Back to School

imagesAhhh, September. Time for kids of all ages to pester their parents for new clothes and school supplies. A simple walk through Target will show you where this country’s priorities lie. You’ll find lunch boxes, notebooks, pencils, crayons, clothes, sippy cups, and even diapers decorated with your child’s favorite “character”. You’ll see commercials urging parents to not let their kids go to school without the latest in locker decorations, and commercials urging kids to make sure their folks buy them all of the latest “looks” for Fall.

And yet none of the importance of going “Back to School” is placed on education. I never hear parents asking their kids what they learned at school. I hear them ask, “Did you have fun today?” When kids at my school are asked to share “News of the Day” they inevitably start talking about something new that was bought at a store for them. It’s depressing. All these kids come to school with the latest in school supplies, but they can’t hold a pencil properly, write their name, or numbers.

America is getting worse in education. Over the past three decades the United States has slipped ten spots in both high school and college graduation rates. (According to this report) We charge money for “an education” in America, but I don’t feel we actually get one. I have met more than my fair share of college graduates (both here and abroad) and a lot of them are just plain stupid. You can spend all of the money you want on a fancy school or college, but it won’t make you any smarter. Holding a college degree will help you get a job I guess. I personally think it is a waste of money. I have met college graduates who didn’t know that Georgia was a country. One young lady hadn’t heard of Tesla. And one college grad told me reading books was a waste of time, boring and didn’t help you make money.

We need to shift focus. We need to start teaching our kids (even the little ones) that going “Back to School” is a time to get excited for learning, and that buying things isn’t very important. Focusing on clothes and material things teaches kids to do the same. American children already have a huge sense of entitlement that was passed on to them; a legacy. It makes me sad to see five-year-olds who can’t do simple math, or sound out words. But ask them to tell you about The Little Mermaid or Ninja Turtles, and you’ll get a detailed story complete with history.

As long as school is tied together with shopping we are fighting an uphill battle. Other countries around the world are smarter than we are, faster than we are, and more educated than we are. They don’t rack up student loans because college is FREE. They don’t go to college as a way to “party”, and they don’t have “Back to School” sales. Our kids think looking “right” is what matters. Having the right backpack is more of a priority than doing some summer reading. Our kids think they not only have a right to be happy all of the time, but they are entitled to it. Because… in America kids come first at any cost. Even at the cost of their own education.

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11 Commandments of Dining Out

DINING1Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure of dining with someone who doesn’t know how to conduct themselves in a restaurant. Maybe your date had a laugh that turned every head in the place. Maybe your BFF switches tables like 10 times and is never satisfied. Nobody likes to eat with the jerk who doesn’t tip, or the jerk who snaps at the servers. I don’t know what makes people think they can be rude when they go out to eat, but people are rude when they go out to eat. Hopefully this will shed some light on what to do (and not do) while dining out.

  1. Always Pay – I know. This should go without saying, but you would be surprised at how many people think they can just walk out if they aren’t happy. I don’t care how bad your food was, or how poorly you were treated- you still need to pay your bill. Dining and ditching is rude, juvenile and really bad form. If your experience at the restaurant was horrible, tell someone about it. A manager might give you the meal on the house, and they might also appreciate knowing what the problem was. When you simply “walk out” on your bill you have taken money away from the servers, the dishwashers, and the hostess.
  2. Tipping Isn’t Optional – I had an annoying conversation with a clerk at the Target yesterday. He said he doesn’t tip unless he thinks the server is “a good person”. If the server is deemed a bad person by this young man, they don’t get a tip. I was furious. I tried telling him that many servers depend on tips as a part of their salary, and who the heck are you to judge who is a good person anyway? Everyone should tip. If the service is poor talk to the manager, but don’t be a dick and leave nothing. Most restaurants pool tips. And in places like Texas, servers make $2-3 per hour + tips. The tips are included as part of the salary, and they are taxed on it. When you stiff your server (for any reason) you are taking money out of their pocket.
  3. Respect Reservations – When you reserve a table you are agreeing to be there on time. When you show up early or late you cause the pace of the restaurant to slow down. If you need to cancel the reservation do it as early as possible so the restaurant can re-book your table. And, if you must cancel – CALL.
  4. Be Nice– Do not snap your fingers at your server. Say please and thank you. Make sure you are asking for things rather than making demands. Servers work on their feet and have a lot to remember. Having you snap your fingers at them doesn’t help. Not even a little.
  5. Be Respectful – I once had a customer who insisted that we change the music we were playing to something less “loud”. Next she asked that we make the lights brighter for her. Finally she asked for the windows on the patio to be shut. Not only did I not do any of those things for her, I couldn’t do any of those things for her. Things like music, temperature, and lights are usually decided by the owner. Your server isn’t your servant. If you have that many special needs then perhaps you should stay home.
  6. The Chef Isn’t Your Personal Chef – I know this is a confusing concept to some diners. Restaurants have a menu. Usually, the chef comes up with the menu him or herself. When you ask for substitutions, or make changes to the menu items you are disrespecting the chef. You are also doubling the work in the kitchen. Do you tell the guy who works on your car how to do his job? Probably not. Then don’t tell the cook how to prepare your food.
  7. Talking – Shhhhhhh! There are other people here! In Prague I encountered many, many loud Americans. They would be sitting in a restaurant laughing loudly, high-fiving, and slamming fists on the table with zero regard to anyone else around. It sucks to eat a meal next to people like that. It also sucks to eat next to the woman who talks on the phone. Loudly. For the entire meal. Turn your phone off, and lower your voice please.
  8. Keep Your Kids In Line
    This is NOT ok

    This is NOT ok

    Everyone loves going out to eat. Even kids. It is the parents job to teach their children how to behave in a restaurant. Screaming, crying, running, throwing tantrums are all examples of unacceptable behavior. The servers cannot look out for your kids running around, and if a hot plate gets dropped on their head it is totally your fault. Think about dining early when there aren’t as many people. Also, bring some things to occupy them, but make sure they are not electronic. Things that beep and make noise are not good choices for public spaces. Remember: The restaurant is a work space. It is fast paced and dangerous for little people.

  9. Leaving a Penny Tip Makes You a Dick – As a server, nothing made me more mad than getting a penny as a tip. I once followed a guy out and told him never, ever to do that again. Like I said before, if you have a problem with the food or service, tell the manager. Speak politely and give detail. Leaving a penny tip won’t help the restaurant, it won’t help the server, and it certainly doesn’t help you. If you want to be a dick write a YELP review like everyone else.
  10. Did you Enjoy Yourself? – If you had a great time at a restaurant let them know. Hearing how great the food was, or what a nice time you had can mean a lot to a server or cook. Restaurants are hard work, so if you enjoy yourself be sure to say thank you. And tell your friends! People who have great dining experiences tell one friend. People who have had bad dining experiences tell everyone.
  11. PDA – When I see people making out, or playing Footsie under the table it makes me uncomfortable. Why? Because I was eating my steak, and now I want to hurl. Save it for later.

Nope, I Don’t Want Kids

imagesIt happened again today. I was at a new salon getting a super cute summer do, enjoying a glass of white wine, when the stylist asked me if I had kids. “Nope”, I said. And I politely changed the subject.

Like many, many women the world over, I won’t be having kids. I thought about it here and there, but it never seemed like the type of commitment I was willing to make. It costs a lot of money, time, and energy to raise an upstanding human. I choose to spend my time, energy and money differently. That’s my choice. Don’t get me wrong – I love kids. We get along great! I have been teaching preschool (infants – six years) for a while now and I’m a very popular teacher. I’m strict but fair, and I’m one of the only teachers who plays with the kids. I like coloring with them, drawing with them, sliding, swinging, talking about Star Wars and dinosaurs, or correcting misinformation they might have picked up along the way. I love kids. I just don’t need one at home.

I am 39 years old and I can’t tell you how often complete strangers, parents of the kids I care for, or people who actually know me ask me why I don’t want kids. First off, it’s none of your business! If you have ever asked that question, please stop. It’s rude. So is saying “It’s not too late” or “Why waste that DNA?” Second, when I say “I don’t want kids” It has nothing to do with you or your choice to become a parent. Don’t get so offended, and don’t take it personally. I’m not abstaining from parenthood in order to prove a point, or to say parents are bad. It really, really has nothing to do with you or anyone else. It’s a personal choice. Lastly, please stop with the condescending looks. And stop telling me I’ll regret it. I won’t. It’s pretty simple: I don’t want to sacrifice the things necessary in order to raise proper humans.

I got pretty used to being interrogated while living in Prague because most Czech women are very old-fashioned when it comes to gender roles. If you aren’t on your third kid by the time you are 25, you are doing something wrong. Honestly, one Czech woman told me that no Czech man would want me if I didn’t “give to him a child”. I told her I was cool with that since there was no Czech man who I would be willing to have sex with. Many childfree, American women have experienced this in Prague. One of my Czech bosses told me I had better “hurry up” and have a baby before I run out of time and get old and fat. No joke. MY BOSS.

rosalind-russell-as-Auntie-Mame

Rosalind Russell – Auntie Mame

But it’s not just Czech women. It happens here too. A few months back I posted something to FB about what a great day I was having… doing something… (I don’t remember what) and how happy I was doing it. A “friend” (who just happens to be a mom) said, “Must be nice to have all that time to yourself! Wish I could just run off and do what I want. Oh responsibility!” Not only is this just rude and disrespectful, it is also ignorant. To assume that women who don’t have kids are riddled with free time is just ridiculous. Most of us who made a choice not to procreate made that choice so that we could have more time. More time to spend the way we want. I spend 40 hours a week with kids and I get paid for it. That’s the way I like it. Taking care of kids for free isn’t my idea of fun.

Not every little girl dreams of growing up and being a Mommie. And that’s ok. I didn’t. When I was little I dreamed of living a grand life, full of adventure and costume changes. I wanted to be an actress or a singer. I dreamed of dancing on a midnight cruise in a huge ball gown like Ginger Rogers. I dreamed of having a Penthouse in a high-rise overlooking Central Park. I even dreamed of joining the circus… or the army. I had a vivid imagination and I wasn’t going to limit myself to a house, a husband, children and yearly holidays. No sir. I wanted want more. I guess I always aspired to be like the role models of my youth: Amelia Earhart, Oprah Winfrey, Auntie Mame, Katharine Hepburn, Julia Child and Harper Lee. All great women, all smart and funny, all great thinkers, great dressers, and great humans. And not one of them a great mom.

Simple Living with Kids

zerowastecupboardsLiving a simple life is not easy. There is no easy solution or road map to follow. It’s not for everyone, but it can make you happier. Last time we talked about editing your life in order to make room for the things you love. For me that meant cutting back on work hours so I could spend more time with my fella. If that sounds crazy to you, then you aren’t ready yet. For me, it is crazy to spend the time I have at a job rather than with someone I love. What could be more important than that?

Now that you have identified what is important to you (time, family, painting, exercise…) you can begin to make room in your life for them. This needs to happen in a tangible way and in an emotional way. First, the tangible. Go room by room, drawer by drawer and get rid of shit. Really purge! I went through my already sparse closet and still found a few things I never used. It made me feel good. I went through my pantry and took out all of those cardboard boxes and plastic bags and replaced them with jars. We bring the jars (or other containers) to the market and buy things like flour, cornmeal, quinoa or sugar in bulk so we don’t have paper/ plastic waste and we are making use of lovely sauce jars. Easy right? Just don’t let your emotions play a part in your purging. You can do without a lot of the “things” you have decided have value.

Clutter is very stressful and distracting. Walking into a messy room, or a cluttered kitchen just feels funny and uncomfortable. Every item in your home demands attention, and If you have kids, you might have a lot of “things”. If you have gone overboard on the buying, don’t worry. You can still fix it. The first step is: Stop Buying. Just stop. Little Bobby doesn’t NEED that Angry Birds plush toy. Little Stacy doesn’t NEED that coloring book, or that Princess video. Want and need are not the same. The sooner kids learn the difference the easier it will be. If your kids think Target is a fun place to spend a Saturday morning then you need to check yourself. Most of the kids at my school constantly tell me about things they “got” or things mommy “bought” for them instead of things they “do”. And that makes me sad.

6741750829_ebca16b816First and foremost, edit their rooms with them. You can’t go into your child’s room and just take their things away. Respect goes both ways. This is true whether you are 4 or 40. You can’t tell a child, “I bought it for you so I can take it away.” That is absurd and disrespectful. Instead, sit the child down and talk as a family. Start by saying that decision has been made to make do with less. Show her a finished space, and how you are unattached to what you are giving/throwing away. If you make it sound like a fun thing, and a cool thing – and if you are doing it – the kid will jump onboard.

Or you might have a fight on your hands. And that’s fine too. You (literally) bought it so now you have to deal with it. Give little Bob one hour to make two piles: Keep & Give. When you come back in an hour you can gauge if he needs more help or not. If he needs help, let him know that you (the parent!) will be making those choices if he cannot. Be brutal and merciless with your editing and let him know that after you will be MAKING some fun new things.

Sensory Bottle Collage for blogThat’s right – make. I promise that your kid doesn’t want or need a shit ton of store-bought, plastic toys. For the little ones: take all of those empty plastic juice or water bottles and fill them with anything. Seriously. Feathers, cotton, sand, bells, a little olive oil and some sequins or marbles. Babies enjoy rolling them, shaking them or putting them in the old pie hole. The fancy folks call them “Sensory bottles” but I call them cheap and easy. The point is, you don’t have to spend a ton on toys. The bigger kids will enjoy making cookies with you, or putting together a puzzle. Take them to the wood shop and build your own wooden toys. If you are saying. “Who has time for that?” then you might need to edit your commitments again. I mean, are you spending a ton of money on a fancy gym membership when you could be hiking with your kids? Exactly.

Hopefully after you have finished editing your home, closets, wardrobes, drawers, car, kids rooms and closets – you’ll feel lighter. You’ll feel happier. Your kid will feel the same. Life just feels nicer when it is free of crap. Below is a handy little system to help you stay on track. And remember, let your children have the responsibility of editing and cleaning their own things. It is not your right to decide what is important in their life. And, don’t pick up after them. Keeping the house “perfectly clean” isn’t the goal here. The goal is for a simple life in a simple home.

  • A place for everything… – Your child (and family) should know where to put something when it is not being used. If you are about to set something down on an available patch of surface space: STOP. Take a second to ask yourself, “Where does this belong?” and then take it there. Basically stop being a lazy jerk and put the dishes in the sink. Put the clothes in the hamper. Put the toys back in the toy bin.
  • Have a simple paper system – Incoming bills, notices, tax docs, school papers should all have a place where they are filed and looked at. Hopefully you are not using paper as much for bills and things, but in some cases it just can’t be helped. Help your kids to have a system for homework and projects as well. I can’t stress how important it is for a kid to feel personal responsibility. Never ever leave papers for “later”. File immediately. Throw junk mail out before it even reaches your door. Don’t leave papers lying around.
  • Clean up before bed & before walking out – I abhor waking up to a messy kitchen. I make sure (most of the time) to clean the dishes and the kitchen before bed, or before leaving the house. and stop multi-tasking. Multitasking is less efficient and more stressful than seeing one task to its completion. Just take a few minutes to de-clutter flat surfaces before bed and before you leave you house. It’s a good habit to get in, and your kids will do it if they see you doing it.
  • Re-purge every couple of months – No matter how hard you try, new stuff will happen. Just make sure you keep tabs on it. Maybe the first weekend of every month you de-clutter something in your home. Maybe you throw an item out if you bring a new one in. I don’t know, it’ll be personal for you. But just don’t let your shit get out of control again.

Just remember the word “now”. If you can remember to do what you need to do now, then later won’t be an issue. Hang your clothes up now, not later. Wash the dishes now, not later. Pay that bill… well, you get the picture.

Less stuff = more time = more happiness.

I’m So Over…

Here is a short list of things I am so very tired of hearing about, seeing, or doing. I will post a counter list of “Things I’m Crazy About” next, so you can keep your “Why are you so negative?” comments to yourself. Thanks. Enjoy!

  1. Hangovers – Thanks, but no thanks. You’d think after seven years in the Czech Republic I’d be used to hangovers. But here’s the thing: most Czech beers don’t leave you with a hangover. True story. So, fast forward three months and give Alicia some American beers, whiskey and one night out on the town and I’m over it. Done. Spending the day feeling like I want to barf, poop and die all at the same time isn’t very alluring for me. For that matter either is getting shit faced drunk. There are plenty of other ways to have a good time.
  2. People who use the words “Fail”, “Brosef”, “Amazing”, “Genius”, “Shaming” – Please stop. You are only hurting yourself. I know it seems cool to jump on the Trendy Bandwagon, but it isn’t. That bandwagon is full of other people JUST LIKE YOU who think they are being clever and witty and original when in fact they are just regurgitating phrases they heard on SNL, Twitter, Facebook or Buzzfeed. You are better than that and you know it. Stop trying so hard, because it just makes you look sad.
  3. Bad SportsmanshipI can’t tell you how completely exhausting it is to play games with children who haven’t been taught how to lose. It is an elegant skill that seems to have been totally forgotten in this country. We are teaching our youth that they should expect to win, that if they get bored (read: they are losing) they can just quit, and that whining when they lose is acceptable. Where do they get this? Oh, right… grown ups. Just look at the Presidential debates of this last month. The President of the US was condemned for not being aggressive enough in a debate when I thought he showed poise and grace. Contestants on reality shows whine or cry when they lose. Teaching people that if they follow the rules of the game they will win is not a good idea. Just because you lose doesn’t automatically mean the other guy is cheating.
  4. Women who use ‘The F word’ excessively, and give ‘The Bird’ in pictures  My fella and I went into a little shop yesterday. Within five minutes of speaking with the female clerk I was ready to leave. She dropped the F Bomb at least ten times in that five minutes. Classy. I don’t like it when men do it either, but I feel a special kind of gross when I hear women do it. It doesn’t make you cooler to talk like a trucker. It doesn’t make you look like Johnny Cash when you throw up the middle finger in a party picture. It makes you look like an idiot. A cliché. Kristen Stewart. Excessive cussing coupled with tongue out, middle finger up pictures are no better than the stupid looking “duck lips” photos that ladies are ever so fond of. Please stop. You look like a tool.
  5. Owls, Sloths, and other animals that look like Zooey Deschanel I know, animals are cool. And the baby ones are super cute. I get it. But maybe we can all decide that just because Kristen Bell is into sloths doesn’t mean I have to be. Just because Zooey Deschanel’s stylist decided that owls were hip, doesn’t mean you have to go along for the sad ride. Just because H&M is selling printed screen T’s of owls playing with kittens doesn’t mean it is a good idea to wear it. Why? Well, because everyone else already is. Yeah, you are so off the beaten path, so totally not mainstream with your owl ring that everyone else has. Le sigh…
  6. GLEE I tried really, really hard to stick with Glee. I suffered through love triangles, John Stamos, and even a horrific retelling of The Rocky Horror Show. But I stuck with it. Why? I am a musical theater geek. I admit that proudly. I love movies and TV shows that have singing and dancing. But Glee jumped the shark this year with the introduction of Wade “Unique” Adams – a cross dressing, singing and dancing, pro equality character who looks like a cross between Tyler Perry and Patti LaBelle. The dude is talented, no doubt. He can sing. But why, WHY do I have to watch that? I get it, Glee is a show about including everyone, and a show that promotes gay equality. YAY! But putting a teen kid in drag and having him sing Beyoncé songs doesn’t further your platform. It makes your platform look like a joke. Glee made a few wrong turns this year, but none as wrong as Unique.

Promote What You Love

There is a new phrase sweeping the interweb. I saw it eight times today on Facebook, and then again when I went into my email. It is one of those goody goody, mushy mush mush things that I usually laugh at and make fun of. Here it is: “Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.” I get it. People want you to be more positive. People want you to focus on the good rather than the bad. And while bashing stupid stuff is far more fun and entertaining, I understand the need for positivity.

So, in the interest of being positive, I’m on board. I’ll give it a shot. I’m ready to put my money where my mouth is. Or at least put my “money” where my mouth is. I don’t have any money, but if I did I would totally put it on my face. I now give you my shameless endorsement – my promotions if you will – of things I love.

  1. EQUAL RIGHTS – If there is one thing in the world I love, it is equal rights. It is common sense really. Women, men, gay folks, minorities… we should all be treated the same because we are. We are all people. We all have feelings. We all want someone to love, and we all want tax breaks.
  2. KITTENS – I am pretty sure that kittens don’t really need more promotion, they have Youtube. But hell. I love kittens. 
  3. OBAMAI have made no secret of the fact that I am a big time supporter of the US President. Sure, he has made some mistakes, but we all have. And I still love him. He’s smart, funny, and he seems like an all around swell guy. He has shown a willingness to work WITH rather than against, and that is something that Romney, hell the entire Republican party can’t claim.He also doesn’t want to take away my rights as a woman. He wants ALL PEOPLE to have the right to get married, serve in the military, see a doctor, and vote. That’s enough for me.
  4. TRUTH – It might be hard to take at time, and even ugly but it is always a good thing. I promote truth at all times. I don’t like “sparing” peoples feelings or sugar coating anything. If you want to know what I think about anything from politics to how you look in those new jeans, I’m gonna tell you the honest truth. If you didn’t want to know, then you shouldn’t have asked. I don’t think being offended is the worst thing in the world, and I think more folks need to learn how to handle it. Being offended is part of life, be upset and move on. If hearing the truth upsets you, don’t get mad at the truth. Instead, look at yourself and ask why it made you so upset. Chances are its your own doing.
  5. BACONI’ve been a fan of bacon for years. In Prague I would ask my kids, “What’s Alicia’s favorite animal?” and they would all yell “PIG!”. When I would say “Why?” they would respond with “Because it tastes good!” I know bacon is ultra trendy right now, and they have bacon flavored everything, but that doesn’t make my love for bacon any less genuine. It smells good. It tastes good. It is bacon. Love it.

So You Wanna Work With Kids, Huh?

I hear it all the time from fresh eyed twenty somethings fresh off the plane from the US. “I just LOVE children! They are so sweet and innocent.” – A sure sign that they have never actually worked with children. And please note that when I say “work with” I mean en masse. I’m not talking about one-on-one tutoring or baby sitting. I’m not even talking about 3 or 4 little rug rats. I am talking about a class of 25 kids who range in age from 2-6. Oh, and English is not their native language.

When I did my TEFL course oh so long ago, (I attended TEFL Worldwide Prague, if any of you are interested. It was badass!) I never dreamed that I would end up teaching kindergarten. But that is just what has happened. I just wish someone had filled me in on those little things that aren’t so little. It would have made my first year of tiny people a lot easier. So, here you go: Things you need to know before you take a job teaching children in the Czech republic. 

  1. The kids here are WAY over mothered. Did you know that in CZ a woman can get up to THREE YEARS off of work when she has a baby? During this time she is paid a percentage of her salary and her job is available to her when those three years are up. Needless to say most women don’t opt to go back to work. Czech women look down on women with children who choose to work. (Heck, they look down on women who have NO children. Or no man. But that is for a different blog.) Most women spend the first three years of their kids lives at home with them. No “Mommy and Me” classes. No socialization for the youngster. And, very little attention paid to things like diet, reading or behavior. The kids spend three years getting what they want when they want it. And then they come to school and it is now YOUR problem. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  2. Czech kids have to change their clothes. A lot. For some reason I still don’t quite understand, Czech kids have about 1275332 changes of clothes for the day. The parents seem to freak out over dirt. They need inside/outside shoes, hats, pants, and shirts. In the winter time it is almost laughable at the amount of clothes you are expected to take off, and then put on a kid in one day.
  3. Your employer will expect you to be a mom, and a babysitter. Oh, and teaching will be fine also. You will be hired as a “teacher” but you will probably be asked to do more than that. If you are not comfortable changing diapers or doing dishes then say so early. You get paid less teaching kids and it is harder work. So set your limits before signing a contract.
  4. Czech kids have HORRID table manners. They lick plates. They drink from soup bowls. They play with their food. Stop this behavior before it goes to far! I have seen adult Czech’s doing the same thing. And speaking of which…
  5. Czechs let their kids pee outside. Where ever they are. It’s gross. I see little kids peeing all over the city. And you know what? Those kids grow up and keep peeing in public. If you’ve been in Prague a week, you know what I am talking about. My kids know that it is not allowed at school. I tell the parents that if their child is in an international school, they need to have some international manners. 
That’s about it. It isn’t all bad. Kids are fun and goofy and silly. I get to color and paint every day. I even get to play with legos. The hardest part of my job is dealing with the parents. And, well they don’t listen any better than their 3 year old.

Mommie Mia!

Did you know that in the Czech Republic a woman can get up to three years off of work when she has a baby? That’s right,THREE YEARS. And when those three years are up, she can go back to work. Oh, and she is getting a portion of her salary while she is away (depending on her job). At first thought the idea sounds great. How liberal! How pro woman and pro family! But on second glance?I have spent the last two years working at a pre school in this country and that has opened my eyes to a few of the flaws of this three-year off system. 

Women in this country of all ages, social standing and backgrounds take advantage of this system. Have a baby! And when those three years are up, just have another! A woman in the Czech Republic could feasibly never have to work a day in her life. After all, it isn’t her responsibility to financially care for her children and provide for them – it’s a man’s job. Why should she have to get a job when she could be at home with her kids doing nothing? Most women don’t put their kids in school until after they are three. The ones that do send their precious babies to school keep them out so many days that it hardly matters if they go or not. Little girls learn very early here how to manipulate men to get what they want. And they are learning from mommy. They are also learning that women don’t need to work. (barf)

The small percentage of women who do chose to go back to work are so behind that they usually quit. I had one student who was back from baby leave after three years who had no clue what was going on in the office. She was lost. She complained about missing her toddler. I felt bad for the person who had been doing her job for the past three years and got booted. 

Women in this country are expected to be at home with their “baby” (which they call their kids well into their college years) as long as possible. Women who go back to work are looked down on and made to feel guilty; like they are lesser mothers because they are working. And to remind all of you Americans reading this, we are talking about going back to work after three years. YEARS. Not six months.

Which brings me to the biggest issue I have with the whole system – the kids. Kids in this country spend their first three years at home with mom. And I mean that almost literally. I have had more than one new kid at school who has never been in a school, or a play group or even out without his mommy and is dropped off for the first day of school terrified of being without mom. Some of them still in diapers. How is this a good thing? So many children in this country are spoiled, and anti social because of their attachment to mom. Both little boys and girls are coddled – not expected to put on their own shoes, or hats or even feed themselves. that’s what women mom is for.

But I see the other side of the “let’s set the women’s movement back 50 years” issue. I get to see the absolute sense of triumph a kid feels when she learns to put on her own shoes without help. I get to see little kids feel confident and happy going to school and making friends. I don’t care if it makes mom feel bad. Holding a kid back so YOU feel better is selfish. And so is sheltering and coddling a kid for three years.

The Czech system needs to be changed. There is no longer any need for these crazy “incentives” for procreation. Hell, just take a walk around Prague and count the babies and pregnant women and you’ll see what I mean. The system is unfair to children, women, and the companies that employ these women. Not to mention it promotes the special brand of sexism that only Czechs do oh so well.

A woman’s place is at home with babies. If she gets out, just knock her up again. But you’ll have to take time off from that mistress you have out on the cottage in the nature.

Word to Your Mother

I work with small people. Some might call them children, or brats or even scalawags – but I call them small people – Because, that’s what they are. I also am lucky enough to call some of them my friends. Sure, I am strict and even yell sometimes, but I am also very liberal with hugs and high fives. My little friends like me. My goal is to EMPOWER not enable. When one of my small people comes to me and needs help with a tie of the shoe, or a zip of the coat they are told to try it themselves first. When one of my little munchkins tries to get out of an art project or clean up time by going to the bathroom or being lazy – they are reminded not to be lazy. Teach a kid to tie his shoes and…well…he can tie his shoes! I am proud to be one person who helps set boundaries for them. Some of them don’t have any at all. NONE. They dictate to mom and dad what they want to eat and are allowed to talk back and be disrespectful. They play at the table and throw food – to which mom and dad reply, “Oh, well…they are children.” My point exactly. Children thrive when there is a set regime and routine and rules to follow. it helps them feel secure in an otherwise scary world.

The enabling factor does not end with kids. It’s everywhere. It is a huge crutch that a lot of people use and it needs to be broken. I know a bundle of twenty somethings that don’t want to work – and DON’T – because mom and dad give them money. Some of them manage to hold a job for a month before getting bored and quitting, letting the parentals handle the finances. I know some couples that are all about the enable. Either he or she does EVERYTHING for their mate, making said mate lazy and useless. It sucks.

I guess I am writing this today because I am tired of watching people (mostly mom’s and dad’s at work) use love and selflessness as an excuse. You really love your kid? Teach them to be independent. It isn’t right to DO everything for anyone. And, in the long run – it isn’t about love at all. It is about the enabler feeling good about themselves. By trying to prevent crises or troubles or frustration, they are really just prolonging the problem. It’s a motivation of fear and fear is the opposite of love.

So, mom’s – dad’s…? Think about how awesome your kid will feel when they are able to do things themselves. Think about how good you feel when you accomplish a task. Without asking for help. Feels pretty good, don’t it? Cause really, which is more helpful – learning to do something, or having it done for you?

Pretty Baby

Long before T.V became the glossy, million channeled marketing device that it is today – I loved it. Television was simple. Cartoons didn’t have a network, they had Saturday mornings. Television movies were an event (i.e. Thornbirds) and having a favorite show meant waiting all week for a new episode and actually watching it when it aired – commercials and all. As for me, I wouldn’t miss an episode of Dynasty, and I loved to watch the Miss America Pageant. Each year my family would gather together with bowls of popcorn and rootbeer floats to watch 52 pretty women parade, sing, dance, twirl, and give speeches all in hopes of winning a really big shiny tiara. It was fabulous. And not just because I had a knack for picking the winner. I really just liked watching pretty girls in big fancy dresses. I still do.

It seemed that Miss South Carolina or Miss Texas or some other southern state would always win. The bigger the hair and the more make-up you slathered on, the better your chances of winning. (I think women in Texas must look at everyday life as The Miss America Pageant because the amount of hairspray and Maybellene usage in that state baffles me.) Sure she had to have poise and grace. She had to be able to keep smiling while walking down stairs in a bathing suit, high heels and a sash while Regis Philbin sang at her. That can’t be easy. She also had to have a platform. If memory serves, all of the contestants had the same platform – education, community involvement, or helping “special” children. It always seemed that they had a little brother or sister with some issue or another and they wanted to use their face and bikini ready figure to call much needed attention to it. She’d get all misty eyed as she would say, “My little brother Timmy had cerebral palsey and as Miss America, I will help raise awareness and money to help him and other amazing, brave kids like him…” Yeah. Sure honey. It has nothing to do with the millions of dollars in scholarships or the television appearances.

And that’s fine. Really. I have absolutely NO problem with 20-something women trying to make their way in the world. And I don’t want to hear that it’s all about their face and figure. We don’t sit around chastising young women who want to become actresses, do we? That is an industry based fully (these days) on your appearance. So, I want to give these women a break. They are all educated, grown women.

Unlike a six year old.

A few days ago I watched this documentary called “Baby Beauty Queens” about the Little Miss UK contest. I was shocked. And not at the little girls. I was shocked at the mothers. One mom gave her SEVEN YEAR OLD child plastic surgery. One mother said that the lord gives us all talents, and her daughter’s talent is being pretty. Since when is your face a talent?

I liked to play dress-up and put on make-up when I was little. I think most little girls do. Mom would give us old clothes, or some sequined dresses bought at a yard sale, and we would put them on and play grown up lady at a party. It was harmless fun. There was never EVER an emphisis on being pretty. I never recall my mom ever telling me that the most important thing was my looks, or my hair or anything like that. And, I never recall it being forced on me. I never had to practice dress up or make-up. I never competed against other little girls for money I would never see.

This is what I don’t understand. We are raising a generation of girls who are told being pretty and liked is the most important thing – and then we get angry at them for seeking out attention. As a parent (if I were one, and if I ever become a mom please hold me to it) I would think we would know better. Isn’t it time we stop telling little girls lies like “Your hair is your crowning glory” or “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”. Hair is just hair. It grows back. And there are about a million websites dedicated to “sexy” librarians in glasses. My point is – let’s leave the looks at the door. Maybe start telling little Susie how smart she is, rather than how pretty. Maybe we could make room for flaws. What is a seven year old girl supposed to think about herself when her mother tells her she is ugly?

Sure, we will always judge people on their looks – it’s human nature. But maybe, just maybe we can learn not to judge ourselves on our looks. There is that saying – It takes a village to raise a child. I gotta say, if my child is raised in a village that makes her face more important than her brain – we are SO moving!