I didn’t wear my hair up.” She said this as tears filled her big blue eyes.

“Claire was telling me that I look funny today. I don’t think she likes me anymore, mom.”

Then the stories started turning into tear-filled tales of Claire’s dictatorship. Kiera couldn’t even draw something in class without Claire telling her she was doing it wrong. Kiera couldn’t play during recess without Claire pointing out Kiera’s failures. Claire would frequently get in Kiera’s face, boss her around, and declare that Kiera was not a good friend if she didn’t wear her shirt just so.

In short, Kiera was beginning to feel pretty damn inadequate. And Kiera feeling inadequate is a HUGE deal. She is the most enthusiastic, positive-thinking, go-getter that I know. She rarely lets anything get her down. She truly is a happy child — one that typically doesn’t care what people think.

I didn’t feel that these Claire episodes were happening often enough that it required me to get involved. Sometimes you have to sit back and let children navigate friendship struggles. I wanted to encourage Kiera to stand-up for herself. So I continued to encourage her:

“If she gets in your face again, tell her to back off. You can tell her she’s being mean and that you don’t want to play with her.”

“But that’s so hard, mom,” Kiera would say, “If I tell her to go away, she says she doesn’t want to be my friend. And then I start crying!”

“Well, you don’t WANT her to be your friend, Kiera! You’re a good person and you don’t need a mean-spirited person making you sad. By crying, you’re giving her all the power.”

Kiera would stand there silently and nod her head. I could tell she was taking my words in but didn’t quite know what to do with them.

And then.

One morning, Kiera came out of her room wearing an eclectic, colorful outfit — mismatched and odd looking but it somehow fit her personality.

Kiera announced:

I’m tired of all this fashion stuff. I’m just gonna be ME. I’m back to my hippy self. I’m gonna dress how I used to dress. This is me, mom.

With Kiera’s change of heart, the tales of Claire began to diminish. Usually a few weeks go by now before Claire is even mentioned. When Claire IS mentioned, however, it’s still not in a nice way.

This morning Kiera told me the following:

“I told Claire that you used to smoke cigarettes and she says that means you’re a bad parent.”

Ok. No. Uh uh. I don’t think so, CLAIRE.

In my extreme annoyance at this Claire tidbit I said, “Tell Claire she’s talking out of her butt.”

Kiera just stared at me wide-eyed.

Shit. I let a third grader get to me.

“You want me to tell her she’s talking out of her butt?”

“Yes, Kiera. You have my permission.”

She shook her head and smiled in disbelief.

What can I say? Sometimes you need a little third grade mentality to tell a third grade snob to back off.

So there, Claire. I said it. You’re talking out of your butt. 

Now go away.

The Christmas Present Pile-Up: How Much Do You Buy?

I have always been of the idea that Christmas should be an over-indulgent, gaudy, extravagant holiday.

What can I say? I love to give.

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And being from a family that had some financial difficulty while growing up — Christmas was always a fond memory. Why? Because my parents went ALL OUT. We didn’t get a lot throughout the year in the way of toys, and I think my parents tried to make up for it at Christmas. We always had presents spilling out from under the tree and climbing up the walls with the stash slowly progressing out into the middle of the living room. Okay, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but that’s what it looked like to my little girl eyes.

But I’m sure my parents went into debt every Christmas. Looking back, I have no idea how they could have afforded it.

So now I’m an adult with three children — soon to be four — and I STILL have not figured out the best way to do Christmas in terms of gift giving. I just don’t know how to NOT go overboard.

Luckily, we haven’t gone into debt over Christmas — but we definitely spend (and give) too much to our children.

See exhibit A below:

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Above is a picture of Christmas 2011. That picture isn’t even the tip of the iceberg — that’s just one section of the living room. And needless to say, most Christmas’s are like this.

However.

Last Christmas there was hope! I had heard of this brilliant gift-giving philosophy on a parenting forum — and it goes like this:

Something you want. Something you need. Something to wear. Something to read.

I know this gift-giving philosophy is nothing new. But it gave me better gift-giving guidelines to live by during the holidays. Previously, I tried budgeting a certain amount of money per child — but that never worked for me. There was always something else I wanted to purchase — and I would end up going way over-budget.

But this.

These brilliant new guidelines gave me hope.

So last year I tried it.

And I was semi-successful. Did we still buy too much? Yes. Each child definitely got more than four presents a piece. But I feel that we put more thought into what we were purchasing and ended up spending less than previous Christmas’s.

So my question to you is:

How do you reign in your spending for Christmas? Or better yet, how much do you buy per child?

Do you use the guidelines that I mentioned, or do you have a different way of determining what you purchase? I would love to hear your thoughts!

My Top Ten First World Problems

There’s nothing quite like working until midnight followed by an alarm going off at 6:30AM the next morning to get the kids up and ready for a dentist’s  appointment at 8AM. Who was the genius who scheduled that appointment at such an ungodly hour?

That would be me.

I’m so tired right now. And I’m annoyed at everything.

So here’s a top ten list of my annoyances today. Otherwise known as — my top ten list of my domestic first world problems.

1. Going into the kitchen to unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning — only to find that whoever loaded the dishwasher the night before, put cookie sheets in front of the soap dispenser. Therefore the soap dispenser did not open.  Therefore the dishes were still dirty. Therefore the dishwasher needed to be run again.

2. The kitchen trashcan. I guess when I’m at work, everybody thinks it’s okay to let the house go to shit. Because that trashcan was overflowing like a fountain. Like a fountain of fucking trash. And this particular fountain wasn’t pretty.

3. Laundry. My awesome in-laws were here for a week, and when they left, they folded up their dirty towels and sheets and stacked them neatly by the washer. Nice, right? Well my husband who likes to do things in a hurry, decided to throw them in the wash. Completely folded. So when I went to switch the laundry over, I came across wet folded sheets and towels in the washer. Therefore they didn’t get clean. Therefore I had to run the washer again.

4. Hot water heater. Dirty clothes. Dirty clothes piled up against the hot water heater in the laundry room.

What. The. Fuck.

House fire, anyone?

5. This didn’t happen today, but yesterday I found popcorn kernels in the garbage disposal. A few dozen of them. I guess somebody thought it would be a good idea to rinse their popcorn bowl and wash the kernels down the drain? I guess? And did I mention that we JUST had the garbage disposal fixed?

6.  Raccoons. Raccoons got into the trash cans in the backyard. You know why? Because we don’t have trash can lids! They’re broken — because we bought cheap trash cans. So this morning we had trash all over the back yard. Good times, right?

7. Smoke alarm. And this is SO fucking unsafe. My dear husband removes the smoke alarm whenever it goes off. And the only time it ever goes off is when he’s cooking.  So he just takes the whole thing off the ceiling so he doesn’t have to hear it. Then he forgets to put it back. And half the time I don’t realize it’s not there. So a few days will go by and then I’ll notice that our smoke alarm is not in place. Can we say danger? Can we say death by fire?

And I just want to add that my husband is amazing. Just a bit forgetful. Forgetful in a potentially dangerous way, but still a fabulous person. And I’ll love him forever as long as our children don’t die in a house fire.

8. Clothes. Everywhere. I can never find anything to wear. Who’s fault is that? Mine. I know this. How does this happen? I put my folded laundry on my bed with every intention of putting it away later. Then when I’m going to bed I’m confronted with a pile of folded laundry that I really don’t feel like putting away. So what do I do? Throw ’em on the floor. Like a teenager.

Wait. No. When I was a teenager I slept under my clothes on the bed. Hey! At least I’m making progress — 20 years later.

9. Getting a notice in the mail from the bank that our car payment is late when IT ISN’T. We paid it and have the receipt, but now we have to go to the bank and show the receipt and blah, blah, blah and go through more bullshit to prove we paid it.

10. It’s a gorgeous day outside and I really can’t find anything else to complain about at this time.

And as I was writing number ten, the power went out. I’m not kidding.

The week can only get better, right?

P.S. — I know I’m being a whiny little bitch.

The Alpha Parent Shows Me The Error Of My Ways

I wanted to bestow upon you this image that I came across on thealphaparent.com.

It’s a gem.

chips.jpg

It’s pretty amazing, huh?

Amazingly fucked up.

First of all, the image is not original or creative. It’s one of the lactivists most frequent comparisons: Formula as fast food.  Formula as junk food. Formula, essentially, as poison.

I haven’t read very much of The Alpha Parent blog. It’s pretty hard to stomach — my pregnancy is making me nauseated enough.

But I did come across this gem from 2011 titled: Why the way you feed your baby is MY business.  I know, right? A typical, blatant, mean-girl title that’s meant to garner as much attention as possible.

Well unfortunately, this title caught my attention.

I will summarize her blog post for you. Because it’ll be fun.

The way you feed your baby is HER business BECAUSE:

1. If you use formula, you’re saying YES to dead babies in developing countries. Because these evil formula companies (and I acknowledge that they’re not very ethical — they ARE big business after-all) force their food on the poor, illiterate women who end up mis-using the formula. Tragic and awful? YES. Is it prevalent enough for me to go through even more agony so I can provide breast milk that only has marginal benefits compared to formula? NO.

And if this is a major concern for you, research your formula companies. Or go for local formula companies such as Vermont Organics infant formula.

2. She finds the way I feed my baby offensive because she cares about all the diseases/illnesses/bacteria he will acquire from such junk food.

As I don’t use formula you may wonder why I’m troubled by this. However just because I did not give birth to the children suffering or put at risk because of formula feeding, this does not prevent me from feeling compassion for them. I find it short-sighted and self-centred that people expect me to care only for children to whom I have a genetic link.

Essentially — she cares about my children more than I do.  Because I put them at risk by formula feeding. By the way, I’m still waiting for my almost three year old to get an ear-infection from all the formula I gave him.

Yeah, still waiting.

Waiting.

Oh, nothing yet? Okay, well now I’ll wait for another (insert horrible disease here.) In the mean time, I’ll cry myself to sleep every night because she cares about my children more than I do.

3. Formula feeding mothers are ruining the environment. I’m honestly just too tired to deal with this one. That must mean I don’t care about the environment. I hate myself!

4. If you use formula, you’re not a feminist.

Excuse me while I have a laughing fit.

Okay, I’m done.

Consider her far-reaching reasoning:

Furthermore, a common conception of formula is that it aids a woman’s economic mobility through strengthening her role in the workplace. She is no longer tied to a dependant infant and can instead pass a bottle of formula to grandma and return to being economically active. However this perceived benefit is negated by the fact that formula fed children are significantly more likely to fall ill, and numerous studies have shown that a child’s illness commonly results in the mother rather than the father taking time off work (Journal of Early ChildhoodWeimer.JNursery WorldMother and Baby;Working Mums Magazine). Thus when a woman is taking more time off work she is seen as a burden by her employer. This does not strengthen the role of women in the workplace. Consequently women of childbaring age are viewed as liabilities. This is not to mention the strain on employers caused by their employees sick children results in lower incomes for working families, thus reducing income tax revenues which pay for government programs and services that benefit everyone.

So I’m trying to understand what she’s saying here. Is she saying women should just stay home and nurse their babies to further the women’s lib movement? Or we should be chained to breast-pumps to mitigate any illnesses that MIGHT happen? I have an interesting piece of anecdotal evidence (yes I know this is not considered “real” evidence), but my two breastfed children had far more illnesses than my formula fed child. My daughter who was exclusively breastfed, had numerous ear infections as an infant and toddler.

Dear Alpha Parent — perhaps just the act of bearing children is considered a liability — not HOW they’re fed.

So, in essence, you must feed your babies through your bleeding, cracked nipples to prove that you’re not a slave to formula companies. This makes you a strong, independent woman!

Thanks for your concern, Alpha Parent!

5. By formula feeding my child, the Alpha Parent is concerned that I’m contributing to the puritanical idea that breasts are strictly sexual and not for breastfeeding — that breastfeeding women shouldn’t nurse in public. I’m kind of flattered that she thinks that I’m contributing to all these problems — and to my country’s distorted view of breasts. I think Alpha Parent needs to take a deep look at herself and wonder if maybe — just maybe — part of this backlash of nursing in public is related to the lactivists smug, self-congratulatory, mean-girl status — and their scathing judgement on those who don’t breastfeed.

By the way, I think nursing in public is awesome and should be done more often.

6.  She’s concerned about my child’s intelligence. She’s worried he’ll be stupid or some such shit.

The following quote is pretty hysterical:

But why do I care about the IQ of other people’s children? As formula feeding lowers the IQ of the population, this means less scientific advancements. We’re talking about cures for cancers and other diseases, new amenities, new technologies, strategies to combat global warming, and so on.

Ah yes, the Baby Boomer generation produced nothing but dunces — no scientists, literary geniuses, lawyers, politicians, mathematicians, doctors, etc, came out of that generation — all because most of them were formula fed.

7. I’m more likely to abuse my child because I use formula. Apparently. Or something like that. You know, because I don’t care about my child.

But Alpha Parent cares. She cares more than me.

8. My formula feeding choice effects Alpha Parent because I’m producing the spawn of satan. Essentially — my child will be the next Charles Manson — or something along those lines.

9.  My baby is going to get her baby sick. And she cares about that because it effects other children as well. Pretty soon my baby will be getting everybody sick. It’s gonna be like that movie Contagion up in here, folks!

10. She cares that my child will be getting colds and the flu or some such shit. Because breast-fed babies don’t ever get sick, remember?

11. Giving my children formula means that I’m uneducated and will continue to have babies, perpetuating the cycle of poverty in this country. Maybe she’s right! I AM having my fourth child after all.

12. She’s concerned that formula fed babies are going to take all the doctors away from her children.

13. Apparently she thinks I’m anti-breastfeeding, and that I’m hurting other women’s chance at breastfeeding successfully. I won’t dignify this accusation with a response.

14. My child is a drain on the medical community.

And hilariously, Alpha Parent concludes with this:

Just to clarify, I fully defend a woman’s right to chose how she feeds her baby IF that choice is fully informed, free from bias and backed up with adequate support…

I find this statement laughable after she lambasted all formula feeding mothers for being uneducated, selfish, and anti-feminist.

Sigh.

But, whatever.

Excuse me while I tend to my suffering, wasteful, unintelligent, abused, juvenile delinquent, germ-infested, medical doctor hogging offspring. I have a lot of work ahead of me to “fix” my children so they can be contributing members of society.

Thanks, Alpha Parent, for showing me the error of my ways.