Friday, January 29, 2010

The "Spit or Swallow" Option

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a neighbor with three kids under 4. (Insert shudder and grimace here.) She's a stay-at-home mom, feeling a bit isolated, and doesn't seem to be what my friend Nina calls a "natural mother." You know what I mean: Some moms seem to just "get" this parenting thing, and some seem to struggle a bit more. She's also very much a "book mom", meaning she usually consults parenting books rather than going with her instincts. (Don't get me wrong, I have all KINDS of parenting books. I just think that Mommy Instinct trumps so-called Expert Advice nine times out of ten.) She seems to panic about a number of issues that, to me, are fairly straight-forward.

Her latest crisis? Feeding her kids. She's changed the baby's formula three times in as many months. Her toddler won't eat vegetables, so she's bribing him with candy - one Skittle for each bite of vegetable. Her preschooler insists on eating only white foods, so she's making a lot of white pasta and mashed potatoes. And she's exhausted, worried, and sick of cooking three different dinners every night. She's resorted to begging her kids to "please, please just eat that for Mommy!" So, over a cup of coffee in my kitchen, she asked me how I handle dinner in my house. I'm not one to offer unsolicited advice, but hey, since she asked, Slacker Mom gave her an earful.

Now, keep in mind, one of my kids has severe food allergies (no eggs, milk, or tree nuts) and the other is a vegetarian (until I put chicken fries on the table). So I do have legitimate reasons for making a couple of different meal options each night. But...I don't. Dinner is what dinner is. I mean, I'm not cruel; if we're having pizza, I'll make one without cheese for my youngest. But she still eats pizza. I've been known to pick all the blueberries out of the blueberry yogurt ("I don't like the bits, Mommy!") And if I've made pot roast, my older daughter is free to grab a string cheese as a substitute protein. But this isn't a restaurant, and Slacker Mom's not a short-order cook. If you're hungry, you'll eat your dinner. And if you don't eat it, it will be waiting for you in the refrigerator, all wrapped up in shiny foil, so that when you complain about being starving in a half hour, I can pull it out, put it on the table, and say, "Here you go!" in my sweetest June Cleaver voice. Eat it, don't eat it, but that's all there is.

Unsurprisingly, my neighbor was appalled that I would offer my kids cold, already-rejected leftovers. "What if they don't eat at all? Don't you worry about nutrition?" she wanted to know. Uh, no, because I firmly believe that an otherwise-healthy child will NOT starve herself. Kids are the ultimate in sensible eaters: They eat when they're hungry, and they stop when they're full. And they'll learn to appreciate a wide variety of foods, the work that goes into creating a balanced meal, and the simple lesson of being thankful for what you've got on your plate. Yes, kids have their own tastes, but let's get real: My kids would eat donuts morning, noon, and night if I let them. Most kids don't ask for brown rice, grilled chicken, and steamed broccoli instead of birthday cake. Duh. But mine will eat it if that's what's there. (And, to be honest, you only have to do the foil-wrapped cold pasta thing once or twice before they get the message. They're not stupid.)

But Slacker Mom wasn't done yet. When she asked me about forcing the kids to eat foods that they "need" to eat, like vegetables, I gave her the old "you can't make them eat, sleep, or poop" line. And if you've got a strong-willed (or, without the euphemism, stubborn as a mule) child like I do, no amount of threats or bribes will make her finish her broccoli anyway. (My husband once went head-to-head with our youngest, telling her she couldn't get up from the table until she ate her brocoli. She sat in her booster seat for nearly an hour before I pulled rank and put her down for a nap. She was 14 months old.) Now, I don't do the Clean Plate Club of my grandparents' generation, and I never insist that the kids finish anything on their plates. But they must at least try everything that I serve them. Every. Single. Thing. I'm not going to lie to you - sometimes they gag and glare at me like I've tried to poison them. Sometimes they'll surprise themselves by liking something that "looks gross and smells grosser." But they'll try anything. Octopus, turnips, carambola, you name it. They'll try anything - because they have the "spit or swallow" option. If they don't like it, they are free to spit it into a napkin and throw it out. There is no forced swallowing, because we all know what that leads to - projectile vomiting and a reluctance to try anything new. Even my youngest, who still hates broccoli, tastes it twice a week - and promptly spits it out and says, "Nope! Maybe next week!"

As Mommy Anxieties go, few things seem to ratchet up the stress level like issues of feeding. It starts at birth and continues on into the toddler years. Breast or bottle? Hypoallergenic formula or good old Similac? BPA-free glass bottles or whatever your sister gave you when she weaned her kids five years ago? When to start solids, when to start table foods, when to let them start milk products - the rules are constantly changing. What I was told with my oldest is often different from what my sister is being told for her new baby. And what works for one kid might not work for the next.

But as they get older, they start to feed themselves, and we lose all control over what goes in (and what comes out, but that's another story altogether). You just can't force feed them. Some children are naturally more compliant, like my firstborn, who pretty much eats and does anything I ask of her. And some children, like my youngest and my niece, have minds of their own - which is a good thing as an adolescent, but infuriating when you want them to just eat a few green beans, dammit!

Meanwhile, don't think for one single second that our kids don't see our stress. Ever read the book Eat Your Peas? The mother wants her daughter to eat her peas so badly that she offers her dessert, a later bedtime, trips to the amusement park, and other increasingly ridiculous bribes. It's hilarious, and very tongue-in-cheek, but kids love it. They get it. They see the stakes, and they know how to work it. My niece lived on breakfast smoothies made with ice cream for weeks, because she'd refuse anything else. She just wasn't big on breakfast. My sister, desperate to get everyone out the door on time each morning, worried about her getting at least some calories and protein before daycare, so ice cream smoothies it was. My kids, upon hearing about their cousin's new breakfast routine, decided to go on breakfast strike. Slacker Mom let them go off to school hungry for a few days. Strike over, Mom victorious, Cheerios it is.

Slacker Mom Says...take the easy way out and just cook one meal already! There is nothing wrong with saying, "THIS is what's for dinner tonight. Take it or leave it." Unless it's their birthday, my kids don't get to choose what's on the menu - but they can choose whether or not to eat it. Maybe the "reward" for eating a good dinner is dessert. Maybe the compromise is "if you don't like dinner, you can eat cold cereal." Whatever works for you. The power struggle over dinner is not so much about the food, anyway; it's about control. Take away the power struggle, and kids will stop thinking it's a high stakes game, a way to assert their growing independence and take control over their lives. If they think we care REALLY A LOT, if they think our happiness is tied up in what or how much they eat, they'll push the boundaries and make an issue out of it. Give them control over their plates, and they're less likely to try to wrench control away from us.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tweens Are Just Toddlers in Overgrown Bodies

My oldest daughter is nearly 8, officially a "tween" - as in, "in between" being a child and a teenager. It's a weird age, to say the least. She'll sing along with "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" one minute, then plead for a cell phone so that she can text her friends the next. (FYI, the answer is no. Get over it.) She'll happily play Barbies for hours, then ask me a question like, "How do you know you're in love with the right person? And won't I be in love a bunch of times before I decide to get married?" She'll beg to read the Twilight Saga minutes after insisting I read Goodnight Moon to her, like I've done every night since she was born. She remembers to charge her iPod, but not to flush the toilet. She can stand in front of Rodin's "The Thinker" and discuss the beauty of the human form as an inspiration for sculptors throughout the ages, but then falls on the floor laughing at the word "penis" or "toot". She can intelligently discuss Impressionism, define pointillism, tell a Monet from a Manet ("It's all in the use of light, Mom") but then cry if we're out of yogurt or if I forgot to put a love note in her lunch. She says things like, "I like my butt in these skinny jeans" but still sleeps with a stuffed monkey, and she giggles when her sister burps.

This dichotomy between young child and young woman disturbs my husband. He's more than a little freaked out by any questions about sex or human development, so that's fallen to me. (But in his defense, they ARE girls, and having taught sex-ed to hundreds of students over the years, I do have more experience in this aspect of Uncomfortable Parental Conversations. I'll let him give the lectures entitled "Why The Patriots Can't Seem to Win a Superbowl Anymore" and "What To Do When You Get a Flat Tire" - which, in my mind, is call your dad. Even when you're 41.) But after a fairly dry, clinical explanation of how babies are made and born, her reaction was, "That is the MOST DISGUSTING thing I've EVER heard!" (Her dad's reaction? "Whew. That's right. Keep thinking that. And the Patriots WILL win another Superbowl! You'll see!")

This eagerness to grow up while still wanting to be my baby is oddly familiar. It wasn't too many years ago that she wanted to be independent ("I DO it BY SELF!") but then cuddle in my lap with a pacifier and a lovey, to be rocked, sung to, held. Our kids want to try new things, to toddle away from us, but then know that they can always come running back for hugs and kisses if they fall down and get an "owie". And don't we all want that? Even as adults? To know that our parents are always there for us when we need, or just want, them?

Tweens are a lot like toddlers; they just have bigger bodies and smaller toys. Tantrums, giggles, crying instead of just telling us WTF they want, acting like the world will end if things don't go their way, pushing us away while trying to cuddle close. It makes me want to wear a tee-shirt someone gave me, as a joke, when I had my first baby. It says, "Mommy Drinks Because I Cry." The tween is a difficult creature to figure out. Part child, part adolescent, riddled with emotional angst yet wanting to sleep with her baby blanket, she is stuck somewhere between childhood and the teen years. It's maddening.

But entirely normal.

I've read enough "tween development" books to know that hormonal shifts begin as early as age 7, so I know that her mood swings and crying jags have more to do with her growing up than anything else. But I still have to remind myself that my daughter is just a little girl, struggling to figure out this big, crazy world, much like when she was a toddler. Soon enough, she'll be driving, dating, starting college, moving away. And I'll long for these tween years, difficult as they may be, when my sweet daughter was poised between girlhood and womanhood. Tweens remind me of toddlers, but in overgrown bodies. And they're a lot harder to strap into car seats and put on the naughty chair. But they still need to fit on our laps.

Slacker Mom Says...cherish each developmental stage. As much as I missed the infant stage, I loved the toddler stage. As much as I'd like to tell my husband, "I changed approximately 12,943 diapers and nursed this kid 8 times a day for over a year. It's YOUR turn now!" and then hand her over for the next few years, I know that my tween needs a mother's love, a mother's touch, a mother's lap when she's going through her latest crisis. She needs to know that no matter what, her mom will welcome her with open arms, a listening ear, and some wise advice - and maybe a little wise-ass advice, if the situation warrants it. If we do it right when they're toddlers, the tween years will be easier. But it's never too late to let our kids know we're always there for them, ready to hear them, to help them, no matter what. And that old tee-shirt? It may be appropriate now more than ever.

Put Down the Barbies and Just Walk Away

Of all the Disney princesses, my favorite is Ariel, from The Little Mermaid. Forget the classics - Snow White, Cinderella, the Sleeping Beauty. I much prefer that rebellious redhead to her more traditional royal friends.

And what, you may wonder, draws me to Ariel? Is it her strong-willed, headstrong nature? Her beautiful singing? Her willingness to follow her heart against the advice of her friends and family, against all odds? Or maybe it's her fearlessness, her audacity, her sense of adventure?

Nope. I mean, hey, those are qualities I'd like to encourage in my daughters and all, but that's not really why I love the Little Mermaid. It actually has more to do with Prince Eric. To be specific, it has to do with my PLAYING Prince Eric with my daughters. You see, Prince Eric just lies there. Unconscious. On a beach. Eyes closed. Resting. Sort of like some vacations I took before I had kids. Now THAT'S a role I can get onboard with!

Yes, that's why Ariel is my favorite princess of all. Forget noble reasons, like her bravery and loyalty. I love Ariel because when I get dragged into my daughters' version of The Little Mermaid, all I have to do is lie down on the floor with my eyes closed and let them take turns rescuing me.

Contrast that with playing Prince Charming. If the princess of the day is Cinderella, Aurora, or Snow White, I have to actually work. Slay a dragon, hack through 100 years of overgrowth, and escape from an evil fairy? Far too much work for Slacker Mom. Ride my white horse all over the kingdom searching for a dead chick in a glass coffin guarded by seven weird little men? No doubt I'll then have to remember all their names, too. (Dopey? Sneezy? Sleepy? Dirty? Smelly? Sleazy? Creepy?) Then I'll get down on the floor, kiss the princess awake, scoop her up, and carry her back to my castle. My back hurts just thinking of it. And don't get me started on Cinderella's prince. Dance all night, chase her down the stairs, scour the kingdom trying a plastic sparkly princess shoe on 83 different dolls and stuffed animals - then repeat with the other child. It's exhausting.

No, I'll take Prince Eric any day. Sit on my boat (the bed), fall into the ocean (a pile of blue blankets), lay on the beach (the playroom floor - hey, the carpet's beige, and there IS a lot of sand/glitter/unidentifiable "rocks"). It's perfect. The girls do all the work, and I get to close my eyes for a few precious moments.

Don't get me wrong. I love playing with my kids. I'll get out the play-doh, paint, and glitter, and not worry about the mess (and that's why the playroom floor makes a great beach, after all). I'll play house, restaurant, soccer, and Legos. I'll even teach them how to hula hoop, much to the amusement of the neighbors. Just don't ask me to play Barbies. I'm so sick of Barbie. (Maybe because I played with her until I was like 13? Who knows.) She has too many costume changes, too many friends to keep track of (Skipper? PJ? Teresa? Ken? Kelly? Prince Aidan? Elina?) and I can't remember who is who and how they're all related. Add in the Hannah Montana and High School Musical dolls and the Disney princess Barbies, and suddenly Oliver and Lilly are having pizza with Belle and Jasmine while Troy and Gabriella take Mulan and Ken for a ride in the beach cruiser...and I'm lecturing the girls on keeping everyone's original costumes in place so we don't lose anything and explaining that, to be historically accurate, Mulan lived before cars were invented - even though we just saw her on a mechanized float at Disneyland last week and we're talking about a fictionalized character here, anyway! Oops. So, yeah, I pretty much try to avoid Barbie. Better clothes, fewer chores - that girl just annoys me. (Although, come to think of it, she kind of reminds me of me in my pre-kid San Diego days. Skinny blonde, hangs out at the beach, drives a convertible. Hmmm. Maybe I'm just jealous.)

So when the kids demand, "MOMMY! Play with me!" is there anything wrong with just saying no? I don't think so. I think it's perfectly fine to limit the amount of time I spend being involved in the girls' play. I think it's OK to step away, let kids learn how to fill their own free time, to be unstructured, unrestrained by the boundaries of a parent's mind. I'm likely to have Barbie and her gang head out to the pool, but my girls may turn them into space explorers, cavemen, or mad scientists ala Doofenschmirtz Evil Incorporated. (Try saying it without singing it. Go ahead, just try it.) Without me around to direct the play, their little imaginations run wild.

Slacker Mom Says...playing with kids isn't always fun and games. Sometimes we need to say, "Time's up! Mommy's done. Play by yourselves." When parents join the play, we change it. We unwittingly bring our authority to the imaginary world of our children, and that doesn't leave them in control. When kids engage in creative play, they control the outcomes - something that rarely happens in their lives. So make a cup of tea, pick up a (non-parenting) magazine, turn on something other than Phineas and Ferb, and opt out of the kids' playtime. It's actually good for them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stuff Happens; Acknowledge and Move On

My Kindergartner has strep throat, and it's wreaking havoc with my third-grader's social life. She was supposed to have a playdate yesterday and her very first sleepover tonight, but everything had to be postponed because we are once again the House of Infectious Disease. No mom in her right mind would allow her child to come over and breathe the air here. I was fully prepared with a firm lecture entitled "Just Get Over Yourself; The World is Not Going to End Because Your Plans Changed!" But alas, my preparation was all for nothing. When I told her that we'd have to put the sleepover off a few days or maybe a week, she said, "Well, I hope we can do it soon!"

Now, I tell this little story not to brag (well, maybe a little bit, because she was so sweet and agreeable that it MUST somehow reflect just a little on my parenting skills, right?) but more to illustrate that this is a kid who has been trained in the little-used and often-overlooked parenting philosophy of "Get Over It". I'm pretty sure that our grandmothers and mothers used this one, even if they called it something else. I don't remember being allowed to whine about anything (although that could be because my mom had 4 kids very close in age and probably ignored most of what we said.) In second grade, when it rained on my best friend's birthday and the Disneyland trip was re-routed to the skating rink, no one cried. We just skated. Nicola's mom told us, "Hey, we can have THIS party or NO party!" so we all got onboard pretty fast. When we left the cake out and the dog ate part of it, her mom cut off the gross part, served from the kitchen, and no one cried. We just ate cake. "You can eat the cake or you can cry about it, but you can't do both," she said, and let's face it - we wanted cake.

My younger daughter has food allergies, so if a classmate brings cupcakes to school, she can't have one. Well-meaning (but clueless) people say, "But I feel so BAD for her!" To which I answer, "Why? So she can't eat a cupcake. Big deal." She doesn't get upset when other kids eat things she can't. It's a cupcake, people. She'll be fine. She's over it. She's has these allergies her whole little life. Slacker Mom here doesn't even send "alternate" snacks to school for her on the off chance that another student brings a birthday treat on that particular day. Her world will not end because she didn't eat a little sugar with the other five-year-olds.

Resilience, my dad would call it, the ability to just get on with life and recognize that disappointments and setbacks are minor and temporary and not that big a deal. But I see so many kids who can't handle disappointment that I've got to wonder: Do parents teach resilience? I think too many parents allow their kids to behave as if every little thing that doesn't go their way is a tragedy. Dropped your popsicle because you were running around like a spaz, smacking other kids with it? It's OK, I'll buy you another one! Didn't get the teacher you want? THE HORROR! Didn't get invited to a neighbor's party? OH NO! Let's call and berate them! Or better yet, have an even BETTER party! With ponies! And ice sculptures! And let's NOT invite them!

When one of my kids faces a disappointment, my husband tells them, "Pick yourself up, shake yourself off, put it behind you, you'll get 'em next time!" And it works. From skinned knees to basketball losses to getting "only" a supporting role in the school play, they've faced their little setbacks. But it's not a tragedy. Not to minimize their feelings, but at some point, they've got to get over it. My college roommate (whose leg was nearly severed by a boat propellor when we were 19, so if anyone deserved to wallow in self-pity, she did) used to say, "Acknowledge and move on." Meaning, yes, things happen, it sucks, so deal with it and then get on with your life. Stuff happens, but life goes on. You can go along, too, or you can sit and cry in your soup. Pick one.

Try as we might, we can't protect our kids from every little slight and snub. Nor should we! Kids need to cope with loss, disappointment, heartache, and emotional pain. If we let them go their entire childhoods without experiencing these things, what happens once we aren't around to make every little thing better? I'm all for holding their hands and drying their tears and acknowledging that yes, it was painful, yes, it was awful, and yes, it will take some time to feel better. And, most importantly, Mom will always be here to talk about it and help you through it. But you WILL get over it, you WILL feel better, and you WILL move forward.

Right now, their disappointments are more of the "my sister got a bigger piece of cake than I did" or "if SHE gets new shoes I want some too" variety. But some day, some boy is going to break my daughter's heart. Some day, she's going to get a truly awful teacher who just doesn't care that she had a hard time with the assignment. Some day, a friend will hurt her feelings, her dog will die, she'll not get invited to a dance. But she'll know that even if IT's not OK, SHE'LL be OK. She's resilient.

Slacker Mom is full of disappointments. When we shield our kids from that fact, we don't teach resilience. There's nothing wrong with a well-placed "get over it" from time to time. It's not that we don't care; it's that we DO care, enough to teach them that LIFE WILL NOT END if you don't get to do what you want to do every second of every day. Stuff happens. The dog will steal your ice cream cone. Someone will fail to invite you to a party. You may even get the smaller piece. Of your favorite cake. On your own birthday. Jeez. Get over it.

A Spoonful of Sugar Makes My Life a Little Easier

When I was in high school, my friends and I worked at a summer day camp. It was basically glorified babysitting, but it was the perfect job: We got to swim, play soccer, hang out with our friends, go to the beach, AND we got paid for it. (Although now that I'm a mom, I wonder - what the HELL were these parents thinking, letting a bunch of teenagers take their kids to the freakin' beach? The only "adults" in the group were like 21. And they bought us wine coolers on the weekends. Yes, wine coolers. Shut up. It was the 80s. Bartles and James were huge then.) One of the running jokes among the so-called "counselors" was that the kids would do anything for a handful of jelly beans. Clean up the playground? Throw away all the trash after lunch? Gather 2,394 sequins off the floor after craft time? Pick up toilet paper left on the bathroom floor? Give 'em a little candy, and they were all over it. We were amazed, but we totally sugared those kids into submission.

Later, about six years into my teaching career, I did a two-year stint in middle school. Faced with 32 sixth graders in an after-lunch slump, I did what any self-respecting science teacher would: I broke out the Jolly Ranchers and started asking comprehension questions. You'd be amazed how a little bit of watermelon-flavored sugar motivates a room full of slackers, even if they are only 11.

Now that I'm a mom, I abhore the thought of using food as a reward. I don't want my daughters to grow up with eating disorders. I don't want them to use Twinkies to drown their sorrows (at least wine is more socially acceptable, right?), and I don't want them thinking there are "good" and "bad" foods. I want my girls to enjoy a piece of cake at a birthday party without feeling guilty, to eat a wide variety of foods in moderation, to enjoy meals with family and friends without any weird hang-ups.

But I also understand the power of a single piece of candy. Mary Poppins was on to something: One Skittle makes that nasty amoxicillin go down easier, after all. Everyone had a good report card? Let's get ice cream! And why not celebrate learning to poop on the potty with a big ol' lollipop?

Slacker Mom Says...what's wrong with a little celebratory sugar now and then? I'm not advocating bribing kids to get them to do their chores, much as my kids might like it, just offering a little incentive now and then to make an unpleasant task a little more palatable. No one likes cleaning the playroom, but if I say, "Cookies and milk when we're done!" suddenly everyone's tripping over themselves to help. Think about it - doesn't a catered lunch make a boring meeting a little more tolerable? Even the PTA provides donuts and juice at our annual Volunteer Orientation, where the principal basically reads us a handbook written on a fifth-grade reading level. Could've read it myself at home, but hey, free Krispy Kremes! I'm in.

Friday, January 8, 2010

If You Don't Have Anything Interesting to Post, Don't Post Anything At All

I love Facebook as much as the next person. I check it several times a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes even every day, depending on how busy I am. I love reading about new babies, new jobs, new homes. I set my email notifications to let me know when someone sends me a message or writes on my wall. Let's be honest, it's an easy and convenient way to keep in touch with people. I've "reconnected" (to use a cheesy, soap opera word) with elementary school and high school friends who I haven't talked to since the 80s. I keep up with college friends, friends overseas, local moms. I LIKE Facebook. I USE Facebook. I may even be slightly addicted to Facebook. (I don't know because I've never tried to quit. I don't think they have a detox plan in place yet.)

But if I have to read one more status update that says something like, "I'm off to Wal Mart!" or "Feeding the dog now!" or even "Sitting at the gynecologist's office waiting to have my pelvic exam!" I'm going to scream. Really? I need to know that you're having your pap smear? Why does anyone feel the need to share this stuff?

Yes, I'm talking about Chronic Status Updaters. We all know them. We all hate them. Most of us block them. I'm talking about the people who update their status 12 times a day, and not with witty, funny stories, or links to relevant stories, or even updates from pages we've signed up for as fans. (Because we all know I can't live without my Twilight Saga updates. Go Team Edward!) I'm talking about people, usually stay-at-home moms, who tell their Facebook friends every time they leave the house to do anything. I mean, does anyone REALLY care that you are about to start eating your cheeseburger at McDonald's? I know I don't. (And let's be clear: I'm sure that men do it, too, and that working moms do it too, but in my Facebook world, it's only the stay-at-home moms who update 93 times a day. Most men don't share that easily.)

One of my Facebook "friends" recently had a day that looked a little like this:

I'm at the bus stop!
The kids are on the bus!
I'm off to Target!
I'm done at Target and now I'm going to get groceries!
Back in the car after saving $19.34 with coupons!
I'm putting away my groceries!
Time to pick up the kids!
Doing homework with the kids!
Time to make dinner!
Family time!
Yay! Time for bed! What a long day!

OH MY GOD. Shut up already! You took up my entire freakin' screen and now I have to "hide" you, so I'll never know if you actually do anything interesting with your life!

Now, I'm sure that I've been guilty of posting things that aren't always that exciting or witty or clever. I'm only human - I think MY life is endlessly fascinating, no matter how many times my husband nods off in the middle of one of my famously long-winded stories. (True. He does. And I am long- winded.) And I'm sure there are people out there who'd say that I share too much, like, this week, how we all posted our bra colors to remind ourselves and our friends to do monthly self exams. But no one out there could accuse me of being a Chronic Status Updater. (You could, however, call me a Chronic Facebook Commenter, but that's another story. And I just can't help myself.)

Remember when we were kids and our moms used to say, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? Well, I think we need a Facebook button that says, "If you don't have anything interesting to say, don't say anything at all!"

So I started thinking: What's behind this? Is it just that people have nothing better to do than to update their status all day long? I mean, we're busy moms, we have things to do, places to go, people to drive to soccer practice, and laundry to fold. So what's behind this annoying trend?

My theory is that it's often a symptom of being bored and lonely. Not that we don't have enough to do, just that what we have to do isn't all that exciting, really. And maybe there's an element of not feeling heard, listened to, in our lives. No one listens, so we send our thoughts into cyberspace. If we felt attended to, listened to, heard, at home, would so many of us feel the need to share the minutiae of our lives with our Facebook friends? Would we need to connect in this way? Or maybe, because our lives are consumed by the minutiae of motherhood - the errands, cleaning, cooking, driving, attending to everyone else's needs every minute of the day - we need to vent, share with people who understand what our lives are like. Depending on how old our kids are, we can easily become isolated at home. Connecting with others, even via the internet, may be one way to keep from going crazy with the demands we put on ourselves. Connecting with others is a basic human need.

A mom I know recently posted, "If people spent as much time on their marriages as they do on Facebook, there'd be fewer problems." I understand what she meant. Never mind that she's a total CSU and I could tell you where she ate lunch every single day for the last month and a half - she has a point. I'd add that maybe people need to focus some of that energy on making REAL WORLD connections, on improving our real world relationships.

Slacker Mom should make our lives easier, not replace human interaction. Get off the computer (or smart phone, or whatever) and go to lunch with the girls, grab coffee with your husband before he leaves for work, meet your neighbor for a drink after the daddies are home for the night (or, heck, while the kids play in the backyard. No one's driving, for Pete's sake). Social networking sites are great, and they have their uses, but hanging out at the local cafe with my friends is a lot more fun. I may be old-fashioned, but I'd rather have face time than Facebook time.