Recently, I read parenting articles by two of my YummyMummyClub.ca colleagues—Hailey Eisen wrote about how she is a little nervous to become more of a free-range parent, while Julie Green defended her own helicopter-ish style of parenting, with good reason.
My question is this: why do we think we need these ridiculous parenting style labels at all?
Who decided on these craptacular label names, anyway? "Free-range"? Seriously? Are our children a clutch of chickens, clucking around pecking the ground? That's certainly what comes to my mind when I hear that term. "Helicopter parents" is no better. I don't like my good intentions as a parent being compared to a giant, noisy flying machine that is propelled by dangerous rotating blades causing forceful gusts of wind in their wake. Neither of these labels are flattering, but what's worse is that inevitably what they accomplish is to leave parents feeling inadequate and insecure. As parents, don't we already worry constantly that we're screwing it all up? Do we need labels to help us with that? Do we need parents that belong to the other label comparing us to them with smug superiority? It all just feels a bit clique-ish and exclusionary to me.
It also seems odd to me that labelling has become so frowned upon in today's anti-bullying world, yet somehow our parenting styles are still actively subjected to these useless labels and we as parents are complacently buying into them. Parenting is busy enough without trying to figure out which label we belong to, which label we should belong to, while also trying to defend our own unique parenting style, because none of us really belong fully to one style or the other, anyway.
When did it become so uncool to just simply be parents? Why aren't we satisfied with "just" doing what we think is best for our children, whether it's swooping in to help them when WE think they need it or letting them run wild when it's appropriate and good for them to do so? We know our kids better than anyone—sometimes they need some free-range backing off, and other times they need a helicopter rescue. As Julie pointed out in her post, what about the families that have a child with an invisible special need—autism, diabetes, ADHD, epilepsy, even children who have been adopted—do we need to visibly see their emotional or developmental special need to condone one form of parenting as an acceptable exception for that certain child, but not others who have no special needs?
I personally don't give a shit if I'm a helicopter or a free-ranger. I'm both and I'm neither and I'm perfectly happy with that. I parent in a way that I feel is best for my child, within the confines of what I feel are risks I can tolerate as a mother and my child can tolerate, given her history, maturity and intelligence. I don't worry about screwing it up—I've already accepted that I will, in one way or another, but I don't need some silly label defining for me or the world exactly how I'm screwing it up. I don't believe in perfect parents and those who do are setting themselves up for disappointment.
As far as my parenting goes, I have no problem taking my child to the park and parking my butt on the bench to let her free-range to her heart's content, but some free-rangers would say that I should let her go to the park alone or with a friend. So where do we draw the line? The labels themselves are entirely subjective to the person assigning them. What is free-range for me might be helicopter to another. I would also waste exactly zero seconds jumping off my park bench and helping my daughter if she was getting pushed around by another kid on the playscape, yet some free-range parents would hang back and let their child try to work it out for themselves. Try Google-ing definitions for both of these styles of parenting and you'll find a buffet of explanations to choose from—not all of them even the same in meaning. See where the problems lie here?
The bottom line is that we need to get past this ridiculous labelling game we're currently courting and just get on with the actual parenting part. We don't need to subscribe to a quasi-defined label, we just need to follow our hearts, minds, and our children's best interests.
Hi! Thanks for reading my post. If you'd like to read some more of my thoughts on parenting, try this post about a conversation we should all have with our sons, or this post on what I think about "parenting problems."
For more on parenting styles and labels, check out "Are You A Free Range...Chicken?"
I love books, and I know I'm not alone in that regard. From time to time, I am asked to recommend good adoption books, as they are obviously important educational tools.
So, I've decided to go public with my list!
I've provided a detailed review of our top four picks, and then a brief description of the remaining four below.
Things We Like About This Book:
Potential Concerns for Some Readers:
Things We Like About This Book:
Potential Concerns for Some Readers:
Things We Like About These Books:
Potential Concerns for Some Readers:
To avoid making this post a book unto itself, here are a few more adoption-related books with just a quick description of each, that kids may also enjoy:
Provides a great explanation of the process of adoption. This is a book that I have bought for my daughter's classrooms and school library.
A cuddle-time story for little ones that addresses trans-racial adoptees not looking like their parents. There are numerous mentions of God's involvement in the character's adoption.
A good book for bio kids who will be gaining or have a sibling via adoption.
Adoptive parents' description of their wait, excitement, and travel to adopt their child internationally.
Please note that this list is only a fraction of the many adoption books in publication! I have included these because they are our family's favourites.
Do you have a favourite adoption book? Tell me about it below!
No more pencils, no more school books.
Are you worried your kids will lose their natural sense of curiosity once they leave the daily academic environment of school?
You're not alone!
My daughter is curious about everything — her questions never stop! Many parents worry that the summer months will create a lack of interest in learning, but learning doesn't always have to be about sitting in a classroom with textbooks!
Here are ten great ideas to help you keep your kids at peak curiosity levels while having fun over the summer vacation and beyond:
Tailor your hunts specifically to encourage your children to practice what they've learned at school over the past year, or what they will be learning in their next grade. Have them read clues, look for specific items that can be measured like 1/3 of a cup of rice, or a book that is between 20-30 centimeters in width. Both of my kids love a challenge and we have often made a competition out of this activity to see who collects all their treasures first to win a prize!
If you can't be at home with your children, find camps or caregivers that provide robust programs to keep your kids learning every day. My Baby Girl is going to camp at the Toronto Zoo this year, because she loves learning about animals. Art, science, music — there are so many camps available to nurture your children's existing interests or create new ones.
Nothing makes kids more curious than tastes or textures that they aren't used to. Sure, some picky eaters will not be open to this idea, but if you can convince your children to even sample new recipes you've never made before, it can open up a great conversation about how our senses work, what causes spicy or sweet flavours, where these foods are eaten regularly, how the ingredients are made and all kinds of other educational topics. Food is not just for nourishment, it's also a great conduit to conversation and we have some of our best chats — and funniest moments — around the family dinner table at our house.
Traveling by planes, trains, or automobiles fuels a child's question mill. If that kind of travel isn't feasible, visit tourist attractions, local parks or conservation areas. Decide ahead of time on a theme — colours, things that start with all the letters of the alphabet, numbers — use your imagination or your children's report cards to give you ideas about what to look for and talk about on your adventure.
Make reading a daily activity and visit your local library weekly for new books to include with your children's own personal favorites. My daughter can read, but needs exciting motivation to do it, so a weekly trip to the library to pick five books that she must read is my way of stimulating her interest and her curiosity with the incredible world of reading.
An active body inspires an active mind. Sure, your children may love swimming, but have they ever tried basketball? Encouraging and even demonstrating an effort to try new sports helps your children see that new things can be fun, while also learning about the way their bodies have to work or stretch to do activities they has never done before. Baby Girl loves swimming and dancing, so while she also will get her regular summer swimming lessons, she is also heading off to sports camp this summer where she will learn basketball, volleyball, field hockey, and do some ice skating! I'm sure there will be tonnes of questions each day as she tries new things!
Yes, really! Put a moratorium on electronic entertainment that is mindless or violent and focus on entertainment that provides some sort of educational component. There are so many options available — not all electronics are bad — so work with your children's love of electronics and find some educational entertainment to help them keep learning while they're having fun.
Sounds like a bummer, right? Well it's not. Even as young as two, children learn so much from having household responsibilities, so work with your kids to make a list of age-appropriate chores that will help them learn about and understand their world.
Every so often, I ASK my daughter what she's curious about, and sometimes the answers surprise me! Once I know what she's curious about, it's easier to come up with fun activities to incorporate her interests and help her find answers to her questions. Or, I simply sit back and let her fire up her own curiosity. Most children have an innate curiosity for the world around them, so leaving lots of free time for them to explore their own imagination is one of the best ways to keep them learning — be sure to answer all of their questions without judgment, or gently redirect them to answer their own questions!
Thankfully, my daughter adores helping out in the kitchen. With so many educational benefits — counting, measuring, reading, understanding cause and effect — she is earning academic bonuses without realizing it. Plus, Huzbo and I get to hang out with her and have fun while making something delicious!
Minute Maid joined forces with the Canadian Living test kitchen to create some fantastic kid-friendly recipes, and what better way is there to foster curiosity than in the kitchen?
Math, science and literacy all factored into the experience when Baby Girl and I recently made these cool Minute Maid Fruit Salad Ice Pops. She measured, she poured, she read, she counted, and she even learned about displacement while we spent quality time together and created some delicious treats that the entire family enjoyed eating while discussing what other ingredients and Minute Maid juices we will try the next time we make them.
The hardest part about this recipe for both of us was waiting the five hours for the ice pops to freeze! Baby Girl had a blast scooping the slushy concentrate out of the container and into the measuring cup and was thrilled that these ice pops would have a lemon flavour — one of her favorites! She snuck a few samples of the concentrate before she realized it was just a bit too strong without the water — another lesson learned while exploring her own curiosity!
Fruit Salad Ice Pops
1/4 cup chilled Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade Concentrate
1-1/4 cups water
10 slices kiwi
5 strawberries, quartered
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together Minute Maid Frozen Lemonade Concentrate and water until smooth; set aside.
Place 3 blueberries, 2 raspberries, 1 slice kiwi and 2 pieces of strawberry into each of 10 3-oz ice pop moulds. Pour in lemonade mixture to fill. Freeze until firm, about 5 hours.
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 5 hours 15 minutes
Makes: 10 servings
PER 1 SERVING, RECIPE MAKES 10 SERVINGS: about 26 calories, trace protein, trace total fat (0 grams saturated fat), 7 grams carbohydrates (1 gram dietary fibre, 5 grams sugar), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium, 59 milligrams potassium. %RDI: 1% calcium, 1% iron, 28% vitamin C, 3% folate.
Obviously, Baby Girl has already been asking to make more, and why would I say no? Nutritious ingredients and a fun learning experience disguised as "helping Mommy" is a natural fit for my daughter's inquisitive and energetic character. We can't wait to discover what lessons Baby Girl's curiosity teaches us next when we try out some of the other recipes from Minute Maid!
Thankfully, it's not a hard task to nourish a child's curiosity. With a little time and effort, you can keep your child's mind open to learning all summer long!