Category Archives: uncategorized

There will be no periods. Period.

I distinctly remember the first time I got my period. Not a fond memory. I was with a friend – not a close one – for the weekend in a rustic mountain cabin that had no phone and signs on the toilet that said “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Ewww. There I was. Reaching that developmental milestone with a sort of friend, playing monopoly with her entire family. I hated Monopoly enough, but now it’s intricately woven into the memory of..well…a very bad weekend. I spent an entire weekend with toilet paper in my underwear, wondering what the sign on the toilet would have to say about that.

Although, I must say, it wasn’t much better when my mom finally picked me up. I told her, of course, at which point she dragged me to the neighborhood drug store to get pads. It was then that I realized she lacked sensitivity. And an indoor voice.

“I have to put those where?”

They say that these days, girls “develop” much earlier, so, in an effort to avoid similar humiliation for my daughter, I gave her the rundown when she was about 9. I told her it’s her body’s way of practicing building a nest for a baby. Which, I pointed out, she wasn’t allowed to have until she is 30. I tried to make it positive and talk about it matter-of-factly, but ya know what? There’s just no super happy, won’t this be cool, way to tell a 9-year-old girl that when said nest practice is over, “blood will come out of your hoo-hoo.” My daughter freaks out when she skins her knee. But I tried. I really tried.

We came up with a code. If she got “it” at school, she could call and say “code red” – I assured her no one in the office would have any idea what she was talking about. And that was that.

One day when I picked her up, she excitedly ran up to me, and whispered “code red” in my ear. What? Huh? Nahhhhh. Must be a urinary tract infection. Surely, it couldn’t have already happened. “No,” she assured me. “I have it now.”

It took awhile for me to collect my brain cells. Then it occurred to me. For two straight days, she had eaten barbequed beets – the red kind. I summoned her and explained that I thought root vegetables – not “development” – were to blame for the red tint she observed.

It’s been a year. She hasn’t eaten a beet since.

But she is developing and her chest is sprouting, and I pray and hope that her erratic behavior is because of hormones and not a more serious personality disorder.

She does that head-bobbing sassy thing and she’s mad and then she’s sad and then she’s possessed by Satan. She’s 10. I don’t know if it’s hormones in the milk or BPA or some change in the universal cycle, but what I do know is that she is nowhere near emotionally mature enough to handle this “development.” I wish there were a way to hit the “stop” button on her body.
When I look at my daughter, I see the little baby I cuddled, the helpless little tiny thing whose every need I had to meet. I don’t see boobs and boys she’s likes and attitude and independence. I tried to demand that she stop growing up, but that didn’t work.

But dang. They shouldn’t be growing up this fast.

Respect, Trust, Acceptance- Magda Gerber’s Therapeutic Approach To Child Care

 

Magda Gerber

OUR BABIES, OURSELVES by Gloria Ohland

Magda Gerber’s approach to child care is like preventative medicine, and it’s therapeutic for both parent and child. Her philosophy  – based on her psychoanalytic training and work as a child therapist – emphasizes self-acceptance, the need to set boundaries, the importance of ritual and of expressing your feelings, the fact that life is made up of choices which have consequences and that there are no victims. These are familiar principles to those who know 12-step-program theory, and their effect is at least as profound when applied to infant care. And while hers is a low-stress, simple and common –sense approach that acknowledges the realities of working moms, its vision is ambitious: “authentic” infants who become secure, autonomous, compassionate adults.

While too many theories of child-raising focus on making children do or be something more than they are, Magda argues the less we do the better, and suggests that many parents try too hard. She believes infants should be left to explore a child-safe environment with minimal adult intervention, because “spontaneous, self-initiated activities have an essential value.  The pleasure evolving from exploration and mastery is self-reinforcing, and the infant becomes intrinsically motivated to learn.”  But parents must also set aside quality time when they are simply available, watching and listening without judgment, thinking only of the child. Says Magda, “We are conditioned to always be doing something. But it is very comforting to know the parent is there, really there, without the little person being under pressure to do something to keep the parent’s attention.”

The key word in Magda’s vocabulary is respect – for parents and their needs as well as for their child’s. Even the smallest infant is looked at, handled and talked to as a thinking, feeling, participating human being, and never discussed in the third person if she can hear. “Many awful things have been done in the name of love,” says Magda. “But nothing awful can be done in the name of respect.”

Some of her very practical suggestions, with the caveat, “What you teach is yourselves”:

  • Before you pick up a baby, tell him what you’re going to do. Do things with, not to or for, a baby.
  • Allow the child to experience conflict and work it out for herself; let the child experience pain or sorrow, and let her choose when and if she wants to come to you for comfort.
  • Be clear. Be honest. Ambivalence from a parent produces a nagging child.
  • Children need expectations; they need to know the rules. Discipline is an integral part of a rooted, secure feeling. A child who is never told “no” is a neglected child.
  • It’s a misconception that children must be happy all the time. That is not the way life is. If children discover that too late, they will find life difficult and frightening.

When Magda came here from Hungary in 1957, there was no such thing as an infant specialist. Even today, infant care in the USA is neither lucrative nor prestigious, despite our increasing recognition that basic patterns of coping, living and learning are set during the first three years of life. Magda’s Hungarian teacher and colleague, Dr. Emmi Pikler – who originated many of these ideas – was famous for her work with institutionalized children. At her residential nursery, she’d created an environment that encouraged them to reach their full potential. Many studies have since shown that these children don’t exhibit the impaired development – such as a lack of initiative and volition and an impersonality in relationships – associated with institutionalization, and have become healthy, well- adjusted adults.

Perhaps the best thing about Magda’s infant-care philosophy is that its wisdom works just as well in adult life. Mutual respect, and the trust and acceptance it engenders, open the door to well-being and happiness. As Magda says, “Lucky is the child who grows up with parents who basically accept and love themselves, and therefore can accept and love their child, who reminds them so often of their own selves.”

Gloria Ohland (gloriaohland@earthlink.net) is a longtime Southern California journalist and former staff writer at the LA Weekly.

MoneyTree2

Looking for a money tree. That’s blooming

So I was driving my son and his friend home from karate the other night, and his friend asked if he had some new violence-laden video game.

“No,” my son said rather emphatically. “Haven’t I told you we’re poor?”

“Honey, I wouldn’t buy you that game because it will turn you into a felon,” I explained. But I gulped a bit before that. Because the truth is, we are poor. Well, not poor in the sense that my kids don’t have enough to eat or a great place to live. Poor in the sense that there isn’t a penny to spare.

And it pretty much sucks.

I am a college educated professional who makes a decent – but not great – living. Back in the married days, it was fine dining and massages at least once a month. About the closest I get to that now is a really yummy lean cuisine and the neighborhood cat rubbing against my calf. Between extracurricular activities, clothes for kids who just won’t stop growing and counseling they need because of the divorce, I’m broke.

When I get paid, the joy of having money in my checking account lasts for about 3.5 seconds. Money is so tight for me, my accounts can’t even squeak.

I have bartered for karate fees and begged to post date checks so my daughter can still go to gymnastics. Mostly, people are nice about it. I am creative with my budgeting and most of the time, most of the bills get paid. When my cable gets turned off for non-payment – god forbid my children miss an episode of ICarly – I exclaim with disgust that the television is malfunctioning – inexplicably – once again. Even when my books are balanced, all it takes is the cost of school pictures to send me into the red. If my car breaks down, I’m screwed.

My ex is remarried. That means income times two. That means fancier clothes and big vacations and Christmas presents that Rockefellers would wish they had. Bitter? No. Envious? Perhaps.

I’ve toyed with joining one of those sugar daddies online dating websites just to make ends meet, but it occurred to me a 40-something mother of two with ripped up jeans is probably not the hottie they’re looking for. I’ve borrowed from friends right before pay day and I’ve pretty much abandoned the notion of shopping sprees – or even a pedicure. My artwork is so old it’s back in style – remember the Erte alphabet? I’m relatively sure I’m the only woman on the planet who goes to a hair stylist who charges on a sliding scale. God bless him. I once emailed one of the super rich guys – ya know the ones that started the billionaire club – and asked if I’d count as a 501(C)3 non profit so they could funnel me moolah. Never heard back.

This is not what I planned for myself.

On the upshot, I’ve learned that kids will relish playing in the rain almost as much as going to the zoo and that hide-and-seek is practically as entertaining as an amusement park. I’ve learned that rich folk take seriously nice clothes to consignment stores – or even Goodwill. I discovered dollar stores – did you all know everything in there only costs a buck? Crazy.

Money. It might not buy happiness, but it sure pays the bills.

The Case Against Homework

The Case Against Homework

Now that school is underway, I suddenly remember why I secretly dread the fact that my children are getting an education.
Homework.
First of all, I don’t recall EVER getting homework in second grade. Thank you Ms. Olander. That was very nice of you.
I don’t know who it was that decided young, active children should be at the table writing their spelling words three times each instead being outside playing, but whomever it was is a big giant dummy – and I used the word “whomever” to illustrate that I, without homework in second grade, still managed to capture proper grammar. I know, I know, we have to prepare our children for the standardized tests. We have to teach through repetition. We have to instill a sense of responsibility and commitment. We have to beat China in the homework race. Blah, blah, blah.
Homework complicates my life. And I don’t need any more complications, thank you very much.
Picture this:
I pick my kids up from school, get them home, get them a snack, and announce that it’s homework time. My daughter is thrilled – she plays school in her spare time and would actually prefer if there were no summer break.
My son? To him, doing homework is akin to eating maggots. Eh, I take that back. He’d probably rather eat maggots.
He yells, he procrastinates, he scribbles and refuses to make an effort. Now, this is a lil’ dude who could finish his entire week’s homework in about an hour – he’s smart. Instead, he spends about 17 hours complaining about the injustice of boring homework. To his credit, it really is boring.
I’m familiar with Parenting with Love and Logic, and I’ve read their advice about letting kids take responsibility. If they don’t do their homework, they don’t do it, and they face the consequences at school. Let them fail if that’s what they need to do, the book says. My son is 7. He has plenty of time to fail. Right now, I just want him to do his damn homework.
I’ve tried incentives.
“Honey, if you do your homework without complaining, I’ll buy you a car and a house.”
No dice.
I’ve tried using the proverbial stick.
“Honey, if you don’t do your homework, I won’t feed you for a month and I’ll make you clean the toilet with your tongue.”
Don’t care, he says.
I could probably let this battle go and let him suffer the consequences at school. Only my son would be fine with that. Missing recess at school on Friday pales in comparison to the unadulterated torture of practicing his “New Math” – which by the way is so foreign to me, I couldn’t possibly tell if he has the right answer.
I could withhold any speck of joy in his life until he meets his obligations. Only when I do that, I’ve found that with every ounce of joy he loses, I get two pounds of extra grief. I already know what you’re going to say – if I don’t put the hammer down now, I’ll be in big trouble later. You’re right, of course. But at the end of the day, after working and getting kids to appointments and activities and cooking dinner and returning phone calls, I’m tired. And I don’t feel like dealing with this. Sad, perhaps, but very true.
Homework. It’s not a four letter word.
It’s way worse than that.

It Could Happen To Me

I had heard the stories, seen it in movies, and read about it in newspapers. I believed it was the sort of event that only happens to other people. The day I picked up the phone and dialed 9-1-1 changed my awareness of how it could happen to me. My six year-old son was missing.

It was around four o’clock on Friday afternoon. Jake and I arrived home from our week of work and school and we were ready to start the weekend. He asked if he could ride his scooter over to see the neighbor kid, Ricky, at his house. I figured it would be good for him to go over for a while and expend some of that never-ending boyish energy.  “That’s fine”, I said. “Just make sure you follow the rules.”

Jake knew what his boundaries for playing outside were. He could ride around the block we lived on, but no crossing streets, and be sure to make it home before the sun started to set. He adhered well to the rules. Jake and Ricky spent a good deal of time together, riding scooters and hanging out at one house or the other, so it wasn’t unusual for him to be gone for an hour or two.

As I finished up with some emails I had been working on, I looked outside my office window to see the sky had turned to the familiar shade of pink that meant the sun was starting to set. The clock said it was six o’clock so I walked outside to call Jake in for the night.

“Jake,” I called in my familiar mom tone. He would come scooting around the corner usually, but there was no sign of him.

“Jaaa-cob,” I yelled. Neither boy appeared so I walked over to Ricky’s house and asked his family if Jake was there.

“We haven’t seen them,” Ricky’s older brother said. “Not in a while.”

I decided to walk around the block to search for the boys. If Jake had gone into a neighbor’s house I would see his scooter on the front porch, but with no sight of them or the scooter I returned home. I felt uneasy as I got into my car to drive around and look for them. It was 6:30 and not yet dark, but as the sky became dark shades of orange, I knew it would be soon. I made one more stop over at Ricky’s house to ask if they knew where the two might have gone. Ricky’s brothers told me of a kid’s apartment on the next street that Ricky sometimes goes to or I could try the community center a few blocks away.

I drove to the kid’s apartment and had no luck there. As I drove to the community center I could feel my pulse quicken and my chest growing tighter. Jake had never been this far away from home without me. I pulled into the lot and I nervously walked in the building looking around for the boys. I asked the attendants at the front desk if they had seen them; they hadn’t. Walking outside I noticed the sky’s hue of reddish-purple. I felt the knot in my stomach grow into a bowling ball of nerves.

Getting into my car, I grabbed my cell phone and dialed my Mom. I explained how I couldn’t find Jake and I was freaking out because it was getting dark. “I will be right over“, she said. “But as soon as we hang up you need to call the police.” We hung up the phone and, filled with trepidation, I dialed 9-1-1 and reported my child missing.

I navigated my car back to my house and explained to the operator, “Jake is six-years-old and I can’t find him anywhere!” I gave my name and address.

“Make sure to hurry home,” she said. “I have a car on its way.”

Pulling in my driveway, I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw the black and white squad car pull up to my house. I felt a mixture of panic and relief as a male and

female officer exited the car and approached me. The male introduced himself as Officer Grant and his partner, Officer Stevenson. We walked into my home and they asked all the pertinent questions: What is my child’s name? Who was Jacob with? How long had he been gone? What is Jacob wearing? Do I have a recent photo of him? I went to my office and grabbed his Kindergarten school photo. Hands shaking, I passed it to him.

Out front of my house another squad car had pulled up. I had previously explained that Jake had been with Ricky and the newly arriving officers went to Ricky’s house to speak with his parents. There were now two children missing and more officers were arriving. Officer Grant explained that they were going to perform a door to door search of the neighborhood.

A car pulled to the curb and out came my mother. She walked over to me and I had the natural reaction an upset child has when they see their mom; I fell into her arms and started to cry. It was a relief to get out some of the nerves and stress I was feeling but I had to regain my composure. The search was still on for my boy.

By 8:30 the sky was completely void of any signs of the sun. My child had been gone for more than four hours. I stood on the front porch with Officer Grant, listening to the crackle of the radio on his shoulder as his fellow officers relayed information back and forth. That’s when I heard the familiar sound overhead. Jake normally would run outside to look for the helicopter making all the noise. However, this time it was different; this time the helicopter was looking for him.

The police helicopter flew over my house, illuminating the blue-black sky with its bright light. I am usually curious to know what they happen to be looking for, but this time I knew for sure. I felt shaky and sick as I began to feel panic enveloping my body.

I had no idea what they would find as they shone the search light down dark alleys and in empty backyards. I kept thinking how surreal this all was; this wasn’t really happening.  I felt like I was living out a scene from a movie.

I stared blindly down my street, watching the flashing lights of the squad cars as they silently drove house to house. It was horrifying knowing that they were knocking on doors, talking to my neighbors, and showing a picture of my boy.

Officer Grant had walked down to the corner and I watched as he tilted his head down to the radio on his shoulder and listened to the incoming information. “Roger, that,“ he said as he walked over to me with purpose. I felt myself shrink back out of fear about what he might say. He didn’t hesitate one bit as he must’ve sensed my panic.

“We have them,” he said. “They were found playing in a house three blocks away. We’re loading them up and bringing them home.”

The relief was unbelievable; the weight of the world was suddenly off my shoulders. I thanked him profusely as the squad car containing my son pulled up to the curb. Officer Grant opened the back door for Jake and he got out, looking a little scared himself. I ushered him into the house and my Mom took him to his room as I finished up with the police.

I asked Officer Grant, “What kind of person has two six-year-olds at their house and doesn’t wonder if maybe there are parents out there worried about them?”

“Who knows?” he replied.

“What happens now?” I asked. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I have a bill to pay for the time and resources spent looking for my son? Was I in trouble for not keeping better watch of him?

“You just need to go take care of your son and be thankful that he made it home safe tonight,” he responded. “We were lucky. Keep a close eye on him.”

I promised I would as I thanked all of the officers and shut the door to my home as they all pulled away. Four hours, four squad cars, and a police helicopter later, my son was home.

As it turned out, they had been watching cartoons at the house they were found at.  Ricky had not wanted to leave and Jake didn’t know how to get back home, so he stayed and waited. Neither boy was truly aware of how late it had gotten

Jake is now ten-years-old. I will never again think “this can’t happen to me”. I am truly aware of how vulnerable each child is, even mine. The thought of having to relive those four hours is horrifying. I had the blessed fortune to have my child found unscathed; I don’t take it for granted. We have since moved and live on a cul-de-sac, but I keep a vigil watch. He still knows his boundaries of where he can go and what time he comes home. Even if I do let the leash a little loose, I am not far behind, following in my car.