Archive for the 'Kids' Category

Life Balance: What to Do with the Kids in the Summertime?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I have a confession to make: I’m a lousy self-pimper. Here I am, turning out (what I hope are) high quality posts on the CareOne Life Balance blog, week after week, yet I’m not sharing them with you, my adoring public. Let me begin to rectify that damage now with this:

3 Ways to Keep Your Kids from Driving You Crazy this Summer

(Foreshadowing: child labor!)

Please do enjoy it. And note this: the good folks at CareOne have now made it much easier to leave comments there — no registration required — so I would love to have your feedback on that page.

Thank you — thank you all.

Photo by Nina Matthews.

Advice to new parents.

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Because some of my friends are in this category — or are about to be — I offer three very basic pieces of advice. These are drawn from some things that I believe my wife and I have done best in our lives as parents.

1. Be aggressively solicitous of each other’s needs. I would hope that you would automatically cut each other a lot of slack when Baby comes along — and I’m especially looking at the dads here — but I’m telling you that you should cut each other even more slack than you think could possibly be reasonable.

Dads: Internalize the reality that you have no idea what Mom is going through — physically, mentally, emotionally, and every-which-way. Not really, you don’t.
So if Mom says something that sounds ridiculous, or gets short with you for reasons you can’t discern, or asks you to do something completely beyond the pale . . . just go ahead and assume that she has a very good reason for it. That reason might translate to “Our little bundle of needs joy is DRIVING ME CRAZY.” Or it might be, “You know that ‘last nerve’ that I’ve mentioned before? You’re treading on it, heavily, right now.”

Clue in, and remind yourself of all the wonderful reasons why you chose this woman to be the mother of your children.

Moms: Yes, you’re doing the lion’s share of the work — and we all admire the heck out of you for it. But remember that Dad didn’t stop loving you when you gave birth. Anything you can do to refresh your memory and his that you love each other, like each other, and enjoy each other’s company will be welcome.

Also, please do not assume that all the ramifications of new-mom-hood are obvious to Dad. He’ll probably need to have some things spelled out to him; please spell them out gently.

2. Set a reasonable bedtime for the kid and stick to it, come Hell or high water. Sure, you’ll need a little flexibility about this, especially with newborns. And as your kids get older and need slightly less sleep, you can be reasonable when you permanently reset bedtime for half an hour later. But in general, take it as a given that YOU will establish a certain bedtime to which the child WILL adhere — seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

A couple of reasons for this:

  • Bad sleeping habits are bad for Baby. Kids need LOTS of sleep EVERY night so that their little brains can mature properly, and simply so that they can get through tomorrow on an even keel. Don’t short them — and especially don’t short them just because you’re too much of a wimp to enforce a given bedtime.
  • Bad sleeping habits for Baby can ruin things for everyone else. This applies to siblings, but it especially applies to Mom and Dad. While it’s a moot point for most couples during the first several weeks after Baby arrives, at some point Mom and Dad are going to remember that they once found each other physically attractive. Even before that point, it’s going to be a huge benefit if Mom and Dad can sit on the couch together to talk about the day and maybe share a glass of wine. This needs to happen without Baby around. Don’t let the child’s bad sleeping habits — which YOU control — drive a wedge between the grown-ups.
  • Kids need limits. I would hope this one doesn’t need a lot of explaining, though unfortunately I’ve seen plenty of parents who don’t seem to be familiar with this concept.

3. Don’t contradict each other openly if front of the children. Especially about decisions that affect the children. Your little angel might be the sweetest child in human history . . . but she’ll still leap into the breach and exploit any dissension between you the moment you openly undermine each other about what goes or doesn’t go.

If you tell your child “No sweets today” or “Yes, you can watch t.v. after dinner” or “Go to your room!” . . . that’s what’s happening, period. If your spouse doesn’t like it, the two of you should definitely take it up with each other — but away from the child. If I lay down the law on something like this and my wife takes it up with me later, it’s easy for me to come back to the child and say, e.g., “Mommy told me you haven’t had anything sweet for two whole days. I didn’t realize that. So we’ve decided it’s okay for you to have some ice cream today.” But spouses shouldn’t undermine each other.

I’m not saying that your daughter should never see the two of you have a difference of opinion, but that she should expect to meet a unified front when it comes to setting boundaries for her. Otherwise, it’s inevitable that a tug-of-war will unfold, with the child plus one parent pulling against the other parent. This is a terrible habit to form — terrible for all parties. Beyond that, it makes parenting, which is already hard enough, even more difficult.

Bonus tip for achieving #3: Repeat after me:

Did you ask your mother about that? . . . What did she say?

And then, when the child says, “She said No,” you say,

“Then why did you think I would say something different? Mommy already told you No — that’s the end of it.”

Believe it, live it, and practice it until these answers are automatic and authoritative.


I honestly think that these three points, rigorously applied, could save many new parents from untold hardships.

And now . . . audience involvement! Prospective parents, new parents, and veteran parents — what do you think of this advice? What would you add?


(Photo by Bridget Coila, used under a CC-Share Alike license.)

An insight from my son, age 9, on his first cinematic exposure to Middle Earth.

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

“I wish this was real, only without the wars and bloodshed and stuff.”

Well, yeah. Welcome to the club, kid.

You may envy me . . . NOW.

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

And WHY?

Because I have a preview copy of Chris Barton‘s next book . . .


. . . Shark vs. Train on my desk — and you don’t.


P.S. It’s awesome!

Can we return to the garden of childhood?

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

A few days ago I had an exchange on Twitter with Andrea Gillies, an author who has written a memoir of her experience caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother-in-law. (Among her other fine qualities, Andrea is, like me, an alum of the University of St Andrews.) I was intrigued when she posted this:

That’s what we miss about being children. Living in the present, concerned only with the immediate and trivial past and future. How glorious.

I replied:

Amen. I’m trying to relearn living-in-the-present from my children.

Then she said:

Don’t think we can relearn it. Once we’re out of the garden, we’re out. Would love nothing more than to be proven wrong, though.

Now I ask you to consider these questions:

  • Can we shed, even temporarily, our grownup worries about the future and regrets of the past so that we once again enjoy the un-self-consciousness of children?
  • If so, how?

What do you think?


(Photo via Marjon Kruik, used under a Creative Commons license.)

Redneck Mother is wise.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Her wisdom comes from hard experience. Read what she has to say about choosing to raise her boys without giving in to her fears — or the fears of others:

Being alive — from my perspective as an American suburbanite not suffering through famine or war — is a lucky break, a privilege not to be pissed away on petty fears. […]

I bit back what I wanted to say [to another mother], which was that her fear was not my child’s problem, […] and that I think it’s a straight-up sin to instill a fear of the everyday in a child.

Rock on, Redneck Mother.

Commonplace: Millionaire.

Friday, February 29th, 2008

“I asked my mother, what should I teach my kids? She said don’t teach them anything, just give them lots of supplies.”

–Tony Millionaire

(via Austin Kleon)

Kevin Kelly on “Subterranean Tutoring”.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

All you parents of youngsters — especially if you participate in roll-your-own education of said youngsters — please give this a read:

Subterranean Tutoring

. . .

That’s why the call for a geeky dad is to do stuff — often  by ourselves — because we enjoy it. Even if the kids don’t join in. I may start something with my son in the hope he’ll get the bug, but I’ve learned to keep going even if he doesn’t. I make stuff because I love to, and because it is also subterranean tutoring. Kids don’t miss much. When tinkering is part of the household pattern, that pattern gets set in a unconscious level. When tools are ever present, there’s permission to make a mess. When parents are making, making is cool. Mistakes are common, no big deal, you fix them.  More than you’ll ever know, kids are watching. They don’t need to weld to get it.

. . .

Consider this my pledge to do more of this in my own life with my own kids.

Attention homeschoolers!

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

This looks useful.

Feedback welcome.

Kids sing the darndest things.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

So many songs are much funnier, when you’re seven years old, when you replace key lyrics with “your bottom” or “in your bottom” or . . . well, really anything-“your bottom.”

Just an observation.