Using screen time with intention

Whether we like it or not, A is surrounded by screens. Any child living (in a developed country) in 2018 is. Whether it’s TV time or FaceTiming grandparents, screens are everywhere. While we try to limit his non-FaceTime screens quite strictly during the week (a 20-minute episode of something on Netflix or YouTube), we are considerably less strict over the weekends (those cozy family movie nights are just too good to pass up). I’ve now come to appreciate using the screen strategically to make parents’ lives a little calmer and kids’ lives a little richer.

So, I thought I would outline how we intentionally use screen time for both those ends.

Why and how we use screens:

  1. Rest. Obviously. Let’s be honest–When he’s being crazy or we need to get the dishes finished, sometimes flipping on the TV will do the trick. Sure, in an ideal world, he would be able to sit calmly and work on his puzzles as I clean up dinner. But LOLS, that’s not going to happen every night. I really only use TV like this when B is still at work. It gives me either a moment of rest or a moment to get something done waaaaay more efficiently than you can with a toddler hanging off your leg. (He’s taken to grabbing the knives from the dishwasher as we try to load it, so if some Elmo is going to prevent stitches, we’ll do it).
  2. Exposure to Turkish. Now, I know you can’t learn a second language just by watching TV. Research shows over and over that in-person, live interactions are what help children develop language. Turkish TV doesn’t replace Turkish conversations. That being said, A is still exposed to Turkish through the TV. And when his dad is home, too, they use Turkish TV as a prompt to start talking in Turkish. Watching Turkish shows also gives him more familiarity with Turkish culture, like kid’s songs and popular characters.
  3. Instigating color-conscious and other social justice-oriented conversations. Just like books, TV shows and movies can be a great prompt to start a conversation about social justice. One of his favorite shows, for example, features a trio of female protagonists, two of whom are girls of color. This allows us to start talking about gender and race with A from a young age.

And just as a moment of joy and for our own personal memories, A’s favorite TV shows to watch in the last month or two are:

  1. Spirit: Riding Free (I’ve talked about this one before–it’s his first love.)
  2. Planet Earth 2
  3. Canim Kardesim

Happy wiping,

Olivia

Storytime and activism: A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

A is for Activist is a small book with a cult following. It seems to pop up in all of the corners of the web that talk about social justice & parenting, at the small local bookstores, etc. It’s an ABC book that talks about something radical with each letter: I is for immigrant and indigenous or L is for LGBTQ or T is for Trans or Z is for Zapatista, of course.

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A certainly doesn’t understand everything (or even most) in it, but I think of it as a book that will grow with us. Right now, for a family with a one-and-a-half year old, it has good illustrations and a fun rhythm of the text. It gives us an opportunity to practice how we (the adults) want to start talking to him about certain topics. As he grows into the preschool years, I’m sure we will use it as a jumping off point for discussions around social issues. And because the text is poetic in nature, I think we can use it into the elementary years. As A’s understanding of poetry grows, we can unveil new meanings of the short letter-based poems together.

This book is truly a radical children’s book. It calls out democrats and republicans alike; it calls out capitalism; it calls out problematic narratives of activists (R: “’ruinous rioters’ the headlines said…really?”). It makes me want to be more accountable to my beliefs. I am grateful to have it in A’s little library, and I highly recommend it!

P.S. See some of my other children’s book reviews here, here, here, and here

Terrible, Terrible Twos.

Terrible twos. TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE twos. There aren’t any words. Except, hot damn, the terrible twos. A isn’t even two yet either! He’s just 20 months old, but the terrible twos seem to have hit our house early. This week has been the hardest of our parenting lives (even harder than 4 to 6 months old, when A woke 8-10 times a night). A started a new daycare last week, and since the second day of his new school, A has been INSANE. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but there are no words to adequately describe how insane A has been. 95% of the time he is at home (and awake), he is throwing a temper tantrum. I am not exaggerating when I say 95% of the time. This weekend, my husband and I looked at each other and just said ‘this is insane.’

Luckily, at school, this doesn’t seem to be his pattern at his new daycare. They say he is a pleasure when he’s there, and they love having him (hopefully this will continue!).

I do try to stick by my original post on temper tantrums: I name his emotion and validate it. But there are times when that won’t do anything to calm him down. This week is a perfect example. In those moments, we’ve taken to ignoring him. Disciplining through the terrible twos is an emotionally trying time—I have lost my temper a few times over the last week, I will admit. But I am so thankful I have a partner. When I just could NOT deal anymore, he would step in and I would go hide upstairs. When he couldn’t deal anymore, I would step in and he would hide. Self-care as parents is so important, particularly during weeks like this.

So, a note to myself: Take care of myself. Make a self-care plan. Rely on family and friends. Remember, everything passes. GOOD LUCK.

And solidarity to any other parents who are in the middle of the terrible twos.

March for Our Lives: Applications for parents of toddlers

Our family took a vacation to sunny San Diego last week. We flew back on Saturday the 24th, and I was very disappointed to miss the March for Our Lives in St. Louis. But I want to express solidarity publicly and writing this blog post is one way to do it.

First, I want to commend the youth at the center of the March for Our Lives for centralizing conversations of privilege and using their platform to amplify voices of Black and Brown youth who have been fighting gun violence in different ways in their communities.

Second, I want to point out the questions that are stuck in my head:

What do these activists teach parents of young children? If you are parents of high schoolers, the lessons are clearer (encourage participation in activist movements, show up at rallies with your kids, etc). But as the mother of a toddler, what can I do to support this movement and be active in the fight against gun violence? How can I use my position as a privileged parent to support this movement? Right now, I plan to:

  • Consistently communicate to A that guns can be dangerous (he’s a little young to understand, but it starts to embed this thinking from a young age. It also helps us as parents get used to the type of wording we want to use when we discuss these topics with him.)
  • Do not let him play with toy guns or pretend to shoot people with guns (again, he’s a little young for this, but it will become more relevant soon)
  • Show up at rallies like March for Our Lives and other events
  • Bring him with us to the voting booth when we vote for local, state, and federal officials who support gun control. Tell him that is one of the reasons we are supporting this candidate (again, he’s young, I know. But, it is important to me that A sees us voting in local and state elections and sees us civically engaged).

When I was chatting with my husband the other night about this blog post (heyyy, new year’s resolution #2, I see you!), we both came to the blunt conclusion of ‘fuck guns.’ If I were designing an ideal world, guns would not be in it. But we don’t live in an ideal world and I know many people don’t agree with that statement. We live in a world where diversity of thought is a beautiful thing, and people have diverse thoughts about guns. Whatever your opinion about guns—even if its not as blunt or hard-lined as mine—there are common sense things we can do as parents to both keep our kids safe and teach them how to advocate for a safer world. I’ve outlined the ones above that align with my values. I encourage you to think of ones that align with yours.

Individual reparations?

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with our recent purchase of a teepee for A to play in. My aunt graciously encouraged me to donate to an organization or group run by and for Native Americans. This donation would not erase the cultural appropriation associated with teepees as play things for White kids but rather would offset the harm our family committed when we purchased it. While financial donations won’t solve the problems of capitalism and White supremacy, it got me thinking: how else can we use our family’s financial giving to disrupt the forces of racialized exploitation?

I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of charity. Charity/donating money is not inherently bad, of course, but I believe it is too often conflated with the idea of justice. My ultimate goal is to cultivate a life that encourages the formation of more just and equitable systems of economy and politics. Charity doesn’t do that. Charity thinks that more money will solve the problems of a few individuals. It doesn’t see that the actual problem is the system itself.

My aunt’s thoughtful comments, however, got me thinking. What if I reconceived ‘charitable giving’ as ‘individual reparations’? My family has materially benefitted from White supremacy. That’s not to say my family hasn’t work hard, but it is to say that the history of economic policies and the lack of interpersonal discrimination has helped recent generations of my family become economically secure. They have been able to pass that down to me and my son. (The case is a little different for my husband, who is a first- or second-generation immigrant, depending on who is categorizing him). How can I use those material benefits and repurpose them to organizations run by and for Native Americans and African Americans? (These are not the only two groups that are materially hurt by White supremacy, but they are two I want to focus on right now)

I have decided to make regular donations to:

  1. The Organization for Black Struggle
  2. National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

My husband expressed concern that the idea of individual reparations was patronizing. I see his point. Framing donations as individual reparations can come off as condescending or paternalistic. It is my hope, though, that this is an action that is rooted in my acknowledgement of an unfair structural advantage. More money will never solve the problems that capitalism created. But, since the US is nowhere close to committing to societal reparations, there must be something that individuals can do. No, my financial donations are not going to fix anything. But they may put more financial resources into the hands of people who have been historically denied or robbed of their financial resources.

Is this entire thinking motivated by White guilt? I’ve been accused of White guilt quite a bit in my life and even more so recently. I’m not sure the difference between being a reflective White person (who hopefully is willing to put her body and money where her mouth is) to having White guilt. I wonder, though: Does it matter? If my motivation is White guilt, but it still gets me to prioritize justice in my actions—does it matter?

Working moms

“This brings me to the most important lesson I wished I’d known when I first had kids: There’s no such thing as balance, only priorities of the moment”

-(Erin Cochran, 2/22/18 Washington Post)

‘Work-life balance’ seems to be a mantra that everyone uses now, even those without kids. It’s this idea that you need an equilibrium in your life between your work-for-pay and your time away from work-for-pay. Mostly, I hear about how bad most people are at this work-life balance. To complain about how busy and overworked you are is like a currency in our society. Busy-ness (and complaining about busy-ness) proves your importance.

Erin Cochran wrote a piece for the Washington Post the other week about this topic. She essentially argues for the famous Madeline Albright line: women can have it all, just not all at once. As in, you can have a successful career and a happy family—but maybe not at the same time. Cochran quit her high-powered job to stay at home with her kids (though now she runs a small consulting firm, and clearly does at least a little freelance writing as evidenced by this article. Not sure if she still considers herself a stay at home mom or not, but she does identify as it in the article). Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about her main theme. Some days I agree with it—something’s gotta give if you’re going to do anything well. But another part of me is stubborn and wants to not give up on the ideal.

One quote in her article, though, hit close to home: “There’s no such thing as balance, only priorities of the moment.” When I was going back to working full-time in my PhD program (after an amazing 6-month maternity leave), I had many hard days. I intentionally and consciously wrote out my list of priorities to get me through those hard days.

My son (and family in general)
My physical and mental health
My job (and within that, professional activities that promote social justice).

When 4pm rolls around some days and I’m irritated that I didn’t finish everything I wanted during daycare hours, I take a deep breath and ask myself: What’s more important—reading this journal article or high quality time with my son? The answer always is—and always will be—my son. I want to pick him up by 4:30 each day so that I had 2.5-3 solid hours of hang out time with him. He is what matters to me. Knowing my priorities is a mindfulness strategy that allowed me cope with the stress of working-for-pay and being a mom.

Now, I don’t think that you are a bad mom or a bad woman if these aren’t your priorities. One of the beauties of living in the era we do is that women should (in theory) be able to set their own priorities. You prefer your career over having a family? Baller. Do it. There might be days in the future when I really don’t want to pick him up from daycare because this project I’m working on is really important and engrossing. They haven’t come yet. In fact, I have found myself less and less content with work, leading to more and more of those random thoughts: ‘maybe I should be a stay at home mom?’. I highly doubt I would every do it for many, many complicated reasons. But on days when my work just straight SUCKS, I fantasize about it…

Storytime & Badass grandmas: Nana in the city by Lauren Castillo

A has two pretty badass grandmas: Nana & Nene (Hi, mom! Hi, mom-in-law!). It’s not super surprising then that he’s starting to get into a new book: Nana in the City, by Lauren Castillo.

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The book is about a little boy spending a night at his grandma’s apartment in the city. At first, he is scared by everything going on in the city. But when his Nana makes him a red cape, he sees the city through a whole different lens: everything that was scary the day before makes the city thrilling today!

We haven’t done any ‘naming whiteness’ talk while reading the book, but we have looked at the illustrations and found racially, socioeconomically diverse urban settings. The main characters do appear White, but (and?) they are situated in representative urban spaces. The illustrations depict homelessness in respectful fashion. It depicts urban parks, taxi cabs, and street food vendors. It reflects urban life in a realistic and optimistic way. I also appreciate the fact that they are showing a male character who is afraid and intimidated by new things (gotta disrupt that toxic masculinity from the start, ya know). And an older woman living a happy, independent life.

Overall, a sweet and pleasant read! With lots to talk about (particularly in the illustrations) for parents interested in stimulating conversations about social justice with their young kids.

Happy wiping,

Olivia

 

Teepees in our house

Edit– Look at the comments to see more thoughts!

*Preface: This is a messy, rambling post. I wanted to show an example of my internal thought process. Mostly, to demonstrate that I reaaalllyyyy don’t have all the answers when it comes to parenting with privilege. I’m imperfect and do things that I am not proud of. This is one example.

Teepees as decorations in kids’ rooms…

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*Not the teepee in A’s room. A’s room is not this pretty, lol. 

My husband just bought one, and I’m uncomfortable with the cultural appropriation associated with it. I’m a white woman with no known connection to indigenous tribes from the Great Plains in the US (where I understand teepees originated). Do I have a right to have a toy teepee in my house for my son to play in? We didn’t buy it from an indigenous source, which can make having objects from other cultures OK. We bought it off Amazon, where random people are taking ideas from oppressed cultures and making money off of them. That’s what makes me uncomfortable.

I gotta admit though, it’s damn cute (or has the potential to be—right now it’s really wrinkly). A lot of people I love and respect have one/want to get one for their kids/future kids. I think I’ve been brainwashed by the Pinterest aesthetic…send haaaaaalp.

Is it ok if we just call it a ‘tent’? Or is that cultural appropriation and white washing?

And the most annoying part is A loves it. He just wants to lie in it and read books and every night. It’d be so much easier if he just didn’t care about it.

I know what to do (I think). There is no objective ‘right’ way to parent for social justice, but I know (read: think?) in my gut that I don’t feel comfortable with a toy teepee in my house. That’s not to say I’m judging other families who have one. You’re not a bad person, but this is a decision made for my family.

My New Year’s Resolutions: 6 weeks in…

At the end of December, I wrote a few parenting resolutions for 2018. Since we’re six weeks into the year, I thought it would be a good time to check in with myself about them.

Resolution 1: Get off my phone! 

Current grade: C+/B-

I’m doing…not great with this one. My resolution was to put my phone on the other side of the room during playtime. When it’s just me and A, I’m pretty good with it. What really gets me though is if someone else is home. If my husband or in-laws are playing with A, I notice that I’ll just sit on my phone in front of them, even though I could be more engaged in a group play. But I also don’t want to be too hard on myself: If I’ve been alone with A all day, then my husband comes home and wants to play with A, sometimes I just want the mental break that only a good scroll through Instagram can provide….

 

Resolution 2: Talk to my husband about my blog posts.

Current grade: F

I think I talked to him about it twice maybe. Mostly because of his schedule, honestly. But the point of this resolution was to encourage conversations between us about parenting. We have had recent in-depth discussions (to put it politely…) about screen time and overbuying of toys (see my still-relevant thoughts on that here). So, I am failing at this resolution *technically,* but I’m not mad at myself.

 

Resolution 3: Don’t criticize my husband’s parenting. 

Current grade: B+?

I think I’m doing well? I don’t notice myself doing it as much anymore, but I don’t know if that’s because I do it less or because I do it more unconsciously. I’ll try to pay particular attention to that over the next few days.

 

Resolution 4: Encourage A to clean up after himself.

Current grade: A-

We don’t do it *every* night, but 4 out of every five nights, we have him help clean up all of his toys in the living room. Doing well with this one!

Bonus Resolution: Read more books about parenting and social justice

A few weeks after I wrote out my New Year’s resolutions, I also made a commitment to read at least two books about parenting for social justice by March. So, I’ve edited that goal a bit. Instead of books, I’m reading a magazine! I found a new, online magazine called ‘Hold the Line’ that I’ve subscribed to. I’m a few articles into the first one, and I’m really enjoying it! Highly recommend it.

Happy wiping! –Olivia

Joy, pt. 2: The story of A and his neigh

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“Neigh! Neiiiighhhh!”, A cried, pointing repeated to his crib.

“What do you say?”

“Peeeezzzz.”

“Alright, here you go,” I say, reaching into his crib and pulling out his stuffed horse.

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A slides down my body as we walk into the house. I’m carrying my work bag, A’s daycare bag, and A’s coat, so his dismount from my hip was more of a slide then a gentle put-down. A immediately runs to the TV remote, holds it out to me, and says “Neigh? Neigh?”

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“Should we race?”

A smiles and nods his head once. He gets down on his knees, holding Moon, his white plastic horse, on the ground. Then he grins at me.

I smile back and line up Spirit, his brown plastic horse. “Ready, set, go!”

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A is currently obsessed with “neighs.” This has nothing to do with parenting for social justice (I don’t think—maybe there’s something here about horses being stereotypically associated with young girls? Haven’t thought it through.). I just want to write it down to celebrate the joy in parenting’s mundane moments! It all started a few months ago, when we found a Netflix show called “Spirit: Riding Free.” It’s definitely a show I would’ve loved as a kid. His obsession started growing when we found a stuffed horse at Ikea (that he sleeps with every night). It got even worse when he got *5* different stuffed or plastic horses for Christmas.

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A’s favorite show ever, ever ever of his entire 18 month life. 

But I can feel the beginning of the end for A’s era of neighs. Don’t get me wrong—he still sleeps with his Ikea neigh every day and plays with his plastic horses daily. But he didn’t ask to watch his Netflix show once last weekend. Since, at the height of his obsession he was asking for “neigh” show hourly, this has gotta mean something. He did ask for “aslan” (lion in Turkish). So, we watched Lion King for the first time this weekend. Neighs will always be his first love, but we may be at the dawn of the age of aslan.

I’ll report back in a few months, and let you know!

P.S. See my first post of joy in parenting’s small moments here.