Name Calling Mad Libs (a parenting experiment)

 In graduate school I remember learning about Jean Piaget, one of the big-wigs of educational psychology, and being dumbstruck that his theories began as small experiments on his kids. “You can do that?” I thought, followed by “What if everyone did this?”

It could be huge if schools were open to randomized trials and parents were open to suggestions. Of course, this never happened.

This doesn’t mean  that can’t experiment on my kids. One of the biggest lessons parenting lessons I’ve learned is that I often don’t know what’s best for my kids. My parenting style is like a quilt your grandmother might have made. It’s got a bit of stuff from here, some more from over there, some leftover pieces from something else. I believe the technical term is, “hodgepodge.”

Except this one new thing. We’ve started mad libs style name calling. If you aren’t familiar with mad libs, they were short stories you could write by filling in the blanks. For example.

_____ (name) went to the _______ (place) so that she could get a small container of _____ (thing) to _____ (verb) that night.

Our version focuses just on names and involves something we can see. “Refrigerator elbow,” and “applesauce brain,” are two common ones when we are in the kitchen.

My theory with this is that all names kids call people (dingbat, jerk, asshole) are all just names. If I can get my daughters to think that name calling is silly now, maybe something from that will transfer over to when the names aren’t so goofy. Maybe this builds some resilience. These mad libs are like a mental flu shot, small and weak onslaughts to defend their system. I have no idea if it it’s going to work or not, but that’s our experiment.

What I’ve been reading and writing.

Gazooks! I forgot to write a weekly summary last week because I was in Maine for a wedding. Wow, Maine was beautiful, I can see why people go there. It was a long trip from Ohio, and if you don’t want to make that sort of trek, the shores of Michigan (and most Maine-y of all, Mackinac Island) are a great substitute. Let’s catch up on what I’ve read and written since the last weekly review.

Take a vacation without kids (as we did) and you’ll remember that, yes, vacations are relaxing and great for reading. I finished The End of Your Life Bookclub and while it didn’t bring me to tears, it released an emotional ooze inside of me. Not only is it a great book but it deals with life and loss and mothers – three things I experienced a decade ago. I wish I had done something like this when my mom was alive and I’m trying to figure out how to do it with the people I love.

I finished reading Filters of Folly. This book is about using a literate, numerate, and ecolate filter for decision making. It means asking; do the numbers make sense, does the story make sense, and then what happens after we do this? The book has more depth than a few lines can convey (but don’t all books?) but I’m glad I read it.

I also read – remember, I took a kid-free trip – Pirate Hunters. It’s so good. In fact, I read Robert Kurson’s other book, Shadow Divers earlier this year and one of my uncles at the wedding and I talked about that book together. Plus, my Robert Kurson trilogy was completed when I found his first book, Crashing Through at a used book store in Maine.

What I published the last two weeks:

We are enjoying our last full week of summer here before the kids head back to school and I really won’t know what to do with myself.

// Lighthouse is from Boothbay Harbor, Maine.


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