Children

Professor Kelly’s kids: Our reaction

You’ve all seen this by now, right?  If you haven’t yet, here you go.  Enjoy!

In addition to the pure “awwww” factor, it’s been very encouraging to see the collective reaction!

Some quick observations:

  • We have in front of us a very smart man who is an expert in South Korean policy, and yet what do we know about him?   What do we think about his intelligence and expertise?  We don’t care, because we love his kids.  Usually that’s a thing that happens to women, so it’s nice to see some equal opportunity here.
  • The mother has been described as superwoman with ninja skills for the way she quickly wrangles the children. And deservedly so!
  • Lots of other working parents expressing solidarity. Working from home is fantastic, but adorable interruptions are always a risk when you work from home with small children!
  • Not once have I seen anyone blame him or his wife for “losing control” of the kids. And that’s awesome!  Are we finally learning that one can’t control children 100% of the time?
  • Not once have I seen anyone blame him for the audacity to have children AND a job at the same time. Another win!  Is it possible that we are accepting that people are complex and have multiple priorities simultaneously?

But isn’t anyone curious about what Professor Kelly actually said?  Just me?  Well, no matter – here’s the full BBC segment anyway:

And one final thing I noticed: the interviewer ended with, “You’ve got some children that need you” as the kids have continued to scream in the background.  Usually directed at women to dismiss their professional value, but here it’s directed at a father who is clearly adored by his kids.  We should all be so lucky to be so accomplished and so loved!

Here’s toward being that much closer to a world where both men and women are celebrated, both for their professional accomplishments AND their parenting!

heres to you

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Cows and Graveyards, Revised

Once upon a time, I went on a two-hour drive through rural Iowa with some classmates, and the girl who was driving taught us all how to play Cows and Graveyards.

Here’s how you play:

  • Divide the car into two teams: left side and right side. Note: It should be decided before the game begins which team gets the person sitting in the middle of the back seat.  It is recommended that they be on the “left side” team, as the “left side” team includes the driver, who cannot really commit to playing since they are, you know, in charge of driving.
  • Each team watches their side of the car.
  • When you pass cows, count them. You must count them out loud, and you must stop counting when you can no longer see the cows.  Cow totals are cumulative.  For example, if you pass a herd of 15 cows and later pass a herd of 10 cows, you have a total of 25 cows.
  • When you pass a graveyard, all your cows “die” and you have to start over.
  • The winning team is the team with the most cows when you reach your destination.

It was a lot of fun!  So naturally I taught my children how to play.

Good times, right?  Wrong.

See, the problem I run into while driving through the Chicago suburbs is that there are no cows.  There are plenty of graveyards, but no cows.  So to make sure we had a playable game while driving to my parents’ house in Iowa, I made some … minor modifications.

General rule:

If you can see it, you can count it.  All animals count – cows, horses, dogs, squirrels, birds, and even musk oxen.  However, the unit of measurement is still the cow.  So, for example, if you count five horses, two dogs, and three birds, you have ten “cows.”

Count modifiers:

Different things you see while driving will either add to or subtract from your total cow count.

Businesses:

Fast food: Some of your cows are hungry and stop to eat.  -15 cows.

Gas station: Your cows are more energized.  +10 cows.

Hotel: Your cows feel better after a good night’s sleep.  +10 cows.

Starbucks: Your cows are more energized.  And Mommy is in a better mood.  +2 cows.

Wal-Mart: Save money.  Live better.  +3 cows.

Optional rule:

As a practical expedient while travelling on the highway, players may elect to use logos on blue highway signs (i.e. “Lodging next exit” or “Food next exit” signs) instead of looking for businesses from the road.

Medical centers:

Secular medical center: +50% bonus cows.  Because science is awesome.

Religious medical center: +100% bonus cows.  Because science + God is even better.

Catholic medical center: +110% bonus cows.  THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU … to have more cows.

Churches:

Catholic church: +6 cows.

Any other church: +5 cows.

Note: Initially, passing a Protestant church required subtracting 2 cows for embarrassingly bad theology, but my 10-year-old protested, “Mommy, you’re not being very nice to people who believe differently than you.”  Point taken.

Other landmarks:

Water tower: Some of your cows drown.  -10 cows.

Community college or university annex: Yay for smart cows!  +30% bonus cows.

Trains: +1 cow for every train car with graffiti.

Optional and proposed rules:

Optional rule:

When passing a graveyard, instead of all of your cows dying, a number of cows equal to the number of gravestones in the graveyard die.  Useful for those small country graveyards with maybe 20 stones.

Proposed rule:

“Mommy, what about auto parts stores?” asked my 12-year-old.  I don’t know – it seems like we should do something with auto parts stores, but I’m not sure what.

Proposed rule:

When crossing the Mississippi River, all your cows fall into the river and drown.

“NOOOOOO!”

Okay, fine: when crossing state lines, your cows are confused by the new surroundings and get lost.  Lose 20% of your cows.

Proposed rule:

“Mommy, shouldn’t we get +10 cows for passing a barn because the cows are rested?”  You currently have almost 200 cows – clearly you are doing fine.  Why are you lobbying for more?  “I don’t know.  Just ‘cuz.”

The following rule is optional, but if adopted, it must be wholly adopted.  Partial adoption is disallowed.

When approaching a barn, barn-like structure, or a cluster of barns or barn-like structures, if cows are visible from the road, players may elect to either: 1) count all the cows they can see (consistent with the rest of the rules); or 2) use the 10-cows-per-structure practical expedient.  Before passing each newly-sighted barn, barn-like structure, or cluster of barns or barn-like structures, one option or the other must be verbally elected.

For each green highway sign (mile-markers and exit signs don’t count), one of your cows stops to read the sign.  Lose that cow.

(And this is how you know your mother is a CPA.)

(P.S. The above proposed rule was NOT adopted in my car.  I can’t imagine why.)


 

Obviously, you can do whatever you want with this.  If you’re an atheist parent, for example, you may want to flip around the bonuses for the medical centers, or subtract 5 cows for ANY type of church you pass.  Whatever makes it fun!

Sexism is ugly

I am very angry at the moment.

I bet you think you know what I’m going to say here – I mean, as the devoted reader of my blog that I’m sure you are, it’s no secret that I’m a staunch feminist.  I’m basically a pro-life feminazi(*).

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about today.

My husband got yelled at for being an inadequate parent.  What did he do?  Oh he’s a stepdad.  That’s it.  That’s literally the reason he’s an inadequate parent.  Never mind that the biological father, the “real” father, of the child in question is an asshole (which is, incidentally, why I don’t even talk to him anymore after the divorce).  Never mind that it was my husband who potty-trained this child, who tried to teach her ABC’s before kindergarten, who drives her to school when she oversleeps and misses her bus, who taught her how to do laundry and dishes, who taught her how to cook mac n’ cheese for herself, who keeps a secret stash of pop tarts in the house for her(**), who plays the Wii-U with her, who taught her how to work through frustration and bad sportsmanship …. No.  None of that matters.  Because he’s a step-dad.  He’s not a “real” parent.

And we all know how men just aren’t any good with children that aren’t, you know, theirs, right?  It’s just a universal biological fact, totally hard-wired in, and we just can’t expect men to do what doesn’t come naturally, right?  Except when they actually do things that blow this awful stereotype out of the water, and then we don’t believe what we’re seeing.  Can’t be possible.  I don’t need to look at the evidence because the evidence doesn’t matter anyway.  It’s just a known fact.

In other news, it’s “just a known fact” that the world is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth.  But here’s the difference – the earth isn’t offended because of faulty assumptions about it.  It just keeps on being (roughly) spherical, rotating and orbiting around the sun and generally being its bad self.  It’s one of the perks of being, oh I dunno, a planet that doesn’t have to actually interact with people to do its job.

But when you make assumptions about my husband, you hurt his ability to be an effective parent.  You question everything he does and you tell him he’s wrong just because he’s a stepdad, you don’t just hurt him.  You also hurt me, because I need him to be effective in his role in order for me to be effective in my role as a provider and breadwinner.  You also hurt my children, because they see that it’s okay to treat their dad like that, and because you tell them that he’s not “really” their dad, despite the fact that he’s a better dad than the person you would consider the “real” dad.

No one questions my ability to be a parent.  Because I’m female.  Because I’m their mother.  As if there’s some something magical in my ovaries that grants me the ability to be a parent.  Here’s a clue:  you know why I’m a good mother?  Because I have actively worked at doing things a good mother does every day for the past 12 years.  Practice makes perfect – THAT is what makes me a good mother.  And I get lots of practice.  But here’s the thing – my husband has had a lot of practice being a dad.  It has been his full-time job for over 6 years now.  He knows what he’s doing and I trust him.

How dare you assume that you’re going to have a different conversation with her mother?  How dare you assume that he and I didn’t decide things together as her parents and caretakers?  What kind of an idiot rants and raves about the supposed limits of men’s capabilities and then verbally skewers the embodiment of the person who is better than apparently every man they have known?

I have a radical idea – how about we interact with people as individuals instead of judging them on what’s between their legs?  Never ranted about that before or anything.

(*) I have always thought the term “feminazi” has a lovely ring to it, ever since I heard it on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show as a kid, and I will probably never retire it.

(**) I’m not supposed to know about this, so SHHHHHH!!! Don’t tell my husband.

Toddler tantrums

Everyone who has not had children knows that toddlers only ever scream or have tantrums while safely at home out of the public eye.  In the event that a toddler decides to start screaming in public, everyone knows that the parent ought to be able to calm the child.  In fact, plenty of parents will jump in here and agree that it’s always possible to calm or quiet a screaming child in public, because children with varying personalities and levels of development are magically all the same in this one regard.  But on the off chance that you fail as a parent and cannot calm your child, well then it is your Sacred Duty™ to remove the child so you don’t risk offending anyone else.

Never mind that you have no other opportunity to get your grocery shopping done or stop at the post office or pick up your glasses – thou shalt not, under any circumstances, remain in public with a screaming child.  It’s the 11th Commandment – look it up.  Why would you think it’s okay for you to finish up your errand?  How entitled are you?

Any parent out in public with a screaming toddler should be prepared (and grateful!) when strangers scold them for their inadequate parenting skills.  They should bow their heads meekly and accept an exhortation to “Go to hell!” as if it were the most benign of blessings.  It is, of course, the parent’s fault in the first place for even HAVING children.  It is further the height of irresponsibility to have children while single and without having at least two forms of backup childcare available whenever you need to go grocery shopping; how dare you inflict your irresponsible choices on me!

“But what does any of that have to do with anything?  The fact remains that I’m here, and my baby is here, and we both need to eat.  When exactly am I supposed to go to the store?”

You made your bed, now sleep in it!  Now that you’ve procreated irresponsibly, it’s on you to rearrange your schedule so that you’re not shopping at the same time that I am.

“But I can’t rearrange my schedule!  I only have daycare during the hours I’m in class, and I only have a very narrow window between class time and when the grocery store opens / closes!  I’m doing homework the rest of the time!”

Well you should have thought of that before you decided to breed.  Your kids are not my problem.  Period.  By the way, your defiant, entitled attitude isn’t earning you any sympathy.

“I don’t need your sympathy – your sympathy isn’t going to do my coursework, buy my groceries, or care for my children.”

*Scoff*  Parents these days.

Things you’re not supposed to say about your children

Or: The non-parenting blog parenting post

I am not ever going to be a mommy blogger.  If I were to be, my mommy blog would not be very good.

Sample post:

I got home at 7 after working all day, helped my husband make dinner while yelling at my kids not to throw various breakables down the stairs and for heaven’s sake, NO RUNNING in the house and can you PLEASE not kill each other while we’re cooking yes I KNOW you’re hungry I’m famished myself so the sooner you find some way to amuse yourself for I swear 10 minutes is all I need the sooner we can ALL get something to eat and for the love of God WHY IS YOUR BROTHER CRYING?!

There.  That is an example of what I am NOT contributing to the blogosphere.

You’re welcome.

But lately I’ve noticed that whenever I let slip any of several things that you’re not supposed to say about your children, they have a way of making people feel better.  People that want to be parents either soon or someday and are worried that they are not the parenting type.  Because I seem to be the poster child for “If I can be a parent, anyone can!”

And that’s great!

I’m not going to pretend I’m the perfect parent or that I have the parenting thing completely figured out.  But all three of them are alive and fairly independent for their level of development (11, 8, and 15 months, for reference), so I think I’m qualified to share a few things.  My path to parenthood was a bit untraditional so it puts me in a good position to challenge some of the reigning assumptions out there.

So here are several things you’re not supposed to say about your kids –

1) I don’t speak Baby.

I am terrible at intuiting what my babies need.  When they cry, I just stick a boob in their mouth.  It solves everything.  Hungry?  Boob!  Tired?  Boob! (bonus: they’ll nurse themselves to sleep)  Bored?  Boob!  Gassy?  Boob!  Upset because they just got their vaccinations?  Boob!  Poopy?  Boob!  Wait, I take that back – first change them, and then – Boob!

2) I don’t have warm, fuzzy feelings for my children when I am pregnant with them.

I understand intellectually that they are there and that they are alive and that they are my children from the moment of conception, but I really don’t connect emotionally with them.  I spend my pregnancies constantly checking the calendar and counting down the days to when I can expect to be done being pregnant so I can resume my alcohol consumption habits.

 
3) I also don’t have warm, fuzzy feelings for my children right after they’re born.

When the nurses hand me the baby, I smile because I’m supposed to, but inside I’m wondering how soon I can hand the baby off to someone else and not look at it again for a while.

What’s that look for?  I just pushed out a baby!  It’s only the most strenuous thing I’ve ever done, so forgive me if I’m a bit wiped and all I want to do is sleep.  I’ll deal with the whole “I’m a mom now” thing later.

4) I wasn’t “ready” to be a mom.

Not in any sense of the word.  I was 20 years old, not married, no college, and enjoying living alone when that pregnancy test came up positive.  I didn’t even like kids.  No way in hell did I want to be a mom.  But here’s the thing – humans have a gestational period of about 9 months.  Forty weeks if you count the ~2 weeks before conception even occurs.  So by the time you start inexplicably puking and take the pregnancy test, you’ll probably have about 7 or 8 months notice before the baby is born.  That’s more than enough time to prepare yourself.  Not that you’ll FEEL ready at all, but it’s enough time to have the necessary logistics in place.

5) The first month (or so) of taking care of a new baby is absolute hell.

There’s just no other way to put it.  Have you heard that saying, “Love is a choice”?  Well, loving my newborn babies was DEFINITELY a choice.  A choice that I continually, purposely, determinedly made every minute of that first month while reminding myself that there was literally no other (ethically acceptable) option.

I WILL get out of bed.  I WILL wipe the poop off the baby, and the changing table, and the floor, etc.  I WILL put baby to breast.  I WILL pick up and hold the baby when it cries.

The warm fuzzy feelings slowly developed beginning at around the six weeks or two month mark.  Up until that point, everyone’s telling me “Congratulations!  You must be so happy!”  And I say “Thank you – yes we’re thrilled!” because it’s not socially acceptable to say, “Thank you – my life is a nightmare!”

6) Going along with the last point, learning how to breastfeed can be a pain.

My first time, I had a screaming baby virtually around the clock for about a week until she figured out how to nurse.  I visited the lactation consultant three times.  My second time, she was really gung-ho about nursing, and it took her a while to get the memo that she didn’t have to work THAT hard.  My third time just hurt.  A lot.

In my experience it takes about a week, but I have heard that for some people it takes about two weeks.  Most people, when they get to the two-week mark, just say fuck it, switch to formula, and are instantly happier.  And good for them.

I will say this, though – if you can get the nursing thing down, you have about 4 months where you can take the baby anywhere.  And I do mean anywhere.  Movie? Yup.  Fancy restaurant?  Absolutely.  Bar?  Well, I wouldn’t go that far.  Mainly because people will look at you funny.  The reason you can get away with this is because up until about four months or so, babies don’t really care if they don’t get to move around or play for a few hours.  And if you’re nursing, you can just pop them on a boob if they start crying.  Works like magic.  Once you get to about 4-1/2 or 5 months, the baby will want to move around more, so definitely take advantage of the boob-solves-everything phase, especially if it’s your first baby.

So that’s me – what are your “things you’re not supposed to say” about your children?

An open letter to Kelsey

Dear Kelsey,

I glanced through your list of goals for your children and read your later post bowing out of the parenting advice arena. There’s no need to do that if you don’t want to!  Everyone’s experience is different and what works for you may not work for others … but then again it might!

I see since then you have rethought quitting parenting advice.  Good for you!

Since you got some discouraging comments on what was overall a good list,  I thought I would throw you some support.  In particular, the  I think it’s obvious you don’t have older kids. Do you really think you’re qualified to be handing out parenting advice?” comment REALLY irked me.  So, as a mom of older kids, I thought I would chime in.

Anyway, my kids are 10 (almost 11), 8, and 11 months. I like how aggressive your plan is regarding teaching them chores and other skills.  After all, the goal of parenting is to prepare kids to be functional adults, so the sooner they learn these skills, the better. My older two have been expected to sweep, take out garbage, do their own laundry, clean their own bathroom, load the dishwasher, hand-wash dishes, babysit their baby brother when needed (including diaper changes, feeding and bottle cleaning and prep), AND do their homework for at least a year now (in the case of the older one, a few years now).

We talk about money openly and honestly with both the older ones, including how much I make (wow, that’s a lot!), how much we pay every month for the house and other bills (wow, that’s a lot!), and how much we pay in taxes. We showed them the tax refund check last year (wow, that’s a lot! can we go shopping?) and explained to them that we needed the money for me to take time off work for when their baby brother is born (oh, that makes sense).

We had a puberty / sex talk with my older one less than a year ago, so she had some exposure to these topics at home before they started talking about puberty in school (definitely wise, in my book – take control of that narrative as early as possible and share YOUR values. Don’t do the “sex is bad, mmmkay?” that my parents did and then wonder why your kids don’t take you seriously).

Both the older ones can make sandwiches themselves and pour their own milk / juice beginning at around 7 or 8 (although cleaning up after themselves is still a bit spotty), and the older one helps chop vegetables with a large knife (while supervised of course) and is basically my husband’s little sous chef in the kitchen. She can make her own eggs in the morning (but she doesn’t usually because she tends to leave a mess).

And that’s just off the top of my head.  I look at my kids and I am so proud of who they are today and who they will grow up to be.  I’m sure you will be the same when your kids are 10 and 8.

I like your set of goals for the teen years especially.  My kids aren’t there yet, but I remember being a teen not so long ago.  I wish my parents had been more like the parent you want to be.  Again, the primary goal of parenthood is PREPARING kids to be adults instead of PROTECTING them until their 18th birthday, and I think that you really understand this.  It shows in your list.

So to sum up, your goals for your kids are absolutely doable.  Screw the haters.  You’re doing a great job.

Love,

Athena

“Entitled” to babysitting?

I ran across this post, and I was really taken aback by all the snark.  Why was I surprised?  It is the internet after all.  I guess I just expect more of people.  It’s a character flaw.

Here’s my response:

To me, the mission-critical elements are –

“[Mark] and his wife, “Sue”, are always offering to watch our children so we can go on a date because we never get the chance. Then when we actually need help, they never follow through.”

And –

“Mark & Sue have also implied they would want us to babysit when their children are born …”

This. Right here.

Yes, yes, no one is entitled to have anyone else babysit for them, but “good friends” don’t make idle offers. If they do, they’re not good friends. You and your fiance are perfectly justified in being frustrated with them.

That said, I’m going to assume that Mark and Sue, since they don’t have children yet, don’t really appreciate how helpful it is to be able to get out of the house once in a while. So I would table this discussion until their own child is born and then THEY want to get out for an evening. I see a couple possible outcomes –

1) You all develop a rhythm where you fairly and equitably trade babysitting services; or
2) You babysit for them (once, maybe twice) without reciprocation. After that, I would be “busy” anytime they ask until they reciprocate.

As far as the bachelor party specifically …. as long as not too much planning has been done, I’m actually on your fiance’s side here. If I’m reading your submission correctly, and your fiance says he would rather have a night out with you than a bachelor party, he should stick to his guns. There’s no law that says he HAS to have a bachelor party, and if Mark is willing to go to the effort to do something for your fiance like plan a bachelor party, he should be willing to go to the effort to babysit, especially since he had offered to babysit, multiple times, LONG before he even thought about planning the bachelor party.

Also, regarding the weirdness about guys babysitting … that just seems a little over-the-top.  But then again, maybe I’m biased because my husband is a stay-at-home dad, so he’s alone with the kids every day.  Plus, plenty of women are lethally abusive to children, so it would seem to me that having gender-specific hangups about who watches your children is a little old-fashioned.