Another parenting discussion that is probably deliberately controversial though I wish it weren’t

We were at a party.  There were a lot of babies.  DC and I were counting babies.  There were 3 babies in one room and one asleep in the other room.  I asked DC how many there were all together.  (Ze said 4.)

It was actually part of a longer conversation… I said there were a lot of babies, DC said there were 3, I said I thought there were more, we discussed that, someone pointed out there was a baby asleep in the other room, then I asked how many there were total.  I wasn’t just going hey, there’s 3 babies here and 1 baby there.  Gah.  Why do I even feel like I have to justify this?  If I wanted to whip out flashcards, it should be my right as a parent.  Not that I would because flashcards are boring.  Anyway.

A woman (a girlfriend of a colleague) did one of those exclamations about how we were pushing hir with math problems at such an early age.

But… DC loves doing them and it is seriously hard to keep hir quietly entertained indoors without mental activities of one kind or another.  Also: math is what I have always used to entertain kids when confronted with them… many small children flying Southwest Airlines have gotten math lessons from me over the last 15 years.  DH is more creative, but for me it’s mostly math problems as default.  (Not the only thing I use, but when I can’t think of anything else it is my automatic go-to.)  And we’d been bored inside for some time.

I think I picked it up from my dad.  And, I LOVE math which is a good thing.  Hey!  Maybe math being treated as fun entertainment instead of something horrible is connected to why I like it so much.  Ya think?  (Also note, that my sister at this age was totally up on multiplication and other more difficult math.  Adding by 1 really isn’t pushing.  I think they’re doing more than that in hir preschool these days.)

I don’t do these parlor tricks in the earshot of other parents, particularly not with kids of the same age or slightly older, and I don’t do them loudly.  Though I’m relaxing my caring about other people’s insecurities, I’m still not quite there yet.  Childfree folks don’t usually care one way or the other if they’re in earshot, so long as the kid is behaving, but apparently this one did.

So we went back outside in the cold to run around some more.

When it got too dark and we had to go back in, I decided it would be a bad idea to pull out the books ze’d packed lest ze be caught reading and I again accused of pushing.  I did pull out a hand-held video game (quickly rejected… probably overplayed) and some toy cars, as I understand those are socially acceptable.  The cars thankfully lasted until it was time to go home.

If you’re stuck indoors at an adult party, how do you entertain your preschool age or early elementary age kid?

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41 Responses to “Another parenting discussion that is probably deliberately controversial though I wish it weren’t”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    My son LOVES math. (I guess with 2 engineers as parents, no surprise there….we weren’t english majors for a reason). Getting him to read willingly is a different story.

    In fact, this week, I was trying to trick him to read by writing “secret messages” in chalk on the driveway. I listed all the things he liked to do. It did trick him to read but he asked me to add math, subtraction and skiing to the list of things he likes to do.

    Math was fun for me as a kid too. I enjoyed doing problems. I think for people who don’t like math, they see it as a form of torture or something. I think they just don’t get that it’s an enjoyable thing for a lot of people.

  2. Niki Says:

    You shouldn’t have to justify it. Math is fun, especially for kids. When you start acting like it is a chore, kids catch on to that and behave accordingly.

  3. SS4BC Says:

    My brother and I would math quiz each other. It was so fun! I see no reason why someone should care about plus ones. And the kid feels good about themselves when they get it right. It is really win-win!

  4. Everyday Tips Says:

    I loved the comment about the socially acceptable video game.

    I know for me, I just parented the way I did, it was just habit. It has been a long time since my kiddos were toddlers, but I am sure I asked my kids similar questions because they too liked math. It would be different if you stood in the center of the room yelling to your child ‘what is the cube root of the number of croissants at this table’, but you were just quietly asking a simple question to your child out of habit and you shouldn’t have to justify any of it.

    There are definitely a lot of insecure parents out there, that is for sure.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      And just insecure people in general.

      I’ll probably be super relaxed with a second or third kid.

      • Sandy H Says:

        I wish I could say this wasn’t true. But to an extent it is. I am much harder or more focused on my daughter than I am on my son. But it may also just be a gender thing. *shrug* who knows! Our daughter also REALLY enjoys learning and our son- not so much.

    • Liz Says:

      It would be different if you stood in the center of the room yelling to your child ‘what is the cube root of the number of croissants at this table’

      This just totally made me LOL. I sort of want to do that at the next neighbourhood party

  5. becca Says:

    At first, I saw absolutely nothing wrong with what you were doing and actually thought it sounded like a great tactic I might try with my kid in time.

    Then I remembered the googol.
    When I was pretty young, I think around five, I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle. My Uncle told me about googols (“the number one followed by one hundred zeros”- this was long before Google existed). Well, that was a disaster. You know those “is so, times a million!!!!” arguments kids get into? Yeah. Times a googol. Also, times a googol-plex, once I got found out about that. And yeah, lectures about how infinity wasn’t a number but a concept and there were several types of infinity, and what infinity did they mean when they said: “is so, times infinity!!!!”???

    Sometimes, knowledge of math does not help you on the playground. That, and I was intrinsically an annoying kid.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Being popular in middle school has always been my end-all goal in life. It’s true.# And knowing about math really screwed that up for me, especially as a girl. My sole consolation is that math has opened doors and pathways to success after those years. Cold comfort, I know.

      #not intended to be a factual statement

      (And there’s something to be said for having fun with math and reading and all those other nerdy activities that never decide that it’s your turn to be ostracized.)

      • becca Says:

        The comments about people and their ‘issues’ actually help me have some potential compassion for the person who critiqued your choice of methods to engage your child. Maybe they were *way* too pushed as a child, and never got over the sense they weren’t good at math because they didn’t understand it at a very young age (oh, the emotional scars I have from my father telling my fourth-grade self how *he* had learned *his* times tables by kindergarten!!!).
        It was still an excessively intrusive comment, but we can certainly hope they thought they were empathizing with DC.

        It also occurred to me that if you ever get such a comment again, you can always entertain your child, loudly, by singing ridiculous songs (if you’ve ever been with a scouting group, you know the kind I’m thinking of… but then, my kid does a mean banana song ala http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dObg0Pkq7g&feature=related)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I wish people wouldn’t push their issues on me and on my child. I doubt this woman was pushed in math, but I have no doubt she is math phobic just like many of my students because the education system in this state sucks.

  6. Renee in BC Says:

    You both were having fun, and you were keeping your child entertained. People are idiotic.

    This kind of thing really bugs me. The child is happy and you are doing something positive, but you are viewed as a pushy mom by some random dope.

    Not sure if this is exactly the same, but it’s certainly related. My dd has always liked vegetables, but I can’t tell you how many times people approached our table in restaurants, eyeballed her veggie-heavy plate and remarked, “You like those?” Like she was weird, I was a monster, and where was the mac and cheese.

    Bugger off, people.

    Re parties: When she was younger dd would always bring a book and read at a party, though now she participates in the action and converses with adults. She likes algebra, so when she chats with people she thinks it’s fun to make up algebraic problems for them. (Tipsy party-goers really appreciate this.#) Weird home-schooler strikes back…

    Niki’s right. I’ve never understood why adults go out of their way to communicate to kids that good things are boring. Now THAT’S weird.

  7. bogart Says:

    Hmmm. I have not yet been doomed to try to entertain my kid at an adult party, perhaps I don’t get out enough (corollary: I wasn’t popular in middle school).

    In an (unanticipated) situation where DC was stuck with grandma waiting for me in an ER waiting room, an Itouch shape game came in handy. For an upcoming long plane ride, I’ve bought an I-spy pillow and a big sticker book. We’ll see how we do. I do — oh the horror — think it’s likely we’ll end up using the pillow for counting games, i.e., not what do you see but how many items do you see. We may even (gasp!) do some addition or subtraction. I’ll also take along some reading books but DC does not read independently yet. And I’ll also take along 2 Diego DVDs (and my laptop), assuming the DVDs I bought at Goodwill turn out to be in good condition. If I really needed just to keep DC quiet and was allowed to plan in advance/bring my own tech, I’d say Diego or Dora (or Spongebob) every single time.

    Actually math is at the moment lending itself to efficient eating (DC is a good, but not always an efficient eater, i.e., will eat pretty much anything but gets distracted … yet requires a lot of food and gets grumpy if hungry), as we’ll put e.g. 11 grapes on a plate and then count them each time one is eaten. I do the counting as if I insist he does, it takes … forever, not because he can’t count well (he can), but (I think) because he perceives c…o…u…n…t…i…n…g … s…l…o…w…l…y as a way of keeping my attention. When, darn it, just eat the stupid grapes so we can get going, would ya’? So I do get irritated when (e.g.) at grandparents’ house it was said, “DC, *you* count the grapes.” Good intentions, but guess who’s stuck sitting with DC while he does that?

  8. julier Says:

    I have the good fortune to have two 5 year olds (twins) who entertain each other at adult parties. They also have an amazing talent for being charming and friendly with other adults who they manage to coerce into entertaining them.

    Other things society judges me for? We don’t let them play video games at all. We decided they need to be able to read and do math on their own first. Also, I let them dress them selves so they look mostly look like some combination of Pippi Longstocking and Fancy Nancy more than the look like the kids in any parenting magazine.

  9. Suzita @ playfightrepeat.com Says:

    It reminds me of being pregnant, people seem to project many of their current issues onto you. “I can’t believe you are having another.” “You look so tired.” “Now you’ll never go on a real vacation again.”

    Parenting can be similar, it can bring out people’s “issues.” We always brought a bag of entertainment stuff for the kids when we went to grown-up places. And we often got similar comments, to which I would think to myself though rarely say, “Would you like to see and hear my kid if he didn’t have this stuff to entertain him?”

    Soon you will get to the phase where you can use Mad Libs to pass time at these events. Then some of the crabby commenters might actually join in on the fun. Though, math never gets old! I wish math came second nature to me with my kids like it does to you. I think I’ll work on this. :)

  10. Sandy H Says:

    I push my kids- I’m not ashamed by that fact. When my daughter was 19 months old and upset by the newborns crying we would count- over and over until she calmed down. She could count to 20 and say her ABC’s before any other kid I know.
    She is 5 now- not in kindergarten until Fall. When she is bored waiting at appointments or at adult functions, she does math or she spells words. We do the same concepts with our 3.5 yr old- he isn’t as interested and gets bored easily, but we still use it as an option.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with helping your child excel. If they like it, then what is the difference of them doing math word problems (so many grownups can’t do word problems!) or having them JUST be bored? I say, congrats for being proactive AND doing something ‘fun’ with your child.

    A story from my husband- he had to take the kids to an urgent care clinic type place at Walgreen’s. It was a long wait, while they waited, my husband kept the kids entertained by having our daughter spell out words they could see and having my son say the colors and letters. An older man came up to him and told him what a great dad he was being by teaching his kids, instead of giving them a video game, and how well behaved our kids were being.
    I loved the story- but I really don’t think anyone would come up and make the same comment to a Mom.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No, moms just get the other kind of comments.

      • First Gen American Says:

        Oh my god. MY husband ALWAYS gets comments about what a good dad he is in public. He’s always coming home with stories about people complimenting how well behaved the kids are and what not. I never do.

        He doesn’t wear a wedding ring (because of his job), so maybe they think he’s a single dad? Or maybe men just get held to way lower standards.

        There’s definitely a double standard there.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I would be seriously surprised if it was anything other than a double standard. My DH wears a ring and constantly gets comments.

      • Sandy H Says:

        I think parenting is still seen much as the ‘mom’s job- and not the Dad’s. So I think people (mostly men) are surprised when they see a Dad taking care of their kids whether it is keeping them entertained at a clinic or well behaved in a store.

        My husband is a great dad, but he doesn’t always want to take the kids out in public- and I admit I don’t always like taking the kids out in public alone. One on One I’m okay with but I don’t like being outnumbered in public. :-)
        I welcome the positive comments to him form other people.

  11. Donna Freedman Says:

    Um…if it’s an adult party, why are the children there? Sometimes attachment parenting goes a little too far. (Deliberately controversial comment — it’s just a little service I offer.)
    Or did you mean an all-ages gathering with the emphasis on adult interaction but it was OK to bring your kids?
    In either case, the way you parent is no one’s business but yours. Do you go to their jobs and kick the shovels out of THEIR hands?
    But back to the “why are the kids there?” part: A woman I know bent my ear about how angry she was at her brother’s fiancee. Seems that future sis-in-law had requested “no children, please” at the engagement party. It was to be an adult gathering with adult conversation.
    WELL! This woman went on and on about how disgusted she was that FSIL was “rejecting” her little darling, and how obvious it was that she didn’t want DC to be part of the family, and if she was that anti-child she just didn’t see how she could get along with her, and on and on and on.
    When she came up for air I said, “Maybe she just wants a grownup party.”
    WELL! Didn’t I understand that DC really wanted to get to know hir aunt-to-be, and ze would feel so hurt that ze was not invited, and what kind of statement was that to make?
    She wound down and I said, “I think that DC will have plenty of chances to get to know hir aunt. Right now auntie might just want a grownup party.”
    WELL! Let’s just say the conversation ended badly.
    Frankly, the party would have gone badly too, because:
    1. DC is an only child whose feet have never touched the ground and constantly demands center stage. If there’s someone in the room not looking at/exclaiming over ze, then ze freaks out.
    2. DC would have been incredibly bored after 5 minutes of grownup conversation, and probably incredibly freaked-out by the fact that there was a room full of tall people who, unlike hir parents, did not necessarily want to watch ze turn a somersault, tell a joke or re-tell the plot of “Star Wars.”
    Some parties are for families. Some are for grownups. Just sayin’.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It was an adult party to which children were invited (hence all the babies). As in, not the myriad of children’s birthday parties we usually go to. They even had a bouncy house outside (which got used) but it was freezing outside.

      • First Gen American Says:

        Sometimes you want a night out with friends and you can’t find or afford a babysitter. My husband and I usually take turns going to social events that aren’t kid friendly. It’s awesome when we can all go someplace.

        For me, babysitters are hard to come by unless you want someone for a weeknight, then there are plenty of takers.

    • becca Says:

      Unless it’s an adult play party, I really see no reason to host a party and then forbid an entire class of people from attending. It seems just as rude as saying “nobody over 30 allowed!”.

      Parents don’t have an intrinsic right to attend parties with their kids. But kids have an intrinsic right to be part of society at large.
      I find it interesting that, despite the presence of *multiple* young people at this party, you leaped to the conclusion that this party was one at which children were unwelcome. Frankly, the way I see it, people who don’t see kids as human beings that might be interesting to spend time around are generally not ‘controversial’ so much as ‘assholes’.

      • Frugal Forties Says:

        I disagree that children have any kind of “intrinsic right” to be part of my social event or that I should have to host an “adult play” party in order to have a child free event. Children are not a “class of people” … they are children and some events are simply NOT suitable for children.

        I don’t have children. I love them dearly, but I have never been able to have them. As a result I live a lifestyle that is predominantly adult based. My home is an adult home. It is NOT child proofed in any way. I have 2 cats who have never been around children and I have no idea how they might behave around a child – especially a curious or active or mischevious child who might tease them or chase them. I throw get-togethers with alcohol and adult music and I speak using obscenities sometimes and we tell crude jokes every once in a while.

        Why should I be forced to change all of that, what is MY lifestyle for YOUR children? Children to not have an “intrinsic right” to be a part of any social situation. Nor do adults. In fact no one has any “intrinsic right” to be invited anywhere by anyone, no matter who they are.

        And by the same token, I would NEVER go to the home of a friend who had children and demand that she hide hers away or remove evidence of them. I enjoy going to parties and events at homes of friends who have children and in those situations I enjoy interacting with the children. And I also accept that children are part of THEIR lives and always will be.

        I wish people like you, @becca, would be equally accepting of MY life and my choice to be childfree.

      • Donna Freedman Says:

        @Becca: Personally, I prefer the more dignified “gaping anal apertures.”
        And I did ask the authors to clarify whether it were an adult party or an adult party to which it was all right to bring kids.
        Kids are *not* a class of people. But they have a specific class of needs, many of which are not compatible with a party or other gathering that is intended for adult guests. (Or a violent movie or a symphony concert or a theatrical drama, but that’s a whole different post.)
        The reason I asked the authors what kind of party it was is that I keep hearing about people who bring their children EVERYWHERE, even if it’s to be an adult evening (or a wedding reception whose invitation was for two people — the parents — only). Which can lead to some horrifically bored children (see “special class of needs,” above) who act out because, well, that’s what they’re hard-wired to do.
        And I find it interesting that you leaped to the conclusion that I’m one of those “people who don’t see kids as human beings that might be interesting to spend time around.” In fact, I am a mom and a doting auntie. I also babysit for pin money and have a terrific time doing it because kids are fascinating, inspiring creatures. Occasionally loud, unreasonable and damp, but fun to be around — if I *choose* to be around them.

  12. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    They even had a bouncy house outside (which got used) but it was freezing outside.

    Awesome! Gimme a sippy cup of motherf**ken jameson, and I’m BOUNCING!

  13. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Oh who bloody hell cares if some mongol thinks you’re pushing your kid too much or not!? To hell with that. Bollocks even. And if they do just look at them completely serious and ask, “But how else will ze get a full-paid scholarship to hir Ivy Leage school of choice?” *blink* Then turn and resume your pushy behavior. Stupids.

  14. Frugal Forties Says:

    It’s ok to play “I spy” with shapes or colors and you’re not “pushing geometry” or “pushing design” on your child. But play word math games and you’re “pushing math” on them?

    Um .. what?

    And why is it so far-fetched that a child might ENJOY that kind of number/counting game? Statements about “forcing math” on them is why a lot of kids grow up fearing/hating math and science – it’s an implication that it’s a bad thing and shouldn’t be “played” with.

  15. Link Round Up - Recovering From Vacation Edition | Everyday Tips and Thoughts... Says:

    […] Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured shares an experience at a party where a party guest decided to share their unsolicited opinion.  It is so interesting how people feel they can say whatever they want when it comes to parenting. […]

  16. Leah Says:

    wait, asking a kid to do addition is wrong or pushy? In what world? I love to ask kids how many of something there are. It doesn’t matter if they count wrong — I just like to get them started. I used to teach preschool summer camp, and kids LOVED counting with me.

    In my mind, asking your kids stuff is great. It’s only a problem if you go “geez, how stupid are you?” or get angry when your kid doesn’t understand something or answer correctly. That’s when someone can get judgy.

  17. Ask the grumpies: Preschool play vs academics « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Says:

    […] + 2 blue pieces = 5 pieces.)  Fingers are great when you’re out and about, but prepare for nasty looks from other folks who think you’re pushing or showing off (not realizing they’d be […]


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