Sunday, October 12, 2014

Can Kids Make You Smarter?

Many years ago, an acquaintance landed a great writing gig.

A children’s publisher had asked him to write about the how’s of everyday life. How does the electricity in your house work? How do airplanes work? How do computers work? All stuff adults supposedly know, and know clearly, but that most of us are – come on, admit it – a bit fuzzy on.

The great thing, he said, was that, while interviewing experts, he didn’t have to admit what he didn’t know. If he didn’t understand, he could say, “Yes, yes, of course, we as adults understand that, but how would you explain it to a child?”

My daughter recently started college. She calls to tell me what she’s up to and it’s the same things I faced when I was her age: figuring out classes, being nervous about making friends, handling roommate disagreements. (At orientation, a school representative asked for a show of hands from parents, “How many of your kids have never shared a room before?” Most hands went up. He waited a beat, then said, “Yeah, well, thanks a lot.”)

My daughter is dealing with these things, in many cases better than I did when I was her age, and it is instructive for me to watch her. Also, it is instructive, for me, to try to help her.

It was the same when she and her brother were young. Sit near a sandbox for an afternoon and you can observe every human emotion and impulse being thoroughly explored. And sometimes you are required to intervene.

Some studies, summarized here, show brain changes in parents that make (rodent, at least) parents “smarter.”

Given what happens when you interact with kids – explaining things to them, watching them work things out on their own – that makes perfect sense to me.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Secret Stash

I thought I had come up with a great idea.

I was having a hard time getting myself to do a really hateful chore: inputting information from our financial statements into the software QuickBooks for our accountant.

We have an extension, so, for us, October 15th is April 15th.

And no, I couldn’t just have the statements automatically download. That was my first question when this chore arose years ago. According to the accountants, there are too many glitches and errors when you just let things download.

And no, smarty-pants organized person, while I realize it would have been ideal to input the monthly statements as I got them so they didn’t pile up at the end of the year, I didn’t do that.

And it is just a peculiar kind of torture: being forced to review every single purchase and deposit we made over the past year.

So, working under JK Rowling’s theory that chocolate keeps dementors at bay (which, incidentally, it actually does), I stashed a pack of chocolate bars at my desk.

Every time I got myself to sit down and input those statements, I could have a chocolate bar.

I didn’t tell anyone in the family about my secret stash. A. My kids, being my kids, would have immediately devoured it. And B. My sweet husband, who lost 60 pounds a few years back, is dedicated to healthy eating and exercise. But if he knows there’s something sweet in the house, even if it is hidden away, the idea, as he puts it, “starts burning a hole in my brain,” until he’s begging to know where it is.

Alas, the strategy was not without its problems for me either.

The last day of getting those QuickBooks files together?  It took 3 candy bars.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

I Hate Chain Letters

From radio station Hot 104.5
Why do chain letters even exist?

Yet, people send them on.

Now, I haven’t received one in the regular mail, a paper letter in an envelope with no return address, since I was a kid.

I do still receive them by email, though, usually in the form of some weird horror story – someone pretending to be the police pulled a young girl over in the middle of the night, call this secret-code phone number and the police will tell you if they are the ones pulling you over or, holy shit, there’s this new computer virus going around, quick! panic!

My husband once got one by email that said if he didn’t forward it to 10 people, something bad was going to happen to him. He replied to the immediate sender, telling that person off, and then he replied to the original sender, telling that person off. And THAT person had the balls and the stupidity to get mad at my husband for daring to contact HER.

Chain letters ARE virus-like and they ARE gross. The worst are the ones that threaten you if you don’t send them on but any of them, including the ones that just insult you for not sending them on (like the ones on Facebook: “I know most people don’t care about cancer patients, but if you do, you will share this Facebook post”), and even the supposedly positive ones, which promise that God will love you if only you send them on (and send you to hell if you don't), are creepy and twisted.

Chain letters are little pieces of useless stupidity and ugliness that you perpetuate when you forward or share them.

Don’t do it.

Incidentally, every one of these
Facebook chain letters came
to me from a single person.