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Video Games & Children: Are Yours Hooked Yet?

video games

Earlier this year, my daughter Elsie started playing video games. I don’t mean one of those free fairy makeover apps, I mean a proper games console. My husband had been waiting for this moment for six years, she was finally old enough to start basic training. Fast forward six months and she’s pretty hooked… but have we started her on it too young? Let’s look at the evidence – As usual, I will be researching important parenting decisions after I’ve already accidently made them.

What the headlines say about video games:

press-headline
I would suggest your headline isn’t exactly genius either…
press-headline-gaming
Saving on therapy bills already, sweet.
press-headline-gaming-children
Visit to the paediatrician… “I would like to improve my child please.”
press-headline-gaming-addiction
Have you tried turning it off and on again?

 So… gaming is addictive, but will create an improved ‘nice but dim’ version of your child. Doesn’t sound too bad to me, my daughter already out-wits me and she’s only six. However, I suspect these headlines are not suggesting making your kid dumber is an improvement, so lets delve into the nitty gritty…

What the experts say about video games:

“If you watch kids on a computer, most of them are just hitting keys or moving the mouse as fast as they can. It reminds me of rats running in a maze.” (Educational psychologist Jane Healy)

Does this only apply to kids? That’s pretty much how I still play games and I don’t always lose. Jane Healy suggest waiting until seven to allow children to play video games, to ‘allow their brains to develop normally’. I’m pretty sure being better at angry birds than Mom by age 4 means Elsie’s brain is already mush, whoops. However, I’m certainly not the only parent guilty of using IPhone’s babysitting services while on a long journey and in a waiting room.

“I think what we’re seeing here is the evolution of gaming in modern society. Video games are now a part of a normal childhood,” (Katherine Keyes, Columbia University)

Ms Keyes believes gaming has become “pro-social” and a child excluded from an activity that has become so normal is more likely to develop social problems with their peers. I can’t see Elsie being shunned in the playground for not keeping up with the latest gaming news just yet, but I get her point. 

‘In 2012, researchers at Iowa State University found that “prosocial games” – titles that encouraged players to co-operate and help each other – increased helpful behaviour.’ (Keith Stuart, The Guardian)

In my recent post about Elsie’s competitive streak, I wrote about collaboration and cooperation as part of competition. This is totally the same thing… I would even suggest that her competitive streak has been fuelled by her love for Mario Cart. It’s a great multi-player game and can be fun to play as a family, but let’s be honest there’s only ever one winner… no collaborative play.

“often parents don’t understand that many video games are meant to be shared and can teach young people about science, literacy and problem solving. Gaming with their children also offers parents countless ways to insert their own ‘teaching moment.’” (Elizabeth Hayes, ASU)

Angry birds is basically a physics lesson on projectiles… Maybe Elsie’s brain hasn’t gone 100% mush just yet.

What I say after doing a lot of googling:

As far as I can see, the press is quick to make sweeping statements but the ‘experts’ are a little less dramatic. Like all things fun… moderation is key. Katherine Keyes suggests restricting screen time to 20mins a day after homework, very sensible.

Most ‘experts’ say screens should be avoided before 2yrs and games should be avoided before 7yrs. I personally think it depends on the child. Elsie has never had the best fine motor skills and I have noticed a massive improvement in that since she started gaming. Also, although she may have become more competitive, games such as Mario Cart have helped her cope with losing. She used to be the worst sore loser but she has slowly learnt that it doesn’t matter if she comes last, next time she will do better. She quite often makes the analogy when working on something tough… “I used to be bad at Mario, but now I’m really good.” This is definitely positive.

Despite this, I also understand that some games are more appropriate than others. I’m not talking about six-year-olds playing Grand Theft Auto… obviously that’s a no-no, sorry Daddy. But some games such as Mario Maker for example, are creative, problem solving, collaborative and are not at all violent. So my ‘expert’ advice would be: Let them play, but play with them and problem solve together. Limit gaming time to prevent brain mush, and choose their games carefully.

 

If you would like to read some of the articles I managed to procrastinate a whole morning’s chores with, here you go:

 
This post is linked up here:

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback
MrsAOK, A Work In Progress
One Messy Mama
Hot Pink Wellingtons

Pumpkin Wars: The Six Year Old Competitive Streak.

With Halloween on the horizon, yesterday afternoon I managed to find myself in the middle of some competitive carving. This is the fourth year my daughter and I have carved pumpkins together. Normally she would help design and draw, but she hasn’t really had the ability or strength to carve. Last year she gave it a good go but it was pretty terrifying and she tired of it quickly – phew. But this year, at the grand old age of 6½, she has totally upped her game. There is a determination that wasn’t there before which seems to have given birth to a competitive streak. Suddenly we had a game of Pumpkin Wars on our hands…

kid-competitive-pumpkin-carving
The look of a determined winner…
Elsie’s Rules for Competitive Carving:
  1. Mom has to do the gooey insides bit because it’s disgusting;
  2. Don’t touch my pumpkin (apart from the gooey insides);
  3. Don’t even look at my pumpkin until it’s finished;
  4. Stay on your side of the table with your own pumpkin;
  5. Until I need help popping the eyes out because they’re stuck;
  6. Then return to your side of the table until I’m finished.

We have competed a number of times recently. Only the previous day we had friends over to make pizzas. “We’re having a pizza making competition!” She said excitedly. That’s not what I said but that’s what she heard. A few days before we had sat down to try out her ‘How to draw Manga’ book from the library. “We’re having a Manga drawing competition.” She said. Note how she tells me what’s already happening rather than making a suggestion. So where did this sudden competitive streak come from?

What the Experts Say

Because I occasionally like to back my waffle with a bit of science, I thought I’d do some research and find out whether this sudden surge of enthusiasm for winning was normal.

“The chronic competitiveness of 5- and 6-year-olds is often hard for parents to handle. We tend to be embarrassed by the boasting common at this age and concerned that our children might be perceived as arrogant or insensitive.”

Thankyou Karen Levine from Parents Magazine, I feel so much better knowing my daughter’s pumpkin carving trash talk is normal. “My pumpkin is gonna be so much spookier than yours,” could really hurt someone’s feelings.

The New York Times offers expert views for and against competitive behaviours in children, including quotes from experts such as:

 “The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that competition is destructive, particularly, but not exclusively, for children… It’s a toxic way to raise children.” (Alfie Kohn)

Shit Alfie, I wish I’d know that before embarking on two days of competitive pizza making and pumpkin carving. We’ve had such an intoxicating weekend I almost feel hungover. Mr Kohn is quite convinced that competitiveness can ‘promote anxiety, damage self-esteem and performance, and lead to disengagement.’ We’re screwed… totally screwed. Another week of this and she’s going to be a quivering mess.

However, luckily for me, not everyone is quite so pessimistic. David Johnson, a professor at the University of Minnesota believes than when competitive behaviour is combined with co-operation, it creates a healthy environment for support and success. So teaming up and encouraging each other to do better is good. And it’s OK to have a winner as long as the loser is also encouraged…

“The creativity, the innovation, the quality of product all goes up as you nurture talents and performance of others,” (Prof. David Johnson, University of Minnesota.)

Oh good, I do feel better. I was getting plenty of encouragement from my opponent while carving. “I bet your pumpkin is looking super spooky Mommy.” If I’m honest the tone was a little cocky and patronizing but I’ll totally take it.

The Result

At the end of the competitive pumpkin carving, of course there had to be a winner. Daddy was out at the shops and so it was decided that he was to be the judge on his return. However after leaving the room for a few moments I returned to find this…

pumpkins-with-crowns

Ignore the washing up in the background and the cat trying to squeeze it’s head into the pumpkin to get the flickering electric candle… I haven’t got time to be full glamour all the time you know. What we’re looking at here is the crowns. It seems Elsie couldn’t wait for Judge Daddy to get back from the shops so had crowned herself winner of the pumpkin carving competition. She made it very clear that she was given the gold crown and I had been awarded the silver crown for coming second. “Well done Mommy.” Then she pointed out the certificates she had placed beside each pumpkin…

pumpkin-carving-certificates

So… I got a ‘nice try’… does that count as ‘nurturing talents and performance of others?’. She was certainly very pleased to be crowned first place and who could argue with her… she had just carved her very own pumpkin at age six!

We may need to curb the competitive streak at some point, but for now I think I’ll let her revel in the toxicity of her win, sorry Alfie. Happy Halloween!

pumpkins-in-darkness

The Obligatory Pumpkin Patch Outing

pumpkin-patch
How to confuse small children…

When I was a child, the Pumpkin Patch was definitely not a thing, certainly not in England anyway. Now, it seems to be a Fall staple, and despite making it six years into motherhood unscathed, last weekend I found myself on the obligatory Pumpkin Patch family outing. “What IS a Pumpkin Patch?” I asked my husband before we left. “It’s a big patch of pumpkins.” My daughter said. Thank you sweetie, I feel so much more prepared now.

On arrival at MacDonald’s Ranch we struggle to find a parking space because it turns out people really like pumpkins. I wonder if this would work for any other vegetables? I could make a killing opening the first ever (Twin) Pickle Patch… see what I did there? Patent pending. It’s $12 to get in… $12! There had better be one seriously impressive pumpkin in there. I can take the kids to Safeway for free and see a pretty decent selection, and I’m pretty sure they won’t mind if I rearrange them for a little photo shoot. 

pumpkins-safeway
There’s straw and everything…

Still, the twins have a couple of weeks to go until their 1st birthday so they get in for free. I suddenly feel like we’ve nabbed ourselves a bargain and we head onwards into the realm of the Pumpkin Patch. I instantly see that my $12 is not just for viewing pumpkins, there’s a whole selection of activities – I’ve essentially walked into a pop-up theme park decorated with scarecrows. On that note, why are scarecrows a Fall thing? Don’t you need to fend off birds all year round?

My daughter is pretty pumped. Six years old is the perfect age to get your face painted, lasso/milk a fake cow, sift for gold, and play fairground games with prizes designed specifically to hurt when you stand on them the following day. I should point out, if you didn’t already know, we live in Arizona, USA. So if you live in Scunthorp, UK, you may be offered slightly different activities.

western-activities
In case you were wondering… lassoing and milking were separate activities.

With a quick cheese toasty break we head on to the main attraction… The (actual) Pumpkin Patch. To encourage the air of suspense we are taken there on a hay covered trailer drawn by horses through the desert. I know, we’re totally rockin’ the wild west right now. The  scenery is beautiful but I can’t help thinking “I’m pretty sure no pumpkins grow out here…”

desert

Despite being late October, it is 95° outside and I’m starting to wish I had brought water with me. Who goes out to a desert Pumpkin Patch without water? Rookie error. As we come to a halt I see it… the famed Pumpkin Patch, set up in all it’s glory right here in the Arizona desert.

I figure we have about 15minutes before I pass out from dehydration, including catching the horse wagon back and sourcing suitable refreshments. I wanted my family Pumpkin Patch photo and I needed it quick, so we found the perfect spot beside a slightly deranged scarecrow and prepared the children. Elsie was on board, if you remember my post about the family photo shoot, she’s pretty reliable when it comes to striking a pose. The twins however had other ideas. George was bemused… “Why am I surrounded by large orange vegetables in the middle of the desert?” Arthur just went total melt-down…

pumpkin-patch-tears
The photo I travelled through the desert on horseback for…

Was it the feel of the hay? Was it the pumpkins themselves, or just the weird scarecrow with the plastic head? Who knows, but he was having none of it. Drinks required all round. We make a quick exit and headed back on the horse drawn trailer. Elsie was annoyed because she thought the tractor dressed as a train was a much cooler ride… make no presumptions about children.

We didn’t stay at the ranch much longer as we were starting to melt and frankly I felt like I had earned a Sunday afternoon beer. When I got back I couldn’t help but google, and sure enough there is an official title for the fear of pumpkins – cucurbitophia. The same word is used for the fear of all vegetables in the gourd family. What is a gourd I thought? Google strikes again. Gourds are ‘chiefly herbaceous tendril-bearing vines including the cucumber, melon, squash, and pumpkin’. So unfortunately (Twin) Pickle Patch can not be marketed to sufferers of cucurbitophia… bummer, it was a genius niche market opportunity.

 

Organizational Skills: A Tale of Two Ninjas

Last week’s parent teacher conference brought to my attention that my six year-old daughter is somewhat lacking ‘organizational skills’. How organized a six year-old is supposed to be I do not know, but I would agree it’s not one of her strong points. Anyone that can go upstairs to get changed for school and come down 30minutes later naked, with a copy of The Beano, clearly needs a little help.

ninja-tools
This image will make sense in about 1minute…

So, no surprizes in regard to my slightly eccentric daughter, but what came as a bit of a blow was Teacher going on to suggest if we were more organized at home it may help organization at school. I knew not to be defensive, I am a teacher myself, but who did she think she was (I thought silently to myself)? Time management and organization is my thing, without it how have I even made it this far? But, had I better consider what she was suggesting? After all, I turned up to see her sweaty and panting, because I was five minutes late for a 3:40pm appointment. It was only when I’d been there a while she informed me the appointment was actually booked for 3:20. I wasn’t exactly oozing organizational skills right now.

Teacher suggested that doing homework at regular times through the week would help. I totally agree… routine is key. If she knows what to expect, she will become more efficient at transitioning from one activity to another. She will know what’s coming, reducing anxiety and eliminating surprizes that can be difficult to process. That’s my teacher training talking. My Mom brain is thinking “How does she even know that we bodge it together whenever I remember, and the rest is cobbled together Sunday night?” I give her a squinty-eyed suspicious look… was she some kind of ninja teacher? Ninjas are one of my daughter’s latest obsessions,  so that would be pretty cool. I envisage Teacher in a black jumpsuit and a karate style headband, stalking students at night to check they’ve done their homework… I could write a children’s book.

organizational skills
Do I go headband or full face balaclava thing?

“…very distracted and finds it difficult to concentrate.” Crap, what was she saying? Deep in thought about the styling of my illustrations, I’d totally lost track of the conversation. Shit, I don’t even know if she is talking about me or my daughter? And at this point does it even matter? We clearly both have a problem, and my husband’s no better, it’s like the blind leading the blind.

We left school and went straight home to create a homework chart for the fridge. Everyone loves a chart, right? The following day I bought a pack of stickers, a multi-pack of hearts, smiley faces and stars – perfect, I thought, this is going swimmingly – check out my organizational skills. My daughter and I sat and discussed what would need to be achieved for a sticker on the chart. It started with a sensible plan of dividing the homework into quarters to be completed Monday-Thursday, ready for EARLY hand-in on Friday, take than Ninja Teacher.

ninja-battle-run-away
You’re not the only one with ninja skills…

“Let’s use the hearts for homework,” she said. This sounded like a good suggestion, but then things started to get complicated. “But what is the difference between the big hearts and the small hearts?” Hmm… that’s a good question, surely a big heart sticker is superior to a small one, so it seemed unfair to make them equal. “Maybe if you do more than the minimum homework you get a big heart?” A great idea, but it started a snowball…

“Let’s make the smiley faces for finishing my work at school.”
“What can the stars be for?”
“What about the big stars?”
“Maybe I can write +3 on the sticker when my homework is on +3s?”
“What about Friday-Sunday?”
“No, I’m not tidying up, that’s the worst.”
“What do I get if I pass my maths test?”
“But what if I play my recorder and the piano on the same day?”
“How many stickers do I need to get a prize?”
“Let’s have a different coloured heart for every week.”

My head was spinning, I should have been taking notes. What did she have to do for a small star again? And was there any difference in the colour of the smiley faces? What do I have to do to get her to tidy up? What would Ninja Teacher do?

ninja-fight-hyaah
Don’t mess with Ninja Teacher…

So… I’m feeling pretty defeated right now. Defeated by crappy organizational skills, and defeated by a six-year old who, thinking about it may well be a ninja too. We’re a week in and the chart is a random scattering of pink and red hearts, a blue smiley face and two small sparkly stars. I have no idea what that means but I don’t see any large hearts, so know she hasn’t been doing any extra homework. No surprises there.

What can you learn from this tale of two ninjas?
  • Teachers are always right;
  • Don’t let a six year-old make decisions for you;
  • You may not be the person you always thought you were;
  • Buy boring identical stickers to make charts;

white-black-ninjas

If any of you are planning on becoming an actual Ninja, the images in this post were sourced from a very useful article titled ‘How to be a Ninja at school’. People lacking organizational skills may want to read something more useful… can’t help you there.

 

The Family Photo Shoot

Having been in the US for nearly three years, certain traditions are starting to rub off. We are building up to Thanksgiving and starting to feel excited about turkey and pumpkin pie. My daughter is desperate to start the Halloween home makeover and has been since August. Then there’s the fall family photo shoot.

Its a widely excepted fact that Americans are addicted to photo shoots… spring, fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas, pregnancy, newborn, birthdays, graduation,  anniversaries, and of course school and dance recitals. Other than the school photos, I’ve never before felt the need to employ someone to take photographs for me. After all, I have a GCSE in Photography and an IPhone, what more could I need? But alas, this year I couldn’t resist and I booked the fall family photo shoot, despite my husband’s horror.

family photo shoot

This weekend was the big day, and this is how it went:

6.37am Wake up in a panic. We have to leave in 45mins and I have to feed and dress myself and three children. Realize I probably should have set an alarm and got up a lot earlier.

7.15am How long can it take for a six year old to eat a bowl of cheerios? Curse myself for booking a photo shoot at 7.50am, what was I thinking? Cross my hair off the mental to-do list, I’ll look fine, there’s nothing more flattering than the mop-haired, puffy-eyed hungover look. 

7.30am The twins have still not taken their clockwork morning poop. Run around in a panic trying to find extra clothes for the bag in case we have a sudden explosion mid shoot… why did I think white was a good idea in the first place?

7.45am Realize we’re going to be late so send my apologies to the photographer… could have seen that one coming.

8.00am Find photographer, take a deep breath… we sort of made it and everyone has clothes on. 

8.05am Get kiddos in position for the debut picture. Our six year old daughter tries to hold her smile while losing grip of her two brothers who are more interested in eating the gravel. Parents, granny and photographer jump up and down like crazed chimpanzees, trying to achieve the perfect smile. Twins stare with bemusement without even a curl of the mouth… “What ARE they doing?”

8.10am George gets on board and Elsie is loving all the attention but Arthur is playing hard-ball. That emoji with the straight mouth and the slight f**k you tone is the best we’re going to get. We move on.

8.15am Elsie steals the lime light with some single portraits. Despite the mild freak out over the bees in the bougainvillea all goes well.

8.20am We try the group shot again in a new location. Granny manages to head butt Arthur but once the tears pass he decides he might be ready to break a mild smile. George is thinking about peanut butter on toast and has no intention of hiding it.

8.25am It’s over… Thank goodness for that. No poop explosions, no major disasters and everyone still has clothes on. That’s success in my book. Time for a massive coffee and a piece of cake. 

Driving home, I consider whether I would do this again. When you take into account shopping for the perfect outfits, organizing a photographer, paying for the service and getting yourself there and back in one piece… is the family photo shoot really worth it? I am always taking pictures of my kids and achieve delights like this one taken a couple of weeks ago:

family-photo-shoot
Photograph by Twin Pickle Photography, Arizona.

Is there really much difference? The short and only answer to this is yes. Because believe or not, the bonkers brigade shown above is the same three children as the angelic beauties below:

family-photo-shoot
Photograph by Sara Waterman Photography, Arizona.

So if you want to convince your friends and family that you have it all under control and your children are fit for tea with the queen, book your family photo shoot and melt at the cuteness for many years to come. I know I will.

Thank you Sara Waterman Photography… you did great 🙂 

 

This post is linked up here:

This Mum's Life
Mumzilla
Diary of an imperfect mum
Hot Pink Wellingtons

5 Reasons Why Las Vegas is Made for Babies

On Sunday we are packing up the Minivan and heading to Las Vegas for a couple of days. We do this occasionally because my husband has the odd meeting there, and it’s relatively easy to tag along. I was going to write a post about things to do, or what to pack, but then I got this vision in my head of one of my boys wearing a green visor at the poker table.

Las Vegas Baby

I just couldn’t get past it. So instead of giving you something useful to read about, I thought I’d Photoshop my children into scenes of Las Vegas instead. A sort of pre-trip photo montage… the photos that could be, in case I don’t make it back. In doing this I had a realisation. Las Vegas is literally made for babies. Vice city is living proof that we never grow up. Here are just 5 reasons why:

1 – Casinos are full of toys.

As adults we really haven’t moved on much. Anything that spins, flashes and stacks is a go-go. I’m pretty sure Fisher Price are in cahoots with the casino owners to ensure we are hooked on this stuff by the time we hit puberty – genius.

las-vegas-toys

2 – People are compelled to eat and drink non-food items.

I have no idea what is in these crazy slushy cocktails, or how much alcohol they contain. But I do know they come in stupidly large ‘glasses’ and look like your poop might glow in the dark afterwards. Please note: no-one is trusted with actual glass in Vegas – plastic sippy cups for everyone.

las-vegas-cocktails

3 – You can acceptably wear a diaper, onesie or wacky costume in public.

Yes, if you want to make a living out of being a grown-up baby, Vegas is the city to do it. Crazy Hat Day everyday? No problem. And instead of being scared and crossing the street to get away from you, people will give you money and take your photograph.

las-vegas-diaper

4 – Bedtime is accompanied by projection displays and music.

If you’re still afraid of the dark, just move to Vegas. The famous light displays never fail to please, and the background noise of fountains, nightclubs, and people who have had too many slushies, will give you the perfect night sleep. Everyone knows babies don’t like silence.

las-vegas-lights

5 – You are unable to calculate risk wisely.

As a baby we learn the hard way… from our mistakes. Every new experience is risky, and we just love to gamble, mainly because we haven’t worked out the likely outcome of our actions yet. In a casino this infant instinct resurfaces, and people are suddenly incapable of making sensible decisions. They are determined to throw away their life savings on the small chance of a win, and seem quite convinced it’s a good idea. 

What big babies we are… especially in Las Vegas.

las-vegas-money

Disclaimer: No babies were given alcoholic drinks or played poker to make these photographs. Images created for entertainment purposes only. A bit like this video… enjoy.

 

This post is linked up here:

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three
Hot Pink Wellingtons

Why are you still naked? – Kids that can’t keep their clothes on.

kids-feet
Source: triumphinstitute.com.au

Although I’m proud of my daughter for being a non-conformist, certain social etiquettes have their uses… such as covering your mouth when you cough, not kicking dogs, and wearing clothes. It is the latter that I’m having trouble with. If she hasn’t worked out in 6yrs that hanging out in the buff isn’t always appropriate, will she ever? It seems I have one of those kids that can’t keep their clothes on.

I’m no prude, and I can cope with the nakedness at home, most of the time. But when you’ve managed to get clothes on in the morning why do they need to come back off? Why does going to the bathroom involve full nudity? It’s like a fashion show at home because every time my daughter goes to put her clothes back on as requested, she gets a fresh outfit from her room. All the extra washing is her punishment for me not letting her wear her birthday suit.

We seem to slowly be going off sleepwear too. She used to love her PJs and has quite the selection, but now likes to sleep in just her underwear. She would probably rather sleep naked but then she’d end up eating her breakfast in the nuddy, and I really don’t want bare butts on my kitchen chairs. Maybe I am a prude? Maybe breakfast should be more like this:

nude-family-dinner
Source: PureNudism.com

On a serious note, I struggle a little when we’re in public. I don’t want to body shame her. I don’t want to suggest there’s something dirty or wrong about a naked body. But there are safety issues to think about, and general social norms. I have found it quite different here in the US than in Europe, where it is very normal for young kids to run around naked on the beach. In France you would see little girls wearing pretty frilly bottoms for swimming, rather than the two piece bikini which seems popular here in America. I’m not entirely sure when toddler nipples became so offensive but apparently people feel they should be covered up.

When we first moved across the Atlantic my daughter was four, and it wasn’t such an issue. Now she’s six, and getting undressed and taking the scenic route to the restroom at swim club no longer seems OK. And I can tell by the looks from other parents, it’s not socially appropriate either. According to Dr. Ann of theparentingdoctor.com “at around 5 to 6-years-old, kids feel shame, but still do not know exactly when and where it is appropriate to be naked”. Oh good, so there’s hope yet of not having to walk her down the aisle naked in 20yrs because she now lives in a naturist colony. I would be left walking her down the aisle because my husband has already said he’s not going to the wedding if that’s what happens. It good to discuss these things so we’re prepared.

naked-wedding
Photograph taken by Elliott Erwitt at a naturist colony in 1984. Source: Time.com

Turns out, I am not the only one that has a ‘naked’ child. An article in the NY Times talks in depth about how different families and their attitude to being naked shape how their children feel about being naked. “Ms Dominguez, an optician, said she was stunned when the friend’s mom told her that Hayden, who turns 6 next month, was not welcome back because he had undressed and urinated in the yard.” Oh dear, poor Ms Dominguez and her boy have been banished from playdates for his naked activities. This does not bode well.

In reading this article I felt a little horrified by it’s accusations. There’s a possibility that it was us as parents that have caused this naked loving affliction. Was I really one of those naked parents? I’ve really never seen myself as the tree-hugging type. I rarely wear heels and even more rarely shave my legs, but I assure you it’s just plain old laziness, not a need to be at one with nature. When I was 11 I bumped into my friend’s naked Mom on the way to the bathroom in the morning. I was horrified… put some clothes on woman! Am I now the naked Mom?

I will continue my quest to keep clothes on my child. It doesn’t help that we now live in the desert and it’s hot all the time. And of course anything to do with  butts is hilarious, so we get the ‘booty dance’ at any given opportunity. We’ll work on the flashing in public and hope that at some point shouting “Why are you still naked?” will become a thing of the past. If not, maybe she’s destined to appear on “Naked and Afraid”? If you haven’t seen this show you have been missing out. Contestants have to survive 21days without food or clothes with a stranger in some kind of harsh natural environment… Genius. Here’s a taster – this is what becomes of kids that can’t keep their clothes on:


Poopcrastination: A child’s guide to difficult questions.

poopcrastination
Source: today.com

Listen up kids… My daughter is six and she is an expert in avoiding chores, homework or basically anything she thinks is rubbish. Here’s her guide which I’ve aptly named Poopcrastination: A child’s guide to answering difficult questions.

1. When your parents ask you to tidy your room, just tell them you “need a really long poo.” Mom let’s me read books while I sit on the toilet so I can just wait until my legs go numb.

2. When Mom asks you why you haven’t brushed your teeth yet, say “I’m sorry Mom, I got really distracted talking to myself.” It’ll buy you another five minutes of pulling faces in the mirror before she actually gets angry.

3. If you’ve already started ‘tidying’, just put the toys in and back out of the box multiple times. It’ll look like you’re working hard even though you’re actually playing peekaboo with your My Little Pony Equestria Girls.

4. At the suggestion of pretty much anything you don’t want to do, just flop dramatically onto the floor, exhaling loudly and say “I’m too tired.”. This works anytime you want to use the word ‘bored’. Just replace with ‘tired’, it’s pretty much the same thing but goes down better with the Olds.

5. I knew my brothers would come on handy at some point… When you’re asked why you haven’t put your clothes on yet, just say “I was playing with my brothers, they needed cheering up.”. It’s very important being a big sister you know.

6. When you’re asked  why you lost a reward penny at school,  just say “I can’t remember”. If you can’t remember it didn’t happen, right? This response is also perfect for questions such as “How did you do in your math test?” and “Did you eat all your lunch?”.

7. When you go upstairs to get on with your duties, make sure to take the cat with you. You can silently play for some time before Mom realizes you haven’t even started yet. Kitty love is important too you know.

8. If Mom shouts upstairs “How’s the tidying going?”, be sure to reply with an over-enthusiastic “GREAT!”. You might buy an extra five minutes before she comes to check just how great it’s going.

So just in case you haven’t already mastered the art of procrastination, try some of these techniques to drag out any five minute job and turn it into an all day thing.

Enjoy your poopcrastination children 🙂


Whiplash – Knowing when to break your kid’s balls.

whiplash
If you haven’t seen the movie Whiplash, put it on your must-see list. It’s about the relationship between an extremely strict and ruthless college teacher and one of his talented music students. The poor kid is hammered down until breaking point, but ultimately becomes a better player and stronger person for it, despite the literal torture. I’m not condoning treating any human being the way depicted in this movie but it did come to mind when I had to make a parenting decision this week. How do you know when it’s time to break your kid’s balls?

My 6 year-old daughter has just started ‘playing’ the recorder in school music lessons. She has a sheet of music she needs to work on at home using the notes B, A and G. So we started with just learning these three notes… total disaster. As soon as we try to move from B to A she freaks out. Crying, arms flailing around, “I can’t do it!” and “it’s too hard!” on repeat like a broken record. My daughter has always been the dramatic theatrical type so this kind of reaction wasn’t totally unexpected. But how was I going to handle it? She had been walking around the house for the past week just blowing into this instrument, so she has had plenty of time to mess around and have fun with it, but at some point if she was going to learn how to play, she was going to have to put in the hard work. So I had a choice to make – Either we call it a day and start fresh tomorrow, or I open a can of Whiplash on her ass…

I stand up like I mean it, and in my best authoritative teacher voice I say:

“Stop. Now. You are going to pick up that recorder. You are going to hold it up like you mean it. You are going to know you can do it. And you are going to sit there for as long as it takes to play B, A and G. You are going to keep playing for ten minutes, and if I hear any crying, any whinging or moaning you will play for another ten minutes. You will get it wrong, and wrong again, but you will keep playing until it is right… Understood?”

She looks at me in horror and I silently waited for a reaction thinking this could go either way… I’ve either created my daughter’s first therapy session or this might, just might work. She says nothing (pretty much a first for her) and just picks up the instrument and starts to play. She gets it wrong and before she gets a chance to say anything I remind her “do it again.”. So she does.

I walk away, listening in while folding washing, and let her keep playing until I hear it – she hit it – B to A. I shout “that’s it. Do it again.” She plays solidly without a word for ten minutes. For a talkaholic 1st Grader that has the attention span of a demented frog that is impressive. I breathe a sigh of relief that Ball-Breaker Mom worked out, and go in for a high-five. She was so pumped she could do it, she ran around the house screaming “I did it, I can play the recorder!” and I felt pretty pumped too.

I’m not normally Ball-Breaker Mom but sometimes I wonder whether my softer approach is a conscious decision or whether I am guilty of taking the easy option. “Don’t worry Sweetie, we’ll try again tomorrow.” would have diffused the situation quickly and easily, but she would have felt defeated and we would have faced the same, possibly worse problem the following day. I believe she responded well because I gave her my undivided attention for that moment and I said it like I meant it because I cared. I wanted her to succeed, not because I particularly mind if she grows up being able to play the recorder, but because I want her to learn not to give up, and work hard, and that things aren’t always easy but they are worth fighting for.

There is obviously a line, but deciding when to cuddle and step back, and when to break their balls is all part of the fun of parenting. I would just suggest that occasionally your child needs to know you care enough about what they are doing to bust open a can of Whiplash. And watch the movie, it is awesome and will crush and fill your heart at the same time. Here’s the trailer…

Top Ten Ways to Move a Sleeping Baby.

You arrive home in the car and open the back door to find a baby (or two) fast asleep. If only you could do a tactical transplant to the crib? Here are the top ten ways to move a sleeping baby:

sleeping baby

1. Slowly. Undo the straps, pause. Remove arms from straps, pause. Slide hands behind head, pause. It might take most of nap time to get him to bed but he’ll be none the wiser.

2. Quickly. Babies have the ability to wake randomly, scream and then instantly fall back to sleep. Use this to your advantage by frantically wrestling baby out of the car, chucking them into their crib and closing the door. You’ll likely stand outside holding your breath to see if he goes back to sleep but it might actually work.

3. The Yoga Transplant. This is my favored technique. It’s important to get ‘in-the-zone’ first with some deep breathing and a little shake out. You’re aiming for continuous smooth movement accompanied by rhythmic breathing. Feel the movement, go with the flow and be confident yet gentle.

4. The Lullaby. Remove your child in the usual manner but accompany the action with a lullaby. The success of this will likely depend on your singing skills and therefore I am currently running on a 0% win rate.

5. Don’t move them. I quite often do this if I realize they’re asleep while I’m still driving. Divert through Starbucks drive-through, turn up the radio ever so slightly and enjoy the view of the parking lot. Accompanied with a browse through Facebook and a some people watching you can have quite the afternoon.

6. The Hypnotist. Pull out your best Derren Brown impression and talk quietly to your baby. Start before you touch, telling him how ready he is for naptime – ooze mind-control. Talk repetitively and continuously until baby is in bed, using trigger words like sleepy-sleep, naptastic and shhh…

7. The Masseuse. Rub baby’s feet, hands and temples in an anti-clockwise motion. Follow this with gentle tickles down the legs and arms before carefully removing baby from the car and placing over your shoulder. Pat bottom repeatedly until you reach the crib. OK… I haven’t actually tried this but I have a good feeling about it.

8. The Rocker. More rock-a-by-baby than leather pants and mosh-pits, the Rocker requires rhythm. Undo and remove arms from straps, then pause. Start to rock/giggle the car seat in a rhythmic motion and hope baby doesn’t wake up. When you’re ready, scoop baby up while keeping up the same rock/giggle until you get him to bed.

9. Act like nothing happened. Just remove your baby from the seat like normal. They’ll probably wake up and expect an afternoon snack so whatever you do DON’T make eye contact. Confidently pretend you haven’t notice that they’re totally awake and just put them straight to bed anyway. If you believe it enough they might just join in.

10. The Defeatist. Just don’t even bother. The look of disappointment and desperation on your face just might be enough for a sympathy vote and baby might go back to sleep. It’s unlikely but there’s always hope.


This post is linked up here:

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The Pramshed
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