What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

a podcast with Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson

Category: Uncategorized

Episode 11: Do Manners Still Matter?

Manners have been around since at least 2300 BC, when Ptah-Hotep wrote on papyrus that one should refrain from “speaking evilly” and from staring at people.

And as parents, we say manners still matter— to quote Margaret’s mother, no one likes a bratty kid.

But which manners still matter? We think author Tamar Adler put it best in her “Manners Manifesto”:

Perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good… Whatever unites [us] merits keeping, and what divides can be folded and stored away with the linen too old and ornamental to use.

Eating the food you’re served, saying please and thank you, holding the door? All that makes other people happy. So our kids should do it.

Although getting them there? That’s easier said than done.

In this episode we talk about

  • why manners are all about context
  • why other people’s manners rule (even if they’re not yours)
  • whether it’s okay to expect (and perhaps forcefully elicit) good manners in your friends’ kids
  • why thank you notes suck but we have to make kids do them anyhow
  • why manners require constant reinforcement
  • why everyone should stop listening to videos in public places without headphones because that’s just absolutely the worst

Here’s some further reading we liked:

And here’s two classic books on manners that will have your kids curtsying by week’s end:

How To Behave and Why, by Munro Leaf

Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book 

What manners matter in your house? Do your children end every request with “sir” or “ma’am”? Stand when ladies enter the room? Call grownups by their last names? Tell us in the comments!

Episode Ten: What To Say When You Don’t Have a Clue

what to say when you don't have a clue

 

We average about one conversation a week, with one or other of our children, during which we are suddenly at a total loss as to what to say. Perhaps you too have had a few Tough Questions like these:

Is Santa real?

What is racism?

If I go to heaven, will my toys come too?

When answering Tough Questions like these, Amy feels that it’s important not to have innocence-ending conversations too early. She calls it “age-appropriate obfuscation.” Keep it simple, keep it reassuring.

But Margaret likes to call this approach “Say ‘Delay,’ Run Away,” and she has somewhat of a point. The Tough Questions need to be answered, and if a parent doesn’t step up, a kid might just seek out some peer education, bound to be rife with misinformation.

In this episode, we discuss

  • why it’s hard to explain concepts like racism to children young enough to be unaware of it
  • how to let the child lead any delicate discussion with her questions (rather than your answers)
  • the power of the pause before responding
  • why you should always leave a little bit left over to divulge for next time
  • why we all just have to figure out the Easter Bunny back story already

Here’s some of the best advice we have collected:

  • from Meg’s sister in law: Only answer the question you are asked. 
  • from educator Danielle McLaughlin: “In order to actually engage our children, we need to find out what it is that they already know and what are they seeking to understand.”
  • from Michael Thompson, PhD: “Pausing for a moment…lets your child know you are taking him seriously.”
  • from PBS Parents: save a little bit of information for the next conversation on the same topic. Cause it’s coming.

And if you’re still completely tongue-tied…

Here are two books on the facts of life that are both thorough and reassuring:

The Care and Keeping of You Collection (American Girl)

It’s So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families

For talking to our kids about race, The Well Queen Anne, a Methodist church, offers a great resource list here.

And for a how-not-to guide, here’s the tale of Amy’s Tooth Fairy explanation gone horribly awry. Learn from her mistakes.

How do you handle the tough questions in your house? Any advice of your own? Tell us in the comments!

Episode 9: Dividing the Workload

dividing the workload

In any home, there’s the workload everyone can see: the dirty dishes, the broken crayons under the dining room table, the laundry to be folded. And in most of our homes, that workload is divided more equitably than it was in the homes where we grew up.

But then there’s the workload that lives in a parent’s head, the running list of things we hope we won’t forget: the permission slips and prescriptions. The birthday presents and batteries.

And there’s still usually just one parent who’s in charge of THAT.

And if you’re reading this right now? We’re going to guess it’s you.

In your household you’re the one that blogger Mblazoned calls “The Default Parent,”  and while we hasten to append  #notallmen to what we’re about to say…

studies indicate that whether the mother works outside the home or not, all this “stuff” usually remains firmly in the mom’s pile.

And it’s a big pile.

We have a choice: to either change that dynamic, or leave it the way it is but stop feeling resentful about it.

Margaret and me? We’re starting with the moms in the mirror. Make that change.

In this episode we discuss:

•how to make the “invisible workload” more visible

•the power of the Sunday evening calendar meeting

•why we’re going to start saying “thank you” more often

•why letting go of the “why am I always the one who does everything” monologue is harder than we care to admit

Here’s links to some must-reads on this topic:

sociologist Lisa Wade for Money Magazine, on “The Invisible Workload that Drags Women Down” 

mblazoned for Huffington Post: “Are You the Default Parent?”

Ellen Seidman’s Mother’s Day love letter to herself:  “I Am the One Who Notices We Are Running Out of Toilet Paper, And I Rock”

Lisa Belkin for the New York Times: “When Mom and Dad Share It All” 

Are you the one who’s in charge of the snow boots and pipe cleaners in your house? Tell us in the comments!

how to review a podcast on iTunes

One of the best ways to support our podcast (or any podcast you’re enjoying) is to rate and review it on iTunes. But it’s not always easy or intuitive to do so.

Here’s step-by-step instructions on how to do so, either from your computer or from your phone or tablet:

How to leave an iTunes review on your computer:

  1. go to the iTunes page for the podcast (ours is http://bit.ly/whatfreshhellpodcast )
  2. click “view in iTunes”
  3. click “Subscribe” under the photo
  4. click “Ratings and Reviews”
  5. click stars next to “Click to Rate”
  6. click “Write a Review”
  7. review, click Submit

How to leave an iTunes rating or review on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. download/launch Apple’s Podcast app
  2. tap the Search tab (you need to do this even if we’re already listed in your app)
  3. enter “What Fresh Hell” (or name of podcast you’re searching for)
  4. tap the blue Search key at the bottom right.
  5. tap the album art for the podcast.
  6. tap the Reviews tab.
  7. tap the purple “Write a Review”
  8. review, click Submit

here’s a YouTube video to walk you through the iPhone review steps, in case you prefer a visual guide.

Thanks for reviewing!

Episode Three: Screen Time

This week’s episode is all about screen time. Given: Unlimited screen time is bad. But how much is okay? How much is too much? How do you handle the nightly battles of “But PLEASE, Mom! Just one more level!” when it’s time to unplug?

Most importantly: is it ever okay to let our kids’ brains melt just long enough to get dinner finished?

In this episode, we talk about how to limit screen time for each age group– toddlers to teens– while acknowledging that screens are an increasing part of our children’s lives, both inside the classroom and out.

Since we recorded this episode the American Academy of Pediatrics has lifted its draconian “no screens under two” rule, which we heartily agree with. Encourage parents to make good choices; don’t treat us like idiots who are incapable of exercising judgment. Really, don’t. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry.

Here’s links to other writing and products mentioned in this episode:

Resources for when you’re ready to go hard-core
  • screenfree.org
  • unpluggedchallenge.com
  • sabbathmanifesto.org (National Day of Unplugging)
  • Time Timer
Good writing that has something to say on the subject:

 

Episode Two: Helping or Helicoptering

turn-around-and-exit

You just brought your kid’s forgotten lunch to school. Again. Is that helping or helicoptering?

You know overparenting when you see it— in other people. Sometimes it’s harder to gauge in yourself.

As moms go, Margaret tends toward the laissez-faire, and Amy towards the shall-we-say particularly attentive. In this episode we tease out

  • our own worst bad calls on this topic
  • the best question to ask yourself when you’re not sure if you’re hovering or just helping
  • why you need to start letting your kids fail now
Perhaps it’s best to just keep in mind Margaret’s solemn words of advice:

When in doubt, let your children be more miserable.

Here’s a few of the books and articles we mention in this episode:

Little Failure– hilarious and mega-prizewinning memoir by Gary Shteyngart- what happens to a guy whose parents never, EVER told him he was special. In this case, he becomes a genius and prize-winning author. So there you go.

How To Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims

When Parents Are Too Connected (Toronto Star)

 

photo courtesy of Principal Steve Straessle of the Catholic High School for Boys, Little Rock, AR:  Principal’s Problem-Solving Rule for Parents Goes Viral

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