How You Can Singlehandedly Ruin Storytime Forever

In our quest to raise kids with critical thinking skills, now you can dent their love for literature

How You Can Singlehandedly Ruin Storytime Forever


Recently on the Motherlode blog in The New York Times, writer Devorah Blachor wrote an article called “Turn Your Princess-Obsessed Toddler Into a Feminist in Eight Easy Steps.” The tongue-in-cheek piece outlines how parents can modify traditional Princess stories and fairy tales to reflect modern liberal values by incorporating critical analysis of their overarching themes — mainly things like patriarchy, the glass ceiling, and of course, all the “isms.” Commenters had a heyday with Blachor’s article in a way that only internet commenters can.

Q. How many rude Internet commenters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Hey why dontcha screw yourself in? You r a moron i hope you fall in a hole what a stoopid question JERK

I read Blachor’s article and thought, "Yeah; makes sense." After all, the humorous advice outlined in the article is sort of how I already speak to my children. Even during the bedtime story years when my kids were small, I would pause every now and then within the text of a story to explain themes and discuss metaphors. Now that my children are older and enjoy reading on their own, I still show an interest in the literature they choose, and I talk to them about it. When they were young my comments were often met by blank stares or snores, and I once had a three-alarm blow-up with my daughter when I insisted that Gatsby’s car is yellow for a damn good reason and hauled out my Norton Anthology of Literary Terms to prove it. The journey hasn't been without bumps in the road, friends.

Everything has a lesson in it somewhere and I try not to miss opportunities to have a discussion with my children. For instance, my 10 year-old son loves the television show Adventure Time, which, upon a perfunctory viewing, appears to be a lighthearted and funny show about a verbal shape-shifting dog with a serious gas issue and his male human friend as they navigate the perils of a post-apocalyptic world. (Yeah; it's cool.) I would have just considered it a simple cartoon had I not started watching with my son. Now, instead of just getting fart jokes and funny songs about bacon out of the show, he knows all about homosocial relationships and the loving power of fraternal brotherhoods. Also, the pending apocalypse. But I try to keep it light.

You have to talk to children this way - this "adult" way sometimes - especially older kids. I don’t think you should give kids more information than they need, especially when they may not be equipped to handle the emotions the crap in the world can sometimes inspire. But I appreciate the sentiment behind Balchor’s words because they make sense. We can’t (and shouldn’t) censor everything our kids may encounter and efforts to sanitize news only works for so long. As long as you balance the “real” world we live in with the world we want our children to create for themselves, you're ahead of the game. Sure, you may ruin a story or TV show or two by revealing darker underpinnings to the storyline, but as long as it's done with the intention of teaching values and not "haha I'm so gonna ruin your childhood," then I don't think it's improper to use age-appropriate language to teach kids something about the world through literature or media. So while I may impart elements of feminism or anti-racism or any of my values into a fairy tale, I’m not going to serve up real life examples of the bullshit minorities or women face in the world if my kid isn't ready to handle the whole, unadulterated truth.

Kids are bombarded with images and subtler subtext in almost everything they encounter and I feel like parents need to combat that by imparting bits of our own wisdom, the only caveat being if your "wisdom" is stupid or racist or harmful to others. Then just stay quiet, okay? We don’t need any more of that shit in the world.

Got a Death Wish? Go Shopping with a Teenager


Don't Be A Halloween Buzz-Kill

...Or Why You Should Give Teenagers Candy

Don't Be A Halloween Buzz-Kill

teenagers halloween

Around here ("here" being a tiny bungalow in the suburbs) Halloween is second only to Christmas on my kids' fun list. It's a sugar-fuelled, fantasy-play night out, and if there's one thing teenagers like more than the dark and bad-for-you-food, I can't name it right now because my brain is sore from high school math homework. My ten year-old loves Halloween too, but his affection is rooted firmly in the caloric: a pillowcase full of chemicals and sugar are the way to the heart of any 10-year-old boy, even if it leaves them humming like a 1970s portable radio. But older kids and teenagers love Halloween for very different reasons; most of them valid, reasonable, and for-the-most-part legal. My teenager looks forward to this holiday with a passion normally reserved only for One Direction tour announcements and the Forever 21 Fall leggings line.

She and her friends spend weeks — months even — planning their costumes. It's ping!ping!ping! here for days beforehand as iPhones announce new messages in group conversations like "Who has white knee socks for my 'Alice in Wonderland' costume?" and "Where are we starting out?" and "You guys! My mom is threatening not to let me out this year because I told her she looked ridiculous in her purple velvet leisure suit!"*

*To be fair, the suit is "eggplant" and it's velour not velvet, and I rock it.

At 15.5 years-old, my daughter doesn't go out often at night. Sure, she goes to restaurants and parties sometimes, but they're held indoors under fluorescent lighting, which, to be honest, makes people look way scarier than if they're outfitted in zombie garb and sporting a prosthetic throat slash.

Knowing how much my older child looks forward to having a night out, in the dark, dressed up — and yes —  maybe even pushing limits by wearing something normally called "inappropriate," makes me unable to turn kids away who come to my door looking for candy. Where do we draw the line? I ask why there needs to be a line. Have you ever seen or heard a roving group of 40 and 50-somethings driving house to house in their comfortable sport-class sedans knocking on doors and requesting candy? No; because "the line" is made when we know ourselves it's time to be drawn. And if you do know of such "candy gangs," please email me the next meeting date and location.

I don't expect that my teenager will trick-or-treat for many more years, only because I imagine her interests will soon turn to more frightening teenage pursuits — things like sex and beer and dancing and defiance. We're constantly telling our kids not to grow up so fast, and then in the next turn we deny them the small benefits of childhood. The years between 13 and 20 are complicated already and I don't see the problem in allowing kids one night a year to participate in what is typically perceived as a juvenile pursuit. I don't condone pumpkin smashing or flaming paper bags of dog poop on doorsteps, but if a group of teenagers makes an effort to dress in costume and knock politely on my door looking for mini Snickers, I am going to give it to them. You know what? Even if those same kids showed up in jeans and hoodies, I'd still hand over the goods. Why? Because I'm not a jerk working on a buzz-kill manifesto.

Who does teenage (or beyond) trick-or-treating hurt, exactly? As Julie Cole pointed out last year, size often doesn't reflect age. My son is lean and looks ten years-old physically. But last year he played a hockey game against some out-of-towners who, despite the roster reading "Atom," easily looked twice their age. I swear I saw one shaving when the dressing room door swung open.

Teenagers are scary — I'll give you that. They're surly and moody and they smell like border town motel carpet and they can hurt you with their words. The child you once thought wouldn't wean until college now wouldn't spit on you if you were on fire. Are we afraid of creating a generation of people who ask for things? That's sort of how the world works - ask for stuff; get stuff. It's like capitalism's pretty sister; you know, the one who put out. Let me ask you: How much candy are you getting right now, this very minute, by not asking for it? Now, how much candy would you get if you started knocking on doors requesting it? I can't say for sure, but it's bound to be a hell of a lot more than you'll get watching Big Bang Theory reruns and avoiding the sex promises you made to get out of washing dinner dishes.

Buy an extra bag of candy this year and cut the complaining about "big kids" at your door. If the added expense of an additional bag of candy is burdensome to your budget, buy a bag of those cheap weird taffy things in the orange and black wax paper and use them as filler. Consider it karma deposit, and possible "egging" insurance.

Hey there, fellow parent-of-a-teen. It's okay; you can come closer. I won't slam the door in your face or roll my eyes at you. This is a safe place. Go hide in the bathroom and get comfy — I've got some more stuff for you to read:

Here's Why Your Sexually Active Teens Deserve Privacy

Do Your Teenagers Know HIV Is a STD? You Better Check

- See more at: http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/jeni-marinucci-panic-button-years/20141021/how-to-shop-for-seasonal-clothing-with-your#sthash.zCnsgLYU.dpuf

Got teens? Oh, man. It's a real trip, no? Remember when they liked — even adored — us? Well, that shipped has sailed and it's out to sea for at least the next seven to 10 years, or so I've heard. Join me here on shore; pull up a chair and read some more about teenagers. Someone will be along any minute now to take your drink order.

Great Movies to Watch with Your Teens

Why Your Teenager May Not Be Sleeping Well


How To Shop For Seasonal Clothing With Your Teenager

A Tale Of Winter Woe

How To Shop For Seasonal Clothing With Your Teenager

My teenager daughter needs warm boots for the coming onslaught of winter. Last year she attempted to make it through the season with only a pair of Keds and positive thinking and hahaha she’s lucky her nickname wasn’t "Seven Toe Charlie" by the time spring thaw arrived. But as much as I want her to have proper winter gear, the truth is that new boots means shopping with a teenager. And shopping with a teenager for a necessary snow wear item is a whole new ballgame. The kicker is the “necessity” part, because you have to get this thing and you can't stop until achievement unlocked, and that's the part that takes you deep into the Parenting Rings of Hell.

Shopping means malls. "Malls" rhymes with "balls" for a reason and that reason is they both smell like mustard and I only put my face near them when it is absolutely necessary, or on birthdays.

I love my daughter, but she is almost 16 years old and she is easily distracted by shiny objects, including her own hair. Going to the mall with her to buy winter boots on a Saturday afternoon ranks somewhere on my “Wanna Do” list between watching Grease 2 and having an IUD removed by "the new guy." Taking her to buy clothing of any sort is painful, and I understand pain: I’ve had a few root canals in my day and I gave birth once with no drugs while my partner refused to confirm he would follow through with my request for a roast beef and red onion sandwich when this shit was over.

I just gave you a son. GIVE ME A GODDAMN SANDWICH.

Okay; back to the matter at hand. Err...foot.

And so we went shopping. On the way to the mall I reiterated the few requirements I had for winter footwear. I am concerned mainly with their climate suitability because where we live it is not unheard of to miss work or school on account of not being able to find your car because it's buried under a mountain of snow. She needs boots that are both warm and waterproof. Living in Canada, you’d think that this task would be easily accomplished. But she is a petite young woman and has tiny feet which means we often have to look in the children’s section and it seems children’s clothing designers — boot designers in particular — are uninterested with the concept of combining fashion and function.

For myself, I could care less. I wear knee-high rubber soled Sorels. I just want to be warm. (For transparency sake, let it be known that I also wear purple velour during daylight hours and still mourn the death of the scrunchie.) We look and look and we have found warm boots, and we have found funky boots, but it appears that never the twain shall meet.

That she found nothing she liked is no surprise to anyone who knows or was a teenager. Everything we looked at was either too shiny, too tall, had too many zippers, or ‘stupid laces.’ They felt itchy, someone else had the same pair, they didn’t ‘speak to her,’ were too colorful, or too plain. At one point I swear she declared, “But I can’t pick these ones because I haven’t made you cry yet!”  I explained to her how lucky we are to at least be able to buy proper footwear and to consider for a moment how it must feel for kids with no such privilege, and how they'd have to walk to school in the snow wearing nothing but a thin pair of Keds. Except this tactic wouldn't work because that’s exactly what she wants to do.

After three hours and two extra-large peppermint mochas, restraining my caffeine-fuelled impatience was nearly impossible. We were at the fifth store of the day, and Twitter told me snow had already fallen in the not-too-distant north. Things were reaching crisis level. DefCon Boot Level One Imminent Meltdown Approacheth. I threatened to make her wear wool socks with plastic grocery bag liners in an old pair of Crocs when she finally settled on a pair of boots. (Which was a good thing because the wool socks were already in the cart.)

As we were leaving she put her arm around me and said, “I’m proud of you, Mom.”

“Yeah? Why?”

“You really held it together in there. You didn’t get too mad, or even yell very loud.” I guess she hadn’t seen me popping blood pressure pills like Tic Tacs under the old lady underpants clearance rack. I was careful this time, because I’ve been conscious of department store security cameras since The Great Walmart Lunchbox Aisle Catastrophe of ’11. At any rate, this was a shopping trip that didn’t end with a security guard in tears and me with three broken fingernails. And we left with a pair of suitable boots, so all in all I guess it was a win.

Now she needs a new winter coat and a possibly some snow pants, and quite frankly I don’t know if I’m up to the task. Wherever we go, I’ll be sure to stay in highly visible areas, because security cameras not only deter shoplifting, they also make for better parenting.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, freeimages.com

Hey there, fellow parent-of-a-teen. It's okay; you can come closer. I won't slam the door in your face or roll my eyes at you. This is a safe place. Go hide in the bathroom and get comfy — I've got some more stuff for you to read:

Here's Why Your Sexually Active Teens Deserve Privacy

Do Your Teenagers Know HIV Is a STD? You Better Check