Glad I’m Not A New Parent In 2017

I’ve always loved parenting magazines. Back in those ancient times when you actually had to buy them (you could have them delivered via a subscription too!) I used to consume them because at 21, I felt like I knew how to do absolutely nothing, except for love my baby. Then I found out even that would be hard some days. Fast forward to today’s social media experience – a gazillion parenting advice online websites,blogs, vlogs and pages. I like to read lots of their articles and apparently there’s a ‘take’ on everything.

But oh the pressures of being a mom of a young child today. There’s all these different parenting styles that have names, and followers of one style judge and look down on followers of others. In the strange flip to there’s no really wrong way to parent, there’s no right way either. And there are lots of articles by moms who apparently give no fucks and want anyone out there who also gives no fucks (but only their mutual types of fucks) to commiserate with them and feel superior to the moms who, well give a fuck?

I’m honestly having a tough time keeping up. Some articles do still give out advice. Along the lines of hey moms, put your phones down for a minute and actually pay attention to your kids. This advice brings out a bunch of moms who yell, who needs to be told that? That’s terrible parenting! You read and you get the feeling like nothing is common sense anymore.  I just read an article that said something along the lines of, our parents didn’t tell us how hard parenting would be just so they could get grand kids. Why are people nowadays pumping out kids anyway? If I see another mommy needs wine meme…

Look, parenting isn’t for everyone and being that in America, teen pregnancy rates are at an all time low (as per the CDC https://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm ), and access to birth control hasn’t yet been significantly curtailed by the Orange Cheeto of Death, let’s go on the assumption that most women who give birth want to become mothers. Here’s my own personal list of things that are undoubtedly going to happen along with a few words of advice:

  1. Babies cry and there are uncountable ways to get them to stop. Every mom out there has some advice for you. Ask people you like, go online and research and then figure out what works for you and then do it and give out advice to the next mom that comes along in hopes that your trick works for her. No one should judge you as long as you aren’t leaving the baby unattended or putting a pillow over it’s face. Or drugging it. You know, that kind of stuff.
  2. Children need to be fed, potty training needs to be done, your child should receive some type of education and sometimes any or all of this is going to be way more difficult than you ever thought it was because poop is being smeared, or curse words are flying (from them, the children). Maybe things are being thrown or thrown up. Refer back to item 1 for solutions.
  3. Consistency is key. In anything you ever do at any stage of a child’s life, no matter how hard (and believe me if you’re a parent of a strong willed child you know that sounds so much easier than it actually is!) But consistency is everything. Well love, too, if they’re positive you love them, you’re ahead of the game.

Ok, I have oversimplified here a bit. But the needs of moms to feel superior to some other moms isn’t getting our society anywhere. It’s divisive and doesn’t address the fact that most of us are facing most of the same parenting challenges. Times are changing and there are new and ever better ways to cope with these challenges. If you care enough to be searching for solutions or ideas, you can rest assured that unless they are being wildly mistreated or feel completely insecure, it can be hard to completely fuck up a human and you’re most likely not going to.

Take a deep breath, find moms who you can rock with and try not to judge the ones you can’t. They may have an idea you’d wish you’d heard of. You made it through the 80’s and 90’s and you’re just fine, your kids will be fine too.

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Adventures in Parenting: Losing Someone Else’s Kid

Bet that title got your attention! In an effort to continue writing even when my life is in turmoil and I don’t feel like writing, I’ve decided to tell stories from my adventures in parenting. I have been a parent for over 23 years now, so I have years and years worth of hilarious shit to relay. In today’s installment, I’ll be relating the story of how I lost someone else’s kid. A four year old, in Brooklyn, New York. My middle son had two friends growing up that he was extremely close to. At various points in their childhood, these two boys lived with us so I’ll refer to them in today’s terms as ‘alternate sons’.  They loved our big, noisy apartment and my house was basically the hang out spot for little boys for years. That meant that at whatever age they were, I had 3 boys of the same age in my home very often, and of course we had to call them the three musketeers. One of them, Aru, was much shorter and younger looking than the rest (when he was 6 he was still able to pass for three. We took him into the movies free for years.) He lived down the block and around the corner from us. And he was at our house every single weekend.

One Saturday when the three musketeers were four years old,  I got a call from his mom. She nonchalantly said “Hi”. I said “Hi. What’s up?” she asked me, “Where’s Aru?” I said in the back with the boys playing. You wanna talk to him?” She responded, “Are you sure?” Now I’m confused.

Me: “Am I sure? Yeah why wouldn’t I be?”

Her: “Can you just go check…”

Me: “Sure, hold on a sec”. I walk to the back of the house, calling ‘Aru!’ as I went. I reached the boys room and there are only 2 boys sitting on the floor. “Where’s Aru?!” I ask, starting to feel a fluttery feeling in my stomach. One boy says, “I don’t know.” Another boy says, “In the bathroom, I think.” I checked the bathroom before so I knew he wasn’t there. My hands were sweaty and shaking when I pick the phone back up, because I had just brought all the boys in from playing out front maybe 10 minutes earlier.

Her: “Can’t find him?”

Me: “No!”

Her: “That’s because he’s sitting here with me.”

Me: “WHAT??? How? Why?”

Her: “I don’t know he just rang the bell a couple of minutes ago. His dad is really upset and doesn’t want me to let him go back over there for a while.”

Me: “Uh, I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t want me watching him either since I apparently lost him! I am soooooo sooooo sorry! I don’t know how this happened!” I was feeling like I was going to throw up as I apologized over and over. She assured me she knew I was a good mother and that this type of thing had never happened before. And she did keep him home for about two weeks until his constant begging and crying to be with us finally frayed her last nerve and she brought him back. I was hesitant to take him though. I knew I’d be putting the chain on the door the whole time he was there just for good measure, but I wanted to know what prompted him to go home in the first place. Why if he wanted to be at our house so bad had he left that day? I needed to have a talk with him before he could spend the night again. So he came over and I called him into the kitchen to talk.

Me: “I’m really curious why you decided to leave and go home that day that you left. That can never happen again, that was very dangerous.Why would you do that?”

Him: “I forgot to bring the ball when we came inside, so I went back down to get it. But then the door shut behind me and I couldn’t get it back open.”

Me: “Why didn’t you ring the bell here so we would let you in?”

Him: “I tried and tried but I couldn’t reach it. But I knew I could reach Nikita’s [his mother] bell so I just walked around the corner and rang her bell. I wasn’t scared.” This kid. Very calculating, impossible to scare or fluster even at four years old. He assured me that it would not happen again because now he knew he could get locked out and not be able to reach the bell. “Can I go play now?”

I nodded and just had no words. I just sat there shaking my head over and over and feeling really lucky. Talk about dodging a bullet!

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Name This Recipe!

 

Hey peeps, guess what? I came up with a brand new recipe last night! It’s pretty crazy looking, I mean it’s green! Definitely not used to shrimp and sauce being green and it was quite an unexpected result. But if you grimace at the ingredient list (or the picture for that matter,) rest assured, it was delicious! My boys claim that they are ready to start trying new foods no matter what they look like, so I gave them plates filled with orange pasta and green shrimp. I got a couple of crazy looks from them but I said, really, it’s delicious, you’re going to be super surprised. And they were. They both had seconds. Even the man ate it (shocker!) I just don’t know what to call it. So I’m doing my first real contest. Come up with a name for my recipe and I’ll send you a box of Barilla Veggie Penne! (Ok, I know, it’s not like an Amazon gift card or new car, but it’s free food – who doesn’t like free food?!) It’s amazing, the texture and taste are so much better than those dry ass wheat pastas! (No offense if you like those though, I mean, someone likes them.) To win you have to 1. Drop the name of the recipe in the comments on Urban Mommys Facebook link to this article and 2. Share it on your wall. That’s it, I’ll read all the entries, decide which name I like best and message you for your address.

 

Ingredients:

  1. One box of Barilla Veggie Penne
  2. One pound bag of frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled (sorry Jamie!)
  3. Half a stick of butter
  4. 1/3 cup of veggie broth
  5. 5 ounces of Cabernet (any brand will do)
  6. Half a bag of fresh spinach (they’re like 5 ounces right?)
  7. 3 heaping tablespoons of sour cream
  8. a few shakes of Parmesan cheese
  9. Salt, Pepper, dried Parsley

Over medium heat, melt the butter and throw all the shrimp in. Season with the salt, pepper and dried parsley. I usually just season one side of the shrimp let it cook seasoned side up for about 5 minutes, then flip them for another 2-3 minutes. Next add the broth, the wine, the sour cream and the parmesan and stir to combine. When all is combined, add the spinach and cook for about 3 more minutes until the spinach is completely wilted. It’s the combination of the spinach and the Cabernet that makes the sauce green. Trust me, all these things go together surprisingly well. Let me know how yours comes out!

 

 

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Meet the (Substitute) Parents

I follow and read a lot of parenting sites/magazines. As I read many of the articles, I have come to believe we have a shortage of grandparents in this country. Every parent writer seems to be reinventing the wheel at every turn. Where are their parents? Have these younger parents moved too far to call mom and get advice? Are they having kids when their parents are too old to even give sound advice? I have no idea but it’s clear to me that young parents in this country need some substitute parents.

I’m not talking about medical break through’s, or scientific discoveries that help us to know more about nutrition and child health, like what they should eat when, etc. I’m talking about good old, old fashioned grandparent help. Now I know there are lots of debates around styles of parenting and even the evolution of styles is because of tireless research by diligent clinicians on how children’s psyches are affected by various behaviors parents engage in. It’s great, I love it. I’m talking about your run of the mill parenting stuff that seems to (according to lots of the articles I’m reading) be non-existent. Seriously, someone raised you people, right? When they took you to a supermarket, how did they keep you from running wild, screaming through the aisles? Did they have to beat and embarrass you, did they just let you run wild, did they not have any tricks or techniques you could borrow from?

Seriously, the subject of some articles just baffle me. You needed an entire article to ask about how often to change bed sheets or to tell us why we shouldn’t be annoyed by your running, screaming 5 year old in Target because you’re just too tired to parent that day? Or having to pretend to enjoy spending time with your kids? Whaaaa? Do you people need substitute parents? If so, I volunteer. Seriously, hit me up in the comment section or on Facebook and ask me how to keep your five year old from running like a wild animal through Target, annoying the shit out of other shoppers. I have some ideas and some suggestions that with a lot of time and patience (i.e. you will be tired and often won’t get shit done) that have worked. And mommy shamers (and why the hell is that even a thing), don’t come on here like, oh you think you’re so much better than me because you had an easy kid? You think you have all the answers? Because no and no. But I do know many, many people with well behaved, polite children and they all do many similar things to achieve these results.

A lot of the stuff my mom did and told me are completely obsolete and annoying in this technology ridden time, I get that too. But whether it’s screen time or any type of play time, call your parent and ask them how they did it. Call your aunt or uncle. Hell, some of you parents aren’t even that old, so it’s not like your parents are in their 70’s and their advice is so obsolete as to be completely useless. And if you can’t call them for whatever reason, like I said, hit me up, I’ve got plenty more advice for you. And if you’re a mom with a bunch of well behaved kids, drop a comment with your best tip on how to develop polite kids.

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DaddyOFive Now DaddyOThree

  So those crappy parents I wrote about, Mike and Heather Martin, the YouTubers behind DaddyOFive? Now you can call him DaddyOThree because he lost custody of his biological kids to their mom. Read about it here on Scary Mommy a website I like (don’t want to link to the YouTube channel, uh-uh):  http://www.scarymommy.com/daddyofive-loses-custody-of-two-children/ . Funny how quick attitudes can go from, “you’re a hater because you don’t make money on YouTube like we do” to, “We’re so sorry and we really desire change.” Whatever. Like a person who is remorseless and only sorry when they’re caught and then made to suffer consequences, these people are only sorry for themselves and the loss of six figures. Oh I didn’t mention that mean pranks was netting them over $100,000 a year? No need to get up and go to work, just scare the shit out of the kids and chill at home. Please, please let these people (and any others like them) go the way of the dodo. Mean isn’t funny. It’s just mean. Unfortunately though,  until our society stops rewarding this behavior, I fear we’ll see more of this. I hope it doesn’t become a new norm like alternative facts, ugh.

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Paging DaddyOFive Subscribers

So if you follow any parenting forums you’ve heard of the controversy around a YouTube Channel called Daddy of Five where parents prank their kids for laughs, except many of the pranks are downright mean and good parents across the country are up in arms over this potentially abusive situation. I read a lot of comment sections to get a feel for if there is a consensus on judgement on any situation that gets media scrutiny and parents seem really upset whether or not they agree that this is actual state intervention is necessary in this case. So since there seemed to be a consensus that these were horrible people that deserved at the very least to be banned from YouTube, I had to wonder, well who are their subscribers that watch this stuff and find it funny?

Let me start by saying when I saw the name of the channel pop up in an article, I recognized it. I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it though. As I clicked on an embedded video that showed a particularly horrible ‘prank’, Khev said, “Oh that’s Daddy of Five. I follow them, remember I showed you a video once.” It dawned on me then that most of Daddy of Five’s subscribers are probably mostly kids and teens. Which, when you think about it, is a little disappointing that kids are watching it and thinking, ok, this is something some families do for fun and it’s ok. It’s not ok to scare your kids into tears and have them slap the shit out of each other for fun. I certainly didn’t understand why my son would want to watch it so we talked.

“Why the hell do you want to spend limited screen time watching crap like this?”

“Because, it’s funny. A lot of my friends follow them. The pranks are all in good fun.” (Here I point to screen shots of the worst ‘pranks’.)

“Oh well yeah, except for that one. And that one. And that one. They’re not all that bad though.” (Insert ‘sigh’ here.)

“Would you want those things done to you? Would it be hilarious if I let your brother slap you in the face so hard it made you cry for a prank video that I then put on YouTube so thousands of people could laugh at you?”

“No!” (Duh, right?)

“These people are crappy parents. And you and your friends by following them, actively encourage them to continue these mean ‘pranks’. It says something about the kind of person you are, subscribing to these people, and it’s not good. Some of those videos made me feel uncomfortable and really bad for those kids.”

“Me too. I hadn’t thought about it like that. I hadn’t really thought about it at all.”

Later on that day he told me he’d unsubscribed, which was good but really I want him to think about why he subscribes to a particular channel and what would be the kind of thing that would make him unsubscribe. One lesson down, two hundred gazillion to go.

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Pitbulls and Parent-‘ees’

The day we brought him home. He was 28 pounds

Ok, that title is me trying to do a play off the popular Animal Planet show, ‘Pitbulls and Parolees’ . Which many of you who aren’t crazy pitbull moms probably have never seen. Indulge me for a minute, you’ve got Scandal dvr’d already, you have 6-7 minutes to read this.

My middle son wanted a dog his entire life. Then my aunt goes and adopts a dog from North Shore Animal League and takes him along to help pick the dog out. Just great. You’d think walking that dog would be enough for him but no, he wanted his own puppy. So literally 6 years pass while he’s showing how responsible he is by walking my aunt’s dog and begging and I start to feel like this kid should have his own dog… he’s going to take care of it! (Parents who are wiser than me, go ahead and laugh your asses off at me at this point in the story, I deserve it). I know that NYC is full of kill-shelters. So I decide we are getting a puppy from one of them. I begin calling them in October 2010 looking for puppies. Every time I call, the only puppies they have are pitbull mixes. I’ve seen the news. I know pitbulls are dangerous and I don’t want one. But every time I try to rescue a puppy, that is all they have in all of New York City. Fuck.

I call my sister who is a marine mammal trainer and has worked with walruses. Because, pitbulls, walruses, you know a connection, large, volatile uncontrollable and wild right? Um… no. She says dogs are dogs. Pitbulls, German shephards, Rottweilers, they’re bully breeds, big and strong and you can train them and go for it, I’ll help you.  We went to Manhattan Animal Care and Control one night right before Tariq’s 14th birthday. It was a scary place. Row after row of tiny kennels with pitbulls and chihuahuas. That’s all they had. We looked at 6 pit-mix puppies. Khevin was terrified (he was 5 at the time) and spent most of the time pressed up against the wall of the shelters’ hallway, assailed by the stench. Most of the dogs were girls, 2 were boys. Only one was a reddish brown and he was much calmer than the other dogs. He’d only been there 3 days, a stray from the Bronx. I liked him immediately but Tariq wanted to keep looking. So we had the shelter workers take all 6 of them out of the kennels. Many of them jumped on us or barked excitedly. Only the skinny brown one didn’t do either. He just looked terrified, trying to hide behind the shelter worker. Tariq held his hand out and finally the skinny dog came over to him and let him pet him. I said, that’s it then, I think we should get him. His tag said 10 months old, much older than I wanted but it just seemed right so we put down a deposit and promised to come back for him later.

We picked him up 3 days later. This is the day he came home, his ‘gotcha day’ in dog adoption circles. 

I thought I knew what to expect. I’d done the reading. But I didn’t know how much we would fall in love with him. Like, deeply, forever, in love. My sister told me socialization and desensitization were the keys to a good dog, and she couldn’t have been more right. No one who has met him doesn’t like him. People who have been bitten by dogs like this dog. It’s truly amazing. Talk about changing lives… We started our journey that day. Khevin was still unsure and unhappy. He was afraid of our 28 pound puppy that at 5 months (yeah, that 10 month thing was all wrong) should’ve been 43 pounds. He wanted me to take the dog back to the shelter. He only liked cats, like his oldest brother. He was terrified, a little prisoner in his own house. How would I reconcile this?

I didn’t need to worry. He was afraid of him for about three days. It wasn’t long after he realized he could lay all over the dog, hug him, play with him (you know, a boy and his dog stuff!) that they became the best of friends. And my heart was full of joy watching the relationships between Petey and the boys blossom. I forgot he was a ‘pitbull’ because he was just a sweet, goofy puppy. It’s also when I fell in love with the “breed” and realized that they get a terrible rap for all the wrong reasons.

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The New Homework Debate

One of the benefits of having kids eleven years apart is that I get to see educational trends waxing and waning. A very hot topic right now is homework and there seem to be two camps: those who believe in lots of it, and those who don’t. Lots of articles are trending on social media about parents taking stands against the perceived ridiculous amounts of homework their poor kids are getting saddled with. People are cheering for those parents standing up for the notion that we need to stop ruining childhood with hours of homework each night. I feel like it’s a good time for me to weigh in as my opinion over the lifetime of my children’s school career has run the gamut.

 

I have to say that I’m very unhappy with the shift over the last 15 years that has occurred in early childhood learning. This unhealthy push for more academic achievement for younger and younger kids is creating a whole new set of problems which includes a scary lack of proper socialization. I’m in the ‘put toys back into kindergarten classrooms’ camp. I’ve had very bad experiences with homework and kindergarteners and I have to say that for them I don’t believe in it at all. When my youngest was in pre-k, he was given a notebook and I was told his homework would be to practice writing letters and his name each night. I kindly refused. I explained that in my experience as a parent, this would not really help him in the long run and that he would be spending his evenings at home playing and engaging with his family. Of course when assignments were like, build a mobile with different shaped construction paper with your mom and bring it in to be hung up on the ceiling, we did those because my son wanted to do it and he enjoyed seeing his mobile and pointing it out to us.

As he got older,  I played it by ear. If it seemed like it was going to take more than 10 minutes and he wasn’t going to get anything from it, we didn’t do it. We discussed what was learned and I would ask him if he understood. Therein lies the key to how much and if homework is necessary in young kids: did they understand everything? Do they need a review? Do they need parent’s help with something they didn’t get in class? Homework can be useful for parents to identify how well their child understands material and what they may need help with. You don’t need hours to do that. You should be able to talk to your child’s school administrators and teachers and come to an understanding about homework load. I’ve done it throughout my kids’ grade school career and I have had mostly positive experiences.

 

Because let’s be real here, no one wants their 9 year old sitting at a table struggling through 2-3 hours of assignments after they’ve been in school all day sitting at a desk, doing assignments. It’s unfair and it robs the entire family of quality time, especially if your kid hates doing it, it can literally be a nightmare of cajoling, punishing, yelling, etc. It creates stress and strife where there needn’t be any and I am against it. But… (sorry, there’s a ‘but’ here), if we work together to abolish homework in early grades completely, what happens when kids get to high school? I could link to articles that say high school kids have way too much homework, but I’ve also found articles saying they have too little. And these discrepancies are often determined by race, geographic location and wealth of districts as well as individual schools. Now that I put that out there, there seems to be fewer easy answers. We are constantly trying to wash the gray out of issues and leave things as either black or white, right or wrong, and that’s it. But that rarely works and it doesn’t work for homework either. Some people in our country have an advantage over others economically, and that creates a hugely unequal playing field as far as educational resources go.

You know your child: are they being assigned homework that is going to take them hours, is that homework all they do until they go to bed and are you fighting about it? Then it’s probably not doing much good and you need to go to the school and work something out. When my son was a fifth grader, I asked for a meeting and asked why each subject needed homework every night. It was way too much and quality was shoddy because of the time it took. I suggested math on Mondays and Tuesdays, science Wednesdays, ELA Thursdays and Fridays or some variation thereof. His teachers and assistant principal agreed and his teachers seemed happier with that arrangement (to say nothing of the kids, my son was a hero in class that week!)  Do some research regarding the pros and cons of homework and weigh in!

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Hello world!

Welcome to the new and improved, UrbanMommys! For information about me and what I aim to do here, check out the ‘About Me’ section of this page. I started UrbanMommys in 2011 when I had just been laid off of a 12 year state job. At that time I had a 6 year old, 14 year old and 17 year old of my own as well as my two rotating 14 year old sons (actually friends of my son from babyhood that I’ve helped raise), a cat and a puppy. Fun times.

Since then, there have been a lot of changes in my life and though I thought I had a wealth of experience to share, the intervening six years taught me a whole hell of a lot more. I’ve dealt with teen pregnancy and become a grandmother, I’ve fallen in love with one of the world’s most misunderstood dog breeds and started saving and advocating for them and I’ve been galvanized to advocate for LGBTQI kids, because I’ve come to love one. Busy, I know right? There’s a ton of issues and lot to examine in modern life as it relates to parenting kids and I have (pretty non-judgmental) opinions on all of it! There’s so much to talk about, so much to learn and even more to understand. I hope you like my articles, I hope they make you laugh, give you ideas, start productive discussions and sometimes give you comfort.

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