Happy (Let’s Not Judge) Mother’s Day!

Hi Readers! Happy Mother’s Day to moms of all stripes! If you want to read my sentiments about our parenting-as-a-spectator sport, they are here. Now go enjoy some burnt-but-lovingly-made toast! – L

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

Washington Post Goes Free-Range!

Or at least they let me expouse my views in today’s op-ed pages.  A Happy Mother’s Day to them!

And a Happy Mother’s Day to The Week (my favorite magazine), which printed a nice, big excerpt from Free-Range Kids (the book).

And yet more good wishes, this time to ABC World News Tonight, which is doing a Free-Range story on Sunday night. Check your local listings (as they say).

And now, if you’re a mom, eat some bon bons! If you’re a dad — hey!  Put down that bon bon and head out to  the park with you-know-who.

You can have a bon bon when you guys get home.  — L.

Happy Mother’s Day (and a totally unrelated post)

First off: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Is this way way WAY too tacky? I hope not.  I am fresh out of great Free Range fodder for a sec, so here is an interview with me that is up now on  the cool website Motherhood Later than Sooner. (Yup. I’m an older mom.) I promise not to keep self-promoting, but now I am taking the rest of Friday off (okay, one more  bit of self promo: to film a Free-Range piece that’ll be on ABC World News Tonight on Sunday night.) That’s it. Enjoy your breakfast in bed and dandelion bouquet! L.

              Later Mom Spotlight:  Lenore Skenazy

PROFESSIONAL PURSUITS:  Syndicated columnist, humorist and author of, Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had without Going Nuts with Worry.

Q:  Why did you decide to become a mom later in life? What factors precipitated this decision (or dictated it)?
A:  My husband has a genetic disease we didn’t want our kids to inherit. We kept waiting for science to decode the gene and figure out a way we didn’t have to pass it along. Ten years into our marriage, science came through — with the help of brilliant geneticist Dr. Petros Tsipouras.
 
Q:  What do you love about your career?
A: My favorite thing about being a writer is the reporting part — meeting people, asking questions, putting two and two together. The writing is only fun when I figure out where to put the jokes in.
 
Q:  What is most challenging about your work?
A:  Keeping it! YOU try being a newspaper columnist these days!
 
Q:  How long are you doing it?

A:  I’ve been a columnist for almost 10 years and was a features reporter before that for another decade. Free-Range Kids is my first “real” book. (As in, it has paragraphs and chapters. I did write The Dysfunctional Family Christmas Songbook before, with ditties like, “Hit the Malls” set to “Deck the Halls”).
 
Q:  What did you do previously?
A:  First there was the womb, then a whole lot of education. A LOT. Then jobs at Advertising Ad, CNBC (before anyone had heard of it) and the Food Channel (before anyone had heard of it) and 14 years at the NY Daily News (before they canned me) and two at The New York Sun (before it died), and now I’m a blogger/author/hopefully-something-else-sooner, tooer.
 
Q:  What prompted you to write a book on motherhood, and the particular subject you chose?
A:  Last year, after I let my 9-year-old ride the subway by himself, I wrote a little column about it. Two days later I was on the Today Show, MSNBC and FoxNews defending myself as NOT “America’s Worst Mom.” But if you Google that, there I am. Why? Because I let my son have a little freedom – the kind we all used to have, when we were kids.
 
Q:  What is the primary message of the book?
A:  The message is simple: Our culture has brainwashed parents with fear. We get it from the horrible stories we hear on TV (since TV has to be gripping or we’ll turn it off). We get it from the “Baby Safety Industrial Complex,” which has to convince us our kids are in peril or we’d never buy half the products they’re peddling (like baby knee pads! I swear, those are real!) And we get it from the army of “experts” and books and magazines that tell us how vulnerable our children are, and how much we don’t understand them, and how every single second had better be not only safe but developmentally boosting, or our kids are going to end up dead or dull. After a while you get to feeling that the only good parent is one who is present every single second of the day, watching, teaching, saving the kid from, say, an un-organic Oreo.
 
Q:  Was it based on your upbringing or relationship with your own mother?
A:  My mom was a typical mom of her day. She let me walk to school – everyone did. She let me play on the block and make my own “play dates” (we didn’t call them that then). She let me sell Girl Scout Cookies door to door with another girl, but without a grown-up, which is what most normal, middle-class moms approved of back then. All of which seems healthy and good!
 
Q:  What is your next book, and when is it being published?
A:  My next book has nothing to do with kids! It has to do with the fact I used to laugh when my dad would ask my mom, “Who was that dancer in the movie with the one who wasn’t Audrey Hepburn?” And my mom would know exactly who he was talking about and she’d say something like, “You mean the guy who danced with Cyd Charisse after the movie about the cruise with the other one?” And he’d know what she meant, too.
And now I do that! And so my friend and I wrote a whole quiz book based on the way we all sound when we can remember EVERYTHING about a person, place or thing…except its name. The example I always give is, “What’s that summer resort movie in the Catskills with the guy in the tight pants?” (I hope you can figure it out!) Also: “Who’s the one who’s not Matt Damon?” Anyway, you can play a sample round of the game at http://whostheblondebook.com/.
  And the book’s name, by the way, is Who’s the Blonde that Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip of the Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know…But Can’t Remember Right Now.  (Out in June!)

Q:  What is a typical day for you like, managing both work and home life?
A:  Staring at computer screen when I’m supposed to be waking the kids up. Answering emails when I’m supposed to be making their lunch. Dashing out the door because I got so distracted we didn’t have time for breakfast and now we eat a donut from the cart on the way to school. Then blissful quiet for the rest of the school day, when I’m at home doing more writing. Which actually seems lonely until they come home. Then it seems like Paradise Lost. Then I find myself  TRYING to write while still being a, “What did you learn today in science?” – type mom – and usually doing a kind of bad job at both. (And then swearing from now on I will FOCUS!!!)
  
Q:  What do your children think of your work?
A:  They pantomime me talking on the phone while typing and think that’s all I do. Come to think of it…they’re right. For their part, they hate writing, which is fair, since my dad ran a tennis club, and I never learned tennis. 
 
Q:  Has anything about being a mom surprised you?
A:  I thought that once I had kids I’d start carrying Kleenex. But I still forget.
 
Q:  What did you or do you most try to teach your children?
A:  Be kind! No one really cares if you’re brilliant or really good at snowboarding or whatever. They care if you care about them.