Sunday, May 14, 2006

Why aren't kids playing outside?

So, I decided to give suburbia a try. My husband and I were living in Brooklyn and needed to find a larger space for us and our 4 month-old son. An opportunity came to rent a large 2 bedroom apartment in a decent area and we jumped on it.

Over 3 years later, I still hate it.

The biggest selling points for me were the promise of open air and kidsvplaying outside. What I've found instead are barren blocks, cliques and overpriced recreation.

How could suburbia be more kid-unfriendly than the city? Well, first of all the most glaring way is that kids don't have free-play outside. For instance, on one of the most beautiful days of this month, mild temperature, low humidity, ample sunshine, we took our kids hiking. On our way back as we took suburban backroads, we didn't see ONE child outside playing. That is criminal. I rarely see children spontaneously playing outside. It is always structured, controlled play at a scheduled event.

How is it that we've gotten so far off-course with our kids? How is it more beneficial for a child to participate in orchestrated play at Music Together, The Little Gym or some goofy Mommy and Me spinoff than to be outdoors enjoying fresh air and sunshine?!!! And then we wonder why American kids are getting fatter by the minute... We wonder why they watch too much t.v. and have ADD…

Why are our boys becoming more prone to violence and inattentiveness in school? Why are our kids becoming wimpier by the minute? It’s because we’ve tuned into too much network and cable news that’s hell-bent on terrifying us about the world we live in. We’ve bought the line that it’s not safe to allow our children to do what God has programmed them to do: PLAY OUTSIDE!!

Parents live in fear of some anonymous stranger who’s going to kidnap our children. While those horrific incidents do occur, they do not occur at the alarming rate that we seem to believe. It does not take barricading our children in climate-controlled play centers to protect them from predators. It takes a community to protect children: a community that looks to allow them to thrive in the outdoors as well as in structured environments. We need to replace paranoia and fear-mongering with neighborhoods and communities where we all look out for each other. I’m not talking about Mayberry. I’m not talking about the Cleavers either. I’m talking about people who intelligently open their doors to their neighbors and work together to protect our kids.

How is this part of The Apron Revolution? It’s about beginning to return home and return to common sense about how we live our lives. It’s about returning to balance in the way we raise our children. It’s about letting go of keeping up with the idiot Joneses and scaling back to what’s reasonable. Let go of expensive activities and just…. Be with your children. Enjoy their presence and their gifts. They’re only under your wing for a short period of time and then it’s over.

Start your revolution now.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

In the beginning...

I had a doctor's appointment a week ago where I had to fill in all of the mandatory paperwork. Of course, there was the obligatory employment section. Where do you work? Who is your employer?

At first I lied and wrote: "Self-Employed". That moniker carried me through the first 2 years of being an at-home mom. This time, it was absolutely a lie. I am an at-home mom of 2 beautiful children. Is that something to be ashamed of? Most people would chime in and say "Of course not!", but reality is a little different.

I made my decision to stay home with my young kids before I even knew their names. My mother didn't have that privilege, but my husband and I could make it happen. That happened despite 3 significant rounds of unemployment (we were children of the dot-bomb era) and really hard times with money. It's been the hardest work I've ever done, but I'm starting to see the rewards on an almost daily basis.

One of the major gripes I've had about being an at-home mother, is that you're easily discounted. People assume that you either have the money or no real ambition because you stay at home with your kids. In our area, being around other at-home moms has taught me that this world isn't removed from the social-climbing rat race at work, it's just in a different form.

There's also my voice. I'm a loudmouth. I'm opinionated and I'm not one to be behind-the-scenes. I like glory. Glory doesn't come when you're covered in spit-up from lunch. Glory doesn't happen when you're peed on. You can't be Che when you've been up half the night breastfeeding or when your baby's screaming from thrush pain.

But then I realized that the revolution that I would create could, in part, be a quiet one. My battle would be to create an emotional, spiritual and creative haven for my children. This is a revolution that will take time, but we're winning everyday. It also requires that I have to sit back and watch things happen in my country and world that are unjust and sometimes plainly idiotic. Silently screaming at cnn.com while no one can hear me. Worried about developing news and my children's safety.

So I've found a better way to scream. A foundation for my kids that starts with family dinners, reading to the kids and family hikes. And finally, with this blog.