We Are Both Right

That’s My Preschooler, Shouting (Our Business) From the Rooftops

preschooler oversharing

A loose-lipped preschooler can be funny, as long as they're not talking about you. ©patcoelho/stock.xchng

When I pick my daughter up from school I’ll often get questions from her teacher like: “By any chance, are you going to Boston this weekend, bringing one black and one green suitcase, and eating seafood on Saturday night?”

Or, “We were wondering if you really are having twins, because S. has been talking about the two new babies she’s going to take care of and that she saw fuzzy pictures of them.”

Sometimes it’s along the lines of the commentary I heard tonight as we lay in her room at bedtime: “My friend Ami has bugs in her house. They have them on their floors. I guess they don’t clean their floors. We do — sometimes.”

Oversharing — as perfected by a preschooler with absolutely no boundaries.

And most of the time, I am given the opportunity to confirm or deny. Although, half the time, it’s an embarrassing corner to back out of.

Like the time she told all the parents who picked up their kids before I arrived at day care that we were planning to spend Friday night in the hot tub with “everyone” and bringing our drinks in with us. Sounds like a hot party for sure. And I can’t blame the moms who just had to ask about our hot tub social during a preschool birthday party the following morning. They were probably wondering why I wasn’t stumbling in.

Guaranteed they didn’t believe my babbling about the hot tub being for my husband’s therapy after back surgery or that our drinks are water-based. Despite my clarifications, the image remained a wild party with frozen drinks and string bikinis.

That’s OK though, because I know my little loose-lipped preschooler can’t help it. And neither can her friend who asks every women he sees why she doesn’t have a baby in her tummy, because his mommy does.

At this age, they feel free to share what color underwear we (and they) have on. And while we’re at it, do you want to know what my grandma said about my dad’s cooking? Embarrassing stories that make for embarrassing moments.

Why do they do this? Because a preschooler is synonymous with information overload. And they are all too pleased with their ability to recount both the peculiar and the mundane in their world to anyone who will listen.

They thrive on feeding the masses with their fascinating tidbits. In a completely unfiltered way.

But I’m OK with it. Really. Because someday I will probably lose my filter, and tell the cutest stories to her hot date about how she still tucks her childhood lovey bear into bed every night. No really, it’s so cute, you have to come and see it. And then we’ll see who’s excusing who…

Has your child ever regaled an audience with TMI? Do tell.

It’s No Joke, Playing and Pretending Good for Kids

You are getting your one-year-old dressed and instead of putting his socks on his feet, you try to put them on his ears. Rather than handing your 18-month-old her sippy cup, you pretend to drink from it.

Are you a big tease or a good parent? Possibly the former, but according to a new study by UK-based Economic and Social Research Council, definitely the latter.

Researchers found that parents who joke around and play pretend with their toddlers are “giving them a head start in terms of life skills.” The study examined interactions between parents and children ages 15 and 24 months.

“Parents, carers and early years educators shouldn’t underestimate the importance of interacting with young children through jokes and pretending,” researcher Dr. Elena Hoicka said. “Spending time doing this fun stuff with kids helps them learn how to do it themselves and gives them a set of skills which are important in childhood and beyond.”

Dr. Hoicka defined the difference between joking and pretending.

“Both involve intentionally doing or saying the wrong thing. However, joking is about doing something wrong just for the sake of it. In contrast, pretending is about doing something wrong which is imagined to be right. For example, parents might use a sponge like a duck while pretending but use a cat as a duck when joking.”

But it isn’t all about fun and games. The study found that parents who joke or tease or played pretend with their young children tended to speak slowly, loudly and repeated their words. They used a slate of vocabulary and different tones to indicate various moods. Not only does this help toddlers learn to distinguish between when a parent is being serious or not, it also adds to their language development skills.

So if you are regretting your decision not to be a stand-up comedian, now is the time to make-good.

Do you joke with your little ones? In what way?

Our Two Cents: When Should Kids Be Allowed to Trick-or-Treat Alone?

When should tweens be allowed to trick-or-treat without their parents?

When should tweens be allowed to trick-or-treat without their parents?

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I knew this was coming, but I didn’t want to think about it so I kept putting it out of my head. Now it’s here and I’m wholly unprepared.

My 11-year-old son asked to go trick-or-treating alone with his friends. He’s a good boy and we live in a safe neighborhood. They’d go during the day and stay within a four or five block radius. (Once it gets dark, one of the dads is going to accompany them from a reasonable distance.) It’s all perfectly logical, all the other parents are on board and as a collective group the parents are going to talk to the boys about safe practices and what to do if they have a problem (two of the boys have cell phones). While they are out, I’ll be in the neighborhood with one of the other moms with our younger children so it’s likely we will even run into our kids.

It sounds like an ideal setup, so why am I still dreading the day? Am I making the right decision?

– Wishing He Still Wanted to Wear His Spider-Man Costume and Ride in the Wagon

Amanda: I’m actually facing the same situation you are. Our 11-year-old boy asked to go trick-or-treating alone with three of his friends this year and we said yes. My heart isn’t totally in it, but I recognize that he’s getting older and walking around the neighborhood with a brood of younger kids that include fairies, Elmo and ladybugs just isn’t cutting it anymore, no matter how many peanut butter cups he absconds from his toddler brother’s bag.

Despite your protests that you haven’t, it sounds like you and the other parents involved have put a lot of thought into your son’s afternoon and have tried to control as many of the variables as you can. That’s good. What you and your son (and me and my son) need to remember is that you can’t control everything. Not to freak you out, but he may encounter a group of older kids with eggs and shaving cream or a stranger who asks your son’s group to come for a ride in his car. What’s important is that you give your son the tools to help him make the right decision to remove himself from the situation. Making sure the kids have access to at least one cell phone is a great idea, and depending on your comfort level, you can also equip them with emergency whistles and flashlights (just in case they don’t make it back in time before dark). We are also setting some non-negotiable rules — he can’t eat any candy until it’s checked and no crossing any major roads, plus we have clearly defined what streets he needs to stay on.

Making myself semi-comfortable with the situation (and any activity that involves him becoming more independent) was all about telling myself that if I want my son to grow up healthy and well-adjusted, I need to start letting him do things that I might not be ready for him to do. He needs to practice being self-sufficient and I have to work on realizing that if I made him wait to do something until I was totally unworried, he would be married with kids of his own.

So send him out and try to relax. Soon enough he’ll be home and your next big parenting issue will be wondering if you need to ‘fess up for stealing some of his loot.

(And as an aside, on behalf of my husband, make sure you review the etiquette of trick-or-treating with your kids. Nothing drives him more bananas than kids who don’t say “trick-or-treat.” He’ll survive if they don’t say “thank you,” but if our Halloween visitors of any age [there are a couple of exceptions of course] who show up at our door don’t utter that famous phrase, likely aren’t getting candy from him.)

Suzanne: I wish I could be as open-minded about this as Amanda but it really makes my skin crawl. (Obviously you understand that!) It’s just that Halloweeen presents a very different set of circumstances than most other days that your child would be roaming the neighborhood with friends.

Granted there will be other groups around when they are making their way door-to-door but the concept of sending your child unattended up to a stranger’s door is a little too close for comfort for me. At least on a regular day, you could warn about staying away from strangers (and certainly not walking up to a strange home or car).

So if it were me, and my child was making their first foray out into the land of the unknown, I would want to follow along at a distance, just this once. Obviously give them a long leash and, for all the reasons Amanda mentioned, an opportunity to spread their wings.  But you (or another parent) should think about being there both before and after dark (even if undercover trolling along in a car).

And really, as overprotective as I sound right now, I do value experiences that guide a child toward independence. It’s just that while they’re still learning, a safety net can’t hurt.

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What do you think? What is a reasonable age to let kids go trick-or-treating without parental supervision?

If you have a parenting question that needs two perspectives, send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com. We promise not to steal any candy from your Halloween stash!

Why My Son Will Never Forget His Homework Again

©amab7/stock.xchng

When it comes to my tween son and girls, the phone is my friend -- for now. ©amab7/stock.xchng

My 11-year-old son, C., is mad at me but I don’t care. He made a mistake (twice) and I came up with what I thought was a suitable punishment and now he’s ticked.

I made him call a girl.

(Hee.)

For the second day in a row, C. forgot to bring home his vocabulary words to study. A test was announced for Friday on Wednesday. When he came home Wednesday afternoon and realized he didn’t bring home his Reading/Language Arts notebook, I drove him back up to school so he could retrieve it and review them. When he did the same thing on Thursday, I wasn’t so charitable.

“You’ll have to call one of your friends and get the words and definitions,” I told him. There are two boys in this particular class that he is friendly with. The problem was, we didn’t have either of their numbers. The number I did have was for a girl from his religion class. A girl he’s known since kindergarten. A sweet (pretty), smart girl who I knew would not only have the words at home but would have the entire list of them and their complete definitions (and undoubtedly, written neatly).

Now this is 2011. I could have easily looked up the phone number of either of his two buddies on the Internet, and C.’s task of recovering his studying materials would have been both simple and embarrassment-free. But C. tends to be forgetful and scattered (admittedly like his mother) and we are only six weeks into the new school year. I didn’t want him to ever forget his notebook again. So I opted to send him down the path of most resistance. The path that was going to make him squirm.

Like I said before, hee. That her father answered the phone made it all the better.

The thing is, although this girl is his friend, C.’s at a funny age. He’s definitely a tween in middle school. He knows girls exist in “that” way and I know that some of his peers are already “dating” (he confirmed this for me, plus, I used to watch Degrassi Junior High so I totally know the score. Zit Remedy 4eva!) For now though, he and his group of (all boy) friends have zero interest — or at least less than ten percent interest — in spending any of their free time with someone who doesn’t want to make movies of themselves acting out in funny skits (their obsession of the moment) or play or view a sport of some kind. So for now anyway, we are girl-free.

That he was annoyed and that he did well on the test confirms to me that my “punishment” was a good one. For now. I suspect in three years my scheming will involve me trying to get him to put the phone down (and losing that girl’s number).

No More Lullabies? New Study Says Singing to Babies is a Thing of the Past

It’s a memory I’ll always cherish. It’s the wee small hours of the morning and my husband, a brand-new dad, is cradling our newborn son C., trying to soothe him back to sleep. As T. walked around the room rocking C., he began to sing softly, hoping his crooning would send our new baby back to dreamland.

His song of choice? “Thunder Road,” by Bruce Springsteen.

Naturally.

Laugh, smile, (sing along if you want to), but that my husband chose to sing to our son to help him settle down is apparently a thing of the past. A new book reveals that many parents, mom in particular, have rejected the practice, deeming it uncool.

My rocking spouse and I respectfully disagree.

I love to sing to my babies, especially in the middle of the night. While I tend to favor more traditional songs (“You Are My Sunshine” is my favorite), my husband prefers tracks of the Top 40 variety. And while I don’t think either one of us will be trying out for X Factor anytime soon, I think we do a good job — not only were our children responsive to our warbling, but today all three are pretty music-oriented (although no Boss fans just yet).

For me, singing lullabies (pop songs or otherwise) was a great way to bond with my little ones. It was a way for me to offer comfort in the sound of my voice (and the feel of my arms around the child) without talking. In the middle of the night, when my brain was mush and I didn’t know what to say to console my crying baby, I could do something that was soothing — to both of us.

What do you think? Do you sing to your babies? Which songs?

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who Would Like to Ground Another Mom

©hortongrou/stock.xchng

Is it OK for a mom to cancel a playdate if her child misbehaves? ©hortongrou/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

My children are close friends with my neighbor’s children. It’s a seemingly-perfect fit — we each have an eight-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy. They go to the same school and ride the bus together. Even better, they all get along!

My problem is that my neighbor, Kate, often uses scheduled playdates with my kids as leverage with her kids. If her daughter acts out or otherwise gets into trouble, she won’t allow her to play with my daughter as punishment. Same with her son. It happens often enough that now that my kids know that until they are actually playing with their friend, they shouldn’t count on the playdate.

Last week my daughter was so upset. Ten minutes before Kate’s daughter was due at our house to play, Kate called and said her daughter was misbehaving and wasn’t allowed to come out.

I understand that she needs to punish her kids her way, but I hate that it always seem to be at the expense of my children. What should I do?

– Not Fair!

Amanda: Well, you could invite Kate to tell your children herself about her decision and let her deal with the aftermath.

I’m kidding of course, but wouldn’t that be nice?

Have you tried discussing it with Kate and offering your perspective? She may not realize how upset your kids get after she cancels. Tell her you understand that grounding her kids from a fun afternoon may be an effective punishment (although it sounds like she does this often, so is it really?), but that when she does it, she’s punishing your children as well. A talk mom-to-mom might do the trick.

The one good thing (if you can call it that) from all this is that it sounds like your kids sort of get what is going on. I’d remind them of what has happened in the past the next time they make plans with one of Kate’s children. You don’t want them to be cynical about the situation, but certainly you need to make sure they are realistic about it and know that they may very well not play with their friend as they hoped.

Not all life lessons are happy ones, hopefully your kids will be able to take something from it.

Suzanne: Up until about two hours ago, I would have echoed Amanda’s sentiments on this one. But around that time, I did something similar to your neighbor and vowed to cancel my daughter’s plans on Saturday with her friends.

Why? Because it was the most effective way to get her attention and recognize the consequences of her actions. Was I really going to carry out the punishment? No, not this time. But the warning was effective enough that I didn’t have to go that far. I realize it might not be so next time, which would leave me with a big empty threat. An big empty ineffective threat that would never hold water again.

Sounds like your friend has already been in that position and made the decision to put her money where her mouth is. It’s just too bad that your kids are caught in the middle. But hey, a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do. Respect your friend’s frustrations. Honor the solution that seems to work for her. And the next time she or her children suggest a play date, just let her know that you’d rather not make “official” plans until the time actually arrives when she knows she can go through with them.

Explain that you would be happy to have her children come over or vice versa, but you will have to play it by ear since you don’t want your children to be disappointed if anything changes at the last minute. That way, she has the choice to make and can decide whether there might be a better way to carry out discipline that doesn’t involve innocent bystanders. (Which is exactly what I need to do for next time).

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Have you ever cancelled a playdate or otherwise scheduled outing because of the way your child behaved? What should Not Fair do?

If you have a problem that needs two perspectives, drop us a line at advice@wearebothright.com.

Four-year-old Boy Threatened with Fine For Playing Too Loudly Outside

From the “I-hope-my-neighbors-don’t-get-any-ideas” department:

The parents of a four-year-old British boy have been threatened with a £5,000 (about $8,500) fine because a neighbor complained to the city council that he plays too loudly outside. According to the Daily Mail, Simon and Pippa Lansdell received a notice last week claiming that their son Alfie is a “noise nuisance”  and that if further complaints are registered against him, he will be monitored with digital recording equipment. The letter did not name the neighbor who complained.

“He’s like any other four-year-old,” Simon Lansdell told the paper. “All children create a bit of noise when they play, it’s natural. Surely a child should be allowed to make a bit of noise when playing in his own garden? It’s the summer holidays, for goodness sake. I just can’t believe the council took this complaint seriously.” He added that they’ve tried talking to Alfie about it and he is trying to play more quietly but that he really doesn’t understand what is going on.

We actually deal with this a lot in our house — not that fining and the city council getting involved obviously — but trying to keep our kids from screaming when they are outside. (Admittedly, I’m not as sensitive to it as my husband is.) It’s an interesting issue and one that has raised the debate once again on parenting and who gets a say in giving kids direction. (It should be noted that no neighbors had ever approached the family about Alfie’s noise before and many of them have come out in support of the boy.)

My take on it is that kids can and should be loud outside. It’s a way of letting off steam and frankly, just letting them be kids. Is it annoying? Sure, but so is the loud music that my neighbor’s play every time they have a party or the noise made by the commercial diesel truck every time the guy across the street starts it up (every day at 5:30 a.m., by the way. I’m not bitter.).

I’m not going to say that little Alfie isn’t noisy — he probably is and honestly, I think parents (me without a doubt) are often desensitized and don’t realize how loud our kids can be. However, it’s the outdoors in the middle of the day. I think the city council may have overreacted in this case.

What do you think? Are you ever embarrassed by your kids making too much noise?

Photographer Won’t Take School Portraits of Bullies

Mention the word bullying and it seems like sadly, everyone’s got a story. Whether they were picked on in high school, have a child who has dealt with it on the bus or even having to cope with one in the workplace, bullies, it seems, are everywhere.

Especially in cyberspace. As more and more folks head to the Internet to interact with one another, what used to be limited to the playgrounds can now be found in our homes. For tweens and teens, cyberbullying is the buzzword of the moment, with parents and educators doing everything in their power to stop kids from harassing others online.

Well now one small business owner is taking a stand as well.

Jen McKen, a Pennsylvania-based photographer cancelled the appointments of several high-school portraits she had scheduled after she found that her subjects had been posting mean comments about others on a Facebook page. In a post on her blog titled, “i won’t photograph ugly people,” she writes:

“Now I realize it’s going to be hard to know that every person that ever contacts me isn’t a bully, I understand that…but in this specific instance it was right in front of my face. I saw it with my own eyes..it wasn’t hear say, it was right there..with their smiling face right beside such an ugly statement. I couldn’t forget about it, I mean how I could spend 2 hours with someone during our session trying to take beautiful photos of them knowing they could do such UGLYthings. Realistically, I know by canceling their shoots it’s not going to make them ‘nicer people’ but I refuse to let people like that represent my business.”

McKen said she e-mailed all of the students and cc’d their parents, providing an explanation as to why she cancelled the shoot. According to Jezebel, McKen said she’s gotten an overwhelming response, all of it positive, including notes back from the parents who were understanding of her decision and said they would handle the situation.

Wow. I find this woman to be so courageous. I can’t imagine how she must have felt after hitting that send button after composing those e-mails. Was she scared? Proud of herself? A little of both?

What do you think? How would you react if you were the parent of one of the students?

Mom “Banned for Life” From Supermarket

We had a lively debate on our Facebook page a couple of weeks ago after I confessed to not paying for a box of cookies that my toddler had pilfered out of our local grocery store.

I know what I did was wrong, and I also know that nothing justified my (in)actions. Once I realized he had taken the box (after the groceries were loaded into my van and he was buckled into his car seat), I should have just marched right back in there and paid for them, but at the time it was easy to explain away why I didn’t — he was tired and cranky, I was tired and cranky, I didn’t feel like waiting on line again, blah, blah, blah. The truth of the matter is, I was being lazy. I did however, go back in on another day and make things right.

I don’t blame my toddler in this case — he’s just two years old, and has no concept yet of paying for things, much less stealing them. The fault was mine and I take full responsibility. In the future, if it happens again, I’ll behave differently.

Still, that’s a small comfort after I read in the New York Post, the story of a Manhattan mom who has been banned for life from her local Fairway supermarket. Elissa Drassinower says she was stopped by security at the upscale store after she paid for her groceries. Apparently, Drassinower says she had been shopping with her stroller and her arms got tired from carrying all the goods she intended to purchase. She placed a half-gallon of milk and a six-pack of beer in the basket under her stroller and went about her browsing. The trouble started when she neglected to pay for the beverages.

“When I was checking out, my son, who was really cranky, started acting up, and I forgot to pay for the milk and the beer,” she told the Post. She was stopped outside the store by a guard who took her photo and had her signed some papers. If she enters the store again, she’ll be arrested for trespassing.

Drassinower says it was an honest mistake, telling the newspaper, “If I really meant to shoplift, why would I pay for the $15 brie and the cranberry Stilton only to steal $3.49 milk?”

Fairway stood by its decision in a statement issued by their corporate office. Drassinower was not arrested and the store did not press charges.

As someone who just went through something similar, my thought was that it was a totally innocent situation. Hey, things happen. We’re moms, we’re multi-taskers, sometimes we get distracted by our kids and sometimes we make mistakes.  I was really surprised by the number of commenters on the story who said she did it on purpose and the ban was completely justified.

Update: Just saw the footage of the security tape (don’t you love the Internet?) and now I’m reconsidering. Hmmm. It does look shady. So what do you think? Should this mom be banned or was the security team at the store overreacting? Have you (or your child) ever taken something from a store without paying for it?

Our Two Cents: Advice for a Mom Who Would Rather be a Fashion “Don’t”

©Thoursie/stock.xchng

Is back-to-school clothes shopping with your tween something you love or dread? ©Thoursie/stock.xchng

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I love my 12-year-old daughter and I love to shop, so you’d think that back-to-school clothes shopping with her would be something I look forward to every year. And it has been, until now.

Like most tween girls, my daughter, Anna, is very fashion-conscious.  It wasn’t always this way. While she liked to wear pretty things, her choices originated from what she wanted to wear, rather than what the latest styles are. I’m not saying she’s following the crowd, she’s still very independent, but she’s definitely aware of what’s “cool” and what isn’t.

One of my favorite parts of shopping is finding a good deal. I never pay full price, instead, happily bargain hunting. For me, it’s more important that the price is right, rather than the color. When we walk into stores at the mall and I see t-shirts for $50, I’m sorry, I just can’t do it, I don’t care if the latest celebrity of the moment is wearing it.

Anna is losing her patience with me and frankly, me with her. I want to encourage her to “be herself” but not at the expense (pun intended) of my wallet. Any advice?

– I Thought Project Runway Was About Restoring Airplanes

Amanda: First off, don’t let your daughter know you asked me for advice. Right now I’m wearing an Old Navy t-shirt, circa 1998, complete with faded graphics and holes. So there’s that.

I’m like you, a sales shopper. I tend to buy clothing off the sales rack in the off-season. For most of my family that isn’t a problem. My 10-year-old son doesn’t give too much thought to what he wears (as evidenced by his frequently mismatched ensembles) and the two-year-old is happy to wear the same shirt every day (seriously, he’s got an M&M tee that he would put on every day if I let him). My 8-year-old daughter on the other hand, is very aware of what she wears. She always has been. Up until now she makes do with what we find in the bargain bins, but I suspect as she gets older she’ll be wanting to choose pieces from the front of the store, rather than the rear.

Do you have a set budget for back-to-school clothing shopping? If not, make one. Once you have an allotment of dollars available, consider giving your daughter a portion of it to spend any way she chooses. She may quickly learn that a $100 pair of shoes isn’t quite the necessity she thought it was if it’s her money to spend, versus yours.

If she still goes through with buying a little bit of clothing with a lot of money, I say let it go. Make the best of what you have remaining in the budget — with her taking an active role. Involve her in your bargaining ways. Together, scour the circulars, inspect the Internet and hit the mall (outlet or otherwise). Find new places to search — thrift stores and consignment shops offer lots of fashionable garments at reasonable prices.

I think if you work together, you’ll both end up looking pretty!

Suzanne: Coming from a girl who spent her life in school uniforms and had exactly two “civilian” outfits (one for Saturday and one for Sunday), I’m feeling a little bad for your daughter. Not to say that you should buy her anything and everything she wants for her back-to-school wardrobe, but keep it fun and indulge her if only a little bit.

Which means you will have to nudge yourself past the Axe-soaked boy with a six pack and take a look around those teen stores where everything has a name. Set a budget, like Amanda suggests, and let Anna pick a top or two, or a pair of jeans, from these stores. Soon enough she will realize how far the money goes there versus your stores of choice.

And before you know it, she’ll realize that she can get away with choosing one impact piece and mixing it with a more budget-friendly basic. (No need to spend $45 on a tank top to put under another t-shirt).

Just remember, she’s only young once. So as long as you can stretch a little bit out of your comfort zone, there will be plenty of time for her to take a liking to bargain hunting (i.e after she gets her first job and moves out of your house).

Happy shopping!

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What do you think, should this mom appease her daughter and buy clothing outside of her price range, or is there a compromise to be made?

If you have a problem that needs two perspectives, send us an e-mail at advice@wearebothright.com.