Thursday, October 27, 2011

In defense of Spongebob

Spongebob Squarepants has been taking some serious crap in the media lately, and I believe it's undeserved. I am a huge Spongebob fan. Yes, I'm a 35-year-old woman, but I watch Spongebob and enjoy it immensely. I have for years. Why? It's hilarious, sweet, and I find the writing and humor remarkably intelligent. I couldn't imagine anyone having a problem with Spongebob, but then I heard about this article, which reports a study that determined that 4-year-olds "showed a reduced ability to delay gratification and poorer working memory" after watching Spongebob.

Why did they decide to use Spongebob, of all shows, for this study? The article doesn't mention whether they tried other shows in the study, so it sounds to me like any TV show might have these effects. The article also says that "fatigue, stress, hunger, and illness and temperament can impact" these functions. So, it's entirely possible that the kids were hungry, coming down with a cold, or stressed out by having been subjected to this creepy study, and that affected their cognition. The study just does not sound scientifically air-tight.

In short, and to borrow a word from Spongebob himself, the study sounds like a giant load of barnacles.

Of all the shows that there are to hate on, I really don't think Spongebob is our enemy. Has anyone studied how Disney movies affect children? How might children be affected by the frightening, stressful sections in every Disney movie where the protagonist gets separated from his or her friends or parents and then has to go through all sorts of scary scenarios to get back to them, or where the protagonist's parents die? Has anyone done a study on how painfully moronic live-action childrens' shows, like Victorious or Big Time Rush affect kids' thinking or girls' self images? Even iCarly, which I used to like, now has young teens dating and kissing. How does that affect kids' behavior?

Has anyone studied how the obnoxious repetition of shows like "Dora The Explorer" ("we did it, we did it, we did it, hooray!") affects kids' brains? I know it makes me feel violently toward my television and reach for the remote.

I just don't think Spongebob is the problem. We watch Spongebob a few times a week, as a family, either on the weekend or after dinner. We don't just plop our kids in front of the TV alone to watch any show. We watch together, we laugh together, we answer any questions our kids have, and that's how it should be.

Spongebob is sweet and kind. He's a very hard worker. He's a loyal friend and even tries to help people when they're down, like in the episode "Enchanted Tiki Dreams," where Spongebob and Patrick stay up all night building a special Tiki-land just for Squidward, so he can listen to his smooth jazz records and relax in peace.

Squidward is ill-tempered and selfish, and nothing ever goes right for him. Plankton's evil plans of stealing the Krabby Patty recipe are always thwarted. The world of Spongebob is a just one, a happy one, a very, very funny one, and you know what? On Spongebob there is no sex. There's no violence. There's only fun.

On the episode "Banned in Bikini Bottom," Krabby Patties are banned by a mean, humorless old fish-lady "for being fun and delicious." That's what I think is happening here. Some mean, humorless person or group of people are seizing on Spongebob because he's fun. Not everything has to be "educational," and not every "educational" show is actually educational. Sometimes something is just fun, with no other merit, and that, especially when it lacks sex and violence, is merit enough for me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I just searched Google images for a "cartoon snot" graphic to go with this post, and now I really wish I hadn't...

Truth is, I have seen enough snot this week. My 22-month-old's nose started running on Sunday and I thought, "Here we go!" Now she's almost better, but my 4-year-old is still miserable with a super-runny nose, my husband has caught it, and I now have a sore throat. Yes, like a government lab-created disease in a zombie movie, it has taken down every member of the family, one by one.

Why do kids think that their mom's shirt is a kleenex? My kids have wiped their nose on my shirt, my pants, my bed sheets, even my hands. Mom is for wiping your nose on, apparently.

I remember doing this very thing to my mom. I can vividly see my preschool-aged self walking up behind her as she stood at the sink washing the dishes and unloading my nose onto the back of her shirt. Poor mom.

To console my miserable, cold-afflicted children this week, I've baked cookies and made an entire box of hot cocoa. Taking care of my kids when they're sick takes me right back to being sick when I was a kid, lying on the couch, watching TV, being taken care of. As much as being sick sucked, those memories of being doted on and cared for as a little kid are some of my best childhood memories. I hope the extra nurturing that I give my kids when they're sick will give them the same good memories that I have. I know whenever I'm sick, I still want my mommy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Childrenfreude. If Your Kids are Acting Up, Come Sit by Me

Childrenfreude: the secret pleasure of watching bad kids happen to good parents.

When I first read about this concept many months ago, I was enthralled. I'll admit it, I LOVE seeing other people's kids misbehave. Not because I want to gloat over my superior parenting skills. No, just the opposite -- it makes me feel so much less alone with my own parenting skills, which at times feel inadequate. As I've mentioned before, I have "those" kids. You know the types, the ones who are always up to something and into everything.

I feel like I spend a good deal of time worrying that my kids aren't as well-behaved as everyone else's children are, and that somehow I'm a less effective mother than my counterparts. So, when I see someone else's darling throwing a temper tantrum, or having a hard time sharing their toys, it's all I can do to refrain from busting out in a happy dance right then and there. Maybe I'm not such an ineffectual disciplinarian. Maybe these antics are normal. Maybe we'll all be okay after all.

Not too long ago, our family was at a child's birthday party. This particular kid achieves angel-child status about 99% of the time. However, on this day, he was having a hard time sharing. My husband and I nearly high-fived each other, witnessing his "real kid" antics. When his mom apologized to us for his unwillingness to share, I blurted out, "Are you kidding me?! That was the best thing I've seen in ages. It's always my kids who are struggling to share or use only gentle touches. I feel so much better now."

Then, this morning I was at Target with my little guy. Long before I saw it, I heard a vicious temper tantrum coming our way. You know the kind, lots of tears, snot and screaming. Again, I loved it. Hooray! My kids aren't the only ones to garner looks from strangers while running errands. The look on the mom's face was one I'd worn many times before -- embarrassment, exhaustion and a fierce determination to get the hell outta dodge as quickly as possible. I gave her a look of understanding and solidarity. A smile that said, "I've been there. I get it. Go you!"

But then, I got worried. What if she misinterpreted my smile? What if she thought it was a smug-mum judgy smile? What if it somehow made her feel worse? I realized that we moms need a secret hand signal that we can use to encourage each other in such times of need and public humiliation. A flash of empowerment and understanding, easily recognized and understood by all. I'm thinking something along the lines of the Black Power raised fist that was popular back in the 70's.

Let's face it, being a mom can be rough and downright humiliating sometimes. Sometimes, when our kids are at their worst, our friends and family aren't there to tell us it'll be alright. We need other moms, moms who may not know us to say, "Go on with your bad self, fellow mom. I've been there too. I get it. Hold your head high with pride cuz you're doing the best you can." Any ideas for a mom-empowerment hand signal we can claim for our own? (Because, as is evidenced by the picture above, me in my polka dot jammies with no bra and no make-up at 10:00 at night is not the look of empowerment we moms should be aiming for)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Tawdriest Fantasy...

I've been a bit burned out lately, which is why I haven't posted in a couple weeks. One reason is that I HAVE NOT HAD A FULL NIGHT'S SLEEP IN NEARLY TWO YEARS.

Whew, sorry. I let my emotions get away from me a bit there. I didn't mean to yell. But really... since my beautiful second daughter was born 22 and a half months ago, she has not slept through the night ONCE. Her sister was also a terrible sleeper until just after she turned two, but she at least would let us get the occasional full-night's sleep. Little sis wakes up anywhere from two to six times a night, every night.

I had no idea anyone could survive sleep-deprivation for this long until I unwillingly tried it myself. I don't recommend it. I can only pray that baby #2 is like her big sister and soon magically starts sleeping through the night.

Most of the time I do OK with never getting a full night's sleep, but sometimes it catches up with me and I feel totally exhausted for a while, before I get a second wind. I am happily in the midst of one of those second winds now, but for the last couple weeks, not so much.

Being exhausted makes it that much harder to handle all the other stuff I have to do as a mom. I work part-time from home and I do the bulk of my work when my kids are sleeping. This means that I either get up before my kids do or stay up after they go to bed, which means for a good chunk of the time that my younger daughter is actually sleeping, I do not get to sleep. I am grateful for the work, because I need it, but I often wish I were one of those stay-at-home moms who don't have to work at all.

At 22 months, she also seems to be in the AP program for the Terrible Twos. She fights every diaper change, she bites every member of the family, she messes with me when I get her dressed, cook dinner, or the second I think I can sit down and take a break. Sometimes at the end of a day, I am completely exhausted and I fall asleep the second my kids do, which means I get zero me-time and zero time to spend with my husband that day.

So occasionally, this results in a week or two where I am just spent, and I lay low a bit. I slack off on the cleaning, I sacrifice things like blogging, I don't run as many errands. After a little rest, I get a second wind and then I can catch up on all the stuff I slacked off on before the sleep-deprivation hits me again.

When I saw the movie "Date Night," with Tina Fey and Steve Carell, when it got to the scene where Tina Fey's character talks about her fantasy of checking into a hotel room for a few hours just so she can eat lunch without anyone touching her, read a book and drink a diet Sprite, I laughed so hard, my husband began to look at me with concern. I have that same fantasy. Well, almost. My tawdriest fantasy is to check into a hotel room for a night, all by myself, shut those thick, blackout hotel curtains, get right into bed and SLEEP. Sleep until it's time to check out.

This is the kind of fantasy that a woman who hasn't slept right in nearly two years has. I thought I was weird until I told my mom about this little dream of mine. She said she had the exact same fantasy during my sister's first year of life, when she didn't sleep through the night once, either. She never did it, that I know of, but if my daughter doesn't start sleeping soon, I just might!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Potty-Training: Part Deux

"No! Poo poo in my diapa. You change my diapa, mom!" When you put it that way, kid -- I don't blame you. You've got yourself a pretty good little system going there. You let it out whenever and wherever it suits you. You don't need to stop playing with 'ol Thomas the Tank Engine in order to take a dump, a slight pause for concentration and you're back in business. I, on the other hand, am so ready to retire the Diaper Genie.

Why, oh why, did I think potty-training would be easier the second time around?! I thought that this go-round, as a more experienced mom, I'd really have my shit together, so to speak... Not so. New kid, new set of psychology in play. While stickers, big girl underpants and calls to Grandma to brag about her successes, were highly motivating factors for my daughter, my son is not swayed in the least by any of these measures. He could care less if Buzz Lightyear adorns his little tushie, he's a loud, proud, diaper-wearing dude.

He also does not care if he's sitting in wet underpants. He does not find that to be the least bit uncomfortable. On the one occasion we experimented with the big boy underpants, he informed me that he'd gone pee pee in his diapers (several minutes after the fact...). When I reminded him that he wasn't wearing diapers, he was wearing big boy underpants, he just shrugged. While I've heard that many kids don't want to pee pee on Elmo, or Buzz or any other favored cartoon character, my little guy has no such qualms. If Buzz won't take his crap, Woody can be his new favorite Toy Story guy...

All of these signs strongly tell me he's not ready yet. However, the fact that he fairly regularly informs me when movement is either in play or imminent, allows that little voice in the back of my mind to say "If he knows what's happening, it's time." I don't want a prolonged battle but I also don't want to be passive about it all and just let it slide out of convenience. With my daughter, I put a lot of effort into the process. We stayed home and really worked on it. We had charts and stickers and a lot of discussion about the topic.

It feels like just yesterday I was going through this with her. This is the downside to having your kids close together. You don't get a chance to recover from the emotional trauma of potty-training. Not to mention the chance to re-stock all of your cleaning supplies. When my son was about 18 months old, he showed a bit interest in the potty and wanted to go. While I went along with it, a big part of me was inwardly groaning, not ready to go through the process quite yet. He lost interest after a couple of weeks and has yet to regain it. Now, I worry that my lack of interest back then is to blame for his lack of interest now. Am I just being a lazy mom? Is that why I'm not making a full-hearted effort on this front? Or, am I just following his cues?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Time to Mommify the Mommymobile

“Is that your car, there?”


“Oh, I always wondered who drove that thing. It sounds like a tank going up the street.”

This latest comment from a neighbor about my vehicle’s extraordinary auditory output has convinced me that it is, indeed, time to Mommify the Mommymobile.

Yes, that would be me -- The suburban, toddler-toting, NPR-listening mama, driving the souped-up SUV. How did this extra-loud Durango with the blinged-rims come to be mine, you ask? Well, it’s simple. I hate car-shopping and am not that interested in cars even when they come home. So, when it was time for us to replace my mommymobile, I told my husband to go out and buy a new car. Being a bit of a car-lover, he went out and did just that.

After much research, he finally, he found exactly what we were looking for. It had everything on his checklist (it’s a long list and I’m not sure I ever fully understood what all was on it) and everything on my checklist (1- must easily accommodate a double-stroller, 2- must be cheaper than our last vehicle).

“Are you sure you don’t want to test-drive it honey? Or at least see it before we buy it?” He asked me. No, no I did not. He warned me that the previous owners had done something to the exhaust so it was a bit loud and the rims were a bit “blingy,” so was I sure I didn’t want to at least look at it first? No, thank you.

When asked to describe the previous owners, he told me the woman was in her 40’s and looked like a blonde Posh Spice. They live in a nice, upscale neighborhood, so I thought – how loud can it be? An upper-middle class suburban woman isn’t going to be driving around anything too loud, right? Wrong.

Now I am the suburban woman driving around a really loud car. I’m told that every kid on our block knows when I’m coming home, long before my car comes into view. They hear me roaring (slowly) down our quiet, street and say “Dana’s home!” On the plus side, this is a bit of a safety feature, given that the kids on our block play in the street a lot.

My husband told me I’d get used to the noise, and about six months later, I largely have. As long as I don’t attempt to have conversations while on the freeway or when going uphill (did I mention we live on a mountain?), it’s really not so bad. I do worry a bit about waking the kids up from their naps if I ever leave during naptime, but that’s pretty rare.

However, this latest comment is making me think that it actually is time to undo whatever was done to that darn exhaust in the first place. Given that my husband likes the sound and I dislike spending time and money at a mechanic’s almost as much as I dislike car-shopping, it could be awhile before anything happens to “mommify” my mommymobile though…

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