No chore in watching TV by childgrower A. Woz.

foot in shells caelA Nielsen Co. reports kids are watching more television than ever and television viewing for children ages 2-11 is the highest since 1995.  Kids ages 6-11 watch 28 hours a week with about 4.5 hours on DVD.  And worse, kids age 2-5 are watching 32 hours- yes, that’s even more than the 6-11 year olds, presumably because they are not in school.

A quick assessment of my kids viewing habits revealed that they watch about two hours a day and we get in a family movie night about twice a month.  Between sports practices, nightly homework and school and community events my kids appreciate and take advantage of down time, and usually it comes in the form of channel surfing especially if it is too late for the neighbor kids to come out to play. 

I’m not surprised about the Nielsen stats.

About a decade ago, there was a big push for educational television that could capture the infant and toddler population. Yes, really. Videos used the colors black, white and red since research showed those colors caught the attention of infant brains. Yes, TV for babies! I guess the thought was that if kids were watching more TV then they should be watching better quality TV.

I’m wondering if the amount of chores done by kids to help keep the house running smoothly has also decreased? Frankly, I don’t have time for television because I’m doing all the laundry and dishes while they watch.  If I could get the kids to do more laundry and dishes and trash duty then they’d also watch less TV.  If they want to help me cook or sort out the pile of power rangers and legos dotting the living room carpet then I could watch the nightly news- at least that would be something to feed the brain.

Oh, never mind, news is too violent. Maybe I’d rather have them watching  sitcoms.  Clearly watching TV is not brain development at it’s best, but they are occupied.

And being occupied is what it comes down to.

I admit it is much more work to engage my kids in a board game or a walk to the park than it is to turn on the tube. 

I don’t initiate interactive time at home unless it involves helping me keep the house running.  This seems to be a momism- we aren’t so hot at playing, but we are great at organizing and correcting! I cite lots of excuses for my kids tv viewing habits like:

  • My kids time is already too structured and they need down time.
  • My classic educational excuse of only watching public television or shows that are respectful of adults and language.
  • I honestly would wrestle someone for the rights to alleviate my parental sleep deprivation with an hour of mindless television when the kids wake me at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning.

And what about together time? So where’s the statistics on TV watching with a parent?  Dad loves races our oldest daughter to the remote. The stress of his job and I guess the stress of her growing up job allows him to define TV watching as an activity affording the necessary together time for dad and daughter- who have so little time together- to explore interests and opinions of each other as they talk about the show.

Given the rise of childhood obesity, declining educational standards and the rates of health problems linked to an inactive lifestyle,  I can see why the media jumps on statistics like the 30 odd hours of couch potato madness. But, until TVs are powered by a family of viewers walking uphill on treadmills,  I think we are going to have some sedentary TV watching going on for a long time across America.

But there’s hope and it comes in the form of inquisitive kids who can play until they drop, then simply eat a handful of cheez-its and poof! they pop back up ready for a game of kickball while begging Dad to be all time pitcher. 

We read parenting books and work hard on patience, consistency and communication but kids instinctively know what is good for them. They don’t need to read it in the paper. When it comes right down to it, we might like the convenience of TV, but we really like what makes our kids happy (cuz when they are laughing, they aren’t arguing, talking back, hitting each other, etc!) 

We just have to be willing to listen. A frontline report from my three kids is a great example. We went out to dinner and then drove to the theatre (yes, sort of like inconvenient and expensive television) only find that the movie we wanted to see had started a half hour earlier than we thought.  As we drove away the kids spotted the local bowling alley and shouted out, “Lets go bowling!”

Dad and I looked at each other and made no argument. The kids chose something active and they were all in agreement.  No sibling rivalry! Everyone was happy! Non-violent, brain engaging, physical stress relief for parents and kids! And I got out of doing the laundry!

### for EP by A. Woz. October 28, 2009.

What’s Scary about Halloween? by child grower A. Woz.

statestcowfeetI’m a bit rattled this year because my daughter received an invitation to a fall party where the plan is to go trick-or-treating with her friends on Halloween night.  

That’s right, if she goes, one of the Woz goblins will not be with the rest of the clan this Halloween. This messes with a strong family tradition of holding the hands of our costumed children and leading them through the dark of night for the strange and contradictory festivities that are Halloween.

  • Kids dress up in silly or scary costumes and then go and beg for candy from the neighbors who reward their threat of a trick by paying immediately with hush money paid in chocolates and taffy. 
  • In pursuit of a pillowcase full of candy,  parents actively support breaking all the safety rules like going alone to the door, enticed by sweets to come closer, closer at the promise of sweets from a candy wielding stranger.
  • And how about the outrageous and generous leniency of parents as we allow a ridiculous amount of candy to be consumed as long as mom and dad get to pick out of few favorite treats.

No wonder kids are scared on Halloween!  We are telling them to do everything we warn them not to do on any other day of the year!

But the bags of candy give mine courage and seeing a sidewalk full of friends doing the same makes October 31st rank right up there with the big ho-ho holiday.

Our entire family dresses up and takes to the streets.  Sometimes we make the dogs wear a coordinating outfit but we find it works best if we just drape glow in the dark necklaces around their collars.  Dad wears his decade old gorilla mask and his college graduation gown and and I usually frequent a witch’s hat and sometimes add a splotch of warty looking crunchy peanut butter on my nose. 

My daughter is not happy with me when, without my witch costume, I say, “I am not sure I’m okay with the party idea,”  My daughter wails, as if wearing one of those white Scream masks,  “Mmmooooooooooom, that’s not fair!”

Am I worried about safety?  I completely trust the parents of her ten year old friend but am I ready to give up my place as the protector from the dark spooky night to another parent?

Am I worried about the high fructose corn syrup overload or the tummy ache? I’m absolutely sure she will eat too much candy and I know she will run wild.  Her giggle (or cackle if she is in costume) will lead a pack of silly friends through safe streets and to countless pumpkin decorated doorsteps late into the night.

Am I worried that my ten year old is going to be a trouble maker? Her friends are not the type to take things to the level of pumpkin smashing or toilet papering.  As a parent who never lets my kids run in a parking lot, how can I be okay with letting her run the streets with friends on Halloween, in the dark, yelling like lunatics, and dare is say, having a wild and fun time being unrestrained and living a little bit on the edge of tweens threshold of bravery.

Back in the day (ahem) the only unsupervised kids on Halloween were the ones who knew they were actually too old to go door to door, but who were embracing the trick part of the ask-for-candy equation. Maybe this is when haunted houses took over as a preventive for big kids running around in the moonlight with a flashlights, while wearing masks that provide limited anonymity in these neighborhoods and small towns where everyone knows everyone.

It’s something more that is bothering me, something bigger, something less concrete, something unstoppable, unchangeable-  something we have little control over- that darn growing up part.  For this year, this year only, I guess it is the end of another hectic but much loved family tradition.

Sigh.

Maybe I’ll feel better after I get my cut of the night’s haul.

Competition Overload? by childgrower Annita Woz

basketballfeetShe looks like an angel while in the water and has a front crawl that is so beautiful and fluid that I get goose bumps when I watch her glide up the lane during the local swim team workout.

At times, someone who doesn’t know she is my daughter will bump my elbow and remark about her grace and then follow up with a question about how she does in competition after I admit she is my little fish.

I shrug my shoulders and tell them that I don’t know because she refuses to compete in a swim meet.  She has watched several, has signed up for a few then erased her name and will not “kick’er down” in a swim lane even during practice. She despises the boys on swim team who are always racing in the lane next to her and shouting in triumph when they beat her to the wall “even when I’m not racing them!” she tells me in frustration. 

Yet I know she can race and I know her slow and steady style is the winning kind.

I’ve seen her go. I’ve not seen her go fast but I’ve seen her go a little faster than her normal pace, with a grin if one is able to make one during the side head turn that she makes every four strokes as she opens her mouth for more air and then faces back to the bottom of the pool while reaching her cupped hand forward to take the water under her strength.

I’ve seen her win against her dad’s long arms in a hotel pool over the holiday. She won with a giggle and the graceful technique that dad has never been taught. He doesn’t hold back with his kids so it is with pride and wonder in his eyes he sees this girl he has raised, his creation, win the little race. He ducks his head after this rare loss and congratulates her with a newfound respect for his little girl’s gumption against her old dad.

 His pride is not wounded at all.  He knows the confidence that comes with winning and he is thrilled to see her receive the natural consequences that come from working toward a goal and then meeting it.

She’s not a little girl to the competitive world.  She is nearly twelve and over the years has been a part of swim team, club soccer, the youth wrestling team and was asked to join the gymnastics squad.  We resisted that.  She was only in Kindergarten and they warned us when we declined that they would not offer the opportunity again.

She never complains about going to any practice and loves the lessons and instruction from coaches and teachers.  She’s been willing to load  top of school work many different things:  ballet, voice lessons, tennis,  piano, painting, sculpting, jewelry making and even put some miles on the tennis shoes for the annual pumpkin run where the cross country team gets the kids to run for the honor of some hot chocolate and a participation ribbon. 

We were very pleased to recently hear a similar story about resisting competition from our daughter’s soccer friend.

The friend does not like to race  in the swimming pool, but she found a local swim team that takes to the water regularly, tweaks their strokes under the direction of a talented swim coach, but they never enter a race.

Could it be true? Yes! This swim team is non-competitive – the price is not club level, either- but the commitment is just as stringent and the group is clear about that.  Practices are not like a swim lesson and swimming with speed has its place in the program-  but the rewards come not in finishing first in a heat but in showing up for the regular work out and in taking pride in honing the skills of swimming and mastering the waves.

My girl likes this kind of team. She loves to be with friends, she loves to learn. 

In sports she  likes to concentrate. In art she pushes and challenges her hands to create the right shadow on a painting and will not give up until it meets her critical eye.

In sports, she likes to get sweaty and loves a mud game with rain and dirt and grime caking her shins and her shoes and splattering into her long hair.  We almost didn’t let her go out for soccer this year thinking that she doesn’t really love it or she would be more serious and more successful.  But a coach encouraged me to let her go out again wondering how I knew she didn’t love it? She smiles when she is there, she never complains, she does whatever the coach asks her to do and she does her best.

He had a good point there. She does her best. We never ask her to win, just to do her best.  Should we ask her to quit just because the best doesn’t include winning.  What measure of success were we expecting?

At her request, we signed her up for soccer again and the team has lost every game. If winning could be accomplished simply by parental will and loud volume, we’d be the league champions. We are an unfailing cheering section for them, chanting “Orange, Orange!” so they will run by and give us a line of high fives after each game. We ring the metal cow bell and whoop it up when they attempt a goal, knowing that if we save it for when the ball hits the net, we will only hear silence.  The other teams look at us with an odd expression, surely wondering what we would sound like if we were to win.

Our girls love to play and they love their coach and they love to do their best, and they come back to play (to PLAY) the next game. It is not a battlefield, not a shameful attempt. It is simply fun. 

I wish there were more teams that do not compete, like this new swim team we have found. It seems more like playing than competing straddling the desire to be healthy and learn a life-long activity while still being fun.

Perhaps this rare team bears witness to an emerging trend in sports where kids get to impress themselves rather than be performers for an audience of parents and peers. 

###A. Woz. For EP. October 19, 2009.

Spaghetti Ear by child grower A. Woz

 field of pumpkinsJohn Hillmer, featured on the cover of Field & Stream magazine and named as the Field & Stream Conservation  Hero of the Year worries that teens are part of an entire generation involved in after-school sports, text messaging and electronic communication and they are losing their outdoor heritage.  Launched in 2007,  Hillmer started  K.A.M.O., Kids and Mentors Outdoors with the  idea of providing a chaperone to take kids on excursions into forests and rivers at no cost to the clientele.  www.kamokids.org

 The  book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv repeats the same message. It focuses on the disconnection children have from the land and the research implies that kids who are behaviorally challenged can benefit from time in nature, away from the buzzing, the crackling, the lighting up and the beeping of our modern busy world. 

I agree, there is nothing like the stillness of a mountain top or the silence of a farmer’s field to make me grateful for the important things in my life- like family.

I joined facebook this year to keep connected with my college age sisters who tell me that email is obsolete and they just facebook (a verb not a noun!)

Admittedly, I enjoy easy communication that doesn’t require me to say, Hello, How are you, then the idle banter as we answer in a non-answer form that really is  more formality than truthful response. 

Texting, facebooking, tweeting, cuts all that fake conversation out. Grandma would say that the conversation part is essential as it is called manners.

I’m just sick of being connected all the time. I want to be out of cell service reach sometimes so I can recharge my mental batteries and find some peace and quiet. 

Teens on the other hand, aren’t sick of connecting. They don’t want to use texting to be more productive or avoid work. For them, texting is work- it is the work of growing up. It is the work of navigating the social and technical world that makes up the teenage experience for this generation.

They they know how to use technology and they use it with the same morals and values that are instilled in them by their parents- whatever those may be. 

All of this is a necessary phase of growing up?  Can skills with Facebook, Myspace, (email is outdated) Youtube, Texting, be common languages for new careers. Sure!

Think about it this way. When I was a kid it was Atari, then boomboxes and Pacman, then the Commodore 64 computer and the microwave, the automatic garage door opener and the enormous satellite for 33 fuzzy channels.

A technological connections were made, our generation  improved those  gadgets and grew our brains and sometimes made our head spin around on our neck at the vast expanse that is the web.

And what happens  if (gasp!) they are turned off, out of battery power, out of wi-fi range?  Will teens panic if they have to actually talk to each other?

Not likely. They don’t mind talking to eachother at all. They just like to talk while they are texting and while they are listening with one ear bud to the latest music on their ipod.

When cellphones first became mainstream for high schoolers, my husband was astounded to see a kid call a friend in the front of the bus on his cell rather than walk the 10 feet and talk  with him.  It was a sign of more things to come.  Multitasking had begun.

When I was a teen it was the standard land line, yes, still connected to the wall.  Somehow I survived the leap from rotary dial to push button and so did my parents.

As teens, we were on the phone all the time and when we weren’t on the phone with our friends, we were trying to get our brother off the phone who was chatting with his girlfriend. “Even after you have seen each other all day?” my dad would ask, “What do you possibly have to talk about after you just saw each other all day long at school?” He used to warn me that my ear would some day grow itself right to the receiver and I’d have a spaghetti cord to drag around (oh!) that right, that  was back in the day when the phone was attached to the wall and the only privacy we could get was to hide in the closet, door shut, with the telltale phone cord stretched tight across the hallway and hope that you didn’t clothesline dad when he came home from work and we could moon privately over the cute boy in study hall.

For teens, technology like the cellphone, the flip phone, the texting, the facebook status update- all of this is the glue that holds them together. And though I agree with Hillmer that we need a little more connection time with nature I am pleased to see that my technology using nieces and nephews are incredible conversationalists, funny, social, athletic and also more up to speed than I ever am on on what everybody in the family is up to. 

Yes, they are playing crazy video games and yes they are texting with their friends even after they have spent the whole day at school with them, but they are also using technology to keep up with their favorite Uncle, find out the latest scores for little brothers football game while they are off at college and checking the weather so they can make a drive 150 miles south for a visit with Grandma Dorothy on her birthday.

OMGosh, I may not know all the texting abbreviations and I may not be as handy with my thumbs as teens are but it doesn’t take much of a leap to see that ILY is pretty much the same as XOXO no matter how my kid gets that  message. 

### for ep by Annita Woz, October 15, 2009.

Jon becomes a Dad by Annita Woz

dadsandalfeet at ITI have just been inspired by Jon Gosselin. 

Jon Gosselin is of course the other half of Kate Plus 8, the popular reality show that has lately seen ratings plummet as the real life antics of Jon’s infidelities cause his marriage to disintegrate and the premier of the fall show to feature reactions of eight children to a divorce announcement. 

Admittedly, Jon doesn’t have a good track record starting with the obvious worry that he chose to make money featuring the sweet faces of his eight children and their sometimes not-so-sweet behaviors on a weekly show.

Some would call that exploitation.  But for the past few years, viewers have been willing to be a part of that user relationship. Everyone has been watching these ordinary parents do one extraordinary thing- surviving parenting while sleep deprived, short on lap space, tight on square footage and doing it all while on camera.

Then, the reality got too real.

Viewers saw Jon partying,  the shots of him going clubbing, the dating before divorcing and then the media talk show circuit where he publicly complains and airs the marriage’s dirty laundry. 

Right now, Jon and Kate are essentially single parents.

Single parenting- a place we don’t often look for inspiration-  is a place where Herculean feats are accomplished without much fanfare, certainly without a tv crew or free trips to Hawaii and likely without the benefit of strangers sending gifts to our children when we are tight on money during the holidays.     

But beyond single parenting, Jon is experiencing a loud wake up call about responsible parenting and is suggesting the eight kids should not be on the show as it may be detrimental to their well-being.

Here is a guy who is at rock bottom. He loses his marriage, his job, his income.  He is an out-of work dad in the middle of a divorce and he has eight kids to feed and love.  Losing what little privacy he has not already sold, he’s on the bottom of the rotten-daddy and rotten-husband heap and yet, in a shining moment, like a missing diamond ring trapped in the dust at the bottom of  the vacuum cleaner bag, we see a glimmer of responsible parenting from Jon. 

Jon is not just playing a dad on tv, he is being a dad on tv.

He’s gotten serious.  He is being father-like, mature even, when he wakes up long enough from his fake family life on screen and responsibly suggests that no amount of moneyis enough payment to justify having their little lives, their tantrums, their pain, featured on television as they struggle through the mess their parents have made.

Average mom here, I recognize that I have kids who throw fits, kids who are disrespectful, kids who know how to push my buttons to the point of parental madness.  After making so many parenting mistakes, after being at the end of my rope, losing my temper umpteen times, and clearly misplacing the Child 101 Instruction Manaul- sometimes I don’t know why I was given the honor of raising a child-  Jon makes me realize that it is never too late to be a responsible parent and try again to get it right.  

### for EP by Annit Woz, October 8, 2009.

The Ref has Done his Job by childgrower, Annita Woz.

soccerfeetandballThe tallest, fastest, perhaps biggest girl on our daughter’s soccer team goes for the ball, and with the swipe of her foot, gets it, but not before the opponent falls flat.

The ref blows his whistle.

The audible crack of the opposing team’s shin guard hitting our player’s shin hangs in the air while four growing limbs tangle together, hips and elbows jutting out  at odd angles, all landing in a messy heap.

 The ball rolls away and rests, sitting silently on the field while the girls push themselves back to standing.  

The opponent gets up and brushes herself off.

The ref chats with our player who nods her head in understanding.

Cutting through the brisk fall air, the downed girl’s grandparent screams from the sidelines, “Why do they have to play like that!?” 

Our fouled player looks up, gets red in the face and takes a step back. She is ten. She can  hear more parents from the other team.  They are only about seven feet from her.  She hears it all.  She hears parents from the opposite team making remarks about the fall, and knows she is the one they are talking about.

“This team thinks they can get away with playing dirty.”

“Number 22, we’ll show you a thing or two.”

“What does this team think they can get away with?”

22’s mom, only two camp chairs from the purple-wearing opposing team says, “Play like what? What are you saying?” Her daughter is a powerhouse, a good player, a goal getter, and her baby. This mom is at every game. She is loud and she is positive. She coaches her girl from the sidelines with every ounce of her “Go Girlfriend Attitude.” Her daughter is strong,  talented and driven to perform.

There is not a mean bone in any of the ten-year olds who play on either team.

They are gangly, uncoordinated, and frequently silly.

None of them has the foot skills to gracefully toe the ball, pull it back from the opponent, and circle over with a hop to reverse the momentum of the ball.

They are ten years old. They are playing. They are trying to kick a ball away from another player and put it in a net.  They fall down a lot- sometimes without anyone near them. They have shoe laces that trip them up, legs that don’t move the way they will in a few short years, and they still play with smiles on their faces instead of furrowed brows focused on the win. 

We are a loud team and admittedly,  most new parents when they meet our team step back from 22’s mom.  She isn’t just loud, she actually has an enthusiastic booming voice that can do damage to the ears of anyone sitting in front of her.  During the indoor session, we all scoot several seats away from her to save our eardrums. But, even though she is loud, the words that come out of #22’s mom’s mouth are always positive, always supportive and she says funny things, like, ” You Go Girlfriend”  and “Oh, Sugar!” when  anyone misses a ball or a shot on goal.

She never insults a player or any opponent.

She is an example of motherly love, in the loudest definition of the word. 

The ref has done his job, has called the foul, has counseled the offending player and the ball is put back in play by the opposite team. But that isn’t enough for the poor sports from the other team.

But ten year old number 22 is frozen in her tracks -and not from the 49 degree day with a strong headwind. 22 is facing an angry line of blanket waving parents who aren’t on her side.

She shuffles toward the ball on the throw in, but keeps her hands stiff at her sides, playing like a broken puppet afraid to touch the opposing team, afraid to make a move, trying not to look at the jeering faces of the parents from the other team who are not holding back their laughter at number 22’s stiff armed antics and frozen feet. 

#22’s abilities have disappeared at the hands of her accusers, and she cannot keep herself from half-crying and so she starts to hyperventilate, catches her coach’s attention and is pulled from the game; pulled far away from the parents who cannot trust the ref to do his job.

On the sidelines we are stunned.

We are sitting in our nylon camping chairs, just an armrest away from the jeering parents who continue to discuss the play that offended them.

“Naughty parents!” says one of our own, and announces, “I have to take a walk.” She gets up, gives number 22’s mom a pat on the arm, and walks down the side of the chalked field, and stand with her feet a shoulder’s width apart and breathes.  It is not about her at all,  but her feeling of powerlessness to diffuse the negative situation. It is nagging at her that  a solution is not within her grasp.

The ref has done his job and the call was made when the whistle blew. Our player was advised by the ref. Our team gave up possession of the ball. It should be forgotten.

Yet, across the field, number 22 is unable to play. She is still red in the face, still pacing, still unable to go in.  Her mom circles the opposing team widely and walks to her daughter to help calm her down.  She gives her some distracting physical moves to make, like jumping in place, and running to the nearest tree and back,  and wisely, the coach seizes the opportunity, and puts her back in to play.  

Number 22 shrugs off the sideline war, trusts the ref to fight the bad guys, and takes her brave ten-year old self back out there, where, encouraged by her team mates and her very loud mom, she takes back the field which shows itself to be just a green grass covered field,  not a battle ground at all.

### for EP by Annita Woz, October 5, 2009.

Hair Up by ChildGrower Annita Woz.

bobthefirefighterHair.

My six-year old thinks that Mohawks are “cool” and he has asked me ever since school began to give him one.

Just a fake mohawk, just for the day, not a hair cut, just some hairspray and hand shaping to make it stick up.

He notices hair on big boys and lately, we have seen more mohawks than ever. Some are even blue. Some are really pointy, somewhat impressive in height to those easily impressed.

I don’t know when boys started “doing their hair”. But they are doing it.

We’ve also marveled together at the hybrid hawk as we call it.  No hair is cut at all,  but instead it is plastered forward, like rolling fields of wheat, and instead of ending in a point in the center of the forehead, it somehow weaves to the side, as though a strong wind took hold on the bike ride to school.

He asks for the hairdo frequently, especially after he’s been in the bathtub with sudsy very formable hair.  He can sort of see it of in the reflection of the tub faucet and asks me to go get the mirror so he can admire himself.

I’m okay with a mohawk in the tub.  So is Dad.

However, Dad is not so keen on a mohawk outside of the house. He probably feels about as comfortable with this as he does with boys wearing fingernail polish. Even black.

Dad extends this same aversion to a boy piercing one ear and he advocates a no-longer-than-the-collar rule for the boy in his house. He models a common haircut that we saw on the wrestling team at the high school,  short on top, even shorter on the sides, a cut that is easy to wash and wear after a tough practice.

My little guys reminds me two minutes before it’s time to head to school that he has a need for a mohawk today. His new friend Collin has never worn a mohawk and he explains how he is going to show him how it’s done by sporting one today.

Today is the day.  As a parent I want to raise confident kids and reluctantly I admit to myself this mohawk is giving me just what I’ve been asking for.  Moms be careful what you wish for. 

I hesitate.  This is the same boy who does not “do” his hair in the morning but will sometimes catch a glimpse of himself in the review mirror as he exits the carpool to the sidewalk and gasp when he sees he has some bed head. Just short of a panic, he freezes and wrestles with the worry of going in or just going home. He is red-faced and worried about getting laughed at? about someone noticing him?

In desperation to be rid of the offensive strands,  he pats his head repeatedly with the palm of his hand. He has been known to try the spit and stick method to get the offending rooster tail to flatten. He winds up the worry,  starts turning circles and gets into his whiny voice that is actually hard to understand as it is a combination of snorts and grunts of frustration interspersed with words like, “silly”, “lay down” and “I cannot…” It is at this point that I make eye contact with the older siblings telling them not to laugh.

Then all three of us start lying.

“It looks fine.”

“I cannot even see it.”

“Your friends will not even notice.”

A tantrum for bed-head, but a mohawk is okay?

I wonder how much effort I should put in to making the mohawk, knowing that I might very well be the one who has to get out on the sidewalk and make it go away if he catches sight of himself in the review mirror today.

I dip into the product, putting in some thick pasty stuff that hardens to cement strength.  With my hands on his little head, I form it as best as I can and flatten down the parts by his ears.  He is in heaven! He giggles and struts and then runs back to the bathroom mirror to check himself out. He carefully judges the height and marvels at all the bottles that it takes to create a hair sculpture.

He gets into the car, grinning from ear to ear. The sisters nod their heads, raise their eyebrows, but chime in convincingly with some “Wows” and “Coool,” when I give them the c’mon, go along with this head tilt.

We arrive at the school. He looks out the window to see the friend he wants to impress but we are a bit late due to the doo.

He sits back down firmly in his seat. There is no one to carry his excitement. He has no sidekick to give his look credibility. He looks at me with his hand midair, wrestling with himself. Should I flatten it? He rolls his eyes in worry.  But isn’t it so cool? His eyes dart from the rearview mirror to the schoolyard, seeking confidence from somewhere, someone. The work of art on his head is as solid as when we left home.

He announces he will not go in unless his sister goes with him.

Delighted to be a star of the moment, this classic middle child of mine leaps at the opportunity to be wanted,  to be the rescuer of her little brother. In her best and most tender voice, she announces “C’mon. I’ll walk right beside you! It will be okay.”

Together, they evaluate the hair one more time, grin with satisfaction at the feat they are about to undertake and rush headlong and hair up, into the school.

### for EmpoweringParents blog, by Annita Woz. October 1, 2009.

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