A Word of Advice for Sports Parents: “Chill”

 

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool.

I volunteered a couple hours at my swim team’s big November meet. It’s been three years since I’ve had a swimmer at that meet and the distance of time allows me to look at parents and swimmers through a different lens.

Wow. Do parents ever get worked up watching their kids swim! I observed some parents running around the pool deck, yelling and visibly shaking. I was worried a few would have heart attacks. I acted exactly the same way years ago and I still get nervous and worked up. But I don’t show it as much, anymore. I believe it’s newer parents who are the most anxious because it’s all new to them and confusing. Give them a few years, and they’ll probably relax a bit.

One woman frantically came to the admin tent and said in a panicked voice—bordering on hysteria—“I can’t find my son! I don’t know where he is! Help me find my son!”

My friend, who was running things for the parent volunteers under the tent, asked in a very calm voice, “Please, tell me how old is your son?”

“Twelve.”

“Twelve,” my friend repeated. We managed to keep straight faces. If it was a child of say five or six, there might be a reason for a mom to panic. Well, not a real reason to panic, but the anxiety would be more understandable.

“Do you know where he is supposed to be?” my friend, who is also a psychologist, asked. Her calm approach led me to believe she faces many hyped-up parents in her practice. The frantic mom said he was swimming the 200 fly and she couldn’t find him with her coach or warming up. She asked us to have him paged to report to the admin tent.

“Do you want to give him a little time? If we announce for him to come to the admin tent to meet his mother, he’s going to be embarrassed,” she told her.

“Really? Why would he be embarrassed?” the mom asked.

We didn’t have an answer to that. We had a deck marshal assist the mom walking around the pool deck and into the men’s bathroom to help find her son. I never heard a word after that, so I’m assuming her son made it to his event and back to her side.

Another thing I noticed this past weekend was that the space behind the blocks can get really hectic. That sign that says “Swimmers Only” means just that. It doesn’t mean “Swimmers Only and Me the Swimmer’s Parent Because I’m an Exception to the Rule.” It’s amazing how many parents ignore the sign, have to be told to leave the “Swimmers Only” area and a few want to argue about it. Once again, it’s interesting to look at this from a distance, when a few years ago, I was the one trying to stand behind the blocks with a water bottle and towel for my kids.

I’m reminded of advice I received from Ref Paul on more than one occasion, “Relax, have fun. It’s just a swim meet.”

 

 

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The pool deck during a meet with the “Swimmers Only” area behind the blocks.

 

Why do you think we get so worked up over our children’s athletic performances?

 

 

 

 

 

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Parenting when they’re all grown up

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My boy with the big heart and eyes.

There once was a young boy with the biggest eyes and heart. He was all hugs, kisses, and could make me feel better by holding my hand. He called me “Sweetheart” because he thought that was my name. He was proud of his little sister and often made friends with this opening line: “Do you want to meet my little sister?”

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My kids with Natasha our Rottie.

We went to visit this boy, who is now a grown man in San Francisco this past weekend. We were taking BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) for the first time by ourselves from SFO to Berkeley to see him on Friday night. A nice surprise was seeing our son waiting in the terminal to ride the train with us and to show us the ropes. That’s the kind of person he is—he thinks about others.

I know I did plenty wrong raising him and maybe helicoptered a bit too much. I argued with teachers about his grades. I protected him from failing by driving forgotten homework to school. I had no issue talking to a swim coach or principal if I thought he was being mistreated. In fact, he didn’t fail enough early on when the stakes weren’t so high. But he made up for it when it was costly and he was attending a UC. We must have done something right because he’s kind, considerate and stands on his own as an independent adult. He looks happy, healthy and he there’s no mistaking that big heart and his big blue eyes.

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Three months old.

He carved out a chunk of time for us and spent the weekend showing us Golden Gate Park, walking for miles and miles, which is our favorite thing to do. He took us to the deYoung Museum where we discovered Oceanic Art, Art of the Early Americas and the Hamon Observation Tower with break taking 360’ views of San Francisco. 23131707_10215170302154705_934280434165568437_n 

He shared his favorite restaurants and we dined in the Gourmet Ghetto at Lo Coco’s Restaurant for delicious Sicilian linguine with clams, LaNote, for a French bouillabaisse, and brunch at Venus. All amazing.

What’s even more amazing is that he rode back with us on BART to make sure we got on the right trains and could make the transfer. Then, he gave us a hug and returned to his life. He texted me later that day to say he loved seeing us and missed us so much!

I’m enjoying watching the adult person my son is becoming. I realize I may not have been a perfect parent, but I must have done plenty right. Plus, each of us is an individual in our own right, and no lack of parenting — or too much helicoptering — can change who we are.23167969_10215170302114704_2557230305408935752_n

 

How much impact do you think parenting has on our children and the adults they become?

 

Goodbye Christopher Robin: A Peek Into the Creation of Pooh

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I went to see Goodbye Christopher Robin at our local theatre, the Camelot, which plays first-run, independent and foreign films. I’m so thankful to have a theater like this close-by when there seems to be an endless dirge of flops released these days.

Watching Goodbye Christopher Robin was like getting a sneak peek behind the scenes of author A.A. Milne and how he created some of the best-loved characters today. Growing up, Piglet was my favorite and my mom liked Eeyore. My mom read “The House at Pooh Corner” to me from her childhood book, before I could read myself. Goodbye Christopher Robin is a newly released British film and although reviews are mixed, I highly recommend it.images-1

The movie was very moving and I’ll warn you to bring tissue. My husband wasn’t thrilled and said that he liked to be entertained and doesn’t like all his emotions being excavated and stirred up. In my opinion, that’s what makes this movie great. You live through the horrors of post World War I England and see Milne suffer from PTSD, which I imagine wasn’t diagnosed and treated as it is today. He bought a house in the country and moved his wife and young son Christopher Robin to the peaceful countryside so he could deal with his PTSD. It was in their 100-acre wood that he and his son forged a relationship and Pooh was born. The heartache Christopher Robin faces throughout his childhood truly wants me to give this child a hug.

Here are snippets of reviews of the movie starring Domhnall Gleeson as A.A. Milne, his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) Young Christopher Robin (Will Tilston) and Young Adult (Alex Lawther):

Movies you should know about: ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ By Patrick Cooley, cleveland.com

“Goodbye Christopher Robin” tells a compelling story that you probably didn’t realize you wanted to know, the creation of beloved children’s character Winnie the Pooh and its impact on those who inspired it.

“It’s a little uneven, as it undergoes a wild shift in tone roughly halfway through, but it’s a well-acted and well-written story about fame and family that I hope won’t get lost in the hype of all the major movies hitting theaters in the fall and winter.”

Jane Horwitz from The Washington Post wrote a not so glowing review in ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ review: Origin story of Pooh beset by script heffalumps and casting woozles:

“In the 1920s, A.A. Milne gave a world reeling from World War I gentle books inspired by his only child and the boy’s stuffed-animal friends. The British author rendered them in verse and prose, brimming with humor and nestled among perfect illustrations by E.H. Shepard.

“Such books as ‘When We Were Very Young’ and ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ were great gifts, but their success took a toll, as the well-intentioned, but flawed film ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ aims to show. Christopher Robin Milne — called by his nickname, “Moon,” in the film — had a painful public childhood. His father felt guilt about that, and he saw his literary ambitions limited by ‘Pooh.’ ”

“Inspired by Ann Thwaite’s 1990 biography of the author and the memoirs of Christopher Milne, the script, while well researched, is stuffed with more shifts in time and tone than it can gracefully handle. Though ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ has moments of delight and even profundity, and looks-PBS pretty, too often it stumbles”

A third review called “Goodbye Christopher Robin Is All About The Pain Of Growing Up” was written by Kyle Anderson:

So often in biopics, especially those about creators of beloved works, it’s easy to melodramatize events rather than play them more seriously. I certainly knew very little about Milne apart from his creation of Winnie the Pooh, and the movie didn’t give me any kind of rosy picture of him. In fact, though director Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin sets out to recall the innocence of a child creating stories about his toys with his father, it doesn’t shy away from the reality that his parents may have been cold and unfeeling people.

Domhnall Gleeson does a masterful job as A.A. Milne, a comedy playwright and author who returns home from World War I with heavy bouts of PTSD and a refusal to return back to “normal life.” This point of view is at odds with that of his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), a high-society figure who thinks her husband (whom she and most people call Blue) is just being difficult.

The pair move to the country with their son Christopher Robin, though whom they exclusively call Billy Moon, and his beloved nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) so that Milne can set to work on the anti-war novel he thinks he’s duty-bound to write. While Milne is engrossed in his book—and perhaps due to the custom of the 1920s, I suppose—the parenting of Christopher Robin, a major theme of the film, falls almost entirely on Olive. As such, Milne comes across as aloof for a good portion of the film, and Daphne seems to have no time for any of it, going back to London for long stretches until her husband writes something they can sell.

The movie captures the magic of Christopher Robin and Pooh and for those moments, I truly suggest you go see this movie. You can watch a trailer here.

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What movies have you liked and can you recommend?

Words of advice: don’t judge other parents

robkatwaterIn the article on HuffPost today called “The Hypocrisy of Parenting,” Dr. Kurt Smith makes a point that until we are a parent ourselves, it’s very easy to judge our friends and strangers during small snapshots of their parenting life.

“There often seems to be something about not having children that makes everyone a parenting expert. Many of us quietly have thought to ourselves, “I can’t believe they…”

“Let him watch TV that late! or,
Sleep in their bed, or
Scream in a store, or
Wear THOSE clothes, or
Eat nothing but mac-n-cheese and Cheerios
This list could go on and on.”

I have several memories of being judged or having my kids judged by relatives and friends. I was judgmental before I had kids, too, so I get how easy it can be to think you know best if you’re removed by years from the toddler years — or never have been a parent.

What annoyed me was I knew there were times I made a decision to bend or compromise my rules because we were in public. It was a conscious and I felt necessary choice. Sometimes it’s easier to give in rather than create a scene in front of the sister-in-law or friend you’re trying to hang out with while juggling the demands of both a toddler and an infant. Maybe it’s not the best decision, but seriously aren’t we doing the best we can — at the moment? It isn’t helpful at that moment to be judged on your parenting.

My good friend who came and stayed with me couldn’t believe how uncooperative my two-year-old son was when I was trying to get him out of his comfy PJs into clothes. “I never!” I remember hearing her say under her breath. I believe that was followed with great parenting tips from her, who wasn’t pregnant yet with her first child. What she said was correct in theory, but practicing parenting is a whole other animal.

Flash forward a few years and she apologized to me in a restaurant where her firstborn wouldn’t sit still in his high chair. “I am so sorry!” she said. “When I was criticizing you, I had no idea!”

That is truly a good friend.

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My son at age two with his “Ahhh,” a quilt made by a dear friend.

 

I know other people in my life who were critical and not very kind with their opinions and judgments. Seemingly, they had forgotten when their children threw temper tantrums on the department store floor or when their kids didn’t come straight home from school and had to be hunted down. Those days were before I had kids and I was judgemental and amazed at the lack of parenting skills — until I had my own kids that is. Then I understood that it’s best not to judge.

I haven’t forgotten how hard those years can be on parents when kids act out. Usually, it’s when children are tired, hungry or sick or in a new environment. Please remember they are not little adults who know how to act perfectly in public and can control their emotions.

Here are three things Smith writes in HuffPost to help us out:

1. Respect.

When children enter your world you have to remember that friends that haven’t taken that step have no idea what you are feeling, whether it is frustration, joy, embarrassment, elation or just desperation not to scream. When they offer an opinion it is likely coming from a good spot. And, if your friend hopes to become a parent someday, or is having trouble in that regard, be kind. They may have preconceived ideas about what would work. You very likely did.

2. Include.

As a parent it can be difficult when your friends are trying to offer advice or ‘parent’ your child. Generally they do this because they are close to you and likely want to feel included and important in your life and your child’s. Whenever possible it is important to take the opportunity to make sure friends, especially the ones who haven’t decided to have children yet, know the important role they play in your family’s life.

3. Value.

Parents need to remember that your friend was likely your friend before your child was born. That doesn’t mean they take precedence, but try not to forget them. Your new role as a dad or mom means that they may feel theirs has changed or is no longer important. Make sure you occasionally find time to let them know what they mean to you and that your life is better because they are in it.

As silly and simple as it sounds, before we were parents, we weren’t. And although it isn’t listed in many places (if any), becoming a parent will make you almost instantly a hypocrite. When maintaining friendships across this new terrain, both parties would do well to remember that.

Have you experienced friends or relatives who were judgemental about your parenting techniques? In what instances have you judged others because of the behavior of their kids?

 

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Traveling with my young kids. 

 

Top 10 Life Skills Kids Need Before College

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My son on his “Snow White pony” at Thursday night Village Fest.

Talk about failing “Parenting 101.” My son called me throughout his freshman year of college with the most trivial questions—like how to address an envelope to how to pay for gas with cash. What happened during his 18 years that he made it through in one piece without basic life skills?

I’ll tell you what happened. I was rushing to school with forgotten homework, packing his lunch and swim bag. I picked up after him and did his laundry. He was, after all, way too busy pursuing the title of Valedictorian to be bothered with mere mortal pursuits of day-to-day life. I was the enabler. But, I learned from his questions and made sure my second-born was ready and prepared to leave home.

 

One of my best friends lives 30 minutes from his university. She called him his first weekend at school and said if he ever needed anything, please call. Was she surprised when he said, “Could you bring me some laundry detergent? The thread count is so low on the sheets Mom bought me and they’re itchy.”

She said, “No, I’m not your mother and when I said if you needed anything I meant in case of an emergency. You can find your own laundry detergent somewhere on campus.”

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My son during his graduation night speech.

 

Here are 10 basic life skills kids need to know before they leave home:

ONE

Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.

TWO

Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! 

THREE

Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables and cooking rice. 

FOUR

Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.

FIVE

How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from my son: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.

SIX

Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.

SEVEN

Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes —gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room—and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake in Seattle. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike—use a solid bar type. 

EIGHT

Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships—and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!

NINE

Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.

TEN

Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?

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My beautiful son when he was three.

Perfect Fall Day: Go Apple Picking

 

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photo courtesy of Snow-Line Facebook page

 

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband drove me 40 miles from home to Oak Glen to get out of the heat that lingers through September and October in the desert. I loved it. We stopped at the first orchard along the road, Riley’s Farm.

I was thrilled because not only was the weather perfect with a cool breeze, but it was a real live farm! You’d have to grow up in rural Washington like me to understand how I reveled in u-pick fresh raspberries and wandering through an apple orchard. It was amazing and I instantly fell in love with the place.

Years later, with young kids in tow I made the trek to Oak Glen with another mom and her two daughters. Our kids ran free through the orchard enjoying the experience as much as I did. We made it an annual event up until sometime during their high school years. We went with other families, too, and it was a great Sunday afternoon family-thing to do.

I was pleasantly surprised when my daughter had a day off from college swim practice on a Saturday and was able to sneak home for a quick trip. She said what she wanted to do most of all was to go apple picking. We figured out it’s been six or seven years since we’ve last been there. Since our Riley Farm days, we have a new favorite orchard, Snow-Line, for their freshly made mini doughnuts and apple samples. Then there’s Los Rios Rancho with the mile high French crumble pie. We planned on stopping at both.

Although we had a nice trip to Oak Glen, something had changed drastically that could have ruined it for us. Mobs and mobs of people. I’m talking about no less than 100,000 kind of crowds. The road was filled with cars parking on both sides for a mile before and after Riley’s. I watched in amazement while moms and dads manipulated strollers and tired kids through messes of cars to get to the farm. We passed on Riley’s and the next stop was to be Los Rios for the pie. The massive parking lot was full and the line out of the bakery went on and on around the building to who knows where. I was going to run in and grab a pie while my husband circled the parking lot, but that was a joke.

Our last hope was Snow-Line, which was as crowded as I’d ever seen it. In fact, I’ve never in the last 25 years seen it crowded before. It’s down a windy, tree-lined road a little off the beaten path. We were lucky to find a parking spot and my daughter got in a line that wrapped around the building for doughnuts, while my husband and I explored the store and sampled apples and infused oils. I was especially impressed with a cat sitting by the register, being very cat-like oblivious to the elbow-to-elbow crowd passing by.

Life doesn’t stay the same and I have no idea why it got so crowded at the apple orchards. I remember seeing a huge article in the LA Times a few years ago, so maybe that was it. At least we went, bought a bag of apples and doughnuts and drank apple raspberry cider along with our bbq trip tip lunch. All in all, it was still worth it.

 

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photo courtesy of Snow-Line Facebook page

 

From the Sno-Line Orchard website:

Snow-Line Orchard is a family-owned apple farm, winery & cidery in Oak Glen, CA and the surrounding area. We provide a variety of fun & exciting activities, including wine tasting, raspberry picking and more. We provide friendly service from a family business, a beautiful picnic area with the oldest Italian chestnut tree and mini apple cider donuts that are a huge hit.

Our original packing shed, historic cider mill, ancient chestnut tree, and beautiful picnic grounds make the perfect backdrop for your next family outing. It is always cooler in Oak Glen so come enjoy some fall weather with our mini cider donuts and Augies coffee or escape the summer heat to our picnic area while enjoying a glass of our very own hard cider or wine. We carry a broad selection of products; fresh apples and cider, u-pick raspberries, cider mini donuts, artisan balsamics and oils, local honey, unique gifts, and farm made wine and hard cider.

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At Riley’s Farm, we used to go on field trips with our kids in first through fourth grade. I loved those days and I believe all the kids and chaperone parents did too. This is what I found on Riley’s website:

Nestled in the apple growing foothills of historic Oak Glen, Riley’s Farm is a working apple orchard and living history farm featuring pick-your-own fruit, living history education, dinner theatre, group banquet facilities and extended, historically-themed overnight stays.

If you’re a teacher or a youth group leader, we have educational day trips of all sorts to meet your needs:

Revolutionary War Adventure

The Civil War Adventure

Gold Rush Adventure

Old Joe Homestead Tour

Colonial Farm Life Adventure

Overnight Revolutionary War Adventure

 

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Lots of people wanting those freshly made mini cider doughnuts at Snow-Creek.

 

5 Tips for Parents to Reign In Smartphone Use

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Life before smartphones.

With all the evidence that more and more kids are suffering from anxiety and depression and with suicide rates skyrocketing, there is research that says smartphones may be making these trends worse. In a Time article by Markam Heid, “We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones” he shares these horrifying figures:

“Between 2010 and 2016, the number of adolescents who experienced at least one major depressive episode leapt by 60%, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 2016 survey of 17,000 kids found that about 13% of them had a major depressive episode, compared to 8% of the kids surveyed in 2010. Suicide deaths among people age 10 to 19 have also risen sharply, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young women are suffering most; a CDC report released earlier this year showed suicide among teen girls has reached 40-year highs. All this followed a period during the late-1990s and early 2000s when rates of adolescent depression and suicide mostly held steady or declined.”

In another article, “Is Your Kid Hooked on Smartphones? 5 Tips for Parents” Heid gives some great advice for parents who are concerned with their kids’ smartphone use. Here’s the abbreviated version. You can read his article in its entirety here.

ONE
Keep devices out of kids’ bedrooms. There is already strong data linking bedroom screen time with a variety of risks—particularly sleep loss, says David Hill, director of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Communication and Media.

TWO
Set up online firewalls and data cutoffs.
Most devices and Internet providers offer parenting tools that restrict access to illicit content and curb data use, and there are apps that do so as well.

THREE
Create a device contract. “This is something you create with your child that details rules around their device use,” says Yalda Uhls, an assistant adjunct professor at UCLA and author of Media Moms and Digital Dads. These rules could include no smartphones at the dinner table, or no more than an hour of social media use after school.

FOUR
Model healthy device behaviors. Just as kids struggle to stay off their phones, so do parents. “We’re all, even adults, drawn to devices,” says UPenn’s Jensen. And if you’re a phone junkie yourself, you can’t expect your kids to be any different, she says.

FIVE
Consider old-school flip phones for your kids, or a smartphone without a data plan (and therefore no Internet access). This may seem like overkill for some parents—especially those of older teens. But unconnected phones still allow teens to call or text with parents and friends, says Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen.

I think the best thing to do is put down firm guidelines and don’t give in. I was strict with my kids about when they got their first cell phones and I bought them at Target as pay-as you-go phones. It wasn’t until my son’s high school graduation that he got an iPhone. My daughter got one a little sooner because they were much more common, but not until age 16.

Today, I’m the one addicted to my phone. I’m always reading stories, looking at Twitter, checking out FB, etc. My daughter gets so mad at me when we’re together and asks me to put the phone down. “I”m here with you now!” she’ll remind me. I worry a lot about the kids who are in the iGen with peer pressure following them wherever they are. Getting the smartphones and computers out of their bedrooms at night is a smart idea. Making a weekend or week to unplug as a family is a plan, too. It’s such a different world, isn’t it, from when we grew up?

What rules do you have for your kid’s smartphone use?

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Me not on my iPhone–being in the moment with my daughter.