Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Best Parenting "Hacks"

Just for starters, I hate the term "hack" and am not really sure how it came to mean shortcut vs. a way to brutally murder a person, cake, or website.   While we are on the topic, I also hate the word "meme" and have no idea how it went from being a French word meaning "same" that rhymed with "femme" to being a term used to describe a photo defaced by internet users and rhyming with "beam," as in please hit me over the head with one before you use the word "meme."  It just sounds creepy to me, like "ganglia" or "undulate."  Sometimes I really despise the internet.

But not today, for it is the 8th, as in the EIGHTH or VIII,  Snow Day of the winter for my kids, and the internet means that my children can watch movies and play Wii all day while I sit in bed bemoaning the annoying words that have recently entered the English language.  I could venture out into the house to do something useful like reorganize a closet, but then I would witness the utter destruction of civilization that awaits me there, involving all the furniture being refashioned into a World  War I-esque trench fortification, dishes affixed with the remnants of sugary and starchy foods littering the floor, piles of soggy snow clothes by the doors, bits of crafting debris and crayons crushed into the rug, and of course my zombie-like children who are apparently responsible for the destruction though they give no indication of having moved or even processed a human thought in several weeks.

So instead, I am going to pass on the wisdom I have accumulated over the years on how to be what I call a "minimalist" (read: lazy) but still (barely) acceptable parent in this day of overactive, overachiever parents.  I will also present pseudo-scientific evidence to make you feel better about it. These are my "hacks."

1) Stop bathing your kids!!! JUST STOP IT!!!  Americans KILL me with this, bathing their precious babies every. single. night.  In addition to making your life more complicated and costing you ever-depleting energy, my research shows you are basically ripping off layers of their sensitive skin and giving them immune systems so weak, one meal at Chipotle could finish them off.  Meanwhile, we eat at Chipotle's dirtier cousin Taco Bell weekly without digestive consequences.  First of all, babies and non-potty-trained toddlers get their yucky parts washed multiple times a day anyway, so there's hardly any need to bathe them ever.  Once potty-trained, I use the same rule I use for the dog.  When I smell something funky or see stuff in their hair, time for a bath.  Otherwise, carry on.  Even the APA says a weekly bath is plenty.  See? What. are. you. doing. to. yourself.

2) Swimming in a swimming pool or even some lakes counts as a bath.  Until their hair gets that green tinge.  I actually don't think that happens anymore, I think the chlorine is of superior quality these days.  For sure it is going to disinfect your kid's entire body.  Done.

3) Speaking of Taco Bell.  It's not as bad as McDonald's.  It's beans, it's rice, it's cheese. It's possibly some other stuff.  But it's fine.  And it's cheap, fast, and easy.  Go to there.

4) Don't get involved in homework.  Especially before it counts toward their college application.  Why would you do that?  Why, I say?  I attended the 2nd grade, I did very well in the 2nd grade, I have nothing to prove here.  My research says it builds confidence and responsibility to leave all this homework stuff to the kids.  Plus they get in the habit of doing their own homework and managing their time before it really counts.  In addition, you get to keep reading your own book.

5) Similarly, unless there is blood, don't get involved in fights.   Most of the time it's easier to sort out Syria than it is to determine who is at fault at which point and who started it and who isn't sharing and who had it first and then to work out peace in our time.  You aren't going to be able to do that, so just stay out of it (maybe Syria too? I don't know).  The kids will develop problem-solving and people skills.  And, most importantly, you won't have to get off the couch.

5) More generally, if a child can do something on their own and leaving them to it has few consequences for you, tell them to do it themselves.  At 8 am on a Saturday, breakfast is Get it yourself.  Sure, they may spill something and they may eat a popsicle.  But it's fine.  It builds resourcefulness and initiative.  And it builds in a few extra minutes for Mom to lie in repose.  On the other hand, if it's 8 am on a Monday and you need to get out the door, then breakfast is Whatever Mom gives you and you will shut up about it and eat it NOW.

6) This includes brushing teeth and washing hands.  Now that Charlotte has some permanent adult teeth, I pay slightly more attention.  But baby teeth? Please. Those are practice teeth.  Taking good care of those is like going to relationship counseling with your 8th grade boyfriend.  If Lawson doesn't do a spectacular job, whatever.  Basically with both hands and teeth, I'll start micromanaging their cleanliness when folks start getting cavities and dysentery.  Guess what? Hasn't. happened.

7) Oh friends, this one is my FAVORITE, and I can't claim credit.  My best friend (who's even bester now) was visiting and watched my morning routine of cramming my kids into their clothes because even though they can do that themselves, they can't do it in less than 45 minutes.  She casually mentioned that she had a friend whose kids slept in the next day's clothes.  What, you say?  Well, Why not? The difference between kids clothes and PJs is basically the difference between Donald Trump and a giant, mean, narcissistic grapefruit.   Imperceptible.  Especially if you are dealing with my daughter's wardrobe, which consists of exclusively leggings and T-shirts.  She regards denim as something banned under the Geneva Conventions.   Now my morning routine consists of yelling "get in the car" and giving them a granola bar.  Done.

8) If you kids say they are bored, get a box and start putting all your kids' toys in it to take to Goodwill.  Works every time.

9) Don't organize, throw away.  Indiscriminately.  Papers, drawings, Chinese crap from birthday parties, colored-in coloring books, dried up play doh, broken crayons, the endless stream of unsharpened pencils, toys with a bunch of pieces that are now dismembered and scattered, all of it.  If you don't know what to do with it, in the trash.  yes, an important legal document or two may get in there accidentally.  That's the price you pay for being able to move freely around your house.

10) Snow days DON'T COUNT.  The kids can watch as much TV and wii as they want.  They can eat whatever they want.  The adults can drink as much alcohol as they want.  No one bathes.  Snow=the suspension of the normal rules of human society for the sake of the survival of the species.

11) Zoloft.  I've gone on at length about this so I won't belabor the point.

I think I'm done for now.  Now I know what you are saying--These are not really "hacks," in the Pinterest sense of the term.  Hacks are supposed to be cute ways to get you to the same or higher level of living in a more efficient time frame.  These are just a lower level of living.  You are basically just inviting us all to wallow in the mud of sloth with you.

But are they really a lower level of living?  Are the results really different, my friends?  When I compare my kids to those of my more overachieving mom friends, I can't really see a difference.  If anything, my kids get sick less.  They are healthy.  They are learning well in school.  They are fed, they are clothed.  They don't have all their teeth, this is true, but they have age-appropriate toothlessness. Their mother is (relatively) sane.  OK she is crazy, but she's like a fun kind of crazy, it works.  Now they are more badly dressed, I can't deny that.  And their crafts are self-directed and therefore pretty avant garde.  But I maintain they would still be badly dressed and their crafts would be ugly whether they slept in PJs and I crafted with them or not.

And the best part is, I am still in bed, in my PJs.
(Seriously, why have we made parenting so much harder than it already is?  Just stop it.  Lean out. On all fronts.)

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