A village parenting story

The other weekend I was standing in a long long line for a bouncy slide with DC2.

There was a woman behind me.  After letting someone cut in line behind her, her daughters kept running in front and trying to get to the slide.  And she kept ineffectually calling her daughters’ names and making grabs for one of them.

When I got right at the front of the line, I stuck my arm out as one of the daughters made a break for it to run up the slide in front of DC2 who was waiting patiently until it the teenager in charge said it was safe to go up. The daughter ran into my arm instead of up the slide.

This is the kind of thing that parents around here do all the time, catch other people’s kids when they’re making a break for it, because the parents tend to be upper class and the streets are close by and dangerous so parents (right or wrong) tend to have more fear of their kid getting away than of other parents. (I don’t know if I mentioned that DH literally saved a kid’s life earlier this year.  A toddler had wandered from the playground into the parking lot to get something from his parent’s van and was about to get backed over by an SUV.  DH ran his bike in front of the SUV to stop it from backing up, which made the SUV driver upset until she realized what had almost happened.  DH returned the kid to a frantic parent who had been looking all over the playground for the kid.)

In any case, this horrible woman then chewed me out for touching her daughter and she had everything under control etc., but of course she didn’t.

Later that day I recounted this story to our friends out here, and they individually said, “were the daughters names Olivia and Isabella?”  And was the older one Isabella and the younger one Olivia and Olivia a year or two older than DC2?  Did the woman have brown hair?  And the answer is yes.  Apparently this woman has a reputation and it wasn’t me at all.  I imagine she thought my arm was some kind of comment on her parenting (which it wasn’t until she chewed me out about it!)

(After DC2 went down the slide I said no more fair activities because the horrible woman was going to the last thing DC2 hadn’t done, so I was like, let’s go to the library instead.  And so we did.  And I witnessed lots of village parenting and parents thanking other parents for helping out instead of chewing them out and it was nice.  And then we went to another event at DC2’s daycare and I was even more hands on with keeping other people’s preschoolers out of trouble since parents were busy volunteering and I ended up on kid duty somehow.  People seemed grateful.)

I think where we normally live there’s much less of an atmosphere of village parenting, but there’s usually hardly anyone at the park or playground because everyone has a play structure in their back-yard.  And disgruntled women like the one at the park are more likely to be carrying a concealed weapon.  I’m not sure I would have automatically prevented a kid from going up a slide back where we usually live, no matter how dangerous.  But the teenagers in charge of the event would also probably have been better at keeping things safe.

What’s it like where you live in terms of village parenting vs. minding your own business?  How do you feel about other people stopping your child when he or she is making a break for it?

 

What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel guilt about parenting?

Nothing!

 

That is all.

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Ask the grumpies: Managing bedtime for an obsessive reader

zenmoo asks:

any ideas on how to manage an obsessive reader? My just 6 year old’s reading ability has exploded over our long holidays. This is great but she gets very caught up new stories to the extent of finding it hard to sleep… I was an obsessive reader at her age too (still am) but it never stopped me sleeping!!

Make sure that your 6 year old has a flashlight that doesn’t get too hot and that hir covers are the kind that won’t melt if say, they have a bare lightbulb touching them. Not that I ever accidentally melted a sleeping bag (much).

You can forbid reading after a certain hour and turn off the light, but one of the great joys of childhood is sneaking to finish a novel late into the night under the covers.  If it interferes with functioning the next day, eventually zie will learn how to regulate it, most of the time anyway.  So long as the next new book isn’t too enthralling.  Fortunately at 6, falling asleep in class is unlikely to result in damage to one’s permanent record.

You also may want to put bedtime a bit earlier so that when you head to bed you can check and remove any lit flashlights or open books from drooling children who have fallen asleep mid-chapter.

Ask the grumpies: When to start music lessons?

Alyssa asks:

When is it age-appropriate to put children into music lessons (piano/guitar at this point)? Son is 5 and a bit, and he says he’s interested, but not sure if we should wait a bit more?

Five is a great age!  To be honest, I started at 6 and DC1 started at 6 because of laziness on the part of parents, but 5 would have been fine.  (DC1 did start swimming lessons a lot earlier.)  Most music teachers in our area start accepting students at age 5, and Suzuki teachers will often accept children as young as age 3.  A bunch of the internet suggests that starting music lessons before age 7 is best for various quasi-scientific reasons I’m not entirely convinced by but may be true.

And if it doesn’t work out, you can always take a break and try again later.

Ask the grumpies: Help! Teething!

Leah asks:

How did you deal with teething? Was it horrible for your kids? Will I survive this?

Motrin.  Seriously, Motrin.  And alternate it with Tylenol when the teething is really bad.  Motrin is better for night-time because it lasts longer than Tylenol.

DC1 also enjoyed a frozen washcloth, but that didn’t do much for DC2.  DC2, otoh, liked those rings you can freeze.  Topical numbing agents didn’t help at all.

Yes, it sucked.  Without Motrin it would have been more horrible.  Yes you will survive, though you may have to wake up every 6(-8) hours when the Motrin wears off (or 4 (-6) hours for the alternating Tylenol).

The teeth do eventually come in!  (And this episode of teething has probably ended since you asked the question, but now the answer is here for posterity.)

Grumpy nation!  Any teething tips?

How to avoid pointless parenting anxiety

Here we’re talking about whatever the current guilt-inducing fads are.  I would give examples of what they currently are, but the truth is, I don’t know!  But like 5 years ago they were things like:  not bringing store-bought baked goods places, using the right kind of sunscreen, avoiding BPA, etc.  I think there were a lot more, but that’s what I remember.  (Disclaimer, we still use the old-fashioned neurotic fad approved sunblock, because DC2 is allergic to conventional kinds.)

There are many other paths, but here’s one.   Most of this stuff is really easy to avoid if you don’t live in NYC or the ritzy suburbs of Los Angeles (or similar enclaves).  But if you do live in those places, you can still do the following:

  1. Don’t read anything about parenting (mothering) on NYTimes ever
  2. Stay away from parenting (mommy) forums
  3. If you read parenting books pick them carefully (read: evidence based) and remember that one size doesn’t fit all
  4. Send your kids to a (high quality, obvs) daycare that caters to working parents.
  5. Avoid anxiety-inducing blogs
  6. Avoid anxiety-inducing playgroups

And there ya go.  No more worrying about pointless parenting stuff.

Do you get swept up into ridiculous parenting anxieties?  The kinds that come with, “worried about other people judging me” attached?  If so, where do they come from?  If not, how do you avoid them?

Ask the grumpies: When did perfectionism start?

Chelsea asked:

I was wondering when you began to notice DC #1 struggling with perfectionism – like how old ze was and how it manifested. I have a bright 3 year old who gets so incredibly upset if any little thing is not “right” – food, toys, clothes, the order things are done in, etc. But maybe that’s totally normal 3-year-old “threenager” behavior…

Honestly?  DC1 has ALWAYS been a bit of a perfectionist.  Like at 3 months zie crawled a little bit but hated it so much and it was so hard that zie refused tummy time angrily unless it was on daddy’s tummy after (crawling did not happen until much later, and then it happened perfectly and almost instantaneously).  I mean everything has been like that with DC1, something phenomenal happens but happens poorly and then months pass without it happening again and then suddenly DC1 is doing it perfectly without any apparent struggle.

DC2 isn’t like that.  We see DC2 learning and growing. The process isn’t hidden from us.

But, DC2 is also 3 and is totally being a “threenager” as you say.  With the everything needing to be the way it’s ‘sposed to be or zie lectures us about things being ‘propriate like one of hir preschool teachers must do.  3 year olds are just OCD by nature.  I would not worry about that kind of perfectionism at all.  Most likely you’ll be telling hir to clean up thoughtless messes and reminding about putting underwear on before the pants again in no time.

Note also that you can use this (temporary) rigid adherence to structure to your advantage by say, instituting bedtime routines and asking, “What comes next?”  DC1 also responded well to the tyranny of the clock at this age, “It is 3pm, time to go!” we would say.

And we’re also seeing DC2 getting the other kind of perfectionism where zie doesn’t like us to see hir struggle with learning (for example, zie will refuse to sound words out when zie hits a hard word and sometimes says zie hates books rather than read with us).  We suspect zie is picking it up at daycare.  DC1’s perfectionism has waxed and waned– a lot seems to have to do with specific teachers at preschool and school, but we’re not sure what they’re doing wrong or right.

Perfectionism does seem to increase when the work they’re doing at school is too easy.  When they don’t get challenges.  When they’re praised for being smart and not encouraged to make mistakes during the learning process.

But if it’s just fussiness about things being in the “right” order… DC1 grew out of that too soon and really I think DC2 has just recently grown out of that, like in the past week (in fact, DH and DC2 are currently having a conversation about DC2 not ‘preciating DH stepping on hir stuff that was lying in the hallway and DH not appreciating hir leaving things on the floor in the hallway to be stepped on).  (Update:  I take it back, DC2 is still a rules-monger.)

Age 4-6 are LOVELY, and then age 7 is kind of obnoxious (or so has been our experience and so I have been told by others).  We’re enjoying 8 and 9!

Good luck and don’t worry too much about threes.  Here’s some more tips (do read the comments in that linked post as they’ve got a lot of great suggestions as well).

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