In keeping with the theme of the past few posts, I wanted to post my own thoughts… so here goes: I have not read the Cinderella ate my offspring book, and I actually had never heard of it.  I would, however, like to read it.  Being a teacher who spends much of my day in my classroom with elementary aged kids, I’m sort of in a bubble when it comes to what’s going on in the outside world.  Sure, I visit a news website once or twice a day just to see if anything is “breaking” and see who thinks they might be able to fix it, but I don’t have access to a continuous feed of information throughout the day like some other people who have the luxury of taking a break from what they are doing to go and talk to their co-workers about this or that at the water cooler (huge run-on, I know).

Maya dressed up

Back in December, Maya attended the birthday party of a classmate who had just turned 3.  The theme was a Princess theme and she loved it.  The girls got to dress up as princesses in gowns, and the boys wore knight in shining armor paraphernalia.  Maya had a great time and has since been asking for a princess party for her birthday in March. (Too bad I’ve already booked the party with the magician.)  Ever since the party, and even a couple months before, Maya has shown a lot of interest in skirts, dresses, tutus and ballet attire.  When we get home from school she wants to put on her tutu skirt, or the leotard I got on clearance last year that is about 5 sizes too big for her.  She’s expressing some independence and we are letting her do it if it is safe.  For example, she has to wear pants and sneakers to school, but if she asks to wear her tutu skirt over that, so be it.  The other day she decided she HAD to put on tights, a skirt and her nice shoes before we could go grocery shopping.  Although Maya is very interested in princesses, tutus, etc, I signed her up for a mini-gym class at her preschool instead of the ballet class.  She probably would have chosen ballet over mini-gym, but she’s absolutely loving the gym class, and I love that she is getting to run, jump, tumble, etc.

Like Michelle, when I was little, I would probably have been considered a tomboy.  I was the ONLY girl in my entire town’s Little League baseball league (not team), and I was still better than the majority of the boys.  I even had a shorter haircut (thanks to some MAJOR miscommunication at the hairdresser in second grade), so many of the opposing players didn’t even know I was a girl unless I took my hat off.  As I got older I continued to play whatever sport I was interested in including baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer.  I remember my mom signed me up for ballet once, and I cried the entire time.  I don’t think I ever went back (Sorry for wasting your money, mom!).

The point is, right now Maya is at the age where she should be exploring different options and trying them out as she likes.  The tutu is certainly less expensive than the ballet class or dance company fees later on.  Right now she gets a kick out of dressing up, and tumbling in her gym class.  Cinderella might be trying to eat my daughter, but I’ll try to keep them away from each other for a little while longer!

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We are a Disney Princess family. In the beginning when Ella was first introduced to Disney, namely the princesses, I felt we had a good balance of what I’d like to call 2 categories: Princess and Not Princess. Ella really enjoyed playing with her trainset, reading all types of books (Thomas the Train, Huggle Buggle, etc.) and playing with her Princess Barbies. Lately she’s been very into Disney characters, namely the princesses. Does that mean Cinderella ate my baby? I think not.

It’s our job to support who our children are at any given point and instill in them their morals, values and ethics. I would feel sorry for your child if you tried to push him/her into something they weren’t. It’s like forcing them to play soccer if they really wanted to go to ballet class. One of my best friends has a son is the same age as Ella. He happens to enjoy playing with Barbies (dolls), puts on chapstick/lipgloss, seems halfway interested in playing dress-up, loves to cook with his kitchen, etc. My friend lets him, as she should because he enjoys doing those particular things. Is anyone judging her? Nope.

I think trying to make your child something he/she is not is more damaging than letting them play with a doll that happens to have measurements that you could probably only obtain by getting plastic surgery. It’s up to us, the parents of these young impressionable beings to teach them about what’s real and what’s not. Give them self confidence to be who they are and stop being so anti-“everything”. I’ve heard that Disney is actually talking about doing a bald Barbie for children who are going thru Chemo treatments, etc. I suppose that’s terrible also…How about American Girl dolls? These dolls have real life stories. They’re normal in size. I let Ella play with hers and she loves it. She happens to have Rebecca, the Russian Jew, by the way. Do you really think Ella knows the difference between the American Girl doll with the real life story or the skinny Barbie. Hell no.

We need to stop over analyzing absolutely everything and just let kids be kids. As long as we instill in them morals and do everything in moderation, who cares? Freaking chill out.

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I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. This should be nothing new to those of you who know me…I was always much more likely to sit inside than head out for recess. I always loved studying and genuinely enjoyed going to class. Although I’m glad to be done with school, my inner nerd comes out every once in awhile.

I was in a training session for work the other day and we took a learning styles assessment. I love personal assessments, because they teach me to think about my own style in new ways. I don’t think I learned anything groundbreaking from this particular assessment, but there was a section about learning styles and parenting that I thought was interesting. Also, for other nerds out there, you can read more about learning styles and experiential learning here.

We all learn and make sense of the world in different ways. There are four learning styles (learning by doing, learning by experiencing, learning by reflecting, and learning by thinking). You can probably think of your preferred learning style just from the descriptions. When we parent, we will most often teach in the style that we prefer. But are we being sensitive to how our children would like to learn? Or should we try to strengthen weaker styles with our kids? Here is a brief description of the styles for kids:

Learning Styles

After reading through the styles, do you have any inclinations about your kids? Of course, the best approach with your kids is using a blend of styles. Interesting stuff, huh? Told you I was a nerd.

I’ve always expected a lot out of my kids. They don’t need to be perfect, but I want them to grow up into respectful, humble, successful people. I feel like setting the bar high will give them big goals to shoot for and will help them realize that they can do anything they desire as long as they have passion and work as hard as they can. But I’ve found that these grandiose plans I have for their future lives also start creeping into their little preschool lives as well. I start having “expectations” for my three year old triplets. I hear myself saying, “He’s almost four years old, he should be able to put on his shoes and socks without help,” or “Don’t most kids this age know how to write their name? Is she behind if she isn’t doing that yet?” I start the never-ending battle of Compare-My-Child-to-Your-Child and the expectations begin to mount.

Although I think it’s healthy (and necessary) to expect certain things from your kids, I’ve learned that countless lists of expectations get you nowhere. Expecting things like manners and obedience is a given, but who cares if my kid can’t draw a circle when he’s 18 months old like little Sally can (damn that Sally and her advanced fine motor skills!)? My triplets have fielded the brunt of my advanced expectations because they have collectively served as my first “child.” I was a first child and a lot was always expected of me. I always felt like I had to measure up to a set of prescribed expectations and I find myself asking my triplets to do the same thing! You would think that I would have learned. As for my youngest child, expectations have been thrown completely out the window. I find myself not expecting him to accomplish or master certain things nearly as early as I expected them from the triplets. Can I chalk it up to parental experience? My own laziness? Finally seeing the light? Regardless, I’ve learned that expectations can be great, just don’t define your kids by their timely achievement of them.

Susie has a meltdown in the supermarket and ruins your planned outing for the day.

Johnnie wakes up during the night, throws up all over the bed and transforms your upcoming day at the office into a day at home cleaning up and coaxing ginger ale into his stomach.

You are tired, frustrated, annoyed, believing you are trapped in a world of small people whose only aim is to drive you up a wall.

At some point during all this, most every parent wishes or says, “Can’t they grow up faster?? Please!!”

A word to the wise, from the other side of parenthood:  DON’T EVER SAY THIS, BECAUSE YOU NEVER WANT IT TO COME TRUE!!

You see, having adult children is a bittersweet experience.  Oh, they are still your children. But only sort of.  You are no longer the epicenter of their life.  You are not the expert, the fixer, the adventure planner and generally the grand poohbah of the world as you once were.  You have morphed, through no wish of your own, into a bit player in a soap opera.

Soap opera?  Well, the drama certainly is occasionally there.   After all, the issue is no longer whom to call about a playdate.  The questions are more like: Whom will they marry?  Is this the one?  When will they have children?  Do they know enough to pull it off?  What about their careers?  Do they have enough money?  And so on…

And there you are, standing off to the side, an occasional walk-on in the grand play called your children’s lives.

Being a grandparent offers a possibly bigger part, as you have played the role of young parent before… and actually remember some of the scenes from that earlier play.  But the cast sometimes gets cranky about letting you have too much of a part to play this time.  So, back to waiting in the wings.

You love your adult children without question.  You worry about them, their place in the world, their ability to move ahead.  You are there to give comfort, encouragement, praise and whatever help they ask of you.  Instantly.  Without hesitation.  You are the parents.  That is your job.

But how do you retain the ties of love as you and your children now walk separately through life?

Our belief is the link is kept through the shared experience called memories that holds us together as families and that keeps the strong bonds of love alive.

As soon as the most favorite story comes rolling out around the Thanksgiving table and everyone has a laugh or smile about the old days when the kids were small, that is the moment.

Your kids are once again, for just an instant, small and you are once again young and important in that special way in their lives.  Just for the moment, they are drawn again to you and you to them, because of that time so long ago.

You retell the time the Halloween lipstick ruined your corduroy coat because the little witch became shy and wrapped herself in your legs…

Or the times Buster and his friends would sit with the Halloween candy, trading it between them and dreaming of treats to enjoy for days to come…

These memories and a million more….

So, you have a critical job as a parent!  You must create, retain, sharpen, hone and preserve the memories between you and your children.

You have to make the moment, see it as somehow special, that it is somehow representative of the time.

You then have to repeat it to your children, make them remember it, tell it often to your family, smile about it warmly as you all relive it.    Many times over…

The diapers will fade, the tantrums will give way…it all changes… but the memories stay.

And when time flees by, as it will, when your children are adults long on their own way, it is these shared memories you will have between you that will keep you close, that will keep the bonds strong and keep them always unbroken.

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