February 23, 2012 by themommahen
I’m a worrier, always have been. My dad, mostly known as Gramps these days, worries a lot about me worrying and is always telling me not to worry. Then he goes and worries about how much I’m worrying. So you can see that I get this whole worrying thing honestly. The Husband gets a bit tired of my worrying because, of course, he wants to solve whatever the source of my worry is. But usually, there’s no easy solution (and sometimes no solution at all) and often I just want to put words to my worries and just talk it out, which in the world of women and men, sometimes doesn’t work out so well.
Problem is, I’m a situational worrier. A story breaks like the recent brown rice syrup news, and I’m all over Google to get info. Then I’m all over Facebook and Twitter talking and listening to others about it. Then I move on to the next thing and, in an occasional desperate afternoon, drive through for a couple Happy Meals. Did I mention I can be a hypocrite too?
So when my good friend over at The Four Father commented on one of my blog posts about my concerns about the food I feed to the Hatchlings, he and I got into a mini-Facebook-discussion about our worries as parents. Those comments began with him saying he had not, at this point in his dadliness, succumbed to my level of worry about the food his family eats, which led to me ask him what he does worry about, which led to this post on his blog, which then spurred this-here entry you’re reading at this very moment. But enough of the sausage-making behind this post; what are my top concerns as a parent? Drum roll please.
Food. Okay, that wasn’t very exciting as you’d probably guessed this one. What you might not know though is I’m smack-dab in the middle of a journey on this topic. I love fast food. Love burgers, fries, shakes, breakfast sandwiches, chicken sandwiches. I have assimilated junk food into my normal diet, which means that it’s part of the Hatchlings’ normal diets too. Chips are a mainstay, sugary desserts are more than occasional treats. The thing is, I know I can eat better than I do. And more importantly, I know I can cook better than I do. And equally importantly, I know I can do it without spending a lot more money. Why does it matter? About 10 years ago, I first heard the term “undernourished and overweight” in reference to American kids and their diet. It has stuck with me. It makes sense to think of food as fuel for our bodies and minds, but for some reason I can’t seem to truly practice that in my own kitchen with my own decisions, which is frustrating. But this doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s important to have treats and splurge and eat what tastes good, but now that I have three Hatchlings to teach and model behaviors for, being mindful of our food choices seems like a good place to start. I just started reading Mark Bittman’s Food Matters after about a year of prodding from one of my mentors and I’m fascinated. Though I’m no food expert, I’m guessing you’ll be hearing more from me about this in the future.
Chemicals. My parents have to be so sick of me questioning everything that goes into or around the house. Pesticides, herbicides, carpet cleaners, bleach, fabric softener, detergent, household cleaners, I question everything. I started making my own household cleaners about three or four years ago (baking soda, vinegar and salt are your best friends), which is something I never in a million years thought I would do. For the most part, my parents actually humor me and try to meet me halfway at the very least but there are some things I have no control over, like the farming practices used on the hayfields around the house. First, I don’t know enough to intelligently discuss what should or shouldn’t be done. Second, they’re not my fields. So I concentrate on those things I can impact and try to lessen our exposure to chemicals in things like sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, cleaners, detergents and fabric softener. And I don’t let Triclosan in the house. Baby steps.
Media consumption. Yes, I let the Hatchlings watch TV, I’m just extremely picky about what it is they watch. PBS, fine. Some Disney Jr. shows. Sports. But I’m extremely careful obsessive about commercials. Like other things, this is harder to monitor when living with the grandparents. They try their best, but the TV is their background noise, and why shouldn’t it be? They’ve lived for how many years without worrying about young, innocent ears and eyes within range? So I give them some leeway on this, for sure. The amount of sex, violence, and scary movie trailers that have kids with blank, empty, alien eyes is easy to ignore when not watching through a child’s eyes. Needless to say, my across-the-house-freak-outs when the pause or fast-forward DVR features aren’t used on the commercials have become a big joke in the house. And have probably destined my children for a career in advertising – they’re fascinated by them when they accidentally get to see one.I also believe in the movie rating system and research movies (Common Sense Media is a fantastic site if you’re interested) before letting the Hatchlings watch. So far in their deprived lives, they’ve seen a grand total of seven feature-length films: Mary Poppins, Toy Story, Cars, Cars 2, The Lion King, Tinkerbell and Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue. Without exception , every single one of these movies had parts that made one of the two older kids cover their eyes. All of these were seen at home with the luxury of a fast-forward button. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t even show them Toy Story. (Sid and his toys coming to life? Scary!! But beyond that, most of the real humor was over their heads.) I’m all for enjoying good movies with the family, but I’ve realized something since becoming a parent – I remember the first movie I ever saw. It was Bambi and it was in a theater and it was a big. flippin’. deal. Today movies are an everyday occurrence and accessible everywhere. And usually when I want to watch a movie with the kids? It’s not because they want to see it (remember they don’t see many commercials) but it’s because I want to experience it with them. Case in point, I’ve been trying to talk my kids into watching Tangled with me for two months now. H#1 is ready, but H#2 is hesitant because he’s at the age where he wants to know what’s going to happen. He doesn’t like scary or sad surprises, and he’s not quite able to distinguish between the two or understand about happy endings. And I don’t want to rush him just because I think it will be fun. I’m secretly hoping I can use this against him when he’s older and he’s begging me to let him watch some R-rated gory horror movie with his friends.
Bounce houses. Admittedly my strangest fear, and one that makes it very difficult to be my child, but I hate all things bouncy. (And I grew up with a trampoline in my back yard.) They scare me on many levels. First, they’re filthy and a breeding place for germs. Why do they always have alayer of brown scum on them? Second, they exist only to snap children’s bones in half like twigs. I have never had a good experience with any kind of bouncy castle, house, slide, death-trap. The first time H#1 ever went in one was in Chicago at our local park. It was a small one, and monitored by some volunteer parents, she was with her best friend and there weren’t that many other kids there so I swallowed my phobia and let her go in. Just as she and her friend went in, three other bigger kids ran up and jumped inside, almost knocking H#1 down. She stood her ground for about three seconds before crumpling and being popped around like a kernel of popcorn. I was able to keep it together for about five more seconds before I became that mom who yelled at the kids to stop jumping and let her get up. They did, she did and she survived after a quick exit that probably scarred her for life. The next time was at a different event, same park. We were walking through the gym and the summer camp director saw us and asked if H#1 and #2 wanted to jump really quick while the big kids were getting water. Seemed like a perfect way to get over my phobia, so after the kids’s heads almost popped off from them nodding so quickly, they shimmied in and commenced jumping. It lasted about 10 seconds until H#2 abruptly stopped and started crying, holding his knee. I was halfway in before his tears touched his cheek and he told me he heard something pop. Oh geez. We got out, he walked it off and my visions of a visit to the ER for a dislocated knee never came to fruition, thank goodness. But those bouncy things are everywhere and the industry has marketed them to parents as a great way to get your kids some exercise. And there are entire buildings dedicated to them, so there’s no escaping them. Fast forward to a birthday party at one of these places (yes, I thought seriously about declining but I know I have to face this fear many times in my parenthood) with the two older Hatchlings and me very pregnant with H#3. H#1 was finally at an age (and weight) where she could participate rather than be an unwilling projectile. She spent most of her time going up and down the gigantic two-story slide. Which meant her little brother wanted to try it. So off he went, climbing up with the bigger kids impatient behind him, right on his heels, all the way to the top. And then he froze. He wouldn’t go down the slide. He couldn’t figure out how to climb down backwards (and even if he had, I don’t think the kids would have been able to wait for him to make it all the way down) and so he sat at the top, his big sister protectively beside him. After trying to negotiate with him, it was clear that I had to go up. So there I was, eight months pregnant, climbing up a bouncy slide to retrieve him and help him back down. And yes, I thought about sliding down with him, but thought better of it. When I told my OB/Gyn, she almost killed me just for thinking about it. Oh, but you’ll be glad to know that H#2 did finally go down the slide. And it looked like this.
So yes, I still hate bouncy houses/castles/slides. The last time we went to a festival we actually told the kids we couldn’t get tickets for those things.
Utility covers. My Chicago-induced phobia. A park near us had some freak accidents with their electric utility covers (manhole covers) where they somehow had electric current running through them, injuring (and perhaps even killing—my memory is a little fuzzy) several dogs and people. Add that to the subway grates in the sidewalks that were always bent, warped and felt like they were a centimeter away from caving in and I walk around all utility covers and grates and make the Hatchlings do the same. I’m pretty sure that’s going to come back to taunt me as they get older.
Falling off playground equipment. Those large gaping holes in metal playground equipment makes me crazy. Everybody knows that kids aren’t mindful enough to know where they are in relation to anything else, so why would railings suddenly just not be there? Oh and when I was eight, I fell off the top of a slide, fracturing one of my wrists, spraining the other, sustaining a mild concussion, and knocking out one of my top, front, permanent teeth. So that may have something to do with it.
Social media. I don’t have to worry about it now, since I’m the only one putting anything out there in the mediasphere about them (and, yes, there are many days I question doing that), but I know that before I’m ready, they’ll be posting their own info. And that scares the crap out of me. Because I was that age and despite what they will think, I really do remember it. And I’m so glad none of this social media crap was around then. It was hard enough with slam books and normal gossip. I try to stay up-to-date on what the kids these days are doing so when the time comes, I’m up to speed. And guess who will be the Hatchlings’ first Facebook friend?
There are more fears, but they’re all your run-of-the-mill parental fears: asshole predators, worrying when a fever spikes in the middle of the night, hoping our kids will be able to make friends or other much worse, tragic scenarios. (That’s all I’ll say and the only time I’ll say it, as I’m much too superstitious to actually lay out the exact scenarios that awaken me in a cold sweat unable to breathe in the middle of the night. I don’t want to “paint the devil” as my MIL would say…) But I try to put these fears aside, as all parents do, and practice moderation, restraint, mindfulness and vigilance and try to instill common sense. And hope that my ridiculous phobias haven’t made them overly cautious about EVERYTHING, inspired their own set of phobias or made them absolute outcasts because of their crazy Momma. Ohhh, something else to worry about…