We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: The Fine Line Between Grandma and (Live-In) Nanny

Grandparents babysitting

When Grandma babysits 24/7, what should Grandpa do? ©Jenny Erickson@stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

My granddaughter Leila will turn 3 in a few days. Since she was born my wife has been the happiest grandmother anyone could imagine. Our son only lives a few miles away so we can pretty much see Leila anytime we want. My problem is that it seems like we see her too much.

My wife has agreed to watch her a few days a week, Mondays and Tuesdays and some Fridays. She also offered to watch her on Friday nights or through the weekend if the parents want to go somewhere. Of course, my son and his wife (who are in their mid-20s) are quite pleased with this arrangement, and often bring their daughter over to our house on Friday night and then pick her up on Saturday afternoon. Despite my opinion that this is happening too frequently, my wife still agrees to watch her anytime they ask.

All of a sudden, I’m the bad grandpa. The fact is that I love my granddaughter, but I just don’t want to raise her. We raised our own children and now this should be “our time” to enjoy.  The only one who somewhat understands is my daughter; she thinks that my son and his wife need to understand that there are no “days off” from being a parent.

At this point it seems like everyone is getting their way but me: my wife gets to dote on her granddaughter, my son gets free babysitting and our granddaughter is getting spoiled by grandma. I only wish they would understand my point of view and respect some of our free time. Any suggestions?

– Off-Duty Grandpa

Suzanne: It doesn’t sound to me like you are a bad grandpa, just one with a life. So go ahead. Carry on. With your life that is. Buy a boat, a motorcycle, an old car to restore, anything to keep you busy while your wife busies herself with full-time grandparenting. It sounds like you enjoy quality time with your granddaughter, but nothing says that you have to confine yourself to the house for every babysitting engagement.

Even if grandma can handle the childcare duties on her own, your absence could be the wake-up call she needs to realize that it’s probably not healthy for anyone that she has become a crutch of sorts. Of course she might think you are being spiteful at first, by making yourself unavailable. But if you take a sincere approach to scheduling in your own hobby time and also creating some “can’t miss” activities that include your wife, she might be inclined to curb the babysitting – to some degree at least.

Start with a scheduled brunch with friends on a Saturday morning, or a class that you both would enjoy. Your son and daughter-in-law shouldn’t be the only ones having fun on the town. Once your calendar starts filling up, it should become clear to everyone involved that babysitting should not be taken for granted.  And if she sees no reason not to continue the “always at your service” routine she has now with your son’s family, you should go on these “dates” anyway. It might just take her friends to start asking why she’s never around to drive the point home.

And don’t underestimate the opportunity to speak with your son about this situation (even if you already have). Tell him that his mother would never say no to helping out with Leila even if they asked her to let them know when she’s had enough. Instead, maybe they should take it upon themselves to consider limiting the weekend visits to once a month.

Your wife will probably need some encouragement once she comes around, so remind her that grandmas have a knack for making up for lost time whether they see a grandchild once a year or every other day.

Good luck and let us know how it works out!

Amanda: This is one of those times where Suzanne and I are in full agreement. You won’t be able to talk your wife into seeing your point of view, so stop trying to. That doesn’t mean however, that you can’t take (subtle) action.

I like the idea of scheduling activities in advance — months if you have to — for you and your wife to do together. If she balks and says she doesn’t want to go in case your son and his wife need you to watch Leila, be pleasant and continue on with your plans.

My one caution would be to not go overboard with your social calendar — be sure to continue to spend time with your granddaughter when she is at your home (or you are at hers) for babysitting. It’s nice that you are in a position to help out your son and daughter-in-law, whether your granddaughter realizes what is happening or not. Some of my best memories of childhood are the times I spent at my grandparents house. I didn’t know then (and I don’t know now) if I was there because I was being babysat or simply just because. I just remember being loved — I was so happy to be with them and they with me. That’s the takeaway here. Not every grandparent has the opportunity to spend so much one-on-one time with their grandchildren, view it as the blessing that it is. I promise in the future, Leila will.

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Your turn readers. What should “Off-Duty Grandpa” do? And if you have a sticky situation that needs a double dose of advice, remember we’re always here to help at advice@wearebothright.com.

Australian Company Offers Return to Work Bonus After Maternity Leave

Usually when we talk about maternity leave, it’s about what’s lacking about it. Especially in the United States. Well a new maternity leave policy implemented by an Australian company once again has me shaking my head at the dismal state of maternity benefits here.
According to The ABC, The Insurance Australia Group, one of the biggest companies in the land Down Under, has changed their maternity leave policy not only provides 14 weeks months of paid maternity leave, but a “back-to-work bonus” that doubles their salary for the first six weeks of their return.
“Basically this initiative came out of some discussions that we had with our people and specifically women on the difficulties and pressures that they faced upon returning to the workforce, and we think this welcome back payment is a good first step in helping them to address a number of those pressures,” IAG’s chief executive Mike Wilkins, told The ABC.
While the response has been overwhelmingly positive, the action is not without its critics. Detractors say that women are being rewarded to take time off to have a baby (which, if you’ve ever had a baby, you know it isn’t time off!). Still, for a woman who is trying to decide whether or not she should return to work, the bonus is a great incentive, one that benefits her co-workers and the company too.
Not to mention, if you are a parent or not, a company that offers a benefit like this obviously cares about its workers and is probably a pretty nice place to work.
Did you receive maternity/paternity benefits?

How Tight Are Your Apron Strings?

How tight are your apron strings? ©Adrian/stock.xchng

People watching. It’s a favorite pastime of mine.

So much so that you could send me to an airport right now, subject me to a five-hour layover and I would be more than happy to find a seat and watch the comings and goings of other people the whole time. (Of course, if my children were with me, the tables would be turned and we would be the people being watched.)

The way things have been lately, I have actually had a lot more time for people watching. You see, it’s an inverse relationship: lots of time waiting in lines, going to practices, and sitting in doctor’s offices means more people watching, less sit-ups and blogging.

Sometimes people watching is the only thing to do. Like in the gymnastics waiting room — my daughter is new to the class and I don’t know any of the other parents yet, but I do know who’s running a marathon and which moms and dads teach in the same school together. Last week, between S.’s turn on rings and her flips on the low bar, I picked up on two conversations that intrigued me. (OK, so it was more like public eavesdropping than people watching, but it struck me the same way.)

In one room, three moms were comparing sleep away camps. The conversation soon shifted to convincing another mom who was new to the concept that she would be fine with sending her second grader away to camp for the entire summer. I couldn’t see her reaction to gauge whether she bought it or not.

That’s because in my direct line of sight was a mother pressed up against the window, talking at the same time through the glass and to her husband who was half-listening with Blackberry in hand.

“They’re not even watching her. She’s going to fall,” the mom said. (Just to set the scene: the room is lined in wall-to-wall heavy duty mats equipped to cushion an adult falling off the uneven bars and her preschooler was about a foot off the ground on another foam mat, while two instructors looked over a class of six.) She spent most of the class saying the same thing over and over again.

I was keeping my judgment-free cap on, and didn’t even react when I saw that her child was dressed in a zipped-up, velour track suit on a 60-degree day. As if she read my mind, she wondered aloud to her husband how some kids could be dressed in leotards on such a cold day — as my leotarded daughter jumped off the balance beam.

No offense taken. Because these are the observations I like best. They make me think. About how I make choices as a mom. How I view different approaches to parenting. And if such differences validate my way of doing things or make me feel inadequate.

This version of people watching, or parent watching, has made me question how tight the apron strings really need to be. Most people like to keep their kids close, others even closer. But where do I want to fall?

I always fancied myself a supportive and open-minded parent, one who would be happy to help my children find their wings and learn to fly. I can picture myself smiling (with a single tear on my cheek) as we pull up to campus on the first day of college. I want to be the mom who could not be more proud that her child becomes self-sufficient and independent.

I truly believe that I will feel fulfilled to see my children make a life of their own — and not feel the need to pick out their furniture, invite myself on the honeymoon or even into the delivery room for that matter.

Of course, my two are still young. And I still smother them with worry sometimes. But there are lots of times when I think that maybe there’s a motherly doting gene I’m missing.

I let a lot of things fly, like hats on a cold day. There are times I expected them to toughen up, even as toddlers, and stick out a long day without a nap at home or forgo the favorite sippy cup which hadn’t made it through the dishwasher yet. It doesn’t leave me panicked to let them go on field trips and ride school buses without taking the teacher’s cell phone number.

Nine years into the experiment and I haven’t made any fatal mistakes. So that’s a good thing. But I’m wondering if I should be holding them tighter, worrying more, and not wanting to let go.

Tell me, how tight are your apron strings?

Best Of: How to Make Time for Your Spouse or Partner

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Being married with kids can sometimes give you tunnel vision. Wake the kids, feed the kids, play with the kids, get the kids to school, get the kids from school, get the kids to afterschool activities, feed the kids dinner, put the kids to bed and everything else that the kids need in between.

All important of course, but it’s also necessary to make time for your partner in all this — your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend — it doesn’t matter what they are called, but it does matter that you get some alone time together, or at least a few minutes to talk uninterrupted. But how? Certainly you could hire a babysitter for an evening, but that often comes with extra cost and not everyone has access to a person they trust.

Instead, consider ways to make time within the confines of your busy life to find time. Take advantage of the few quiet moments or carve out some time by making your own (some are better advised than others). Even if the kids are with you, it is possible! Here are our suggestions:

  • Tuck the kids into bed early, rent a movie or play a game and bring in take out for a late dinner
  • Consider taking a break from dinner time being family time for a night. Let the kids eat in the living room with a movie while you have a quiet dinner in the dining room (or vice versa)
  • Wake up early and eat breakfast together alone
  • Pack the kids in the car and go for a long drive. If your minivan or vehicle is equipped with DVD player, utilize it. If not, let the kids bring books or portable game systems that will keep them occupied. (Make an exception if you usually frown upon such devices.)
  • If you both work (or if one of you does) while the kids are in school or daycare, consider taking a “goof off” day
  • When the weather is nice, go for a walk as a family at a local high school on the running track. Let the kids run ahead (staying in sight of course) while you two talk.
  • Invite another couple with kids over for dinner. Let the children entertain each other while they play, giving the grown-ups a chance to socialize.
  • If there is another family you are friendly with, consider setting up a babysitter swap arrangement where you take their kids for a night and they take yours.

How do you make time for your marriage?

Choosing to Make Things Work as a Working Mom

child on laptop

Motherhood is a never-ending menu of choices. ©Patricia Dekker /stock.xchng

Looking back, I never had that defining moment when I had to choose whether or not I would return to work after my children were born. I just kept working because it made sense for our family.

It was more a matter of choosing how I was going to make it work.

And for many, that’s about all there is to choose. In the most recent issue of Working Mother magazine, mothers shared their feelings around their choices and what they are seeking as far as work-life balance in What Moms Choose: The Working Mother Report, a study conducted by the Working Mother Research Institute. (And these weren’t just working mothers who participated in the study. It includes moms who are staying at home, others who off-ramped and on-ramped, and some who are blending their days as work-at-home moms, like Amanda.)

Basically all moms struggle with their choices, no matter which path they are taking or how they are going about it. We either feel like we’re not using our degrees to the fullest potential if we’ve scaled back or opted out of the workforce, or we feel like we’re not keeping up with the housework or giving the children our full attention if we’re not home all day.

It’s time that we all went a little easier on each other and ourselves. I try to remind myself when I get into a funk that my kids are the only ones I let be my judge when it comes to how good or bad of a job I am doing. (The rest of the time, when I’m not feeling so zen, you can find me whimpering to my husband about how exhausted I am.)

It still really irks me though when a fellow mom feels the need to tell me (nine years into my career as a working mom) that there’s no way you can do both, that it never makes sense financially and that no way would she have a stranger watching her children. I almost never get into it, but I do wonder how you can tell someone who’s already doing something that it’s impossible.

Once we get past all these hang-ups, the news is that we’re full of ideas about how to create a workforce culture that supports real work-life balance. Not the stuff that companies say they do, but the mindset of managers who understand that everyone needs some flexibility in life and work.

You don’t have to be a mom (or a dad) with a newborn at home to crave flexible work options. Most anyone has obligations outside work, and it makes sense to be able to flex and bend to meet those needs — just as we’re expected to when a business need comes up.

That’s the type of manager I am. If the work gets done, I don’t care if you did it at midnight or six o’clock in the morning. You could have brainstormed the idea on your commute into work or spent the entire last week banging out ideas on your keyboard.

Still, even with the best manager and most progressive company policies, the reality is that there’s no situation which is perfect every day of the week. (Except maybe getting to stay home while receiving a check in the mail for doing nothing in return, but I haven’t come across that want ad yet.)

Inevitably, there’s going to be some degree of worry about finding and maintaining the best arrangement for child care. There are days when none of the pieces seem to fit together. Or you feel guilty for pushing your kids too hard because there’s a tight schedule to keep. Or you feel like you’re pushing your luck at work (no matter how flexible they may be), because there are endless family obligations to be met.

With choice comes compromise. And in my case, even when you don’t have a choice, you have to compromise.

So we need to learn to accept.

Delegate.

Let go.

And then we can choose to be happy moms, meeting our challenges — whatever they may be and whenever they may change.

How have you learned to live with your choices? Amanda thinks I’ve perfected my role, but the truth is that I have just learned to be OK with winging it. What’s imbalanced one day seems to even out the next. And so it goes…

Happy with My Choice to Be a Work-From-Home Mom

©hortongrou/stock.xchng

I used to commute to work via train every day. Now my pace is a bit slower. ©hortongrou/stock.xchng

When you are insecure about something, it’s always nice when you find out that there are other people worried about the same things.

I’ve been a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom for eleven years. You’d think by now I’d be confident about my station in life. Not even close. Because I think I’ll have it all under control — I will have met all my deadlines, I will have changed the sheets on the bed and prepare a decent meal (plus dessert) — and then something (somethings) will reel me back into earth (the story will change, the toddler will spill something on the bed, the stove won’t work and the soufflé will collapse) and I’ll go back to being convinced that sometime soon everyone will see me for the fraud I am — a woman with a dirty house and unkempt kids who can’t cook, nor diagram a sentence to save her life.

But as it turns out, I’m not alone. Not about the last part anyway (not that anyone would admit to it), but about feeling insecure. A recent study by Working Mother magazine reports that lots of moms — both working and stay-at-home — have some very real concerns about where they are in life and how to balance it all.

Most interesting to me? That nearly half of the over 3,700 moms polled (49 percent of working and 47 percent of stay-at-home) say they are their own toughest critics.

That’s a lot of intelligent, resourceful, supermoms doubting themselves. So I guess I’m in good company.

Interestingly enough, my decision to stay at home and not pursue a “high powered” career, is something I feel totally confident about. The only time I ever slightly wavered my choice to be a work-at-home mom came early on in my tenure. I was a new mom to a baby boy, working full-time from home, commuting to my office just once a week. The position directly above mine suddenly became free. It would have been a nice jump professionally (especially at my young age, 26), not to mention a huge salary bump.

It wasn’t a role I could do from home though, it was definitely an in-the-office job. Especially when you remember that it was over a decade ago when working from home was still an incredibly new concept (I was the first in my company to do it) and things that make telecommuting a natural, cost-saving measure like Wi-Fi and Skype were non-existent (I used a phone line to dial in to our computer network. Adorable!).

I quickly got over any pangs of regret I might have been feeling — being a work-at-home/stay-at-home mom suited me. In fact, I liked it so much that when my daughter was born two years later, I left that position as I was required to work 9 to 5 hours — difficult with a toddler and a newborn. Since then I’ve kept up a fairly decent freelance career with a nice mix of long-term and short-term writing and editing clients. And while sometimes I wish our financial situation was a little more stable, being able to stay at home with all three of my kids and watch them grow up and support them in every way is something I’m so happy I get the opportunity to do.

Even if I burn the chocolate chip cookies sometimes.

What “type” of mom are you? What do you question about yourself? Would you change any of your past decisions?

On days when I’m just happy I haven’t burned down the house, I think about Suzanne and how she really does it all. And I’m jealous. Because she always looks a lot less frantic than me when she does it.

Best of: Summer Perks

What's your idea of summer fun with the kids? ©Joe Batluck/stock.xchng

Summer’s in the air, and suddenly everything seems a little bit calmer, and a lot more fun.

The kids are content playing in the sand box. You are happily flipping and flopping over to the hammock with a magazine. And the sun just keeps on shining.

Does it get any better than this? Even the sticky hands can wait until later because nothing much matters on these lazy summer days.

There are lots of perks to spending a summer with kids. Here are our top ten:

1. Finger painting outside.

2. Fewer clothes. Fewer battles.

3. Ice pops all day long.

4. Ice cream for dinner.

5. When it’s over 100 degrees, everyone is welcome in the kiddie pool!

6. Naps in the car on the way home from the beach.

7. No excuses needed if you just feel like running through the sprinkler.

8. A walk or bike ride every night after dinner.

9. Trading the shower for a hose.

10. Going to the library on super-hot days and spending an afternoon reading in the cool. Ahhh.

So while the kids are decorating the driveway (and each other) with chalk, and before it’s time for the next round of ice pops, go ahead and add your favorite summer perks to the list.

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who is Perplexed by Play

Is child's play second nature to you -- or not? ©melbia/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

This is going to come across the wrong way, but I don’t know how else to put it. So here goes: I don’t like playing with my kids.

Not that I don’t like being with them or I don’t want to take time for them. But I don’t enjoy playing with their toys or getting down on the floor pretending we’re frogs or anything like that. Board games make me jittery. I never had the patience for activities like that — not even when I was a child myself.

When I see other people get into play mode, my husband included, I start to feel like there’s something very wrong with me. Maybe I was deficient in whatever pregnancy hormone induces a desire to play? I don’t know.

Am I the only one who feels like this? How can I learn to like playing with my children?

–Not Into Toys

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Amanda:

As parents, there are many things that we need and have to do, but we don’t necessarily want to. Some are more dramatic than others of course — rolling out of bed at 3 a.m. because your 2-year-old is throwing up, for example, is a lot more difficult than sitting outside in a rainstorm while your son plays in a playoff baseball game. Of course, neither scenario is a day at the beach, but we’re parents, it’s what we signed up for.

For you, playing with your kids is what has you wishing you were someplace else. And that’s fine. I’m not calling you out on admitting you don’t like to play. Good for you for being honest. But here’s a secret. I’m going to venture while some parents enjoy play more than others, none of us are intellectually stimulated after the fifth round of “Hi Ho Cherry -O” or racing Hot Wheels cars down the track for the umpteenth time (although I really do love to play Barbies and doll house with my daughter).

The thing is, play is important for kids. Sure, it’s a way for them to let off steam and have fun, but through play, children learn important social skills as well as develop physically and emotionally. It’s also a way for your child to spend some quality time with you. Sadly enough, as they get older, there will be less and less of that, so you need to take advantage of it while you still can. Forge a good relationship with your kids now, and it’s something that they’ll (hopefully) remember later during those torrential teen years.

My advice? Fake it. Grit your teeth, get down on the floor and roll those dice, push those cars across the floor and take the baby doll for a walk in the stroller. Right now, you are your child’s best friend. Relish in the joy that you are bringing to your kids and make some happy memories together. You won’t regret it.

Suzanne:

Amanda’s right, most of us are faking it most of the time! But it becomes bearable when you start to realize what your child is actually getting out of playtime with you. After watching you put together the 24-piece Winnie the Pooh puzzle for the 240th time, your preschooler is able to take the lead and is repeating your strategy no less — find the four corners and build the straight lines, then match up the like colors. (Soon enough, you’ll be watching from the couch.)

In the meantime, besides just grinning and bearing it, you might want to spend a few minutes thinking about what it is you like to do and how that can translate into fun playtime activities for your children.

You say you never liked games as a kid, but what did you do to keep busy? If it was arts and crafts, then I’m sure you wouldn’t mind breaking out the pipe cleaners and pom poms or putting a long roll of paper out in the yard for all of you to sponge and splatter with washable paints.

If sports are more your speed, you can set up a goal of some sort for a child of just about any age and see who gets the ball in first. Crawlers through school-age kids will be happy to have mom as a teammate.

And how about baking? If you’re game, then the kids sure will be. Nothing like a batch of warm chocolate chip cookies to cheer everyone up.

So give it some thought. Even if pretend isn’t your thing and board games make you shake, there are bound to be at least a few activities that will keep you and the children amused until they’re old enough to run and hide from you.

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How would you suggest this mom overcome her aversion to playtime? Have you ever felt this way?

Whether it’s playtime woes or relationship issues, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com if you could use a double dose.

Mom Fired From Chicago Sun-Times After She Lied

When you become a parent, you learn very quickly how to make many things work at one time. When it comes to getting dinner on the table, making sure homework gets done, keeping dentist appointments, arriving on time for baseball practice and Boy Scouts, and dropping a carload off at religion class all in the same afternoon, no one does it better than a mom or dad.

(I think once you are a parent for ten years you should automatically earn a master’s degree in logistics.)

Sometimes though, trying to do it all backfires. Whether it means that dinner is burned or you show up at the doctor’s office on the wrong day, parents — even the most organized ones — make mistakes. Usually the fallout is limited and soon forgotten.

Paige Wiser wasn’t so lucky. Her mistake happened on a national stage.

Wiser, a television critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, was fired last week after a review she posted of a “Glee Live!” concert contained a write-up of a song that wasn’t performed and a song she didn’t see.

So what happened? Did Wiser forget what she saw? Did she take a bathroom break at an inopportune time?

Not exactly. According to different reports I’ve read, Wiser brought her young kids to the concert because her editor thought it would be nice for her to include their reaction in her story. Once there, her son hurt himself when he fell off a chair and about ten songs into the show, her daughter threw up. They left not long after.

Instead of explaining to her editor what happened, or even including her family’s trials and tribulations in the piece (“See how zany life is with kids! We party like rock stars too!”), Wiser made the choice to lie in print. The varied reports I read said that Wiser made her decision at 1 a.m., frantic about what had happened and with the memory of backing out of another story at the last minute lingering. (That time it was a case of vertigo that prevented her from covering Oprah Winfrey’s farewell party at the United Center.)

“I’m at fault,” Wiser told the Chicago Tribune. “I do understand what a big deal this was. I am ashamed, and it’s just a matter of making bad decisions when you’re exhausted.”

The story was pulled from the web and Editor-in-Chief Don Hayner published an Editor’s Note on the paper’s web site. It reads in part, “Accuracy and honesty in reporting are essential parts of the promise we make to our readers. We regret the incident and apologize.”

It’s easy for me to sit here as a writer and an editor and say that Wiser was wrong, that she should have been fired. And I do believe that. The guiding tenet of journalism is honesty, for myriad (and obvious) reasons. And by publishing something that wasn’t entirely true, Wiser let her readers down. And yes, I acknowledge that it was a review of Glee Live!, not an in-depth look at the Paris Peace Accords, but  still, when you are a reporter, truth is a doctrine that must be upheld no matter how trivial the subject matter.

But  as parents, what we should be focusing on is the decision-making process that Wiser utilized in the wee small hours of the morning, desperate to keep it all together. It was flawed, yes, but I believe had Wiser best of intentions. It appears she was simply trying to hang on and get through the day. She was trying to keep her job, protect her kids and maintain the status quo. But parenting isn’t always that simple. Sometimes the lesson is that we can’t do it all and it’s OK to admit it, no matter how hard.

A colleague of mine made a remark the other day that made me laugh at the time, but it’s stuck with me and seems especially resonant in light of Wiser’s mistake. She was having a crazy, super-mom type of day and thought she was doing a good job of it all. As it turned out, she was slipping up left and right. But the pressure to get everything done, no matter what, was strong. “Look,” she wrote in an e-mail after the day was over and she was reflecting on what she should have done differently, “I can juggle everything and hop up and down on this ball!”

Sometimes though, when you’re juggling, and life tosses you a bowling ball, it’s fine to throw one of the bowling pins to someone else.

What do you think? What could Paige Wiser have done differently? What would you have done?

Our Two Cents: The Not-So-Scary Movie That Scared a Friend Away

When it comes to scary movies, ask (mom) first, then press play. ©Jason Smith/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Two weeks ago my 10-year-old son Jack and his friend Frank were playing at our house. While I don’t know Frank’s parents super-well, he’s been at our house at least six or seven times and my son at theirs as well.

They asked to watch the movie “Transformers” which is rated PG-13. My son has seen the movie quite a few times (we own it on DVD) and Frank said he had seen it before. The two were acting out scenes and quoting dialogue from the movie, so I went ahead and let them watch it. Normally I’d ask the other parent about letting a child see a PG-13 movie, but since Frank seemed so well-versed in it, I didn’t really give it a second thought.

I wasn’t home when Frank’s dad picked him up (my husband was), and nothing was said about what the boys watched. A few days later I got a call from Frank’s mom who was very upset that the boys had watched a PG-13 movie. I apologized right away, but pointed out that Frank said he had already seen it and it didn’t appear to have scared him. The mom angrily responded that it wasn’t the point, that she would have appreciated a phone call. I said I was sorry once more and we hung up. Ever since then, Frank has not been able to come over to our house, nor have their been any invitations for Jack to come to his. At school, Frank told Jack that his mom was mad at me and that he wasn’t allowed to play with my son anymore.

I’m so upset about this, but part of me wonders if the mom is overreacting. Should I call back and apologize once again? I don’t think I need to, but Jack misses his friend.

–Unrated

Amanda: I’ve come to find that in parenting, everyone’s got an “issue” (or seven). At least one thing that gets under their skin and irritates and annoys and drives them crazy whenever they are simply a witness or experience it directly. (For me, it’s parents who don’t watch their kids closely on playgrounds. It just makes me irrationally angry. Also? Moonsand.)

I think you’ve stumbled on to Frank’s mom’s issue. That’s not to say she doesn’t have a point — as you admit yourself, probably should have called her before the boys hit “play” on your DVD player. But you didn’t and she was bothered by it, you had a conversation and you apologized. And apparently, your apology wasn’t accepted.

Normally I’d say to let it go, but keeping in mind that there are two children involved who did nothing wrong and are paying the consequences, I’d give it one more shot. Give her a call, write a note, shoot off an e-mail, once again admitting your mistake and saying how sorry you are. Don’t mention what Frank told Jack, don’t try to justify your actions by pointing out that Frank’s already seen the movie. For all you know, the movie causes Frank to have nightmares or maybe he behaves poorly after viewing it. Maybe she’s not a fan of him acting out the script. Whatever her reason, the decision is hers to make, not yours and she has every right to make and stand by it.

Suzanne: For the sake of your son’s friendship, you might have to fall on your sword this time. (Or better make that a foam light sabre, since we’re aiming to take violence out of the equation in this case.) Give it another go and make a call.

It’s unlikely that she’s so mad that she won’t pick up, so when you get her on the phone start right off by saying: “I’m so sorry that I upset you and Frank and I’d like to be able to do something to assure you that we won’t have any mix-ups like that again. Most of the time I don’t put much stock in ratings only because I’ve had friends who didn’t approve of some G-rated movies because of anti-religious undertones so I always ask a parent before they watch any TV or movies. In this case, Frank seemed to know so much about the movie that I assumed he had been allowed to see it previously. Of course, I should not have assumed. I just hope that we can find a way to make this work for their sake.”

And now the ball is in her court once again. She’ll either have had time to rethink the situation and understand that you didn’t intend to overstep her and allow the boys to resume their friendship.

Or she won’t. In which case you made your best effort.

Like Amanda said, a child’s parent always has the last word — even if it does come across as overreacting to anyone else involved. After all, she’s the one who probably had to sleep on the last inch of bed if Frank awoke at 2 a.m. after being at your house. And that explains a lot.

In either case, you will know you made your best effort and never intended to be hurtful in the first place. Be sure to update your son and maybe come up with a few other “safe” viewing choices for the next time a friend comes over.

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What’s your view on kids watching movies out of their age range? Was Unrated wrong?

If you’ve got a question that needs two opinions (or just want to know what movies we’re watching these days), send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.