Holiday Smiles and Silly Families

In addition to being the week before Thanksgiving (yay) this is also the week that people in my extended family start Christmas shopping. (Not me, I’m busy cooking/working two jobs/raising three kids/you know, stuff) But that does mean that everybody wants the kid’s Christmas lists. This works for me, as a kid extended family (ie people who you see two times per year) would never have a clue enough about my personality, likes, dislikes, or shoe size, to actually get me anything I wanted/could wear/would use. As a grown up, this means we can spend those weeks in December returning crap, or (the option I prefer) actually hanging around/getting to know (this year’s version) of those family members. So each of the moms makes a list, and then emails it to everyone. Honestly, this is usefully for those of us who see kiddies all the time but can’t keep in their head their own kid’s shoe sizes, much less other people’s.  These lists were started when I was in high school by one of my aunts. What is less helpful (IMO) is that these lists became like a newsletter of sorts. You know “Tilly Mae is now a Junior in High School and is {of course} still making straight As. She enjoys volunteering at the local homeless shelter, and has time to do that despite her busy school/band/choir schedule due to the fact that her father and I decided we prefer to fund her activities {because they made $100s of thousands of dollars per year and could do whatever} rather than her having an afterschool job. She recently won an award for Excellence on the Field {which was awarded as a participation award, I remember asking her} with her soccer team this year as they made their way to the season finals {no mention that they got in as an alternate}Go Eagles! She has always been a joy to us and we approach her last two years before college with the mixed feelings of those who are as proud and blessed as we and will miss her terribly.” This is the same cousin who that year I caught smoking pot on the front stoop of my mother’s house while everyone was inside. They would go on and on, these newsletters, and then have a list at the end of overpriced gifts none of us could afford to purchase.  So when I started making lists for mine I will put a brief “Hey, how are ya’ll” at the beginning and make applicable personal comments in the actual lists. I mean, if you mail (on red or green paper, natch) or email me a 3 page diatribe, what will we talk about when we all get together, right? So I sent out our list yesterday, after 2 request texts (one while I was at work) and then a reminder text a day later. I have since then been told that I should share my letter here, because “this is cracking me the fuck up” as I was told.  So I have changed actual personal info using {brackets and fake names}, but figured, what the hell? Hope it makes you giggle a little this morning as well…

Back by popular demand! A Christmas list (or maybe just inspiration guide) for the kiddos here. Thank you in advance for sending me your kiddo’s list as well (ahem) if applicable. We are looking forward to seeing everyone around Christmas time this year! If we haven’t gotten together and nailed down a time, please text/call me/email me/send carrier pigeon/something. I really am hoping to see all of ya’ll soon (& force you to take home copious amounts of baked goods), so let me know. Also, since this stuff ends up changing all the time (are some of you trying to be cyber anonymous? Or perhaps you just don’t like Christmas cards? 😉 ) My contact info is listed here, please reply with any updates of your own. I did try to make this list as clear as possible, but since you don’t have the benefit of being inside my head (lucky you!) let me know if anything requires further clarification. I asked the kids to be cost conscious when making their lists (some are better than others, as you will see) feel free to ignore overpriced items or donate towards them. Again, I feel, and am (still) trying to convey that the getting to see family and friends, the fellowship of the season, celebrating a  birthday, and the joy of giving are Christmas, not who got what from whom. Please, keep that in mind as you go about shopping this year. We love you and are truly looking forward to seeing you.

 

Address: {you may send an e-card, but I prefer no strange visitors, that I’m not related to}

Cell Phone: {also, do not call me}

Email to phone (ie you want me to read it NOW-in important & capital letters):

{can’thavemyhomeemail}

Email to computer (ie you have attached things & want me to be able to see them on a nice eye soothing full screen, and it can wait till I get home & put people to bed-or the weekend): mamaskitchentable@gmail.com

Email at work (ie we are almost sending an IM, but with links & it is happening Monday through Friday 8:45am to 4:45pm EST): {ormyworkemailnosey}  or {alsonot thisone}

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!!!  (yes I am excited, time for dancing, I do believe…)

 

BoyChild I:

Plasma Nebula Ball (a link here: http://www.amazon.com/Electric-Novelties-Plasma-Nebula-Ball/dp/B000QSQSMU/ref=pd_bxgy_hg_img_y  Doesn’t have to be this one, this is an example of one.)

Legos (Esp, Star Wars)

Lava lamp in black, green, blue (or another “soothing” color)

PlayStation 2 or Nintendo DS games

Tennis Shoes (size 7 ½ Men’s) Because he keeps 1 pair at school for gym & wears out tennis shoes fast!

Money towards the purchase of a Nintendo DS (his broke & he is trying to save enough to replace it)

I just replaced all of BoyChild I’s clothes (since he grew 6in & gained 28lbs over the summer!) So he is good on clothes right now (give it till say, February & then he’ll be naked again lol)

Bathrobe Boy’s XL or Men’s S (size 14 in boys clothing)

Stress Balls (he goes through these during the school year)

Pair of sturdy work gloves (for outdoors work/gardening/etc) Men’s S

Giant Floor/Body Pillow in dark green, navy or khaki (please not white-he really is going to lay on this in the floor! Or Dark brown-Will has one in that color & it’d be best to keep them identifiably separate. Lol)

Books (Enjoys genres/reading level like: Red Wall series, A Series of Unfortunate Events series, Percy Jackson series, Hardy Boys series, lots of fantasy/mystery/adventure)

 

BoyChil II:

Legos

Books (Enjoys genres/reading level like: Flat Stanley series, BFG & other Roald Dahl books, Captain Underpants, Boxcar Children, any funny books, he is not a fan of fantasy/mystery or adventure-ugh, I know- there is a great list here: http://us.macmillan.com/MacmillanSite/categories/Childrens/Fiction/Humorous+3rdGrade )

Playground Ball

PlayStation 2 or Nintendo DS games

Pillow Pet (specifically the Dream Lites Snuggly Puppy)

Huge Ben 10 & any “classic” superhero (Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, Hulk, Flash, Wolverine, you get the idea) fan

BoyChild II spends a lot of time pretending to be one of the above, any “props” or costume pieces would also be great ideas as those things get worn out fairly quickly around here & he & K-man are constantly running around in ½ costume & creating sound effects/destroying bay guys/etc.

Bike Hemet (Children’s M)

BoyChild II is also good on clothing (what with all the hand-me-downs)

 

GirlChild:

iPod Touch (or money towards her saving up for one)

Cookie Monster, Elmo, or Oscar Snapbacks with a flat bill. (I think these are hats, but I’m not nearly hip enough to know what that is exactly)

Studded Belts (any color/pattern/etc) Size Women’s M

1in curling iron

Watch

Sports Bras (34C or Women’s M)

PlayStation 2 or Nintendo DS games

Books (Enjoys genres like: Twilight series, Undead and Underemployed series, YA romance-please be content aware, Mom thanks you-, Flipped, “girl power” type stories)

Jeans size 5 or 6

GirlChild just got a new bed that is a twin with a twin sized trundle, all of her bed linens (in addition to being horrifyingly-her words- childish)are double bed sized. She still likes pink, purple, green, yellow, etc, just doesn’t want to sleep with her fairy/Bratz/Princess blankets anymore. Any contribution would be welcomed, even gift cards to Target to pick out her own.

 

Merry Christmas all!

Me

 

Do you have (or have you received) Christmas lists/newsletters/ etc this year? Maybe one from years past? Do share; I would love a chuckle as well. Hope you have great weekend!

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An Angry Mouth

I need to start off with making sure everyone understands who this rant is directed at. This rant is NOT directed at mothers who neglect their health and well-being for their children. This rant is also NOT directed at mothers who don’t neglect their health and well-being for their children. This rant is also NOT for people who are not mothers and can’t fathom how/why a mom might feel like she should/has to/guilt because she did/didn’t neglect her health and or well-being for her children. To me all of the above positions are perfectly reasonable, acceptable, and a position I have held at some point in my life or another. (Sometimes wildly ping ponging between the first two during a single week) So who IS it I am mad at? The subgroup of category 3, those who want to be all judgey and lecturing and add to my maternal guilt (thanks, but I manufacture plenty on my own, but if you’d like to babysit while I go to therapy, well, hell , that would actually be helpful). See? Here I am, just full of steam and wanting to yell at someone, but my mouth hurts. (Oh & I vowed to yell less about 4 or 5 years ago, so there’s that too; I feel like getting a white chip every time I go a solid week, so it’s a work in progress… Argh! So much mouth pain I am having trouble thinking in any cohesive way… Sorry)

 Here’s the thing, I am not a wealthy woman (Like you hadn’t noticed or something) I live below the official poverty line for a family of 4. (I checked recently, just to see) But I pay (along with my nice grown-up lady job employers) for my health insurance, and dental and vision, for the four of us. Those co pays will add up quick (as I am certain you all know) so I often am making a call along the lines of say $100 + $25 for BoyChild II to get an eye exam and new glasses or pay the electric bill that is not overdue at all. (I can tell you in this rock-paper-scissors budgeting glasses beat electricity, as long as electricity is not overdue, but moving on…)Yeah It’s that tight around here, and 90% of the time (fairly good odds to my mind) I end up getting the necessities paid for ( we never go out to eat/buy brand new jeans/ video games, but that electric bill gets paid). But I don’t feel like I should have to draw a map of my monthly (or yearly) budget to anyone (see awesome things about being a single mom) I mean anyone, it’s my choice to share or not share my finances with you or with any service provider. So when I say (hypothetically speaking) “Well, I’d love to pay you $88 to pull the skin back from my teeth and clean (remove cracked tooth filling bits that are now “too old”)  inside the gum line on the left side of my face and then come back in 2 weeks to pay you $88 to do the same to the right side of my face, but unfortunately that ain’t happening this week, or any time soon. I will call to schedule the appointment as soon as I have saved up the money to do so.” This should be an accepted statement. No one should then go on and on (hypothetically speaking again) for say 10 to 15 minutes on how important my dental health is to my overall health. (Note: stressing over paying for  $176 and a total of 1 1/2 days off work is ALSO not good for my overall health) See, I have never had a cavity. My parents didn’t have any dental insurance until I was out of school so my first dental appointment wasn’t until I was 12 and I went about 3 times after that the last time being at the age of 16. I didn’t go to the dentist again until my wisdom teeth came in and my face swelled shut (not pretty), I was 21. My teeth are so crowded in my mid twenties they started cracking each other. Guess who had actual cracks in her teeth with no nastiness/etc  for the 4 years it took to save the money to pull/fill those cracking teeth? Yeah, so when they start getting on me about “this is a dental health emergency” I just smile politely and roll my eyes when they aren’t looking. (In case anyone is wondering? No I can’t fit floss between all my teeth, but I religiously am a CREST kid & I promise to update this post should I ever get a cavity)

So the day has arrived. Thursday I have an appointment with the dentist to rip open my left side gums and  really bleed a lot get them clean, I finally saved up the money to do it. The problem is when I called to schedule said appointment I was already hurting and swollen (I did not tell the receptionist this, however super sonic hearing is apparently her superpower) I was scolded again for not having made this appointment sooner. So in a pain/frustration induced haze I broke my own rule. I rattled off a list of the things I did this year that also cost between $100 and $200 instead of getting this cleaning done back in March.

My List:

  • Aforementioned glasses
  • Electric bill (every month thank you very much)
  • Extra $200 in gas every month we lived in the hotel (4) after our house flooded (to do completely frivolous things like get kids to school, me to work, etc)
  • Tires for Suzie (my 2001 Isuzu Trooper)
  • Carpet Cleaner (to get indescribable things out of flooded carpet)
  • $300+ per month co pays for meds and therapy for BoyChild I
  • Breaks for Suzie
  • School clothes (underwear/pants/socks/shoes) at about $60-120 per child x3 since someone grew 4 inches, 26 lbs, and 4 shoe sizes this summer. (& well, they can’t go to school shoeless and nekked, no matter how clean their teeth are)
  • School supplies
  • Inspection ready repairs to Suzie & then inspection/title renewal (old girl has had a rough year, but we still love her — & she requires no car payments)
  • Infected toe (I have a feeling the growing 4 sizes was bad for it too) decontamination and whatever else the pediatrician did along with antibiotics
  • 2 children’s birthday parties (ok, I know this is not necessity, but you gonna say “sorry hun, no birthday this year, Mommy is going to the dentist instead” ? Riiight)

 Now it’s not a crazy list, I’ve had worse summers, and I don’t own a credit card so there’s no debt, but it was enough that I just couldn’t fix it until now. I was telling a friend about this, the receptionist and her reaction and what I had to say to shut her up (again, not for sympathy, just shut up) when a stranger nearby says “sounds like you just shouldn’t of had kids if you can’t even take care of yourself.”

What?! Like in the cartoons when they turn red and steam comes out their ears? Yeah, like that.

 So that’s what this was, my rant to get off my chest exactly how asinine both those people were being. I hope if you have ever judged like that you are feeling a bit shame faced and will never do it again. I hope if you have been judged like that (after several Lamaze type breaths) you will know it isn’t you, it’s them. Do you have a story like this? Do you think I’m just needing a nap and a stiff drink calm down because I am overreacting? Let me know. Looking forward to it!

Mom of Teen Daughter Seeks Advice

This week I am preparing to go to 3 Open Houses next week. 1 at the elementary school where BC II is entering the 3rd grade, or as any of you who are in the know would say, Big Kid Elementary School (Caps denote the somberness that must be applied to this statement-just ask him). No more recess 3 days a week, it’ll be 2 days but I promise that makes a difference, and honestly I wish they had recess 5 days a week all through elementary school, but no one asked me for a vote. We will go to Open House all bright eyed with the thrill of being a “big kid” firmly implanted in our brains. 1 Open House will be at the middle school as BC I is starting the 6th grade. (Have I mentioned how terrified I am of this?) I have the packets of information regarding what SPD is, reference book lists (with the mention that I own several of them and would loan them to any teacher would wanted to borrow them), his IEP, his medication list with side effects to watch for, and contact info for therapists, psychiatrists, and last year’s school councilor ready to print out. This year I am making 8 copies, since he will have 6 instead of 2 or 3 teachers. We will go to that one with me still faking enthusiasm and confidence, still building up how cool it will be to have lots of teachers, make lots of friends, and have your very own locker (he is most excited about having a place to put his stuff that no one else can even look at, much less touch), and BC I with sparkles in his eyes over finally not being in elementary school where everyone is “so immature”. See why I’m scared? On the same night I go to the Open House for the elementary school I will somehow also go to the one at the high school. (You see, the public school system, having absolute faith in my abilities as a superhero who can time travel, has double booked me that night) I hate it when this happens, and it happens all the time. Just another thing about this time of year, right? I mean, if I were planning an open house at any school in a public school system, I would make sure that the night I picked wasn’t already picked by any feeder schools nor any school that my school was a feeder school to. I mean, there are 3 high schools, for our part of the district, 4 middle schools, and about 7 elementary schools. Wouldn’t it make since to have say Monday and Tuesday nights are all elementary school open houses, Wednesday night be middle school open houses and Thursday night for the high schools? In my area, at least, you can’t have 2 kids at 2 different elem/middle/high schools in the same family, so wouldn’t this solve the issue? But I digress, that wasn’t even what I wanted to write about (sorry I did warn everyone I hate this time of year, I promise to return to sunny optimism and the like soon).

My question is, when I go to the high school Open House (time machine or no) my daughter, who is 14 will cling to my side, insisting that I stay within her sights (while she talks with her friends) and continue to call me Mommy. Right in front of anyone who happens to be around. Now, it’s not that I can’t be called Mommy ( I’m pretty well acquainted with the title at this point), my concern is that when I was going into high school as a freshman I would have actually died before I called my mom Mommy. Anywhere, in private or in public. Now, I’m from the south, we call our dads Daddy for way longer than is normal anywhere else in the country it seems (guys too, it’s not a girl thing). But Mommy? No most of us have been calling her Mom, Mama, or Mother since about the 2nd grade. In fact GC is the only one of my kids still calling me Mommy. This probably sounds like the most insane thing to be worried about, but well, I’m a Mom, I’m supposed to be worried about insane things right? And I am concerned about a pattern I am seeing.

In addition to calling me Mommy, my child (whose first phrase at the age of 1 1/2 was “get offa me” when I tried to hug her goodbye at daycare drop off, I was interfering with her getting to her friends to play with them) constantly wants to sit right next to me (you know in that share your skin way that they usually do at about age 2 to say 5ish?) something she wasn’t interested in prior to this year. She constantly wants to “hang out” with me, if I have a friend around she wants to hang out with us, getting upset when I nudge her off to do her own thing. This all seems so strange to me. When I was 14 I would have counted the ridges in the popcorn ceiling in my bedroom before I voluntarily “hung out” with my mother. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that we spend time together, I encourage it. But it’s as though she has decided we should be friends. I am not sure where she got this idea. We do have fun together, but I have never (at least intentionally) given the impression that I was her friend. Mom, nurse, chaperone, chauffeur, costume/wardrobe designer, chef, groundskeeper, disciplinarian, teacher, yes to all of those; but friend? No. I actually went so far as to tell her a few weeks ago, that while I look forward to being friends with her when she is in her twenties, I am not desirous to be friends with any 14-year-old, no matter how much I love said 14-year-old. She acted as though I had kicked her puppy (or maybe her). I know that it’s a thing now, parents who befriend their children, but I don’t think it’s right. She should have friends her age, I should be her mom, that’s how I have always believed. I have been raising this once independent girl for 14 years, I don’t consider myself done, and suddenly she has changed (in addition to the crazy hormonal changes that I had at least steeled myself for), she still seems very sure of herself and confident, but at the same time constantly wants Mommy around, like physically right there. I wonder is this a normal part of adolescence, that I myself skipped?

 I do want her to talk to me, to continue to tell be about her friends, her day, boys she likes, things she is considering doing with those boys. Maybe I would feel more normal if she didn’t volunteer all of those things, if I had to ask in that pulling teeth way I have to get information from BC I. I just don’t want to be her friend; I want to listen, help her learn to make good choices, guide her when she needs it(you know, be the Mom of the teenager). What should I do to encourage the continued sharing without encouraging this my mom is my friend thing? I would welcome any advice any of you have. Thanks & I hope you are all enjoying the last few weeks of summer.

Dreading Back to School

Even the ads taunt & intimidate me…

This weekend we went Back to School Shopping. I hate back to school shopping. I love summer and to me it’s always the herald that rings in the end of our carefree days. A taunting voice echoing in my head “Back to School. Back to never having enough time. Back to feeling like you are missing out on their childhoods. Back to dreading phone calls. Back to always feeling just shy of good enough.” So obviously, I probably need therapy (or a stiff drink), but I am very careful to not push my hatred of the beginning of the school year, I pump it up in my excited I’m-trying-to-talk-you-into-being-thrilled about this voice. (You may have noticed I use this voice a lot) I’m all “Cool, new teachers! Awesome, new friends! Ooo, want to pick out folders? Yea, let’s get some cool new stuff for school! I wonder what cool things you’ll get to do/see/learn this year?” Blah, blah, blah. Inside I’m scared, every year I approach teachers all bight eyed, full of hope, maybe this year will be different, but by  November I am wishing I could quit my job and home school all three of them. Apparently I am not the only one who gets miffed with the school. All of this trauma starts for me every year with the supplies lists. It seems like that shouldn’t be such a horrible thing but, if you’ve never seen one of these, let me lay a little crazy on you for a minute…

These lists always contain the basics, stuff I have no problem, by the way, purchasing for my children. Items like loose leaf notebook paper, they specify a preference for Wide ruled vs College, but no worries, or book bags (always with this written beside it: NO WHEELS! Apparently wheels will be the death of us all) also no big, I buy them book bags every 2 years -saves money and helps teach that we have to take care of our things. Then they get sneaky. (they being whoever writes these lists) Pseudo basics. What you ask? The list will say: 1 box 12 washable Crayola Markers. That seems like a basic, right? I made this assumption with GirlChild in Kindergarten, I was so naive. I sent her with a box of RoseArt (you know the ones on sale right this minute for $0.50 a box as opposed to the $1.17 Crayolas at Wal-Mart?) 12 Washable Markers. I wrote her name on the box with Sharpie, stuck them in her book bag along with her other supplies and sent her skipping off to school. They sent them back. Along with a note. Have you been the recipient of many notes or perhaps emails that drip from their written word with judgment, disdain, and patronizing tone? I know a few teachers who are great at it. I will paraphrase the note (since it was 8 years ago now) but it is not the only note to the same effect I have received from a teacher regarding school supplies, so it goes about like this:

Please send the requested Crayola 12 pack Washable markers with your daughter immediately. I am sure it is important to you that she be adequately supplied each and every day of school in order to not hamper her learning this year.(that last sentence is a direct quote, BTW) As per ABC County School policy we place all school supplies in bins for the entire class. Do not continue to write GirlChild’s name on her supplies. All markers, etc will be placed in their appropriate bins and we do not want the children to argue over the quality of brand of their supplies, and after all, I am sure you would not want GirlChild to be the child who brought the inferior markers.

 If you can’t see what’s wrong with the above note, please stop reading, walk away from my web page, we can’t be friends.

For the rest of us… Really?! How many 5-year-old “brand snobs” do you know? Have you  ever heard (or read I suppose) such complete crap? And toss in a little Mommy Guilt, wow, f you too Mrs. Soandso. I have received a note along these lines any time I have not sent in exactly what was on the list, down to the brand. (At this point I have accepted defeat and just buy the damn Crayolas for the school and we use perfectly good whatever brand at home)

Other Pseudo basics (these items don’t belong to your kid, they belong to the whole class, which is my problem. I don’t mind buying supplies for my kid. I will even donate a few items to the “wish list”. But I don’t want to contribute an entire additional child’s worth of supplies to each of my children’s classrooms):

*BTW these are real examples & quantities requested on Supply lists for at least one of my children*

12 solid colored pocket folders-no fasteners (I have never seen one of my kids use more than 4 in a school year and that includes the year that BoyChild II lost his “homework folder” and I had to buy him another one, right, not  the teacher replaced it from the class bins, I had to buy another folder, in orange specifically)

15 glue sticks (I want to know who is eating the glue, cause if each of 30 children sends 15 glue sticks, plus the Elmer’s liquid glue on that year’s list, that’s a lot of glue)

12 pack Crayola Colored pencils (again with the brand prejudice)

7 Composition notebooks-black and white only (That is just lame, in my opinion)

6 packages of #2 pencils (again, who is eating these supplies, each package has at least 12 pencils, x 6, x 30 kids…)

Minimum 30 black/blue ink erasable pens (these are impossible to find & almost as hard to write with, why are we still bothering with them?)

That’s obviously not all, but you get the idea, I’m sure. Then they toss Non-supplies on the list. What are Non-supplies you ask? Things the children do not use, that are on the supply list, not the wish/donate/please list, the you-must-have-all-of-these-things-on- the-first-day-or-you-are-interfering-with-your-child’s-schooling list.

Again these are actual “supplies” and quantities from years past.

Non-supplies:

3 reams copy paper (this one has appeared many times, my problem is despite me sending the paper, none of these kids can operate a copy machine. Maybe this year I’ll send 4 and a request for extra practice…)

7 packages of Post-it notes (so that the teacher can send as many disdain filled notes as she/he likes)

4 bottles hand sanitizer (#1 I have a child who can’t use this stuff. #2 why is this ok but sunscreen is a dangerous topical drug? #3 And again with the supply drinking…)

Paper clips/staples/red ink pens/dry erase markers (again things I would totally donate, but be real, none of these things are being used at my kids desk)

And then the completely ridiculous: (I feel like these mostly stand on their own ridiculous feet despite their craft potential)

200 small-dessert sized- paper plates

2 boxes snack sized ziplock bags

4 boxes sandwich sized ziplock bags

Inexpensive small toys for our Prize Box- minimum of 10

2 packages Brown paper lunch bags

Saran Wrap

Aluminum Foil

See what I mean? I am poor. That’s no one’s fault but my own, I get that but why add to that burden? Each year I work extra shifts in order to pay for these lists. This is not even covering the new clothes that kids end up needing each year, I’m not talking expensive clothes, I mean the jeans I bought this weekend at $7.50 a pair at the consignment store (Once Upon a Child– I love them) for BoyChild I who gained 3 inches in height and 22lbs in weight this summer and no longer owns a single item of clothing for school that fits. All in all I spend an average of $125 per child. I make about $700 every two weeks, before I do things like buy $300 worth of meds and therapy co pays each month and even more frivolous things like rent for example. When I read this article and it said this was the second busiest time of year for retailers I believe it. After Christmas I start saving for back to school shopping. The rest of the school year has its own mishaps but damn do I hate Back to School Shopping.

Do you also hate this time of year? Am I overreacting to the supply lists? Does your local school system do the same? Also, someone make me a drink, it’s gonna be a long year…

Self Esteem, Storm Troopers and Losing

This is something I have always thought was ridiculous. But with it having been all over the web recently with articles like this, and the commencement address at the beginning of summer I haven’t said anything, most of it’s already been said. I only posted to Twitter the ridiculousness of BC II winning a certificate of Achievement for  (not making this up) Confidence. At lunch. At the end of the school year award ceremony. What?! He thought it was silly too. His words, “I’ve always been confident at lunch. It’s something I’ve always been good at. You know, eating, so I am confident, but it’s not like I got better at it. Weird, huh, Mom?” He and I talked about how he would rather of not gotten an award at all if it was going to be something like that. I did ask him if it was fun to get an award, instead of no award. He said, “No. Mom, it’d be like if we had a race and everyone won. That’s not a race, the real winner doesn’t get to celebrate ’cause it wasn’t special. That’d be lame. Then no one would want to race.”

But this week, I’m planning yet another birthday party, BC II is turning 8, and I am reminded of another party a few years ago. Because since that party I have debated the very way I throw parties for kids, at each party I consider this one boy who brought the dark side of this issue screaming into my little village. (For the record this kid, who lives 2 blocks away was never invited back) I wanted to tell this story to help parents understand why those of us in the participation trophies make entitled little brats grow up to be entitled, jobless thirty year olds sleeping on Mom and Dad’s couch complaining about how the world has done them wrong, think that way. This is not the story of a thirty year old, it’s the story of a birthday party for a ten-year-old (BC I) and how we all need to be careful with how much we protect our “babies” from the world. If they never get to lose as a child, they will lose at life, not cool Mom, not cool.

So to set the scene it’s a lovely October afternoon, and we are having an outside birthday party with about 12 9 to 11 year olds in attendance. The theme is Halloween, as Halloween will be the following week, and all the boys are in costumes. The problems start when we play Halloween Bingo and escalate from there. The boy dressed as a Jedi wins, we all cheer and he picks a bouncy rubber vampire on a spring as his prize (there is a large tin that used to contain Halloween popcorn filled with items like this, you know the stuff you would put in a goody bag, and as prizes each kid gets to pick one). I had the boys decorate trick-or-treat bags (orange lunch bag sized bags) earlier and wrote everyone’s name on theirs. I had explained at the time that we would use them to hold everyone’s game prizes and other take home treats. I told the young Jedi congrats again and to put the vampire in his bag. Then I asked the boys if they wanted to play again or if we should move on to the next game. We ended up playing until two other boys had also won (a vampire and a batman). Then I put up the bingo and got out this blow up pumpkin and started organizing the boys to play “rotten pumpkin” (like hot potato) explaining the rules as I cue the music. A little (well actually he was really tall for 11 and pretty pudgy too) Storm Trooper starts whining. “But I didn’t get my prize” (Imagine all the letters drawn out & high-pitched) “But you didn’t win yet,” my own 5-year-old Spiderman pipes up, “you have to win to get prizes.” “that’s not fair.” (same whiney tone) ” We will play lots of games, I’m sure you will win a prize, too,” I step in, mostly because I can’t stand that whiney voice. We begin the game the Storm Trooper gets eliminated about the third or fourth time the music stops. He starts crying, “No FAIR! NO FAIR!” I come over and pat his shoulder, trying to console him with the fact that we will play this game again and several others and that would he like some punch or some of the food laid out while he waited for this one to be over. The other boys who were already out (one of whom was K-man and 2 at the time were staring at this kid like he was crazy while munching and watching the game. Star Trooper didn’t calm down until I got him a cookie (he was not interested in the veggie garbage dip & I have a theory now regarding his chubbiness) and a brownie. We play 3 rounds in all. Guess who one the third round? Yup, our Storm Trooper. We move on to play Graveyard Dash, which is a race/relay game I invented involving cardboard gravestones with the party guests’ (ahem who remembered to RSVP) names on them. We begin and the Knight wins. Again with the crying. “But I tried really hard. We should all get prizes. My Mommy would never let anyone not get a prize, it’s not good for our self-esteem.” I mentally put on the breaks, my brain tires smoked a bit as I just stared at this kid. “What?!” “My Mommy knows I should always win so that I will be happy, you are mean!” (brief pause in the story to remind you this kid is ELEVEN, not two) Now I’m just dumbfounded, I can’t say “Well your Mom is an idiot, raising a spoiled brat” so I just stare. BC I (as a Gladiator, he was going through an ancient Rome phase at the time) rushes to the Storm Trooper and starts angrily telling him, “My Mom is not mean. She has enough respect for us that she doesn’t baby us like the teachers do. Her games are fun because we all get to play and someone ACTUALLY wins.”  “Yeah, ” pipes up the Jedi, “BC I’s parties are always awesome cause there is good food, and cool games with real prizes.” “You’re just being a baby, ” this was from my five-year-old Spiderman. I break up the verbal assault, with thank yous to my defenders, but reminders that we are all going to play nicely and enjoy the party and not be mean to each other. (blah blah blah, had to be the mom there) We continue on like this with each and every game we play. If the Storm Trooper wins, he’s happy, if someone else wins, tears and whining. When we stopped playing games each of the kids had won something about two or three times each. We move on to presents. My Gladiator opens gifts and profusely thanks the givers. We start to move on to cake (and the end of the party) when Storm Trooper starts whining again! “Where are MY presents?” I didn’t get a present!” My Spiderman points out that it’s not his birthday and everybody only gets one birthday turn a year, so it’s fair. (The answer I have given every toddler in my house when this issue has come up before) “I’m telling my mommy how mean you are!” This is directed at me as I am lighting candles on a haunted house cake. ” Honey, you won several prizes, have a cool bag and a pumpkin you painted and a ghost lollipop all to go home with. Isn’t that nice?” “NO! I want MY PRESENTS!” “Well I am sorry, but we are having cake right now, would you like some?” (this calmed him down until his mother got there)We thanked him for coming (and my Gladiator learned an important lesson in politeness) as he walked away, arms full of loot (including a plate piled with snacks “for the ride home, he gets cranky in the car and transitions are just so hard for him” was the explanation from his Mom) I heard him telling her all bout how mean it was that he didn’t win every game and there were no presents for him.

I tell this story because it’s so ridiculous an example of what people are doing to their kids. That 11-year-old had a miserable time at a party that the other boys had a blast at. He hasn’t been invited to any parties at my house since then. He is missing out on a lot the joy of being a kid thanks to the way his mother (and I have to assume father) allows him to always win. I know this is how they treat the kids in Elementary school at least and that not all of them were acting like that, but this little Storm Trooper will always be on my mind, every time I plan a party. I worry, am I too firm? Was I too unaccepting? Or was that kid just a brat? I haven’t run across another as bad as the Storm Trooper (which is what we call him now, since the memory is burned in our brains, but we can’t remember his name) but I often wonder what, if anything I should have done differently?

What do you think? As we get geared up for party season around here I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions regarding dealing with any future Storm Troopers.