Tag Archive | kids

She may call you up tonight

By Mike DelGaudio (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Time for a cute story about my ten-year-old.  For those of you who know him in person, this probably won’t come as much of a shock.

Yesterday, as usual on days when he has band, I picked him up from school.  Once we were in the car and buckled, just as I was starting the engine, he said, “I have a Post-It note.”

“Oh?” I inquired.  He often has Post-Its; I wasn’t terribly interested.

“Yeah.  And guess what’s on it?”

At that point, I was a little wary.  I wondered if it was something from his teacher.  “Um.  I don’t know.  What’s on it?”

“Sydney’s phone number!” he announced proudly.

“And who is Sydney?”

“A girl in my class.  She likes me.”

This is the fourth girl’s phone number that he’s gotten since last spring.  He has exactly one boy’s phone number, and the only reason he has it is that the boy’s mom gave it to me.

I’m going to blame my son’s former dance teachers for this, mostly because they’re not here to defend themselves and also because they don’t read this blog anyway.  They are all responsible for teaching my kid how to treat women and girls, especially ones he likes.  Didn’t they know that girls appreciate boys who know how to show respect and like them for who they are?  I mean, sheesh.

As cute as this story is, it makes me a little sad, too.  Oh, not because my precious boo-bear is growing up.  I’m really enjoying watching both my kids blossom.  No, it makes me sad because I know that if it were my daughter collecting boys’ numbers (or my son collecting phone numbers of boys saying they liked him, for that matter) very few people would see it as cute or sweet.  (On a side note, no one would bat an eye at this age if my daughter had a handful of girls’ numbers–that’s culturally expected, and most people would say it didn’t mean anything.)

Funny thing is, I have a few friends whose daughters have magnetic personalities and who like to hang out with boys.  I (and most of their parents) do, in fact, think it’s cute.  But there’s still that little nagging thought that it’s not something to share in public because people may judge those girls or their parents.  After all, those are the girls who, in a few years, are going to be posting braless selfies, right?

I don’t really care whether my kids prefer to hang out with boys or girls.  What I care about is having them respect themselves and others.  I see these opposite-sex friendships as having several benefits.  What better way for the kids to learn about each other and themselves?  They’re finding out what they like.

My first question to my son after he said this girl likes him was, “What do you like about her?”

“Well,” he said, “she’s writing this really cool story.”

“Ah, so she likes to write.  That’s something you enjoy, too.”

“Yeah!  Maybe we’ll write something together.”

“You know what?  That sounds like a great idea.  I’m glad you have a friend like Sydney.”

“Me too, Mom.”

 

The baby question, part 3

By Elnaz6 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve spent the last couple of days talking about the appropriateness of questioning people’s choice to parent or not parent.  You can read the previous entries by clicking the link on the Blog Series menu to the right.  There are so many off-shoots of this, and I could spend many more days going through the rest of them.  Today, though, I want to talk about men.

I’m not a guy, so I don’t know what men really think about this.  My husband assures me that “So, when are you going to have kids?” is not a typical staff room conversation among men.  I’m not sure that he was never asked that question before we had children, but he doesn’t recall anyone prying that way.  Probably some men have to field those queries, but my guess is that it’s far less common.  Someone else can set the record straight on that for me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, while I’m not a big fan of “what about the men,” I think we sometimes get confused about what that means.  It definitely doesn’t mean that men have no stake in important conversations about roles and expectations.  I can’t understand why more men aren’t horrified at the way they’re portrayed, particularly when it comes to love, sex, marriage, and family.  Why the heck aren’t you guys out there protesting having media and the church imply that you’re crazed animals or cavemen who can’t control yourselves?  That would seriously piss me off.

A similar bad stereotype is that men don’t actually want kids–they have to be forced into it by their wives.  And if they don’t have wives, so much the worse for them, because then they will obviously never, ever want to have kids.  Apparently, men are too self-unaware (or self-absorbed, maybe? I dunno) to know whether they want to be dads.

This is genuinely a thing I remember being told by other Christian women.  I first heard it in college, which makes very little sense to me.  I mean, no kidding that an eighteen-year-old college student doesn’t want kids right then and doesn’t know if he ever wants them.  I don’t think I knew at that age, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be in possession of a biological time-bomb clock.  I heard it again after I was married, and I distinctly recall finding out that some women purposefully did things to mess up their birth control so they’d get “accidentally” pregnant and their men would have to learn to be dads.

Yeah.

Of course, this totally makes sense, because men can’t be nurturing the way women can, right?  It’s God’s design!  Women obviously all want to have babies and are natural caregivers (whoever wrote that has never met me).  Without us, men would have no clue at all what to do with a baby.  Left to their own devices, they would diaper the wrong end or feed the kids Jell-o and ice cream for dinner or ignore them while they hit each other in the head with sticks.  That’s why when we women go out and leave the kids home, it’s perfectly okay to refer to our husbands as “babysitters” for our kids.  They’re not really parenting, they’re just watching the kids.  If we left them to it for too long, they would revert to being irresponsible people who let the children run wild.  We must be sure to keep a close eye on things.

Maybe this is what people worry about if two men are parenting together.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen this happen.  When I’m out at rehearsal, I come home to a clean house and two sleeping children (and sometimes a sleeping husband).  Guess what?  He actually knows how to take care of things because he’s an adult.  Shocking, I know, but it’s true.  I don’t feel like I’m leaving the kids with a babysitter; I feel like I’m leaving them with their other parent–probably because I am.

I understand the issues involved when there’s an unintended pregnancy or a divorce/break-up in which a man needs to take responsibility for the child or children he’s fathered.  But that’s not what I’m talking about here.  I mean the knowledge, before there are any children involved at all, that a man does or does not want to have any.

Men really do know.  Those who do want to be dads may not feel ready yet or may have their own set of anxieties about fatherhood, some of which are similar and some of which are different from women’s feelings.  Those who don’t want to parent are just as clear as women who don’t want children.  They have their own reasons, and it’s not as simple as “I’d rather have a career” any more than women’s reasons can be reduced to a single factor.

Think about it.  If it were really just about men who didn’t want to “grow up” (as though being a parent magically makes one an adult), would you honestly want to have a baby with someone like that?  Or adopt a child?  I know I wouldn’t.

Not being a man, I don’t know that there’s more I can say about this other than wishing culture wouldn’t portray child-free men as immature or self-centered.  I guess the only other piece of advice I have is that if you don’t want to be a dad, then make sure you’re having that conversation with potential partners–not only to find out if you’re on the same page but to actively take steps to prevent parenthood (if you’re straight-cis, that is).  If there is any chance that you and your spouse/partner could get pregnant, don’t just leave it up to her to do all the preventive measures.  Oh, and make sure you’re using the condoms correctly, folks.  User error is the largest cause of failure–when used right, they’re one of the most effective methods of birth control available.  (The myths spread by the Abstinence Police make me ragey.)

Please don’t feel obligated, but I would love to hear from some men on this topic.  As a rule, I think men are pretty awesome (especially my husband), and I like learning about how men think about these things.  You don’t have to share your personal story, but I’m definitely interested in your thoughts about the cultural view of men, particularly when it comes to relationships and family.

Hey, thanks for coming along for the ride during this series.  Tomorrow, I’m rounding up my favorite (and not-so-favorite) posts of the week.  If you’ve read something interesting or want to have yours included, shoot me a message through my contact form or leave me a comment.

What Boys Can’t Do

This morning, S and I took a break from school to just read together.  We cuddled up in what the kids call the “hot corner” in our living room.  (It’s a space between our sofa and love seat where the heating vent is.  The kids have it set up with a blanket and a large floor pillow.)  We read one of the American Girl books, the first one I’ve read to her.  She picked the one about the girl living during the Great Depression.

I have to admit, I think I enjoyed the story as much as she did.  We talked about how Kit, the main character, is a bit of a tomboy.  She doesn’t like anything pink or frilly, and she loves sports.  S told me about the things she has in common with Kit and the ways she is different.  We also had the chance to talk about the history, what it was like for many families in the 1930s.

It was such an engaging story that I wanted to find out if there was anything similar for boys.  J has read the My America books, but there are only two boy characters, and the stories cover a limited time period.  The American Girl books span most of United States history.  Sadly, there isn’t anything else like the AG books for boys.

As I pondered what I should do, I realized that I was doing exactly what I’ve said I wouldn’t do.  I was creating a literary box for my kids, and placing them in it.  I had decided that J needed “boy” books, as he couldn’t possibly read books about girls.  Right then, I made a decision.

I said, screw this.

Just why, again, can’t a boy read the AG series?  They aren’t especially girly, they just feature female lead characters.  But even if they were, why can’t boys enjoy them?

We don’t bat an eye at girls who want to read about Tom Sawyer or Jim Hawkins or Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins.  I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and all the Bunnicula books with both my kids, and didn’t concern myself with whether my daughter could relate to the male characters.  I even read the Ramona books with J, and we’ve enjoyed other books with strong female characters.  The other day, J was looking with interest at The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I told him we could read the series, but if he wanted to, he could read that one.  They don’t have to be read in order.

How are the AG books any different?  Why shouldn’t J read them?

I can’t think of even one reason not to let him.

Pop Rocks! (But no Coke)

We try to be careful about how much time our kids spend in front of a screen, so we’ve banned any form of television or video games before the bus comes.  This morning, J made an appeal.  He needed his computer for his project.  Apparently, he is planning to release his original CD (to the limited audience of, well, us), and he needed to record the first track.  Naturally, I relented.

The CD, entitled Extreme Moves, will feature the following songs:

Pop Rocks
Sweet Rock
Techno Dog
Juice Rap
X-Electro Cheese

I’ve already had a preview of Pop Rocks and Techno Dog.  I can’t wait to hear X-Electro Cheese.

Parents, let this be a warning to you: This is what happens when you won’t let your kid play the Wii before school.

Being Open-Minded

For a long time, I’ve been an advocate for keeping more kids off psychotropic medications.  Not because I doubt the existence of childhood mental disorders, but because the long-term effects are unknown and I believe that parents and professionals should proceed with caution.  I am not against using medication when it is necessary and beneficial for the child.  After all, my own daughter is on steroids for her asthma, and there are well-documented associated risks.  But I’ve seen the downside of over-medicating young children, particularly when it comes to diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

One of the problems with institutionalized learning (and a major reason why we began homeschooling almost four years ago) is the amount of time children have to be kept quiet and sitting at a desk.  For some children, this isn’t a problem.  But for others, it is absolute torture.  It may not have anything to do with the ability to focus or concentrate.  Some people are sensation-seekers who thrive on sensory input.  Others simply learn better by doing rather than hearing or seeing (kinesthetic learners).  For still others, they may exhibit traits similar to ADHD, but do not actually have that particular disorder.

I used to be a school nurse, so I was responsible for passing out Ritalin or similar medications to approximately 40 children on a daily basis.  I saw both sides of the coin.  Were there kids benefiting from the meds?  Absolutely.  There were also kids for whom nothing ever seemed to work.  Some kids suffered through repeated change in dose, type, and schedule, to no avail.  Other kids had behaviors so bothersome that I had teachers either red in the face with anger or near tears, begging me to talk to the family about “doing something” with the child’s medication.  And one story stands out in my mind vividly.

We had one student who was put on a medication trial.  For those who don’t know what that means, the physician orders two to four weeks of trial period.  For half of the trial, the child receives an actual dose of medication.  For the other half, a placebo.  No one except the pharmacist has any idea which half is which, only that the child is taking some kind of pill.  Before and during the trial, the parents and teacher are expected to keep a log of the undesirable behaviors the child has and any changes.  The boy in question underwent such a trial about halfway through the year.

When the study began, his teacher approached me and said that she was already seeing a difference in his behavior and attitude.  She was thrilled, and certain that the dose he was on was correct.  After the first two-week phase of the trial ended, she returned to me to let me know that the boy’s behavior had gone downhill again.  She hoped that he would be placed on medication for the remainder of the year.

I suspect you know what’s coming.

And you’re right–the boy had been on the placebo for the first two weeks.  Needless to say, the doctor and the parents refused to have anything more to do with medicating the boy.  He went on to have successful behavioral counseling.

Now that I’ve said all that, I have to make a confession.  We’re now about to embark on a journey with our son.  He is a wonderful kid, bright and creative to the extreme, with the soul of an artist.  He almost literally dances through life, his body craving near-constant motion.  On a good day I wish I had his energy.  But the flip side of those good qualities is that he is extraordinarily impulsive.  He reacts, rather than thinking.  His high-octane personality is not suited for long periods of seat work.  And it leads to a lot of negative consequences.

As much as I favor treating children naturally, without brain-altering chemicals, I know I have to keep an open mind.  I hope to begin with the simple, some help learning how to control his impulses.  I also know that if it comes down to it, I expect that he will be given every possible evaluation and trial before being handed a psychotropic medication.  His dad and I are his best advocates.  We want what is right for him, not a broken system where a teacher has to be solely responsible for the instruction, behavior, and well-being of 25 or more students.  We’re prepared to make some hard choices, including returning him to homeschooling to give him a break from forced seat learning.

It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but we’ll handle it the way we’ve handled everything else with the kids.  We love them, we respect the other adults, and we work toward a common goal of helping our son to grow into the person he is meant to become.