A Child-Carrier for Kids Up to 7 Years Old???

Readers, I saw this the other day — a back brace that allows you to carry your child on your back literally up to age 7 and 60 pounds — and had been too stunned to sum up my feelings…till now. But here they are:

This is embarrassing. I’m sure the carrier may be helpful to the parents of some special needs children. Perhaps it is helpful in some strange situations, like climbing out of a crevice with your sleepy second grader after you’ve cut off your arm. But the idea that it is HELPFUL to carry a child capable of going forth on his or her own two legs is staggering, in every sense of the word.

In the video below, the entrepreneur says the Piggyback Rider allows kids to be “co-pilots” and makes every “adventure” more enjoyable — including apple-picking.

Really? Apple-picking is unenjoyable for kids unless someone is carrying them around? And how much of an “adventure” is it if your parent is the backpacker and you are the backpack? And please let’s not talk about how this item helps in “bonding.” Unless we’re talking about bondage, comma, parental. — L.  

Are You Spending Enough Time With Your Kids? (Funny I Should Ask)

Hi Readers! Here’s a guest post from Laura Vanderkam, a journalist who blogs at my168hours.com, writes for The Wall Street Journal (among other fancy places), and just came out with the intriguing book: “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.” Here she ponders:

Are Parents Spending Enough Time with Their Kids These Days?

by Laura Vanderkam

This loaded question usually starts a discussion of some perceived social ill: killer hours, working moms, maybe the frenetic pace of modern life. Certainly, many people worry that society is coming up short on this front. As Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute recently told The New York Times, “I’ve never found a group of parents who believe they are spending enough time with their kids.”

Of course, to ask whether parents spend enough time with their kids implies that there is a correct number of hours one should devote to this job. And since we usually throw in “these days,” it implies comparisons to some other time when, perhaps, parents approached the optimal amount.

Going down this line of reasoning, however, we make some interesting discoveries.

First, when do people think this golden era occurred? Maybe you’re picturing a 1950s/early 1960s Ozzie and Harriet-style home, a simpler time of one-income families when work didn’t follow us out of the office.

But social scientists have been tracking how Americans spend their time for decades, and it turns out that parents are spending a lot more time interacting with their kids now than they did in, say, 1965. In 1965, according to data from the 1965-66 Americans’ Use of Time Study, mothers spent 10 hours weekly on childcare as a primary activity. Fathers spent 3 hours.

Meantime, according to a recent analysis by economists Garey and Valerie Ramey: College-educated moms now spend 21.2 hours on such things (15.9 for women with less education). Betsey Stevenson and Dan Sacks at the University of Pennsylvania calculated that college-educated dads are now up to 9.6 hours per week.

This is interesting, because far more women work outside the home now than did in 1965. And yet weeks still contain the exact same 168 hours that they always have. So what happened?

Two things. First, women used to spend a lot more time doing housework. In 1965, married moms did 34.5 hours a week. All that cooking and cleaning didn’t have a lot of surplus time for interacting with children. While they were busy ironing blankets and dusting ceilings and who knows what else, many moms sent kids out to wander their neighborhoods all day. There are upsides and downsides to this, and Lenore’s blog here focuses on the upsides, but the point is, mid-century women often perceived their job as house care – not childcare.

Which brings us to the second point: The culture of parenthood has changed. Not long ago, my parents gave me some books they’d saved from my childhood. I marveled that I hadn’t destroyed them, because until my son turned two, his books didn’t last 30 days, let alone 30 years.

My parents’ secret?

They didn’t read to me until I was old enough not to destroy books! Now, of course, not reading to your baby is considered practically child abuse.

Between the decline of housework and the rise of intense parenting, the interactive hours have crept up, pretty much across the board. Even if you’re working full-time, you’re probably spending more time interacting with your kids than your grandmother did.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s enough time. Many of us could turn off the TV and do more. But if we fret that modern parents aren’t spending enough time with their kids, it’s important to note that our forbears were, by this standard, hideous. And most of us don’t think they were. So maybe we’re doing okay too. – L.V.

Killer Kids: Blame the Parents?

Hi Readers — This note came in response to my ParentDish column, “New Study: Parents Stink.” Sometimes I am just, well, blown away by the logical leaps people take:

“I am a mother of a 26 year old man and a 13 year old boy. I give my 13 year old as much freedom as I think he needs but I always know where he’s at and who he’s with. This may be hovering but it’s better then him showing up at school one day and blowing everyone away and I had no idea he had been planning this.”

I agree: Most things are better than having one’s kid wake up and kill everyone at his school. Especially when it’s a big surprise. (I hate surprises!) And of course, if he does indeed do this, it’s all the parent’s fault.

That belief — that everything my kid does, good and bad, stems directly from MY parenting skills — is the kind of belief that drives us nuts to begin with. I wish she’d read my book, or at least Chapter 11:  “Relax! Not Every Little Thing You Do Has THAT Much Impact on Your Child’s Development.”

Meantime, whatever this woman thinks of “Free-Range Kids” (and me), I actually don’t condemn parents who want to know where their 13-year-old is and who he’s with.  I just think it’s pretty wacky to believe that if a parent is a little less informed, that kid will wake up, go to school and kill all his classmates. — Lenore

The Babyproofing Industrial Complex

Hi Readers — Here’s a New York Times piece about a reporter’s adventures in babyproofing. She sort of laments the idea that parents hire pricey professional babyproofers as a way to feel “officially” safe.

I’d go a step further and say that in addition to safety, what parents are really hiring the babyproofers for  is insurance against guilt, should a household accident actually occur. In our blame-crazed culture, we know that no one believes in “accidents” or “fate” anymore. Anything bad that happens to a child is ALL THE PARENT’S FAULT. Hire a babyproofer and no it’s not. Whew! — Lenore

Experts agree: Do not store farm equipment in nursery. PHOTO: Darren Copley.

A Note to the Pregnancy Police

Hi Readers — Here’s a great comment that came in response to the blog post, Driven Crazy by Pregnancy Perfectionists. It reminds us of a truth we’ve been encouraged to forget in our “blame the parents” society: We are not in total control, ever. Not of what happens to us, and certainly not of what happens to our children.  A reader writes:

Sorry, there are no guarantees in life.  I followed the rules for the most part, though not to any extreme — probably didn’t eat enough vegetables or get enough exercise (still don’t). But I did have every prenatal test to make sure everything was fine.  It all came out normal.  I felt fine, the pregnancy progressed fine, the birth came early but was otherwise fine –and then my daughter was born with a birth defect.  One that would have killed her in an earlier age; fortunately we’re not in an earlier age, and they fixed it and she is TOTALLY fine now.

And for a while I blamed myself — what did I do??  Was it that glass of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? Was it one too many baby back ribs from Chili’s?  Was it my shocking avoidance of pregnancy yoga?!?  Then I realized — it was nothing.  It was a misfire during the building process.  A dropped stitch.  No process is foolproof or perfect.  This was a universal truth we all understood a few generations ago.  But we’ve become so accustomed to the illusion of control that modern life gives us that we’ve become responsible for EVERYTHING that happens to us, and that’s just ridiculous.  Little of what’s going on in there is in your hands.  So you may as well relax. — Dahlia

Are Most of Us “Bad Parents?”

It’s official: Imperfect parents are the next proud, new minority to come out of the closet. Or, rather, out of the toy chest – the one NOT filled with Swedish, hardwood, hand-lathed toys. The one filled with games missing cards, Barbies missing hair and educational toys missing batteries because (sorry, kid)  they were just so LOUD! What does the duck say?

Nothing! Not one single quack. Mute piggy, too! Mute chick! Moo-less cow!

And what does the parent say?


In an article meriting front page status in the Wall Street Journal (http://tinyurl.com/c5rkzj), reporter Ellen Gamerman writes about a bumper crop of new books and websites by parents confessing their kiddie crimes, from using paper towels instead of diapers, to letting the dog clean up the baby vomit in the way only dogs can. (Good dog!)

The stories are great and the interest is greater. The online magazine Babble gets 1.8 million visitors a month — a number that tripled, according to the article, when the site began its “Bad Parent” column ( www.babble.com ). Truu Mom Confessions (www.truumomconfessions.com) is popular for the same reason: true moms, confessin’. And now really big name writers like Ayelet Waldman (www.ayeletwaldman.com) and Michael Lewis are writing books about their imperfect mothering and fathering, respectively, in part because they are sick of a culture that expects parents to spend all their waking moments enriching their children’s lives and being enriched by same.

It’s easy to see why the time is ripe for all this truth. We are swimming in a culture that exults – and often scrapbooks – every parenting moment. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying parenthood. I sure do. Often. (Not today, maybe, but that’s because it’s spring vacation and both my boys are home and I’m trying to WRITE THIS SO SHUT MY DOOR, PLEASE, GUYS! OR GO OUTSIDE! IT’S BEAUTIFUL OUT THERE! WHY AREN’T YOU PLAYING?)

…what was I saying? Oh yes, much of parenting is marvelous. But there’s nothing wrong with saying some of it is tedious and overblown. And one of the reasons it has become so tedious is that we are expected to be involved with every baby step our kids take – literally and figuratively. (GUYS, IT IS SO SUNNY OUT! GO!)

So now “bad” parents are the ones who don’t get down there on the floor and play patty cake all day, every day, no matter how pooped they are. “Bad” parents are the ones who don’t help boil the solution for the science fair. “Bad” parents drop junior off at soccer practice but don’t necessarily stay to cheer every kick, and bond with the coach afterward. “Bad” parents may even bring non-organic grapes (or Drake’s Cakes!) when it’s their snack day.

In other words bad parents are the ones who parent the way OUR parents did – loving and encouraging us, but not hovering over every outing and stressing over every issue.

These days it’s called “bad” parenting but really, this all seems to be a rallying crying for, ahem, Free-Range parenting – parenting that is a little less obsessive and a little more ready to let kids fend for themselves. The kind of parenting that not only builds more self-reliant kids but also less exhausted, frustrated (BOYS, CLOSE MY DOOR!) self-neglecting parents, too.

Call us bad parents, busy parents, realistic parents, Free-Range parents – what we all share is the realization we’re not perfect and our kids don’t have to be either. That means we can sit back and breathe deep. And — who’da guessed? When you feel less overwhelmed you can even enjoy it a little more.

A little.


Ahh. — Lenore