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...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What country is the most robotic when it comes to parenting?

Which parents - from which country - are the most robotic? What do you think?
How are we different than parents in Germany? The Netherlands? Russia?
How are we the same?
Let us know, please!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Can Multitasking Lead to MRSA?

I had to take my son to the emergency room the other night.  (He's fine).  I am well versed in going to the ER with kids, having three of them, with a combination of a broken thumb (from soccer, oddly enough, in which you don't even use your hands), a broken leg (or two), a squirrel attack (my daughter is now immune from rabies for life; and, has developed an uncanny understanding of squirrel communication), a scratched eye (again, from soccer, don't even ask)...

Here's the usual drill:  make the decision to go to the ER.  Cancel everything at home if husband is not home; if he is, yell out a laundry list of things he has to do for the remaining children for the next few hours (with an optional quick list for reference), and then gather everything you can carry that you've been trying to do for the past month and now finally will have time for, as you sit in the ER for two minimum, to maybe eight hours max. This includes but is not limited to:  unopened mail, unpaid bills, unanswered or uncrafted emails, the newspaper, your to do list, your appointment book or iPhone calendar, your writing that you're doing in wordperfect, your novel that you're seriously trying to finish reading (or even to start reading).....and oh yeah, grabbing the child who is the conduit to this suddenly (emergently) found down time.

So I get through the drill and am about to leave the house with my son, and my daughter says, "Wait, I'm coming with you." "What?" I ask her. I'm in automatic mode and think I've misheard her.  "Wait, I'm coming with you..." did she say "Wait, I need a tissue?" Or, "I'm drumming if you....." (no drums in the house - is she in a band now?)...

"I'm coming with you." she says.

"Sweetie, you have homework you have to do. Plus it's a germ factory in the ER. "

"That's why i'm going, to do my homework."

"You want to do your homework in an ER?" I ask her.

"Yes, 'cause there's no distractions there." she replies.

"Seriously, you'd rather come and spend time in an emergency room and do your homework there, than be home and comfortable?"

"Yes", she responds.

Just as I'm limited on down time, she's limited in her ability (or at least in her faith in her ability) to not get distracted while trying to accomplish one task.  This is a learned phenomenon from "these kids today" who have us to model their multitasking for them.

Well into our second hour, as we sat in a hall area of the ER's maze of rooms and bays,  I turned to my daughter and remarked, "It's actually incredibly funny that you'd rather spend time in an ER than in your own home." Funny, yet insightful.

Note to self, lessen my multitasking.  Model paying attention to one thing at a time.  Model just being present.  Your kids may just follow suit, and will in turn be able to focus better, and maybe even decrease their risk of contracting the highly contagious hospital predator, MRSA.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Am I Giving In?

O.k. now my kids are at the age at which they should be doing sports every day after school.  We older parents (the ones like me who are old enough to conveniently mix up the 1968 for the 1986 date of birth) grew up with sports right at school, after school, every day.  Starting in middle school, you had JV or varsity sports.  Like Kick the Can, Murder in the Dark, and the neighbor's trampoline, these sports, extracurricular activities, energy eliminators, and physical outlets were free (short of the occasional and inevitable emergency room visits from the trampoline), simple, available, and simply available.  And they were much needed.

Today, we have to seek out sports for our kids, even in middle school.  To get an every day sport, you have to sign your kids up for multiple sports teams.  This runs against my instincts thus far, of one sport per season.  One team per season.  But does it really run against my will to not overschedule the kids?
Does it really run contrary to my desire to not objectify my kinds as performers, when it comes to handing them over to club sports?

 "My boys" is one way a local club sports woman spoke of the soccer players on the club team that she directed.  She already had boys of her own.  But when you take possession of a young boy's summer, at least Memorial and Labor Day holidays as tournament weekends, and spend hours driving them cross county in your car for away games every weekend (a surrogate to their parents who are driving their other siblings to other counties for their games), you may as well consider them foster kids.  The state isn't paying you; the parents are.  I am considering giving "my boys" - really my boy and my girl - to the lifestyle choice of Club Sports, with long practices, far away matches, and high price tags for hard-core parents who want their kids in that "desirable league".

But my kids need daily exercise.

What's the answer?