HEXBUG VEX Robotics Catapult
$19.99 on Amazon (on sale for $12.79 right now)
My son, Emmett, likes to build. We recently learned about a new line of toys from HEXBUG (yes, same company who makes those awesome crawling little robot bugs) called VEX Robotics. Sure, robotics are all the craze right now. But there’s a place for the VEX products. Here’s why.
As a parent, there are several things I appreciate about the VEX line. To start, VEX allows kids to experiment with robotics without breaking the bank. It’s frustrating how expensive some of the robotics toys can be. Many families are just priced out. But the VEX products are generally between the $12 – $20 range. There’s a big bang for the buck here. Kids have to use their brains to build it. And unlike other building toys, once it is put together, kids can still play with it. The VEX robotics products don’t just sit on a shelf and collect dust. They continues to provide a fun activity long after the initial fun of constructing is gone.
Emmett and some of his friends build the Catapult, the Zip Flyer and the Crossfire Airplane Launcher. They were all great. The Zip Flyer is great for younger kids (8+). The Catapult and the Crossfire are recommended for 14+ but my son is 11 and built them both without assist. The only downside to any of the toys is that the balls for the Catapult are easily lost. That’s due to no fault of HEXBUG but still it’s a minor issue. Luckily, they supply extra balls there are some to spare.
When you start building any of the VEX toys I like how you don’t really know how it is all going to come together. You don’t know how it’s going to work. Then when you are building it you learn how each machine will work. After you build it I liked how there are a lot of different things that can be done with it. You can launch it at different levels. So you can choose the distance which is fun. The Catapult was the most complicated one to build of the VEX toys we tried. I would say that a kid needs to be a little experienced at building before trying the catapult. The Zip Flyer would be better for younger kids.
It’s fun to play catch with the Catapult or to try shooting it at a target. I would recommend all of the VEX products and specifically the catapult.
Overall Recommendation: Great toy at a great price point.
Disclosure: These products was provided for free. However, these reviews are our own and reflect our true feelings on these products. Some links may be affiliates.
My son, Emmett, absolutely loves anything remote controlled. He loved little RC cars, and now he loves drones. Over the years we have been through many. That’s because most of them last a few days to weeks. Inevitably, the propellers twist or there’s a mysterious controller disconnection or the frames break from impact. It’s always frustrating and disappointing, especially because drones don’t come cheap.
I visited a toy show a few months ago and discovered the best line of drones for kids I have ever seen. I was excited to get one home and have Emmett test it out. The nice ladies representing the drones told me it was extremely hearty, built to last. I was skeptical but hopeful.
Well, the drones completely live up to the hype. I’ll let Emmett do the reviewing. But from a parent’s perspective, I’d buy this drone for every kid on my list. It’s fun, has the coolest design and can withstand more than its fair share of crashes. Emmett reviews the Drone Force Angler Attack and Vulture Strike below. For me the clear winner is the Angler. It’s nearly twice the price but it’s uniqueness makes it worth the price. If it’s out of the budget, Emmett loves the Vulture Strike, maybe more than the Angler.
Drone Force Angler Attack-2.4Ghz Illuminated Indoor/Outdoor Drone Helicopter Toy
$72 on Amazon, 8+
This drone looks amazing, like a crazy real angler fish. Probably the best looking drone I’ve ever seen. The drone has very good control, and if it was my first drone it would be easy to learn to fly. It’s not super challenging. There are lights all over the drone and are easy to put on and off. They are really cool. The battery charges quickly and lasts for a long time. It’s very stable when it’s flying and super durable. The propellers aren’t going to hit anything. They are well protected. When it flies at night it’s so fun. It looks like a scary angler fish when it lights up. The controller has big and easy to use buttons.
Overall recommendation: If you are looking for a drone I would definitely get the Angler Attack Drone.
Drone Force Vulture Strike-2.4Ghz Indoor/Outdoor Drone Helicopter Toy with Missile Launcher Feature
$37 on Amazon, 8+
The Vulture Strike is a little faster than the Angler Attack drone. It looks like a bird which is cool. It can do tricks like flips. This drone is also very protected and can be flown inside and outdoors. The Vulture Strike has a target light that is projected so you know where to aim. It can shoot two plastic missiles (It comes with four in case you lose any). The missiles don’t go very far but they are extremely fun to shoot. The controls and the stability is similar to the Angler Attack. It’s very stable and easy to control. It’s slightly harder to fly than the Angler Attack. I would probably recommend this drone for a kid who has flown a drone before. The flight range is 150 feet, just like the Angler Attack.
Overall Recommendation: For someone who has already flown a drown I would absolutely recommend this drone.
Disclosure: These products was provided for free. However, these reviews are our own and reflect our true feelings on these products. Some links may be affiliates.
Children don’t misbehave because it’s educational or enlightening.
They don’t misbehave because they’re sick or twisted.
Nope, children misbehave for one simple reason—it works.
From yelling and negotiating to farting and pinching, acting like a terror pays huge dividends. Crying, whining and complaining all give kids more of what they want, like an ice cream, more PlayStation time, extra bedtime stories or even just attention. Those same menacing behaviors also help kids avoid the things don’t want. Like baths. And vegetables.
Want to reinforce awful behavior? Merely respond with attention, discipline or just give in and you are guaranteed to see a repeat performance. Even a lecture supplies a child enough attention and power to aggravate a parent. Seeing a frazzled parent can be just as motivating as an extra cookie. Behavior that is reinforced is likely to be repeated because children have learned they are highly effective.
So if discipline and lectures result in increased awfulness, what’s a parent to do? Well, it turns out selectively ignoring these troublesome behaviors will show your children that their behavior is no longer effective. The best way to combat whining and tantrums and negotiating is to ignore it all. As soon as your child stops the behavior, immediately reengage.
Here is a list of the behaviors you should ignore to actually improve behavior. Happy ignoring!
Whining/ Complaining: We all know those children who complain about everything. Their dinner is too hot or cold. The line for ice cream is too long. They are too tired to walk Fluffy or do their math homework. The list of complaints never ends. These children complain because they have learned that complaining often helps them avoid unpleasant tasks. It also surely results in loads of attention. Even though it’s exasperating, ignore all complaining.
Insincere crying: Parents should never ignore children who are in real pain or discomfort. But often children use crying for effect. A parent or babysitter or grandma feels badly the child is sad and rewards her with something wanted. Crying is used as a ploy. Ignore it!
Tantrums: Tantrums are an expression of frustration and anger. Kids are allowed to be mad. But when tantrums are reinforced with attention or compromises children use them more frequently and with greater intensity. Allow your child to feel angry but don’t give the tantrum any attention. When the child starts to quiet down, reengage him/her as soon as possible.
Statements meant to provoke: Children, especially teens, are masters are pushing Mom and Dad’s buttons. All they have to do is insult us, and we become a ticking time bomb. It feels impossible not to react. But reacting with anger is exactly what a child is trying to accomplish. And when we reply with a heated, “Don’t talk to me that way!” kids know the mission was accomplished.
Cursing: There are two kinds of cursing and parents should ignore them both—but for different reasons. Little kids who parrot curses they’ve heard have no idea what they are saying. But the reaction they get from parents makes saying those words exceptionally fun. The second kind of cursing is done by cranky teens trying to piss off their parents. When teens don’t get what they want they are angry and want their parents to be angry too. So they mutter off a, “F**k you, Mom.” Those words will certainly earn a fiery response from Mom. Score one for the angry teen. Any reaction from a parent only acts as encouragement for more cursing. When cursing elicits no response children find other more appropriate ways to express themselves. Ignore all cursing.
Negotiating: Most parents assume that compromising with their kids is a win for everyone. That’s completely wrong. Whenever parents negotiate they lose even if they win something. That’s because kids who negotiate learn to use the tactic for everything. Once parents make a declaration for what a child needs to do, they shouldn’t negotiate—ever. And they should ignore any of the child’s attempts to do so.
Anything annoying: Sometimes children are annoying (every honest parent knows this is true). They burp on purpose or continuously tap their pencils or fidget in their seat. They make repetitive noises and talk too loudly. They pick their noses and wipe boogers on us. If children are being annoying on purpose to get under their parent’s skin and a parent shows frustration, the child will only be more enticed to repeat the behavior. Save yourself. Don’t respond at all.
Mean comments: Just like a teen cursing, mean comments are meant to grab a parent’s attention. They are meant to hurt and provoke. When parents respond by showing hurt or anger the child is only encouraged to continue to use that behavior out of spite. So, just like when a child has a fowl mouth, ignore it.
To learn more about how and what you can ignore pick up a copy of Ignore It!: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction.
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We all die from something. It’s a heart attack. A cancerous tumor. A car accident. Death may be sudden or drawn out after a long excruciating illness. At the end of every life, no matter how that end arrives, there is an infinitesimal moment of time that rests between death and life. It’s milliseconds before the last breath. It’s the final heartbeat.
Often, in that exact moment, we are alone. We die, and no one is there to bear witness, to give us permission, to tell us we were loved. There is no goodbye or last words. Death is usually a process one has to endure alone.
However, on rare occasions, one has the honor to be with someone as he dies. This week my mother and I attended to my step father, Rodney, as he moved through that time between life and death.
I met Rodney in 1987 when I was invited to meet a “friend” of my mother’s over dessert. A few days later I came home from school to find Rodney and my mother sitting on the living room couch. “Can we speak with you?”, she said. These are the words no teenager wants to hear. My mother asked me, in front of Rodney, if I minded if he moved in. Did I mind? Yes, of course I minded. Rodney was a stranger moving into our small two bedroom on East 72nd street. I said, “fine” and walked into my room and closed the door.
Over the course of the next 30 years I grew to love and understand Rodney. He started his tenure in our home as a stranger, but more like an alien. He had a heavy British accent. He sat around the house in dress slacks and a buttoned up oxford shirt just to read the newspaper. He wore shoes or slippers at all times, never letting his bare feet touch the floor. He used a fork and knife to eat everything. His laugh sounded like a near death experience. Anyone who has ever witnessed Rodney watching Jackie Mason knows what I mean.
If one could live solely on bacon and runny eggs, cookies, potato chips, chocolate and bread with gobs of butter, Rodney would have. That’s what he liked best and when my mother wasn’t around or looking, that’s exactly what he ate. He enjoyed heavy cream, Christmas pudding with brandy butter and foie gras. He loathed onions and garlic and knew without a doubt if they were used in any dish. Many, many, a meal was sent back in a restaurant due to an errant scallion.
Rodney believed every problem could at least be minimized by having a chocolate. Once when I received my first speeding ticket on my way home from college he offered me what he thought was a box of chocolates. The wrapped box he received as a gift had been in the freezer for no one knows how long. The chocolates turned out to be a picture frame. We had a laugh. I didn’t get my chocolate that time but it made me feel better all the same.
With Rodney came family we barely knew across an ocean. Over the years our families blended in unforeseen ways, and the word step felt less like an insult and more of a matter of order. When Rodney greeted you or said goodbye he planted a kiss on your cheek like it was going to be his last. He held your head with two hands and lingered with his lips pressed to your cheek. He did this to men and women, to the old and the children, to family and friends. It was his way of transmitting his love when there may not have been words for his affections.
Rodney was obsessed with cars, drivable as well as model ones. He drove like a maniac let loose from the Indy 500. Rodney spent hours wearing magnifying head gear hunched over his desk putting together remote-controlled models from hundreds of pieces. Painstakingly, he painted the cars to look exactly like their real counterparts. These cars were his prized possessions, and he barely shared them.
When my son, Emmett, was born my husband and I decided to give our boy the Hebrew name of Rodney’s father. This was a man I never met but it didn’t matter. The honor was for Rodney and so Emmett became known at his bris at Nissan Wolf (Wolf for Rodney’s dad). Rodney loved all of his grandchildren. But with Emmett he shared a love of birds, animals and nature.
This October, just before my Emmett’s 11th birthday, a box arrived. Rodney had meticulously packed up two of his special remote-controlled cars that he built decades ago and sent them to Emmett. This was a bittersweet gift. I knew Rodney was too sick to enjoy these cars, and yet, this was a gift of extreme love. We Facetimed with Rodney so he could tell Emmett how to set up his cars. Emmett immediately loved his gift as any 11-year-old boy would. But he didn’t know it would be the final one from this grandpa. Somehow, I did.
A few weeks later my mother texted. Rodney was in the hospital with pneumonia. They were moving house that same day. It was terrible timing, and she needed help. I texted, “I can come this weekend.” My mom texted back, “I wish you were here now.” So I booked the next redeye and arrived on Halloween. I unpacked my mother and Rodney’s house while my mom went back and forth to the hospital. One moment it seemed Rodney was doing a little bit better. The next he was slipping away.
After years of two kinds of cancer and a debilitating neck complication Rodney was weak. He had reached the limits of his will, and he made the decision that he no longer wanted to live. When I arrived at his bedside in the ICU Rodney was awake but worn out and in pain. Shortly after 8am on November 2nd Rodney said declaratively with full competence, “I want to die.” No more intervention. No more treatment. He told my mother he loved her as he always did. She told Rodney that she loved him. Not long after that Rodney slept, never to fully wake again.
By 12pm the Rabbi came to sing the Shema to Rodney and give him his last blessing. If a moment can be dreadfully sad and simultaneously comforting, this was it.
Just before 1pm Rodney’s daughter Louise called from England and spoke a loving last message to Rodney she composed with her sister, Victoria. We held the phone to his ear and although he was sleeping his brow moved. He heard the message, I’m sure of it.
At 1:30pm Rodney was settled into the hospice unit in the hospital. It was warm and peaceful in that room. All of the wires and tubes that monitored Rodney were removed. His horrific neck brace that pained my mother to see as much as Rodney to wear was discarded.
Rodney’s son-in law Jonathan sent a beautiful text message. My mother read it aloud to Rodney.
Rodney’s long lost but recently found daughter Jayne called and whispered yet another message in Rodney’s ear.
My mother and I told Rodney it was ok if he was ready. My mother said, “I love you darling. It’s ok to go.” She held his hand and gave him kisses.
He took a breath and then nothing. A moment hung in the air. Was it the last breath? But then Rodney breathed again. This happened several times. The nurse said this was the end. She left the room and closed the door silently leaving my mother and me with Rodney.
My mother whispered words to Rodney. I stood at her back.
We bore witness.
We gave him permission to end his own suffering.
We said I love you.
We said goodbye.
And then a breath. And then nothing.
The nurse confirmed that Rodney died. There was a peacefulness in that moment that was unexpected. Rodney’s death was dignified, on his own terms, painless, quick and with his beloved wife by his side. I don’t know that one could ask for more in that infinitesimal moment between life and death.
There’s a Jewish phrase people share when a loved one dies.
May his memory be a blessing.
I never understood that saying until recently. How could a memory of a loved one who died be a blessing? Wouldn’t it be better if that person was alive and not a memory? Wouldn’t that be the blessing?
Not always. Rodney was in a lot of pain. It would have been wonderful if he could live on with health and happiness. But that wasn’t his story. He lived a full life with love, family, good friends, adventure and passion. He made mistakes and had flaws. But in the final hours of his life, none of that mattered. He went in peace, and that was truly a blessing.
We all die. And often there is pain. There are words unsaid. There are loose ends and unfinished business. When a memory becomes a blessing it means that one can move past the unsaid and the suffering. It means that the memory of a dead relative brings more joy and smiles than sadness. In Rodney’s case the time between the pain and the blessing of his memory seems incredibly short. Seeing him take his very last breath, knowing there was peace, comfort and love wipes away a great deal of pain.
May his memory be a blessing.
Thank you. It already is.
Harvey Weinstein & Donna Karan
Allegations of a long history of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein have recently come to light. Apparently, Weinstein uses power and potential opportunity to overpower women and have his way. He did this over and over again. Just ask Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, Gwyneth Paltrow and Mira Sorvino to name only a few. In an audio exposed by The New Yorker, Weinstein is heard pestering Italian model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, to come with him a day after fondling her breast. There is one section that pelted me like a tsunami. Here is the passage:
WEINSTEIN: Please. I’m not gonna do anything. I swear on my children. Please come in. On everything. I’m a famous guy.
GUTIERREZ: I’m, I’m feeling very uncomfortable right now.
WEINSTEIN: Please come in. And one minute. And if you wanna leave when the guy comes with my jacket, you can go.
GUTIERREZ: Why yesterday you touch my breast?
WEINSTEIN: Oh, please. I’m sorry. Just come on in. I’m used to that.
GUTIERREZ: You’re used to that?
Does that sound familiar? It should. Almost a year ago today Donald Trump was heard on an unearthed audio saying this to Billy Bush:
TRUMP: I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
BUSH: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
What is strikingly similar about these audio clips is the idea that both powerful men reference being able to do what they want to women because they are famous. But it isn’t being famous that gives men this idea. How do I know this? Because nearly every woman I know has a story (if not many) of being kissed, groped, sexually harassed or raped against their wishes. Boys and men systematically learn that women are at their disposal. Sadly, so do the girls.
Last year my 13-year-old daughter was routinely subjected to unwanted criticism and sexualization of her body. Her gym teacher told the class and parents that girls in yoga pants were too arousing for the boys. If the boys were to get excited it could be embarrassing for the boys. Later in the year my daughter was dress coded twice for wearing shorts that were deemed inappropriate by the school administration. Because my daughter’s fingertips went below the hemline of the shorts she was considered a distraction. My daughter was made to change into boys gym shorts and sent back to class.
I can’t help but wonder what messages my daughter is internalizing. She was told in no uncertain terms that the boys are turned on by her, and it’s her responsibility to keep them under control. She was told that she’s a distraction just for showing her knees.
After the reports about Weinstein’s sexual harassment his friend Donna Karan, the women’s fashion designer, spoke out in his defense. In order to support Weinstein, Karan put the blame back on women in a familiar trope. Karan said, “How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?” It can’t be Weinstein who is at fault. Again, women are responsible for controlling men’s urges. My first reaction was fierce distain at Karan for betraying the women assaulted. But I realize now she is a victim of the same messages my daughter is receiving.
As a parent, I want to teach my daughter the opposite of those messages. But I also feel an obligation to keep her safe. What if I don’t have her cover up and some man takes advantage of her? Am I being foolish and reckless? It feels impossible to build her self-esteem as a young woman and also talk to her about the sad realities of sexual assault.
Unfortunately, my daughter, and girls like her, cannot solve this problem just by speaking out or pushing back. Boys must be taught to combat those messages, too. Maybe if children learn a different trope they will not grow up to be perpetrators and victims. I have hope it’s possible. Here is what we all need to be teaching both girls and boys from a young age to combat systematic sexual harassment:
- A girl’s outfit does not imply any message about her desire for sexual contact. It doesn’t matter if a girl is walking down the street in a bra and underwear, she is not asking to be groped, touched or catcalled. End of story. Period.
- Girls do not have to put up with anything to get ahead. If someone tells you differently, speak up.
- Boys are accountable to control their own behavior. No girl is responsible for a male’s uncontrollable desire or behavior. It doesn’t matter what she wears. Refer back to #1.
- Girls do not have to “help” boys deal with an erection. Just because a boy is turned on doesn’t mean a girl must then do something with that erection.
- Sex is about relationships and mutual pleasure. Women are NOT put on this earth to service men. They are equals in the bedroom just as they are outside of it.
- No really means no. If a girl says, “No” then they mean that. Asking, pestering and bullying until you get a yes doesn’t take away that the girl said no. No, don’t show your penis. No, don’t send pictures of it. No, don’t ask repeatedly if girls are sure. They are sure when they say no the first time.
1st Day of School 2013
This year my kids both moved up schools. My son is now a 6th grader in middle school and my daughter is in 9th at a new high school. The other day I drove by the local elementary school and thought I would feel a pang of sadness to be finished with that part of my kids’ lives. Turns out I felt the exact opposite. All I could think about was what I wouldn’t miss from elementary school.
I’m not in a rush for my kids to grow up. In fact, I’m really enjoying them right now. My daughter is solidly in the teen years, and she’s more delightful than ever. And watching my son develop slowly into the young man he will become is beautiful. I mean it. When they were babies my husband and I wondered what our kids would be. Now it’s becoming clearer, and it’s really cool to watch. Sure, sometimes I miss the little baby smell and the feeling of an exhausted toddler limp on my shoulder (Oh, that’s delicious.). Mostly, though, I’m good right where we are.
Inspired by the new school year, here is my list of six things I will not miss about elementary school.
Walking my kids to their classroom. Sorry, but I’m not a morning person. Not. At. All. Most days at drop off I’m in my pajamas with sleep still stuck in my eyes. I don’t want to make pleasantries with the other parents who look ready for the day. No, I want to stay in my car. Then, I want to head home to put my feet up, turn on the Housewives and sip a cup of tea to slowly start my day.
Buying 60 pencils: I never minded buying extra supplies for the classroom for kids who might not have enough. And I never minded sending my kids in with cleaning supplies and tissues so little Melanie didn’t dribble snot on my kid. What I never really understood were some of the items that were asked for but barely used (I’m talking about the 4th composition notebook that had three pages of writing in it) or the crazy quantities that could never have been used. For several years I had to supply 60 sharpened pencils. I cannot conceive of any possibility that my child, even sharing with friends, could consume 60 pencils in 9 months.
Projects that require supervision. I went to school for 22 years. I’ve done my time and my homework. I don’t want any more. And I don’t want to help my kids with their projects either. Most elementary school projects cannot be completed by the child alone. My kids didn’t know how to use the computer to Google, they couldn’t shop for required supplies on their own, and they couldn’t use the hot glue gun. So, their projects became my projects too. I’m done with that.
The 100-day project: Do not even get me started on this one. Every year for the 100th day of school all of the kids are assigned the same project. Find 100 items and make a picture with those items to celebrate the most insignificant day of the year. This might be a fun and educational project for kids in kindergarten or even 1st grade. But by the time 5th grade rolls around, believe me, all the kids can all count to 100. Pasting 100 Jelly Belly candies or Cheerios on a paper won’t drive the point home any further.
Ridiculously early dismissal every Thursday or the arbitrary half days. I love spending time with my kids. I really do. But I also have to work and so does my husband. When schools end every Thursday at 12:50 pm (yup, that’s right after lunch) it’s impossible to get any work done. In order to be at the crazy pick up line by 12:50 I need to leave the house by 12:35. That means I need to be in the shower by 12. I probably will need to eat something because I’m a bear if I don’t so that takes me to 11:45. By the time I’m back from drop off (even if I skip the housewives) that leaves me not even four hours of work. This doesn’t even take into account the half days that seem to crop up more and more for no reason. A half day dismissal is at 11:50. UGH! I will not miss those days.
The playground: It doesn’t rain in southern California. Like, at all. Without rain the asphalt-topped playground is the dirtiest place on earth. When I would pick up my son his hands looked like he worked in the coal mine for hours. No one ever told him, “Hey kid, you look kind of dirty, go wash your hands.” So my son had the black gunk on his face, hands, clothes and I’m sure he even ate his lunch like that. Gross.
With my 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe.
Growing up there were three ways I learned that gender roles are fluid.
1. My mother worked for most of my early years. As a child, I probably couldn’t tell you what she did at her job. But I knew she worked on computers (still a male dominated field) and that most of the other mothers didn’t work.
2. Free to Be You and Me repeatedly told me that girls could do whatever they wanted and could be as competent doing it as boys.
3. My father taught me to be handy. He only had girls so passing down his knowledge to his sons wasn’t an option. I learned from my dad how to use power tools, hang stuff and wire and fix stuff around the house.
I never really thought much about gender roles as a kid but I do often as an adult. Throughout my adult life there have been times when I went out of my way to learn or do something that was typically done by men. I drove the 15 passenger van at work. I carve the turkey at Thanksgiving. I am the one who put together the bed from IKEA that took six hours. I hook up the televisions. And, I buy the cars.
This week for the 7th time in my marriage, I bought (or leased) a car. Being able to go into a dealer and competently buy a car was important to me. Just like carving the turkey, in my mind, this was something men do. They buy the family cars. So before my husband and I bought our first car 17 years ago I read everything I could about being a smart consumer. I listened to audio books and podcasts over the years. I learned to price out apples to apples and ask for my price. I learned how to play the dealers game. My husband, who is the most comfortable gender non-conformer, loves to come for the ride. He’s not bothered by his role. He loves to see me demolish the dealer and get the best possible deal for the car.
This time though we brought the kids along for some of the car shopping. They were able to see the process. What they saw was their mother in action and their father taking a step back. They enjoyed the free snacks and drinks the various dealerships had to offer. It was a good time.
But over the course of the week my son asked me a lot of questions about how to buy a car. My daughter didn’t say much about it. It suddenly felt really important to continue to show my kids that gender roles are socially created concepts and that there is nothing that either one of them can’t do. Seeing my son clearly get the message that women buy cars too might seem inconsequential. And it is. But also, it isn’t.
As a society, we often rightly focus our energy on teaching girls they can do anything. But we don’t spend enough time also sending the same message to boys. Boys need know that girls can do anything. Boys should see women doing what they presume men do. They should see women truck drivers and plumbers and construction workers. Boys need to see their mothers buying cars and fixing things and carving the turkey. Sure it’s important to show boys that men do laundry (thank you Jeff Pearlman for conquering this one) and school pick up and diaper care. That’s all important so that boys grow up knowing how to share the load.
It’s equally important though, for mothers to teach their sons what women can do. I felt like this week I took a step forward in that area. And it felt great.
My son is on the right with his pal just before boarding the bus.
I put my son on bus for sleepaway camp. After that I had absolutely no idea if he was alive. I didn’t know if he was eating or homesick or suffering from 1,000 bee stings. I. KNEW. NOTHING. The reason I was agonizingly ignorant of my son’s whereabouts was because his camp doesn’t post daily pictures of the campers. In fact, they don’t post any camp pictures.
It’s a curse and a blessing.
There is a sadistic-yet-unavoidable ritual that takes place every summer. Parents send their beloved children off to have the time of their lives at sleepaway camp. But now, before that bus even enters the gates of camp, parents are glued to their computers and cell phones to look for news from camp.
An embarrassingly accurate and funny cartoon video perfectly sums up the practice of obsessively checking the camp’s website with three words: Refresh, refresh, refresh. Many parents refresh their browser 30 times (more like 100 times if I’m honest) an hour as pictures are loaded sporadically throughout the day. The pictures (or lack thereof) become the car accident we can’t turn away from, and the infection we run toward. It’s a sickness, and it’s ruining our summers.
Parents nowadays are used to knowing what their children are doing every minute. We know who they are with, what they are eating and where they are going. There’s some comfort in that. If we know everything, we can ensure safety and ultimate happiness. Although those who choose to send their kids off to overnight camp do so willingly, cutting the cord is hard. I’m guessing to minimize the constant calls from concerned parents, the camps started posting pictures. Then when one parent didn’t see a picture of their child, the camps decided to post more pictures, finally adding up to hundreds and hundreds of pictures a day.
Now, imagine (well, if your kids are at sleepaway you don’t have to imagine) closely examining 400 pictures every day that come in dribs and drabs. Imagine a painfully slow internet connection. Imagine trying to find your sweet pea in a sea of children who are wearing the exact same uniform. Then imagine finding your sweet pea only to see him or her look less than thrilled at any given moment. I once saw a picture with every camper in the bunk eating except my child. The worrying began instantly. Why wasn’t she eating? Did she have the stomach flu? Or worse, is she depressed?
Sifting through those pictures is like finding the concealed object in Highlights magazine’s Hidden Pictures, except a lot less fun. I’ve become an expert in finding my child’s rope bracelet or pink rain boots or dragon socks. And after that extensive effort all I learn from those pictures is that my child is alive.
My daughter and her pink boots. She painted.
This is my third summer sending a child to sleepaway camp, but it’s my first time without the daily rollercoaster of the picture fix. Over the years I’ve learned a thing or two. The first summer I sent my daughter to overnight camp, it didn’t go well. I got the letter every parent dreads within three days of departure. To summarize it said, “Pick me up now. I am going to DIE here.” From that point on I became fixated on every picture. The trouble was that I could learn very little by scrutinizing those photos. There is no way to ascertain from this snapshot of one fleeting moment if she was really happy or unsettled, well or sick, lonely or full of friendship. And furthermore, there was nothing I could do in that moment to help her resolve those issues.
Parents want to see happy faces painting pottery in ceramics. They need to see new and old friends with their arms swung casually around their child’s shoulder. They must be kept appraised of camp trips, daily activities and updates on color war. But those pictures are doing more damage than good.
The camp industry is creating monsters. Their administrators are like demons that know your weakness and put it right in front of your face.
Hey little girl, would you like some candy?
It must be stopped and thankfully my son’s new camp put me in an involuntary time out.
This year instead of suffering and spending every moment away from my son refreshing my browser, I am repeated the following phrase:
“No news is good news.”
I waited until my son came home to learn of his adventures. I didn’t spoil his stories by telling him I already knew he won color war or went rafting down a raging river or caught a big fish. I completely enjoyed my more relaxed summer and enthusiastically awaited my son’s return. And when he did, l gave him my complete and total undivided attention to hear every little detail of his time away.
This column originally appeared on Mom2.com.
I just finished reading The Fix-It Friends: Have No Fear, which is the first in a series of children’s books by Nicole Kear. These beginner chapter books tell the story of a group of four friends (a brother-sister duo and two of their buddies) who help children with big problems. The first book covers an intense fear of spiders while the second installment deals with bullying.
The Fix-It Friends books are chockfull of solid helpful advice for kids and parents on how to solve real problems. The advice that the kids reveal is clearly developed from evidence-based best practices for working through these issues. For example, in Have No Fear kids learn to talk back to their worry and to take baby steps to conquer fears. In Sticks and Stones the friends advise kids being teased to keep a poker face, walk away and ask a grown up for help. The books also provide parents with additional resources and a website with even more information.
But unlike other “helping” books Fix-It Friends reads like just a great story. The characters are fully developed with interesting backstories. One character has Italian grandparents, a dad who is a super in an apartment building and a mother who is a therapist (a great source of professional insight). Also, the characters are from very diverse groups. The Principal and her son (a Fix-It Friend) are Jamaican. Another friend is Spanish-speaking. Another aspect of the books that I loved was the relationship between one main character and her brother. They had some typical bickering but when push came to shove they helped and cared for each other. That’s how siblings should be portrayed in kids’ books. Always referencing a pesky brother or a despised sister doesn’t help real kids navigate sibling relationships.
As a parent of a worrier and as a family coach I cannot recommend these books more highly to young readers.
My almost 11-year-old son, Emmett, read Sticks and Stones. He is a little old for the series but read it all the same. Here are his thoughts on the book in his own words:
“You get to know the characters and they all were very different. You know what they liked, their friends, what’s happening at school. They had different personalities, too. They also have different ideas, like one person has a babysitter that helps them in the book, one person had a pet hamster.
The book was smart in the way they solved problems and it would work in real life. For example, the book explains not to react if someone is being mean to you. Act like it’s not happening. That would be helpful because it could work. The resources in the back were good for a kid who is being bullied. Kids could definitely use the tools. It also explains concepts so you can know what they are talking about. They use the term poker face and then explain what it is. It means where you don’t show how you are feeling through your face. If I was 7 or so I would think it was funny. Also, I think it’s a good beginning chapter book for younger kids because it has multiple chapters and each chapter isn’t 3 sentences long. They are decent chapters.
Illustrations were great and they helped understand the story more. There was a picture of the playground and then I knew what it looked like.”
Almost three years ago I had an idea for a book. I’d been thinking about writing a book for many years but no idea seemed like the right one. Then I realized there were two words I said over and over again when working with families.
Parents would ask:
What should I do when my kid gets up out of time out? Ignore it!
What should I do when my teen curses at me? Ignore it!
How can I get my toddler to stop throwing food? Ignore it!
What can I do get my son to stop making annoying noises?
Tapping his pencil?
Fidgeting in his seat?
Ignore it all.
The advice I was repeatedly giving was to ignore all of the annoying and undesirable behaviors children present on a regular basis. I know about a concept in psychology called extinction which states that behavior that isn’t reinforced disappears. So when parents stop providing attention or benefits for a particular behavior is just goes away. It’s a really simple but powerful parenting tool.
But as simple as it seems I knew from experience that many parents struggled with implementation. So that’s where Ignore It! comes in. The book helps parents know what to ignore, how to ignore and when never to ignore behavior. It also provides general parenting tips about dealing with time outs, parenting in public, and how to enforce logical practical consequences when ignoring isn’t appropriate. I also included loads of scenarios from my practice to show how Ignore It! changes behavior and helps parents enjoy their kids more.
In just 70 days the book will be available for sale in bookstores and online. I’m so excited I can hardly sleep. In order to get the word out about the book I’m offering a great pre-order incentive. Order before 8/8/17, send me proof or post to Twitter or Facebook, and I’ll send you a bonus chapter I wrote but decided not to include in the book. The bonus chapter is all about how to resolve sleep issues. I’ll also include my Sleep Cheat Sheet that details sleep needs for newborns to teenagers.
Thanks in advance for the support and I can’t wait to hear how the book is helping your family.
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