Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Today's Parenting Fail

It started out as a conversation with B about how to treat people nicely.  It started out as my wanting to impress on her that I did not think she acted appropriately this morning in responding to a schoolmate who said hello.  It was a conversation being held in the car, on the way to Hebrew School.  Perhaps that was fail #1, as I couldn't sit and face her while talking.  But I did not want the conversation to wait, feeling that it was important to address it before too many days passed and she would forget the particular circumstances.  I wanted to remind her of what Daddy and I always say: "when all else fails, just be nice!"

That was how it all started.  Then she started to cry.  I'll never really know if I was being manipulated or not, if she started to cry to change the subject, or because she wanted to make the situation about how she has been harmed or hurt, and less about the other person.  I'll never know, but I'm curious.  Then again, I have to hope that she is not that devious.

At her core, B has an incredibly kind heart and is generous to a fault.  Perhaps because of that loving heart, she is not quite sure how to handle people who are not nice.  (I truly think that when she says things to people or adopts a particular tone of voice or demeanor, she is mimicking what she has heard elsewhere and I also believe that her mind moves too quickly to process how she is acting in any given situation.  I think she just wants to get the words out and does not always consider the method of delivery.)  In any event, she started crying.

I first thought she was crying because she was upset that I was upset.  (She has done this before, when the idea of my being angry with her was too much to bear.)  Then she started mumbling words in between the sobs.  Apparently, a few boys have started calling her "nerd" because of her glasses.  My initial reaction?  Tell them to shove off.  (Parenting Fail #2?)  That morphed into her telling me that some girls on the playground don't treat her very well and it upsets her.

How did we go from my telling her that she needed to be nice to other people, to her telling me (through tears) that she was being called names?

I hate that I cannot walk through her day with her and give her advice on how to handle situations.  I hate (sometimes) that she is young for her grade, despite being very bright, and that it creates an odd situation in which other kids may look at her strangely or treat her differently.  I hate that she doesn't always tell me about these situations.  And I hate that I can't go up to these kids and tell them to straighten out, or else!

There are the usual replies, of course.  "Sticks and stones" and all of that.  The ever-helpful "when someone is making fun of you, it's because they feel bad about themselves", and even B's suggestion of "no one can make you feel inferior without your permission."  I'm not sure any of them helped.  I also offered my usual advice of "ignore" them as to the boys who were calling her a nerd, and "walk away!", as to the girl on the handball court who she is having trouble with.

We are in an odd place in the world, when people seem to be hypersensitive to "bullying," so much so that kids aren't able to just be kids, without being labeled.  But at the same time, I want B to be able to defend herself and stand up to those that are being mean to her or bullying her, without fear that she herself will be labeled. (The girl on the handball court that picks on her and causes trouble is apparently older but smaller - an interesting combination.)

As to the boys calling her a "nerd," I tried to make her feel better by explaining that in the end, its usually the nerds that come out on top.  (Marc Zuckerburg, anyone?)  I'm not sure she believed me.

In the end, I'm left sitting here, scratching my head and wondering if my initial point was made, and also wondering when I can sneak into school and beat a few kids up for picking on my kid.  As much as it makes me cringe inside, I really do hope she learns how to navigate these treacherous waters.  I know from personal experience that it's only going to get worse in Junior High.  Until then, I guess I'll just continue to muddle through this "parenting" thing as well.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Why the Holidays Need to Back the F*** Up!

I blinked and suddenly my younger daughter's October birthday was upon us.  While I was still suck in summer mode of bathing suits and wet towels hanging all over the house, tripping over flip flops and trying to decide how low to set the air conditioner, September was giving way to October and I had a party to plan.  Hot on the heels of the mid-month party came Halloween.  Wasn't it just Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day or the 4th of July?!?!  Where did the year go?

Yes, I realize that somewhere along the way, we started a new school year.  But even that has thrown me for a loop.  I still drop off and pick up at the same time, in the same places, but what do you mean she's in 5th grade now?!

Suddenly, I'm turning the pages of my calendar and there are not many more pages to turn.  Suddenly, I'm filling the squares for November with birthday parties for friends and class performances and... wait a minute!  What is that?  Thanksgiving!  Already!?!?!

I've had this reaction from several family members and have even done it myself a few times.  November?  Thanksgiving?  Yes, it seems to be that time of year already.  And if our friends in the retail world have any say or sway, they would like us to skip right over Thanksgiving and go screaming into the holidays.  oy.

A few years ago, the "creep" started to move beyond the bounds of Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday with "pre-Black Friday" sales the week before.  We started to see stores gloss over Halloween, barely give a passing thought to Thanksgiving and start to decorate early.  And with each passing year, those decorations it seems, come out earlier and earlier and earlier.  I think it's time to stop.

Last year, several big retail stores shocked our delicate sensibilities by opening on Thanksgiving.  The general public seemed outraged enough that one could wonder if the idea would be a short-lived and oft recounted marketing failure.  Apparently not.  Arriving at some stores early on the morning of Black Friday to find empty aisles and quiet check-outs was evidence of the fact that for some, the stores being open on Thanksgiving was a good thing.

This year, as I feel like time is really running away from me at warp speed, I've noticed the holidays earlier than ever.  Before Halloween had even come and gone (and while it was still 85 degrees outside at my house), the fall decor was relegated to the clearance racks and the holidays had begun.   With more than 2 months to go, stores were already pushing the holidays on us.  Sales, decorations, music, lights, oh my!  I was shocked to see that my local mall's Santa Clause has already been seeing kids for 2 weeks and the mall's ice rink is open for business too.  What?!  And as November marches on, it has only gotten worse.  Well, I for one wish they would back off.

(Of course, stores barely pay lip service to Hanukkah which begins on December 6 this year, a full 19 days before Christmas arrives.  I'm sure if I visit my local Target store, any Hanukkah items will be on clearance by Black Friday to make room for more holiday decor.  )

Why do I wish the holidays would back off, you ask.  Well, many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around the holidays.  The three "big" ones, to be exact - Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  A few summer holiday pic-nics and gatherings find their way in as well, but mostly it is those big 3 that I remember.  More specifically, it's the sites and sounds of those holidays.  Lots of food, noise and people crammed into Grandma's house.  Thanksgiving was perhaps my favorite, because it kicked off the holiday season.  Stores did not decorate early back then, and Thanksgiving was seen as the start.  I loved waking up and spending the morning watching the Macy's parade (complete with Santa's arrival at the end) and smelling the pumpkin pie baking in the oven.  The Thanksgiving parade on t.v. also meant the start of holiday commercials filled with toys and kids playing in the snow.  (Who doesn't love the Hershey Kiss bells commercial?  Seriously.)  I looked forward to that time of year with much excitement and anticipation.  I couldn't wait to see the big toy catalogs and make my lists for Santa and of course, dream of snow days and cold winter nights spent snuggled up by the fire (or the t.v.)

The retail world is slowly robbing us of these traditions.  Gone is the anticipation that Thanksgiving brings, because by the time it gets here, we are tired of being bombarded with the holiday message.  We are tired of the music and the commercials (and the catalogs in the mailbox) before December even arrives.  Why are retailers so worried about our spending habits, that they feel the need to cram the holidays down our throats starting in September?  Does it make the calendar move any faster?  No.  Christmas will still come a month after Thanksgiving.  But it does make us long for the days without all of the craziness.

People often say that we need to "remember the reason for the season" and to "put Christ back into Christmas."  As a Jew, that's not my message.  But I do understand the sentiment behind it and these days, I can certainly understand the desire to get away from being buried under the weight of the retail message of "spend money" and "shop here."  Is that really what we've become?

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, or Festivus, do you really need to go shopping on Thanksgiving day?  Yes, it is a personal choice.  For me, personally, I choose not to.  And while I might start listening to holiday music a bit earlier than others, I find myself wishing that the holidays would hold off just a bit longer.

Let me get to Thanksgiving and enjoy the turkey and the stuffing and the fall leaves floating in the air.  Let me enjoy the crisp air with just a hint of smoke from someone's wood burning stove floating along.  Let me enjoy the sound of crunchy leaves under my boots,  Let me enjoy my family.  Let me enjoy being surrounded by the people I love without any material possessions being attached to that time.  There are no gifts to unwrap, no trees to decorate.  Just time to spend with family and friends, gathered around a table.  No stress over finding the"perfect" gift or paying off credit cards or having enough money.  Just spending time together.

Let me enjoy the anticipation that comes with Thanksgiving weekend.  Let me enjoy seeing my kids eyes light up when they walk into a store the day or weekend after Thanksgiving to see a transformed world.  I much prefer it over having to walk into that store for weeks (or even a month) before Thanksgiving only to be asked countless times why the holiday decorations are up already.

Maybe we've missed our window of opportunity this year, as the calendar flips down to the last few weeks of November. With Thanksgiving coming up next week, maybe it is already too late to "slow the roll" that the holidays bring.  But can we at least say that we'll consider it for next year?  Can we try just a little harder next year to enjoy Halloween and the Fall season and Thanksgiving before we run headlong into the holidays and shopping and wrapping and carols and such?  Please?

As I write this, I can honestly say that I'm guilty of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle.  I've already started shopping (as I normally do throughout the year), but I also find myself wanting to slow things down and make it last.  I don't want the year to be over.  Another year over means my girls are older and my time with them is slipping away.  Another year over means parents and grandparents are a year older and our time with them is slipping away too.  I want to slow time just a bit, to enjoy the season a bit more.  To savor it and capture those memories to tuck away with the ones from my childhood.

So this year, we'll try to slow things down a bit and next year, let's slow it down a bit more.  Let's get back to the traditional start of the holidays  at Thanksgiving.  And in the meantime, I need to go bake a pie.