As I constantly harp on and rely upon in my own parenting, everything is about setting expectations.
And the best way to do so is have the kids’ input.
This morning, we sat down and had a “morning meeting” in which we set daily expectations with a to-do list that the kids helped craft.
Set a daily routine schedule Set some goals for what kids would like to accomplish on a weekly basis – culling through old toys, learning a new skill
Find a reward system for sticking with the program – incentivize (fine: call it a bribe) with screen time, sweet treats. But also – this is just life, kids. Rewards come from exceptional behavior. They don’t need a reward for every tiny thing they do.
Make a check-list chart so kids can gauge their progress.
Set lots of timers.
Keep your own expectations low so you don’t get too frustrated.
Be kind to yourself and the kids – it’s a strange time. Space everything out with snacks and breaks.
And at the end of the day, give up, have a drink, and hand over the iPad. You done good setting expectations to manage the kids’ enrichment. hell, they’re going to learn a ton during this pandemic and be touched for the rest of their lives.
Childhood in 2020 is very different from the 80’s and 90’s, and that’s all for the good. Safety and health are tantamount to parenting, as opposed to convenience and convenience back when we got to ride without seat belts munching a lunch of fruit roll-ups.
But we know things are better with shoulder restraints, air bags, educational television and a modicum of vegetables.
Nonetheless, I know my kids’ childhood in 2020 will be less fun than my own. In addition to my quick list of archaic pleasures, what will your kids miss out on?
Processed foods. I ate Mac’n Cheese, Kool-Aid, Fruity Pebbles, Pop Tarts and Fritos. And there was no about their nutritional value. But my kids will only have those on special occasions. (Like at the frequency of Haley’s Comet visits.) Now we worry about red dye, HFCS, and chemical additives that render food addictive. And we obsess over our kids eating vegetables. Actually, red dye confounds me. But I totally obsess over the veggies. In my childhood, canned creamed corn counted as a vegetable. And I will never serve that to my kids as a vegetable. Unless we’re camping. Actually, they can eat all those foods can be eaten when camping. All bets are off camping. But every day? Sorry guys. You’ll never have it as good as I did.
Seat belts. My dad drove a Volvo in the early 80’s. There was a black grip bar that inexplicably (to me) jutted out from the dashboard. When riding in that car, I’d hold onto the black handle to get myself as close to the front windshield as possible. Occasionally Dad would ask, “Gavin, please sit back and put on your seatbelt.” “No,” I’d respond. “Well, then,” he’d compromise, “at least lock your door.” Yeah, kids. That’s never going to happen, again.
And speaking of driving: the front seat by age three? Not gonna happen. Sorry. Please proceed to the back of the car with less of a view.
Saturday morning cartoons. My parents didn’t monitor me. I watched hours of cartoons until at least 11 AM. If I woke up early enough, I could catch the full 90 minutes of The Smurfs from 6:30 to 8. I didn’t have to worry about “what else was on” because I didn’t have a remote control. Few choices meant fewer worries. Now, let’s face it: with Netflix and YouTube, cartoons are less special and the sheer volume of videos at fingertips means less enjoyment and more worry what they’re missing. Instead, they schizophrenically tap between videos without indulging in the pleasure of calm watching. I lived for Saturday mornings. Kids, you’ll never know such bliss. I won’t allow it. Oh, and half hour of screen time. Tops. Except when daddy needs a break. So…whatever I say. And go read a book.
Classroom holiday parties with tons of sugar and nuts. Parents didn’t avoid the sweets and no one had allergies. Sorry, guys. With carrot muffins masquerading as “treats”, you’ll never have it as good as I did. Sorry. I have to play by the rules, now, too.
Russia was the bad guy. The world was black and white. Sure, I lay awake thinking about nuclear holocaust. But now? Yikes. Hurricanes, terrorists, cyclone bombs, CV-19, and Russia? Life seems more and more like an episode of 24 every twenty-four hours. I’ll do my darnedest to protect you. And I hope you don’t lie awake at night worrying. I’ll do the worrying for you.
Passing notes. I mean, I haven’t been in a junior high class in a long time. But passing notes, and the challenge of hiding it from the teachers? We lived for that. Plus, “do you like me? Mark the boxes ‘yes’ or ‘no’” is so much more titillating than sexting. Please, please don’t send naked pictures of yourself. Just draw them on paper and pass them in class. I’ll talk to the teacher if you get caught.
We didn’t have to be so friggin’ good. You have to volunteer for half a dozen philanthropies to qualify for junior high entrance, not , let alone college admissions. In my day, only serious over-achievers (with over-involved parents) did anything We watched Saturday morning cartoons and ate Frosted Flakes. You have it way worse, kids. I expect you to be volunteering for blood drives and writing non-profit grants by second grade. You’ll learn empathy, damn it.
What has my fatigue-fog made me forget? I want to know what your kids will miss out on in their childhood in 2020!
It seems to me that society is slowly making room for women – and thank goodness for that.
I’m late to the #MeToo conversation surrounding sexual harassment, but I’ve encountered fewer men weighing in than I’d expect. I know this is a time when men should often just shut up and listen. (Bad timing for some man-splaining?)
But I also think dads and sons and brothers should be part of the conversation.
This isn’t the time for anyone to ask, “but this all happened so long ago. Why bring it up, now?” (Because it still matters. Even you, Keillor.)
This isn’t the time for postulating, “Yeah, it was bad, but should it really ruin someone’s life?” (Well, Spacey, maybe you should’ve thought about that before thinking with your groin. You weren’t 13; you were in your 20’s. You knew better.)
Women: I’ll probably put my foot in my mouth wading into this delicate issue. So maybe I should just be speaking to the menfolk.
But I have to say: I’m loving this time, this space, this conversation, this movement.
I love this zero-tolerance-for-douche-baggery moment we’re witnessing. And I hope it changes our culture for the good.
Several female friends of mine have voiced their cynicism that “nothing’s gonna change. We have so far to go.”
I’m so pissed at the people I admire – Franken and Keillor. Do I think their transgressions are as serious as Weinstein or Lauer? Not really. There’s a difference between stupidity and sickness.
But it’s all under the same umbrella of objectification, crossing lines, and exploitation.
Being part of the non-douche-bag club, (of which I think a majority of my fellow men are card-carrying members), I’m glad pigs are going down.
I’m happy that the shit that riseth to the top masquerading as cream is being scooped out and exposed.
So I hope there’s more women come forward, because that’ll open up corporate positions thus making room for women (and some men who aren’t entitled douche-bags.)
And it’ll teach our sons they can’t be creeps and our daughters that they don’t have to tolerate creepiness.
If a few people (beloved or not) have to take the fall to make society an egalitarian place where women do not feel objectified or exploited or belittled or unsafe, then that’s ok.
NO MATTER THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO GO DOWN. It’ll never be enough to rectify the harm done.
Because a systemic cultural sickness that has allowed sexual harassment to be excused for (thousands of) years is worth changing; no matter the sacrifices made or how many supposed role models are scandalized in the process.
Kids say no – and it’s a daily chore to choose that battle.
But with “no”, my youngest cracks me up. At 19 months (a little while ago, now), he said about two-dozen words, including “cha-cha” (chocolate), “eh-fant” (elephant) and “go-go” (yogurt).
He calls seltzer water “bash” because they both call seltzer “spicy water.” (Such an East coast thing. Seltzer burned my throat as a kid, now I drink it by the gallon. We make great use of our Sodastream. #notanad . But in the interest of cutting down on plastic and aluminum waste – get yourself a SodaStream. We don’t put any flavoring in it because all that syrup is nasty. Brapefruit wedges or sliced cucumbers are awesome!)
He says “shoes, bat (bath), buh-sh (toothbrush), car, purple and yellow.”
But he will not say “yes.”
He never hesitates to say “no.”
He will acquiesce to offers with a full-body nod, starting from his waist, to demonstrate “yes”. That’s when we TELL him, “Colton! Time for bath!” or “Time to go for a walk.”
But if we ASK, “do you want to take a bath?” He says, “No.”
Then he skidaddles to the bathroom.
Far be it for me to compare my children…but I will. The older was a “yes” kid – agreeing to everything: water, diaper changes, supply-side economics. They didn’t always mean it, but still always said “yes”.
The younger’s the direct opposite.
The exception is stuff he really wants. And that elicits the full-body nod.
“More raisins, kiddo?”
“You want more bash, buddy?”
But he will not say “yes”.
The family’s in on the full-body agreement. I asked my older kid to ask their sibling if they wanted a bath. (Younger was busy with his favorite activity: standing on the toilet, leaning on the sink and playing with the water.) After asking, the older said, “Daddy! Daddy! I asked him and he said…
…at which point Older did the full-body nod.
We amuse ourselves by posing Younger a litany of questions:
Do you want dinner?
Do you want a snack?
Do you love me?
Do you love our dog, Maddie?
Do you want to play trains?
Do you like cars?
Do you see the couch?
Do you see anything?
Do you want to be a millionaire?
Do you want to go to Florida?
Do you want to say “no”?
Never once has he fallen for it for our trick. He has total focus on the questions. He never slips up. He merely remains silent when we ask, “do you want to say ‘no’?”
He never falls for the trick and never slips up saying “yes”.
I’m sure it’s a sign of genius – kids say no. It’s their power.
But at about six weeks, when my kid became inconsolably irritated and annoying, my sleep-deprived mind didn’t realize THAT is when they need the 5 S’s. I just wallowed in their irritation without THEN employing the 5 S’s. Consequently, I was suffering more than they.
A friend told me it was “Granny Hour”.
In olden days when we lived in tribal villages (read: without YouTube), Granny realized that Daddy needed a drink around 5pm and she’d come over and bounce Junior so that Daddy could get fresh air (into his glass of wine). Nobody told me that the 5 S’s were for what would become Granny/Witching/Hell hour…and that it would go on for the first three months of infancy.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t a daily 4:30-6:30 hellish period of whining and suffering (MY own.)
2. That 3-6 months would be relatively easy.
Hate to break it to you, new parents, but after your kid eases their incessant irritation, starts sleeping through the night, and even Granny hour becomes less severe, you’ll have a couple months of bliss (months 3-6).
But don’t worry – it gets infinitely harder.
Enjoy those months of happy baby who doesn’t actually do anything but coo and poop and charm you. Go out to eat, NOW and OFTEN while your kid still fits in the car seat bucket. Your world is about to get rocked.
With the era of sitting up and cruising around furniture comes the beginning of the end of your independence. That kid needs stimulation: now and always. Thus begins the era of you needing to hide your phone in your best daddy diaper bag as you double-task playtime. You have to start the mind-numbing process of baby babble and shaking rattles for what feels like hours (but is only 7 minutes). But that’s seriously when everything changes.
It’s all good. You’ll love it, blah, blah, blah. But you have it so easy in those first six months.
I wasn’t expecting that.
3. Raisins in poop
My kids eat lots of mixtures of yogurt, apple sauce and raisins for breakfast. It took me a few diaper changes to realize they hadn’t swallowed whole kidney beans for lunch the previous day. Those are raisins. They’re swallowing them whole and, apparently, they bloat during their journey down the digestive track. Now, I knew corn doesn’t fully digest (Corn? When did I eat corn?), but apparently if baby teeth don’t chew through raisins, they don’t digest, either. Food for thought.
I wasn’t expecting that.
4. “I don’t love you”
Once after a nap, my then 3-yo declared “Daddy, I don’t love you”. It was out of nowhere. I wasn’t yelling, they weren’t in time out, there was no stress; they just walked out of their room, looked at me, and said it.
I kept my cool and responded, “Well, that’s OK. I’ll love you always forever and no matter what.”
They looked at me.
Then they asked, “Can I have some juice, please?”
I figured since I passed that little test, we both deserved some juice.
(But I wasn’t expecting “I don’t love you” for another 6 years.)
5. Babies and toddlers can be assholes
They don’t want to be assholes. It’s not their intention. But mine terrorize me with their dissatisfaction toward everything. They can be happily playing for a record-breaking twenty minutes. Everyone’s happily babbling along. Then the seal of happy cuteness is broken.
They trip over an errant Thomas train (though they trip 72 times/day).
Or a blanket is stuck under a chair (Really? You have to have THIS blanket right NOW)
Or that book that they’ve never ever paid any attention to is held by the terrorist sibling so a tug-of-war/screaming/crying fight ensues. Over “Pajama Time”.
Really? You never even LIKE this book!
And then they’re dissatisfied for what feels like the next seventeen hours. Yes.
Toddlers are terrorist assholes.
So apparently “Granny Hour” isn’t left behind in infancy. The cycle begins anew.
I just wasn’t expecting that.
I know this is the least comprehensive list in parenting history, but they’re list missives about those infinite surprises on the parenting path.
What simple surprises about parenting do you experience?