Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Raising Independent Kids

Disclaimer - my kid isn't even 2 years old yet. I am not an expert on raising children. My views may change as Squid gets older.

So, I'm browsing Pinterest and looking at some family cooking and craft projects. And most of these projects have mom doing most of the work or severely supervising the children. One in particular mentioned how her project was a good one because her kids didn't need much supervision after she microwaved the chocolate for them.

The kids were teens and preteens. She talks about them having cell phones. She showed pics of kids well over the age of 10. Why do these kids need to be supervised in the use of a microwave?

By the time I was 10, I was preparing complete meals on the stove. I was trusted to do laundry on my own. I was mowing lawns. When did we start treating children like imbeciles?

How can we expect kids to ever learn to be self-sufficient if we continue to do everything for them? Yes, they might screw it up. That's part of the learning process. They may even sustain minor injuries. They will survive them.

I consider myself a decent cook. Not awesome. But people usually eat whatever I make and I get compliments on some of the stuff. As a kid, I burnt a lot of food. I mixed ingredients wrong. I didn't time when stuff would be done, so the sides would be cold and the entree hot. I eventually got the hang of it through trial and error.

The same thing with everything in life. I learned to hammer nails by hammering rusty, crooked nails into scrap wood. That was my grandpa's idea of a toy to keep my brother and me quiet for a while. Ok, probably not the best example, but we never got tetanus, although we did hammer our thumbs a few times.

Kids need the opportunity to screw up. They need the opportunity to take risks. Success is meaningless if the parent is responsible for it.

Let the kid microwave the chocolate. What's the worst that could happen? Over-cooking it? Making a mess of the microwave? Those are not disasters. Those are learning opportunities. Make them clean the mess and try again. You aren't going to be there to microwave their ramen noodles in college.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This is Getting Old

I hate to keep on about the same things, over and over. But the same things happen, over and over.

Took Squid shopping the other day. We needed a raincoat and we were going to look at bathing suits. I let her pick out a rain coat and she chose the girliest coat, pink with flowers or apples or some such nonsense. It's cute and she hugged it and smiled and wanted to wear it throughout the store.

Then we went over to the swimwear area to see what they have. She was instantly drawn to the Spiderman swim trunks. Have I mentioned how much this kid loves Spidey? I'm actually getting a little worried about her obsession. She pointed and smiled and said, "SPIDEY!" I acknowledged that the swim trunks did indeed have Spiderman on them. Then I sang the theme song as she danced in her seat. And as much as I would love to say I bought her the swim trunks, I can't. I told her we should try to get her a girl's swimsuit and we looked on the slightest chance that they might have a Spiderman bathing suit. They didn't. I showed her Dora, Minnie Mouse, Princesses Galore... even an Angry Birds. She emphatically shook her head no and pointed at the Spiderman trunks. I promised I would look and see what I could find online and guiltily bought her some Spidey pajamas.

When we were checking out, the cashier looked at our haul, which now included a cloth diaper for her doll and a purple doll stroller (she had tried to steal one from a kid at the mall the other day, so we figured a $10 toy was cheaper than jail time). The cashier looked at Squid and said, "Is this all for you? Oh, wait... not all. The pajamas must be for your brother."

"Nope," I replied. "They're hers. She's a big Spiderman fan."

The cashier looked a bit incredulous (seriously? over pajamas?) and smiled and continued to scan our items.

Don't you tell me what to do, cardboard dinosaur!

At home, I learned that they only make superhero bathing suits for nubile teens. WTH? I had Wonder Woman Underoos and such as a kid. Comics are HUGE right now. And all that's available for little girls is princesses and Dora. Wilting flowers waiting for a prince to come save them or a girl who is constantly getting lost in the woods.

When I mentioned the conundrum at work, my male coworkers laughed and smiled, knowing my daughter and her fanaticism for the web-slinger. A newer female coworker was aghast. "Why would you want her to wear a Spiderman bathing suit? Wouldn't she rather have a princess or Dora? She's a girl!"

I change her diapers, I am well-aware of her gender. And I watch her play mommy with her dolls and teddies and Spiderman plushie. She rocks them. She feeds them. And occasionally growls at them and bites their legs. I don't judge. Hell, I don't even attempt to understand anymore. I just go with the flow and encourage her to be herself.

Eventually, I was able to find a site selling toddler Spiderman Speedo-style swim trunks and a Spidey rash guard shirt. It'll work as a swimsuit. It's not as brave of a choice as letting her wear the boy trunks. But it's still a subtle way of telling society that it sucks. Of course, I could just as easily refuse to buy her any character-emblazoned outfits, barring superheroes and princesses alike. But I'd feel a bit like a hypocrite, telling her that she can't wear a Spiderman or Elmo shirt, while I walk around in my favorite Death or Dawn shirt.

Plus, I don't know how long this Spiderman phase will last. She may be done with it all next week. And as a geek, I need to be sure to fully enjoy any glimmer of geekiness my little Squid may have. So, I'll buy her the bathing suit that I have cobbled together. I will dress her as Princess Wonderwoman for C2E2. I will encourage her to emulate the best characteristics of the best superheroes. And I will try to teach her the meaning of a real superhero.... ones that don't wear capes. But mostly, I want her to realize that the media and retail industry does not need to decide what you will like. We do not need to start pigeonholing our children before they enter preschool. There are plenty of years and people who are going to try to stuff them into boxes. Let them enjoy the outside for a while first.

Teddy needs some fresh air.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Daddy's Birthday!

Yesterday was my husband's birthday. He's an April Fool's baby. It explains a lot. Trust me.

Due to work and scheduling issues, we didn't plan anything for this momentous occasion. But, I still wanted to do something for his birthday. I knew I would be bringing Squid with me to work yesterday for the "parent hand-off", so I thought, "How cute would it be for Squid to come to work carrying a bouquet of balloons?" So, of to Party City we went.

We looked at a bunch of balloons and Squid was pretty much fixated on Elmo and Spider-Man. We discussed the options as we waited in line (basically, Squid saying, "Elmo!" and me saying, "I don't think daddy will like Elmo as much as he would like Spider-Man." And her saying, "Spidey!").

An eavesdropping older woman in front of us commented on how cute the Squid is, then bent down to her and said, "I think your daddy would probably prefer to get one of the football balloons, don't you?" I explained that daddy doesn't really like football. So she said, "Well, they have basketball balloons, too. Maybe you should get him some of those instead of Elmo or Spider-Man."

Umm...No, lady. Daddy hates sports. Seriously. All sports. Well, he likes fencing, rugby, and roller derby, but they don't have balloons for those. Not all men like sports. Get over it!

Ok, what I said was, "No. He really doesn't get into any sports. He will like the Spider-Man balloons best." And Squid said, "Spidey?"

So, we ordered the Spider-Man birthday bouquet and the lady filling the balloons asked if they were for Squid. We explained that they were for daddy, and she said she figured. So, I mentioned that Squid picked them out. How she loves Spider-Man almost as much as she loves Elmo. The employee said, "Really? Most little girls like Hello Kitty instead."

As she filled the balloons, Squid smiled and squealed and pointed excitedly, saying, "Spidey! Spidey!" Then she started humming and dancing, presumably to the theme song in her head. The employee laughed and said that Squid is the coolest kid she's ever met.

We know...