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By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
As I've mentioned before, I have a hard time distinguishing between what's right for me and what's right for my daughter.
I've been battling this question. Sometimes I think I get it right; sometimes not.
On Mother's Day, I heard Margaret crying in the bathroom as her dad combed her hair. This is a daily occurence. She hates getting detangled, but in my view, it's got to be done.
If it were up to her, she'd happily walk around with a wild rat's nest. She has thin, fine hair that is prone to tangle and if often adorned with leaves and grass (Mar's a tomboy dressed in pink).
I've threatened to cut her hair if she didn't acquiese to the daily combings more readily. The threat never worked and recently she's begun lately saying, "Good. I want my hair cut like Aleise's."
Ever so slowly, I realized that she had long hair because her dad and I wanted her to have long hair — not because she did.
So, Sunday I brought my scissors into the bathroom and said, "I'm gonna cut it."
Bill said, "No." Mar said, "Yes."
Mar got what she wanted — six inches cut off the bottom while I muttered to myself, "She doesn't like it long. It doesn't look good. She cries when we comb it." over and over again.
She loves it. I think it's cute and her dad can live with it (secretly he's more than pleased with how easy it is to comb in the mornings).
It was the right thing to do. We got it right this time, but what about the harder questions?
When is the right time to let her make her own decisions and when do I step in and guide her?
What is non-negotiable? When should I bend?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Let’s just get right to the tough subjects. Sex and my 14-year-old son. Not that the two have anything in common yet. Oh please God let that be true.
I mean sex and how to talk about it with your kid. I don’t mean the “birds and the bees?. Did that years ago and I•m pretty darn proud of how we both handled it. I just plowed through the more graphic, technical details and he only said “that’s disgusting? once.
So now that we have the technicalities out of the way, it leaves the really important stuff to talk about. Like why he should never, ever •do it?. (And let me just be clear right up front that the first girl who touches my son in a more than let•s-be-friends kind of way better know how to run a lot faster than a speeding bullet.)
I’ve read several books on how to talk to your kid about sex and why waiting until you’re like at least 35 to have sex is a good idea. But give me a break. The suggested dialogues in these books assume that the kid you’re raising has lived in a cave on some other planet, has never left that cave and never will.
I recently drove my kid to practice where the girls’ sports team was warming up on the adjacent field. My son made some comment about the girls doing his “favorite stretch?. I was momentarily speechless and then launched into a lecture about how God did not put females on this earth for the sole pleasure of males to ogle, and that I fully expect him to treat girls with respect and admiration and how girls really find that kind of comment quite degrading. In return I got the most-often-performed-teenage maneuver, the double eyeball roll. This is where my son rolls his eyeballs not just one time around but twice in disbelief that he could actually be related to someone as completely idiotic as me. And then says, •Not the girls I know.? For crying out loud! That•s a topic for another day. Stay tuned all you mothers of teenage girls!
That was my first experience of my son making an overtly teenage male comment. I discussed it with my S.O. who comforted me be saying only half-jokingly that my son’s only mistake was to make the comment within my earshot. Great.
The struggle to instill in my son the importance on so many levels of waiting a really long time to engage in any and all sexual contact is just beginning and will continue for years to come. For now though, I make it clear that the most important reason of all to avoid sex is that it’s the number one cause of having children.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, May 15, 2006
Just for the sake of getting conversation rolling, I propose the question: “Should babies watch TV??
My initial reaction to this question is indubitably NO and I would assume that would be the popular answer.
But, it appears others would disagree, like subscribers to the new BabyFirstTV. For only $9.99 a month, DirecTV subscribers can order this new channel marketed specifically for babies here
I just finished watching some of the promo video on the website. I gotta say, I think babies WOULD like it. But whether or not they should be watching or if parents should be plunking down their children in front of Nanny Tellie (so momma can have a glass of wine?) remains to be debated.
And, if I had to watch that rainbow horse paint color on clothes for more than 30 seconds I think WOULD have to have a little nip of gin.
According to this article
, Sharon Rechter, executive vice president of the network said •The fact of life is that babies are already watching TV?, and you know I agree with her.
I left my 3-month-old on the living floor with his legs pointed away from the tube just for a second to grab a diaper. When I returned, he had turned his head to a break-neck angle and his eyes were transfixed. Apparently he has a blossoming interest in Drain-O.
But, a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics said that babies under two shouldn•t be watching TV at all.
So, what do you think? If your secret indulgence is popping a Cinderella DVD into your kids’ Barbie TV before bed, I’d like to know. If you think television watching is a deadly sin, tell me why. Or if you just have a suggestion for a nice merlot, well, I’d take that too.
By Robin Dearing
Sunday, May 14, 2006
This ran as a column in The Daily Sentinel on opinion page May 14. Happy Mother's Day, mom.
“I’m the worst mother ever,? I muttered over and over to myself as I raced to pick up my kindergartener. Margaret had been on a field trip to Moon Farm and needed to be picked up at a different time than normal. I had forgotten.
•What kind of mother forgets her own kid?? I asked myself.
Certainly not my own mom • she would never have forgotten. She was always ready to shuttle my brother and me around to various practices, games and band concerts.
I can never remember her not being there for me … ever.
Shirley Dearing, is everything that I’m not: calm, sensible and dependable. She is shy around new people, but she is quick-witted and always willing to make the best out of any situation.
When I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter, I called my mom in a panic. “I can’t become a mother yet. I don’t know everything like you do,? I cried. She laughed at my realization and told me that I should be able to figure out what I don•t already know. I was fishing for more assurance, but my mom is not that type of lady. She always believed that you grew strongest when standing on your own two feet.
I remember as a child losing at games like “Sorry? and •Life.? When I pouted, I got no consolation. •The fun is in playing the game,? she•d say. She never let me win at anything. If I wanted to win, I had to learn how to play to the fullest of my abilities.
She’s right, there’s no glory in getting carried across the finish line.
My mom is chock full of common sense, but she is never really one to tell you what to do. If she had concerns about someone I was dating, she would never say so. Instead she would make subtle comments that would draw attention to things that I was overlooking in my youthful zeal.
As I grew out of my angst-filled teenage years, I began to see my mom as a great ally. Through my college years, I worked with her at the family business and it was then that we became great friends. Even though we now live 800 miles apart, she’s been my most constant friend and a source of support that I couldn’t imagine being without.
The one trait that I envy in her (and one that doesn’t exist in me at all) is her stoicism. While I’m prone to dissolve into a pool of tears after watching a Hallmark commercial, she rarely lets her emotions get the best of her.
Never was this more apparent than when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last spring.
Once she got over the initial shock and fear of knowing that her body had turned on her, she said with the grace and ease that define her character, “This is not going to kill me.?
And it didn•t. She suffered through 4 months of chemotherapy, losing her hair, as well as two mastectomies (they didn’t decide to take the second breast until after the first surgery).
This was followed by radiation therapy, which required her to drive 45 minutes each way daily for numerous weeks. Toward the end of her treatments, her daily excursions included trips to the local hospital to visit my father, who has been suffering from heart disease for many years.
When I would talk to her on the phone, she would list the treatments she had already had and count down the ones that still remained without drama or complaint.
I, on the other hand, would sob over the injustice of it all. Lament that I couldn’t be there to help my mom. Rage over the fact that she was sick at all.
Now she is cancer free and well on the road to a full recovery — all is just as she said it would be.
So now, as I wonder what she might say when I tell her that I forgot my daughter at kindergarten, I realize that being a good mother isn’t about being perfect.
It’s about being strong for yourself and your family. It’s about realizing your strengths and exploiting them. It’s about acknowledging your weaknesses and working to overcome them. And, most importantly, it’s about teaching your children to do the same.
Robin Dearing is assistant to the publisher of The Daily Sentinel and co-author of the “Haute Mamas? blog on GJSentinel.com.
Friday, May 12, 2006
There is no better smell than a newborn baby’s head. Really – the next time you’re lucky enough to snuggle up to a baby, your own or someone else’s, breathe in that smell. I really think that there are pockets in heaven that smell the same way.
I loved when my son was a baby and I could just hold him and breathe him in. It wasn’t so much the Johnson’s baby soap, or baby wipes, or other less pleasant baby smells that were so maternally appealing. It was just the smell of my child himself. They say that mother and baby cows recognize each other by their smell and I think that humans are the same way.
I could tell where my son had been just by his smell. He smelled of the outdoors, or school, or daycare. Never unpleasant, just recognizable. As he grew to his pre-teen years, I was definitely glad that AXE body spray was invented. And now sometimes the scent of AXE lingers in the house like a cloud long after Alex has left for school. Still, his own signature scent hasn’t left him. It’s just stronger and different now. And yes, admittedly, sometimes teenage boys are just plain stinky.
Last weekend my son had some friends over and they spent the better part of the afternoon patrolling the neighborhood for any girls that might have moved in overnight that they didn’t yet know about. When they came back to the house and proceeded to eat and drink for thirty minutes straight, they really smelled. Not especially good, but not bad either. Just teenage boy kind of scent. Like elk marking trees during the fall rut.
I came home last night after a three-day business trip. It was about 11:00 p.m. and my son was sound asleep. I quietly opened the door to his room, tip-toed to his bed and hovered over him. I bent down and put my face close to his and just breathed in that smell. I couldn’t help it. I had missed it. Pockets of heaven.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, May 11, 2006
This will be my first Mother’s Day, and all I really want is a good laugh.
My son hasn’t laughed yet.
Once I thought he laughed, but when I looked at his face it was completely blank. A good laugh should include a big toothless baby smile.
His dad and I have tried everything, but still we can’t win even the littlest chuckle out of him.
We’ve performed duets of his favorite song, which is “Fairytales? by Ella Fitzgerald and the Delta Rhythm Boys. Our rendition includes synchronized snapping fingers and hip swinging choreography. He smiles HUGE but not a sound accompanies it. I•ll admit, we can’t sing very well, but that should make it even funnier right?
We fly him like an eagle while singing a little Steve Miller Band. He rides the knee horse complete with clip-clop sound effects. We watch sit-coms and let out big belly laughs so he’ll hear what a happy household should sound like.
Now, my husband has started juggling for him. He loves to watch his dad throw the bright colored juggling balls in the air. His dad can even juggle one handed while he does a little Jack Black rock-star style dance…and still nothing.
I can’t wait for him to giggle.
When it finally happens, I know it will make me laugh and cry at the same time, the way only a mother can.
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
I think it’s important to talk to your kid about current events. First of all, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear their opinions and thoughts on a variety of topics. And occasionally you might actually agree with them. At the very least, it’s a great chance to tell them why their opinions are wrong.
In our house, current events and politics are an almost daily topic of discussion. Last night I decided to give my son a pop quiz on his rudimentary knowledge of our state and federal “political system.? Try this with your own kid or any adult for that matter and see how well they do.
•Alex – who’s the President of the United States??
•Very funny. Today’s President.?
Okay • so far he’s outperformed close to 45% of the population.
“Secretary of Defense??
Now he•s outperformed probably 70% of the population.
“Secretary of State??
•Ummmmmm. . .?
•Connnn . . “
•Very good son! Now tell me who our state representatives are.?
•Josh Penry and some guy who has a weird last name I can’t pronounce.?
•That would be Bernie Buescher. Okay, name one of our United States Senator??
•Wayne . . . .?
Hey • I’ll bet he’s still in the 90th percentile. I went on to ask him the differences between the platforms of Republicans and Democrats and he discussed their stances on abortion, taxes, the war in Iraq, welfare, the role of government in general and a couple other topics. Wow! The kid’s been paying attention. I also asked him how he thought the government handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, his thoughts on nuclear proliferation in Iran and border control. In each case I was delighted to hear his responses and smiled to myself that he’s on the right (wing) track.
My point is that you ought to talk to your kids about this stuff. You want them to understand the issues. Someday they’ll be voting on important topics like whether or not to cut off your social security benefits. It’s our job as parents to teach our kids how to think through issues and develop informed opinions.
By Robin Dearing
Monday, May 8, 2006
Somehow I managed to live some 30-odd years without ever perusing the 1922 children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit.
One of my mothers-in-law gave my now 5-year-old daughter a copy of this classic by Margery Williams.
For a bedtime story, it’s a bit long. We started it several times only for Margaret to lose interest once the character the Skin Horse starts extolling advice to the Velveteen Rabbit.
But now that she’s institutionalized (i.e., in kindergarten), she’s willing to have us read a portion of a longer book each night before bed.
One Sunday night her dad read the first half of the book and I sat down that Monday evening to finish the tale. I was actually looking forward to finding out what happens to the demure fuzzy sack o’ sawdust.
Despite the fact that the story ends with the Velveteen Rabbit turning into a real rabbit, it is no feel good story. Margaret and I were both in tears.
Yes, we may both be a tad bit over sensitive, but what the heck is up with this story? The Velveteen Rabbit gets put into the burn barrel because the quack of a doctor decides he’s full of scarlet fever germs. The burn barrel, for Pete’s sake.
The gentle boy loved the Velveteen Rabbit. The Velveteen Rabbit wanted to become real — not a pile of ash and glass eyes.
Margaret was disturbed by many things in this story. First, was the idea that beloved stuffed animals got old and worn and their eyes will fall out.
She kept wailing over the fact that her own Bunny was going to get old and his eyes would fall out.
Now the alternate title for “The Velveteen Rabbit? is •How Toys Become Real.? Yeah, I•ve got a better one: “How to Make your Kid a Complete Obsessive Freak.?
Margaret is now horrified by the idea that any of her kajillion stuffed animals will get old and then sent to the horrific death of being burnt at the stake.
She wants to keep them all forever. For. Ever.
In the past, I•ve culled the herd of free-range stuffed animals that live in Margaret’s room for time to time. Not any more.
To Ms. Margery Williams, I say: “Thanks a whole bunch, lady!? Now my kid is going to go through life with a boxes of pristine stuffed animals that she•ll never be able to touch for fear of wearing them out and can’t get rid of either because they’ll end up in some hellish land of hosed up stuff animals.
Margaret’s gonna end up one of those freaky chicks with weird collections that take up all her closet space. No one will date her except those sunless creatures who spend all their time buying memorabilia on eBay for sports they never actually play.
Then she’ll likely marry one of those people and he’ll catch a heart attack from all the Arby’s beef ‘n’ cheddar sandwiches he shoves in his piehole all day long, leaving her alone with her hosed-up stuffed animal collections and a load of Mookie Williams’ rookie cards and Jason Kidd sneakers.
I’m gonna make my kid watch more TV.
Friday, May 5, 2006
Obviously you’ve the seen the photo accompanying this blog and it includes my son’s picture. Since he had to be in a photo, I was forced to confess to him that I was writing the blog. Here’s a reenactment of how that unfolded.
Scene 1. Me arriving home from work to find son in his usual position on the sofa watching Battlestar Galactica on the sci-fi channel. Son is surrounded by a mostly empty bag of Doritos, pizza crusts, orange rinds and a giant glass of some blue colored liquid.
Me: “Son, I need to talk to you about something important so when you can give me your undivided attention please let me know.?
Son: immediately switches off TV.
•Whatever it is, I didn’t do it.?
Me: smugly happy that Catholic guilt has its advantages.
•Actually, I’m writing a blog at work, and you’re the topic. Do you know what a blog is??
Son: •No idea.?
So I explain to him what it is, and why we•re doing it, blah, blah, blah.
Me: “I wanted you to know about it because I’ll be writing about you and the things you say and do. Are you okay with it??
Son: •Yeah, sure?
Me: •Cool! We’re meeting the other moms and their kids tomorrow to have our pictures taken.?
Son: •For what??
Me: •To use on the website for the blog.?
Son: by now the master of two-word responses
Me: •Come on, you’ll be famous!?
Son: •How much??
Me: •Twenty bucks.?
Son: •Okay, fine.?
Now I just gotta figure out how to expense that.
Scene 2. Lincoln Park. Other moms and kids are there. So is Gretel who has spent a long day photographing exploding poop bombs. Son and I are last to arrive, running late because son broke the no-kids-in-the-house-when-I•m-not home-unless-you-have-my-permission rule and is not happy with the consequences. He is now pulling a pout meant to embarrass me.
We proceed getting our pictures taken with (most) everyone having a good time.
Me: “Gretel, let’s see the pictures.?
Gretel shows us the pictures and we all agree we look great.
Me: •I can’t tell if my son is smiling.?
Gretel: •I don’t think he smiled in any of them.?
Son: •Twenty bucks??
Me: •You’re not smiling!?
Son: •Okay, ten.?
At least that•ll be easier to expense.