Bubble Wrapping Your Kids is Ill-advised

It’s been years since I watched the made-for-TV movie, “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” So many that when I recently watched it, I discovered my only memory had been confused with a Seinfeld episode. The mention of Moors or Moops is not in the 1976 television movie, starring a young and pale John Travolta. Apparently, my mental hard drive may need rebooting.

Even though I detested the film, it made me wonder how many parents now lock up their children in a proverbial bubble. As a new mother, I sanitized everything. The fear of sickness was overwhelming at times. I wanted to Bubble Wrap my children, but our pediatrician opposed the idea.

Growing up in the ’70s, no one heard of hand sanitizer. It was called a bar of soap and some elbow grease. There was no such thing as disinfectant wipes — no need. All required for the quick clean up was the mildewed dishcloth, laced with a touch of salmonella, which had been hanging over the kitchen faucet for a week.

Of course, after two children, the five-second rule became the norm and the phrase, “a little dirt won’t hurt” spewed out of my mouth, finally turning me into a ’70s mother. I haven’t worried too much about diseases the last few years. My daughters wash their hands after visiting the public restroom; they no longer lick grocery carts, and don’t marinate in the baby pool.

However, there have been a few mornings my husband has gasped at the breakfast table while reading the paper. Since I can’t stand not knowing what he’s reading, I insist he share the gasp-worthy story. First it was Ebola, then the Zika outbreak. And just when you think your children are safe, CRE makes the papers and a DIY plastic bubble design is drawn on the back of grocery lists.

Just a refresher course for those of you who may have awaken from a coma, or don’t own a computer or television: Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever disease with a high-fatality rate.

Zika is the new Ebola, except this tragic virus especially affects babies in utero, causing them to be born with extremely small heads. Folks say this Brazilian germ is mosquito transmitted, so I hope no one wants to increase their family size during the upcoming Olympics. My suggestion to the Olympic officials: remove all the green M&Ms from your country and close all pubs or bars at 9 p.m.

My current health obsession is the antibiotic resistant CRE bacteria. I’m fairly sure it stands for CREepy or CRuditÉs. If you have a strong immune system or don’t hang out in hospitals, you should be fine, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “Infections with these germs can be deadly.” This one takes me back to junior high history books when I first learned of the bubonic plague. Ew, I doth say!

Don’t tell anyone, but I heard from a reputable farmer these three strains of human blight are causing odd green lights to hover over a hill in Montana. Researchers are also looking for a link to crop circles brought over by sprightly monkeys from India.

Actually, this scene might be from a sci-fi movie I saw in college. I really should reboot my mental hard drive

previously published in The Kansas City Star on June 11, 2016

 

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Life Lessons from Skating Camp

Stacey Hatton Commentary

The Kansas City Star – April 7, 2012

In the late 70s, when my school-aged friends and I began making appearances at our local skating rink, we were wide-eyed innocent girls: dressed in Mork and Mindy t-shirts, silky pastel shorts and striped up-to-the-knee tube socks. Visions of coolness.

The lights were low and magical colors drifted in and out. The music was loud, suggestive and enticing. And this was what we experienced in our goofy heads before even entering the doors of the rink.

I don’t think I put on a pair of roller skates until I was 10 or 12. No reason to do so until the boys showed up and “couple skating” was the word around town. That secret code was what the neighborhood kids were whispering, and everyone hoped their parents who were dropping them off at the rink wouldn’t understand the magnitude of it all. Of course, all that entailed was girls and boys sitting on opposite sides of the rink during a few heart-racing songs and watching six couples skate; and perhaps, yes, perhaps , even hold hands. Scandalous.

Hopping into the DeLorean and dialing the flux capacitor forward to 2012, I see our local elementary schools and PTO’s frequently hosting skating parties for school functions. If kindergartners want to be included, they need some skating skills. Since many of the neighborhood parents didn’t want to drop off young daughters at the rink for some old fashion “couple skating” practices, roller skating camp seemed like a harmless substitute.

A group of parental friends shuffled as many kids as we could safely fit in our minivans, decked out with grande cups of coffee and the morning paper. This was going to be fun for everyone, no matter what the kids said. We were ready to let our children fall down, learn from the pros and avoid getting drawn in by the sad cries when our children hollered they wanted to go home.

After one of the morning practices, the professionals decided the children were ready to take on music while skating. Multi-tasking. No gum chewing yet, just small steps. A gentleman who resembled the DJ at my local rink back in the 70s stepped up to the turntable (do they still call it that?) and leaned into the microphone.

“Kids, you gotta want it. You can’t be afraid. You gotta belieeeve! Skating is like that,” he smoothly begged the vertically challenged crowd on wheels. He continued with his best impression of a voiceover announcer for Tab cola, “If you don’t fall every once in awhile, you’re not trying hard enough. Skating is like that!”

Simultaneously, the adults in my group realized this disc jockey extraordinaire was a guru, a tall-haired Dalai Lama. Not only did he know how to teach kids to skate, but he had the answers to life’s questions. Perhaps all of them. Who knew such treasures could be found in a Kansas City roller rink?

He continued inspiring these kids to shine, “Encourage your friends, but don’t hold onto them because you don’t want to pull them down. Skating is like that.”

This “Anthony Robbins” not only was a fine educator, a motivational speaker, but he moved my daughter to confidence on eight wheels while chanting to herself, “I think I can do it. I know I can do it. I will do it!”

My little engine that could…Can , thanks to you, Mr. Skating Man! And I say to you, thanks. You’re a vision of coolness!

Fish Tales from a Princess Perspective

IMG_1036Hi, my name is Stacey and I’m vocationally challenged.

Every 10 years I suck all the marrow from one career and move on, which makes for a roller-coaster ride of a resume. Like Mr. Sinatra crooning, I’ve been an actor, a singer, a dancer, bookkeeper and pediatric nurse. A blogger, an author and newspaper columnist. Administrative assistant was the worst. That’s life — at least mine.

The only interesting job I haven’t done yet is fishing pro. I’d love to relax on a pond or lake all day, slathered in bug spray and sunscreen; however, anyone who has fished with me will say I have a scaly green thumb.

On last year’s fishing trip, my husband and I watched our daughters snag an overflowing line of rainbow trout, using miniature hot pink Barbie poles and worms. My adult-sized, dirt brown pole produced zero fish. So I used the girls’ pole, thinking it was the lucky charm, but my numbers didn’t increase.

“Oh, Barbie. You did me wrong!” Leaving the fully stocked fish hatchery that day empty-handed gave me more drive to learn the secret.

So when planning a recent fishing trip, I remained hopeful but realistic. The only way to catch a fish was if I cast out whopper fish tales, the type of story where after repeating it to everyone within earshot, your fish morphs into a 250-pounder. This type of lie is quite acceptable in fisherman circles.

Our pond was well-stocked with a menagerie of gilled Midwest prospects: catfish, bass, blue gill, marlin and mahi-mahi — at least that’s how I remember it. I set my hopes high and was all about the bass, no tuna. In fact, when one of the guides took me out on the pond with an aerated cooler full of minnows, I had never felt so professional, and out of my comfort zone.

It was a 50-degree morning and I was wrapped up tighter than a cryogenically sealed pack of tilapia. Fighting my windbreaker, jacket and two layers of clothing, while balancing the boat with my legs, was the beginning of my trials. I looked like a deranged toddler wrangling the slippery minnows beneath my feet in a cooler. Every time I opened the cooler, my center of gravity shifted and so did the boat. How in the Sea World do you keep your pole on board while wrestling minnows and posed in the disaster drill position?

Soon visions of princesses danced in my head. According to any 1950s advice columnist, a damsel in distress should find a big, brave man to hook her bait. I would have spent days trying to talk a single minnow into jumping onto my hook.

Embarrassed that I needed help, I reconsidered using hook sushi. Worms I could handle! I’d overcome that fear a few years back and now prayed any fish would get a hankering for my segmented annelid.

I was setting a good example for my girls in the next boat.

IMG_1034No daughter of mine needed to fear bait.

After several attempts, I hooked a fish I was certain would need a hydraulic wench and rig to lift out of the water. I wasn’t far from my estimation because that bass was enormous. Fifty pounds or more!! Did I say 50? I meant 100!

This slick and feisty reward was all mine and I’m sure the folks in the next county over could hear my excitement. At last a real fish that I caught was coming into the boat.

 

Holy, Carp! There’s no way I’m touching that thing.

Batting my eyes, I begged my guide, “Could you help me get him off the hook? I don’t want to hurt him.” There was another fish tale.

That day with my family, I learned sometimes you must lower your standards. Summoning your inner princess and asking for help isn’t the end of the world. Plus, you can always change the story later.

(previously published in The Kansas City Star on May 28, 2016)

 

The Mystery of Kid Teeth

Chloes-ToothHave you ever wondered why if your hand fell off you wouldn’t grow another in its place?

Toenails and fingernails typically grow back. Skin cells, hair follicles and oddly enough, tonsils can reappear. But over the ages, tooth mysteries have had populations chattering the most.

The collective attention to growing a tooth is intriguing. For example, if a child’s at a family gathering and shows off his new up-front-and-center incisor, thunderous applause ensues. Relatives might raise a toasting glass to celebrate this amazing achievement that the child had nothing to do with. In turn, when that child loses the same tooth several years later, for some weird reason it’s just as monumental of an occasion.

Cheers! You didn’t need that rotten tooth after all!

If you’ve paid attention to young parents on social media, you are aware that a child’s first tooth loss experience often morphs into a bidding war. Over-achieving parents boast how their Tooth Fairy is far more generous than the rest of the world. A monetary version of “mine is bigger than yours.” Shy new parents observe from the gallery, comparing if their toothless wonder was ripped off by the Tooth Fairy. Cheap fairies are the worst!

“When I was a kid I only got a quarter for a tooth. Can someone direct me to the current inflation chart? I need to check if what Bobby got under his pillow is the going rate?”

Recently, my daughter pulled out one of her second molars. It’s the mammoth of a tooth located in the far back of the jaw, used for chewing and grinding.

Congrats, my brave daughter for taking care of it yourself.

Sounds good, right? The only problem was it wasn’t ready to be removed. Earlier in the evening, she wanted me to wiggle it. That baby tooth wasn’t near ready for excavation. I told her to keep on wiggling it, so she might get a Tooth Fairy visit within the next week. Alas, my kid needs to work on patience.

When I inquired why she played dentist on herself, she said she needed the money. Before you call social services on me, my two daughters get an allowance for contributing around the house. But since it’s the end of the school year, they have been shirking their duties and not finishing their work. Instead of yelling or beating my head against the wall, I have been withholding funds for several months. I figured when they needed the money, they would return to their jobs.

I had no idea that she would think pulling her barely wiggly tooth would be worth a dollar. That’s what our Tooth Fairy has brought her the last decade, so she had a good idea of profits.

Upon waking to a neatly folded up dollar bill stuffed in her tooth pillow, she exclaims that she was robbed. “I figured if I pulled out a huge one, I’d get more money than a dollar!”

Needless to say, the girls have returned to their daily chores, and I’m shelling out the dough. Can you imagine how much she would get for a permanent tooth? This mom is not willing to find out.

So after hiding all the pliers in the house, I’m going to lean toward preventive parenting. Perhaps reading “The Little Engine That Could” at bedtime all these years backfired and we should have focused on the virtue of patience.

“I’d like to thank the Academy of Pediatrics for this Mother of the Year award …” and thunderous applause ensues.

Previously published in The Kansas City Star on May 14, 2016.

Hyperbole is Killing Me

I have an embarrassing secret to share. My fourth-grade daughter continually puts me in my place in the math department, plus a few other subjects. I still can carry my own in science and grammar, but I need to up my game to prove I can assuredly assist in the homework world.

The retired television show, “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” suggested kids can intellectually pass up their parents by the age of 10; but let me tell you, my child knocked me off my high horse numerous times in third grade!

“Hold on, honey. Let Mama read the question again… hmm. Oh, well! Dad will be home in an hour. He loves quadratic equations!

Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. She’s not that advanced, but the new math certainly feels foreign to this mom.

Some of you may be up close and personal with our country’s Common Core standards. I’ll add you to the prayer chain. This beastly teaching model produces hives on every parent who partakes in homework supervision. I realize someone who knows better is attempting to make our children smarter by ramming knowledge into their gray matter, but why must the powers at be make parents feel stupid in the meantime?

Recently, my anxiety surged a smidgen when my daughter asked me to define the word “hyperbole.” She’s 10! Why does she need to know that definition, let alone spell it right and use it correctly in a sentence?

How can I expect her to use this advanced word correctly, when I’m not sure of the answer myself? So I did what every other parent in the world does — I lied. Telling her she should do her own research in the dictionary.

Since the nut doesn’t fall far from the genetics tree, my parents also pretended they knew answers when asked the origin, definition or spelling of a word. My mother was notorious for having me get up from the dinner table to find the right answer. Doesn’t every family in America have a dictionary several feet from the kitchen table? It was wedged next to our 1960s complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica. No one was leaving the table until we knew the ins and outs of an earthworm’s reproductive system.

Because I obviously love to over-share, here is what I learned. “Hyperbole” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “an exaggeration by effect and not meant to be taken literally.” Really? I seriously thought it was a story with a wild ending. Now if my daughter had asked what “onomatopoeia” meant, I would’ve exclaimed, “Wow! I know that!” but once again my fifth-grader-to-be caught me unprepared.

There are countless memorable stages as a parent. The first smile, that first step, when she’s finally potty-trained! But right now I’m living the assisting-with-your-child’s-homework stage. It’s more challenging than I would have thought. This phase could easily drive a parent insane, lead to premature aging, or trigger excessive drinking — not that I’m recommending any of these. Carrying those “ones” in a multiplication number sentence should be cautiously completed by a high-functioning, sober mind.

But if you get stuck, might I suggest secretly sneaking a tablet or cellphone to ask Siri? That gal has more right answers than any encyclopedia I came across.

(previously published in the Kansas City Star newspaper on April 23, 2016)