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Monday
Feb022015

38 ways to know you've got a MBFF or two

How do you know if you have Mom's Best Friend(s) Forever. Try this handy checklist - created with my MBFFs.  How many more indicators are there of true MBFFs?  Send your leading MBFF indicators to me. It takes a village and I know I'm thankful for mine.

  1. She knows your kids’ schedules better than your husband does.
  2. Her kids will ask if they can come home with you, if that suits their schedule better than the original plan.  You’ll say yes.
  3. No parent that knows you both is surprised when you show up to pick up her kid(s), even though yours isn’t there
  4. You frequently start text exchanges with “u driving down? Staying?”
  5. Your spouses are not surprised when you have a different number or group of children at home or in the car than they helped create.
  6. She’s picked up your pet names for your kids, or created her own, and your kids respond to them instinctively.
  7. She is first on your emergency contact list
  8. She CAN believe that your child just did that, because hers did it last week or will next week.
  9. She’ll host your kid’s birthday party when your house is under construction.
  10. She’s on your kid’s side, particularly when your kid is struggling.
  11. She’ll protect and love your kids fiercely.
  12. She lets other parents know that she’s on your kid’s side when they’re being nasty or insensitive.
  13. She “explains” to other kids why their parents are enraged that they deliberately hurt your kid.
  14. When your kids fight with each other, she’s more interested in the long-term relationship than placing blame.
  15. She will come to your child’s dance recitals, school play and championships (real or not) – if you tell her it’s important to your child.
  16. Her parents will know your kids…well. They’ll even be your child’s VIP guest at school when your parents aren’t around.
  17. The kids will miss each other dearly when they start going to sleep away camp, but it’s wonderful to see the hugs upon return.   You’d never be apart from your MBFF for that long.
  18. She’s willing to host your children for a week or more if you need it.
  19. She can fix boo boos and wipe up blood.
  20. Your kids share illnesses frequently. No big deal.
  21. You’ll let the kids do things together that you don’t let them do with other kids – very rough and tumble play, sleepovers at earlier ages.  You know she won’t blame you if her kid gets hurt during that play and all kids will be in trouble if they don’t go to sleep.
  22. You frequently trade kids so that everyone has fun and has space because…
  23. Your kids bicker more like siblings than cousins or other close friends.
  24. Your children don’t question her authority.
  25. Consequences for one are upheld in both households.
  26. Screen time rules are respected across households.
  27. You’ll have your own traditions across families, like opening birthday presents together, spending birthday dinners together on their REAL birthday, playing together the day before school starts in the fall, making sure to celebrate certain holidays together
  28. She’ll give your kids money when needed and vice versa.  Someday you’ll settle as best you can.
  29. She interviews your prospective nanny or au pair to make sure he/she really will be a good fit
  30. She gives you food you meant to make and forgot/ran out of time
  31. She asks what you need at Costco and buys it.
  32. Your family (or part of it) can show up for dinner – en masse or individually, without planning it
  33. She’ll take your most difficult child (today) and give you a night off.  In fact, she’ll take all of them if she thinks you need it.
  34. She’ll tell you things you need to hear, especially when it’s hard.
  35. She’ll intercept your child, in your home, when she knows you have had enough.
  36. She’ll walk and talk as long as you need.
  37. She’ll get that her “hard” and your “hard” are different and equal
  38. She’ll come over after bedtime with your vice of choice and stay as long as you need her to.

Friday
Dec122014

I'm openly reading his text messages - and you won't believe what they say

I know what your daughter texts to my son.  She’s sending (clothed) pictures and videos of herself. Did you know?  She’s asking my son to kiss her at school.  She alarmed me when I read her text that another boy is trying to hurt himself (I acted on that one and my son had already reached out to the boy to ensure he was safe). That said, most of their conversation is cute with emoji sprinkled throughout.

My son knows I can see his text messages.  He told her as well – no one should think they have privacy if they don’t.  He was complaining to her about it - but he knows the rules and he knows why too.  He knows that I am his training-wheels into the world of digital dialogue.  A world without tone and emotion, emoji notwithstanding.  A world where a poor choice can cause you years of trouble.

Dr. Phil’s Tips to Keep Your Child Safe Online is clearly from a pre-mobile/smartphone/tablet/laptop era.  Common Sense Media recommends creating a family policy for appropriate use – which we did.

Because I monitor my son’s text messages, I think he strives to be kind, appropriate and nicely funny.   I think your daughters' and sons' feelings are much less likely to be accidently hurt because he’s thinking about the reader that he looks in the eye every morning and every night – me. He knows that he can talk with me about text-based peer pressure.  Sometimes I bring it up – such as the concept that you only kiss someone when both you and the other person want to share a kiss – and that it should be private.  Oh, and a gentleman never kisses and tells or talks about another person's body.  Call me old fashioned.

I don’t plan to monitor his text messaging forever. All my kids understand that at any time, their parents can look at the phone and review their text history.  And instagram. They will earn more privacy by showing judgment and responsibility.  They know that too. Digital training wheels. 

By the way, your daughter told my son that she's not allowed to date. I agree with you - sixth grade is too young (not sure how we stop in-school romances). But she's very curious about boys and that's normal. I hope you are reading her texts and talking to her too as she navigates this new, connected, world. Because I don't think everyone is reading their child's texts...

Wednesday
Dec102014

The iPhone/iPad/Kindle Truce of 2014

We cannot beat the devices – they have infiltrated our lives irreversibly.  True – if one moves to a remote island, becomes Amish or sails around the world disconnected from civilization – one can avoid the digital devices. We cannot. Of course, if one cannot afford a digital device, one is facing more important challenges than this one.  That said, since we don't want to eliminate all electronics from our lives, we have to find a way to live in harmony with the devices designed for distraction. I am thrilled that all summer, while at camp, my children experience life device free. But we don't have the stomach to live device free year round.

The effort to exert parental restriction on the digital devices was teaching our children how to become adept at evading detection and dishonesty.  So what is worse -  unmonitored use of digital devices where the device is quickly absorbing much of their unstructured time or the same thing, but having to discern if my child is lying, hiding or otherwise evading interference?

Our initial thoughts on battle strategies:

  • Keep Parentkit on the devices (even though it blocks Spotify, Instagram and Safari) as a requirement for keeping the device
  • Eliminate all games from the devices and ensure they have no way to put them back on by taking away their iTunes account where they use their iTunes gift cards.
  • Switch from iPhone to Android where there are applications for parents to control the device remotely.
  • Take away the devices

Every parent of an (upper) middle class middle-schooler seems to be embroiled in the same struggle.  As far as struggles go, there are some much worse – our children are healthy and safe.  So it’s a first world “problem”. That said, it’s our first world problem. We know that the devices keep our children from socializing face to face and creatively filling their free time.  Or being bored. Or running around. They have unprecedented access to all types of entertainment – at their fingertips (more on that another time). And the answers aren’t simple – suburban tweens and teens communicate and make plans overwhelmingly through these devices.

Our goal is that our children are capable, as young adults, to make responsible choices about how they use technology.  We had a family meeting to talk about what technology is doing to our family.  We invited our children to make a contract with us as the providers of the phone and wireless service and to articulate what they thought was reasonable use and what the consequences would be if they violated the agreement.  We wrote it out and it’s posted in our house.  Here is what we agreed upon:

  1. No devices in bedrooms.  Ever.
  2. No devices in the car until the trip is longer than one hour.  There is no need to text in the car while going from place to place.  If a text comes in, it can be addressed when you arrive at your destination.
  3. Everyone’s devices are placed in the charging stations by the front door when they arrive.  This applies to Mom and Dad too.  The au pair may take his upstairs.  Use the new, super cool charging stations.
  4. Devices can be used for listening to music while doing homework.  Devices can be used for listening to music on the bus.
  5. On the weekends or no-school days, individual devices can be used for 30 minutes per day for entertainment in a public space in the house.  The child will set their timer after stating that they are going to use their 30 minutes.  After that time, they can play together on the Xbox, play board games, cards, go outside, etc.
  6. On a weekend or no-school day when a child is alone in the house, they may have another 30-minute window.

And the consequences:

  • First violation, lose device for one day
  • Second violation, lose device for three days
  • Third violation, lose device for full week

What do you think?  How long do you think the treaty will keep the peace?

Wednesday
May282014

Visual Parenting

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Show, don't tell.  These are concepts we understand intuitively - and then often don't use in our parenting.  Enjoy XPlane's work on Visual Parenting - some excellent ideas to both communicate effectively with children visually and encourage visual communication skills as well.

Visual Parenting

What visual parenting ideas do you have?

Wednesday
May212014

I love you no matter what

Every parent knows - we love our children, no matter what.  You cannot explain it to anyone who isn't a parent and you didn't understand it until you were a parent. So even when our children are frustrating, disrespectful, unmotivated, digitally absorbed or frightening us, we still love them.  Its important to somehow convey this to them while trying to adapt their behavior.

I read this excellent posting from Hands-Free Mama on To Build or Break a Child's Spirit and I thought it was provocative.  The hardest thing for me as a parent is to recognize when my emotions (exhaustion, reality conflicting with hopes, exasperation) are interfering with my ability to support my child.  Enjoy.