Parenting Possibilities: Keeping Our Kids Safe

Keeping Our Kids Safe: Other Persepectives

Is education, communication and an expectation of responsibility around alcohol more useful in keeping our kids safe than raising the legal drinking age? Shana shares her thoughts and invites readers to share their thoughts too.

My almost 10 year old has been curious about alcohol lately. The other day he picked up my glass and asked me what I was drinking. I just answered him honestly and said that it was hard cider and explained that it was like regular cider with alcohol in it. He asked if he could try it and I said no.

After that moment I reflected on whether it would not have been so bad if I let him have a sip. The idea stuck with me. It made me think about the various approaches to alcohol and youth around the world. It seems apparent that U.S. teenagers have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse in the world. The U.S. is also only one of seven countries around the globe that has chosen 21 to be the legal drinking age. Every other country either has a younger legal age or no minimum age.

I realize that this subject may trigger some of you. I write these thoughts not to profess I know what is best but to bring my perspective to the table. I also chose this subject to generate a conversation as I can imagine many parents feel concern about alcohol use and their kids. As a parent, I would give my right arm to know that my future teenage sons will sail through their adolescents with no issues around alcohol but I am also realistic and frightened that that will probably not be the case.

So as parents, how can we keep our kids safe?… Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Possibilities: Chores and Halloween

If I Pay My Child To Do Labor is That Bad?

I’ll start at the beginning and then you can chime in and let me know what you think…

I took my 6 and 9 year old boys to the Halloween store at Hampshire Mall in Hadley. Never in my life have I gotten a kick out of the scare and gore of Halloween. Rather, I enjoyed Halloween and dressing up because I got to pretend I was someone else for a day, to escape, to explore a side of me that I didn’t let myself in daily life.

My 9 year old on the other hand goes for the gore. He has been a Zombie for the last two years. His focus is on the blood, the weapons, the story of how he was killed and why his character is back for revenge. Even our front yard is decked out with all scare. No lovely pumpkins or fun lights. It’s blood, gravestones, spider webs and fear that now greet our visitors.

Our younger son went with power. After checking out his choices, he chose a red Power Ranger suit. I knew how expensive it was and I knew that my partner and I had agreed to give them $10 each.

Our 6 year old couldn’t take his eyes off the bright red Power Ranger suit with puffed up muscles and a golden belt. The cost was $30.00. His first attempt at demanding I give him more money was met with one calm and clear warning that we will leave the store if he asks again…

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Parenting Possibilities: The Relief of Yielding to the Other Parent

Life is Like a Rotary

Last month my column post The Co-Parenting Dance was part one of an experiment I decided to embark on with my partner, the love of my life for the last (gulp!) 14 years. To catch you up, my partner and I are both equally involved, strong-minded women and parents which often brings complication along with it’s joys. At the time I wrote my last post I was having a particularly challenging time. All our decisions around parenting were feeling like constant negotiation and I was tiring from the dynamic…

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Parenting Possibilities: Challenges of Same-Sex Co-Parenting

The Co-Parenting Dance

We are both very involved and strongly opinionated as women and mothers. We both have dedicated our lives to our work/career as long as that means we can be available for our kids when they need us. This “doubling up” is often wonderful but at times creates an experience of constant negotiation…

Many people ask me what it is like to be married to a woman and to co-parent together. Some ask out of pure curiosity as the concept seems so unique to them. Others ask out of envy as they think partnering with a woman would have advantages and moments of ease that heterosexual couples or single parents could only dream of. Sometimes it does.

Rarely though is it considered that there may be very challenging aspects of co-parenting as two women no matter how healthy and loving the partnership is. Just the weight and knowledge of how much discrimination for same sex couples still exist creates an obstacle from the beginning.

There are also absolutely no rules or roles pre-prescribed to the game. My partner and I have to figure out each aspect of parenting as is comes. No one is “supposed” to do anything. This is very freeing but can also get totally complicated. For example, just deciding who would be the birth mom to our kids was certainly an interesting way to kick things off…

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Parenting Possibilities: The Chinese Finger Trap

How to Stop a Power Struggle

Before I reacted, I luckily remembered the finger trap and realized that I would only get us more intertwined in the conflict if I burst out with anger and worry even though I felt that way inside.

My youngest son will be 6 in six days. He is bursting into life with passion and strength and is becoming keenly aware of what his likes and dislikes are, his trigger points and what he values most.

This past spring though it seemed like his trigger points were getting the best of him and he was becoming upset on an unusually frequent basis. Often his emotions were displayed as anger. My partner and I noticed increased feet stomping, door slamming, fighting with his brother, and refusing to do certain things. His Moms were losing patience and responding with frustration and anger as well. Something had to change.

Around the same time period, our oldest son brought home a toy that looked like a small woven bamboo cylinder. He asked me to try it. All I had to do was put my two index fingers in each end and then pull my fingers back out. When I pulled to get out, the cylinder became tighter and actually trapped my fingers. I stopped pulling because I wasn’t getting free and I worried I would break it if I continued to pull…

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Parenting Possibilities: The Family Dinner Experience

Family Dinners: Joy or Indigestion?

The extensive research on the benefits of family dinners has seemed to define eating together as the make it or break it sign to raising healthy, well-adjusted children. I do agree that family meals have potential to be an opportunity to catch up on the day’s events and bond in the midst of our busy world. For years though, I have been challenged in my experience with family dinners and prefer to bond with my family in other ways. It is only recently that I have felt a shift.

When our boys were really little we would feed them early. After dinner some play, books and then bed. Next came much needed grown up relaxation time often complete with spicy food, red wine and uninterrupted conversation with my sweetheart. I thought this was the best of both worlds. As the boys grew though, things gradually changed. Baseball practices, homework, play dates and more pushed bedtime later. Eating after the kids went to bed was now too late. My partner loved the idea of having more family dinners and so I yielded to her wishes and committed to making it happen.

Often though, I have felt overwhelmed at the table. I always begin with the intention of being mindful and present with my loved ones but quickly slip into a state of constant negotiation. I become focused on moderating the noise level or making sure people take turns talking. I carefully watch for opportunities to teach and enforce appropriate manners. I commonly request slowing down the eating and remind boys to stay in seats…

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Parenting Possibilities: A Sibling’s Love

A Sibling’s Love

One day I quietly watched my children playing with each other and realized for the first time that they have their own unique form of communication. They have an instinctual knowledge of each other I had not previously been aware of. It is an understanding only a sibling can have, almost as if they can read each other’s minds.

At the moment when I noticed what I now call “brother speak” I began to reminisce about my own sibling and our bond as children. Being the younger of the two, my sister was always there. Her presence infused almost every moment I had in my life at home. It was different for her as she had 3 years enjoying all of my parents’ attention. She easily could have resented my arrival but my parents took a brilliant approach. One my partner and I did with our boys as well. My parents prepared my sister for my arrival by telling her I was a gift for her. That I was her baby too and her role as an older sister was very important.

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Parenting Possibilities: We Are All Meant to Shine

Getting Out of Our Own Way

In her recent interview in Time Magazine’s March edition and in her TED.com talk which received over 2 million views, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s powerhouse Chief Operating Officer speaks to why women still have not achieved equality in the workforce. She acknowledges that very real barriers still exist like sexism, discrimination, a lack of flexibility, access to child care and parental leave. She also states an additional belief that “women can dismantle the internal barriers holding us back today.”

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Parenting Possibilities: Find Your Way to Say I Love You

Saying I Love You

As an adult, I understand so much more about what my father’s life was like. How it feels to be passionate about work and the pull to become consumed. I appreciate now that he never worked on weekends like many of his colleagues and he always went on family trips with us. I realize that as a man he didn’t see it as his responsibility to be a primary caregiver nor did most men at that time.

I have been reading a lot about Justice Sonia Sotomayor lately now that her book is out. Her story is inspiring and yet also sad. Her father died when she was in fourth grade due to heart problems related to alcoholism. When he was alive, Sonia endured a childhood of watching her father explode in rages when he was drinking and his aggression was often pointed at herself or her mother.

In her recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, Justice Sonia was asked what she most regrets in life. Her first response was that she regrets not ever telling her father she loved him.

My heart sank for her.

My story is very different from Justice Sonia’s although as a child and then a teenager it was not easy to relate to my father. He worked long hours and took frequent business trips. He always seemed still to be thinking about work even when he was with us. I remember feeling sadness and anger every time he left.

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Parenting Possibilities: To Take Away or Not Take Away

You Better Run

“You better run, better run, out run my gun.”

These are sample lyrics to Foster the People’s freakishly popular song, “Pumped up Kicks,” that my children were happily listening to the other day. When I realized that the song my 5 and 9 year old boys were dancing to with joy was essentially about gun violence, a blanket of horror came over me.

Let me back up a bit…

For Chanukah, my partner and I agreed to give our boys their own mini MP3 players. It was a big decision for us as we were aware that the MP3 players would be the first electronic device they owned. We made the purchase in preparations for an upcoming long plane flight. The MP3 players seemed like a great, fun option for them to have on the plane.

Once their gifts were open, immediate excitement and requests to load songs on their players followed. We were happy to pick out songs with them and relished in how thrilled they were about the gifts. The song “Pumped up Kicks” was one of the first choices for both of them. My partner and I had heard the song before but the lyrics were always murky to us.

After listening to the song again, I thought I was hearing words referring to guns and cigarettes but it seemed so improbable. I decided to do some research. First I looked up their video on You Tube. The video was a montage of the handsome young men playing the song live and having a blast. Nothing about guns there, so it seemed.

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