Friday, April 18, 2008

Kathleen Needs Advice

(Sing or hum along)

Hello, young mothers, wherever you are
I hope your troubles are few
All my good wishes go with you today
And I need the same--plus advice--from you...

(Music fades out)

So I just read that there are gobs of other grandmothers out there who are playing a major role in raising grandchildren. I'm glad I'm not alone. But here you see two precious little girls watching the spring rain fall, and they're thinking, "This is a fine how-do-you-do. We'll have to find a way to exercise Nana indoors today. Hmm..."

My problem has more to do with time than age. I was just getting used to having some for myself.

Things have changed so much since my kids were little. Kids don't go out and play. They have play dates. Dates? Dates have to be arranged, written on the calendar, prospects must be interviewed. Isn't play supposed to mean play? And Kindergarten is a major commitment. You've got your school choice, then your half day or full day choice, extra in-school activities galore (they had a sock hop last week), and homework! Kindergarten!

And then there are the lessons, starting age 3. (Is that too late?) My 2 granddaughters are taking dance class. The costumes they'll wear once cost as much as a prom dress, and the older one needed two. (I visited with the mother of a teenager whose daughter had to have 20 costumes this year--20!) The run-up to recital includes picture day, dress rehearsal day, ticket lottery day--fill out an order form, write a check, take it to the studio between 2 and 7:00 on lottery day for the drawing of seat assignments--Good grief!

But my current quandary has to do with a the 6th birthday party. I have no problem with activities--we're going to make jewelry and create fashions from fabric swatches, put on a little makeup and take some pictures. But I was thinking a few little girls from the neighborhood. Suddenly the almost 6-year-old is dealing with a 16-year-old's party tizzy. "I have to invite my best friend from school. But I can't leave my second and third best out because they're really best friends together, but all four of us are together most of the time." So I ask how many girls in class. Seven. How can you leave out the other 3--oops, don't say that out loud. How can I deal with the school crowd plus the neighbors plus...

She's only 5! (For one more week.) How did childhood get to be so much more complicated since just yesterday? We had a nice little family party for the younger gdaughter in February, but she's only 4. She was happy to dress up as Tinker bell. By next year, we'll probably need a seating arrangement and place cards.

Is it just me, or is childhood more complicated nowadays? How do you manage the commitments and activities? Lois blogged about family size the other day, and I'm wondering how people can afford big families anymore? Nana needs advice!


flip said...

You are so not alone. My younger brother is raising his two grandsons. He and his wife try to make their daughter be responsible as much as possible. But after a brain injury at age 15, she is seeming stuck at age 15 maturity. She is 22 years old.

I think that we have spoiled our kids. They can go out and play. They can amuse themselves. My nine year old wants to be constantly amused. It is a struggle, but she can draw or play with her stuff animals. OTOH, I realize that she is much more social than her older siblings were. So I try to make sure she gets time with her friends.

On the dance expenses, my daughter is on a competitive dance team. We have traveling expenses on top of costumes. My husband thinks that it is unnecessary. We both came from large families, six and eight kids. We didn't get the music lessons and dance lessons that my kids get. But I want them to have dance lessons. Likewise, I tend to go overboard on birthday parties.

I think that we have made childhood more complicated. You can say no. they won't suffer lifelong harm.

Playground Monitor said...

Oh it's definitely more complicated today. Somewhere between raising my boys (ages 29 and 25) and the present, somebody decided kids were like little CEOs who needed a day planner and a life organized to the hilt. And if they don't have all the right activities and take all the right classes and attend the right school, they won't get into Harvard and they'll be miserable failures as adults.

Sadly we also have a generation of teenagers with depression, ulcers, high blood pressure and lots of suicides. Fifty bazillion sports trophies, dance, karate, violin and AP classes from the best school in town won't guarantee admission to Harvard and it certainly won't guarantee a happy life.

Childhood is WAY too complicated now. There's a country song called "Let Them Be Little" by Billy Dean that I love.

I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand.
You felt so good in it; no bigger than a minute.
How it amazes me you're changin' with every blink.
Faster than a flower blooms, they grow up all too soon.

So let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give 'em hope, give them praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let 'em sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little.

I never felt so much in one little tender touch.
I live for those kisses, your prayers an' your wishes.
An' now you're teachin' me how only a child can see.
Tonight, while we're on our knees, all I ask is:

Please, let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give them praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let 'em sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little.

So innocent, precious soul:
You turn around, an' it's time to let them go.

So let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give 'em praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let them sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little.

Let them be little.

Crawling off my soapbox now.

P.S. Good luck with the party. :-)

Liza said...

It is crazy how big birthday parties are now. My 4 year old niece had 20 kids to her 4th birthday party at Pump it Up. It was so crazy. You pay $300-400 for a room for the kids to play in for like 1 1/2 hours. Then they serve the cake and drinks, that you bring yourself.

My middle niece went to a birthday party where all the girls were picked up in a limo, given $20.00 each to spend at the mall, and then stayed in a fancy hotel for the night. Granted there were only 8 girls total, but her friends' parents paid over $1000 for a 14 year old's party.

Christie Ridgway said...

Wow, Liza. Those b-day parties are incredible.

When my boys were little, I admit to doing a lot for birthdays. But we did things that weren't that expensive. A "dinosaur dig" where I pitched a tent in the front yard and then buried plastic dinos (cheap) in the backyard dirt pile (we were building a pool) and gave the kids plastic pails and shovels. So much fun! And we always did have a lot of kids invited...and their parents.

Kathy: It's 7 girls in the entire class? Then I think you do have to invite them all. That's not too bad. I think they say you invite as many kids as the child's age, which is exactly what you've got there...but I don't know whose "rule" that is.

Also, my niece was in competitive dance for years. Ai yi yi. I was glad I had boys.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Christie, we had one of those backyard parties for younger son when he was about 9. We were building a brick patio and had a big pile of sand. We did sand castle building. Brought out the castle creatures and characters and what fun!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, Marilyn, I'm such a blubberer. Those songs bring tears. So do the "reach out and touch someone" commercials. I remember a children's book that a friend's daughter gave her for her b'day years back--daughter is grown with kids of her own now, but our kids were still kids then. Wish I could remember the name of the book. It starts out with mother rocking a baby and ends with a amn rocking his little ol' mom in the same chair. The book was going around the circle at the party and left each person in tears saying, "I'm not going to tell you. You have to read it." But, of course, we were nowhere near the last page in our lives. Nowhere near. Still...

Amy Addison said...

I've always put a limit on the number of kids that can be invited to a party. Usually 8 or fewer, depending on the party. A sleepover? 3 max.

Also, we do activities that are inexpensive and are more play than organized. Slip'n'Slide races for the summer birthday, movie theme for the winter birthday. Now that they're both into sleepovers, we do NOTHING but rent videos and play video games, eat pizza and cupcakes. It's more about the friends and the celebrating than the presents and activities.

Playground Monitor said...

Kathleen, there's a book like that for sons called "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. The refrain that keeps repeting is

"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be."

The DH bought a copy for his mother and kept a copy for us since we have only sons. My #2 son turned 25 last weekend but he's still my baby boy and always will be. So's his almost-thirty-year-old big brother who has a 22-month-old daughter of his own and a precious wife whom I adore.

Playground Monitor said...

As if it couldn't get any worse, just caught the end of a talk show and they mentioned parents who give their daughters a boob job as a high school graduation present.


Michele Hauf said...

Cute grandkids, Kathy! And who wouldn't want to spoil those adorable little faces?

I remember the dance costumes for my daughter. They are very spendy, and really, how to reuse them? It's not as though spangles and tulle go over well in Kindergarten.

I'm all for small fun parties with homemade games. Your ideas for games sounds great. Get a fancy cake and then let them loose to dance and just party. Take lots of pictures and send them home with a promise to email (or text) the picture, and they'll have great memories.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, dear. Who would give her kid such a present for graduation except...a boob? Unless it's necessary for physical/health reasons, but I doubt these are reduction jobs we're talking.

Kathleen Eagle said...

"Love You Forever"--that's it! Thanks, Marilyn--I went to Amazon and ordered. Whenever I need a good cry...

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, crap. Had this nice long, thought out response and bugger blogger lost it.

Balance, Kathy. That's the ticket.

I think child rearing has gotten more complicated, but it don't think it's all bad.

Kids need to feel special, but not spoiled. Be active, but still have time to pick lint out of their belly button. (or read -hello!)

Find what works for your family, for you, for the kids.

My kids played well by themselves, but I let them make huge messes. They'd make tent cities in the house on rainy days, or set up zoos, or vet clinics or book stores. Messes, that took a long time to put away, but they entertained themselves.

I've heard the bday party rule about as many guests as the age, that Christie pointed out, but it never worked for my daughter. She was too social and we didn't want to hurt feelings. But I loved the parties.

You gotta do what works for you and the kids will adjust.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I hear you on the need to give the experiences you didn't have as a kid. We didn't get music or dance lessons. My brother did sports, which didn't cost anything in those days. We made sure our kids got to try piano and other music, and they stuck with it for various periods. Older son is really good on the guitar. Younger son is better on piano than violin, and dd stuck with piano for a few years but not dance or gymnastics.

This is another venue in which kids with well-heeled parents have a real advantage. The gulf between haves and have-nots is widening opportunity-wise. But if they have to have a day-runner at age 6, I'm not sure it's worth the toll it's liable to take on their childhood.

Sigh. Damned if you do and you know the rest.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Helen, balance is golden, absolutely. All things in moderation. Which Greek philosopher said that? And here we are, how many thousands of years later...

I just heard a report that college entrance tests are easier and scores lower than they were in the 60's. Only heard part of the report, but sh**. Seriously.

Betina Krahn said...

Kathy, my hat is off to you as you struggle with parenting in grand-parenthood. And you got my prayers as well.

There were lots of parties when my kids were little, but most were six or eight friends and cake and games. Sleepovers came later and 10 year old boy sleepovers are agonizing. All thumps and shouts and occasional screams while the hubby and I lay in bed going: "Was that glass breaking?"

But for girls. . . hmmm. . . I think it's hard to raise girls in this cultural environment. Too much growing up too fast. My advice would be to keep things "family" oriented as much as possible. Develop family rituals and celebration traditions that don't involve invites and the competition for bigger-better parties and gifts. How about horse riding trips or apple picking or a boat trip or even a day of baking with grandma. . . food to give to others in celebration.

But when it comes to lessons, I'm all for letting kids explore. Some things they'll peter out of and should be allowed to quit because they lose interest. Of course, you have to know when to push and when to quit pushing. . . like those infernal piano lessons!

:) Betina

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, the piano practice. I wasn't good at that. I have no musical training.

I love the family celebration thoughts, Betina. This will be the first of the grands parties that isn't family friends and their kids. I'm seeing the influence of peer pressure already. Yeesh.

Playground Monitor said...

Do kids make tent cities anymore? My #1 son (who is an architect now) used to take every unused sheet in the linen closet and turn the whole den into a big tent. Maybe when grandbaby is about six I'll just give her a couple flat sheets and a bag of clothespins for her birthday. ::g::

Music lessons, if you can afford them and stand the practice, can be good. Definite correlation between music and math skills. My boys took violin through the school system in 5th grade at a low cost. I had to rent the violin for $6 a month and buy a music stand and books. #2 son used the stand and books so his only expense was the rental. It didn't stick, but both ended up playing the guitar later. Oh... the garage band practices I endured.

Susan Kay Law said...

Hmm. I'm not sure it's more complicated . . . some different complications, certainly, but I don't know that it was ever easy. (We didn't have names for all the problems back then - it was only later, from the prospective of an adult, that I realized: oh! he must have had ADD. The teachers just thought he was a goofball, and not too bright. And: I remember she used to make herself throw up, but we didn't know it was called bulemia. We all knew whose dad was hitting them too hard, but none of us knew what to do about it.)

I have no problems putting limits on the birthday parties. Truth is they just want to hang out with their friends. And saying no to activities, unless they bug me about it long enough that I know they really want it.

But I have to say I have boys, and I would be a SUCKER for dance classes. Because I always wanted to take them and never could. (That's always the tricky part, isn't it? Wanting to give them what you couldn't/didn't have?)

Susie, who would be very happy to borrow a grandchild or two.

Chris M. said...

Okay, I have to say that we tend to spoil our kids now. I hate when my kids come home and say... "Well, such-and-such is going to have their party here..." That is a surefire way to get me to say "Tough, kid, you're having yours here at the house!" I try to not overschedule my kids, as I want them to be KIDS. I'm sure that a lot of my feelings on this come from when our oldest was diagnosed with a developmental disorder and we had to go from Neurologist, to Occupational Therapist to Speech Therapist to School. That alone was stressful, and as those things slowly dwindled and got easier, we saw that we wanted our children to have the opportunity to play without one of us saying, "Okay, now it's time for this, or that."

As to birthday parties, just recently we had a "party" for our 6-yr old. He's been loving pirate stuff, and we got a bunch of stuff from the dollar store that we thought would appeal, and hid it around the back yard. They had a treasure map, bandannas, eye patches and foam cutlasses. All found in the bargain bin. I have to say that I must be a "mean" Mommy, I don't care what my kids try to bully me into, I'M THE PARENT! Now, I'll climb down off the soapbox that Playground Monitor left behind.

I have "Love You Forever" on my bookshelf. It has a special place in my family's history. My uncle got one for my grandmother several years before she passed away. Then he got one for each of his siblings when she passed away. Now it seems that each one of us kids has one on our own bookshelf. While reading these posts I just jumped up and grabbed it off the shelf. Someday, I'm sure I'll get one each for my own boys.

I'm sorry, Kathleen, about the dance costumes. As a ballet instructor I tend to try and make sure that the costumes don't make the parents go into debt to afford them. Sometimes, there are patterns for the costumes that are cheaper, if you're at all handy with a sewing machine. Just a thought.

See, now I've talked too much again, and y'all are gonna bann me from your blog!!! I do enjoy dropping in and seeing what new thoughts and opinions y'all have. Thanks.

Keri Ford said...

Oh, my, reading about these dance lessons, and remembering how often mom drove me to the studio makes me glad I had a boy. I've got an aunt doing a lot of grandkid raising and a MIL doing the raising too.

My boy's 1 year party was a few weekends ago. there was about 40 people there. My husband and I both have lots of cousins, aunts, uncles and they're considered part of our immediate famiy. We bought some sidewalk chalk (CHEAP!) entertained the kids for a while. We also bought bubble stuff (CHEAP!). Then later, the kids found a wash out ditch in the back and played in the mud for HOURS.

When we were younger, all the grandkids played at grandma's house for our babysitter in the summer. I remember one summer grandpa (much to grandma's disapproval) got a big piece of plastic and rolled it down a hill, dragged out the water hose and Dawn soap. We had about a thirty foot slip-n-slide all summer long. We played on that thing EVERY DAY for HOURS. loved it.

Okay, post getting long so I'm gonna stop!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Chris, I love the treasure hunt idea--that's going in my party file. Thanks!

Ah, Susie, I absolutely agree that we've become better at labeling problems. Sometimes the labels serve the program rather than the kid. Labels are necessary for "compliance." My sister has been dealing with bulimia since she was a teenager, and they had the name for it back then. (She's in her 50's.) Addiction is addiction, and it's so hard to deal with, but especially, I think, with young minds and bodies. I do think the stresses on kids are more insidious than they used to be. I'm thinking the pressure to "succeed" is bigger because we're defining success so narrowly.

I've always said that teaching is the most important job in the world. Being a parent might just be the hardest.

Fiona said...

Oh, Kathleen, what a wonderful grandmother you are! They are very lucky little girls.

As for parties---the best ones I have done for my kids involved creativity, not money. We played board games ("picture" bingo isgreat for pre-readers), had treasure hunts (pirate themes have been big) had the kids all wear their Halloween costumes (my kids bdays are in Nov) and had pizza parties where the kids each make their own pizza and decorate their own cupcake. Messy, but inexpensive.

I have no clue about the whole dance thing. Can't they recycle the dresses and have the younger girls wear them the next year? Do the parents/grandparents have any say in the price range? I would get together with the other parents and set a reasonable budget, and away to reuse those outfits.

My kids are into music, so we have lessons,competitions & recitals, but they can just wear black pants and a white shirt--the same thing they wear for choir.

Bless you for stepping up to the plate with your grandchildren.