Where Has Childhood Gone?

Last night around 7 p.m., on my way to book club, I drove through the neighborhood I grew up in. It was a lovely spring evening. Clean streets, trees with green buds, pretty cottage-style homes.

Zero kids.

When I was a child growing up there 30 years ago, the first warm, spring night meant one thing: Every kid from every house was out, playing in the street and on the sidewalks. Freeze tag, bikes, kick the can, hide-and-seek.

I know where all the kids were. Same place as mine. Soccer practice. Piano lessons. Tutoring. Or in lock-down because the neighborhood was experiencing a wave of bombings, drive-by shootings and child abductions (not).

Once at book club, one mom insisted that all the neighborhood kids needed to be inside because our world has become very dangerous. That schools forbid kids from walking or biking to or from school. That kids' nonstop extracurricular actitivies are essential for them to thrive in our highly competitive world. I protested that our particular world -- for instance, my old neighborhood -- has not gotten any more dangerous or competitive in the past 30 years. Several of the moms argued that our world -- let me note that it is a largely white, largely middle class East Coast milieu -- is a far riskier, threatening place than it was in 1975.

Our world is very different -- because we've made it different. Today's parents have changed how we parent. If a majority of parents refuse to let their kids play outside their house, or go to a local park, or walk to school by themselves, then no kids can. Because one kid alone on the sidewalk or at the park is vulnerable (not to mention bored).

Can we agree that American parents -- especially middle- and upper middle-class parents -- have gone collectively crazy? Almost everyone today, myself included, falls into the "extreme parenting" category.

But what I cannot figure out is WHY. Exactly when, and how, did American parents become completely obsessed with making our children's childhoods perfect?

Did you believe you'd be different? That your kids would have zero afterschool activities besides "go out and play until dinnertime?" What purpose does it serve -- kids or parents -- to micromanage our kids' supposedly most carefree days? And when -- if ever -- will the pendulum swing back?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  April 25, 2007; 7:20 AM ET  | Category:  Raising Great Kids
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Great blog. My guess is this is one reason kids are so fat today. They don't get the chance to just run around and play. It is a combination of working parents and paranoia. Even the SAHPs don't seem to let their kids roam free. I think they are scared of predators, child molestors, kidnapping etc... I remember being able to get on my bike at age 8 or 9 and have the run of 1/4 of our town. We went to the movies by ourselves by age 7 or 8. Now you hear of parents sitting through movies with their 12 year olds. Also working parents don't help in that regard. And yes, I am one too. But if you get home at 6 and you need to monitor homework, baths, dinner and set up for the next day, there is not a lot of time to roam after dinner. The other thing is the super competitiveness. Why do kids need to do 5 after school activities at all times. I know a father who makes his kids do activities a minimum of 5 days a week. And sometimes they do more then one a day on Saturday and sundays. I think that is a bit extreme. I would say no more then two days a week plus Sunday church or weekend religious activity for my elementary school child. But that is me. Everyone needs to find their own way. It is just sad that childhood is spent preparing for adulthood.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 7:16 AM

My neighborhood is much different than the one described. We are one block away from 2 different parks, and yes there is soccer practice and baseball/t-ball going on, but the kids are out on their bikes, in the driveways shooting hoops, or even throwing the football in the street. More often than not I will put the dog in the yard to come back out later and find the kids across the street throwing the ball for him. It helps we are on all one-way streets and so close to the parks. We also have a very active neighborhood association and email list-serve that keeps residents up to date on goings on in families as well as the community as a whole.

Posted by: fed worker | April 25, 2007 7:33 AM

"I remember being able to get on my bike at age 8 or 9 and have the run of 1/4 of our town. We went to the movies by ourselves by age 7 or 8."

It's always nice to say something like this, but GET REAL! We are in 2007 and in or near a major city. It's not safe to shoo your kids out the door and expect them home for dinner. Wouldn't you say that a part of parents' reaction is because our country just isn't as safe as it used to be (in the '50s, '60s, '70s)? Also, there are a lot of good things about organized activities. Why would a kid playing soccer one day, tee-ball another day, and going to gymnastics another day be fat?

That being said, I agree that many kids are "overscheduled" because the parents want them to be competitive or take advantage of all our area has to offer or maybe even because the kid requests participation in the various activities. Do you really think people will change out of this practice? I don't. Our older child plays on a little league team and that is it. Our younger plays in front of our house in a big mud puddle. Now that's the life!

Posted by: momof2 | April 25, 2007 7:40 AM

Part of it is the urbanizing and suburbanizing of the US. More and more people are living in the suburbs, which compresses the open space available to just let kids run around unsupervised outside. There may be parks or playgrounds available, but they're down the road, or across the (busy) road, and parents don't know who else may be there.

I grew up on a farm; when I got home after school, the whole farm and the surrounding ones as well were available to me to explore once my chores were finished and dinner was ready. There are few children who live in such an environment now, though.

Another factor is having both parents working. When there's a parent at home, the kids could play in the back yard while the SAH parent could keep an eye on them. Now though, with both parents working more, there's not enough time or energy for them to watch the kids and catch up with what needs doing around home.

Finally, the media makes a big deal about every child abuse, child abduction or child's death story they can get their cameras on. There may not be more of these types of cases than there were back decades ago, but the media's coverage makes it sound like they are happening all the time, and that feeds parents' fears that it could happen to their kids.

Posted by: John L | April 25, 2007 7:42 AM

"Can we all agree that American parents -- especially middle- and upper middle-class parents -- have all gone collectively crazy?"

Yes.

Why? Because we fear that the world is a much more dangerous place. Do we think that kids weren't abducted 30 years ago? Of course it did -- we just didn't have CNN to report on it. You would occasionally hear of a local tragedy, but you wouldn't have heard of girls disappearing in California, Utah, etc. When you are virtually bombarded with that sort of thing, you get the false impression that it is much more common nowadays -- and that everything is practically in your backyard, since now the whole country is your backyard.

That's not the only reason, of course. There's been a major change in parenting philosophy, from "benign neglect" to "active parenting." The mom who lets her kid run around unsupervised is now viewed as a lazy mom -- and if she has the resources to pay for lessons and activities, then she's also not willing to invest in her child's future. And there's also been a major change in the kinds of neighborhoods we live in, and the way we interact -- bigger homes, cul-de-sacs that no one drives down unless you live there, and when you get home you just want family time. When I grew up, we knew all the neighbors, and if my parents weren't home, I had at least 4 or 5 people I could call on in case of emergency. Now that kind of neighborhood seems to be more the exception instead of the rule -- and a lot of it's my fault, because I haven't made the effort to get to know them that well.

Finally, there's the issue of control. Even if you have succeeded economically or in your career, you can't guarantee the same success for your kids -- and you realize just how tenuous that success is, and how one significant mistake could change everything. So you think, well, if I can just give my child every advantage, and supervise everything he does to make sure he's making good choices, then I can make sure he succeeds. The problem is, a lot of this is driven by fear. It's not "I want my child to find a satisfying career," it's "I DON'T want my child to be on the street." And the other problem is that it's counterproductive. Kids need to learn to entertain themselves, to learn to interact with other kids without adult supervision, to be given some control over their own lives. How can we expect our kids to handle the big choices on their own when we've never given them the opportunity to handle the little ones?

Posted by: Laura | April 25, 2007 7:45 AM

I don't know what neighbor you are speaking of so I can't comment on the crime or surroundings, but things could not be any more different here in my neighborhood. Kids are out all the time when the weather is nice - right after school up until practice, right after practice - doing everything kids do.

I worry more about my kids getting a ball in the mouth or stick in the eye than child predators or violence. My kids stick in a group and "roam" the neighborhood, the parent's check on them periodically and they come in and ask for snacks and balls, etc.

Posted by: cmac | April 25, 2007 7:45 AM

Fed Worker -- really glad to hear there is still at least ONE neighbhorhood where parents let kids roam free. Why do you think your neighborhood is different?

I knew one similar kid-friendly neighborhood in Minnesota (Eden Park) where all the houses where built at the same time, all the same price range, and all the parents and kids were the same age. Maybe that had something to do with it.

I disagree totally with Mom of 2 that just because you are near a city it's dangerous. It's largely in our heads. The top three dangers to children today remain car accidents, head injuries from not wearing helmets, and accidental drownings. All of these could happen anywhere, and parents don't seem (unfortunately) overly concerned about these well-documented risks. I think parents today have become very paranoid about unfounded dangers.

But WHY? What purpose does it serve for parents to be so frightened, and to pass along that fear to our children?

Posted by: Leslie | April 25, 2007 7:50 AM

Safety issues are a part of the mix, but I think another part of the problem is that there is now a tendency to think of parenting as a 'job', not as a responsiblity, a privilege, and a gift. If you are doing a job, you are supposed to have goals and accomplishments, which are achieved by doing tasks. So our task becomes managing, directing, and controlling our kids lives, and and then we inappropriately try to own their accomplishments.

Posted by: mommy war vet | April 25, 2007 7:53 AM

"But WHY? What purpose does it serve for parents to be so frightened, and to pass along that fear to our children?"

People believe what they WANT to believe.
They get something out of the belief, whether it be positive or negative.

Fear is largely a choice.


Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 7:55 AM

I really don't believe the world is less safe now then it was 30 years ago. We just know about it more because of the news. I have friends that won't let their 8 year old kids play alone in a fenced in locked back yard. Talk about paranoid. And yes, I grew up in the suburbs of NYC and was allowed to roam 1/4 of my town by age 8. I think one reason things were easier was we had sidewalks all over the place. It was just more pedestrian friendly.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 7:55 AM

Kids not allowed to walk to school? What do they do to the walkers...suspend their shoes??

Posted by: Steve | April 25, 2007 8:01 AM

OK, I agree with you all. Please don't "totally disagree" with me. After all, my kids wear seat belts and bike helmets so I am aware of real dangers. But I agree that the news does show a whole bunch of dangerous things that make me think the world is more dangerous now. But I still do think that the FEAR of danger is a big part of what keeps parents from letting their kids just go out and play.

I also wonder how many of you let your 7 or 8 year olds roam around 1/4 of the town just like you used to? Our kids play in the yard and around our house but I'm not comfortable knowing they are just out in the neighborhood playing somewhere.

Posted by: momof2 | April 25, 2007 8:03 AM

"When there's a parent at home, the kids could play in the back yard while the SAH parent could keep an eye on them."

Or watch Oprah or host the book club or do housework or booze it up while the kids are in the yard.

A parent at home doesn't always mean the kids are being watched 24/7.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:04 AM

A few years ago, I took my kids to play at the park. The best piece of playground equipment I've ever seen was this merry-go-round that had the safety bars on the outside so a person could grap one of the bars and really wing it. The faster, the better, the dizzier the kids got, the more excitement. It had been there since I was a teenager, and then as a parent I still loved it even though I couldn't go 2 turns on it without turning green, but I was now the pusher. My kids challanged me to spin it faster and faster. I couldn't spin it fast enough for them, even for my baby who like to jump off and fall over in the dirt / mulch. Other kids would join in the fun.

Then one day I took my kids to the merry-go-round at the park and I ran into a couple with their 2 kids. (about 5 and 7) One of the kids was pushing the other on the merry-go-round apparently too fast for the parents who continuously chimed in with "Not too fast, dear" and "I'm afraid you'll get hurt", and "slow down".

Oh boy!

So in typical Washingtonian fashion, I introduced myself & kids and asked the couple where they were from and what they did for a living.

They answered in chorus, "We're lawyers."

Typical! Why did I even have to ask?

And this is the sad part. The merry-go-round that I knew since a teenager got replaced. The new one had the safety bars closer to the center so the person who was spinning had to bend over and stretch to grap the bar. No way could I ever spin the new one even half as fast as the old one.

Yes, the merry-go-round had been lawyerized. I suspect the same thing is happening to today's kids.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 25, 2007 8:04 AM

I grew up in the Maryland suburbs in the '70s in a neighborhood much like the one described. Both of my parents worked (rare at that time), but everyone knew everyone in the neighborhood and no one thought twice about the fact that I was a "latchkey kid". When I was young, one of the neighbor families kept an eye on me in the afternoons, and by the time I was in fifth grade I was walking home to an empty house.

I can't imagine allowing my 12 year old daughter to do the same.

Despite the fact that we live in a suburban neighborhood much like the one I grew up in.

The two differences, I think, are that 1)the neighbors don't know each other. There are lots of kids, but everyone pretty much keeps to themselves (or is off at the aforementioned activities). There isn't that sense that there are 5 other moms out there watching out for the children. And 2) tv news. I totally agree that the fact that we know about every child abduction in the country makes us all feel less safe and less willing to allow our kids the freedom to be kids.

The real question is: how do we get back there? Or are the days of free-roaming in the neighborhood gone forever?

Posted by: BostonMom | April 25, 2007 8:04 AM

[Finally, the media makes a big deal about every child abuse, child abduction or child's death story they can get their cameras on. There may not be more of these types of cases than there were back decades ago, but the media's coverage makes it sound like they are happening all the time, and that feeds parents' fears that it could happen to their kids.]

I agree that the media hype is a big part of the problem. You also hear a lot more about kidnapping but in reality stranger kidnapping is no more common now than years ago -- with rising divorce rates kidnapping by non-custodial parents is more common.

I don't watch tv news and I definitely think I'm more relaxed about this stuff than friends. I an SAHM to a 2 1/2 year old and 3 1/2 year old. Now that the weather has warmed up both kids spend a good part of each day playing in our well equipped, fully fenced backyard. I glance out the window periodically and keep an ear open for screams but other than that let them be in their own world. A friend, who lives in an even more kid friendly neighborhood than I do, will not allow her 2 (same age) to play alone in their fully fenced yard for any amount of time because she worries that someone will snatch them. That's ridiculous IMO.

Posted by: Suzanne | April 25, 2007 8:05 AM

Can your kids whistle? Can they yo-yo? Can they hang upside down from a tree branch? Ride a bike with no hands?

Are these important life skills? No and at least one can be life-threatening. Still, my unfettered, hang loose childhood gave me these simple pleasures. I want my kids to have the same loose and somewhat boring time but I work and my mother didn't which means that they generally have more organized activities and, until recently, after care which eats into their free time. Then the fact that there are no other kids just cruising the neighborhood definitely makes them less likely to spend a lot of hours outside, just hanging. Who is there to dare them to take the hands off the handlebars or pass on from kid to kid the important skills like whistling with grass or with cupped hands ... ?

Posted by: relativelynewtoblog | April 25, 2007 8:05 AM

My sons are 8 years apart (now aged 23 and 15). We live 1/2 mile from the elementary/middle school both attended. When my older son was in middle school, he walked home every day with a group of friends. The younger one couldn't wait until he was old enough to walk home. The first day he walked home from school I asked about his experience and who he walked with. To my shock he told me that only ONE other student walked home and he lived 1/2 block away from the school. Everyone else (I guess) was either enrolled in child care or picked up & driven home. In the 8-year interval between my older & younger sons, we had 9/11 and the sniper scare, so I guess I understand. But I couldn't deny my younger son the privilege of walking home that he had anticipated for years, so he continued to walk home throughout middle school.

Posted by: Melanie | April 25, 2007 8:06 AM

"Exactly when, and how, did American parents become completely obsessed with making our children's childhoods perfect?"

When folks started blaming their parents for everything wrong with their own lives. I say it all goes along with the death of personal responsibility. Don't go play outside because you can't take care of yourself; go to piano/soccer/football/ballet/whatever because you can't amuse yourself.

Posted by: meg | April 25, 2007 8:07 AM

I also disagree with Mom of 2. I grew up in a DC suburb and my childhood was filled with playing outdoors with all the neighborhood kids, flash-light tag, whatever until supper time (and then in the summer back outside or to the next-door neighborhood pool until bed time). I LOVED my childhood because of this. I had after school (and before school) activities all throughout my childhood, but never so many that the majority of days we couldn't go out playing.

It saddens me that this appears to no longer be the case for the majority of children. I don't agree at all with the parents who say it is because the world is not as safe as it was 20-30 years ago. Hasn't the murder and violent crime rate actually gone down (or at least remained somewhat stable)? And when people cite terrorist attacks as why their children can't play outdoors? Please. I think the terrorist threat is very real, but I don't think that my little suburban neighborhood is high on the attack list. To be perfectly honest, I think my child is more exposed to danger at SCHOOL than he is running around the neighborhood. So, I don't get that logic.

I do agree though that parents nowadays seem much more prone to over-schedule their children. Part of the reason for that may be the greater number of families where both parents work. (This is just my guess.) You can't easily let your child run free after school if nobody is at home...

Posted by: londonmom | April 25, 2007 8:07 AM

"Kids not allowed to walk to school."

Yes, and there are parents who won't let their kids walk to the school bus stop alone or with their friends, as well.

No wonder kids expect a limo ride everywhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:09 AM

One thing about those older neighborhoods where we grew up - it could be there aren't kids there anymore. I just moved into a 40 year old neighborhood. 30 years ago, it was full of kids running around. But its also very stable (as far as home sales go). We are surrounded by original or second owners. Their kids are all grown and they are retired. No kids to run around.

Not that I don't think kids are overscheduled and parents over paranoid. My previous neighbor wouldn't let her 13 year old walk 1 block over to play in the park. She also wouldn't let him mow the townhouse (i.e. tiny!) lawn. My husband was mowing lawns at about 10.

Posted by: Ruby | April 25, 2007 8:09 AM

"I disagree totally with Mom of 2 that just because you are near a city it's dangerous. It's largely in our heads."

Leslie, I'm with you on this. My MIL and FIL both grew up in Brooklyn, and basically ran around town as much as they wanted, doing stuff like taking the subway into Manhattan to go see something there. In some ways, cities are fantastic for (older) kids, because they have things like buses and subways that allow kids to get around without having to rely on the parental minivan.

That said, I think for suburbanites, living close to the city probably adds to the fear factor that encourages this isolation. For ex., if you live in the DC area, the Post is probably your local paper, so every day you read about this murder and that shooting and that carjacking. If you live in Rockville, all that stuff may be happening literally miles away from you -- but when you read it every day, it adds to that sense that things just aren't safe.

Ironically, when you actually live in the city, you tend to learn pretty quickly which neighborhoods are safe and which aren't, so you have a bit more knowledge to interpret those news reports with. When we got married, my (suburban) SIL was kind of upset at the downtown hotel we had picked for our wedding guests, because she thought it wasn't in a safe neighborhood. My Brooklyn FIL came down, walked around a couple of blocks, and said, "I don't know what she's talking about, it's a great neighborhood." I still laugh when I think about that. A little knowledge and experience can be a powerful weapon against stereotypes and fear.

Posted by: Laura | April 25, 2007 8:09 AM

Leslie wrote:

It's largely in our heads. The top three dangers to children today remain car accidents, head injuries from not wearing helmets, and accidental drownings. All of these could happen anywhere, and parents don't seem (unfortunately) overly concerned about these well-documented risks. I think parents today have become very paranoid about unfounded dangers.

Leslie - I AGREE! Shocking but true.

And Fo4 - I have witnessed your playground scenario many times. Your post was excellent.

Posted by: cmac | April 25, 2007 8:10 AM

Interestingly, I live in a working class Boston neighborhood, built in the 50s, single and 2-family homes, sidewalks on the streets, and a nice park, and the kids here are all out playing, riding bikes, walking to the park with their basketballs, etc. It's quite the opposite when I go through a nearby 'wealthier' suburb, the streets and parks are empty of kids. I wonder what they are doing? Maybe off at one of the 5 afterschool activities, or maybe sitting in their house playing their X-Box or PS2??

Posted by: BostonMA | April 25, 2007 8:10 AM

I totally agree with Laura at 7:45...parenting on the whole has shifted from "benign neglect" to "active parenting". I feel a lot of parents today kind of absorb their kids...making them the central focus of life, and taken to the extreme it's not healthy - side effects can range from disintegration of a marriage to a self-centered child. Growing up, I was a PART of the family, but the focus wasn't on me, or any of my siblings, we were part of the whole.

Working parents, neighborhoods that aren't built to encourage walking to places, over active media that dwells on the horrific, and the glut of video games all work on parents' guilt and imagination, and keep kids inside.

Having moving away from the DC area in the past few years (where I grew up and started my family), it is interesting to compare the differences between "home" and the Midwest. The absorbing parent, although I've met a few here (guess you can't escape them), seem to be the exception, rather than the rule...thank God!

Posted by: Margcamp | April 25, 2007 8:11 AM

One major reason I miss my old townhouse was that the children WERE out until dusk or dinner playing and runnning around. Neighbors, parents and non-parents, were usually out chatting about their days. In our current house, all this is missing. Any children close by are invisible; there isn't the close neighborly feel of our old neighborhood.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:11 AM

I read an article a year or so ago about the housing prices that are skyrocketing in San Francisco driving out the families because they could not afford the homes. Literally it was like a mass exodus of children out of the city where now its' mostly singles and older people. Wonder if the same thing is happening here in the suburbs of DC. So many families have to move so far away that these neighborhoods full of kids are now further out in say...Prince William instead of where they used to be in the more immediately suburbs of DC such as Fairfax County.

Posted by: jef3r | April 25, 2007 8:13 AM

I think a lot of it is that whole legality/liability issue. I actually let my kids WALK to a Fairfax County Public School and got a call from the principal -- who thought it was too dangerous! She was concerned because accessing the school meant crossing a parking lot (no matter that the kids in question were ten years old) and that if they got run over, the school could be sued. Welcome to modern life!

And unfortunately, I think it is true that once a majority of people start to do/believe something it becomes the norm, and after that it's harder to buck the norms. I was on another parenting board where a mom said that once more than forty percent of the kids in a class are getting outside tutoring, you can't NOT get your child tutored unless you want them to end up at the bottom of the class. and there are plenty of ultracompetitive DC-area public schools where MOST kids are getting tutored in reading and math.

I also wonder about the whole 'only child' thing and how this plays into it. My daughter had a boy in her class where everytime there was a party in class, Phil's mother, father and BOTH sets of grandparents showed up to watch him eat a cupcake. (He was also the only grandchild.) Phil's behavior and playtime was monitored extremely closely by his SAHM. If he played outside, she stood in the street watching.

OUr solution was to move far away from DC to a subdivision crawling with kids. We still joke about how our kids went CRAZY the first time someone knocked on the door and asked them to play. They jumped on their bikes and more or less disappeared for the day. Followed by every day after that for the next three weeks. (Usually one of the moms ends up giving everybody lunch and they all call home to tell us whose house they're eating at. So they're not actually 'lost' in the neighborhood, just being collectively monitored.)

I was so proud this spring when we discovered that our kids were colluding with the neighbor kids by finding out what was for dinner at everyone's house and then deciding whether they wanted to host friends at their house or eat somewhere else. Just like the childhood we all remember!

Posted by: Armchair Mom | April 25, 2007 8:13 AM

This is a major topic of conversation lately between my husband and me, and amongst my friends and family. I do not want my children to grow up having an adult present at all times. I want them to experience independence at an early age. I want to stop being so scared of things that have such a teeny tiny likelihood of happening. I'm really not sure how to get over this fear, and that is the scariest thing of all.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 8:14 AM

Well, I am in the Midwest, so the kids run wild here. If they have activities, you wouldn't know it because after school they are all running around with the occasional parent doing yard work, but paying little attention to them. I will admit that sometimes it annoys me when I see a four year old out riding their bike alone or when the neighborhood boys trample my flowers.

In the neighborhood next to mine, I see fathers out drilling their kids on football and one very overzealous family recording the speed of their ten year old's fast ball, but that is another neighborhood.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 8:15 AM

I see 2 reasons, that combined together, cause us to stop our children from roaming around and being kids: 1)the media scaring the living daylights out of everyone; and 2)how judgmental our society is now. Ever since that poor boy was abducted in NY in the 1970s, and the media made a circus out of it, we've been told of every bad thing that has ever happened to every child--around the world! I think the world is much safer today than when I was growing up. Just perceptions have changed. Secondly, if anything happens to a child now, it has to be somebody's fault, usually the parent's. When I was growing up, if a child died or had a terrible accident, people commiserated with the grieving/stressed parents. I can't tell you how many times I didn't come home and they had to call the police to find me lost in some other part of town. My record at the emergency room is a mile long--once for swallowing a bottle of aspirin. The doctors gave me a lecture (at 4 years old) about listening to may parents, and everyone kept telling my parents how sorry they were that I was always getting into things. (I was!) No one suggested that all those accidents were somehow my parents' fault or that I shouldn't be allowed outside. The suggestion was a hard spanking. Now, it's a blame game. If I let my kids roam free and something happens, it's not the fault of the kidnapper, the drunk driver, my child who hurt herself, or whatever actually caused the bad thing to happen. It's MY fault for letting them out. Child protective services will be called. I might be thrown in jail, like the father of that poor toddler who died in the hot minivan. The idea is that if something could possibly have been avoided, it should have been avoided, no matter what the cost. Human mistakes are to be punished severely. And blame is to be handed out to anyone who could possibly have prevented the bad thing from happening. We, as a society, cannot accept that bad things happen--period. We have to blame someone who is not really at fault--the parents, the school, the gun lobby, or anyone.

Sorry this is so long. This really hits a nerve with me.

Posted by: Normal Parent | April 25, 2007 8:15 AM

"And Fo4 - I have witnessed your playground scenario many times. Your post was excellent."

No, it wasn't excellent. It was plain old lawyer bashing and not very well done.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:16 AM

I might be thrown in jail, like the father of that poor toddler who died in the hot minivan

He should have been thrown in jail.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:22 AM

The average American home has the TV on for 7.5 hours per day.

That may account for some of the time kids don't spend outdoors.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:23 AM

"'And Fo4 - I have witnessed your playground scenario many times. Your post was excellent.'

No, it wasn't excellent. It was plain old lawyer bashing and not very well done."

Hmmm. Well, I'm a lawyer, and I happen to agree with FO4 on this one. And with "Normal Parent" at 8:15. It's natural to want to find someone to blame when things go wrong. But somehow in our society, that has translated to "so now pay me big money because everything didn't go perfectly." I can almost guarantee you that FO4's merry-go-round was "redesigned" specifically to make it safer (ie, slower), because either the designer or the town was worried about lawsuits. And what's worse, it's a completely rational fear. It doesn't take much to file a lawsuit -- and a hurt child makes for a very sympathetic plaintiff.

Posted by: Laura | April 25, 2007 8:23 AM

So if we all seem to be in agreement that we shouldn't be so fearful all the time, HOW DO WE CHANGE? For the sake of our kids . . .

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 8:24 AM

I beleive some afterschool activities and structure extracurriculars are a good idea. I remember having them as a kid.
Sunday school
Summer swim lessons
and our choice of 3rd activity. I had music lessons.
I don't think that is excessive at all and I hope to have our child in a similar schedule. There are some things just not taught in school and I'd like our kid to be educated in his religion and know how to swim well. I'm certain there'll be something else he wants to do (be it cub scouts or ballet) and we'll be happy to help him in that too.
It's the kids who have no free playtime that I feel bad for. They have so many sports, extra lessons, and training camps that I don't know when they have time to be kids.

Posted by: preggers | April 25, 2007 8:24 AM

8:16 a.m.-- I agree. Uncalled for lawyer bashing. It's a society problem that everything has to be made super safe. If clients didn't want to sue, and juries didn't make big awards, there wouldn't be these problems.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:24 AM

On my street there are plenty of kids out playing in the afternoon. We were the first ones in a long time to have young children on the block. As the years have passed more parents with younger children have moved in. When my older 3 were younger, they were in the side yard playing tee ball or chase.

This is part of the reason that I moved to a small town relatively far from work. My kids could pretty much roam around town with their friends without too much trouble.

Posted by: Fred | April 25, 2007 8:25 AM

Wait! I'm not saying it's a bad thing for kids to be able to play outdoors when you live in or near a city. I'm saying that 30 years ago, I lived in a suburb of DC a lot like the one I live in now, and I played outdoors all the time. Same as you all. And your MIL and FIL. Same as mine. But, when I was a kid, my school never had bomb threats called in. I never had 3 weeks of indoor recess because there was a sniper on the loose in the area. There were no gang initiations in the school bathroom.

All that being said, and back to the original topic sort of, I think that because of all these types of things, parents may be afraid to let their kids just run around in the neighborhood with friends. So, maybe they schedule activities instead. That's all.

Posted by: momof2 | April 25, 2007 8:26 AM

I grew up in the DC area - I was allowed to play outside by myself at an early age at the school playground across the street. I wasn't allowed to go behind the school or in the woods by myself, but I was allowed to play behind the school if other people were there. I was allowed to walk to the swimming pool alone (at least half a mile and across one major street) and allowed to walk to my friends' houses (as long as they met me halfway).

I think about our house in Arlington and what I will permit my daughter to do when we move back next year. I definitely won't be letting her walk to the pool alone because the traffic is so horrible and it's truly dangerous to use the crosswalk (no light yet). It's a shame since it's only a block away. I also probably wouldn't let her walk 3 blocks to the park alone because every now and again there are reports of women getting sexually assaulted along the bike path. It's sad but it's true - and we live in a nice neighborhood too!!

That said, I hope that the children on our street are still there when we move back and that she can play outdoors with them and in and out of our neighbors' homes and have some of what we used to have.

Posted by: ViennaMom | April 25, 2007 8:29 AM

Wow, my hubby and I were talking about this the other day. We have a almost 5 month old baby and I mentioned to him that now that I take walks with her after work on a regular basis I was thrilled to see kids outide playing after school. But I also commented that I was disappointed to not see as many as I had hoped.

We both talked longingly of the days when we could go outside and just play, no worries, bills or work. Now that we are older we make a concentrated effort to get outside ourselves, especially now that we have a child, so we can set a good example of a healthy lifestyle, and ot just decompress. Some of our most hysterical converstations are when we take a walk and just pontificate about nothing.

The other thing that I mentioned to him was that while I want our daughter to be involved in activities I also want her to have free time to just be whatever it is she wants to be. I am amazed when I pick her up at daycare how the other kids' parents swoop in, get their kids, and then run out the door to some activity.

Why? Why not just go home and hang out, bond with your kid. Activities are important but not to the detriment of your child's development. Stress is not a good thing to introduce to your child, physically nor mentally. Let them have some easy time before the real world gets them.

Posted by: Nutty Mama | April 25, 2007 8:31 AM

I have to say that I worry more about what will happen when my kids are teens then the dangers that face them as children.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 8:34 AM

When my girls were young, we didn't own a TV. So both were always outside in the cul-de-sac playing street hockey, riding their bikes, roller blading and so on. And because they were out there, other kids in the neighborhood joined in. It was great to watch and they'd only come in when it got too dark to see. When the weather was bad, they'd read or play indoors.

We bought a TV eventually, but neither of them ever developed the habit. The only person in our house that watches it regularly is my wife. So my advice to parents that worry about their kids not having much of a life - get rid of the noise box. Best thing you'll ever do because it forces the family to adapt.

Posted by: Peter | April 25, 2007 8:41 AM

I grew up in the Midwest and this is just one more reason why I'm considering moving back. I hate overscheduled kids and believe strongly in the idea 'let children be children'.

I never thought I could go back to the 'farms' (my town < 20,000) but now that I have a job that is portable (telecommute from anywhere) I start to wonder more and more why I put up with the annoying parts of this region (traffic, hyper-stressed folks, expenses) when I can move back to the Midwest, let the kids play all day and own a 5 bedroom house with 5 acres of land (all for less than the cost of a 2br DC townhouse).

I'm not packing up yet--but it is being discussed around the house.

Posted by: Andrew | April 25, 2007 8:41 AM

I think it is a control thing. People have become so fearful of what they can't control. Where is faith? Faith in each other, faith that things will work out, faith that a little bit of hardship, like stubbing a toe, enables growth and encourages our children not to be so fearful.

My kids were outside yesterday afternoon playing some game with other kids from around the neighborhood. They had a blast! We purposely moved to a neighborhood where this is possible, even though many consider it in "the sticks." I'll take it!

Posted by: ParentPreneur | April 25, 2007 8:45 AM

"I am amazed when I pick her up at daycare how the other kids' parents swoop in, get their kids, and then run out the door to some activity."

I agree. My daughter had the time of her life in day care and even more so in after-school care. And elementary school, high school, and college.

She's one of those people that get a big kick out of life without the bells and whistles.

By the end of the day, she had had more than enough activities and I saw no need to rush her anywhere.

Some parents do seem to have gone cuckoo bird. When do the parents spend time with each other?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:47 AM

Once again, I have to take time out of my very busy schedule to write an email to my daughter's teacher.

WAY TOO MUCH HOMEWORK!

Sometimes I wunder if the Fairfax County school system thinks there is life outside the classroom. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, standardized testing is approaching. Time to start cracking the whip on those kids..., funding, you know.

The students work harder than I do!

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 25, 2007 8:55 AM

I think a lot of people are missing a second and equally obvious cause for the empty streets and playgrounds -- television and video games. I don't have my own kids, but my husband's brothers and sisters who are younger are overweight, potato-chip eating, soda drinking couch-warmers. You wouldn't see them running around outside playing tag or hide-and-seek. And it isn't because they are "over-scheduled" or their parents are overprotective. They're just lazy and would rather watch televisision and play video games in the climate-controlled cushy comfort of their home.

So no, I don't think parents are necessarily the problem, except maybe where Leslie comes from. In other areas and socio-economic levels I would venture to say it's a non-issue.

Posted by: lawgirl | April 25, 2007 8:56 AM

Just thought of this-- but my daughter had a girl scout campout this weekend, and out of 14 kids in the troop, TWELVE of them were picked up early on Saturday morning because they had to be somewhere for another activity. (And the campout was a good hour from our house, so these parents were up early, doing some serious driving to get their kids). The overscheduling is out of control. I remember joking with my husband that you KNOW kids are overscheduled when they show up for one activity dressed for another (kids at violin class in soccer outfits, kids at math tutoring in karate clothes, etc. etc. etc.) I remember how prevalent THAT was in the DC area!

Posted by: Armchair Mom | April 25, 2007 8:57 AM

Andrew

"I'm not packing up yet--but it is being discussed around the house."

Order the packing boxes now - you're going and will never regret the move.

Good luck!

Posted by: I LOVE BUSH | April 25, 2007 8:57 AM

Just a brief note on how over-scheduling starts early: My daughter is 2, and most of my friends who are at-home and working p/t (like me) are putting their kids in preschool next year. I'm resisting so far, but I do wonder if she'll miss out on something.

Posted by: VAMom | April 25, 2007 8:58 AM

Interestingly enough there is a new book out by Rae Pica called "A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity and Free Time Create a Successful Child" about how children learn from unstructured play. My only other thought on this is that outdoor play has shifted to the back of the house in fenced-in yards...

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | April 25, 2007 8:58 AM

I grew up very close to D.C., (I remember the "Mayor for Life" years, and when homes in D.C. were practically being given away!) and you may rest assured that I was outside playing frisbee with friends and/or racing my dog many, many evenings.

My parents had three iron-clad rules--do not bust them or suffer dire consequences:

1) Be IN THE HOUSE when the streetlights turn on
2) Be within reasonable screaming distance (they were willing to walk one block before hollering)
3) I could go walk to friends houses as long as I followed a simple two-step procedure:

i) ask and RECEIVE permission
ii)call upon arrival

I busted 3ii ONCE--as my parents were very very frightened/worried when I didn't call (and CD's mom had taken us to a movie [remember, no one had or could afford a cell phone then!]) and got the spanking of a lifetime.

I never forgot THAT rule ever again...

I regularly kick my kids outside. I've even LOCKED them outside and told them to amuse themselves. As long as they can see the house, or hear me screaming that it's time to come in, we have dogs, horses, fireflies and fields. Get out. Be kids. Don't break your necks falling out of trees. And yeah, they do rec league sports, music, etc. But not so much that they don't get time to watch the ants.

It's important to have free unstructured play time too. Even if they opt to go outside and read, instead.

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 8:58 AM

I grew up in a big city in a foreign country when at the age of 11 I walked to the public bus stop and then also walked from the bus stop to school on my own. My school was what people here would call a "magnet school" and some kids in my school had even longer commutes on their own. My husband had the same childhood. However, today I am that parent the Leslie correctly labels crazy --I constantly worry about my children whereabouts. They are still pretty small so they can't go around anywhere on their own but I often think of the time when I will put them on the school bus and not hear/see them until they get home in the afternoon. I won't be able to check up on them during the day. Why am I so crazy? I think from the environment, threats to children, perceived or real fear of child molesters/predators out there. I am teaching my son that noone is allowed to touch his private parts, not even an adult or child he knows and trusts. Why am I doing this? After hearing in the media about a teacher/uncle/priest doing it to a child. I worry how I am going to help them withstand peer pressure when it comes to having sex, or smoking, or wearing revealing clothes or make up, or worse in middle school and high school. This is the world we live in and it is pretty much of our own making.

Posted by: a crazy parent | April 25, 2007 9:01 AM

Sorry, a follow-up comment. I walked to school from K onward (two blocks, one intersection). I only needed to be walked there ONCE by my mom--I was always a really independent kid. "I can do it myself!" was my standard statement. I knew the crossing guard (Curly. He was bald, of course), I knew the librarians, I knew I had better get home right away or my dad would come looking for me.

I am regularly horrified by the sight of people in my parents neighborhood (same home) walking their JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOLER to school. Cut the cords, people! I mean, that's just a little too much.

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 9:02 AM

I'm in agreement about the media focusing on the rare dangers to children and the lack of personal responsibility/blaming other people as the two explanations for our childrens' situations.

As a kid, I had 2 activities, watched about an hour of TV, and played outside with my gang of friends everyday. Both of my parents worked. The key, in my opinion, is moderation. No kid should have 5 activities. No kid should be left to their own devices every afternoon. No kid should be parked in front of the XBox and TV all day on a weekend.

The key for changing things now is talking about it with neighbors. The odds are probably good that lots of parents in your neighborhood want their kids out playing in the afternoons. If you make an effort to speak with all your neighbors with kids, you can all establish the same patterns so your kids can play outside together (Mom 1 is home all day, Dad 2 gets home at 3, Mom 3 starts her shift at 8, so kids can be in X yard at 3, X yard at 6, and inside by 8). I think that the key is safety in numbers. I wouldn't let my kid out by herself, but I would let her latch on the roving group of kids because I think she'd be safer. At least there would be witnesses and kids to scream and alert adults if something bad happened.

Posted by: Meesh | April 25, 2007 9:05 AM

momof2: I am not saying parents should let 8 year olds roam 1/4 of Alexandria VA or Columbia MD these days. But the pendlum has swung so far to the other side. Not letting 8 year olds play in a fenced in locked back yard by themselves. The point being made is the free time that kids had in the past taught them about the world on their own terms. Something that you just can't get in organized activities. Even recess is so incredibly short these days. It barely gives kids the opportunities to have a pick up game, play imaginitive games, or just create activities for themselves. If you don't think all these organized activities have a draw back. You should talk to some employers. One of their biggest complaints about recent grads is they need to be told what to do all the time. It dampens creativity and makes it difficult for them to adjust to the working world. Of course in time, if this is all we know, then the work world will eventually mold itself into organized activities. But for now, it is seems like there is some growing pains.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 9:06 AM

8:16 a.m.-- I agree. Uncalled for lawyer bashing. It's a society problem that everything has to be made super safe. If clients didn't want to sue, and juries didn't make big awards, there wouldn't be these problems.

I might agree with you about lawyer bashing but when lawyers advertise on TV that they "can get you a big check now!" The profession in part brings this on themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:07 AM

We used to live in Dallas and the scene was much like Leslie described. Now we live in a neighborhood in Denver - and it reminds me of my own childhood. My kids go out to play the minute they get off the schoolbus and they stay out until dinnertime. None of the kids on our block seem too overscheduled with after-school activities. I limited my kids to just one activity per week this year, and it has made things much more relaxed in our house.

When we first moved here, I was slightly paranoid - I would walk outside every few minutes and make sure I could see the kids. However, as I now know all my neighbors, I realize that whichever yard they are in - there's a parent nearby.

Posted by: denver | April 25, 2007 9:07 AM

Also, I think that justice would be a bit better served if lawyers would dissuade clients from bring frivolous suits. I am sure that a competent lawyer can understand what is frivolous vs. what might be a legitimate case.

Posted by: 9:07 | April 25, 2007 9:12 AM

Ooops. The Minneapolis suburb I mentioned is Eden Prairie, not Eden Park.

This is what I let my kids do:

6 year old -- can go to little corner store six houses away by self in daylight hours. no streets to cross. store owners know my phone number.

8 year old -- can walk to CVS by self. can walk dog around block and go to park with dog.

10 year old -- can go to ice cream store or park with friend.

At parties, picnics, tennis club, recreation center I let both 8 & 10 roam totally by selves. 5 year old can go where she wants but I keep half an eye on her.

I'm just about ready to let my oldest go to the movie theater with friends. He has a cell phone which helps. I talk to all my kids about what to do in case of emergency situations.

I worry far more about cars running stop signs and red lights than abductions. These thousands of "normal" people driving recklessly while talking on their cell phones present a far greater danger than the tiny number of lunatics out there.

Posted by: Leslie | April 25, 2007 9:12 AM

SIL is one of those parents who drag her three year old and 20 month old to activities after a full day at day care. I have to ask, why does a kid who goes to preschool/day care for 40 hours a week also need my little gym, kinder musik, and art classes? And for goodness sake, a 20 month old doesn't need any sort of enrichment at all. I say bag the extra curriculars till your kid is in real school. Even then keep it to a minimum. Maybe 2 to 3 activities a year.

Posted by: adoptee | April 25, 2007 9:12 AM

I wonder if parents are even able feel secure about kids playing in a neighborhood that they don't know as well themselves? We gave up television many years ago, and attempted to find a balance with the information input. Mostly, we review very local or very global news/issues. We walk and run around our town so much that I feel fairly comfortable that I know the roads that are sketchy, the houses that have agressive dogs or people with strange habits. My own patterns inform my decisions about where to go and where to guide family in walks/play. The news networks and their coverage of out of town/out of state crimes shouldn't impact the habits of my family as much as my knowledge of local issues, the neighborhood, and such. That does mean that we avoid certain places - because there is an informed fear based on a potentially real situation. We don't avoid things due to a very general "what if." For us anyway, it does seem to provide some sense of control - and we still have enough scary moments!

Posted by: TownCrawler | April 25, 2007 9:12 AM

Couldn't agree more, Leslie. People are bad at assessing risk. Because every abduction in this country becomes national news (unlike, say, 30-40 years ago), people believe that they live in a more dangerous community, when, in reality, it's just that we hear about every single abduction around the country.

The reality is that kids are not in any more danger than they ever were. Parents are just completely crazy. It's very sad, but as long as people think that stranger-kidnappers lurk around every corner, this unfortunate lack of children playing outside will continue.

Posted by: Ryan | April 25, 2007 9:16 AM

lawgirl

"They're just lazy and would rather watch televisision and play video games in the climate-controlled cushy comfort of their home."

But who is providing all this stuff? The parents!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:19 AM


Well, gee, I'd think at 7 pm a lot of people are inside eating dinner . . .

I also haven't seen anyone mention the homework burden elementary kids are under now, which to me seems much greater than in the past. It takes time away from idyllic, run around outside pursuits. Either it gets done in the brief 2 hours after school/in aftercare, or in the home/dinner/ homework/bath/bed evening blitz once everyone's home. In our family, if it's not done by aftercare pickup, it's unlikely there will be any free outside daylight time at home.

Though for my kids, if it's not done by aftercare pickup, it's because they were too busy running around outside at aftercare, building fairy houses, cavorting with their friends, etc. Just because that outdoor free play happens at aftercare, and not outside their own house, doesn't mean kids aren't having fun outside time. In fact, having grown up in a neighborhood with few kids my age, I think taking their outside play time at aftercare, surrounded by their best school friends, instead of at home with few same age companions available, makes a lot of sense.

And I've never been fond of the kick-them-out-of-the-house-til-dinnertime school of childrearing. I assure you that was for the adults' convenience, not the kids'! I remember visiting my grandparents' house, a long car trip away. They had a piano and I did not, and I yearned to play it and had managed to teach myself to read music and play. When we were there what I desperately wanted to do was play the piano, but no, I got shooed out of the house --- it's light out, the weather's good, here's a bike, so go! don't come back til 6 o'clock! Fine, I liked exploring, but I could explore by myself *anywhere*, it was hardly worth suffering an 8 hour car trip just to be shooed out the door so soon, whenever adults tired of having kids underfoot. I would be lucky to get 20-30 minutes' piano playing in, in those rare interludes of piano availability . . .

In the summer, when there's no homework and no school leaves life less structured, I'd bet you see more kids outside after dinner. . . our kids have a lot more time to tuck out to the neighborhood park and play with their neighborhood friends in the summer . . . . And we have more time and more daylight to take evening walks around the neighborhood, without strict bedtime/homework schedules to enforce, and indulging in later wakeups for summer day camps.

Posted by: KB | April 25, 2007 9:20 AM

MdMother

Ha Ha!

My mother used to lock us out of the house when she was cleaning or she just felt like it.

Since we didn't have a phone, we never had to "check in"!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:25 AM

Andrew - I'm considering the same thing. I grew up in the Midwest and am shooting for a move the end of this summer. I do love my neighborhood, it is close to metro, parks, downtown Silver Spring has one-way streets, and is very friendly, but over all, I am getting sick of the traffic, weather, etc...

Posted by: fed worker | April 25, 2007 9:30 AM

"There isn't that sense that there are 5 other moms out there watching out for the children."

Right - because if you're a working mother, these 5 other mothers would be tsk-tsking you behind your back for neglecting your children by going to work, and since they probably over-schedule their children to find some meaning in their own lives, they would hardly have time to jump in and offer a helping hand to keep an eye on your kids.

Posted by: silverspringmum | April 25, 2007 9:32 AM

One of the best things my mom sent me when I was pregnant was that forward about parenthood/childhood in the 70s, with a note that said - you're going to do fine...bring back some of these "traditions!" (obviously, she did not mean not wearing a seatbelt, etc). My husband & I are those parents who permit their children to go out in the neighborhood alone, but they must be in the house BEFORE dark, and call when they reach their friends' homes. I find it incredibly ironic that many of our neighbors are horrified that we would allow them to go out "unsupervised," but permit their own kids to have unsupervised internet in their bedrooms. I find the internet a much, much scarier place than the "real world....."

Posted by: Smiling up north | April 25, 2007 9:34 AM

Andrew - I'm considering the same thing. I grew up in the Midwest and am shooting for a move the end of this summer........

Guys the only problem I have found with moving back to the Midwest is the culture of eat, eat, eat and smoke, smoke, smoke.


Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 9:36 AM

8:16 a.m.-- I agree. Uncalled for lawyer bashing. It's a society problem that everything has to be made super safe. If clients didn't want to sue, and juries didn't make big awards, there wouldn't be these problems.

I might agree with you about lawyer bashing but when lawyers advertise on TV that they "can get you a big check now!" The profession in part brings this on themselves.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 09:07 AM

Just an observation: the most over-protective parents I've seen are those who have struggled to create a family, whether through adoption, or in vitro, or otherwise. They invest so much in connecting with, and bringing, these wonderful children into their lives that many are petrified that some injury or misfortune will befall their children. Some cannot let their children risk falling at the playground, off their bikes, getting lost in the woods, being bit by a snake. They discourage their children from riding bikes or skateboards by requiring knee pads, elbow pads, etc. so that finally the child gives up on the hassle of either amusement. I've heard parents tell 8 year olds that they are not permitted to ride anywhere on their bike unless a parent is with them. Later they complain that their children never ride their bikes.

A couple of months ago someone commented that maybe one of the issues producing this over-protective parenting behavior is that the majority of households have (only) one or two children. When you are raising 4 or more, you are unable to sweat every bump and bruise and prevent every injury.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:36 AM

Leslie -

I think kids are out in my neighborhood more b/c of the community that we have. I do not have kids, nor am I close to age with any of the parents (I'm in my mid-twenties), but I know all the kids on the block, and what house they belong to. Even the mailman gives updates about new babies, anyone who is ill and who has moved in or is thinking of moving out.

Also, you may want to check on your neighborhood's rules about kids and dogs at dog parks, I believe the age is 12 around me to be unaccompanied.

Posted by: fed worker | April 25, 2007 9:37 AM

"There isn't that sense that there are 5 other moms out there watching out for the children."

But was it reality? Could the 5 other Moms watch out for the children 24/7? Were there even willing to do so?

It's pretty hard to keep an eye on the whole neighborhood when you are watching soap operas.

A lot of people will tell you to mind your own business if you stick your nose in their affairs.

What about the Fathers?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:41 AM

scarry - I'm from Ohio, they just passed a ban on smoking, have a democrat as a gov. and NE Ohio isn't that focused on meat with every meal.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:43 AM

Also, you may want to check on your neighborhood's rules about kids and dogs at dog parks, I believe the age is 12 around me to be unaccompanied.

Posted by: fed worker | April 25, 2007 09:37 AM

Point taken, fed worker, but I don't think relevant here. Leslie didn't say her child was taking the dog to a dog park. Our child walks our dogs individually to a 400 acre park (not a dog park) 1/2 mile a way, for fun, approx. 3 times a week. Dog parks are no fun for us because we want to play with our dogs, LOL.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:43 AM

"I am getting sick of the traffic, ..."

My wife says this all the time. She wants to move out into the country and support herself by selling applebutter to tourists at a roadside fruit stand, but I think she'll just end up bringing the big city attitude to Mayberry and honk at people who don't punch the accelerator before a quarter second after the light turns green.

Scarry, any comments on this?

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 25, 2007 9:45 AM

"There isn't that sense that there are 5 other moms out there watching out for the children."

No, because those Moms are too busy being room mothers, troop leaders, and taking care of EVERYTHING on the homefront, so that their husbands can FOCUS on work.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:46 AM

scarry - I'm from Ohio, they just passed a ban on smoking, have a democrat as a gov. and NE Ohio isn't that focused on meat with every meal.

I know who your governor is. He is from Lisbon Ohio, close to where I grew up, my old man met him one time and really likes him.

MO is really bad for smoking and it seems like every meal at my daughter's school is either steak fingers or fried something or other. I am from NE Ohio too, but don't live there now so I can only say that in my area people eat a lot of meat.

What city are you from?

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 9:48 AM

Father of 4

Re: Moving to the Country

With your whiny, complaining attitude that blames all of your problems on everyone else (ie. the schools, the lawyers), you'd fit right into country life.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:51 AM

Scarry - Sorry I forgot to sign my post, I grew up in Akron, live in DC right now.

I don't post much, but this topic got me going. Yes we are more aware of dangers, but its not anything worse. I remember a summer, I think I was 9 or 10 when a girl was kidnapped about 5 miles from my house I think in June and found in a ditch in July or August. We were still allowed out, but had to check in much more often. I should mention both my parents worked, as did most of my friends parents.

Posted by: fed worker | April 25, 2007 9:52 AM

Well, I hover between these norms. I try not to be overly paranoid, but when I was going to let my almost 5-year old play outside alone for brief stretches last summer, well, the ice-cream truck drove by and she pelted down and half-way across the street. That led to too much indoor time for her and overscheduling. We had a new baby, and I couldn't be outside with her a lot. Some, but not for hours.
Now she is 5 1/2 and I can let her outside alone for a few minutes at a time. We still have some impulse-control problems (normal) and I'm a bit worried about her pelting out of the yard and across the street if she sees a friend or hears the ice-cream truck. I loosen the reins as I see her mature.
And no, we can't reasonably fence our back yard.

What does anyone do about bike-riding? Where do your kids learn? My street isn't safe to ride on for a beginner, and I can't supervise her at the school a mile away for an hour every day. And I wouldn't let her go there herself. Plus, it's used for sports practice, so the parking lot is not actually empty after school.

Posted by: inBoston | April 25, 2007 9:52 AM

Could part of the problem be that they only offer school sports teams at the HS level? Because when I was young, we also had Junior HS teams. Kids who had never had any lessons, could learn to play the sport in Jr. High and a good number went on to play HS sports without any outside lessons. Just school sponsored sports. But I guess because of funding, they have cut a lot of middle school sports. Also they do offer way too much home work and AP classes these days. It seems as if even the average student is taking AP classes in HS.

Posted by: adoptee | April 25, 2007 9:54 AM

anon 9:36

That was my wife's parents, all right. She was an only child and her mother literally watched her like a hawk, afraid that she'd fall out of a tree or get stung by a bee if she went outside for even a moment unsupervised. Fortunately she doesn't appear to want to transfer those fears to our (future) children; she's all in favor of letting kids get outside and get dirty and do kid things.

OTOH, I was third out of four kids, and my parents only wanted to know where I was in general when I went out to play in the summer or weekends. I'd leave a note on the table on Saturdays saying I'd eaten something and I'd be out in the woods playing; if they wanted to get in touch with me they'd honk the car horn!

Posted by: John L | April 25, 2007 9:54 AM


I don't know why so many of you seem so sure that overscheduling is being imposed by parents, and not requested by the kids themselves.

I've been hoping to dissuade my eldest that she doesn't *really* want to do swim team this summer, since it makes us so busy --- 1 hour practices 3 weeknights a week and a *long* (though optional) meet the other non-Friday weeknight . . . but so far, she still wants to do it . . . it's healthy and fun, it just means we have to prepack dinners and run to the pool at day's end . . .

And for those of you that say, one or 2 activities a week --- how do you count something like recreational soccer, with 2 practices and a game weekly? That's just in the nature of the activity. If you'd never consider it, is that really because you're confident your kid wouldn't enjoy having it in their lives, or because you're unwilling to let your kid fall in love with what may be an inconvenient activity? How are you weighing cost (largely to parent convenience/family hecticness) versus benefit? If your kid is asking to continue, they balance cost/benefit one way; what rationale moves you strongly enough to override that? or are you just hoping to keep your kid ignorant of possible activities, so they never ask?

I truly wish I'd had some of these opportunities to explore when I was a child . . . I wish I'd had a more well-rounded childhood with avenues to develop physical grace, fitness, teamwork, musical ability, artistic expressivity . . . they're much harder to nurture in adulthood. If my kids seek them out and I can manage to provide them, why not let them explore the world open to them?

Posted by: KB | April 25, 2007 9:55 AM

inBoston: In our housing complex we have a large paved space for just that. I often see parents and kids with their bikes.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 9:56 AM

Father of 4

Re: Moving to the Country

With your whiny, complaining attitude that blames all of your problems on everyone else (ie. the schools, the lawyers), you'd fit right into country life.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 09:51 AM

character advice from someone who deliberately insults one person by name and 70% of the country, generally, is seldom taken seriously.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:56 AM

My neighborhood has kids outside playing after dinner until dark once the weather is nice. On the weekends, there are kids outside most of the day. My kids are young (5 year old and twins who are two)so usually my husband or myself is outside also. We know our neighbors pretty well so we do let the 5 yr old play outside with friends and minimal supervision. As for extracurriculars, the oldest can choose one sport per season to play so that amounts to an activity one night a week and for an hour on Saturday or Sunday year round.

I think Leslie is right about the fact that if the majority of parents keep their kids in that keeps all kids in. I guess in my neighborhood we use our craziness on other things like worrying about whether or not that homeowner just painted their shutters a darker shade of green than the original color!!

Posted by: MOMto3 | April 25, 2007 9:57 AM

Let's start with ourselves. A lot of things are legal, and good for a kid, but natural parent's worries prevent us from allowing them to do it. A 10 y.o. can walk a few blocks to a local library. An 8 y.o can stay in the library or swimming pool alone (yes, it's legal in Arlington -- lawyers, please don't get it changed!). They certainly can walk to/from the bus stop alone. The only thing that prevents me from giving my kids more freedom are the busybodies with cell phones ready to call CPS. Fortunately my kids look like they belong , wherever they are, and it's fun to observe them roaming the museums and large exhibits free, without anyboidy asking where there parents are. They are civilized, respectful, and acualy initiate conversations with the adults in charge, certainly don't hide.

Lots of kids are coming to community centers (talking about Arlington here), but the demographics is 90% Hispanic, so white middle class parents don't feel comfortable sending their kids there. I personally recommend my kids to go anyway, but a lot of kids there are new arrivals, and they mostly speak Spanish among themselvels. Well, that's a motivation to learn Spanish for my kids.

I also noticed that different cultures have different standards. One of my son's friend's moms is a cleaning lady. Lots of fun for the kids to roll around in the back of a huge van. According to his exagerated impression it looks to him like a stretch limo with a couch and bags of snacks. I asked if there were seatbelts in the back. He looked at me indignantly: Mom, seatbelts in the VAN?!

For people who think our times are more dangerous than ever before -- read the memoirs and fiction of any time period that was suposedly "safe". Mark Twain: real murders. Hippy times: rampant child molesting. My parents would not advice me go into the woods cross-country skiing, citing all the dangers parent cite now. Did it stop me?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 9:59 AM

I live outside Kansas City, MO, so I am not really in the county. However, the traffic here is way less than it is in DC, but that doesn't stop people in huge trucks from thinking they own the road and that they need to be in front of you at all times or reckless drivers in general. The pace is slower here and it's all in what you want and what you are used to.

I adjusted well to living in the Midwest again and only have the complaints about smoking and unhealthy food at my kid's school, which I can control.

Fed worker,

I love the akron canton area. I am closer to youngstown, but we have family there and visited a lot.

anon I hear no more whines in the country then I did in the city. People are people no matter where you live.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 9:59 AM

As one who moved to "the country", I can tell you that there are plenty of kids on my street. (Drives my Bulldog nuts - she stands on the front porch or looks out the window and barks whenever the kids start trickling home from school).

As for bringing the big city into Mayberry. Heh - my new home in the Midwest is home to some of the worst driving habits I've ever seen. Stoplights seem to mean whatever you feel like they should mean, people will tailgate you in the right lane of the Interstate when you're 10 mph over the speed limit and the left lane is empty for miles, and it is not unusual for people to STOP in front of off-ramps to make sure they're getting off at the right place.

A little big-city driving might not be a bad idea ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur | April 25, 2007 10:03 AM

My son broke his left arm over spring break skateboarding at a friend's house. I was relieved, in a strange way, as it was his first "break" and now he has a better internal sense of his limits -- at least for the next 5 weeks. I remind him often that if he hadn't had a slurpy in his right hand when he was riding his skateboard (!!!), he might have a cast on that hand instead. Too bad, the book report was still due on time, with good penmanship.

So what's the message? Let kids be kids. I agree with the comment somewhere above that teen years are the years for kids to learn how to be adults and do things for themselves and make decisions for themselves. Guess what? They make mistakes. So do we.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:03 AM

I don't have my child signed up for any extra-curicular "Stuff" beyond preschool and aftercare so I occassionally have a panic attack that I should sign him up for more "stuff" because "the window of opportunity to learn X is closing". A voice whispers to me "If you don't do it now, he will be at such a disadvantage in the future."

this especailly true regarding foreign languages, but also for music. I'm thinking of signing him up for violin lessons this summer-- Sukuki method. he'll be almost four. I should also expose him to foreign language, but can't decide which one. Spanish I guess, although Chinese is so difficult to learn as an adult, maybe I should try getting him lessons while he is so young. He is too young to express a preference-- so it would be me "being a parent" and saying you are going to do this because I know it is for your own good-- and that you will thank me for it later.

Do they ever really thank you for it later, though? :}

Any thoughts on whether the Sukuki method is good for an almost four year old?

Posted by: Jen | April 25, 2007 10:06 AM

Opps! I think it is actually spelled "Suzuki." More familiar with motorcycles than classical music to my mind, but there you go!

Posted by: Jen | April 25, 2007 10:07 AM

Growing up from 1st grade on, I walked to school-for a couple of yrs with my sister until she went to middle school- then alone. If I had activities I usually walked to them (I couldn't walk to the skating rink, so mom took me). But I did walk to religious school thru 7th grade from elem schhol and then from middle school.
Just the other day I asked about that at our religious schoolwhere they will have weekday classes from 2nd grade on. The head of the schoolsaid that no one let's their kids go from the elem school to the religious school alone-that it is a different world out there. I totally and completely disagree. I live in the city but certainly live in a relatively safe area and if 2 or 3 kids were walking together there would be no problems. My mom grew up in the bronx with a wohm and no dad. So she was out and about nyc all the time-day and night. I grew up in a suburb but by 15 would take a train to manhattan with friends for fun. I could also walk almost everywhere in our town. That's one reason we live where we do-so that when the kids are older they won't need a car to get around. We live on some bus lines etc. And walking distance to lots of stuff. I think the bigger danger to kids is that they can't go anywhere w/o a car so parents give unqualified kids cars so that they will leave them alone. Kids are bored and want to do stuff when they're teens but they can't. My kids will take the bus or walk to school just like I did-my mom was a sahm but never around after school. She had other stuff to do.

Posted by: atlmom | April 25, 2007 10:10 AM

Scarry - Akron/Canton was a good place to grow up, and with Goodyear sticking around for a time more (they are hiring something like 100 engineers for the Akron research office) job growth is somewhat good. My dad is a teacher and a brother a firefighter so it even seems like a small town to me. A sister of mine is in Cleveland and I'd probably end up there, and even with a pay cut, still be able to actually buy a house.

For those lamenting kids not being out, how many of you parents walk around the neighborhood?

Posted by: fed worker | April 25, 2007 10:11 AM

Jen - are you worried about not signing up a preschooler? Chill - if the preschool is good they will be exposed to normal things. At that age catching a ball, with a parent or caregiver or just learning to swing is enough. As for music unless you think your child has expectional talent you can wait.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | April 25, 2007 10:12 AM

Since we've started to plan for kids, we've been looking at the city in a different way. We were driving around this weekend and here's what struck us: if you drive through the "white" areas (forgive me the blunt shorthand, but we all know what we are talking about--Dupont, Logan, close-in Capitol Hill, etc.) you can't see a stroller to save your life. If you drive through, say, Pentworth or the areas near RFK Stadium, the sidewalks are a fantasy of kids on bikes, neighborhood playgrounds abound, and every porch has a stroller or a baby in someone's arms. Why is that? It is amazing to me that a neighborhood like Dupont or Logan does not have a playground--though there are dog parks! I don't see why people feel that as soon as they have a kid they have to pack up and go to the suburbs. Let's start having our kids in the city and demanding facilities--density makes for safety, and we'll all have more time to be with our families.

Posted by: hopeful | April 25, 2007 10:13 AM

Since the automobile has dominated residential transportation, and autos have reverted to bigger is better - (SUV rant here) the traffic makes it unsafe to travel the roads much less play in them. Problem feeds on itself - as fewer kids can walk/bike - more parents drive them to play dates, practice, tutors, parks. A viscious cycle indeed.

Narrowing streets, painting shoulder lines, crossing islands at cross walks etc - anything that makes a driver more attentive and cautious in neighborhoods is a GOOD idea. Safeways to schools, parks, town and trainstations are not only nice perks - but prudent and mantatory community planning.

Roads need to be safer to allow for pedestrians bicyclists etc. Some websites with info:

http://nysgtsc.state.ny.us/peds-ndx.htm
http://www.swrpa.org/projects/pedbike.htm

My kids get pushed outside as much as possible. TV is off during the week unless pouring rain, RedSox playing Yankees, Earth on Discovery Channel etc...

Homework burden and Middle School years starting in 5th(!?) grade severely cramp kids ability to just "be kids." Driveway chalk, kites, whiffle ball, basketball etc provide hours of fun Spring, Summer and fall - we even flood the side yard for our New England winter so the kids get kicked outside to skate on home ice. I love it when I come home at night and there is a half dozen neighborhood kids playing shinny in the yard. My parental lawyers probably shudder in their proverbial graves on that liability eh?

We do organized sports too, but try to restrict to one commitment a season.

Local math program in school demented (Investigations anybody?), so we now augment with a math tutor program. Elder kid (unlucky guinea pig) got to middleschool without ever being drilled/taucght effectively how to do computation quickly.

oh well, hopefully we'll get to stop doing that after a while, but his sister goes with him and is doing much better in math in school too.

Fo4 - You must have amazing reflexes/radar to have spun that merry-go-round with your impaired eyesight. I would loved to have seen the look on the faces of those legal beagles as their kid got the ride he/she always wanted, but jurisprudence precluded.

Posted by: Fo3 | April 25, 2007 10:14 AM

"Any thoughts on whether the Sukuki method is good for an almost four year old? "

Wow! Talk about leading a life of quiet desperation!!

You might want to check out that Voice that is "whispering" to you.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:15 AM

Yes, fed worker I would move back there in a heartbeat, but my husband has a good job here and with engineering it seems like what you get into after college is kind of where you stay.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 10:15 AM

hopeful-- thanks for the input-- he MAY have exceptional talent since his father has "absolute pitch" and it a hereditary deal-- 50/50 shot.

Posted by: Jen | April 25, 2007 10:17 AM

Scarry - I'm an engineer, but pretty early in my career. Changing now doesn't hurt as much. But considering I might chuck it all and work at a flower shop...yes my parents are very proud of me.

Posted by: fed worker | April 25, 2007 10:20 AM

You may want to investigate the Kumon program. I have two kids, and it's $300/month (two subjects for one, one subject for the other).

So far, it's paid off. Neither one is struggling mightily in math/english as they were before. Costs a lot less than Sylvan (which was recommended for one child for both math and reading).

But it's not for everybody. I've found it useful though.

Posted by: to Fo3 | April 25, 2007 10:21 AM

Relgious schools

The battle axe nunsat my religious school wouldn't let the public school kids use their bathrooms because the public school kids were "dirty".

These frightful hags could care less if the public school kids walked home alone.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:22 AM

Leave the suburbs and move to the city! In our city neighborhood of small row houses, the kids all play together out front on the sidewalks, and just one or two parents loosely supervise the bunch. None of us have backyards, so when they're not out front or at soccer, piano, whatever, they're at the neighborhood playground, where they play with old friends and new friends and share a small set of traditional playground equipment--roughly the same number of swings and slides, etc., that one suburban household seems to have all for itself these days.

Posted by: city living | April 25, 2007 10:24 AM

I endorse Kumon, that's where we go. Well devised program to motivate the kids too.

Posted by: Fo3 | April 25, 2007 10:24 AM

One other thing-- Leslie mentioned that her kids have cell phones-- I heard that you can track your kids with their cell phones--like with GPS? is this true? I have to say it would still be very tempting to have that technology to see if my child is truely going where he said he'd be going.

If there are those parents that do use GPS to track their kids, how do the kids feel about it? (I assume the kids know-- way too creepy if you don't tell them what's up.)

Posted by: Jen | April 25, 2007 10:25 AM

Relgious schools

The battle axe nunsat my religious school wouldn't let the public school kids use their bathrooms because the public school kids were "dirty".

These frightful hags could care less if the public school kids walked home alone.


Posted by: | April 25, 2007 10:22 AM

Nice to bash an entire group of educational institutions because of your lone anecdotal experience. If you've been toting this baggage around for more than a decade, you might want to consider therapy so you can learn how to let go.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:26 AM

"Leslie mentioned that her kids have cell phones"

It's safe to assume that Leslie's kids pretty much have every VLI under the sun.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:28 AM

"Nice to bash an entire group of educational institutions because of your lone anecdotal experience. If you've been toting this baggage around for more than a decade, you might want to consider therapy so you can learn how to let go. "


Ditto for Fo4 and his lawyer bashing.

Does he really KNOW any lawyers?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:30 AM

city living--
are you in DC? If so... may I ask where?

Posted by: hopeful | April 25, 2007 10:31 AM

VA Mom re: preschool.

The other day I found myself thinking about my 5 month old's need to be signed up for preschool and then I smacked myself! She's only 5 month's old!!!! Yikes.

Right now she is in an in-home daycare situation and seems to be very happy. While I do think some preschool when she is closer to kindergarten age will be important. It will be done when she is mature enough to handle it, probably around 4 or so, and to help her make the transition from a less formal setting to a more formal one. But I want her to be a carefree child for as long as possible.

Posted by: Nutty Mama | April 25, 2007 10:33 AM

Ditto for Fo4 and his lawyer bashing.

Does he really KNOW any lawyers?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 10:30 AM

No but he plays one on TV!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:36 AM

I think this is more of a problem on the east coast than in the mid-west. Our kids roam free and play both pick-up and organized soccer/baseball/etc. at the local parks. If you drove through our neighborhood at 7 pm on a sunny day, you'd see kids EVERYWHERE. Some with parents...some without.

Posted by: K | April 25, 2007 10:38 AM

"Ditto for Fo4 and his lawyer bashing.

Does he really KNOW any lawyers?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 10:30 AM


No but he plays one on TV!"

Daredevil is a lawyer!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:43 AM

"Leave the suburbs and move to the city! In our city neighborhood of small row houses, the kids all play together out front on the sidewalks, and just one or two parents loosely supervise the bunch. None of us have backyards, so when they're not out front or at soccer, piano, whatever, they're at the neighborhood playground, where they play with old friends and new friends and share a small set of traditional playground equipment--roughly the same number of swings and slides, etc., that one suburban household seems to have all for itself these days.

Posted by: city living | April 25, 2007 10:24 AM "

I am with you in principle, if not with the suburb-snark. We cannot afford to live any closer to the city than we do, but we wanted a neighborhood where there was a culture of outdoor living, and we found one.

In our burb neighborhood the average house is 2000 sq. ft or less and the lots are smaller than a 1/4 acre. When you don't have a lot of space indoors, e.g., no bonus room or surround sound entertainment system, or in your backyard, the kids and the adults socialize outside in front of their homes, with or without their dogs. No one parks in their garages because we need the storage space, so we never encounter that strange burb phenomena of the neighbor who pulls up to get his mail from his mailbox while still sitting on his tush in his Saab.

On any sunny day or nice evening, we are all out either in our front yards, or walking to and from the park, or group supervising young new bike riders. Even on nights when our child plays sports or has a music lesson, we're home by 7 and, at least half the year, it doesn't get dark until later.

If you seek it, you can find a neighborhood in the burbs that has an outdoor social culture, and a culture of outdoor fitness for adults. It may or may not come with that Architectural Digest kitchen you've been wanting. Life is full of choices.

When you raise your kids in a neighborhood where couples walk together for exercise, walk their dogs, play tennis at the courts in the park, and garden for fun, your kids are more likely to see the outdoors and unplugged as a source of fun. Like cities, good burb neighborhoods have unique personalities and the best ones to raise your kids, IMHO, are not the poshest ones.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 10:43 AM

Jen: I would not worry about signing up your young child for music lessons. I am sure if your kid is a protege, they will learn later on as well. Even some of the olympic athletes did not start till around grade school. If your kid is a regular kid who will just benefit from music lessons, then it is fine to wait till they are older. Most preschoolers do not have the attention span for in depth lessons. Even the gymborees and the kindermusik classes are really not any different then the stuff they get at good day cares and preschools.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 10:45 AM

Megan's Neighbor

"If you seek it, you can find a neighborhood in the burbs that has an outdoor social culture, and a culture of outdoor fitness for adults."

Right, but I'll pass the neighborhood where self-righteous hypocrites like you live!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:50 AM

I don't think it is unusual for kids to have cell phones. Leslie posted only her eldest child has one. But if you read the on parenting blog about cell phones, there are plenty of kids with cell phones. BTW, that gps monitoring doesn't really work well. A kid can drop the cell phone anywhere and you wouldn't know if kid was in the same location as phone.

Posted by: adoptee | April 25, 2007 10:50 AM

Megan's Neighbor

"If you seek it, you can find a neighborhood in the burbs that has an outdoor social culture, and a culture of outdoor fitness for adults."

Right, but I'll pass the neighborhood where self-righteous hypocrites like you live!

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 10:50 AM

I hope so. I wouldn't want my kids to learn from you that it's appropriate to yell insults at strangers.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 10:55 AM

Megan's Neighbor, it's no surprise that you're from NC because the neighborhood you describe sounds exactly like ours, right down to the size of the houses and yards. People are always outside.

City living, I prefer the 'burbs, but my brother is dying to live in the city (rents in Bethesda now). Unfortunately, he can't find a place that he can afford--even to rent! I faced the same problem when I lived in Rockville. The truth is that all the neighborhoods with lots of kids and parks are super expensive.

Our solution was to move. I hope my brother can stumble into a roommate situation so he can be closer to school for the Fall.

Posted by: Meesh | April 25, 2007 10:56 AM

I found out last week that a registered violent sexual offender actually does live in my neighborhood since last year. He's about a block and a half from my daycare and 2 blocks from my house - and near the community swimming pool! (I think the law is 500 feet from a daycare - so oh well) Has anyone else checked out the National Registry? It's a great tool to balance reality and perception. I confess to also reading the police blotter monthly to see what kind of crime is taking place in the neighborhood. It definitely burst my bubble of the idyllic suburban townhouse neighborhood. But I'm glad I know and won't walk in that part of the neighborhood anymore with my toddler (and soon to be born #2) alone. To Midwest mover- I too think about moving back to my roots - but I don't think it is any less safe and here you have the racial and economic diversity that is sorely lacking where I grew up (wisconsin).

Posted by: Springfield, VA | April 25, 2007 10:56 AM

One of the great things where my son is - for after care- is that they have optional activities-so he is signed up for gymnastics and spanish. He loves them both. When he goes to kindergarten, I will have him home with our au pair after school and probably have him signed up for one activity during the week(maybe karate). He'll be able to spend more time with his brother that way, too. I know many of my neighbors and the neighbor kid comes over to see if my ds can come out to play, and we go over there too-he feels like he owns the place there too. I love my neighborhood and that I know my neighbors, and I do think that isolation is part of the craziness parents have-people just don't know their neighbors anymore.

Posted by: atlmom | April 25, 2007 10:57 AM

foamgnome,
i think you mean prodigy.
Protege is something else.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:57 AM

I can think of a zillion good reasons for kids to be inside at 7 pm unrelated to overscheduling and parental fear. Some were eating dinner. Some were doing homework. Most were reconnecting with their parents after spending the whole day apart. The really little ones were getting ready for bed. In my part of the country 7 is mosquito hour, too. Please.

Posted by: Lynne | April 25, 2007 10:58 AM

Physical safety is just part of the reason. The main reason is parents' INSECURITY. Both in the labor market and regarding their parenting skills. It is true that the labor market has become more competitive than in the past and rewards degrees from top-tier schools. Parents are worried that if their kids don't go to top schools, their careers are doomed and the kids won't have the same life standard as them. What parents don't see is that this top-tier school premium is not as big as they think, and in most cases not worth sacrificing their children's childhood for. The celebrity status of Ivy league schools is partly due to their skillful marketing and media hype.

Another factor is unnecessary competition among parents - keeping up with the Jones' in terms of where the kids go to college - results in overscheduling leading to burnt-out, overtired kids. Most of the results of all those extracurricular activities are negated by suffocating children's creative and original thinking and risk-taking attitude that comes with unstructured play, daydreaming and doing what you would like at the moment instead of being dragged to the next scheduled activity.

Parents are also insecure in their parenting skills and instincts. Since many people in the US don't live close to their parents anymore or don't have a close relationship with them, the accumulated wisdom and experiences of the grandparents are not passed down from generation to generation, and today's parents lost their compass. They raise their kids from parenting magazines and books that promote products and activities that are largely useless (Baby Einstein and alike) and publish dubious statistical studies on what else they should do or schedule for their children to be perfect (OK, not all of them). This has nothing to do with parents staying at home or working, both sets behave very similarly in the middle and upper-middle class.

One might object that if everyone does it, the overscheduling and overprotective parenting style becomes self-fulfilling and these types of kids really get rewarded in the end by getting into the best colleges. I don't agree: spirited, motivated, original and creative kids will find their way to happiness and to the top (which doesn't only mean the best-paying jobs), and children are more likely to be like that if they don't have an overburdened and micromanaged childhood. As a big bonus, they grow up happy unlike many of their peers.

Posted by: a not so insecure parent | April 25, 2007 10:59 AM

EEks, yes I meant prodigy. I think a protege is a car. Sorry.

BTW, I live in Springfield too. Not to happy to hear about the sex offenders. But I guess that is probably every where.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 11:00 AM

Jen--the decision is yours, but I played the violin for years so let me weigh in.

1) There is NO worse-sounding instrument than a 1/8 to 1/4 size violin, in the hands of ANY beginner. The cats used to leave the room when they saw me head towards the case. That's how I knew I was improving, they didn't flee!

2) It's really easy to be overfaced at the age of 4. I would recommend that you make certain this is THE instrument for your kid. Honestly, some of us are cello players at heart (I am, anyway).

3) It may be easier on everyone's nerves if you started the child with piano. There's a lot to learn with a string instrument, and your fine motor skills at aren't always quite ready for a violin.

4) Besides, the awkward head/neck position, trying to learn the proper position for holding the instrument AND the bow...

5) If your kid pursues music, then composition will be encountered. Time and time again, violinists are the worst composers overall. Those who play or played the piano have much less of struggle and have a higher likelihood of turning out some really nice stuff!

6) Earplugs. Please, trust me, unobtrusive earplugs for YOU are a must for at least 6 months, if you do pursue violin.

7) Don't fret too much. Perfect pitch is a gift that won't go away, if it is given. One of my kids has perfect pitch too.

Remember--music is also supposed to be fun and make you feel good when you make it--particularly as a little kid.

You and your kid(s) will do fine. No need to rush, okay?

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 11:00 AM

Where are my manners?

Emily, Scarry, how are the pregnancies going? Want any low-key FUN pregnancy book recommendations? I have 'em..!

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 11:02 AM

MdMother, as always, your advice is highly useful. I would only suggest that the price difference between a piano capable of holding a tune and a beginner-quality violin might be significant to many parents. If your child loses interest in a (I don't know, you tell me) $80(?) instrument after a year, it's not the end of the world. Invest in a piano, and when your child tells you she's not interested in it, you will cry. Unless you play yourself, and then, who cares?

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 11:04 AM

Where are my manners?

Emily, Scarry, how are the pregnancies going? Want any low-key FUN pregnancy book recommendations? I have 'em..!

Mine is sick but healthy so far. Pass along anything you got!

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 11:07 AM

Sure, I can remember playing outside every evening growing up, interspersed with occasional activities (soccer, brownies, etc).

But I would argue that there are MANY children still doing this today. Drive through neighborhoods in Ashburn or Leesburg and there are plenty of children outside from about 4-7 every night when the weather is nice. I would argue that perhaps it is the neighborhood itself that Leslie was using as her barometer.

There is no doubt about it that many children are overscheduled right now and parents need to get a grip. But, I do think that there are many older, closer in suburbs that are just not as child friendly anymore and just do not have as many kids living there, let alone playing outside.

Drive through many neighborhoods in Fairfax and Loudoun and you will see a scene that reminds you of days gone past - playing in the yard until bedtime.

Posted by: LeesburgMomof2 | April 25, 2007 11:07 AM

Some parents in my neighborhood drive their kid a tenth of a mile to the bus stop and wait there (blocking traffic no less) until the bus arrives. These are high schoolers.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 11:08 AM

Actually, getting a half-way decent keyboard isn't that expensive. Usually kids enjoy playing them even if they opt NOT to pursue piano. They hold their pitch well too! And renting a clavinova isn't too dear either, those are fun.

I'm actually learning the piano alongside my youngest child. But I was bequeathed my great-grandmother's upright years ago. I do have to get it tuned every year or so, but that's not a big investment with two to three people banging on it.

I've seen a fair number of uprights offered for sale regularly, at really inexpensive prices.

But yeah, pianos are not noted for their easy portability!

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 11:09 AM

I'll buy that PART of the problem for SOME kids is overprogramming. DH and I don't have kids yet, but from the kids I interact with I don't think this is the major reason kids aren't outdoors.
It's the technology. Kids as young as 10 with their own computers, IM and facebook, text-messaging and their own tv's. I played outside when I was that age, because it was the only way to see or hang out with my friends. Phone use was restricted to 15 minutes at a time, and no calls after 8:30. Almost no one had the internet. And the only tv was the one in the living room. I see groups of pre-teens at the mall now, and they spend half their time texting people who aren't with them. That's a bigger issue than activities where presumably their with their friends.

Posted by: Newlywed in MD | April 25, 2007 11:10 AM

I know there are those who will scoff, but personally I LOVED the "Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy" and beyond series. It's just not as heavy-handed as many other books/series.

And when you are, or FEEL, like a beached whale, you GOTTA have a laugh!

I remember thinking that one child HAD to be a boy--no little girl would poison her mother like this!

Weeks 1-5 were great. 6-8 I was throwing up constantly. 6-12 I was exhausted. Then 12-30 were wonderful. I could do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. By week 42 (I had to have the kids induced--no baby was released before they were DONE) I was ready to engage in some do-it-myself pitocin.

I still laugh when I think about the day I went in with false labor, but the docs assured me I'd be back later that night. I grabbed a neck-tie, reeled the guy in and said, "I am not leaving this hospital without my baby in my arms," in a really scary whisper. I got my wish.

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 11:15 AM

I still laugh when I think about the day I went in with false labor, but the docs assured me I'd be back later that night. I grabbed a neck-tie, reeled the guy in and said, "I am not leaving this hospital without my baby in my arms," in a really scary whisper. I got my wish.

LMAO. That is funny. I don't have that problem, my babies don't want to stay in until the due date. I have read the girl freinds guide and I loved it.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 11:18 AM

I think the main problem is that parents are more concerned about how they appear to others (if all the other moms are driving their kids to school, I have to too), than they are about what is best for their children.

If it suddenly became *cool* to let the kids play outside, then todays parents would be all for it.

Posted by: jj | April 25, 2007 11:19 AM

LMAO. That is funny. I don't have that problem, my babies don't want to stay in until the due date. I have read the girl freinds guide and I loved it.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 11:18 AM

So...between the two of us we have textbook 38-40 week pregnancies, right?

I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed for you, Scarry.

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 11:20 AM

I think the main problem is that parents are more concerned about how they appear to others (if all the other moms are driving their kids to school, I have to too), than they are about what is best for their children.

If it suddenly became *cool* to let the kids play outside, then todays parents would be all for it.

Posted by: jj | April 25, 2007 11:19 AM

I suspect you are childless, jj. Parents know that they will never again be "cool" and cease aspiring to be "cool" after the 17th time their first baby spits up on them.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:22 AM

and cease aspiring to be "cool" after the 17th time their first baby spits up on them.

Not to mention that babies know fabrics. They ALWAYS nail the dry-clean only stuff.

*sigh*

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:23 AM

I live in the midwest, and in my city, there are always kids running around outside, riding bikes, shooting hoops, you name it. This past weekend, the weather was beautiful and our neighborhood was *filled* with kids playing outside. Maybe because we don't live in a big city (it's a suburb), but we don't obsess about random crime against children here.

I don't actually think things are any less safe than they used to be, it's just with 24 hr news channels always looking for a story, we hear about this stuff way more than we used to. It breeds paranoia.

My children are often busy in the evenings at baseball & soccer practice, but when they're home and the weather is decent, they're outside.

Posted by: Lee | April 25, 2007 11:29 AM

Well, as a child who grew up without playing outdoors in a neighborhood (really allergic to trees), I can't say that I missed it. So I was one of the "overscheduled" kids. I had something like ten after school activities, and I loved every one. Sure, I still can't ride a bike, but I haven't missed it.

Posted by: LawDancer | April 25, 2007 11:30 AM

protégé >noun (fem. protégée) a person who is guided and supported by an older and more experienced person.
-ORIGIN French, 'protected'.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:30 AM

We have made a concerted effort to seek out and nurture relationships with families in the neighborhood that share our childrearing philosophy which is limited activities, limited t.v. and computer and outside as much as humanly possible. You don't have to get rid of the t.v. or computer, you just have to say no, which I suppose for some people is harder than just getting rid of it. Part of the value of the kids being outside is that they generate the fun. They make up the games etc... its not just about them being out of my hair, although that is a side benefit. I have found that about 15 mins. after they ask to come in because they are "sooo bored" is when the magic happens. I tell them no and then they usually come up with a really cool game or adventure. I'm concerned that we are raising a generation of reactive children who are constantly supervised and presented with activites for them to react to but will be unable to know how to be still and quiet and listen to their souls or how to generate new ideas or make something from nothing.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 25, 2007 11:31 AM

My dh and I talk about how much fear motivates people and how we will do things from points of strength not from weakness (ie fear).

And, in my area there seem to be sales on pianos from local schools quite a bit-they aren't too expensive, except-i guess, you have to move them. I would really like to have one for my kids one day, we had one growing up and it was great.

Posted by: atlmom | April 25, 2007 11:33 AM

"It may be easier on everyone's nerves if you started the child with piano. There's a lot to learn with a string instrument, and your fine motor skills at aren't always quite ready for a violin."

I grew up playing piano, and then took other instruments later, and I heartily second this recommendation. Piano is a great instrument to learn on, a beginning piano player is much easier on the ears than a beginning player of almost any other instrument, and it is also a very good instrument for learning music theory. It's also much more likely that a child will want to continue playing music if s/he can feel some early success, which is easier on a piano than a violin. So, if it's at all possible to manage logistically, I would definitely recommend starting on piano.

My parents started me in first grade or kindergarten, I can't remember, but I definitely don't think you need to panic about it being too late for a four year old. Good luck!

Posted by: Megan | April 25, 2007 11:33 AM

I hope this isn't true all over the DC area and suburbs. I can't imagine it's really that bad everywhere? We live in a Bethesda townhouse/condo community and I see kids playing soccer outside on the field very often. My daughter is only a toddler, so needless to say, I'm not at this stage yet, but I'm hoping we'll be in a community where there is balance between fun afterschool activities and free time. Would love to hear what communities you see this most prevalent in?

Posted by: Mama | April 25, 2007 11:33 AM

Hi - I have two teenage boys, so, yes I am well aware of the fun involved in having children! but, I believe that the most important job I can do as a parent is to prepare my children to be normal, well-rounded, independent adults, and I am not going to be able to do that if I shelter them, or if I overschedule them. After all, I believe the most interesting adults I know are not the ones with the most money, or the most skills or talents; instead they are the ones that most enjoy life.

Posted by: jj | April 25, 2007 11:34 AM

"BTW, I live in Springfield too. Not to happy to hear about the sex offenders. But I guess that is probably every where."

Right. The vast majority of sex offenders (against children)are PEOPLE YOU KNOW.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:37 AM

Moxiemom you are soooo right. But for those of us who hope to raise creative kids who can entertain themselves, those kids will be at an advantage, right?

Posted by: atlmom | April 25, 2007 11:38 AM

My kids are 3 and 5. We just got a playset in the backyard and a fence around the backyard. The kids love it back there and I love it too. I can send them out to play without worrying about them. Of course I check on them from the window, but I want them to learn independence and how to just play. They have done some stupid things that led to some tears, but thats how kids learn not to do stupid things. And before anyway rails on me, the children were not in danger of serious bodily harm.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:39 AM

The only big draw-back to having a cello player (or bass player) in the house is the size of the instrument and lugging it around as needed. I do sometimes wonder aloud why my kid turned out to really and truly love the cello vs. say, an oboe.

You don't know what fun is until you've crammed two 3/4 size cellos (in their cases), two cello players and THE DOG (plus driver) into a reasonably sized sedan. It's funny now...

Oh, and viola is even harder. The sizing is less regulated, viola players get NO respect, and the instruments get very expensive, very quickly.

Can you go with a rental? I have a soft spot in my heart for Dale Music! (Hint-hint.)

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 11:41 AM

Since we are talking about being PG, this is as good as time as any to discuss breastfeeding for the adoptive mother. Lactation can be started for a woman who is not currently or has never been pg. Dr. Jack Newman has a protocol for beginning lactation for any mother who wishes to BF her child. This does take a bit of effort and mechanical and/or drug therapy is involved but it can be done.

Frieda has seen 3 cases, one was totally successful, the other two, the mother did need to supplement. From what I understand, if a woman desires this, she needs to begin working on the protocol a few months before the child is in her company. Obviously, if a mother decides to try this, her doctor and a lacatation specialist do need to be involved.

Posted by: Fred | April 25, 2007 11:46 AM

Right. The vast majority of sex offenders (against children)are PEOPLE YOU KNOW.

No, there is no qualifier. Sex offenders most often go after those whom they know. They aren't stupid, they spend time grooming those in whom they take an interest. That includes adults.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:46 AM

moxiemom

"I'm concerned that we are raising a generation of reactive children who are constantly supervised and presented with activites for them to react to but will be unable to know how to be still and quiet and listen to their souls or how to generate new ideas or make something from nothing."

Then why do you do it?

Why create a generation of passive adults? One of the worst threats to a democracy.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:48 AM

"Emily, Scarry, how are the pregnancies going? Want any low-key FUN pregnancy book recommendations? I have 'em..!"

Hi MDMother. Thanks for asking. So far so good. An ultrasound found a heartbeat last week, and these days, I am just tired and sometimes nauseous, which I hear is a good sign. Never thought I'd be happy about wanting to heave before, but I am, and every time the nausea goes I away, I start to worry. But it seems to come back often enough to ease my fears. These past miscarriages have me playing some ridiculous mind games, but I can't seem to stop. Yikes. Any tips you may have are completely welcome. Bring them on. :)

Posted by: Emily | April 25, 2007 11:49 AM

Can you BF an adoptive child who comes into the family older then a newborn? Say 9 months old? I wasn't sure you can teach a child to nurse after they were used to the bottle.

Posted by: to Fred | April 25, 2007 11:52 AM

11:48 - please re-read my post. I'm doing everything I can to create creative, passionate, smart and healthy kids. In my post I was indicating that I think a lot of things parents are doing now with the scheduled activities, tv. and computers leads to this passive, reactive generation.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 25, 2007 11:55 AM

"Can you BF an adoptive child who comes into the family older then a newborn? Say 9 months old? I wasn't sure you can teach a child to nurse after they were used to the bottle."

My guess is that it would be really hard to do that. Nursing is a lot more work than drinking out of a bottle. It requires babies to suck harder. I would imagine that a 9 month old who is used to a bottle will not take too well to a breast that does not deliver as easily. Also the milk tastes different. A baby that is used to formula may not like the new taste.

Posted by: Emily | April 25, 2007 11:57 AM

This post hit home for me. I was one of those "neglectful" mothers who kicked the kids out after school until 5:00, except on sports practice days when the free time ended at 4:00 (HW & quick dinner). They played all those neighborhood games, rode their bikes, and just hung out with their friends, much like the childhood I had. If they had attended public schools, I would have let them walk to school or the bus stop unattended.

The boys grew up in a variety of neighborhoods: a townhouse in Baltimore, the 'islands' of Savannah, the suburbs of Raleigh, and the newer exurbs of Harford County. Our experiences were similar in all areas, although the ratio of helicopter parents to relaxed parents in Maryland is vastly higher than the ratio in the sweet-tea belt.

We ate dinner as a family every night, and homework was done after dinner & baths. They were allowed to watch TV or play video games AFTER homework was done to my satisfaction -- I AM a teacher, after all.

Over the years (they are 17 and 19), they did participate in a lot of activities: both played football, baseball, lacrosse, basketball and golf, and swam on the swim team; one had music lessons (guitar) and one needed reading tutoring; they both spent some time in Boy Scouts, and both attended CCD. Of course, they didn't do all this at the same time, and the activities they did or did not do were primarily driven by them and not me. I admit, I MADE them go to CCD, and encouraged them to sample many of the items on the list -- but if they wanted to quit that was OK too. One less place to run to!

My sister has elementary-school age children, and she is raising her children the same way.

I feel sorry for those children whose parents are so insecure, or so competitive, that they feel the need to manage their lives as if they were managing a project, or who are simply afraid to let their children out of their sight. These children are missing out on the joys of childhood, and the lessons learned in unstructured settings. Wait -- I know how to bring back free time! Market it as independent study! That joke would be funnier if I didn't suspect that someone is calculating a way to do just that...

This post is incredibly long, and my free period is ending, so let me conclude by sharing this story:
I was having dinner with a group of friends, and two moms were discussing a third mother who was not present. It seems that these mothers had, at various times, allowed their children to go play at this other parent's house (the distances are long out here, so it was a drop-off - a controlled situation by nature). When time came to pick up, the mother (horrors!) was INSIDE the house, in the KITCHEN, while the children were playing IN THE BACK YARD!! They were saying that they could never let their (second graders) play at that house again...I nicely pointed out that I thought they were being a bit extreme. I don't think I was persuasive.

Posted by: educmom | April 25, 2007 12:01 PM

Can you BF an adoptive child who comes into the family older then a newborn? Say 9 months old?

I will have to ask Frieda about that one. Check back later.

Posted by: Fred | April 25, 2007 12:04 PM

educmom

What is CCD?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 12:06 PM

Moxiemom you are soooo right. But for those of us who hope to raise creative kids who can entertain themselves, those kids will be at an advantage, right?

HAHAHAH, I am sure you didnt mean to suggest that there are parents out there who want their kids to grom up to NOT be creative..right?

You know the parents that want their kids to grow up to be lawyers?

Posted by: Fo3 | April 25, 2007 12:10 PM

moxiemom

Wow! You certainly know a lot about other people's kids!

Where do you find the time?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 12:15 PM

Another benefit to encouraging creativity is that kids grow into adults that are self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves. I am not slamming those parents who believe differently regarding child rearing. This is just how I want to raise my child, like I was raised. I am rarely bored and tend to see the absolute humor in almost everything in life because I rarely take things too seriously. It makes the day much more fun to be twisted and demented, all compliments of an overactive imagination due to just being a kid, even now!

Posted by: Nutty Mama | April 25, 2007 12:19 PM

HAHAHAH, I am sure you didnt mean to suggest that there are parents out there who want their kids to grom up to NOT be creative..right?

You know the parents that want their kids to grow up to be lawyers?

Posted by: Fo3 | April 25, 2007 12:10 PM

Unlike the practice of medicine, much of law practice demands creativity.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 12:20 PM

"I don't know why so many of you seem so sure that overscheduling is being imposed by parents, and not requested by the kids themselves."

Because parents are the ones who can say "yes" and "no", isn't that part of the parents job description?

When I was a teen, my parents said, "one activity per quarter". No if, ands, or buts. I had to do the adult thing - prioritize, analyze, think, chose, and live with the consequences of my choices. If we take that ability to make choices away from kids, then I think we're raising a generation of "me, me, me, give me it all".

As an adult, I found myself pick up hobbies that I said no to as a teen, and have found tremendous pleasure in, and let go of activities that I was passionate about as a teen because they don't fit me anymore. I'm happy to be able to independently decide and choose what fits me best. We're all individuals.

Posted by: TRmom | April 25, 2007 12:22 PM

"Unlike the practice of medicine, much of law practice demands creativity"

Perhaps, but doctors seem to tell the biggest LIES.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 12:23 PM

MDMom-
I have one bass player and one cello player. The formal room (aka the music room) is packed, including the piano. Lugging the strings around isn't difficult though because both the middle and high schools have basses and cellos. The only time we have to carry them out of the house is to lessons and to recitals. Not a big deal, even with just a passat.

Interestingly, I'm of the opinion the bigger the strings instrument, the easier it is to play. Orchestra is big here starting in 6th grade. Church even has a youth group orchestra.

Posted by: dotted | April 25, 2007 12:24 PM

Wow great post and great discussion. It's a lot of food for thought.

My neighbourhood has a lot of retirees and they are actually fantastic at getting to know us and keeping an eye out. So we're lucky, except not a lot of other kids - yet. I'm sort of hoping some move in.

I have totally agree with this statement from Normal Parent: "Secondly, if anything happens to a child now, it has to be somebody's fault, usually the parent's. When I was growing up, if a child died or had a terrible accident, people commiserated with the grieving/stressed parents."

I have a horror story about this. After my daughter died perinatally due to a cord accident an acquaintance of mine actually said -to me- "do you think it got around her neck because you took all those aquafit classes?" And although that person was particularly crass (and uninformed), there were a few other people that really felt the need to come up with A Reason that blamed me. I was really shocked. They were all parents that did too, mostly of very young children.

It decided me that yes, we have a culture that thinks that if parents do everything right nothing bad will happen - and of course as parents we LOVE that illusion of control because we want so desperately to ensure our kids are okay.

I, like most people, am anal about car seats and everything too, maybe doubly so having lost a child, so I get it. But I do think that free play, particularly out alone in the landscape whether that's natural or urban, has suffered.

But I do think it's a loss to kids. I know that I personally learned a lot about handling myself, making decisions, and getting along with people when I was on my own as opposed to with my parents or under some kind of direct supervision of adults. It's easy to say "well it's better than them dying or suffering terrible injuries!" but really it is weighing risks against benefits and that's hard.

I worry what quality of life there is for a 20 or 25 year old who is scared to go downtown on the bus alone, or who just has never experienced the pleasure of building a 'fort' among the branches of a tree on her own.

But I'm not sure how we balance the fear and everything. In my neighbourhood I don't worry so much about my child getting snatched - I'm aware of the low incidence of stranger danger - but more things like train tracks and ravines. I have often taken walks in these areas with my baby boy and tried to get my head around how to slowly loose the reins so he will be able to play in the area by himself and I'm not sure about it.

Also I hope to find like-minded parents because I would never want to make parents feel their kids were unsafe at my house. Hopefully we can all agree on rules, or just have different rules when different kids are over. It sure is complicated though.

That was rambly but this subject is so complicated. :) Great to read it today.

Posted by: Shandra | April 25, 2007 12:26 PM

CCD is religious study. I forget what the acronym stands for. I think it's only for Catholics (I asked my husband--a Protestant--if he went and he said he'd never heard of it).

FWIW, I have lots of lawyer friends and they are the funniest most creative people I know. If you have an hour I can describe a 3-day trivia event that they created. The most boring are desk job types.

And my friend's mom actively steered her two sons to law (both are now lawyers). So for some people, lawyer do not equal scum of the earth.

Posted by: Meesh | April 25, 2007 12:26 PM

moxiemom

Wow! You certainly know a lot about other people's kids!

Where do you find the time?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 12:15 PM

I am in actuality Gladys Kravits. If you have an experience that is different than what I have noticed, please share.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 25, 2007 12:26 PM

Question: For those of you who grew up playing piano, is 4 too young to start a child with lessons? If so, what age is right?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 12:28 PM

Our protestant church does confirmation classes beginning in middle school. I think it is the same as CCD...

Posted by: dotted | April 25, 2007 12:28 PM

regarding preschool & when to start. i didn't start my son in preschool until he was almost 4. i had him in a home care situation that was really very good. by 4 he was ready & the home care provider encouraged me to put him in pre-school. the pre-school was good & his kindergarten teacher complimented me, which i passed on to his pre-school teachers, on how ready he was. every child is different. i think that the "edge" a child has who been to pre-school vs one who has not is gone by first grade. my goal is to have my son enjoy learning right now because it only gets harder the older he gets. my son is also in after school care. he loves it & i love it. one of the things i love most about it is that he has friends that span the entire grade spectrum. if i were a sahm & he were home with me he'd only be exposed to kids his own age.

Posted by: quark | April 25, 2007 12:29 PM

All of ours started piano at age 4 (some with Suzuki and some without). One is now bass, two are cellos, and the other is a folk guitar singer. They all loved piano at that age particularly.

Posted by: dotted | April 25, 2007 12:30 PM

Oh and Jen - I do know from my music playing days that Suzuki is a good method for some kids, if you can stand the squealing. :) It really does develop the ear - for kids that it suits. I think we're going to try it with my son when he's 3 or 4, and just see how it goes and if he likes it.

Overall we're pretty anti super-fancy classes but from what I understand so far, Suzuki is actually fairly playful and doesn't push the kids into trying to read music too early, etc. I imagine a lot depends on the particular teacher/school though.

But I agree with comments above that it's best not to get locked into the violin and also, if your child doesn't enjoy it overall, pull 'em out and find something else. I studied classical piano for years and then took pop organ/rock keyboard and the classical was a great foundation, but it was the fun stuff that's kept me enjoying and playing now. (I still love both kinds of music :))

Posted by: Shandra | April 25, 2007 12:33 PM

Question: For those of you who grew up playing piano, is 4 too young to start a child with lessons? If so, what age is right?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 12:28 PM
----------------------
I think it depends on the kid, and the teacher. I started around 4 - wanted to play because my older brother played. But the teacher was really rigid about learning, and I didn't really have fun. So I ended up resenting lessons, didn't practice, etc. (Despite the perfect pitch).
But I also have friends who adored their lessons and playing the piano.
So again, I'd say you know your child best and whether he/she can do formal lessons, and don't forget to find a teacher who can work with your child's learning style.

Posted by: pd | April 25, 2007 12:35 PM

I have no comments because I am still in shock from pb&j 's statement yesterday:


"Women as a group (not every woman) have unique and innate talents that should be celebrated not diminished because they are not the same as the general male traits."

Talk about a brain fart!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 12:35 PM

"Can you BF an adoptive child who comes into the family older then a newborn? Say 9 months old? I wasn't sure you can teach a child to nurse after they were used to the bottle."

Frieda said that she cannot recall a case where the baby went to the breast after having a bottle since birth.

Beyond this, most 9 month olds are into sippy cups anyway for some of their liquids.

Posted by: Fred | April 25, 2007 12:37 PM

A few years ago there was a wonderful article in Fast Company magazine that talked about the fact that, though we complain relentlessly about our own overstressed, overcommitted, pre-scheduled adult lives, we are raising our kids in a way that is clearly designed to prepare them for overstressed, ovecommitted, pre-scheduled lives of their own. The author wondered about how to prepare our kids for the future work world, which she believed would require more individual initiative and creativity, and a greater reliance on self.

Her article resonated with me. It is easiest to do what everyone else is doing. You don't feel foolish at PTO meetings, in book clubs, etc., when your kids' lives sound a lot like the lives of those around you. If it works for them, then it should work for your family, right?

To my mind, part of the source of the problem was captured on NPR on Monday. Ayalete Waldman's commentary talked about the reality that most of our kids are wonderfully, normally average. Yet we persist in pretending that, unlike us adults, they are particularly special and gifted and if we don't do absolutely everything for them/give them every opportunity, then we are failing to capitalize on their greatness.

I am 46. My girls are 10 and 12. It took awhile, but I now truly understand that while I have some wonderful traits, I'm prettty much just an average woman. Yes, I've had a good education and had the luck to be raised in a middle class home, so I could easily find a place in the professional world. But I also have a long list of flaws. Let's not dwell on them, not today at least, okay?

My girls have flaws of their own. And they each have some wonderful gifts too. On balance, in truth, they're average. Knowing that, it makes it easier for my husband and me to say "no" to a lot of things -- I managed to get by without learning a language by age 5, so could they. They can stick with "regular" soccer, we don't have to make the time and financial sacrafices necessary for them to try out for "select" because really, there's no chance that they're going to become the female Beckham. They go to a fine public school, the classes are larger than what I think of as ideal, but no larger than my classes in the 60s and 70s were. And we're not paying 20K in tuition.

And now, as they are growing up, I find myself saying "yes" when they want to walk over to the shopping street in our city-suburban neighborhood, or to the library or the pool. As they walk away they are scared, excited, and acutely aware that they are growing up. It both breaks my heart and fills me with pride.

We need to give our kids space to grow up, to make mistakes, etc. Yes, a serial rapist could be around the corner, but I don't really think it's likely.

Posted by: RosieReader | April 25, 2007 12:39 PM


You know, the stereotypes are flying. I really don't see where playing on a soccer team or taking piano lessons turns kids into uncreative drones who don't know how to entertain themselves. I've seen no evidence of it in my home --- my kids still do plenty of self-generated fantasy play, drawing, writing, crafting, exploring, etc. (probably partly because there are 2 of them, so they have companionship to sometimes launch activities together). But they also enjoy the chance to follow special interests with mentors, or to join in and be part of a team or troop. This social/collective activity doesn't just happen spontaneously. At school socializing has been sharply cut, with kids on task almost all the time (even if that task is just eating lunch, it's done quickly and quietly, our school has a red cup/yellow cup/green cup system to sharply limit socializing in the 25-minute lunch period). And school pe involves no games/sports, just running laps! (My kindergartener felt it was unfair that pre-K kids didn't have to run laps! geez, laps in kindergarten, instead of fun physical activities/games/monkeybars/PLAY! . . .)

And I have never met one parent who falls under this 'overscheduling' stereotype, who schedules their kids' activities with an eye to college applications! Most parents I've known are just happy to give their kids experiences that the kids enjoy, and that help the kids develop as well-rounded people who can be proud of the capable people they are becoming.

Posted by: KB | April 25, 2007 12:39 PM

Here's a great book on the topic. I wholeheartedly agree, there's nothing better than just playing outside with your kids!

Child's Play
Rediscovering the Joy of Play in Our Families and Communities
Written by Silken Laumann
Category: Family & Relationships - Health; Health & Fitness - Exercise
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Publisher: Random House Canada
ISBN: 978-0-679-31406-6 (0-679-31406-7)

Pub Date: April 18, 2006
Price: $29.99

From one of Canada's most inspiring and gifted sports heroes, an urgently needed guide to getting our kids active and healthy.

Like many of us, Silken Laumann's fondest childhood memories are of play: staying outside until that final call for dinner, neighbourhood-wide games of Capture-the-Flag and road hockey that went on for hours.

But as a parent, Silken knows the world has changed. We are afraid to let our children out of sight, our streets don't feel safe, neighbours don't know and rely on each other like they used to. While we recognize the need for our kids to be active, our fears, along with our busy lives and the enormous societal pressure to (simultaneously) make athletes, academics, and artists out of our children, have led us to schedule their every activity, driving them to and from soccer practice, piano lessons, tutorials.

We have forgotten just how important unstructured play is for our children's development and well-being: It keeps kids healthy, creative and active; it teaches them valuable life skills and, most importantly, it lets our kids be kids, worry-free, unfettered.

Child's Play is a call for action, a guide to reconnecting with our kids, and a blueprint for building safe, supportive communities and healthy schools. Above all, it's a book of simple ideas for parents desperate for change.

"This book's strength lies in the combination of the author's passion with the input of a good range of experts, including doctors, specialists in treating childhood obesity, teachers, sports coaches and political and social activists."
--Edmonton Journal

"Laumann's book is a practical approach about encouraging activity and unstructured play in almost any community. Her flashbacks to her childhood days of free play and the value of these experiences, even to a woman who would later become a competitive athlete, not only make sense but make one take a second look."
--Urbanmoms.ca

Posted by: Alison | April 25, 2007 12:42 PM

I'm a fence-sitter on this one. There just are not many kids in our neighborhood and the yards are small so there are few children playing outside. That being said, our kids play outside almost every day. They do have scheduled activities too but not so much that we're running around everyday. One of the three kids plays piano because he wants to and he's talented so those lessons are definitely worth the time.

We do have a registered sex offender living behind us - made me very, very concerned. The neighborhood in general reacted with an incredible amount of fear and didn't want any of the middle school kids to walk to school anymore. I went to visit the guy, talked to him at length, talked to my kids (separately and age appropriately) about him, and we resumed playing outside and walking to school. I do NOT think the world is more dangerous but I do think we're a much more fearful society. I'm not sure of the ultimate consequences of creating a generation of fearful kids. This scares me more than the often reported potential threats to our kids.

My middle son receives OT for some vestibular processing issues. One of the comments the therapist has made is how much more of these "disorders" they are seeing in the kids who haven't had the opportunity to run, play, tumble, spin etc... I'd like to say my son's been exposed to all of this, but in reality he hasn't. The kids at his school play soccer or football at recess but there are only a few pieces of very safe playground equipment. No merry go rounds -luckily grandma lives in a small town where parks still have these! The kids ride their bikes, play in the park, rollerblade etc... but it's still not as much as we did as kids. Recess is getting shorter and it's a catch-22 as to how much time you set aside for activities vs. homework etc...

Another fear - how will these overprotected kids fare at college? I left serious suburbs to go to college in a big city and it was an adjustment for me even though I'd had a lot of freedom and responsibility as a kid. If we've taught a generation to fear every stranger, every unfamiliar street or place, and that they are too incompetent to walk to school, how will they succeed when they are finally on their own?

Posted by: Stacey | April 25, 2007 12:43 PM

I really try to not be an "extreme" parent and was looking forward to the lazy slow days of summer coming up. But now I feel pressure to sign my 3 year old up for summer programs because it looks like there won't be any kids her age to play with in our neighborhood - they're all signed up for day camps, gymboree, music classes and swim classes. I was picturing hot afternoons in the yard with kids splashing around in the kiddie pool and sprinkler but it's no fun for my daughter to do that by herself. So yes, I'm against putting too much structure into childhood, but what can you do when your kid ends up with no one to play with because the other kids are too busy?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 12:47 PM

Question: For those of you who grew up playing piano, is 4 too young to start a child with lessons? If so, what age is right?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 12:28 PM

The age is right for lessons when your child is old enough to take direction, listen to instructions from another adult, and is interested enough to play on his / her own in between lessons without being hounded. For one of ours, that was 4, for the other, 6 may still be too young (and she really WANTS to play).

Most parents do not want to go down the road of paying for, and schlepping to, weekly lessons only to spend the rest of the week nagging, nagging, nagging their kids to practice, and ultimately turning the kids OFF to musical instruments.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 12:47 PM

KB

"And I have never met one parent who falls under this 'overscheduling' stereotype, who schedules their kids' activities with an eye to college applications"


You may not know them, but there are plenty of parents who micro-manage their kids lives to get them into the "right" college and beyond.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 12:48 PM

When I was growing up in a neighborhood that straddles the Beltway, we were all over the neighborhood and in the wooded parkland that was behind our house. I was in early elem when the Lyon (sp?) girls were kidnapped. This was a famous case in the DC area because their father was a radio announcer on WMAL. They were never found, as far as I know.

I live 5-6 miles farther out now, in a townhouse community. My girls play outside before dinner a lot, but are expected to stay essentially within sight of the house. Shouting distance is okay for short periods of time, but not extended. There are woods and stream nearby that we have explored together, but I am concerned enough about the dangers that I don't let let them go exploring by themselves, although at least once I saw a couple kids playing there without an adult. We have neighbors with a child who is 8 (same as my oldest). She is never outside without an adult, rarely outside at all. I get the sense that fear of danger as well as of being corrupted by the great unwashed is a factor. They spend a lot of time at church, and apparently the child spends a lot of time on homework also. But outside play is never allowed by herself or with my two he**ions.

I know a neighborhood where there are children all over the place, but know a family who live there whose kids don't have time for play because they are overscheduled with 2 sports a season. In their case, a stated desire for future scholarships is part of what drives them to overinvolve their kids, rather than a fear of playing outside.

Posted by: single mother by choice | April 25, 2007 12:51 PM

KB
Around here, it is frightening how much the children themselves start looking at college possibilities and competing around middle school even. By High School, there is a ton of talk between parents and between students about what you need to have on your college applications. Chapel Hill...a college town.

Posted by: dotted | April 25, 2007 12:52 PM

thanks so much for all the feedback regarding music lessons. It's a relief to hear the general consensis is that we can wait a year or so and the absolute pitch will still be there. I think it would be wise to spend this summer focussed on time at the local pool instead.

Regarding the cell phone GPS issue and kids just leaving the cell phone-- I wonder if there will someday be GPS tracking bracelets that the kid can't easily remove! Or even-- gads!-- implanted devices. Brave New World, indeed.

Posted by: jen | April 25, 2007 12:57 PM

Rosie Reader, I loved your post. It really resonated with me. I feel guilty sometimes for actually wanting average kids (I don't think I'm cut out to deal with a superstar athlete or genius or anything).

For piano lessons. Thanks to all who responded. I see the Suzuki method is discussed at length here but I must confess I know nothing at all about it. Is it different from regular piano lesson (scales and arpeggios, etc.)?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 12:57 PM

Good for you Rosie Reader - its good to hear from parents who are a little further down the path than I am.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 25, 2007 12:59 PM

btw, sometimes I drive my son to school just for the one-on-one conversation time. It's not mealtime, it's not homework time, practice time, bedtime, rushing to get ready for school in the morning, and we're not exhausted from the day's events. Some of our best conversations are the once- every-other-week 10 minute rides to school - just us. no sibling, no radio, no cds.

Sometimes quality time takes forms that strangers don't see when looking in and reaching conclusions about other families' choices. You see someone driving her teenagers .3 miles to the busstop and roll your eyes that she won't let them walk or leave them alone. Maybe you're right. On the other hand, maybe this morning time is that family's special time. Or maybe not.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 1:02 PM

single mother by choice

"I was in early elem when the Lyon (sp?) girls were kidnapped. This was a famous case in the DC area because their father was a radio announcer on WMAL. They were never found, as far as I know."

The girls were last seen alive by a witness who saw them bound & gagged in the back of a vehicle.


Bloodchilling stuff.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:03 PM

"And Fo4 - I have witnessed your playground scenario many times. Your post was excellent."

No, it wasn't excellent. It was plain old lawyer bashing and not very well done.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 08:16 AM

I was talking about parents not wanting their kids to "go fast" or run, climb, jump - I hear it on the playground all the time. Parents are so nervous their kids will fall they don't even let them play outside without overbearing supervision.

One side note: playgrounds have been so "dumbed down" that kids are either a. Not interested in playing on them, and b. Taking unnecessary risks to make it interesting. Just like the merry-go-round Fo4 mentioned.

Posted by: cmac | April 25, 2007 1:04 PM

We are still living in our "starter house", mainly because the neighborhood is a great place to grow up. About 5pm when parents and kids get home from work and after-school activities, the traffic cones go up to close off the dead-end street, and the scooters, bikes and dogs come out (supervised mainly by dads). Yesterday when my teenager forgot her key, she went down the street to the home of a young mom and chatted while holding one of the kids. These neighborhoods exist, just have to resist the Washington Parent syndrome.

Posted by: Kirsten | April 25, 2007 1:05 PM

As our kids get older we are talking a lot about the activities and how many of them seem to occur on Saturdays and Sundays such that if we let it happen, we could spend the whole weekend doing various sports or clubs. We feel like at some point we are going to need to plant a flag for our family and say - no travel teams or no games on Sundays or Friday nights. Does anyone else have experience with older kids in doing this without completely excluding your kids from their peer group?

Posted by: moxiemom | April 25, 2007 1:05 PM

The girls were last seen alive by a witness who saw them bound & gagged in the back of a vehicle

Just wondering why they didn't help or call the cops?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:06 PM

Maybe all of the exploring energy that kids used to devote to their physical neighborhoods is now getting devoted to cyberspace.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:06 PM

The other change is that the amount/quality of entertainment has improved since the 70s. I grew up with 4 channels and an old atari. Children today have 200+ channels and a Wii/Playstations. They have hundreds of movies at thier fingertips not to mention a world-wide collection of friends. We can argue all day regarding the benefit of these things, but they all keep them indoors. The kids still congregate, but they do it online or at indoor gaming parties. To be perfectly honest, the online social skills are likely more important to future relationships than the ability to wander aimlessly through the woods, play on jungle gyms, or hit a baseball.

Perhaps this will be regarded as too snide, but I imagine that the introduction of books/TV caused parents to bemoan the lack of outdoor time as well.

Posted by: One other thing... | April 25, 2007 1:07 PM

moxiemom

"Does anyone else have experience with older kids in doing this without completely excluding your kids from their peer group?"

Are you kidding????

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:09 PM

moxiemom-my kids are in individual sports so we haven't had to 'plant the flag'. Swim meets could be all weekend, but usually only once a month, not every weekend. Ditto with tennis tournaments. We don't eat dinner until everyone is home: usually after 8:30. As the youngest is 12 and he is the one getting home last, the time isn't a problem. We always ate later than americans anyways.

As for peer group: the 12 yr old is out in the park playing football/soccer/lacrosse most every day for an hour or two before homework and then swimming. Both remaining boys in the house have different sets of peer groups (e.g., academic, lacrosse, tennis, swimming, football, orchestra) so leaving a peer group isn't an issue...there are always others.

Posted by: dotted | April 25, 2007 1:12 PM

My daughter went home from school early today due to a cold. Nurse sounded shocked when I repsonded to her question of how would she get home. I told her "She's 14 she can take the bus." She has a stuffy nose from a cold not the flu or a stomach virus. She went to her fathers house in MD.

I do watch my 4 year old son when he is playing out in the front yard or sidewalk. We live in SE, DC and the past several weeks have been terrible. Two bodies found within a block from us, one of a 15 year old boy shot from a turf war that is going on!! Stolen cars left on the street and set on fire, an SUV drove up our one way street and shot a man on the sidewalk 3 doors down from us (he lived) and last Saturday night a man leading countless squad cars on a high speed chase down the same one way street and through the new development, helicopter hovering along the way.

Once we can affordable housing in DC (fat chance!) we are put of here!!!

Posted by: 2xmami | April 25, 2007 1:15 PM

MN,
In this case I am not so sure that it is quality time - the daughter is in the back seat lying down waiting for the bus. I am thinking slug. Altho it is at 6am which is an ungodly hour for kids to be up. My carpool guy said that maybe she doesn't trust the daughter to actually get on the bus. I hadn't thought of that. I do know that she has never walked to the stop.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 1:16 PM

Megan's Neighbor

"btw, sometimes I drive my son to school just for the one-on-one conversation time."

Wow!Is that pathetic.
Are you really THAT busy?

"You see someone driving her teenagers .3 miles to the busstop and roll your eyes that she won't let them walk or leave them alone. Maybe you're right. On the other hand, maybe this morning time is that family's special time. Or maybe not."

Or maybe the yakking while driving will cause an accident.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:16 PM

klb- 6am for a bus? I know you aren't kidding, but that is ridiculous! We don't even get up until after 7am. Walkers out the door at 7:50 and lone busser is out the door at 8!

Posted by: dotted | April 25, 2007 1:18 PM

Megan's Neighbor ignore them. If you do they shut up.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:19 PM

One suggestion for people wanting to start music lessons. Craig's list has free pianos listed very often. The only expense is moving and tuning it. Would be a good option while you find out if the child remains interested enough for a large investment.

Also, Suzuki piano bored my kindergartners to tears (and made us insane with the repetition). We quit, and started regular piano when my daughter was older and asked for it. Now she loves to play for her own enjoyment.

Posted by: Kirsten | April 25, 2007 1:20 PM

anon at 1:16

you must not have a teenager or a preteen. Over 10 years old, you manufacture time alone that allows conversation. Sitting there staring at each other doesn't work. MN is doing great things. Inpromptu talk time is the best. I did it myself just this morning with my teen. I treated him by driving him to school. He said the funniest things. I loved it.

Posted by: dotted | April 25, 2007 1:22 PM

dotted,
Yes, the kids are getting on the bus at 6am as I am driving to work.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 1:23 PM

We do Suzuki violin. If anyone wants more information about suzuki method, try suzukiassociation.org, the website for the suzuki Association of the Americas.

Suzuki teaching can be done well or badly (like anything else, I suppose) and if your child hates it and resents it, then it may be a matter of having the wrong teacher, rather than an overprogramming issue.

Some kids are ready for it before kindergarten and some kids aren't. A good teacher will insist on meeting you and your child and observing your child before even discussing taking them on. You should be invited to observe at least one lesson (and probably more) that someone else is having, with your child, and then your child will be asked by the instructor "does this look like fun? Is this something you are interested in doing? Do you want to hold the violin?" and so forth. ULtimately, the decision to take lessons will be made by the instructor, the parent and the child. A really Suzuki instructor won't allow a parent to FORCE a child to take lessons. It just doesn't work.

If there's some other protocol (other than observation/invitation, etc.) taking place in the studio you're considering, Jen, then either it's not really Suzuki or it's not being done very well. Also, did the instructor you talked to give you a reading list about Suzuki? You should do some basic reading: teaching from the balance point, to learn with love, etc. before making any decision anyway. You can get the books at the website.

(I'm not really an anal-retentive mom. I just play one on TV.)

Posted by: Armchair Mom | April 25, 2007 1:24 PM

dotted

"Over 10 years old, you manufacture time alone that allows conversation."

Can't you do that without setting a bad example and raping the environment?

What about the accidents caused by these conversations/distractions?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:26 PM

For those who were wondering:
CCD: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. It's Catholic religious education for children not enrolled in Catholic school, and most parishes schedule it once a week, from kindergarten or first grade through eighth grade. It prepares children for first reconciliation (confession), first communion, and confirmation. It's generally scheduled to permit Mass atendance by the attending child (the Protestant kids I grew up with were in Sunday School while their parents were at church). In Savannah and Raleigh it met on weeknights, and here it met on Sundays, and ended about 5 minutes before Mass started.
By the way, most Catholics don't even know exactly what CCD stands for -- they just know that their children have to go. I teach in a Catholic school, and I taught CCD, so I guess I HAVE to know.
Hope that helps.

Posted by: educmom | April 25, 2007 1:28 PM

thanks, dotted and 1:19, I have a brutal cold and laryngitis today and sometimes contributing a thought here can be a real drag, given some of the personalized, off-base snark.

Posted by: MN | April 25, 2007 1:28 PM

anon at 1:26 appears to be a rabid extremist with no balance

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:29 PM

1:26,
Since when is a conversation in a car an accident waiting to happen?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 1:33 PM


dotted,

My kids are younger, 10 and 7. And being college professors, who both did attend college on full scholarships, we value college and regard it as an essential part of growing into the world and realizing your intellectual and social potential, NOT as a credential mill. We went to college and became scholars because that matched us, it was a fulfillment of who we were, intrinsically, from the inside out. We grew into our true selves and our college experience came to us, as a natural fit of those true selves.

I don't believe in fitting the child to college expectations, but in letting the child fulfill their natural personality and potential, become the best of who they truly are. Then the college that will best suit them and nurture them to the next stage will become clear.

My kids play soccer because they like it, because it teaches them a joy in being part of a team effort, and a joy in the raw prowess of honed athletic skill. That experience, one they enjoy for its own sake, becomes part of the richness of who they are, forevermore. Come on, college applications do not require activities cv's stretching back to elementary school, and a child's high school activities will flow from the interests and passions they have *then*. Nurture the child you've got now, her intrinsic interests and abilities, and the future child will emerge year by year on her own, vibrant and motivated; her college application will take care of itself as a true reflection of the person she is. I see all this deliberate credential-building as just short of fraud, trying to mimic a self-motivated, vibrant, seeking individual by following the right outward recipe, instead of nurturing the right inward self-motivated individual. (I see my premeds' attempts to algorithm their way through physics classes in much the same way --- give me a precription to follow, just don't make me open my mind or soul to actually think.)

And yes, I've sat on scholar selection committees. We choose kids whose amazing engagement and drive is clearly coming from a strongly thoughtful and individual self, not kids with the longest laundry list of chauffeured activities. It's not a checklist, and the students' own voice in their writing, and teacher recommendations, are often what galvanizes committees to advocate for particular students. It's much better to nurture a person with passions and experiences, than to nurture a resume. The resume only prepares you to do more of the same, and if that's not, deep down, what you actually want to do, what's the point? Life is not just a series of hoops.

And though I may seem naive, so far it's working --- I'm continually delighted and amazed by the clever, loving, creative, accomplished girls my kids keep becoming. And it flows from the right place --- internal interest and motivation, not external reward-seeking.

Though in dotted, I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted.

Posted by: KB | April 25, 2007 1:35 PM

moxiemom

"Does anyone else have experience with older kids in doing this without completely excluding your kids from their peer group?"

Are you kidding????

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 01:09 PM

Thanks for your constructive input. I appreciate your kindness. You must not have anything of real value to add.

Posted by: moxiemom | April 25, 2007 1:35 PM

"Last night around 7 p.m., on my way to book club, I drove through the neighborhood I grew up in. It was a lovely spring evening. Clean streets, trees with green buds, pretty cottage-style homes.

"Zero kids."

Posted by Leslie

Oh, yeah? Twice this week, between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m., I drove through the neighborhood we live in. There were kids throwing the basketball around in several front yards. On the County land behind our house, there are always children running around and playing. When our children were little, they, too, would throw the basketball around -- we have one of those ubiquitious rolling baskets in the side yard. And they would play on the County land with the neighbors' kids. In fact, some of the neighbors come from foreign countries, so their sons taught our kids how to play soccer.

Why aren't all these children inside their homes, watching TV or Cable or playing video or computer games? Well, we have no TV, and when our kids were little, we had no computers at home, either. I can't answer for my neighbors today, but maybe they have figured out that playing outdoors is better for their children than today's indoor "entertainment."

What about fear? Well, this is America! As the old song goes,

"We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid today.
Deep in my heart
I do believe
We are not afraid today."

If SARS is gonna get us, it'll get us indoors too, so we may as well go outside and play.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | April 25, 2007 1:35 PM

Can't you do that without setting a bad example and raping the environment?

What about the accidents caused by these conversations/distractions?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 01:26 PM

Raping the environment? Wow, don't you think that is a little extreme for a 10 min ride?

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 1:36 PM

"anon at 1:26 appears to be a rabid extremist with no balance"

A lot like the Nursing Nazis...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:37 PM

Right now my five year old daughter takes dance on Tuesday nights. The rest of the time when I am not working and/or she is in preschool we try to just have fun.

She starts kindergarten this fall so I am trying to make the summer fun without spending a fortune. Some day trips and a week at the Beach (courtesy of my parents).

I can not let her go outside yet because we live in a condo. I try to stand back at the pool and condo tot lot and let her make her own friends and play her own games. She makes sure the tot lot gate is closed because she is scared of the geese from a neighboring pond.

Tomorrow night we are walking to a city farmers market before going home on the metro. I wonder what we will find and what we both will discover.

Posted by: shdd | April 25, 2007 1:38 PM

WorkingMomX asked: "For those of you who grew up playing piano, is 4 too young to start a child with lessons? If so, what age is right?"

FWIW, my piano teacher's policy was not to accept students until they knew the basics of reading, i.e., typically age 5 or 6. From experience she had concluded that the intellectual and emotional maturity for learning to read were reliable benchmarks for piano-readiness. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Posted by: catlady | April 25, 2007 1:38 PM

To the person who thinks it's ok for an 8-year-old to go to the library without adult supervision in Arlington--

Arlington does not have a law and addresses the issues of children in it's Rules Governing the Use of the Library only the following prohibitions:

"-Failing to adequately supervise children or individuals requiring care
-Leaving children unattended for prolonged periods or at closing"


Another large library system offers the following statement:
"The Library is a busy public place that serves a wide variety of visitors. It's not like a school, and Library staff do not take responsibility for children who are using the Library. . .
The Library is as public as a busy shopping mall. If your children are old enough to be dropped off at the shopping mall, they may be old enough to be dropped off at the Library. Otherwise, please remain with your children at the Library."

Posted by: Marian | April 25, 2007 1:41 PM

Guys the only problem I have found with moving back to the Midwest is the culture of eat, eat, eat and smoke, smoke, smoke.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 09:36 AM


Scarry, the smokers are either quitting or dying off. With any luck they'll be extinct in another decade.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:44 PM

Scarry, pretend you are in France!

Posted by: moxiemom | April 25, 2007 1:48 PM

Armchair Mom, the only school I've considered so far is Levine School of music. I haven't done ANY of the stuff you recommend doing-- see how behind I am and why I am sometimes a bit panicked? the only reason I ask is because our minister recommended violin over piano because it is more challenging for the ear and when I checked out Levine's website I saw that the they offer a Suzuki class in violin for 3-5 year olds this summer.

Posted by: Jen | April 25, 2007 1:48 PM

None of this would be a problem if one parent would at the very least be home when the kids get home so they could play instead of being in institutions for 12 hours a day.

Posted by: pb&j | April 25, 2007 1:49 PM

Can't you do that without setting a bad example and raping the environment?

What about the accidents caused by these conversations/distractions?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 01:26 PM

First, my son's school is directly on my way to work, so no raping is involved, of the environment or otherwise. I fail to see any poor example being set, particularly because we are both choosing, on occasion, to prioritize having a conversation with each other. He has plenty of friends on the bus, and I'd otherwise listen to NPR on the way to work.

Second, if in your family you require absolute silence in the car at all times, family vacations must be a whale of a good time. We don't use iPods or DVDs, or chat on our cell phones in our cars, but we've always listened to the radio, or books on tape, or talked with each other. Find me the defensive driving instructor that cautions against engaging in one-on-one conversations with my pre-teen and I'll promptly change my evil ways.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 1:51 PM

scarry

What is with the smoking & drinking thing in some parts of the coutry?

Don't these folks know that they stink?

PU!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:52 PM

mmmmmmm smooooking. i miss it sooooo much!!! being a responsible adult stinks!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:58 PM

Posted by pb&j:
"None of this would be a problem if one parent would at the very least be home when the kids get home so they could play instead of being in institutions for 12 hours a day"
Do you have anything else to offer? You beat this to death yesterday.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 1:58 PM

None of this would be a problem if one parent would at the very least be home when the kids get home so they could play instead of being in institutions for 12 hours a day.

Posted by: pb&j | April 25, 2007 01:49 PM


Hooray, the "none," "never," "every," "always" brigade has just charged up!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 1:58 PM

Well, no Suzuki for us. There doesn't seem to be a teacher in the Raleigh area . . . Now that's a serious job opportunity waiting to happen for someone who's qualified. There are gobs of overachieving parents (and kids) down here.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 2:01 PM

"None of this would be a problem if one parent would at the very least be home when the kids get home so they could play instead of being in institutions for 12 hours a day."

Because those kids never sit in front of the tv with a bowl full of Cheetos so exhaulted SAHP can vacuum, cook dinner, or eat bonbons without distraction.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:01 PM

"Hooray, the "none," "never," "every," "always" brigade has just charged up!"

And we almost made it until 2pm. That's a record I think.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 2:02 PM

OT to Stacey: didn't you run your first half marathon last weekend? How was it?

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | April 25, 2007 2:02 PM

Another couple of ideas about music lessons:

The recorder can be a great introduction to music. It looks like a toy, but there's a surprising amount of fun music to play. They do learn to read music. You can buy a recorder for about $10. With a well-qualified teacher, it's a pretty good foundation for younger kids without a huge financial investment. Lessons can sound expensive, but group lessons can make the instruction fees more affordable.

Some high-quality music schools offer fundamentals classes, summer camps, group lessons, etc. Some of the summer camps don't require an instrument at home. This can be a good way to test the waters for the child's interest.


Posted by: Marian | April 25, 2007 2:03 PM

scarry

What is with the smoking & drinking thing in some parts of the coutry?

Don't these folks know that they stink?

What is really sad is that one of the girls in my daughter's day care is dropped off by her father. He carries her in one arm and smokes with the other. Poor little girl smells. My husband said that some of the other kids told her she smelled and she cried. I told my daughter to play with her and be extra nice to her. I mean how addicted are you that you can't wait until you have dropped off your kid to light up?

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 2:06 PM

"Because those kids never sit in front of the tv with a bowl full of Cheetos so exhaulted SAHP can vacuum, cook dinner, or eat bonbons without distraction"

Or sit next to the SAHP on the couch and catch Oprah, Dr. Phil and the "must see" soaps!!

Jimmy! Stop playing with my lighter!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:06 PM

Hi Emily,

I found crystallized ginger and yogurt (separately!) to be beneficial to my queasy stomach. I also found out the hard way that I couldn't have apples for breakfast for awhile. Ugh.

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 2:07 PM

Yes to the ginger and try some preggie pops. Just get the sour ones and not the other kinds. Some of them taste like lavender (yuck)

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 2:09 PM

None of this would be a problem if one parent would at the very least be home when the kids get home so they could play instead of being in institutions for 12 hours a day.

Posted by: pb&j | April 25, 2007 01:49 PM

I thought you were a schoolteacher, shouldn't you be busy right about now?

Or studying for your master's or doctorate

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:09 PM

Jen,
One of Suzuki's books, Nurtured by Love, is in the Fairfax County Library system. Also, you can check out SAGWA the DC area Suzuki group to find more information about the method and area teachers.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:12 PM

scarry

"He carries her in one arm and smokes with the other. Poor little girl smells."

The father is a real jerkoff!

I don't permit smoking around my pets!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:12 PM

preggie pops!! Never heard of those. Can you get them at the grocery store? I must be completely out of touch in my old age.

Posted by: Emily | April 25, 2007 2:12 PM

You can get them online or at the maternity stores. They were created by doctors.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 2:13 PM

Suzuki's book is probably in other county library systems as well, for some reason I had it in my head that you were in the county.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:13 PM

I think the design of suburbs encourages this overscheduling. People pay more to live further out, so they have more land & nicer houses. Particularly with big yards and the lower density, there's bound to be less interaction with the neighbors. But more than that, this spreading out has led to a complete car culture where you have to drive 45 minutes to take your kid to soccer practice, or 30 min. to get him to his piano lesson, or 20 min. to get her to her play date. A natural consequence of this is that parents feel pressured to plan their kids' schedules ahead of time, and once the planning starts, it gets easier to go overboard. Also, a certain amount of competitiveness and paranoia kicks in because you don't want your kids to miss out on all the supposedly enriching activities their classmates are doing.

Posted by: suburbanite | April 25, 2007 2:15 PM

shd

"Tomorrow night we are walking to a city farmers market before going home on the metro. I wonder what we will find and what we both will discover."

Sounds like a lot of fun!

Will you be my Mom?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:16 PM

None of this would be a problem if one parent would at the very least be home when the kids get home so they could play instead of being in institutions for 12 hours a day.

Posted by: pb&j | April 25, 2007 01:49 PM

your experience certainly is different from mine. my children are at school for 8 or so hours a day and have at least an hour of recess / playground / p.e. time during their day. then they come home and play in the neighborhood.

do you have kids? or is this just some political trip for you to post on this blog the last couple of days?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:16 PM

" this spreading out has led to a complete car culture where you have to drive 45 minutes to take your kid to soccer practice, or 30 min. to get him to his piano lesson, or 20 min. to get her to her play date. "

Are these car jackings?

Nope, don't see a single gun to the head of any of these drivers. It's a choice, plain and simple. Own it.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:22 PM

home when the kids get home so they could play instead of being in institutions for 12 hours a day.

Posted by: pb&j | April 25, 2007 01:49 PM

Well, whatever you think of her style, she is right. Most of the free play I had as a child was during those hours immediately following school.

If a child gets out of school @ 3pm and need to be in bed by 9, losing the three hours from 3-6 cuts down the time available by 50%. Something has to give. It won't be dinner, bath or homework, it will play time.

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 2:22 PM

May I suggest we analyzeour overscheduled quotient?

One Point per session midweek for each per child unless otherwise noted, if two kids go to same activity at the same time only add as if one activity:

School (Pre, Elementary (2), Middle(3), High(5), Home(5))

Extra School (Tutor, Test Prep, Kumon)

Sports (soccer, baseball, football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, swimming, karate/Judo) all (2) assuming practice/game for each week, for travel(3)

Work (Housework, babysitting, kid WOH)

arts (ballet, tap, dance)

music (piano, strings, voice: 2 lesson plus practice; if in auditioned performance: 3)

religion (CCD, Confirmation Class, Youth Group)

Am I missing anything?

We are at 3 kids and score a fifteen.

Posted by: Fo3 | April 25, 2007 2:24 PM

your experience certainly is different from mine. my children are at school for 8 or so hours a day and have at least an hour of recess / playground / p.e. time during their day. then they come home and play in the neighborhood.

do you have kids? or is this just some political trip for you to post on this blog the last couple of days?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 02:16 PM

What time do they come home from school and is someone there when they do?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:26 PM

Fo3
And the point of this is?

Posted by: DC lurker | April 25, 2007 2:26 PM

What is really sad is that one of the girls in my daughter's day care is dropped off by her father. He carries her in one arm and smokes with the other.

The father is a real jerkoff!

I don't permit smoking around my pets!

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 02:12 PM

2:12, I need to grab my shades to protect my eyes from the glare from your self-righteousness. I would not permit you around my pets if you routinely make these sorts of snap judgments about people you do not know.

Many smokers smoke while driving. He lit up in the car and didn't stub his smoke out. For this a man who might otherwise be one of the most devoted fathers you will ever meet deserves to be crucified? His smoking is more important to you than his character, or whether he loves, is faithful to, and devoted to his child's mother.

When it becomes socially acceptable to label as "jerkoffs" every parent who makes one or another different choice than you, we all have reason to fear.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:27 PM

I didn't know about preggie pops, but I found a hard ginger candy at Stash Tea. It doesn't look like they carry it anymore. I found a similar candy called Gin-Gins in the Gourmet Foods section at Amazon. I bet the natural foods section of a good grocery store would have it, or maybe the health and beauty section at Whole Foods.

Posted by: Marian | April 25, 2007 2:29 PM

Is the point of f03 exercise that he is spending at least 15 times a week on activities or more then 2 times a day. Divided by his kids that is 5 times a week his kids are in organized activies per child. I did not understand the school part. Of course they are at school. So why is that added into the calculation? Or maybe I did not understand his formula.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:30 PM

RosieReader- You're the first person on this board to admit to average children! How exciting! You'd make a great neighbor, I bet.

Posted by: atb | April 25, 2007 2:30 PM

Fo3

"Am I missing anything?"

Yeah, how to write something that isn't gibberish!

I can't afford most of the stuff - so no need for me to tally.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:31 PM

do you have kids? or is this just some political trip for you to post on this blog the last couple of days?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 02:16 PM

What time do they come home from school and is someone there when they do?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 02:26 PM

they come home around 3:30. Probably 3 days a week someone is there at that time. The other two days, someone is there between 4 and 4:30. I answered yours. You answer mine. Do you have kids and why are you posting here?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:33 PM

RosieReader- You're the first person on this board to admit to average children! How exciting! You'd make a great neighbor, I bet.

Posted by: atb | April 25, 2007 02:30 PM
That is not exactly true. Some of us had talked a lot about our children's learning disabilities.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 2:33 PM

FWIW: Without getting into a list of what each family chooses to have their kids do, I thought it would be interesting to have some type of comparative scale by the posters today. A 1-kid family with travel evrything, music and CCD may be just as overscheduled a family as a 5-kid family that takes music lessons and has two in high school. Would give an idea of scale of commitments and capacity.

Any takers?

Posted by: Fo3 | April 25, 2007 2:35 PM

Well, I walked home from school, by myself, by the time I was in 3rd grade. Sahm was sometimes home sometimes not. Now dept of child and protextive services would take mom away.

Posted by: atlmom | April 25, 2007 2:36 PM

RE the comment on driving older kids to the bus - sometimes that is the only time teenagers will talk to you. Some of my best conversaations with the kids when they were at the very uncommunicative stage was in the car. I think I even read an article about it somewhere - you aren't looking directly at each other, and you are a captive audience, so it is a little easier on everyone.

Posted by: RJ | April 25, 2007 2:36 PM

Re smokers
When it becomes socially acceptable to label as "jerkoffs" every parent who makes one or another different choice than you, we all have reason to fear.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 02:27 PM


If a parent smokes around the child, the child is at increased risk for asthma and other respiratory diseases and conditions, perhaps for a lifetime. Addiction to smoking trumping devotion to child.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:37 PM

School part was to imply homework/learning activity demand on in home time. Homeschooling would require alot of parental/home attention.

Posted by: Fo3 | April 25, 2007 2:37 PM

What time do they come home from school and is someone there when they do?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 02:26 PM

they come home around 3:30. Probably 3 days a week someone is there at that time. The other two days, someone is there between 4 and 4:30. I answered yours. You answer mine. Do you have kids and why are you posting here?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 02:33 PM

So basically you gave pb&j crap for suggesting people do exactly what you are doing?

And yes I do have a kid, my wife is a WAH, so there is someone there (actually she is picked up at school). Two days a week she (the kid) goes to aftercare at aTae Kwan Do studio.

I post here for the same reason you do. (to give people I don't know crap about their lives so I can feel better about myself (kidding))

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 2:39 PM

Any takers?

Posted by: Fo3

Don't understand the method or the point, so I'll pass.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:39 PM

Sorry 2:27 since you are not at the day care you cannot know the details of the smoking. Yes, he smokes with her in his arms and it blows on her clothes and in her lungs. It is not acceptable to expose a kid to smoke.

I have nothing against you if you smoke. However, a kid does not have a choice if you smoke while you are carrying her or with her in a car. They are essentially trapped. If she were my daughter, I think I would speak up and tell my husband not to smoke around her. That is what responsible parent's do. I wouldn't care how devoted he was to me. My child's health comes before everything else.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 2:39 PM

Now dept of child and protextive services would take mom away.

Really? In Maryland a kid can be legally home alone for a few hours starting at age 8.

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 2:41 PM

By Fo3's Scale, my two younger children collectively score a 7.

I also have a stepdaughter in college. There were no ratings given for that. In fact, it might be negative ratings since she's not living at home most of the time . . .

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 2:42 PM

I found this to verify my patchy memory:

Q: "At what age can a child be left home alone in Maryland?"
A: Family Law Article, § 5-801, provides:

(a) A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.

(b) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both.

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 2:42 PM

"If a child gets out of school @ 3pm and need to be in bed by 9, losing the three hours from 3-6 cuts down the time available by 50%. Something has to give. It won't be dinner, bath or homework, it will play time."

but what if they are actually getting "Playtime" while in the "institution." Aftercare can have a lot of "Free time."

Posted by: Jen | April 25, 2007 2:43 PM

Emily, candy canes worked very well for me this time. Then jalapenos did the trick.
On topic -- my MIL almost had a stroke when I requested she not hover and prevent my DD from trying out something challenging. But DD might get HURT! Yes, but DD would also learn that wasn't a good decision to make and as long as HURT didn't a life-altering injury (or a call to CPS), I figured we'd survive. Interestingly enough, without the bubble wrap, DD is remarkably competant and injury-free.
We establish outside play boundaries for her, review what to do in an emergency, emphasize stranger danger (which we got in huge doses 40 years ago), and let her find her way. Result? An amazing sense of direction and independence, the ability to entertain herself, and a wonderful sense of exploration as she comes to get us to show us what she's discovered by herself.

Posted by: Stroller Momma | April 25, 2007 2:44 PM

"If a parent smokes around the child, the child is at increased risk for asthma and other respiratory diseases and conditions, perhaps for a lifetime. Addiction to smoking trumping devotion to child."

And if someone smoked around the pregnant mother, there are risks in utero.

This is a dealbreaker. Not a divorce. Just take your drugs outside!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:44 PM

The comment about smoking around children next to the comment about CPS makes me wonder how much longer it will be before it is illegal to smoke around a child anywhere, including in your own home. Anyone want to put forth a guess?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 25, 2007 2:45 PM

to fo3: We have one child who attends day care and preschool 4 days a week. So I guess we get a 4. We don't do any other activities. She used to do gymboree before preschool. We quite because preschool has motor gym and circle time.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 2:46 PM

Did anyone see the recent article about Baby Boomers having poorer health than the previous generation at comparable ages? An unmentioned, but maybe a contributing factor, is that many had SAHMs, and back in the 1950s-early '60s it was considered chic to smoke, so many kids were exposed to a lot of smoke. All that heavy secondhand smoke exposure in childhood (from their own parents or other smoking adults) could be catching up with Boomers now.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:47 PM

Did anyone see the recent article about Baby Boomers having poorer health than the previous generation at comparable ages?

Yes, and it also noted that they are more sedentary overall, as well as heavier. It's hard to get up and get around when your joints are 20 years older than you are!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:48 PM

Did anyone see the recent article about Baby Boomers having poorer health than the previous generation at comparable ages?

Yes, and it also noted that they are more sedentary overall, as well as heavier. It's hard to get up and get around when your joints are 20 years older than you are!

Hmm, dancers have a saying:

Miss one class and you will know it.
Miss TWO classes and EVERYONE will know it.

Posted by: MdMother | April 25, 2007 2:52 PM

All that heavy secondhand smoke exposure in childhood (from their own parents or other smoking adults) could be catching up with Boomers now.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 02:47 PM

Or it could be we are just fatter and move less. But we live longer too, maybe if we died earlier, we would be healthier.

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 2:52 PM

"All that heavy secondhand smoke exposure in childhood (from their own parents or other smoking adults) could be catching up with Boomers now"

Plus:

No sunscreen
Lead paint
Teflon
Nitrates and other bad stuff in food

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:55 PM

I never said secondhand smoke was the only factor, just another one. I don't disagree with you about Boomers getting less exercise, just that their parents smoking added to their problems.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:56 PM

Or it could be we are just fatter and move less. But we live longer too, maybe if we died earlier, we would be healthier.

Doubtful, as so many people are heavier than ever, younger than ever.

It takes a LOT of hard work to keep fat fed (heart). It really is easier to not get obese than it is to lose the weight.

Anyone watch "The Biggest Loser"? That's hard work! I don't know of any participant who wanted to gain the weight back. But I'm wrong about something at least twice a day.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:57 PM

leaded gasoline!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 2:58 PM

DaveS,
"But we live longer too, maybe if we died earlier, we would be healthier."

You crack me up.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 2:58 PM


Fo3 --- I think your rubric gives us a 12, total, for 2 kids. (I gave them each 2 pts for school even though it's the same elementary school . . . other same place/same time activities I counted only once each, and nearly all their activities are coordinated like this. But unfortunately they've each got homework and I think that's the time intrusion you're trying to measure)

You didn't list aftercare --- and I didn't count it because it's fairly unstructured and we provide no transport, they just ride the schoolbus there afterschool then we pick up at day's end . . . If you count that then I guess it's +5 more

Oh but I see you count only midweek activities, that would drop us by 2 every-other-week scout meetings and 2 weekly soccer games, so -3, lol. . .

Also, we're very much seasonal, this reflects fall/winter soccer season, otherwise we're down to only (on my original scoring) 7.

Posted by: KB | April 25, 2007 2:59 PM

just that their parents smoking added to their problems.

As did their parents before them. A lot of people were smoking in the 1920's, and before.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:00 PM

So basically you gave pb&j crap for suggesting people do exactly what you are doing?

And yes I do have a kid, my wife is a WAH, so there is someone there (actually she is picked up at school). Two days a week she (the kid) goes to aftercare at aTae Kwan Do studio.

I post here for the same reason you do. (to give people I don't know crap about their lives so I can feel better about myself (kidding))

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 02:39 PM

DaveS - I challenged pb&j on her thoughtless, narrow-minded, judgmental statements. There are no "suggestions" bound up in the use of none, all, and every, if you choose to go back and re-read.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:01 PM

My parents smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day (between them). I hated it. My husband smoked until I was pregnant with the first child. I dont like smoking, but it leads to "an increased risk" to many BAD things -- I completely agree with that. But please people, don't throw stones when you live in a glass house. If you feed your kids packs and packs of ho hos, that leads to an increased risk of obesity. Now, if you are a perfect parent, and dont do anything to give your kid an increased risk at anything. .. congratulations, but for the rest of us humans. . . we do the best that we can

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:02 PM

Yeah, I say we chill on wishing the smokers would all "be extinct."

Smokers can be great caregivers. Bashing them is one step away from declaring all people who drink alcohol unfit to raise kids (it affects your judgement! You could kill your kid). And then we can apply that to people who take medication (it alters your state of mind! How can you be trusted with kids?) and people who drink coke (it rots your teeth and leeches calcium from your bones! What kind of example are you?) and people who eat fast food (you'll make your kids obese! It's a death sentence!).

People make decisions that we sometimes don't agree with.

Live and let live.

Posted by: Meesh | April 25, 2007 3:02 PM

Far fewer women were smoking in the 1920s than in the 1950s. So 1920s kids weren't getting nearly as much secondhand smoke from SAHMs.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:02 PM

My father died of emphysema related heart disease - life long smoker. Mother now has lung cancer. She was also a life long smoker.
It is proven (as much as anything can be) that smoking is bad - no redeeming factors.
Red dye #2 (I think) used to stamp a number on meats was outlawed years ago because, in massive quantities, it might cause cancer in mice.
Cigarettes are still legal. I don't understand.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 3:05 PM

the poor girl probably stinks because her father smokes in the car and house--that is more likely to cause the bad odor to stay in her clothes and hair (and the poison to stay in her lungs) than her carrying her in her arms while smoking.
My mother was and is a chain smoker. I never smoked. I recently had a chest x-ray (I am 40 years old) and was told my lungs look like I must have smoked at some point or someone smoked around me when I was little.
Smokers, draw your own conclusions.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:06 PM

TO KLB SS MD -- I think it really is simple -- sad but simple -- the tobacco lobby. Cigarettes are a huge money making business, and as long as the cigarette business makes money, there will be legal smoking

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:07 PM

On base there are strict regulations as to what age a child can be left alone and for how long. If you go against those regs, you explain it to your commander, then you take a parenting class.
That said, there's the fair share of military kids who can get into a lot of trouble on and off base -- so some of this let the kids play outside by themselves needs to be tempered with how much trouble will my kid get in unsupervised?

Posted by: Military Mom | April 25, 2007 3:07 PM

Smoking is the one legal habit that has no health benefits when practiced as recommended. Many people benefit healthwise from a small glass of wine with dinner. Fastfood and junkfood may contain some nutrients along with the fat and sugar. Soft drinks provide liquid. They're not the best choices, but in small amounts have at least a little benefit. Smoking has none.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:07 PM

Not bashing smokers - I was one for a long time.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 3:07 PM

Sorry Meesh, but as mother it is hard to watch someone blow smoke in a kid's face and hear other kids say she smells. Live and let live is a great motto, but it just doesn't jive in my example. He can smoke away from the child.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 3:09 PM

I cannot believe that I am defendning smoking -- but here goes -- it decreases appetite, so one can lose weight; it calms people's nerves (so not as much Prozac) . .. okay that is all I have . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:09 PM

One thing we lose in not allowing our children to run free is the absolutely gratis and incredibly effective lesson in cause and effect that freedom gives them. When biking through uncharted neighborhoods alone, kids MUST learn to pay attention and keep track of where they are. If they act recklessly, they must get their scraped up bodies home by themselves for wound-dressing. What I think we've lost by over-parenting is the easy ability to teach responsibility. When we as parents are always handy for rescuing, then we do in fact always rescue.

Posted by: 123 | April 25, 2007 3:11 PM

Cigarettes are a huge money making business, and as long as the cigarette business makes money, there will be legal smoking

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:07 PM


And the tobacco industry has expensive legal representation to demolish any poor exsmoker who tries to sue.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:11 PM

Scarry, I agree with you, but the kids saying she smells is not the best argument against smoking . . . so under your rationale, parents should not be allowed to name their children "funny" names because kids will say things to them. Kids will say all kinds of things to other kids

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:12 PM

I am not bashing smokers either they can smoke their selves silly for all I care. Their selves is the key word!

And, no I am not perfect, but I don't blow smoke in my kid's face either. Get me my halo and wings.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 3:12 PM

No, I am more concerned about her health, but the teasing bothers me too.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 3:13 PM

I don't know about all after-care programs, but the ones at the schools where I have taught have limited time that is relatively unstructured. The children can't exactly hop on a bike and explore the neighborhood. Then they have homework time and quiet play.

If you want to work, or have to work, after-care programs aren't a bad place to leave your children, but they are not the same as 'home' after school. If you place a high value on unstructured time, then you should research alternatives; if you think your child's needs for unstructured time are being met in this setting, you need to consider if that is the case.

I am a bit biased -- I think children benefit when they can come home right after school, and get away from it all for a while before the homework/activity/sport treadmill starts.

In high school, most activities take place at the school, and by that time students get into a position to meet their own transportation needs. My sons have been busiest since starting high school, but by the time my oldest drove, I took them almost nowhere. They also chose their own activities based on their own interests. I never have to nag my younger son to go to football lifting sessions, and I never had to nag the older son to practice his guitar, run his lines, or do his vocal exercises while he was in high school. They both work as well.

One more thing: LD children are not 'average' children. Often, the parents of LD children wear the child's label like a badge of honor. They receive accomodations in school and parents expect accomodations outside school as well.

I also applaud the poster who has average kids!

Posted by: educmom | April 25, 2007 3:13 PM

Scarry: I know several parents who smoke around their kid and their kids don't stink. I am not sure what they are doing that makes this child smell so bad.

Posted by: adoptee | April 25, 2007 3:14 PM

It is one thing to participate in something around your children that may or may not have a detrimental effect (one glass of wine a day) but it is an entirely different thing to knowingly participate in something around your children that increasingly demonstrates serious adverse effects. That is bad selfish parenting. Just my two cents and my father smoked - died lung cancer, my grandfather smoked - died lung cancer.

Posted by: not telling | April 25, 2007 3:14 PM

Smoking is the one legal habit that has no health benefits when practiced as recommended...list of other bad habits and their minimal benefits... Smoking has none.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:07 PM

And your point is?

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 3:17 PM

One more thing: LD children are not 'average' children. Often, the parents of LD children wear the child's label like a badge of honor. They receive accomodations in school and parents expect accomodations outside school as well.

I also applaud the poster who has average kids!

Posted by: educmom | April 25, 2007 03:13 PM
I wasn't saying LD makes my kid average. In fact, I think it makes her less then average (academically-and no I would never tell her this). I don't know why you think parents were that label as a badge of honor. It was devastating to learn my child had LDs. It is heart breaking to see my three year old have to go to preschool 5 days a week to learn to talk.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 3:17 PM

I have never smoked, but if we believe people's claims that cigarette smoking is an addiction -- one that they cannot stop -- then how is it selfish? And if we don't believe that smoking is so addictive that one cannot stop, then how will any plaintiff win against the cigarette companies if its the smokers choice?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:17 PM

I cannot believe that I am defendning smoking -- but here goes -- it decreases appetite, so one can lose weight; it calms people's nerves (so not as much Prozac) . .. okay that is all I have . . .

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:09 PM


The health harm caused by a normal weight person smoking has been calculated as being equal to a nonsmoker being 75 pounds overweight. And anyone who's that much or more overweight shouldn't be smoking either.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:19 PM

scarry, I hear ya. I'm sure it's upsetting. There are lots of things that I see on a day-to-day basis (an incredibly overweight family with two obese children under the age of 8 at the McDonalds; a dog in a hot car in a parking lot for 45 minutes) that get my goat. It's hard not to judge these people.

Posted by: Meesh | April 25, 2007 3:20 PM

it decreases appetite, so one can lose weight; it calms people's nerves (so not as much Prozac) . .. okay that is all I have . . .

So does drinking water, going for a walk, and breathing deeply.

Plus it's so expensive out-of-pocket/upfront! My gosh, $2-5/pack. That turns into serious money over the course of a year.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:20 PM

DaveS - I challenged pb&j on her thoughtless, narrow-minded, judgmental statements. There are no "suggestions" bound up in the use of none, all, and every, if you choose to go back and re-read.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:01 PM

And I said if you ingore her "her thoughtless, narrow-minded, judgmental statements" you would notice that there is a (good) suggestion.

Someone should be home when the kids get out of school so they have time for unstrcture play. The same point made by educmom above.

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 3:21 PM

There are many things people who smoke can do to either quit what I suspect is a very hard habit (patch, hypnosis, etc.)or don't smoke around your children. Take your a** outside! It is not rocket science to not smoke around your children. I thank my father that even though he could not/would not stop he didn't smoke around me.

Or how about the most obvious solution of all - DON'T START!! THAT is a choice - why should others suffer because of your decision. Would this be the same discussion if we were discussing smoking a joint or snorting crack?

Posted by: not telling | April 25, 2007 3:23 PM

I know Meesh, it is hard not to judge.

Did you call animal control about the dog?

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 3:23 PM

The point is that any smoking is worse than those other things (especially when they're not carried to excess).

Posted by: To DaveS | April 25, 2007 3:23 PM

But educmom said they do their home work in after school care. So that just eliminates the time when they get home that home work needs to be done. Thus their unstructured play time is still the same net time. Now their outside play time might be different but kids of SAHPs still do homework.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:27 PM

The father really shouln't smoke with the kid in the car. He could light up after he drops her off. I doubt it would make a difference (to her daughter smelling like smoke) unless he didn't smoke in the house as well.

But, the kids making fun of her and shunning should be taken to task for their rudeness. Which is obviously learned from their parents who feel like some of you here do about smoking. (Wishing extinction, WTF!)

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 3:28 PM

daves we just don't like PB&J. See yesterday's posts.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:29 PM

But educmom said they do their home work in after school care. So that just eliminates the time when they get home that home work needs to be done. Thus their unstructured play time is still the same net time. Now their outside play time might be different but kids of SAHPs still do homework.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:27 PM

True, but the main point is if the kid is home more, there is more time for ALL the tasks required. And the tasks lowest on the totem pole (unstructured play) get put off less.

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 3:32 PM

I called the local police and they said they'd send a patrol car to check it out.

Unfortunately, in NC, they can't do anything unless the dog is visibly in crisis, like really heavy panting and shaking or unconscious. So I just had to leave and hope that the person came back before those symptoms started.

Posted by: Meesh | April 25, 2007 3:33 PM

Meesh that is awful, it is like some people have no sense what so ever.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 3:34 PM

daves we just don't like PB&J. See yesterday's posts.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:29 PM

Cool, at least that is out in the open ;). But good ideas can come from "bad" people.

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 3:36 PM


educmom ---

of course, one wants to find/lobby for a good aftercare program that does allow kids multiple choices about what to do. Ours has indoor rooms available to the kids: a homework room, 1-2 craft/quiet play rooms with ample supplies/toys/games, an outdoor play area whenever weather permits, and an upstairs gym for active play. Most are available and loosely supervised most of the time (outdoors only opens after an initial snack time) The gym opens only in shifts, for running games or roller skating, first little kids only then big kids only.

I think between all those options, and friends to hang around with, kids should be able to find their own entertainment! Ours are usually quite creatively engaged when we pick up --- crafts, or jumprope, or building fairy houses with sticks and leaves outside, or, my entrepreneur, finger-weaving scarves for webkinz for sale to her peers, etc . . . that's what I would call unstructured opportunity . . .

Our school's prior onsite aftercare, run by YMCA, was very limited in options and basically just warehousing, but that got replaced by a much more viable program. A good principal shouldn't accept a subpar inhouse aftercare program!

Posted by: KB | April 25, 2007 3:37 PM

DaveS: that is only true if the SAHP is NOT taking the kid to a lot of extra curricular activities. I don't know where educmom teaches but in the after school programs that I have seen the kids do homework and extra curricular type activities. So that is stuff they are not running around doing on weekends or in the evenings. A number of kids that I know with SAHPs are just as busy. They take their kids to a million lessons. Therefore their time spent on unstructured activities is about the same or even less. Being home doesn't necessarily equal to being physically home.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 3:38 PM

that being said, better a smoker for a dad than a vicious drunk.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:39 PM

that being said, better a smoker for a dad than a vicious drunk.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:39 PM


An awful lot of drunkards also smoke.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 3:41 PM

"Someone should be home when the kids get out of school so they have time for unstrcture play. The same point made by educmom above."

the only point that educmom made about the problem with aftercare is that the child can't get on a bike and ride around the neighborhood if they are in aftercare. Well, if the kid is riding on a bike in the neighborhood after school, then why do they need a parent waiting at home by themselves while the kid is out in the neighborhood? When I was that age for bike riding around the neighborhood, I was old enough to be a "latchkey kid". Aftercare wasn't an option for my parents "back in my day."

Anyway, my frame of reference for the aftercare program of today relates to little kids that aren't old enough to be riding around the neighoborhood by themselves anyway-- in our aftercare the kids hang out at the playground when the weather is nice and just play.

what would I do I were to take him out of aftercare? well I'd be sitting on the same bench as the aftercare teachers, chatting at the same playground while my kid plays with the same kids.

If the weather is bad, then the kids are doing little art projects together or tumbling, etc. in the cafeteria. what would I be doing with him if I didn't use aftercare and the weather was bad? I'd have him doing art projects in our kitchen, etc.

Is that better or worse than aftercare? I don't know-- perhaps 6 of one, half dozen of the other, but i know he seems happy so why rock the boat?

YMMV

Posted by: Jen | April 25, 2007 3:42 PM

Two things: Be wary of YMCA after school programs. A former nanny is a director there now and told us confidentially that there are almost never in compliance (ratios) and sometimes "lose" a kid for hours (though they always turn up).

"Someone should be home when the kids get out of school so they have time for unstrcture play. The same point made by educmom above."

I agree and this is why I will be cutting back my hours when twins start school this fall. I want to be home when they get off the bus. I know I'm exhausted when I get home from a 10 hour day, and going from before care to school to after care makes for some really cranky kids.

Posted by: Anon for this post | April 25, 2007 3:44 PM

I think one point is lost here. Every child is not necessarily in after school care for three hours a day. I will pick up my daughter from after school care at 4:30 each day. She will have only been in after school care for 45 minutes a day and every other Monday because of Fairfax 1/2 day Mondays. Some Mondays my husband can pick up my daughter at 1:30. So I don't think it has to be an all or nothing event. I would love to find a job that lets me pick her up at 3:45 when school releases. But I haven't secured one yet. But I think you are all making an assumption that every kid is there from opening to closing time.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 3:49 PM

At 7 o'clock last night I was kicking the neighbors out of my back yard so we could get supper on the table. My kids live in the backyard when the weather is good and when a parent is available to supervise - in the front yard. Maybe you're just not in the right neighborhood? But - my kids aren't allowed in the front yard w/out an adult - cars drive too fast down my street - even though there's a stop sign at each end - and yes, I'm concerned about some of my creepy neighbors and strangers - I know I should be more afraid of the cars - but what can I say. Maybe the kids are out - just in the backyard???

Posted by: maria | April 25, 2007 3:50 PM

But I think you are all making an assumption that every kid is there from opening to closing time.

I didn't say every kid was there. Mine would be, though. I don't want that. I want their memories to be of getting off the bus, having a snack and chatting with their mom and/or dad, and then relaxing for a bit before we move on to whatever's next.

Posted by: Anon for this post | April 25, 2007 3:51 PM

Anon for this post: I wasn't saying you in particular felt that every kid was there from opening to closing time. I was just saying it to the people who assume kids in after school care don't have time for unstructured play. Some do because they are not in after school care the full time. The time they are there may be doing home work or socializing with their friends. I applaud you trying to find a job that gets you home for the bus. I would like that too.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 25, 2007 3:54 PM

"I want their memories to be of getting off the bus, having a snack and chatting with their mom and/or dad, and then relaxing for a bit before we move on to whatever's next."

That's how I grew up. My wife thinks it's odd that I can quote any episode of "I Love Lucy" and "The Brady Bunch."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:10 PM

So basically you gave pb&j crap for suggesting people do exactly what you are doing?

And yes I do have a kid, my wife is a WAH, so there is someone there (actually she is picked up at school). Two days a week she (the kid) goes to aftercare at aTae Kwan Do studio.

I post here for the same reason you do. (to give people I don't know crap about their lives so I can feel better about myself (kidding))

Posted by: DaveS | April 25, 2007 02:39 PM

DaveS - I challenged pb&j on her thoughtless, narrow-minded, judgmental statements. There are no "suggestions" bound up in the use of none, all, and every, if you choose to go back and re-read.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:01 PM

DaveS - I neither like nor dislike pb&j. I don't know her. You accused me of giving someone crap for posting a suggestion. I've responded twice. Disagreeing with the tone and nature of a post is not the equivalent of "giving someone crap". I do not think it's essential that all US children have a parent home after school. I trust families to make this call and do not applaud one-size-fits-all solutions regardless of who proposes them.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:11 PM

There was a study done at a major corporation to understand how employee networks formed within the company. All groups were identified with the exception of one extremely well connected group.

Who was it? The Smokers.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:19 PM

There was a study done at a major corporation to understand how employee networks formed within the company. All groups were identified with the exception of one extremely well connected group.

Who was it? The Smokers.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:19 PM


What's your point?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:24 PM

TO KLB SS MD -- I think it really is simple -- sad but simple -- the tobacco lobby. Cigarettes are a huge money making business, and as long as the cigarette business makes money, there will be legal smoking

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 03:07 PM


So what's your solution to reducing smoking?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:26 PM

The girls were last seen alive by a witness who saw them bound & gagged in the back of a vehicle

Just wondering why they didn't help or call the cops?

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 01:06 PM


How do you know they didn't? This was back before cell phones, so it could take a witness several minutes to reach a phone to call, and by then the abducter could be a few miles away in any direction.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:28 PM

To Anon at 4:26 -- My solution to reduce smoking is not to smoke. Until its illegal, people can make the choice to smoke or not -- to blow smoke in their babies' faces. I am thankful that our society does not smoke as much as Europe or Asia -- we are fatter but less smokey . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:30 PM

How do you know they didn't? This was back before cell phones, so it could take a witness several minutes to reach a phone to call, and by then the abducter could be a few miles away in any direction.

Well anyone but a sissy would have took matters into their own hands.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:30 PM

The girls were last seen alive by a witness who saw them bound & gagged in the back of a vehicle.

This is not a true statement if it's still about the Lyon girls. They were not seen bound and gagged. Check your facts.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:30 PM

No point really, except that it is an interesting finding.

Smoking may be one way that people find balance during their day. I agree that it should not be done around children, but that 5 minute break is my time to reflect on, organize, and think the things that are happening in my life.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:31 PM

"Well anyone but a sissy would have took matters into their own hands."

Let's hear it for brawn!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:32 PM

How do you know they didn't? This was back before cell phones, so it could take a witness several minutes to reach a phone to call, and by then the abducter could be a few miles away in any direction.

Well anyone but a sissy would have took matters into their own hands.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:30 PM


Police are forever warning citizens NOT to take criminal matters into their own hands because even more violence can result. There aren't many Rambo's out there, most civilians just aren't trained or skilled enough to handle these situations. But police officers are far better at it.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:33 PM

I would imagine that if I saw two girls in the back of a car gagged that I would immediately think I lost my mind and that I had not seen what I just thought I had seen

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:33 PM

Smoking may be one way that people find balance during their day. I agree that it should not be done around children, but that 5 minute break is my time to reflect on, organize, and think the things that are happening in my life.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:31 PM


But you can do that just as well without smoking.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:35 PM

Well, I am not Rambo but if I saw that and I didn't have my kids with me, I would call the cops and try to help. You know, you could follow the car at the very least or yell and get other people to come to you aid.

Posted by: scarry | April 25, 2007 4:35 PM

And I can do it just as well without shoving my face full of ho hos (I love ho hos for the record) -- but I am allowed to eat ho hos and she is allowed to smoke. Its not your decision what is best for her. And, I assume that you are a size 2 or 4 that exercises several times a week, drinks no more than 3 drinks a week, never yells at your child, never eats meat -- LIFE IS FULL OF CHOICES -- we dont have to like everyone's because believe me they probably dont like all of yours -- TOLERANCE PEOPLE -- (as I am yelling ... irony. .. )

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:38 PM

Check your facts.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:30 PM


Bravo! But don't you realize snarkers don't let pesky facts get in the way of their arguments?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:39 PM

Well, I am a native washingtonian who grew up in DC proper. My neighborhood was filled with kids playing outside and in each others backyards. I walked to elementary school and junior high alone and took the regular metro bus to highschool alone. My parents definitely had rules about how late to stay out and letting them know where I was going. But they also relied on my common sense and the fact that in our neighborhood everyone looked out for each other. These days I allow my kids to play outside if I can see them. I do let them play at others houses,etc. I am always amazed when I'm outside with my kids how few other kids I see out riding bikes, or going on walks with their family or even playing at the local playground. It puts a real premium on scheduling playdates (which I hate doing but do so that my kids can play with other kids) instead of just seeing another kid outside and playing with them. I think part of the issue is that many kids (not ours) have playground equipment in their yards and basically have no need to leave the premises to run around and have fun. I do think it's a shame.

I try my best to give my kids a bit of freedom and we only allow one after school activity per week -(soccer practice outdoors). Good topic!

Posted by: downtown mom | April 25, 2007 4:40 PM

It helps when you direct your rant at someone!

Posted by: to 04:38 PM | April 25, 2007 4:40 PM

And I can do it just as well without shoving my face full of ho hos (I love ho hos for the record) -- but I am allowed to eat ho hos and she is allowed to smoke. Its not your decision what is best for her. And, I assume that you are a size 2 or 4 that exercises several times a week, drinks no more than 3 drinks a week, never yells at your child, never eats meat -- LIFE IS FULL OF CHOICES -- we dont have to like everyone's because believe me they probably dont like all of yours -- TOLERANCE PEOPLE -- (as I am yelling ... irony. .. )

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:38 PM


No equivalency, regardless how often you repeat yourself. Smoking has NO redeeming health benefits. Period.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:42 PM


It helps when you direct your rant at someone!

Posted by: to 04:38 PM | April 25, 2007 04:40 PM


Tee hee -- sorry -- it was to Anon at 04:35 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:42 PM

Well 4:42 because you say so, you must be right and I will no longer post my opinions. Sorry for not believing every word that you say. I hope your house is not made of glass

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:44 PM

No equivalency, regardless how often you repeat yourself. Smoking has NO redeeming health benefits. Period.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:42 PM


Neither does sky diving. We should judge skydivers too then.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:49 PM

Oh yeah, Because that is the same. Sky divers constantly affect other people's health - see it all the time.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:50 PM

You two are so funny.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:52 PM

Well 4:42 because you say so, you must be right and I will no longer post my opinions. Sorry for not believing every word that you say. I hope your house is not made of glass

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:44 PM


No, I'm hardly perfect. But at least my home and car are non-smoking zones (I have respiratory problems, such there's not option for what some might consider tolerance of smokers). And I try to limit the junkfood and fastfood.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:52 PM

The point is that not all things have to have redeeming health benefits to be acceptable. I agree with you that secondhand smoke hurts other people. I am just trying to say that judging smoking. . . condemning smoking is a slippery slope and (although I dont like smoking) if we say smokers are bad parents, then we can say fat parents are bad parents, then we say ____ religion parents are bad. I just think its a slippery slope -- one that can be navigated, but just be careful

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:55 PM

At least with skydiving, if a person should ever be in the remote possibility of having to parachute out of a plane, they'd have some practice. But personally I consider it a really dumb hobby. Smoking still has no benefits.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:55 PM

The point is that not all things have to have redeeming health benefits to be acceptable.

Smoking is a legal thing that has NO redeeming benefits. Even junkfood, soft drinks and alcohol, taken in small quantities, have slight benefits.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 4:58 PM

"One more thing: LD children are not 'average' children. Often, the parents of LD children wear the child's label like a badge of honor. They receive accomodations in school and parents expect accomodations outside school as well."

I see parents of LD/disabled/deformed on almost a daily basis and all I can say about them is that there is a special place in heaven for them. Theirs is a tough row to hoe and the ones I see rarely complain.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 5:02 PM

Smoking is a legal thing that has NO redeeming benefits. Even junkfood, soft drinks and alcohol, taken in small quantities, have slight benefits.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:58 PM


And if you do consume junkfoodm, soft drinks and alcohol, at least you aren't forcing othe people to, and it doesn't make them fat.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:05 PM

And if you do consume junkfoodm, soft drinks and alcohol, at least you aren't forcing othe people to, and it doesn't make them fat.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:05 PM

except as parents do to children because they provide no alternative for the child

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:06 PM

4:38, I think I love you.

Smoking has NO redeeming health benefits. Period.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 04:42 PM

4:42, you are incorrect, and saying "period" doesn't make it so. It's as though you are stomping your feet. There are numerous studies that show that nicotine inhibits the onset of alzheimers. In addition, to the extent smoking calms nerves, it can be an anxious parent a calm parent.

The real point is, we all make different health choices. Smoking is not your temptation. I also have no doubt that you struggle with other physical or mental health challenges. I do not smoke, either, nor do I gamble, or drink alcoholic beverages, or eat processed foods. I don't understand why people risk their lives to climb mountains. To me, it's a ridiculous risk-taking move that could needlessly deprive a children of a parent. Senseless, truly. Shall we ban mountain-climbing? I hope not. Tolerance is a virtue that comes highly recommended.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:07 PM

My Drill Sargeant told me that there are two things that fall from the sky, bird droppings and fools!

Posted by: Not a paratrooper! | April 25, 2007 5:10 PM

except as parents do to children because they provide no alternative for the child

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:06 PM


So that makes smoking around kids OK, too? NOT!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:10 PM

I do not smoke, either, nor do I gamble, or drink alcoholic beverages, or eat processed foods.


And I bet your poop doesn't stink either.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:13 PM

It amazes me the level of vehemency with which people are attacking those who smoke. It is highly likely that your vices will someday affect those around you as well so as others have mentioned be careful of those stones in glass houses.

But much like verbal abuse, aside from some very specific exceptions, smoking is legal and while there are some health issues there, I find that much less harmful than abusive words that can do permanent psycological damage.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:13 PM

what is so hard to understand, people? Smoking is not your health choice. It is a choice you make on behalf of other people. It H U R T S Y O U R C H I L D R E N in a permanent way. I don't care that it calms you. I don't care that it helps you stay skinny. I don't even care that it may delay Alzheimer's--smoke after your kids have left the house.
You are rationalizing your indefensible choice. Go ahead and smoke, but stop trying to pretend it's just about you.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:13 PM

dotted, are you here today? Have you tried the wasabi almonds yet?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 5:15 PM

"while there are some health issues" with smoking...


Dingdingding, we have a winner for the absurd understatement of the day. Your work is done for toady. Pass Go and collect your big check from the tobacco lobby.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:17 PM

It amazes me the level of vehemency with which people are attacking those who...

Are you such a cultural relativist that you find nothing vile enough to be vehement in your opposition to?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:23 PM

Dingdingding, we have a winner for the absurd understatement of the day. Your work is done for toady. Pass Go and collect your big check from the tobacco lobby.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:17 PM

I imagine that you judge all people so harshly for a variety of things that you find "unacceptable" and that this will be something that will be passed on to your children. How does it feel to be raising the next generation of overly judgemental and domineering people who feel it is their right to make social decisions for entire populations without regard to the opinions or beliefs of others?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:23 PM

At least I haven't raised a child that smokes.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:24 PM

My work is done for froggy.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:25 PM

My work is done for froggy.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:25 PM


WTF?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:26 PM

05:13 PM

well now that you put it all in caps with pretty spaces there, we are all persuaded that God died today and left you in charge.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:29 PM

"There are numerous studies that show that nicotine inhibits the onset of alzheimers."

Uh, I suspect this is because most smokers DIE before Alzheimer's has a chance to set in.

We have gone SO off topic, so I will try to be brief:

Bought a house on a cul-de-sac with many children, so we are fortunate that DD has many chances to play outside in a relatively safe environment. Her school still has recess, and she dances and plays soccer. Now that she's in third grade, both of those activities are starting to demand more of her time, and I suspect that she will have to choose one in the next year or so. But she LOVES both, has friends with both groups, is a very good student, so I don't see the harm in scheduling her time this way.

My dad is a lifelong smoker. I love him dearly, but have given up trying to make him stop. He smoked in our house growing up. My middle sister has severe allergies, my youngest sister has asthma. So far, I haven't developed any effects of inhaling his second-hand smoke for 18 years. He lives near us. He doesn't smoke in our house, but I can't stop him from smoking in his. We live with the smoke when we visit him. I really don't think being exposed to second-hand smoke a few times a year is going to have a long-term negative health consequence on my daughter. And I agree with whomever made the slippery slope argument about restricting the parental rights of smokers.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | April 25, 2007 5:30 PM

You are rationalizing your indefensible choice. Go ahead and smoke, but stop trying to pretend it's just about you.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:13 PM

calm down, 5:13. No one is rationalizing smoking, whether our choice or others. What we are saying is that the level of intolerance expressed here today is at a hysterical level.

There are more important things for me to know about a parent to determine the quality of his parenting than whether or not he smokes. If that's the only criteria you examine in making that determination, then you, like voters who vote based on single issues like abortion, are putting some mighty significant eggs all in one basket.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:34 PM

05:13 PM

well now that you put it all in caps with pretty spaces there, we are all persuaded that God died today and left you in charge.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:29 PM


Since you didn't capitalize the first word in your post, we are all persuaded that you're the grammar lady who passes judgment on someone who capitalizes for emphasis.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:34 PM

Your work is done for toady. Pass Go and collect your big check from the tobacco lobby.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:17 PM
_______________________

My work is done for froggy.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:25 PM

______________________

Just a play on the typo. Nothing personal. Don't know why, but it gave me the giggles.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:35 PM

At least I haven't raised a child that smokes.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:24 PM

if the best thing you can say about your parenting is that you have raised a child who does not to X, your expectations of yourself are embarrasingly low.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:35 PM

I am not sure what commenting on my choice of emphatic visuals accomplishes. If you disagree with me on the substance of what I said--that people who smoke in the house and car with children trapped inside cause the children health damage--then tell me why.
I can spell "denial" even without the all caps.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:36 PM

Smoking isn't the only concern, but it's a deal-breaker.

Posted by: To 5:34 | April 25, 2007 5:43 PM

if the best thing you can say about your parenting is that you have raised a child who does not to X, your expectations of yourself are embarrasingly low.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:35 PM

Don't put words into my mouth, I never said that.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:44 PM

Once again you aren't reading closely, it is not that we disagree of the effects of smoking on children, we are saying that there are many other parental behaviors that are much more detrimental.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:45 PM

Once again you aren't reading closely, it is not that we disagree of the effects of smoking on children, we are saying that there are many other parental behaviors that are much more detrimental.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 05:45 PM


But you admit it is detrimental.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:47 PM

Hmm - blow smoke in my face or molest me - let me see. I choose the smoke.
Blow smoke in my face or beat my head against the wall. Again, I choose the smoke.
Not that people should not be considerate of others when they smoke but I agree with some of the other posters, it isn't the worst thing. Smoke outside, not in my car or my house. Give and take for each.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 5:48 PM

Hmm - blow smoke in my face or molest me - let me see. I choose the smoke.
Blow smoke in my face or beat my head against the wall. Again, I choose the smoke.


These are artificial choices.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:50 PM

smoking the worst case of child abuse, keeping the bar low a distant second.

I am glad that you are all so pure of heart!

Posted by: I sure ain't | April 25, 2007 5:50 PM

kb-probably too late for you, but I agree with your writings...preaching to the choir...I love that line.

klb-a voice of reason as always. I personally hate smoke but I do recognize it is their adult decision to make. It is then my decision to absent myself or to regulate in those places I can control: my house and car....

Posted by: dotted | April 25, 2007 5:51 PM

Regarding smoking, let's also not forget that a child whose parents smoke will smell bad, and nobody wants to be friends with the smelly kid. Smoking will hurt your kids' social lives in addition to their bodies.

Posted by: catmommy | April 25, 2007 5:52 PM

dotted, almonds? yes or no?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | April 25, 2007 5:54 PM

It doesn't matter whether you think something is worse than smoking, that still doesn't justify smoking.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 5:58 PM

mmmm smoking, smoking, smoking mmmmmmm - CAN WE STOP TALKING ABOUT SMOKING!!! makes me want to smoke. can someone light a virtual cigarette and let me breathe in the sweet virtual smoke???

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:03 PM

Regarding smoking, let's also not forget that a child whose parents smoke will smell bad.

And a smoky-smelling child could also be ordered to the prinicipal's office for questioning and discipline on suspicion of underage smoking, and be accused of lying when they deny smoking. I know this for a fact, because it happened to me thanks to my parents who smoked who stunk up our house air, including my clothes, hair etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:04 PM

sweet virtual smoke???


Stench would be more like it.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:05 PM

Let's not forget that a child whose parent is an a$$ will be one too and will not only suffer a lifetime of ill consequences of that, but others will suffer at their hands as well.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:06 PM

Let's not forget that a child whose parent is an a$$ will be one too and will not only suffer a lifetime of ill consequences of that, but others will suffer at their hands as well.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 06:06 PM


This is certainly true of the a$$ parents who smoke.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:08 PM

Regarding smoking, let's also not forget that a child whose parents smoke will smell bad, and nobody wants to be friends with the smelly kid.

Posted by: catmommy | April 25, 2007 05:52 PM

Where do you get this stuff from? The majority of parents who smoke smoke outside. There's no "smell" transferred to their children. No one, including physicians, teachers, pastors or others have ever commented on our children "smelling" because they don't carry any aroma on their clothing.

Aren't there enough viable assertions left that you have to stoop to making up ways to insult the children of smokers?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:08 PM

The majority of parents who smoke smoke outside.

Maybe you do. I hope you do. But what do you base this assertion on? It's not what I see in peoples cars, houses etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:14 PM

Anyone who uses an elliptical machine is making a selfish choice. He is wasting his time at the gym for minimal if any payoff, thereby teaching his children that exercise is futile, and consigning them to friendless, flabby lives. They will end up as miserable homeless orphans. If my husband used an elliptical, I'd tell him to stop. That's what responsible parents do. There are no health benefits from elliptical machines. Period. P E R I O D.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:15 PM

"let's also not forget that a child whose parents smoke will smell bad, and nobody wants to be friends with the smelly kid"

My dad smoked a lot. I know our house and car smelled. I'm sure my clothes did too. Nobody ever said I was smelly. I don't know, maybe more kids had parents who smoked back then, and none of us noticed it on each other.

I have heard more parents these days make comments openly to their children about all the nasty aspects of smoke and people who smoke. As much as I hate the smell of smoke (and this probably was the biggest reason I never liked bars much), I don't think it's a great idea to put down people who smoke in front of the kids. I think it can backfire as it did in the case of the kids calling the little girl stinky. Maybe they thought that name-calling was ok because it was smoking.

I'm guilty of putting down a more socially acceptable personal choice of others in front of my older child. I did realize that this wasn't the best way to educate about the issue. While I still will try to pass on my values about it, I've toned down the personal choice aspect and am emphasizing that our choice supports our values (in this case, environmental reasons).

Posted by: Marian | April 25, 2007 6:15 PM

The majority of parents who smoke smoke outside. There's no "smell" transferred to their children.


You can't smell it because smoking dulls your senses.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:16 PM

I love it when the 300+ posts hit, everyone gets real loopy.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:18 PM

Have you been posting anonymously this afternoon, to jack up the numbers?

Posted by: To pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:20 PM

"Have you been posting anonymously this afternoon, to jack up the numbers?"

I NEVER post anonymously, it is for cowards.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:23 PM

I agree with the person who said that it is not right to speak judgementally about others habits in front of young children. I can't imagine that is a behaviour you would want them to emulate. Name calling isn't constructive in any situation no matter the offense. (Although it sure does make me feel better sometimes)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:24 PM

//sweet virtual smoke???


Stench would be more like it.//

Its a reformed smoker thing, you wouldn't understand. So is someone gonna light up or not?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:26 PM

For the record, I think smoking should be banned. It has utterly no redeeming value. Makes junkies out of people, cost society billions and demonstrably shorten lives and causes cancer. Why anyone with half a brain would smoke in 2007 is beyond me.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:26 PM

We tell our kids that smoking is a bad decision and that people who smoke are making a bad decision just like people who don't wear helmets on motorcycles or people who don't make other healthy lifestyle choices. We explicitly tell them that they are not bad people because they smoke, just people making a poor choice.

Posted by: pb&j | April 25, 2007 6:28 PM

I agree with the person who said that it is not right to speak judgementally about others habits in front of young children.

You would not tell your child that anything they see any adult do is wrong? What if they saw someone drunk, or peeing in the street, or smoking while holding a child in their other hand? Maybe it's more like there's a line you'd draw.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:28 PM

mmmm smoking, smoking, smoking mmmmmmm - CAN WE STOP TALKING ABOUT SMOKING!!! makes me want to smoke. can someone light a virtual cigarette and let me breathe in the sweet virtual smoke???

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 06:03 PM

*puff* *blowin' in your direction, 6:03. Do you prefer menthol or regular? I have both. Let's make the self-righteous, hyper-critical non-smokers miserable by enjoying a smoke together.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:31 PM

Its a reformed smoker thing, you wouldn't understand.

Thank goodness.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:31 PM

Call a spade a spade. Smoking is a stupid, dangerous foolish thing and those that do it are stupid and foolish. Dance around it all you want.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:32 PM

Not that I wouldn't comment, but I would choose my words carefully as I explain why that is wrong. Calling them stupid idiots for being drunk or smelly and gross for smoking would probably feel good, but I don't want my child to think that is acceptable behavior. Explaining to them why that is not a good idea, and that I don't approve of that behavior is much more constructive.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:36 PM

Marian - a voice of not only reason but wisdom yet again.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 6:36 PM

I imagine that you judge all people so harshly for a variety of things that you find "unacceptable" and that this will be something that will be passed on to your children. How does it feel to be raising the next generation of overly judgemental and domineering people who feel it is their right to make social decisions for entire populations without regard to the opinions or beliefs of others?"

This is a good example of the people today who cannot under any circumstances take a stand. No belief system except tolerance for anything. No ability to call a spade a spade. Pure relativism. I will raise my children to knOw right and wrong and not some slippery moral relativism based on handwringing self doubt.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:37 PM

6:31 - thank goodness you came! I prefer regular although its been soooo long, i'd take either! I'll light two, just to upset the judgers. I'm sure they never speed and always eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day, plus exercise 6 days a week for 30 mins. Lay off the smokers, we all have our vices.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:38 PM

Lighting up 2? You could stick one up each nostril, save the time of using your oral cavity.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:40 PM

"Lay off the smokers, we all have our vices."


Maybe, but our vices don't slowly kill people, make us chemically addicted, smell bad, pollute the environment,leave a haze behind and cling to other people's clothes.
How many times have you TRIED to quit but can't? 5,10, 20?

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:41 PM

You have not smoked until you have had a Picayune! A real cigarette.

Posted by: Fred | April 25, 2007 6:42 PM

pATRICK, I quit 7 years ago and would HATE if my kids smoked. But I think its terrible to act as if all smokers are bad people. Geeze, Barak Obama is currently quitting and I'm sure as a smoker he did more for other people than you ever have. Blowing virtual smoke your way!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:45 PM

Not a moral relativist, and agree that there is right and wrong, as defined by my religion, the law and my values. I also totally support your right to teach your children what you believe and imagine that we actually share quite a few of those beliefs as well.

What I don't support is you and your children juding me and my children for what we do and telling us that we are wrong. There are higher powers for that including the legal system under which we live.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:50 PM

"Geeze, Barak Obama is currently quitting and I'm sure as a smoker he did more for other people than you ever have. Blowing virtual smoke your way!"

Obama, please! Just a toy for the democratic party like Dean was until they nominate Hillary. Not bad people just addicted and foolish.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:51 PM

What do you tell your child when you see a clearly underage child smoking?

Posted by: To 6:50 | April 25, 2007 6:51 PM

6:31 - thank goodness you came! I prefer regular although its been soooo long, i'd take either! I'll light two, just to upset the judgers. I'm sure they never speed and always eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day, plus exercise 6 days a week for 30 mins. Lay off the smokers, we all have our vices.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 06:38 PM

6:38, I saved a bar stool for you. There's no need to huddle around the entrance trying to stay under an awning. These are 100s. *puff* . Would you like me to light them for you?

and pATRICK, I've never smoked. Smoking is no more a matter of morality than doing your sit-ups with a bent-knee rather than locking your knees straight. Some choices are healthier than others. There's no moral component to that.

*blowing a virtual smoke-ring your way* *giggles*

you're so cute when you get worked up like that *giggles*

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:52 PM

What do you tell your child when you see a clearly underage child smoking?

Posted by: To 6:50 | April 25, 2007 06:51 PM

Probably the same thing that you tell your child, that is wrong. Why? #1 It is illegal, and #2 it is unhealthy.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:53 PM

What do you tell your child when you see a clearly underage child smoking?

Posted by: To 6:50 | April 25, 2007 06:51 PM

that it is against the law in the same way that not wearing your bike helmet is against the law, not wearing your seat belt, or driving underage. What do you tell your child?

The law makes things pretty darn easy to explain. Is there some dilemma hidden behind Door Number 1?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:54 PM

What do you tell your child when you see a clearly underage child smoking?

Posted by: To 6:50 | April 25, 2007 06:51 PM

that it is against the law in the same way that not wearing your bike helmet is against the law, not wearing your seat belt, or driving underage. What do you tell your child?

The law makes things pretty darn easy to explain. Is there some dilemma hidden behind Door Number 1?"

How about that that child is making a stupid decision that will cause her harm, make her smell bad and makes her look stupid. That is the court of public opinion. Depends if you have the guts to take a stand or if you are petrified of being intolerant in any way.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 6:56 PM

6:52, I like you one of the few reasonable people here! Maybe we could scare up some of those Eve 120's (super long, super slim) cigarettes. Let's start drinking heavily, just to give them something else to judge us by - oh, oh, oh, then we'll get virtual tatoos!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:57 PM

There you go calling a child stupid, and thus advocating that your children can do that as well. That is what I don't tolerate, you had me up until that.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:58 PM

pATRICK - you seem pretty good a calling names, but I didn't see you list anything that you have done that might be equal to some of the good that Obama has brought? Laura Bush is another former smoker (one for both teams).

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:59 PM

If you think you will accomplish your most highly-prized goal of raising a non-smoker by ranting on and on to your children about how stupid and gross smoking is, you are only highlighting for your child that the best way to rebel against you is to smoke.

You might want to ratchet the hysteria down to a lower level if you don't want to end up with precisely the problem you seek to avoid. In the alternative, continue carrying on and you will firmly link smoking and rebellion in your teens' minds.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:59 PM

Smoking is no more a matter of morality than doing your sit-ups with a bent-knee rather than locking your knees straight. Some choices are healthier than others.

Any sit-up that doesn't injure you is better than none at all. Smoking has no benefit.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 6:59 PM

According to the Post's Reliable Post, Larua Bush evidently still does smoke.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 7:01 PM

I always laugh when I see smokers go out in sub freezing or rainy or snowy weather. Huddling out there, it's completely pathetic.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 7:03 PM

"Maybe we could scare up some of those Eve 120's..."

If you are going to smoke, do it for real, Camel, unfiltered.

Posted by: Fred | April 25, 2007 7:04 PM

Maybe we could scare up some of those Eve 120's..."

If you are going to smoke, do it for real, Camel, unfiltered. "

Did you order your oxygen bottle yet, they have some on Ebay I believe. rasp, cough, hack,spit. Lovely

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 7:06 PM

I think it's possible to enforce your family's rules without calling names. There's really a middle ground between finger-pointing judgmentalism and squishy tolerance of all behaviors.

Every parent has heard "But Suzy's mom let's HER [fill in the blank]." I've heard it on everything from bed time to candy consumption to the ability to own a Bratz doll. I tell DD that every family is entitled to have their own rules, and in her life, she will encounter families with rules both more strict and lenient than ours. That doesn't change the fact that she ultimately reports to us, her parents, and follows our rules. I've also talked to her about the importance of respecting the rules of the house you are visiting, especially when they are more strict than ours. This comes up mostly in the ability to transport food out of the kitchen, a practice we permit, but many families we know prohibit.

DD knows that her grandpa's choice to smoke is a bad one. She also knows that he started when he was 14, that attitudes about smoking were different then, and that quitting is really hard. She is worried about him and wants to talk to him about quitting. I've told her it's okay with me if she does this, but warned her not to expect too much. I tried it too at her age, and it obviously didn't work. Who knows, maybe a granddaughter's words will make a difference. I've also told her that, despite his bad choice, that her grandpa is a good man with a good heart who loves her very much.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | April 25, 2007 7:07 PM


There's nothing "former" about Laura Bush's smoking. They just try to hide it so voters like pATRICK don't turn away from the party.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 7:08 PM

pATRICK,

I don't smoke or drink coffee. But if I did, the coffee would be black and the cigs strong.

I don't do "mealy mouth" on my vices just as you don't do "mealy mouth" on your opinions.

Posted by: Fred | April 25, 2007 7:11 PM

"I don't do "mealy mouth" on my vices just as you don't do "mealy mouth" on your opinions."

See, I respect that. Take ownership,don't try to wiggle out of it with excuses or lame arguments. Good for you Fred.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 7:15 PM

6:52, I like you one of the few reasonable people here! Maybe we could scare up some of those Eve 120's (super long, super slim) cigarettes. Let's start drinking heavily, just to give them something else to judge us by - oh, oh, oh, then we'll get virtual tatoos!

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 06:57 PM

Fred, virtual Eve's taste much better than virtual unfiltered Camels.

6:57, I have a pack of Eve's right here. *click* *inhale* - here you are. Do you want an Old Chubb with that? or a chocolate martini? *puff* there's a virtual tattoo parlor a couple of blocks from here. *blowing smoke ring your way*

6:59, there is zero health benefit to staring out the window. so? Unwise health choices like consuming an excessive amount of sodium or smoking, for example, are not morally laden.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 7:15 PM

MN, you always make me laugh.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 7:17 PM

The thing that's nice about pATRICK is how he spouts all these ideas about Christ and proper living and yet, nearly every post is so nasty and antithetical to Christian teachings. I don't know much about Jesus, but I'd bet he was a whole lot nicer than Patrick

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 7:19 PM

Fred, Eve 120s make me feel 16 again when I thought they were very feminine, glamorous cigarettes with pretty pictures of flowers on the box.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 7:22 PM

Thank you, pATRICK. I try. A complement from you is a prized possession. I told someone a few weeks ago that I wasn't intending to be snarky and she found that insufficient assurance. Nonetheless, I'm not being snarky. Thank you.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 7:22 PM

The thing that's nice about pATRICK is how he spouts all these ideas about Christ and proper living and yet, nearly every post is so nasty and antithetical to Christian teachings. I don't know much about Jesus, but I'd bet he was a whole lot nicer than Patrick"

First off Jesus WAS a lot nicer than me, I am just a human being. Second this is a blog and involves the exchange of opinions. Being a Christian does not mean checking your preferences at the door.

Posted by: pATRICK | April 25, 2007 7:24 PM

That was a gracious response, pATRICK.


7:19, Without getting to the whole-pATRICK bashing portion of your message, the Jesus of the New Testament was no doormat. He threw those engaged in commercial activities out of the Temple and had precious little problem telling people the error of their ways. I have no idea what his comment would be about today's variety of topics, but it would be direct and clear.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 7:32 PM

"Being a Christian does not mean checking your preferences at the door."

pATRICK, I agree with this, but you've got to know that most people don't respond to bullying and name-calling. It embarrasses most Christians and turns-off the non-Christians. That can't be your intent.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 7:36 PM

*exhale*

there's nothing as satisfying as a virtual smoke after a long day on the blog.

*flicks the ash* *puff*

Last call's not for hours. want to shoot some pool?

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | April 25, 2007 7:37 PM

Fred, Eve 120s make me feel 16 again when I thought they were very feminine, glamorous cigarettes with pretty pictures of flowers on the box.

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 07:22 PM


The tobacco company advertising sure suckered you in.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 8:02 PM

Who's to fault someone else's trigger for feeling 16 again?

For you, maybe it's your Members Only jacket. We will keep our snide comments about it to ourselves.

Posted by: to 8:02 | April 25, 2007 8:20 PM

I thought it was using Dippity Doo that made him/her feel 16 again!

Posted by: Fred | April 25, 2007 8:39 PM

Obviously this is my fault because I have been posting anonymously and at least one anonymous poster was expressing similar sentiments at the same time (and then I had to go for several hours), but I would like to clarify what I wanted to say (which is not quite the same thing the other poster seemed to say).

I do think smoking is a pretty self-destructive thing, but that is not what I object to (although I could go on for a while about what it is like to watch my mother gasp for air, get an oxygen treatment, then reach for a cigarette.) What I object to is the fact that some smokers refuse to recognize that they are harming others, particularly their children. I assume they would not give their 2-yr-old a cigarette, yet they feel no qualms about smoking in the car/house with her in it.

As I said earlier, I have never even tried a cigarette, yet I will forever bear in my lungs the marks of my mother's smoking during my childhood.

As a smoker's child, I ask the smoker parents to stop doing this to their children. That's all.

Posted by: 40-yr-old 2nd hand smoker | April 25, 2007 10:15 PM

Some Parents Refuse to Acknowledge that The Following Behaviors May Harm Their Children:

Failing to properly install car seats;

Permitting a child under 8 to ride an all-terrain vehicle;

Failing to instruct their kids about dsiclosing personally identifiable information to strangers met on the Net;

Smoking while pregnant, or while in a confined space with a child;

Failing to obtain pre-natal care;

Getting into the car of a stranger; and

Failing to warn their kids about the risks associated with engaging in unprotected sex.

The world is full of good and bad things. Smoking is but one of the bad ones. Stopping it is important. Not stopping there in our efforts to keep our children from easily preventable harms is critical.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 10:33 PM

Late post here. I'm a boomer who grew up at a time when it was pretty much expected that you would smoke in adulthood. This was also when SAH was predominant female lifestyle and parenting style was benign neglect rather than helicopter.

I smoked, and quit. Unless you have been a smoker, you have no idea how hard it is. Now that society has pretty much decided that smoking is unacceptable, it is easy to say "just don't start" and a little harder to understand why people still smoke.

Since I quit and have gotten older, I have gained wait. So, those of you who can't deride for smoking will now deride me for being obese. Wake up people. We are human and we are imperfect. Show some tolerance in the way we treat people. You can hate the behavior, but not the person. Saying that smokers and overweight people are stupid losers is just nonsense.

Many here want others to stop smoking because of the second-hand effects of smoking. This is understandable. But how many of you would give up your cars and either use public transportation or bicycles exclusively because of the effects of auto emissions on others? How many of you here have spoken of awful commutes and traffic? You don't like people saying to move closer to work or away from the DC area, but all that traffic is affecting the air I breathe. We don't live in plastic bubbles, and our actions do affect others. Before condemning someone whose actions may affect you, remember that your choices also affect others, even if you aren't aware of it.

As far as the "poor" health of the boomers, smoking may play a part. But so does the number of women in the workforce. Although women have always worked, the increase of working women has been through the boomer generation. When women and men both work, it is much harder to eat healthy due to the reduced time for shopping for fresh and cooking from scratch. Thus, there has been more convenience eating, whether at fast food places or from your own freezer. For many boomers who work at a desk, there are greatly reduced exercise levels.

The health of the boomers may have been affected by their parents' smoking, but it is not the only factor.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 25, 2007 11:10 PM

Last?

Posted by: Fo3 | April 26, 2007 7:25 AM

F03-almost last...no blog entry yet this morning!

Posted by: dotted | April 26, 2007 8:13 AM

When women and men both work, it is much harder to eat healthy due to the reduced time for shopping for fresh and cooking from scratch.

Psst...the secret is...a crockpot!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 26, 2007 8:39 AM

I'm partial to the pressure cooker myself. The crock pot requires you to be prepared in advance, and a lot of recipes have to cook for less time than I am away from the house. I leave at 7:15 and we don't eat until 6 or 6:30. So can I turn it on at 7am and turn it off when I get home at 4:30 or 5 and then wait to eat until 6? I remember when I was a kid my mom or dad would get something ready and I was to turn the cp on before I went to school. More than once I forgot.

The pressure cooker allows you to make things quickly once you get home. You don't have to be organized in the morning and get up in time to get things ready. You don't have to remember to turn the crockpot on before leaving. But I would like to begin using my crockpot for some meals. Ideas?

Posted by: the other secret | April 26, 2007 9:25 AM

Posted by: | April 25, 2007 11:10 PM

*stands up* *claps furiously*

Posted by: Anonymous | April 26, 2007 10:48 AM

My son's preschool is having a field trip to a park on Monday that is within walking distance of the school. But they "can't" walk, the teacher said, because they did that one year and the parents complained mightily, fearing for the kids' safety along a busy street despite the fact that it has sidewalks. It's this kind of hysteria and overprotectiveness that is contributing to the obesity epidemic among children, among other ills.

Posted by: Bethesda | April 26, 2007 11:47 AM

Great topic today. We are planning to relocated to MD next year. Any suggestions for a affordable family friendly neighborhood? We were contemplating Rockville, Gaithersburg, or Columbia.

Posted by: California | April 26, 2007 12:29 PM

Columbia/ellicott City voted 4th best place to live
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2006/

Howard County website is http://www.co.ho.md.us/

Howard county school website is http://www.hcpss.org/

Posted by: to California | April 26, 2007 1:21 PM

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