Children Without Borders

freerange
I just learned that when I was a child, my parents were criminals. That’s a lot to take in when you thought your mom and dad were law-abiding citizens—more or less. I had no idea my parents hid a dark side until I heard that parents in Maryland were charged with neglect for letting their kids walk to the park. Alone.
At first, I thought the story was a joke and kept reading for the punchline. Nope. Totally real. A neighbor called the police to report that the children were playing without the required amount of helicopter-parent supervision. Additionally, the nosy neighbor stated, “It wasn’t the first time these children played by themselves.” Gasp.
The siblings were taken by Child Protective Services while the parents were investigated, and (because we have to label everything) the term “free-range parenting” was created. Free-range parenting is defined as, “A new, hands-off approach to raising children.” But other people label it as neglect.
So, if I was so inclined, I could retroactively (and in my mom’s case, posthumously) have my parents thrown in the slammer.
Every Saturday morning, after we finished eating Fruity Pebbles straight from the box while watching “Land of the Lost,” my mom would kick us out of the house and tell us not to come home until sunset. Then she’d slam the door. And lock it.
We were cool with that. We shrugged, hopped on our bikes and went to find something to do. We’d wander through neighborhoods like adolescent Pied Pipers, picking up other unattended children. Then we’d end up in someone’s yard playing Red Rover (aka Clothesline Your Buddies) until those parents told us to get lost.
We’d amble to 7-Eleven where we’d buy candy cigarettes and Fresca (because the can looked like beer). We’d sit on the swings sipping our pretend beer and discuss whatever it is kids discuss in those situations. I’m sure we fooled everyone because doesn’t every 10-year-old sit in the park swigging a cold beer while smoking with her friends?
I guess our parents didn’t think we needed 24-hour supervision. We walked to school every day with a group of friends, rain or shine. And we frequently rode our bikes nearly two miles to the Murray Library with ne’er an adult in sight.
In a time before cell phones, GPS and tracking devices, parents relied on their kids to use common sense. They taught us to avoid strangers, stay off the train tracks, don’t go into homes when the parents weren’t around and, basically, not to be stupid.
My daughters could also have charged me with neglect, and they’ve probably already contacted an attorney. I often allowed them to bike to the local swimming pool and stay there for hours. They also walked to 7-Eleven—and probably bought candy cigarettes with their friends.
People say, “Don’t you know how dangerous the world is?” Guess what? The world has always been dangerous. Helicopter parenting, obsessive worrying and overprotective hovering doesn’t stop bad things from happening.
Here’s my definition of neglect: not allowing your children to create a feeling of independence; not allowing your children to be bored and have to create something; not allowing your kids to make mistakes, get lost, mess up and face consequences.
Kids are resilient, and more often than not, they make the right decision. So I guess I’ll have to forgive my parents for teaching me to be independent and creative. Gee, thanks mom and dad.
Originally published in the West Jordan Journal–http://www.westjordanjournal.com/2015/05/22/72434/children-without-borders
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Things Driving Me Crazy at the Ball Game

From coaching my daughters’ softball teams to watching the SF Giants win the series, baseball is a way to kick back and relax. Well, except the coaching part. That’s just nuts.

Bees (3)(Idyllic, right? Except for all the people.)

But, as with everything else . . . people ruin s***. The hubbie and I thought we’d catch a Bees game, hoping to watch major leaguer Josh Hamilton who has been rehabbing in the great city of Salt Lake. We bought tickets, then sat back to watch the game on a beautiful spring evening.

IMMEDIATELY, people began ruining s***. Here are the things driving me crazy at the ball game:

  • The man in front of me. He was eating a hot dog. Only not just any hot dog. This hot dog was smothered in so much crap, that it dripped onto his beard, shirt, lap and many of the surrounding spectators. I was mesmerized. I couldn’t look away as he shoved the disgusting ball game delicacy into his pie hole. Plus, I could hear him chewing.
  • No 10-run rule. The first inning lasted FOREVER, because the Bees don’t do defense.

Bees (2)

(Please, have another home run, visiting team.)

  • People in general. We were situated in our uncomfortable seats, when the lady four seats down had to get up and buy beer. So we all stood up to let her through. Then she had to climb back to her seat. More standing. And then go get more beer, which meant more standing. Add the fact she was drunker and slushier each time she stumbled by us. It was like Catholic mass: standing, sitting, standing, sitting (and praying for the Bees to do something).
  • Kids at the ball game. A baseball game is no place for children. Once they finish their chicken fingers (the top of the first inning) they whine, beg, fight, beg, whine and fight for the remainder of the game.

Bees (8)

(Yes, we know you’re bored. We get it. Shut up.)

  • The mother of these children. If you take your kids to a ball game and expect them to sit still for three hours, you are insane. DO NOT yell at your kids for being bored. DO NOT yell at your kids for begging repeatedly for cotton candy, soda, popcorn, ice cream, etc. You knew what to expect when you brought the rugrats.
  • The man in front of me, part 2. Once Hot Dog man finished hunching over his ballpark repast, he sat up straight, and I realized he was just a little shorter than Godzilla. We were sitting behind home plate, so I couldn’t see the pitcher, the batter, second base or center field. So I grabbed some paper and started writing a  blog.
  • Food. The only time I eat a hot dog is when I’m in a ball park or being tortured at girl’s camp. But shelling out $20 for 2 hot dogs, 2 drinks and  bags of chips seemed a leeeetle steep. Plus, the line was so long we missed an entire inning while the ADHD serving staff tried to fill orders.
  • Josh Hamilton. The professional outfielder has been sidelined due to an injury, but he hurt his thumb Thursday night–and didn’t even play on Saturday. He returns to the Angels this week.

All that for nothing.

 

 

How To Be a Better Parent

Now that my daughters are “adults,” I can start telling other people how to raise their children. I can be one of those women with opinions about EVERY aspect of parenting, especially the ones I really sucked at.

Group

(The tall ones are my daughters. The short ones are my grandkids. They’re all perfect. Like me.)

First, play with your kids. With my daughters, this meant playing Barbies every single day for 16 years. Of course, I was never Barbie, I was always Ken. And I never had clothes. And I was always at work.

Next, listen to your kids. Especially when they’re in the back seat of the car, and don’t realize you’re paying attention to the conversation. I learned LOTS of “secrets” by keeping my mouth shut in the driver’s seat.

Put the helicopter parenting techniques in the hangar. Nothing is more infuriating than dealing with a woman (or man) who does book reports, organizes science projects, accompanies their child to every play date, hides in the car in the parking lot during school hours to make sure kids play nice at recess, and who yells at the teacher when their child fails a subject. You are teaching your children NOTHING!

norma bates

(Norma Bates: ultimate helicopter mother. And we all know how Norman turned out.)

Allow your kids to fight. Allow your kids to be bored. You are not a cruise director. You do not need to organize, plan and entertain these creatures all. day. long. Kids who are bored are forced to use their imaginations. Of course, that often means you end up with disemboweled stuffed animals and missing spatulas. Still a mystery.

For every rule you set, your child will break it in many, creative ways. That’s all I have to say about that.

Be flexible with your schedule. Sometimes you just need to drop everything and spend the afternoon in the park. Other times, laundry can wait while you read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” 634 times in a row.

brownbear

(If this doesn’t drive you to drink, nothing will.)

Spend time one-on-one with each of your children. Go for ice cream, watch a movie, walk through the dinosaur museum–do what they love. Also, spend one-on-one time with your spouse, your therapist, your bartender and your mom–who is now laughing at you as you maneuver the pathways of parenthood.

Kids’ Guide to Surviving December

Today’s blog is  for children across the country who are pretty sure time has stopped completely. I know you think Christmas will NEVER come, but rest-assured you’ll be screaming around the Christmas tree in no time.

Here are some tips to surviving the next 8 days without going bananas:

  • Be patient with your parents. They have forgotten how important Christmas is. They don’t remember how it feels to think about Santa and presents and gifts and new toys and candy and stockings and surprises ALL DAY LONG.
  • Take a nap. Time passes much quicker when you’re sleeping. Sometimes I’ll sleep for several days in a row.
  • Ignore that creepy Elf on the Shelf. This little weasel is the opposite of what Christmas is about. In fact, if you have an Elf on the Shelf in your house, kidnap him and stuff him into your sock drawer.

yeti

(An appropriate place for EotS.)

  • When inspecting presents under the tree, don’t be too obvious. You don’t want to “accidentally” tear a corner and find you’re getting a pair of socks.
  • Be okay with getting socks. Or underwear. Or T-shirts. Santa knows these things are important–even if they make crappy presents.
  • Ask your mom several times each day if tomorrow is Christmas.
  • Make a list for Santa, and then change everything on your list on Christmas Eve. Just to keep Santa on his toes.

elf(Tell that sneaky-ass elf to leave your list alone!!)

  • Watch lots of TV. Get more toy ideas and beg your parents for those toys.
  • Play with your siblings. If Santa sees you being nice, maybe you’ll get that Xbox One.
  • Sing every Christmas song you know. At high volume. During dinner. And at 3 a.m.
  • Practice your times tables, read a book or do science experiments with fruitcake and firecrackers. Your teacher will be impressed you’ve kept up your skills during Christmas break.
  • Whine. Tell on your brothers and sisters. Fight. (Parents love it when you act like this. They really do.)

Before you know it, it will be Christmas morning. And then you’ll have to wait 365 days until the next Christmas holiday.

Top 5 Terrible Halloween Treats

You’ve only got one day left to stock up on Halloween treats for those good-for-nothing, lazy trick-or-treaters. Kids are always looking for a handout.

Anyway, be sure to avoid having the above-mentioned “kids” attack your home with shaving cream or raw eggs by providing them with an acceptable treat. It’s much like appeasing King Kong: Give him what he wants and he walks away. Give him something stupid and he smashes your head.

(“Kong no like Peeps!”)

Here are the Top 5 Terrible Halloween Treats that could get your home vandalized:

1–Fruit. An apple in a Trick-or-Treat bag is the equivalent to a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking. Children start crying and ask, “What did I do to offend the Great Pumpkin? Does he hate me? Was I bad?” The answer to the last two questions is usually “yes.” Just save the fruit for Thanksgiving pie or for Snow White.

(My mom always threw apples away on Halloween, convinced they were full of needles and razor blades.)

2-Toothbrush. Not only does this “treat” make kids foam at the mouth (literally) it also sends a message to parents that, “You are not a good enough parent to purchase your child a toothbrush. I can tell. I’m your neighbor.” Halloween judging is really frowned upon.

3-Hard bubble gum. Even kids know that you probably bought this horrible bubble gum on clearance at Walgreen’s last Halloween. It’s harder than a peach pit and tastes like death, and there’s NO WAY you can blow a bubble.  This category also includes year-old taffy, Bit-O-Honey and those awful, awful peanut-shaped candies that have the consistency of fossilized shaving cream.

4–Pencils. Kids love writing death threats to people who give them pencils on Halloween. “Hey, neighbor! Thanks for giving me something I can do homework with. Better watch your back.”

 

5–Little boxes of raisins.  Kids don’t like raisins when it’s NOT Halloween. Why would they like them on All Hallow’s Eve instead of a Twix bar, Hershey’s kisses or Blow Pop? Save the raisins for your cereal or you might find them dropped into your gas tank.

Have a happy, safe and vandal free Halloween!

Christmas Toys to Avoid

Love your kids? Don’t buy them any of these toys–unless you are raising blood-thirsty, stuffed animal-obssessed, tattoo ninjas from hell. Which I am.

Power Rangers Megablade: Your little hero will love the real-life disemboweling action of this sword. The megablade not only swings open–but it extends two feet long! Your little serial killer can stab someone from across the room! Plus it comes with slashy and squishy battle sounds.

(“I said, make me some nachos, mama!”)

Baby Alive Crib Life: This hip Baby Alive lives in her “crib” and is too cool for school.  Plus, you can buy a roller skating outfit for Baby Alive. Who buys roller skates for a freakin’ 8 month old?  Put your baby in skates and shove her down the hall. That’s some good parenting there.

(Maybe it comes with its own head trauma kit.)

VTech Care & Learn Teddy: This hypochondriac stuffed bear comes complete with a gash to the head, various bodily injuries and a stethoscope–to make everything all better. Maybe he can repair Baby Alive’s broken femur.

(With the purchase of this bear and Baby Alive, you get a free visit from child services!)

Let’s Rock Elmo: Everyone’s favorite, squeaky-voiced muppet has been given an alter ego. Watch Elmo as he smashes guitars, slaps his hos, smokes crack and destroys your child’s bedroom during his wild all-night parties. Next up: Rehab Elmo.

(Hey kids! Don’t buy drugs. Once you’re a rock star, you get them free!)

Totally Stylin’ Tattoo Barbie:  I have nothing against tattoos–except I will never get one because I’m seriously allergic to needles, pain and ink. But should I be concerned this is a gateway Barbie? Maybe next, Barbie will come with pierced nipples, an assortment of cigarettes and a snarky attitude.

 (The ultimate Tramp Stamp Barbie.)

Doggie Doo: “I know a fun game!! Let’s pick up dog poop!!” From past experience, I know this ploy never works. But now your kids can play the Doggie Doo game where you feed and walk a little pup, then clean up its messes with a shovel. Who the hell dreams this crap up?

Actual game rule: “You can only pick up the dog’s mess when it has fallen on the table. When it is hanging outside the end of the dog, just tap him on the back until it drops.”

 (Keep puppy regular by shoving plastic dough down his throat.)