Does Failure to Supervise = Failure to Parent?

Life As Mom, Parental Intel Friday, March 28, 2014

One of the things I liked most about the neighborhood we moved to over the summer was all the kids. Just outside playing ball, riding bikes, skipping along in the sun, just happy and working things out by themselves. No hovering parents.

It took me back to my own childhood in Montreal.

We ran the streets all summer long, and it was glorious. We played games like soccer-baseball (yes, that’s what we called kickball in Canada. Leave us.) and TV tag. Some of the girls got together to practice gymnastics  in the grassy patch of the crescent in front of my house. We would ride our bikes to the park, roll our skateboards off makeshift ramps, head out on discovery rides, hit up the dépanneur (translation: corner store/bodega) for a slushie or popsicle, and play neighborhood hide-and-go-seek — big kids included — in the dark night.

It all added up to big fun, every single day. The only time we saw our respective parents was when they called us in for dinner or for the night. My dad had a special whistle for us. I can duplicate it right now, that’s how fresh it is in my mind.

I’m hoping my son will have a similar experience here in this CTLife. (I’ve been told that there is a huge hide-and-go-seek game, but it’s just one specific summer night. A start.) But, being honest, I wonder how fine I’ll be keeping some distance, not constantly checking on him when he’s a tad older and able to play on his own with buddies. Will I hovercraft it? Or will I pretend to be all free-range and easy, but inside I’m more like:

kitty freaks out | Ms. Mary Mack

I was thinking about this again while reading “The Overprotected Kid” in The Atlantic last week. This great feature story by Hanna Rosin looks at how modern parents’ preoccupation with safety has robbed kids of adventure, discovery, risk-taking and developing  independence.

“It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting.

“Ask any [parent] to chronicle a typical week in their child’s life and they will likely mention school, homework, after-school classes, organized playdates, sports teams coached by a fellow parent, and very little free, unsupervised time. Failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent.”

I know I’ve walked the line between being reasonable and calm to having absolutely no chill about my kid’s overall safety when he’s at play. When he was younger, toddling around cramped playgrounds in Brooklyn, sometimes I was the “they’re kids; they’ll figure it out” mom relaxing in the background on the green bench. Other times I was the “why won’t that mom sitting on the green bench do something?!” hyped-up mama. And as my son’s gotten older, my worries have changed. Things like him falling off the swing aren’t at the top of my Things to Lose Sleep Over list.

Playscape breakdown | Ms. Mary Mack

We read these deep-dive pieces on modern parenthood and — when it makes sense — we try to see how we might adjust our own parenting strategies with the new information we’ve gleaned. But I often wonder if  we’re worrying too much about everything. And, trust me, the internet’s not here to allay our freak-outs either.

In the last week I’ve read about everything from the threat of Facebook’s facial recognition and corporate data mining to our young babies, to how giving your kid a weird name makes her more likely to have impulse control — which is, you should know by now, “even more important than I.Q. in predicting socioeconomic success, marital stability, and even staying out of prison.” Financial success and staying out of prison, y’all. (It must be noted that the author of this book, Parentology – a father’s memoir propped up by scientific studies — named his daughter E. and his son Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles. Yes, alll of the names. Sir. You’re doing the most.)

That’s why I downright cackled when I read this incredible new parenting study in The New Yorker. They had me from the opening line:

“A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.”

Then I feel upon this gem of a post from the blog Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds: “If 70s Moms Had Blogs.” All the Tang-drinking, spanking and cigarette-smoking had me chuckling. Exactly what I needed to calm the hell down and just do live this Mom Life.

What say you: Do you think our need to keep a close watch on our kids at play is curbing their independence? Also, does not supervising mean you’re not parenting? Is there a happy medium? Always like to hear your take. Leave a comment below or head over to MMM‘s Facebook page and chop it up with us there.

Happy 4th Blogiversary, Ms. Mary Mack!

Best of the Blogs, Life As Mom, Parental Intel Thursday, March 20, 2014

Moving out of toddler days, cruising on into Official Big Kid world, Ms. Mary Mack turns FOUR years old today!

Anchorman gif

We have been celebrating all week with Four Days of Fab Giveaways. Speaking of, we have our first winner from Monday’s Honest Tea giveaway:  Jeanine from Mommy Entourage … come on down! You have won a 30-day supply of Honest Kids juice pouches. Just drop us a note with your mailing address and you’ll be sipping pretty (yes. I said it.) in no time. Congratulations, and thanks for playing along!

Seinfeld happy gif

We’ll be announcing the winner of Day 2′s “newborn” jackpot on MMM’s FB page on Friday afternoon, so be sure to toss your hat in the ring if you haven’t done so already. [UPDATE: We have a winner: Joanna G.!]

There’s still time left on Day’s 3 Happiness giveaway too. The winner for this fun one will be selected Sunday and announced on Facebook. Get on it, friends! (Another thing to get on? Adding you “Like” to MMM‘s Facebook page. We like you, so why not return the favor, yes?)

And that brings us to today, the fourth and final day of fab freeness (alliteration!). First, a quick connect-the-dots story …

When I first launched this blog four years ago, I had just gone back to working as journalist, this time freelance and working from home. Oh, yeah, and there was also this new element of being someone’s mother. So I was  a freelance journalist with a one-year-old baby boy. Major distinction. I was still trying to figure out how to set up a proper home office (i.e., not just work on my bed); how to quit constantly giving the breast pump the finger; how to use red daggers shot from my eyes to stop loud neighbor noises from interrupting my kid’s naps; how to be OK with the nanny seeing my son’s New Thing before I did; how to scrape together 30 minutes to get a smoothie alone (rare!); how to wrap my head around this work-life balance business everyone was talking about; and how to write about any or all of it in an honest, meaningful way.

Thankfully, there were other mothers — bloggy world veterans — who had come before me, smoothing out the path as best they could. I took a few months to do some research, reading other parenting blogs, following some of these (primarily) women on Twitter, before I rolled out Ms. Mary Mack. I wanted to know — as much as one could in advance — what I was about to get in to.

I read a. lot. of “mommy blogs.” Some were so-so. Some were just not my jam. But there were oh-so many that were smart and sharp and hella funny. One fine example of this is Mom-101 by Liz Gumbinner. A writer “hailing from the justly maligned world of advertising,” Liz is thoughtful and kind and real. I regularly read her posts and, truth told, was clearly giddy when she started following me on Twitter a few years back. (Listen, you don’t want to know the sound I made when Lisa Belkin of Motherlode fame actually left a comment on my blog and invited me to write for her at the NYTimes.com. Hey … the small things excite a girl. Either love me or leave me alone.)

Over the years, I’ve talked (in person a few times) with Liz about Brooklyn life, parenthood, shoes, Martha Stewart, whatever. We’ve become colleagues, friends. She recently asked me to be a contributor to the fantastic Cool Mom Picks. You know I happily said yes; I’m no dummy.

When I was putting together a list of cool giveaways for this 4th blogiversary, I asked Liz if she wouldn’t mind pointing me in the direction of someone willing to work with me. And without a minute’s pause, Liz came back with actual contacts, because kindness, lending helping hands? — that’s how she rolls.

So, thank you, Liz/Mom-101, for being open and plain ol’ nice, especially out in these blogging streets where not everyone is trying to share contacts or be collaborative.

And now … GIVEAWAY TIME! Tea Collection has very generously offered to set up one lucky reader with a cute-magoots wardrobe set!  You may choose one set from the following:

GIRL

BOY

BABY GIRL

BABY BOY

Here’s an example of a sweet girls set:

Tea Collection Girls Set | Ms. Mary Mack

Outstanding, right??! To enter is easy. Just read the rules below. Good luck! 

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Finding Happy and Taking a Picture of It

Life As Mom, Parental Intel Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tomorrow, March 20, MMM turns 4! To celebrate the blogiversary we’re hosting Four Days of Fab Giveaways. It all started Monday with an Honest Tea jackpot. Up for grabs are products (from people) I came to know through blogging these last four years; ergo, some good stuff, yo! Stay tuned to the blog and MMM’s Facebook page for updates, announcements and info.  You don’t want to miss this. Trust.

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One of our family jams is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. It’s the perfect song for everything — cleaning the kitchen, cooking dinner, driving home from school, the solo home office dance party. Whatever.

Just push play above and see what I’m talking about. I dare you to listen to the song and not shimmy. The beat and easy lyrics will wiggle right into your soul.

Speaking of happy shimmying, you need to check out darling Grandma Betty doing a little dance to “Happy” on her popular Instagram page. (Pharrell himself now follows the sweet grandmother and cancer fighter on IG.)

Happy: it’s what we’re all trying to be in this life, where we’re hoping to arrive with our children in tow. But outside of the rare breed of human who wakes up feeling golden — and stays that way 24/7 — being happy takes real and mindful work.

Whenever I talk about happiness, I often think back to a period not too long ago when I struggled to find it. I was unhappy. I wasn’t depressed; I just felt off-kilter, like I was walking around lopsided and half-full. Then I read this blog post written by one of my favorite photobloggers (who went on to become a friend), Karen Walrond, and the game changed. In her blog post, Karen talked about happiness being an emotion and a decision. A light went off for me right then, and I made the decision to be happy, in an authentic way. I took a month to figure out how to press my reset button and plot my Grand Return to Happiness.

The whole adventure was restorative and necessary. And, most important, it worked. I found some Happy. Mind you, it’s something I continue to work on. For example, when we started this CTLife two years ago, that unbalanced thing started creeping back in. But I keep choosing happiness,  keep reaching for it, and looking to put the shimmy back in my shoulders for the all-important solo dance parties.

And so, clearly, I’m truly happy to have met Karen through blogging. She’s a gem, and she’s agreed to help me celebrate MMM‘s 4th blogiversary by offering one lucky reader a signed copy of her excellent book The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit. Back in 2011, Karen joined The Confab, assuring us that we are all different and extraordinary and beautiful. Definitely have a read of that fun talk.

Wait …  there’s more on Day 3 of the Four Days of Fab Giveaways!

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Around that time when I was looking for my Happy, I was taking a lot of photographs. It was helping me, getting out there, walking around with my son or solo, snapping pictures of people, life, moments with my camera-camera (no iPhone back then — BlackBerry, baby!). I ended up taking a Mondo Beyondo e-course and then a Big Picture Classes photo class led by the extra-talented Tracey Clark (see TC’s new handbook for photographing motherhood for proof — she’s aces!) Both of these workshops were wonderful and so valuable. I started dreaming bigger and — no joke — breathing easier, and I made a few photog friends along the way. There was one woman out of Philly with whom I remain close, even though we have yet to meet in person. (2014! Let’s make it happen!)

That lovely lady is Holly Clark. More than being an inspired, prolific photographer, Holly is just one of those good people that you are ever grateful has a place in your life. She’s also offered to help MMM celebrate the big 4 by donating one of her prints! Now, to figure out which one. Take a look at this set; PLENTY to like here.

All you have to do is tell us what makes you happy. That’s it. The randomly selected winner will be announced early next week. Good luck!

Like the Bunkers Sang, ‘Those Were the Days’

Life As Mom Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On Thursday, March 20, MMM turns 4! To celebrate the blogiversary we’re hosting Four Days of Fab Giveaways. It all kicked off Monday. Up for grabs are products (by people) I came to know through blogging these last four years; ergo, some good stuff, yo! Stay tuned to the blog and MMM’s Facebook page for updates, announcements and info.  You don’t want to miss this. Trust.

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If (wait — if??!) you follow Ms. Mary Mack on Facebook, then you know that The Youngster is battling an ugly cold and cough. He’s home from school again today and, frankly, we’re all too through with this thing. No one’s getting proper sleep. He’s not eating much; just mainly asking for juice. His little kid pot belly — you know the cuteness I’m talking about — has vanished and his legs and arms are like slim poles. I even made him donuts (I said, DONUTS, y’all) yesterday and he was only marginally impressed. With his low-key, “Cool, Mom,” you would have thought he was 15, not 5.

Homemade Chocolate Donuts | Ms. Mary Mack

I’m not getting any work done. (In fact, I’m in my office right now hastily typing this post up while he’s in our bed with an iPad. Listen. It’s all I could do to get a shower in!) Basically, we’re miserable. This morning when he woke up at o-dark-thirty grouchy, whining  and complaining that he “feels very horrible,” I had a shudder-inducing flashback to the early days, the newborn boot camp days. Wait. Did a chill just rush up your spine too? Man. I don’t even want to reminisce too hard on all that madness, so let’s move on before I start stress-breathing and lactating spontaneously. Like the song says, the past is in the paaaaahhhaaaaast! 

Let It Go gif

In all seriousness, there are many things from Those Days that I do look back on warmly. Like the sweet bond that breastfeeding brought. Or the delightful “baby” smell of his neck, his cheeks, his breath. The tiny-mouth yawns. The funny face he made when he sneezed. The sleep sighs. The sleep smiles. How his tree branch legs became these squishy, nibble-worthy, puffalump, fat folds. Ah … Those Days. Keeping this glass all-the-way-full vibe going on the early parenthood thing, allow me to share today’s goods for MMM’s Four Days of Giveaways. (By the way, you can still toss your hat in the ring for yesterday’s Honest Tea Kids giveaway.) The wonderful people at Skip Hop have offered to send one lucky reader this fabulous Chelsea Downtown Chic diaper bag. I still have — and use — my original army green messenger bag from Skip Hop. It’s over five years old and still as nifty as ever. Big fan of this brand.   SkipHop Chelsea Bag | Ms. Mary Mack There’s more! The same randomly selected winner will also receive a Moby Wrap baby carrier. I gave my Moby Wrap to a new mom friend before we moved from Brooklyn — definitely the perfect city (i.e. we be walking) for babywearing.

Moby Wrap | Ms. Mary Mack

Still more! The same person — let’s call them Fortunate Franny/Freddy at this point — will also get a special set of Sticky Bellies, these fun, removable stickers for those sweet baby tummies and all their milestone moments. There are sets for boys and girls, and you can select monthly, milestone or holiday stickers. Your choice, Fortunate Franny/Freddy!

Sticky Bellies | Ms. Mary Mack

Sticky Bellies Father's Day | Ms. Mary Mack

Pretty nice haul, right? And here’s all you have to do to maybe walk away the winner (see below). Good luck!

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