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Inventive… I like it!

4 Feb

Tonight, Bronwyn and I went grocery shopping late, after the other kids were in bed.  This had a dual purpose: spend some one-on-one time with my eldest… and, hopefully, wear out a kid who (even after spending the day outside in the snow) wasn’t even close to tired at 8 pm.

To keep her occupied, and let her be helpful (and who doesn’t like free kid labour?!) I encouraged her to grab things off the shelf whenever possible.  This also allowed her a chance to practice her reading in a non-threatening environment, and try to recognize familiar brands etc.

We were almost done, and the store was very empty, so I sent her on ahead to get bananas.

“Get a bunch with 5 or 6 on it” I instructed as she ran off.

She returned with 7.

I inspected them thoroughly (I think that kids should be able to choose good quality produce at any age) and indicated that although they were a good colour there were too many brown spots.

She quickly returned with a second bunch.

“Too green” I countered.

I left her to scrutinize the remaining bananas while I threw more food into the cart.  She had been gone a little longer than I expected so I headed for the banana section.  That’s when I saw her, deep in conversation with a produce employee.  He was a guy about 17 years old, and I watched as he listened intently and walked all around the huge stack of bananas while she gestured and gesticulated what I could only assume were my previous instructions on Proper Banana Choice.  At one point she looked over at me and saw me watching her.  She indicated with a look that she had asked this guy to help…

She returned, triumphant, with a bunch of bananas.

“That man said these are the best bananas he has.  I couldn’t find the perfect ones, so I asked someone who worked here”.

I don’t know who was more proud: Bronwyn for having found the perfect bananas, or me, for witnessing my child engaged in such a grown-up solution.

Sigh.

THE ANSWER

16 Jan

For all of you waiting with bated breath, the answer to this question is….

HOLLY

And, yes, you can tell by the eyes.

I have never seen a picture capture what so infrequently passes over the face of a child: the ability to take on the characteristics of someone else.  It happened once when Holly was born and I looked at her face and saw my grandmother.  It happens more frequently when Josselyn makes a face and for a second I am transported back in time to when Bronwyn was that age.  But to have it on permanent record; proof that they are related; makes my heart content.  One day, I will show this picture to them.  Some day when they are older, and fighting, and hate each other.  And give them perfect proof that they are cut from the same cloth.  That we are all just extensions of each other.  Family sticks together.

Valley Girls

16 Jan

Alternately titled:  Welcome to Ontario, Jenn

Last week I invited some friends over for a playdate.  It is the first time that the adults were not outnumbered by children 3:1.  I actually kept counting them because I thought we must be missing a bunch.  It was also the first time that the new pastor’s wife (Jenn) came to my house.

It may also be the last.

The visit went fine.  Chaotic, but that’s to be expected.  Since the oldest child was not even 3, the general dynamic of play seemed to center around where the Moms were: 5 adults and 5 babies in my living room= crowded!

But, everyone played nicely.  Lunch was consumed.  Nobody fell down the stairs.  A success in my books.  Too soon it was time for Jenn to leave.  As the only person to bring more than 1 kid (I KNOW!), she had her hands full, and naps were needed…

She packed everyone up, and I helped her out the door.  Major points to her at this point for oohing and ahhing over the dogs, and recognizing that Nevis was named after Ben Nevis (although she is from Ireland, so…).  We parted ways waving and smiling.  I plunked Joss in front of a show to give her some down time while the rest of us chatted upstairs.  I looked outside and saw a disaster in the making.

Jenn, not having ever been to our house in the non-snowy months, did not realize that our driveway borders a large ditch, and backed right into it.

I rushed out to warn her, but it was too late.  Sheepishly shaking her head, she climbed out and we looked at the back end of the van sunk a good 2 feet lower than the front in soft, fluffy snow.

I did the only thing I could do at this point: called Becky outside to help!

While we waited for Becky, I shoved 2x4s under her wheels for traction, and recounted this story.  Becky and I gave a half-hearted effort at pushing the van out, knowing full well that we were only going through the motions in order to satisfy the requirements of “doing everything we can”.  It quickly became apparent that we’d have to pull it out with Becky’s truck.

In the Valley, girls drive monster pick-up trucks too.

She pulled out the chain (why would’t she have a chain in the back of the truck?  It’s WINTER.), and I quickly hooked it to Jenn’s van while Becky secured it to the hitch.  There was some discussion here about load-bearing and the best way to angle the chain, but I only include it here to make us sound more awesome.  I should also mention that the 3 of us moved a frozen-to-the-ground plastic play structure off the lawn so Becky could get close enough to the van.  Like I said- AWESOME!

After some quick directions to Jenn (who’d never gotten stuck in a snowbank before- and I can honestly say she is the first adult I have met to say that to me) she cranked her wheels and gunned herself to safety.

High Fives and Hugs abounded.  We.are.women- see us pull minivans out of ditches!

Moral of the story:  with lots of prayer, and friends who own trucks, you can get out of any tight spot.

A Battle worth fighting?

9 Jan

This morning, on the radio, there was a debate going on about whether or not one of the hosts should allow her 5 year old son to cut his hair into a mohawk style, even though she hated the idea.  It generated some debate, with most people falling into two categories: it’s just hair, let him cut it however he wants; and, you’re the parent, cut his hair the way you prefer.

I started to think about this, because I find myself drawn to the argument that children should learn to accept their parents’ rules, and perhaps we wouldn’t be faced with such a terribly self-centered generation if there was more “because I said so” parenting.

BUT, I also truly believe that it IS just hair, and that we need to allow our kids to make some choices in life.  Especially ones that aren’t detrimental to their safety and well-being!

So, I came up with a Pros and Cons list on the debate “Whether to let your 5 year old choose his own haircut”:

PROS

  • Children should be allowed to make mistakes in order to learn how to own up to their mistakes in the future.
  • Children need to have a strong sense of self, and choosing how they look can be a way to exert independence.
  • If we dictate everything to our kids, they will eventually revolt, and although it might be benign, it could be over something much bigger.  However, if we allow them to make decisions over the small things, they are less likely to rebel over the big things.
  • Children need to learn how to make decisions, so if we always make every decision they will not learn how to a) make decisions b) live with the consequences.
  • Our tastes are not the same as our kids.  Remember when your parent wanted you to wear something hideous?!

CONS

  • Children should look their age, and mohawks are too old for pre-schoolers.
  • Children should learn that their parents have rules that need to be respected, whether they agree with them or not.
  • Although hair will grow, if he doesn’t like the haircut after a few days, are you going to bail him out, or let him live with it (and maybe get teased- which is a harsh lesson for a 5 year-old)?
  • This generation is very self-centered, and not being allowed a haircut of your choice might be a good lesson in learning to live with disappointment.

What do you think?

Another way in which I am an awesome mother

7 Jan

Before Christmas (and yes, we will return to Christmas blogging shortly) Walmart had a clear-out sale on school bags.  A whole bin of them for $2.

Josselyn does not tolerate random meandering down unnecessary aisles (for which our bank account thanks you) so I only had a glimpse, and couldn’t immediately bring to mind a use for more school bags, no matter how ridiculously priced, so we left without even looking at them.  However, I couldn’t get them out of my mind, and as I began to pack for our Christmas roadtrip (I can’t bring myself to call it a vacation as it has none of the required 4 S’s of Vacation: sun, sand, surf and/or skiing) I finally thought of the perfect use of a secondary packsack- overnight bags!

It was a “snow” day (with not a flake in sight) so I packed up all 3 kids to head to Walmart in search of awesome prices, mediocre selection, and horrific craftsmanship.  When we arrived I was dismayed (but not surprised) to find the $2 bin depleted.  Luckily there was also a $5 bin, and the girls and I spent the better part of half an hour digging through a hundred backpacks to find 3 different ones.

Josselyn’s was easy: Disney Princess in pink with sequins?  Deal.  Holly was quick: Disney Princess in blue and pink with sequins and sparkles?  Deal.  Bronwyn?  Not so much.

The girl is just not into girly stuff.  She rejected out of hand anything Princess.  She thought about the Fairies for about 10 seconds before deciding she could never own anything that purple.  And yet, she wanted something that wasn’t plain… but not too sparkly.  She almost settled on a boy’s, blue Zhu Zhu pets one when I pulled out… THE WINNER!  It was a tote style, over-the-shoulder, over-sized bag with matching binder and pencil case.  It was black with funky neon hearts and peace signs all over it.  I fell in love instantly.

Here’s where my good mothering comes in.

I let her get it.  AND, I let Holly get hers.

I did suggest that perhaps Holly would prefer a similar colour and matching style to the bag that Bronwyn was now joyously clutching to her chest.  And I may have unearthed an equally cute white one with orange and pink hearts all over it that I thought would be perfect for her.  And I definitely wondered if Holly would regret not going with MY choice when we got home and she realized that Bronwyn’s came with a matching binder and pencil case.  BUT, I didn’t force the issue.  Even though I would have loved Holly to have chosen the better bag.  The one not emblazoned with Princesses that screams FRANCHISE MERCHANDISE.  And I love the girls to be all matchy-matchy.  It makes my heart happy to see them coordinated.  But I let it be.

I think the bigger lesson of individuality could be learned from this.  As much as it would be easier to be raising cookie cutter children, that just isn’t the case.  They are each unique and special, and trying to mold them into clones of each other will come at a terrible price if I am not careful.  Although it would be great to try to instil into each of them the traits that I most respect and admire:  Bronwyn with her strong sense of self, and child-like (and yet so mature) faith; Holly with her sweet nature, daredevil, try-anything attitude, and cleverness; Josselyn with her determination, passion, and empathy.  Each of these things I wish they could all possess in spades, and it is precisely these qualities that make each of them special and unique.

I know I made the right choice when we got home and Holly decided that her new bag would now be her school bag and her old bag could be her overnight bag.  She was smitten with it.

And me?  Well, I think I’d still rather the girls match, but if it were up to them, 2 against 1 would have meant Bronwyn would now be sporting a grimacing Fairy or something equally garish!  Good choice, Julie.  Good choice.

Which one would YOU rather have?!?

Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated

5 Dec

The Christmas Season is well upon us now.  And since we are officially past Holly’s birthday, with party and “day” under our belts, we can turn our attention to what’s really important: all the stuff we are going to receive in the next 4 weeks.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong.  We are very grateful and awed that so many people love our children enough to go to the effort of actually entering a store (going online), in the month of December (December 23rd) and handing over well earned cash (swiping their credit cards) to purchase an item they spent all year thinking about (called to ask what each girl wanted).

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  No really.  We love it.  Don’t stop…

It isn’t the types of toys that make me fear Christmas.  In fact, this year, it sounds as if the girls are going to have their best Christmas EVER (gift-wise anyway- the lack of snow situation is seriously worrying Bronwyn).  It isn’t even the quantity.  It is the gnawing, mind-devouring agony of the post-Christmas week going something like this:

G1:  That’s MINE.  I got it for Christmas.

G2:  But I was playing with it.

G1:  Well you can’t, cuz it’s MINE!

Me:  Just let your sister have it, she was playing with it, and you didn’t even care until you noticed.

G3:  Hey!  She has MY *thing*.

G1:  But you said you didn’t want it.

G3:  I did not.  I said I didn’t want to play with it now.  But now I do, so give it back.

G2:  How can I play *X* when she has all the pieces?

G1:  Well, *so and so* didn’t give you all those things, she gave them to ME.  And I want to play with them.  ALL.  Right now.

Starts crying

G1:  She HIT me.

Me:  I’d hit my sister too if she were being so selfish (in my head of course, I’d never say that out loud for real… ever… or anything….)

Me:  Don’t hit your sister.

G1,2,3:  BUUUUUUUUUT SHEEEEEEEE TOOOOOOOK IIIIIIITTTTTTTT…….

Does this happen in anyone else’s house?  How do you deal with it?

Elaine and I can (now) fondly reminisce about our days sharing a room in the basement.  We actually (based on the Berenstein Bears’ book, I think) plastered masking tape down the middle of our bedroom floor.  My side had the door, so I made Elaine enter and exit our room through the backless closet door (which led into the laundry room).  We had to share a room, but that didn’t mean we had to share anything else.

I want my kids to grow up in a house where everything is communal property.  Not everything, of course.  They each have their “special” toys and keepsakes that they keep in their rooms, and have a 6th sense when someone else is even thinking about touching them.  But most things.  I want them to be able to open up the My Little Pony bin and play together without attaching ownership onto every comb and accessory.

I dream about a home where all the toys are there to share and be played with, instead of hoarded and purchased in 3-packs.

However, the more I poll my friends, and listen to their experiences, the more I fear this is a pipe dream.

Maybe kids are meant to covet ownership as a means to control their lives, and practice their negotiating skills.  Maybe this is a lost cause on my part: insisting on joint custody of every Barbie.

All I do know is that I can’t referee every fight and preside over every judicial hearing, or I will go crazy.

What do you think?

Great Expectations

15 Nov

Alternatively titled:  Where have all the expectations gone?

Why don’t we expect anything from our kids?

No, really.

What are they expected to do?  Or not to do.  In my house, they are expected to not eat dirt from the plants, pee in appropriate receptacles, not run away…

Um… is that it?  We think that we are allowing our kids free expression.  We tidy up after them because it is easier.  We allow for mistakes, and praise things that, for previous generations,were simply expected.

Good grades?  New car.

Got yourself dressed?  Sticker for the chart.

Ate all your supper?  Or at least half?!  Dessert!

But it is worse than that.

“I could never take my kids shopping, they’d just run all over the store!”

“Oh, we don’t have any breakables- we have kids!!”

“She always screams like that when I say “no”.”

When did we get away from expecting that our kids should just behave?!  I am not a perfect parent, and several of these examples are straight from my house.  But I fear we are doing a disservice to our kids by never teaching them that there are some things that must be done for no other reason, than… it must be done.

If you expect your kids to be misbehaved at the store… guess what?  They will!

If you expect your kids to be afraid of the dentist… be prepared for years of struggles.

If you expect your kids to hang up their coats when they get home… you guessed it- your front hall will be cleaner!  Well, you’ll still have to hang up your husbands’ coat, but that is a different post…

My point is that our expectations for the next generation are WAY TOO LOW.  It seems we don’t expect anything that they can’t already do.  Or, we expect perfection the first time, and then are frustrated and give up teaching our kids to behave in socially conscious ways at all.

If you never allow your kids the opportunity to discover what is expected of him or her, then you are setting them up for failure.  Consider the kid who never stays in the service at church (or the one who never gets sent to the nursery).  When they reach the age where they must/cannot stay in the sanctuary, they will fight you!

What about the parents who won’t take their kids to restaurants.  They are afraid of bad behaviour so they always hire a babysitter.  Well, that’s great until their grandparents come to town and want to take the whole gang out to eat, and the kids are completely unprepared for how to act in a restaurant.

I am digressing from my original point though.  Children who don’t have expectations placed on them will never live up to our expectations!  So, how can we remedy this in our society?  I have no clue.  But, in my house, here are some things that my kids are expected to do, without receiving anything for it:

Get ready in the morning.  Eat their food.  Put away their things.  Not break anything.  Not colour anywhere that is not paper.  Not make messes.  Not run away in the store, park, parking lot.  Hold my hand when we cross the road.  Walk.  Wash their hands, teeth, faces, bums.  Not whine when I turn off the tv!  Not hit people, pets, things.  Not touch things that don’t belong to them.  Come when they are called.  Go to bed when they are told.

Alright alright, so that last one is a work in progress, but you get the point!  I want my kids to grow up to be beneficial members of society, and that means teaching them that I expect them to grow up to be beneficial members of society.

So… what do you expect from your kids?