Kids in Tow
Have Kids, Will Discipline
I prefer the term “discipline” to “punish.” It seems more humane, as though my goal is to tease good behavior from my bunch of miscreants rather than to exact vengeance upon them. Semantics aside, once they hit the four-year mark the gloves come off.
Once (maybe twice) I swore at my collective of tiny people. I know parents shouldn’t swear at their kids but, in my defense, they totally deserved it. Unintended consequence: instead of improving their behavior they learned several new phrases to share with friends. So I kind of get how cursing is frowned upon.
Incentives like star charts don’t work for us. Last time I did it, two of my kids were too young to read well so they had no clue what I wrote. I drew pictures of “Make Your Bed” and “Brush Your Teeth,” etc. But that led to a lengthy and joyless critique of my skill as an artist.
Then they meandered upstairs and played with toys while I screamed at them to brush their teeth. Thirty minutes later they wandered downstairs and demanded a star. Instead of acting on my borderline-illegal impulse, I gritted my teeth and applied a star each to their empty boxes. I mean, why not? I knew, correctly, it’d be the last star they ever earned.
Why this fruitless exercise? I read that parents – especially mothers - should revel in their child’s achievements and tactfully admonish them for their misbehavior, i.e. “Sally, what a great job cutting with Mommy’s new kitchen scissors! Not sure how you got them, but next time let’s make sure Billy’s hand isn’t in the way. It’s not fun for Billy and blood is messy… it’s making mommy nauseous… a little faint. But YAY for such a clean incision!”
Obviously, the man who wrote this pearl of wisdom is too busy writing books and star charts to spend time at home raising kids. If he were, he’d know that any practice discouraged by Children’s Services is far more effective than the nebulous prospect of 15 shiny stars and a sugar-free lollipop.
And where, exactly, did moms get overlooked in all of this? We’re supposed to bury any negative feeling, any semblance of emotion other than delight, and keep looking to the rainbow while the hurricane annihilates our sanity? Nah. I try, but I lack the self-restraint. If a kid draws on my sofa with a Sharpie, my instinct isn’t to praise them for their creative use of mediums and replenish their stash of drawing paper. My gut tells me to yell and impose a lifetime ban on video games and dessert. Or worse. (Note to Children’s Services: I’m kidding. It never gets worse than that.)
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Kids in Tow
Monday, March 03, 2014 • Permalink
Have Kids, Will Meet New Parents
Children are a bonding force in our social relationships and we often meet our closest friends at school, PTA, or endless soccer games. From new parents with infants and toddlers to more seasoned parents of ‘tweens and teens, children are how we meet and what keeps us together throughout the years. It’s like a club, isn’t it? And, as in every club, there are a few simple guidelines:
1. Yes, of course your toddler will grow up to be a lawyer! S/he has incredible powers of persuasion and constructs compelling, thoughtful arguments. Further, your child displays a trying tenacity when making unreasonable demands and a nascent propensity for courtroom drama. In fact, twenty years from now, all of our children will be lawyers. What a fun world!
2. Is your child exceptional at sports? Performed brilliantly on his CMTs? You are the lucky parent of a fabulous child. But if you want to make friends, tell us how he picks his nose and wipes it on your upholstery. Has she ever sworn at a teacher? Destroyed your neighbor’s wallpaper? Friendships are forged on the basis of common experiences, humor, and a touch of schadenfreude. If all are present, we’ll become great friends. Then - and only then - will we appreciate your child’s achievements.
3. Unless you meet specifically to talk about kids, don’t talk about kids. Unless you want to complain. (see #2)
4. All of our kids say cute things. But it’s the inappropriate things that make us smile. You may think it’s wonderful how your child penned a love sonnet for you in 5 different languages. But it makes our skin crawl. My child talked constantly about trucks when he was young, but he pronounced “tr” as “f”. We got a lot of strange looks. Now, which story would you rather hear? If you chose the first one, we probably aren’t friends.
5. If you are kind to our child you are our friend forever, regardless of how you feel about that.
6. It’s wonderful that your child runs a lemonade stand and gives all of the proceeds to charity! Now try this fun exercise: let him earn $20 doing some sort of physical labor. Hand him the cash and bring him to a toy store. After he selects a toy, tell him he can A) put the toy back and purchase a cheaper toy after he’s donated a portion of his earnings to charity, B) buy the more expensive toy and not donate to charity. If he selects A, see #2.
7. If we’re friends, brag all you want. Because I will.
Kids in Tow
Sunday, February 23, 2014 • Permalink
Have Kids, Will Grocery Shop
I enjoy shopping with my kids. Well, “enjoy” is a strong term. It’s more that I loathe grocery shopping to the point I’d prefer the distraction of misbehavior to the tedium of an uninterrupted search for expiration dates.
For the first five minutes.
After that, things get dicey. So I select a store that’s small enough I can’t “lose” my kids for more than a few awkward minutes but large enough to diffuse their hysteria. Typically, I choose Trader Joe’s (TJ’s). They have plenty to keep my kids entertained (free samples, kiddie shopping baskets, find-the-dirty-monkey-and-get-a-lollipop) with the added bonus of stocking nothing the kids recognize from morning cartoon commercials.
Before my oldest could read, I could easily dissuade him from certain junk foods by claiming they contained peanuts, to which he’s allergic. Now he reads, so steering him away from the high-fat high-sugar treats around which his world revolves is challenging.
I don’t want to say, “It’s fattening” or “You don’t need the calories” because, should my kids wind up with body dysmorphia or worse, I don’t want them to be able to recall a specific moment as the snowflake that started the avalanche of their descent. Better to keep it vague so they can’t point fingers.
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Kids in Tow
Friday, February 07, 2014 • Permalink
Have Kids, Will Eat
Dining Out with Kids
Last Thursday my husband was forced to enjoy cocktails and a swishy dinner in NYC with fellow workfolk. Again. Normally he declines the dinner invitation so he can have a late dinner with his wife. Which would be so sweet if it weren’t for the fact that his wife has to make and clean up after said late dinner. So… yeah. Fun.
But this night he accepted the dinner invitation, creating a free evening for me and my three angelic offspring.
As luck would have it, all three were wearing outfits that neither embarrassed nor confused me. So I dolled myself up a bit in preparation of a nice meal at a kid-friendly restaurant like Rizutto’s or Bertucci’s.
Now, if you don’t currently have kids I should explain: dirty and snot-smeared is the new black, and taking children to dinner is the new nightclubbing. When you have kids, your old life doesn’t “change” so much as it ceases to exist. Kids become your life, and you learn to appreciate small things such as sitting on a dry toilet seat or having someone else wash your dishes.
Anyhoo, back to dinner with the kids. We settled into a booth and placed our order without incident. We all had reasonably tasteful outfits, adequate table manners, and the kids weren’t screaming fart jokes. And–-I swear I’m not lying—my oldest son shared something about his day at school!
The older couple next to us complimented me on my well-behaved children, which made me smug and generously sympathetic of parents with less tame charges.
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Kids in Tow
Monday, November 28, 2011 • Permalink
The Sugar Bowl
1033 Boston Post Road, Darien
My husband and I were so excited to discover this wonderful breakfast spot in Darien. Turns out it’s one of the most popular cafés in FC. Who knew? I mean, besides us.
To the handful of you who haven’t been here: the first thing you notice is the Bowl’s festooned with so much holiday gewgaw you may confuse it with a souvenir shop at Mystic Seaport. For each of the past 7 years they’ve decorated for 8 occasions: Memorial Day/July 4, Beach, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s Day, and Mother’s Day/Spring. Halloween is their biggest undertaking, usurping the time and talent of 4 grown men for sixteen hours. Impressive.
The second thing you notice is friendly staff, swift service, and satisfying food. They make wonderful homemade lemon, apricot, or plum cake and animal-shaped pancakes for the kids (the chocolate chip ones of which contain so many chips, it’s like eating a candy bar with a fork.)
Robin’s note: The third thing you notice, or we noticed, is the large glass candy shelf is not enclosed on the sides, affording certain small children easy access to fistfuls of Nerd Ropes and the like.
Who you’ll see eating here: Young families and loyal locals of all ages.
Their specialty: Bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll, eggs benedict without the hollandaise sauce, and “…we make lots of pancakes.”
What you should order: Chocolate chip pancakes and eggs with grilled tomatoes.
What you may not know but should:
1. The Bowl has been owned by the same family for 52 years, Bob being the latest in a small string of familial proprietors.
2. The man who bakes the cakes works at the Bowl on weekends. During the week he’s a sommelier at the River Café in Brooklyn.
Kids in Tow
Friday, September 16, 2011 • Permalink