Posts tagged parenting

The Class of 2013

I am the proud parent of a graduating member of the class of 2013. I will try to refrain from cynicism hereafter, but it must be said that this sentence used to mean something. In my case, it means that my son finished preschool yesterday. He, along with 9 other children now hold that illustrious title of Preschool Graduate. In all fairness, he is the only one of our three children to complete preschool, so I suppose that is noteworthy.

I do not intend to spend my time pointing out our collective fascination with graduations, graduation speeches, commitments to excellence and world change, and of course grad outfits. Actually, I did want to focus on the outifts, come to think of it.

As it were, this year I had two graduates. Yes, I am the lucky mother of a kindergarten graduate as well. Oh, and a grade 3 graduate. It’s practically like being a Triple Crown winner, folks. But I digress. Having had a child graduate from kindergarten in the past, I am familiar with the conventions: put them in a dress shirt, comb their hair, and pray that they are wearing proper footwear by the time they march into the gym to the music of Pomp and Circumstance. (Teddy’s JK Christmas concert had him wearing his winter boots with his dress pants, and Sammy looked like a homeless man for his SK graduation with the tongue of his right shoe hanging out over his toes. This is what happens when 5-year-olds are responsible for their own footwear at school.)

Since Caleb is our first child to attend preschool, however, it perpetually slips my mind that those two days a week he spends colouring and playing under the watchful eye of several patient women qualify as “school.” And so I show up for his Christmas concert on a Wednesday morning by myself, not having thought to invite proud grandparents, godparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbours, and the family doctor. I miss picture day (although in my defense, we were in Europe at the time) and forget about his “special helper” days.

One would think that I’d have figured it out by June that preschool is a bigger deal than I think it is, but yesterday’s  graduation bore witness to my utter incompetency as a preschool mother yet again. Just when I was patting myself on the back for having remembered all of his recent “special helper days,” the graduation confirmed that the “Preschool Mother of the Year Award” would have to go to someone else. Perhaps to the woman pinning a pink bow in her princess’s long, silky hair. At least she remembered to comb her kids’ hair for graduation.

In my defense, the event was called an “end of the year celebration and BBQ,” which, to me, means lawn chairs, meat from the grill, and possibly a bouncy castle. I saw no problem, therefore, with teaching a piano class from 4 – 5, and leaving my husband with the instructions to have the children ready so that we could leave as soon as I was done. The veggie tray was already waiting to go, so nothing could go wrong.

We showed up at the school and I quickly realized that a veggie tray was not the only thing I was supposed to bring. Properly attired children would have been a good idea. While little girls were wearing their new spring dresses with matching purple bows in their hair, our Caleb was still wearing his two-day-old camouflage shorts and army green sleeveless T-shirt. With giant Freezie stains down the front.

Believe it or not, his personal appearance was the least offensive of our three boys. Teddy wore his trusty faded camouflage shirt (the one he had donned on picture-retake day) and his hair was still matted down with sweat from his bike ride home from school. Sammy’s T-shirt and shorts were about as random a pairing as Coca Cola and Belgian waffles, and his legs bore the telltale dirt streaks from having played in the sandbox and then watering the plants. Suffice it to say that our children’s appearance presented a stark contrast to all the cleavage and high heels in the room.

I probably should have been more specific in my instructions to my husband than, “have the children ready”. In all fairness to him, he was interested in only one thing when he got home from having spent 8 hours in a hot, sticky factory on a hot sticky day: a shower for himself. So as it were, Oliver and I were presentable, while our children look like the progeny of dead-beat crack addicts.

At this point a married couple has two options: harangue one another for incompetence, or laugh about the situation. We opted for the second. Oliver joked that it would be a great idea to gather all the children in the room for a group photo, and then assign everyone the task of finding the Trefz children – similar to “Where’s Waldo.” We laughed at the women who had gone to the effort of coordinating their outifts with their perfect little daughter’s, and took solace in the fact that we will never see most of these people again anyways.

As one would expect, our boys were blissfully unaware of being under-dressed, and were more concerned about the lack of a bouncy castle. The food served as moderate consolation, but everyone was happy to return home without too many tearful good-byes or sentimental reflections on the passing of an era.

For those of you considering preschool for your child, take it from me that it is a bigger deal than you think it is. You’ve been warned.

Leave a comment »

Parenting 201 – The practicum

United States women's national team and former...

United States women’s national team and former North Carolina soccer player Lindsay Tarpley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes life just passes you the ball of opportunity, and if you’re ready, you get to experience the satisfaction of connecting with that ball and sending it flying into a wide-open net. Such was my experience at tonight’s soccer practice, although my time on the field lasted mere minutes. Just an opportune jaunt across the grass, really, but oh the timing… the thrill of a well-placed shot. Glorious.

I’m not actually talking about soccer, although it happened at my children’s soccer practice. Anyone who read last week’s rant will remember my near-apoplexy at the behaviour of two very wayward, poorly behaved youngsters who managed to spoil the game for themselves and their teammates by insisting on calling their own shots and paying absolutely no heed to any authority figure. As providence would have it, the young lady who dominated last week’s blog was now on a different team, so I no longer needed to watch her antics (although a cursory glance at the other field assured us that she was up to the same old tricks from last week). Her brother, however, is still on our older son’s team, and so we watched him as he sat alone in silent protest of the coach’s agenda. Although his coach paid him essentially no attention, he continued sulking, silently picking the grass, waiting to be cajoled to join the team.

As I walked by to bring our son his water bottle, I noticed that he was out of ear-shot for virtually everybody, as his teammates were having a team meeting at the very opposite end of the field and his mother was coaching his young sister’s team further away. I perceived the clean pass, took the ball, and ran with it. I casually sauntered over to the young man, knelt down to his level, and asked,

“So, are you having fun?”

“Kind of,” he replied.

“Not much fun when your teammates are over there and you’re over here, is it?” I suggested.

“I want to run,” was his reply.

“I’m sure your coach has some running planned, but a soccer player who only runs and can’t maneuver a ball is pretty useless.” At this point he had already gotten up and was making his way to join his team, probably a little confused by the fact that there was a strange woman calling him out on his annoying behaviour.

“I just want to run,” he repeated as he walked away. I motioned for him to get moving in the proper direction, and off he went to join his team. I didn’t see him sit again for the rest of the practice.

To be honest, I’d expected more resistance; more attitude. Evidently he isn’t so far gone that a good honest confrontation by a strange adult won’t do the trick. I’ve got my eye on that kid. Little does he know that his own personal life coach is sitting on the sidelines.

Leave a comment »

Parenting 201

Ladies and Gentlemen, I freely admit that today’s post is a rant – pure and simple. If you don’t like that sort of thing, don’t read on. I need to decompress, and since I pay the rent here (figuratively speaking) I will vent as I see fit. If you have ever seen misbehaving children in public and your inner Super-nanny has reared her bold head, you will know what I’m talking about.

Today was Teddy & Sammy’s first soccer practice in a league that we are new to this year. I was feeling relaxed about this new season of soccer, since we now have two children playing and only one to entertain on the sidelines, and we had found a nice shady spot in which to sit and watch. I almost said to Oliver, “I think I could get used to this,” as I sank into our camping chairs, but now I’m glad I didn’t. To be honest, I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the season without suffering a stroke due to high blood pressure.

It all started out innocently enough, as most first encounters among children do. Teddy and Sammy practice simultaneously on adjacent fields, so we were able to watch both at the same time. In Sammy’s SK/grade 1 group there were 9 children; seven boys and two girls. Eight of those children were under the guidance of a coach. The ninth (a girl) had a handy-dandy personal assistant (PA) who looked to be either a much older brother/cousin, or family friend. It soon became evident that she required this personal assistant because she could not receive instruction from the coach. True, she couldn’t receive instruction from the PA either, but perhaps he needed community service hours in order to graduate, and this was his project. One never knows.

Before someone chimes in here and says, “now don’t be so hasty… this child may be suffering from ADHD or something similar,” I will a.) attempt not to roll my eyes and b.) suggest that even parents of children with ADHD would be well advised to follow through on the consequences they promise their children for bad behaviour. In such a case, intentional parenting would be all the more critical. While I don’t doubt that there’s something in our label-happy modern-day Psychology manuals to diagnose this girl, she was obviously very smart and a great puppeteer, seeing as all the adults in her life danced like marionettes as she pulled the strings.

After I had watched this young lady prance around the field in blatant disregard for her PA’s pleas to please join the rest of the group “or else she’ll miss out on the fun!” for 15 minutes, I leaned over to my mild-mannered husband and warned him that I may not be able to sit out the hour without intervening in this situation with some measured words for the princess in pink shin pads. I felt real pity for the young man who was assigned to her, because he obviously had no idea how to claim his rightful place as the authority figure in the situation. He would probably thank some stranger for doing him the favour of giving his young charge a realistic idea of her place in the hierarchy of society.

As I sat there planning out the best approach to stop the insanity of the situation (for she was now running off the field during dribbling practice, and sitting in the net into which her teammates were kicking soccer balls – still pretending that her ears were stuffed with cotton) a female assistant coach walked onto the field, ostensibly to help the first coach run his practice. She obviously knew the girl, and I was curious to see how she would handle the situation. It quickly became clear that she had just as little sway over the girl’s choices, and would merely call for her to “come on and join us!” without ever actually doing anything about the fact that she was now walking the perimeter of the field while the other children were quietly sitting in a team huddle. I looked over to my mild-mannered husband, who now sat deeply in his chair with his hat over his eyes. He couldn’t watch, he said. I was coping by squeezing his hand to release some of my inner tension. I found myself wishing for my stress ball. When Oliver’s hand could take no more, I began firmly massaging Caleb’s shoulders, who happened to be standing in front of me.

At about the same time that I heard this young lady call the coach “Mom,” I also observed that there was a similar situation brewing on our other son’s field right next door, except that this boy was sitting in the grass about 10 feet from the sidelines, waiting for someone to come and cajole him to “join in the fun!” When Sammy’s coach called to the young man in the grass to go and join his teammates, and the young lady’s PA ran over to try his luck with the boy, it was clear that these two children shared the same parentage. It should have tipped me off right away that they were born to the same set of parents because the boy was named after a State on the West Coast, and his sister was named after the Native American tribe that lived there. Cute.

Throughout the practice, Mom would either ignore her children’s misbehaviour (having obviously bought into the psycho-babble that if you ignore your children’s bad behaviour it’ll go away on its own) or she would threaten to leave early. At the respective ages of 6 and 8, this sister and brother team knew full well that the chance of Mom actually following through on her ultimatum was about as great as the chance of a meteor hurtling from space and leaving a giant crater at centre field. They live this way. These behaviours do not suddenly creep up once kids hit school. A 15-month-old baby is already checking to see whether “No” actually means “No,” and whether the promised consequences will come immediately or once Mom has finished counting to 3.

Please understand that I am no perfect parent. The pages of this blog are filled to overflowing with tales of my children’s misbehaviours and my failures as a parent. Since becoming a parent I have become much more gracious of other parents who struggle with tough-to-manage children. I have been there, am living there, and will most likely continue to live there. I understand that there are tough nuts out there, and many of them are under the age of 10. But folks, could we at least all agree to follow through on the promises we make to our children? And to do it in short order? For the sake of their future school teachers, piano teachers, soccer coaches, and parole officers, could we please place a higher priority on letting our children know that when we say “No” that really means “No?” And could we please all agree to just go ahead and let the promised consequence rain down as soon as the children step out of line again after we’ve told them not to (once)? A child doesn’t need three warnings any more than the guy caught drinking and driving does. Although I am not a police officer, I know enough about that line of work to know that no self-respecting police officer will threaten 5 times and then count to 3 before actually slapping the cuffs on a guy. It’s ludicrous in policing, and it’s just as ridiculous and ineffective in the world of parenting.

Yes there are children who are more difficult to parent than others. But as I am learning with my own kids, those are the kids who need the solid boundaries most desperately. When we discussed the soccer practice afterwards, both boys told of their respective Disruptors without any prodding from us. Both commented on how annoying they had been to the rest of the team. And when I asked them whether they thought the Disruptive Duo had had fun, they had to admit that no, they probably hadn’t. It’s not a lot of fun sulking on the sidelines, or not being involved in the practice with your team, simply because you need to wage war with the parent that hasn’t enforced clear boundaries. It was a great moment for us to explain to the kids that we are teaching them obedience because we want them to be happy, not because we want to rob them of their joie de vivre.

No, our children are not perfect; nor is our parenting. But by God’s grace our boys are respectful and obedient to those in authority, and there’s something to be said for that.

Leave a comment »

Alpha Male vs. Housecat

English: Papio hamadryas, alpha male

Image via Wikipedia

If researchers were to place an alpha male wolf and a housecat in the same cage, what do you suppose they would find? Assuming the cat survives the first 24 hours, the researchers would probably find both animals in a severe state of agitation. The notion of placing two such creatures in a shared living environment is ludicrous, of course, which is why I’m scratching my head as to why God chose our family to conduct this little experiment.

 Today as I walked to school I found myself asking God this question. Why on earth would You have chosen to put Teddy and Sammy in the same family? I’m sure those who know our boys will agree that the animal comparisons are surprisingly accurate: our alpha male is the leader of the pack. A very social animal, this lead wolf is anything but a lone wolf. He feels that he bears the responsibility for justice in the family unit, and will enforce it in whatever way he sees fit. He is dedicated, loyal, and ambitious, although often misguided in his efforts to secure justice for all (primarily himself).

 Our housecat is soft and cuddly, often brushing up against us so that we’ll scratch him behind his ears. This is particularly true in the early mornings when he softly slips out of bed and seeks a warm lap to curl up in. When it comes to a sense of duty though, he is no match for the Wolf. He expends as little effort as possible to net the most advantageous result. A solitary animal, he is content to play by himself. He will hide away, occupying himself with paper fish and pouncing on the sneaky kitten that dares to interrupt his play. Luckily for the kitten, the Alpha Male is always on duty, seeking to mete out justice to the oppressed, with predictable results for all concerned. Scratched egos, ear-piercing screams, and teary faces abound.

 It’s been that type of day, I’m afraid. And yet, just when I was starting to despair of parenthood, I was handed some encouragement on a silver platter. First, Teddy’s piano teacher commented that, although he is a challenge to teach in many ways, he is a respectful student. Respect is one thing Daddy and I can do something about, so I will take that as a compliment and pass it on to Daddy when he and I can finally put our feet up tonight.

 Then his school teacher commented that he is very helpful in the classroom; one of the more cooperative children in the group. Although I’m completely perplexed by this elusive “spirit of cooperation,” I am not surprised by his helpfulness. I know my kid to be one to make himself available when he sees a need. Just today he was telling me that he and a friend had given up their recess in order to clean 40 markers. Apparently Teddy has offered his teacher that he will gladly stay inside with her the next time she’s not on yard duty and help her with whatever needs doing inside. That’s saying a lot for a kid whose favourite subject is recess.

 And finally, as we were walking home we passed two older boys: Justin Bieber and his friend, Justin, if I remember correctly. One of the self-assured young men casually tossed his empty pop can into the creek, even as he was standing not 5 feet from a trash can. Teddy looked from the boys to me, almost as if to say, “Alpha female, did you just witness this grave injustice? Because if I saw what I think I saw, integrity compels me to act now.” To my own shame I confess to hesitating. I imagined the conversation with the Justins to go about as well as a confrontation between me and a pair of raccoons: those cantankerous creatures know that there’s no gumption behind that club I’m pointing at their noses, and it’s mostly because I know I’d get in trouble with the Humane Society if I actually used it.

Teddy doesn’t know about ornery raccoons or the Humane Society. All he knows is that his Mama taught him that metal is not compost and someone, somewhere has to clean up this mess, so with all his 7-year-old bravado he stood up and said, “Why’d you do that?” At which point the boys turned around, surprised, and Teddy’s Mama was shocked out of her silence and gave them the what-fer. Kudos to my young alpha male. As difficult as he is to parent, this kid is going to make a great man.

Comments (1) »

An Altered State of Mind

This is your 7-year-old’s brain:

 

This is your 7-year-old’s brain on drugs:

 

Ok, maybe not on drugs, but how else would one describe this altered state of mind? As I’ve noted in my previous post, 2012 is the year I try to figure out our 7-year-old. He is a boy who, quite literally, colours outside the lines. I have spent 7 years misunderstanding and being misunderstood, loving passionately and being passionately angry, being amazed at how his mind works and then being utterly perplexed by how his mind works.

 Take the two pieces of art above. Picture #1 was created by the very same child who created picture #2, except that the contexts in which they were created were vastly different. Picture #1 was done in school during art class, while picture #2 was done at Kids’ Club, a fun extracurricular program which includes gym-time and snacks. I’m pretty sure there are other activities, but they are completely irrelevant to our son. If I understand correctly, picture #2 was created after a rip-roaring time in the gym and a snack of gingerbread men, black icing, and 5 M&Ms (to represent the 5 smooth stones that took down Goliath. Look closely at the picture and you may recognize the notorious ogre).

 I used to think that art therapy and the like was a bit hokey, but after seeing this I’ve been converted. If this doesn’t describe the brain of a kid who’s mastered by his boundless energy, then I don’t know what does.

There are basically two types of people in the world: those who need some down-time after running around all day, and those whose energy levels sky-rocket as a result. I don’t need a shrink to tell me which kind of child we’re looking at every morning.

Getting him out of the building after Kid’s Club is the first challenge, because he spends his time running around the place like an excited puppy who can’t believe his owner has returned home. The difference is that our excited puppy doesn’t want to return home, because we have no regulation-sized basketball court in the basement.

Once home, it takes us a full 45 minutes to complete the non-story version of the bedtime routine, a routine that could be completed during a commercial break. Trying to talk him down from this frenzied state is like trying to reason with an agitated wolverine. You can try talking, but you’re probably better off getting out the tranquilizer darts.

Comments (1) »

Cock Fights in the Chicken Coop

Cockfighting dsc01729

Image via Wikipedia

One of the first songs I was introduced to in Mrs. Fairbairn’s music class as an awkward 11-year-old immigrant girl was “Let There Be Peace On Earth (and let it begin with me-e)” Being a sentimental little girl I loved the song, and sang it with all the hypocritical gusto I could muster. The truth was, the only peace in my corner of the earth that I could realistically effect was with my younger brother, and God only knows how often my dear mother bellowed, “TAKE IT OUT BEHIND THE CHICKEN BARN!” when she’d had her fill of our bickering. In keeping with the general temperament of my family of origin, the two of us fought loud and hard, and it drove my mother crazy. (We’re basically pale Italians that eat Borscht instead of Pasta, but otherwise proprietors over the same fiery temperament). Perhaps Mom secretly prayed for her grief to be visited on us when we too became parents.

Or maybe it’s the prayers of Oliver’s mother that have been answered (though, to be sure, that gentle soul would never wish grief on anyone). I am told he and his younger sister had some terrific battles as well, although their style of fighting was different. Apparently only his more vocal sister would scream while Oliver quietly taunted her, causing her to get the short end of the rod of correction more often than he did. That’s how his sister tells it, anyway. Prayers or no prayers, the sins of our youth have been visited upon us in our adulthood and we are now the frazzled parents presiding over two flavours of fighting: Teddy and Sammy fight like my brother and I did – loud and hard, while Sammy and Caleb fight like Oliver and his sister did, with one screaming at the top of his lungs while the other surreptitiously whips up his brother’s ire. The chickens have come home to roost, except we have no chicken barn to which we can drive the three of them when the battle gets too intense.

The experts tell us that sibling rivalry is a normal part of growing up. One author I read put it this way: if your husband came to you one day and said that he has enjoyed being married to you so much that he would like to take another wife, you wouldn’t be pleased. In the same way the Apple of Your Eye, your First-born, does not appreciate you introducing a sibling into his little world either. Neither will your Second-born appreciate the Third. In fact, it is quite likely that he will say things like, “I love Caleb a little bit, but I love Teddy millions!” or “Caleb can go live with another family now.” He may even talk about your family in terms that completely exclude that nasty youngest child who came to usurp his throne.

I don’t know where to pin the blame, but in the last few months conflict has been at an all-time high among our children. As anyone knows who has had to referee fights on a half-hourly basis (if not every five minutes) this results in a very, very cranky Mommy. A very cranky Mommy results in very cranky kids, who can stand each other even less than they could before, and so the cycle is perpetuated. Separation only works as long as they’re in their separate corners. When time-outs are over and life resumes, so does the fighting.

Short of proposing a child-swap with another family, we really feel like we’re at our whit’s end most of the time. Until this week when Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family Magazine arrived in our mailbox, and on the cover the headline, Can your Kids be friends? I tore off the plastic wrap and devoured the article immediately. Out of that article came a brand-new approach that we have tried with our two eldest with some measure of success. Most of my readers are probably already practicing this ingenious method of problem-solving with their children, but here it is anyway:

Step 1: put both parties in a time-out to give them a chance to cool down. Insist that you will not entertain any explanations (translation: tattling) at this time.

Step 2: without listening to either side of the story, sequester them in their room together with strict instructions to use words to express their frustration with their sibling and talk out their problem.

Step 3: if they still cannot solve their problem, get involved by hearing both sides of the story. So far we have not yet reached step 3. Our children have been able to solve their problem peacefully without Mommy or Daddy around. The process is much shorter and the peace longer-lasting than when we attempt to get all the facts and dole out appropriate consequences. I think that basically the kids just want to get back to playing and would both rather save themselves additional penalty minutes.

As for the younger two, I’m still waiting for my epiphany. Given that they’re 4 and 2, the previously outlined approach will not work. Any suggestions?

What I cling to, is that their fighting actually means they care about each other. Although my brother and I fought like cat and dog, somewhere along the line we became best friends and remained very close until we met our respective spouses. Both of our weddings felt a bit like a funeral for the other, who knew only too well that this new spouse was the replacement, the rightful occupant of that place of trust and dependency we had occupied for each other during our growing-up years. Today, after several years of working out the kinks in our overhauled relationship, fused together by new bonds of shared marriage and parenting joys and frustrations, our relationship remains strong and committed. The fights are a thing of the past and our mother can finally relax. Still, 30 years seems like a long time to wait for peace!

 

 

Comments (4) »

The War is On (Part 1)

 
Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.
Image via Wikipedia

Ah, Christmas. Time for much food, much drink and way too much stuff. It’s no wonder January is a major downer given that the fuel that has fed the fires of the “Christmas Spirit” has run out. It’s a hangover, really. For this reason many people spend the pre-Christmas time wracking their brains for something new and exciting that will make the holiday “more meaningful this year.”

I’m one of those people. I love the decadence of Christmas; the real-butter baking, the regal decorations, the festive meals, the pretty dresses, the majestic music of the season (this does not include Marshmellow World or Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.) Christmas is the one time of year when my heart is moved to worship at surprising times when an actual Christmas song floats over the airwaves of a radio station that ordinarily plays hollow and meaningless drivel. Dark neighbourhoods suddenly seem more inviting as people dress up their homes with lights and bows. And yet each year I spend time thinking about concrete ways to allow the truth of my Saviour’s coming to earth penetrate deeper and bring about actual change that will last past December 31st.

Years ago I researched different Christmas traditions for a stage play I was writing and came across an interesting custom from the Coptic tradition. In this tradition people fast during the advent season as they prepare for our Saviour’s birth. So this year our family is doing a fast of sorts: a television fast.

It happened more by chance than by plan. Those of you familiar with my writing know of my aversion to all things media, especially where my children are concerned. It just so happened that the latest development in the saga (chronicled in my last post) happened during November, so Oliver and I decided to pull the plug on the children’s consumption of media during advent. To make things fair, we felt that we needed to lead by example (though the children don’t ever see us watching television during waking hours anyway). And so here we are, putting away the remote for a few weeks as we prepare our hearts for Christmas.

baking sugar cookies

This means, of course, that Mommy and Daddy need to be more intentional about planning things for their children to do. This week we have been baking Christmas cookies, which is a real hit. Nobody complains about wanting to watch TV given this alternative. Since the project has several steps and we’re doing this after school, we’ve had several days of fun. I had forgotten how fun it was to bake and decorate cookies, although that could be because in recent years the children were less of a help and more of a nuisance when baking. This year it’s great fun. Tonight we’re thinking of putting up the tree.

We will make an exception for family movie nights featuring classics like Rudolph and the Little Drummer Boy. Perhaps Oli and I will even take in a Christmas classic after the kids are in bed one night. But as a general rule we have decided to devote the advent time to things that families would have done generations ago to prepare for the season. There is so much to do to get ready for Christmas, and this year it won’t all be up to Mom.

Horsey and DouglasThe television has been off since Monday and we’ve already seen signs of the boys’ imaginations returning. On Wednesday morning Teddy and Sammy walked out of their rooms with their stuffies, Dougles (a dog) and Horsey (a horse).

“Only seven more days until Douglas’ birthday,” Teddy announced. It’s written on the calendar folks: November 30. Teddy has already asked whether we can have a party complete with a cake. I’m thinking of humouring him. It will be the first time I’ve thrown a party for a stuffed animal, but it is another idea to substitute TV time.

At this point Sammy chimed in to tell me about Horsey’s birthday. “Horsey’s birthday isn’t for a long time,” he said.

“Yeah,” Teddy added. “It’s still a long, long time away. It’s in a whole year.” Apparently the horse’s birthday was on November 10th. How could I have missed it? I’m sure Douglas won’t mind sharing a slice of cake with Horsey.

“Before he turns 1, Douglas has to have his eyes checked,” Teddy informed me next. “He’s still a puppy so his eyes are just opening. He has to have them checked to make sure they’re opening properly.” He went on to tell me that the one thing Douglas didn’t like in his life was when Teddy massaged him on the tummy (which was accompanied by a demonstration) and that if he wasn’t careful Douglas would attack him as a result.

“And the other day,” Sammy added, always needing to be a part of the conversation, “Horsey was going for a walk and tripped off a stump and bonked herself in the eye.” Sammy went on to scratch Douglas behind his ears, just like a real pet.

While I am loving the return to imagination, I’m a little concerned about the subject matter. I can handle a stuffed dog on my couch, but what happens when the children ask for a real one? If we end up with a real dog because we insisted on the children using their imaginations instead of watching television I just may have to bend my principles in the future.

Leave a comment »