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Are We There Yet?

Archive for April 2008

Just a little more food for thought

I wrote a story this week about the importance of the family meal based on some of your comments about making time to eat together. I found the responses in that particular thread to be really heartwarming – they reminded me of the need to slow down, sit at the table and break bread with the people I love. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

One thing I didn’t have room to include in the story is some advice I got during a recent interview with Phyllis Stephens, perhaps the region’s best-known master gardener and “the voice of Inland Northwest gardening” on KXLY 920. (She also has four grown sons and 15 grandchildren.)

Stephens said one of the best ways to teach kids how to eat vegetables and to take an active role in preparing a meal is by growing your own food. “Let them touch bugs and dig in the dirt,” she told me. “Plant seeds together and watch your garden grow.”

Does your family have a vegetable garden? What do you grow? How do you get your kids involved?

Helicopter Parenting: “Death by Hovering,” according to psychologist

One of the nicest editors I know recently passed along this link to a bizarre story about the murder of a college student at a university in the Midwest. The Chronicle of Higher Education also published its own account that explained how the suspect, Tina Loraine Morris – the mother of the victim’s roommate – had been staying in the students’ campus apartment for two weeks before the killing. According to news reports, which quote court documents, Morris confronted the victim about her conduct with her daughter the night before. Then she stabbed the young woman repeatedly and fled in her car.

Hara Estroff Marano, editor at large of Psychology Today and author of the magazine’s advice column, Unconventional Wisdom, made this conclusion about the murder on her blog:

“Death by hovering is not how the coroner’s report will list it. But the murder of a student at Indiana University-Purdue, the first act of violence in the 40-year history of the Fort Wayne campus, may well be the first documented case of death from helicopter parenting.”

She later goes on to give examples of helicopter parenting: “A father books a hotel room on campus for a month while his son changes majors. A mother protests a student’s grade on a paper; it turns out that she wrote it. Parents and students exchange multiple cell phone calls each day, some initiated by students, at least as many initiated by their parents. Every little flicker of experience is reported. Students don’t get to sit with and manage their own emotions. And parents put themselves on the receiving end of a steady stream of unfiltered, undigested negative experience from their precious child.”

It’s unclear at this point what motivated Morris to move in illegally with her daughter and her roommates. Whether or not it was a case of helicopter parenting, the story intrigued me because of Marano’s comments on the subject.

How do you strike a balance between being there for your children and teaching them independence? How do you avoid becoming a “helicopter parent”?

What is Courage?

My son has been having some issues with an older/bigger/meaner/obnoxious (what i would call a BULLY) kid at school and we’ve been working with him/his teacher/the principal about it. Tonight he asked me to give him a few lessons in courage. It just breaks my heart to hear him ask about how to be brave. Some things we discussed tonight include how people who do brave or courageous things are sometimes still scared; that sometimes kids act out like this because they want negative attention/any attention but don’t know how to get it in other ways; talked about worst-case-scenarios (ok let’s say Boy X does punch you… then what); dad is going to show him some self-defense stuff (he’s a police officer), how to block punches, etc.

My inner ‘mama bear’ just wants him to clobber the guy…

Now that he is in bed for the night I just wonder what else we can tell him/teach him… Your thoughts or experiences?

Working teens

This summer’s job market is looking tough for teens, according to this story in The Chicago Tribune.

First, there aren’t a lot of openings with the poor economy. And second, they’re competing with adults for the few positions that are out there.

But most teens want to work. According to the story, 46 percent of teenagers have jobs, and they typically put in more than 14 hours a week and take home an average of $474 a month to save for college, invest in electronics or spend on entertainment.

Although work might be harder to find this summer, the National Consumers League continues to caution young workers about the type of work they choose to do. Not all jobs are safe so that’s why the NCL puts out a list of the worst teen jobs every year.

Here’s the top five for 2007:

1. Agriculture: Fieldwork and Processing
2. Construction and Work in Heights
3. Outside Helper: Landscaping, Groundskeeping, and Lawn Service
4. Driver/Operator: Forklifts, Tractors, and ATVs
5. Traveling Youth Crews

What did you do as a teen to earn extra money? What advice would you give young people as they prepare for the summer job hunt?

Children, chores and keeping the house clean

Spring always makes me feel more self-conscious about the messy state of my household.

Now that I spend more time at home instead of working full-time and hiring someone else to clean, I’ve quickly learned that it’s so much harder to keep a house in order when you’re at home with children. I cook and clean and cook and clean – only to get up the next day and do it all over again.

I need help with chores. My husband does his part, but it would be great to get the entire family involved. But how much can a toddler and preschooler actually do?

So I found this age appropriate chore chart online. Some of the suggestions include:

* Ages 2-3: pick up toys; help feed pets; help wipe up messes
* Ages 4-5: dust; set the table; put away groceries
* Ages 6-8: vacuum, take out trash, fold laundry
* Ages 9-12: help wash car; wash dishes; clean the bathroom; rake leaves
* Ages 13-17: Wash windows; do laundry; prepare meals

How do you keep your household clean? Do your children help? How do you encourage them to do chores around the house?

An addendum: On Faith

I wrote a story for Monday’s Today section based on the “Gotta Have Faith?” thread as well as on some recent conversations I’ve had with readers about raising children with or without religion.

One of the replies I received this morning was from a man named Gene Harwood. Here’s what he wrote to me in an e-mail:

“A more appropriate title would be truth versus lies. Why do parents risk integrity with their children by lying to them first about Santa Claus then by religion when there is no such place as heaven or hell? If children can’t trust their parents with the truth then who can they trust? Children are not dumb and sooner or later parents are going to get caught up in their lies about Santa Claus and religion.

Why not tell the truth from the very beginning and gain the trust of their children which will last a lifetime instead of risking the children’s love by casting doubt on their parents judgment.

Children are born as atheists until they are indoctrinated by their parents and they are deprived of their freedom of choice as guaranteed by the Constitution, by being made slaves of religion.”

Any additional thoughts on the issue of faith and kids?


When I was pregnant the second time, we considered having a doula with us at the hospital. At that time, I knew many couples who sought the expertise of a doula – a person who is trained to help during labor and after the birth of a baby.

In the end, however, we decided against it – not because we didn’t think a doula would be helpful, but my husband and I felt that the two of us along with our midwife would be fine.

Penny Simkin, the mother of the doula movement, was recently featured in The Seattle Times for her work with expectant parents. According to the story, having a doula at birth helps decrease labor time by as much as 25 percent. It also reduces the Cesarean-section rates by one-third.

“Birth never changes,” Simkin says. “But the way we manage it and the way we think of it has. Right now, we’re in a culture of fear around birth.”

In the story, Simkin also adds: “I’m so sad that women think birth is impossible. They’re also very busy and don’t have time for classes. There are very few sources where they can get confidence in themselves … Women are so fit and athletic and run marathons, and yet think they can’t do birth. I want people to appreciate how well their bodies are designed to give birth. Every cell in your body knows how.”

How did you prepare for the birth of your child(ren)? What was the experience like for you and your partner? Did you have a doula with you?

Best children’s books

According to the Children’s Book Council, the best books for kids are the ones “that speak to children, to their minds and their hearts.” The CBC insists that children will continue to read “as long as they find value, meaning, entertainment and something they can connect with in books.”

The current favorites at our house include: Kevin Henkes’ “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” for my 4-year-old; and “Good Night, Gorilla” – a book with very few words but one that certainly appeals to my 20-month-old daughter.

Last year, the National Education Association compiled a list of the top 100 children’s books. The top five, according to teachers, are:

1. “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
2. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak
3. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein
4. “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss
5. “Good Night Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown

Nearly all of those titles also can be found in’s “100 Best Children’s Books of All Time.”

What’s on your list of best children’s books? What makes these particular books special to you and your kids?

Problems facing our kids

If you get a chance, please check out the latest conversation on The Spokesman-Review’s Vox Box about the biggest problems facing children in our community.

A recent Spokesman-Review poll indicated that “drugs and alcohol” top the list. However, the young people on the Vox Box blog seem to indicate otherwise.

Here are some responses from local teens:

“Those hundreds of parents voting for drugs/alcohol seem to not trust youth (probably their own kids) to stay away from such things. Not only does it cast doubt on their parenting skills, it begs the questions: what are we supposed to think when parents think we are that stupid?”

“I don’t know why most adults think drugs and alcohol are the biggest problems facing us. If that’s what they’re most worried about us falling into, then they have a LOT of research to do. We’ve all taken Sex Ed. We know what “a few beers” can lead to, and we’re smart enough to stay away. It really bugs me how stupid adults seem to think we are. They cram it down our throats that we need to be careful at those parties, but don’t tell us what we REALLY need to know.”

As a mom, I learned a lot from reading those comments. I also felt a little out of touch with youth — I don’t think I would have rated “drugs and alcohol” high on my list, but I’m not sure if I have a real understanding of what it’s like to be in middle school or high school today.

How about you? What do you think is the biggest problem facing our youth?

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This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.

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