Tuesday, 30 March 2010

When They Can, They Will: Potty Woes

If there is a subject that gets more airtime than potty training, I'd like to know what it is...


There are three simple and easy ways to potty train a child:
  1. wait until they're physically and psychologically ready, can understand and want to
  2. let them watch the parents and older siblings do bathroom activities for a couple of years and, 
  3. do nothing
Inappropriate potty training (too early, involving any kind of coercion or humiliation, too intrusive) causes some seriously weird behaviour, not only in kids but in adults, too. Those odd diaper fetishes, shy bladder and  impacted bowel come to mind, but they are hardly the only ones. 

Allowing kids to sort it out for themselves when they are capable and care might add to the laundry pile for a few extra months... and the only thing I can think of to say about that is 'so?'

Are there really parents, or parenting experts, who think that the whole goal is to minimize laundry? Personally, being of an extremely lazy bent, I would do an extra load of laundry every week if it means avoiding having to clean poop off a carpet even once. The number of parents who pick 'all the bedclothes' over diapers almost every night amaze me.

When it was time to think about 'training' my kids, all I could think of was 'why?' They'd learned to walk and talk without any lessons or training led by me or anyone else, how could this be any harder? When they could, I had no doubt they would figure it out. Strangely, they did. And you know what: you can't tell anymore which one of them started or finished learning younger. In fact, you can't even tell today if they learned this when they were 14 months old, or 14 years old. 

If parents hate handing thousands of dollars to diaper manufacturers, maybe considering switching to cloth for the rest of the time for the same reason we don't buy single-use disposable shirts? 

No?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Frugal = Possible

As a long-time stay-at-home mom, one of the discussions I love having is about how 'it's not possible to own real estate on one income' and how 'it's no longer possible for one parent to stay home with kids in today's economic reality.'


Uh-hunh.


Funny, how people told me the same thing the year (1989) my oldest was born...


I've read in various places those ridiculous estimates of How Much It Costs to Raise a Child to 18 ($180,000 was one I saw one), and after I shake my head in amazement, I'm curious about the fundamentals that have been used to determined that.


Is it based on a certain number of brand new pairs of pants per child per year? I'm pretty sure that for us, the total number of brand new pants per child up to the age of about 15 was 15. Maybe 20. It's amazing the thriving business second-hand and thrift stores do, in spite of everyone apparently having to buy brand new clothes all the time. Would you rather buy lightly worn $6 Gap pants for a 12yo who is in the process of outgrowing them or unworn ones she'll grow out of just as fast, for $60? That factor of ten adds up fast... faster than a 50% off sale can fix it.


Is it based on convenience, precooked, packaged foods as a large part of the grocery budget? One of the things that people who have never stayed home for 2 decades raising kids don't know is that when you're home most of the day, it's possible to


  • bake bread (for about 61 cents a loaf, even with 12 grains, whole wheat and fancy sea salt)
  • cook beans from dry ($2.90/kg dry or $1.69 for a half pound can, you control the added salt?)
  • make muffins (that don't have the texture or sugar-load of cupcakes, for less than $1 a batch, instead of a dollar or more each), every day if you want to 'cause it takes 20 minutes
  • make stew from scratch using the cheapest vegetables there are: onions, potatoes, carrots, etc.
  • roast whole chickens right in your own kitchen without needing to speed home from the store to avoid killing everyone with cooling rotisserie birds, still controlling the amount of salt added
  • make chicken stock from scratch without the salt (oh, man, the salt!), fat, sugar (not kidding), or whatever 'hydrolyzed vegetable protein' is --made for free from bones and scraps that would just be tossed
  • can and freeze anything that appears in abundance, free or low-cost, like a 4' box of 'picked too many' apples from a friend that became applesauce with no additional ingredients, the free blackberries that are weeds all over town, a box of nectarines that accidentally got frozen at the store and sold for $2 for 22 pounds and a bumper crop of cherries once: $10 for 25 pounds
  • grow a vegetable garden for the cost of seeds and watering, giving a parent something to do outside while supervising the kids who want to be out there anyhow
So, choose between 2 hardboiled eggs in a cute little egg-carton shaped bubble package for $2.10 or eggs that you can use for anything, including hardboiling, at home in under an hour for $2.40/dozen. An angelfood cake only takes an hour, with the addition of about nine cents of other ingredients.


With Craigslist, Used[CityName] and Freecycle, there is almost nothing but food that anyone must buy new, and even then I see listings for 'come and get it' freezer emptying, orchard-picking, over-abundant garden leftovers and even 'made a whole bunch and no one will eat it' canning, as well as 'unused' 'totally new' 'in original packaging' and 'unopened' advertising all kinds of things.


While I'm home I can do all kinds of other things I'd have to hire someone else to do instead: from lawn care to laundry, home improvements and repair to mending and removing stains from clothes instead of replacing them.


I figure our kids were more like $2-3000/year for the first one and probably 50-85% of that for the second (because, among other things, there is no reason to buy more kid-sized plastic dishes once the set is in the house), over and above what we would have had to buy to live, just the two of us. I do know that, 2 years later, we certainly aren't floating in an extra ten grand a year, since our eldest move out.


So, what's the other $7-8000/year paying for? A car each every year? Six years of full-time post-secondary education (hey! You can't count that in the first 18 years, they don't go until 18, and what if they never go?)


I suspect that bureaucrats sit down with catalogues and layette lists and itemize absolutely everything that a baby could possible 'need' in the first 19 years of life supposing it never received a single gift or hand-me-down and every second-hand store in the world went up in flames. This list includes new furniture however often it outgrows the old stuff, a bedroom of its very own, a new car that seats enough people every time a new one arrives, and multiplies of things like 'vacations' and 'holiday shopping' based on the hilarious idea that having a third or fourth or sixth kid creates another $10k in income to fling around every year.


Normal people in the real world, on the other hand, have another baby and get to make the same amount of money spread among more people, trimming or eliminating some of the casual, unnecessary spending to do so. Which is why people with 16 kids don't usually make $160,000 a year over and above their 'real' budget... and some of them still own houses, even on a single income.
photo used with permission Handley Edwards And Ellis Family by DavidCFoster
Creative Commons, attributed/non-derivative

Monday, 22 March 2010

Silent Mother

Trust Is Hard to Restore

Tragically, perhaps, once a question has escaped a parent's mouth and landed on the floor in front of the child, there is no way to make it not have been asked. 

Restoring trust is harder than it looks. Apologies only make reparations on the damage done in the moment. The break in trust lives on long past the event. Truly, trust can only be restored by constantly and consistently refraining from repeating the offence. I am reasonably quick on the uptake, and managed to discover this (mostly by falling on my face, but I have found over the years that personal humiliation is an astonishingly effective learning tool!) quite a long time ago, but with enough repetition to be absolutely certain what I was really doing...


Someone asked me a while ago if I'd asked one of my kids something about The Future with some particular boy. It reminded me that I've learned that there are some questions my sister can ask my kids, their friends can ask them, their grandparents can ask them, even total strangers can ask them... but I can't ask.

In my kids' heads, by virtue of me being The Mom, I can't ask some questions. Because they're loaded. Because they imply a preference or an opinion that should have nothing to do with how they live their lives. Because even if I'm dying of curiosity, it's none of my business until they decide to share. The weight of my status as 'mom' imparts extra meaning in the question --even if it's nothing but idle curiosity, it just will not be heard that way by those ears.

5 Questions A Mom Can't Ask

1. Do you think you have a future with him?
This implies that I want (or don't want) her to be involved with him for a long time. That implication on its own colours the child's view of what she's supposed to think or want.

2. Can you afford that?
This implies two things: a. I have any reason to be in on your finances, and; b. I don't think you should be buying whatever it is you're talking about. A and B: none of my business.

3. Is your apartment clean?
Wow, yeah, none of my business.

4. Have you kissed him?
My sister can (and has) asked questions like this... I can't. I just can't. I can't imply that I think she should have, and I can't imply that I think her judgement is poor. I just can't ask.

5. Do you think that's safe?
Same thing, really --the only reason to ask this kind of question is because I clearly don't think it is. Either I don't trust you to have any rational sense of danger, or I think you're too stupid to know what a sense of danger means. 
photo used with permission Children's Museum 2 by TheShutterBabe
attributed/non-derivative Creative Commons