Belated Mother’s Day Thoughts!

With Mother’s Day upon us  like a breakfast tray of hot coffee accidentally spilled on the blanket (amid tears), it is time to ask that equally burning question: What do moms want?

The answer? We want to relax a little.

Not just relax in bed reading People and under a hot, soggy blanket.  We want a whole new way of parenting that is not quite so overwrought.

That’s a tall order in a country that has brought us a dozen different parenting magazines, a whole section of the book store devoted to childrearing issues, and the typical baby super store filled with 10,000 different items. Literally. We are swimming in so much advice, so many products and so much pressure to DO THE RIGHT THING, every second, every day, it is hard to feel like we are doing a decent job.

One parenting magazine, for instance, presented  four pages of advice on “How to Have A Fun (And Totally Safe) Day In the Sun with Your little One.” Is this such a difficult thing for us to do, we need four pages of how to prepare and what to bring and how to do it without our kid getting burnt/poisoned/run over/stung or bored?

Preparing for absolutely every possible contingency is the order of the day.  That’s not too much to ask, is it? After you’ve checked the Internet for any new scares about plastics or food or bottles or classes your kid is supposed to take or fall off the fast track forever?

My friend Jill in New Jersey is debating what to do with her son. His coach wants him to get serious about the swim team and start practicing four days a week. But if he does that, Jill worries: What about his soccer and tennis abilities? He shows some promise there, too.  

And how old is this promising athlete?

Six.

That kind of commitment is a lot to ask of both generations – but at least the boy gets to splash around. The mom gets to prep and schlep. Hope she wasn’t planning to do anything else with her week!

We folks are freaking out because we’re only trying to do the best by our kids, but society has set that bar impossibly high. Thou shalt buy only the right brands! Thou shalt buy only the right stroller, car seat, and after school treats! And of course, thou shalt constantly stimulate thy child’s development.  I’m not talking about a couple rounds of patty cake, which can be fun. No, now there are whole books telling moms to get down on the floor, encouraging, instructing and being oh-so-verbal. 24/7, with their kids, lest a single synapse fail to spark.

Remember that whole brouhaha a couple weeks ago about strollers?  “Experts” are worried that kids in strollers facing the street (i.e., 90% of them) aren’t going to talk soon enough – or well enough, or with big enough words – because during that time, they are not interacting with mom.

As if, to raise a decent child, we have to spend every waking second staring into their eyes and talking Hegel? (“A Hegel-bagel boo!  A Hegely-bagely-boo, my brainy little bunny!”)  

And when we’re not enriching our children, our job is to keep them pampered like pashas. So we’re sold baby knee pads for when they crawl, and baby wipe warmers so they should never suffer the trauma of a room temperature wipe. And now there are diapers shaped like — I kid you not — the womb!

Apparently our job is to make every single moment of our children’s lives as safe and snug as it was in there, yet as developmentally stimulating as a Harvard education. Plus swimming lessons. It’s too much!

As we enjoy our Mother’s Day breakfast (or, at this point, enjoyed), let’s take a deep breath and try to make tomorrow Mother’s Day, too: A time to remember that as much as we love our kids, we have been pushing ourselves too hard to make everything perfect – them. And us. And breakfast.

 — Lenore

43 Responses

  1. great post as usual! I didn’t even play organized sports ’til junior high – and we DID NOT have practices 4 days a week. I played soccer and v=ball in HS & college, starting keeper in soccer, co-captain 3 years of v-ball & starter, so no, I don’t think you need to practice 4x/week when you’re six.

    And people worried their kids won’t get into Harvard b/c they didn’t go to the right pre-school?????? Gimme a break

    But that’s another pet peeve for another column.

    Mike

  2. Just watching the news here in NZ and ‘The Worlds Worst Mum’ is finally made it here!

    Sometimes we are just a bit behind the times

  3. I remember when my oldest was born and we unpacked the stroller from the box. The little warning tag said, “NEVER LEAVE CHILD UNATTENDED.” And we panicked a little and thought, “Never? Like EVER?” We got over it though and our sometimes unattended children – all four of them – are faring just fine.

  4. Thank you, Lenore. Well said.

  5. I have to say, I think strollers are silly too, but not because of the lack of interaction worries. As a lazy, relaxed Mom, I have avoided baby gear like the plague. I hate schlepping all that crap around. But maybe that’s because I take the ‘relaxed’ approach to life in general, not just my kid.

    Strollers don’t make it easy to keep track of my son… it means I have to keep track of my son AND my stroller. I mean, how many times have you seen a stroller being pushed uncomfortably one-armed while the would-be occupant is either walking around it or being carried along while said stroller is being used for purse storage? Plus you have to fold it up and figure out where to cram it if you have to get on a bus, trolley, car or airplane.

    I consider strollers to be on that list of society approved items you must own to be a good parent that only complicates my life. As for the research saying maybe they’re not so good-that only goes along with the idea that maybe how things were before was FINE before we felt obligated to have all this stuff. Maybe it was even that way for a good reason. Same goes for letting our kids wander around and learn about the world on their own–I *know* the research out there supports helping your kids be more independent and not taking away their unstructured time! Hellooo… ‘free-range’?

    I felt compelled to respond as you put experts in what would be air quotes were you speaking, and I happen to be a language and communication “expert”… not that I study strollers! 😛

  6. I really laughed out loud–alone, in my study–at the Hegel peek-a-boo song.

    But remember, everyone reading this stuff–Free Range is not just about saying “parents don’t have to be perfect, so relax.” In my opinion, Free Range parenting is much *more* perfect than constant-nervous-nelly parenting. Letting your kids walk to the park or bike to the store without an adult is not just a matter of giving yourself a break; it is giving your children some key parts of a good childhood.

  7. We did send child 2 to cello at 4 with his older brother. Made him feel more equal and he turned out rather good. However practice was only 10 minutes after tea on good nights and lessons were 20 minutes once a week and some of Saturday morning. (we went for a cuppa during these and when they got to 5 did rideshares). Not much of an issue really for any of us. I’d hate to see commitment on the level you mention. It sounds more like a jail sentence. I’m afraid I tend to discourage that stuff until they are old enough to do it for themselves should they so wish.

    viv in nz

  8. My cousin’s wife registered for and received one of those $700 strollers for her baby shower.

    I have a $12 umbrella stroller model.

    Which one do the kids clamor to sit it?

    Yeah my $12 cheapie.

    I thought all of the crap they sold you when I had my kids 8 and 3 years ago was ridiculous. However it seems to get exponentially more ridiculous each year.

  9. I was so over-protective with my oldest, a little less with the 2nd (a step-kid), and less & less protective with the last 3 (step & bio).

    Frankly, the first two had problems with school and each had at least one encounter with the law.

    Who knows?

  10. I think the important thing here is to step back and think about the goals we really have for our kids. Do we want happy, independent children who are able to make decisions based on sound reasoning skills, which can only happen if they see that in their lives from a very young age, or do we want high-stress, over-scheduled kids who do what they are told when they are told to do it, no matter how uncomfortable they are, and whether they want to do the activity or not?

    Mother’s Day is everyday, if you can block out what is being promoted, and listen to your kids!

  11. Another great post. I refuse to buy into that stuff. My Mother’s Day was spent watching the Eureka marathon on SciFi while the kids ran in and out all day. At one point I didn’t even know where they were, lol (they ended up being at a friend’s house down the street which prompted a speech about them informing me if they are going to be at someone’s house).
    Well, there was also dishes and cleaning up the kitchen and laundry to do but mostly I just watched TV and crocheted.

  12. “I was so over-protective with my oldest, a little less with the 2nd (a step-kid), and less & less protective with the last 3 (step & bio).”

    I think that’s a natural progression for new parents. When our oldest fell down a flight of stairs, we panicked, called the doctor, almost went to the emergency room etc. When her little sister did it last week, we panicked a lil less, comforted her, and moved on. The third kid, I’m prolly gonna just push him down the stairs just to get it out of the way…

  13. Well said as usual!

    Except — I have to say, I’m with the anti-stroller guy. NOT because I think it’s essential for mums to interact and stimulate 24/7 (the Hegel song is hysterical! :-D) but because (as Sarah says upthread) strollers are a huge pain in the butt for the parent and everyone else — seriously, you can barely see into the habitats at the zoo these days because of the solid wall of humongous strollers around each one, and once one parent brings one on a bus, nobody else can get through the aisle! — and because, IMO, the kind of interaction and stimulation babies really need is the kind they get from being close to the action while mum/dad/whoever is doing normal everyday stuff. Cleaning the house. Reading. Walking around the neighbourhood. Buying fruit and veg. Singing along with the radio. Gardening. Davening. Doing the laundry. Going out for coffee. Taking the subway. That’s how they learn how to talk, how people relate to one another, and how the world works. No flashcards required.😉

  14. None of my kids would stay in a stroller. I was the lady in the mall pushing a package laden stroller while holding a baby who prefered to view the world upside down. It seems other mother’s look aghast at allowing your child to enjoy the different perspective from this position. So many times people would stop me to ask if I knew the baby was upside down that we quit going to the mall.*shrugs*

    He went to the creek by himself for the first time last Saturday. Nothing happened except he sailed paper boats and saw a dead alligator on the neighbor’s mailbox. We did not make the evening news.

  15. LOL @ the stroller comments! I know a woman who has at least FIVE strollers. (Umbrella, single, double, double jogging, triple.) She still puts her five year old in the stroller, and always has at least one but usually two or three in her van at all times. I did buy a stroller when I had my first child, but it was big and cumbersome. When it wore out, we never replaced it. My approach? If we’re at the zoo or a park (the only places we go that involve walking and do not provide wheeled contraptions) and someone gets too tired to walk, we leave. I figure that that means the outing has gone on long enough. It keeps our trips from getting ridiculouly long, and I don’t have to wrestle the stroller in and out of my vehicle.

  16. Well, I’ve always found strollers useful, but it probably makes a difference that I had my first three kids within four years. I don’t HAVE that many hands! 🙂 (It may also help that I didn’t use it constantly — sometimes it does seem like some kids live in their strollers — so they might not have tired of it as easily.)

    Bernadette — stroller, nothing. CRIBS now come with the “do not leave child unattended” warning! LOL!

  17. I just wanted to say I heard your son’s subway story yesterday and my husband and I were totally shocked that people are calling you the world’s worst parent. People who say that obviously never go to KMart or eat out. If they did, they would see horrible parents all the time, the kind that are aggressive and physical with their toddlers or that stay on their cell phones and bitch while their six year old throws an all out tantrum for 20 minutes in a crowded restaurant (2 scenes from our mother’s day outing yesterday; the latter inspired by 5 year old son to ask, “Mom, can you tell her she’s not a baby, please? I think no one told her yet!”). There is obviously a lot of love and trust and patience in your family, and I applaud you.

  18. Three words, Lenore: You’re the best!

    My mom let me play outside unsupervised as long as the weather was decent — the only rule was “don’t kill each other”. She’d send me into the grocery with $10 and a list – and while there was a great potential for harm, nothing ever happened.

    I skinned my knees, and occasionally got into things I shouldn’t have – but I’ll agree wholeheartedly that the person who benefits most from the ‘helicopter parent’ syndrome is the parent – not the child.

    Having grown up in an era absent car-seats, seat-belts, AMBER alerts and soccer-moms-with-minivans, I can tell you that turning a kid loose in the park for an afternoon is something they’ll remember for a lifetime – poison-oak or now.

    Keep on keepin’ on, Lenore!

    –Will; (Portland, OR)

  19. @Mandy: HA HA HA HA!!! It sounds like your 5-year-old is right on the same wavelength as my kids! Bravo!

    Great post, Lenore. It’s funny how before I found this site, I found myself more irritated with my kids. I frankly did not enjoy time with them because all I was doing was wondering if I had played with them enough, if I had talked to them enough, if I had sufficiently stimulated them enough for the day through thought-provoking discussion, if I had exercised them enough under my watchful eye… my poor kids at 7 and 8 already had a mother wishing they were 18 so I could finally stop – and that I wasn’t the only one to feel such a way was terribly sad.

    With this site and a little bit of thought on my own part (“Hey, wait… I did this when I was little, and it was less safe for ME outside than them!”), I’ve been able to give them more freedom and let go of so many worries and feel like a good parent.

    It makes me sad sometimes that I’ve missed out on so many fun times all because I was over-obsessed about their safety and well-being, over-obsessed about their mental development… I was miserable and they most likely were too… I couldn’t wait for bedtime. Really sad.

    At any rate, I’m just glad I came across some people with common sense. It’s saved me and them and made us a much happier family on the whole – and you know what? I’ve noticed such a change with my children… they’re more independent and confident *already* than just two months ago. I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been.

    So thanks to you, Lenore, and to all those that post such wonderful tales here. It’s just a great breath of fresh air.

  20. Great post today, Lenore. My mother’s day was spent out at camp with my family and in laws + Gabe’s great grandmother and we had a fantastic time.

    Strollers: I had one until Gabe refused to sit in it anymore (and outgrew it weight-wise) so he got to walk everywhere with us. That was probably around a year and a half old. He’s got a little leash thing now for busy areas but most of the time he’s free to wander around. Honestly, I feel bad for kids who are over 2 and still stuck in a stroller; why are they in there? Are they damaged somehow? Can’t walk on their own? Or is it just easier for mummy and daddy to keep them trapped in there so they don’t cause a fuss in the store? THAT’S lazy parenting.

  21. Three things

    “Thou shalt buy only the right brands.” When my friend was a kid his mother used to make their blue jeans on a sewing machine. She would go to thrift stores and but random “brand name” jeans and remove the big tag that only seems to appear on jeans to show everyone you are wearing Levi’s and sew it onto the jeans she made so that her Boys would have the brand names like the other kids.

    I would like to see a reduction in the size and number of strollers in use. I was at an aquarium the other day and could barely move without getting my toe run over by a monstrosity. At what age should a child no longer be in a stroller? Perhaps when the only stroller that would accommodate them would also accommadate one of the parents.

    At the Aquarium I also saw several kids on leashes. I feel this is the biggest insult to a) the child and b) humanity. Are our children no more than pet? If you feel the need to tether your child to your wrist perhaps you should just HOLD THEIR HAND. That way you get the contact your child needs and the safety you desire.

  22. Lenore,
    Hope you had a wonderful mom’s day! My daughter-in-law made me breakfast and fed the animals! She and my son also gave me a gift certificate for a mani/pedi!
    my daughter and her family gave me a lovely silver mom’s necklace. Hubby let me read an entire book w/o interruption in the sun. No nagging about my sunbathing-at all!

    went to my mom’s, where my sister and I brought food in and we celebrated there and added the 5 May birthdays.

    hope your day was as wonderful!

  23. Lenore-Your parenting style is a breath of fresh air! I just discovered this web site after reading your article in “The Week”. These are my people! I’ve never really met anyone else like myself as far as parenting goes (of course I don’t hang out in “mommy circles” much) until I discovered this site. We live on 10 acres and my kids (3 Boys-age 4, 6 & 10) regularly have free rein of the place-I just make them wear “play” (already permanently stained) clothes and pretty much let them do what they want. I also don’t micromanage their squabbles-I’ve told them if I am called upon to adjudicate, they toy in question will become MINE. They learn to work it out.
    Thanks so much for being a voice of common sense in an over-hyped society.

  24. Mother’s Day is a big pet peeve of mine. To tell the truth, I hate it. I certainly don’t mind setting aside a time to tell my own mother that I love her and appreciate her, but as a mother myself I have two beefs with it.

    1. People who aren’t my children don’t need to be wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day! Now, some of you might be wondering why that matters at all… well, it leads right into reason 2 which is…

    2. I believe that Mother’s Day is a way for society to get off the hook for the total lack of support mothers and parents in this country get. One day of flowers, cards, and presents is supposed to make up for the 364 days of lack of affordable daycare, lack of community supports for stay at home parents, lack of community supports for working parents, increased demands from work and home life that make doing a good job at either a near impossibility, difficultly accessing health care for children, societally endorsed rampant condescension towards women who stay at home, and societally endorsed rampant hostility towards women who work.

    Yeah, one day of Hallmark makes up for all of that?! I think not.

    I also don’t really like the idea that men are supposed to fawn over their wives on Mother’s Day and “thank them” for raising their children. Um, no, this is a mother’s job, to raise her children and whether they are in daycare while she works or strapped to her chest for the first 5 years of life she is still raising them. And it’s DAD’S JOB TOO. Don’t thank me for raising your children… I’m not hired help, I’m your partner. But that just leads into the Father’s Day ridiculousness that means that we give them one day not to feel terrible about the fact that they are basically absent for the other 364 days.

    Me, I’m lucky. My husband is a great support emotionally and totally gets my dislike of the holiday. He had our children make me homemade cards with crayons and construction paper. It was basically a normal day with regular expressions of love and appreciation that we encourage on EVERYDAY in our house. And guess what? I appreciated that.

  25. Nicely put.

    I don’t understand the whole “goals” and “achievements” thing. We are here to LIVE, right? Not to achieve man-made goals that don’t really represent anything other than the ability to show off and say “look what I did! I’m better than you are!”

    I’m golden if my kids are just content with their lives. That they can enjoy any moment they have on Earth, while they’re here.

  26. “My friend Jill in New Jersey is debating what to do with her son. His coach wants him to get serious about the swim team and start practicing four days a week. But if he does that, Jill worries: What about his soccer and tennis abilities? He shows some promise there, too. ”

    The question is not what the parent wants or what the coach wants (get serious about anything at 6?), but what does the son want? I wonder if anyone has asked the kid what he wants to do?

  27. My first thought in regard to the strollers has already been noted repeatedly. I see far too many extra-large strollers with 3 to 5-year-olds, hogging precious space! I know. I know. There’s more to the story for many parents, nonetheless I do wonder.

    Granted, our guy loved to walk, but then we never had a stroller, so maybe he was given the chance to learn to love to walk. As a two-year-old, he would hike two or so miles a day with us on backpacking trips. We didn’t think it was anything unusual, until everyone else thought it was “amazing.” Yes, it actually means having to slow down to the toddler/pre-schooler’s pace, but, in my book, it’s giving him much more freedom and interaction with the wider world. And, to me, that’s what Free Range means.

    On the other hand, apparently adults in our home town are not used to sharing the sidewalk with young kids. At 18 months, we visited Manhattan, and he loved walking around town. He just made his way through and around people on the sidewalk, and no one batted an eye. Then we came back to Portland, and I noticed that people walking in the opposite direction would begin to hesitate and try to find a way to walk far around him. They didn’t want to touch a walking toddler, and I suspect that they feared that they would knock him over. Toddlers are so fragile you know! Actually, many of adults in P-town seem to cringe in horror at the possibility of brushing an adult on the sidewalk, too.

    All right. I’m done for tonight.

  28. When my daughters were small (early 60’s) I found a used stroller that someone had put out for the trash collector. I grabbed it and took it home for a cleanup, and it served until my mother bought us a new one. Today, as a volunteer at a railway museum, in November I help at “Day out with Thomas”, a special event for the young fans of “Thomas the Tank Engine”. Talk about strollers–there are many that cost more than some of the cars I had in the old days. It’s a veritable “strollerama” when the parents park them for the ride on the Thomas train (that’s the big attraction, a full-scale version of Thomas pulls, with some help from an American diesel locomotive, a seven car train filled with families.) And yes, strollers often serve as cargo carriers more than passenger vehicles.

  29. Love this post. I joined a moms group when my son was a newborn. There was a woman there who wondered if a trip to the grocery store was enough stimulation for her 4-month-old.

    I’d only been a mom for three weeks and I was gobsmacked – come on lady. I mean come on lady, the grocery store is a festival of stimulation for a 4 month old. Colors! Sounds! Smells! Looking into mommy’s face while you get wheeled around. What more could a baby want? Or the better question – what more could a baby need?

  30. And regarding the swimming lessons. When my son was 6 we won 4 free gymnastics classes at a school raffle. Sweet!

    While the boy was jumping and hanging on the equipment, I chatted with another mother. Her son was on a 3-day a week practice schedule and “wants to develop his upper body strength.” The child was 7.

    Both that mom and the place gave me the creeps, but the kid loved the lessons so I agreed to sign him up for another round. When I called the gym, I was informed that Max was “holding back the other boys” and they didn’t want to re-enroll him. My boy isn’t a spaz, or disruptive, or even overweight – he’s was just a normal 6 year old who I guess didn’t place enough emphasis on upper body strength.

  31. Hi,
    This is my first post here but I love your blog. Sadly I will likely never have a child of my own.

    To your friend Jill in New Jersey two relatively simple things. No child at six years old needs four days a week of swim or any other sports training. If your child is in academic or physical therapy that’s another story entirely. Secondly I would suggest that she talk to her son and ask him which one he would like to pursue. Then do it in moderation with plenty of time for him to have fun and play.

  32. Regarding the stroller issue: We have found our modest strollers useful at times, but have never had a crib for any of out 4 children (gasp!). Just a small seldom-used bassinet. They went from our bed to the toddler or twin bed. We didn’t need a lot of baby “stuff”. Worked great for us and our 4 wonderful children.

  33. I have just found this blog and heard of your book. This issue speaks to my heart in a way that makes me feel hope for the future. All the fear we instill in each other and our children is not healthy or helpful. After all, it is our job to raise our kids to venture out into the world and create their own lives and I want them to live joyfully and with good sense but not with constant fear! I long for the free days of my childhood and am encouraged to continue to provide them for my own kids. Thanks for your work.

  34. While my husband was trying to come up with some nice mothers day brunch plan, I looked out at the fence in our front yard and said “All I want for Mother’s Day is to get rid of that fence.” It was an okay looking cedar fence with an ugly cedar hedge growing alongside it. It was put in by the previous owners of our house just prior to selling it. So all day Saturday and Sunday we sawed, cut and bashed it all out. When my 8 year old son came home from baseball he asked why the fence was gone. My response was that we were building a community. Not sure that he really got that concept. But he did have fun playing in the pile of cedar branches with his 6 year old sister. And she had fun when the mom a few doors down parked her car and came over to see if my daughter wanted to come to play with her 6 year old daughter. Had the fence still been there, that would not have happened. They had a wonderful time. The neighbours are all thrilled with its removal. We had such a nice weekend talking with several of our neighbours rather than waving at one another across the fence / hedge.
    When my kids were younger, I liked the containment that the fence provided. Cars do go fast down our street at times. And I am one of those parents who always left the kids in the yard ‘unsupervised’. Now they are old enough to get the concept of looking both ways before crossing the road. I feel great about this fence removal.
    Why am I sending this to you? Because you echo the way that I’ve been raising my two kids. I have refused to be terrified about my child being abducted when I see something on the news from 3000 km away. Things happen, but hovering over my children isn’t the solution. Free play in an unstructured environment has been my goal for my children. It has been tough to accomplish though since there are never any other kids out playing. Or maybe they are… behind their fences.
    Thanks so much for your work Lenore. It is so refreshing. And reaffirming to know that I’m not a lazy slacker crazy mom.
    By the way, this was the best Mother’s Day ever!

  35. Not a parent, won’t become one at this point, but I do love this blog.

  36. So a couple of teen girls get their mom so mad she puts ’em out of the car 3 miles from home and… (wait for it)
    She gets arrested for it!

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30622721/

    Did she go too far? Is 3 miles too far?Lenore, what’s the score?

    Sincerely,
    Chatham

  37. […] Belated Mother’s Day Thoughts! With Mother’s Day upon us  like a breakfast tray of hot coffee accidentally spilled on the blanket (amid tears), it […] […]

  38. “We want a whole new way of parenting that is not quite so overwrought.”

    I don’t agree. I think most parents don’t want that at all. If they did, don’t you think that’s what would happen? We’re a little biased around here because you, your book, and your website attract the kind of people who feel this way but, in my observation, most give only lip service (if that) to how complex and overdone everything is these days while continuing to over schedule their kids and monitor their every move.

    Weighing in on the stroller debate: I’ve been a strollerholic since my first son was born. I’ve gone through a regular mall stroller, a jogging stroller, a lightweight foldup stroller, a Pliko and a bike trailer/jogging cabin. For my lifestyle they’re essential. I walk a lot, distances that my kids absolutely can’t keep up with, and I’m sure as heck not going to carry them. The bike trailer will probably continue to be used for another winter or two (no need in the summer, now that my littler guy is biking, sort of) to walk them to school. My older one is fine with the walk, but if I let the littler guy out of the trailer we’d never make it on time. I’m surprised at the comments on pressures to own a stroller. In my circles, the pressure has been to own and use a variety of slings.

  39. oh what a breath of fresh air to read your blogging! my boys are on the later end of childhood (11 and 15), but i sure could have used your kind of assurance back when they were small and i was so, so desperate to do it all and do it all PERFECTLY!

  40. @Elizabeth – I am beginning to head your way re: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day being ways to absolve guilt for the other 364 days of the year, and I’m feeling a bit odd, so I appreciate knowing there are others out there who have already made the journey.

    Right now you have helped me resolve my guilt feelings because I am rebelling against Teacher Appreciation Week. I appreciate my kids’ teachers and try to do nice things for them when they seem to need them (or sometimes just because we want to) and I resent being told when to appreciate them or what to send on each specific day of that specific week.

    I found strollers useful in very specific situations — the jogging stroller for Saturday mornings running/walking with friends at the park, the umbrella stroller for the mall (yes, usually for carrying the diaper bag and packages) and a $5 garage sale double stroller for Disney World. On a major adventure, the littlest child usually ended up napping in the umbrella stroller.

    Child #2 hated the jogging stroller, the umbrella stroller and the big cushy model. I needed for her to ride sometimes so I could keep up with big brother, so I took her to the baby store and let her crawl in and out of various strollers until we found one she seemed to like — turns out she wanted to sit up and forward and interact with the world (big brother liked the lounging models where he could observe and check things out from a distance).

    I didn’t take the strollers to NEAR the number of places that I see them at these days. I thought it was often more of a hassle than a help. For those, I used the sling or held hands.

    I remember talking to a mom who was a personal trainer and she said that child sports were the scourge of athletics — one example was it being decided at age 7 that a boy wasn’t going to be a pitcher. I did put my kids in some organized sports as preschoolers, mostly to get a break and for them to get introduced to some skill sets I didn’t have.

    The other reason for the popularity of organized sports is because us Free-Range parents are few and far between — so my kids can’t find many neighborhood kids for a pick-up game. Another is because the control parents are looking for supervision and someone to teach the “right” way to play the game. I feel my kids get taught the basics in PE and then play their own way to really learn and have a feel for a game. I often say they play “Calvinball” (from Calvin and Hobbes).

  41. I am the meanest mom in the world, because as soon as the younger son hit 2 (his brother is 16 months older) I ditched the stroller. I made them walk everywhere. They walked a mile or more to the library or the store from that time on. And lived. They walked Boston’s freedom trail when they were 5 and 6, they have hiked in the Blue Hills and the White Mountains. So although I try not to, I can’t help but roll my eyes when I see 5 year olds being pushed in strollers.

    Sports around here only happen if a) the kid is really, really interested and b) it does not conflict with church or cub scouts. One sport at a time, and nothing that involves more than 2 meetings a week. They won’t die if they can’t hit a grand slam by age 9.

  42. Wow, I found my people!

    I’ve been an undercover mom of free range kids for years. I have 3 kids, 18, 16 and 6. When my 18 year old was probably around 13 she told me I basically ruined her life because I didn’t sign her up for organized sports and she didn’t have any athletic skills. (Doesn’t that sound just like a 13 year old girl?) I told her that I thought it was more important that she had a chance to run around the yard, build forts, climb trees and have some free time when she was little. Now in HS she excels at track and will be running next year in college :o)…and she got to have a childhood to boot!

    PS. I don’t think there is anything wrong with kids participating in organized sports (within reason) it just didn’t work for our family’s personalities and needs.

  43. I have to admit, i find the stroller discussion fascinating! I get that it’s ridiculous for the 6 yr old to be in the stroller but when they are little i’m not at the mall to let the child dictate the shopping trip. We are going in, buying what’s necessary and leaving. I’m not following an 18 mo old around ( i have 5 children BTW so i get how they drift) with every little wonderful whim that he or she may have. AND, certainly not in a crowded place such as a museum, for my sake and theirs. We stop at the assigned places (meaning the places that are not overly crowded and/or interesting to that particular child), They get out, look around and I put them back in the stroller and we move on. Certainly the situation dictates the circumstance and if we are at the park, no stroller needed but families should all enjoy the outing so in many situations a stroller enhances the experience for all (and still not quite sure how this particular blog turned into “the stroller being bad” topic but i went with it anyway!)

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