The soccer dad, dressed in cream-colored fleece and green pants, eerily blending in with the soccer nets and the field as he stands there like a fixture all Saturday and half of Sunday; The friend emailing with gaze fixed at the computer outputting an update to her friends: “We have hockey three times a week, dance class, violin, and karate…”, with hardly a mention of herself at all (except to tell you that she's upped her dosage of Prozac); The mom, who suddenly short-circuits when after dropping her son off at school he asks her to drive back with a different sandwich for his lunch and yells, "This is what I’ve become?! My kid’s employee?!...

Meet the Automamoms and the Daddroids.

The six-year-olds staring into their i -Phones with masked, not mischievous faces; the kid coming home from a full day of planned activities with two hours left before bedtime who asks, "What are we going to do when we get home?"; the fifteen-year-old cheating on his test because if he doesn’t get the highest score in the class he feels he’s worthless…

Meet the Botkids.

Welcome to Robotic Parenting. Had enough?

With our quest to be perfect parents, we have reduced ourselves to mere machines. We have renounced our own goals, dreams, and needs, for the sole function of raising the perfect child. With the quest to raise the perfect child, we have reduced our children to robots. We have programmed our children simply to perform, while neglecting the development of their inner selves: their imagination, compassion, self-awareness, motivation, creativity…

We are the Automamoms and the Daddroids. It’s nice to meet you. Don’t ask us about ourselves because we really can’t answer – we have lost our identities. Ask us our names and we will pause only long enough to tell you, “I’m Jane’s mom…” and, “I’m Justin’s dad…”

Meet our Robokids. Please note that they won’t care about meeting you unless you talk about them. Ask them their names and anything else that concerns them, and they will tell you. Then they will be silent. Perhaps waiting for instruction.

In our impossible quest to be perfect parents, we have lost our selves as people. And we are destroying all that makes us – and our children – human.

The good news is parenting is a behavior and behavior can be changed.

This is your wakeup call. Hello? Are you in there? Life is calling…

The Ten Steps for going from humanoid parent back to human being

  • 1. Put yourself first (at least sometimes).
  • 2. Keep the family together.
  • 3. Don't be your child's friend.
  • 4. Get disorganized.
  • 5. Bore your kids.
  • 6. Put your children to work.
  • 7. Miss the soccer game.
  • 8. Pare down.
  • 9. Tell your children they did not do a good job.
  • 10. Get back in the real world.

Quiz: Are you a Robotic Parent?

Instructions: choose (1) or (2). Add up the points at the quiz's end.

1. For you, a "driving range" is defined as:

(1) green grass, blue skies, and your yellow golf balls
(2) the miles between hockey rinks (soccer fields, etc.) your child plays on during traveling team games

2. How well does your child know spiderman (barbie, etc.)?

(1) pretty well, by reading or watching a dvd they were in
(2) very well, as spiderman (barbie, etc.) has come to see him personally, at his birthday party

3. You artfully arrange a double sleepover (away) for your two kids on a Saturday night so you can:

(1) seduce your husband
(2) finish up studying how to help your kids with their homework

4. After a game of tennis with your daughter, you:

(1) give her a bottle of water, to rehydrate
(2) give her your remote control, thank her, and leave the room

5. You are cleaning the dinner dishes yourself because:

(1) your kids are in full body casts from a freak accident and can't help
(2) your kids are busy texting their friends

Scoring: If you scored 5 points, you are still a human person. If you scored 7-9, you are in the danger zone. If you scored 9 or 10, you have crossed over and become a robotic parent. Time for the 10 steps...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the luncheon

I just got home from an adult playdate (I can't stop using this formal term, "playdate". Why?! Whatever happened to just "coming over"?) I need to stop using this term so casually because "adult playdate" sounds at least R rated and i'm just talking about going to my friend's house for a visit. Anyway, I went to my friend "Sandy"'s house and she had another friend stop by. This other friend was very nice and she stayed for some tea. We sat during this rated G adult playdate in the living room drinking an amazing tea whose exotic herbs could have made it at home both in our tea cups in suburbia and in the bag of a shaman in Kenya. The tea was doing its job, producing a medicinal-like effect - the (temporary) relaxation of three moms with typical perma-angst about their kids. Until....

"How's Cannon doing?" Lisa asked Sandy.

"Well he's not into football anymore. He's just not that good at it."

"Oh that's too bad," Lisa responded.

"Yeah I know. I'm really frustrated."

I sat there in silence, my face lingering over the cup, enjoying the heat stroking my chin from below, before softly wafting into my nasal passages, clearing my head from the inside.

"I really want Cannon to find the sport that he likes. I just don't know what to do. He's just not that good at football. And we tried hockey and that didn't work...."

"It's just so important to find your sport." Lisa responded with a knowing look of concern and support.

The way my old and new friend were describing him, Cannon could have been a wayward twenty-something, 6 months out of college with no direction for his career,struggling to find his "thing". But he wasn't. He was a 9-year-old boy in elementary school, not interested in or maybe not good at a sport.

I was confused. I hadn't joined in the conversation and I felt as if maybe I was missing something. My friends were flummoxed and anxiety-ridden over a grade-school child's lack of mastery over a sport. And I couldn't help noticing the use of "we", as in, "We tried hockey and that didn't work...." Did Sandy try hockey or did Cannon? Did Sandy and her husband try hockey for Cannon? Why was Sandy so involved in what was essentially Cannon's recreation? Since when have parents tried so hard to manufacture, manage, and even integrate themselves into their children's playtime?

I didn't get it. But then I questioned myself - while my son was happy for the moment playing soccer, why wasn't I researching and preparing for his next atheletic pursuit? And, how happy and good was he, really, at soccer? ...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Take Your Time, Hurry Up!

Take your time, hurry up! is an expression that is quite apropos for today's parent. The hurry up part is the practice of parents rushing from place to place. The take your time part is practiced by coaches of the activities to which we are rushing to take our kids....

In yesterday's rush, I broke a nail getting out the door. Now this is sad when you consider that i have no nails. There was no "Oh my God, I broke a nail!" and the ensuing emergency trip to Bea's Nails for a fix. Nothing so glamorous as to throw a wad of cash at the problem and come out of it with a new glossy red paint job. No, I broke my nail such that it split into the actual live part of the nail, leaving the thick whitish top of it hanging. I don't have time for the former scenario, nor in all honesty, the inclination. Now toenails are another thing, but that's another story...

So. I get to the practice I'm rushing to "half an hour beforehand" as continuously instructed by my son's coach, through my son. I kiss what turns out to be the air my son leaves behind, as he is long gone, having taken off as soon as we've reached the parking lot, for fear anyone will see him with his mom. I mean who does he think people think drove him there? the car itself?

I then get back into the car and head to my 45 minute foray into the grocery store. That's 45 minutes of actual shopping time, then there's the 15 minutes to load the groceries in the car and drive home, the 15 minutes to unload and then the 15 minutes to drive back to practice and pick my son up. If I wasn't type A before i had kids, I am now. I need to be just in order to function.

I choose 2 "cheater salads" already washed, chopped, and bagged, rather than opting to forrage through the green leaf lettuces to check for quality and absence of major dirt and bugs. I choose to trade the extra 1.5 dollars it costs for the extra 1.5 minutes I gain in doing so. Time really is money these days.

I am done in under 45 minutes and go home to unload. That leaves 10 extra minutes. What should i do with these 10 free minutes? I waste 1 minute wondering and then I spy the newspaper across the room and I grab it and sit down. 8.5 minutes to read the day's news will have to do.

It's 15 minutes until the end of practice and so i head out the door. I arrive exactly on time and I wait on the sidelines until the coach dismisses the kids. I wait 5 minutes and then check my watch again. It's 10 minutes after the time practice is supposed to have ended but the kids are still practicing. I fish around in my knapsack to find my cell phone. I feel the phone and take it out to check the time. I am thinking maybe my watch is running early and the cell phone will have the right time. Nope. My watch is right and running on time.

I think of all the dishes in the sink and how they're piling up. Though I know I'm exaggerating, it makes me nervous nonetheless. Time is not only money, it's a precious commodity that we all are lacking these days. It's as if, waiting for this overdue practice to end, time is being wasted, poured into the big drain where lost dreams and unfulfilled promises go.

In my state of angst, I am now picturing the dishes, in my absence, actually multiplying in the sink. I check my watch again. It's 15 minutes past the end of practice. I am about to check my cell phone for the time again when mercifully, the coach calls out, "O.k. boys, nice job. We're done."

I secretly wipe the sweat from my temples and put on a smile for my son. "Did you have a good time at practice?" I ask as he dodges me to walk in front of me to the car, apparently wanting people to think that maybe he will be driving himself home for the evening?