Monthly Archives: December 2015

Seeing The Trees – A Week of Christmas Visits

We called it, “Going-to-see-the-trees” – the mad parade of visits to relatives’ homes that happened each night between Christmas and New Year’s Day when I was a kid.

The unspoken rule? Everyone must visit, and be visited by, everyone else.

And it was my favorite week of the year.

It started Christmas morning, when my father’s sister Dot and her husband knocked at the door, all dressed up and faces gleaming, arms piled with presents for us six kids. They would admire each of our new toys, still under the tree. Then, like clockwork, my father’s brother Sheldon and his wife would arrive and we’d start the show-and-tell all over again.

christmas tree Colo. Spgs.

Neither couple had children of their own. Which may be why they had the time to dig up interesting presents. One year it was these hard plastic wedges that you walk on, wibble-wobbling on all over the house. One year I got a hand-painted bracelet, and another year a knitting set, though I still can’t knit.

As soon as our guests were seated – like the second they plopped into a chair – I would go for the chocolates in the big cardboard box. No matter that it was Continue reading

Help! A Cell Phone Ate My Kid!

A long time ago, the adage goes, children were supposed to be seen and not heard.

They scampered off to bed with a mere glance from father, peering sternly over his evening paper.

At holiday gatherings, everyone sat down to dinner at the same time, with children relegated to a side room or kitchen where they could sling peas at one another and chew with their mouths open. (How was that supposed to teach them any social graces?)

Unfortunately, kids today are still being seen and not heard. They come in, sit down, and take out their cell-phones. When it’s time to leave, they head for the door like silent robots, never having uttered a sound.

Historically, the family domain is where children prepared for adulthood – you know, by interacting with real people, doing real things. But today, instead of being shunted off to a side room, kids hide behind electronics, barely moving their lips as they text and Facebook with friends.

And instead of improving their interpersonal skills, they slip deeper and deeper into a passive, virtual world.

Why is this even acceptable?

I’ve heard parents say, Oh, they’re just being kids.

But in my book, that’s just an excuse.

Here’s why. When children are very little they might resist taking a nap. Or getting dressed, for instance.  We expect them to do these things because we are their parents and know what is good for them. We certainly don’t give up.

If the goal is to put a toddler down for a nap, it needs to be an anticipated routine. Make sure he’s had some physical activity. Maybe read a story. Or just lie down with him until he falls asleep. He takes a nap at that age because he needs one. He doesn’t get to decide for himself.

Want your child to dress himself? Make sure he can reach his clothes. Put clean socks in the drawer and show him how to get dressed. Be positive. And be present – until he can do it by himself. Because that is your expectation.

But what about older children who’ve opted out of human interaction? Kids whose eyes glaze over and whose thumbs seem to have lives of their own.

Should we give up?

Of course not. What’s needed are expectations. Only starting at age twelve or fifteen is tough. Not impossible. Just damned hard. Hell, it’s tough if you wait until three or four.

Here’s a difficult truth: From the beginning, children should know they are not in charge of family rules. It certainly doesn’t make them feel any safer, happier, or more loved. In fact, research has shown just the opposite.

The question is, where to begin if yours have fallen off the earth?Boy playing video game

If you have already invested in cell phones and other electronics, start by biting the bullet. Realize that those devices have no actual value other than what they are worth in and of themselves. So prohibiting your kids from having unfettered access should not matter to you. Not one iota. Just be detached.

When you go out as a family, have your kids leave their electronics at home, including their cell phones. (What, they’re expecting a call from the White House?) Continue reading

“Say, Say, Oh Playmate” – Finding Innocence in a 1940s Hit Song, and a Princess’s Smocked Dress

Once upon a time, back before manufacturers began plastering NFL logos and raucous Disney designs smack down the front of newborn onesies and made size-three toddlers look like hookers, little girls wore simple dresses – much like the smocked floral frock Princess Charlotte is wearing in her latest photos.

And they sang sweet little songs while swinging on the backyard swing.

Take “Say, Say, Oh Playmate” for example. The 1940s hit song reflects a time when the only thing reminding kids to go home for supper was the rumble in their stomachs. It was even on a Wee Sing video. I know because my kids used to have it. (Along with an alphabet video featuring a family of talking bears.)

But you have to admit, Princess Charlotte’s smocked dress is adorable. And the photos of the newest royal, taken by her mother, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, could not be sweeter. (I know, I’m using that word a lot.)

In case you haven’t opened the photos – which are definitely a “clap trap” for anyone with an ounce of estrogen – the frock by Spanish designer Margarito Pato reminds me of the way kids’ clothes used to look.


Or maybe you don’t remember.

But I do. It was a time when kids’ clothing didn’t have licensed characters or slogans emoting some designer’s idea of what a baby wants to say. And while there wasn’t as much of this stuff on the racks when my kids were little, I avoided it at all costs. That was before they became teenagers and started buying their own clothes, and I had the distinct privilege of spending hours in a frozen trance at Aeropostle and Charlotte Russe. (Aren’t those jeans a little too tight? Too low-cut? Too saggy?)

Continue reading