Category Archives: parenting

Caving on Cell Phones

Oh, the stupid things that my friends and I used to say before having kids. Things like . . .

“Even though you traveled more than 1,000 miles to come to my wedding, you must leave your baby with a sitter you’ve never met before.”

and . . .

“We’re going to go out every Saturday night just like we do now.”

You’d think we’d learn. But no, ridiculous statements keep flying out of our mouths prior to every age our children reach. We judge others before we ever walk in their shoes. Hence, my “better-than-though” belief of “can you believe they got their 10 year old a cell phone?”

Of course, as my daughter has now reached that age and will go off to middle school next year where my husband can no longer easily check on her (he teaches at her elementary school), I’m rapidly reconsidering the error of my ways.

And maybe I will have research on my side. A new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Networked Families, found “cell phones allow family members to stay more regularly in touch even when they are not physically together.”

The authors write: “Parents and spouses are using the internet and cell phones to create a ‘new connectedness’ that builds on remote connections and shared internet experiences.”

It’s definitely true for my mother and me. In the craziness of the day—getting kids to school, working all day, dinner, post dinner time with kids, exercise, etc.—getting in phone calls is difficult. But, with my cell phone I can easily talk to my mom while commuting to work. We definitely talk more frequently because of it.

Alas, maybe it’s not all good news for younger kids though. In reacting to the research, Amy Hatch posted the following over at the Celebrity Baby blog. “My kids aren’t old enough to have cell phones, but when they are, I don’t know how often I would check in. My folks didn’t keep tabs on me 24/7, and it fostered a sense of independence. The last thing I want to do is become a helicopter parent. I’m all for connectedness, but how much is too much?”

This is a good point. But I must admit that I’d take comfort in knowing that I could get in touch with my daughter if I needed to—it doesn’t mean that I have to.

Apparently a lot of people feel this way. In my search for more information, I found the work of James E. Katz. He’s a professor of communication at Rutgers’ School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, and he’s done a lot of research in this area. He notes:

Parents think they can reach kids any time they want, and thus are more indulgent of their children’s wanderings. Children exploit this longer leash, traveling farther afield and taking bigger risks. Not only are parents relinquishing direct supervision of their children, tech-savvy kids are finding all kinds of ways to use wireless technology as a kind of parent filter. The standard excuse of choice among the sneaking-home-after-midnight set, “My car ran out of gas,” is being replaced by, “My cell phone battery went dead.

Uh oh—back to square one! What do you make of all of this?


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Maybe they really do listen

If I were president . . . this was the prompt for my 5th grader’s morning writing assignment in school.

If I were president . . .

I would let kids after taking a test to prove they knew the candidates and what they stood for to be allowed to vote. I would do this because the president and the things he does affects our lives too.

I would also make the school lunch menus more healthy with things like salad options and meat that isn’t hamburger and hot dogs. I would do this because being healthy is very important.

I would do whatever I could to stop the multiple genocides in Africa. Haven’t they suffered enough? If it was happening here wouldn’t we want someone to help us? So why shouldn’t they? To help I would try convince China to stop helping Sudan.

If I were president I would make it my lifetime struggle to make the world a better place.

This brought tears to my eyes. Aside from the beauty of what she writes; She actually processes what I say.

This is a child who turns her nose up at all vegetables; begs for chips and hot dogs and candy; and fights every step of the way about eating healthy. Yet, she obviously hears my reasoning and thinks it valid.

I’ve taken her to several marches, including one in DC related to Darfur. I want her to learn that she needs to speak up when she sees something wrong. Perhaps these experiences have made an impact.

My anecdotal experiences seem to bear out in research. For example, one study says “adolescents who perceive that both parents would respond negatively and be upset by their smoking are less likely to smoke.” Another study says “Encouraging parents . . to discuss smoking-related issues with their children in a constructive and respectful manner is worth exploring as an intervention strategy to prevent young people taking up smoking.

And goodness know there have been tons of PSAs on the topic of talking to kids about a range of high-risk behaviors.

And there are some classics dealing with drug abuse.

So I will think of her writing the next time she rolls her eyes at me, stomps up the stairs, or gives me the “mom!” in that tone that all mothers of daughter have heard. Somewhere in there, she must actually be listening.


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Mommy . . . can I get in bed with you?

Mommy . . . can I get in bed with you? Can we cuddle?

I love and hate these words. My 6 year-old probably comes in a once or twice a week in the wee, wee hours of the morning, walking all the way around the bed to my side, tapping gently next to me and whispering this age-old question.

I love that he still wants to cuddle—and he is so snuggly. However, I also thought I left interrupted sleep with diapers, temper tantrums, and bottles–in the past! Obviously not. A few days ago over-tiredness finally won out. I told him he needed to try and go back to sleep first, but if he really needed a parent, to wake up dad.

Bad decision. He woke up dad, which woke me up anyway. (I’m a light sleeper.) The result: Mom still awake and now doesn’t even get the benefit of snuggles.

I know many will say he really needs to just stay in bed and work through it. But I also know snuggly time isn’t going to last that much longer with a 6 year old boy. So, we’re going back to the old way.

Kathleen Rundle posted an interesting blog on a related subject. She wrote:

They may not talk about it often but most American families actually have family beds to some degree. Some families do insist that children sleep in their own beds every night, no matter what. Most parents at least allow their children to join them when they have nightmares. Many allow them to whenever they like. Some parents even encourage their children to join them at night.

There’s also a lot of interesting research on snuggles. One recent study found that a mother’s cuddle is a natural painkiller for babies.

What do you do in your house?

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Is “Unschooling” About the Parent or the Child?

I never felt part of the mommy wars. If anything, I was jealous of my stay-home mom friends. But alas, I married a teacher—need I say more?

So my children began child care early and, today they are both in elementary school. (They do get a bonus that most kids don’t—they get daddy 24/7 all summer long.)

I firmly believe that there are benefits and negatives to both full-time child care and staying at home full-time. That said, most of us make our decisions based on what is best for our child given the circumstances in which we live.

Which leads me to what I want to talk about. I stumbled on a blog by Joanne Rendell about “unschooling.” The website explains it like this:

Have you ever described ‘red’ to a person who is color blind? Sometimes, trying to define unschooling is like trying to define red. Ask 30 unschoolers to define the word and you’ll get thirty shades of red. They’ll all be red, but they’ll all be different. Generally, unschoolers are concerned with learning or becoming educated, not with ‘doing school.’ The focus is upon the choices made by each individual learner, and those choices can vary according to learning style and personality type. There is no one way to unschool.

Although they do offer multiple definitions.

Frankly, what I really struggled with was Rendell’s closing. She writes:

But un-kindergarten for us means Benny can sleep late so I can write. It means we don’t have to worry about bedtimes and can go out on the town with friends any night of the week. We can go to Europe and visit my family when the flights are cheap. Un-kindergarten also means we can pick and choose how we spend our days and who we spend them with. Benny can go to free classes at the Metropolitan Museum in the week when it’s less crowded. He can read a book on sharks when he feels like it. He can experiment with bungee cords while eating his breakfast at noon.

The decision seems to be about what’s most convenient for the parents, rather than what may be best for the child. John J. Edwards III addresses the issue in his blog on the Wall Street Journal. He says, “Maybe I’m hopelessly square, but I think early-childhood education—like education in general—provides structure and discipline while not necessarily stifling creativity.”

What do you think?

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Who’s to Blame When Kids Make Mistakes?

All of the news coverage of Sarah Palin’s daughter’s teen pregnancy is making me cringe.

First, in the interest of full disclosure—I am mostly (though not always) a liberal Democrat. But I’m looking this through a very different lens right now. A parental lens.

Does the fact that her teen daughter had sex, something went wrong, and she got pregnant say anything about Governor’s Palin’s parenting skills or the type of person she is or the leader she would be? Honestly, I don’t know. But I hope not.

Yet, I’ve heard Republican and Democrat women suggest that it does. On NPR’s Day to Day , a woman identifying herself as a 20 year-old Republican criticized Governor Palin’s ability to properly parent her daughter.

While little in life is guaranteed, I feel pretty confident in saying that my children will make mistakes. Will it be fair to judge me by those mistakes? Can my character be questioned as a result of my children’s mistakes? I know I made plenty as a teen—most of which, thankfully, my parents are still unaware of. It’s part of growing up.

It seems to me there are enough critical issues facing the country right now that speculating over who may or not be to blame for a teen’s actions is a grave disservice to all of us.


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One of Life’s Mysteries

Can someone please explain this to me?


All summer long, my 6-year-old hopped out of bed in the wee hours of the morning ready to start to his day.


Now school has started. The alarm is set for 7 AM. He sleeps until it goes off (and sometimes through it), groggily climbs out of bed, and complains about having to get up so early. Huh?!?!? The weekend comes, and bam, back up with the sun.


Does anyone else have this experience?


If you have older kids, I just heard about this cool new wake-up service—they can get celebrity wake-up calls. Here’s what was written up in PEN’s Weekly News Blast (an excellent eNewsletter on education issues, BTW):


To help teenagers get up in the morning and get themselves to school, the Ad Council and the Army have teamed up with Cellit, a Chicago-based mobile marketing company, to enable parents and peers to send the kids free wakeup messages recorded by professional athletes and celebrities, reports Business Wire in the Wall Street Journal. A website,, allows visitors to preview and select the messages, which can then be sent to specified cell-phone numbers at a given time. The basketball star Amare Stoudemire helped start the program. In one message, he says, “Good morning. This is Amare Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns. Just calling to remind you it’s time to get out of bed and go to school. Don’t make me call you twice!”

Read more.

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Home Alone: When can I stop paying the babysitter?!

Perhaps Home Alone isn’t really a good movie for kids to see. After watching it during a very long drive from North Carolina to Maine, the kids commented how cool it would be to sled down the stairs and out the door as Macaulay Caulkin does. Fortunately it hardly evers snow in NC, so we don’t own a sled. But my husband, in his infinite wisdom, shared how as a kid he and his brother somehow connected Hot Wheel tracks and skied down the stairway. These very same tracks sit in our bonus room . . .  readily accessible for such an adventure.


All this is to say, will I ever be able to leave the kids in the house alone because I’ve been dreaming of the day when my daughter can babysit my son, and I can actually afford to go out instead of going into debt paying the sitter.


Lisa W. Foderaro wrote about this topic  in yesterday’s New York TimesChildren Left Alone at Home, Worriedly.


Her article has set off a frenzy of blog commentary. Alice Bradley decided to consult her mom about the issue. She insisted that she didn’t leave Alice alone until she was 11, and that Alice was an incredibly mature young child. Alice’s response:  “I was a big baby. If the oven had suddenly caught fire I would have hid under my bed. I suspect my mom crossed her fingers and hoped for the best.”


Meredith O’Brien talks about a friend who has decided to let her grade school-aged boys stay home alone after school for the 20-minute or so gap in between the time the bus drops them off and the time she gets home from work.


In the NYT piece, Sharman Stein, a spokeswoman for the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, says “There are child-safety experts who believe some 10-year-olds are quite O.K. alone and others who would tell you that there are some 14-year-olds they wouldn’t leave alone.”


This seems to be the general consensus of most “experts.” It’s not about an age, it’s about a personality. In its fact sheet on the subject, the The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says, “ Parent (s) must consider the child’s level of maturity and past evidence of responsible behavior and good judgment.”


As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes, “No consistent community standards exist describing when and under what circumstances children can be left alone or in the care of other children.”


Standards or not, many kids are staying home alone. A 2003 study by Child Trends, estimated that three million children nationwide under the age of 13 are home alone for at least a few hours a week on a regular basis.


But even when parents do leave their kids home alone, they worry. A poll by The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, found that “many parents leave their tweens home alone for an extended period of time, even though they are not confident these 11- to 13-year-olds have the knowledge or skills to stay safe.”


I have left my daughter at home alone twice—and for no more than 30 minutes. I’m not sure how I feel about leaving her alone longer. And there is no way that she is ready to watch her brother (or maybe it’s the other way around).


The Today’s Parent website has some good tips for parents, including a great check list.



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