Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

iPod Arguments

My kids bickered all weekend about electronics—specifically about whether Ty is worthy of receiving an iPod touch for his upcoming birthday in November (birthday wishes start early in our house). Yesterday, I was so fed up, I took him to a movie for some forced separation while Leah stayed home with Dad. How did we get here, I asked myself?

A couple years ago, we—I, rather—promised Ty an iPod for his eleventh birthday, back in the day before we knew what iPod touches were (had they even been invented yet?). We had given Leah a nano for her eleventh birthday and it only seemed fair to give Ty the same.

But now that Leah owns a touch—a refurbished first generation gadget that she bought off the Internet with her own money—and Ty’s friends own touches and play games incessantly, Ty has decided the lowly nano is not worth his time. He’s told us straight out if we give him one, he will return it and contribute his own money to upgrade to a touch.

This weekend, while Leah was upgrading her cell phone (on her own dime), she mooned over the latest touches at Best Buy. Then she came up with the bright idea that she would deed her touch, which works just fine, to Ty and we would give her a new, fourth generation touch for Christmas, because she is older and more responsible and more deserving.

Ty was open to the idea at first when Leah proposed it on Saturday, much to her acquisitive delight, but by the next day, he’d realized she was using him to get herself a new touch, while he, whose birthday is looming, would wind up with a second-hand, old touch that doesn’t have the speakers Leah so badly wants. And now so does he.

They argued. Even as we explained that no one was guaranteed a touch.

As the parent of a teen and tween, I yearn for the electronic world to slow down. The ever-evolving smartEverythings drive me bonkers because they’ve got my kids in perpetual I-need mode. Never mind that their parents are frugal beyond reason, modeling living within one’s means every day (are we setting them up to rebel by going into credit card debt by age 20, I wonder?).

Case in point: I am still using the same cell phone I bought three years ago, to Leah’s horrified amazement, because, guess what?, it still works and why should I upgrade just to upgrade, even if it’s for free? Honestly, how many discarded cell phones does the world need, and who cares whether you can go online while out on a run? (I have this feeling I’m in a minority of about ten.)

In the midst of our culture’s (at least on the West coast) eco/recycle/buy local/eat local/eat at home/staycation kind of sensibilities, our electronics industry is operating on a different model, and it has created a frenzy with our kids. All that money saved on hotels? Gone, I suspect, on games and gadgets. (If I read “there’s an app for that” one more time…)

This NYT article, “If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online,” paints a dismal picture of the invisible time spent on electronics, mostly online, and the difficulty regulating it as kids get older and more independent. It doesn’t address the wish-frenzy syndrome, but certainly that is part of the picture, as most parents of older kids have experienced. But perhaps most pertinent, the article shows me our wired future. I can’t get my head around it.

We don’t know how the birthday iPod is going to resolve itself yet, but we’ve declared a moratorium on the topic. And I’m trying not to feel like a 20th-century Luddite when I tell Ty to close out of Green Day’s You Tube videos and put on a, gasp!, CD of theirs instead.

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Caffeine High

I discovered the pleasures of a caffeine-infused child the other day when Ty bought and consumed a 16-ounce container of Mountain Dew at 5:00 in the afternoon. Naturally, it was when I wasn’t there to say no, which I have been saying for years.

Not surprisingly, he couldn’t get to sleep until after 11:00, each trip down the stairs to let me know accompanied by bigger and bigger bags under his eyes. He also tends to go a shade of pale when he’s beyond tired, and by 11:00 he was the color of new snow. There wasn’t a thing I could do to help him.

But when he told his dad (who had been out of town) about it the next day, what Ty recalled with a broad smile was the joy of jangly nerves and the half hour of a movie he got to watch with me at 10:00pm. No memory of the hangover at school, the deep fatigue that dogged him through the day.

According to a variety of articles on the Web, kids’ caffeine intake is growing, and you’re just as likely to stand in line at Starbucks behind a sullen teen as a hurried businessman (and we wonder why the kids can’t sit still in class). But there’s been little research on kids and caffeine, according to the Washington Post’s “Rousing Kids to Caffeine’s Consequences.”

I’m all for adults drinking Red Bull during sports—indeed there was a time when I couldn’t get through an ultimate Frisbee tournament without the promise of performance-enhancing caffeine, but for kids, not so much. I’m thinking it’s time the research kicked in.

Meanwhile, I’ll have to trust that Ty doesn’t drink Mountain Dew. After, uh, 10:00am.

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School Start Time

Ty and I are still getting used to our district’s new 9:30am start time for the elementary schools. (Leah goes off to school at the same time she did last year, at 7:25, and Curt is gone to work by 6:30, so it’s just us two kicking around.) I knew it would be strange to go from 9:00 to 9:30, but as a work-from-home parent I figured I’d make it work. And we are making it work because we have to, but what I didn’t anticipate is how difficult it is for kids.

Mine would happily continue in summer mode, sleeping until 8:30 if I let him, but what I learned last week, the first week of school, was summer mode isn’t good for the school brain. Letting him sleep only set us up for a groggy morning and, believe it or not, a mad rush out the door. Having too much time can lead to running late, as adults know.

This week, I’m getting Ty up at 7:45. The problem is he’s ready by 8:30 and still has half an hour to kill before walking out the door. Every parent I know is in the same position. In fact, other kids are ready for school by 8:00 and anxious to head out the door. They can’t. Those who walk to school have to wait another hour. I’ve nixed morning movies and video games (but how many kids are zoning on screens? Too many, I’ll wager), and Ty is settling into a reading routine to get his daily reading done in the mornings rather than at bedtime. It works. But I’d rather send him to school while he’s still fresh.

Thankfully, Ty will be a middle schooler next year and his start time will be much earlier. After this year, which I’ve already dubbed The Year of the Big Sleep, he is going to be in a world of hurt, but I suspect it will do him good. Except, hmm, my kids will be getting ready for school at the same time again after a three-year hiatus. I guess I should enjoy what I’ve got.


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New Family Member

We added a new member to our family a couple weeks ago. She’s about 10 weeks old and furry, with the black and white markings of a tuxedo. Her name is Maggie.

She came from my sister’s house in Sequim. They had rescued 5 kittens from a feral barn mama on their property, and—naturally—the kittens were just the right age to go to new homes. After three days of hanging out with kittens (we were there for a long weekend), how can you say no?

I sort of had this (misguided) idea Maggie might befriend Milo and maybe hang out with him and maybe, just maybe, shut up his infernal meowing (for some reason I thought he might quiet down once he grew up, but he’s as loud and needy as when he was a kitten, which was sort of cute back then but now it just seems kind of pathetic. I mean, really, hasn’t he heard about cats being independent?). In contrast, Maggie is next to silent. The younger sister who plays in the shadow of the older sib.

Well. Milo still meows. And now he’s added rough play to his agenda. Actually, we’re not sure it’s play. For some reason, early morning seems to bring out the feistiest behavior, with Maggie cowering and hissing and Milo launching at her with bared teeth. He’s a cat now, three times her size, and to watch him chase her like prey is disconcerting.

“She just wants to play,” Leah worries, “and he’s so mean to her.”

I point surreptitiously at Ty and say, “Not the same thing?” She gets my reference and even smiles.

Granted, Maggie does her share of irritating Milo, like any younger sib. If only she would stop, her life might be less precarious—at least in the morning. She particularly loves to attack his irritated, twitching tail, a sure way to earn a clobber, and rarely is she content to lounge. She’s a kitten, after all. Play’s the thing.

At times, though, while she’s playing with an errant pipe cleaner or a piece of paper, Milo will sit and watch tolerantly, once in a while joining in. When they’re ready to call it quits, they will sleep together on the couch—not curled up together but at least in the same vicinity. We have hope. We keep thinking that once she gets bigger and can hold her own, he’ll back off, befriend her for real.

I wonder if that’s what will happen with my kids. Once Ty is taller, a teenager in his own right, will Leah see him as an ally and friend rather than an irritating little brother?

She does seem to be catching on to the unfairness of a power differential. I can’t tell if I’m imagining it, but since we’ve gotten Maggie, Leah seems slightly more inclusive of Ty. Is she sympathetic? I don’t know. Maybe not. What I do know is nobody around here wants to be compared to Milo.

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