Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sometimes I Rant About Car Seats

Being involved in parenting forums has its ups and downs. On one hand, hilarity and support await for the gal who lives in the middle of nowhere and doesn't see a lot of other non-family adults on a daily basis. On the other hand, I sometimes feel like banging my head against a brick wall when people argue with me about car seat safety. The following message was my frustrated attempt to explain why I just.can't.let.it.go when people challenge me on car seat issues. The discussion was about expired car seats (yes, they expire), but it has applications to other safety issues, as well.
There are many good reasons for replacing a safety device before it's absolutely on it's last unsafe breath.

The thing that gets me is this. Vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for kids overall (there is a window for newborns when congenital problems are a bigger risk). I'm going to be harsh for a moment here, not because I intend to sound cruel, but because there aren't many other ways to say it. We know that a lot of kids are still dying in vehicle crashes. We also know that a great many parents are using their car seats incorrectly in some way, or many ways, including using them past the expiration date. I did that, too, before I knew better. But now that I know? I will do everything in my power to shield my child from this one thing that I have the ability to provide significant protection against. If people would argue less over what CPSTs and car seat safety organizations are saying, and instead put that energy into following the advice, it's highly likely that we would see a reduction in the numbers of children who are seriously hurt or killed in vehicle crashes.

People get hypervigilant about their child's online safety, or whether or not to vaccinate, or whether or not to send them to public school, or whether or not to let them watch TV, or any number of other issues. And it's not that those things aren't important. They are. But why do people get so excited over those issues and then argue over a car seat expiration date when statistically, their child is far more likely to be affected by its safety than any of those other things? To me, it's like ignoring the elephant in the room in favor of screaming at the mice.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Scenes From Early Thanksgiving With My Family

My parents are heading to Florida for Thanksgiving this year, so they wanted the fam to gather early to eat turkey and be merry. We arrived earlier this evening and had dinner just a little while ago. Verrrry tasty. The following are excerpts from the evening's conversations.

*Scene* My very pregnant sister, Deb, and her husband are arriving.
Dad: (leaning out the front door) Hey! I opened the garage door. It might be easier for you to get in that way!
Deb: (coming in through the garage) We're not even carrying any suitcases. Why did he want us to come in the garage? Are we too embarrassing to use the front door now?
Me: Uh, Deb? I think he was suggesting that your current girth might make it difficult to *use* the front door.
Deb: Oh.

*Scene* Getting ready to sit down at the table for dinner.
Dad: The chair on the right side in the middle has a structural problem that I haven't been able to fix yet. So, Deb, you probably won't want to sit there.
Deb: Dad! Jeez.
Dad: (laughing) What? You can sit next to me this way!
Me: If she sits next to you, it will be so she can stab you with her fork.

*Scene* Mom is outlining drink options.
Mom: OK, I have Diet Pepsi, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi, Coke, Caffeine Free Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, root beer, Dr. Pepper, Diet Dr. Pepper, orange soda, milk, water, tea, coffee, Capri Suns, orange juice and Kool-Aid.
Everyone: .........
G: (laughing) Could you repeat that?
Mom: I'll repeat that you can go to the fridge and see for yourself.

*Scene* The food is being passed around.
Mom: There are two types of butter on the table. I know that one person (looking at my husband) requires real butter. There is tub butter for....
Grandma: The tubby people?
(everyone looks at Deb)
Deb: I'm going to leave. Right after you pass the turkey. I would leave now, but it's for the baby.

*Scene* Maya is eating pie and drops a big chunk on her pants.
G: Let me help you with that. (picks up the pie and puts it on his plate)
Maya: Hey! Dad! Don't take my pie! I was still gonna eat that! (reaches over and steals back the dropped pie)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Kid is Country, Y'all

Maya is reading and writing like crazy lately, as kids are known to do in first grade. She is encouraged to sound out words and write them down as she thinks they might be if it's not a word they've covered in class yet. She's pretty good at it most of the time! The other day I was looking at some of her school papers and reading some of the cute little stories she wrote, and I kept coming across a word that she spelled as "theon." I was confused. This is not a word I am familiar with, and my vocabulary is probably above average. Trying to understand it, I said the word aloud. And it hit me. "Theon" is how you might write down the word "then" if you're a little girl with bit of a drawl. Two syllables. Oh my.

Tonight as we settled down to read a few books together before bedtime, she decided that mama needed a special bedtime hair-do. "What a great idea," I said, and handed her the comb. She reached for the detangling spray, too, naturally. It's just not as much fun to comb your mother's hair without loading it up with so much detangler that it runs down her scalp and requires her to take a shower once you're solidly asleep. She sprayed and combed. And sprayed and combed more. She put a hair tie in my hair and commanded me to just try not to cry if it hurt too much. She gave me permission to touch my head if it hurt, to help with the pain. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth and said, "this is fun! You're doing such a good job." I could hear some of my hair snapping off. My stylist will wonder what on Earth happened to me.

After studying her work, she took the hair tie out and started combing again. Added a little more detangler. As she combed, she said, "you're going to have something like a ponytail, only messier." I thought that would be just fine for the bedtime stories. Then she said, "Mom, this is just like when you do my hair! Only I do it neater and better. And it hurts less."

Heaven help that child if what I do in the mornings hurts more than what was happening on my head tonight. My ponytail-but-messier is pretty fab, though, which is good, because the detangler overload has dried into a stiff, glue-like substance and I fear the hair tie may never come out.

Strangers! On the Internets!

It used to be that the internet seemed so big and scary to almost everyone. Today it almost seems cozy to me. Friends can be found almost anywhere, and the few jerks I've encountered haven't made it worth it to give up on all of the wonderful things this huge web-world has to offer.

I love the connections that people feel to one another via the 'net. Members of the same forum. Bloggers and readers. Social networkers. Love matches. Isn't it amazing that in a few short years we've moved from "SCARY!" to "be careful, but have fun"?

I used the internet mostly for email and research prior to my pregnancy in 2001. Then I found a group of other moms-to-be who shared my love of self-mockery and silliness, who would pull together for an incredible support system when one of the group required it. Over the last seven years the group has changed a bit, people have come and gone, and we've moved to meeting beyond the internet as often as possible with this many kids and schedules. I used to call these women my fake internet friends. Recently, one of the women in the group decided that wasn't a good enough name. We were sister friends, she said. I like that. Without the internet, I would never have met any of them.

I was thinking about how powerfully we can feel connections even with people we've never met after reading at Dooce that she's pregnant. She has posted about her previous losses, something that I've experienced, too, so when I read that she recently saw her baby moving on the U/S screen, I cried. I'm about to cry now. I can only imagine the joy and relief, and I found myself silently cheering her on the same way I would a close friend. Amazing, isn't it?

The 'net provides me with quite a bit of entertainment. I live in the country, y'all. Nightlife and museums and book clubs? Those things aren't so much available here. But I think it's not the fun factor that keeps me coming back here. It's the other humans behind the screens. It's the unexpected things we find in common, and the ways we connect to one another.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A New Twitter Storm? Toys for Tots

Just when I thought no one else really cared about turning the Motrin Moms Twitter buzz engine into something positive, tweets are starting to appear asking people to rally around Toys for Tots to truly make a big difference this holiday season. If you're not familiar with the organization, Toys for Tots takes donations of new, unwrapped toys and distributes them so that kids don't have empty hands on Christmas morning.

Can you imagine wanting to get your child some small gift for the holidays, but having to choose between that and food or rent? As a mother, my heart breaks a little bit imagining that feeling. We all know that the food, shelter, safety and love are the most important things to give our kids. But being able to give them just a little bit more, and to see their smiles in return - that's important, too. Toys for Tots helps thousands of parents do just that on Christmas.

In the aftermath of the Motrin craziness, there were plenty of people who criticized the moms who were offended by the ad. Too much time on their hands, they said. Need to focus on bigger issues and really make a difference. If you felt it important enough to call others out on what they were doing to change the world, I hope you don't consider yourself immune from your responsibility to help fuel a more important Twitter fire. Less talk, more action, folks.

Sheryl at All About Health, Family & Fun suggests using #TFC to tag your tweets so that everyone can see them in search.

Tell your friends. Link them to the Toys for Tots site. Buy some extra toys when you're out and about and find a Toys for Tots drop-off location via the search form right on the front page of their web site. Can't donate toys? Donate money via credit card on the Toys for Tots website! Can't do that? Donate a little bit of your time by tweeting this, posting it to Facebook, blogging it, telling your friends about it, calling your mom, asking your employer about possible gift drives and company gift matching, or see if you can find a way to volunteer some time to the organization.

So, come on Internet! You're a great big, fabulous place. I love you, even when you're being grumpy and foaming at the mouth over pain relievers. Please don't let me, or Toys for Tots, down on this.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Buzz Works. Now What?

This weekend's Motrin Moms fiasco certainly showed that mom bloggers and others involved in social media can create a big stir when they want to. The website was pulled, an apology was issued, and the buzz is slowly simmering to a dull roar (save the last few sad people who are still slinging the same tired insults that have been around since internet communication began). Soon the critics will tire of screaming that real moms don't have time for the internet or that mothers don't have any real pull on purchases (that dude seriously needs to do some homework before tweeting again) or that everyone was wasting their time by even caring about something that was less than a global issue.

One point that came from the critics is valid, though, in my opinion. Why isn't this much 'net activity and passion wasn't happening for other issues? The Motrin ad was annoying and was fascinating to watch from a media/marketing perspective, but no one was truly hurt by it.

I know that many of the people who weighed in on MotrinGate do care deeply about bigger causes. Many are active in blogging about them or work to raise money for them or volunteer time in their communities to make a difference. The problem is that those things don't show up on the internet. One blogger's Saturday at a soup kitchen won't get her a top spot in Google results or more than a thousand tweets in a few hours.

The other thing that makes visibility of causes difficult is that we all have different pet causes that we're passionate about. I blog, write, preach, discuss, scream, whisper, tweet and teach car seat safety because vehicle crashes are the number one killer of children of kids under age 14 in the U.S. and therefore I feel it's worth some attention. Others don't feel the same passion for it, so it doesn't create a giant storm of internet craziness. The Motrin fiasco did so largely because it called on one thing that most of the commenters do share and feel passionately about: motherhood.

So, the question is: how do we keep the ball rolling? We know that it's possible to create big buzz and get people talking (mostly) thoughtfully about an issue. How do we get everyone talking about the same cause at the same time? There are hundreds of charities and issues and personal cases that involve children or motherhood. The passion is there. How can we use it effectively and collectively?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Motrin Moms Controversy

I'm not easily offended, first of all. Have you seen Motrin's new "We Feel Your Pain" ads that are geared toward moms? Their latest, which just so happens to have been released during Babywearing Week, talks about how painful it is to wear your baby, and how women do that just so they can look like an official mom. It's meant to be tongue in cheek, but it doesn't come across very well. It comes across as trivializing the attachment parenting concept.

Whether or not I'm hugely offended, many people were. Angry letters were written. Mommy bloggers posted late into the night. Twitter exploded with #motrinmoms tags, which even trended to the number one spot with more than a thousand tagged posts in about two hours. Let this be a lesson to companies who want to market to moms. Be careful. Ask questions. Invest in focus groups and test panels. Ask women who don't depend on you for a paycheck what they think. When moms get mad? They talk. Loudly. It's so much easier to get it right the first time than to fire your PR firm and beg forgiveness later.

For the record, babywearing doesn't hurt to the point that you need Motrin, anyway. I've used many different kinds of carriers, and they never made me cry or reach for the painkillers. And it was the baby barf on my shirt, not the sling, that made me look like a real mom.

Read more about Motrin Moms.

Motrin Makes Mommy Mistake

Motrin the Anti-Mom
Don't Mess With the BabyWearers
Annoyed By Motrin's New Ad Campaign
Motrin Makes Moms Mad
Would You Like Some Insult With Your Pain Reliever?
New Motrin Ad Angers Twitter Moms Around the World
Motrin's New Ad: Wrong Message, Wrong Time