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Back to baby basics
National Post ^ | 2008-05-10 | Anne Marie Owens

Posted on 05/10/2008 4:38:17 PM PDT by Clive

Parks filled with children playing idly. Homework within limits and prohibited on holidays so as not to be overbearing. Mothers less inclined to shuttle their children to an endless roster of programs.

Could this be the end of hyper-parenting?

There is evidence -- in the parks, the play-dates, the homework schedules and even Hollywood magazines -- that the end is at least near for the pattern of modern parenting that has in recent years dictated highly scheduled lives for children and spawned the species described as helicopter parents.

It can be found in the stories of mothers at playgrounds and schools, who no longer spend so much of their days scurrying their children from one activity to another; in the experiences of parents who successfully lobbied Canada's largest school board to introduce a radical policy that bans homework on holidays and sets limits for work; in the shelves of the nation's bookstores, no longer filled with sprawling racks of angst-filled tomes about how to make a better baby, but smaller now and more likely devoted to simpler topics such as play.

These are baby steps, certainly, but they are nonetheless indicative of a movement whose madness may have reached its peak and moved on to a point approaching sanity.

"I think it went so far that the pendulum is starting to swing back," says Jen Lawrence, a keen chronicler of modern mothering, who recently traded in her popular mommy blogs (Mothered Up Beyond All Recognition and TO Mama) to found the online newsletter BlissNotes. com. She is a former Toronto banker and a mother of two, and she first noticed the shift in parks and play-dates.

"The parks are really full now, and they weren't so much before. And when I'm arranging after-school play-dates, people are available," she says, remembering how not so long ago such arrangements involved serious maternal day-timer consultations to work around a child's over-scheduled existence.

Small things, yet significant indicators of change. Ms. Lawrence's oldest daughter is not yet five, and still she has come through a seismic shift in parenting culture.

Whether it is called hyper-parenting or over-parenting, the micromanaged child or the over-scheduled child, it means the same thing: a generation of children signed up in utero for the right preschool; primed for early brain development with Baby Einstein and the like; embarked on a scheduled life in babyhood with play groups in French immersion, kindergym and infant music sessions; enrolled in tutoring by the age of three; every school day book-ended with a loaded program of scheduled activities and organized games.

It has been more than 25 years since The Hurried Child first raised the alarm about this style of parenting, but if book titles are an indicator, it reached its zenith in the past few years: Worried All the Time: Over-parenting in an Age of Anxiety; The Over-Scheduled Child; The Hyper-Parenting Trap; Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.

That is changing. The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy became a sensation and a popular catch-phrase in Britain last year, and a televised series called May Contain Nuts poked fun at the hilarity that ensues from competitive parenting.

Andi Buchanan, the Philadelphia author of Mother Shock and other parenting books and, most recently, The Daring Book for Girls, says she has noticed a trend "towards emphasizing the 'slacker mom' -- embracing the slow lane, as it were," in parenting writing, particularly blogging.

"I think it's almost a self-correcting thing: We've been pushed for so long to do more and give more and be perfect -- and judged more along the way throughout the process -- that it makes sense to me that many women are reacting to it by figuring their own way or returning to the less high-pressured experience of their own childhoods, or rather, their idyllic childhoods."

The trend is evident in the parenting books sections of Indigo and Chapters stores across the country, which are carrying fewer books on those shelves than they did five years ago, but sales in parenting titles are growing. "We find that we sell more copies of fewer books than in the past," said Janet Eger, the company's director of public relations, who said some of the parenting staples, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Kids Are Worth It, remain top sellers.

Ann Douglas, whose Mother of All Parenting books series is among those perennial favourites, says she too has noticed a shift: "Hyper-competitive parenting is definitely on the wane," she says. "Instead of seeing one another as 'the enemy' -- the mind set that develops when parents are pitted against one another by impossible parenting standards -- parents are once again seeing one another as allies."

She likens the atmosphere to that of grassroots parenting movements of the 1970s and 1980s, with parents now speaking out loudly against school board homework policies and funding cutbacks affecting community pools.

"Who has time to worry about keeping up with the Joneses … when there are so many pressing issues to deal with?" One example of that shift in focus is the new homework policy adopted last month by the Toronto District School Board, which defines parameters for what counts as relevant homework, stipulates grade-appropriate time and bans homework on holidays. The new policy, which has been hailed by parents and drawn interest from schools and parent groups around the world, is a significant shift from the days when the parental push was more inclined towards more drills, more tutoring, more testing and back-to-basics learning.

Ms. Lawrence, the Toronto blogger, says that in addition to the more relaxed school pace, most of the people she knows have scaled back their children's after-school activity schedule too. She only has her daughter enrolled in two activities, one after school and one on the weekend, "and no more of that rushing to Baby Pilates and Baby Feng Shui and all that."

She says some cues can be taken from the coverage of celebrity parenting, or, what she calls "the Britney factor."

Hyper-parenting was at its peak when Ms. Lawrence had her first child, and she remembers all the tabloids and celebrity magazines filled with glossy pictures of perfect-looking mothers, in beautiful nurseries, writing children's books on the side and gushing about parenting as the most satisfying thing 24/7. Now, she says, such airbrushed coverage has been replaced by such stories as Brooke Shields talking about postpartum depression, Angelina Jolie and Madonna and their adoption missteps, and the parenting train wreck of Britney Spears.

"Compared to the cult of parenting perfection that was being peddled," she says, "there is a lot less to live up to now."

TOPICS: Canada; Culture/Society
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To: luckystarmom

We found homeschool the only way out of the swamp. Our kids love it and have plenty of time to do fun, social things.

And the best part is when the school day is done, so is the schoolwork.

21 posted on 05/10/2008 6:35:28 PM PDT by fightinJAG (RUSH: McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton longer than we've been in Iraq, and never gave up.)
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To: silverleaf

The flexibility homeschooling gives is one of its greatest benefits!

We go to the beach during the week, never on weekends. We go to the cheap matinees at the movies during the week. We travel in the off-season, even sometimes taking school with us.

We also love the flexibility with school. The kids truly go at their best pace.

22 posted on 05/10/2008 6:38:24 PM PDT by fightinJAG (RUSH: McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton longer than we've been in Iraq, and never gave up.)
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To: Huntress
That said, this approach probably wouldn’t work with younger or more marginal students. Some benefit from extra practice and drills. For others it’s just busy work.

The problem is the public schools treat everyone alike. I could make excellent test scores without doing any of the homework.

23 posted on 05/10/2008 6:50:04 PM PDT by Paleo Conservative
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To: Popman

This whole self-esteem movement has done more harm than good. It is tied with the self-help movement, ilks like Dr. Phil. The self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and their profits are huge, a lot larger in terms of percentage when compared to the petroleum industry. No one decries the self-help industrial complex.

24 posted on 05/10/2008 6:50:07 PM PDT by Ptarmigan (Bunnies=Sodomites)
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To: Clive

**Could this be the end of hyper-parenting? **

Hopefully. As more children are born, parents will realize they don’t have to be so perfect.

25 posted on 05/10/2008 7:04:06 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: luckystarmom

infobahn = internet. sorry it took a while to respond. i had to walk the dogs.

26 posted on 05/10/2008 7:39:59 PM PDT by robomatik ((wine plug: cabernet sauvignon, riesling, and merlot))
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To: luckystarmom

If your special needs daughter is on an IEP or a 504 and you do not think she needs more writing practice at home, have her use the computer to type her spelling words. or if typeing is a problem to maybe use a voice recognition type of thing to type them. This would fall under a resonable accomodation. (also look around on share ware sites to see if you can find some type of spelling game that allows you to put your own spelling list into it, I found one 10 yrs ago and I even thought it was fun)

27 posted on 05/10/2008 8:03:24 PM PDT by tickles
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To: luckystarmom
luckystarmom wrote:
"What is infobahn????"

luckystarmom replied:
"infobahn = internet. ..."

Further explanation:
It is a play on the once popular term "information superhighway"
The German word for "superhighway" is "autobahn", hence the internet becomes the infobahn.

Using all lower case became a shortcut way of typing, especially in Unix/Linux systems in which the default usage is lower case and upper case is considered to be "shouting" and changing case for style purposes, such as capitalizing proper nouns and sentence beginnings was inefficient when just talking between geeks or writing code comments.

The earlier teletype usage formerly used by wire services was all upper case. Note that, for instance, the NOAA hurricane centre still uses all upper case for its bulletins.

The internet is Unix based.

28 posted on 05/10/2008 8:57:18 PM PDT by Clive
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To: Clive

I have a degree in Computer Science, and I never heard of infobahn. I haven’t worked in 10 years, so maybe it’s a newer term.

I hated when software engineers would not use proper English when writing comments for code. It’s a pet peeve of mine. I don’t like the shortcuts because it makes it more difficult to read.

My code was always well commented, and easy to debug or alter. Other people who had to use my code (mainly hardware engineers) always liked it. In fact several hardware engineers requested me writing their code because they could always understand what I wrote.

(This is very off topic. Just a rant.)

29 posted on 05/10/2008 10:36:40 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: fightinJAG

I was talking to my special needs daughter about homeschooling, but she doesn’t want to. We switched my daughters out of public school a few years ago, and put them in a private Christian school. The teachers in the private school are pretty accomodating of my special needs daughter, and she loves it there. She’s making lots of friends, her social skills are lacking, so that’s a big deal for her.

She’s going into middle school next year. We’ll see if she can keep up. If not, I’ll just homeschool her.

Each year is different with her. At least there are some options, and homeschooling is something we’ve thought about for a long time.

30 posted on 05/10/2008 10:43:40 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: tickles

She’s actually in a private school now, and they don’t make her write it out 3 times each in that school. She did in public school. Her twin sister still has to, and her brother had to when he was in elementary school.

31 posted on 05/10/2008 10:47:47 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: VermiciousKnid

My special needs daughter gets around 15 spelling words. Her language arts school work is modified.

Her twin sister gets around 25 words. She has to write something like 15 sentences each week. She has to write a story using most of her spelling words each week. She has to write the words 3 times each. The last one is separating the words in to syllables.

They’ll give my daughter a pretest at the beginning of the week. She’ll maybe get 1 wrong. I’d rather her write that out a number of times instead of writing words that she already knows.

32 posted on 05/10/2008 10:52:52 PM PDT by luckystarmom
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To: luckystarmom

I agree with you on the spelling words, luckystarmom, though I must tell you that I left out a key element of my story: that spelling assignment and the multiplication tables were often the ONLY homework we got. If there was any more, it was a VERY short assignment, like current events. (Cut out an article from the paper and be prepared to talk about it — that sort of thing.)

I’m amazed at the amount of homework some of the younger kids get; my older boy (6th grade) gets FAR less homework than my younger (4th). Should be the other way around, IMO.

Anyway, gotta fly off to church. Happy Mothers Day!


33 posted on 05/11/2008 4:43:59 AM PDT by VermiciousKnid
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To: fightinJAG
We travel in the off-season, even sometimes taking school with us.

In many cases there's no need to take the school because the trip IS the school. I learned a LOT of Canadian history when my parents took me to visit some relatives in Nova Scotia. Depending on where to go you can find stuff to reinforce just about any subject under the sun.

34 posted on 05/11/2008 5:05:15 AM PDT by Squawk 8888 (TSA and DHS are jobs programs for people who are not smart enough to flip burgers)
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To: luckystarmom

My pet peeve is coders who act as though variable names are still limited to just a few characters. There’s nothing worse than debugging 10,000 lines where the variable names are meaningless. If you’re calculating the number of days in a billing cycle, don’t use DIBC, use DaysInBillingCycle so I know what it means!

35 posted on 05/11/2008 5:09:50 AM PDT by Squawk 8888 (TSA and DHS are jobs programs for people who are not smart enough to flip burgers)
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To: luckystarmom
Pages sent home to color in the 1st grade? I wish that was the norm at my son's school.

He's in kindergarten and he has “math” and “English” homework every night of the week but Friday.

He's expected to read, write sentences, graph charts and solve abstract problems.

I fully expect him to be studying the time/space continuum and Beowulf (from the original olde English text) next year. I'm almost kidding.

Of course I help him, but

36 posted on 05/11/2008 9:50:48 AM PDT by Scarpetta (e pluribus victim)
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To: Gabz


Who knew that my child rearing methods were “chic”? :)

37 posted on 05/11/2008 9:56:17 AM PDT by Politicalmom (Better a leftist Dem with energized GOP opposition, than a leftist "Republican" with no opposition.)
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To: VermiciousKnid

What’s VI times IX?


38 posted on 05/11/2008 9:59:55 AM PDT by Politicalmom (Better a leftist Dem with energized GOP opposition, than a leftist "Republican" with no opposition.)
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To: Squawk 8888


39 posted on 05/11/2008 11:10:24 AM PDT by fightinJAG (RUSH: McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton longer than we've been in Iraq, and never gave up.)
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To: luckystarmom

I agree that there s no one solution, either for each child or for their entire education.

Another thing to consider is that all your children would not have to be homeschooled. I find a lot of people who assume it has to be all or none.

I think in the case of your daughter with special needs social skills are even more important, and, sometimes, more difficult to acquire. So if she’s doing great in that area, that’s wonderful!

40 posted on 05/11/2008 11:13:34 AM PDT by fightinJAG (RUSH: McCain was in the Hanoi Hilton longer than we've been in Iraq, and never gave up.)
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