Sneaker Sucker or Excellent Mother?

Last week a well mannered friend wrote on facebook, "J.  just called to tell me that he forgot his gym bag this AM.  Guess which approach I'm taking, tough love or sucker mommy?"  This short sentence eloquently sums up the entire mommy debate.  Are you a tiger mother, an attachment parent, a helicopter mommy or someone who actually has to be at a place of employment for 8 hours a day and does not have the luxury to analyze which type of mother you are let alone race home to schlep some sneakers down to your child? 

Does taking your son his sneakers make you a sucker?  Does not taking him the sneakers make you a bad mother?  Is this opportunity a teachable moment or is it just a part of life which in a reasonable world would be devoid of all judgment?  After all "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."  Right?  Or maybe not.   At least not where motherhood is concerned.   It seems even the most mundane choices of daily life have become significant - as they relate to ones children.   Will not having his sneakers one Thursday in March have lasting  repercussions?  ("I didn't make varsity lacrosse because of that time my mom forgot my sneakers in 4th grade")    Will having his mother race into his class yelling "Yoohoo, Honey, here are your sneakers" cause him a crisis of self confidence due to social ridicule? 

We do not know which path our friend took that fateful day.   Did she rush across a busy city, gym bag and younger siblings in tow or did she let her son suffer the slings and arrows of forgotten sneakers?  And what will the consequences be?  Of course we won't know for years.  After all, the race is not always to the swift, but it's probably a good idea to be wearing some form of appropriate footwear. 

Don't Wish it Away

A modern mother can be forgiven for looking forward to the day when her children can cook their own dinners, do their own laundry, fill out their own medical and registration forms. She might understandably like to imagine her youngest brushing his own teeth, taking a shower on his own, or sleeping past 7 in the morning.

But then she remembers: don’t wish it away!  It will all be gone in the blink of an eye: the chubby arms wrapped around her neck, the furious coloring of a kindergartener, the lanky 10 year old draped across a chair, reading.

With luck, she will be left with mostly happy memories and a few young adults in her life whom she can truly appreciate and enjoy.  Or so reading this Anna Quindlen essay can lead her to imagine.  And, what happy imaginings they are.

* Dandelion image by Susannah Tucker Photography. Dandelion and many more of her lovely photographs are available at her Etsy store

Friday Frivolity: Typin' it, Old School

According to this Slate article, many of us have been typing wrong. This typing error transcends social class and education level, and it might even, dare we suggest, affect some of our dear readers and an author (or two) here at Manners for Modern Mothers.

Thankfully, it has nothing to do with IQ or fine motor skills. This typing mistake is a matter of what comes after the period at the end of each sentence.  Or rather, sentence. Please read and tell us what you think. Are some of us typing "wrong" or are we just typing "old school" style? 

*image of, and information about this typewriter available here.

Is the Modern Childhood Devoid of Creativity and Freedom?

Children don’t know how to play anymore! They are over-scheduled, over-programmed, and are no longer allowed to traipse around the neighborhood, making up their own rules and inventing their own games. They suffer from nature deficit disorder and spend 90% of their time indoors. They lack independence; they have no free time; they are plugged in to digital devices and tuned out; they completely lack imagination, and creativity. And worst of all, we adults and parents no longer know how to allow children a proper childhood.

It could give a modern mother a headache: the predictions and prognostications about our children’s dire future, based on their soul-less present. But then, this modern mother thinks about her children's friends and her friends' children. Many are, in fact, imaginative, creative, and given to open-ended free play. She glances up from a magazine article describing the short-comings of modern childhood. She might see one of her children using a shoe to transport a stuffed tiger around the room. She might see another dressed in white furry slippers, a cowboy hat, and a silver cape as he fights space aliens. Or she could peek outside and see the teepee assembled from sticks by her children and the neighborhood kids, yes, with zero adult intervention.

Use of imagination? Check. Outside play? Check. Unstructured time with neighborhood peers? Check. The modern mother can breathe a sigh of relief; from her narrow vantage point, at least, perhaps its not really so bad as those dire accounts. She can cross her fingers that such unfettered play will continue, and she can then thank the many stalwart advocates for outdoor play, free time, independence and true childhood, including No Child Left InsidePlayborhood and Free Range Kids, and probably many, many more.

Friday Frivolity - How Not to Behave at Your Next Conference

A friend who is a teacher posted this video on facebook.  Hardly a mannerly mother, and not a little bit scary.


It happens to most modern mothers at some point.  Things fail to go right in one's well ordered life and suddenly it is a crisis, a catastrophe, a total meltdown.  Maybe you ran out of coffee this morning, your children are fighting, you have an important meeting,  your nanny is late and you house is a total mess.

Or maybe there was an earthquake, followed by a tsunami that caused two nuclear reactors to malfunction and the fate of an entire nation hangs in the balance.  Nothing like a little perspective.

 If you would like to help the people of Japan, click here

Photo from The Seattle Times

Friday Frivolity: Richard Scarry's Classic Manners Book

We doubt our readers need much advice about teaching manners to their children, but nevertheless, we would like to celebrate a sweet little book that does precisely that. Richard Scarry's Please and Thank You Bookteaches even the youngest children good manners by showing them. Huckle the Cat asks to be excused after a meal and remembers to help clear the table. Lowly worm says "Thank you for a very a very nice time" when leaving a birthday party. Pig Won't spends a boring day by himself because he won't help his father in the boatyard and later learns that helping out can be rewarding and fun. Just like reading this book.

Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson

When a well mannered mother recently saw the term “MILF” in a mainstream, albeit regional, publication, she nearly choked on her cup of morning tea. Excuse me? Did I just read “MILF” on the printed page? On the page of a magazine for which I actually paid money? 

The uninitiated can check MILF in the Urban Dictionary here, and we can move on to agree that the term is a vulgar acronym for a crass sentiment, and as usage spreads, this mother, at least, must protest.

To some, becoming a mother means changing from sexually desirable “hot” woman to... well, somebody’s “mom.” Possibly even one who wears the dreaded mom jeans: "I'm not a woman anymore, I'm a mom!" Yes, nobody checks you out when you’re driving a minivan.

But there have always been exceptions. Mrs. Robinson of The Graduate might be the original sexy, desirable older woman, who also happened to be someone's mother. Saucy seductress she might have been but she was not labeled with such a graphic acronym. She remained Mrs. Robinson.

Now, we live in the age of hot, sexy mothers: Heidi Klum, Angelina Jolie, and Desperate Housewives. While most mothers might be happy to know that being a mother and being attractive are not considered mutually exclusive, no woman wants to be defined only by her desirability. Or in such a crass way.

Really, Boston Magazine, couldn’t you do better?  We suspect the term was used as shorthand for the well heeled, well groomed woman, of a certain age, frequently seen roving around high end shopping malls. But for the future, may we suggest the slightly less vulgar term, yummy mummy? The term did originate in Britian, so it must be more tasteful and refined. We suspect that Mrs. Robinson might approve.

Letting Boys be Boys

A modern mother of a son (or sons) might feel a mixture of horror, sadness and anxiety when reading the recent WSJ essay, “Where have all the good men gone” by Kay S. Hymowitz. After citing multiple statistics demonstrating the ascendancy of women in today’s information and service based economy (more college degrees, higher GPAs, higher earnings, more confidence and drive), the author suggests that young men today live an extended adolescence in which they sit around watching the Cartoon Network, in dirty apartments filled with empty take-out containers, while their sisters are making strides in careers, climbing the corporate ladder, building an adult life.

Sigh. So this is how it all ends up? A mother works diligently to raise her son to be a caring adult, a responsible contributor to society only to find him playing video games at the age of 28, shirking responsibility, and reading “lad” magazines like Maxim?  Really?

While stewing about this article, this mother went shopping for little boys clothes, taking note of what exactly is available: the size 4 black ACDC shirts, the skull covered onesies, fatigues for toddlers, shirts that say “slacker” or “rebel” or "look mom no hands!"

*All of these clothes are sold in size 4 or smaller. Sources: The Gap, CWD Kids, The Gap.

After wading through these visions of masculinity, she wonders about the messages they send to the boys who are supposed to wear them.  Skateboarder, sports star, rock star, military man all in navy blue, gray, black, brown.  Does this limited range of images and colors reflect more limited aspirations for boys?  Do they suggest that even young boys should already be cynical and wild; that they won't like school? It's as if we're pushing them to grow into the slackers which Ms. Hymowitz argues their 20-something counterparts have become. 

Many of these clothes and the images seem better suited to an adolescent than to the preschoolers or first graders for which they are sized. Is our culture afraid of letting our boys be children before they grow into hip, slacker teenagers? Are we afraid of letting them be vulnerable and earnest? Is it OK for a 2 year old boy to wear his older sister’s snow suit? For a 5 year old boy to like pink?  For a 9 year old boy to bring a stuffed animal to a sleep over? 

Thankfully, for dressing her son, the well mannered mother can always fall back on that basic polo shirt or plain t-shirt available practically anywhere. She could also head straight to Papo d’ Anjo and dress her son in better clothes than she buys for herself.  The challenging part, of course, will be enabling him to grow up at his own pace, letting her boy be a boy before he hits adolescence, and cross her fingers in the hope that her son doesn't grow up to be a case study for Ms. Hymowitz.
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