Natural consequences

AS I WAITED FOR MY GARAGE DOOR TO OPEN yesterday afternoon, I was met by Eli, who was fixing to leave on his bike with his basketball. He’s been enjoying that we live close to basketball courts, but it’s been too cold to play outside. He has discovered that sometimes, his school is open after hours and if one of the two gyms is not in use, he can shoot around inside.

The problem was, he was wearing crew socks and a pair of athletic slides. And a hoodie. And it was 20 degrees outside.

I tried to explain frostbite and hypothermia, but all he heard was BLAH BLAH COLD BLAH BLAH BLAH and off he went.

When he returned 15 minutes later, his feet were really cold. (No!) As he sat with them next to the fireplace, we had another discussion about how 20 degrees is a kind of cold one should not trifle with. This is the kind of cold that would freeze the canned sodas we used to leave on the shelf in our carport. It’s the kind of cold that helps you identify every broken seal on every window and door in your house. It’s the kind of cold that makes furnaces sputter and quit.

You would think the experience of self-inflicted cold feet would have left an impression. You would think he’d have been grateful that I dug out two winter coats so he could choose one to wear on his walk to school. You would think those things, but you are probably an adult with a fully-developed frontal lobe. The boy rolled his eyes and groaned when I insisted he wear a coat. Or, he groaned because it was the first day back after winter break. Probably some of both. Either way, he was running late this morning and asked me to drive him to school. (Only the second time this school year!)

He got into the car wearing just a hoodie. Coat’s in my backpack, he said in response to my side-eye. Do you have a hat? I asked. I have a hood. Gloves? One. But I have pockets.

At least he was wearing sneakers instead of slides.

WebMD illustrates natural consequences using the coat / cold example. They go on to say, “Learning through experiencing consequences is much more powerful than through a lecture or punishment. Using consequences for misbehavior is an effective teaching method for dealing with behavior problems in children and teens.”

Oh, WebMD! That’s precious! I thought it would be effective too, but I am a female adult. And I have learned from parenting two boys through their teen years that cause and effect is not the deterrent you’d expect it to be, at least when it comes to weather-appropriate dress. Eli’s brothers insisted upon leaving coats behind, lest they be forced to actually use their school lockers. And with Eli, I’ve had to establish a threshold of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, below which he will only reluctantly wear long pants to school, much to the chagrin of school administrators.

Despite it all, I do tend to agree that a “natural consequences” approach to parenting is probably the best way in most cases. Within reasonable limits, of course. But I’ll be counting the days until he demonstrates that he can decide on his own, based on weather reports and experience, whether or not it’s a good day to wear a coat.

I take comfort in knowing that my kids’ behavior places them in the fat part of the bell curve. A quick Google search of “shorts in snow” yields many images of bare legs on a white background, including in this feature story from the Coeur D’Alene (Idaho) Press that articulates adults’ perennial concern for children’s cold legs.

I have found my people.

Area Boy wears summer attire in winter. School administrators remain exasperated.


License and registration please, Ma’am

speedometerI got a little speeding ticket this evening.  

Officer So-and-So explained that he was monitoring speed on this stretch of road as part of a grant from Operation I-Forget-What and that excessive speed is a hallmark of aggressive driving (?!) and that he clocked me going 57 in a 40 m.p.h. zone and would I please give him my license and registration.

How was I supposed to know how fast I was going? My speedometer has been broken for, like, going on two years now! I drive by relative speed… but I guess I was relatively passing all the other cars on the road. Curt and I were talking about our days and the next thing you know, BAM.

He reduced the ticket speed to 49 so that I would only have to pay the minimum fine (gee, thanks), explained what the 27 different colors of carbonless copies meant, asked if I had any questions, and without so much as a perfunctory pleasantry, sent me on my way. Next victim.  Harumpf.

In a driving career that spans a hundred 26 years, I’ve only been cited for a few moving violations.  I am, in fact, a very careful, defensive driver. I don’t take stupid risks. The key to my success is anticipating the dumb stuff that my fellow motorists are about to do, before they do it.

My most recent speeding ticket – my first one – was 11 years ago. I was returning from Baby Boss’s two-week doctor checkup. He was wailing in the back seat because it was way past nursing time. I was hustling home because my coworkers were coming to my house to share lunch and ooooh and aaaah over my new baby.  There’s this stretch of highway where cars often run in the exit-only lane until the last minute, then they suddenly merge left. I always felt (and still do) that the safest thing there is to pass this area in the left lane, so as to avoid the idiots who evidently can’t read all the LANE ENDS MERGE LEFT signage.  I mean it’s really well-marked.

On that day, the car in the exit-only lane was a police cruiser. I proceeded by him in the left, not at an excessive speed, but a bit faster than he was going (because after all, wasn’t he preparing to exit?), but sure ’nuff, he hopped over at the last minute, behind me, then turned on his lights and pulled me and my screaming infant over. 

But instead of introducing himself like tonight’s officer did, he greeted me with a blustery, WHAT IN GOD’S NAME DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, PASSING A POLICE OFFICER LIKE THAT??  So, I explained my safety-based rationale and asked if we could please hurry because I NEED TO BREASTFEED MY INFANT NOW, IT’S PAST HIS LUNCHTIME. And he was all, I was going 55 and you must have been going faster, ma’am, so I’m writing you a ticket for going 60 in a 55-m.p.h. zone!  And I was all, I don’t even know how you can say how fast I was going since you, too, were moving, but my BREASTS ARE STARTING TO LEAK so can we move it along please?? And of course, my postpartum hormones kicked in and the tears started flowing, because how ridiculous was this anyway? But I couldn’t stop it. And I thought I’d heard that officers often have sympathy for a crying woman with a crying baby – especially one whose milk had just let down with a vengeance –  but that was not the case in my situation.

Of course I was throwing around all of this breast-talk for effect.  Way back when I was mothering infants, I was not given to talking about my breasts. (I’m really still not.) I don’t even like the term “breastfeeding.” It’s too… anotomical. I was nursing, thank you, and I was the model of discretion. But this officer had earned no such euphemisms.

That cold-hearted bastard gave me a ticket anyway. I should have gone to court to fight it, but that was really the last thing on my mind, what with having an infant and a two-year-old at home. So, I didn’t. I paid it.

Not that I’m still bitter or anything.

Still, I think once every 11 years is a pretty good record.  For as often as I do exceed the speed limit, I don’t ever drive recklessly or aggressively. Just maybe a-little-too-fastly.   Oh come on, you know you do it, too. I was just the unlucky stiff who got caught. This time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see a man about a speedometer repair…

But seriously, folks…

WOW! I had no idea my post about the NFL cheerleaders would get so much attention and pluck so many nerves! I’ve never had a “real” debate like that in my comments, and it was fascinating to watch it unfold. Except for a few comments that got a little too personal, that is.  But those folks can’t help it if they’re not nearly as enlightened as my loyal readers! Most commenters understood my point and appreciated the debate, and I’d like to thank you all for weighing in.

Yes, even you.

And thanks, Washington Express, for quoting me! Come back again and visit soon!

Listen. We’re all mature adults here, right? And really, with the state of the world these days, and in the larger scheme of things, does any of this really, really matter? Aren’t we all just dust in the wind?

One commenter who came late to yesterday’s dance thought our discussion was all a bunch of fluff:

Get a life people, everything in this world had gotten sexier, why wouldnt cheerleaders, and cheerleaders dont cheer much anymore they dance. I think there are more important issues out there!

WOW! Great point! There are more important issues out there! Lots of ’em! And we should be discussing them right here in this space.

It’s time to get serious!

Taking my commenter’s lead, I propose we dispense with all humor and instead debate some weightier topics. Matters of import. Take poverty, for instance. I learned here that:

According to UNICEF, 25,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

And then there’s the crisis in Darfur, summarized here by Amnesty International:

The conflict in Darfur, Sudan, has led to some of the worst human rights abuses imaginable, including systematic and widespread murder, rape, abduction and displacement. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed by both deliberate and indiscriminate attacks, and over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced. Though violence persists, the UN Security Council has mandated what may be an effective peacekeeping operation to guarantee security for the people of Darfur.

Oh, and how about healthcare reform? And the whole thing about the so-called “death panels” (thanks, Sarah Palin!)?

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Now there is some heavy stuff! Some meaty issues! I mean, who are we to be debating the merits of whether the “cheerleaders” are really leading cheers and whether their provocative dancing belongs on the sidelines of an NFL game, and whether the NFL game is really just about the GAME, or part of a larger spectacle that includes a variety of entertainment items, much like a three-ring circus?


**slaps forehead**

So, if anyone cares to debate a more serious topic, choose from one of the above, or pick your own and let’s get started!  You over there, lurking behind your monitor? You go first.