Archive for the 'on letting kids be kids' Category

Parenthood: Often Unglamorous, Always Worthwhile

Kids are messy and smelly. They have the “deceptively innocent eyes” thing down pat. When they’re not busy being those things, they are pretty awesome.

Our first-ever guest blogger, Jamie Hope Bellagamba, is a wife/mom/baker/caretaker/homemaker extraordinaire! She shares why even though the precious moments seem few and fleeting with her gaggle of little girls, parenthood is so worth it

Shortly after my third child was born, I thought it would be fun to write a book for expectant parents that detailed all the things you need to know before you have children. Sort of a “What You Can Expect Your Life To Be Like After You’re Expecting and Junior’s Staring Up At You With Deceptively Innocent Eyes.” The following are a few pointers I was going to include in the book:

  • Ideas for where to store all of your nice stuff (that glass-topped table with a giant crack in it will be of no use to anyone).
  • Your best options for steam cleaners – even if you don’t have carpet. No telling where those bodily fluids are gonna end up!
  • Tips for staying awake while driving (chewing gum always works for me).
  • Quiet activities for the dreaded dinner hour—there ARE options besides Yo Gabba Gabba.
  • Quick, easy dinner ideas (because it’s hard to cook with a baby attached to your boob).

Sensing a theme? Talk about Debbie Downer! If this book was ever published, I would be responsible for single-handedly decreasing the birth rate in this country. What I’d written actually depressed me and had me wondering, aren’t there any positives to being a parent?

I think I can be forgiven for composing this list while taking care of a colicky newborn, a toddler and a preschooler, not to mention running a home-based baking business and seeing to the domestic needs of a husband who travels for work two weeks out of every month. Obviously I was tired and delirious – think I still am, and will be for a while.

The thing is, sometimes being a parent isn’t really much fun. Kids are messy and smelly. They take away your body, your sleep, your free time, your sanity – and yet, even during your worst day, there will be a moment that makes all the challenges worth it: a spontaneous kiss, a random “I love you, Mom,” and those far-between moments when you realize – for once – the kids aren’t fighting, but playing together as if they actually like each other. Life is peaceful.

And suddenly, your 9-month-old grabs your shoulder and pulls up to stand, then lets go, hovering there for a moment with a giant grin on her face.

Being a parent isn’t glamorous, and it certainly isn’t worthy of a medal of honor. But it sure feels good when a little person you created reaches a milestone like that.

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On Gender-y Stuff

I love this 1981 LEGO ad. To me, this is the quintessential happy kid.

There are some things as a parent I’ve vowed not to obsess over. Because they’re a waste of time and energy and don’t matter when it’s all said and done. If they ever matter to my child, it won’t be because I made them seem important when he was growing up.

Gender-y stuff is a big one. I don’t get all bent when my son points out the princess castle EVERY DAY at preschool (instead of say, the firetruck). Or flip a lid when he wants to hold his male friend’s hand. Or is curious about my makeup and fake applies blush to his face.

Because, guess what? KIDS ARE KIDS.

They like all of the toys (and the boxes the toys come in – *especially* the boxes the toys come in) and rocks and water and bugs and things you and I don’t even see anymore. They like being with their friends. They like showing friends affection and enthusiasm with hugs and hand-holding. Kisses, even. This is an innocent time. I fully intend to let my son enjoy this time without any adult’s ideas of what a boy or girl should be.

Children care about having fun and exploring the world – they do not differentiate between blue and pink, gay and straight, feminine and masculine. No, it’s the adults who do that.

I know I’m not being very scientific here (if my use of “gender-y stuff” is any indication). There are entire fields of study built around this topic. I know it’s more complicated than a blog post. I’m not naive.

But I know shaming a child for going outside of his or her gender stereotypes does not help in raising a confident, empathetic person (given that’s what we aim for). Limiting a child to a certain color or toy or area of interest does nothing to encourage independent thinking or discovery. Yanking a doll from a little boy’s hand because it’s “for girls,” for example, is basically telling him girl-things are wrong. That and the fact that there are things, as a boy, you can’t and should not enjoy or want. Talk about totally cutting your child off from a major part of the human experience.

Me? I’d like to keep my son’s innocent years free from the confines of the sort of bizarre creature that is gender role stereotypes. Having a happy child is more important to me than pretty much anything else in this world.

“Raising Free-Range Kids”

Read it here. By Roger Ebert


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