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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One Big Playroom

Today I learned that I saved $20,000.

Yup, that’s right. Twenty big ones. Of course, my penny pinching ways might keep my daughter might from getting into an Ivy League college, but only time will tell, I guess.

I’m referring to the woman in New York City who spent $19,000 to send her daughter to a school that promised to prepare the kidlet for the ERB, the standardized test that many elite schools use when determining whether to admit kids. Supposedly this school, which the mother claims promised great things, was—wait for it—one big playroom.

Did I mention that the kid is two?

Maybe it’s just because I live in the wilds of Maine, where anything that costs $20,000 better have a motor or indoor plumbing (or both), but this lady needs to get a grip. I’m all for quality education and child care, but getting pissed off because you spend all that money to prepare your toddler for college and all she learns is her colors and shapes seems a little bit like spending money to take your dog to obedience class, and getting mad because all he’ll do is sit and roll over.

As far as I’m concerned, two year olds should be in a big playroom. They should have blocks, crayons, dolls and fingerpaint. Being two is all about exploring the world and learning what happens when this crashes into that. And not to brag, but my daughter just turned two, and knows her numbers, shapes, colors and about half of the alphabet. She learned them through books, and playing with me and her dad—not at some fancy preschool that costs as much as a year of state college. Since she also puts bowls on her head and sticks French fries up her nose, I’ve held off on calling Mensa for now.

I realize things are different in different parts of the world, but I just cannot understand this push to make kids achieve so soon. To repeat the cliché, why can’t kids be kids? I’ve heard my approach to parenting referred to as “free-range parenting” but for one thing, it makes my kids sound like livestock, and secondly, it doesn’t need a name. If anything, it should be called “Happy Childhood” parenting. There is plenty of time to learn quadratic equations and Mandarin Chinese. Let the two year old go to the big playroom, and stop worrying so much about whether she’ll get into elementary school or high school or Harvard or Yale. I figure that growing up in a happy, secure, loving environment where she can explore and make discoveries on her own is far better than pushing her to memorize flashcards and fill in bubbles on a test.

My advice to the woman in New York, and the others like her, is to take that money you’re spending on preschool tuition, and to hire lawyers in your frivolous lawsuit, and put it in a college fund for the little Einstein. That’s probably going to do more good than paying someone else to teach her stuff she’s going to learn anyway.
Then again, my kid’s got French fries up her nose, so what do I know?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Just Stay Home, Will You?

There’s a war going on, folks. And no, I’m not talking about the Middle East, Camille vs. Kyle, or Charlie Sheen vs. sanity.

No, I’m referring to the battle between those with kids, and those without.

I love to read funny blogs, and one of my favorites is STFU Parents, which basically makes fun of parents who do stupid stuff on Facebook. You know, the ones that post EVERY detail, including photos, of their kids potty training. Nothing is off limits to some people on Facebook, and those people deserve to be called out on their stupidity.

And naturally, a blog like that is going to attract a certain segment of the population who has nothing for disdain for “breeders”. Not just the obnoxious people who give their kids weird names and behave as if the world should fall at their feet because they gave birth to the most-precious-and-amazing person EVER. No, they hate all people who procreate. To these people, if someone’s sperm happened to meet your egg, or vice versa, you are automatically stupid, unable to make good decisions, arrogant, annoying, self-entitled and selfish.

‘Cause we all know that’s the case.

A few months ago, I had a firsthand encounter with these fine folks during one of my favorite pastimes, arguing with faceless internet people I don’t know. The owner of the blog, who seems like a reasonable person, posted a status update from a woman who had the flight from hell. This poor woman had a screaming child and got sick on the plane, and posted a status update about it. The blog proceeded to trash this girl for having the audacity to share her experience on Facebook—and most of the commenters on the blog not only trashed her for posting that update, but made the inevitable comments about how kids shouldn’t be on planes, people with kids should stay home, blah blah blah.

I made the fatal mistake of jumping in and commenting that I thought they were being harsh, that I saw nothing wrong with the original post, and that people needed to accept that babies would be traveling on planes. I was soundly—and I mean soundly—rebuked. Forget the fact that my family lives 1,000 miles away. Doesn’t matter. I should not, under any circumstances get on an airplane with my kid. Oh, and if I could avoid restaurants, stores, doctor’s offices, libraries, post offices, banks, and, oh, anywhere that isn’t my home while I’m at it? That’s be great.

My response was somewhere along the lines of screw you.

I’m seeing more and more of a divide lately between those with kids and those without, and not just on blogs like STFU Parents. I’m seeing it in response to news stories, blog posts and Twitter feeds. And honestly? I’m tired of it. Kids are loud, they’re messy and have a complete inability to control themselves. And there are some parents out there who are unwilling or unable to control their children. They annoy everyone. They probably annoy those of us with kids even more, since most parents that I know turn themselves inside out to control their children and prevent them from being a nuisance in public.

But this trend of lumping all parents into one category, and acting like we have no right to be anywhere because we have little ones is disturbing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t we as a society been fighting against that sort of thing for hundreds of years? And it’s not just that. The assumption that just because we chose to become parents, we have no right to complain about anything is absurd. I chose a career as a writer. Does that mean I’m not allowed to complain about editors and deadlines? If we make choice the barometer for deciding what’s worth complaining about, then no one would ever have the right to express anything other than delight with the whole world. I mean, isn’t life nothing more than a series of choices? Just because I mention that I’m getting tired of telling my kids to stop jumping on the furniture, or that I would love to have an uninterrupted dinner alone with my husband doesn’t give you the right to attack me for choosing to have kids. If I post a picture of my placenta or my daughter’s poopy diaper on Facebook? Well attack away. I deserve it.

Oh, and Charlie Sheen? Reality’s gonna kick your ass pretty soon.