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Category Archives: Parenting

Minecraft

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Minecraft is the most amazing video game. It is creative, it teaches math, you can recreate interpretations of famous monuments… And increasingly I cringe when it comes up in conversation with Arthur.

I’ll put it out there right now – full disclaimer – that I don’t like video games. At all. I can play a video game for about 5 minutes and then I am so bored I would rather be doing just about anything at all. There have been a few that held my attention (Sim City…) but for the most part I haven’t ever really been interested in video games of any kind. I see that they have value, but I don’t like what I see them doing to my kids’ brains.

We have our checklists and for the most part they work…but Minecraft is insidious. I was all on board because Math! Building! Creative Play! All in a video game, but better than a shooting game or whatever. But now…

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I’ve been watching Arthur carefully for the past year as Minecraft, in particular, sunk its claws into him. I’ve watched his dynamic relationships with several of his friends reduce to almost exclusive Minecraft conversations. I’ve sat through fit after fit after fit, with the screaming and the shaking and the threatening, because we didn’t get this update or he got a mere 20 minutes of game time or this building wasn’t working. I’ve tailored his school projects because the only thing he is interested in, really deeply interested in, in Minecraft. I’ve listened as he has, weeping, told me he feels like Minecraft ate his brain and he wants to stop playing…and watched him drop everything to be back in the cube world hours later. I’ve heard him say “I feel like my body just needs to play Minecraft…”

This is what addiction looks like. I’ve had addicted friends. I kicked the nicotine addiction more than 10 years ago and sometimes I still have my moments where I miss those cigarettes and “feel like my body needs” just one light up again. This is not okay. I am scared for my kid. I think we are riding the line between obsession and addiction, and I know it’s an easy slide down into dealing with a full scale addiction. Right now, my gut is telling me I need to protect my kid to the best of my ability.

So now he hates me because we shut off Minecraft for the summer. When we made this decision and communicated it to him, he said we are ripping out a part of his soul. When we turn it back on in September it will be with limits and restrictions. Probably lots of them to start with as we find healthy ways to negotiate this Minecraft world.

I’ve started my own research. I found this interesting article by MineMum, and I will continue to explore how we can have Minecraft re-enter our home as an educational ally and game, using it to play and learn without this over-the-top obsession and addiction. I’d love to hear from other people about how they manage video game obsession and/or addiction in their families.

We have had some interesting conversations about moderation, dopamine, brains, addiction, and marketing. Hopefully this helps us build a framework for similar conversations as Arthur gets older.

But in the meantime, I’m going to be the worst mom ever.

 

 

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Poisson d’Avril

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I don't like April Fools' Day. Since I'm not a huge fan of practical jokes, it's not really a holiday I have ever gotten into. I've played a prank or two, but I never felt good afterward. But I want to enjoy fun things with my kids so I started looking for practical joke options.

Here's the thing. Practical Jokes involve violating someone's right to consent.

That sounds harsh, but think about these jokes we play, the classic pranks of summer camp and sleep overs. They involve humiliation, confusion, sometimes fear, or general use of someone's body without their okay (drawing on the first person to fall asleep at the slumber party?) Even something that seems totally silly and safe – freezing a bowl of cereal and milk – results in the prankee being confused, and likely being laughed at. If you just take a peek at the language, we play a prank ON someone or do a practical joke TO someone. Never WITH**. Stuff like that matters.

As a parent trying hard to teach respect and consent, I don't feel like a holiday devoted to ignoring consent is really something I can get on board with.

Happily, there is a better way, a gentler alternative full of silliness.

In France they celebrate Poisson d'Avril – the April Fish.

The goal is to tape a paper fish on someone's back, or hold some sort of a fish behind someone without their noticing. When they do notice, the joker says “Poisson d'Avril!” and everyone laughs. It's simple, it's expected. It's easy to say “I don't want to play that this year.” and easy to respect that person's right not to consent to this game. An a parent I can play along, not noticing as my minions “sneak” behind me with their fish.

I made a batch of small felt fish with a little glitter paint and googly eyes. I'm putting them on the table with some tape. And I'm letting Poisson d'Avril rule the day. Already there has been a lot of giggling.

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**Side Note: It is, of course, possible to have a prank relationship with someone else. Everyone in the relationship understands that pranks are possible and not done out of malice. Everyone has agreed to play. This kind of relationship is awesome and develops over time, with respect and listening coming from all parties. I'm into that kind of prank. As long as there is mutual consent involved.

 

Teaching Consent

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With two boys and one girl growing up in this culture, I think about teaching my kids good lifestyle practices. I think about it a lot. I was reading this article (which is hilarious and you should read when you are done here) about a very simple metaphor to explain consent.

But here’s the thing. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain consent to adults. Sadly, we still do, and part of the problem is that we don’t do a good job of explaining consent to kids. We don’t and we should. Consent and its surrounding concepts should be part of the language/concept soup that we raise our kids in. Also, it’s a parenting super-tool. Allow me to elaborate.

We (adults) do a lot of things that push kids’ consent realities. It’s often unavoidable. We hold our toddlers down while they flatly deny consent so that we can baby wipe their filthy little butts. Those things are necessary and part of the job. But other things – like tickle games until kids melt down and we all feel bad…those are something we (adults) get to do because we are bigger and stronger. And tickling, wrestling, and chasing are all super fun when everyone is consenting. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here — I still want to tickle my kids breathless and enjoy them saying “No! Stop Mommy Monster!” while I chase them. But I don’t want to abuse my size and strength and ability if it gets out of control. Then there is the forced affection issue. It’s been written about a lot in many places, so I’ll just sum up: it’s not okay to force a kid to show or receive physical affection. Not to grandparents, aunts, uncles, people who buy Girl Scout cookies… Not to anyone. Ever.

Teach Consent

*Use the Word consent* with your kids. Get it in the language. Make it a familiar word and concept. Explain it a million times. This is a parenting super-tool. Instead of saying “Brother-Bug, don’t snatch that toy! Play nice!” Instead I can ask “Brother-Bug, did you have Sister’s consent to take that toy? Sister-Bug, did you have Brother’s consent to hit him in the face?” Nope? Well, then it wasn’t a good choice. Let’s change it. Let’s do it differently. There’s not a lot of blame or finger pointing here. In sibling spats it’s often both people who are ignoring consent. Go back and do it over again. Kid climbing all over you after a long day? Adults have consent too! “Hey, I need you to get my consent before I am your jungle gym.”

*Make it the rule in your house* and help other kids understand it. This means you get to explain consent a lot more, often in front of your kids. And again, it makes dispute resolution easier. Once everyone knows what consent means, then they can go back and do over.

*Expand the phrase to Enthusiastic Consent* when appropriate. We need to know the difference between consent and enthusiastic consent. The difference between my daughter kind of shrugging her shoulders and mumbling yes to her someday-date versus a big smile and leaning in for a kiss with yes! on her lips is vast, and I know which one I want her to feel good using. (Yes, it is hard to think about my child in these types of scenarios, but they are coming along someday and I can’t get my kids ready for them if I don’t think about them. They aren’t going to be little and adorable forever.) In the here and now, with little kids, we use Enthusiastic Consent particularly in the area of weapon and fighting games. You may not, under any circumstances, use a weapon with/on/at a person in this house/yard without their Enthusiastic Consent. Again, this leads to me doing a fair amount of explaining to other kids.

*Explain when you violate their consent* and use consent language. I’ll stick with the toddler and poopy butt scenario from earlier because that’s where the Toddler-Bug and I find ourselves these days. “I know you don’t want me to wipe your butt and you are doing everything you can to show and tell me that I don’t have your consent. I’d love for you to put your poop in the potty and then I wouldn’t have to wipe your butt like this. But until we get there, my job is to keep you healthy and part of that is cleaning the poop off you. You can say yes and consent to this and I’d love that. Or you can poop in the potty. But my job means I have to ignore your consent for this moment, even if you don’t like what I am doing.” Yes, I have this little discussion with my toddler on the daily right now. Do this with car seats, bedtime, diapers, and whatever else you can. Stop and respect their space and consent if possible – at least for a minute. Give them the opportunity to decide to consent to something they can’t control anyway.

*Stand up for your kids’ right to consent* with everyone. I was stunned and a little outraged  at Brother-Bug’s last check-up. He was doing great, everything was lovely. And then the doctor went to manually examine my son’s genitals without telling him what she was doing!! Brother-Bug did exactly right. He jumped and hit the doctor’s hands away and said something like “What the heck!?” I explained to the doctor that my kids had been taught that no one should touch their genitals without their permission once they were able to keep them clean on their own time. Ever. Anyone. And she should ask. The doctor looked chagrined and talked to Brother-Bug about what she was going to do and why. It’s one of those places where we don’t think to look for consent, but we must.

And don’t force your child to kiss, hug, talk to, high five, or interact with anyone just because they *should*. That’s just…swear words. Kids will learn how to use good manners because we show them good manners. They will learn to hug people they want to hug when they see us hug people we want to hug.

Finally,

*Give your kids a safe word*. Nope. I’m not joking. Remember the tickle games I mentioned early on? They are super fun and everyone feels good in our house because we have a safe word. It’s a funny one. One that won’t be said in the craziness of the moment like No or Stop. Ours is FishPepper. If someone in a game says FishPepper, all game play stops. Sometimes just for a moment while everyone catches their breath. Sometimes for good. We are careful about using our safe word; the big kids know that it is a powerful word and they must use it only ever For Real or it will lose it’s power. Just in the last week or so, Toddler-Bug started using it of his own free will when Papa-Bug was tickling him! It was a proud moment. Our two-year old knows how to use consent concepts!

I’m going to digress for a moment. I assumed that we just know that No Means No. And we teach that too. But sometimes we are playing games and No is confusingly fun. Sometimes it’s hard to hear. No should always mean no with kids and their games. But if we get carried away (kids or adults) it’s really good to have a fallback safe word. You can play harder. I promise.

This means more explaining. To kids friends: “Oh! Sister-Bug just said FishPepper. In our house that means she needs everything to stop for a minute until she feels safe.” To their care-people: “Thanks for watching our kids…their safe word is FishPepper…just in case you are playing. That means they need to stop until they feel safe.” To parents of other kids: “My kids taught your kid the concept of a safe word…{how we use safe words with kids}…so if you hear your child using the idea of a safe word, you know where she got it.”

I always try to do the explaining in front of kids. I want them to hear me explain and support consent over and over and over and over.

If we all did this, as parents and people who love the kids we are around, eventually…someday…we would have to explain consent to adults a lot less. And maybe our kids could do it lovingly for us!!

So go out in the world and give your kids a safe word.

Reason Five: Different Levels and Styles

There are so many reasons we choose to homeschool. Here we are on the fifth one. I was thinking about this today as I hunted around on the internet for a worksheet for Brother-Bug. I was thinking about this yesterday as I worked with Sister-Bug as she read a BOB Book.

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Reason Five: Different Levels and Styles

Brother-Bug was a precocious reader. He came to me at 3 1/2 and said “Mama, I’m not really reading my books.” I asked him what he meant. “Well, I am only looking at the pictures. Not reading the words.” I asked him if he wanted to read the words. He said no. Two months later he was back. “Mama, I am ready to read the words now.” And he did. We got some easy readers, we played on Starfall. I expected him to lose interest in a couple of days. But everyday the first thing out of his mouth was “When is my reading time today?” He drove the project and read Hop On Pop independently before he turned four. By his fifth birthday he was reading things like Magic Treehouse to himself. Sister-Bug is almost five. She wants to be a reader, but it’s not her main priority. So we play sight word games and read some BOB books and use our felt alphabet to spell easy words. She has some reading games on the iPad and also enjoys Starfall. But it’s not easy for her like it was for Brother-Bug. She needs me to keep it fresh and engaging and fun. Brother-Bug needed me to reach the easy readers off the shelf.

As I write this, Toddler-Bug is sitting on my lap. He’s singing Mamma-Mia (ABBA…yes, I know…). He’s very musical and has crazy fine-motor skills. Eventually he is also going to learn to read and he will also learn in a different way. And that’s part of why we are here, homeschooling. Sister-Bug loves working systematically thorough a math workbook. Brother-Bug needs more challenge – he get’s math concepts very quickly and needs those concepts to change and grow and diversify. He gets so bored with a linear book.
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Because these are my kids, because I have watched them grow and learn and change from babies, I can make that distinction. Because they are the only 3 kids in my “class”, I can teach each one a different way and follow their lead on what they need and how they learn. And because of this, I believe they are learning deeply and well. They are not struggling to learn in a format that is unnatural for them, which would make that subject doubly challenging.

Additionally, we are not locked into a single grade level. Brother-Bug does 2-3rd grade math, but reads like a 4-5th grader. His writing is around 1st grade (that’s his hardest thing). Sister-Bug is just about on track for K-1st, but she’s still mostly playing in her school work and we don’t pay too much attention to her grade levels. No one is bored in an too easy class or frustrated in a too hard subject because I can adjust our lessons and experiences to fit in that niche of just challenging enough. I can pull us down a level if we are getting so frustrated we can’t learn or add complexity if we are feeling bored. I can add tactile elements for my SPD kid, or do all StarWars writing all the time to engage my StarWars obsessed child. It’s my choice, and their education, and I am so glad that we have the time and flexibility to reach each child in their time, and on their level.

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Want to see our other reasons to homeschool?

Reason One: A Hot Cup of Tea

Reason Two: School Scheduled Around Life

Reason Three: Play Happens

Reason Four: Getting Out or Staying In

FLASH Give Away! Baby Blocks

I am a huge fan of my new nieces. Here is a picture of one being held and loved by Papa-Bug and Toddler-Bug. This toddler loves his wee cousin so much.

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Clearly this is something to celebrate. (And you wonder where my other niece is? She’s littler and I don’t have any good pictures of her yet…)

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So I am celebrating by Giving Away some wonderful, handmade fabric blocks. Iris Says makes beautiful baby things and I love supporting a Mom using her creativity to help support her family. Mary Beth, the block creator, is offering up a set of soft blocks and three different taggie blocks for my readers to win!

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Full disclosure – I am receiving some blocks from Iris Says for doing this giveaway. I love the Iris Says products and I’d certainly buy them for my babies or nieces or whoever. I’m running the give away through Rafflecopter to keep things fair and balanced (and to give you lots of chances to win!). No one in my immediate family is allowed to enter. I am not receiving anything except the blocks I already mentioned.

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Using the Rafflecopter Widget at the bottom of this post you can enter to win any one of four prizes. A set of three soft blocks, or one of three different taggie blocks.

This is a FAST Give Away – it closes day after tomorrow! So don’t hesitate. Click on the Rafflecopter link at the bottom and enter, enter, enter.

Iris Says will get them in the mail to you ASAP, hoping the Holiday Magic works to get your blocks to you in time for Christmas.

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So which one is your favorite? The soft blocks? (I LOVE the print on these…but foxes are my favorite.)

Good Natured block set 1The Owls?

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The Wee Wanderer?

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Or the Road Trip?

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You can see more of what Iris Says creates at the Website, Etsy Store, or Facebook Page.

Now to enter! Good luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Deeds Again

Last year we tried out our Good Deeds Calendar for Advent. It was a mixed bag for the kids, but I really liked it. At the very least it helped me keep a focus on extending our bounty and love out into the world.

Good Deeds

Here is the original post, and here are my reflections on our experience.

And here is a list of what Good Deeds we might do:

(Note that there are more than 24 here so that I have some wiggle room if the plans don’t always work out…)

  • Send a loving letter to someone.
  • Draw a picture for a child in the hospital.
  • Buy some pet treats and take them to the animal shelter.
  • Donate canned goods to the postal food drive.
  • Today is The Great Toy Giveaway!!
  • Write a list of 5 things you love about someone you haven’t talked to recently, and mail it to them.
  • Take a hike somewhere beautiful. Bring a bag with you and pick up litter.
  • Bring Papa coffee in bed.
  • Make a batch of fudge or cookies and take it to Pasta Plus (where my mom works).
  • Tell Mama something you like about a local business and have her post it to their FB wall.
  • Give compliments to 3 people today. How many people total is that?
  • Play a game with your sibling that THEY want to play. Let them make the rules.
  • Send a Christmas card to someone in the military.
  • Take flowers to a nursing home.
  • Buy some art supplies at the Dollar Store. Donate the supplies to the children’s ward at the hospital.
  • Go out for steamers. Have Mama pay for the person in line behind us.
  • Visit an elderly person and ask to hear what Christmas was like when they were young. Really listen to their story.
  • Plan a Christmas Movie Party. Pick a movie, plan on pop-corn and cocoa! Invite friends and ask them to bring $3-5 each. We will donate the money to a good cause.
  • Have the Movie Party!! Draw a card for your guests to sign. Send/take the money to the organization you are donating to.
  • Donate some picture books to children who need books. Mama will help you find a good place.
  • Write a Christmas card for your ballet Teacher and your scout Leaders about why they are good teachers. Deliver them at class time with a jar of jam.
  • Take these candy canes with you when you run errands to day. Give one to someone you see who looks like they “need a smile”. (I borrowed this idea from Colleen Kessler – Thanks Colleen!!)
  • Out on errands? Hold the door for people coming behind you.
  • Take a donation of food to the Food For Lane County office.
  • Bake a batch of cookies and take them to the Fire Station near our house. Thank the Firefighters for their service.
  • Leave early for Church. Stop at the Dollar Store and buy some personal care product (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap…). Leave it in the Occupy Medical donation bin at Church.

I am thinking of getting a Good Deed canister to go next to the calendar and putting money in it. That way they can take the dollars out for a trip to the dollar store and buy their own supplies. They don’t have to rely (as directly) on me to do pay for them. It is their Good Deed Money that does the Good.

What does your family do that is similar?

What Happened Here?

I must have blinked. This wee baby turned two yesterday. We went to the zoo and had Zebra Cupcakes. He opened presents and played with new toys.

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It's a bittersweet birthday. He's not a baby anymore (even though he prefers to be called “BabyMouse”). He's a busy, learning, going, running, drawing-on-the-walls toddler. He's picking up language and concepts with a rapidity that is astonishing – even after watching two other kids as toddlers.

 

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My baby has vanished in this busy little boy and there aren't more babies coming. So it's bittersweet. He was such a beautiful, tiny little squidget of a baby.

And now he's two. Oh so very two.

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Happy birthday, BabyMouse.

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