Thursday, August 31, 2006

Parenting in Public

I came across an interesting story confronting the topic of how children (and their parents!) behave in public that has me a little split on how I feel.

Parents need to be mindful of where they are taking their children. For some reason, I have noticed a particular entitlement among some parents that they should not have to sacrifice certain destinations because they have children. But let's face it, there's a reason why they have Friendly's and Chili's as an alternative to Legal Seafoods and The Palm. Seriously, people, who the hell do you think you are taking your children to The Palm? Get over yourselves and go to the 99 with the rest of people with kids. You're just begging to be hated if you do anything else. And hey, people at the 99 looking for a quiet and peaceful dinner, go home and heat up a Lean Cuisine. Who are you kidding that the 99 is supposed to be a quiet dining experience?!

I refuse to excuse anyone from trying to be a good parent while in public. Just because you have kids doesn't mean you can apologize your way out of every ugly situation. We all have our stresses and issues, don't make caring for your kids a cross to bear -- especially for everyone else around you. And you people who either don't have kids or forget what it's like to have had kids, let's show a little compassion for people who are trying to be good parents (if they are) and taking the family out for some fun. We shouldn't be relegated to home imprisonment just because we have kids.

It seems to me we could all stand to try on a little humility and maybe make a few adjustments to our self awareness. I don't see any difference between an unruly child in public and, say, an obnoxious mobile phone chatter in the Starbucks or Barnes & Noble. Especially the ones with Bluetooth earpieces who appear to be talking to themselves. Or how about the woman (or man) who seems to have bathed in perfume (or cologne). You are just as offensive as a crying baby to people who don't have a taste for your scent of choice. And to everyone who dares to leave the house without looking at themselves in the mirror, you're the visual equivalent of static on the radio. However, those of us with children are the easy targets, because it's easier (and somehow more villifying) to say "bad parent" than it is to say "cheap perfume."

And let's just also clarify that just because you take your kids to a kid-friendly place doesn't mean you don't have to parent. I took my girls to a playground where a bunch of moms were yapping away over yonder, without a clue of or a care for the havoc their 9 and 10 year old boys were wreaking on the entire play area. filling cups of water, throwing them at one another, sometimes hitting other kids, making mud, which then got on the equipment and rendered the slide and swings useless for others. I took my girls by the hand (one was wet, the other covered in mud) and I went over to the group of moms and said "Hi, sorry to interrupt. I know I'm just a dad, so forgive me, but it would really be great if any of you were actually mindful of what your kids are doing right now. Take a look at my girls, and know it's because of your boys. We're going home now, and hope to come back again when things are a little more civilized. In the meantime, I hope you all are having as much fun as your boys are."

Jaws dropped. Scowls formed. But hey, ladies. Get a clue. The world doesn't revolve around you or your kids. We're all responsible for setting examples and maintaining standards, otherwise, we'll forever be doomed to chicken fingers at the 99.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Slippery Scheduling Slope

My oldest daughter is about to start first grade next week, and while we're thrilled to see her growing up and loving school, we're also worried about maintaining the right scheduling balance. Her kindergarten year was only a half day each day, and sometimes even that rendered her exhausted at the end of the day. She does her fair share of classes and activities outside of school as well -- ballet and gymnastics -- mixed in with play dates and tennis lessons.

As she gets older, her tastes are changing and we want to expose her to things she shows an interest in, but what we're now living is what I have read other parents saying about overscheduled children. We don't want to inundate her, but we also want her to try the things she wants to do.

Soon she'll be in school full-time, five days a week. She decided to stop ballet, but is starting soccer clinics in two weeks (and can't wait to wear the uniform!). She also is moving into advanced team gymnastics -- meeting twice a week -- because it seems to be what she's really passionate about and excelling in (and, stop the presses, Dad, she just got her new team leotard, which is a major event because it's SPARKLY red, white and blue). And she has requested horse riding lessons like her younger sister, but we're holding off on that.

How much is too much? Or do we underestimate what our kids can handle? She's having fun. She's learning. She's expressing herself. She's meeting new kids and loving every minute of it. And she still has time (granted not as much) for playing and coloring and reading. Is the overscheduled child really a problem if they're happy? Or, does the joy of participation in all the activities an easy way for us to justify the schedules and therefore drive more commitments?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Time Off

Sorry I haven't been family and I have been on vacation and I made the (wise) decision to leave my laptop at home to avoid the temptation to work. I'm back online and will be posting again soon.