what to expect when – your kids talk back

Another glorious 6:30 AM Saturday wake-up from the kids prompted J. to ask bleary-eyed, “What age is it that the kids can wake up, go downstairs and get breakfast themselves?”

“Um. Ten?”  I dunno.

Fear, regret and bewilderment spread across his face.  “No…It’s gotta be sooner than that.  Like 6, or 7. Right?!?

I have absolutely, positively no idea.

A few milestones I know: eating solid foods around 6 months-ish, starting walking around 12 month-ish, pooping in the potty around 2 years-ish.  But let me tell you – Babycenter doesn’t have an email for when to expect independently dressing, feeding and entertaining themselves.

I thought about this again when the news reported that American Airlines was going to start charging a $150 fee for minors aged 12-14 flying by themselves.  Apparently that fee is already incurred for parents of kids flying solo between the ages of 5-11.   Now, come on, people. FIVE?!

I’m all for encouraging independence in kids, but letting a kindergartener fly by themselves across the country to see Grandma?  That seems a bit much, right?  I totally off base here?  I mean, we force our 4-year-old to sit across the aisle from us when we travel as a family of four.  So she is always the one sitting with the stranger, but at least I still have a visual on her.

Or is it a big secret that everyone is sending their kindergartners off for the summer, and sleeping in until 10AM?

So after wondering about this for a bit, I had my Ah-hah moment.  A friend posted a question on Facebook:  “Why is there no ‘What to Expect for age 4 or 7 or 10?”

Why doesn’t anyone tell you the right age to let your kids into a public bathroom by themselves? When should they be able to shower completely by themselves?  Or the right age to talk to them about their private parts (or what to call their private parts)?

I mean GOODNESS as a mother of two preschoolers, I’ve got the baby stuff DOWN.  Eat, Sleep and Cry.  Got it.  I need help with all of the rest of the stuff.

So here it is, my fellow parents (or future parents). The Bible of parenting books: What to Expect When you have a Kid who Talks Back. I need you – wise parents of older children – to help me fill in the blanks.

What to expect Final

A few questions I’d like to include in the first printing of this book:

1) When my daughter turns to me on an airplane and tries to kiss me like the prince kisses Cinderella – what do I say? Acceptable or no?

2) When I see a sign in the bathroom saying children of the opposite sex older than the age of 5 not permitted in the bathroom, do I REALLY not send my daughter into the bathroom with my husband?  Or is this a suggestion?

3) And, along those same lines, at Costco, can I just stand outside the bathroom (not the stall) and let my 4-year-old go to the bathroom by herself?  I mean, I usually have another toddler and a giant tub of mayo waiting.

4) At what age will my child stop thinking snacks are appropriate replacements for meals? And when can I stop carrying around with me half the contents of my pantry – just in case?

And of course…

5) At what age can my lovely child get up, get dressed, and go get their own breakfast?

So, parents of babies and preschoolers – any questions you would like added to the first edition?  And please, if you have older children, impart your wisdom to those of us navigating the muddy waters of parenting kids who can talk back.


simple loving

We recently returned from a simple beach vacation with family.  Long, lazy days by the beach, pool, or ice cream stand and nights by a fire-pit.  For me, it was a snapshot into the idealized American summer.

One dark night after the kids had gone to bed, J. and I snuck out to listen to some music.  We walked along the beach and found ourselves by the local fire-pit.  We held hands while singing along to various renditions of Eagles and Bob Marley songs.  In front of us sat families with older kids, making s’mores in the fire, and cuddling with the parents.

And I gotta admit – it was really REALLY nice.  It was nice to imagine what our family may look like in a few years time; and it was nice to see different families enjoying the simplicity of a few songs, a moonlit night, and roasted marshmallows together.  No technology, no lights, no board walks, no roller-coasters.  Just the simple fire, a dessert, a singer and a guitar.


So imagine my surprise when I was lulled out of my fire-induced coma when the singer (a Bob-Marly wanna-be) looked straight at J. and myself and declared:

Bob Marley wanna-be: “You two, man. I’ve been looking at you all night. You are SO in LOVE! Look at HER, man. SING to her!”

J: laughing.

Me: I’m sorry, are you talking to us?

Bob Marley wanna-be: “LOOK AT HER, MAN!” “SING TO HER” “I”LL ALWAYS LOVVVVEEE YOUUU” (proceeds to sing)

J: still laughing, but now looking at me.

Me: he really can’t be talking to us, right? I mean. Really? And is there any way I can sneak away from this fire-pit? Looking around into darkness, trying to plan an exit strategy.

Bob Marley wanna-be (still singing) “One day, man, I’m going to be as in love as you two are!!”

This goes on for a while.  We are awkwardly laughing, waiting for it to end.   And it finally does.  They move onto singing something a bit more upbeat.  And a few songs later we quietly sneak away.

This whole embarrassing escapade got me thinking about love and the simple life.

Why was I so astonished that he thought J. and I looked in love?  I mean, yes, we were sitting by the fire.  Yes, we were holding hands. But most days I feel like we are a million miles away from the romantic “in love” of 10 years ago.

Love changes when we become parents.  It grows bigger, better, and more fuller to accommodate all the difficulties life throws at us.  It’s not easy or constant.  We work at it all the time.  It’s damn hard.  It’s not a simple love-song by the fire-pit.  And frankly, that’s ok with me.  I think we moved from “in love” to “love” a long time ago.

And our marriage (like most marriages of people we know) is egalitarian, committed, and focused on children.  We are jointly dedicated to raising our children AND creating satisfying lives for ourselves.  That’s a lot on our plate.  So romantic love?  Where does that fit in? When do we find time to sing to each-other, Bob-Marley-Style without texting on our iphones?

I’m not sure I have an answer.  However, after my immediate awkwardness with the situation, I decided that I was glad that it was clear that I love my husband.  That’s a good thing, no matter where we are in our relationship.  And I’m glad I can imagine sitting with our older princesses 5-10 years from now near that same fire-pit.  Them enjoying the same music we did.

And if every once in a while, between diaper changes and school runs, work trips and ballet recitals we get to hold hands – well that’s pretty good too.