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January 05, 2012

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FM's continue to attack enemy BD's as they continue to close the gap. Since today is Father's Day, I was thinking about how I used to tell stories to my kids when they were small. So far, I have no inkling that I will take this book on vacation.

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I came up with a standard reply for when my son said, with a VERY loud voice, "Why is that person fat" (or some other similar statement). In a voice just as loud I would reply "Everyone is shaped different and we are all beautiful." He has also learned to say "I don't care for that" instead of "I hate that." We are currently dealing with the issues of following the crowd. He CAN be your friend and do bad things. It does not make him a bad person... parenting is hard work...

My daughter just turned five and seems to have grown up overnight. I constantly wonder how much I should filter and what's normal. I know it's going to get even harder, too!

This stuff is so hard, and as a mom who obsesses over this stuff, I'm sad to report that the more attention you pay to gender issues in media and toys for kids, the more it will drive you crazy. I do it anyways, because that's part of the job, but I do wish that toy and mediamakers weren't hell-bent on making so much sexist garbage that is harmful for children, male or female. Keep on keepin' on, mama!

Great post! I have an 11 yo daughter and we work on critical thinking all the time. Now is the time for teaching them right from wrong, so they know what to do when we're not around. Thank goodness, my daughter never liked even Barbies, let alone those new dolls you mention. She does still love her American Girl dolls, even though she doesn't like reading the books. She'd rather read sci-fi books about dragons, which I think is really cool.

She does like playing with makeup and I'll say yes to Katherine. It's OK for our girls to play with makeup in the house. We have a rule that the girls can play with makeup in the house, but they need to wash their faces off before they walk out the door.

Very thought provoking post about the challenging of parenting as the children get older and the decisions to be made are less black and white, and much more rainbow of issues. How we choose to parent and what we choose to allow or not is ultimately what makes us all different, the key I guess is finding what we are comfortable with for our own family so that everyone can grow happily and healthfully.

Last night when she put on her PJs, my five-year-old daughter said, "does this make my butt look big?" Now, she was laughing and clearly kidding, so I just played it off and said, "that's so silly! Let's pick out a book" or something like that. I wish she hadn't heard that term somewhere (she didn't get it from me), but since she wasn't being serious, I didn't bust out the big lecture. I'm not sure if I did the right thing or not.

I guess my point is that I feel your pain! And I agree that having the wisdom and courage to talk about tough things, and even to discern when that discussion is warrented, is really tough.

@Julie -

You could possibly approach explaining it with your 6 y/o as being a member of a community. In a community, members can imagine the circumstances the Bielanko family finds themselves in happening to them. Members of a community frequently (and should!) rally around the faltering member to lift the entire community, even when doing so is difficult for the individual.

And then say...."Look! Over there! A Monster High doll. Ew!" :)

Fantastic post! I just attended a parent discussion last night on this subject -- enforcing what we think is right with our teens and tweens.
Not only are there so many challenges with all the stuff and technology that our 'kids' want that is inappropriate but a big struggle are the others kids that are not a good influence that they want to hang out with..... a very slippery slope when it comes to explaining.

Also, yes, I've made some "oops!" decisions and blunders.

I tell my kids that I've thought more carefully about my decision, and thinking about it more made me realize it wasn't a good decision.

I think that's an important example for kids: there are do-overs, or at least chances to right wrongs as best we can. And that we should right those wrongs.

Ah yes...I read the Cry It Out and Breast v Bottle discussions/debates/diatribes with wistful nostalgia these days.

My eldest is almost 13, and there are salad days between about 3 years old (when they stop trying to eat poison or lick outlets) and about 9yo (when the first gloss of "Mommy Is Queen" begins to wear off.)

I treat the big bad world the same way I treat learning to cross the street or cooking on the stove. At first, there are strict No's. I do explain, but if they don't get it, they don't get it.

Then, when their understanding and ability to reason catches up with their vocabulary, we have discussions that lead up to them making limited choices under my watch. The main goal being teaching them to be critical thinkers. For every decision in life - Every Decision - there is some bad and some good, someone who will benefit and someone who will be harmed - whether that's buying junk toys or buying organic milk or voting for someone in the school election. The trick is to have them learn to become aware of as many of the possible effects as they can, and know that even their best choices aren't the perfect choice. In that way, they are more on the lookout for possible bad consequences and ready to meet them head-on.

I'll also say this: my job has become infinitely easier due to the fact that we do not have cable tv, do not allow social media for kids other than an email account, and we keep them all very busy with sports, music, school, chores, and giving them the support and resources to pursue their passions. No hanging out in consumer playgrounds (The Mall) and no unsupervised activities with other kids, even if it means Mom is downstairs in the kitchen while kids are upstairs playing a video game. I'm strict. But my 10yo is a 10yo - not a 25 yo - and ultimately, I think she's happier not having the pressures of trying to keep up with her friends who do think they are 25yo.

I lost the battle of Barbie with my daughter. And this Christmas I gave in on the guns. It sounds lame, but everyone else had a Nerf Gun but him. They even have them at after school care at his school!

I've lately been dealing with a 4 year old who keeps saying he hates things (to get a rise out of me). I keep telling him we don't use that word. But in reality, I use that word a lot.
And then I wonder why am I telling him he can't hate things. We do as adults, but it just seems wrong coming from a 4 year old.
So it's tough making these judgement calls, especially when I sometimes feel like I have no idea what I'm doing myself!

Julie,
We have been there. A great story is the way I used to hear Stone Soup (There are different versions). There was a drought, a stranger came to town, the townspeople watched him make the soup. He would say each thing that would make the soup better. Someone would donate that item. In the end there was enough for everyone. If we all do what we can, we'll end up with enough. Maybe not a lot, but enough.

As for this post, I hear you. My oldest girl is about Q's age. She loves everything teenagers love and worships the idea of being a teen. She wants so badly to dress like the high school girls, which of course I hate. Finally I let her choose some cloths last time and we talked about what is and is not appropriate, but that we also can't just look at people as bodies with clothes on. I don't want her dressing like a tramp, but I also don't want her judging other people for the way they dress. It's like walking over landmines.

Glad I could help.

I totally agree - I'm finding that explaining the double-sides of life terribly difficult to do. How do you explain to a child, whose world is very black and white, what grey looks like, and why? I find myself thinking regularly, "damn this was a lot easier when you just pooped in your pants and cried."

The kicker for me was when Girl Child asked, "Mommy, why was I born this way?" (she was born without an ear - a birth defect that has required 5 surgeries...so far.) Not to mention the birds and the bees chat we had last spring. Those questions force her dad and me to really think about what we hold in value, and how to pass it along to them.

It's mentally exhausting. On the bright side? I get to sleep at night and my boobs are mine again. Granted, babies gave them back "used," but still. Mine.

I've been struggling with the relationship side. I remember Julie Marsh writing about teaching her kids that life won't always be easy or fair. I remember thinking it was harsh, but it was really that she was just ahead of me in the dealing with real shit curve. People won't always be nice, sometimes It's better to cut your losses and start over. Sometimes curbing my own commentary is the hardest. Posts like this, when we say aloud for others to hear that it was hard, but that it was right, they soothe me.

I was in Target once and saw two little girls (maybe 4 or 5yo) who were gazing at the boy Barbies and saying, dreamily, "he's so hot!" It took all my resolve not to scream. Their mom stood right there, smiling, as if her children were so mature. Ugh.

I'm not crazy strict and I'm not anti-Barbie but I am anti-Hoochie doll. I've spent a fortune on American Girl which some may think is crazy but at least they are about as innocent as they come.

BTW, my 10yo just asked her dad about a Trojan commercial (I remember you tweeted about this recently) and he said, "uhhhh, I'll talk to you later" and then plunked that into my lap. Yay!

It's so true - the hard part of parenting is that we're making up 99% of it as we go along. Google CIO or don't. But there's no rule book about how to explain why mommy deleted that trial "paper doll" app that featured hoochies in belly shirts.

(But it's educational!)

I have been blessed so far to miss the why stage with my older two (thank goodness).

My daughter and niece were 5 and 6, respectively, and saw a mom looking at Bratz dolls in Target with her daughter who was around their age. She was able to get one and the girls looked at me wide eyed and said, loud enough for three aisles to hear, "That Mommy is getting her daughter a Bratz doll!". I said that was her choice. They couldn't believe it and next thing we all heard (including the shocked mother):

BUT THOSE ARE HOOTCHIE DOLLS!

I love those girls!

Do it well. Shit, that scares me. But I think the fact that it does scare me is a good thing. That means less enabling & more addressing. Got it.

I just had to explain why I donated $20 that we simply don't have to the Bielanko Family Fire Fund. (Monica writes for Babble and MamaPop, among many others, and they had a terrible house fire.)

My 6yo understands that we're in tough financial straits. She also understands that we donate our coats and toys and clothing to families who are in need. So she asked me, why are you sending money when we don't have any?

Could I please get a question about Monster High whores or the appropriate use of "fuck" right about now?

Love this post. My 5yo daughter asked for a makeup kit for Christmas. She also asked for spy gear. I thought that was the perfect combo, and so she got them both. I worry about letting her wear the makeup because it's so important for her to know it isn't necessary. Yet I wear makeup -- in fact, I love makeup -- and she watches me put it on, so I can't be a hypocrite and say NO NO NO MAKEUP IS BAD. I just tell her she can play with it in the house. Is that right? Am I wrong? I have no idea.

God, what a thought-provoking post. Yes, you are so right, those moments are the real work. And, at least for me, there is also real work in the trusting what my own instincts tell me ... even when others disagree. Thanks for this - I'll be thinking about it a lot. xo

I find that the hardest part of parenting is answering the question "why." My four year old is now asking why about a lot of things, particularly things that we watch on TV together, when we watch at all. And it's really hard to sometimes figure out what to say- why it's ok to sometimes hit (like when you're defending yourself) as opposed to others (not be the initial aggressor) etc. Thanks for the great post! As usual. :)

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