August 31, 2011

American Idle

If you're like me, you can recite (or sing, if you're brave) the theme songs to shows like Spongebob Squarepants, The Wonder Pets, and Bubble Guppies on command. You can do it in your sleep, and sometimes do.

If you're like me, you know that Kidz Bop 20 is currently available for the low, low price of $19.95 plus shipping and handling charges (please allow four to six weeks for delivery), and your kids know the words to the featured songs simply from watching the commercials. For the uninitiated, Kidz Bop is a series of CDs featuring kids singing the latest annoying pop songs. If you're like me, the fact that the latest pop songs are annoying makes you feel just a little bit old.

If you're like me, you know that Lucky Charms are still magically delicious, because just like when you were a kid watching The Smurfs on Saturday mornings, your TV tells you so. Your kids also know this, and will never let you pass Lucky the Leprechaun in the grocery store without a desperate plea to buy his elusive Charms. If you ask them why you should, they'll say, "Duh...because they're magically delicious!" You should have known. And then you buy them, because secretly, you agree. 

Unless you're a parent with superhuman levels of energy, resolve, and aversion to toddler-targeted commercial marketing, you're probably a lot like me. This means that at some point during most days, sometimes more than once, the TV is on at your house. And the computer. And the video game console. And it's not just our kids who have a hard time putting down the remote or the mouse and picking up a book or going outside and enjoying the weather. You wouldn't have found this post on Facebook if that were the case, right? Right. It's very much a plugged-in society in which we live, a very much on-demand iTunes Netflix Xbox Live instant download existence we lead. This is not a bad thing in and of itself; some of those things make our lives a great deal easier, but they pose a problem when we're overexposed to them. And that's the problem: they're everywhere.

This is no lecture, just an observation. I'm a bit of a gadget/electronics junkie myself. I'm into a few shows that I won't miss. I do my reading on an e-reader, for gosh sake (it rocks), and I obviously spend some time in front of a computer; if I didn't, there would be no Used Diaper Salesman floating merrily along out here in the blogosphere, and where would we be then? Wait, don't answer that.

When we were kids (said the old man), we didn't have as much of that stuff to distract us, and I know our parents said the same thing to our generation with a touch of horror when the Atari and MTV were born. Despite those things, we stayed in great shape with all our running around, playing our pick-up games of tag and hide-and-go-seek, although we were never as fit as our parents because, when they were kids, they had the advantage of walking uphill both ways whenever they went somewhere. It's true. Just ask them.

We had awesome imaginations and far less mass media. I want the same for my kids, but it seems I'll have to contend for their imaginations with Nickelodeon, Bill Gates, and Kraft Foods. Spongebob is EVERYWHERE, and he wants my children. I say we bring back stick sword fights with no eye protection, treasure hunts with maximum mud-immersion, and whatever it is you girls do for imaginative play.

I'm curious to know what's worked well for you. In what ways have you been successful at showing your kids how to spend more time being less plugged in? And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check Facebook.

August 15, 2011

The "P" Word

That's "P" for "patience", by the way, and I put that right up front in order to nip any vulgar speculation in the bud. For those of you who were looking for something salacious, I'll say it again: this is a family show, people.

Patience is a dangerous thing to pray for as a parent, because even though you know you need more of it in order to be capable of dealing with childish shenanigans and remain sane, you just might get what you ask for: situations that demand plenty of it.

You may recall from my last post that Brady is going through a stage in which he has crowned himself king, emperor, and grand poobah of the known universe and usually sees no reason to willingly bend the knee to us lowly subjects, his parents. Discipline has to be carefully coordinated between my wife and I so that we know we're being consistent. Each teachable moment has to be judiciously handled so that Brady knows what he did wrong, why it was wrong, and how he can make it right. Brady is an incredibly sweet kid and has a brilliant head on his shoulders, but it's a hard head for all that and he hasn't learned to control the impulses that flow from it. Explaining the same right versus wrong concept for the 1,053rd time can be trying for us, and patience is really hard to maintain. It makes us feel like we're doing something wrong. I'll bet the majority of you parents are nodding your heads right now. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

This morning, Brady provided us with a perfect case in point. His Majesty was spending some involuntary R & R time in his royal chambers (read: a timeout in his room) and apparently decided to see if he could escape. He started by banging on the window and yelling to the neighbor whose backyard can be seen from the back of our house. Then he pried open the window and popped out the screen.

Imagine for a moment that you're the neighbor. You're minding your own business, doing a little peaceful work in your garden, keeping the weeds away from the tomatoes, when you hear pounding and yelling coming from the house behind yours. You look up to see a five-year-old little boy yelling and banging frantically on his bedroom window, and as you're watching, the little boy throws the window open and pops out the screen. Your first instinct, of course, is to assume that something is wrong. Is someone hurt? Is there a fire? Is someone being abused?  So you do what any good neighbor would do and go to check out the situation.

My saintly wife assured the neighbor that everything was fine, but was greatly embarrassed, of course. And here's where it gets tricky. Brady was probably just saying "hi" and thought he could better greet the neighbor through an open window than a closed one. He had no way to know what the neighbor would think. He probably was not trying to cause more trouble, but that's sure as heck what it felt like to us, and that on top of the original infraction that brought about the time out in the first place. This type of thing leaves us feeling extremely frustrated, ineffective, and downright mad, but how do we get our point across without punishing in anger? Turns out patience does not come naturally. It's very much a learned skill, and we're still learning.

And speaking of learning, Brady may just have to learn the hard way that he is not, in fact, the king of all existence. It might be a little sweating in the principal's office. Or paying for a broken window out of his own piggy bank. He'll get it eventually, and meanwhile, his mom and I will continue to do what we have to in order to make sure he does. We'll do our job and wait.