The ‘hood


This post was influenced by:

http://www.rosemond.com/view/389/21753/Weekly-Column—101408.html  (READ THIS ONE IF ANYTHING)

http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

as well as this amazing book I’m currently reading, and highly recommend:

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Child-Woods-Children-Nature-Deficit/dp/156512605X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

I could not have stumbled upon all this at a more appropriate time…I have recently been struggling with this very issue of independence with my 10 year old, and reading all of the above resources has really given me a new perspective (and a bit more confidence too!) We just moved from a big metropolitan area to a very small town on the Jersey shore–in other words, from the land of helicopter parents (myself included in this category) to the land of free-range kids, and what I’d considered irresponsible parenting–until now that is. My daughter’s friends all ride their bikes everywhere around town. She somehow managed to convince me to allow her the same freedom, and while I was extremely reluctant, I finally gave in. I was a basket case the first time I let her go. In our old neighborhood I never let her out of my sight. Now, she rides 16 blocks away to a friend’s house or the corner store. I’m not sure how I made that leap of faith, but ultimately that’s what it was. It occurred to me that being a “helicopter” and hovering about her, I was no less worried and was in fact, more EXHAUSTED by it all. I spent all my time fretting over my kids. I couldn’t do my own thing because I had to be outside watching my kids like a hawk. I didn’t want to deny them playtime, especially in the great outdoors (yeah, how great could it be when it was kept to a 1/2 block radius?) so I was always out there with them.  Now I realize that by hovering, I was ultimately doing both of us a disservice. The kids were always frustrated by my restrictions, and I was frustrated by their inability to understand that I was only trying to keep them “safe”. I was also always frustrated that instead of being inside cleaning or making dinner, or having a cocktail, I was making myself a slave to my children’s “safety”.   It has finally occurred to me that as terrific as my eyes may be (as long as my glasses are on that is), they alone do not have to power to prevent my kids from getting hurt.  How long was I going to be standing over my kids while they (marginally) participated in outdoor activities?  I can’t imagine hanging out in the quad with Emma when she goes to Princeton (hah!), but at what point is it okay for me to let go and trust that she’ll be ok without my constant vigilance?

Part of the problem I think, besides the obvious media culture influence, is the fear parents have of being judged by others. We worry that if we aren’t out there with our kids or constantly watching them, we will be considered negligent. While I intuitively felt that my child was trustworthy enough and smart enough to play unsupervised, EVERYONE ELSE was out there supervising (and micromanaging) their kids. Therefore, I felt that if I was the only parent who stayed inside, to do the parenting from a distance, well, I would be seen as a bad mom. I believe it’s parental peer pressure that keeps so many of us hovering around our kids.  I kept imagining what would happen if my child was hurt, or worse, abducted(!) while I was inside whipping up a margarita…”Oh well, if she’d only been outside WATCHING her, she’d be okay right now.”  It’s not a stretch of the imagination.  Moms get blamed for everything anyway. 

Now I live in a place far removed from this generation of control-freak moms and dads. Parents in my new hometown seem remarkably laid back, or should I say, they are a THROW-back to another era? And after reading Skenazy and John Rosemond, and seeing my child’s joy as she earns her independence, I must say, I am learning to shed my helicopter ways and ease up a bit. I will still worry, but I’m pretty sure that’s an occupational hazard of parenting in general. Now I think that as long as I educate my child, and arm her with the tools she needs to navigate not only her town, but life itself, I think she’ll be better off for having her mom BACK off!

Advertisements
Home!

Home!

well, technically it’s been almost two weeks, but that wouldn’t have made for as cute a title. (and Hot Damn! have I ever missed having a computer!  We just got one yesterday.  I’m still coming off the withdrawal effects, so please forgive me any typos or disconnected thoughts.  Still got the shakes.)

So here we are.  We made it.  We reunited with my long lost husband and then hit the road.  It’s so nice to have my family whole once again.  Even if it is in New Jersey.  (just kidding, all you natives.)

Now we are ready to begin The Next Chapter of our lives.  Matt however, prefers to call this “The Bookmark” of our lives, since we are really only between chapters, so to speak.  LBI is more like a luxurious halfway house than a place we are settling down.  We are incredibly fortunate to have a free place to stay for now, but this lovely town is only home until our other home sells. (Although the way things are looking in that department, we may be here for the next decade.)  At that point, we will be looking for a permanant place to settle down, preferably in a town that is at least in the same area code as Matt’s job.  Right now he is commuting 90 minutes each way to work.  Not fun.  Thank God for the free rent though, cause we are probably paying a fair rental price on just the gas money.

So that’s where we stand these days.  We are bookmarked.  What’s been the story for these past couple weeks then?  Well, if we’re sticking to the literary comparison, it might look a bit like this:

Prologue:  The Long, Sad, Goodbyes

That was the worst of it.  It was very hard to pull out of that driveway for the last time.  I can’t write much about it now, but the week leading up to our departure from Kelly Park Circle was very strange for me.  It deserves its own post.

The Introduction:  Island Life

Emphasis on the word “Life”.  We live here now.  This is NOT a vacation.  I just wish my brain could accept that fact.  Now where’s the cabana boy?  I need my Daquiri.

Chapter 1:  How not to worry when a Tropical Storm threatens to turn your island into Atlantis

See above reference to cabana boy.  Pour daquiri and sit on the porch for a front row seat.  Realize that meteorologists are just hogging the airwaves with hyperbole.

Chapter 2:  How to de-stress after the move

  1. Unpack suitcase containing swimwear.
  2. Put on bathing suit.
  3. Put on sunscreen.
  4. Walk across the street. 
  5. Remove shoes and feel the sand between your toes.
  6. Sit ass in beach chair and don’t move unless absolutely necessary (i.e.  you need to cool off in the ocean waves, or go get the cabana boy.)

Repeat as needed until stress dissipates.

Chapter 3:  If dogs could text message 

Maggie: 

WTF?!!  M so confused.  Fell asleep in back of Jeep.  Woke up in strange place devoid of grass.  No idea where im supposed to take a shit.

Sammy:

OMG! where m i?? lovin it tho.  my peeps walk me like 4X/day now.  i think they need me to sniff out where the grass is located.  have yet to find it.  no desire to poop on pebbles and sand.  m not a cat.

To be continued…

 Sophia asked me today “How long is one week mommy?”  She’s just five and the whole time-space subject is still beyond her comprehension.  To her, “yesterday”, “today”, “last week” and “one hour ago” all have the same meaning–that is, they’re meaningless.  If we go somewhere, she always asks, “how long does it take to get there?” even if we’ve been there a zillion times.  Like most kids her age, she can’t comprehend the meaning of 10 minutes vs. 1 hour.  I have found however, that if I put it in some familiar frame of reference, the concept of time becomes easier to understand.  We started using “Spongebob time” when Emma was Sophia’s age, and this seems to satisfy their need to know “How long?”  Explaining time using television as the context is simple when your kids stare at it as much as mine do.  (Shut up, your kids watch it too, admit it.)   Spongebob time works like this:

Kid: “How long will it take to get there mom?”

Me: (if, for example, we’re going down to Charlotte, about a 1/2 hour away)  Well honey, it’s about one Spongebob.

Kid:  Oh, that’s not very long.  Good.

Me:  (if we’re going to our friend’s house in Waxhaw, about an hour away)  It’ll be about two Spongebobs honey.

Kid:  TWO WHOLE Spongbobs?  sighhhh.  That’s a little long mommy.

See how that works?  Unfortunately, any trips longer than two Spongebob episodes will actually require a REAL Spongebob episode or several, on the DVD player, to keep these kids from asking that question over and over and over.  I will never begrudge the Sponge.  Anyone who tries to tell me I am letting my kids rot their brains by allowing them to watch tv is just plain WRONG.  TV is teaching my kids very abstract concepts.  That, and also how to cry when I buy a pineapple to eat because I am “destroying Spongebob’s house!” (but SEE?  Creativity!  Imagination!  Not brain damage!) And if you are among the one or two people in the world who don’t let their kids watch Spongebob, this technique could easily be called “Sesame Street time” or “Wiggles Time” or “mommy is too masochistic to let you watch the idiot box so now you’ll never understand the concept of time” Time.

I digress.

The question of “how long is one week“, has me thinking in different terms.  Today’s “one week” time span marks a unique occasion in our lives.  In exactly one week from today we will be leaving our home here for a new home far away (20 Spongebobs to be exact).  In one week, we are moving from the place we’ve spent the past 8 years.  A place where I’ve done more than just spent time, but a place where I have LIVED and dreamed and watched my children grow.  This was the first house we ever owned.  This is the only house my youngest child has ever lived in.  This is the street where some of my favorite people in the world live.  This is the town where my oldest child started school and continued to go to the same one for 7 of her 10 years of life.  This is the place where I have met some of the most amazing people I know, where I have found the most incredible friends and have enjoyed so many fun moments with them.  This is the place where I discovered that being from the south is not something to be ashamed of or make fun of (though I still do), but is in fact something to be proud of (but no, I’m still not sporting any rebel flags!)  This is a place where you go to borrow a cup a sugar and end up spending an hour with that neighbor, laughing til it hurts.  This is the place where you don’t even have to ask for help, it just shows up.  If the walls could talk, this house would tell you that for every sorrow it has witnessed, it has seen a hundred more moments of joy in these past 8 years…Babies born, birthdays celebrated, Christmas Eves, New Year’s and Halloween parties with friends, coffee klatches in my kitchen, and frosty drinks on my porch…so many happy  times.   My daughters have known only this place.  To them, this is home, pure and simple.  This house saw first steps, first words, first days of school.  This house, this street, this town, this state, holds my heart.  Writing this, that heart is breaking.

One week from today, eight years of time will be relegated to the “memories” category.  Eight years.  A long period of time.   I can’t even calculate the equivalent number of Spongebobs. 

“One week.”  How long is one week then?  In this case, to answer Sophia’s question,

it’s the blink of an eye.

Another idyllic afternoon on the cul-de-sac…lovely weather (anything below 90 and sunny is lovely these days), the girls are happily playing with the neighbor’s twins, I’m chatting with their parents.  Being that the twins are of the busy toddler variety, there are 3 adults and 2 older children alternately conversing, playing and chasing/searching for them.  The twins are also of the  “so-cute-you-could-eat-them-up” variety, so I get a real kick out them hanging out in my driveway looking for trouble.  Their smiles can almost make me forget that my 5 year old is actually helping one of them toward certain blunt head trauma as she swiftly pushes her down the driveway on the tricycle.  The kids are blissfully unaware of any potential danger however.  They are giggling with glee as they experiment with the variety of wheeled toys we have in the garage.  They don’t mind the big kid helping them climb on and off, and on and off (and on and off) the plasma car.  They wordlessly ask us to play catch, and engage my girls with nothing more than a giant, runny-nose riddled grin.  I happily bent down time and again to pick up the ball, just to keep the cuties smiling.  Every toddle, every near misstep and stumble, I would sprout another grey hair as I bent over to throw out the “mommy hands”–you know, the ones they give out at the hospital the moment you give birth.  They are similar to the “mommy arm”, which as you know, when thrown outstretched in a vehicle that has come to a sudden, unexpected stop, has the power to do what no seat belt can do alone.   And even though the twins real mommy was there doing it too, it’s just in every mommy’s DNA.

It’s amazing how much time mommies spend crouching down, I realized.  My creaky, pained knees are now telling the story of every dropped toy, every runny nose wipe, every mommy save when someone stumbled.  Soon it was time for everyone to go inside however.  Time to scoop up our respective kiddoes and head off to bedtime.  But not before I had to bend down one more time to help my daughter pick up her toys…

“Hey mom, I can totally see your butt crack.”

Today was one of those days that resembled what I think Norman Rockwall would have conjured if he was looking for a subject to paint:  beautiful sunny, summer day, the kids all playing together outside with nary a disagreement to be heard, the grownups watching from a safe distance while enjoying some banter of their own.  Everyone was getting along.  The neighbors were being truly neighborly.  It was blissful.  It was one of those days that made me absurdly happy in spite of it being perfectly ordinary and uneventul.  It made me smile even with the knowledge that all of this would soon be a memory to me and my kids.  The “For Sale” sign in my yard taunted me a bit, but rather than feeling bittersweet about the scene laid out before me, I simply savored the moment.  I am so unbelievably lucky to live on a street where virtually all the neighbors not only know each other’s names, but also know their kids’ names, their pets’ names and even truly care about them beyond that.  When I see my neighbors outside, I actually want to go out and join them (as opposed to some other places I’ve lived, where depending on who was out there, you’d stay in and pray they didn’t come knocking on your door).  In our kick-ass cul-de-sac, all it takes is one person to be out there, playing with their kid, and before you know it, there are 10 people and their kids outside, all wanting to hang out together.  Maybe this is nothing unusual, but to me it feels special.  These people are like my extended family.  We all look out for each other.  We cheer each other’s accomplishments and offer a shoulder in times of trouble.  We bring gifts and meals when a new baby is born (once we all happened to be standing outside when one of us was heading to the hospital to give birth–she got quite the raucous sendoff!).  Sometimes we are even  catty and judgemental, as close friends and family are often prone to be, but even the gossip has a bottom line:  we are part of each other’s lives because we need each other and we sincerely care about one another.  You don’t blather on about people you don’t care about.

These people are like having a family that I got to handpick.   Yet even they were the (true) luck of the draw.  Just as some people are stuck with parents who are the pits, and some of us have neighbors that make you consider sticking a “For Sale” sign in the yard, others of us are blessed with earth angels next door.  So even if every neighborhood is great like this, I still believe that I am the luckiest suburban housewife in the world.  I love you KPC.  My neighbors are the BEST.

Much gratitude and love to:

Colleen, Hampton, David, Jack, Dave, Lindsey, Lacey, Andy, Leigh, Jeff, Stacey, Abigail, Caroline, Jenny, Andy, new baby Will, Michelle, Scott, Madison, Nicholas, Lesley, Chris, Julia, Jude, Will, Trish, Ann, Cantor, Gracie, Chuck, Louise, Charlie, George, and everyone else that makes this end of our ‘hood such an amazing place to live.

I’ll never forget any of you.