Sharing is Caring … But Not For Some

Warning:  I’m getting on my soapbox.  Proceed with caution …

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I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to the behavior of children.  I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that children need to be taught proper manners early on.  Rude, selfish and/or mean children make me cringe (and in some cases, make me angry).  As a parent, I believe my job is to raise children who are kind, compassionate, polite, respectful and honest.  Healthy and happy, too, of course, and hopefully successful … but not at the expense of someone else.  I wrote a post about this very topic a few weeks ago (click here if you missed it).  Sadly, not every parent agrees with this mission … or if they do, they go about it in ways that baffle me.

Sharing is a pretty basic principle that I thought would be indisputable among parents.  Apparently, I am wrong because I recently read a blog post on PopSugar wherein the author makes the case for teaching young children not to share.  Yes, you read that correctly.  NOT to share.

The author, Beth of www.verybloggy.com, tells how her son’s preschool has a policy against sharing.  Kids cannot just take toys or jump in line for the slide if someone is already using these items.  The children must wait their turns to use a communal object.  Okay, makes sense.  No issues here.  What doesn’t make sense is the next part … the staff will “save” toys, even objects like playground swings, until a child returns from the bathroom, snack table, etc. to ensure the first child has completed his/her turn.  Meaning, if little Sally is on the monkey bars or playing with the blocks and she wants to get a drink of water, no one else can use the monkey bars or blocks while she’s away, no matter how long she’s gone.  [Note: there’s no mention of a time limit on turns.]   Seems a bit off to me.

The author goes on to share two stories in which a child, one her own, decides not to share.

In the first situation, the toy in question was the personal property of one of the children in a public park setting.  Sure it would be nice to see two kids playing together in the sandbox, sharing their toys, but since the toy was brought from home and the children didn’t know each other, I don’t really take issue with this example.  Yes, it could have been handled better by the parents, used as a “teachable moment” or something, but generally speaking this story doesn’t upset me.

The second example, however, is where I take issue with the author and her reasoning.  Respectfully, of course.

In the second story, the author tells of  her toddler son riding the same red car (“his favorite”) around a community rec center for the entire open play hour, despite the fact that another boy wanted a turn and his mother politely asked the author’s son to share.  She implies that she didn’t make her son share the toy (that belonged to the rec center, making it shared property) because there was another, almost identical car for that boy to use.  Her defense is that had her son shared the toy, it would have taught the other child that he can get anything he wants simply because he wants it.  Isn’t that what she just taught her own son, by not making him take turns?  Her exact quote:

“I think it does a child a great disservice to teach him that he can have something that someone else has, simply because he wants it. […] Furthermore, this is not how things work in the real world. In your child’s adult life, he’s going to think he’s owed everything he sees…”

Could this logic be more flawed?  How in the world does sharing community property teach entitlement?  She has it backwards.  Teaching kids that they can use public or communal objects for as long as they’d like, without having to share or take turns, indoctrinates an attitude of privilege and selfishness.  Not the other way around.  Sharing, taking turns, waiting patiently … this is how the real world works.  Thankfully.

“Sharing is Caring” is a universal preschool theme.  A basic life lesson.  It is common courtesy, for goodness sakes.  Plus, it’s catchy and it rhymes.  Remember The Care Bears?  They were all about sharing and being kind … except for Grumpy Bear.  I guess this author is Grumpy Bear.

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I, for one, will continue to teach my boys to live by the “sharing is caring” credo with a few common sense exceptions, like sharing their ice cream cones with strangers.  That’s just silly … and gross.

– LJDT

Back to School: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I have a confession to make.  I am not and never have been one of those sentimental moms who cries on the first day of school (which is odd, because I’m a very emotional person).  I didn’t sob when my kids went off to preschool for the first time or get choked up when they started kindergarten either.  Maybe I was sad for a moment or two, but no tears.  The truth is, I’m happy when the school year starts.  My kids are always happy, too.  If they weren’t, maybe I’d feel differently.  But they have always been confident and eager to begin each school year, so I am as well.

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c. 2008 – My kindergarten rock star, age 5

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c. 2008 – My nursery school magna cum laude, age 2

Ok, maybe being happy because they’re happy is really only a half truth.  If I’m being totally honest, I’m glad to get my freedom back each fall.  It’s selfish, I know, but it’s the truth.  By the end of the summer, I need my space.  Time alone to shower in peace.  To write in silence.  Even just to run errands alone.  Have you seen that new Target video?  Check it out here.  Spot on.

Flashback to this morning.  It was the first day of another new school year.  I swear if you listened closely, you would have heard the chorus to the song “Freedom” by Wham! playing in my head as the boys walked out the door.  Don’t get me wrong … I love my boys.  But absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Anyway, back to this morning.  The first day of 3rd grade and 6th grade (yes, that’s middle school around here!).  As usual, my boys were ready.  They’re still young enough that the first day of school breeds excitement, not dread.By mid-year, however, I cannot say the same is true.  Our usual M.O. on a school day involves yelling, rushing and even some begging, but amazingly, this morning was rather painless.  Everyone woke up on time, even a little early.  Everyone dressed quickly and even matched (mostly).  And most shockingly of all, there was no rushing or yelling.  It was such a smooth morning that I even had time to compose this cheesy, original poem:

T’was the first day of school and all through the land,

Parents were happy – life was grand!

The children woke early filled with delight;

They had gone to bed early – after all, it had been a school night.

A back-t0-school breakfast was ready to eat;

There was no yelling this morning – oh, what a treat!

Lunch boxes and backpacks were ready to go;

I was thrilled with this morning’s easy flow.

The kids were all dressed and pictures were taken;

Their smiles were real, there was no faking.

This first day is special, but things change fast;

I will relish it now because it will not last.

Once homework is assigned and routines are set,

The joy will be gone, on that you can bet.

But today my kids are excited and life is good;

I hope the same is true in your neighborhood.

It’s time to go now, the bus is here.

Happy First Day of the New School Year!

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2014 – My 6th grader middle schooler, age 11

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2014 – My 3rd grader, age 8

So for all of you who have to wait until after Labor Day to send your kids back to school, hang in there!  It’s just one more week until the most wonderful time of the year begins for you.  I’m sure you’re ready, and I’m positive your kids are, too.

– LJDT

Down and Dirty in PA

Five miles of hilly terrain.  Seven newly acquainted teammates.  Twelve unknown, muddy obstacles.  Hundreds of face-painted women dressed in matching outfits.  This does not describe my usual Saturday afternoon.  This is not my comfort zone.

I am not generally one to do something wild.  New experiences make me uneasy.  The unknown makes me anxious.  Throw in the fact that I don’t like crowds, mud or running long distances, and it’s a wonder that I entered Mudderella PA 2014 at all.  But I did.  I put on my big girl underpants, a pair of old running sneakers and did something crazy … I got down and dirty and had a blast at Mudderella.

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I have to admit, I had butterflies in my belly before we started.  I go to a kick-ass boot camp three days a week with an awesome trainer and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, but I was still nervous.  I didn’t know my teammates well, I had no idea what the obstacles would be like and I stopped running distances almost two years ago.  Would I be able to handle this?  Was I tough enough?  Confident enough?

As the #mudderella #wave9 group of runners warmed up, I looked around and saw women of all shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities.  Some of these women looked like they couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, but they were hootin’ and hollerin’ and rearing to go.  If they could do it, I thought, so could I.  This was a fun run, after all.  You start and finish with your team.  No winners, no losers.  Just hundreds of women “owning their strong” as the Mudderella theme dictates.

So at 11:30 when the whistle blew (actually, I think it was just a woman yelling “GO!,” but you get the idea), I threw caution to the wind and went for it.

I climbed up nets and over walls.  I ran through mud and over hills.  I crawled under wires and even underground (into a dark hole like a groundhog!).  I carried a teammate on my back and let her carry me .  I cheered on fellow racers and pulled strangers out of mud pits.  I ran the entire course, all five hilly miles of it (thank you, 20-something tri-athlete Jenny, for keeping me motivated) and held hands with my new friends as we crossed the finish line together.

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a full-body dunk washed away much of the mud just moments before crossing the finish line

I got muddy and wet and I may have even peed myself a little (blame it on childbirth … damn kids!), but I did it.  I even handled the group rinse station and communal changing tent like a champ.  With boobies and bums abound, there was no room for modesty, just quick action.  I credit my many dressing room experiences at Loehmann’s and Century 21 for my prowess — you New Yorkers know what I’m talking about.

All in all, I rocked it.  No, I crushed it.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and owned my strong … and then some.  We all did.

Would I do another mud race?  I don’t know … It did take two showers to feel clean again (and three washes to get the mud off my clothes).  But I do know that the next time I’m faced with a new situation, if I believe I can handle it, I will.  I just have to own my (inner) strong.

A quote from the gym, but apropos for all of life's challenges

A quote from the gym, but apropos for all of life’s challenges

– LJDT

All in the Framily

If you watch TV at all, you’ve no doubt seen one of the many Sprint Framily Plan commercials.  A bit odd, yes, but Sprint really got it right with its “Framily” concept … close friends + family = framily.

My husband and I are both lucky enough to each have great framilies.  I’m still besties with my childhood friends and college roommates.  He is still tight with his boarding school buddies and fraternity brothers.  Having the same friends for over 30 years is pretty amazing.  Even more remarkable, though, is my dad who is still close with his kindergarten pals and fellow altar boy servers … and he’s 70!

I love the people in my framily, but I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like.  Sure, we talk on the phone, email each other and text, but actual time together is rare since we don’t live near each other.  That said, this summer I was lucky enough to spend two separate weekends in Boston with two separate groups of our framily.

At the beginning of the summer, I enjoyed a fantastic (albeit much too brief) weekend with my college roommies.  In town for our 20th (gulp!) reunion, it was really more of a girls’ weekend.  No husbands, no kids, no work, no stress.  Just lots of talking, laughing, remembering … and making new memories.  It was the best.

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my BC sisters

Then, just last weekend, I spent yet another wonderful weekend in Beantown.  This time it was a family affair, chillin’ with my hubby’s boarding school brothers.  Beautiful weather, well-behaved children, great friends, plus a dunk tank and a hamster wheel (I’ll let you use your imagination here) … it was a weekend to remember.

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Our Draper framily (in part)

Two different weekends, two different groups, two different approaches … but I came away from both weekends with similar thoughts:

  • The drive from PA to MA is torturous and in no way actually six hours … thank goodness for satellite radio, iTunes and snacks
  • A long car ride is worth it for the right people
  • Time and distance alone do not weaken strong friendships
  • Reunions aren’t just about rehashing the good ol’ days, but also about making new memories … to rehash the next time
  • Laughter really is the best medicine for life’s stresses
  • Every woman in each of my framilies is an inspiration to me (in different ways)
  • I really hope my kids have good childhood friends with whom they stay close through adulthood
  • I miss my bffs!

Life gets crazy.  We are all running in different directions … work … school … kids’ schedules … the list goes on.  Getting together can be difficult to coordinate.  Even staying in touch by phone or email can be hard at times.  But  it’s important to try.

It may sound corny and it’s definitely cliché, but old friends make the best friends … and your best friends are the family you pick for yourself.  Choose wisely.

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– LJDT

Riding the Style Waves

They say to pick your battles with your children …

Good behavior, proper manners, healthy habits, strong work ethics … this is where I put my energy.  Clothing?  Not really.  As long as everyone is wearing pants when they leave the house, I’m good.  Yes, if it’s really cold I require a coat and hat, but I also know that those items are often discarded as soon as I’m gone.  So be it.  The clothing war is not a battle in which I engage.  Keep in mind that I’m a control freak, so this is a big deal.  Really big.  My one exception:  formal occasions.  When the boys need to dress up, I get veto power.  Options and suggestions are always given so they think they are making their own decisions.  But if they don’t choose wisely (read: what I offered or at least close to it), I get to override their wardrobe selections for something more suitable for the occasion.  First Holy Communion is a good example of this.  So are weddings and big holidays.  I gave up on Sunday mass, school concerts and birthday parties a long time ago.

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one of their better ensembles

I realize that this hands-off approach is easier because I’m raising boys.  Moms of girls have it much harder.  Everything is so short these days that you can practically see up their craw (that was my grandma’s word for crotch, in case it wasn’t clear).  I’m not a prude, but sometimes it’s inappropriate.

Back to dressing my kids … or not dressing them, to be more accurate.  I haven’t actually picked their outfits in years.  I used to point this out to people because I was embarrassed by their mismatched creations or, worse, their repeated wear of the same outfit day after day.  I thought I would be judged.  That my parenting would be judged.  How ridiculous of me!  My sister didn’t care.  Her middle child wore pajamas everywhere for nearly a year when he was 4.  She didn’t fight it and eventually he put clothes on again.  Kids are just quirky (and stubborn).

The truth is, it makes me smile now when I think back to my kids’ silly clothing phases.  Here are the ones I like best …

The numbers phase — When my oldest was about 3, he would only wear shirts with digits.  One day, when I needed him to wear something nicer than a ratty t-shirt, I drew the number 7 on the sleeve of his polo shirt with a Sharpie marker just to end his meltdown.

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one of the many number shirts he wore daily

The cape stage — Again it was my oldest who, around age 4 or 5, was so into super heroes that he wore a cape everywhere … even to a funeral mass.  Our compromise that day was no mask.

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this custom-made ‘H’ cape was his favorite

The jersey year(s) — Both boys embraced this look a couple of years back, complete with matching shorts.  My youngest still wears jerseys when he’s playing or watching a game.

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matching shorts complete the look

The neon period — This one brings me back to my youth.  It’s 1980 again, with bright colors abound.  The bolder the better and anything goes this time around.  Blue with orange?  Pink with red?  Why not?  Click here to read my post about this trend on knobu.com.

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this is one of their more subtle picks

Kids get that style is about individuality and comfort.  For some, that means pajamas or a cape.  For others, it’s wild shorts and bright socks.  Don’t like it?  Don’t fight it.  Just ride the wave.  Maybe tomorrow they’ll like bow ties and sports coats … or maybe sombreros.  Kids are quirky.

– LJDT