Friday, July 27, 2012

No-kids-allowed movement brews controversy

Published on KSL (click HERE for the link)

“You are what is wrong with America today.” That is the first sentence from one of the hundreds of comments and emails I received in response to my recent column titled, “No-kids-allowed movement growing in popularity (”

Granted, I had put myself out there and described a time in a grocery store when I hadn’t handled my toddler’s atrocious behavior nearly as well as I (hopefully) would today. As a mom, there are few things more painful than having to actually make a mistake before learning from it.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about readers’ responses to the idea of banning children from businesses as a reaction to misbehaving kids (like mine at times) and imperfect parenting (again, like mine). As illustrated by the reader who feels that I shoulder the blame for America’s problems, readers’ responses to these “brat bans” were not only interesting and eye-opening, but tremendously diverse and polarized.

Since everyone is affected by this issue on some level, I thought I’d share some of the more (or less, as the case may be) enlightening comments.

“Every business who enacts this policy is my personal hero and will get my business.”

“I would like to get a list of those businesses that enforce these no kids allowed policies so I can avoid giving them my business.”

“Why should the childfree continue to be treated like second class citizens and continue to have to be subjected to people who refuse to control their children? When I shell out money to go to a movie, is it fair that I miss out on the experience because some parent brings their screaming child to the movie and chooses not to do anything about it?”

“This is just part of growing up. Older people love to armchair quarter back what others are doing, but think back to your own days as a young parent and you will find that things are really not that different."

“The support for this type of movement is common in countries that have declining populations. Being less accepting of children can only speed the decline. Less children will mean less adults eventually and this trend seems to affect higher income brackets most. So the poor will populate, overall education levels go down, and the gap between the haves and have-nots increases. Sad to see us come to this.”

“Unfortunately the kids are getting painted with the broad brush when the majority of the blame should go to the thoughtless, brain dead parents who don't even consider how disruptive and annoying their little sweetheart is to others. This is an opportunity to teach them how to behave in public.”

“For all those saying it is a parenting issue, I ask you how we should parent this generation? Our only option is time out. Everything else is considered child abuse. Disciplining is now so over analyzed that it is extremely hard to figure out how to do it. I wish I could use the techniques my parents used on me and just go with the flow, but everywhere I turn I am being told that it is abusive, psychologically damaging, etc. Please be compassionate to those of us that are doing our best.”

“It is a violation of the families' rights to ban them from establishments for the sake of others. This whole ban idea targets a specific group of individuals and is wrong.”

“We should use common sense about where we take our children. An outright ban is unfortunate, but may be necessary in some situations. I have been in too many movies that I would never consider taking a child to, but someone else had no problem bringing their toddler, making the experience unpleasant.”

“Racial segregation is no longer acceptable, but age and class seem to be fair game. There's something wrong with that attitude.”

“Rather than focusing on the term ‘ban’ I like to look at it as ‘guidelines for parents who don’t know when the kids should stay home.’ ”

“I'm completely supportive of this as long as:

— We can have old people free zones where I don't have to try and get around the folks driving 10 mph under the speed limit.

— We can have cell free zones where I don't have to hear loud talkers yelling into their cell phones about things that no one cares about.

— We can have perfume/cologne free zones where I don't have to smell your attempt at a French bath.

Well if we really get down to it, there's something that annoys just about everyone, so why don't we just all stay in our own homes?”

“I agree that there are times and places where kids shouldn't be part of the scene, but it's really up to the parents to understand and respect that. I also think there are times and places where kids are to be expected and in those cases, it's up to the childless adults to respect that. I definitely don't want to live in a society where children and their parents are banned, but everyone needs to understand reasonable boundaries and I sometimes find that lacking these days. As if everyone believes a certain experience should be 100% geared for them and their specific needs. What happened to being part of a community made up of lots of different types of people?”

And finally, “How are our kids supposed to learn how to act in public, if they are not welcome in public?”

In a world where nothing will ever be ideal, I vote for tolerance and support of each other as we navigate through our lives — earnestly but imperfectly — as we try to build strong communities made up of lots of different types of people.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 Summer Writing Prompt #6: Your Mountain is Waiting

I just spent a week in the mountains and was awed (as always) at the beauty and majesty and pure awesomeness of a mountain.   Read these quotes, look at the pictures, and WRITE.

Here are a few ideas:

  • What would you do if you were left alone on a mountain for a week?
  • What mountains are waiting for you or what mountains have you already climbed in your life?  How will or did  you conquer them?
  • Have you ever hiked a mountain?  Describe your experience.
  • Write a list of adjectives describing what you see in this picture.  How many words can you come up with?
  • What does the following phrase from the last quote mean to you?  "...all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing"

"Today is your day.  Your mountain is waiting . . . so get on your way." 
--Dr. Seuss

 "It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."  
-- Edmund Hillary
 "I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Life lessons, pranks, trivia help strengthen family ties around the dinner table

Published on KSL (click HERE for the link)
Published in Cross Timbers Gazette (click HERE for the link)

I turned up the car radio and listened closely to the rest of an interview with a celebrity, wondering if I had perhaps misheard. I hadn’t. Here’s the quote (taken from the radio station’s website to ensure accuracy):

“You could name on one hand anyone who has one meal with the entire family sitting down together. It doesn't happen anymore. And also, the meals that we had at home were the most horrible experiences of my life. (They were my stepfather’s) only chance to torture the family altogether, and so he made the most of it.”

How very sad for that man, I thought. My own kids would never suggest that eating a meal with their family is horrible.

Or would they? I guess it all depends on one’s definition of horrible. Family meals at my house can be challenging.

My kids often feel that saying things like “please” and “thank you” is highly inconvenient. And they find it irksome that they must eat their vegetables (which starving kids worldwide would be most grateful to take off their hands) if they want dessert. And they are put off by the fact that no one (Mom in particular) wants to watch food being chewed, even if the teeth doing the chewing belong to her very own children and are (mostly) cavity-free.

Admittedly, conversation is taxing at times. My cheerful and carefully worded inquiries about my kids’ days are at times met with grunts or eye rolls. Heated arguments break out over weighty matters, like who gets the last roll or whose turn it is to load the dishwasher. And my kids are forever trying to one-up and out-insult each other, prompting me to break out in song.

Oddly, my relatively pleasant rendition of “Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words" tends to have the opposite effect of its intended purpose.

Frankly, the kids aren’t the only ones who feel put upon. I’ve come away from an undisclosed number of family meals feeling as if I have just run the gauntlet, after which I devise clever schemes like installing pet flaps on each child’s door and serving meals via cafeteria tray.

But just as I’m about to head to the home improvement store for small rubber doors, I pause and reflect on what truly transpires at our family dinner table.

We learn life lessons. Recently, my 11-year-old son asked his 14-year-old brother for water and was handed a glass of water, scalding hot. I intervened by clarifying that the water must be cold. My son was soon spewing cold, salty water across the kitchen table. Unwilling to take any more chances, he got up to secure his own water. My 14-year-old then offered some sage advice, “It just goes to show that if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.”

We try our hands at solving conundrums. My son once queried, “Those stories about lambs being eaten by lions don’t make sense. Lambs don’t even live on the Savannah — when would that ever happen?” My daughter gave it her best shot, “At the zoo, maybe?”

We share trivia and (ideally) show tolerance. For example, I have learned at my kitchen table that kangaroos can’t hop backwards and that a cow can be led up stairs but not down. My 6-year-old even insisted that the initials S.I. stand for “Shoe Ice Cream.” My kids argue over many things at the table, but they didn’t challenge their baby brother on that issue. Instead, they smiled and wondered what shoe ice cream might taste like. The consensus was probably not very good.

We feel and (ideally) show empathy. One of my sons has gone to great lengths to rid himself of freckles. At the dinner table one night, he was particularly distressed and fervently wished his freckles gone. His is older sister listened to his complaints and said, “I have freckles, too. They’re not that bad — they’re kind of cute on you.” My daughter has one, maybe two freckles. I blinked back tears, thanking her with a huge wink.

Orchestrating regular family meals can be tricky — preparation, management, cleanup — not to mention getting everyone home at the same time. And even when all of those variables align perfectly, one person’s rotten day can easily derail the meal experience for everyone else.

Yet shared meals can anchor a family. According to Time magazine’s “The Magic of the Family Meal," social scientists say that family meals act as a kind of vaccine, protecting kids from all manner of harm.

In fact, experts in adolescent development say that “it's in the teenage years that this daily investment pays some of its biggest dividends. Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use.”

Are we as parents undervaluing ourselves when we conclude that sending kids off to every conceivable extracurricular activity is a better use of time than an hour spent around a table, just talking to Mom and Dad?

My kids’ meal experiences will never resemble Beaver Cleaver’s. But in anticipation of the next hilarious, delightful, thought-provoking or poignant mealtime moment — and I know that these will occur, albeit irregularly — I’m going to set food on the table, invite everyone to sit down and see what happens.

Despite the occasional horrible episode, I suspect it will all be worth it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

2012 Summer Writing Prompt #5: 4th of July Fun

Most of us will be attending or watching fireworks displays.  Here are a few questions for your kids to research (gulp), think and then write about BEFORE the fireworks.  It may help them see the fireworks in a different "light," so to speak.

July 4th is a holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and declaring our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Why do we use fireworks and parades to celebrate this holiday?

What are the Top 10 reasons that you are glad to live in the United States.

Happy Independence Day!!!