Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Mommy Forums

It's about time I made this post.  I've been procrastinating, always coming up with reasons to post something else, for fear of offending people.  But I've had a crappy couple of days, and I'm just gonna go ahead and be potentially offensive.

Without further adu, the pros and cons of mommy forums.

1) Adult conversation and interaction

2) Knowledge is power, and mommies are full of knowledge on every subject a la parenting that you could ever imagine.  From eating lunch meat during pregnancy to writing college essays for your teenagers, mommies know it ALL.

3) The ability to commune with adults who share your parenting beliefs and ideals.  A whole forum of people who are obsessed with baby names, love to breast feed, or had a baby born in or around April 2006.

4) The chance to show off how cute your kid is, and how advanced he or she is for his or her age.  This is also where you lament their delays, discuss their health issues, and (pretend to) celebrate the accomplishments of other babies, and lament with their mothers over whatever.

5) The opportunity to declare that you know the most about _____.

1) Is it really adult interaction if all you talk about is how your breasts are sore, and what color your baby's poop is? Shouldn't you be aiming for adult conversation about.. adults? Or at least adult situations and topics?

2) Does it count as conversation even when there is none?
Example A:
Mom 1: I am so mad.  This is why.
Mom 2: OMG that stinks, sorry.
Mom 3: OMG.  Here's what happened to me.

Mom 4: OMG.  Here's what happened to me.
Mom 5: Hey, mom 3, what did you about _____ in the situation you described?
Mom 3: Never checks the thread again, because she already read it once and responded and has no interest in what anyone else has to say on the topic.

Example B:
Mom 1: Can you please suggest baby names that fit these criteria?
Mom 2: Sure.  I like these names, and these.  And here's some random ones.

Mom 3: List of names.
Mom 4: List of names (a few of which are on the same list that mom 2 or 3 provided)
Mom 5: List of names that was mostly already suggested by the first three moms.
Mom 6: I didn't read the other responses, sorry for repeats! List of names that's already been 98% covered by other posts.
Mom 7: Has no original suggestions whatsoever.  Hope that helps!
Example C:
Mom 1: Who's baby is already ____?

Mom 2: Mine
Mom 3: Not mine
Mom 4: Long elaborate story about why her baby is or is not already ____.
Mom 5: Mine.
Mom 6: Mine
Mom 7: Not mine.
*Moves to a second page, and not one person comments on what another person has said.  Each person leaves an individual comment and moves on.

3) Bad Info. Mommies are full of knowledge, but unfortunately a lot of them are also full of crap, whether they know it or not.  Crap they pulled off Dr. Yahoo Answers, crap their parents and in-laws told them, crap their doctors told them.  They like to pretend they know what you're talking about, and when you tell me they are wrong.. well, see number 8.

4) Tunnel Vision. When you only talk to people who share your beliefs/values, you miss out on valuable insight into "the other side" and sometimes even become blinded to it.  You lose the ability to "think like the enemy" and understand their point of view.  Ever seen lemmings (start the video at 1:40)?

5) You have to put up with all the other show-off moms.
Example: Ichachekni (pronounced Ike) is already crawling!  I'm posting this to show off that my four month old is crawling, but I'm gonna end it with "who else is crawling?!" just so I don't look like a totally self centered braggart, even though I'm pretty sure my kid's the first to crawl, otherwise I wouldn't be posting.  How embarrassing if he was the SECOND!  Also, I will only be reading this thread to read the validation I'll get for my kid being the best already.

6) The Better Mom's Brigade.  You know exactly what I'm talking about.  The moms who only comment on forum threads where they can swoop in and show how much better they are at nutrition, discipline, being green, whatever the topic is.  They never admit they are wrong, and the only time they start posts is so they can prove how awesome they are by cleverly displaying how they balance their busy schedule or successfully discipline their practically perfect children.

7) Majority rules, and cliques prevail.  Mommy forums are JUST like high school.  Heaven forbid that you don't agree with the majority, are able to see the other side of a topic, or aren't a complete judgmental Nazi about your passion of choice.  You will be ostracized.

8) No confrontation without drama.  Mommies don't go to mommy forums to be told they are wrong.  They do not want to hear it.  They want to be validated in their choices, no matter how foolish.  They want someone to tell them that what they did is okay, because they lack the confidence in themselves and their parenting abilities to just KNOW it's fine.  Or, more likely, they know it's actually not fine, and just want to be lied to or reassured by other people who screwed up, too.  But if you ever DARE to tell them the truth, even nicely, all heck breaks loose.  Suddenly they are the victim, and you are the heartless be-yotch who judges everyone needlessly.  It's pretty much impossible to tell someone you disagree with them without people immediately complaining about the levels of drama.

9) Trolls.  Do I even have to go into this one? You get sucked into the tragic personal life of someone, your "heart breaks for them" and you "spend hours thinking about them all the time" because you're such a super awesome person to invest in complete strangers that you really know nothing about, and SURPRISE! They were lying.  Now you're heart broken, ruined, and can never trust a complete stranger with a keyboard ever again.  The shock. The horror. The repetition.

10) Other attention seekers (that aren't trolls).
Example A: We've decided to name our baby the most popular name from 2010, and we simply CAN'T think of a good middle name!  You guys should suggest popular and generic names for us to consider, because for some reason browsing the internet, the SSA top 1000 names, or investing in a $10 book of 100,000 baby names would just be too much work.

Example B: Does anyone know anything at all about this somewhat mundane topic I'm asking about? I don't want to Google because I'd rather interact with these people on a forum, so please tell me about this stupidly obviously topic.

Example C: OMGosh, guys.  I had sex, and now my period is late, and my boobs are sore.  Am I pregnant? I know I could just go to the dollar store and get a stick and pee on it, and that would answer my question, but I'd rather ask a bunch of other women to tell my fortune over the internet and decide whether or not I'm pregnant! Respond to my post so that I know you care, even though I'm being ridiculous.

Example D: I am such a bad mom because my kid managed to do something that every child does at some point (roll off a bad, trip and hit their head on a coffee table, eat yellow snow, etc etc).  Please respond to my thread and tell me that I'm not a bad mom for letting something perfectly normal happen to my child, even though I know that other people on this forum have also let this happen.  They aren't bad moms though, just me, because I'm bad.  Please tell me I'm not!

And there you have it, friends.  Why I hate mommy forums.  Maybe I'm just too cynical, past my mommy forum prime. Maybe I've been doing it wrong (hey, I'm not afraid to admit that might be the case).  Maybe I just never managed to get so invested in strangers that I was appropriately devastated by their sudden but inevitable betrayal, or maybe I'm just too fond of looking stuff up on the internet before asking obvious questions that I could find the answer to in 30 seconds.

My confessions:
I am ashamed to admit that I did some of the things above - I have succumbed to number 4, and I have pleaded for my fair share of attention.  And I'm not gonna lie: I learned a lot from mommy forums, and I met some super nice people that are still my friends on Facebook.  I said they have their uses in the Pros column, after all. ;)

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Am a Perfect Mother

I raise my voice too often.
I hate cleaning, and therefore
My house is not spotlessly clean.
I loathe soccer games.

I raise my voice too much.
I don't have enough patience.
I long for date nights, and
Laundromat nights.

I reach the end of my rope too often.
I hate it when my kids try to help with chores.
My kids always need a bath,
Even if I just bathed them.

I feed them processed food sometimes,
And don't always cook elaborate meals.
I let them watch TV
and climb trees.

I recognize their needs and
Meet them when I can.
I recognize their wants
And try to fulfill them.

I love them unconditionally
Always, forever, and beyond.
I play with them.
I teach them things.

They are the reason I breathe
The reason I get out of bed.
I will never hurt them.
I will always try to keep them safe.

I will always do the best I can,
And I will take care of myself so
I can always be here for them.
I teach them skills and manners.

I respect them, cherish them,
Adore them, live for them.
I am their mom and that means
I am a perfect mother.

This is pretty poorly written poem (it doesn't even rhyme, Kes!), but that's not the point.  I've said it myself, and I hear it all the time - "the perfect mother."  But I think we have a skewed idea of perfection in the mothering department.  You don't have to do everything right all the time, and you don't have to do everything the best.  Love your children, and do right by them.  That's perfection.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gender Neutral Kids

Most of us probably remember the story of Storm, the kid with no gender.  If you don't, here it is.  I know it's old news, but this idea has come up a lot in my personal life, so I figured it was finally time to talk about it.

These Canadian parents are raising their child to be "gender neutral."  This is of course semi-ridiculous, as a child MUST have anatomical parts pointing to them being either male, female, or both, but never neither.  But the point of their "experiment" has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with society and it's effect on impressionable young children.

I have to admit, in most ways I agree with these parents.  The whole thing is not about dressing your son in dresses and seeing what happens.  It's not about teaching your kids that dressing "the wrong gender" is better, or that it's worse.  It's about letting your children choose, for themselves, what they want.  Yes, children need to know who they are.  They need a strong sense of identity, and a strong sense of self.  Doesn't it make more sense to let them form these senses on their own, rather than showing them how society thinks they should see themselves, and that's it?  Isn't it counter intuitive to make sure that their "sense of self" is what society wants, regardless of what they want?

These parents aren't keeping their child's gender from their child, or even from the child's siblings.  They are keeping the gender secret from people who don't NEED to know, because honestly, why does it matter?  And the answer is almost always "so I know what to buy."

Well, that's the point these parents are trying to make.  Why does the child's gender have to effect what you buy?  While they are infants they have no idea what boys and girls are, and don't give a flip what you dress them in as long as it's comfortable.  Babies are pretty androgynous to begin with, and no matter what you dress them in someone, somewhere, will always guess wrong.  So these parents buy what THEY like until their child is old enough to choose for him/herself.  This is the same thing parents of babies with a declared gender do as well.  No difference there.

Once the child is old enough to choose their own clothes, again their gender makes no difference.  As a friend, aunt, grandparent, you should buy what the child obviously enjoys wearing.  You've seen pictures of the child in clothing, and it shouldn't be too hard to figure out if the kid prefers jeans or frilly dresses.  Buy what the kid likes, not what you THINK the kid should like.

And toys.. ugh.  The idea of gender specific toys irks me so much I won't even rant about it, because it would take forever.  Seriously, buy it if it looks fun.  Who freakin cares if it's pink or blue?!

So why is this topic near and dear to me right now? Because my oldest kid, a boy, loves pink.  I asked him what color car seat he wanted, and he said pink.  Unfortunately, the pink was a lot more expensive than all the other colors, or I would have bought it for him.  We went to the store to pick out some new shirts, and he was drawn to the pink Dora shirts.  They didn't have any in his size, but I would have bought him a pink Dora shirt otherwise (we went with Red Cars, because red is close to pink).

Why would I do this? Because ultimately, my child's happiness is more important to me that society-pressured gender roles.  Who decided that pink was only for girls, anyways? Why does it even matter? The answer is simple.  It doesn't.  It NEVER matters.  And we should stop teaching our children that it does.

And maybe this seems petty to you, to be making a huge deal out of clothes.  But it's not just clothes.  Gender roles are constant in our lives and those of our children.  It starts with refusing to dress our boys in pink, then we're refusing to let them take ballet or musical theatre, then we're teaching them that those careers are only for women, and they should strive for more.  More? So women are only worthy of LESS? Yeah, it goes there.  And that's the problem.

I am against the idea of teaching my children they can't do things - any things besides child birth and peeing standing up - because of their anatomical parts.  It's a totally arbitrary system, and I refuse to support it any longer.  There was a time when I only bought boy clothes for my son, and girl clothes for my daughter.  And that time is over.  No longer will I teach my children that their gender is what defines what they can and cannot wear, do, and become.  Who's with me?!

*fist pump*

Monday, October 3, 2011

Car Seats Expire!

I know I touched on this briefly in my Car Seat 101 Post ages ago, but I feel like it needs to be revisited.


Plastic degrades over time, especially when exposed to the elements.  Imagine that plastic play set you probably have in your back yard.  Left in the son for six years, it starts to get brittle, and it starts to break.  Car seats aren't much different.  We leave them in our cars where they end up baking in the 130 degree heat, or freezing in the -40 degree cold.  They are designed to withstand this abuse, for sure, but not forever.  The plastic deteriorates, cracks, and breaks.  The foam padding, after being compressed for ages, does the same thing.  I'll be honest and say that I have a hard time with the idea that the nylon harness also expires, but if you're buying a new seat anyways, why would you reuse the harness?

Most seats expire six years after the date they were made, NOT six years after you bought them.  While normally you will get a new car seat close to when it was made, it doesn't always happen.  If you bought it on sale, for instance, it may have been marked down due to an early manufacture date. You have to check the seat for a date of expiration or a date of manufacture.  Generally speaking, both are on the seat somewhere, usually on the bottom, or one of the side stickers. Sometimes you find a month, a day, and a year, and sometimes you'll only find month year. Graco is the only company where the seats expire at the end of the sixth year.  All other seats expire in the month they were manufactures (so my kid's Evenflo Tribute - pictures here - will expire in July 2014).

Sure, it's highly unlikely that your seat is going to magically disintegrate on the first day of the sixth year.  Here's a video showing what happens when a ten year old car seat is used during a crash.  The shell has degraded so much that the harness, while securely holding the child, rips through the plastic shell.  It doesn't state the injuries sustained by the "child" in this case, but I think it's pretty obvious that this is not a good outcome:

Yeah, this was ten years after, not one year after.  But without knowing exactly when the car seat went from a safe condition to this condition, it's just a better choice all around to believe the manufacturer.  I, too, wish they would publish this kind of information, or do more tests, or at least give us a CLEAR reason why the seats expire except "they might be broken."  but alas, this is all we have to work with right now.

Not all seats expire after six years, so here's a useful list.

Baby Trend: 6 years

Britax classic generation: 6 years
Britac new generation: 7 yearsYears for most
Britax Frontier specifically: 9 years

Chicco: 6 years

Clek: 7 years
Clek Foonf specifically: 9 years

Compass: 7 years

Cosco: 6 years

Combi: 7 years

Evenflo: 6 years

Graco: 6 years (December of the 6th year) for most
Graco Nautilus specifically: 10 years

Harmony: 6 years

Maxi Cosi: 6-8 years

Orbit: 7 years

Peg-Perego: 5 years
Seats manufactured starting 2011: 7 years

Recaro: 6 years

Safety First: 6 years for most
Safety First Complete Air specifically: 8 years
Safety First Alpha Omega Elite specifically: 8 years

Sunshine Kids: 6 years for most
Sunshine Kids Monteray: 8 years
Diono seats: 10 years

The First Years: 7 years

If your brand of seat isn't on this list, and you can't find an expiration date or a date of manufacture, please don't hesitate to post a comment asking, and I will find the information for you. =)

Keep your kids safe!