Screen Time Warning


When I was a young Mom, way back in the old days of the mid 1980s, we were warned that we needed to limit our kids exposure to TV. Given the fact that we didn’t have cable yet, and there were only a few channels, we were pretty comfortable with limiting TV.

It wasn’t that hard, cuz, you know, not that much was on.

Then the years went by, and suddenly we all found ourselves surrounded by tablets and desktops and laptops and “smartphones” and “smartTVs”. Suddenly the world became an endless series of googles and posts and updates.

As a grandmother, in charge of the tender care of my little grandchildren, I am acutely aware of every warning.

“Screen time will give your child rickets!,” or something along those lines, appears every day on my Twitter feed. “Don’t let the kids watch TV/YouTube/Netflix!!!! They will become serial killers!” Facebook tells me.

Or something like that.

I tend to ignore this stuff, to be honest.

I mean, you can’t actually convince me that we were better off watching Howdy Doody than our kids are watching Sesame Street and Dr. McStuffins.

At least these new shows have a semblance of educational value.

I do believe, in my deepest Nonni heart, that kids are better off playing outside, using playdoh, painting, or looking at books, than they are when they’re watching TV. So I make sure that our day includes lots of the former, but not that much of the latter.

Yay, me.

BUT:

Here’s the real point of this post.

SCREEN TIME IS DANGEROUS!!!!!

Not so much for the kids, if you ask me, but holy crap. Screen time for them is REAL danger for us!

Let me give you a couple of examples, so that you can draw your own conclusions.

There was the day this week when I totally slept through my alarm. Although the alarm has been set for 6:45 since September, I found myself rolling over at 8 and wondering why the sun was up so high. Luckily for me, my husband has an internal clock, so he was already up and ready for the kids. Unluckily for me, someone who shall remain nameless (Ellie or Johnny) had pushed the “total silence” button on my phone. I was enjoying my total silence. Yikes! I barely had my clothes on when I had to start serving waffles.

Then there was the time I called my phone company to complain that I was absolutely unable to get a text, even though I’d been getting them for months. I blamed the phone, the provider, the Russians, whatever. I was pissed off.

The not-quite-smirking young man on the other end of the phone walked me through a few troubleshooting steps. “Check on your ‘airplane mode’.” he told me. I pshawed. I haven’t been on a plane in MONTHS. “It’s not on.” I snarked. “Did you check?” he asked. So I did.

Yeah.

“Airplane mode: on”.

Gah.

I wonder who did that?

Then there was the status update on my niece’s Facebook page. She put up a lovely post about going to the beach on a sunny weekend day. My response to her was this: ]0\0k\000000k00kk0k0

Yup.

She replied with “WHAT??????”

My first thought was that I’d had one too many glasses of wine, but it was a weeknight. No, I didn’t! Then I remember that I’d left my laptop open while I went into the kitchen to get Ellie a snack.

Johnny was standing there right before my computer.

I think we all know what he did.

So there you go.

At the age of a year and a half, any kid can access your Facebook, change your settings, order a yacht online or send for a Russian bride.

This is NOT good.

Ergo: I now warn you about screen time. I don’t care if the kids are watching too much PBS. I care about protecting you from that doorbell ring where the guy on the steps asks, “Hi! Are you the one who ordered 7,000 red worms?”

Sure we look innocent! We have your phone and your iPad under our chairs!

My Small World


Do you remember when you were in high school? Your entire world consisted of your friends, your classes, your teachers and coaches and maybe, on the outer edge, your parents and siblings.

Everything that occupied your soul and your heart and your mind was contained within the smallest circle around you. You only thought about the people you came in contact with ever day.

In a way, that was a wonderful life. Relationships seemed so deep, perhaps because they were so few.

I know that when I was in high school I thought of myself as very worldly and aware. I read National Geographic every month. I sort of followed the news, because my parents did. I knew who was running for which public office.

But I never stayed awake at night worrying about the Middle East, or the Irish troubles or the cold war.

Nope. I stayed awake at night worrying about if he liked me or if he “LIKED ME” liked me. I worried about who was mad at whom, who was heartbroken this week, who made which team and what I should wear on any given day.

My world was small.

Then I grew up. I went to college and had a career. I had a family and a life in a community. My world expanded so much that I sometimes felt overwhelmed. How to balance the work relationships, the community relationships, the hockey mom connections, the girl scout friends, the family and neighbors….During those busy and crazy years of raising kids, I was also involved in local town politics, and to some extent in state and federal politics, too.

I read a lot. I listened to the news and watched the news and debated the various political points and positions with all of the bright and engaged people in my life at the time.

I learned every day, too. I learned from my colleagues in school, from the mentors I had in education, and from the parents and kids I interacted with every day.

I learned, I grew, I felt myself to be a part of a wide, interesting, challenging world.

My world was big. It knew no limits.

So you can see why I am struggling a little bit now, in my Nonni years. Now my world has shrunk so much that sometimes I wonder if there is a greater universe out there at all.

Now I find that my life, so much like the one I lead back in my teens, is composed uniquely of the people I love and interact with every single day. I don’t really follow local politics anymore, to my shame. I try to read and watch and listen to the political news from my state and from this country.

I’ve always been a follower of international relations, so I do my best to keep up with latest Brexit development.

But the truth is, when I lay myself down to sleep at night, my thoughts now are limited to questions of which toddler will like which art project. I worry about finding nutritious snacks that will pack in some extra calories.

I sometimes wake up at 3 AM thinking about Princess Poppy from Trolls.

My world has closed right in around me.

There are weeks when I honestly don’t leave my property from Monday through Saturday.

And this is where I struggle.

Is it bad that I don’t mind settling in quietly to my small, enclosed, circumscribed life? Am I being a coward when I simply stay in the house with the kids and make soup?

I miss being a part of a team. I miss the ongoing intellectual challenges that I knew as a teacher, and before that as an interpreter. I miss getting to each Friday feeling as if I’ve learned something that I didn’t know on Monday.

But I love shaking off the stress and fear and angst of trying to keep up with all of the needs of those around me. I love huddling in my safe little cocoon of babies and finger paints and preschool art projects.

What I worry about is this:

Am I closing myself off too much? How do I continue to grow and learn and stretch and challenge my mind when my days are filled with rocking and singing to my best beloved little ones?

How do I balance the big old world with my safe and happy little one?

This is my whole world.

The Gullible Consumer


This post is a PSA.

Dear Nonni/Grammy/Momma/Grampa/Daddy/Special Friend:

Do NOT fall into the trap that has ensnared this reckless Nonni. Do NOT believe the crap that you read on line about the latest cool toys.

Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT fall prey to the late night TV spots with the glow in the dark cars and awesome flexible tracks.

Be strong, oh dear caregivers of young children. Be vigilant. Be wary. Be resolute.

Cuz I sure as hell wasn’t.

Let me share with you the sad and mournful tale of Nonni’s Kinetic Sand.

This stuff looks like magic when you view it online. Especially if you view it on a weekend when the kids aren’t here and the wine may or may not have been flowing.

Kinetic sand is “the original squeezable sand that you can’t put down!” It can be sparkly. It can glow in the dark. It is easy to use, easy to shape. It oozes. It flows through fingers. It keeps its shape. It leaves hands “completely dry!”

Wahoo!!!

What a wonderful discovery! With this one purchase, Nonni could help the kids explore a variety of textures, shapes and movement! She could be an aging STEM expert!

Why NOT order a bag of this wonderful stuff?

So, of course, you are not at all surprised. Nonni ordered a big ol’ bag of said kinetic sand.

Oh, hahahahaha! Nonni, you gullible old fool!

Today found Nonni in the cranky presence of three toddlers. Two were dealing with colds and low grade fevers. One was wondering how in hell she ended up here with the cranksters.

Nothing was pleasing anyone.

So Nonni, bless her delusional old heart, decided to pull out the big plastic box of kinetic sand.

The three toddlers we delighted. They sat around the table, tiny toy animals in hand, little spoons at the ready. The sand was divided up among the three of them, into three matching trays.

“This is so messy!!!”

This ain’t Nonni’s first rodeo.

Everyone got the exact same seashell. And the exact same tiny plastic asand molds.

The three of them were encouraged to share the water bottle.

All was well.

In fact, all was kind of dangerously, suspiciously quiet. I kept peeking in at them, but nothing obvious jumped out at me.

I sat down and paid my bills.

I was an idiot.

When I came back into the dining room, the kids were wrapping up their play. Good little ones that they are, they were putting the tiny pterodactyls into the box. They were hopping off of their chairs and heading into the bathroom.

“Good job!” Nonni called out cheerfully, thinking of how responsible the kids were being.

We have sand in places we can’t even name!

Off they toddled to the bathroom.

I went to clean up the sand.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

And holy fuck.

How could one bag of kinetic sand get all over the table and every single chair like that? How could it have spread itself into each tiny crevasse in the coffee table?

Was that….was that KINETIC SAND spread on the wall?

Gulp.

I started to sweep, wipe and vacuum. But then the kids called for help. So into the bathroom I went, tucking my sandy dishcloth into my apron pocket.

“Nonni, my hands are kind of dirty,” said beloved child number one. “And I have something in my eye,” said beloved child number two. “Dubdadubda” said the baby.

And holy sacred sands of eternity. There was kinetic sand stuck to Ellie’s sleeves. I pulled her sweater off. This of course dislodged clumps of kinetic sand into her curly “do not dream of combing me” hair.

I turned to Ella, our calm and sweet model child. “There’s something in my eye.” she said with her usual serene demeanor. And I looked. Yep. Kinetic sand stuck in her eyelashes, clumped into her lower lids.

And kinetic sand in Johnny’s sleeves, and somehow or other in both ears.

I was horrified. I was aghast. I was awash in guilt.

Who was the idiot who actually bought this crap??????

Yep. That would be me.

So.

I spent an hour combing hair, washing out eyeballs, sweeping sand off of legs, arms, feet, hands. I swept the floor, vacuumed the chairs and stairs, washed the toys the trays the cups and spoons.

I swept. I rinsed. I scrubbed.

And all the while, under my breath, I muttered this solemn incantation:

“Whoever invented kinetic sand should be buried alive in seventeen tons of it. With a plastic pterodactyl for company.”

Stay At Home Moms….


When I had my kids, many years ago, I didn’t have the chance to be a “stay at home Mom.” I had to work. I had to leave them with babysitters or day care staff. Finances and insurance needs made this true.

But back then, I often thought that I would have loved to stay at home. I imagined the art projects, the cookies baking, the stories being read by the fire. It all seemed so idyllic to me.

I was wracked with guilt about leaving my best beloved little ones in the care of other women. I will never forget the time that my little son, barely able to speak, walked through our house on a Saturday, opening closet doors and calling for his sweet day care Momma. “Nella?” He sounded so sad as he opened every door in our house, looking for the woman who cared for him every day. “Nella?”

My heart broke into a zillion pieces, and if I hadn’t known and loved his Nella, I might have strangled her.

Now, at last, after decades as a working woman, now I am that stay at home woman. I am “Nella” to my grandkids and one of their friends.

They love me.

We have fun here. It is a safe, interesting, creative place.

Wahoo.

And now, at last, after all these years, I understand why so many stay at home moms of my generation wanted nothing more than to break out and see the real world.

Staying in the same house, the same four rooms, day after day after day after day, serving the same snacks, watching the same movies, playing the same games…….

All of this is incredibly important and supportive for young children.

But it is also incredibly mind numbing for the adults involved.

OK, I know that I am lucky. As in, unbelievably, incredibly blessed to be there every day in the lives of the children I love most on this beautiful earth.

I get it. Yay, me! Yay, Nonni! Go, me!

I go on Amazon at least ten times a week, ordering movies, books, crayons, pains, dress up clothes and musical instruments. I am so happy to be with the kids every day.

Really.

But.

You know what? There are definitely days where I look at myself in the mirror and think, “No one has actually looked at me today. I could dye my hair purple, grow a beard, get myself a new nose: Nobody would notice.”

There are days when I realize that I am the giver of string cheese. The wiper of poopy butts. The finder of lost toys.

There are days when I honestly feel like I could be replaced by a nice soft robot.

And this is why I am now the strongest supporter of young parents. Moms, Dads, working or staying at home. These young adults are doing the work that is most important for the survival of our entire species. They are keeping children clean, fed, safe, entertained and engaged.

They are creating the next generations of humans who will keep our species going.

So I am happy to be a part of this most important job. I am.

But I am also acutely aware that there are days when I have not done one single thing that uses my training, my intellectual skills, my knowledge. There are days when the most important thing I have done all day is to put an “Elsa” bandage on a scraped knee.

As I look back on my life, I guess I have to say this. I’m very happy that when I was a young, untested, untried, unproven human, I was not called upon to be a stay at home mom.

Young parents: You have my utmost respect, support and love.

Go, you! Whether you work outside of the home, or stay at home with your kids, YOU are our future. You are the best of all of us.

I bow down to every single one of you.

“Let’s Pretend”


One of the very best parts of spending all day with children is being reminded of the magic that surrounds them. As a past middle aged woman, as a grandmother, I am far removed now from the wondrous days of make believe.

But when I watch the children playing in my house, I am pulled right back into that magical pretend world, whether I’m ready to be there or not.

Today was the perfect example of how children move effortlessly between reality and play.

Today I had my two grandchildren here. Ellie is about three and half, and her brother John in halfway between one and two. They play pretty well together when the game is purely pretend. Ellie will be sitting there for a moment, then she’ll suddenly turn to me and say, “I’m Elsa! You’re Anna.” And off we go into the land of “Frozen.” Johnny will happy jump around and follow us through the house in his relatively undefined role of “Olaf.”

But two days a week our little drama club is pushed up a notch when our friend Ella is here. Ella is a wise, mature four year old. She understands all of the subtle nuances of pretend play.

When Ellie announces that she is “Elsa”, her friend doesn’t even bat an eye. “I’m a kitty”, she will announce. “Elsa has a new kitty.”

Because they are little ones, and because their magic has no need for reality, Ellie might respond by saying, “I’m the kitty’s Mamma!” Elsa will be instantly forgotten, and the magic will simply shift.

It’s so gloriously empowering to watch them at play. As they move from scene to scene, I can almost see the world that they are creating.

“The Momma kitty is sick!” one will wail, “She is at the kitty hospital!” And as the Momma kitty collapses in a dramatic heap, I swear that I can see the pristine white walls of the kitty hospital around her. I feel the anguish as her “baby kitty” runs into the hospital room with a desperate “Miaow!!!!”

I imagine the world around the kids as a series of beautiful chalk drawings, forming miraculously from the words that the girls share. “We are running on the beach!” means that the world around them is filled with the colors of the sand and the sea. “The baby kitty is sleeping in her bed.” makes that world melt and shift and turn itself into a quiet cozy room.

As the children see those magical worlds, they let me see them, too.

I am so grateful to the little ones who share my days. I am so thankful that at the not-so-tender age of 62, I am still able to feel and see the magic.

“I’m a magic butterfly……”