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What makes a good parent?

Categories: Guilt Inducers

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I just found out I can blame my dad for my lack of persistence and general success in life. Yay. A new study suggests that strict and authoritarian parents raise crappy kids. Hi, Dad, I’m talking to you. It’s a relief, actually, to find out that my dad’s strict, critical, punishment-based fathering style wasn’t just something I’ve been able to point to and vow that I will do exactly the opposite with my own kids.

So what makes a good parent?
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This week’s best baby video

Categories: Guilt Inducers

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Hi there. I’ll bet you wanted to know this week’s Awesomest Mommy Thing, didn’t you? If this video — a gorgeous weekly chronicle of baby Lotte’s evolution from birth to age 12 — doesn’t make you:

1) appreciate your kids even more than you did yesterday,

2) wish you had taken way more baby pictures,

then I don’t know what will. Other responses below.

[I tried 20 times to embed the video here. No luck. Click link and come back!]

Lotte, Birth To Age 12 <–this is the video link!

Dear Ovaries,

Give it a rest. Flipping every time you see a cute baby on YouTube? Stop it. Right now.

Signed,

Mother of Four.

~~~

Dear Parents Who Think Ahead,

I hate you. No, wait. I love you. But I hate that you have 4,388 photos of your baby, all neatly catalogued and

stored in fuchsia shoebox storage containers that line the top shelf of your walk-in closet (a closet the size of Rhode Island, I might add, which is reason enough for envy). Plus you can spell fuchsia without Googling it.

P

lease stop posting awesome videos of your children (videos that you have been planning for TWELVE YEARS, let’s be real here) that make the rest of us look bad. I’ll bet you never dropped your iPhone in the toilet either. And you have a clean house.

Signed,

The Rest of Us.

~~~

Father Frans Hofmeester filmed his daughter Lotte weekly for twelve years, then edited the whole thing. Lotte talks a lot. And her hair changes frequently. I adore the whole thing. You?

Fat kids: whose fault?

Categories: Bad Parenting, Guilt Inducers

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Most of us seem to be pretty clear on child abuse. Hitting a kid, breaking arms, blacking eyes…that’s abuse, right? (except when the hitting is spanking and it’s discipline “for their own good,” but that is another post entirely) Right? Abuse? We wouldn’t dream of it being okay to endanger our child’s life by shoving him out into a busy street, would we? But when it comes to obesity and kids — morbid obesity — the rules seem less clear, if not downright fuzzy. How do super-fat kids get that way — nature? Nurture? Whose fault are fat kids?

[Non-PC Disclaimer Statement: With now 17% of this country's youth now squarely in the fat camp -- considered medically obese -- I don't see why I should tiptoe around the term. Fat. These kids are fat and I think there is no excuse and I am so going to use the word.]
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Do your kids know you love them? Really?

Categories: Guilt Inducers

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Yes, I had an awesome visit with my kids last week, thank you. A highlight for me was the electric boat I had rented through Groupon. We packed a Whole Foods crusty-baguette-sandwich picnic lunch, we somewhat successfully remembered cameras (one child out of two), we had ready a playlist of fun music, and we promptly shoved off into Lake Union, downtown Seattle. “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…” It was very cool to see my new city from the water with my kids. We all had a great time. Except one of us. The one hiding her nose in a book.

I so get the book thing! I honor the book thing. I was a bershon book-reader myself, escaping family awkwardness in the pages of My Friend Flicka or Little Women. But I didn’t expect MY spawn, er, child, to escape her one-week-a-year-with-Mama by reading. What gives? One week out of the year. So I called her on it. Asked her what was going on. And the answer surprised me.

She thought I had stopped loving her.

SKREEEEEEEK.
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Can you rest in front of your kids?

Categories: Guilt Inducers, Uncategorized

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My mom never sat down. I have no idea what she did all day, but I do know that she rarely, if ever, sat down, except for about once a week when she’d curl her legs sideways on the divan that served as a couch while I sat opposite, my nose in a book as usual, looking up a minute later to find that her glasses had slipped down her nose and her eyes were closed. Another minute later and the glasses would be pushed back up and Mom would be getting up, saying something about watering the petunias or dusting or what was for dinner. She must have been constantly exhausted.

I inherited that gene because I too found it nearly impossible to rest in front of my kids. Moms are supposed to be always doing something, aren’t they? Cooking, cleaning, working, setting an example.

What kind of example did I set for my kids?
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Squished in the Sandwich Generation

Categories: Guilt Inducers, Mommy Angst

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[WARNING: Bummer alert. Sorry.]  I think I have a knack for having the hard conversations with my kids. Moving, divorce, custody battles, cancer. Life stuff. Now my mother seems to have dementia — it looks like Alzheimer’s — and I’ve been spending the past couple of months helping my kids understand where she’s coming from and where it looks like she’s going.

How do you deal with the possibility that your grandmother may never really remember who you are? I am trying to look at this from my children’s perspective. My older kids remember their grandmother in the distance and not very clearly — she visited our home in Pennsylvania several times before the aforementioned moving and divorce changed everything radically, but the 3000 miles between us meant that they were never as close as many kids are with their grandparents. Now my mother is every day slowly slipping farther away. She remembers me, and she remembers that she has grandchildren, but she doesn’t remember much about them anymore. I am not sure how to make this easier for them.

The Sandwich Generation — legions of parents who are dealing with taking care of their aging parents as well as their kids — is fast growing larger. I know I’m not alone, yet this is something that I never thought I’d have to deal with when I became a parent.
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Dealing with kids who aren’t your carbon copies

Categories: Guilt Inducers

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Before my first child was born, I spent long pregnant hours imagining oddly gender-biased scenarios about what it would be like to be a mother. If he was a boy, I decided, we’d take long rambling walks together and look at leaves. He’d spend hours outside with his dad, throwing a ball back and forth. If she was a girl, I’d brush her hair. There would be ribbons. She’d wear sweet dresses, the kind I always wanted in the Sears catalog (but ended up with plain-jane plaid instead). Either way, I would know this child inside and out. We’d be just alike. Flesh of my flesh.

Imagine my surprise when it became clear that Child #1 (not to mention #2, #3, and #4) wasn’t much like me at all. What happened?

I read this essay at Babble about an extroverted mother having difficulty understanding an introverted daughter, and remembered that feeling of surprise all over again. Do we really expect to spawn a bunch of Mini-Me’s? I think we do. I hate to say it, but I sort of did. I’m still surprised (and a bit chagrined) when I see huge traces of my older son’s father in him, for instance, like the way he eats an apple in a hotel room, hunched over the edge of the bed to keep the drips from falling on his shirt, or when anyone else’s face but mine shows up when my daughter smiles a certain way. Who are these kids, anyway? Who let these near-strangers in my house?
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Kids left in hot cars

Categories: Guilt Inducers, Mommy Angst

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I still remember it like it was yesterday. I went home from the hospital with kid #3 the afternoon after her birth. Her father left for work that night, to be gone for 2-3 days and leaving me alone with a newborn, a 4 year old, and a busy teenager. From baby Serena’s two-day doctor visit we were sent home to nurse round the clock to wake up this sleepy, dehydrated baby and avoid the ER. The next day — at this point I’m going on three days without sleep and still not recovered from an intense birth — we returned to the doctor (a 40 minute one-way drive): me, Serena, and Nathaniel, 4.

Relieved that my all-nighter was going to keep my baby from the ER, I strapped the kids in the car and we drove home. After about 20 minutes Nathaniel piped up. “Mom, I’m not seat belted!”

I had forgotten to buckle his car seat. I was driving around with a potential human cannonball inside my car. Any sudden stop on this high-traffic road filled with bad drivers would send my son hurtling through a window to his death. Shaking, I pulled over and fastened his belt, but not without a big hug first.

It could happen to anyone. That’s one of the main things I took from this New York Times Motherlode post about kids dying in hot cars. But the issue is more complicated than that.
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Bowing to the cult of mommy guilt

Categories: Guilt Inducers

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I saw something on Twitter yesterday that kind of tweaked me the wrong way. It was a tweet, or actually a short series of tweets, from a women who I know to be strong, savvy, and businesslike. She’s an author, consultant, and CEO of a business. She’s just the sort of working mom we all tend to aspire to being. But here she was, falling all over herself and wracked with Mommy Guilt because her worklife got in the way of her homelife and she failed to show up at a Kid Thing (and more than once) that she knew the kid was passionate about.

Guilt.

Can we please get rid of it once and for all? Why are we so caught up in the cult of guilt?
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Best age to have kids

Categories: Guilt Inducers, Mommy Angst

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I’m the first to admit that I had no long-range plan in mind when deciding to have my four (FOUR!) children. Not that any of them appeared in a basket on my doorstep overnight, so there was some planning involved, but it never occurred to me to sit myself down at 18 or so and think about the next 30 years of my life in terms of when best to have kids, especially when I was having trouble deciding between majoring in Biology (doctor!) or Theater Arts (waitress!).

I may be alone in this un-planning. It turns out that quite a few people put a lot of thought into when they fit Having Kids into the messy, complicated other life-bits like Work, Relationships, and Family.

According to what I gleaned from this Motherlode post over at the New York Times, there are two schools of thought:
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