The Do Over Day

Sometimes, a Tuesday morning doesn't go as planned, or even as usual. The toast doesn’t just burn; the toaster catches fire. It’s school spirit day, but no one can find the right spirit-showing shirts, hats, socks. Someone is touching someone else, or singing or just looking the wrong way. And by the end, a modern mother could find herself yelling something along the lines of, "I don't care who did what to whom, just get out the door! Now!" She might have lost her cool, her temper, and her marbles but at least she used correct grammar.

Then, just as the kids scuttle off to school, the modern mother regains her equanimity, only to be consumed by profound regret. "Wait!" She wants to call after the bobbing backpacks. Wait! Let's start over without the frustration and bickering. Let's have a happy morning or even a typical morning (with grumbling and a forgotten lunch box or two.) Let’s just rewind and do it over.

Luckily for her, of course, she’ll have hundreds more chances to usher her children out of bed and off to school. But in the moment of ringing silence after they are out the door, knowing this does little to staunch her remorse. A trying day might seem endless, but the days of childhood are finite, or, as the adage goes, the days are long but the years are short. This modern mother is not foolish enough to believe she can make all days perfect, or even pleasant, but she can’t help but want to try. She can’t help but try to prevent another do-over day. 

*image from Snazzy Style

Friday Frivolity: Susan Orlean on Mom Jeans

We've discussed it here, and here, but there can be a certain ambivalence many of us feel about motherhood. It has nothing to do with how we feel about our children, parenting, or being mothers. It has everything to do with the terminology we all use for those of us who are, technically and usually enthusiastically, the female parents of offspring.

Happily, we are not alone. On her blog at The New Yorker, Susan Orlean has written this funny post on the use of "mom", "mommy" and "mom jeans." Enjoy!

* hat tip to Kate at Book Nook for asking us about this before we'd even finished reading it. 

It's a ... baby! The parents who won't say girl or boy.

The Star recently profiled a couple who have chosen to keep the sex of their third child a secret long after the baby's birth. The parents named the now 4-month-old baby Storm and call the baby, Storm, without resorting to he, she, or it as a pronoun. Storm has two older brothers named Kio and Jazz, who choose when to cut their hair, are "unschooled" at home, sleep in their parents' bed, and must be necessarily complicit in the strategy of not revealing the sex of their their younger sibling. 

When we first learned of this story via Brain, Child Magazine we were puzzled. Is it real? Is it parody? Or is it a bizarre attempt at 15 minutes of fame? (Something along the lines of the boy in the hot air balloon hoax of 2009.) Because, really, it just seems like a lot of work to keep the sex of your child a mystery. As if wiping dirty faces, picking up all those toys and socks everywhere, and changing hundreds of diapers weren't enough to keep a parent busy. We could suggest that it would be kinder to teach the child to live as him or herself in the gendered world, but we're too darn puzzled about the whole story: truth? fiction? reality show audition? 

* Image of a baby (NOT the baby featured in the article) by D Sharon Pruitt of Pink Sherbet Photography


 The mannerly modern mother may be forgiven for being surprised at the latest tennis news.  In case you missed it, as of last month, for the first time since the computerized tennis ranking system began - the US "didn't have a single man or woman in the top 10 in the men's or women's tours."  The piece goes on to talk about why Europe is so dominant in tennis these days and attributes European success to clay courts, patience, defense, and nationalized instruction standards none of which the article suggests US tennis has.

Tennis aside, a modern mother may begin to wonder what on earth we are doing with our time.   If it seems these days the average 5 year old spends 6.2 hours a week outside of school on athletic and artistic "enrichment" shouldn't the US be doing a little bit better at tennis?  Or is all this "exposing" parents believe so essential (Now that he is 4, I  need to expose Horatio to as many things as possible so he can decide where his strengths lie)  really just an excuse to get one's children out of one's hair?  Plus, one wonders,  if the child is exposed to too many things isn't there a risk she won't be able to become good at anything in particular? 

Of course then there are the parents who choose a single activity for their child (fallen golf stars and olympic gymnasts come to mind) for selfish (money and glory) or misguided (I've heard squash/fencing/bassoon is guaranteed to get you into Yale)  reasons.  One might consider them the lunatic fringe of the enrichment bell curve.  As for this approach all we can say is: professional ice skating drama and  Holden Caulfield  was on the fencing team. 

So the modern mother must consider wisely before choosing too many or too few interests for her child at a young age.   Should the modern mother chooses to go the intensified or overexposed route - please do us all a favor and sign your children up for tennis on clay courts.  The USTA will thank you.

Friday Frivolity: Summertime T's

Despite rain, rain, rain in Boston this week, we're dreaming of summer and summertime fun in these adorable shirts from Wink and a Nod. The playful and inspired motifs will delight children. Tasteful and high quality execution will charm their mothers.  The only challenge will be choosing which one. Where ever you are, hope you get a taste of summer this weekend.

Letting Your Child Make the Call

Circa 1980, when a child complained, “I’m bored” a mother could suggest, “Well, why don’t you pick up the phone and call Mary?” And the child might actually pick up the phone, dial, and say something like, “Hello, this is Lisa. May I please speak to Mary? … Mary, would you like to come over and play this afternoon?” Hard to imagine in this day and age, but having heard her mother make countless invitations and other social arrangements by phone, this child of 1980 might indeed pull this behavior off. And many of us did.

Fast forward to now, 2011. Mary is probably off at her advanced Chinese tutorial, math boot camp, or her daily elite fencing team practice, but suppose Mary were home, what would today’s mother say?  Would our children make such a phone call? Do they even know how to dial a telephone?

With shifting technology and the ascendancy of social media, our own adult social lives have become largely invisible to our children. Adults don’t use the phone for socializing, so our children have only rarely overheard an invitation extended, accepted, or politely declined. Instead, they see us tapping away at our iphones and blackberrys to make play dates, dinner dates, all manner of social plans. Since they’re not reading over our shoulders, they have no idea what we’re saying and how we’re saying it.  There is little wonder, then, at the chaos that can erupt when children begin to chat, IM, text, or email. They have no idea what they are doing!

So really, its up to us, isn’t it? It’s up to us to teach them to make the call, to engage a friend over the phone, to begin to manage their own social lives. Some might argue that telephone use is becoming obsolete and the ability to communicate effectively and civilly by email, text, social media will be far more valuable in their adult lives. Probably true. But think of the phone as training wheels for those other modes of communication: helping them use the phone allows us to easily listen in, provide a few hints and nudges. Supervised interaction. They can and will move on. At the very least, phone manners will be more useful than the cursive, ball room dancing, or horseback riding, that many of us are already willing to encourage.

Friday Frivolity: Manners Checklist

When a friend recently sent us this list of 25 manners every child should know by age 9, we realized that we had been neglecting our blog's original intention, which was to discuss manners and modern motherhood. Since we found the list compassionate and modern but still (thankfully) traditional, we wanted to share it with all of our well mannered readers.

And at least this modern mother was relieved to realize her children might not be that far off the mark. Hope you all feel the same way.

*image from MindWare

Planned Obsolescence

The term Planned Obsolescence, industrial jargon popularized in the early 20th Century, means "a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period."  At its most basic level, isn't that what parenting (motherhood) is all about?  One toils tirelessly (exhaustedly?) in the hopes that these quirky little people will one day be able to feed, clothe, bathe, and navigate themselves around the big, big world. Yet when things do begin to happen - making their own sandwiches, walking themselves to school, putting themselves to bed - the modern mother might feel a mixture of pride, astonishment and self doubt.   After doing so much for so long the modern mother may begin to wonder what her role is in this new paradigm.   She might need to take up a hobby, immerse herself in volunteering or stage her own professional comeback.

A recent piece on The New York Times blog Motherlode entitled Why Moms Should Quit suggests a radical approach to fostering independence in ones children.   The author of the piece encourages  announcing your resignation as "Chairman of the Household" and breaking out of the shackles that have oppressed mothers for so long.   Her own mother-in-law, the author tells us,  decreed in 1978 that she would only "buy groceries and make dinner on weekends, but that's it."   Now we are all for children and husbands doing laundry, yard work, cooking and otherwise contributing to family upkeep.  The troubling part is this:  why had this "Chairman of the Household" allowed herself to become so trampled upon?  As Chairman was it not incumbent upon her to create an effective organization in which each member contributed, learned and grew in responsibility as he matured?  Instead of a cataclysmic tantrum, perhaps some incremental changes and expectations might have been another solution.

Of course, it is well known that all the best characters in children's literature are resourceful, hard working orphans with strong moral conviction who have suffered great personal misfortune.   So maybe the "quitting" route is not such a bad one if a modern mother wakes up one morning and realizes she has allowed herself to be oppressed for years and sees that her offspring are feckless, entitled brats.  Otherwise, might we recommend a calm, long-term strategy of planned obsolescence?

Happy Mother's Day

Two mannerly mother friends of ours have a Mother's Day tradition of leaving their families and heading into the city for a glamorous lunch followed by cocktails, a bit of shopping and an elegant dinner for just the two of them.  Now that's a celebration.  However you enjoy it - we hope you have a happy mother's day.  Cheers,  EBB & EHP

Friday Frivolity: What to do with all those leftover Peeps

Not sure what to do with all those old peeps? Want to put them on the next bus out of town?

Or send them out to sea? 

Don't despair just yet. Now the well mannered mother can get really creative (artistic, not crafty of course) like these clever Washingtonians.  Click here for instruction and amusement.

Photos from The Washington Post Peep Show V and Google Images

Don't Call This Kid Angel

In a commercial for a small SUV, one car pulls up alongside another. From the back seat, one child says, “Hey Mike, What’s up?”  Mike replies, “They’ve been singing the same song for the last three hours,” as his parents belt out Just call me angel of the morning, baby. Both kids look disbelieving and shake their heads knowingly, stopping just short of an eye roll. Mike mouths, help me. First child shrugs, rolls up his window, puts on head phones and turns his attention to the car’s DVD player as he rides away.  In voice over, child narrates, “That was painful to watch.”

No kidding. It’s painful to watch a commercial for a car that appears to turn children into snotty and materialistic tweens. Consider what a child could take away from this ad. (1) It’s permissible to be disrespectful of parents -- one’s own and those of other children. (2) It’s permissible to exit a conversation by looking askance and putting on headphones. And we wonder why children show so much “attitude;” why they are seven going on seventeen; why there are “mean girls” and bullies.

So, no. We won't be buying that car any time soon. However, judging by the You Tube comments like "Hey, who sings that song?" it's doing pretty well for Juice Newton.

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