Archives For I’m a Mama

Sax Maniac

June 4, 2015 — 93 Comments

sax

 

I attended Little Dude’s 5th grade band concert yesterday and it might have been the most brutal thing I’ve ever been forced to listen to.

Parents were falling all over themselves to video this debacle. I must be missing some maternal sensitivity chip because I don’t want a shred of evidence of this Cacophony of Horror.

Little Dude plays the sax, and I use the word “plays” lightly.

He’s dreadful. It’s like “Root Canal: The Musical.” I’ve heard him sing, and I thought he had a little bit of a musical ear, but that might be wishful thinking because I come from a musical family. Also, vodka.

 

Like the pushy Tiger Mom that I am, I drill music into my kid’s head. I want to make sure that he’s at least exposed to some of what I consider to be “the greats” before he rejects it for trendy, soulless dub step.

When we listen to music in the car,  I’m the Most Annoying Parent ever. I’m trying to train his ear. I pull apart the sounds, and have him zero in on certain instruments. As far as I’m concerned, it’s part of his education to fully appreciate the majestic guitar solo at the end of “Hotel California“.

When he was picking an instrument for band, I steered him towards sax. A few weeks ago, we were listening to Lenny Kravitz in the car. Little Dude actually stopped yammering about Minecraft during one of his electrifying sax solos. Afterwards he said, “THAT’S why you want me to learn sax, isn’t it?

YES.

YES IT IS.

 

Fast forward to the reality.

When I nag my kid to practice, it sounds like Mothra devoured a rural town and is now shitting farm equipment.

Apparently, every kid who plays an instrument in the fifth grade refuses to practice because the sum of them was a horrific violation of sound laws. If there aren’t sound laws, there should be ones that prevent this kind of tuneless caterwauling.

This sounded less like music and more like the agonizing screams of a kitten who accidentally climbed into the radiator fan of your car and was woken up when you turned in the ignition.

I should have prefaced this post by telling you that I have hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to everyday sounds. It’s a bit of a generalized assessment of my condition, because I particularly have a hard time tolerating tinny or static-y music, off-key singing…

Wow. Maybe I’m just a bitch.

But I also have very pronounced misophonia, which is totally legitimate. It’s an acute reaction to certain low volume sounds and it’s REAL.

The slurping chomping smacking crunching sounds people make when they eat drive me into a blind rage. I have to leave the room when my kid eats cereal or a ceramic bowl will become a lethal weapon.

 

So, this concert was the equivalent of slow torture. Not just “synth intro to Van Halen’s Jump” annoying. More like the “agonizing sounds of a conscious man getting his head sawed off” horrific. (Stay away from 4chan. You’ve been warned.)

The concert was worse than the cries of a thousand tormented souls. It was worse than the  SSSSKKKKKKKRRRRRRSSSHSHSHCKCKCKKKBRKACKGRAZNCKIRGUSHTERBOFPK of a car accident.

You know how people choose to vacation in the Middle East because it’s cheap and accidentally end up near an active war zone? That’s what this concert sounded like.

 

I had all but decided that music is just not my kid’s thing. But yesterday in the car, we were listening again to Lenny Kravitz. I asked Little Dude, “Can you hear the influence of the Beatles in Lenny Kravitz’s music?”

He said he did. I persisted. Irritating my kid when he’s trapped in the car is one of my favorite pastimes.

“Please doesn’t just say yes to shut me up. Do you really hear it? Where?”

He listened for a while. And then “I Build This Garden” came on.

“There Mama, right there. This song is very Beatle-ish, like ‘Eleanor Rigby’.”

Damn if he wasn’t right on the money. The song contains driving rock guitar riffs blended with orchestral strings, in a total Beatles sonic tribute.

 

This was music to my ears.

I’m going to invest in private lessons. And some really good quality ear plugs.

 

Do you ever force feed your kid stuff, especially if it’s something you love?
Did you come from a musical family? Do you think music is important to kids’ development?
Do you have an aversion to certain sounds?
Do I just bug the crap out of my kid?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

grannygixxer_zpsde025d46

 

At 3 am on a Saturday night I drunkenly crept behind the front desk of a hotel in Nashville so I could steal the key to the swimming pool.

The desk clerk, after answering a call about drunken revelry on the 5th floor, had left the front desk to investigate.

This was a distraction created, in fact, by MY friends. I was partying with a rock band and their entourage. Despite the 40 degree weather, several people decided that it would be fun to go swimming.

That was after the bicycle riding up and down hallways, rampant running through the hotel, whipped cream fights, clandestine couplings in darkened hallway corners, smashed furniture, hours of impromptu jamming, wickedly incriminating photos posted on Facebook, and all manner of depravity one would have with a crazy-ass rock band in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

REWIND

Saturday afternoon we started bar hopping on Printer’s Alley, an area renowned for its excessive alcoholic roguery. Nashville has as many drunken people as New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and not for any particular reason. It’s not Mardi Gras, or foie gras, or any-gras. It’s Tues-gras. So turn up, motherfuckers!

I was drunk by 1:00 in the afternoon, and I don’t drink.

That’s the kind of thing that happens when I party with C, my best friend, former college roommate and card-carrying wild child.

She’s been trouble since freshman year of college, when I tried to match her, drink for drink, one wintry night first semester. Seventeen cocktails later, I landed in the emergency room getting my stomach pumped.

She loves to tell  story. She told it several times in Nashville, to just about anyone who would listen.

She had her domestic time. That was while I was running around New York city, doing drugs and guitar players. But we’ve switched places, and now she’s a divorced empty nester. For the last few years, the hellraiser has been back to her old shenanigans.

She’s involved with a huge network of people who live and die for music, and travel the country to obscure 3-day festivals. I’ve seen some great shows with them locally. But I’ve resisted these 3-day, Bacchanalian festivals because I can’t drink like her. I also have a young child at home. 

Some of her friends were planning a trip to Nashville Valentine’s weekend to see Lydia Loveless play. Three days before the trip, I decided to go.

I’m still not sure why.

I’ll have to explore that with my therapist.

 

FAST FORWARD

 

Saturday night, already butt-toast blotto, we headed to The Mercy to see Lydia Loveless and her band. Lydia is a 24-year-old towering inferno of smoldering sexuality and “go fuck yourself.” Punk fueled, country rock driven, she’s the love child of Joan Jett and Johnny Cash.

She fucking ROCKED. She has an unbelievable stage presence and a powerful gritty voice that dances on your spine.

After the show, 15 of us, including the band, went back to the hotel. We partied until Bloody Mary time at 8 am. By 9 am the room looked like a battle field of depraved fallen soldiers, and C and I somehow got back to our own hotel.

 

We were scheduled to leave Nashville 5 am Monday morning. And then, it snowed. And it doesn’t snow in Nashville.

They are simply not equipped to handle the amount of snow and ice they received. The city was paralyzed. Airports shut down. HIghways shut down. Power shut down.

Our flights were cancelled. We rebooked them and set off in search of food. Our hotel was depleted of supplies since no deliveries were able to get in.

We ended up trudging through the ice and snow to a Holiday Inn two hotels away, where we parked our asses at the bar with all the other snowed in people.  As one of the few functioning establishments, the bar got mobbed.

Frustrated with being trapped in Nashville, everyone at the bar proceeded to get schnockered sideways, except me. Three days of drinking, and I’d had enough. I  was also the designated driver of this experience. C was fast becoming ridiculously inebriated as all the men at the bar tried to ply us with alcohol. She was having a grand old time.

I was not.

I missed my kid.

Little Dude lives with me full-time. I was not mentally prepared to be away from him more than a weekend. It took me completely by surprise to miss him that fiercely, when he generally annoys the fuck out of me.

The next couple of days turned into a nightmare of flights repeatedly booked and cancelled; highways shut down, no taxi service locally to get anywhere.

Tuesday afternoon we were hungry enough to trudge a mile and a half on the icy highway in high heeled boots to a Waffle House. We were warned by the hotel clerk that there were no sidewalks, just road.

I imagined the headlines:
Two Women In Search of Waffles Killed by 4×4 in Nashville”

By Wednesday, I was LOSING it. My kid was upset when I didn’t return on Monday morning as promised. Now he had seen on the news about the state of emergency in Tennessee and was really worried.

He is also an ADHD kid who goes askew when his routines are strongly disrupted.

On Wednesday morning the Ex reminded me that testing for the middle school gifted program began on Thursday. Now my kid was really melting down that I wouldn’t be there for the testing.

GUILT

He would not perform well on the test; not get into a highly coveted program he had talked about excitedly for months – all because I had to go to Nashville to party with a band.

I became part gladiator, part heat-seeking missile. I called my airline and demanded to speak to supervisors. I begged, pleaded, demanded-

JUST GET ME ON ANY AIRLINE, TO ANY AIRPORT, IN THE GODDAMNED MOTHERFUCKING TRI-STATE AREA. 

It worked.

I got booked on a flight that night scheduled to arrive at midnight.

At 2 am Thursday morning, I crept into my son’s room and just looked at him. I brushed his little sleep-flushed cheek and noticed again how his long, long eyelashes look like tiny butterfly wings.

 

Through adulthood I’ve held fast onto my identity as a quasi-Patti Smith who “lives outside society,” an identity that I altered but still maintained through motherhood.

But there are consequences to partying like a rock star when children are involved.

I would love to tell you that I am both devoted mother and wild child rock ‘n roller, and that I have successfully straddled the complex duality of this existence – but that would be a LIE.

I’m a MOM. It is my defining characteristic.

I’m my son’s only mother, and if I don’t get this right, I’ve accomplished nothing.

It doesn’t mean that my soul isn’t full of restless yearning; that the colorless mundane of suburbia doesn’t leave me unfulfilled in many ways.

I love my child more than life itself, but I’m too young to be buried alive in the suburbs.

I’m in limbo. Not fit for either the life I once lived, or the one I live now.

My son is 11. I have 7 years to give him the life he is entitled to. I will prepare him to be strong and independent, so when he leaves the nest, Mama can go back out into the world.

My story will not end here, in the drab suburban wasteland of New Jersey.

I’m looking forward to being a jacked up, wayward old cougar. And I will be grateful to have raised a responsible, mature son – who can bail me out of jail.

Just in case.

-broken-broken-heart-26794018-299-300

 

 

Do you hear that?

Come closer.

That’s the sound of my heart breaking.

 

My son has always loved the ocean. His eyes match the sea, changing from blue to green with the swell of the tide. My love for him is an ocean, an overwhelming force which is sometimes calm and steady, and other times full of conflict.

A mother’s love is like the continuous miracle of the sea. It begins in the ocean of your womb – but there is something unsettling about the way your baby kicks. So fiercely you feel bruised on the inside. There is something willful and stubborn about his refusal to come out. He arrives weeks late, and even then – after almost 40 hours of labor.

Your baby is overwhelming and mysterious and brutal, like the ocean. He screams uncontrollably for hours a day, every day. And you bring him to one specialist after another, to be told it’s “colic.” You are advised that only a “tincture of time” will help.

 

Your toddler doesn’t hit milestones, and the pediatrician advises you to seek help. And they unravel the mystery of why your little one tantrums constantly, tears at his clothes, screams at the sound of the blender.

He has “Sensory Processing Disorder” – and you begin your quest to understand the crossed wires of his central nervous system.

You spend your days helping him to make sense of, and feel safer in, his world.

Brushing his body, joint compression exercises, assuaging his need to sink his teeth into everything by giving him chewy tubes, letting him roll on a huge ball, and crash into a mountain of supersized pillows, and jump endlessly on a small trampoline.

 

And at 3, he is now diagnosed with ADHD. And the doctors offer you their prescription pads. And you refuse. How could a 3 year-old articulate to you if medicine was making him uncomfortable?

 

And so consumed are you with his needs, so absolutely drained, that he is 4 years old and you realize another child is out of the question.

You live with that guilt forever.

 

 

A few years go by, and the ocean of his psyche ebbs and flows, in ways you can’t predict or explain; sometimes smooth and peaceful, but often tumultuous, and uncontrollable.

Your child fidgets incessantly. Talks constantly. Makes loud, disturbing noises. Climbs, jumps and crashes constantly. Sucks on clothing, fingers, crayons, anything.

The sun “hurts his head.” If he gets any part of his clothing wet, even slightly, he cries.

He seems to have no body awareness, no sense of spatial relations to other kids. Crashes into other children constantly.

And when playing, gets excited to the point of biting. Never out of aggression, but biting makes him the pariah of playground. You mourn that this gorgeous human being is being sabotaged by some internal trigger switch.

 

You research and find the best pediatric neurological clinic on the East coast, and get on a year-long waiting list.

 

And at 5, after a week of evaluations, it is confirmed. ADHD, Hyperactivity-Impulsive type. In addition to Sensory Processing Disorder. And they offer up their prescription pads, and once again – you say, “No.” So fearful are you of altering his brain chemistry.

Because he is, undeniably BRILLIANT. Creative. Funny. And you are afraid that medication will dull that brilliance. He is the ocean, untamed and magnificent, sometimes raging and destructive.

He is your fierce little warrior. And you are determined to help him flourish, despite his lettered labels.

Another quest begins.

 

Martial arts. Supplements. Structure. Lots of sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy. Classification. Hellishly difficult diets.

You buy $10 socks for your child. Because he needs “sensitivity socks,” entirely seamless – and even then, an invisible piece of lint will send him into tears.

You spend each morning in an exhausting battle to dress him in clothes he can tolerate – because he cannot wear jeans, or buttons or zippers, or elastic around the sleeves. And no shoes ever feel right.

He can still feel the ghost of the tag you cut off of his shirt, the way an amputee still feels the ghost of a severed limb.

By the time he is dressed and on his way to school, you feel totally defeated.

At 8 am in the morning.

 

You advocate for him tirelessly, through classification and declassification and IEPs and 504s.

The years pass, and some new challenges emerge. When your marriage crumbles, and you are left on your own to deal with this beautiful child, you realize,

YOU CANNOT.

You are so depleted just surviving, you no longer have the energy to deal with his needs – which have grown so pronounced.

The hour of homework, which takes four. Sending him upstairs to shower, only to find him unshowered an hour later, lost in an imaginary world.

The morning dressing battles. His lack of spatial awareness, the constant clumsiness and touching and fidgeting and noises. His lack of social cue awareness, his inflexibility, his fixations.

 

YOU GIVE UP.

You hear yourself tell your friend, “I can’t raise him.

Why can’t he just be normal?”

YES. YOU SAID IT.

Not caring if she or anyone else judges you. For no one could possibly judge you as harshly as you judge yourself.

 

And now, his therapist says, “We must have him evaluated again. I’m fairly certain he has…”

You say it with her.

“ASPERGER’S.”

Because you knew.

 

And you’re drowning now, in an ocean of pain and despair. Unable to face yet another quest to unlock the mystery of this latest diagnosis.

Wondering how you can afford thousands of dollars of tests your insurance doesn’t cover; how you both will survive the nightmare trial and error of endless treatments.

How can you possibly keep him afloat, when you are sinking fast to the bottom of the briny deep?

You look up furiously and demand that God explain why he did this, when all you’ve ever wanted for your child was for him to have a better childhood than yours.

 

And then, you spend the perfect Saturday together. And you are reminded of his brilliance. His humor. You laugh together, all day.

That evening, you both snuggle on the couch. While you write this, his story, he reads.

Every so often, and for no reason at all, he looks up over his enormous library hard copy of War And Peace, just to say,

“I love you, mom. So much.”

 

You may be drowning, but he is not. With his beautiful spirit, endless compassion, soulful heart, keen wit – he is simply adrift.

And you will fight for him, as always. You will figure this out.

Yes. The turbulent waves of your uncertainty sometimes rock with indomitable fury, pushing away, only to crash and break, but he is the shore that grounds you. Your love for him is like the ocean; endless, chaotic, fickle, and profoundly deep.

And there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean always returns to embrace the shore.

 

 

Do you have a special needs child? Or know of one?

As a parent, do you sometimes feel like you just can’t go on?
Talk to me. I’m listening.

 

This version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow is sublime.
This is not the official video, but it’s our favorite. Filled with the images of beautiful children.

Back off, PTO Whore!

October 14, 2014 — 144 Comments

anger-management

 

PTO moms are the real Mean Girls at school.

They’re Martha Stewart on steroids, this impenetrable clique of powerhouses who raise volunteering to an art form. They are the only women you know who own Kwanza-themed salt and pepper shakers, believe all parents enjoy forced crafts participation, and think nothing of bullying the principal into putting their kids in the “right” class.

Don’t let their fake laser-whitened smiles fool you. At Little Dude’s school, the PTO is like Orange is the New Black, rife with vicious power struggles, desperate alliances and forced socialization with horrible people – without any of the lesby girl-on-girl shower action.

They’re relentless and unwavering in a never-ending quest to raise money for EVERYTHING. These bitches will shake you DOWN. Back to School Night is like an open air market in Jakarta.

 

I’ve been volunteering at Little Dude’s school for the entire time he’s been there – and he’s now in the FIFTH grade. And these women still barely acknowledge me.

It’s not as if I run a crack den or a phone sex room. They just only care to interact with whomever has been granted the exalted status of PTO “Inner Circle” – a dubious distinction at best.

How these women manage to be so perfectly coiffed at 9 am is a mystery to me. Even more so is why. And they always look so vibrant, to match their strained and obligatory cheerfulness. Never mind that they’re so medicated they wouldn’t flinch if they were fucked up the ass with a pointy dildo.

But even if I didn’t resemble a pale Goth hobo, I would still have been denied access to their Inner Circle. Because I’m the mom who breaks the rules.

Yep. If Little Dude forgets his lunch and I have to run back to the school, I’ve been known to actually park in the fire lane right in front of the school – cause I’m gangsta like that.

 

OF course, I should add that I don’t attend PTO meetings. They’re painful in a menstrual cramp sort of way; a long, slow, dull ache that lasts hours. A brood of hens clacking over inane minutiae. You could fill an entire ROOM with the fucks I don’t give about whether or not they should offer gluten-free tampons in the lady’s room.

With the Ex out of the picture, he who functioned as a stay-at-home dad, I’m doing two full-time jobs running my business and my home. I’m so busy the last time I actually took a leisurely crap I had to stretch afterwards.

But my kid likes me to participate in school activities, so I continue to do so.

 

One day last summer, when I was really hungover from drinking at a club all night tired, I accidentally agreed to oversee Little Dude’s biggest school event.

Trunk or Treat.

A zillion parents decorate their cars for Halloween and park them in the school parking lot. All the kiddos go from car to car, collecting candy.

There’s also a bake sale, a dance party, carnival games, pumpkin carving, a costume parade and contest, etc etc etc ad infinitum.

 

Every year, I run the Trunk or Treat bake sale. Despite my best efforts, It’s a giant cluster of fuck to the point of being comical. Last year, we actually ran out of baked goods halfway through the night. At a bake sale.

My sterling moment that evening? When I burst out, “Little BITCH!” at an angelic kindergartener dressed as Cinderella who dropped an entire plate of the precious few cupcakes we had – on the floor. I thought I only said it in my mind, but apparently, I said it out loud.

Last year was the most disorganized year ever. Little Dude and his friends came around 7:30 for an event that was supposed to go from 6-9.

Nothing was left. Nary a cupcake. No candy to be distributed. All the crafts had been used up. It was a catastrophe, as far as he and his buds were concerned.

 

This summer, while talking about Halloween (yes, we talk about Halloween in the summer. We talk about it ALL YEAR LONG because it is my kid’s favorite holiday) he said, “Mama, do you think you could run Trunk or Treat? I know it would get done right if YOU did it.”

And, in a moment of weakness, I agreed to run the entire event. I knew I was signing my own death warrant.

It’s been an anathema dealing with these women. Trunk or Treat is next Friday, and I have been slaving tirelessly for a month. My emails get ignored; the head honchos pretend I don’t exist or at best, give me a half-hearted wave when they see me at school. No one seems the slightest bit grateful that I’m running myself ragged to execute the biggest event of the year.

The final straw came when one of the inner circle moms, a succubus In clogs, gave me the stinkeye after I mentioned that I plan to decorate the tops of my cupcakes with little knives sticking out of the top, dripping blood.

“Really?” she asked, her voice thick with skepticism.

“Yes. They’re awesome,” I answered. Perhaps a tad defensively.

“Are you sure that’s age appropriate for some of the younger kids?” she challenged.

“I make them every year. They sell out immediately.”

She went off on a tangent about the younger kids, in a brutally nasal whine, and I *think* I actually heard her complaining about high fructose corn syrup in the icing. She just continued her tirade against my innocent bloody cupcakes until I SNAPPED.

 

I grabbed her by the bleached blonde hair on her head and the little tuft of hair on her pussy and flung her RIGHT THROUGH A PLATE GLASS WINDOW.

 

Okay. I really didn’t. But I SO wanted to. It was a delightful fantasy.

 

Why are these women so imperious, self righteous and dictatorial?

My theory is that when people donate this much of their time to an organization and aren’t getting paid, they feel entitled to high-handedly order the rest of us peons around.

Also, judging from their tendencies to be micromanaging, back stabbing and drunk on imaginary power, they probably gave up corporate careers to be stay-at-home moms. Now that they’ve put permanent muzzles on their ambitions, being overbearing PTA moms is their only outlet.

Bottom line? I’m only too glad to let these women have at it. I’m not about to devote my entire waking existence to running school events.

I’m just there to sell some inappropriately decorated cupcakes

 

My cupcakes bring all the boys to the yard.

My cupcakes bring all the boys to the yard.

 

 

Have you ever been tortured by the PTO moms? Does it make you not want to volunteer?
What do you think of these cupcakes?
Talk to me. I’m listening.

Untitled

 

Little Dude is a “walker,” which means he does not require bus transportation to school. His school is, in fact, at the end of my block. Six houses away. 270 steps from the end of my driveway.

I know this because the other day I counted them.

There’s a thin strip of street to cross, which is fervently policed by Gayle, the cheerful blonde Crossing Guard. I live on a quiet, tree-lined block. The only traffic, outside of school arrival and dismissal, is the occasional car belonging to someone who lives in my development.

I’ve walked my kid to and from school every day since kindergarten. Last fall, as he was entering the 4th grade, he begged for the opportunity to walk the 1000 feet himself.

I was torn. In theory, it seemed very safe. In fact, I could stand and observe him walk to the end of the block until he was under the watchful eye of cheery Gayle. It’s probably a 4 minute walk. What could possible go wrong?

Apparently, everything. I have a Facebook page for my civilian, non-blogging friends and family who actually don’t know I even have a blog. I posted. asking for opinions. More than 50 very adamant people weighed in. All but one were convinced that letting my child walk to the end of the block was a potentially life threatening decision, akin to child abuse. Because even in that short span of both time and place, anything could happen.

I decided against letting him walk alone to school. Full disclosure: it wasn’t because all these dogged opinions persuaded me that it was unsafe to do so.

It was because I didn’t want to be judged by the other parents.

I didn’t want to be “that” mom; the one who doesn’t take care of her son correctly. I didn’t want to impact my son’s social life. People where I live are shallow. They’ve just barely learned to accept the fact that I refuse to wear the local suburban mom uniform: Juicy sweat suit, large Louis Vuitton bag, Tory Burch shoes.
(I’m lying about the Tory Burch shoes. I have a shoe addiction so that doesn’t count)

I was afraid I’d be judged as “the mother who doesn’t care if her kid gets kidnapped.” So everyday, I walked him.

After all, (clamored the cacophony of voices on my Facebook page) things are so different today.

When I was a kid, I walked to school everyday, starting in kindergarten. I survived. Well, I got my ass kicked a lot of days. But that was because I grew up an outcast in a predominately black housing project. No kidnapping was involved.

As kids we played outside all day, with no adult supervision. I rode my bike to the library. On summer nights all the kids were outside after dinner until dark, with nary a grownup in sight. You came home when the street lights came on. Or if your mama called for you.

Occasionally, if you heard gunshots.

I’m just keeping it real. It was a nasty, crime-infested housing project.

In 2008, A New York City journalist and mother of 2 named Leonore Skenazy made the controversial decision to allow her 9-year-old to take the subway home from school alone. He begged to, and she felt he was ready to handle the experience. Lenore Skenazy is an Ivy League-educated journalist who has written for several prominent newspapers. I would assume she’s an intelligent person, capable of making a well-informed decision.

She published an article about it and the backlash was intense. It became national news overnight, eventually receiving worldwide coverage. She was verbally annihilated for risking her child’s life. Editorially drawn and quartered for child abuse. Dubbed the “world’s worst mom.”

Was she? She researched statistics to support what she felt was a reasonable and informed decision.

And I agree with her.

I wholeheartedly believe that what has changed most is not the increased risk of kidnapping, but our own psyches. I believe we are a fear based culture. A fear based world, actually, fearful beyond the scope of child rearing. Global fear is the undercarriage of racism, war, homophobia and intolerance of all kinds.

I believe we learn fear. I believe some parents blanket themselves in fear as a cushion of superiority; an indication as to who’s the most careful parent, because being stifling and overbearing is mistaken for valid concern. Fear-based über parenting is the barometer by which we measure the quality of our child rearing.  I also believe that we are inundated with gruesome stories of child abductions and murders which dominate he media, thus blowing out of proportion the real facts around these crimes.

 

I subscribe to the method of parenting whose name Skenazy coined in response to the overwhelming uproar of censure she received. Free range parenting was developed by Skenazy as the antithesis to helicopter parenting.

Helicopter parenting is – well, picture a helicopter hovering a few feet above you, blades rotating furiously. Think about the parents you know who do every little thing for their kids. Helicopter parenting is not just about being “hyper present;” it’s about the wrong kind of presence.

Some parents are like that because they’re neurotic and refuse to allow their children to learn and grow.  And sadly, some women are like that because they feel guilty about the choice they made – a very valid one- to work inside the home as stay at home caregiver. To justify their choice, they perform Herculean acts of parenting so the world understands just how imperative it is that they be home. Little Johnny would die if the crusts weren’t cut off his sandwich. The next thing you know, little Johnny is in college and his mom is calling his professors when he gets a bad grade.

Richard Mullendore, professor at the University of Georgia has an interesting theory regarding the manifestation of helicopter parenting. He blames it on the pervasiveness of cell phones – which he refers to as “the world’s longest umbilical cord.”

Antipodal to helicopter parenting, free range parenting is empowering your child towards independence and allowing them to make mistakes. It’s evaluating the perceived danger of a situation logically and making decisions based on facts. It’s rendering kids susceptible to the lumps and bumps of childhood and raising kids who walk around smart, not scared.

 

With regards to allowing your child to play outside unsupervised, walk to school, etc, what are the facts? Lenore Skenazy referenced statistics she obtained from the Department of Justice.

1. U.S. violent crime rates have plummeted almost 50% since they peaked in 1992.

2. Of all children under age 5 murdered from 1976-2005:

31% were killed by fathers
29% were killed by mothers
23% were killed by male acquaintances
7% were killed by other relatives
3% were killed by strangers

3. Number of children killed each year by family members and acquaintances: About 1000
Number of children abducted in “stereotypical kidnappings” (kidnapped by a stranger for ransom or for sexual purposes and/or transported away) in 1999, the most recent year for which we have statistics: 115.
Number of those children killed by their abductor: About 50.

Murders of children by abductors constitute less than one half of 1% of all murders in America.

Crime rates, in fact, are down. It is only our perception of crime – a fear based perception – that is up.

Interestingly enough, 200,000 kids under 14 are injured every year in car accidents. Doesn’t stop parents from piling 6 of them in a minivan for soccer practice.

I do not want my child unsafe. Nor do I want to make light of the horrific things that can happen to children, to anyone. The instinct to protect our children is biological. I personally morph into scary Mama Bear if I think Little Dude is in any kind of danger.

But I do not want my child growing up fearful. I’ll not have him live a life borne out of the constant onslaught of horror stories brought on by the media – stories whose purpose I question. Are they to inform? Or to quench our appetite for the macabre and disturbing; to confirm that our children are in danger the moment we take them out of the bubble wrap?

 

This year, I did not succumb to societal pressure, nor an anticipated trickle down backlash against my son. Little Dude walks himself to and from school everyday. And no- I do not stand at the door, watching him walk. I kiss him goodbye and sit at my kitchen table, coffee in hand, and take that great leap of faith.

In his book Protecting the Gift, child-safety expert Gavin De Becker explains that compared to a stranger kidnapping, “a child is vastly more likely to have a heart attack, and child heart attacks are so rare that most parents (correctly) never even consider the risk.”

So let all the other mothers in the neighborhood judge me. Maybe they ought to think about that heart attack statistic, and take the artery clogging Ho Hos and potato chips out of their kids lunches, and mind their own damn business.

Would you let your child walk to school alone, or play outside unsupervised? What do you think of what Lenore Skenazy did? Is the world really that much more dangerous than in was when we were growing up?
Talk to me.    I’m listening.