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Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I fear Megan is the kind of person who assumes that the glass is half empty. She also tends to believe that her brother’s glass is half full and responds with a high-pitched, “No fair!” to anything good that comes his way. Yesterday morning, when he sleepily rolled out of bed and staggered into my arms for a hug, Megan’s complaint was close behind. I explained that if she wanted a hug she could climb out of bed and get one. Instead she started the first argument of the day at 6:32 am.

One of my mantras is “Make a request, not a complaint.” For example, “I’m thirsty!” is a complaint. “May I please have a drink of water is a request.” The latter gets better results, in my experience, though it’s hard to remember that sometimes. Complaining is satisfactory in its own unhealthy way, kind of like eating too many potato chips. Slowly I think I’m training my kids to ask for what they want, though they still make the obligatory whiny complaint first. What’s harder is getting them past the petty sibling jealousy. Having grown up as an only child, I just don’t understand what’s so painful about seeing your bother get a hug when you can have as many hugs as you want. (“I don’t remember my mother ever hugging me,” I told them in frustration when they started demanding alternating hugs.)

Their relationship is a bit of a mystery to me, I must confess. Sometimes they are rivals, sometimes coconspirators or playmates. Sometimes I’m not sure what they’re up to, like the other day when Luke started asking if Santa Clause was real. I asked what he thought, and he said, “No, because we don’t have a chimney for Santa to come down. And if he came in through the door, he would track snow on the floor.” Forget that Santa is supposed to bring a gift to every kid in the whole world in one night in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer; it was the chimney that tipped Luke off.

I don’t believe in lying to children, but I don’t like to steal the magic either, so I’ve never told them about Santa one way or another. I just let them pick up the story from the culture and work it out for themselves. In Kindergarten Luke was telling other kids that Santa wasn’t real (to the disappointment of at least one mother), but now he seemed unsure. I didn’t know if he wanted confirmation of his theory or the chance to believe the myth again. Before I figured out what to say, however, Megan jumped in with other possible explanations for how Santa might have gotten in to our house. They had a very serious discussion of the possibilities, but Luke seemed unconvinced. When he was out of earshot, I asked, “Megan, do you believe in Santa, or do you just want Luke to believe?”

“I just want him to believe,” she responded. I was reminded how sophisticated she’s getting when, an hour after Luke asked about Santa, Megan asked, “Who is Dick Cheney? And what is the CIA?”

I guess the questions don’t get any easier as they get older.


Blogger Lone Star Ma said...

I like your complaint, request system. I tell the baby "don't fuss; ask for help" and she's starting to occasionally respond with "hup, hup".

I have 5 siblings and even though I am (from a different marriage) much older, we fought and cuddled like puppies. They are still so important to me. It's fascinating to see how siblings build these life-long relationships.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous LJuser cardamom_23 said...

I'm from a large family, but raising an only. I try to make sure he has lots of sleepovers and extended visits with his closest friends, because I really believe in the value of sharing and coexistence and I want to be sure he learns it.

As to the asking for what you want, I think that's really important, too. I try to remember to practice the same thing with my son (as I'm sure you do with your kids, as well). Not "don't drop your toys everywhere!" but rather "please put your legos away before getting out your crayons." It's harder than it sounds to remember to phrase everything as a positive action rather than a negative restriction, but he responds so immediately, it's well worth the effort!

4:35 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

First, keep your kid away from mine at Christmastime! LOL! Of course I don't believe in lying to my children, but heck, I still believe in Santa. I see Santa as creating magic for them. Instilling the belief that just maybe some things defy logic. Ahhh...

Sibling relationships are both very complex and so simple, aren't they? My two older children sound much like yours - and my own siblings and I were the same way growing up. Best friends, rivals, playmates, a source of annoyance, as source of support. It's a little of everything as they find their space and place. Enjoy!

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I handle Santa exactly the same way you do. My 5 y.o. seems to want to believe this year, although I think deep down she knows the "truth." She's helping her 3 y.o. brother become a true believer though. :o) I remember doing the same thing with my younger siblings. Fond memories...

Is this thing about Santa and "lying" a Quaker thing? I came to my beliefs about how to handle Santa before I starting attending Friends meeting, but I often found myself alone in my position that I "wouldn't lie about it". (Most people seem not to see it as lying.) With Friends, however, I fit right in on this issue, lol! It's nice to have company, anyway. ;o)

3:46 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Although I have gotten more conscious about telling the truth since becoming a Quaker, I think my attitude about Santa came mostly from my mother. My parents had a business that went bankrupt when I was a baby, and my parents struggled financially for many years. My mother thought it was cruel to tell children that Santa delivered gifts according to who was "naughty and nice" when I would only get one simple gift and then visit my cousins whose living room was bombarded with toys. Now that I'm struggling to keep my children from drowning in toys, I appreciate my mother's point, though I do feel like a Grinch sometimes. We try to foster the magic other ways, like lots of candles.

P.S. I'm still relatively new to this blogging thing. Can someone please explain to me what "lol" means? Thanks.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

"lol" means "laughing out loud", although in reality, it's used more often as an on-line "chuckle". You can respond to someone's comment with an LOL, meaning the comment made you chuckle, or you can add it to your own comment (as I did) to indicate that if you were speaking, you might have a chuckle in your voice.

A true laugh-out-loud comment would elicit perphaps "ROFL" -- "rolling on the floor laughing". There are others that get more elaborate, but those are the two "laughing" shorthands you see most often.

Some other abbreviations you might see frequently:
btw = by the way
iykwim = if you know what I mean
imo = in my opinion
dd, ds, dh, dw, dp = dear daughter, son, husband, wife, partner (respectively)

hth! (Hope that helps) ;o)

1:56 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks Stephanie!

5:19 PM  

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