PARENTING TRAINING SHOULD BE REQUIRED – BY ELLIN CURLEY

To get a driver’s license, you have to take a course and pass two tests, one written and one practical. To be a teacher, you need a master’s degree and years of specialized training, academic and on-the-job. To do the hardest, most important job on the planet — parenting — there are no requirements. None. Zip. No required preparation of any kind. No training. No test. You’re on your own. The first time I ever held a baby, I was six months pregnant with my first child.

Last year I spent time with family in a house with a young mom, Jennifer, her eight-year-old daughter Jayda, and her two-year-old son Jase. I saw firsthand the tremendous advantage of training for parenthood. Jennifer had been a grade school teacher, trained in early childhood behavior and education. She is now a principal in an elementary school.

She was the best parent I’ve ever seen. She had mad skills!

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Jennifer had clearly studied child development and the best ways to handle young kids. She stayed mellow whatever was going on, so she was able to use her knowledge. In nearly three days, I never saw her lose her temper — or even her cool.

She was amazingly consistent with both children. Consistency is critical and was something I could never achieve. Every time Jase did something he wasn’t supposed to, like throwing something, he got a matter of fact, short time out. No drama, no anger. When told he needed a time out, he said “Yes, Mama” and went quietly.

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Jennifer knew how to distract and redirect a hyper-active and sometimes antsy toddler. Jase never reached the point of meltdown and neither did anyone else. He went down for naps and to bed without fuss because Mom was gentle but firm. She made it clear that there was no negotiation possible.

She also managed to spend time with Jayda. She got the two kids to interact peacefully. There was no sibling rivalry or fights for Mom’s attention. Peace reigned for more than 48 straight hours with only a few short bouts of toddler tears. In defense of all other mothers reading this, this child was an angel with a wonderful, happy disposition. He also had other relatives around to help entertain him.

But I could see in Jennifer’s actions textbook child-rearing techniques I’d read about. I believe those techniques and knowledge let Jennifer feel confident and in control. This, in turn, allowed her to stay calm and handle situations rationally and intelligently. She spread the calm to her kids. It was awesome. Humbling to watch.

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I was a good parent but I had an ideal in my head to which I was never able to attain. Jennifer embodied that ideal. I’m sure she has the innate temperament to be a wonderful mother. But I’m also sure she was helped by the practical tools her training gave her. They made it possible for her to reach the goal of most parents: to be the best parent we can be.

We can all use all the help we can get!

RAGTAG DAILY PROMPT # 68: SUMMERTIME PLAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP # 68: PLAY


It’s hot. It’s humid.

It’s summer and the only thing to do is get wet, stay wet, and wait for the cooler weather to come!

Ready! 
Set! 
Jump! 
WET!

SHORTER IS BETTER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have seen many plays that were interesting, but way too long. The producers had to fill out the required time for a Broadway play, whether or not they had enough good material. A lot of movies are also too long for the same reason.

To me, most action movies are no more than a series of barely distinguishable scenes of violence strung together from the opening credits and beginning “premise,” to an even more spectacularly violent dénouement. As far as I’m concerned, you could cut movies of this genre in half without altering the plot (what plot?) at all. But then, you might have a 47-minute movie which no one would pay to see. I would be one of the people who didn’t pay to see it.

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This is particularly painful with comedies, particularly on television. Many sit-coms have a few funny bits and that’s it. The rest of the show just isn’t funny. In a perfect world, you could air an 18-minute episode because that’s all the funny material you had. You should be able to present the material that works, then call it a day.

For the most part, half-hour shows are only 21 minutes after subtracting commercial breaks. Take off another one or two for coming attractions and you’re down to 19 minutes. So maybe the problem is the really bad scripts? Maybe they only feel long because they are so bad? Or maybe they are so short, there’s no time to develop a plot?

I worry about this with blogs too. I have good ideas but I they don’t always add up to a whole post. So I’m simply going to present a few paragraphs from a couple of interesting articles I read recently.

First, apparently, babies and young children are ‘designed,’ by evolution, to seem cute and winning to adults to ensure kids get the maximum love and attention they need to thrive and grow. Infants’ big eyes, button noses, and chubby cheeks elicit a kind of primal bonding reaction in adults. So do the sounds they make and the way they smell. It’s a visceral, chemical, and nearly universal reaction.

Children start to lose those physically attractive ‘baby’ features around age two or three, so adults are hard-wired to respond equally strongly to the speech patterns of young children.

The way kids perceive and say things sound funny and charming to us. Their observations about the world seem irresistibly adorable. This phenomenon has a name: “Cognitive Babyness.” Studies show that between age two and seven, a child’s cute behavior replaces their cute faces in stimulating a caregiving response.

Go evolution!

Ana McGuffey - 1946 - Mme. Alexander - Doll's faces are intended to embody the "adorable" factor of real toddlers.
Ana McGuffey – 1946 – Mme. Alexander – Doll’s faces are intended to embody the “adorable” factor of real toddlers.

So much for interesting factoids. I’ll move to my next mini topic.

I taught Yoga and Meditation for eight years. I know the enormous benefits to adults — increased focus, attention span, calmness, control, and confidence. Also, decreased tension and stress, anger, frustration, distractibility, and fewer physical aches and pains. It never occurred to me that teaching some form of Yoga and/or Mindfulness into schoolchildren might have the same amazing benefits. \

Recently, I’ve read articles about these kinds of programs being taught in kindergarten through high school, all around the country. They have produced outstanding results.

The skills taught have reduced the symptoms in ADHD kids. Calmed children with anxiety disorders. Helped kids with learning issues, behavior problems, and social deficits. The same studies have shown improved grades, a higher degree of empathy and kindness between kids — and an enhanced enthusiasm for school.

Many schools have incorporated some form of mindfulness into the curriculum for teachers as well as students.

Way to go! Good for you! Over and out!

STAY AT HOME KIDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have a friend who has three daughters, including a set of twins. They are now in their late twenties and early thirties. And they are all back living at home now. I was shocked to hear this.

All three girls have four-year college degrees. All three have full-time jobs. But none can earn enough to live on their own. One of the girls has a one and a half-year-old baby. The mom is no longer with the father, though he is still in the baby’s life. He also works but doesn’t earn enough to contribute to his daughter’s support.

What is going on here? What a tragedy, that middle class, educated working, young people can’t afford to live on their own without their parents’ support. It can’t be good for twenty and thirty-somethings to be living with their parents. It’s infantilizing and demoralizing. There also doesn’t seem to be any prospect for them to move out in the near future. This set up is not necessarily great for the parents either, especially if they want to retire at some point.

Starting wages today don’t seem to be high enough to pay for a home and even minimal living expenses. At least in New England, where I live. And this is even true with a college degree. Part of the problem may be that kids leave college with heavy debts that contribute to their financial dependence on their parents. So, it’s a vicious cycle.

And if you have a baby, the financial situation becomes exponentially worse!

My friend’s daughters are lucky that their parents can afford to support them. And that they didn’t already downsize their home. The kids contribute to the household, but not significantly. What will happen when my friend and her husband want to retire? They probably won’t be able to.

My friend is also lucky that she can work part-time from home. So, with the help of the other girls, they don’t have to pay for daycare or other childcare. This makes a big difference, financially. I know young people who pay a large percentage of their annual income on childcare – just so they can continue to work. This is also a travesty.

I don’t have any earth-shattering insights or solutions to any of these problems. I just got to see first hand what this economy and this society can do to young adults and their retirement age parents.

I’ve read about this phenomenon, but things affect you differently when people you know are involved. I can now put a face on this problem. It’s no longer an abstract issue, but a personal story. I’m shocked, appalled and depressed.

What will happen to whole generations? What will happen to our society? This is our future. And it looks pretty bleak.

WHEN A BEATING SOUNDS BETTER THAN A LECTURE

One day (true story), my granddaughter told her father she would prefer that he would beat her because almost anything would be an improvement over another lecture.

The lecture was TWICE as long.

There are times in life for children, adults, and dogs when your best bet is shutting up and pretending you are paying attention.

CHECKING IN WITH MYSELF – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I haven’t written an introspective blog in a long time. I’ve written about things that have happened in my own life and stories about other members of my family. I’ve written a lot about the political situation in America and the social schisms it has created. I’ve written about my dogs and the weather and what I’ve watched on TV.

But I haven’t checked in with myself recently – and there have been some internal resets. Over the past six months, I’ve had some uncomfortable and inconvenient but not serious medical issues. I forgot how closely one’s mental state shadows one’s physical well-being.

Constant physical issues for months at a time can really take a toll, both mentally and physically. I was chronically exhausted. No energy for anything. That translated to demoralization and withdrawal. Doing anything outside of the house became a big deal.

I started believing that my life was seriously lacking in many ways. I fixated on those deficiencies and my glass suddenly became half empty instead of half full.

When I started feeling better physically, I could step back and see where my body had dragged my mind. I realized I had to turn myself off and then back on again. I had to totally reboot my attitude.

I realized that I am, in fact, fine as I am. My life is fine as it is. Is it what I wanted, ideally at this stage of my life? No. Is it where I imagined I’d be at my age? No. Is that bad rather than just different? No.

Me and my dogs

I wanted to be a grandmother by my age, with a life revolving to a great extent around my nearby adult child and my grandchildren. Many of my friends are ecstatic and devoted grandparents. But I’m not a grandmother. And the most likely child to give me grandchildren in the future lives in LA, 3000 miles away.

As a retired person, I expected to be part of an active and gratifying social life with my large group of local friends. But people moved away. My remaining best friends still work 60 hour weeks and have limited time to socialize. As a result, Tom and I spend a lot of time alone with each other.

But this doesn’t make my life bad or inferior or deficient. Just different than planned or expected. I can’t compare my life to other people’s lives. I can’t measure my life against my past expectations.

Am I actually happy spending most days at home with my husband and my dogs? Yes! Am I fulfilled reading, writing blogs and working on our Audio Theater Group? Yes! Do I love my wonderful friends spread all around the country plus England and Germany? Yes!

So I wake up happy every morning, looking forward to another quiet but satisfying day. I focus on what I have and who I share it all with. I’m good. I’m lucky. And I’m grateful. I just have to try to keep this positive outlook when my body throws me the next curve.

THE CALL – RICHARD PASCHALL

By Richard Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Sunday was the day to stay near the telephone, the computer too for that matter.  Robert was not about to go anywhere before receiving his phone call.  He always stayed where he could hear the phone.  The computer was also a possibility for calls but in truth Robert only received one call on it and that was more in the way of a test.  His son, Corey, set him up with Skype and then called him when he got home just so they could test it out.  That was the only time Corey called him via Skype in the six months since their brief trial run.  Now he either called on the landline or not at all.

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Robert tried diligently to be a good father to Corey after his divorce from Corey’s mom.  Corey was in his mid teens then and the boy seemed to follow the divorce with making his own plans and avoiding family obligations.  Robert could never figure out whether this was a teenage thing or a reaction to the divorce, but either way Robert did his best to be a dad whenever Corey needed him.  Corey needed him less and less as time went on.

Now that Corey was in his twenties, Robert and Corey had hatched a plan to keep in touch.  This was more Robert’s doing, of course.  If they did not get together on the weekend, then they would at least share a call on Sunday afternoon.  The problem with this plan was Corey rarely called and he preferred that dear old dad not call him as he was usually “busy.”  So Robert waited patiently in his small four room apartment for a call that was not likely to come. Perhaps if Robert had been more outspoken, even demanding, maybe Corey would be more dependable.  At least that is what Robert thought.  But it was not in Robert’s demeanor to be pushy so he waited patiently every Sunday for the call.

In Robert’s own mind he had convinced himself that waiting on Sunday’s was a good thing.  It would keep him at home to take care of the often neglected chores.  He did the dishes, made the bed, swept the floor, looked at all that junk mail he tossed aside all week, but he never took out the garbage.  That would mean leaving the apartment for a few minutes and Robert certainly did not want to do that.  What if the phone should ring and he did not hear it?

Finally in late afternoon on this super cold, super Sunday the phone rang.  Robert was on it like a shot.  “Hello,” Robert announced in his cheeriest voice.

“Robert, it’s Bill.  How about we go somewhere to watch the game?  You know, wings and beer!”

“Uh, OK,” Robert said reluctantly.

“Good, I can be there in a half an hour.”

“No,” Robert said quickly, “I am in the middle of something.  Give me at least an hour.”

“Fine,” Bill replied.  “I will be there in about an hour.”

In truth, Robert was not in the middle of anything.  He just wanted to leave extra time for Corey to call.  He never gave a thought to the possibility that Corey had already gotten together with his friends to watch the big game.  He just figured that if he left too soon, he would miss his Sunday call.  So he placed his coat, scarf and hat on a chair near the door and sat down to wait for Corey.  Robert worried about missing the call and not having enough time to talk.  He thought of the most important things he should say if they only had a short time.  He thought of nice questions to ask, without prying too much into Corey’s personal life.  After all, Corey was all grown up now and he needed to be treated like an adult.  At least, that was the thought running through Robert’s head.

When just over an hour had elapsed, the phone finally rang again.  “Hello?” Robert said tentatively, fearing it was not Corey but actually Bill again.  “It’s Bill.  I’m out front.  Are you ready?”  “That darn Bill,” Robert thought.  “He’s always rushing me.”

“Yes,” Robert said.  “I will be out in a minute.”  “Poor Corey,” Robert mumbled.  “If he calls I won’t be here.”  Although he felt a little guilty, Robert threw on his outer wear and headed out the door.

When Robert got in Bill’s car, Bill immediately started talking about the game.  “This should be a great game this year.  The teams seem evenly matched.  Whoever has the hot hand will win.  It could be either one.  What do you think?”

“Yes,” Robert replied.  “I think so too.”  He obviously was not listening to Robert, his mind was on Corey.

As they drove away, Robert did not hear the phone ring in his apartment.  It rang seven times before it went silent.  Robert never even knew there was a call as the caller did not leave a message.