September 14, 2011

Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop - 09/15/11 Parental Advice from a Blog Highlighting Failures

The prompt I chose this week: Advice to new mothers

I know this is a loaded topic. I can almost imagine the groans and the utterings of "Who do you think you are?" that will be forcefully expelled through pursed lips.

After all, I am NOT the paragon of parenting perfection.

Far from it. Just ask my children; I'm sure they could regale you with tales of my maternal ineptitude for hours on end.

Advice is given freely because so much of it is worthless.
James Geary

Here we are at the worthless part of this post.
I read many "mommy blogs". One thing that strikes me is how busy you all are. You have dedicated yourself to providing educational and fun activities for your children on an almost daily basis. Your children have your full attention, you make sure there is not a wasted minute in your day.

You make me tired just reading about it. It's so foreign from the way kids used to be raised.

I've decided to use a "then" and "now" theme in my opinions (not to be confused with the 
advice, which appears at the very end).

My Opinions on Play
Teach your children how to play independently. Let them be the creative force in their activities. Let them learn how to find something quiet to do, all by themselves.

Do kids color anymore? Do they know the excitement of opening the big box of Crayolas, and inhaling the smell of wax, and dreaming of the pictures they can create with all those colors?

I once used my entire Red Orange crayon (or was it Orange Red) on a coloring book filled with pictures of Wilma and Pebbles Flintstone. Their hair never looked better. 

Encourage reading, even if they can't read yet. Give them books with colorful and funny pictures. Let them tell you what is going on in the picture. Let them "read" the story to you.

Help the kids put a blanket over the dining room table and create a clubhouse on the floor beneath.

When I was a kid, I cleaned out the floor of my closet and installed a quilt and a reading lamp. With the bi-fold doors closed, it was my sanctuary where I read Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books, or where I daydreamed about how much better my life would be when I was in charge. 

Kids have so many toys, they may not know that an empty moving box can be a cozy retreat for them and a stuffed animal, and a discarded appliance box (also a thing of the past) can be turned into a great playhouse.

Don't hover when they play with other children. Let them settle minor squabbles themselves. Be ready to get involved only if you hear that they're not resolving the situation. They'll need these skills when they go to school, and far beyond. Take them to a playground and see how they approach other children who could be playmates. Don't force them to play with someone they don't like, just because you think the mom would be a good friend for you.

My Opinions on Entertainment
When I was a kid, we got exactly four stations on our only TV. Our black-and-white TV. Kids' programming was on Saturday morning, and for about an hour after school.

That was it.

In the evening, if there was a program we wanted to watch, we did not control the set. If my parents wanted to watch something else, then that's what we saw, too.

When they wanted the channel changed, my brother and I were the remote control. We had to get up and walk over to the set and turn the dial ourselves (and maybe tinker with the antenna to improve the clarity of the picture).

We were good remotes; we never got lost in the couch cushions, and we didn't need batteries to be functional.

There were no VHS tapes, no DVDs, no internet. If a movie was on that you wanted to see, you had to be in front of the set when it was broadcast.

I still remember the first time I saw The Wizard of Oz in color. It was amazing. We saw it at my oldest brother Stan's house. He and his wife Nancy had a color TV. I felt honored to be invited. It was special.

I also remember the first time I went to the movies. My older brother Gary took my younger brother and I to see 101 Dalmatians. I was four years old. I got popcorn.

It was a big deal.

What will be the special events your children will remember well into senility, like me?

My Opinions On Independence
Teach your children to enjoy the quiet. Turn off the TV. Put away the DVDs. Log off the computer. Don't use the DVD player on a trip. Play license plate bingo, count trailer trucks, play "I Spy With My Little Eye". Talk to each other. My kids and I have had some of the most interesting conversations while in the car. I've learned so much about them from just listening.

My Opinions on Spoiling
Presents and vacations and candy bars from the store used to be special occasions. If you got a new bike or other expensive gift, it must be your birthday or Christmas. 

Now we buy our kids' compliance through a series of complicated negotiations and the purchase of pricey toys.

When the kid says "I'm bored!", hand him a dust cloth and tell him to dust the end tables. After hearing that instruction a few times, I bet he finds some other activity to keep himself busy.

My BIG Disclaimer
Before you light the torches and assemble the angry mob, know that I've done every single thing that I've advised against.

Did it harm my children? Probably not. But I think I did them a bit of a disservice by not giving THEM the opportunity to discover the creativity and patience that they have inside them. I worried way too much about what other people thought about my parenting skills. My bad.

My Only REAL Advice (a paragraph in which I hope to redeem myself)
Love them. Shower them with affection, not possessions. Take lots of pictures. Act silly with them. Bake cookies together, and let them help decorate for the holidays. Tell them how proud you are of them. Laugh lots. Boost their self-confidence. Enjoy them in every stage of their development because they do grow up too fast. One day, they think you are the best mommy in the world, and they want to live with you forever and the next thing you know, they're rolling their eyes at you and counting the years until they can get out of the house.

Wait. Maybe that's just my kids. Perhaps you should ignore everything you just read.


  1. great advice! I definitely agree with teaching children how to be more independent.

  2. Brilliance! I completely support every one of your suggestions (and wonder if you lived just down the street from me growing up since we seemed to be doing the same things!).
    If you were to write a book, I would buy it. Food for thought. Start writing girl.

  3. This is a fantastic post. I have bookmarked it so I can come back and read it again. :) xx (visiting from Mama Kats)

  4. Parents Magazine should print this. You tell 'em.

  5. My boys have too many toys and they still find the most joy in the cardboard boxes that show up around here. Their most fun is usually had working in my parent's garden, or helping my dad fix his antique car, or swimming in my parent's pool. Maybe I should send them to live with my parents?!

  6. So true! And I am completely jealous that you had your own little reading room! I STILL want my own little place to hide away with a book!

  7. Wonderful advice and so true! I bought my kids a lot more books than I did toys and they all LOVE to read. I didn't spend a lot of money on gadgets and toys and electronics. They are bright articulate independant young women and I couldn't be prouder of them.

  8. Amen! When my kids complain of boredom, I give them chores to do. I love how creative kids can be when given the chance. And besides, of all the toys we have ever given our kids, they always just want the boxes anyway. Great post!

  9. I really enjoyed all of your advice. I wish every modern parent could read it. Everyone seems to have too much these days. I think less would be more. :)

  10. what an amazing post. yup, I was the remote also. good times.

  11. Amen! And Amen!

    My six year old said to my husband and I yesterday, "Well. I'm going to go play. That's what kids do best, you know."

    I will not shun you.

  12. I think your advice is damn good and I plan on heeding it. I worry way too much about screwing up as a mom … and I worry too much about needing to entertain my son. I'm going get me some nice dusting done I think!

  13. Absolutely great advice!! I completely agree with your opinions on play and independence. My son does really good playing alone and his imagination and creativity is way better than mine. As for shutting off the tv and taking away the ipod, it's hard, but definitely a must.

  14. love the way you share your thoughts.
    beautiful tips.

  15. You’ve got superb talent in creative writing,
    Keep it up.

    Please check out short story slam week 10 prompt today.

    It is great to write and entertain our children,
    Don’t you agree?

    Give it a try,
    Let your beautiful imagination fly.

    Happy Autumn!


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