Category Archives: Children; Marketing, Social Media & Commercialism

Do Toddlers need to exchange Valentines Cards?

stars, hearts and crumbs - valentine's art project

(Photo by woodlywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons License)

Yesterday was all lovely dove-y… today I have a bit of a rant.

In short, in my opinion, no. Toddlers don’t need to exchange valentines day cards.

Yesterday, I went to pick up my not yet two year old from the Day-home. Now, the absolutely wonderful women who takes care of Audrey obviously really likes holidays. Or maybe she just likes the reason to make a couple days a year extra exciting for the kids. Or she has an intense love of crafts. Regardless, every holiday we get a homemade, toddler decorated card. Which is quite cute.

But along with our card this time was a little envelope of valentines day cards from some of the other kids. Now obviously I am not the only ‘bad’ Mom who didn’t even think of this.. there were only a couple cards. BUT. I thought we were still a good couple years away from Valentines Day cards.

But it brought to the forefront for me my feelings about Valentines Day and kids. Mainly that I think, at the very most it is totally unnecessary and at the very least it should be 90% kid led.

Valentines day is a hallmark holiday if I have ever seen one. My husband and I do use it as a good excuse to be extra nice to each other and plan a special day. Cause you can never get enough special days and extra excuses to be good to each other. Because when you’ve been together for almost 8 years and you have a toddler, you need all the excuses you can get.

But for kids? Especially toddlers who very likely didn’t say “Mother, I would like to hand out cards to every one of my friends. Could we please buy that package of Princess cards?” Here are my “con” arguments.

1) It is a waste of paper.

Now this might be a horrible thing to say. I am all for sharing loving sentiments with others and I love beautifully hand made cards. But when we are talking Valentines cards given by ‘toddlers’, we are talking those crappy perforated cards where the parent just fills in the “to” and “from”. It really seems like a waste of paper. We aren’t suppose to keep those are we? Cause ours went in the recycling bin.

2) It isn’t kid led.

We have had a fairly consistent view of holidays- they can be fun… but they should also be, at least in part, kid led. Same reason why Audrey hasn’t been to see Santa. Did she want to see Santa? Did she ask to give out Valentines day cards? At not even two years old, we wouldn’t be giving out Valentines cards for her, or even for her friends. We would be doing it for us or to show that we knew what one is ‘suppose’ to do as a parent. You know, I just wonder, who are we really doing this for? Correct me if I am wrong here.

It’s different with an older kid who ‘gets’ is and actually asks to participate actively in a holiday.

3) Commercialism

Just like everything else in the world of toddlers, every Valentines Day Card out there is Licensed Merchandise. Dora, Princess, Thomas, ect. ect. ect. It’s like an other big excuse to market to our kids and get them more deeply involved with the various characters they all become attached to. And you all know how I feel about that.

4) Obligatory ‘give one to everyone so no one is left out’ stuff

It’s not that I think it is great when some kid gets their feeling hurt because they were the only one in the class who didn’t get a card. I just think it is a rather pointless exercise for eveyone’s parents to buy every other parents kid in their kids class a valentines card (and often candy) on behalf of their child and exchange them. Why don’t we all just buy our own kids 25 cards and a bag of candy and be done with it? Because I know my kid needs candy and pictures of t.v. characters.

So, I am not doing Valentines cards. Until Audrey asks to and can write them and hand them out herself. Even better if she makes them, rather then pulling apart, along perforated edges, some Dora themed cards that come in packs of 20. And if she only wants to give them to 3 kids or all 40 she knows.. whatever. That is up to her.

Maybe my views on this will soften… they often do when faced with reality and peer pressure and you know, life. But right now, at first blush…. I am not a fan of this kids Valentines card thing.

In general, I don’t like ‘should’. I do believe in being kind and considerate and cognoscente of the impact of ones behaviours and choices on others.. but I think the world operates too much on us doing what we ‘should’ do, rather then being authentic and honest and doing what we want to do. I don’t like all the conventions.

Now, before you all roast me on a spit, I don’t think ill of anyone who does ‘do’ the valentines thing. I know it is done with the best intention. Sometimes we need an opportunity to remind each other that we mean something to each other. The parents who do send their kids with cards and candy or whatever, I assume do so because the kids probably like it and everyone is happy and why the heck not?

I am just a big cynic, that’s all.

Am I being a no fun, ridiculous, bah humbug? Do you think Toddlers should exchange Valentines Cards?

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I take it all back. The toddler is obsessed with Santa.

Santa Claus
(Photo By Grzegorz Łobiński via Flickr Creative Commons License)

Last Sunday, ControverSunday was all about the holidays. And many of us, including me, talked about our stance on Santa. Our approach is that we would follow Audrey’s lead when it comes to Santa, but not push her. Particularly when it comes to going to see Santa, which I think can be scary for some toddlers.

Since I wrote that post (which was last Friday or so) I wanted to update you all. Audrey has most certainly taken the lead. And her vote? She is pro-Santa. Very very pro-Santa.

It started when we went to Heritage Park on Saturday. Heritage Park (for those of you who are non-local) is a big park with historical houses and buildings which have been preserved to display the way things ‘used’ to be. They do this thing called the 12 Days of Christmas and have gingerbread man decorating, a big train set display, bakery open, gift shops, reindeer to pet and caroling. Oh and Santa. There were of course pictures with Santa, which we were not going to go to (and didn’t). What we didn’t know is before the pictures with Santa thing started at noon, Santa wandered the grounds for a couple hours handing out candy canes and wishing everyone Merry Christmas. So we encountered Santa about 3 times. At first Audrey was very apprehensive and Santa was very sensitive to that and didn’t come to close. By the third time we saw Santa she was pointing and saying “Santa.”

That alone would probably not have swayed her. What really sealed the deal was a e-mail card she got from my parents. I think my Mom and (particularly) my Dad, love Santa now more then they did when we were kids. The card had a link to a video with Santa talking directly to Audrey. That’s right, Santa knew Audrey’s name, where she lived and what she ‘wanted’ for Christmas. Santa had a picture of her grandparents. Santa was obviously in the know and really had received a letter from Audrey’s grandparents all about her.

Audrey loved watching that video. You could almost see the sparkle in her eye.

Now I get “See Santa? Computer?” requests daily. Santa is a hit.

I don’t think it is about the presents. She doesn’t get the presents yet. She is drawn to, you know, the jolliness and such. And the Christmas music. The magic, the story, the ‘collective imagination’ thing we talked about in ControverSunday. Audrey is sold.

And that is fine. She is choosing to be sold and having fun and getting excited. She is taking the lead, which is what we wanted. And who wouldn’t want to believe in a jolly guy in red? So apparently, we are doing the Santa thing. At least this year.

ControverSunday: The holiday edition

Ho Ho Ho.

So now that we have all been steeping in holiday cheer since November 1st.. as the lights and music and gift commercials hit us in full force the day after Halloween… how are we all feeling about this holiday stuff?

This month’s ControverSunday is an open invitation to talk about anything holiday related that you find controversial. Haven’t played before? No problem. All you have to do is write up your post, toot-suite, and come over here for the link up. Don’t forget to grab your badge from Accidents. And then you are set! Didn’t have a chance to post? No problem! Join via commenting on others great posts!

Okay, now lets get to it.

badges

Our Lady of Perpetual Breadcrumbs

The Arbolog

The Cheeseblog

Tortoise on the Loose

Ramble Ramble

I was thinking about what most bothers me about the holiday season. I don’t mean to sound like a BahHumbug.. I LOVE Christmas… it is just that when it comes to controversial holiday topics, there are a bunch. So this might turn into a couple posts. Cause here are the things I was thinking about.

  • The insanely long and drawn out season
  • The consumer focus and spoiling of our kids
  • How it must make everyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas feel to have everything taken over for close to 2 months
  • Do you or don’t you ‘do’ Santa with your kids. (Kelly Naturally had a great post on this a couple weeks ago… check it out.)

If I wrote about all these things this post would be a couple thousand words or more. So I am going to pick two and then if the others aren’t covered by the other ControverSunday authors, or if the posts got me thinking and I have something else to say, I might post again next Sunday.

And the winners are……

The insanely long and drawn out season & Do you or don’t you ‘do’ Santa.

First off, the long season really bothers me. I get that Christmas is the biggest retail season of the year. And I get it makes economic sense to spread it out as long as possible. (Which also leads to people hiding gifts they bought in the first week of November, and then either forgetting they bought them or forgetting where they hid them and then buying more things the second week in December in a holiday induced brain fog.) I get that.

But I hate it. With. A. Passion. I used to work in retail. And if you think it is annoying to listen to the same Christmas songs for the 5 hours you spend in the mall over the course of the entire Christmas season, then try listening to them for the 300 hours you would listen to them while working overtime for the entire Christmas season. Barf.

And I love Christmas music. I love signing. I love Caroling. I do. But really. The moment the Halloween decorations are put away? I know in the U.S. I hear it is better because most don’t start ‘doing’ Christmas until after U.S. Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving is early in October, so we don’t have the natural season change over marker. But it seems to me that Christmas has crept up earlier and earlier on the calendar. American friends, can you confirm?

It just makes it not so special, in my opinion. I was appalled with myself that I decorated before December 1st. I usually try to wait until the 15th. Cause I like it to be special. I like to enjoy the music and the lights and the decorations… not get sick of them before the ‘big day’ ever arrives.

I guess that falls into the category of ‘pet peeve’; not holiday controversy.

Anyway. On to perhaps the more ‘important’ topic. Will we ‘do’ the Santa thing with Audrey?

Kelly writes in her post:

“Really, the spirit of Santa is okay with me. It’s more the concocting layers of false “evidence” (cookies half eaten, left by the fireplace, “footprints” in the snow, etc.), in order to convince children (who by their very nature are very literal and want to believe their parents) of the really realness of Santa, that rubs me the wrong way. I prefer to just treat him as part of the holiday landscape that he is, without creating stories; without eroding trust.”

So I guess the question is will we be eroding trust if we choose to keep up with the fantasy of Santa? I mean, I think Kelly has a point. It is a form of lying. And some parents go to great lengths to ‘keep the story alive.’ Is that fair? Will she be disappointed when she finds out the truth? I mean, by the time she is like 4 she will be able to google I suspect…. More so, will she feel betrayed by me?

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that I think there are many many many kids who grow up with the story and myth of Santa and don’t end up with any trust erosion with their parents. Part of me even feels that part of growing up is realizing your parents are not perfect. Part of growing up is unmasking the mystery of child-hood and seeing the world for what it really is. Full of contradiction and, well, disappointment.

But should I engage in something that is an active choice to deceive?

So here is what I think we will do. Audrey can believe in Santa if she wants to believe in Santa. She will hear about it from other kids, she will ask what all the fuss is about at the mall. And if she wants to go visit Santa, then we will go visit Santa. *warning, I am about to get controversial here.* I am not taking her to see Santa until she requests it. I can only guess that if we took her this year she would flip right the heck out, as being placed in a strangers lap is not her idea of a good time. And honestly kinda makes me feel queasy– shouldn’t it be her choice to be that close to a stranger… not something I do for the sake of a picture? It just doesn’t seem to be very respectful to her to force her into that situation. (Really, I don’t mean to judge if you are all over the Santa pictures.. to each their own. It just makes me uncomfortable for my kid.) If she never asks to see Santa, then we will never go to see Santa.

If she asks to write Santa a letter or leave out cookies, then we will do that. And if she asks questions I will answer them as honestly as I can, while respecting that I don’t want her to be the bearer of bad news to all the other kids. I like Kelly’s idea of asking questions to let your kid come to their own conclusions. I will play along to the extent that Audrey wants to play along. I am going to try to take her lead. To me, that is letting her believe until she no longer wants to believe. I remember as a child knowing Santa wasn’t real, but playing along because I liked the idea of it. I never felt betrayed. But my parents never made a really big deal of it either. So I think that is our plan.

What about you?

ControverSunday: Digital Privacy

Happy Sunday all! Welcome to our now monthly installment of ControverSunday. Novembers topic? Digital Privacy! Yeah!

This topic was suggested by Ginger over at Ramble Ramble and Noddleknobs and essentially, the question is whether or not one is able to have digital privacy for their children (or themselves). With the prevalence of Facebooks and blogs and twitter, ect… many of our kids have an online presense before they are 2 years old. What will this mean for our kids growing up in this environment

Want to join us in talking about this topic? Awesome. Go over to Accidents and grab the badge. Write up your post ASAP (cause we are all trying really really hard to post on time on Sunday) and then come back hear to provide a link. Voila. You are then a part of the official ControverSunday team.

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Check out these other awesome ControverSunday posts!

Ramble Ramble

The Arbolog

Tortoise on the Loose

The Cheeseblog

Now your in the world

Our lady of perpetual bread crumbs

Accidents will happen

Okay, now for the topic at hand. Wow is this a big one. I mean, really truly, this could be like 10 posts. Or one 5000 word post. I promise I won’t to that to you.

So I am going to try and narrow the discussion to what I think about the most regarding this subject. But I will say quite honestly, I am a bit torn on this issue. I really do see both sides and I don’t know what to do. To give some background… my ‘ground rules’ for Audrey’s digital presence are as follows:

a) Facebook: pretty fair game. There is a lot of info about Audrey on Facebook, but both my husband and I have pretty strict privacy settings. And we are not the type to have every ‘acquaintance’ as a ‘friend’ on facebook. People we actually know only.

b) Twitter, Blog: I try to just share my first name and Audrey’s first name. I haven’t mentioned my husbands first name. And I don’t like to share pictures. (As much I really want to sometimes, you know, being a proud mama and all. Plus, my kid is really cute.) But I find over time I become more and more laid back about this too.

Which leads me into my first point of discussion:

1) It ain’t going away

Let’s be honest, people are often anxious about new technology and new ways of communicating. Anxiety usually turns to fear and a bit of paranoia. But if we are realistic, social media is not going away. And social media makes our lives very public. Sure, it is possible to not have Facebook, not have Twitter, not be on Linkedin, not be online. But you may still have an online presence. Many places put names and e-mail addresses for their staff on their websites. Or you might have been in attendance at a meeting that published their meeting minutes to the internet. Or a friend might mention you on Facebook, maybe even put up a picture. Most people can be found with 5 minutes, an internet connection, and a search engine. Or someone might hack into a company or (even worse) your bank’s computer system and have access to a lot of information on you. So do we need to be aware of this and watching for signs of identity theft? Yes. But can we ever prevent or control everything that goes on the internet related to us? No.

So I think it is kinda naive and futile to try and stem the tide of the reality of our world being digital. The world is digital. Now we need to find a way to manage that.

2) My kid doesn’t have a say right now

On the other hand. When it comes to my kid what I think about and question is if I have a right to put her life online. I write this blog, so to some extent I think the answer to that question is yes. But I do think there is a very big responsibility there for me to protect and guard my child’s online image. I do think, when I write something, if it is something that is appropriate to share with the world or not. It is not just about if something might embarrass her when she is older (really, how different is that from sharing embarrassing pictures at her wedding or something). It is more about what do I have the right to share and what is private and hers to decide what to share. As she gets older, I suspect I will be asking that more and more. Really. Her image, her information, her story is hers, not mine. And she can’t tell me right now what her thoughts are about my sharing them. I write this blog anyway. But not without being aware of this issue and reflecting on it as I write.

3) It’s all about awareness and management

In the end, I really think it is all about awareness and managing your own (or your children… until they are old enough to manage their own) image. Having a digital presence? That is inevitable. So rather then my digital presence being dictated by someone else, I want to manage my own. I want to be out there being who I am. And when Audrey is old enough, she can be out there being who she is. But I am going to work to talk with her and educate her about implications. To make sure she keeps her digital image clean. She can be real, but we will talk about long term implications for her career if she puts up pictures of herself at a party or bad mouths her boss, for example. As well as how people treat each other online and what is not appropriate (online bullying for example). And about how to stay safe by not sharing too much personal information to protect against identity theft or having a stalker be able to determine her whereabouts.

That being said, I think by the time she is a young adult, the world is going to be more accepting of people living their real lives online. I know there are stories now of people getting fired or not hired because of something their boss or the recruiter found on Facebook. But really, if they won’t hire you because you have a picture of being drunk at a party? What young person hasn’t been drunk at a party? Who hasn’t disliked a boss they had at some point in their career? Yes, we need to be aware of what we say online, but more and more I think people will realize that everyone has skeletons in their closets, whether they put them on Facebook or not.

So what does this mean for Audrey growing up with a digital presence. It means she is going to live in a very different world. It means it is incumbent on myself and my husband to help her learn about what that means. And it means I am going to try to not close myself off to these new forms of technology and communication as I hear some people doing. Because how can I help Audrey learn the implications if I don’t understand what is happening myself?

Okay. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what you think.

ControverSundays: TV

Perpetua from the blog “Our Lady of Perpetual Bread Crumbs” has suggested starting a blog ‘thing’ (still loosely defined) discussing controversial topics in parenting and beyond. Here are the introductory posts to get your caught up:

ControverSundays: Introduction

ControverSundays: Circumcision

ControverSundays: Roundup

ControverSundays: Four Votes Spells Unanimous

ControverSundays: Sunday Sunday Sunday

So, while I don’t enjoy the way controversy sometimes results in name calling, judgment and guilt– I do think there is value in having a vigorous but civil debate about it all. Hence my participation in this ‘loosely defined blog thing.’ This week’s topic is TV. So here is my take:

A couple months ago I read “Under Pressure; Rescuing Childhood from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting” by Carl Honore. He also wrote “In Praise of Slow” which I have also read. I enjoyed them both and they have informed my opinion on the matter of TV and kids. Here is the basics of his book(s): He argues that kids today are over-managed, over-stimulated and over-scheduled. We, as parents, feel so much pressure to help our kids grow up smarter, faster, stronger that we may not being doing the best thing for them.

One of the more interesting discussions in his “Under Pressure” book was about those ‘Baby Enstein’ DVD’s and other attempts to ‘feed’ a babies brain with stimulation. He concluded that putting your kid in front of a DVD is not going to make them smarter. While babies need stimulation, the best kind is that which is interactive and between caregiver and child, like talking to baby, making faces and playing peek-a-boo. A lot of recently in the news studies have suggested the same thing; babies and young kids learn best by interacting with their environment and watching TV, being a passive activity, isn’t the most effective way to learn.

After reading his book I am less inclined to fall for the marketing for ‘stuff’ to make my kid smarter. I am more likely to talk to her, play with her and take her for a walk outside then I am to use mobiles, flashcards or DVD’s to try and stimulate her little mind.

I guess that would put me on the little-to-no TV side of the argument. That being said, I don’t yet have a toddler or young kid asking to watch TV. I haven’t yet had to say no. She still has no idea that TV even exists.

Since she was 6 months old we have lived in a house where the TV is in the basement. We don’t take her to the basement because it is not baby-proof, hence shes doesn’t watch TV. But, before 6 months we lived in an apartment where the only living space we had was where the TV lived. So I didn’t follow that rule of ‘tv shouldn’t be on while baby under 2 is in the room.’ As she got older the TV was on less, but in the first three months- since I was spending 95% of my time trying nurse the child/pump-post-nursing- I needed the TV for distraction and comfort. I just did.

So while I am not a big fan of kids (especially babies) watching lots of TV, I don’t judge anyone who does sit their kid in front of a video to try and get a moment of peace. The lady who runs the Dayhome our daughter will soon be going to told me that she sometimes puts a video on for the kids while she is making lunch. This doesn’t bother me, because I couldn’t keep 6 kids occupied and make lunch at the same time either. But she also has a big backyard they spend most of the spring/summer/fall playing in. It balances out.

Truth be told, when our baby was about 4 months old and driving me nuts with the need for 24/7 attention and stimulation, I did put one of those ‘Baby Einstein’ DVD’s on for her a couple times. It failed. She hated it. Also, I don’t know about the toddler ones, but the baby ones are kinda weird, in my opinion. It is pretty much classical music, a blank white background and toys being paraded across the screen. I don’t get it.

While I don’t buy that any TV show or DVD is the ultimate path to a genius baby- I do think there is educational value in some shows. When kids watch them at the right age and for a limited amount of time in the day. I know I learned a lot from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers when I was a kid. And there do seem to be some good shows now that encourage interaction- like singing along or getting up and dancing. I won’t hesitate to let her watch a bit of these when she is older and more interested in such things.

Also, I should note, TV is not the be-all and end-all to Honore’s argument. His thesis is built on the combination of  many factors from a lack of unstructured play for toddlers to homework overload for kids and teens. In my opinion, a kid may watch a bit too much TV, but maybe their parents advocate for more unstructured play at their preschool and it balances out. While Honore does fall into the “your damaging your kid” trap I don’t like, I still feel his book is worth reading as a parent because he is not claiming your are a bad parent if you do ‘x.’ He is looking at a much broader picture of the combination of many parenting and schooling choices and their impact on most kids and therefore our society as a whole, rather then passing judgment on any one parent. To me that makes it different. But I digress.

To wrap it up, TV (and the internet) will come with limits in our house, but they won’t be banned. My husband and I will try and make informed decisions about the appropriate shows and appropriate amount of time spent watching them for our daughter and any other kids we have. But it will be flexible and balanced. We will be looking at the big picture of her experiences at home, at the dayhome/school and elsewhere to try to avoid her being over-scheduled, over-managed and over-stimulated.

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