Entries in bloom (9)


Me and the Man with the Yellow Hat (A Confession)

As many of you know I have been actively pushing National Screen Free week, own a media free school and we are soon sponsoring the screening of the film “Consuming Kids,” which addresses the effects of media and marketing on children.  Clearly when it comes to the debate over television viewing and children, you can tell which camp I’m in...  

...but I think its important to clear the air, just a bit.  Mainly because it is entirely possible that my four year old could strike up a conversation with you about Dora, and I just don’t want you to yell out, “Ah-HA!” and scare the bejesus out of her.

I have waged an internal struggle with the television since day one as a parent...well, more accurately since the day when, exhausted from pregnancy number two, I succumbed to The Man with the Yellow Hat...gratefully...and he was good to me.  We had an on again, off again relationship for a couple of years after that.

Throughout the past few years my permissiveness about television viewing for my children has ebbed and flowed.  I would ban it for a while, and then someone would become ill and look pathetic laying there on the couch, and we would watch something...maybe a lot of somethings.  After that television might become a daily thing for a while.  Then suddenly, I would notice that my children were not playing imaginatively, they were playing...Dora.  Something about this really disturbed me.  These little beings are just full of creativity and amazing ideas and yet instead they were just recreating someone else’s stories.  So the television would be banished, until the next time.

It have always scoffed at the idea that television for very young children is educational.  I don’t buy it.  I tried to adopt the attitude that, although I don’t believe the children are learning anything from television, its not really hurting them either.   Then someone said something at the recent Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood Summit that kind of hit me right between the eyes.  Joan Almon said, “All media is educational.  You just have to ask yourself, ‘What is it teaching?’”  Hmm.  As an early childhood educator I know that young children take in everything from their environment uncritically.  Of course this includes media. Duh.

I immediately thought of this poem by Walt Whitman...

There was a child went forth every day;

And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day,

or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years....


The early lilacs became part of this child,

And grass, and white and red morning-glories, 

and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,

And the Third-month lambs, and the sow's pink-faint litter, 

and the mare's foal, and the cow's calf,

And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,

And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there--and the beautiful curious liquid,

And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads--all became part of him...


Whoa.  I asked myself, do I really want these commercialized characters to become a part of who my children are?  So there are, I think, two important questions that we as parents and caregivers should be asking oursleves:

With what are we filling our children during this critical phase when they are imbued with all they see?  

What valuable, real life experiences are they missing out on while they are watching television or playing video games?

I am not going to profess that my children will never again watch television, for I am a realist (sometimes), but I will say that the decision of what to watch and when will not be taken lightly.  We have such a short window within which to be the gate keepers for our children.  I believe we have a responsibility to teach them that the world is beautiful, good, and safe, and that there are better things to do than this...

There was a child went forth every day;

And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years....




No Purchase Necessary

I recently attended the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood summit.  Interestingly enough, Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids, opened the event by talking not about marketing to kids, but instead about the effects of marketing and media on parents.  While marketers know that sex sells nearly everything, they also know fear and insecurity sell just about everything else.  They know how to get our attention - make us think for a second that our children might not be living to their full potential or heaven forbid might be falling behind or in actual danger and of course, they have our rapt attention.  The problem is, it is often, well...b.s.

Lenore said (I’m paraphrasing, forgive me) parents become convinced, before their child is even born, that when their baby comes out it will be this lump with which they have this very limited window to mold into The David. They are pressured into believing that if they don't frantically cram as much adult directed 'learning' as possible into their child during this critical time, their child will always just be a lump. Little Johnny needs to take a crawling class so he will learn how to crawl, otherwise he may just never learn.

The fear begins, perhaps while our baby is still a tiny seed of a being, and with each increasing belly centimeter our anxiety grows about whether we will give our children the right tools to be something special.  But you know what, these little people don’t need us to do as much, buy as much, prepare as much as we think they do (and, by the way, the reason we think it is because that is what is sold to us everywhere we look).  The truth is, researchers have discovered time and again that the real innovators and creative minds of our time were, as children, given less "stuff' and "entertainment" and more free play and exploration.  

We need to remember that it is the advertising industry’s job to undermine our confidence as parents in order to sell us products (that we just don’t need).  As an example, Lenore broke out a toddler “walking harness” which, it is professed, will help your baby “develop motor skills, balance and coordination.”  Really? Have human beings not been learning to do just that for hundreds of thousands of years, unaided by this groundbreaking contraption? Not to be too metaphorical here, but don’t we all know that if you don’t ever fall down, you will never learn to pick yourself up, to balance fail (gasp!) and carry on? 

In this sea of advertising, media and marketing, we need to find our natural footing as parents.  We need to begin to follow our own instincts, and allow our children to follow theirs.  Frankly, we need to remember to simply get out of the way and let our children move, play, explore, experiment and FAIL, and then allow them the gift of learning to pick themselves up again.  

{Oh, and the best part purchase necessary.}


Don't Forget the Tutu

Years ago, when I was a teacher at Little Friends, I can remember having a good laugh one day when we looked in a little boy’s bag for spare clothing and found nothing but a pink tutu.  The parents were good natured and had a good laugh along with us, but I know there was a certain amount of judgement there on my part.  I’m sure I was thinking something like...

“A tutu?  Really?  That's what this poor boy has for spare clothes? What goes on in that house?”  

Because, after all, what’s so hard about sending your child to school every day with everything you’re asked to bring?  How hard could this parenting or this parenting plus career thing be?

To those parents, and to all parents that I, in my ignorant bliss, judged, I sincerely apologize.   

Here’s a quick list of things I thought I’d never do...

Forget my child’s lunchbox at home.


Send my child with her lunch in a huge cooler because I ordered the pretty flowered lunchboxes too late.


Arrive at school with no spare clothing for my child (not even a pink tutu).


Carry my child into school kicking and screaming.


Carry my child out of school kicking and screaming.


Have two people arrive separately to pick up my child from school because my husband and I didn’t coordinate our plans (by the way, her school is 40 minutes away.  Ouch.)


Send the wrong lunch with the wrong child, inadvertently smuggling a peanut butter grenade into a nut free zone.


Remember the store bought Christmas gifts for my kindergartner’s teachers, but misplace the gifts that were actually made for them by my daughter.


Find aforementioned handmade gifts in February and enthusiastically present them to my daughter to give to her teachers as Valentine’s Day gifts.


Accept that I am not the perfect mom, but I am the perfect mom for my girls.



Bear with Us

We had full-day faculty meeting today at Bloom. I wanted to pass on a little anecdote that was shared.  Last week there were two little boys in the preschool class who "became" bears.  Little hands became claws, wild eyes flashed and they “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth,” so to speak.  This was okay for a while, but the bears became more and more “wild.”  It is at this point that many of us adults of the non-bear variety might suggest that the boys become something else, engage in something else, or simply calm down.  Instead, our lovely Miss Marie declared, “Oh dear, these bears seem to need someone to take care of them!  Who will feed them?  Hmmm, I think they need to be brushed as well...”  This call to duty was answered by two eager classmates.  The bears were thrilled - not only were they being acknowledged as bears, but a whole new layer was added to their play.  As it turns out, bears - when groomed and fed - become much tamer creatures.  

I loved hearing this story.  I loved that instead of telling the children “that’s enough” or “calm down,” their teacher took a moment to use her imagination.  In doing so she managed to honor and encourage the imaginative play of the children, while infusing the bear play with an element of calm.  Well done.



After putting in lots of work hours this week (including a twelve hour day on Friday with the intention of being “present” with my family this weekend - physically as well as mentally) I was looking forward to spending a whole day at home with my children.  Unfortunately, the day was not going well.  A somewhat relaxed morning suddenly turned stormy when my eldest daughter morphed before my eyes into someone she is typically not (though this alter ego has made a few unpleasant appearances this summer).  Leaving a bawling sibling and a fleeing cat in her wake, she stomped through the house “accidentally” knocking things over and saying unpleasant things “to herself.”   Coming from her petite, fair haired frame with her bright, shining eyes it is almost comical. 

Almost.  But really it is sad to see her feeling so off.  I can tell she doesn’t like the things she is saying and doing, but the momentum takes over and she is forced to roll with it.  Quite frankly, when this happens I don’t know what to do to help her - to help us, for heaven’s sake. I was once again baffled as to why she was acting this way (and on my day off - the nerve!).  Then it came to me - the words of renowned teacher and parenting expert, Kim John Payne, which were shared with me just the other night by my dear friend, Barbara Nardone:

“There is no such thing as a disobedient child; only a disoriented one.” 

Eureka.  I stayed home with my daughter every day for her first three years of life.  From the age of three she began attending preschool three days per week, but if you think about it, that involved her leaving me, and not the reverse.  She always knew I was at home if she needed me.  Suddenly, I am gone five days a week and she is sharing her weekdays with a combination of friends, babysitters and family. Some weekdays my husband has been able to arrange his schedule so that he is home part of the day, but even that is different.  It used to be that “stay at home daddy days” were days for the whole family to be together, now it usually means I’m not home.  Her whole world has been turned upside down.  I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to be “disoriented”.  

I can’t beat myself up about going back to work.  I am so excited about starting this new chapter in my life, and I am proud to be showing my girls a whole other side of me they have never seen - a confident, competent career woman.  I want them to believe they can do whatever they set their hearts and minds to doing - including being a mom who also has a career, if that is what they choose.  

But there are things I can do to help her to feel less disoriented.  I can be aware of how this change is effecting my children.  Awareness is half the battle in most relationships, isn’t it?  I can do my best to establish a predictable routine for my family.  Children thrive on routines.  Routines make them feel secure and confident.  I can give her a pass when she needs to let off some steam (within reason of course).  We all want to kick a wall sometimes, don’t we?  I can really be present  when I am present.  Yes, as a business owner I always need to be reachable in case of flood or fire, but I do not need to answer every text, email and phone call I receive on family time.  She needs to know that the iPhone does not trump her in importance.  Of course I  know that, but is it fair to assume she does?  Of course not.  

P.S. The photo is one of MANY silly self portraits she has snapped of herself with my phone (in happier moments). I feel I should explain that I would not belittle her emotions by snapping pictures of her when she is actually upset.