December 19, 2018

Why No Kids? Teenagers!

Teens sharing earphones, listening music outdo...

Teens sharing earphones, listening music outdoor. Summer time. This image is taken from SCA’s international report Hygiene Matters 2010. For more info, please visit www.hygienematters.com . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As if the prospect of changing diapers around the clock and running after toddlers who learn about the world through their mouths isn’t frightening enough to a non-parent, watching teenagers and their parents struggling in this complex modern world has unequivocally convinced me that I have made the right choice not to have kids. I’ve been thinking about teenagers lately, probably because so many of my friends  and relatives have them now, and because I therefore chat with them often and frequently have the occasion to hear parents lamenting the difficulties of raising them.

Each time I see teenagers of a relative or friend these days, I wonder what they have done with the child who looked an awful lot like them. Even after a small lapse of time between visits, I ask their parents:

“When did she grow breasts?” or “When did he become a baratone and start growing a mustache?”

Inevitably they answer something like:

“Oh, I don’t know. Recently I guess.” Do they change in their sleep, I wonder and what happened to the giggly kids who couldn’t wait to sit in my lap and show me their latest toy or accomplishment? Why do I suddenly rarely merit a hello from them unless prompted by their parents?  How can their parents be so nonchalant about all the dramatic changes in their teenagers?

It’s Not Easy to be a Teen Today

My friend’s high-school aged daughter confessed to me recently that she estimates 70 percent of her classmates are dependent on some prescription drug. That figure was startling enough to me (she goes to a large public school with a very diverse population, in the suburbs of a major American city), but when she also added that the parents are often the ones demanding drugs for their children so that their teens can perform as well as their peers, that stunned me. Even when kids don’t have any identifiable reason for prescription drugs, parents are coercing doctors to prescribe attention enhancing drugs to their teens. Of course, kids are also choosing those drugs without their parents’ permission so that they can focus more on their studies and exams. Unfortunately, many don’t see the dangerous implications of doing so.

With drugs and binge drinking on the rise, never mind the staggering pressure teenagers have to excel at absolutely everything, how do they cope? I watch students  hoping to go to college, struggle to get exceptional grades, to be highly proficient at least one language, one instrument and one sport. Additionally, they are expected to participate in an endless assortment of life-changing volunteer work both here and abroad before their 17th birthdays. Add to their pressure, the rise of mass school shootings, and an increase in teen bullying and suicide,  predators on the internet, the pressure to have an inordinate amount of cyber “friends,”  to communicate with them ceaselessly, to experiment sexually, and the ability to learn anything they want with a few finger strokes, how, exactly do they navigate? No wonder they are turning to synthetic drugs to force them to focus.

My friend told me about a river cruise they took abroad this summer with their two teenage daughters. Their high hopes for a relaxing vacation were dashed when an interesting young man that their daughters had befriended, with whom they spent ten days socializing, inexplicably decided, after a fun evening, to hang himself in his boat bathroom. His brothers discovered him.  How do you explain that to your teenagers?

It’s Not Easy to be a Teen Parent Today

Recently, while dining with some teen moms, a debate arose about whether moms should monitor teen texting.

“Oh, you can’t look at his texts – he’ll never trust you if he finds out.”  was followed by:

“But I need to know what’s going on with him.  He doesn’t talk to me any more.”

I remain oddly silent. Who knows the right answer here. How could the I, the teen-less non-mom, possibly advise? Teenagers’ behavior is wildly unpredictable, unlike younger children who respond with somewhat more consistency. The helpful, cheeky advice I offer to new mothers (much to their surprise from a non-mom), is not relevant here.  Though I spend a great deal of time with kids and teenagers, I’m at a loss here.

Teens in G-string-bikinis.

Teens in G-string-bikinis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An acquaintance of mine recently confessed to me that he started experimenting with drugs as a teenager precisely because his parents were convinced that he was doing them (though he wasn’t). He was that angry about their distrust in him. Therein he embarked on a lifelong career with drugs. Are his parents to blame?

Raising teenagers is like a high stakes game of chess where, with one wrong move, your teenager may not speak to you for  years, or worse.

My friend is visiting from the city.  Before dinner the first night, her teenage daughter waits expectantly at the bottom of my stairs.  Her mother appears. They lock eyes. The teen daughter looks her mother up and down and shakes her head dismissingly.  My friend retreats to the bedroom to change her clothes.

“Really, no one cares what you wear here,” I offer, in defense of my friend, but she is still fixed on the stairs.  Her mother appears again while the daughter shrugs her shoulders, and shakes her head in half submission.  This was enough of an approval for my friend to descend the stairs.

“I’m hopelessly un-cool,” she laments to me over her first martini.  “I just want her to be happy, and she’s so easily embarrassed by me.”  My friend knows I’m suspect of the approval ritual with her daughter though I’ve said nothing of it.

“If you are un-cool, then I must be on the outcast island of un-cool,” I offer hoping to boost her spirits.

“Oh, no, she thinks you are cool.  You’re not a mother…you’re not her mother.”  This surprises me for a number of reasons, but most of all, because being a non-mom somehow gets me cool credits. Interesting.

Teenagers in Las Vegas

On a trip to Las Vegas this fall I witnessed a never-ending stream of intoxicated teenagers, wandering the streets, clubs, and bars in next to nothing for clothes, high heels the young women could barely walk in, most  sporting two foot beakers of alcoholic beverages (day and night). When did micro-minis come into fashion, I asked my friends, since I hadn’t witnessed them in my small rural town. Apparently, for a while now.  Also I wondered: did their parents know where their teenagers were, what they were wearing, doing, and drinking?

On a plane ride to Las Vegas this fall I had the interesting destiny of sitting next to a reality “star.”  My companions on the plane found it highly amusing that perhaps the only person on the plane who doesn’t watch television, let alone reality shows, had the good fortune of sitting next to an icon of the reality industry.  This young man, hopelessly intoxicated on some substance, though just recently bragging on a national talk show of his recent success at rehab, struggled to speak, eat or make his way to the restroom. As I politely fed him my shrimp and held his soda while he continuously nodded of onto my shoulder, the flight attendant smiled at me sympathetically.

The flight attendant was using the drink cart to fend off crowds of teenagers hoping to get his autograph or to catch a glimpse of him. I kept thinking, how did this man become a celebrity? How can teens negotiate this increasingly complex world with role models like him? How did going on drinking sprees on national television make a person worthy of star treatment by so many teenagers? In the end, when he could communicate (and boy did he), I must admit, he was quite appreciative of my help, and the story he told of how he became famous was compelling, but, really what ever happened to Greg Brady?

Bravo, Teen Parents!

For those of you out their who have teens, you have my utmost sympathy and admiration if you have turned out well adjusted interesting teens in this crazy world.  To those of you who don’t have children, get involved. Parents need your help, and teens need more positive role models, be they celebrities or childfree aunts, uncles, or adult friends. It’s a staggering world we live in, exponentially more complicated than the one we faced as teenagers. Teens tend to relate to, and  reveal more candid information to non-parents, and when they are not juggling studies, sports, music, language lessons, and volunteer work, when they are sober and not texting frantically and actually sit down with you, they can be quite compelling.

Another One Bites the Dust: Kim Kardashian No Longer Childfree

Kim Kardashian - BlackBerry Porsche P'9981

Kim Kardashian – BlackBerry Porsche P’9981 (Photo credit: Hollywood_PR)

Just over a year ago Kim Kardashian accepted her role as doting auntie. She was content not having her own kids. We celebrated here at WNK.

“At first I was like, I want six kids. Then I went down to four, then I was down to three, and now I’m like, maybe I won’t have any,” she says glumly. “Maybe I’ll just be a good aunt…at this moment in my life, I feel like maybe I’m not supposed to have kids and all that,” Kim says in a December 6 Glamour Magazine article (source Us Magazine)

All that changed when the reality star started dating Kanye West. Bump watch began immediately. Kanye and Kim and all 8,000 Kardashians recently konfirmed that KK and KW had indeed made a baby. So now we get to hear about it for the next six months. Kongrats!

Am I trying too hard to be the cool Auntie? (Giving gifts to the kids in your Childfree life)

The Production poster for the original Broadwa...

Original Annie on Broadway (Credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATE: For some reason this post got lost in the holiday mail!

I’m too excited to sleep! On Saturday I’m taking my goddaughter to see Annie on Broadway for her 9th birthday. It’s going to be the best birthday ever – just like it was my best Christmas gift ever when I was nine and my parents took me (31 years ago)! I think. I hope.

Am I trying too hard because I don’t have kids of my own? Nope. I just want to be the cool Auntie, like my idol the Savvy Auntie. I want to be the best godmama in the world every time I see my godchildren (four and counting). There is no way that I could sustain this level of pressure 24/7.

Am I forcing my own wants on this little girl that I love to bits? Perhaps. Last year I bought a rare Barbie – because I loved/loooove Barbie! The year before it was art supplies and jewelry and a fancy dress, all things I craved as a kid and still do. No complaints from the recipient so far.

Am I trying to buy love with gifts? Maybe. I had a cool aunt who bought the best gifts and she was my favorite until she had little girl of her own. (Me? Jealous?)

Am I trying to influence this poor child into becoming more like me? Ha! Isn’t that what “real” parents do? (I still want to be my mom when/if I grow up.)

Still, I can’ t help thinking: what if it’s the worst birthday ever and she winds up in therapy because she really wanted to see Mary Poppins on Broadway instead but, no, I MADE her see Annie? Gah! To be continued…

Hey WNKsters what did you get your nieces, nephews, godchildren this year for Christmas/Hanukkah?

UPDATE PART 2: No one cried or died! Hooray! Success. Now how do I top it?

Why No Kids? Golden Eagles!

Sometimes my clever riffs on absolutely-positively-definitively why no kids demand detailed explanation. Diagrams. Graphs. Sometimes even interviews and strategically constructed arguments are necessary to spell out the childfree merits of the decision that my bride and I made and continue to make. But today, my why no kids explanation demands neither diagrams or graphs. Not even interviews.

Why No Kids? Watch the Video!

English: Golden eagle

Why no kids? Golden eagles! (Wikipedia)

I’ll mash up a pair of brief quotations to spell out the video action for those who need a little hand holding:

A video from Montreal shows a giant Golden Eagle swooping down and snatching a small child… [at] Mount Royal in Montreal. The cameraman has the video tracking a giant Golden Eagle as it glides through the air, but then the bird marks a sharp turn and descends downward toward a child sitting on the ground… the Golden Eagle snatches the child, who appears to be two or three years old, eliciting a curse from the cameraman who goes running to help. (The Inquisitr)

Fortunately, the eagle was not able to pull off the greatest aviary caper in world history, probably because small humans weigh many more pounds than big rodents. (Gawker)

Why No Kids? Golden Eagles!

The equation is simple. And definitive. Why no kids? Golden eagles!

Why No Kids? Urinal Deodorizers!

A little less than a week ago I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico on a mini-vacation. My bride and I flew out on Saturday night and came back Wednesday.

A whirlwind of southwest goodness. We visited good friends. We played. We ate. We drank. We hiked. We biked. We art-ed and shopped and strolled…

It was good.

Mostly. One event in particular was not good. Not good at all!

Southwestern Cuisine and Urinal Deodorizers

We were staying with dear friends with dear twin boys. And one night we went out to dinner at Maria’s, an old time Santa Fe family dining favorite. The twins father was out of town on a business trip, so I got to play surrogate daddy when it came time for a mid-meal bathroom break. One forty year old man and two four year old boys. No problem. We traipsed through the restaurant hand-in-hand. All smooth so far. As we approached the bathroom door the younger of the two started to pull away, but my grip tightened and he looked up at me, resigned. Inside both boys affirmed in unison that they wanted to use the urinal.

Did I mention that they were four years old? This was an adult height urinal, but the first twin managed to liberate his junk from his pants and aimed at the urinal. I slid into the other urinal and took care of my own business. When I wrapped up and leaned over to check on the other twin. He had the urinal deodorizer in his hands! That’s right, he was holding the pink hockey puck encased in a white mesh plastic target and inspecting it. Sniffing it actually.

I barked his name with a mix of authority and panic. His head snapped up to look at me. He was wearing an ear to ear grin. His pants and underwear were around his ankles. The urinal was full from both twins dewatering and heaven only knows how many other diners’ contributions since last flush. He dropped the target back into the urinal and reached toward me. I leaped backward, knocking into an older gentleman who’d just entered the bathroom.

“Glad mine are all grown up,” he laughed, handing the other twin some paper towel to dry his hands. The boy had had managed to climb up onto the counter to wash his hands and was straddling the sink, shaking his hands dry.

“Thanks,” I said, helping the hand washer down to the floor. “Pull up your pants,” I told the deodorizer holder.

“I can’t,” he whined, showing me his dripping hands and walking toward me.

“Don’t touch me!” I carefully grasped his hips from behind and lifted him up onto the counter. He soaped up and splashed around until I felt reasonably confident that he wouldn’t get ill before dessert. But I wasn’t confident enough to hold his hand as we walked back to the table, and he shot off like a wind up toy, zipping through the restaurant and nearly sweeping the feet out from under a waitress balancing two sizzling skillets loaded with fajitas. He dove under the table just before I made it into the dining room where we were seated. My bride and the the twins’ mother were enjoying their meals. Not the time for a bathroom update…

Why no kids? Urinal deodorizers!

Bored Child Nightmare

“A bored kid at home might be dangerous…” (Childfree Commercial)

Aside from the generally crumby quality of this video (Let me guess, recorded on smart phone from a hazy old school television?) the imagery is disturbingly hilarious.

Wait. Did I just say that?

Please scratch that insensitive remark.

The commercial for a kid’s crafting book to occupy your bored child is amusing. In a decidedly sick way.

Better?

Part of what makes this video sticky is that you don’t really know whether the bored child is pulling a prank or trying to help. Favor? Or Oedipus Complex.

Bored

Bored Child (Photo credit: John-Morgan)

A bored child might be dangerous either way. In fact, that’s one small part of the concern with kidlets. Sometimes the line between prank, favor, and devious retaliation is blurry. And shifting. And unpredictable.

During a recent visit with my darling nieces, the four year old straight arm cold-cocked me in the family jewels. Bull’s eye! For a few minutes I stood on the pier sucking wind and seeing stars. When I got my act straight and bent down to ask her if it was an accident she smiled and shook her head from side to side slowly.

“You hit me on purpose?”

Still smiling, she nodded her head up and down.

“Do you have any idea how much that hurt?”

Side to side.

“Do you think it’s funny?”

Laugh. Up and down.

We sat. We talked. She apologized. And went back to building her sand castle.

I haven’t the slightest doubt that she considered the sucker punch to her uncle’s zipper zone a prank. I’m big. She’s teeny. I’m a man. She’s a girl. I like to roughhouse. She likes to roughhouse. We’re both pranksters, and we’ve frequently conspired on practical jokes. But her 4-year old filter for sifting appropriate from malevolent is limited. And sometimes it can’t keep up with her actions.

The video is goofy. And real. And sort of pitiful if you’re willing to purchase a kid’s craft book as a simple plug-and-play alternative to parenting a bored child. Lesson needed? No nut knocking, kid!

And then on to the next learning experience…

(Child)Free Money #2: How much $ can I save by not having babies?

In (Child)Free Money #1: Can I afford to have kids?, we introduced the USDA’s “Cost of Raising a Child Calculator” and noted the high cost of having kids.

A middle income family, defined as a married couple with two children and a before-tax income averaging $79,940, spent approximately $13,050 per year on each child for their first 18 years of life.

Assuming the $13,050 as a starting point (spending varies and depends on household income), parents spend $234,900 per child just to get them out of High School.

So, congratulations, by choosing to remain childfree. Instead of having 2.1 kids like the average U.S. family, you saved about $470,000, and that is just the beginning.

That number assumes that there is no inflation or that wages keep pace with child-rearing and living expenses. It does not account for higher education, the boomerang babies, lost wages or productivity or unmeasurable costs of added stress and inadequate sleep.

It also doesn’t account for lost savings. The cost to parents is not only what they spend, but the lost opportunity to invest that money.

If instead of spending $13,050/child annually, you invest that money the end of each year to age 18, you will earn $107,000 in interest and save nearly $343,000 by not having just 1 baby.

If you invest $26,100/year instead of having 2 kids you will save $685,000 – before college!

These results assume investment in secure tax-exempt, insured bonds. The investment is virtually riskless. Based on average yields for similar investments over the past 18 years, I assumed an average return of 4.25% for an average investment period of 9 years. Feel free to write if you want more details.

In the next installent we will calculate saving/cost through college graduation. (Hint: ouch!)

 

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Happy Non-Parents Day!

When I was in my early-ish twenties I asked a lot of questions of friends and colleagues that had kids and/or were married. What’s the best part? What’s the worst? Would you change anything? What are you not telling me? No, seriously…

As you would expect, I got a wide range of answers, and some questions in return. A lot of men that were then my current age, 40, cautioned me about marriage. No one with kids told me they regretted it, but several made sure I knew that kids would change my life and my relationship drastically.

Most repeated thoughtless shit they heard somewhere (everywhere) else.

“You have to work at it.”

“It was the best day of my life.”

“Marriage is hard.”

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“… a miracle…. a blessing”

And when I asked again, “how?” or “why?”, they said nothing. I was young and dumb, but knew that skepticism is warranted whenever people are saying the same damn meaningless things, repeatedly. And what the hell does “marriage is hard” or “kids are a blessing” mean anyway? Nothing! People just said, and say, what the culture tells them they should say.

Looking back on this non-parents day, I want to thank those that were honest with me. I also want to express some regret that I didn’t really have any committed childfree adults to talk to. So I also want to encourage readers to share (in the comments or on Facebook) their most bare, honest answer to:

“For you, what is the best thing about being child-free?”

Because I know there are young people out there with no one to ask or no one that will respond honestly; and because I think all of us should be able to note, today at the very least, why we are celebrating.

Related articles:
August 1st Happy Non-Parents Day! – (whynokids.com)
Childfree? Really? Common Questions and Comments (Part 3) (whynokids.com)
Childfree? Really? Common Questions and Comments (Part 2) (whynokids.com)
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(Child)Free Money #1: Can I afford to have kids?

There is ample evidence that household finances affect relationships, stress levels, lifestyles, choices and happiness. Financial security and flexibility are obviously on any list of reasons childfree or childless couples are often happier than parents.

 

So if you are planning to have kids or wrestling with the decision, you might want to consult a calculator or accountant, especially in this uncertain era in which resources are limited, household incomes are stagnant or shrinking, inflation is lurking, and the cost of raising and educating kids has increased rapidly.

 

The USDA’s “Cost of Raising a Child Calculator” is a great place to start. “Cost” is a bit misleading, because the USDA numbers reflect what parents spend on kids before they are 18.

Dr Mark Lino, USDA Economist, explained in an email to WhyNoKids:

“The data we use (the Consumer Expenditure Survey) examines what families are spending. Cost can be a somewhat subjective concept. For example, we look at how much families are spending on children’s clothing. This is a different concept than what it may cost to adequately clothe a child (two pairs of shoes a year, five pairs of pants, etc.).“

 

The USDA site and study are worth a look. But start with this story published July 16:

Priceless and pricey: USDA tallies child-raising costs | Management content from Western Farm Press.

 

Middle income parents of a child born in 2011 can expect to spend about $234,900 ($295,560 if projected inflation costs are factored in*) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise a child over the next 17 years. Let’s look at the breakdown:

  • A middle income family, defined as a married couple with two children and a before-tax income averaging $79,940, spent approximately $13,050 per year on each child for their first 18 years of life.
  • Expenses averaged about $760 less for younger children from birth to 2 years old, and averaged $1,270 more for teenagers between 15-17 years of age.
  • Teenagers are more expensive because they have higher food costs, as well as higher transportation costs when they start to drive.
  • Housing accounts for the largest expense (30 percent) for a child.  Housing expenses escalate with the need for additional bedrooms and bathrooms. This is followed by child care/education (18 percent) for those with this expense, and food (16 percent).

 

In (Child)Free Money #2, we will calculate how much money couples can save over 18 years by not having children and investing what they would have spent instead.

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Baby Names Are Getting Even Worse – Deadspin

 I am only slightly embarrassed to say that while my wife and I were busy explaining to friends and strangers that the answer to their “When are you having children?” questions was “Never”, we also brainstormed names for the little genius. I liked Romie Lane, the name of a street in a Steinbeck novel, East of Eden I think. She liked the sound of Roma. What can I say? There is either some deep psychological well to drill here, or we are simply pretentious semi-literates that enjoy naming things. The car, for example, is named Bess, after my wife’s grandmother, who had similarly sturdy, wide hips and a heavy backend. We also unapologetically and ruthlessly offer name suggestions for friends’ companies, boats, and especially babies. Yes, we know we are annoying.

At least none of our baby branding ideas were highlighted as ludicrous in Drew Magary’s semi-hilarious story: American Baby Names Are Somehow Getting Even Worse.

Now, you and I both know that Americans of all stripes have grown progressively worse at naming children. It’s not enough for your child to have a normal name and then try to stand out on their own merits down the road. No, no, no. Every parent now wants every child to be unique and special from the moment the doctor wipes all the amniotic fluid off of it, even though all babies look alike and contribute nothing to society.

There’s a bizarre assumption that if you can make your child’s name unique, the child will be unique. And that’s NEVER the case. Chances are, if you name your kid Braxlee, he or she is gonna end up bent over the sink in the back of a TGI Friday’s, offering tail in exchange for a better skim off the tip pool.

Magary seems to have a point, and I’ll bet that baby names become even more bizarre as expectant parents choose names based on the availability of their dot-com address on GoDaddy. (As I write this I think I might finally understand the inspiration for the name of that company…)

 

 

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