Posted in differences, mindset, parenting

Kids, birthdays, parties, gifts

Most parents I know lament the amount of stuff their kids have. (Some lament their own as well.)

Most parents I know specifically say that there’s no need to bring a gift to their kid’s birthday party. (This is extra nice when we don’t really know the birthday kid very well and aren’t sure what would be good. And if “they’re really into dinosaurs” (or whatever), it’s still hard to know what won’t duplicate something they already have.)

When the kids were younger, they didn’t typically open gifts at the party.

In addition to all of the drama avoided, gifts opened at home later means that all of the potential negative reactions to having given a card are publicly avoided.

It’s a little trickier now. Gifts are more often opened at the party.

So what to do?

If clutterstuff is a problem and it’s genuinely OK just to bring a card, then it seems that would be the way to go.

In theory, I’d like to have a get-together with The Kid and the birthday kid at a later date, treat them to that as their gift (if there’s an entrance fee, or if they get food). No clutter, no guessing what they like, still something gifted, time spent together. But I’ve found that much of the time, the get-together never happens.

I saw a suggestion for a “fiver party,” where each child brings $5 in a card to go towards a larger thing that the birthday boy wants to buy. It’s billed as being inexpensive and convenient for parents, since $5 is easier and typically cheaper than buying a gift.

But that feels funny. Not entirely sure why.

I saw a post yesterday with a suggestion for a wedding gift: a wallet with gift cards for places to go on dates. Good for applications beyond weddings, really, especially if you want to go a group gift for someone(s) and know places they like to go/eat/shop.

Which got me to thinking that maybe setting up playdates intentionally as a gift might work. (The connection was the collection of future outings as a gift.)

I’m still in the “thinking out loud” phase of this idea. For ease of pronouns, I’m going to create an example for The Kid’s birthday.

We invite who he wants to invite and suggest that in lieu of physical gifts, we’re creating a playdate series. We (both kids’ parents, with kid input) schedule a date and a location, and go from there. They could be to anywhere locally—parks, museums, other activities—and then he gets 1-on-1 time built in with his friends. And maybe tries out a new thing or goes to a new place.

There are logistics in there that I haven’t worked out.

Maybe have a coupon or something in each card, saying where the playdate will be.(Not sure kids care about the date.) But if it’s scheduled, it’s more likely to happen. Or let them pick a where and we can schedule the when at the party.

I do like the idea of one gift from everyone. I don’t know why I feel like that is less comfortable to set up than the thing I was just thinking about.

What do you think?

Posted in audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Can you go a month without complaining?

A while back, I read a few articles about complaining and how it rewires your brain. Not in a good way.

Also a while back, I used to run 30-day challenges on Facebook.

Two of those challenges have been “life-changing” as per feedback from people in the group.

One was no added sugars (which we ended up doing for 45 days, because we started mid-month) and the other was no complaining.

The no complaining challenge was inspired by a meme challenging the reader to go 24 hours without complaining and “see how your life changes.”

Why not expand 24 hours into a month?

It made us all aware of how much we complain. Several people over the course of the month said it significantly improved their marriages, whether because they had a habit of complaining to or about their spouses.

We had interesting conversations about the differences between talking about negative things and complaining. (How would you distinguish between the two?)

I wrote a bit about my experience at the mid-month mark:

Talking about my no-complaining challenge last night, I was asked if I genuinely feel good, or if I’m just stuffing all the bad stuff. Thought about it, and 95% of the time, I genuinely feel good. The rest of the time, the feeling good does come later. I don’t, after two weeks, feel like I’m accumulating crappiness and am at some point going to explode.

I was thinking about this more, and I think it’s a simple shift in what gets attention. (Simple does not necessarily equal easy, though it’s not been as difficult as I expected. Especially because it positively reinforces itself constantly.)

For example, yesterday, I felt like crap. I’ve been fighting off a cold, and the cold was slowly starting to win. I was slightly stuffy and had absolutely no energy. Something I’d eaten or drunk made my stomach hurt every time I ate or drank (severely bloated), and I just felt miserable.

Any time prior to these two weeks, yesterday, I would have complained to people about not feeling well. I would have complained to myself about not feeling well. Instead, I just did what I needed to do and just didn’t talk about how my body felt. (Not lying, just not bringing it up.)

And you know what? I had a good day. It wasn’t a great day—I felt like crap—but it was definitely a good day. And I don’t think it would have been if I’d been complain-y all day. (I did slip twice, but both short-lived.)

Today? I feel better. Energy is back. Most congestion is gone. Tummy feels better (and I don’t look like I swallowed a balloon).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Recently, I’ve made this adjustment again. Not avoiding complaining altogether, necessarily, but minimizing.

I don’t run the 30-day challenges any more, but I am going to take this opportunity to challenge you to eliminate complaining today. And tomorrow. Maybe the whole weekend? Then see how long you can go.

See what differences you notice.

Report back.

Posted in education, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness

Standards and accountability and homework

One in three children in the US can’t read at grade level.

For many people, that means that schools aren’t doing their jobs and we need more accountability and more testing.

What if we redefined “at grade level”?

I got into this a bit the other day, but we have completely redefined “at grade level” since I was a kid.

My experience was different (I went to Catholic school for kindergarten), but my sister, two years younger, went to the public school where I went beginning in first grade.

She went to kindergarten for half days. In kindergarten, they learned the alphabet. I remember the rhyme for A. (I don’t know why I know that one at all, or why I don’t also know any others…)

A, A for Alligator Al

Apples, ants, and Africa

Acrobats and animals

A, A for Alligator Al

(I looked for it online but couldn’t find it. Is there something the internet can’t provide?!)

Reading was something we started in first grade. Kindergarten was for basics. (Kindergarten was also not for four-year-olds.)

There’s quite a bit of research that informs us that learning to read young isn’t useful. We can wait until 7 or 8 years old before starting, and the long-term result is better, because brains are more developed and are ready.

(This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions. Occasionally, kids read at 3 or 4 years old because they just pick it up or otherwise show readiness. But we shouldn’t base national standards on the outliers.)

It seems that we need to feel like we’re doing something instead of actually doing what’s best. Small kids need to play. They learn through play. Gross and fine motor skills are important.

What good is research if we’re going to ignore the results anyway?

Speaking of research…

Homework in elementary school isn’t useful.

Part of the homework problem right now ties right back in to the standards. Teachers are teaching content that isn’t appropriate for their kids (because they’re required to), so the kids need homework for reinforcement. Because it’s too hard. And because there’s too much of it.

So.

Let’s dial back the standards to something developmentally-appropriate.

Before we even do that, let’s have a conversation about what school is for. What’s the goal? What do we want kids to be able to do when they leave the system? Then: what are ways we can achieve that? (Separate post on that another day.)

We haven’t overhauled the system in a long time, and the system is in need of an overhaul.

Let’s dial back the standards to be developmentally appropriate.

In that upheaval, kids are more likely to learn to read when they’re ready. Which means more kids will be literate. And also that reading won’t have such negative emotions connected to it for so many people. Which means overall literacy will be higher. More people will read for fun and will be able to read and understand contracts and the like. And the tide rises.

I can’t tell you how many people have mentioned in casual conversation that they’re not good at [reading/writing/math]. That’s because of how it’s structured in school. And because they have negative emotions connected to learning it.

It’s not the schools’ fault. Legislation dictates what be taught at what level. In Arizona (and probably many or most other states), we have mandates on how many minutes per week be spent on the core subject areas, and the state standards outline all of the content knowledge and skills that need to be taught in that time.

(It’s a lot. It’s too much.)

We need people to stand up against the testing movement (which is lining some folks’ pockets while stressing our kids and teachers and stealing time and money from schools). We need people to look at the research and say, “Hey! I want our schools to do what’s best for kids. And this isn’t it!”

Teachers have been saying it for a long time, but our voices have been discounted. It needs to come from parents, from community members, from businesses.

We can do better.

Posted in audience participation, know better do better, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Boys will be boys

If we spent as much energy teaching our sons as we do worrying about our daughters, we wouldn’t need to worry so much about our daughters.

“Boys will be boys” is a cop-out. It does a disservice to all people. To girls and women, obviously, because it leads to a society where we live in perpetual legitimate fear of violence. But also to boys and men, because it dismisses them as unable to be civilized.

While we’re here… I hate the “dad’s at home with a shotgun” mentality to girls dating. Instead of being a threatening jerk to everyone, teach your daughter how to stand up for herself.

And again, teach your boys about boundaries.

Actually, let’s teach everyone about boundaries. And consent.

There are sex ed programs that go in depth into consent. Did yours? Mine sure didn’t. (Of course, my teacher also couldn’t say “masturbate” without blushing.) At least it wasn’t abstinence only.

I’m on a tangent.

Teach your children how to respect boundaries and how to take care of themselves. Model behaviors you want them to emulate. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t get the results you want most of the time.

Expect better of your boys. Talk to them at least as much as you do to your girls. We’ll all be better for it.

Posted in audience participation, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, socializing, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Why it’s hard

We have too much physical stuff, too much emotional stuff, too much junk to eat, not enough exercise or sleep or meaningful connections with people.

Because—

Society values and promotes

  • being busy
  • being stressed
  • being underslept
  • fast food
  • large portions
  • cheap everything
  • convenient (to accommodate busy)
  • sitting
  • reactive medicine over preventative
  • pills over natural
  • social isolation

But we are society. It’s not an “other” thing. It is us.

We can push back. We can vote with our dollars (and with our votes). We can choose to swim upstream. We can choose what we buy and what we eat and how we spend time and with whom we spend time. We can choose what we say yes to and what we reject.

Our current path is not sustainable.

Who’s in?