Why Are There So Many Clueless Parents In The World And Why Am I In The Minority?

So…..Disney nut that I am, I follow quite a few Disney fan sites on Facebook. And as we blog, this very moment, there is a great debate going on about the appropriateness of revealing a surprise trip to Disney for her daughter’s birthday.

The Facts:

  1. Her daughter wanted a slumber party to celebrate her birthday. (No age was given, but slumber party age….I’m thinking between 10-13)
  2. Her parents are giving her a trip to Disney to be taken later in the year.
  3. They want to stage a scavenger hunt to be done at the party with prizes for everyone but her daughter will receive the trip to Disney as HER prize.
  4. A friend of the mom felt it was “cruel” to give this gift in front of the other children.
  5. The mom is now conflicted but feels a trip to Disney is no different than her child opening up any other gift at the party.
  6. Mom is asking opinions so she can decide when to give her daughter their Disney gift.

My Thoughts:

  1. A slumber party is a great way to celebrate a birthday.
  2. A trip to Disney is a fantastic birthday gift.
  3. A scavenger hunt is a fun way to keep the kids occupied. Gifts at the end? Wonderful. But for her daughter to receive such an extravagant gift in comparison to the other children? Ridiculous.
  4. You go, friend!
  5. Mom, if you’re conflicted than maybe you should re-think this plan. How in the world do you compare a trip to Disney World and an American Girl Crafts Pencil Toppers Sewing Kit? Seriously?
  6. The fact that you’re conflicted means,  in your gut, you know this is wrong. Stop asking strangers for parenting advice.

I realize everyone doesn’t behave exactly as I would like. I realize it takes all kinds to create this crazy world in which we live. But I’d like to think that the majority of us out there have a decent, kind and compassionate playbook that we follow in order to conduct our day to day living.

It seems I am wrong.

I am in the minority with my response…..

“Just my two cents, although it looks like the decision has been made.. I don’t think opening gifts in front of the guests is an issue if the gifts are in line with what the other guests brought. I think it gets a little muddled when extravagant gifts are paraded in front of the guests. And that’s what a trip to Disney (or a car for a 16th birthday) would be like for some. We have our kids open gifts from their guests in front of the guests. But gifts from family, which tend to be more expensive, are opened privately, with family.”

I had to throw in the “or a car for a 16th birthday” because so many of the responses asked, “How different is it to give your child a car for graduation or a 16th birthday?”

Really?

  1. You would really parade a hugely expensive gift, like a car, in front of your child’s peers? Who are you? And why is YOUR self-worth wrapped up in what you buy your child?  And……
  2. Parents actually buy their kids cars for birthdays? (My kids are in for a rude awakening!) What ever happened to earning the privilege and showing some financial responsibility?

I was, very clearly, in the minority. Most of the parents out there (granted, most of them are huge Disney addicts) thought a trip to Disney was a wonderful surprise and should be flaunted in front of her peers.

Disgusting.

And don’t get me wrong. I am not jealous that this parent is able to give her child a trip to Disney or a car for her graduation. I am able to give my children multiple trips to Disney (and I do) and cars for their birthdays AND graduation (which I don’t. Sorry, kids).

A collage of selfies taken on multiple trips to Walt Disney World.

A collage of selfies taken on multiple trips to Walt Disney World.

 

A collage of cars I will not be buying my children for the 16th birthday or graduation. (Sorry, kids!)

A collage of cars I will not be buying my children for the 16th birthday or graduation. (Sorry, kids!)

The money and the haves vs. the have nots is not the issue.

The issue is the grand-standing.

And no one saw this but me and a handful of others who were willing to speak out.

The majority said, “Go for it!” and “Everyone is so friggin’ offended over EVERYTHING that happens these days!”  and (said more forcefully) ” I’D GIVE HER THE GIFT AS PLANNED. IF THEY DONT LIKE IT TOUGH!!!”

Really? If they don’t like it, tough?

I’m not a socialist. I don’t believe everyone should get an equal share of every pie. I realize that my kids see some of their friends getting cars and trips for presents while others get video games and baseball mitts and books.

Don’t worry.

I get that.

What I don’t get is this need to flaunt expensive gifts in front of others who might have parents without the means to shower them with the same type of gift. Or, forget the means, maybe their parents believe their child should work for something of value instead of being handed expensive items.

And we wonder where this sense of entitlement is coming from with kids these days.

There are other comments along the lines of: We should be teaching our children to be happy for other’s successes in life, not be jealous of what they have.

And I agree with THAT, too. But successes in life should include best time in the swim meet, great grade on the test, graduating from school, promotion at work. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be happy that she’s going to Disney World. Yay! Go her! I’m saying that…….well, it doesn’t matter what I say. No one’s reading this far and quite a few disagree with  me.

In the time it took me to craft this post the original poster has read all the recommendations and come to this conclusion:

“Many feel that if even one person may have their feelings hurt, or be offended, than it is too high a price to pay and should not be done, yet there are others who think learning what I call life lessons early on is the best way to go about it and I fall into the last catagory. We’re going ahead, as planned!”

Life lessons? Really?

What life lesson is that?

That there are people in the world who don’t give a rat’s ass about modesty, humility and kindness? That there are people in this world that love to gloat and crow and boast? That some parents are just a bundle of insecurity and need to showboat in order to prove to the world how much they “love” their daughter with the expensive gifts they give?

Is that the lesson?

Then you go right ahead.

Lesson away.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under parenting, Soapbox, Uncategorized

The Call: It’s Not A Matter Of If. But When.

We’ve all received that dreaded call. At least once. Probably at least twice. And some of us, uh-hem, more than that. And if you are sitting there, shaking your head “No” that you’ve never received “the call,” just you wait. It’s coming. I promise.

thecall

It happens to all of us. And if it has never, ever happened to you, than you’re lying.

Because my kids are angels. They truly are. Oh, sure. They make mistakes. They learn from them and move on. But most of the damn-near time, they are sweet, adorable angels.

Except when they aren’t.

Whenever we see people out in public, especially children but sometimes adults, behaving in ways in which they shouldn’t, I point it out. I say, “See? They are teaching us how NOT to behave.”

Well, one son in particular took that “teaching moment example” to a whole new level.

At age 5, in the dark, dank corners of the playground, he gathered his friends. He whispered in hush tones and said, “Now, this means something really, really bad. And you should never, ever do this.” And then, he clenched his fingers into a tight little fist and pried a certain spectacular finger away from the others (because he couldn’t do it without the help of his other hand) and showed his friends the offensive gesture. They were awed and amazed at the power one little finger could have. And then they ran off, into the safety of the sunshine, to play on the swings.

A few days later, I received the call.

“Mrs. Jane?” his teacher asked tentatively on the phone, “I need to make you aware of something.” She then informed me of the fateful day on the playground, how SHE received a call from another parent asking that her child be separated from my son and never be allowed to play with my child again. Ever. I was mortified. I was sooooo embarrassed. But the teacher kindly informed me that she had spoken with my son and that his reaction was so innocent, so matter-of-fact in the merits of his lesson shared with his friends, that she felt it was an innocent mistake. That this would all blow over and that the other parent would cool down. Eventually. In the meantime, she would separate the children as well as she could for the time being until all was forgotten.

It sucked.

And then there was the call from a good friend. She opened the conversation up with, “I feel like we’re about to create a scene right out of A Christmas Story…” and then she proceeded to inform me of how when they had been over for dinner the weekend before and our (now a little older) kids were upstairs playing my sons taught her sons a bad word. A word that rhymes truck. Apparently, one of her children misspoke the word truck and it came out sounding like the word that rhymes with truck and giggles ensued. Leave it to my sons to inform the mis-speaker what it sounded like he said.  Oh, but that’s not all. It seems they also watched music videos on YouTube that were inappropriate. Videos more appropriate for older teens. I was mortified. I was sooooo embarrassed. So, a big discussion took place, and a Net-Nanny went into effect.

And it sucked.

And then, a few years later, a son (who shall remain nameless) came home from school in tears. I asked him to explain. And through the tears, all I could understand were the words “She” “My friend and I” and “Bullying.” WHAT? Did I hear him right? He was mortified. He was soooo embarrassed. He said the teacher would be calling me. And he ran up to his room and slammed the door.

 

I got the call. And it was awful. It was terrible. I was mortified and more than embarrassed.

But after speaking with the teacher, a teacher who is amazing and wonderful and worked hard to get to the bottom of what had actually happened, I was relieved. Apparently, some name-calling was tossed around between a young lady who had a crush on my son. My son did not return the affection. His friend, leaping to his defense, joined in with some name calling of their own to “get her to stop crushing on him.” It backfired. And with the school’s No-Bullying Policy in place, the loudest name-callers got into trouble. (Bullying is a word we are tossing around too flippantly and easily, I might add. But that’s the topic for another post.) 

It was all resolved. Eventually. And my son learned a valuable lesson.

But it still sucked.

Parenting sucks sometimes. You get to be embarrassed in ways you never dreamed possible. Your peers get to see you struggling, while their little angels shine. Except when they don’t. There will come a day when the hot, white spotlight reveals their little angel’s flaws and mistakes.

And then YOU get to slink back into the shadows.

And thank the dear Lord above, that at least it wasn’t YOUR son.

This time.

(This post was inspired by a true-confessional by my dear bloggy friend, Nap at Naptime Writing. Please check her out.)

 

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And Reason #173 Why “Auntie Jen” Shouldn’t Have Children

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, THIS pops up in my news feed…..

“A jury has ruled against a New York woman who sued her nephew for hugging her too hard on his eighth birthday.”

I’m sorry. But with that kind of lead-in, I just had to click and read.

Apparently, with undue glee, the sweet,  “very loving” (<—her words!) 8-year-old boy ran towards her and leapt into her arms, saying “Auntie Jen, I love you!” The force knocked her down and she broke her wrist. She didn’t complain to him at the time because, as she told the jury, “It was his birthday and I didn’t want to upset him.”

So, Jennifer Connell upset him later with a $127, 000 lawsuit. She wants him accountable for his actions. Besides, now the 54-year-old has a hard time juggling her hors d’oeuvre plate when she attends parties due to her injury. (I’m not kidding. That’s what she told the jury. I can’t make this stuff up.) 

Hence, my disgust and confusion.

How in the world did this woman find an attorney that would take this case?

How in the world did anyone, crazy aunt or money-grubbing attorney, think they were going to get $127,000 from an 8-year-old boy?

How in the world did this ever, ever in a million years, get to a jury and waste the good taxpayers time and money?

Thank you, dear jury, for delivering the only verdict possible.

Thank you, Auntie Jen, for never having children. You’ve already squashed the loving exuberance of a sweet child in one fell swoop. We don’t need to squash any other children.

And to the poor, sweet, very loving boy (who is now 12-years-old — yes, it took four years for this debacle to end) may you find love and kindness in your other relatives.

And may you never have to hug Auntie Jen ever again.

 

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Filed under I'm Baffled (And Because I Love The Word Baffled), In the News, Soapbox

What I Learn From Reality TV And Why I Can’t Stop Thinking About I Am Jazz

(Disclaimer: I want to formally apologize to the transgender population if I misuse terminology, make inaccurate assumptions, etc. I am learning. I am trying to educate myself. I am human.)

I watched a series on TLC over the summer and I can’t stop thinking about it. I watched because I was curious. I watched because I wanted to understand. I had no idea it would resonate and touch me, as a mother, so deeply.

Before “I Am Cait” on the television station E! featuring Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) there was “I Am Jazz” on TLC. It was an 11 episode series featuring Jazz and her family as she navigates the world as a transgender adolescent.

The Jennings family from I Am Jazz on TLC

The Jennings family from I Am Jazz on TLC

In the very first episode, Jazz’s mother talks about how, as a pre-preschooler, Jazz asked her mother “Am I a boy or a girl?” Instead of pointing to her anatomy, her mother asked her what she thought. “Well, my body says I’m a boy but my head says I’m a girl.” And so began their journey of helping Jazz to become the person she was meant to be.

Now, I know some of you out there are shaking your heads and saying, “Who she was meant to be? He was born with male anatomy.” But think back. Way back. To when you were a preschooler. Did you feel uncomfortable playing with dolls? Or desperately wanting to wear a dress to feel pretty but you were told “boys don’t wear dresses?”

No one, not a tiny 4 year old but especially an adolescent, actively chooses a way of life that invites ridicule and death threats. Gender identification is not a choice. And I Am Jazz illustrates this beautifully.

And the beauty in Jazz Jennings’ story is that she isn’t the only one telling it. Her family, from her parents to her siblings to her grandparents and friends, are helping to tell her story. They are supportive. And kind. And wanting nothing but for their loved one to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin. Just like any one of us.

Jazz struggles with the anxiety of starting high school and finding flattering clothes and wanting to fit in with her peers. What 14-year old isn’t struggling with these issues? Each episode dealt with her specific struggles but when watered down? Her struggles are no different than those of any teenager anywhere in the world.

What touched me so deeply was the love and acceptance from her family, especially her parents. All they want is  a confident, secure, happy child. Just like me. They want their child to excel in their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Just like me. They want a productive, self-assured, joyful adult life for their child. Just like me. They want all the same things every other parent out there wants for their child. And they have the courage, more courage than most of us are ever expected to draw from, to help create that kind of life for their child.

Jazz’s story is one of struggle and pain. But that’s not what you feel watching her story unfold. Her smile sparkles on screen and you realize that her joy is carrying her through. She has a deep and powerful optimism that is inspiring and contagious. And as a parent, you realize that we have so much influence on how well our children face the challenges they are presented with. Jazz’s parents are her greatest cheerleaders and as a result she is blossoming into a beautiful human being and role model.

I Am Jazz has shaken me, but not because I am dealing with gender identification with my children. It has helped me to understand the transgender population as little better, sure. But more importantly, it has reminded me of the incredible influence I have with my children and how I react to their struggles in life. I can help them to face challenges with courage and strength and hope. Or I can teach them to bury and destroy their truth. I can appreciate their talents and encourage them to be the best they can be or I can mold them into a model of my own choosing.

Jazz has said, “Other people don’t define me. I define me.”

Wise words from a 14-year old.

And a lesson for each of us.

 

 

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Happy Anniversary To Me!

When I logged on this morning, a handy-dandy little icon was illuminated. I had no idea what it was, so I clicked on it. It was WordPress wishing me a happy 6 year anniversary. Six years! Really? That long ago?

dandy

Here it is. My first post on August 13th, 2009……

Hello blog world!

I am so glad Al Gore invented the internet! This is amazing. Sitting here, at my computer, sending messages to……..? Who will read this? Who are you? What caught your eye to visit this page? I am so new to this blogging concept. And what is so amazing is before I ever entered my first blog I did a little research on you other bloggers out there. Did you know that there are grandmothers out there who blog? Seriously! Grandmothers! Now I am REALLY feeling behind the times. I’m somewhere between 30 and a Wal-Mart greeter. Not yet a grandmother, thank God!

So. Welcome, Me! Looking forward to seeing exactly where this will all lead.

…………………….

Wow. How green I was. And enthusiastic about starting. And in awe of all of you.

And that has remained unchanged. I am still in awe of all of you.

The grandmothers. And mothers. And chefs. And teachers. And DJs. And sons. And daughters. And curmudgeons. And travelers. And writers. All amazing writers. All of you.

Sure, I’ve dropped to the wayside, hung back in the shadows, lately. I’m distracted by other things…many other things, that have turned my attentions elsewhere. For now.

But I still peek in here. I still get motivated to vent or whisper or chuckle once in a while with a post.

I’m still glad that Al Gore invented this crazy, amazing internet thing.

I’m still somewhere between 30 and a Wal-Mart greeter.

I’m still not a grandmother. Yet. (And I still say, thank God to that!)

I still am not so sure where this all will lead. It’s still a journey. Still interesting. Still fun.

And I’m still here.

Wow.

Happy 6th Anniversary to me!

And thank YOU ALL for peeking in from time to time. I’m so very grateful that you’re still listening.

 

 

 

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Thank You For Your Service

My sister visits every summer. But this summer was different.

She needed a distraction.

Over the years, the number of kids she brought with her has dwindled. First, it was all three. Her two oldest hover in age on either side of my oldest daughter. Her youngest, 4 years younger, was left out of the fun much of the time. But she didn’t mind. It meant that she got to play a “grown up” with my two younger sons who hung the sun and moon on her.

This summer, however, was my sister’s first solo trip. Her oldest, is a working girl now, having finished art school and struggling with her career – in a good way. Her son is in his last year at university. And her youngest, her baby, is in basic training.

My niece didn’t need to join the Army. I mean, not the way many think. She’s an excellent student. She’s highly self motivated and disciplined. Just the kind of person the Army wants. No, Dear Niece, wants to be just like her father. She’ll go to her father’s Alma Mater, a Big Ten University. But her father was also in the Army. And now he’s in Federal Law Enforcement – which is what she wants, too. So, she’s following his path. Step by step.

My sister knew this summer would be hard so she wanted to make it special.

“Let’s take the boys to Disney!” she said. No twisting my arm. I’ll take any excuse to go to my most magical place.

army

A selfie with one of the army “toys” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

So we did. And we had a blast. But she wasn’t fully present.

“What if she calls when we’re on a ride?”and “Here, I just need to check my messages again.” and “What’s the area code for Missouri? What if I don’t recognize the number?” and “What if she wants to leave and I can’t get to her?” and much more seriously….”What if she gets deployed somewhere awful?”

My sister is well aware of how awful this can be for the family left behind. Her husband volunteered to go to Iraq. They fought. She felt the kids were too young for him to leave. He felt the need to honor his duty to his county. She lost. He won.

4th

The picture my boys sent to their Uncle while he was in Iraq. #1son is wearing his favorite camo bike helmet and #2son is wearing his ” ‘Merican fwag” shirt.

I sympathized this summer with my sister. I tried to feel her pain. And I told her I got it. And I thought I did.

As soon as we received a mailing address we all started mailing letters. My sister warned me that they keep them so busy during the day, they’re exhausted at night. She may not be able to write back very often. No worries, I told her. We understand.

We received our first letter from my niece a few days ago. Or should I say, my sons received a letter. Addressed to the both of them. It was a busy day and and we were rushing to get ready for Boy Scouts.

“Read it to us at dinner, ” they said. “It’ll save time and then we won’t fight over who gets to read it first!” (My oldest son. Always thinking!)

“Thank you both for writing me! Getting letters is the best part of my day! I hope you don’t mind that I am writing this to both of you but I don’t have a whole lot of free time…”

My sister was right.

“I am having a great time! Every day I accomplish new, cool tasks. For example, so far I have done land navigation courses, repelled off a 40 foot tower, team building obstacle courses, gone into a gas chamber, learned all about the M4 rifle, (which I’m shooting for the first time tomorrow!) learned combat first aid and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t remember right now.”

What? My eyes scan back to gas chamber and shooting rifles and combat first aid. Yes, I know what being in the military entails. But this is my baby niece we’re talking about.

“My favorite part has been the navigation courses and repelling off the tower. The gas chamber? Not so much.”

And then it really hits me about the commitment she is making to our country. And the weight my sister has been feeling all summer. And my eyes well up with tears.

This shouldn’t be new to me. My grandfathers, uncles and cousins have all served. My brother-in-law was in the middle east just yesterday, it seems. I know what it’s like to miss someone, worry about someone, and care for someone when they come home wounded.

But my niece feels like my baby, too. And I’m getting a tiny taste, a tiny glimpse into what my sister, her mother, is struggling with every single day until she comes home.

To all of you  mothers out there, mothers with sons and daughters in the military:

Thank you for YOUR sacrifice. And please thank your children for me for their sacrifice. They are awesome. You are awesome. And my heart aches and swells with pride, all at the same time, for all of you. 

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US Students Rank 26th In The World In Math Scores and Now A Math Lab Bust? Well, That Explains A Lot.

5-arrested-in-math-lab-bust

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) has become the buzzword of the decade. It’s sprinkled into every school newsletter and peppered into every welcome-back-to-school orientation.

But all of our STEM awareness is for naught. A big fat zero.

Math labs busts are on on the rise. At least, in Laurel County, KY they are. And five people were arrested. (I’ll bet they didn’t count on that.) 

The United States still falls behind the rest of the world in math, and the reasons for our lagging test scores are starting to add up. Multiply that by simple editing skills at the news station and you have the final answer.

Frankly, I’m divided on the issue. Factor in how many labs go undetected, it’s difficult to fault anyone here. It’s a problem that is growing exponentially, with  many variables to consider.

And then there are all those teachers pushing math.

But can you blame them?

They’re all just trying to get their piece of the pi.

We need to stay rational. This is not your average quandary. I don’t think we’ll find a simple formula to solve the issue. It’s a complex equation. But the degree of the problem should never be underestimated.

When I brought this latest development to my husband’s attention, he just sighed.

“Dear Jane. Don’t you know? Only squares do math.”

And that, dear readers, is the root of the problem.

 

 

 

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