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The Tentacle


May 20, 2003

Enjoy Making Memories Instead Of Just Remembering Them

Bethany Stevenson

We have all been warned, officially. In the editorial section of the local paper recently a vigilante with a cause warned all of his fellow citizens that no person is safe from his watchful eye: if you leave your child unattended in a car for even a second, he will personally whip out the cell phone to make the call to haul you away.

It is great to have a cause to feel passionately about. It is great to have a cause to work passionately for. But in this day and age, extremism seems to have seeped into every aspect of our being.

I cannot deny that I live by the grandmotherly adage: "If it is worth doing, then it is worth doing well." My family, my garden, and my volunteer service all attest to this.

However, when do we cross the "psycho line?" With the example above, there was a time when it was acceptable to go pump your car with gas all the while making faces through the window at the adorable little darlings. When it came time to pay, you popped your head in one more time to reassure them you would be back and ensure they were comfortable and their needs were met. In a minute and a half you were back.

Now, you are supposed to unload three kids from their car seats, trek them across the rows of moving cars, stand in a small room filled with candy at their eye level, pay for the gas while keeping them at bay, trek them back across, buckle them all back in and after this 10 minute procedure, sit down, take a deep breath and wonder if it is really worth it.

Is it really child abuse to leave that child in the car for 1 1/2 minutes to pay for gas?

As a day care provider I am faced with a myriad of laws and rules that the average family does not deal with as well. These, too, seem to border on extremism. For example, one law states that if I choose to set up a baby wading pool for the kids during the summer that after one child has entered the water, no other child may enter. When that child has completed their playtime, the water is to be disposed of, the pool sanitized, and filled with fresh water for the next child.

Repeat the process for the number of children who would like to cool off on that summer day. Add in any time it takes to heat up the water by the sun, and chasing the 2-year-old away who doesn't understand the laws of Maryland, and you have an incredible headache by the time swimming time is over.

I am also required to be in the same room with children under the age of six except during naps. Makes sense, but that does not leave much privacy for me in the bathroom. Three-year-olds don't really seem to mind.

However, I do. Extreme? Borderline? Many a mother treasures the 3-minute reverie in the bathroom with the door closed, and, with the preventative measures for safety being taken beforehand, surprises following the timeout are few and far between.

Not exactly a law, but a verbal directive from an employee at the DHR, which oversees family day cares, also borderlines on this social extremism.

I was advised that because she is not able to fold laundry at her office, that while I watch the children play blocks I couldn't fold my own laundry. Now, granted, were my actions taking my attention so far from the duties and abilities of caring for the safety and well-being of the children I would cease and save that activity for after-hours. But I, as well as many mothers, can fold laundry, watch little ones, supervise homework, carry on a conversation with a teen and plan the week's menu all at once without losing any productivity, quality or safety.

Not only though does this extreme thinking exist in the minds of government. It is no longer good enough to have a good hamburger or a decent chip, but it has to be an "extreme" burger or chip.

Or take for instance the recent Mother's Day. Is it good enough that we honored our mothers with visits, meals, tokens of love and appreciation, phone calls, heartfelt gratitude written through our own feeble poetry, or flowers we nurtured in our own gardens for a bouquet loving arranged in her honor?

No, $3 cards, $50 flower arrangements chosen from a book or internet site, gold dipped roses, clothes, jewelry, expensive meals at restaurants and pampering at salons for the day were the list of luxuries that not only were showered on mothers but sadly enough also expected by mothers. Extreme to say the least.

Some may say I am old fashioned in my way of thinking, but is it really? Should mothers be so demanding that Mother's Day cannot come and go without jewelry or other such finery? One TV episode recently portrayed the mother of the family spending the whole episode upset at the husband because at some point months earlier she hinted a desire for a trash compactor, which the husband bought as a Mother's Day gift.

Her point: don't buy electronics for such special occasions; put some thought into the gift. My point: mom may be special but does getting a gift on Mother's Day mean so much that you would choose to be in a non-speaking or non-smiling mood for three days? Sounds like an extreme to me.

Another trend is scrapbooking. Womankind may ream me for this one but.....here goes. In my youth, I admit, I kept scrapbooks: special cards, notes, pictures, ticket stubs, flowers etc. Those books hold a great insight to my past and to whom I am today.

But recently the trend to "Scrapbooking" has taken it to the extreme: where women spend hundreds of dollars on specialty papers, stickers, scissors, cutouts, and albums, then turn around and spend hundred of hours creating photo albums/scrapbooks.

Yes, they are cute. But the amount of time that is spent to accent each and every picture that goes into the scrapbook with borders, and papers, stickers and glue, is extreme. It makes more sense that you would be making memories with your family rather than making a memory of bath time seem like the most glorious event in a lifetime.

There are other hobbies that exemplify extremism in our current society but scrapbooking seems to take the cake: making book after book of paper memories while your family is out having fun, making real memories, and you are stuck in the basement with the scissors and glue gun.

There are so many good things in this world: good laws, good opportunities to serve our fellow human beings, good plain hamburgers, good holidays and moments to treasure that we feel we have to always to make them better than before.

Sure there are things that are worth doing and worth doing well, as Grandma would say. But sometimes you just have to leave well enough alone.

When was the last time you didn't have an extreme burger, the burger with all the fixin's, or even the specialty burger? Hamburger grilled.... ahhh, what a smell. Without the toppings? Hey it actually tastes great by itself.

For once try it the way we used to do it. it really did work okay until someone tried to invent a better "extreme mousetrap."



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