Archive for December, 2008

Batteries Not Included

Yesterday I removed the batteries from my kids’ toys. I also hid little Fred’s favorite toy, a ball popper that I’ve been listening to almost non-stop for the past 6+ months.

Why, you ask?

First, a bit of background. I’m a member of Generation X, which means that I am supposed to be as cynical as they come. Much of my personal cynicism focuses on what the world tries to sell me, so I am particularly cynical of any advertisement. I don’t believe a thing that marketers tell me, regardless of whether they are selling a product or a service, luxury or charitable, frivolous or meaningful. (Take THAT, you evil marketers, you!!)

Gen Xers are supposedly reactionary as well, rebelling against what they believe was wrong about their own childhoods, and it’s fair to say that this applies to me. My parents let me watch loads of TV as a kid. While I don’t think this ruined me, I find that I’ve developed a strong aversion to TV. Add this to my cynicism of advertising, and it makes sense that I tap the Hatorade punch when I think about television. So when I had Ginger, perhaps you can understand why I vowed that she would not watch TV for as long as I could prevent it.

(Incidentally, I’m no puritan on this point as to myself. On any given day, during the kids’ nap time, you can find me watching a TiVo’ed episode of House while drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper and eating some Splenda-sweetened processed food while also surfing the internet. Apparently my goal is to rot my brain from within and without).

Somewhere in the stridency of my Ludditian rejection of TV, I also developed an aversion to toys that bleep, buzz, play music, talk to you, and otherwise make noise. I’m a fan of the basics: wooden blocks, Legos, pretend food that can be used in a pretend kitchen, etc.

I had a vague recollection of reading somewhere that TV and those noisy toys weren’t great for kids, but frankly, I just assumed that this was my Parental Sticking Point. We all have them, those issues that for whatever reason become our obssession. Some parents don’t let their kids play on public playgrounds or swim in public pools. Some don’t let their kids drink soda. Some don’t let their kids wear any clothing associated with Barney. My true PSP was supposedly “educational” toys and TV.

Crazy, right? What parent doesn’t love a blinking toy that keeps their kid happy and occupied? And really, what harm could such toys and a little TV do? But in a sweet stroke of serendipity, I had spawned a child that just didn’t care about noisy toys or television. Ginger simply showed no interest.

Well, except for that stupid ball popper, which even she couldn’t resist. Nevertheless, she made my job easy.

Then along came Fred, in all his high-maintenance, almost-but-not-quite-colicky, don’t-you-dare-put-me-down-or-I-will-scream glory. Around the age of 4 months, it became clear that one thing would allow me to set this child down long enough to run to the bathroom or (heaven forbid) take a shower: noisy, blinking toys. So I acquiesced. And the noisy, blinking toys accumulated.

I didn’t buy them, but I no longer shoved the ones we received as gifts into dark hiding spaces in our basement, secretly hoping that rats would cart them off as food.

And miracle of miracles, I reclaimed a modicum of sanity while Fred would go upwards of 45 minutes at a time entertaining himself with these stupid toys. I felt conflicted, but I was enjoying my freedom too much to do anything about it.

I also caved (or as I prefer to think of it, compromised) on another issue: TV. You see, GrumpyDaddy loves TV. He works very long hours and wants to plop down and enjoy some brain candy in his rare down time. I can’t blame him for this, but I also can’t spent my entire weekend trying to keep the kids away from their father to keep them from seeing TV. On the weekends, little Ginger loves to crawl into his lap. She would gladly listen to him read to her, but since he watches TV, that’s what she ends up doing.

I had always planned to teach our kids at least one foreign language and after much research (and to my great chagrin) found that a certain set of highly acclaimed DVDs appeared to be the best way to do this short of taking a class. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone: I bought the DVDs for Christmas and instructed GrumpyDaddy to watch these instead of whatever other garbage he was watching. That way he doesn’t have to hear me chastize him about letting Ginger watch TV and Ginger is (hopefully) learning some French and Spanish.

Well, I’ve found my roots again. First I read Buy Buy Baby, and then Parenting, Inc.. These books are similar in theme, although the former focuses more on the perils of TV exposure (and specifically, those Baby Einstein/Genius/children’s programming DVDs and shows) while the latter focuses on broader marketing tactics to parents for all sorts of baby products.

One purpose of both books is to expose, or at least describe, how parents get sold on the idea that if their little snowflake isn’t doing calculus by age 3, she is doomed to be a stupid, worthless loser, and probably will wear funny clothes and eat her own boogers.

I guarantee that you cannot read these books without having at least one head-shaking, what-the-hell-are-we-doing-to-our-kids moment. They are fascinating, frustrating, and rage-inducing. In other words, perfect to relax you right before going to bed.

For me, the most salient point of both books was the fact that all scientific studies done on the developing brain show that (1) creative play is the single best way for a child’s brain to develop; and (2) “learning” toys, as well as TV of any kind, even supposed “educational” TV, stifle a child’s creativity and possibly even harm children’s cognitive development.

Gosh, that earns a bit fat “Boooooo!” from me.

So yesterday, in a fit of pique, I removed the batteries from all of my kids’ toys, save for little Fred’s current favorite toy, a bongo drum that plays music when struck. I can’t deprive the kid completely, right? But I want my kids to use their imaginations while playing with their toys, rather than letting the toys do the work for them.

I also have cut back on how much of the foreign language DVDs Ginger can watch, even though we just got them a week ago. She will survive not watching them every day, and certainly will survive watching only 10-15 minutes on any given day.

So we shall see how my little experiment goes. I have no doubt that Ginger will survive. Fred is the X factor. I will include updates in future posts.

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Time Out For Daddy!

On Christmas Day, my DH put himself in time-out twice.

The first time, he dropped a glass plate and it shattered. He marched over to our time-out corner and sat down. I asked him if he intended to sit there for 37 minutes.

The second time, he was playing with a trivet after finishing Christmas dinner, and accidentally popped one of the tiny legs off, sending it bouncing off the dinner table, over my FIL’s head, and onto our very dark Oriental rug, making it impossible to find.

No doubt my young son will locate it today and eat it.

DH says that he wants to show the kids that he is being fair about doling out time-outs. I would have tried to explain to him why I think this is silly, but I was too busy laughing at the idea.

And after his second time-out, I found him in the corner, explained why he was in time-out, instructed him never to play with the trivet again, told him I loved him, and gave him a hug.

Slurring Your Way Through Christmas

You what’s great about any Dean Martin song? He sounds completely hammered in all of them. It’s even better in the Christmas songs because somehow, it just seems appropriate.

How did the holidays become so stressful? Where is this “joy” that I keep hearing about but never seem to see? Go to a mall in December and you will be lucky to escape with merely a black eye and a few dollars left in your wallet.

The worst is the children who get dragged to see Santa Claus and end up having to stand in line for three hours in an uncomfortable outfit just so the parents have a photo of them sitting in a stranger’s lap, screaming their heads off from a brutal combination of boredom, fatigue, hunger, and fear.

There is a reason my mother stopped taking me to see Santa when I was still very young, and I am going to guess that it had something to do with maintaining her sanity and not wanting to feel the urge to sell me for a cup of coffee and a good book in a quiet location.

And yes, I will be taking my kids to see Santa when they get a bit older, because I’m a huge fan of hypocrisy and torture. But I’m fairly certain I will take a cue from Dean and bring a flask, size large.

See, I’m A Cool Mom! Really!

Last night, Ginger decided that she wanted to sleep in her fleece snowsuit.

I said no. Not only should she wear her PJs, but it was 60+ degrees yesterday.

Then I thought, what the heck?

Tonight, she decided to wear it again.

So she is snoozing away in her snowsuit, happy at having won that battle. And I am feeling some serious warm fuzzies about the fact that a 2.5-year-old can get so excited about something so seemingly innocent and simple as wearing her snowsuit to bed.

The Magical Disappearing Snack Cup

Somewhere in my house is a half-full snack cup. It’s been missing for six days and Ginger has no clue where it is (or, more likely, instantly forgot once she set it down because she was distracted by a bright, shiny object). I fear the results when (if?) we eventually find it. Hopefully we own the only bag of goldfish crackers in the entire world that hold no appeal for bugs of any kind.

One of the “joys” of having toddlers is finding objects in strange places. To wit, I have found my cell phone in Ginger’s “purse,” a dirty (wet only, thank goodness) diaper on my bookshelf, children’s clothing all over the house (usually accompanied by the happy shrieking of a naked toddler zipping around somewhere), and my underwear in the guest bathtub (don’t ask, I don’t know either).

One recent morning, I found a harmonica neatly sitting on top of a jar of apple sauce in the pantry.

If I was paid for the amount of time I spend searching for and/or relocating items, I’d be a very wealthy woman. As it is, I just have to make sure that no contraband leaves the house. As long as it’s contained within these four walls, there is a chance I may find it again. It may even happen this year.

Now Weight Just A Minute!

There are certain rules of etiquette at the gym.

One, you don’t stand too close to anyone else when you are in the locker room and naked. Because that just gets weird.

Two, talking to someone while they are huffing and puffing on the elliptical is fine. Expecting them to respond is not.

And three, when you weigh yourself, you reset the scale to zero before stepping off.

About that last one – I just want to state for the record that I get mighty cranky (even moreso than usual) when I step on the scale… well, I suppose I could end that sentence right there.

But I won’t: I get crankier than usual when I step on the scale, only to discover that whatever precious toothpick was on before me left her itty bitty, teeny tiny weight on display, taunting me.

So might I suggest a fourth rule for the gym: if you weigh 110 lbs. sopping wet and leave your weight on the scale, you must go out into the main gym area wearing neon blue spandex leggings and a headband, have a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe, and sing “Let’s Get Physical” at the top of your lungs while dancing around in your best Molly Ringwald/The Breakfast Club imitation.

Channeling My Inner Ayn Rand

I am firing a friend this Christmas. Dropped from my Christmas card list. Dunzo. And I’m feeling quite self-righteous about it.

It’s someone with whom I attended school and have traveled. After graduation and going our separate ways, we reconnected a few times only to discover that we didn’t have much in common anymore. Basically she got deep into Ayn Rand and was busy being intensely self-focused, while I went to law school and became an emotionless automaton. She wanted to preach about her own fabulousness, and I wanted to piss and moan about how much I hated my job. Bad combination. We were officially frenemies, although we maintained some regular email contact.

Earlier this year I saw something that reminded me of a joke I had with her, and I sent her a lengthy email saying hi, updating her on my spawn, etc.

She didn’t respond for three months. Three months. It’s email for crying out loud, not the Pony Express! Who needs three months to respond via email? Cripes, I think my computer starts shooting flames of Angry Computer Gas if I keep any emails that old.

Worse, she didn’t even lie about why it took her so long. No “sorry, I was being held captive in a third-world country while my parents tried to collect enough money to pay my ransom.” No “I was in a skydiving accident and have been recuperating in a small hospital in the mountains of Switzerland.”

To the contrary, she said that she was responding because she had just returned from a vacation with her husband and now had the “motivation” to respond.

Huh. I guess this puts me a step or two above “research whether inchworms can fart” on her list of Very Important Things.

So I’ve decided to channel Ayn Rand, worry about my own happiness, celebrate my superiority, and (dun dun dun duuuuuuuuun!) remove her from my Christmas card list. I have visions of her crying into her cold and soggy bowl of cereal on Christmas morning when she realizes that she didn’t receive one of my cheap photo cards of the kids picking their noses. Devastating!!

Or as my Southern relatives might say, “That’ll learn her!”

Well, OK, maybe not. But I’d like to think that Ayn Rand would approve. Merry Christmas!