Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Lists

Every year, a few days before Thanksgiving, I ask my children for their Christmas lists. Over the years these lists sure have changed.  Some days I long for the lists that contained items like Puzzles, Power Rangers, Candy Land, candy.  Those were the lists I could complete with $100 and two hours of wrapping, leaving 20 presents under the tree.

This year, I am looking for Monster High dolls, which can only be described as Gothic Barbies, Godzilla figures, color refills for a hair-streaking machine, video games, expensive sneakers and coats, both brand-name items that both begin with the letter "N", and I wish I could pencil in my own "N" next to them on the list.

Yes, gone are the 20 items for $100 per person.  Gone are the little ones in their feetie pj's with their sleepy eyes, gone are the hours of assembling toys after they've been ripped open, gone are the Lego's, the coloring books, the crayons.  Here are the younger two in their pj's with their excited faces, bursting with anxiety for the big one, still sporting the sleepy eye look, in his pj bottoms or sweats to wake up and join them under the tree.   Here are the $60 video games, the $80 sneakers, the $20 Barbies with their ripped fishnets and boldly-colored miniskirts and scuffed black combat boots, the Godzilla toys and movies.  Gone are the little red velvet dress and sweater vests and khakis.  Here are the jeans and graphic tees.  Gone are the ponytails, here are the feathers and streaks in her hair.

But as they come over and hug me and kiss me, thanking me for their gifts, I will be the thankful one. Thankful that I had the Lego and Candy Land years, thankful that I got to dress them up for a little while, thankful that even though they don't have the little faces anymore, they still hug and kiss me and tell me they love me, and that is a gift that bears no price tag.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When does Teasing become Bullying?

Kids have had conflicts and arguments for as long as they have had opinions.  Even on that wholesome show, Little House on the Prairie, you would occasionally see children "go at it" on the playground, and sometimes even 2 girls.  Those were the good old days when the fight was between 2 people, and there were no weapons, and no one else jumped in, and a teacher or other adult would break up the fight.  Nowadays, there is no guarantee of a fair fight.  

When I was a pre-teen and an early teen, I was sometimes teased for not being as blessed in the bosom as some of the other girls in my class.  Boys called me Great Plains because of the flat lands there.  I know, stupid and not very creative nickname, right?  Did it bother me? Of course it did.  But my personality wouldn't allow me to hide and cry so instead I would come up with clever nicknames for my tormentors, make faces, and in extreme situations, stuff my size AA bra.  

Massachusetts General Laws define bullying in schools as "the repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof, directed at a victim that: (i) causes physical or emotional harm to the victim or damage to the victim’s property; (ii) places the victim in reasonable fear of harm to himself or of damage to his property; (iii) creates a hostile environment at school for the victim; (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school; or (v) materially and substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school. For the purposes of this section, bullying shall include cyber-bullying."

So was my teasing considered bullying?  I don't think so. There is a very fine line now for what used to be considered teasing to now be a criminal offense.  I work for a criminal defense attorney, and can attest to this fact as I read police reports and Facebook pages and text messages all registered as evidence when one person doesn't like another person or has a dispute or argument.  Small things become big things many times, and these big things can leave permanent black marks on one's record, a record that is checked when someone applies for a job, when someone wants to accompany their child on a field trip, when someone wants to coach a youth sport, when someone wants to become a foster parent or adopt a child, just to name a few.

Tonight I am attending calling hours for a 14 year old boy who is rumored to have taken his life as a result of bullying at school.  I don't know whether that is true or not, and I don't want to speculate.  However, some of his grieving friends seem to believe that to be true as is evidenced on his Facebook page, and perhaps through their hurt and emotional words and musings, they too are hurting more than we know.  Are some of them being teased?  Are some of them being bullied?  What can be done to prevent another young child from feeling that his or her life is so bad that he or she just doesn't want to do it anymore?  Is a child who cries "bullying" overly sensitive?  Is it just teasing?  No matter the question, the answer is clear:  No one should be made to feel that their life is worth so little that they wouldn't be missed if they were gone.  And there are so many people who are missing this boy, remembering good times shared and expressing their sorrow, and my heart breaks not only for this boy but for those he left behind.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It Wasn't Me

The office I work in is one of many small offices on a large floor of a large building, and all of us lovely ladies share the same public restroom.  The restroom door is locked, and only the tenants have a key which was a real shame for someone a few months ago, who, I imagine, raced to the bathroom one day, but couldn't get in because they did not have a key, and therefore they conducted their business right outside the locked door.  Another time, I'm told, someone walked into the bathroom to discover a man and a woman, not dressed in "professional attire", at the sinks, not washing their hands.  And it's also not unheard of to be in the stall and have another person standing outside your door talking to you.

So I'm always grateful when I unlock the door and all 5 stalls are empty, and I can feel as if I am in a private bathroom as opposed to a public one.  Today, however, my joy was short-lived as I opened the door to an empty bathroom, void of people but not smell.  I decided to be quick, and entered Stall #2.  A few seconds later the door opened, and someone entered Stall #1 but not without first muttering "Disgusting" which I'm sure was said as soon as they breathed through their nose.  I fought the urge to shout out, "It wasn't me. It smelled like that when I got in here too" but decided to just be quiet and get out of there before they did.  I succeeded in getting as far as the sinks before the door opened, and another person walked in.  This person sniffed and looked at me with an almost accusing look.  Again, I fought the urge to defend myself as not being the perpetrator of the smell.  I continued to wash my hands, and as I hurried to the door, I turned back and said, "It smelled like that when I got here too."  Then I went to the door, thrilled to escape the smell, the feeling that germs abounded, and to get back to my clean desk and office, only to touch a wet door handle. ARRGGHH!!!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

When I'm a Mom...

Today, it happened.  My own words from years ago were said to me: "When I'm a Mom, I'm going to let my kids..."  This isn't the first time I have had flashbacks from my childhood, or more accurately, my teen years.  But my daughter's only nine!  Her words had me thinking, "Was I being unreasonable?  Should I change my mind?  And who is this little person standing in front of me with her hands on her hips looking just as I had many times before when standing in front of my mother?"

This eye-opening experience made me smile but also made me think of some of those "unreasonable" rules that I had as a child.  I was the oldest of 8 with my youngest sibling being 16 years younger than me so, yes, for a little while, we all lived at home.  Because there were so many of us, we got to split the chores.  These chores included dusting, setting the table for dinner, clearing the table after dinner and washing dishes.  And when the chores were divided, I had to either set, clear or wash probably 2-3 times a week, and the dusting meant that I had to dust 3 items each Saturday.  The other chores we had were to vacuum our room once a week and to put away our clothes after they were washed, dried and folded for us.  I know, how unreasonable!

Another "unreasonable" rule came when we started working. We had to put half of our paycheck into our savings account at the bank each week.  This still left us plenty of spending money for the week, mind you, but when you're a teenager, every dollar should be spent every week, and it should be your choice on how it is spent.  I know this last part to be true because it has been brought to my attention by another of my children.

And can you believe that every Sunday, following a wonderful Sunday mid-day feast, we all had to go take a nap, and if we couldn't sleep, we had to at least lie down and rest for an hour and a half.  The nerve of them, right?!?

Finally, let's face it, when you are a pre-teen or a teen (or nine years old), friends are very important.  Growing up, we were allowed to do something with a friend once a week and to have a sleepover (either at our house or the friend's) once a month. I am sure this had something to do with the fact that there were 8 of us, and it could get quite chaotic if we all chose to do something on the same day, or have a friend sleep over on the same night, but this rule did seem to be socially impairing at the time.

I can remember saying many times, whether aloud, or as I stormed to my room to blast my Guns 'n Roses cassette, which meant I was really mad, "When I'm a Mom, I'm not going to..." or "When I'm a Mom, I'm going to let my kids..."  Well, today that was said to me as my daughter went to her 2nd sleepover OF THE WEEKEND, and promised me that she wouldn't come home with an attitude from too little sleep and that I should let her go because she promised her friend she would, and I tried to remember how I felt as I sat in my room with a puss on my face, with "Welcome to the Jungle" blaring from the speakers, and I let her go. 

And while I'm thinking on the rules of my own youth, I'd like to bring back Sunday naps, I'd like to be able to put only half of my paycheck into the bank each week, I'd like to see my friends weekly, and do a monthly sleepover just to laugh and catch up, I'd love to only have to dust 3 things, and I'd also love to have my once every 8 weeks Saturday AM breakfast with my dad, just me and him, catching up on life.