Monday, September 10, 2012

Bad Parent of the Week

This week's bad parents thought it would be fun to turn a chugging contest into a family event.  Once that was over, they proceeded to pressure each child into trying the beer, saying "Come on.  Do it.  It will make you cool!"  Really?  With all the fears many of us have that our children will be peer pressured into doing drugs or drinking alcohol, it's a little shocking to find that some children's parents initiate these actions.  At the end, they claim it was all a joke, but I am not laughing.  What do you think?

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!": The Life of the Middle Child

Yesterday, in my post on the Oldest-Child Syndrome, I discussed some of the pitfalls that plague the firstborn in a family.  However, some say the middle child occupies the least enviable position of all.  We remember Jan Brady's jealousy of her older sister, and her famous line, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!"  Well, I happen to come from a big family with 3 middle children, and I have my own theories.  Again, I took to the streets--er--the internet to see if I can find the real truth.

Here are the generalized characteristics of the middle child:

1. Jealousy

Unlike the firstborn, the middle child was never an only child...but they were once the babies in the family.  They kicked that firstborn off their high horse and took over the position of chubby-cheeked angel.  Then, that darned youngest came along and the middle child was shoved into a sort of third place, Brass medal position.  The firstborn is foraging new ground, making accomplishments that no other child in the family has endeavored and doing their best to outdo and assert their authority over the middle child (the one they've never forgiven for being born and taking away their "only child" status).  Alternatively, the youngest child takes away the attention with the new level of cuteness their parents just love to adore.  Where does that leave the middle child?  Oftentimes, they're jealous. 

2. Independence

The oldest child is striving for attention and praise while the youngest is being coddled and adored.  So, the middle child is often overshadowed and overlooked.  Doesn't sound like a good thing, does it?  Oh, but it can be!  Parents have less expectations of a middle child.  They aren't expected to break every record in terms of achievement, and they don't have to be cute and adorable.  So, what happens?  They become themselves--with almost no influence!  They don't even try to compete on the same playing field as their older and younger sibling because they can't.  They play their own game--with no pressure.

3.  Family Disconnection

With the oldest and youngest children stealing all the attention, who's going to notice when the middle child is upset?  A 2009 poll at discovered that 40% of parents don't recommend having more than two children because it leaves them overextended and unable to devote equal time to their children.  As a result of this lack of attention and support, middle children often become the most disconnected members of their family and seek praise and empathy from their peers.

4.  Awesome Negotiators

Let's face it, the oldest and the youngest born are pretty demanding and resistant to anything that bends their will.  Someone needs to take the middle ground...literally.  The middle children are used to making allowances for others.  Their parents don't expect them to be "Little Mommies/ Little Daddies", so they don't feel the authoritarian pressure of the oldest child, and they aren't accustomed to whining to get their way, like the youngest.  The middle child eventually becomes the expert on dealing with these strong personalities.  No one negotiates and knows how to make a compromise like a middle child!  Is it any wonder that 52% of U.S. presidents were middle children?

So, maybe a middle child doesn't get a whole lot of attention by their parents, but it seems to me like their birth position bestows them some pretty good characteristics!  What am I missing?  Is there any other trait middle children share?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Oldest-Child Syndrome

I'm the oldest "child" in my family.  Terms like "Oldest-Child Syndrome" have been known to fly out of the mouths of people I know, and I've heard a lot of people say, "Oh, he's the oldest.  You know what that means!"  No, I don't.  What does birth order matter?  Do the oldest children of the world really all share common characteristics?  Apparently so.

After perusing the internet, I uncovered a lot of expert opinions on this subject.  Based on my own experience and the research of others, particularly from the work of Alfred Adler, the founder of the birth order theory, I was able to compile a list of the benefits and pitfalls all shared by us beautiful, wonderful oldest children.  (Seriously, why did our parents feel like they needed more?)

1.  Spoiled...for a little while

We used to be only children.  We got all the attention.  Our parents were new, so they fretted over every fall, paraded us around in the cutest clothes, followed all expert advice, bragged about every accomplishment, and thought we were the cutest babies to ever have existed.  Our grandparents fought for weekends with us and bought us every toy we desired.  We had all the attention.  We had no rival...until our darned sibling came along and pushed off our pedestals.  It took a long time for us to get over that resentment, didn't it?  Some of us never did.

2.  Little Mommies / Little Daddies

Since we were no longer hoarding the spotlight, it became our job to point out all the things our siblings did wrong.  We masqueraded as "helpers", but really, we relished the position of keeping our younger siblings in line.  We knew all the rules, but this new guy was drawing on walls and leaving his toys out in the living room.  Our parents were too busy falling all over themselves in adoration about how cute he was, but we saw through those big, innocent eyes and chubby cheeks, and we weren't going to stand by and let him "goo" and "gaa" over all the guidelines set in place waaay before he came along!

3.  Higher Standards

At the same time our siblings were breaking all the rules we had already mastered, we were foraging new ground, and our parents weren't nearly as lenient.  She was just a baby.  She couldn't be expected to clear the dinner table or feed the dog.  She couldn't be expected to sit still at a restaurant and was free to throw food with her smug, little smile.  However, as our siblings reached a more mature age, they weren't forced to grow up nearly as fast, were they?  Our parents had settled down, by then.  They had become wiser, learning from their experiences with us, and were following instincts rather than books.  They already had us, perfect as we were, and had become a little complacent about chores and discipline in their older years.

4.  Overachievers

Not only did our parents have higher standards for us, but we have higher standards for ourselves.  We are perfectionists, and we have higher IQ's.  I'm serious, I'm not making this up just because I'm the oldest.  The proof comes from research conducted by Norway psychiatrist, Petter Kristensen, whom argues that oldest children have an average of 2.3 more IQ points than their younger siblings.  It's really not that surprising, is it?  Think about the evolution of the oldest child:  We were told we were the best, then we had to fight for the spotlight and "prove" our worth by excelling in school and exceeding our parents' expectations at home.  Pretty much our whole lives, we've just been trying to convince everyone that we're still the "perfect" children they all believed us to be before our siblings came along.  It's a classic example of how adversity can make us stronger!

 So, instead of complaining about being the first child, or begrudging our children's "first-child syndrome", remember, it has its pitfalls, but it certainly has its benefits!

What are some other common characteristics shared by oldest children?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

21 Ways I'm Glad I'm a Woman

I'm sick of hearing why men have it good.  Yeah, they can pee standing up.  They don't have to have babies or periods.  They're not subjected to the same social pressure to be thin or good looking.  They get paid more for doing the same job.  Blah, blah, blah.  We've all heard it a thousand times.

Here are 21 Ways I'm Glad I'm a Woman:

1. My children love me more

Okay, I know this is a generalization, but how many times do you hear a football player yell, "Hi Dad!" after a football game?  How many people tattoo "Dad" on their arm in the middle of a heart?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

2.  I've the added respect of giving life

Yeah, the father plays his part, but I'm the one who abstains from alcohol, comfort, a calm stomach, and sleep for nine months only to push that baby out of my vagina.  Nobody cares much about the father's role in this process.

3.  I have a higher pain tolerance

See the above point concerning squeezing a baby out of my vagina.

4.  On a date, the guy pays for the meal

At least in my world he does.  I guess I'm not that evolved yet to do "dutch".  Maybe I think womanhood deserves its advantages.

5.  If I decide to stay home and raise kids, no one cares

If a dad decides not to work, however, people judge him as lazy and effeminate.  "Your wife wears the pants in the family, huh, huh, huh!"

6.  If I go to a bar, I get my drinks paid for.

This is along the same vein as #4.  But hey, if a guy is trying to liquor me up to have sex me, then I'm going to take advantage of him.  Frankly, it's what he deserves.

7.  I don't have to care about cars or sports

Thank goodness, because I really could care less.  If a guy were like that, however, other men would be pretty judgmental.

8.  I get out of household chores deemed as "man's work"

Mainly, this is because I'm doing everything else around the house.

9.  If I'm a single mom, I get a crapload of money back in tax returns

I'm sure single dads get the same benefit, but since there are less of them, I'm deeming this as a woman's benefit.  I never said this list wasn't full of generalizations!

10.  I will never be impotent

Do I really have to elaborate on this one?

11.  I won't go bald

And let's face it, the shape of my head is not that great.  I need hair to cover that thing up.

12.  I could marry a half-dead sugar daddy and be set for life

And he would be happy for me to take advantage of him!  Try to be a man and pull that off.

13.  My clothes are cuter

As a woman, I have many different styles to choose from.  I can be rocker punk one day and soccer mom the next.  Unless he's a rock star, guys just don't have that many choices.  I would hate to be a men's fashion designer and try to come up with something "new" or "fresh".  It just doesn't happen.  Boring!

14.  I'm allowed to show emotion

In fact, I'm expected to show emotion. No wonder men have anger issues.  Many times, anger is the only emotion they are actually allowed to portray.  Ugh!  Sucks to be a man!

 15.  I can wear any color without it being a big deal

Oh, I know there's been a rash of guys wearing pink and purple, but the numbers are quite small.  I've never seen pink clothes in the boy's section when shopping for Finn, yet I can buy blue clothing for Vette without question.  What is the deal with pink?  Must all men hate that color?  Ridiculous!

16.  I don't have to stuff all necessary items in my back pocket when I leave the house

I'm allowed to wear a purse.  It's actually quite convenient, and I don't have to sit funny!

17.  I can act bitchy and blame it on hormones

Hey, if men are going to pin it on me all the time that I have these crazy hormones, then I'm going to use it!

18.  No balls

They're ugly, wrinkled, and more sensitive than a poached egg.  Glad I don't have 'em!

19.  If I am attractive and intelligent, it's a big deal

Because no one expects you to have both traits.  Our society has led us to believe women can only possess one or the other, so if you have both, people view you as a miracle of God.

20.  Multiple (and better) orgasms

It may take us longer to get there, but it's worth the wait!

21.  I decide when to have sex

Yeah, that's right.  When it comes to sex, I have the control, and you have to wait until I'm ready.

See, ladies!  Don't you feel so much better now that we've pinpointed all the ways in which women have the advantage?  It's not such a man's world, after all.  We've got a lot of power!  Oh, and guys, before you get your boxer briefs in a wad, I love you, too.  I'm not trying to offend you, just calling it like it is.  This post is for the ladies!

Can you think of more ways you're glad to be a woman?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bad Parent of the Week

This week's "Bad Parent of the Week" features a segment of the show "What Would You Do?" and profiles kids being harassed for having two gay fathers.  Although this not an actual case of bad parenting, bullies are everywhere here in the real world.  What would you do in this situation?  How are you teaching acceptance and understanding to your children?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Generation X: 4 Things We Were Never Told

I'm a Generation X baby, but one thing always bothered me.  "Baby Boomers" is easy to understand, but what the hell is Generation X?  The World English Dictionary defines us as:  "young adults at millennium: the generation of people born roughly during the years 1965 to 1980 in Western countries, especially the United States, often regarded as disillusioned, cynical, or apathetic."

Aha, it all makes sense to me now, especially the "disillusioned" label.  The other day, I came across a Facebook post of an old school chum of mine.  He was complaining about being stuck in a loop, working a job he hated and living a life he never intended.  Many people "liked" his post.  We are certainly a disillusioned and cynical crew, but I think we could have prevented this problem.

Here are 4 Things My Generation Was Never Told:

1.  Dreams Don't Always Come True

Generation Xers had big dreams.  My boyfriend in high school was going to be a rock star.  My best friend was going to be a model.  My other friend was going to be an actress.  I was going to be a famous writer.  Of course, we had these dreams.  All of our lives, we were told:  "Follow your dreams!  You can be anything you want!"  Well, we certainly didn't want to grow up to be like our parents, so why did we?  We followed our dreams for a little while, but then, it turned out it was harder than we expected.  No one said we would have to marry our dreams, channel all our energy into one single piece at the exclusion of everything else.  They never said we'd have to give up our security, our friends, our time, and, sometimes, our sanity to make our dreams come true.  They said all we had to do was follow our dreams!  Everything was supposed to fall into place!  We doubted ourselves.  Life stood in the way.  We gave up, thinking we weren't good enough for our dreams anymore.  You know how many people, in the 100's that I know, actually had their dreams come true?  Um, wait.  I'm thinking.  Maybe one or two, and that's because they actually, amazingly harbored attainable dreams that wouldn't be affected by life or the fluxes in economy.  That reminds me of my second point:

2.  The Economy Will Crash

Right about the time we entered the work force.  Forget following our dreams, or even our less-glamorous second choices, we were lucky to have a job.  Any job.  Rush out and get any job you can.  It doesn't matter what you get paid, or how you are treated, it's better than nothing.  Right?  Some of my most studious college-educated friends couldn't even get jobs after 4+ years of dedication to a chosen profession.  They settled.  Not only did our lofty dreams not come true, but we are reduced to squabbling over low-paid positions, elbowing for position in the unemployment line. 

3.  Life Is Expensive

When I was a kid during the 90's boom, name brand clothing was the only thing to wear.  Shame and embarrassment were the expressions worn by those unlucky few whose parents could not afford to buy them Guess jeans.  We all got cars with our driver's licenses.  We got fast food jobs for extra cash (some of us still have them).  Many of our parents didn't have a college education, and they could afford these things, so why, with our college educations, are we struggling?  Now, we buy our kid's cheap clothes at Old Navy and Walmart.  We struggle over mortgages and groceries.  The cost of living has risen, but our paychecks haven't followed the trend.  Life is waaay more expensive than we were led to believe.

4.  Love Isn't a Fairytale

Generation Xers were raised during a Disney boom.  "Cinderella", "Snow White", and "Sleeping Beauty" were re-released and marketed to our peers, but we also had new ones, like "Aladdin", "Beauty and the Beast", and "The Little Mermaid".  Love began with a kiss and ended with a "happily ever after".  We were told we were special, so why weren't we lovable to the rest of the world?  Even if we did find "the one", it certainly wasn't the end of the story.  We fought.  We changed.  We divorced.  Keeping love is hard work and sometimes, completely out of our control.  Why were we taught these fairy stories??

Is it any wonder we are a generation full of cynics?  We were misled.  What other things do you wish Generation Xers were told?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Circumcision Decision

When I was pregnant with my daughter, we didn't know she was a girl until we had our last ultrasound about two weeks before she was born.  By then, my birth plan had already been arranged in the case that I might have a boy.  My midwife had asked me if I would want my potential son circumcised.

"No," I told her, and she gave me a high five.

"When I have a baby, I'm going to do it just like you," she said.

I had a girl, and it turned out to not even be an issue--until I became pregnant with Finn, whom we knew all along was a boy.  Again, I was asked the same question, this time by a different midwife:  "Will he be circumcised?"

"No."  My answer hadn't changed in 8 years, but my new midwife didn't think I was nearly as enlightened.  She frowned, hovering her pen over the chart while she stared at me, but she didn't try to change my mind.

After Finn's birth, I held my new, perfect, unmutilated baby in my arms, but I was concerned.  I don't have a penis.  "How do I clean it?"  I asked the nurses.  "Do I have to pull back the foreskin?"

"We don't know," snapped one cantankerous woman, "Ask your pediatrician."  (In case you're wondering, no, the foreskin doesn't pull back until age 2, but sometimes later.)  I was disturbed.  They didn't freaking know?

Recently, Erik and I discussed the topic of circumcision should we have a boy (I'm not pregnant--sometime in the future.  It's good to plan for these things.)  He wants to; I don't.  I won't.  I will not spend 9 months suffering to carefully craft a child in my womb only to have him cut up as soon as he's born.  I had heard too many horror stories.  Babies having to go in and have their circumcisions redone because of botched first attempts.  Bleeding.  Screaming.  Pain.  I don't care if he won't remember it later.  I'm not cool with traumatizing my baby.  Seriously, why?

Then, the other day, I came across this article:  Circumcision Pluses Outweigh Risks:  Pediatricians.  Okay, so circumcision prevents HIV?  Really?  Shouldn't our sons be wearing condoms?  What about teaching him not to be promiscuous? 

Circumcision lowers the instance of urinary tract infections, these pediatricians argue.  First of all, Finn has never had one.  He primarily drinks water, and he drinks plenty of it.  Next.

One woman commented that she believed in circumcision because boys are dirty, and they need the extra help by having their penises diced up.  Well, sorry lady, but that's a generalization that doesn't hold true in my family.  If either of my children were to win the slovenly award, it would be my daughter, and she's 8 years older.  What's so hard about teaching your children about basic hygiene?  If my daughter didn't wipe down her vagina every time she bathed, we'd have some problems.  Shouldn't my son take the same care with his parts?  I am shuddering thinking of parents who think otherwise.  Yuck!

My grandfather, uncircumcised his whole life, ended up having to be cut up when he was 90, my dad warned.  His caregivers in his later stage did not take the time to clean the area properly, and the situation became dire.  Again, yuck!  Granted, it's not a pleasant job, but it's my understanding that caregivers have a pretty nasty job.  Is proper cleansing of the penis really a mile beyond the disgusting duties they already perform?  Are they neglecting the genitals of the older ladies in their care??  Should we start removing baby girls' labia in order to make it easier on everyone else?

So, no, I haven't changed my mind, despite all the "benefits" of circumcision.  No child of mine, present or future, shall be cut up, diced, and handed back to me, bloody and screaming.  They are perfect just the way they are.  Like God is handing us these children, saying:  "Here is your beautiful baby boy.  Oh, but wait, I didn't finish the job.  You have to cut him up first.  Sorry about that."  I don't think so. 

If you do (or did) decide on circumcision for your son, believe me, I am not judging.  The pediatricians of the nation certainly seem to be in agreement with you.  I've always been a nonconformist, and circumcision is just not something I think is necessary with proper cleansing and safe sex practices.  You're welcome, Finn.

What are your thoughts on circumcision?