Is Stalking Your Teen on Social Media OK?

Posted on Sep 22, 2014 by No Comments

Teenager’s today have so much more technology and so much less freedom than when I was a teenager in the Dark Ages that it’s sad.

For example, when I was talking to friends about something it was totally private and as soon as it was out of my mouth and into their ears it was gone. There were no status updates for my parents to find, Google had no pictures of me totally drunk and in my bra and underwear at a party, and any sexual exploits that I discussed with my friends were carefully written in code on notebook paper that was then folded into a triangle and passed around the class.

You kept a blank note in your pocket as a decoy so if you got caught passing the note you could quickly trade it for the blank one. Most important, after the note was read by all parties it was carefully burned in the bathroom sink with your Bic lighter.

That was then.

Now? Now I can find out almost anything about anyone. I can find out what my daughter has been saying, doing, and thinking. I can find images of her on Google, Bing, and other search engines. I can find her social media accounts and follow her by pretending to to be a teenager and posting a random image.

She may think she has privacy but she has none at all.

And that’s why I won’t do it. Yes, we want our kids to make choices — good choices. The truth is that they are as likely to make mistakes as we were and parents cannot consistently protect kids from themselves without turning them into overprotected adults who are unable to function in the real world.

Be there for your teen when she needs you, but stalking? That is just asking for trouble, in my opinion.

What do you think?

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Co-Parenting with a Stranger

Posted on Sep 19, 2014 by No Comments

Would you consider having a child and co-parenting that child with a stranger? In other words, would you agree to share the parenting responsibilities of a child with someone that you had just met and had sought out primarily for that purpose?

It’s a rising trend, believe it or not, and it’s been termed parenting partnership. There are even websites where you can get in touch with others that are wanting to do the same.

Some of the websites are similar to dating sites in that you answer a lot of questions so that you can be more accurately matched with someone who shares your parenting ideals. What happens after you are matched is up to you.

There is no romance necessary and many, if not most, of the couples use artificial insemination to create the pregnancy. Some move in together while others maintain separate homes. The major part of the agreement is that you will be equally responsible for the child whether or not you live together. It’s a commitment.

It’s also a legal crap-storm when you think about it. Many, many people will make this move without proper legal counsel or contractual agreements. How are you going to decide who has what responsibility?

Parenting is hard and, as most divorced moms can tell you, it can be nearly impossible to get child support from someone let alone emotional support. Add to that the fact that the laws and regulations for parenting partnerships vary from state to state and you can get into a real tangled mess.

Because this is a relatively new area, there are not that many examples of how the court handles these cases. In fact, many courts may not even recognize the legal agreement if you have one.

On the other hand, it is easy to see the attraction. The idea of raising a child with someone without having any romantic or emotional ties to that person is enticing.

With so many divorces, breakups, alternative lifestyles, and such, this is one way someone who doesn’t want to get married but also doesn’t want to be a single parent can more or less have their cake and eat it, too.

There are a lot of questions that you need to answer before even considering conception. Consider some of the following:

  • Who is going to decide on the baby’s name and whose last name will it have?
  • Who will have primary custody of the child? How will arrangements be made? How much time will the child spend at each parent’s house?
  • How will the child rearing be handled? Who does what?
  • Will there be a visitation schedule?
  • How will the financial needs be handled?
  • Who gets the child as a tax credit?

As you can see, there are a lot of possible pitfalls in these arrangements. The idea bothers me, to be honest. There are enough children that have to deal with separated parents without intentionally creating new ones.

I am just not sure this is a great idea over the long haul. What are your thoughts?

Source: CBS New York
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These Plates Let Your Kids Play with Their Food

Posted on Sep 18, 2014 by No Comments

When I was little we used to travel the Pennsylvania turnpike from eastern PA to Michigan a couple of times a year. I was not the world’s most active child but I got bored. Really bored. Since I am prone to being carsick I couldn’t even read.

One of the best things that my parents gave me to help me wile away the time was a magnetic toy. It consisted of the picture of a bald man’s face inside a plastic cover with a magnet attached.

There were iron filings in the plastic and you used the magnet to give him hair, a beard, a mustache, eyebrows, or what ever you wanted. I think he was called Dapper Dan. In any case, I once gave him nose hair.

He was one of the easiest to get along with men I have ever met.

Now there is a plate that has the same face on it. The one pictured is the female but the company also makes the traditional guy face.

Your kids can play with their food without it being messy or a problem. They can give the guy spaghetti hair, macaroni and cheese eyebrows, a beet nose, or whatever you happen to be serving for dinner. In fact, I am pretty sure that I am going to buy one of these for myself  just for the memories it brings back!

The plates are full sized, measuring 8-1/2 inches in diameter and made from ceramics. You can put them in the dishwasher, too. Would you let your kids play with their food if they had one of these?

image: Amazon

RIE Parenting

Posted on Sep 17, 2014 by 1 Comment

Warning. The following article on RIE parenting is full of dripping sarcasm. Please wear protective gear beyond this point. Thank you.

What is RIE parenting you ask?

Well, it’s only the newest parenting technique to come out of Hollywood so you know it has to be awesome, right? REI stands for Resources for Infant Educarers and teaches its followers that it is imperative that we stop treating children like…well…children.

Magda Gerber, wife of a Hungarian industrialist, came up with the idea in the 1940s. Keep in mind the 1940s were part of the era where women were taught not to breastfeed their babies because it was unsanitary. Personally, I think she just didn’t have the mom gene, you know?

So here’s the deal — you are instructed to change the way your relate to your child for the rest of eternity. There will be no baby talk because that is degrading. Instead you will converse intelligently on a variety topics, letting your child know how much you are enjoying this bonding time.

Don’t be tempted to pop her in a bouncer or swing. These undignified contraptions of infant torture are disrespectful to the baby’s emotions and are the equivalent of handing her a shot of whiskey and a blunt. They cause her to zone out and lose touch with her inner angst.

Personally, I don’t see how these are disrespectful — I swear if they made one in my size I’d be in it most of the day.

The followers of RIE believe that anything that disrespects (You keep on using that word. I think you don’t know what it means.) the baby is one of those sins that will send you to a fiery hell.

Instruments of torture include:

  • Sippy cups
  • High chairs
  • Bouncers
  • Walkers
  • Slings

They probably aren’t big on animal cracker’s either.

Toys are prohibited. Pacifiers are prohibited because they violate your baby’s right to cry. You should never violate your baby’s unalienable right to cry but should allow her to cry for as long ass she likes. This way she won’t repress her emotions.

In fact, rocking, comforting, soothing are all horrible things we do that violate our babies’ right to have a hissy fit.

If your child gets in a fight you should not interfere. In fact? Why don’t you just take a cruise vacation and leave the little darling home to enjoy her personal freedom without you. You’ve popped that baby out — the rest is up to her.

Proponents sat it is common sense parenting.

I will agree that parents tend to be overly involved with their kids. They often make things too easy for them, get them out of conflicts they should be working on by themselves, and shield them from consequences. There’s no doubt that most American children are spoiled.

Still, shouldn’t there be some sort of balance between over-protection and extreme hands off parenting like RIE?

I think there should. Babies need to have their needs met for healthy emotional growth. Touch, rocking, nursing, and comforting are all methods used to raise emotionally healthy children and create healthy adults. Being stuck in a swing or a bouncer for hours on end is certainly no way to nurture a baby either!

What do you think about this method?

source: Vanity Fair

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Shared Parenting? I’m Skeptical

Posted on Sep 16, 2014 by 1 Comment

I’ve been reading a lot about shared parenting after divorce and to be honest I am quite skeptical about it.

It’s been my experience, and the experiences of a bunch of women that I know, that it’s difficult enough to achieve shared parenting when you are married let alone when you aren’t living together. There are just too many potential problems that I can see — granted, my opinion is colored by my experience.

Two “Separate but Equal” Homes

I thought that separate but equal was proven to not work well way back in the 1960s. Yes, a child can get used to anything but how does this work in the real world?

One month with one parent, one month with another? This also assumes that the parents live close together which doesn’t always happen. That brings up an entirely different question for me, too. What happens if one parent gets transferred across country? Which parent does the child stay with and how do they decide?

I can’t see this being beneficial at all.

And Then There Is Child Support

There is the question of child support. Presumably if a child is being shared equally by each parent there is no need for child support. That’s also assuming both parents make similar salaries and both parents are responsible enough to take care of the child’s needs when he is with them.

Honestly? The few times my ex has taken the kids, he brought them home without having had lunch.. or dinner. If I can’t trust him to buy them a burger I am pretty sure that most of their daily expenses would find their way into my checkbook in a shared situation.

Who Takes Care of Medical Issues?

In my divorce I am the custodial parent. I will be honest and say that I had the agreements written to be helpful to me and to protect my kids from ,what I considered to be at the time, an irrational father. I haven’t really changed my opinion on that, by the way.

In doing so I made all of the medical decisions exclusively mine. This way I know that if my child needs something I can make that decision without waiting for the ex to call me back or make a decision or consult with his girlfriend.

When everything is equally divided, who makes the final decision?

Where Does the Child Belong?

I am not from a broken home or whatever you want to call it, but we moved a lot when I was a kid and as a result I never developed a feeling of belonging anywhere. I wonder how kids who have two homes that are shared equally will handle that not being able to put down roots in either place.

Both Parents Should Be Involved

In a perfect world, both parents should be equally involved and, honestly, a real parent doesn’t need a court order to tell them what the right thing to do is. A real parent automatically puts the good of the child before his or her own desires.

Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world and I don’t think most humans can achieve shared yoke when it comes to parenting. Both parents should be involved but one should have the final authority when it comes to the kids. What are your thoughts?

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Validation Is Different than Affirmation

Posted on Sep 15, 2014 by No Comments

In the past couple of decades parents have heard more and more about their children’s need for affirmation. More parents than ever before are remembering to tell their kids that they are proud of them or that they do something well.

What’s happened is that we’ve raised a generation of very self confident children but it seems that with all of the self confidence we have nurtured our kids have gotten less empathetic and less compassionate than ever before while suffering from more stress and perfectionism than in previous generations. It doesn’t make sense.

Or does it?

Validation is different than affirmation but it is just as important. Affirmation lets your child know that you are proud of what they have done, how hard they have worked, or whatever. The focus on on their action and what they did to achieve something.

Validation lets your child know that they are valuable to you — that their feelings, emotions, and opinions are important even if you don’t agree with them. Validation is about respect for someone else’s individuality.

Let’s say your son comes home from school upset because his teacher chose another student to be the class leader for the day. Of course to an adult it is silly but to a child it can be devastating. You could smile and say, “Oh that’s not such a big deal! You’ll get to do it another time.”

Doing so sends a clear message to your child that their feelings are wrong, unimportant, or silly. Another possibility is that you listen intently and then say, “That must have made you feel sad. You’ll be excited when it’s your turn, won’t you?”

In the second example you didn’t give more importance to your child’s small drama than it deserved but you did acknowledge that it was OK for him to feel that way. You then gave him something to look forward to without preaching or giving advice.

You don’t need to agree with the actual emotions but just with the right of the child to have those emotions.

I have to admit, I have a special hatred of incidences when a child gets hurt and the parent says, “Oh! Stop crying, that didn’t hurt!”

Really? And you know that because?

There are certain things that make me cry and my family will tell you that I cry more easily than most people. A scene in a movie that would make me cry might not have an effect on you but that doesn’t mean that my feelings aren’t as valid as yours.

In the same way our children need to have their feelings accepted whether they are agreed with or  not. My youngest daughter was homeschooled until last year when circumstances dictated that I put the kids in school.

She is doing very well but every Monday, and some other days, we start the morning with tears and her begging not to have to go to school. I acknowledge her feelings (I know you don’t like getting up and going to school…) while at the same time letting her know that staying home is not an option (…but you have to go because there are lots of things for you to learn there!)

Do you validate your children?

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My Childhood Is Not Reproducible in My Children

Posted on Sep 12, 2014 by 1 Comment

It is a hard lesson to learn. I have so very many happy memories of my childhood that I have spent years mourning that my children could not (or would not) experience the long treks in the woods, the classic books I loved, or the experiences I had.

They would never really understand the peaceful, magical crunch of snow under their feet on a crystal clear winter night because we live in Texas. They’d never experience the family softball games at family reunions because I am an only child and my billions of cousins from my mother’s big family have pretty much all lost track of each other.

The list goes on — there are hundreds of things they’ll never get to do that I loved doing.

It made me sad and for a long time I tried to get them interested in reading books I had loved or doing things I had done. It finally occurred to me that they are making their own childhood memories that are every bit as wonderful as mine.

Different, but magical just the same.

I realized that if my children were to be allowed to grow and become individuals I’d have to free them from the confines of my own childhood memories.

My memories could be enjoyed, shared, and discussed but they could never be reproduced. By trying to give my children those same memories I was robbing them of their own childhoods so, hard as it was, I let go.

I had to let go of the guilt that I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be, they weren’t experiencing what I had experienced, and I had to let go of the idea that my experiences were higher in quality than their own.

What about you? Do you struggle with guilt over your children’s childhood experiences? Maybe it’s time to let go.

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We’re Making Little Kids Older and Older Kids Younger

Posted on Sep 10, 2014 by 1 Comment

It’s crazy. I have been writing and talking about how kids seem more immature in their teens than they used to but I never really thought about the fact that while we are dumbing down our teens we are pushing our littles to do more academics than ever before.

I was reading an article in NewsWise about how kindergarten is the new first grade and the ridiculous, topsy-turvy-ness of it all smacked me in the face. Little kids, just barely out of diapers are learning to read, do mathematics,  and focus on academics.

It wasn’t that long ago that your kid learned to tie his shoes and color in the lines in Kindergarten!

Meanwhile, teens and even young adults are increasingly immature. Unlike teens of the past, many of today’s teens are living lives with the assumption of entitlement. They don’t get part time, after school jobs, they don’t expect to pay for their own car, they don’t expect to have to pay for college.

All in all, they live at home totally supported by their parents until it’s time to go to college. After college they sometimes move back home to be taken care of some more.

I have no issue with kids’ learning as young as they are able to, and want to, learn. I don’t believe in pushing academics but I certainly don’t believe in withholding knowledge. At what point do we suddenly stop pushing little kids to be more responsible and mature and start encouraging them to become permanent adolescents?

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Would You Let Your Ex Back in Your Kids’ Lives?

Posted on Sep 8, 2014 by 1 Comment

I am not talking about letting him back in after a month or two. If your ex left the state and saw your kids once every couple of years for a couple of hours, would you welcome him to reconnect with your kids if he decided to come back full time or would you send him packing?

I don’t now how prevalent it is for men to skip out after divorce and rarely contact their kids. I know that it’s my situation as well as a couple of other people but the majority of the people I know who are divorced are both very involved in their kids’ lives.

Still, what if your ex suddenly came back after five or ten years and wanted to be part of the kids’ lives again — right out of the blue. How would you handle it?

I’d like to say that I’d be a reasonable, forgiving adult but the truth is that I don’t think I would. When someone checks out and leaves one person to do all of the parenting I don’t think it’s OK for them just to waltz back in and say, “I’m back!”

I am pretty sure I would require a penance that would make a medieval monk gasp with pride.

I’d want to know that he was serious about coming back in and it wasn’t a game. The minute he started playing games, not accepting that he was in the wrong, or getting angry when faced with the hurt he had caused the kids and I would be out for the count.

This would be a one chance deal. There would have to be apologies and he would have to accept whatever attention they wanted to give him until he had won their trust.

I don’t think this is something I have to be concerned about personally but I do wonder sometimes how I would handle it.

It’s hard to step back and watch your kids get hurt without getting in there and doing something about it. I know that when I was married to my ex I always seemed to be smoothing things over between him and the kids.

Once we were divorced it was hard not to keep doing it. I knew it was important for them to begin to relate without an interpreter but it sure was painful to watch. My ex is not a great communicator and he tends to have the out of sight out of mind gene, so that when he isn’t with someone they sort of cease to exist.

He was like that with his family when we moved far away and now that he has moved back to be near his family he’s like that with the kids.

It creates resentment in them. They get angry and then he lets people know how horrible I am to set his children against him. Just one more layer of crazy, you know?

I know that kids need to be loved by both parents and a stepparent can make a huge difference but can never replace the parent. No matter what your (or my) personal feelings are, the kids need access. If he blows it, it’s for the kids to deal with.

How would you handle it? What would you require?

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