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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

It’s a new policy we’ve instituted in our home.  It started last month, when Mike took the boys to Monster Jam and the princess and I were left to our own devices.  As we returned from dropping the older boys off downtown, I looked in the rearview mirror and asked her just what she wanted to do with our evening.

She thought about it for a moment and just really didn’t know.  I suggested perhaps we get a movie and some popcorn.  She wondered aloud what the girls across the street might be doing.  I picked up my cell phone and called Trudy and asked the question.

They were in the process of making a big spaghetti dinner.  She was teaching the girls to cook.  I explained to her that we were on our own for the evening and were thinking about getting a movie that had just been released and making popcorn.

Thus the plan unfolded.  In the end, the princess and I picked up the movie and some ice cream and popcorn.  And we stayed within the budget we had set.  We invited the neighbors to join us in our movie night and they invited us to join them for dinner.

This is how our first girls’ night in began.   We all had such a good time that we decided it should be come a tradition.  The next day, the five of us worked on a plan.

Everyone had input.  The princess asked if she could invite friends from school.  I told her “Absolutely!”  The neighbor girls chimed in asking the same question and receiving the same answer.  Absolutely!  The more the merrier, but please don’t get too carried away.

It was determined that the second saturday of every month we would have a “Girls’ night In” and the males in the group would have a “Boys’ night Out”.  We set up our plans for the next month.  The princess suggested board games and they selected several that they could all agree on.  The menu was planned.  Trudy and I had suggested that the girls cook.  They determined it was a better option to order out from a local italian fast food restaurant.

It was something for all of us to look forward to and we talked about it periodically over the following couple of weeks. 

Saturday night was girls’ night.  We adjusted our menu to order from a different restaurant where I had a coupon that made it more affordable.  The princess forgot the phone numbers that she had gathered to call and invite her friends.  The boys – well they didn’t have a plan so we determined that they would go across the street and play video games on Trudy’s PS2.

Trudy and I had concerns that the princess would feel left out – as all of the other girls were much older.  The difference between 7 and 12 is rather a big one.   We plowed forward anyway.

Dinner was a hit, all 8 of us gathered around my big oak kitchen table.  The big girls were amazed at the amount of lasagna and spaghetti the princess put away.  Conversation flowed and there was laughter and fun.  In the middle of dinner, Mike needed to come over and get his inhaler.  His allergies were kicking up.  He came in the front door and everyone at the table howled “Oooooooooh No, No boys!  This is GIRLS night!”  I followed him down the hallway proclaiming “I’ll take care of THIS!”  After giving him a hug and laughing together at the “girls only” attitude, I escorted him firmly back out the front door.

After we cleared off the dinner mess, it was time for the board games.  We split into two groups.  Four of us started a scrabble game at the kitchen table and the other 4 started a rousing game of Trouble in the living room.

Somewhere in the middle of the scrabble game, the 4 from the living room wandered back in to the kitchen stating they were bored with the board games.  I noted that there was an Apples to Apples game tucked away in the corner and that satisfied them for a while.

When the Scrabble game was finally over (the moms won!), we floundered for a moment or two trying to decide what to do next.  One of the girls looked at me and said “Do you have a piece of paper and a pen?”  I grabbed a notebook off my desk and a pen and watched as she tore of pieces, wrote a single word on each one and folded them carefully.

“And what is this game you want to play?”  I asked curiously.  “Murder at Midnight.”  Trudy declared “I vaguely remember this one.”  I’d never played before so I sat and watched.

Everyone drew a piece of paper which had a role written on it.  You had to take on the role that was one the paper you drew.  You could either be “Witness” “Killer” or “Detective”.  As the girls started to play, Trudy and I adjourned to another room for a few minutes.

As we talked in the back room, we heard a scream.  I was a little alarmed until I realized it was part of the game.  They turned out all the lights, the detective left the room and then the killer touched someone who then had to scream and “die”.

Trudy and I joined the game after the first two rounds.  And they added another role “psychic”.  The psychic listened to the “dead person” and gave clues about the killer.

It wasn’t in any way the plan we started with. The girls who planned the party had a stack of board games all ready.  The transition to an imagination game went smoothly.  They had entirely too much fun making up interesting stories about where they had been when the murder occured.

The princess was COMPLETELY in her element.  She welcomed the unexpected change with absolute enthusiasm and instantly became the hit of the game.  She died in odd and unusual poses and was very convincing as a witness.

The creativity of this group of girls entertained me.  One girl was the killer and killed herself, leaving no witnesses.  As the game wore one, two of the girls sneaked into the kitchen where they couldn’t be killed.  When the lights came on, not only did we have a dead body, but we also had two missing persons.   The variations were almost endless!

I woke up the next morning thinking about the life parallels in that game.  How we are assigned “roles” as children and carry them with us for our entire lives.  Every now and then I contemplate who I am now versus the role I was “assigned” as a child and guage my evolution.

In the end, I had a great appreciation for the young lady who suggested the game.  The princess wants her to come to our next girls’ night.  The boys had fun – just the three of them.  It will be interesting to see how this tradition evolves.

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Signs of spring continue to show themselves.  My neighbor Trudy and I spent some time porch sitting last night while the oodles of children ran between our yards playing hide and seek in the dark.  Mike’s children, Trudy’s children, those who were invited and those who just wandered in.  I believe that I counted 10 of them at some point, ranging in the 7 to 12 year old age group.  Runners and hiders and screamers.  They were raucous enough to rouse another neighbor’s dog and generate a brief conversation with her.   We’ve had the same conversation many times.  I apologize for the noisy children, she warns that if her dog gets out there may be a problem.  Then she asks “How many of them ARE there?”

Trudy had gone grocery shopping.  When she pulled into her driveway across the street from me, I called out to the gaggle of boys shooting hoops in my driveway “Do we have any gentlemen here?”  They replied in chorus “Yes.”  I reminded them that real gentlemen would be across the street carrying in groceries for Trudy.  She was then mobbed.  While they took her purchases into her house, she came over and joined me on the porch.

The weather was perfect.  The promised storms completely bypassed us, allowing the children to play outside well into the evening.  I have a sense of “time warp” when this happens. 

As we sat on the porch,  I flashed through the almost 20 years I’ve spent sitting on this same porch watching all of the children play.  Many of them have grown to adulthood and have children of their own now.  I hear from them periodically.  I keep in touch with them on Facebook and Myspace.  I watch as they bring children of their own in the world and move forward with their lives.  Once in a while they’ll show up, dragging their own children and reminiscing about the carefree days of their childhood playing in my yard.

Spring is a time of new beginnings and a time of renewal for me.  Just as the crocuses and my allergies return every year, so do the neighborhood children.  As usual, this year, there are some new ones that I have yet to learn the names of.  And the chorus hasn’t changed either.  When they are doing something they maybe shouldn’t be doing and I move towards them to investigate, “HIDE, Holly’s coming!” 

It’s one of the patterns in the tapestry of my life.  And I like that there’s a small voice that sounds like mine buried in their psyches that is saying “You know, guys…. that might not be a good idea.”   or “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

At the end of the day, everyone enjoyed themselves.  The children crawled into bed worn out from the running around and subsequent playing of Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero at Trudy’s house.  My world again became quiet.  As I closed my book on the day, I smiled.  Goal accomplished.  We had fun!

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Many years ago I was involved in the life of a child. Her parents found my ad in the local paper to do babysitting. That was before we transitioned into “home daycare”. The little princess was 15 months old.

Her mother would bring her over in the afternoons on her way to work and her father would pick her up in the evening on his way home. She was dressed in pretty pink frilly outfits whenever she arrived. At fifteen months, she didn’t yet have any language abilities.

At some point when she was 3 or 4 her parents went through a divorce. By that time she was firmly a part of our household and I did my best to shield her from the chaos going on at home.

When it was all said and done, her father ended up with custody. He had really stepped up to the plate and now he’d won. After all the crises and all the chaos, suddenly there was peace. And he had full responsibility for this beautiful little girl and little or no idea what to do next.

We had more than a few conversations about parenting. On his birthday the next year, I gathered up a stack of articles about how to be a good parent and gave them to him as a gift. I won’t write in here what his response to that was. Suffice it to say it wasn’t pretty. But he read them.

The most important lesson for me during that time was a catch phrase that I used to convey to him the importance of his role. I had trouble finding something that would get his attention and finally I hit on it during a conversation.

Sometimes we get too busy with our lives and forget the basic parts of parenting. Sometimes we turn into “The Boss” and just order them around. But, if you remember this catch phrase when dealing with your children, your friends or spouses….. it may help you to head off disasters:

“Kids are like Railroad crossings, truly. Make sure you STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN”

You’re Gonna Miss This

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