Jessica Mann Gutteridge (jessica) Wed 10 Oct 12 07:18
it looks very nice.
Cynthia (peoples) Wed 10 Oct 12 08:09
I'm not a parent, but I can see that your book explores some really important issues surrounding parenting and child development, sooz. I'm particularly interested in this from <abbess>: "my question is how to cut back when all the activities seem like so much fun, and when our whole family *wants* to do them?" And then she adds: "I aspire to at least one fried visit a week and honestly don't even get there a lot of the time. (I'm a full time mom right now.)" I know "fried" is supposed to be "friend" but still, it made me laugh. It's exhausting work, being a full-time mom, and I bet you do get to feeling "fried" now and again, abbess. But silliness aside, the fact that you aren't able to find room for a friend's visit even once a week sounds like you're working hard to provide all these enriching things for your kids, but at the expense of your own needs. You deserve that little bit of "me time," don't you think? I'm thinking of how we as adults usually handle our own scheduling around things that seem like they'll be fun. Like, if you get invited to a Sunday brunch, and you're offered tickets to a theater matinee thingie, and you're also invited to a 6pm cocktail party that night. They DO all sound good, but that's too much to do in a day. As adults we've learned to honestly assess how much we can squeeze in. We have learned to make rational choices, even when that means we have to give up something we'd like to do. I suspect that "rational choice" thing may get suspended when we're striving to introduce our kids to as many different experiences as possible. I wonder, though, if a surfeit of potential activities could be a learning experience for the kids? Bring them in on the decision process. "Look, we have X, Y, and Z as possible activities today. They all look like a lot of fun, but we don't have time to do all of them, we can only fit in two. What should we do?"
Ruth Bernstein (ruthb) Wed 10 Oct 12 09:05
Abbe and I have spoken about this before, but when my kids were little and I was with them nonstop, I arranged to take Monday evenings off (I chose Monday evenings because the weekends were so tiring). It was a great system and since then my kids have gone to school full-time and I have not figured out how to leave the house in the evenings, but it's starting to come to me (my kids are in elementary school and I started working in July). We are also observant Jews, and this reminds me of a rule we used to have about the Jewish holidays, a five-week cycle of festivities that begin in the fall. We used to have a rule that we would never go from one meal with company to another meal with company without a sleep in between--that means that if we had guests at lunch, we would not go to a friend's house for dinner, even if we really wanted to go and frankly it would have been less work for me to take my family out to a friend's house than to feed them a festive meal at home. It was a rule that served us well, and even though I think it's useless for people who aren't living a religious Jewish life, the idea would probably be good for overextended parents. I have a different question though. I live in a very safe neighborhood and my kids are just starting to be allowed to wander around by themselves or with their friends. I would have liked to have allowed this when they were younger, but I feel a little like I missed that window. Is there is a connection between overextended parents and kids who are supervised all the time (I actually feel kind of sorry for my kids, who I think are over-supervised). Is there a way to move away from too much supervision without drama? Is there a connection between slow parenting and nurturing independence in children?
David Albert (aslan) Wed 10 Oct 12 21:18
> even though I think it's useless for people > who aren't living a religious Jewish life Seems to me it could be useful for lots of people. I know people (including some in my extended family) who go party-hopping at Thanksgiving, or at New Years, or even just because they were invited to two parties in one day. We don't do that, and in general if there are two activities even in one weekend we nearly always pick one and keep the other weekend day free, except in extenuating circumstances (e.g. if Ruth is in a play with 3 performances, obviously she's going to all three). > Is there a way to move away > from too much supervision without drama? Where does the drama come from? For us, it came from Ruth herself: I always wanted to give her more freedom than she wanted to have. These days she finally seems to be glad of it.
Jessica Mann Gutteridge (jessica) Thu 11 Oct 12 12:57
I think that is a very useful rule, ruthb. We often find ourselves way, way overbooked as a family on a particular weekend. So even if it's not "no two meals without a sleep" we might need to impose other limits on the invitations we accept. So much of sooz's book is chock full of projects, crafts, games, ideas -- surely more than any one person can carry around in her head! How did you go about compiling these ideas, researching them, and testing them? Did you get to play handclap games and daisy chains to test the instructions? I want that job, if so!
Clean when the baby cleans. (abbess) Fri 12 Oct 12 10:53
<peoples> comment on how we as adults have learned to make rational choices like not choosing to go to a brunch, a potluck, and a cocktail party all on the sme day made me laugh in sad understanding. Perhaps my problem has more to do with never havign learned that skill for me as an adult, and now the options for activities cover 4 people instead of just one! That's my "slowing down" problem in a nutshell. On the other hand, we don't have one of those school dropoff everyone-stays- in-their-cars line, and even a school pickup when we have another activity in the afternoon involves 15 minutes of unstructured time where the kids play, or the adults chat, or we talk about how the day went; and as often as we can we try to take the bus home which "slows down" the time between 2:30 and 4:00 most days. But I am ambivalent about whether that sort of "slow parenting" really works for us or creates more frenzy somewhere else, when we get home at 4 or 5 instead of 3 and then everyone's hungry, dinner's not yet started or planned, homework needs to get done, and so on.
Susan Sachs Lipman (sooz) Fri 12 Oct 12 10:57
I also like the "no two meals without sleep in between" rule, especially as it seems to work for Ruth's family. Ruth asked about the connection between overscheduled families and parental involvement. I do think there's a connection in that both behaviors can arise from parents' fears about being left behind, or parents' desires and projections for and on their children. When parents view down time and play time as wasted time, they also tend not to allow their kids to explore freely (at age-appropriate times - this differs for every family and neighborhood.) I shared an episode in my book in which parents of the girls in my scout troop arrived at the school at meeting time, hoping to drive the 4th graders to their meeting 3 blocks away. The prime concern of the parents seemed to be that walking was wasted time, and that the meeting could begin more quickly if the girls were driven to it. I had to convince the parents that walking was really fun for the girls. It allowed them a rare and fleeing opportunity to be out in their neighborhood, and have relatively little structure compared to other parts of their lives. 3 blocks. In a group and with leader supervision. I think this speaks volumes about the present culture and the very limited free and unmediated time that children have in their lives. There also might have been some fear on the part of the parents, about walking at all. Even in a town with sidewalks and traffic lights. A lot of parents try to protect their children from every possible negative thing that might happen to them, and of course this does the child no favors at all, in terms of their ability to gather some life skills, not to mention have some childhood fun and discovery. Richard Louv, founder of the Children & Nature Network, refers to some children being under "virtual house arrest", due in part to parental involvement and fear, to the ease of electronic entertainment, and to the other factors that keep a lot of kids indoors rather than outside, if they're playing at all.
Jessica Mann Gutteridge (jessica) Fri 12 Oct 12 11:01
Oh yeah, abbess, I hear you. I am the "girl who can't say no" in many ways and find it all to easy to get myself frenzied. I crave downtime, yet often deprive myself of it if I'm not paying attention. So yeah, not the easiest thing for all adults to do for themselves, much less their kids and family. Slippage from sooz. Just yesterday, Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids email/blog post was about parents opting to drive their children to school instead of allowing them to walk due to fear of abduction by a stranger, unable to absorb the statistical reality that the chances of being killed in a car accident are signficantly higher than the extremely remote chance of a stranger abduction. This is a dangerous trend, as you point out.
Clean when the baby cleans. (abbess) Fri 12 Oct 12 11:10
Just yesterday we had walking and a scheduled activity on the same day! It was one of those crisp fall days, and our routine on Thursdays for the next 2 months is to pick up my daughter's friend M at her school, maybe a quarter of a mile away from the art class they are both signed up for, and then bring them both there. We all decided to walk to art class and the kids were thrilled and had a lovely walk talking about another friends' soon-to- arrive baby, and childbirth, and being a big sibling, and how our days had gone. Lovely and slow. (And, just to throw a statistical wrench in therea about stranger abductions and car accidents, then on my way back to my car, walking distractedly along the sidewalk, I got run over by a bicyclist. Toes a tiny bit worse for the wear, nobody actually injured. But just tell those parents, forget about abductions, it's being RUN DOWN BY CRAZED BIKERS that's the problem!!)
Susan Sachs Lipman (sooz) Fri 12 Oct 12 11:13
Abbe slipped in with some questions to ponder about how to decide what's working for your family .. Does anyone have more to share about that before I pipe in? In the meantime, to Jessica's question, I had so much fun compiling and testing all the activities in the book! Part of the fun was due to the fact that I loved doing so many of the activities when I was a kid, and then teaching them to my daughter and other young people. I found that, as a parent, the playground, hand-clap and jump-rope games, the slumber party games, the outdoor crafts, the campfire foods and songs, all the things I had enjoyed as a young person were extremely easily retrieved. I then researched some of the history of my favorite recipes and games, to add color to writing about them (jump ropes have been in play since Ancient Egypt, when people jumped over vines!) This is something I also enjoy tremendously. While writing the book, I discussed childhood games with my husband and others, who sometimes had different rules. My family tested and re-tested our favorite games and crafts, to be sure I was explaining them correctly. This resulted in an episode during which my daughter came outside to ask me something and found me on our front porch, trying to get a small popsicle-stick airplane aloft. There were often other projects in various stages around the house. Writing the book combined so many things I enjoy doing and thinking about that it rarely felt like work. It's been fun to share ideas that I collected over time from my own childhood, my daughter's childhood, and various mentors and neighbors whose contributions to our rich life have meant a great deal to me. A couple more slips in this interesting discussion! I hope you're OK, Abbe!
Travis Bickle has left the building. (divinea) Fri 12 Oct 12 11:20
It is a bad trend, Jessica, and my neighborhood friends and I addressed it having a parent walk up and get the herd of kids from our block across the one dangerous road, and then letting the kids go- though we didn't start this till my daughter, the oldest of the pack, was in third grade. Before that, I felt that she was too young to be responsible for her tiny friends in a very busy set of streets (hospital, shopping center, five way intersection, lots of crazy people speeding in Escalades, etc.). One question I'd like to raise (again?)is whether <sooz> can offer advice on maintaining our slow pace as high school starts to get nutty. My daughter is limited to two extras a term right now, but I can't completely see that being realistic in her junior and senior years. Her orchestra stuff alone is going to split into multiple commitments, and with the singing and the wilderness program, I'm not sure how to make it all work without losing my shit completely. She's determined to get into Michigan, Cornell or Brown, so I am finally feeling the pressures that other parents started reporting in kindergarten! <slip>
Yes, I ate human flesh, so what? (katecat) Sat 13 Oct 12 07:44
I am not a parent, and I had a delightfully slow 60s childhood, but you guys are making me think seriously about re-slowing my own life now.
Susan Sachs Lipman (sooz) Sun 14 Oct 12 09:38
I just got back from an author event in southern CA, and people there were also asking, as Andrea is, how to keep a slow pace in your family once high school starts. I'm no expert. In my own family, we were remarkably slow when my daughter was young, to the point of being non-mainstream, mostly because Anna did not do multiple extracurriculars or participate in many organized sports. We did many things as a family. When she was young, we saw that the sports, in particular, seemed to take away a lot of precious family time. I feel that we bonded incredibly as a family during those years, even as homework loads increased through middle school. In high school, Anna opted to try some team sports, and the commitment was intense. Suddenly she had 2-hour sports practices 5 days a week, in addition to games, some of which required travel. Because this was new for our family, we rather suddenly "got" just how busy our peers had been for the previous 10 or so years, especially with multiple kids. We not only let her try these new activities, we embraced them, as has she. We do have a few less family dinners. There is much more running around and some crankiness; and a couple of times, we've asked her if the schedule wasn't too much, and if something might be dropped. (It never came to that.) I do strongly feel, however, that by high school, she was choosing the activities, not us parents, and that they sprung from her own desire and passion. I was intensely pleased that activities, including sports, hadn't been closed to her because she hadn't done them for years, as some parents suggested to me when they saw her trying out for teams -- it helped to choose somewhat obscure sports, that were new to other kids as well. And I feel that all those years being "slow" created enduring family bonds that allow us to maintain tremendous closeness, even as we've gotten a little busier. This weekend, for example, saw a water polo tournament yesterday, in another city. Today we have a family date to pick potatoes at a favorite pumpkin patch we've been visiting for years. And at some point, Anna and I will put in an hour or so and visit her college application process. She also saw her friends last night and got some homework reading in while at the tournament. Again, we have one kid, and I recognize that with two, we probably wouldn't all be able to do quite so much together. But we certainly try to stay close, even as the schedule gets busier. In high school, that might mean having breakfast together, staying up late to see Anna when she comes home from being out with her friends, having late dinner, driving places together (teens are notorious for sharing shoulder-to-shoulder rather than face-to-face), teaching her to drive (happening right now), helping her with her college essays, watching Saturday Night Live and Project Runway together, going on weekend bike rides (something we all like to do), or scheduling family days. How are some of you others with teens staying close?
Susan Sachs Lipman (sooz) Sun 14 Oct 12 09:42
And, how are others keeping teen frenzy (a special variety) at bay?
Jessica Mann Gutteridge (jessica) Mon 15 Oct 12 13:58
Hoo boy, I did not follow my own (or sooz's) good advice and was way overloaded this weekend, we all were. Everything we all did was pleasurable (party! concert! comic con! apple picking!) but there was not a moment for rest or reflection. I am exhausted.
Susan Sachs Lipman (sooz) Mon 15 Oct 12 23:25
Have you recovered, Jessica? While all your activities sound really fun, in retrospect, would you have chosen to do less? Or were you all happy and able to recover later? I thought of this conversation on the way home from potato and pumpkin picking on Sunday. My husband had turned down a chance to see the baseball playoff game (I know, sports fans!) because he said, had he had a date to be an hour and a half away from the farm and in the city by late afternoon, he would have been watching the time at the farm and not completely enjoying himself. He made the choice to do the one most important thing (to him) and to try not to do everything, as doing so would come at the possible expense of each experience. As it was, we stopped at a market on the way home and got fixins to roast with our new potatoes, which we enjoyed while watching the baseball game on TV. While not quite as measured as my husband, I do try to make realistic choices regarding time, and try to be very present during each activity. Our farm visit was exceedingly memorable for all of us.
Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Tue 16 Oct 12 09:52
I'm the one in our family who wants to go-go-go. I'm very social and love being with friends, so for instance, this past weekend we had two birthday parties, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. But I have to say both were slow, pleasant affairs that felt more like playdates. No bouncy houses, no outsourced hilarity. The first was a bunch of kids playing in an Alameda backyard, the second was a bunch of kids in dressup clothes in a San Francisco cul-de-sac. So while it was exhausting, I didn't feel too bad about it. We had Sunday to recover, and it was a cranky day, and we dealt with it. There was a third party that was held in one of those indoor trampoline places and I think I would have refused to go even if we hadn't had the other parties. I have Penny's 4th birthday coming up this Sunday, and uncharacteristically for me, I haven't done anything to plan it. Previous years we've just held it at a playground so the kids could run wild after loading up on chocolate and sugar, but frankly that felt a bit thin last year. I feel like I'd like to (a) have it somewhere more creative than a playground and (b) have a loosely-structured activity. If the kids were older I'd create stuffies (you know, like Build-a-Bear, but not $90) for them to decorate and stuff, but they're still too young for that (plus a ton of younger siblings). In my mind I have an idea of something weird like a maypole, but I'm weird. Any suggestions, Suz? And everyone else?
Jessica Mann Gutteridge (jessica) Tue 16 Oct 12 10:06
sooz, I'd say I would defnitely have cut back on this activity if I'd been making decisions just for myself. I would have skipped the Friday night party and probably the apple picking too, and used that time to do something unstructured with the family and simply rest. Fortunately for the rest of the family, they had most of Saturday free for that -- I was the only one who went to Comic Con. One thing that's making it harder for me to refuse social outings is that my husband runs his business from home, so he really craves the social interaction that I more easily get at work. And since both Friday night and Sunday involved seeing families with kids who are friends with my kids, I'm reluctant to cancel that, for some of the social reasons I talked about earlier in the discussion.
Susan Sachs Lipman (sooz) Tue 16 Oct 12 10:32
Amy, thanks for chiming in! You reminded me that it is my daughter who has always been extremely social, more than either of us parents, so finding a balance that suited everyone, especially when she was younger, might have included more social activity than it would have for more easily overwhelmed children. And, you're right, lower key events are completely different from mediated, indoor, often overstimulating activity. We weigh those qualities, too. As social as my daughter is, some settings feel really claustrophobic to her (as well as overly exhausting to us parents), so definitely that's been something we've taken into consideration when choosing between activities. The Maypole idea is really sweet and a way to add an activity to an outdoor event. I have maypole instructions here, if you're up for it: http://www.slowfamilyonline.com/2012/04/dance-around-a-maypole-for-may-day-2/ With kids 4 and under, the maypole will be a loose affair, but it sounds like you're up for that. Other ideas, if it's an outdoor party in a yard or park, might include a simple scavenger hunt. I can give you more ideas about that if you're interested. Or a nature bracelet activity where kids go for a guided walk with a masking tape bracelet around each wrist and pick up small things in nature to tack onto the bracelet. You can also gather at a table for a simple game like Bingo. Or make leaf rubbings on paper with crayons. Or lead playground games like Duck, Duck, Goose or Red Light, Green Light. (I can give you instructions.) Usually kids 4 and younger will still want/need to run around a lot. We had an indoor party (later fall birthday) so I do remember Bingo, with cards that we made ahead of time - they had xeroxed pictures of Peanuts characters to match a deck of cards Anna liked. I might have also had kids decorate their own cupcakes, or do an easy craft. My ideas are super old-school, but kids usually enjoy and remember them and they're easy on the parents and do-able with younger siblings.
Susan Sachs Lipman (sooz) Tue 16 Oct 12 10:36
Jessica slipped - yes, it's challenging to take into account family members' varying needs, isn't it? I think it's really great to bond with other families when your kids are young. Those opportunities dwindle a bit as kids age (out of elementary school, in my experience), so it can be nice to forge friendships now. And weekend and event busy-ness can feel different from day-in-day-out overscheduling. Weekends and events can be weighed as each arise. (Although sometimes it helps to know one's limits around birthday parties and such.) I think decisions about long-ranging extracurricular activities and commitments can be especially challenging, in terms of weighing what is gained and lost by continuing or dropping an activity. I've also been thinking about transition time and needs around transitions and recharging. We are all different in that regard as well. It can be as important to take that into account as it is the actual activity levels. (Ruth touched on this a bit, with the idea about no two meals out without a sleep in between.)
Amy Keyishian (superamyk) Tue 16 Oct 12 13:08
We've done so much cupcake-decorating, and in my experience the littler kids have a hard time getting what the heck we're DOING on a scavenger hunt, but holy cow, I absolutely LOVE the bracelet idea! I am also going to take a closer look at the maypole. I actually have maypole leftovers I got from Freecycle that I had thought I'd use for a different project, but haven't yet. Have you tried geocaching? I like the idea but I don't know if it's just too annoying to do ourselves.
Jessica Mann Gutteridge (jessica) Tue 16 Oct 12 13:16
Transition time is such an important component of all this, thanks for bringing it up because I wasn't thinking about it through that lens. With adequate transition time and even rituals, doing many things may be a lot more tolerable to a particular individual or family. Sometimes the feeling of frenzy is less about what I'm doing than feeling like I can't switch gears effectively and feel overwhelmed.
Ruth Bernstein (ruthb) Tue 16 Oct 12 13:22
Totally agree about transition time. I don't really care about it much, but other members of my family do. We have it somewhat built in on the weekends, but it's also important for my kids, both so that they can have some peace and so that I can say, "Now it's time to go to bed" or "now it's time to do homework" and they'll listen. Sometimes they can decide or help choose what it's time for, but sometimes they just cannot.
Clean when the baby cleans. (abbess) Tue 16 Oct 12 18:56
100% agree that getting the transitions smooth make it easier to enjoy both the downtime and the busy times - whether it's transitioning from a walk home through the neighborhood to finding something to do indoors while we get dinner ready, or transitioning from reading and relaxing to heading out on time for chorus rehearsal or a birthday party. In my family I think I don't need all that much to get transitions going but everyone else does, and I need to work on letting those transitions be comfortable for everyone rather than be me becoming impatient with them all for not being ready to get to the table when dinner's ready, or not putting down the book and putting on shoes, etc. Slowing them down with gentle reminders doesn't actually make dinner get cold or make us more than a minute later leaving the house... but it does make everyone feel better!
Jonelle Patrick (jonellep) Fri 19 Oct 12 02:48
I'm sorry to be so late to this wonderful discussion - Susan, I wish your book had been out when my kids were young! I would have snapped up stuff from every chapter, it sounds like, because I too gnashed my teeth at the frenzy parents whipped themselves and their kids into, anxious about providing every opportunity for success Before It's Too Late. So from the perspective of a parent whose three boys are now off to college, maybe what I can contribute is validation for many of the things you are recommending, through my personal 20-20 hindsight! The biggest one is that even though I spent enormous effort shepherding them all to music and sports and arts and language lessons, it was the things they found on their own and became passionate about that really shaped them. They discovered these things DESPITE all my earnest parenting efforts, not because of them, and I love how you are advocating just that sort of approach. More like gardening than sculpting. The one thing I did as a parent that I think they are taking away into adulthood is insisting that we all eat dinner together almost every night. There was, er, considerable complaining about this as they wended their way through Those Peckish Years, but when my oldest son went off to college and moved off campus his junior year, he proudly told me he'd instituted Family Dinner on Friday nights. None of the four kids he lived with had grown up eating dinner together with their families, and the weekly cook-together- and-talk-about-your-week-around-the-table beame a cherished tradition in his house. It made me so happy that not only did my son want to keep that in his life, he spread it to others too. And that's one of the great beauties of what you're doing, Susan. Your kids will grow up in the wonderful way youare raising them. And then they will raise their kids that way, and so on and so on! Thank you for writing such a lovely book!
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