When Is It OK to Abandon Your Kids?

Free Range Kids 300x224 When Is It OK to Abandon Your Kids?

Yes, we let them climb on the playhouse in the backyard unsupervised! Sue us.

OK, OK, not abandon them per se. (Jeez, Jane, way to write a provocative and misleading headline just to get people to read the post.) But at what age is it appropriate for them to leave the confines of your house or backyard unsupervised? Seven? Nine? Fourteen?

As the fabulous Madeline Holler wrote about over on Strollerderby and as my fellow Babble Voices blogger Stefanie-Wilder Taylor discussed/debated last night on the Dr. Drew show, last Saturday was national “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There” Day, as declared by Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids.

Skenazy suggested that parents drop their kids aged 7 or older off at a local park and let them play with other kids, unsupervised, for a while, arguing that experiences like this are important for kids — to foster their independence and to let them create the kind of fond childhood memories many of us have of being on our own. No planned activities, no hovering parents.

Sh*t My Kids Say

ShMyKidsSay v1 224x300 Sh*t My Kids SayI know, I’m totally jumping on the sh*t-people-say bandwagon. But not exactly. Because this isn’t sh*t kids in general say. This is sh*t my kids say. And it’s probably entirely different from the sh*t your kids say. But perhaps you’ll find some similarities…

1. I made number 2!!! (Speaking of sh*t….) For some reason my girls feel compelled to announce when they do their business. I guess it’s a legacy from when our hygienic assistance was required. These days we leave them to their own devices, for the most part (with varying results) but they can’t kick the habit of telling us what they’re up to. Or maybe they just like saying it. Which is fine. I just wish they wouldn’t do it in public bathrooms.

Comparing Twins — Or Not.

ElsaExplains 300x224 Comparing Twins    Or Not.

The artist (in pajamas) discusses her work.

Last week, Elsa and Clio came home from preschool with pictures they’d made of thumbprint snowmen, with sparkly bits of snow pasted around them, and magic marker additions of snowman features, hats, and background accents.

The pictures looked quite different from each other. Clio’s was a tranquil, minimal scenario, while Elsa’s was a busy explosion of color. (More pictures after the jump.) I thought they were both fantastic, and the girls were very proud, so I taped them up on the sliding doors at the back of our house.

As Clio and I stood admiring them (Elsa had busied herself elsewhere), Clio asked, “Which one do you like better?”

Little Strangers

Meandelsa 225x300 Little StrangersYou ever have those moments — or, more accurately, stretches of moments — where you are suddenly, strangely aware of your own existence as a person, a consciousness, and simultaneously aware of how weird it is? Or, like, you look in the mirror and you’re looking at yourself, and you start thinking: Who is this person? This is me — the only me I’ve ever known. But how strange that this is how I happen to appear to world, when it has no real correlation with who I am.

You know?

I’m not blogging high. I swear. I do have these odd sort of meta-moments every once in a while, and I suspect others out there do, too. (And maybe you can articulate the phenomenon better than I can.)

“We’re too little to understand”

twintowers 199x300 Were too little to understandI hadn’t planned to write anything related to 9/11, partly because I didn’t have anything in particular to say, and partly because I feel like there’s been SO much out there about it — maybe a little too much, I think — that I didn’t feel the need to share anything.

I’ve also never said anything to the girls about it, because they’re so young. They still don’t even get the whole death / dying concept.Today, Elsa told me the dream she had last night: “Humpty Dumpty ate a bad pancake and it made him dead so he was crying and then a friendly lion came along and helped and made him better.” Although that’s probably not the best example of her not understanding death because 1.) It was a dream and 2.) Humpty Dumpty has always been a death-defying sort of guy.

But this morning I ended up, totally unexpectedly, mentioning 9/11 to the girls.

Do your kids lose it at the half-year mark?

sassylassies 232x300 Do your kids lose it at the half year mark?There’s a series of childcare books from the late seventies/early eighties that a friend recommended to me (in spite of their datedness) that I found helpful when the girls were younger, and one of the things about them that really stuck with me was this notion that around the half ages — two-and-a-half, three-and-a-half, etc. the developmental shit hits the fan.

The books didn’t phrase it exactly that way, as I recall. But the message was clear: for some reason, at the halfway mark, kids go through a transitional period where they’re challenging, to say the least. They are in the midst of big changes and are sort of off-balance, in a way. Then, as they round the bend toward three quarters, things improve markedly.

I’m not sure why, exactly, this would happen. I mean, it’s strange to me that children’s behavior would follow their chronological age so closely. (What if we followed the Julian calendar? Or the Hebrew or Mayan ones? Would it be the same?) But the fact is, I’ve noticed some truth to it. 17-19 months was hard. Two and a half was excruciating. I don’t quite recall what the deal was at 3-1/2. But as we near the official 4-1/2 year mark, I’m thinking maybe it’s an explanation for why the girls have been testing limits quite a lot. Which is a nice way of saying that they’re being jerkwads.

You go, Clio.

Cliodoll 225x300 You go, Clio.It’s been an exhausting couple of days ’round about the Baby Squared household. Elsa was home sick from school yesterday with “the fever” as she put it, and then last night she was up with a bout of preschool insomnia from around two to three. (And preschool insomnia, as some of you may know, involves telling your parents, every ten minutes, that you can’t sleep. Even and especially when you’re lying between them in their bed.) Then she was up again at around four a.m., having thrown up. Good times!

Meanwhile, I’ve just got w-a-a-a-y too much on my plate right now between my work and my memoir-in-progress and getting ready to launch Eden Lake in less than two months (eep!) and all manner of other life stuff. Taxes, doctor appointments, etc. Alastair’s busy, too, gearing up to record another kids’ album, among other things.

But in the midst of all of this, my daughters continue to crack me up on a regular basis, and do and say things make me want to put them in a pickle jar and keep them four years old forever. And sometimes they just downright surprise me.

The Latest Potty Drama

toilet 300x171 The Latest Potty DramaOf all of the strange and bewildering facets of parenting toddlers and preschoolers, none are more bewildering than the bathroom-related ones. You’d think that so normal and natural a process would be, well, normal and natural. But I never feel quite as puzzled by my children than I do when pee or poop are involved.

The latest drama has to do with Clio, who is in a pattern of compulsively getting up to pee many times in a row, both bedtime and in the middle of the night. She’s not actually producing anything–she’s just going over and over again just to “make sure” she doesn’t have to go anymore before she goes to sleep. (She claims nothing hurts, she seems to empty her bladder fully when she does actually have to go, and she doesn’t do this during the day, so I’m pretty sure it’s not a urinary tract infection or anything like that.)

The Preschool Space-Time Continuum

Sunflower 199x300 The Preschool Space Time Continuum

Happy Beach!

“Are we going to school next day or tomorrow or after quiet time?”

“Remember last day (=yesterday) when we went to Pop-pop and B’s house for Christmas?” (Said in February)

“How about I jump on the trampoline for sixty minutes, and then Clio can have a turn?”

“Is next week going to be Halloween again?”

I kind of thought that by now, at four years old, my children might have grasped the concept of time. I mean, it seemed reasonable enough that at three they had no idea what the difference between “tomorrow” and “in a few days” meant or that the idea of something not happening again for a whole year (what’s a year?) made no sense, given how short their little lives are. But I’m surprised that we’ve made so little progress since then.

It’s their “quiet time” that seems to really throw them. After lunch, we still do quiet time, during which we read them a book, and then put them in separate rooms (one in their room, another in ours) where they can read books or play quietly or rest. About half the time, they actually fall asleep — and we let them, though not for too long, as it can interfere with bedtime.

Arrivederci, Mr. Tony

ItalianFlag Arrivederci, Mr. TonyI’ve written recently about how my girls are somewhat obsessed with (but far from comprehending of) the idea of death. Well, this week they had their first more concrete experience of it when our neighbor across the street passed away.

His name was Tony, and he was 71 years old. Came to the U.S. from Italy in the early 1960s. We didn’t know him well — just waves and smiles, some chit-chat, though his English was limited — but he was a fixture in the landscape of our daily lives: he spent a good chunk of every day just standing outside his house or walking around the block, sometimes chatting with his brother-in-law (also Italian) or the elderly Italian lady next door, sometimes puttering in his driveway or garden, other times just watching the world go by. Not that a whole lot of world goes by on our street. But I always felt like he was keeping an eye on things. We never worried about our house getting broken into. He was always there.