Teaching moment gone awry

Last night as I was doing my last check of email I noticed an
influx of messages from parents on one of the listserv groups for
Sofie’s school. I read the first message and had no idea what
letter they were referring to, so I ran back upstairs, rummaged
through Sofie’s backpack and found the offending letter in
question. After reading the memo, I went back to my email to see if
the other parents were as upset as I was becoming. Indeed they
were. The gist of this memo was to inform the parents that a
Freshman Dorm at a local university has taken our school on as a
“service project.” There are so many great ways this could have
been handled. Unfortunately, the “service” is to buy our kids

Setting aside the general assumptions made about
children who attend public schools, let’s think for a moment how
many other ways that money could be used. Supplies for the school,
playground equipment, sponsoring some sort of assembly or guest
that the kids might learn from and enjoy, let the kids come up with
gift ideas for kids who are in need…the list goes on. I’m sure
there are families at her school that will welcome the gift, but
our family isn’t one of them.

Debra and I both have been working on teaching Sofie about giving
and sharing instead of acquiring more things. In so many ways,
Sofie has a huge heart. She’s compassionate, loving and gets
pleasure out of helping people. So what is it about “stuff” that
makes her turn into a big selfish brat?!?! Debra thinks it goes
back to her orphanage days and not having stuff. That may be true
to some extent but I think it has to do with the fact that we SPOIL
her. I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to giving Sofie
too much stuff. It started early and it’s apparent it’s going to be
a hard habit to break.

Over the past couple of years while dealing with illness and other
stuff, I’ve gotten into a space where “things” don’t matter and I’m
tired of all the clutter those items cause. It’s partly spiritual,
it’s partly a change in a way of life. It’s the way I’m
choosing trying to live and I’d love to instill
those values in my kid.

This morning became a battle of wills on the subject. In my
quietest, most sincere voice I attempted to explain to Sofie that
she’s a kid living a great life and that there are so many other
kids who, through no fault of their own, live in situations that
might cause them to not have a happy holiday season. (As I was
saying some of this stuff I was hoping beyond all hopes that she
didn’t say, “Why doesn’t Santa just bring them toys!!”…luckily
that thought didn’t occur to her. Whew, I escaped that one by the
skin of my teeth!!) In the the over dramatically way that she can
be, tears welled up in her eyes and she said in a long drawn out
moan…NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Theatrics at it’s best! Well, that just
annoyed me, so the quiet, sincere mom clammed up and the loud,
self-righteous one reared her ugly head. After getting nowhere, I
sent her upstairs to start breakfast while I got dressed.

While downstairs I heard stomping, slamming and arguing. I guess
she’d told Debra of my evil plan to give away all of her
toys…well, one of them anyway! After getting dressed, I went
upstairs to continue the lecture. She argued, but didn’t have any
good points…it was mostly selfish. My point was that we could let
Santa know that instead of the gifts she was supposed to get from
him, she decided that she’d rather have the ONE gift from the
students and to please give those gifts to kids who were nicer and
needed them more than she did. (Manipulative, yes. Effective?…yet
to be determined.) Bottom line, she WILL give up that toy to
Toys for Tots or something like that. Will she learn a
lesson from it? Again, yet to be determined. All I can say is we’re
trying to create a giving person instead of a selfish, wanting
little person. Maybe it’s too much for a 7 year old, but at this
point my will is stronger than hers and I’ll win this one!

Was I too harsh? Will she forgive me? I told her to tell her
therapist tonight that Mama Jamie was evil and making her give away
a toy! She laughed and glared at me in a fake evil look. At least
that’ll take some of the focus off of Debra’s illness. I can be the
bad mom, I can take it!

An update to this posting(originally posted on my blog a week ago.)
After much debate on the school listserv, it was made
apparent that many of us were “over-reacting” to the kindness and
generosity of the freshman. I swear I heard Rodney King saying,
“Why can’t we all just get along?” as I read through some of the

Our family is sticking by our guns…well, sort of. We’ve decided
she can keep that gift, but she has to go shopping for another gift
to give to a child in need. Compromise…that’s what parenting is
all about, isn’t it?