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Parenting Early YearsIn our house, there is a shrine dedicated to the airbrushed, bliss-injected and dewy-eyed symbols of utopian motherhood who pose with perfectly behaved, apple-cheeked children, for the covers of well-known, mainstream parenting magazines.

That shrine is called the powder room.

How can I impart the hours of genuine pleasure that leafing through these fine tomes has provided me as I have perched enthroned, imprisoned and otherwise idle by the urges of mother nature?

And here I was this morning, poised to write a story about another unique, cliché-defying over-40 mom—set to uplift us with her own brand of originality—when I found our lonely Parenting-mom, smiling forlornly (but youthfully) from the dim depths of the magazine basket in the early morning light.

How could I have neglected her?

Frank was already in the kitchen serving up breakfast on the rare occasion the Silicon Valley Sweat Shop had not swallowed him up by 4.30am. The children were abusing him mercilessly with a fresh round of whining, powered by a good night’s sleep.

As I sat in the cloistered protection of our modern-day ‘water closet’, it was music to my ears—ah, the sounds of home.

Why not let nature run its meandering course—like the ambling current of a Southern stream—rather than enforce my usual toilet-multitasking habit of writing a mental “To-Do” list for the day?

Surely I’d be forgiven idle pleasures just this once, particularly as I was enriching my mind with the parenting tips and tools of the sage authors of Parenting—Early Years, February 2010 issue—the de rigueur read for Stepford Moms Under 35?

I have to say that today’s read was truly rewarding—the editors had done their job—as I was titillated by the subheading “You CAN Sleep In—OUR EASY (AND REALISTIC) GUIDE” (http://www NULL.parenting NULL.com/).

Well who yanked the Dalai Lama out of his Tibetan bed without passing breakfast?  I figured only God (and children under the age of 10) had the answer to that one. I was powering through those pages like the Bionic Woman after the Tin Man had greased her elbow joints.

“Yeah, I’ll have some of that!” I whispered to myself with a ferocity verging on avarice.

After scanning the saccharine opening gambit, however, I dropped from a state of retriever-like salivating expectation to the unanticipated horror of a traffic accident spectator.

Michele Crouch, “a freelance journalist in Charlotte, NC, whose three children wake up with the sun”, offers a virtual shopping mall of tactics to keep your children occupied—while you get your Vogue-Mom beauty sleep—including “Tips for the Under-2 Crowd” (my personal favorite).

From “Don’t’ Rush To Get Her” and “Turn Off The Monitor” to “Use Clip-On Crib Toys”, Ms. Crouch is a virtual treasure chest of information. It left me scratching my head and wondering which teenage pregnancy support group/après coffee club she garnered her pearls of wisdom from.

Early on in the article, she fires our imaginations with “Just because your kid’s awake doesn’t mean you have to be.”

Crouch hastily supports this statement with “Experts say that, depending on their temperament and maturity level, many kids are able to fend for themselves in the morning, at least for a short time.”

Of course, before we can begin ‘training’ our under-2s or toddlers, the experts interviewed for this piece tell us we have to get past the question: “Do I trust my child when my back is turned?”

(Well, there’s a no-brainer! Why don’t we train ’em to install their own child-proofing?)

Frankly, the article should have died on the doorstep of that question—just like there’s no substitute for experience, there are no short-cuts when it comes to kids’ safety.

Yet, resourceful Ms. Crouch—mother of three sun worshipers—dedicates the rest of a three-page feature article teaching us how to take that “short time” and stretch it into extra hours of sleep, with the thrift of a professional coupon collector.

Even her sister-in-law–she regales us with pride—trained a 4 and 2-year-old not to leave their rooms until 7.00am and then to venture out alone to find “dry bowls of cereal” where “tiny stickers show them which buttons to press on the remote control to fire up their favorite movie”.

At our house, the notion of this experiment conjures raised eyebrows and nervous laughter over the morning espresso, and images of the kitchen floor pebble-dashed with milk-sodden cereal while the pitched mud (milk)-battle—akin to the food-fight scene in Animal House (http://www NULL.vidilife NULL.com/video_play_269074_Animal_House_Food_Fight NULL.htm)—over who gets to press the remote button is punctuated by ear-ripping horror-B-movie screams.

Can any mother actually curl up on her bed and rest easy, trusting her toddlers to chow down on milk-free cereal the texture of pet-kibble and master the domestic technology like miniature ambassadors of world peace?

(I forgot; we’re trusting them when our backs are turned.)

If Ms. Crouch is sleeping like a baby—basking blissfully in the morning sun, while her young ones roam unsupervised through the household like the band of wild children from Lord of the Flies (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B00005O06X?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00005O06X%22)—it has to be because her inner child welfare monitor is switched to Off.

I’m a great believer in context, however, and a magazine that can call itself “Parenting—Early Years” with a cover that also features “Protecting your kids through divorce”, smacks of cynicism about the future of young motherhood.

Over Christmas last year, a friend who is a 1st grade teacher with grown up children baby-sat 7-year-old Alex and 3-year-old Lizzie so Frank and I could have our second overnight away in 8 years.

When we returned the next morning, she smiled ruefully and said that Lizzie had climbed in her bed to wake her up at the crack of dawn. Yet, she had resisted the urge to crawl back under the covers because an inner voice said: “What if something happens?”

One sentence, Ms. Crouch, speaks to your more than a thousand words.

And, like the ogre in his outhouse during the opening scene of Shrek (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/gp/product/B00009ZYC1?ie=UTF8&tag=flopowmom-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00009ZYC1), as he tore the pages out of a fairytale book for a certain biological purpose of tree-saving utility, when it comes to Parenting’s article about sleeping in while your 2 to 4 year olds roam free, I have to say:

“Yeah, like that’s going to ever happen….”

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