when we were young…

writing with passion, living with vision and acting with intention

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Tossing the rule book for being the optimal parent

If you’ve been reading along for a bit, you know that I have two boys, ages three and two (16 months apart to get specific) and another one due in August.

Like any good mom out there, I’m giving this whole parenting my best. I’ve read the articles, I make the food, I listen to them and teach them about respect and manners, I put them in swim lessons even though Shae hasn’t actually even got into the pool the last couple sessions for which I signed him up…

My world is a steady stream of suggestions, insights, thoughts on how I can raise my little charges into the best human beings possible. It isn’t surprising that if I had to fill out a checklist, it might say that I am failing in my role.

So what are the top offenders in my household?

Strike 1: I let my three-year-old watch a show (up to an hour or possibly more *shock, horror* almost every day during the week while his brother naps. I’d say one or two of those five days on average, I don’t let Netflix be the replacement for an opportunity to take advantage of the one-on-one time with my son and do something to help develop his eager-to-learn brain. I gotta say, I give myself a pat on the back those days I do some baking with him, take him out in the yard and do some gardening or read stories to him. As for the other three or four days, I have lived in perpetual guilt and worry that I am dumbing down my child’s ability to create, imagine and play independently.

Strike 2: I yell at my kids sometimes, they see me get mad at them.

Strike 3 (and I’m out!): I actually can’t think of anything big enough to induce guilt or anxiety.

Yep, pretty incriminating.

On TV…

Theoretically, I agree that the less screen time, the better. You know what’s even better in my opinion? A less stressed/tired mom who is able to get down on her kid’s level when he is having a fit and have enough patience to not throw one herself. I don’t know about you but there’s nothing like some peace and quiet to refuel the engine and apparently, my engine runs out by noon a lot of days! Might have something to do with being consistently woken up multiple times per night for the past three and-a-half years or maybe it’s just my personality. It is what it is.

But my friend AmazingMom somehow manages to have very limited screen time for her kids, my inner voice says. What’s your deal? You’re really just selfish. You rather sacrifice your kid’s intellect so that you can enjoy an hour or so to yourself. It’s about doing what’s best for your kid, it’s not about your enjoyment!

I have decided to tell that accusing voice to get lost and thank the Lord that I have the resources to keep my child safe and entertained while I enjoy a much needed nap, internet time, blogging or devotional time. Why? Because I value the mother I am because of this controlled silence rather than the one I inevitably become because I exhausted my mental, emotional and physical faculties with doting on my child attention all day long AND tacked on some extra special nurturing time during nap. Because I know which route does my child the greater disservice.

And judging by the fact that my kids are not whining for shows at any point in the day and thoroughly enjoy creative play both inside and outside, I think they’re doing alright.

Again, if I could get around it and put a check mark on the list for no daily screen time, I would. Maybe if my older son was in preschool a couple times a week or I could even afford a weekly babysitter,I wouldn’t rely so much on the tele. Me going to bed earlier every night might help a bit too or maybe not. Despite the fact that I do some nights, sometimes I want to nurture that other important relationship in my life. Now that’s important.

It’s not ideal, but it’s really not the worst thing I could be doing (or you!).

On yelling…

Geez, I sure can’t blame anyone else but myself for them yelling at each other can I?

I am not saying yelling is okay. I feel bad when I get frustrated and annoyed enough to yell and express my displeasure. But you know something, my kids get it. When “mommy’s not happy” comes out, they know they’ve stepped over the line. They realize that sometimes their behaviour does have negative effect on those around them. Sometimes, I remember to take five but what do you know, kids aren’t fans of that and mine like to join me (outside the door if necessary) as I attempt to calm myself and remind myself that this too will pass.

And what’s with stigmatizing yelling? Yelling is a rather normal (could even argue healthy) form of expression. To me, it comes down to words. Are my choice of words hurtful and thoughtless? Am I instilling fear, guilt and self-depreciation? I would rather my kids witness mommy exploding a little bit and realize that they are not the center of the universe than grow up thinking that yelling is something only angry people do. People yell – if I can use my in-the-moment lack of patience and self-regulation to teach them that yelling doesn’t have use hurtful and damaging words, maybe they aren’t so bad off.

So again, it’s even better if I can demonstrate patience and self-regulation. But for the times I fail, I know that my kids aren’t being verbally deconstructed because I expressed that their behaviour is not acceptable and it makes mommy “not happy.”

Here’s the thing, I’m here to guide them. There are endless scenarios ahead in their young lives where circumstances will be less than ideal and he will have to navigate many of them by himself. If nothing else, my short comings with parenting coupled with boundaries and love might enable them to take on the responsibility of making good choices for themselves. Heck, my kid knows that Diego makes him grumpy and that’s why he’s not allowed to watch it.


screen time


Banning handheld devices isn’t the answer but maybe brainwashing is…

Attention parents: I realize you are already inundated with articles via web or books on how you are not cutting it as a parent and are most definitely doing something that is having a negative impact on your little darling, but you might as well know about the latest on the ‘no TV til your kid is at least two’ study.

This article has been popping up on my Facebook news feed at least twice each of the last week running. Overall, I’ll give it this: it does reflect a considerable amount of deliberation and credible sources.

The thing with studies though – they don’t always consider this key factor called reality.

I give you my own life experience as an example.

My second son was born when my first son was only 16 months old. The day came quickly when my baby didn’t just sleep all day and needed two good solid naps or at least one long one and a couple short ones – for everyone’s well being.

I would get down on my knees to get my older kid engaged with his cars or bring out some Play dough, anything to keep him busy so that I could I spend 10 to 20 minutes getting my baby to sleep (because heaven forbid I be one of those mothers who let’s their child cry himself to sleep). Trouble is, every time, he would join me in the bedroom after two minutes if not earlier and commence the whine for me to join him.

So tell me, what do you do in this situation? Your fellow is just too little to be thrown outside in the sandbox unattended; you could put him in a room and shut the door but you feel rather cruel listening to his screams or you could plunk him down with the the attractive glow radiating from the little foxes, turtles and bears running about in the screen.

You see? If you leave him outside alone, he could come to harm; if you lock him in a room, you could frighten the little guy and loose a bit of trust or you could go for option c and get that baby of yours into a sweet slumber and even have a few minutes to spare and sip your coffee while toddler man finishes Franklin (which he could have very well be watching on a handheld device).

I’m not for using the TV or any handheld devices as a substitute for my child’s development and amusement. Rowan’s article and references to the destructive nature of TV and handheld devices are always accompanied by the word “overuse.”

Yes, of course there is a problem when children are neglected by their parents and fail to develop creative play skills because they are accustomed to vegetating in front of the boob tube. Yes their sleep can be affected and their physical and mental disposition. And if we are going to worry about the carcinogens and radiation emissions from them sitting in front of the TV, we better get rid our WiFi modem, our microwaves, our cell phones and our beloved tablets because they’re getting a daily dose from all of those too. What next, tap water?

And tell me, how does one expect a ban on these devices to be enforced? Really, I’m failing to see how this will work. Sure, schools can ban them, stores can refuse to sell devices to kids but what’s stopping selling to people with kids? That would be rather discriminatory. In essence, we would have to resort to ticketing parents if they were caught allowing their child to use one of these devices. What does this say about our attitude towards parents? I am not a responsible parent because I let my almost two year old watch a very subdued show that depicts a happy, healthy family unit and a respectful and caring little turtle? I should be fined for violating proposed ban?

Do you see what’s crazy now?

The answer is not a ban.

Do parents need to be more involved and care more about how much and what their child is viewing via screen technology? Absolutely, that is indisputable. All you got to do is watch one episode of Caillou to be convinced of that.

children with technology, times a changing, impact, moderation, no ban

Technology is here to stay. We, as parents, can keep it a bay in our own homes should we feel that is needed but there’s no escaping it altogether. All my son has to do is go to his buddy’s house one day and be mesmerized by the glorious action playing out on a tablet or what-have-you for his sedentary enjoyment. And if I thought I was doing him a favour by keeping it from him altogether, my bubble is about to be burst as soon as he turns 12 or when he moves in to Jimmy’s house after school.

We are an evolving species. Unless we experience some cataclysmic event and a technological collapse, we are better to leave parents equipped with the tools and knowledge to educate their children on proper use of handheld devices and the like. We’ve managed to change the face of cigarette smoking with a fierce propaganda campaign. Let’s see what we can do with psychological influence on the potentially damaging consequences of too much screen time.