Menu

My child is having a boring summer and he loves it

Mostly he putters around the yard, plays with the hose, finds toads and bugs and locust shells and cool rocks, shimmys up the door frames, attempts to dismantle the house, and, admittedly, has way too much screen time. In other words, the same kind of summers I had as a kid.

My child is having a boring summer and he loves it

A few weeks ago, I looked out the kitchen window into our scruffy backyard, littered with toys and bicycles. And I saw my 5-year-old son, deeply immersed in his endeavor, taping rectangles of cardboard to his feet with miles and miles of masking tape. (I long ago gave up on keeping him from the tape—and the scissors, despite more than one hair-cutting incident.)

He explained to me that he was making "Ant Smashers." He had a snack sitting on the patio, and the Ant Smashers™ allowed him to protect his picnic from the encroaching insect population. (Yes, it is rather violent, but anybody who has a boy like mine understands that some level of violence just comes with the territory.)

FEATURED VIDEO

He had requested that Daddy cut these same cardboard rectangles earlier in the day to be wings for his cardboard box airplane. Completely his design and his idea. And it really did look like an airplane, one just his size.

As he demonstrated the Ant Smashers™ for me, I wondered: if he had been in expensive camps and programs all summer, would he have had the chance to create them?


Because our summer has been pretty boring.

Mostly he putters around the yard, plays with the hose, finds toads and bugs and locust shells and cool rocks, shimmys up the door frames, attempts to dismantle the house, and, admittedly, has way too much screen time.

In other words, the same kind of summers I had as a kid.

Some days, I have felt really, really guilty about that.

Guilty that he's not getting the opportunities other kids are getting.

Guilty that he's missing out on whiz-bang entertainment.

Guilty that he has to spend a boring old summer with boring old mom.

But if he had been doing something else, would he have ever created his Ant Smashers™? If he didn't have time to be bored, would he discover so much about the world around him? Would he be interested in cool rocks and bugs and the toad that lives in our bushes (whom we've dubbed "Dennis Hopper")?

They are not as exciting as manta rays and cheetahs, but they are part of HIS own world, right in his backyard. If he is constantly entertained with amazing animals or cool science experiments or brain-building activities—all conceived of and supervised by adults—how will he ever appreciate the wonder that is already all around him? How will he ever learn to find that wonder on his own?

When I hear some parents say, "my kids aren't very good at entertaining themselves," I can't help but wonder if have they had a chance to learn how to do that.

Please don't misunderstand me: parenting is a tough job, and we all have to find what works for us. And I know it's a luxury to even have the option of letting my son putter at home because I work from home. Parents who work full-time outside the home don't have that freedom, I know.

I'm just saying that we should not feel GUILTY about having a "boring" summer. We are giving them the gift of play.

And study after study shows that that's exactly what kids need most. Not flash cards, not spelling drills, not teaching more difficult material that is developmentally inappropriate, and certainly NOT more standardized tests.

They need free, unsupervised play, in which they create the games, they make up the rules, they decide things for themselves, they work out problems amongst themselves without adults swooping in and "fixing" everything for them. (As long as it doesn't get violent—or, in the case of my son and his cousins, as long as there is no profuse bleeding.)

Play is truly the work of childhood. Play is what builds intelligence, resilience, creativity, communication skills.

[Originally posted on The Wild Word. It has been edited.]

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

Keep reading Show less
Life

This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less
News