Let parents be parents and kids be kids already

standard September 23, 2014 15 responses

Let parents be parents 224x300 Let parents be parents and kids be kids already

There is an article making the rounds on the Internet titled “11-year-old girl goes on vacation alone, horrifying parents around the world.” I am no more immune to sensationalized article headers, so, like many people I clicked on the link, somewhat spurred on by the photo of a smiling girl wearing a backpack and holding her thumb up, in what I assumed was meant to make it look like she was hitchhiking.

Turns out, this 11-year-old girl was being put on a plane by her parents and being received at the other end by family members who then would take her into their home for her “vacation.”

Now, I’m sorry, but she’s far from the only 11-year-old traveling as an Unaccompanied Minor and I really don’t think that being on your own (with airline attendant supervision) on a plane is the same thing as “going on vacation” alone.

Let’s set aside for a second the sensationalization of something rather banal in the hopes of getting readers all riled up.

I traveled as an Unaccompanied Minor for the first time when I was four.

I walked to school, going from one end of town to the other, on my own, when I was 9.

I took the London Tube (the subway) and hailed cabs on my own when I was 11.

These things are not crazy. It was not a “sign of the times.” It was not irresponsible of my parents to let me do these things. They taught me to make smart decisions and then let me make them.

That is nothing more than good parenting.

The job of a parent isn’t to solely keep their child safe. It’s to teach them to be ready to live in the world. If we spend all of our time coddling and shielding our kids from the pitfalls that might, maybe, could possibly happen, all we’re doing is making it impossible for them to ever know how to manage on their own.

That’s what’s not ok.

For a time, the phenomenon was known as Helicopter Parenting. You hovered, watched, stood by, darted in to fix things when the situation started to look a bit dicey. Now it’s called Lawnmower Parenting. The parents plow through all possible obstacles, smoothing the way so their child is never challenged in any way.

Does that sound ok to you?

I’ve seen it many times. Kids who are never allowed to explore, never allowed to figure things out on their own, go hog wild when finally freed.

Imagine the teen never allowed even a tiny sip of beer at home going off to college for the first time. Imagine the child never allowed out with friends sneaking out of a window. Imagine the teen never allowed to manage his or her own money finally getting a credit card.

These things never end well.

As a parent, our job is to teach our kids to do things safely and smartly while we’re still in the wings to steer them back on path. 

America was once a great nation of innovation and grit. We had to be. There was no one to pave the road or show us the way. We can’t always be with them, so we’d better be teaching them to make good decisions. That can’t happen if there are never any decisions to make. 

Art, music, science experimentation have already been taken away from our schools. If we take away the ability to play outside, to explore, to discover the world without a hovering parent, we will be reduced to a nation of rule following, line toeing citizens, who have lost the ability to innovate and grow. 

When my kids were toddlers I let them climb onto chairs by themselves, I let them fail, let them try again, and I applauded their success when they finally reached their goal.

These days…

I let my kids play for hours without checking in to see what they’re doing.

I let my kids go to the bathroom on their own in restaurants.

I let my kids play with toys and art supplies as they see fit, even if it’s not according to manufacturer’s instructions.

I let my kids try daring stunts on playground equipment.

I let my kids climb trees.

I let my kids walk home from school with friends.

I let my kids walk to their friends’ house down the street.

I let my kids walk the dog on their own.

I let my kids make their own breakfast.

I let my kids do their own homework.

I let my kids make mistakes, and fix them on their own.

I let my kids have hours and hours of unstructured, unscheduled time.

I let my kids get bored… and then find their own way out of that boredom. 

I consider myself their coach and their encouragement. I don’t do things for them. I don’t pave the road they travel. 

We used to be a nation of problem solvers. If our children never have to face any problems, how will they ever develop that skill? 

We are reaching a ridiculous state where it seems to no longer be acceptable to parent in a way that will allow our kids to grow up strong, smart, independent, and able.

That’s not just a crying shame. That’s a crime.

DSC 0841 199x300 Let parents be parents and kids be kids already

That time when I didn’t take the job at Facebook

standard September 23, 2014 3 responses

Seven years ago, almost to the day, I dropped off my 11-week-old child at the daycare her 2-year-old sister attended daily, which she too would soon attend regularly, and headed off to Facebook HQ.

I was wearing a professional looking outfit that didn’t fit right over my still bloated post-partum body. I hadn’t slept more than an hour at a stretch in 11 weeks. I looked broken, felt broken, but most importantly, was desperate to not go back to my existing job when my tiny infant turned 4 months old.

Facebook at the time was still relatively new. By that I mean that they had just celebrated their millionth user and were feeling pretty badass, but their head quarters consisted of a bunch of cheap looking furniture on which perched MASSIVE computer screens. Power cords crisscrossed all the floors and the conference rooms just looked a bit… unfinished.

They’d just experienced their first big media hiccup – the Facebook SUCKS debacle stemming from the banning of breast feeding photos, which led to moms leaving the site in droves and deleting their accounts in a huff.

I was being interviewed for a customer service position and I was really excited to discuss the issue with them.

I should have known better.

My interviewer – head of the department – was a young guy who didn’t look old enough to have to shave daily. After talking briefly with him, I met with every important member of his team, pitching myself as best as I could without really being able to glean what it was they were looking for, why they’d brought me in to interview, feeling increasingly uncomfortable as my milk supply built up, missing my sweet baby, wondering what the heck I was doing in this start-up office, talking to people who had a very different take on customer service than I did.

I asked them what they planned to do about the Facebook SUCKS walkout and they shrugged, asking me if I really thought it was worth worrying about.

I asked them about their overtime policy and they gleefully told me that everyone was allowed to work as much overtime as they wanted.

I asked them about how strict office hours were and if it would be weird if I dashed out the door to get to daycare on time at the end of the day. They looked perplexed, told me they thought that one team member might be married, but that they were certain no one had kids, and anyone most of them went out for drinks every day after work and that it would nice if I could join them a couple times a week.

I walked out of that room dazed, looked around at all the people hunched over keyboards, frantically typing, fully focused on their work, knowing without a shred of a doubt that this was not the place for me.

A few weeks later the hiring manager called and told me he thought I might not be a good fit for the team. I actually laughed and said “Ya think?”

Then, a month later, I gave up on the hopes of finding the ideal position, dropped off my baby at daycare with her sister and went back to my soul sucking job, which felt a little less soul sucky now that I knew what the alternative could be.

I wasn’t there for all that much longer, but that’s a whole other story.

Last week, I got to go back to Facebook HQ. New location, new digs, better furniture, different vibe, lots of new people.

I wasn’t there because a family member had landed me an interview, I wasn’t there because I was looking for a job, I was there because I’d been invited as an influential blogger to hear about how certain Facebook products could be beneficial to families.

I was shown to a lovely conference room, given some fun Facebook schwag, introduced to a lot of neat Facebook programs, invited to share feedback, and then taken on a tour of the new campus.

To say that it was a different experience is putting it mildly.

To say that I was a different person is putting it mildly too.

I was not tired, broken, fragile. I was feeling strong, good about myself, good about what I know, what I do.

On that day 7 years ago, I could not have told you where my path was heading. I was worried I’d be an administrative assistant/office manager for the rest of my life.

A month ago if you’d asked me, I don’t think I could have put into words what visiting the Facebook campus made me realize.

I seem to have come a lot further than I had noticed. I seem to have learned more than I thought. I seem to have grown more than I would have ever deemed possible.

I’m really glad I didn’t get that job back then.

I’m really glad to be on the path I ended up on.

Facebook 300x300 That time when I didnt take the job at Facebook

Findery.com: The go to destination for armchair travelers and everyone else

standard September 18, 2014 2 responses

So, here’s the deal, I adore traveling. I love hotel rooms. I love walking around new places. I love, love, love discovering local treasures. Sadly, I don’t have the bank account to fund this love of mine, or the time to manage the jet setting lifestyle I wish I could live. Kids, life, responsibilities… it all colludes to keep me a veteran armchair traveler rather enjoying the real deal. Lucky for me, Findery.com has now made it easy for me to travel around the world doing everything I love without ever leaving my desk chair. Even better, should I eventually ever get to actually pack more than an overnight bag, I’ll already be in the know on all the great things not to miss where I’m going. What can I say about Findery.com? Imagine for a moment that Google Maps and Pinterest had a baby, well, that baby might look a bit like Findery. It’s awesome if you’re looking to research a destination – find the best place to grab a bite, the neatest sight, the “thing” you never thought you’d ever want to know and yet are so glad you discovered. It’s also awesome if, like me, you spend most of your time traveling virtually.

  Or, it’s perfect if you want to find the neat finds that you didn’t even know were in your neighborhood.

  I’m not going anywhere soon, so, in the meantime, I’ll just keep updating some of my own favorite notemaps so others can “travel” with me:

  Follow me on Findery.com and come explore the world with me. I can’t wait to see where you want to go too. If you’re a hard-core mobile user, you’re in luck. The Findery app was JUST released for Android (It’s already out on the Apple App Store). So, if you, like me, can’t resist the smell of fresh apps, download it now and come get your travel on! Twitter android ad 2 300x150 Findery.com: The go to destination for armchair travelers and everyone else

Please note: Findery.com is one of my clients. As part of the work I do for them I have been compensated for this post. All words and opinions are mine and mine alone.  

The only one standing in my way is me

standard September 8, 2014 1 response

I woke up this morning to discover that I had double booked myself on Friday morning. Two meetings, at the same time, that I’m supposed to be leading, in two different towns. A problem 100% caused by my own fault.

I can fix the problem. I can even try to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. (Duh. There’s a reason people use calendars instead of relying on their own human brains.) But as I stewed over the situation all while packing school lunches and getting the kids ready for school, I realized a hard and unpleasant truth.

The only one standing in my way is me.

These last few days I’ve found myself constantly overwhelmed and frustrated. I’m overwhelmed by work and frustrated that it’s not the work I keep telling myself I want to be doing.

I’m like a petulant child, throwing mental tantrums, raging against the world.

I groan and gripe and tell myself that  I’m being forced to do work I don’t really want to do. I stamp a mental foot and whine about not being given the mental space to do the writing I crave doing.

But if I’m honest with myself, and apparently it took this calendaring snafu to get there, there’s nothing to really rail against.

I’m actually really lucky and grateful to have two, possibly soon three, clients who value my experience and opinions. I love the consulting work I do. I love being sought out for my knowledge and ideas. I come to life on consulting calls. I thrill at being able to connect people. It’s fun and I’m good at it. There’s really nothing not to like.

I think it all – the frustration and overwhelmedness – boils down to one thing. Fear. Pure, simple fear.

Fear. The dragon that stands in the way of success.

Fear that I will fail. Fear that I’ve oversold myself. Fear that, at any moment, someone will realize that I don’t really have anything of value to bring to the table.

And maybe, if we dig even deeper, that’s why I’m not using any of my available time to write, to finish my second novel.

It’s fine, at the start of a busy week, to bluster and grumble about the lack of time. There’s nothing to be done about it this week. There will definitely be no time to dive into the book. But, really, there was time last week and the week before, and I didn’t take advantage of it then.

Fear. Fear of getting lost in the work. Fear the book will be no good. Fear that I can’t deliver a second time. Fear that even a second book can’t help bolster the sales of the first. Fear that I’ll fail at this thing I value so much and that I’ll have no reason to keep going down that path.

Not getting it done is so much easier than facing those fears.

I am my own biggest obstacle.

I need to get over myself, to tell the voices in my head to hush up already.

There’s work to be done.

There are dragons to slay.