When my kids were younger, I set a basic parenting standard for myself. I decided that if they were not serial killers, child soldiers, or felled by an easily-preventable disease, I had succeeded.
This wasn’t a high standard. Definitely not tiger mom-like behavior. More like lion dad, assuming that the lion spends most of his time lying around and napping.
Turns out I was ahead of the curve. Today’s Washington Post has a piece making “The compelling case for being an ‘intentionally lazy’ parent:”
Educators are being taught strategies and interventions to incorporate the skills in their classrooms: posting schedules, making to-do lists and providing outlines or organization checks and rubrics that detail assignment requirements. This is a crucial step — but parents need a framework to reinforce these skills at home.
That framework is what I call “Intentional Laziness Parenting.” Essentially, it means to deliberately be disengaged. This may sound counterintuitive, but it gives children the independence to try, do, and maybe even fail a little, on their own.
I think I only got the executive skills things down when I was out of graduate school, but if you can master it before then, awesome.
And intentional laziness parenting is not actually lazy at all. It’s difficult and requires both mental and physical determination from the parent.
My son was at a rugby tournament today (a Sunday), at a field that was a couple hours’ drive. So when I came across this piece by Louis M. Profeta I took notice:
Some years back, I wrote a piece that went viral, “Your Kid and My Kid Are Not Playing in the Pros,” and I got more than a thousand e-mails about the article. Most were supportive, some not, but what I was completely unprepared for was the correspondence I received from grandparents. For the most part, they were all absolutely heartbreaking. The central theme was that they did not know their grandchildren because travel sports had robbed them of weekends and Sunday night dinners and countless other opportunities to interact. Going to their baseball games in the middle of the summer — or sitting in a loud gym — was just not a bonding experience for them; it was physically exhausting. Besides, you can’t talk about rationing sugar during the war, or marching on the mall, or sitting through the Watergate hearings between timeouts. It doesn’t work like that, that’s not enough.
I’ve had plenty of Saturdays or Sundays where I was in the car for hours with kids, but the piece makes me wonder to what degree overscheduling kids’ lives comes at the expense of extended family. In these very highly scheduled lives, do we deepen horizontal connections with teams and interest groups but unintentionally weaken connections between generations?
Hollee (really?) Actman Becker has a great, heartfelt and smart piece about Instagram beauty contests (as terrible as they sound, read about them yourself), and the responsibilities parents have to helping their kids use technologies in ways that are smart:
we are failing our children by not giving them the tools they need to properly navigate this scary new world, and by not monitoring their interactions in this world closely enough once we do….
Because the minute we give our kids an iphone or ipod or any other gadget that puts technology quite literally in the palms of their hands, we become responsible for whatever happens next….
We potty train our kids, teach them good table manners, spend 10 minutes deciphering the food label on a candy bar before we let them eat it. And yet, we set our kids up on social media, and then for all intents and purposes, we hang them out to dry.
Checking our kids’ news feeds to see what they are viewing, scrolling through their profiles to see what they’re posting, investigating the people who want to follow them, finding out who they’ve given their password to and monitoring all of their accounts (because most kids have more than one instagram account in case you didn’t know) doesn’t make us helicopter parents.
It makes us smart parents.
As the father of a girl who just turned 14 yesterday, I say: Read the whole thing.
My daughter, scrolling through the new Netflix for Kids: "Spongebob Squarepants? That's NOTHING like The Pink Panther! What are they thinking??" This algorithm sucks!
She also spent about 15 minutes this morning just browsing the titles, which is disturbingly like how I watch Netflix.
Just came across this picture from their trip to England in April.
at the science museum, via flickr
Today we took the kids to the British Museum, so they could see the Rosetta Stone and other Egyptian and Greek art (thank you, Rick Riordan!).
They liked it, though the day was quite full, and they went straight to bed after they got home.
I have to admit: after a month away from them, I’d forgotten how exhausting children are. I’ve had a month without kids for the first time in twelve years, and it’s incredible how much I’ve been able to think and read. I need to learn to protect my time and attention more in my normal California life.
After the British Museum, we went to the V&A, Science Museum, and Natural History Museum (all of which are close together, so it wasn’t that insane), and Hamleys, the huge toy store. Regent Street was beautiful this evening, though it usually is.
When we got home, my son said, “It’s good to be back in Cambridge.” Brilliant.
My daughter asked if we could grill. When we told my son he said, “Grilling with who else?”
I do tend to cook for several more people than are actually here, no matter how many people eat.
Today, at long last, the kids went back to school. Peninsula starts late– I interpret it as yet another test of parental loyalty to the institution, a kind of Hell Week ritual– and this last week I’ve more or less played full-time dad.
Fortunately the kids are old enough to manage themselves much of the time, and if you get several of them together they’re pretty self-entertaining: on good days I could make a couple large bowls of popcorn, give one of them a watch and tell them not to bother me until lunch, and crank up the headphones. If you’re lucky, though, even then you can get to about 50% attention.
Not that I’m really complaining. While it’s never easy, it’s always worth it to be a parent, and I’m grateful to have the kind of life where I can devote time to them. And frankly, the world won’t end because I couldn’t focus enough to finish revisions to the social scanning article last week (the reviewers were pretty kind to me, so they shouldn’t be too hard).
Still, it’s nice to have the space to sink into a text and ideas.
[To the tune of Steely Dan, “Midnite Cruiser,” from the album Citizen (a 4-star song, imo).]
I’ve recently been interested in the subject of unanticipated or unintended consequences. Most of my interest has been fueled by a sense that arguments of the “nobody could have predicted this massive, now-obvious consequence of actions I took” type are becoming more popular: think how often they’ve been deployed in the aftermath of the Iraq war, the financial meltdown, Deepwater Horizon, etc..
Of course, unanticipated consequences can be good things too, as I noticed this morning. We recently bought a new vacuum cleaner, one of the bagless cyclonic kinds with the transparent canister. I mainly liked the fact that there were no bags, and that it was less than 20 years old. But my kids turn out to really like too: so much so, in fact, that they’re actually cleaning their rooms when friends come over.
Why? Because as they vacuum their rooms, the canister turns into a “tornado of grossness,” as one of my son’s friends put it.
Making the canister transparent turns vacuuming into entertainment– and because it combines technology, loud noises, visual effects, and gross stuff, it’s irresistable to young boys.
I have no idea if the designers have kids, but: well done.
[To the tune of Rob Dougan, “Furious Angels,” from the album Furious Angels (a 3-star song, imo).]