Refuse to Be Complicit

I’m about to veer pretty far off the usual topics. But here we go:

Football fans, I beg you: Walk away. Complicit

I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days. It’s time for football fans to take a long hard look in the mirror and decide if they want to support the NFL and these players any more. I know this is going to sound like heresy in the face of “America’s game,” but I ask you to hear me out:  Any time you tune in, show up to a game, or spend your money on anything related to the NFL, you are supporting a culture that says it’s okay to stuff leaves in a four-year-old’s mouth and whip him until you break the skin. You tune into games and award your attention to men who knock out their “then-fiancee” in an elevator and proceed to drag her out by her feet (oh wait, I guess that’s not okay because there’s a video). You support men who are convicted of beating their pregnant girlfriends. It is time to walk away from this game. Please don’t be complicit in condoning violence.

I know people are going to point out all the good people in the league and I know a vast majority of these players are upstanding citizens. But money talks. It is time to stop with your money, and to inhibit sponsor money by turning your time and attention elsewhere. Stop compartmentalizing the “game” (which makes a lot of people rich) from the players. “It’s just a game,” I know, but it makes players and an organization who have turned a blind eye to these and other off the field crimes and shitty behaviors rich. When you watch, you are part of that. If that’s not enough to get you to reconsider, please think about this: When you watch, you are cheering for and paying for a game that quite literally is turning many players’ brains into mush.

This is all very easy for me to say and ask — I don’t care about football. I almost never watch (Hell, last year we did tune into the Super Bowl and Boopsie kept calling it “basketball.”). In fact, I really hope my kids get into sports like cross country, ultimate frisbee and cycling  (hippie alert!). It’s simple for me to look at this situation and say “DONE.” But I’m not part of the solution either. I don’t buy jerseys or game tickets, I don’t beer advertised during the games or buy football shaped pretzels. So fans, I implore you: Is this how you want to spend your hard earned money and limited time? Money talks and it’s time to walk.

Refuse to be part of the rewards.

The “changing climate” in the NFL people keep referring to? That is just the money talking. It’s fans saying, “Hell no. I won’t cheer for someone who put leaves in their child’s mouth and beat them no matter how fun he is to watch play. I won’t stand for players not living up to a (likely contractual) standard about their off-the-field behavior. I won’t accept a level of machismo that supports knocking a loved one around.” It’s sponsors not wanting to be associated with organizations who say it’s okay to be an asshole off the field as long as you stay good at scoring points on the field*. PLEASE: Walk away.

* Unless, of course, there’s video.

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The Juggernaut vs. Joy

So, I have some weird hang-ups about Disney, “princess culture,” the sexualization of girls and the general over-gendering that American childhood culture does to to kids, even really young kids. And for 3.5 years, that was a pretty easy path to walk — Daddy-o and I have tight control over the media Boopsie is exposed to, and we haven’t introduced Barbies or Disney Princesses or any TV with commercials.

However, since we decided to take Boopsie to her first movie, and it was Frozen, which has been crazily successful for picture of a package of Frozen undiesDisney, this has been challenged. Case in point: Yesterday I took Boopsie to our nearby Target. We needed a few first aid supplies and she wanted to pick out some Band-Aids, so she picked out the Disney Princess variety. This was a first and it was a little unsettling, but I just let it ride.

Later, we were hitting up the baby/toddler section and she spotted character undies featuring the characters from Frozen. And I let myself be talked into buying them despite serious misgivings. First of all, I dislike how aggressively every movie tie-in is marketed to kids. Secondly, she didn’t even really need undies. Finally, I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a damn slippery slope. Yes, Frozen has a lot of good messages about sisterhood and being brave and strong, but it’s still a Disney movie and there’s still some weird sexuality stuff happening with Elsa. But I folded, and quickly, and you know what? My kid is overjoyed about those undies. She told the cashier. She told friends we saw for dinner. She changed them this morning and came bursting out of her room to show Daddy-o and I the “Olaf” pair she had put on. She. Loves. Those. Undies.

The Disney juggernaut, and their product tie-ins, have brought her JOY. I’m still mixed about the whole Frozen craze, and Disney and I definitely am not a fan of the other “princesses.” But with this experience, I’m going to try and walk this line, and to help her enjoy some aspects of what this part of our culture has to offer.

Once again, it’s likely I’m putting way too much thought into this. But my goodness, she is adorable when she’s talking about those undies…

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Book Review/Discussion: Raising Your Spirited Child

First of all, let me just lay it out there and say I love this book. If I had the skills to write an ode to this book, I would. Cover or Raising your spirited childFor one thing, when things went a little nuts with Boopsie, this book was the first I read (out of several) that made me feel like what we were dealing with was manageable. Secondly, it provided an new lens for considering why the whole situation was getting my goat so much. When I look at my copy of the book now, I see at least 30 pages that I have dog eared for future reference. (Interesting aside: I’ve stopped buying parenting and most other nonfiction books on my Kindle because I want to be able to mark them up and clicking to highlight just isn’t the same as marking with a pen and folding over pages.)

Some of the details about Raising Your Spirited Child:

  • It was written by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
  • The subtitle is “A guide for parents whose child if more intense, sensitive, perceptive, persistent and energetic.”
  • The paperback edition I have (revised edition) is 468 pages long
  • The book is organized into five parts: Understanding Spirit, Working with Spirit, Living with Spirit, Socializing with Spirit and Enjoying Spirit

Kurcinka’s definition of a spirited child is, “The word that distinguishes spirited children from other children is more. They are normal children who are more intense, persistent, sensitive, perceptive and uncomfortable with change than other children.”

She explores temperament, facets of “spiritedness” and even includes a little quiz to help you gauge your child’s level of spirit on the different facets: Intensity, Persistence, Sensitivity, Perceptiveness, Adaptability, Regularity, Energy, First Reaction and Mood. Once you’ve done that, she also encourages the reader to look at his/her own spiritedness in terms of these traits. I found these exercises particularly helpful because they helped me put words to Boopsie’s personality (and positive words at that!) and showed me where my own “spunkiness” might be contributing to our challenges.

In subsequent parts of the book, Kurcinka walks through the various traits and how to deal with each of them. In addition, she spends chapters on tantrums, planning for success, bedtime, meal times, dressing and topics like socializing, vacation and school.

I’ve read this book through twice and I will probably continue to refer to it regularly. I recommend this to anyone struggling with a “spirited” kid!

Now that I’ve waxed poetic… have you read this book? Any thoughts? What parenting books have you found most helpful?

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Not a Normal Parent

Every once in a while, I’ll be cruising along when I’m suddenly struck by a realization: I am not a “normal” parent. Now before anyone goes all psycho-babble on me, I realize that there are huge ranges of “normal” and I’m not worried about being “normal”… I basically just have some funny hang-ups.

Case in point: After lots of hemming and hawing (mostly on my part) Daddy-o and I decided to take Boopsie to see her first movie in the theater. Despite my many, many misgivings about the Disney marketing juggernaut and Disney princesses, we decided to climb on the bandwagon and go see Frozen at the cool second-run theater near our house.

As the movie started, a Disney logo appeared on the screen:

Walt-Disney-Screencaps-The-Walt-Disney-Logo-walt-disney-characters-31865565-2560-1440

Boopsie saw it and asked, “What is that?”

Now, any normal parent would say “A castle,” or perhaps even, “Cinderella’s castle.”

Not me. My response? “That’s a logo, honey. A company called Disney made this movie and their logo is a castle.”

Branding education for a three-year-old? Really? Oh my. File that one under “quirky mom.”

 

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Bedtime Redemption?

(Notice the question mark… after the past three months, I’m unlikely to be declarative about most things…)

As noted, the Pacifier Fairy (and some other things that are still being sorted out) had some unintended consequences in our house. Namely, Boopsie’s ability to fall and stay asleep disappeared. Gone.

At first, we tried to soldier on as we had… two books, potty and brush teeth, one book, go to sleep with some books in bed to look at. And it didn’t work. We tried putting her back in bed without talking to her (one night we did that 32 times). We tried doing bed checks (she would scream bloody murder and kick her closed door). In desperation, we began laying on her floor while she fell asleep, which could regularly take 75 minutes or more.

Reacting how I normally do when faced with a parenting dilemma, I reached for my old standby — books. I re-read pertinent sections in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Family, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. I also hired a parenting coach, who suggested that Boopsie may have some sensory integration dysfunction.

In the interim, Daddy-o and I were having to stay in Boopsie’s room until she fell asleep and then we were often  called back in there in the middle of the night to sleep on the floor (in the middle of the winter, in the northland, as an alternative to having her end up in our bed). It. Was. Hell. This was all additionally complicated by travel and tantrums and being generally shell-shocked by the changes in our kid.

So we tried the “sleep shuffle” from The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. And it took about three weeks. And it worked. Sort of.  But our kid still wouldn’t really nap and was waking still in the night. Oh, and she wasn’t actually falling asleep (usually) until close to 10 p.m. (Side note: Sleep deprived preschoolers and having one parent “booked up” with a kid until 10 p.m. every night are not great marital aids.)

Man and child outside Build A Bear Workshop

Daddy-o and Boopsie with the bunny.

We got a new night light. We got a new clock for her room. We tried letting her color in bed. We started playing music in her bedroom.We tried a reward chart. It took her 42 days to earn 15 stars. She earned a trip to Build A Bear workshop and was so overwhelmed by the crowds that she didn’t want to build a bear. So she picked a bunny she was thrilled about.

Then she got sick (and then we got sick).  And she needed more help falling asleep and we were back to sitting in the rocker in her room, trying to get her to stay quietly in bed, often threatening to leave and do checks (and sometimes leaving and doing checks). I felt like a hostage.

Finally, last week, with help from the parenting coach, I re-made bedtime again. The first two nights were tough, with tears and me having to prove to Boopsie that I would not come back to her until 9 minutes was up (she was gated in her room), no matter what she said. But then I made a little tweak and bedtime has gotten much better. In fact, one night my kid fell asleep on her own before 9 p.m. And she’s consistently falling asleep on her own (okay, is six days enough to say “consistently”?). Without tears. I won’t bore you with the details of her new bedtime routine because what works for one kid has no guarantee of working for another kid. I will say this: I cherish the time and mental energy I’ve gotten back. Getting 1-2 hours back into our evening has made Daddy-o and I much happier people. We can do little things around the house. We can have uninterrupted conversations. We can watch a TV show. We can work if we need to. We can just freaking be.

You may be wondering why we didn’t have her “cry it out.” I was actually very close to doing this in December. I queried other parents via Facebook and got a lot of support and tips. Here’s the thing: One thing that has been reinforced for us over the past three months is that Boopsie is an incredibly intense kid. And with the question of sensory issues still on the table, along with her the length and strength of her tantrums, we truly did not have any confidence that it would work. If anything, we figured she’d cry for hours until she passed out. And that wasn’t going to help her re-learn to relax and fall asleep. I don’t begrudge anyone who tries the “CIO” approach, but for our kid, it was a no-go.

So here I am… enjoying a whole hour of time I didn’t have this night a week ago, feeling like maybe, just maybe, we have found the bedtime promised land again. (As a superstitious person of Irish descent, I’m almost certain that by talking about this it’s all going to hell in a handbasket. Let’s hope not.)

Sweet dreams to you and yours…

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Power of the Pen

This weekend Daddy-o had to work all weekend. And I mean all weekend. And there was a nasty snowstorm and the roads were in bad shape. (All contributing to the long winter of my discontent.) As a result, Boopsie and I had three days of intense, home-bound togetherness. Yesterday, I seized on a moment when she was reading aloud to her stuffed animals in her room to write for a few minutes.

After seven minutes (yes, I counted) she found me on the living room couch. She quickly joined me, in a purple hooded fleece jacket, pink ladybug-print pants and pink and white striped socks, setting up across from me to do her own “work.” I was taken aback by her working by me and loved watching her “write.”

For the first time in a long time, in those moments across from her on the couch, I felt like a successful mom. Like I was showing her a path worth taking. For the first time in weeks, weeks that have been filled with battles and tears and struggle, I was totally at peace with my parenting.

I took a moment to breathe it in… and then I snapped a few good photos:

Preschool girl with crayons and paper

“Working” on the couch

Scribbles on paper

Boopsie’s “writing”

Here’s to the power of the pen. (And the crayons.)

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Pacifier Fairy, Part 2

Wow. I was supposed to write this post more than two months ago. In fact, I even drafted it. It was going to be about how we sent a couple of “prep notes” from the paci fairy, and how Boopsie helped pack up all the pacifiers into a plastic bag, and how she helped me set them in the yard. And how she cried some at that bedtime, but slept all night and went on to get over it really quickly.

But then something happened. On the day after I posted Pacifier Fairy Part One, all hell broke loose with our kid. What do I mean by all hell breaking loose? Well, let’s see:

  • She went on a sleep strike… bedtime became a multi-hour battle, naps were treacherous
  • She started having epic, violent tantrums including throwing things, hitting and kicking
  • Her personality changed into one I didn’t really recognize. Boopsie became much more anxious, whiny and angry.

I’m not sure how to convey the impact this had on our family, in part because we are still trying to find our way out. Our attempts to find our way out have included:

  • Scouring the interwebs
  • Hiring a parent coach
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Negative reinforcement
  • Putting a lock on the outside of her door
  • Multiple trips to the pediatrician
  • Reading books… lots of books (more on those to come)

We’re still trying to figure out if we’re somewhere on the continuum of “normal” or if there’s something else going on with Boopsie that we need to address. But that’s what’s been happening in the silence — stress, fear, anger, exhaustion and worry. So much worry. Thankfully, there’s been joy, too, and fun. And I think (and hope and pray) that we’re getting back somewhere more familiar.

All that to say… hello, strangers. More soon.

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