Modern Parenting is Neglectful Parenting

There are lots of critics out there about raising kids. Usually, they’re all around you.

I even had the police called on me for child endangerment. I was getting gas at the local Mobil station and the pay-at-the-pump functionality was down at all the pumps. I pumped my gas, then went to pay for my gas inside. Kari at the time was 6.

Here is the scenario: The car was at the pump. She was buckled in her booster seat. I locked the doors. I could see her from 20 feet away in the gas station. It was 55 degrees outside. I was inside for 2 minutes. I know because I was anxious about getting to school that morning for the Science Center field trip.

I finish paying and walk outside and just then, a lady peers in and is shouting at Kari. This scares her because the lady is shouting at her.

I ask the lady what she is doing.
She said, “Oh, you’re mom! Well, MOM, I’m calling the police!”
I ask her, “What for?”
She said, “What for?!” and makes an exasperated noise
I roll my eyes and get in the car. I hear her on the phone with the police saying, “She’s getting away!”

Over the weekend Chris and I went to a baseball game with our neighbors from across the street. All of us spent our youth running around in the woods, playing with friends, and coming home at dinnertime. No one called the police.

Kari was playing in the front yard a few years ago, probably as a second grader, and a lady pulled in the driveway. I was in the garage cleaning, and I come out to greet the lady. She said, “Oh, I thought she was outside alone and I wanted to alert someone.” Kari and I both looked a little puzzled. Kari wasn’t near the street, so what was the issue? The lady was flustered by my response and drove on.

Another time, Kari was in the next aisle over in the grocery store grabbing something I had forgotten. She was 8. A lady asked her where her mom was and proceeded to grab her by the arm and walk her to me.

I remember at 7 going across the whole grocery store when my mom was at the checkout. I remember my mom running into the grocery store and locking me in the car when I was 8. I remember staying home alone for an hour or so when I was 10. No one bothered me. No one called the police.

The neighbors agreed with me that it must be this culture now. Kidnappings and awful things have always happened, just with the Internet, we hear about each and every incident now.

I wager to say modern parenting, where parents do everything and decide everything for the children, is neglectful. Children don’t learn how to handle themselves in society without parental input. Still at the college level I encounter students who need their parent to weigh in on any decisions and hear all too often, “I’ll have to ask my mom.” What a tragedy!

Can my kids not play alone in their own yard? Are you raising a ‘free-range’ kid? How should we raise independent kids?

Parents Deny Kids Books

Sometimes I study at the local library, as I simply cannot get any writing done with the dog/laundry/toddler/dishes/etc. staring at me. I often overhear conversations between children and parents that go much like this:

Child: (with excitement) I want to get this book!

Parent: No, you’re not getting that book.

Why? Because it’s “annoying,” “too much to read at bedtime”, or, the latest, “Sci-Fi” (in reference to a Star Wars book).

For goodness sake, let them get the books they want to read!

Friends share everything

As I type this, my oldest kiddo, Kari, is passed out on the sofa next to me with a heating pad on her ear. She’s finally gotten to sleep after coughing all day and spending the evening crying because of her ear.

She’s felt awful since Tuesday evening. I’ve been pushing fluids and stuffing her with vitamin-loaded fruits all in hopes she’ll be better for every kid’s favorite holiday, Halloween, which is Saturday. She even said today, “Mom, if I miss Halloween, it’s ok. I don’t even feel like candy.” I told her we’d make a special Halloween with popcorn and movies on the sofa if she wants.

Kari’s just like me when I was a kid:  if anyone of my friends had a cold, I soon did too. Neither of us got that “daycare dose” of sniffles and stomach bugs to challenge our immune systems early on. Elementary school is when Kari started regularly interacting other kids and her years are often peppered with colds.

I tell her to practice good hand washing and I have a hand sanitizer on her book bag and lunch bag. It’s gotten better, but she’s also been at this for 5 years now. She’s pretty good at avoiding the rogue germ, unless…

Someone sends their sick child on a playdate.

This drives me fruit! I know sometimes kids suddenly come down with a cold or will mask the fact that they’re sick just so they don’t miss the fun, BUT come on! It seems like this sending-kids-sick epidemic is happening more and more with our ever-busier lives.

If your child is sick, stay home, or at least give a courtesy warning before the playdate so that the non-sick party can make a decision.

Now Kari’s miserable, and likely the baby is soon to follow.

What do you think? Does this drive you nuts? Do you think it’s no big deal? How have you handled this in the past?

Phone Alone

Something Chris and I are at a disagreement on recently: whether or not Kari should have an iPhone. I don’t want to subscribe to parent peer pressure and I don’t want to lose my 9 year-old to some device.

Personally, I love it when my phone dies. There is an expectation people now have with the mainstreaming of smart phones: constant, instant contact. People feel they should be able to contact you whenever (no kidding, I’ve gotten calls at 12:30 am about surrendering a dog to the Rescue) and wherever (call, text, tweet, fb, etc.) and if they cannot, well, something seriously tragic must have happened.

Like any good academic, I agree and disagree with this story. I do agree that the principal should have taken a more open approach: kids are using this, talk to them about it, talk to them about the conversations had on these media, and counselors are available for discussions if your student desires.

What I don’t like is students so young using technology so frequently. I see so many people on campus walking together, but on their phones. I see people at lunch together, but on their phones. I see people driving AND on their phones!

Kari’s school district has a BYOD policy. This being:

Students in (omitted) schools have the opportunity to bring their own electronic devices into the classroom to support their learning.  The district has listened to students and their parents who shared that they would prefer students to use their own personal technology to assist with learning.

This is all wonderful and fine if students simply use their devices for the educational focus at the time, but, arguably, they don’t. Trust me, I have been in class with many students who would much rather shop J.Crew, play on Facebook, (insert distraction here) than pay attention.

Kari had an experience last year where the 2 other members of her group were making silly videos on their phones instead of doing group work. Kari was mad she got a poor grade on her assignment, and the teacher did not hear her concerns. Do devices enhance learning? Sure, but likely not for the learning outcomes intended for the day.

I’d much rather be real and present with the people in my life. Life is short. Sure, kids are on Instagram and the like, but what are they missing out on by casting their social net so wide? Cherish the people who are real and present in your life. Knowing tidbits about your 250 Facebook friends doesn’t mean you have 250 actual friends just as getting likes on your selfie doesn’t actually mean those people like you in real life.

No one’s life is as cool as it is online. “Killing it at doing the dishes,” or “Just saved $1.50 on shampoo! WINNING”, tweeted no one ever. We only share the most exciting moments in our lives or ones that might connect us socially to the masses. Tweet about the crazy long line at Starbucks? Yes. Instagram your supper? Totes. Post about your promotion? Of course! For many of my Facebook friends, I can recall if they have had a baby, moved to a new house, or gotten a promotion recently. That’s really it. I don’t really know them.

Maybe parents and schools should talk to their children about the social pressures that come with such contact, and how to handle such pressures. This is challenging as many adults don’t even have healthy device usage limits.

As for Kari and the phone, I still don’t think it’s time. The social pressures become ever-present with the adoption of social media and smart phones. I want her to feel freedom I hope she will appreciate later.

She’s shady, that one.

Chris and I always knew parenting would bring its joys and challenges. What we didn’t count on was parenting something with Chris’ communication skills, my logic and stubborn squared.

We have met another challenge of parenting, and probably one many parents have dealt with at one time or another. Most recently, Kari has taken to lying and lying by omission.

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Look at those shifty eyes!

There’s been the generic lies about cleaning her room or doing chores. Those aren’t particularly offensive, but her crimes are advancing! Halloween night she lied about dropping the toilet paper in the toilet at her Aunt and Uncle’s house. She left it in the bathtub for a surprise instead of telling someone what happened.

When we see her drop, spill, or break something, we tell her to be more careful next time and to clean it up. She’s never in trouble for accidents as long as she tells someone if she needs help or can fix it on her own.

Unfortunately, she’s taken to avoiding responsibility this year because “it’s boring” or she “forgot”.

The latest infraction was about her hat. Last week at her gifted school, where she only attends one day per week, her hat got ripped. She came home and the first thing out of her mouth was a story about how this other student snatched the hat from her head, ripped it, tossed it back in her face and then the teacher watching recess did not reprimand the student because he said he didn’t do it. Kari also said this student frequently bullied other kids and compared him to an actual little monster at her home school.

I emailed the teacher and the assistant principal. They investigated further yesterday when the kids were back at the school. As it turns out, the student is a shy little guy who is terribly quiet.

What actually happened, you ask? The kids went down a slide, her hat came off, the hat ended up under the student, he pulled it out from under him and handed it back to Kari. It got ripped on the way down the slide or when he pulled it out from under himself – regardless, it was an accident that just happened.

I was so heartbroken when the assistant principal called me yesterday. I had to apologize for my daughter lying. I called Chris. He was mad. I was embarrassed. We both are disappointed.

Kari knows how we react to accidents. She tore her jacket recently on a trip to Lambert’s Cafe on a nail on a playset out front. Honestly, all I said was, “Oh no. Your jacket got ripped. Stay away from that piece of the playset with the nail. I’ll try to sew it when we get home.” That’s it.

All I can fathom is that she thinks she’ll get in trouble for accidents. Well, by lying about it, now she can guarantee she’ll be in trouble!

Frustratingly, she still hasn’t admitted to lying and it using her typically infallible logic for evil:

J: Kari, did you lie about what happened?
K: I think the other student’s story is what actually happened.
J: Did you lie?
K: We just saw what happened differently.
J: KARI!
K: Both stories contain truthful parts.
J: Like what?! Your hat got ripped, [student] was there, and he handed your hat back to you?!
K: And we were in the slide.
J: (insert Charlie Brown angry squiggle)

J:Kari, you know lying is bad, right?
K: Not really. Lying is just words. How can words be bad?

J: Did [student] rip your hat?
K: When he handed it back to me it was ripped.
J: Did he rip your hat?
K: Yes.
J: On purpose?
K: I’m not sure.

Later when Chris got home I told him the recap of all of this. He said she’ll make a great lawyer or politician.

C: (as if politician Kari in a scandal) “I didn’t smoke the cannabis, but the cannabis did enter my airway.”

In all of this, at least Chris and I found some humor. We are still trying to figure out how to handle our little mastermind though.

 

Boomerangs

I have worked in higher education now for 10 years. I have been a student in higher education for fifteen years. While the boomerang “phenomenon” seems to be a new thing, I really don’t think it is. There were loads of Generation Xers who crashed in their old room or took over their parents’ basements after college. What is new though is the consistent message of “failure to launch” that accompanies boomerang situations.

A couple days ago Chris sent me this article. I’ll wait while you open it (at least look at the pictures, as this is important).

Both Chris and I immediately went on a texting tirade about the pictures. These pictures failed to portray people worthwhile of a job interview, a good incidental conversation, or even a second look on the street, but degraded them. This degradation of the people in the pictures further harms their perceived worth in society.

Another important note…
The education and career aspirations fail to match. Perhaps instead of a photoessay about how these people reside in their lair of depression and desperation, give them some career counseling or suggest graduate programs. Unfortunately, many careers now require graduate degrees (i.e., the librarian, the professor) and then some people received degrees not matching their career aspirations (i.e., the social worker, the veterinarian). In order to work in certain jobs, people need to appreciate the required preparation.

The People of the Internet are taking all your time

Something many of us have dealt with is distraction with electronic devices. This growing phenomenon sprouted with the advent of high-speed Internet, got worse with the smart phone, quickly slid further with tablets and Wi-Fi wherever you go!

With this great technology comes great responsibility, and great cost. We’re always connected, but with whom? Those “People of the Internet” as I call them in my house, or people on Facebook, Twitter, etc. who are on your device, but not present regularly in your physical life, what lasting enjoyment are they giving you?

I find it interesting to see people in stores walking next to each other, but on their phones, or people in cars and all the passengers are on their phones (sadly, even some drivers). Or the best, dinner out with friends, where dinner is somehow social with the people present, yet the diners are present only with the People of the Internet.  This activity has gotten so prevalent it has spawned a Phone Stack game – all phones are stacked on the table and whoever cannot resist picks up the tab. My question: what are we missing? Do the People of the Internet care farther than fleetingly if you comment on their blog, read their article or like their status?

To me, it’s interesting what an alternate reality the Internet, smart phones and tablets play in our culture today. It can quickly turn into a time suck. I remember when my family first got the Internet at home when I was fourteen. I found myself addicted to it and quickly decided that wasn’t a way to spend my time. I interacted with people online, sure, but what real, tangible benefit did those conversations give me in my real life?

My husband pointed out my last statement made it sound like I was trashing all of the interaction on the Internet, which is not what I meant here, so here is my edit: Much can be learned from the Internet, but I would like to wager many of us are not engaged on the Internet to that degree during much of our time spent on the Internet. Here is a favorite Clay Shirky quote of mine to illustrate such:

This linking together in turn lets us tap our cognitive surplus, the trillion hours a year of free time the educated population of the planet has to spend doing things they care about. In the 20th century, the bulk of that time was spent watching television, but our cognitive surplus is so enormous that diverting even a tiny fraction of time from consumption to participation can create enormous positive effects.

We are capable of so much more than we are doing – imbibe what makes you stronger and create and collaborate with others. The Internet has made such activities immeasurably easier to do, yet, it also brought time sucks like Facebook, some strands of Reddit, etc. to which I was above referring by my statement in question.

I would rather be present in the lives of those physically around me so as to not miss those all too fleeting moments that make up life. When with friends and family, I want to make them feel valued by me. I want to always feel connected to my husband in our time at home together. Now that I have Kari, it is even more imperative to make sure she feels appreciated, important and loved.

I am so glad I have been present for moments like these:

Crystal being silly
Dear friends getting married
The girls opening presents from Nana
Priceless Mother and Daughter moments
Serious Dancer

 

People are not moments in time that will be there when you get off the Internet. Time for them keeps moving on.

If you are still not convinced about putting down your device to be more present, please see what these NPR articles have to say:

For the Children’s Sake, Put Down That Phone

When Parents are Too Distracted

A Video Game Meant To Take Us Back To The Physical World

Kids will be Kids – and That’s Great!

Rub My Belly
Amazing Dog Photo by Chris Koerner

Out of growing concern for Kari, and her increasing complaints regarding both ears, I took her to see the doctor on Monday.  Kari stays with Grandma and Grandpa during the day, so she only sees other kids at the playground and the grocery store.  I vividly remember the “What’s this little guy’s name?” of this past summer at the playground, which lead to chuckles from all parties involved.  At 2 years-old, Kari is just that, a 2 year-old being herself – and that’s great!  She loves other kids, playing and just being a kid.

So, we’re at the doctor’s office in the waiting room.  There is another young lady there.

“She will be 2 in February,” her mother promptly said.
“Kari will be 3 in January,” I said.

Then, something amazing happened – something I have only read about in books:  The mother instructs her twenty month-old child to go shake Kari’s hand and introduce herself like a lady.

“Lilian knows how to properly say hello, introduce herself and shake hands,” the mother says.

At that moment that Lilian babbles something incomprehesible to Kari and extends her right hand, Kari gets down out of the waiting room chair, on all fours, and howls like a dog.

“My daughter has not broken character in 8 months,” I say.

Let kids be kids.  Childhood and imagination only last, for most people, until about 10 years of age.  The remaining sixty years are work, stress and, well, being grown up.  We all need to think like a kid every now and again, and for some of us who are so blessed, we think like a kid more often than not.  Instilling that since of wonder, creativity and astonishment about the world is hard to do, so leave it alone, let it multiply, and don’t zap it before it’s time.

Robo-Kari

Just another day at the Koerners

I ran all over town buying Christmas presents for this child on Black Friday. I got up at 2 a.m. after cleaning up from Thanksgiving until 11 p.m. I froze my tushy off without a Starbucks in sight. I got punched in the kidney at Target. I got motion sick in the line at Toys R Us – it just was too much weaving back and forth. I dealt with ripped bags and tripped up the deck steps. I wrapped and wrapped and wrapped. And, after all that effort, she puts the cardboard bucket on her head and walks around the house.