Forget Stranger Danger- I’m scared of the Good Samaritans!

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The situation is out of control. Did you read the story about the mom who was arrested because her daughter was at the park alone? Cliff notes:

Mom works at McDonald’s. 9 year old kid sits at Mcdonald’s while mom works. Kid begs mom to go to the park nearby. Mom gives kid a cell phone. Kid goes to park. “Good Samaritan” sees kid alone and calls the cops. Mom gets arrested.  Kid goes into foster care. And they all live happily…wait, nope that’s not right.

Or what about the parents who were investigated for allowing their daughter to walk to the post office? These are just two examples out of many.

Are we so far removed from the days when kids left on their bikes in the morning and didn’t come home til the streetlamps came on that we call the cops on parents before knowing the full story?  Most of these stories are not about neglected children. The kids are well taken care of, given a cell phone and allowed to head to a neighborhood park for an hour or two.

Listen, I don’t know if I would trust my 9 yr old to go to the park alone, but not because of stranger danger. I would worry about the other people at the park….and the park itself. My 9 yr old is a bit mischievous.

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I don’t know the kids in these stories. I don’t know the parents. I also don’t know the area in which they were “left.” All of those things are factors in how I would handle the situation. What I do know is that kids from the 70’s and 80’s were left to their own devices ALL DAY and we not only survived; we thrived.  We had street smarts. We gained self confidence and independence. We knew how to entertain ourselves.  And yes, we also all have a story or two about the “strange man down the street.”

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I worry that the kids today, my kids, are too supervised, too protected, and don’t get the opportunity to explore and use their instincts.  I’m trying to find a balance.  I don’t want fear to raise my kids. And now while I’m attempting to find that balance, I have to worry about police showing up at my door.

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 Is it more dangerous today than when I was growing up?  It seems all the 24/7 “bad news” is having quite an impact on us but is the threat real? I don’t think so. I think now we are so afraid of the 10% chance that we forget to focus on the 90% chance that it won’t happen.

Like I said, I’m working on a balance. I’m going to squash that lump in my throat when I say yes, you can walk to the neighbor’s house without me watching you. I’m not going to sit out front when I agree to let the kids play in their own front yard. Hell, I may even get crazy and let them ride their bike around the block by themselves! Try not to judge me too harshly.

And if you happen to see my kid, alone but happy, please don’t call the cops. (Unless that cop comes to my house with his own boombox.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Riding the break!

 

That’s not a typo. I’m not talking about car brakes. I’m talking about a break from parenthood. A break from responsibility. A break from that 24/7 unpaid job we all agreed to do. A break that every mom deserves. Yes, you do. Don’t argue with me, I said you do!

Hey, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

No laundry. No carpool. No lunches to make.  Just me myself and I…and a few friends. Sleeping in. Movies. Room Service. Dinners out. A photo shoot. Champagne blow outs. lol Did I throw you with that? Hey if you are going to make the time to take a break…you need to make it count!

Here are a few tips when taking a break.

1.Take enough time.

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SO many times, I try to plan a weekend getaway but I want to make sure that the kids are fed, and the laundry is done and the meals are pre-planned, and loveys are folded neatly on the beds…FORGET IT! By the time you get everything ready to go, you’ve given up half a day or more! To make sure we had enough time on our trip to NYC, we took a red eye flight. Granted we did not sleep well but we also had the great idea of going straight to the spa when we arrived. Pampering began immediately and that red eye was a distant memory.  If you only have a weekend or even a night, stay some what local or within a 2-3 hour radius and GET AWAY EARLY AND SPEND THE NIGHT! A glorious night of uninterrupted sleep is worth more than any pampering session!

2. Send in reinforcements.

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I always try to have my inlaws come in to stay if I am going away for more than a few days without my husband. My mother in law loves to take care of her baby (my husband) as well as the grandkids. If you don’t have that option, use other family members or friends to farm out your kids or run carpool for you. If you have the cash, hire a babysitter to help out your spouse. You want it to be an enjoyable experience for him too so he is open to another girls’ getaway. 😉

3. Be flexible.

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I’m gonna kick my heels up regardless!

We had all kinds of plans when we hit New York, but the weather and a bout of food poisoning had us scrapping lots of ideas and regrouping. Aside from our friend who was ill most of the day, it wasn’t bad hanging out in the room watching movies and talking. It’s good to have a plan but be ready to just go with the flow.

4. Pamper yourself!

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We planned this trip far in advance so I made sure there was money in the budget to do some really fun things. But pampering can be something as inexpensive as a $20 foot massage or $30 blow dry with free champagne!

5. Do something different!

For this trip, we booked an awesome new company called Flytographer.  You get your very own photographer in the city you are visiting. You can have professional photographs taken of you and your friends having fun in the city! They have photographers all over the world!They can be candid or more posed. It’s lots of fun and you have great mementos of the trip!

http://www.flytographer.com

   PicMonkey Collage nyc

So let’s recap:

A break. You need it. Take it. Fun and flexible….like Olivia Newton John.

I Can’t Rage Against the Machine

As I sit here on day 5 of a 7 day school break, I start to ask myself certain questions. Like- Is it wrong to drink before noon if you’ve been cooped up with kids for 5 days? Am I a bad mom if I stop fighting the electronic obsession that all 3 of my kids have? How many days can the kids go without bathing before it is considered neglect? So many questions. But let’s get back to the electronics one. Seriously. Obsession does not even come close to the right word. Addiction.

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My kid starts jonesing as soon as his eyes open. I can find him under his sheets pretty much every morning mesmerized by the creative world he has built in Minecraft.

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All three of my kids are Animal Jam junkies, but it’s National Geographic so it’s ok, right? Remember when the kids were babies and you would put them in front of Baby Einstein videos and think- this is good because it’s educational. Then you’d read all the backlash of how it causes ADD or some shit like that? I just wanted to take a shower and now I’ve given my kid ADD. Cue the mom guilt.

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But seriously- was it that bad? Are there redeeming qualities to playing these games? My kids are interacting with each other (“Meet me at Mount Shiver…Hey check out my den.”) It’s more than parallel play. They are creating things. Minecraft is a game about survival. You have to make shelter, find food, kill zombies (of course.) They talk about it constantly. Strategizing and sharing.

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“The War Room”

I can remember being obsessed with Super Mario Bros on Nintendo. The old school shit, yo. I’d skip my last class (study hall~ that explains a few things) to run home and play Zelda too.

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In 4th-7th grade I’d spend my weekends at the skating rink and work for the high score on Frogger AND Donkey Kong AND Ms. Pacman. (Am I dating myself here? Damn.) PS- I lived in a small town in Mississippi- the skating rink and neighboring video/hamburger joint was the social scene. Don’t judge me.

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My kids get plenty of exercise. They have outside interests. They are social. I’m sure there is a ton of research on all of this, but let’s be honest; I’m not going to go look for it. Ain’t nobody got time for research unless it is posted on Facebook. I did find this though.

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“research”

I try to limit my kids’ electronics. Lord knows it is my go to disciplinary action. And on long Thanksgiving breaks when little people are under foot 24/7…it is a nice way to get some peace and quiet. Until of course they are screaming at each other “You stole my food! You killed me on purpose. Nobody is coming to my den!” Then it’s time to shut it down and kick them outside- even if it’s raining.

Until then though, I’ll believe that all this addiction to technology and electronics can have some positive impact. I’ll enjoy this time and text some people, update my Facebook, and send out some tweets. 😉

mom guilt

I yelled at my kids right before dropping them at school. I forgot to send them with jackets. I bought lunchables instead of making nutritious all organic lunches. I said “because I said so” instead of taking the time to explain my reasoning for saying no to yet another sleep over. I didn’t stay long enough at the skate park. I didn’t take them to the skate park. I said the skate park was closed.

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Mom guilt.

It starts early.  You let your baby cry in her bed while you finally take a shower after a 10 day hiatus. You called him a fat ass when he wouldn’t stop crying in the middle of the night. (Only to your husband who didn’t even hear it because he slept through the crying, but you still feel awful.)  You fed her store bought baby food instead of mashing up organic avocados and bananas. Mom guilt!

It sucks.

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Every mom I know suffers from some sort of mom guilt. We have been conditioned to think that every single thing we do or don’t do can impact our child’s very soul.  I stressed because I didn’t carve pumpkins this year, and I definitely didn’t roast any damn pumpkin seeds. I don’t bake or cook really. I don’t enjoy the park. I hate reading with my kids.

Shit. My kids are screwed. (and while I’m confessing…I didn’t breastfeed. Oh shit. Double D screwed!!)

Except that I do other things. Maybe it’s not the traditional way of bonding, but dance parties, and super awesome indoor tents are something, right?  You have to know who you are and be that person. I don’t use the oven much but I’m not stingy when it comes to hugs and kisses and praise.  I can create an impromptu musical with my kids about homework. “Every day this week, we try to geeeeet our work done. Geeeet our work done….” Chorus line…Anyone?Anyone?

I heard a great Ted talk the other day from Brene Brown and she said:

” Our job as parents is to make our children feel worthy of love and belonging.”

Did you read that? It did not say our job as parents is to sit on the floor playing hours of barbies/legos/petshop.  It did not say it is our job as parents to take them to all three Chipmunk movies the day they open. Good parenting doesn’t mean baking from scratch! And Lunchables were never mentioned!

I actually googled Brene Brown after watching this. Apparently she is a big wig in the self help community. I’m surprised I didn’t know her sooner since that’s where you will find me in any bookstore. She has a great book: The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting. I haven’t read it but I did read the synopsis. Hey, that counts. Plus, did you read the title? Hello!brene brown bookBasically she says we have to embrace our imperfections. It shows our kids that it’s ok. We need to be who we really are. For me that means, I’m not a baker, a butcher or a candlestick maker.  It’s exhausting to keep up the charade anyway. I am pretty sure I’m not fooling anyone. It’s ok that I don’t bake cookies from scratch! It’s ok if I give a little processed meat.  It’s ok if I don’t want to hear my daughter sing “Rolling in the Deep” for the one millionth time.

We all have our own ways of making our children feel worthy of love and belonging. It doesn’t have to be the same for everyone. And it will never be perfect. Stop feeling guilty. In the words of Barbara Streisand and Barry Gibb: You’ve got nothing to be guilty of….”

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Suddenly….this summer!

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Camp enthusiasts

I sent my three California kids (along with their cousin) to the Hill Country of Texas for two weeks.( My husband said I was shipping them to Camp Hell for 10 days because of the heat and humidity.) But let’s face it, kids are resilient. Heat doesn’t bother them. “Pain don’t hurt.” ~to quote from the amazing movie Roadhouse.(yes I said it was amazing.)

I’m a Texas native and wanted to give my kids a meaningful connection to my home state. They had never been to sleep away camp and they were excited.  I too was excited. I had 2 full weeks without kids, without dogs, without any responsibility except to see old friends and eat and drink myself silly. I mean, I had to be in Austin in case there was “an emergency” at camp. That’s just good parenting. 😉 My husband was kind enough to pretend to believe that reasoning.

On the 2 hour drive from Austin to camp, my kids and their cousin, discussed the exciting things they would be experiencing. (Canoeing, Horseback riding, Archery, Campouts, the Guadalupe River, and of course…NO PARENTS!)  I gave them a thumbs up code so I could get a sense of how they were doing in camp pictures. (2 thumbs up~ awesome time, 1 thumb up~ ok, no thumbs….miserable)

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Needless to say every day I’d go to the camp websites and scroll through the pictures. Not one kid adhered to my thumbs up code. And only one of 3 wrote consistently to let us know they were a- having a great time, b- were a little homesick, and c- needed money, sunglasses, and Minecraft books.  But I could see from the huge grins on their faces (and the charges made at the Canteen)…they were having a blast.  In a world where kids can’t play in their own front yards much less be free to roam their neighborhoods, sleep away camp gives them the freedom that we all took for granted.

And let’s not forget my freedom! Freedom to sleep in until 9am! Freedom to eat chips and salsa for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Freedom to have marathon couch viewings of Netflix series. Ahhh I love sleep away camp!

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Lord knows we moms need a break from our rewarding yet challenging 24 hour 7 days a week full time mom gig.  I was instantly reminded of that when we got home and I opened my daughter’s suitcase to find a broken bottle of BBQ sauce drenching every article of clothing. And again the next morning when I was driving to the pediatrician’s office after being up all night with my son as he coughed and wheezed.

As I complete my millionth load of laundry, dole out meds, and answer the constant question, “what are we doing today, Mommy?”, I make a mental note to do the early bird sign up for next summer’s sleep away camp…and look into the 4 week session option. You know, for the kids.

“It happened one summer
It happened one time
It happened forever
For a short time…” ~The Motels (Suddenly Last Summer)