Archives for July 2018

Last Call

Dear parents, caretakers, families, educators, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, and anyone else I haven’t mentioned who might be reading this blog:

This is my final post for the Parenting Tips blog at Parenting Success Network.

I have been writing to you more or less every week for the last four years. During that time I have enjoyed sharing my evolving challenges with chores and bedtime, my intimations of mortality, and just my straight-up posts about Star Wars.

I appreciate all those who have commented, either here or on that popular social media platform, what’s-its-name. I am grateful for our wonderful guest contributors, who have enriched and diversified my offerings while enabling me to get paid while essentially doing nothing. And the push to write on the regular has been especially valuable, especially since frankly I’m not always feelin’ it. Because here’s the thing: once I get started I’m always glad I did it. I guess there’s a lesson there, or whatever.

It has been a fun four years. Best wishes to the Network and to future blog maestra/os.

Thanks for everything, and keep on parenting!

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Such Thing as Free Lunch

This week I want to tell you about something that I love.

It is Oregon’s Summer Meals program, and in this time of uncertainty and crisis I believe it’s one of the few things around that’s just purely good.

It might seem like I’m hyperbolizing (or, more likely, just inventing an excuse to use that word in a sentence), but I tell you it’s true. Why, take a gander if you will at the organization’s handsome and generous website, which provides an overview of the service and a tidy history as well as a sweet site locator to find meals around the state.

What do they do? Well, since it was created thanks to an act of Congress (remember those?) exactly 50 years ago, the USDA-funded program simply gives out free meals to children aged 1-18. Some sites also sell meals to adults, and some offer activities and educational opportunities before or after. That’s it.

Why is that magic? The awesomeness is in the details: how many public programs can you think of that don’t ask you to register your kids, or meet eligibility requirements, or sign up for further something-or-other, or commit to anything? Really! You just show up and they feed your kids. The end. No follow up, no stigma around needing the assistance. I think that’s mighty special.

My kids, who eat a lot and are sometimes in need of assistance, have enjoyed free meals in parks and libraries around Linn and Benton Counties. They’re not picky or anything, but they have pronounced the offerings both varied and pleasing. I believe them.

If you have kids, and a finite amount of financial resources, and/or it’s just too cockadoodle hot to make lunch, I suggest you check out the Summer Meals sitch. Here’s some nice pointers from our own Parenting Success Network.

So, what are you waiting for?

Except maybe morning?

 

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Like Baby Steps, Only Tinier

“It takes 30 days to form a habit.” It’s always somehow shocking to me when these cliches turn out to be more or less true, as if the truthiness (thank you Stephen Colbert) rubs off in the repetition. But what if it’s backed by science? Turns out the facts are more complicated (AGAIN). Certainly too much so to comfortably aphorise.

So let’s put this another way: “It takes 66 days to form a habit. Or broadly, 18 to 254.” Doesn’t trip off the tongue, does it?

Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t bother to do this research before I started forming my new exercise habit. Because I was going by the 30 day thing.

Let me back up a little bit. I just turned 45 and I was thinking about, like, mortality, and things. In my parent-mind, I was thinking about how nice it would be to still be around when all my kids were doing grownup things and thinking about their mortality, and things.

Related to that thought was the one about how well I’ve modeled literacy and learning for my kids at the expense of other things like movement, sport (in the phenomenological sense), and exercise. Sure, we like to take hikes and go for walks, but that’s more about being in nature. And they do love to swim. So. But I have not prioritized those things, and I want to turn that around.

My brilliant wife is right on board, and has instituted a morning walking/jogging regimen for the girls, supplemented by yoga and frequent trips to the pool. It’s going…okay. And by okay, I mean that about half the kids are into it on any given day. Granted, it hasn’t been 30 days, much less 254.

As in all things parental, I had to start with me (we fill our own cup so that we can yada yada). As much as I cherished my morning ritual of making coffee and reading on the couch with a pointy cat on my lap, I knew I had to get moving. My aforementioned wife–the brilliant one–got me some workout clothes for Christmas (I HAVE NEVER OWNED workout clothes). I visualized myself waking up, suiting up, and heading out for an early morning jog, frost, rain and snails be darned (really, tried to be careful of the snails though).

I kept visualizing it every day as I made my coffee and sat down on the couch with coffee and a pointy cat, trying not to look in the direction of my workout clothes, which were balled up in a corner.

Finally I tried another way. Less ambitious, more…tiny. In this case, doing some research would have been helpful because I would have found something like this.

What I did was this: I got a gym bag. I put my workout clothes inside. I left the bag on the dining table when I went to bed. When I got up in the morning, I saw it there, taunting me like Mickey.

After a few days, I opened the bag and put the clothes on. And once I had done that, it just seemed silly not to go outside.

And the rest is…ongoing. Every morning, I put on the clothes and head out for a brisk walk. When I return, in 20-30 minutes, I feel awake and ready for the day. And also ready to do things like bend over and walk up stairs without wheezing.

My kids have noticed all these things. After (insert number of days here), it becomes just something that is done in our family.

Sometimes there are advantages to kids watching everything we do.

 

 

 

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Oregon Dune

So this summer I’ve decided to try to read as many of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels as I can (there are six, the first three of which are regarded as classics, plus around a billion written by his son, Brian Herbert, from notes he found in his dad’s garage). I’ve been trying to get through the first book since I was in fifth grade and the bizarre and not too successful movie adaptation came out. A couple years ago, I made it halfway through on Kindle (on my phone, which is pretty impressive). This time I’m ready.

Why am I telling you this, other than the fact that I haven’t talked about painfully nerdy stuff for several weeks now? Well, Dune was published in 1965 and was critically and commercially successful enough to have turned a lot of people on to its (at the time) radical concepts of planetary ecology; the idea that we need to pull back and pay attention to the world as a whole, because everything is connected. On the desert planet of Arrakis, the survival of its inhabitants–and by extension, the galaxy, because plot points–depends on their ability to take this holistic view.

Clearly this is something we need to do here, now. As on Arrakis, the summer on Earth is again displaying record temperatures, along with drought, wildfires and unprecedented heat-related deaths. The macro is coming back to haunt the micro (which is us. We’re the micro).

As I read about the characters in Dune trying to survive the alien desert with its extreme lack of moisture, I keep seeing warnings about the heat wave coming to us here in the Willamette Valley this week. I wanted to reiterate the warning and share some tips on how to prepare for the coming heat.

According to the highly diverting Department of Homeland Security website Ready.gov (which also contains helpful hints about tsunamis, shooters, pandemics and nuclear explosions but not, sadly, zombies), here are the basics:

  • If your home is not air conditioned, find places to go that are. Work in a state office, like me! Or, go to the public library, the mall, anywhere you can spend some time safely during the hottest hours.
  • Drink lots of water. Like seriously. You know you don’t drink enough as it is. Drink water before you feel you need to, because in this kind of weather you are already dehydrated if you feel thirsty.
  • DO NOT leave pets or children in an enclosed car. We know that, right? It goes triple this week. Check frequently on children and elderly. Make sure your neighbors are prepared.
  • Eat popsicles. Not on the website, but that’s because I think it was scrubbed by the incoming administration.

Be safe, folks. See you next week. And watch for wormsign!

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Parenting in the Bubble

It’s science time at the Parenting Success Network blog. That’s right: that means it’s time to take to the internet and google (it’s what we used to do before we started talking to Siri, but after we went to the library and pulled out the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature) “parenting.”

Somewhat disappointingly, this blog is not the first thing to come up in the search results, even in my own google bubble.  Although, here’s what does come up for me: “NPR readers share their best parenting advice,” and “Kim Kardashian West asks Kylie Jenner for baby advice.” I don’t really know what to say. Anyway, the heavy hitters are all on page one here. Parenting.com, good job with the brand management.

Wikipedia, just below it, defines “parenting” according to the democratic will of the (internet-abled) human race: “Parenting or child rearing is the process of promoting and supporting the physicalemotionalsocial, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the intricacies of raising a child aside from the biological relationship.” This is an accurate and utterly uninteresting encapsulation. More intriguingly, however, it goes on to say:

“Parenting styles vary by historical time period, race/ethnicity, social class, and other social features. Additionally, research has supported that parental history both in terms of attachments of varying quality as well as parental psychopathology, particularly in the wake of adverse experiences, can strongly influence parental sensitivity and child outcomes.”

Okay. So in other words, the quality of parenting depends on a lot of different things. What were we born with? What have we lived through, and what did we take with us? How many other things get our attention, energy, concentrated will? No wonder there are so many parenting blogs. Sheesh.

Most interesting, though, are the questions that those who come before us have asked; the search engine equivalent to the stones cast at the feet of the Omphalos of Delphi (a situation I may have just completely made up). Here are some of the top questions:

“What is a bad parent?”

This one kind of breaks my heart, not only because I don’t like to think about how bad my parenting is, but because I picture someone typing this question into the search field after having been accused of being one. A better question: “What is a good parent?” It goes back to that thing about the google bubble.

“What does it mean to be a parent?”

This is a good question, because it could be practical or purely philosophical. Clicking through brings up that pesky Wikipedia entry as well as one from, randomly, The Ministry of Education in Guyana.

“What are the parenting skills?”

No, really, what are the skills?

According to the Leelanau Children’s Center, which has been “serving families since 1976,” they are these:

  1. Love and affection.
  2. Stress Management.
  3. Relationship Skills.
  4. Autonomy and Independence.
  5. Education and Learning.
  6. Life Skills.
  7. Behavior Management.
  8. Health.
  9. Religion.
  10. Safety.

So, all the things, basically. It’s a lot to take in.

Kind of makes you want to google something, doesn’t it?

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