This parenting gig is hard. I think (hope) that Matt and I are pretty good parents. We don’t do it all right by any means, but I think (hope) that we get to the heart of what matters and pick the important battles. I think (hope) we find balance between homework, activities, family time and free time. I think (hope) my kids greatest memories from childhood will be of fun times spent with us and not of the few times when one of us really lost our freaking temper and hit the roof. I think (hope) they’ll remember the time when we pulled them out of bed at 9:30 to drive up the hill and look at a particularly beautiful full moon. Or our many many camping and ski trips. Or the hours we spend cooking and playing games together.
But there are those days when you just wonder if you’re doing anything right at all. When, after taking them on an amazing adventure (one, that, coincidentally, put tons of stress on you to achieve), they get home and completely break down over not getting one tiny little insignificant thing. And you wonder, “Am I raising a totally entitled brat?” We’ve had a couple of those days recently, and like a lot of bad things, they tend to stand out in your mind more. It’s probably some sort of instinctual mechanism to produce change.
Then there are those other times when you see the person your child has become and you are just. so. damn. proud. And that’s what I’m going to focus on.
1. Lego Generosity
Recently, my inlaws were in town and they generously gave each of the kids some money to spend as they chose. Tabby went to the American Girl store and made a couple of purchases and after that, Ben went to the Lego store. He saw a Lego set that he really really wanted, and not only that, but it is one they claim they will soon be retiring, but he didn’t have enough money to purchase it. Seeing how much her brother wanted it and that he would likely not have time to save the difference before it was retired, Tabby generously volunteered her remaining money to make up the difference. She wanted him to have it and was excited to get to build it with him. Ben was very grateful and thanked her profusely.
2. Give, Save, Spend
A while back, we started the kids on a new allowance/chore system. I won’t bore you with the details, but they get $5/week and have to complete a couple of chores every day. This $5 they divide into give ($1)/save ($2)/spend ($2). “Spend” is spent freely, “save” goes for specific goals, and “give” is to help others. Extra money they earn for extra chores ($1/basket of laundry folded) they can choose to put in their “accounts” as desired but if they choose “give” for extra money, we reward them by doubling this generosity towards others.
“Give” has been fun for the kids. When they give, we match dollar for dollar what they give. We got to pick out school supplies for our favorite local charity back in September. They were both giddy imagining the other kids with new backpacks and calculators. And this month, a family friend who teaches at an impoverished school in our area requested help and we got to purchase new winter coats, pajamas, and other fun things for her students. Tabby and I also got to involve her Girl Scout troop and give back in a pretty big way (two cars, totally packed with clothes, books, gifts, etc.).
We were just as proud to see that this past Sunday when we celebrated Christmas a little early (we will be traveling over the holiday) that when my dad gave the kids cash, they each ran right to their give/save/spend boxes and put money appropriately in each category. We had not really addressed what to do with gifts but just on their own, they knew.
I can count at least three times I have seen Tabby gently persuade friends who were trying to exclude others that this wasn’t a kind thing to do. She is not pushy or mean about it, but she goes all mother hen and says things like, “That’s not nice. She can play with us,” and, “Everyone can play. She’s not too little.” I am so proud of her and hope that this is a good sign that I’ll see this behavior into the tween and teen years.
I think (hope) they’re growing up pretty good.