The other day I decided to play doting pioneer mother and made the kids oatmeal. Not the instant or semi-instant stuff — the real oatmeal, hard oats, from scratch.
When I put the oatmeal, enhanced with secretive flax-like ingredients and topped with strawberries, down in front of the girls, they tackled it like they meant it. Which is no small feat in our house lately, where pickiness has metastasized into a kind of global crisis.
Mouth stuffed full (manners are also a global crisis right now), my 7-year-old, Fair (not her real name, but I’ve bargained with myself that ethically I can keep blogging about my kids longer if I use pseudonyms), turned to her 5-year-old sister, Fancy.
“Why mufstrab imf pnkicks?” she asked earnestly, which translates roughly to, “Why do you like strawberries inside your oatmeal, but when Daddy makes pancakes you will only have the strawberries outside?”
Without pondering the question for even a split second (because she is already in training to be the country’s most fearsome and fearless prosecutor), Fancy shot back: “Because, [Fair], that’s just the way the world is.” Followed by an almost imperceptible shake of the head and near-eye-roll, like — duh, who doesn’t know that?
Did I mention she’s 5?
It is the season of conviction in our family. Listening to my girls lately, I marvel at the strength of their certainty about everything, from the suspect claim that pigeons milk their young to the best way we should reorganize our economic system (by barter, they will tell anyone who listens, so no one has to pay for anything and “everything is free”).
I think they’re onto something with their convictions. If you believe something is right, why not feel strongly about it and be proud to speak up? And if you’re not sure, hey — fake it ‘til you make it. Confidence goes a long way in life.
I reminded myself this week that my kids’ strong convictions and eternal curiosity will take them far. I did this mostly to make myself feel less guilty about the dirty little secret of our summer: how much screen time they’re getting. Immediately as I write this I feel the need to confess, so that I may be absolved. So here it is — an hour a day, sometimes more. They sleep in, wake up borderline grouchy like the teenagers they won’t be for another 5–7 years, shove some handfuls of Cheerios in their mouths, and then they need their summer hour of screen time. Like, well, addicts.
I think I’ve enabled them partly because I’m just really amused at what they’re watching. Somehow, manhandling my Kindle Fire, they have mastered Netflix and discovered a trove of quality programming. I came into Fair’s room the other morning to find them both snuggled into her bed, huddled over the Kindle, eyes alight, mouths agape.
“What are you watching?” I asked.
“It’s this really really really good show,” someone responded.
“About a princess,” the other said, eyes never leaving the screen.
“Her name is She-Ra. And it’s the Best. Show. Ever.” Final bit of information before they blocked me out completely.
She-Ra? Princess of Power? (Cue the cheesy intro music that you will know if you were a child of the ’80s).
I’m a sucker for my own childhood nostalgia. Case in point: I bought Fancy a record player for her recent birthday. With vintage records I bid off eBay. Did I mention she’s 5?
The She-Ra melody has been playing in my head in a loop. Will He-Man’s twin sister lead the Great Rebellion in freeing their home world of Etheria from the tyrannical rule of Hordak and the Evil Horde? I almost want to put on some metallic wrist bands, pour some Fruit Loops and go watch right now.
So sure, go ahead kids, ingest as much old-school ’80s programming as you want to. How about some Smurfs, some vintage Scooby-Do? Fraggle Rock?
I’m going to hell. (This is where I need Fancy to pipe in how educational and brain-boosting at least one hour a day of screen time, preferably first thing in the morning, is for kids — it’s all in the conviction, never mind how erroneous the info might be). It’s going to get better, though, I swear (don’t think you’re supposed to do that in confession. Anyway…)
While She-Ra has been babysitting the kids as they broaden their ’80s pop culture mastery, I have been doing very non-super-power, non-superhero stuff like figuring out how to get good at my new job. Which I started this week — as the Web Editor for ParentMap. Yes, this space right here, the place of parenting stories, news you need, and ideas and activities to keep your family happy (and away from the cartoons) is now my new domain and awesome responsibility!
I’m thrilled to be here. But I’ve been reminded by invisible forces (Hordak, is that you?) that every change takes a period of adjustment. I am getting used to a new work rhythm that involves being a part of a (creative, parent-supportive, incredible and passionate) work team as opposed to being an independent, solo flyer. My kids are adjusting to a summer that balances mom time, babysitter time and camps (fine, darn it, and TV).
As I grow into this new challenge, evil hordes will be thrown my way. Like this week when I rushed into the house after meetings to relieve the babysitter and, in my excitement to reunite with the kids (and my rustiness with wedge heels) I tripped on the (newly neglected) dog and dropped my laptop. All the way to the floor. Crash.
It’s hard to be a Web Editor when your computer does nothing but make a pathetic beeping noise and flash stripy green.
But deep in my gut, I know this is the job for me. I can’t think of a time in my career that has ever felt this right. I can’t remember ever feeling so excited to connect with people and stories and ideas. And I can’t think of a space that blends the excitement and love of parenting with the inspiration of community as well as ParentMap does and will.
I hope to settle in quickly and artfully fend off most of the evil hordes so that I can become a huge advocate for parents, a discussion sparker, a resource tracker-downer. I will. Because when something is right, you just know it.