Parenting Archive

8 isn’t Enough

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A few days ago, my son Elias reached an important milestone: He turned 8.

In half of the states in America, kids turning 8 celebrate finally “freeing” themselves of the “constraint” of a booster seat. Yet as safety advocates and an increasing number of parents (and kids!) know, age has little to do with being able to ride safely in an adult seatbelt.

My own son has had vehicle safety driven into his head since the time he was born, and he does take it pretty seriously. Lately, though, even he has been longing to ditch his booster. I told him that on his birthday, we would check the fit in the regular seatbelt, just to see.

He’s familiar with the 5-step test kids need to pass before they can safely move into an adult seatbelt alone:

  • Child sits all the way back in the seat
  • Child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat
  • The lap belt sits low on the hips, touching the thighs (not on the tummy)
  • The shoulder belt crosses the middle of the shoulder (not falling off, and not rubbing the neck)
  • Child can sit that way for the entire ride

In my state, it’s actually part of the law that the seatbelt needs to fit properly before graduating from a booster seat, although most people (including lots of police officers) don’t realize that.

Elias is a tall kid: 54″ (90th percentile for 8-year-olds), so I worried a bit that he actually would fit well. But a promise is a promise, so here he is sitting in his usual position in the third row of our 2010 Honda Odyssey.

The lap belt is high, and the shoulder belt is on his neck. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but his knees aren’t anywhere near the edge of the seat.

I’ll admit I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw how horrible the fit was without the booster seat. Then I cringed, thinking of how many kids ride like this anyway.

Please make sure that your children fit properly in a seatbelt regardless of age, weight, or height, and remember that the fit might vary based on the vehicle and seating position. Needless to say, Elias is back in his booster and will remain there for quite some time.

 

 

Workin’ at the Kid Wash (Yeah!)

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My family is in limbo right now. A few months ago, we sold our house and moved into a rental for a year. In a few more months, we plan on moving…somewhere. But not here. Our temporary house is nice enough, but it’s not ours, and since we’re not here for long, there’s a lot of stuff we haven’t bothered unpacking, and we haven’t wanted to invest in things like closet organizers that we might not need in our next place. So we’re feeling very unsettled and a bit anxious.

That’s why we decided to do something fun this summer to try to nudge us out of our doldrums.

Several years ago I found the plans for a “Kid Wash” in Family Fun magazine. It’s a sprinkler reminiscent of a car wash, but made for kids to run through. My husband agreed that it looked neat and we planned on building it, but never did. So I decided this was finally the year.

We went to the dollar store and Home Depot for all of our Kid Wash needs. We already had the PVC glue (not required, but we did glue a few parts) and pipe cutters at home. The rest of the supplies cost about $50.

Then we all got to work. I measured and marked. Steve cut. My 8-year-old helped drill the holes, and my 3-year-old helped glue. We put the pieces together, connected the hose, and next thing you knew, we had the hottest, coolest front yard in the neighborhood.

Steve altered the plans a bit. We eliminated the “stop” and “go” signs (the kids would ignore them anyway), and instead of nylon lawn-chair webbing (ouch!), we used pool noodles. We also wound up changing out the bits that shoot straight up for angled ones that further spray the kids as they run through. (That was a later alteration, so this picture doesn’t show it.)

My daughter decided that she wanted a “happy smile face that shoots water out of its mouth,” so we gave her a plastic plate to draw the face. Then we attached that and drilled through the plate and the pipe.

The nice thing about this project is that you really can customize it to fit your desires. (I admit it feels a bit sacrilegious to use pool noodles for something other than car seats, though I suppose this is closer to their true intent.)

Have I mentioned it’s a lot of fun, even for the grownups? Not that I’d know. I haven’t run through it dozens of times myself. Swear.

You might be shaking your fist in the air and yelling, “Jennie! Why tell us about this now that summer is almost over?!”

Where I live June is often downright chilly, and we might not hit our peak temperatures until September. It can be sweltering well into October. So the timing is actually great for us. Even if you live somewhere with a “normal” temperature, though, you still have a few more weeks before it gets cold, right? And if not, you can start collecting supplies and planning now for next year. You have a head start!

As with anything, make sure you take proper safety precautions, like using protective eyewear when you run through. (Not really. My kids are wimps.)

Just stay cool, and have fun.

 

 

An Olympic Dream is Born

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I know my youngest (now 8 years old) can’t be the only kid out there who has been totally inspired by these summer Olympic games. He’s been staying up until midnight each night because he can’t go to sleep without knowing how it all plays out (we avoid the spoiler alerts). Luckily it’s summer and we both have the luxury of sleeping in most days.

He decided by day 2 that he was going to be an Olympic athlete. There was no question in his mind – only resolution. Maybe he wouldn’t win a medal (he’s okay with that – for now) but he was going to have that Olympic experience. The only question in his mind was which sport? Baseball wasn’t an option. Equestrian? Too expensive for our modest family budget. Badminten? Too uncool. Gymnastics? Requires insane amounts of flexibility (as do many other sports). Flexibility was a definite concern of his. He needed a sport that didn’t require any. This is the kid that can happily play sports all day long but ask him to bend and touch his toes and he can barely touch his knee caps!  Lol.

He pondered for another day and then decided. This was going to be his ticket to the 2020 Summer Olympics…

  

So, what are your kids dreaming of?

 

 

Up for Debate

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See that cute little guy waving at you over there? That’s my son, Oliver. He’s been around for about eight months now, so there’s a lot I know about him, but there’s even more that I don’t know.

I know that he likes Cheerios and hates diaper changes, but I can’t tell you what subjects he’ll excel in or whether he’ll play sports in high school. I don’t know what religion (if any) he’ll follow, what political party (if any) he’ll join, or what career path (hopefully something) he’ll choose.

That’s why I have started to hate shopping for kids’ clothing.

Perhaps I should back up a bit?

When Oliver was a newborn, I went to a store that carries nothing but kid’s clothes. When my older son was a baby, it was the perfect place to get simple essentials: solid and striped shirts, little khakis, pajamas with dogs on them. Because we didn’t learn Oliver’s gender until birth, I didn’t have a lot of clothes and looked forward to buying some cute boy things. I walked out with almost nothing.

Instead of stripes and solids, everything said something. “Mommy’s little prince.” “Grandma loves me.” “My dad’s a rock star.”

The whole store felt like a desperate scream for a parent’s validation. Do we really need to broadcast messages from our babies’ shirts to make ourselves feel better?

Then there are the clothes that let parents live out their own fantasies or hopes for their kids. (“Future quarterback.” “Tough guy.” “Rock hero.”) And the ones that highlight kids’ age-appropriate but supposedly negative behaviors. (“All my mom wants for Christmas is a silent night,” “Here comes trouble.”)

Don’t even get me started on anything that includes the word “sexy,” insults a gender (“Girls rule, boys drool”), or celebrates apathy (“Too cool for homework”).

Needless to say, I don’t buy children’s clothes that are designed make me feel better or that pigeon-hole my kids into certain roles.

And here’s where I become a hypocrite. If you’ll notice, in that photo up above, Oliver is wearing a onesie that says “Captain of the Debate Team.” As my 8-month-old clearly is not really the captain of a debate team, that means I have broken my rule about pigeon-holing my kids and living out my dreams through their clothing.

It all started one day in Old Navy. I was in the baby section and had just turned up my nose at some kind of football-related shirt when I spotted it. “Captain of the Debate Team.” I think I squealed out loud. A shirt that celebrated brains over brawn? Oh my gosh! And, I’ll admit it, I was captain of my high school debate team. (Technically I was co-captain of the Speech & Debate Team, and I represented the Speech portion, but still. The only thing that would have caused me to squeal more enthusiastically would have been one that said “Newspaper Editor.” I was, uh, a bit of a nerd. But I digress.)

So, for a split second, I thought, “No. You don’t like things like this.” Then I bought it.

I took it home and posted a photo on Facebook. Many friends liked it.

I threw it in the wash. Then, the next day, I went to fold it…and turned it over for the first time. There was another phrase on the back I hadn’t noticed before. “Talks 247.”

Suddenly, I felt defeated. Sad. Angry. Stupid.

The shirt wasn’t celebrating intelligence at all–it was poking fun at kids who won’t keep their mouths shut and argue about everything. (Sort of ridiculous for that to be on a shirt for the pre-verbal, of course. It would be much better suited for my 7-year-old. But I digress again.)

After I calmed down, it occurred to me that maybe I was overreacting, so I called my mom for her opinion. She didn’t see it as a bad thing, but she also sees loquaciousness as a sign of intelligence. Without giving the background, I polled friends on Facebook about how they feel about a “Talks 247” shirt. Some felt it was positive or neutral. Others felt it was negative. A few people commented that they don’t like kids’ shirts that say stuff about their personalities.

So what have I done with the shirt? Well, Oliver still wears it. I don’t like the wording on the back (partly because I interpret it as a ridicule and partly because he’s EIGHT MONTHS OLD AND DOESN’T TALK!!!), but I’m still heartened by the front, even if I do realize the shirt is for my benefit and no one else’s.

I also realize I’m probably overthinking the whole thing, but I suppose that’s important for a debater to do.