My friend Laura is quite the feminist. She has worked hard in her job and has gone straight to the top. When she was 30, she and her husband decided to have a child. She got pregnant and had a beautiful baby girl, Maddie. Laura always swore that she was going to do whatever it took to make sure that her daughter didn't become a "girly girl" or find herself "pigeon-holed" by being a girl.
To combat this, she decided that she would only buy trucks and cars for Maddie to play with. It seemed to work for a while but then one night Laura came into Maddie's room to check on her girl and found that Maddie had tucked her Tonka truck in beside her, taking care to make sure that the blanket was up nice and high so her dear truck wouldn't get cold. The next day Laura went out and bought Maddie a doll. Maddie kept playing with her trucks and cars but she was opened to a whole new world of being able to care and nurture her baby.
So when I took Ethan to preschool, I was faced with a similar situation. We have never really purchased a lot of toys for him so everything he plays with is a gift from someone else. He loves to play with cars and trucks and blocks. But when we got to his class, Ethan made a beeline directly for the baby dolls. He picked one up so tenderly and gave it a hug. I thought it was the sweetest thing. And excellent preparation for the new baby on the way. Then another little boy ran over and did the same thing. His mother, however, was not as pleased.
"Oh, no, Junior. That's for girls." She looked at the teacher apologetically and said , "and I can't seem to keep him out of his sister's play kitchen set. I try to tell him that the kitchen is for girls." Ethan's preschool teacher made a joke about how she wished the kitchen was for girls because her three grown sons can cook up a storm but her daughter can't even boil water.
I almost hyperventilated at the thought of a kitchen being only for girls. I instantly thought of my friend who told me that her 16 year old son still expects her to make him a snack when he comes home from school every day. When this friend told me that, I asked if he had anything wrong with his hands. I cannot even imagine any child asking me to make a snack at 16. I'm trying to figure out now exactly how much longer until Ethan is self-sufficient. I didn't bring it to this woman's attention that some of the most famous of chefs in the world are men and that if she played her cards right, she could have dinner on her table every night without ever having to lift a finger. I wondered if her daughter was stuck cleaning the bathrooms and the dishes while her son would eventually only have to take out the trash as a chore. I don't have a daughter, but I do know that my husband is messier than me in the bathroom. And my son is learning fast. As far as I am concerned, as soon as his little hand can operate a toilet brush, he has a new job.
So why are we so concerned about our sons wearing our shoes? If wearing women's shoes as a small child causes any sort of issue when a boy gets older, nearly every man in the world would now be a cross-dresser. I don't know of one person whose mom doesn't tell a story about how they used to try to walk in Mom's shoes when they were little. It doesn't seem to be as big a deal if our daughters are walking around in Dad's shoes. And why do our sons try on our shoes, our clothes and carry around our purses when they are little? Maybe because they are more colorful, shiny, fun and different from what they normally wear. Little brothers like to wear what their big sisters are wearing sometimes too. Ethan wears Dad's shoes too, but who wants to clomp around in those 10 pound boots when you can try to balance your foot on a shoe with a tiny little heel? Now that's a challenge. Let's be honest. For all those of us who have been forced to wear high heels for years--once the novelty wears off they are a pain in the calf.
By making a big deal out of what is proper for a boy and what is proper for a girl, we just might be stifling our children's willingness to explore and learn by trying new things. And let's be honest. It's either stilettos now or stilettos later.
My mom flipped through her camera to show me the pictures from the day. It was only a matter of time before I came across this one.
Mom: I didn't tell you about Santa?
Kristen: Uh, no.
Mom: Ethan saw Santa when we went to the craft show. He wanted to get his picture taken with Santa but Santa was walking through the show. I was worried that Nate would run off so I sent him running after Santa.
Kristen: Where was Santa?
Mom: He was about 20 feet away. Ethan came back with a lollipop instead. But he didn't have one for Nate so I sent Ethan back to ask Santa for one for his brother. Ethan then told me that he also wanted his picture with Santa.
Kristen: So what happened?
Mom: Kristen, I told him that if he wanted a picture with Santa he was going to have to ask him for one. You know that when you girls were growing up that you had to ask for what you wanted. It taught you to be independent.
Kristen: So what did he do?
Mom: He weighed it. Then he went over and asked Santa for a picture. Santa said, "Of course."
Kristen: That's my boy. And Nate?
Mom: Not so much.
Kristen: Also my boy.
So when you were young, would your mom have asked Santa for you?
We got on a plane with three children under the age of five. Five people, four seats. It was awesome. Okay, not so much. But here are a few tips for getting to the plane without the hassle.
Drop the luggage (and your spouse and children) off at the curb.
Unless you are taking a cab to the airport or getting a ride, you have to figure out a way to get all your luggage and all of your family onto that plane before it takes off. I remember (before Ethan) when Derek and I each had a roller carry-on bag and his and hers laptops. We made it from the front door of the airport to the plane in under 20 minutes without fail. Then we had a baby. Didn't that all change? Now we have 3 huge bags, car seats for the other end (and to be honest, a way to strap down Nate on the plane) and whatever else we manage to find that we just HAVE TO HAVE with us on our trips.
From our first trip after Ethan's birth (when he was 7 weeks old), our policy was that the driver dropped the passenger, all the luggage AND THE BABY off on the front curb. The driver then drove to the parking lot that seemed to be miles away. The dropped-off person can either choose to transport said child in a backpack or a stroller--dealer's choice. When it's me, I prefer the backpack because I like to have my hands free. A stroller means you are going to get stuck pushing with at least one hand. Either way, this is better than the alternative. On one trip, I watched a family of five try to get their luggage onto and off of the parking lot shuttle bus and it was not pretty. That's a lot of carrying that you wouldn't have to do if you had just swung in front of the terminal before going to the parking lot.
Pay the nice porter for curbside check-in or use door-to-door baggage delivery. At $2 a bag for cheap people such as ourselves, that $8 can really put a dent in the old wallet. Of course, instead of trying to lug a baby, 3 bags and car seats into the airport, you never have to pick up your luggage again until you reach the other side of your journey. Well worth the $8 to me. Another option is door-to-door baggage delivery. For some airlines, this service starts at $79. It seems like a lot but since nearly all airlines charge per bag these days, your convenience and reduced hassle might be worth the extra.
Leave a little extra time so you can make your children walk. If you are going on a long plane ride, there is going to be plenty of sitting time. We always try to get to the airport early enough so that after we pass through security, we let Nathan walk the rest of the way to the plane. It may take a while to get to our destination but the little ones are guaranteed to be all tuckered out by the time we get there. It certainly raises our chances that someone will take a nap at some point on the plane or that the kids will be content to just sit.
Get on the plane last. That five hour flight isn't going to seem any shorter if you are the first person to board. Sure you want to guarantee room in the overhead bins for your things and you don't want to rush, but extending your plane travel time just might send your kids over the edge. We send one parent on at the beginning to install car seats or pack everything away. The other parent waits until final boarding call and then corrals the kids down the aisle of the crowded plane to the last seat. That way you also get an opportunity to see the sheer panic on other people's faces that yes, you are bringing a baby on their flight. No backing out now.
These tips have saved me either lots of time or lots of stress. Do you have any more to add?
Tomorrow we will be wishing a big ol' Happy 40th to our friends at Sesame Street. In the last 40 years, Sesame Street taught us to celebrate our differences, to bask in our own individuality and has continuously redefined "normal" to fit us all. Sesame Street taught us to read, to write, and yes, to count. It opened our eyes to cultures beyond our cul-de-sac and taught us global thinking. Sesame Street made us believe that we could be anything and that anything was possible. Sesame Street taught us to love music and laughter and learning.
Thanks, Sesame. We love you lots. We hope you have the best birthday ever.
I leave you my all time favorite as an adult...
Why don't you tell us what your favorite Sesame Street memory is?
I hate to be the person to tell you that Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away, but Christmas is only 7 1/2 weeks away. Typically I like to ignore Christmas until after Thanksgiving. However, this year the finances are much tighter than they have been in a few years so by planning ahead, I can be sure to give heartfelt gifts to the ones I love without emptying my bank account. Here are just a few tried and true tips from our house.
Exchange names for gift giving. If you have presents to buy for 12 nieces and nephews, you may easily find yourself spending more than you should or buying "filler" presents to check the box. Our solution in our family is that every cousin's name goes in a hat and Madeleine picks the names out one-by-one to see who will be giving a present to whom on Christmas. With only three gifts for my family to buy now, we can better focus on finding the perfect present for each name picked and no one is worrying about their children sending their sister's family into the poor house because of gift giving.
Focus on thoughtful gifts. For years we have made photo calendars for each grandparent. Last year I was so overwhelmed with life that I didn't get to it and there was great disappointment on Christmas day. Typically photo calendars run around $20, but most photo processing websites will have specials or discounts if you purchase early or if you purchase more than one. I usually upload around 20 pictures and switch the photos around for each grandparent. That way everyone is looking at a different picture each month. Adding your own captions helps personalize the calendar. "It's your birthday this month, Nana!! Happy Birthday!!" under a picture of Junior blowing out candles on his birthday cake is sure to bring a smile to Nana's face.
Let your kids make some executive decisions. Letting your children take ownership of a gift allows them to truly experience the joy of giving themselves. For Carter's birthday this year, Ethan was determined to get him an ice cream cake. I will never forget Ethan's face when he carried that candle lit cake to Carter. Apparently Ethan has not forgotten it either because he still brings up that ice cream cake. It was his idea and he was committed to it. Because of that, Ethan had as much joy giving that cake as Carter did receiving it.
It is possible for less to be more. Teaching your children that a gift from the heart is more important than what something costs is an invaluable lesson that they will carry with them forever. You only spent $10 on that photo coffee mug, but the fact that your kids picked out that special photo because they thought Dad would like it best can mean more to Dad than a gift which costs ten times more.
These are just a few of the things we do. What things have you done to keep your heart in giving without having to dig as deep into your pockets?