This week, I offer you a few mini-bites (shall we call it “snack size” to honor the upcoming holiday?) of pressing parenting issues.
Let them eat candy Halloween is two weeks away. That glorious night of princesses and pirates and pumpkins. Of Kit Kats and Skittles and Snickers. Except, of course, when dentists start campaigns to buy back candy, activists lament about childhood obesity and neighborhoods band together to offer healthful, wholesome trick-or-treat snacks.
Can we please, just for one night, let kids be kids? Let them stumble home with sacks almost too heavy to carry, laden with sugary snacks that they will then barter over with siblings. (“How many Milk Duds do you want for that full-size Butterfinger?” Let’s face it; we all remember the houses that gave full-size candy bars when we were kids.)
Yes, as parents, we should impose limits. (Two pieces on Halloween; one piece a night after that; anything that’s still hanging around by Thanksgiving gets donated or dumped. That always worked in our house). But even Michelle Obama has been known to have a milkshake and fries. And surely all that walking around the neighborhood counts as exercise, right? I know that in some corners this will be viewed as parental heresy, but what is Halloween if we take away all the treats?
Harried parents The well-respected Pew Research Center came out with its report on how parents spend their time last week. I was struck by the title: “Parents’ Time With Kids More Rewarding Than Paid Work — and More Exhausting.” Most specifically, I was struck by the placement of the apostrophe. The report looks at the division of labor between mothers and fathers, how moms and dads spend time with their kids and what aspects of that time they find most fulfilling. It divided child-care into four categories (physical, educational, managerial and recreational) and did the same with household tasks (cooking, cleaning, repairs and management) and then examined whether moms or dads spent more time in each category. The conclusion: Parents are exhausted. But nowhere in the 12-page report is there a nod, a mention, even a footnote about single parents.
I understand that comparing gender roles is a key component of this report. But I still wanted to cry with frustration for the moms who don’t have a dad in the house to spend 3.9 hours a week doing repairs or 2.2 hours a week doing recreational activities with the kids. My heart bled for the dads out there who have to take on the 3.8 hours a week of managerial responsibilites for child care that in “normal” households fall to mothers. Parenting is exhausting under the best of circumstances. Doing it alone is more than doubly so.
“The Reason I Jump” This slim little book, translated from the Japanese by “Cloud Atlas” author David Mitchell, should be on the nightstand or Kindle of any parent of an autistic child, any parent who knows an autistic child or any parent who has ever wondered what it would be like to have an autistic child. It’s the memoir of 13-year-old Naoki Higashida, who has autism. He wrote it painstakingly by spelling out words on a Japanese alphabet board. In each short chapter, the boy attempts to answer the questions he perceives others have about him. Read it and weep.