She carved out a little space between the desk and her bed to place an empty box against the wall. Then she found a baby blanket from the toy box, and gently placed it over top. Her special doll came with an extra outfit, so she spent some time folding each piece of clothing with great precision before stacking them beside her doll's make-shift bed. Next, she found a comb and mirror, along with a few overly-used hair accessories to round out the space she had created.
Then she stepped back, and declared with great pride "My American Girl Doll has her very own bedroom!" Except it wasn't a "real" American Girl Doll. It was a doll about the same size on clearance from Target. And the empty box she used for a bed was the box her doll came in.
She decided that she and her doll were twins, because they're both so fashionable! (Yes, I realize the resemblance is uncanny.)
Sugar had received a few gift cards for her birthday -- $65.00 total. She wanted to share the joy with her sisters, so she gave everyone a $20 spending limit. At first, I wanted to stop her...but then I realized it was her money, and if sharing it with her sisters was important to her, I needed to let her make that choice. So, I stood in the aisles, watching them go back and forth about how best to spend the gift cards to make sure everyone was included. At one point Sugar could see how badly Tiara wanted a different doll, so she almost gave up her share completely when they found these clearance dolls in damaged boxes on the bottom shelf. After an hour, they had devised a plan that included everyone, and all three girls were ecstatic about their respective new toys!
Tiara recognized her sister's generous heart and was determined to show Sugar that she would take great care of the special gift she had received. She spent half a day putting together that special spot for her special doll, and when her masterpiece was complete, she could hardly wait to show her little friend.
I promptly arranged a playdate...
"That's not a REAL American Girl, and that's not a bed...it's a box!" "I have a REAL bed AND the high chair AND the wardrobe AND lots of other REAL furniture for MY doll. In fact, I need ANOTHER wardrobe, because MY REAL American Girl has WAY too many clothes." "MY American Girl and I have lots of pairs of matching pajamas and WE wear the SAME THING every night." "MY American Girl..."
"STOP IT! You stop that right now!!!!!!!"
I could feel myself shaking. I looked at my daughter who sat slumped in disappointment with tears filling her eyes...
"What you're doing is called bragging, and it's not very nice. If you girls want to play here, you're going to have to use kind words and actions towards each other. Tiara's doll is very special, and she wants to play with you. Instead of complaining about all the things you don't have to play with here, why don't you go to the playroom to see if you can find something to make your doll a bed too."
And then I walked away.
It's not her fault that her parents don't need to pay for insulin, and test strips, and gluten-free food. It's not her fault that her parents don't have hefty co-pays for specialist visits. It's not her fault that Tiara's mom had to quit a good paying job, because she couldn't find childcare for her diabetic older sister. It's not her fault that Tiara's dad took a significant pay cut in order to take a job that would provide access to better health insurance. It's not her fault the housing market crumbled or that Tiara's hood microwave, oven, dishwasher, kitchen sink, air conditioner (twice!), bathroom vents, toilets, and ice maker all needed repair within 6 months of each other. It's not her fault the family mini van died on the way home from dropping her sister off at diabetes camp (which, by the way, cost Tiara's family $700.) It's not her fault the school district increased the preschool tuition by 100%, and began demanding payment for all day kindergarten at the same time...
It's not her fault.
But it's not Tiara's fault either.
It's just life.
They're happy with garage sale Christmas gifts and hand me down clothes. They're perfectly content never to have participated in a costly extra-curricular activity. They don't complain when they can't buy school lunches or participate in expensive school fundraisers, and they don't whine every time we go to store, because their parents can't buy them something new everyday.
If I had to put my finger on the biggest parenting challenges I face, this would one of them: Teaching my girls gratitude in a high-tech materialistic culture. Teaching my children that "stuff" doesn't define their self-worth, and friendship means more than a competition about who has the fanciest toys.
As for the other two parenting challenges for today's prompt, I guess I'd have to go with learning how to balance each family members needs...and...taking care of myself -- eating well, getting enough exercise, and sleeping like I should.
I realize I didn't dive into those last two...but...my blog time is up for the day!
We have an endo appointment after school, and I gotta run!
August 23 • Day 3: Challenge Accepted! Post Parenting isn’t all sunshine and ice cream – it’s hard. Write a post that delves into 3 challenges that you face as a parent.
I'm participating in the Advocating for Another Carnival 2012, and you can too! Check it out, and jump in anytime!