Thursday, March 31, 2011

more linguistic peeves

realtor, not relater
nuclear, not nuculer
february, not febuary
warrior, not woyer
padlock, not paddle lock

person who/thing that

I could care less
It's water over the bridge
six or one half dozen or another

Sunday, March 20, 2011

shame and patriotism

We are the United States of America. We support human rights all over the world. We are a moral high ground with a determined purpose to help end atrocities globally. We grant asylum to people who live in countries which do unspeakable things. We guarantee religious freedom, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, from police and government brutality, from cruel and unusual punishment.

I feel shame when our president won't sign declarations against discrimination because it would interfere with our ability to deny marriage rights to gays. I feel the same sadness and shame when we can't sign a pledge against genital mutilation because we want to be able to routinely circumcise boys. We won't decry atrocities because we want to continue to commit them. That makes me sad.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

then stop eating crap

I just read a comment on this article about healthy eating, and it made me laugh. This is what it said:

to comment about "what's in your cart?"....all of those choices that the dietician made are definitely a better and healthier choice, but let's be realistic here. the cost of those foods is nearly double the cost of the other foods and, when you have a big family like mine, you simply cannot afford to buy half a package of something to feed the whole family. it is sad that, in today's society, healthy eating is so darn expensive, we are forced into buying cheaper junk foods for our families. maybe obamacare should start by making healthier food more readily available to families at an affordable price...maybe we wouldn't be in such a bad health crisis if we had the right resources....
lindawcb 8:53 AM

Now, the lady has a point; healthy food costs more than crap. But I love the line about buying cheaper junk foods for the family, because they have to have junk food and it's just a matter of what junk food, right? Because it's a choice of high fat vs low fat empty calories. What about not buying junk food? What about making a sandwich instead of eating chips for a snack? And while we're at it, a bag of popped popcorn may cost as much as a bag of chips, but a bag of generic popcorn kernels is much cheaper, and goes much farther.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

They still can die, and they still probably wouldn't

Every single time you take your child in a car, they are traveling at high speeds on hard pavement in metal and plastic canisters of flammable liquids. That is a fact. It is also a fact that if you thought about the thousands of ways a child could die in an auto accident every time you got in the car, you'd never leave the house and probably have the kid taken by the state due to your emotional and mental issues over it. When people say "I could be hit by a bus tomorrow" they really mean "I know logically that I am mortal", not that they fully accept the gravity of the truth that they could be hit by a bus tomorrow, but they could. Why do I say this? Because people need to stop believing, and I mean this literally, that rules will make them immortal.

I know parents who are just anal about the rules. Never put a baby in a car seat in a coat, stay rear-facing as long as possible (ever known a mother to fold her kid's legs together to keep the car seat rear-facing longer? I have), never allow a baby to sleep on their tummy (I've heard of moms who rolled babies over who flipped on their own during the night), never let a baby have a blanket in the crib (why do sleep sacks come in toddler sizes?), never give a baby under x months old anything over stage 2 baby food. And what does all this boil down to? A belief that if they follow all the rules and never deviate, nothing can happen to their babies. And if something bad happens to someone else's baby, that person must have done something wrong. The car seat straps weren't tight enough, or there wasn't a fan in the baby's bedroom, or they are a cheerio before they were old enough. Every baby death must be avoidable because if not, then how can I be absolutely sure to avoid my baby's death?

You can't. You can minimize risk but never avoid it altogether. Last fall a kid at a school here in town was struck by lightning. The fiery hand of fucking God hit this kid in the parking lot of the elementary school. This is the textbook definition of random! And I heard parents rant about how the school had no lightning rod, and the kid had a skateboard, and my favorite: school should not have let out if there was a storm. Because what I want is for the school to hold the kids hostage until the rain stops, which often takes hours. But this accident must have been preventable and avoidable, or else we have no power. And if we have no power, then we are powerless, adrift on an ocean with our kids, unable to control the waves or the tides or the currents. And that just scares the fuck out of everyone. And rather than live with that reality, they hide behind their rules. And we all do it, to an extent. We all try to minimize risks (as we should), and we all somehow convince ourselves that a car cannot drive through the wall of our house and run over our children while they sleep, that organic food can never make us sick, and sometimes even that if we make our kids dress conservatively, they cannot be raped. But it leads to some harsh behavior too. Parents treating other parents like monsters and murderers for fastening the car seat straps over the coat rather than inside it (read that link, it's really good), or for giving a baby a blanket, or letting a toddler have m&ms (choking hazard, you know). But the fact is that we are all blood bags waiting to be popped, and nobody is running around with needles, poking their kids.

For the record, my 12 year old gets to ride in the front seat, my sons wear coats in the car seats, my babies have blankets, Danny gums table food, I absolutely love the BundleMe in the winter (and it's a death trap the likes of which will surely kill my child, another good link), and I consider myself to be a pretty good mom. But then, I also let my daughter ride her bike to the store by herself, so I'm obviously the most passive-aggressive murderer ever.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nobody's perfect. Well, there was this one guy, but we killed him....

I have been thinking a lot about religion lately, and I'm not sure why. A large part of my brain still tells me that it's bunk. God is right up there with unicorns, in odds of existing. There are a hundred reasons mankind would make up a god and no real reason to believe one exists. But still, it's in my head. I come across articles like this, and this, that make me think maybe it's possible to believe in God without being a Christian. The reason I don't want to be called a Christian, even if I end up believing in Jesus in the end, is the same reason I don't want to be called bi, even though I like both guys and girls; too many people have their own definitions for the label. I think Ghandi said it best when he said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

My family is, if you go back far enough on my father's side, Amish. I think that must be mapped into my brain because big shiny churches with flashy gymnasiums and sound systems just strike me as being too Earthly, too materialistic, for God. Spend the money on charity and get yourself one room full of pews with an altar at the front. Let people come in who want to talk about God, and stop trying to lure kids in against their wills with basketball games and rec rooms. I think religion and prayer should be solemn, and I think trying to make it fun is a little undignified. But then, I don't believe people have to be Christian to get into Heaven (assuming Heaven and God exist). In my world, God doesn't discriminate based on geography, and if you boil it down that's what it comes to when you say a person has to pay lip service to Jesus to get in. (After all, what's worshiping but paying lip service?) It's saying that Hindu children raised in India by Hindu parents, taught from birth that Hindu beliefs are the immutable truth, are going to be sent to Hell through no fault of their own while Christian kids raised by Christian parents in the US will get into Heaven. It's luck of the draw and it sucks and it's not how my God, if I had one, would act.

My God also wouldn't make gay people and then send them to Hell. Either he wouldn't fuck with them that way, or he's that callous and then doesn't really give a shit who we want to fuck. And don't give me the Loving Father BS. My mother loves the hell out of me and only has 2 kids, and she doesn't care what movie stars I think are hot, yet God has billions of children and is deeply concerned with who wants Brad vs who wants Angelina. I don't buy it.

That brings me to a book. A friend of mine went out a got me a book, and then hand-delivered it to my house, that really helped her out. This book gave her something she really needed, and I thought "Great, I'll read it and see if it doesn't help me out, too." And I think I got maybe 3 pages into it, which made me sad because I had high hopes, even after I recognized the author's name. But I couldn't get past the intro because the basic premise seemed to throw me off. The book said that God had planned for that moment to happen, for me to be sitting their reading that book (did God know I was going to be on the toilet at the time, or was that just a surprise?), and that God planned for me to heed the words in the book. God designed that moment of my life.

And.... that's when he lost me. Right there, right away. Because even though I can kind of believe in a God who cares how people are, and even though I can sort of nod at the notion of a God who might hear me if I pray, I can't swallow the idea that God cares about every moment of my life, or every opinion I form, or even every choice I make. Because what a colossal waste of time that would be for God! I mean, there are tides of corpses washing ashore in Japan right now, nuclear plants are popping like popcorn, and God cares what I read on the crapper? Sorry, I can't buy it. I'm more of a blurry vision, cynical, sort of theologist. I believe that God (again, if there is one) waits until you're dead and then sort of takes in the whole picture, not the individual moments. You know those pictures they do where it looks like a vaguely pixelated photo of someone but when you look closer it's a thousand little photos of them? I think God looks at the overall collage, not the thousand little photos. Stole gum once? Cured cancer? Never baptised? I don't think it's a hard call for God to make, and I don't think he's sending cancer-guy to Hell. But I do think that some sins are bad enough, over arching and far reaching enough, to be noticed individually. I think some sins become character traits and for that reason color the whole collage. And I think, in a religious sense, that Pride is the worst.

Not Pride as in "I did a really good job on that; I'm proud of it" but rather the Pride that leads people to believe that they can speak for God, that they know His plan and that they share His opinions. No one, even preachers, knows God's plan. And I have the greatest respect for those people who honestly can say, "I don't know why God made this or did this, but I have faith that He has His reasons." And I have no respect for those who say, "God doesn't do those things and He wouldn't approve of it." But then, that's the Amish in me. They believe that hard times are God's way of making us strong, and that His complications and contradictions are to keep us humble and remind us that we can't see His mind.

I don't like mean set your ass on fire God. I like loving just be nice to each other God. And hopefully someday I'll find him. But not today, and not in the book my friend was so nice as to give to me. Too bad no Quakers are Prideful enough to take it upon themselves to write a book about God. Oh, Irony, thou art annoying.

Monday, March 14, 2011

teething and daylight savings time

It's so much easier to take a screaming, cranky, over-tired baby and nurse him to sleep before he gets teeth. My maternal urge to take him to my breast and offer comfort has been tempered by an even stronger urge not to have my nipples sheared off. Ahhh, they grow so quickly.

I used to be young, but I'm too old to remember it any more

I am 34 years old. I am not old, or elderly, or geriatric, but I am aging. In a year, if I were to get pregnant, I would be classified as being "of advanced maternal age", which means there would be an increased risk of birth defects due to old eggs. My hair is turning silver (and it looks so good, I figure I'm about a year away from cutting the colored length off), I find myself holding papers away to read them, and my shoulders are sloping to the point where my bra strap keeps slipping off and I'm shopping around for tiny calcium supplements. And that little line between my eyebrows that comes from furrowing my brow at stupid people is now about as deep as a bullet hole.

When I was young I was so stupid. Seriously, I can look back on just about any moment of my life and feel embarrassed for myself. But I was young, and thin, and carefree. I wish I'd realized it. I wish I'd worn bikinis, and taken compliments better. I wish I'd enjoyed it before it was gone. Self-esteem should exist in the present tense and not just in hind sight.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

by definition, an idiot

Can I just give in to my cynicism and point out that suffixing words with "ers" pretty much just tattoos your IQ on your forehead, and it's not a 3 digit number? If you're expecting a baby and you announce that you're "preggers", you're auditioning for Teen Mom, regardless of your age. And if you do it with your name? Oh my God, you're now about to be court-ordered into a group home somewhere! Aimers, Jenners, Vickers. All of those girls drive 97 Toyotas with pink squiggly pin striping, and wear frosted pink lip gloss. I just had to throw that out there.

A small distinction

There's a big nationwide news story about a group of up to 28 guys (older teens) who gang-raped an 11 year old girl. It's a horrible thing that, sadly, happens far too much these days. A large part of the story now seems to be how it was reported. The New York Times story made it seem as though it was the victim's fault, using phrases like "dressed older than her age" and that the men were "drawn into the act". Lots of outrage for the NYT, and rightly so. The thing I have a bit of confusion over, is the constant assertion that an eleven year old cannot consent to sex. Or more specifically, that anyone under the age of consent cannot consent to sex.

Don't get me wrong, at all. I believe in statutory rape laws. I believe that an 18 year old who has sex with a 15 year old is in the wrong, regardless of circumstances. I once was that 15 year old and I can tell you from experience that it is easy for an older person to take advantage of a kid, to convince her (or him, I guess) to do something she/he might not really want to do. Adults are clever and can manipulate kids; the law has to reflect that reality. That adults can talk kids into just about anything. That is, that they can talk kids into consenting to just about anything. And that's where I get the confusion about statutory rape victims being unable to consent. Not, of course, eleven year olds with 28 men on them, but the average 'he was 18 she was 15' kind of victim.

I read an article that pointed out just how wrong and misleading it is to claim that a statutory rape victim had sex with an adult. Because the kid can't have sex, can only be raped. Any person under the age of consent is legally unable to consent, unable to willingly have sex. And since the kid legally cannot be willing, by definition they were actually unwilling. So, by virtue of birthday, my teenage boyfriend forcibly raped me over and over, right? See, I thought he was just a dick to talked me into it and manipulated my emotions, but apparently I was unwilling the whole time. So, in fact, the guy I thought I loved when I was 15 was way worse than the guy who pinned me down and tore my insides up in a closet after a party 3 years later. Right?

If we dilute the word rape to mean people who legally couldn't consent as opposed to just people who actually didn't consent, we do a disservice to all the women who know what it's like to be forced, physically overpowered and forced. Too drunk to consent is not the same as drugged and raped. Too young to consent is not the same as tried to refuse. And when we equate it all we don't elevate the severity and anger of the legal definition up to the level of the standard, we undermine the standard. When I first read about an 11 year old in Texas gang-raped by 28 men, I assumed an 11 year old in Texas was forced by a gang of men. Now, with all the dickering over terminology, I wonder if maybe she was only "legally" raped. You can argue that there's no difference all you want, and at age 11 there probably isn't much of one, but if you've ever fought against rape you will know that there is a big difference between being forced and being talked into something. Which is kind of odd, since if I put a gun to some 15 year old kid's head and march him into a liquor store and tell him to rob it, he probably won't do any time. But if I tell him all the cool kids are doing it and it's so mature, and then he goes and does it, no one stands there and says he's too young to willingly rob a place. No, he'd go to juvie, if they didn't try him as an adult anyway. Because kids can consent to all sorts of things, as proven by the fact that they do them, but somehow not sex. And like I said, I think adults who fuck kids need to be arrested. I'm stricter on that than most of my friends. I honestly think a senior sleeping with a sophomore should be arrested. Maybe not put on the registry list, but arrested and fined and shit. But I don't think that being 15 is the same as screaming "No!" and raking your nails down some guy's face.

Friday, March 11, 2011

My head still hurts

My headache is worse, and now, in addition to the tension headache, I have a migraine as well. I know it is a migraine because I see lights that aren't there, little blue specks of light like the dots PacMan eats. And I smell eww. It's a specific bleach-like scent of eww and it's as clear as if some dude walked up and stuck is special sock under my nose. So yeah, it's a migraine.
My son, interestingly enough, has mastered hitting the one perfect note that shoots into your ear like an ice pick and then explodes to fill your skull like spray-foam. And he can sustain that note for a very long time.

I need medical help. I fear I will never get it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

these are a few of my favorite things 2

  • my morning coffee
  • my daily bowl of oatmeal
  • the seat warmer in the van
  • emptying the dryer and changing into a hot shirt for no reason
  • conspicuously bring a book into the bathroom with me when I pee because I know Tom will think something else and I can buy myself 20 minutes of peace
  • the rare occasion when both boys are asleep at the same time and I can watch a full episode of Dexter on Netflix uninterrupted.
  • when Danny is nursing and he's half asleep and he reaches up to rest his hand on the side of my face

my head hurts

I have headaches. Horrible headaches that feel like a balloon is inside my head, being inflated with cement, and pushing outward against my skull, in varying spots every day. I get migraines preceeded by flashing lights (so pretty, in an 80s video game graphics kind of way) but these are usually tension headaches and I get them at least once a day. I know why I get them, from clenching my jaw. I even know why I clench my jaw, from biting my tongue, figuratively speaking. I feel like I am constantly keeping my comments to myself, because my comments are usually less that helpful and more than rude. It's just that I am a very opinionated person, and I generally like to think about things before forming my opinions, and it pisses me off when people blurt out the first fool thing that pops into their head and have never put a second of thought into it. "I think everyone with AIDS should have to wear a bracelet to warn everyone else." "How are you gonna enforce that and why would anyone go get tested if there was a chance they'd have to tell the world?" "I don't know, but they should have to wear a bracelet." And then I clench my jaw, and then I get a headache, and then someone else says something stupid, or Tommy throws a plastic sheep into the fish tank, and then I swallow a giant Motrin and try to pretend it's Vicodin.

A woman online is complaining that her daughter isn't on a sleep schedule, that the 2 year old wakes up at a different time every day. This bothers the mom because she personally needs a schedule and cannot function without it. This is the same woman who was complaining a few months ago that her husband wants to make her do unspeakably kinky things like have sex at the foot of the bed. She also can't buy her own maxi pads without blushing and refuses to buy condoms at all. She also calls her daughter Sissy and dresses her up in little ruffled and lace dresses. And then she asks for advice, and I can't give it. Because any comment I would make would start with the words "What, are you nine?!"

The church is still playing DJ to the world, and I know they'll never stop, and when I called to ask them if they're ever going to stop I made reference to the music outside and the lady who answered the phone inside the church didn't know what I was talking about, because they can't hear it inside the church. But I don't call because who am I to assume that the rest of the town shares my preference to not hear the music?

Last July the dog's rabies shot and county registration expired, and we got a postcard from Animal Control about it, which I gave to Tom. He said "okay" and never did anything about it. So in January we got a second Animal Control postcard, which I also gave to Tom, which he also ignored. So last week Animal Control came by and told me that I was facing a $200 fine for not registering the dog in July. A $200 fine for each day I went past due. For 7 months. So I told Tom and he told me to make a vet appointment for the dog and take her to get her shot. So I had to leave the baby in his bed, go drag the dog into my house, give her a bath, load her into my new minivan, have Ryan watch two teething boys while I took the dog to the vet, and then have my mother take off work to watch the boys the next morning so I could go pay off Animal Control (they cut me a deal so the fine was only $60). Had Tom paid attention to the first post card, the dog could have gotten her bath outside in the summer heat, Tom could have done the running while I was home and he was on vacation for Danny's birth, and we would not have been facing a potential fine of several thousand dollars.

There are easily 2 dozen more instances of things that have caused me to clench my teeth just in the last 2 days, but typing out these so far has given me a headache, so I have to go swallow my Motrin and pretend it's Vicodin, and begin the countdown to when Tom comes home tonight. Like every day, I plan to drink a beer and go to bed the instant he walks in the door. I plan that every day, and have since December, at least. I have yet to actually do it.

My husband, Betty Crocker

"I think next time I make chocolate chip cookies I'm going to add maybe a half teaspoon of cinnamon."

"Wow, hon. A secret ingredient in your own cookie recipe. You're really gay, aren't you."

*it's an ongoing joke that Tom is gay, which he's not. A joke he just keeps fueling.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

They're soft already, just smash them with a fork!

It used to be, if you wanted to feed your baby mashed peas, you had to actually cook peas and then mash them (or just open a can and mash them). But then came jarred baby food, a convenience product, which eliminated the bother of pushing a button on a food processor. But now we have dehydrated powdered peas, which are supposed to be more convenient, by adding assembly to the process. So whereas you used to have to mash peas, now you only have to mix peas. Peas. A one-step food all by itself.

Have people gone mad, or are mothers this easily fooled?

It fucked up my day

Ever wake up in a fine mood - I mean a normal morning shuffling-your-feet eyes-barely-open mood - only to see something so innocuous yet wrong as to have it just completely fuck up the day right from the beginning? Maybe it's a glob of toothpaste spit in the bathroom sink, or pee dribbles on the toilet seat, or just a cereal bowl with flakes cemented to the inside of it on the counter, or maybe even something far worse, but it grosses you out, you have to clean it up, and you know that the responsible party will never do anything more than laugh it off. That's my morning today. Before even making my coffee, before even setting eyes on my coffee pot, my day started with having to clean up yuck, somebody else's yuck that somebody else should have cleaned up his own damn self. And it fucked up my day. And I know damn well that he is out there, in the world, driving his little semi around, waiting for me to call him, and I'm not going to do it. Because I am still shuffling my feet with my eyes barely open, wishing my migraine pills were opiate based rather than NSAID, and completely unwilling at this point to hear a half-hearted chuckling "Sorry, hon." I am just not in the mood for it, in large part because my day has been fucked up. Can I say that again? Tom fucked up my day.

Monday, March 07, 2011

It tastes better than it sounds

You know that thing where you look up one thing (usually for me on wikipedia) and then click a related link to read something else, then click a related link, and on and on, until you end up on an unrelated or minimally related topic? Everyone does that, right? It's not just me. Anyway, I looked up the word hotdish (Minnesotan for a type of casserole), then had to compare hotdish to casserole (all hotdishes are casseroles but not all casseroles are hotdishes), then ended up looking up comfort food, and I realized that there is no specific list of comfort foods. It's very subjective.

I guess comfort food, as a general term, refers to things like meatloaf and pot roast and mac & cheese. But it also varies by region, by family, and by person. In my family, believe it or not, a biggie is macaroni milk & butter. That's what comes out of the depression when you have a chicken for eggs (to make noodles) and a cow (for milk and butter) and it literally is just cooked macaroni, a stick of butter melted on it, and then milk. Like a soup, but not. Odd, I know.

I like comfort food. I've never really been one to eat for comfort, but there's something about sitting down to a big plate of parsley noodles (it's what you eat for dinner when you can't stand Mom's stroganoff) or some Rice A Roni (fine, my mom sucked at cooking). I make more classic comfort food now, like baked mac and cheese where the top gets all brown and bubbly, and red wine pot roast, and every morning I sit down with a hot bowl of cinnamon oatmeal. But on nights when Tom's out on the road, I still fall back on the food from my family, the things I remember from when I was a kid. I still pour milk on my macaroni.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Honda Odyssey

I got a new minivan yesterday. Well, a used one, but new to me. It's so nice. It has built in window screens in the back (in addition to tinted windows), a dvd player that flips out of the ceiling, heated seats to warm my tushy, automatic doors I can open with my keychain, all sorts of bells and whistles. And what's best, is that it looks nothing like an SUV! (total irony, we bought it at the Hummer dealership.)

I think I've figured out what my problem is with the SUV craze. My problem is that I am minivan. I am 100% the target minivan demographic. I have 3 kids, I'm a stay at home mom, most of my driving is to take kids places. And I absolutely resent the implication, by car designers and society at large, that I should be ashamed of this. That I should try to hide my life and pretend that I'm going off-roading instead of to the pediatrician's office. I like my life. I love my family and my life, and I don't take too kindly to hearing people say that minivans are so soccer mom, or that they'd never be caught dead driving a minivan because vans are just for pudgy housewives with spit-up stained sweat pants. Well first off, that's not true. But more importantly, I am a pudgy housewife who owns spit-up stained sweats. And I'm not ashamed of that. I mean, maybe if driving a Trailblazer would make me skinnier, or buy me nicer clothes, I would consider it an upgrade. But all it would do is tell the world that I'm ashamed of who and what I am, and I'm not.

it IS judgment

Imagine you hear some one say this, or imagine someone says it to you.

I have friends who are bad mothers. I don't judge them for it at all, but I can see they are bad mothers.

What if the person said it about you. Would you feel unjudged? Or would you feel very much judged and very much insulted? That is exactly what it's like when religious people say they don't judge gays, even maybe have gay friends, but that they still know gay people are living sinful lives. What they're really saying is that they do judge, but they know they aren't supposed to. Or maybe they aren't clear on the meaning of the word judge. Remaining friends with someone, even though you know deep down that they or their life are bad or wrong or sinful, isn't the same as not judging. Not judging means not forming an opinion either way about it. Like this:

I trust that God has a plan for everything and everyone, and that I am in no way on a level to be able to know or understand God's plan. If HE sees fit to let me know why some people are gay, He'll tell me. But until then I will just trust that God knows what he's doing and it's not my place to try and figure out what that is. Gay, like blond or freckled or tall or left-handed, is just a human variable that I can't understand. A human variable so inconsequential as to not be worth an opinion at all.

That is what it's like not to judge. And for the record, I judge people all the time. I shouldn't, but I do. And I do know some people who are bad parents, at least in my opinion. And while I try not to judge them to be terrible people because they lose their tempers or feed their kids crap or neglect their kids or whatever, I still admit freely that I am judging them as parents. I believe most people do this. Maybe it's easier to use spouse as an example. How many people who are absolutely morally opposed to adultery have friends who have cheated on their spouses? And they still stay friends. But they also still judge, not just the behavior but also the person capable of the behavior. The thing that makes being gay different from cheating or being a bad parent, is that being gay doesn't necessitate a victim.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Childhood freedom

The crime rate overall in the US is lower today than it was when I was a kid. [source] In all honestly, it was more dangerous for us to play outside and ride our bikes in the 80s than it is for our kids to do the same now. And yet, I hear from a lot of parents that they just cannot conceive of letting their kids do the same things they did, the same things they remember fondly as integral parts of their childhood. Sure I have friends who are helicopter parents, overprotective and proud of it. But I have friends who are fairly reasonable people, who still worry that letting their children go on unscripted bike rides will somehow give permission to wandering herds of pedophiles (they travel in herds, right?) to snatch their children.

I remember when my daughter was ten and was supposed to meet me at a friend's house. I showed up alone and then told the woman that Ryan would be there shortly; she was riding her bike over from a sleepover at her friend's. This woman, whose own daughter was nine at the time, asked me when I had started letting Ryan ride her bike by herself, like just off down the street alone. I can't remember now what I answered, but I do remember that this lady, an oddly optimistic woman usually, was just shocked because she didn't let her kids ride their bikes by themselves. They went on family bike rides together, but no one could just go to their friend's house or to the park or even just ride around aimlessly. And this woman even said that when she was a kid she rode her bike all over town, from morning until dusk.

It's hard for me to let my kids go. At just about every stage of my kids' development, some part of me rebels. I cried the first time Ryan went to preschool. And even last year when she started junior high. But I had to leave her at preschool, and let her go to junior high. And I made the conscious decision, at several points, to think back to my own childhood in this same small town, and set reasonable boundaries for her. She could ride her bike anywhere south of the tracks and north of the high school. A couple years later she could cross the tracks but not the highway. Now, at almost 13, she can ride her bike (or new electric scooter from Santa) all over town.

In case you're thinking I am just ridiculously permissive, keep in mind that my daughter has her cell phone on her at all times. Twenty years ago I had no cell phone, no way for my mother to find me if I was out of earshot. She told me to be home at 6:00 and I came home at 6:00, but she never knew where I was until then. And that was fine. It was great! I went on long bike rides, wandered through parks, found toads in the back of the cemetery, sat and read at the library, lots of fun stuff. And I want my kids to come up with their own fun memories of bike rides and toad hunting and neighborhood exploring. I want to raise free range kids.