Tag Archives: kids

Battery by blender

It took three hours to get eight stitches.

Awaiting stitches, and imprisonment.

“MOLINARI!” the ER nurse bellowed, jolting us out of our waiting room stupor. Tearing our eyes from hypnotic crime show reruns playing on the wall-mounted television, we scrambled to move our 12-year-old daughter, who’d been placed in a wheelchair to elevate her lacerated foot.

“So, what happened?” the nurse asked.

“It was the blender,” I blurted, nervously.

“The blender?!” the nurse looked in horror at our daughter’s foot, wrapped in a dishtowel.

“Well, no, her foot wasn’t actually in the blender . . . it was on the floor . . . and the blender was in the freezer.”

“In the freezer?” the nurse asked, confused.

“I . . . it was me . . .,” I mumbled culpably, “I put the glass pitcher in the freezer. When my daughter opened the door, it fell out and cut her foot.”

“Ah,” the nurse seemed relieved to not be dealing with a frappèd foot, “let’s take a quick look.” As our daughter winced and whined, we carefully unraveled the dishtowel. “Hmmm . . . looks like you’re gonna need a few stitches young lady.”

The nurse fired questions at us – “full name, date of birth, address, phone number, insurance carrier, policy number” – while tapping away at her computer.

Then, after a pregnant pause, she looked intently at us and carefully enunciated, “Has your daughter ever had stitches before?

“No,” I answered immediately.

My mind waffled and my eyes darted as I thought, “Should I tell her about that face plant she did into the side of the backyard playset? She didn’t need stitches, but if I don’t mention that, will she think I’ve got something to hide? Why is she asking this question anyway? Does she think we’re abusive parents with a long history of suspicious ER visits? I guess the whole blender story does sound a bit suspect, and I was the one who put the blender in the freezer to begin with. I should’ve known it would slide off that bag of chicken tenders!?! It was my fault! I’m sure she’s alerting the police right now! I think I hear sirens!

“Sit tight in the waiting room. When the doctor is ready for you, we’ll get you all fixed up.” the nurse said with a smile.

We settled back into the waiting room, just in time to see Matlock render a withering cross examination. Stagnating under the unforgiving fluorescent lights for another hour, we reassured our daughter, analyzed the people around us, leafed through dog-eared magazines, and watched an episode of “Hill Street Blues.”

Just as I thought cobwebs were forming, our name was called.

The x-ray technician, the billing rep, the nurse, the doctor – they all asked the same questions. First a battery of rapid-fire queries regarding tedious details were launched in robotic succession, followed by one carefully worded question delivered police-interrogation style.

I can’t recall if the final question was “Has your daughter had stitches before?” or “Are you the abusive parent who negligently put the blender in the freezer sideways?” but I am certain that they had it out for me.

I prayed they wouldn’t find out about our two older kids, who have had their share of emergency room visits. Three broken bones, two pulled elbows, and at least a dozen stitches; with such typical excuses — fell off the couch, fell off the playset, fell into the playset, fell down the stairs. It all sounded so textbook, I was sure that the police were on their way to haul me off to jail.

But finally, after 30 minutes of treatment and three hours of waiting, we were released. Feeling like some kind of middle-aged jailbird, I sheepishly wheeled my daughter back to the ER entrance.

Suddenly, “YOU’RE UNDER ARREST!” blared from the waiting room. I considered bolting, but I was still a little sore from that body sculpting class, and besides, I would need to pack my fiber pills and contour pillow before I could lead a life on the run. Just as I turned to face the wall and spread ‘em, I noticed that the order had come from CHiPs Officer “Ponch” Poncherello on the wall-mounted TV, and I realized that I was free to go.

On our way home, while my daughter sipped a conciliatory Whataburger chocolate shake, I turned to her in an effort to relieve the still-fresh pang of guilt, “Lollipop, if I hadn’t put that blender in the freezer sideways, none of this would’ve happened. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s OK, Mom,” she said between sips, “it’s not your fault. It was just an accident.” Along with my heart and that chocolate shake, my mother’s guilt finally melted away.

The cast of "CHiPs" (from left: Erik...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She’ll do it

Grrrrr......

Grrrrrrowl……..

Husband comes home from work, carrying dirty coffee cup. Entering kitchen, he sees that everything is neat, tidy, and put away. Sink is empty, Counters are wiped. The aroma of dinner emanates from the oven. Standing equidistant to dishwasher and sink, husband thinks, “She’ll do it.” He puts dirty cup in sink and heads for his Barcalounger.

Teenage son enters bathroom to take shower. In one Houdini-esque fell-swoop, he heaps his clothing on the floor as follows: socks bunched up, jeans with phone and various wrappers still in pockets, belt still in loops, boxers still inside jeans, sweatshirt, and t-shirt still inside sweatshirt. Some items need to be washed and others are relatively clean. Approximately one foot away is the laundry basket, and son’s dresser is down the hall. Son thinks, “She’ll do it,” and throws entire lot into laundry basket.

Teenage daughter comes home from school and bursts in the front door with backpack, gym bag, and Vera Bradley lunchbox. Her mother has considerately provided bins with children’s initials on them on stairs inside front door, a basket in nearby laundry room for emptied lunchboxes, and a shelf for each child’s school books in nearby office. Standing only a few feet from each of these organizational aids, teenage daughter thinks, “She’ll do it,” and drops all of her belongings in the middle of the front hall.

Note the handy but conspicuously empty tote on the stairs.

Grrrrrumble……

Middle school daughter runs into kitchen after tennis practice, famished. Everything is put away, and there are no crumbs or other debris on counters. Taking out a pot, she proceeds to make a batch of her all-time favorite, mac-n-cheese. When finished, she carefully puts the leftovers in Tupperware bowl in refrigerator. Remembering that her father likes to confiscate her precious leftovers, she takes at least 5 minutes to find construction paper, a marker and tape, and affixes a homemade sign to her refrigerated bowl that reads, “Do Not Kill.”  Before plopping onto the couch to watch reruns of “Dance Moms,” middle school daughter glances at her cheese-sauce enameled dish, fork, pot, wooden spoon, and measuring cup laying on the formerly clean countertop, and thinks, “She’ll do it.”

Growl.......

Grrrrunt…….

Mom comes home from grocery store to find dirty dishes in kitchen, backpacks in hallway, and laundry in bathroom. Growling under her breath, Mom wonders why, despite years of stating otherwise, the family still thinks she’ll do everything. She contemplates blowing a royal gasket, telling everyone to go pack sand, and leaving town for a week; but thinks it might be easier to just clean up the mess and go microwave herself a cup of coffee.

Later the same week, Husband needs reassurance after a bad day at work. Teenage son wants someone to come watch him receive an award at school. Teenage daughter needs a shoulder to cry on about her biology test. Middle school daughter needs a Band-Aid and a kiss for her freshly scraped knee. And the family dog wants a snuggle.

There is no hesitation. No need to think twice. Without doubt in hearts, they know, “She’ll do it.”

"Who's gonna ride the roller coaster with me?"Weeeeee!

Weeeeee!!!!

Sandboxes to X-Boxes

At age 6, I married a policeman and had twins. At age 8, I ruled over a complex society of acorn people. At age 11, I was Sabrina Duncan of Charlie’s Angels, ready to follow Bosley’s instructions from my diamond transmitter ring.

A typical child of the 70’s, I spent hours immersed in elaborate pretend play and hair-brained schemes, usually clad in cut-off jean shorts, red-white-&-blue Converse and an awkward haircut. It was not unusual for me to be seen chopping earthworms into segments on the stump outside our house. Or, standing ankle deep in a large drainage pipe under Route 286 belting out Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Or dressing the cat up in doll clothes until she hissed.

Thank goodness, today’s kids don’t have to resort to standing in drainage tunnels and chopping up worms. With the advent of modern technology, parents today can keep their children entertained with a vast array of sports, clubs, music lessons, computer games and amazing toys.

We’re so lucky to have all of these modern conveniences to help us raise our kids today . . . or are we? Are abundant choices really better for our kids in the long run?

On my 9th birthday, my prized gift was a Barbie Camper. Even after my brother ripped the tent off the side, I adapted my pretend play scenarios (grizzly attack) to account for the alteration, and enjoyed the toy for years. A friend down the street got the Barbie Townhouse for Christmas, and I often went to her house so my Barbies could experience the high life. For boys, the attitude toward toys was similar. Any kid with a couple Tonka Trucks and a sandbox was someone to befriend, especially if you had your own bargaining tool like a GI Joe with the Kung Fu Grip.

But today’s child doesn’t have to butter up the kid down the street or muster extra brainpower because they’ve got toys coming in from holidays, special events, and the birthday party circuit. They need toys to be entertained and they get them because they are cheap, plentiful and way cool. But when you consider the inevitable atrophy of our children’s creativity and resourcefulness, the cost is quite high.

As a kid, I remember going to a schoolmate’s birthday party on her back porch. I wore a dress. We played pin the tail on the donkey. We tossed beanbags into a target. We sang, ate cake and drank Kool-Aid. It was a TOTAL blast.

Today’s kid would deem that party a “snoozer” and consider it a total rip off that he didn’t get a free movie, theme park admission or bowling game out of the deal. It is simply unheard of these days to have a party without a substantial meal (usually pizza and unlimited sodas) in addition to ice cream cake, and a goodie bag with trinkets worth at least $9.50.

When the toy box exceeds its capacity, parents entertain their kids with camps, sports, classes and hobbies. Will the extra enrichment of our children make up for the detriment to their self-reliance? I recall my mother pulling the station wagon up to the community pool (she couldn’t get out with her rollers in, of course) to drop me off. As she drove away, cigarette smoke trailing behind, I heard her yell, “See you at four-o-clock, dumpling!” I had an entire day to make friends, avoid drowning, figure out how much I could buy at the snack bar with $2, and be waiting out at the curb at four-o’clock.

So what am I saying? Are we turning our kids into materialistic, over-indulgent, unimaginative little brats? Should we give them each a pack of matches and tell them to go entertain themselves? Probably not, but perhaps we should not always avail ourselves of the modern conveniences designed to make parenting easier. Instead, we should teach the simple life lessons we learned as kids.

Like how to get the nectar out of honeysuckle. That you can only keep a jar of tadpoles and creek water a couple days before it starts to stink up your room. That it’s fun to play in the rain. And that a cardboard box has endless possibilities.

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Nuggets of Truth

“What’s for dinner, Mom?” my famished kids inquire every afternoon when I pick them up from school. Despite the made-to-order lunches I pack for them, my kids come out of school as if they just crossed the Sahara Desert, and I’m under pressure to produce a big evening meal to satisfy our entire family of five.

Not just any meal, mind you – a meal that everyone likes. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so much, anymore.

When the kids were younger, our pantry and fridge were packed with items expressly intended to please people whose age had not reached double digits, and each item came in shapes or vessels made for stubby fingers. We had yogurt in a tube, cheese in a stick, chicken shaped like fingers, nuggets and dinosaurs. There were muffins molded into bars as if muffins weren’t compact enough, potatoes ground down to tots, and bagels reduced to bites.

Pigs were rolled into blankets, and pizzas were stuffed into rolls. Just about anything was wrapped in a pastry pocket – ham and cheese, eggs and bacon, apples and cinnamon.

Juice came in boxes and bags. Fruit was pulverized and dehydrated to form leathery edible skin. Even PB&Js were de-crusted, boxed and frozen.

Everything was nuggetized or otherwise compacted into individual servings requiring no utensils, no preparation, and no taste buds.

And we couldn’t forget the main staple of kids’ diets – like tortilla to Mexicans, rice to Asians, and potatoes to the Irish, the children of this nation would have starved without the sustenance of boxed macaroni and cheese. There was something about those tiny tubular noodles that required little to no chewing, and the salt-laden powdered imitation cheese sauce that kept kids coming back for more.

But, after a decade of withdrawal from real food, I had finally had enough. I resolved to start cooking regular meals a couple years ago, meals that required utensils and did not necessarily involve dipping. Meals with seasonings like garlic and onion. Meals with meat that had not been fed through a grinder, reshaped, and breaded. Meals with vegetables that were not hidden and fruits that were not dehydrated. Meals that did not contain sulfur dioxide, xanthan gum, or FD&C Red No. 40.

I couldn’t wait to start cooking traditional family meals and envisioned smiling faces and freshly washed hands, passing platters of carved flavorful meats and steaming bowls of sautéed vegetables. Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out.

“Ew, is that a mushroom?” my youngest exclaimed on Monday. “The sauce touched my corn,” my son complained on Wednesday. “Do I have to eat all of this?” my middle child questioned on Thursday.

By Friday, I had failed to produce one meal that satisfied everyone, so I fired up the oven, grabbed a bag of buns and a bottle of ketchup and threw frozen chicken patties on a cookie sheet. “Yea! We’re having chicken patties tonight!” my kids exclaimed with joy. “Chicken Patties?” my husband had the nerve to protest, “I’ll eat leftovers.”

Despite the fact that I never seem to satisfy everyone in our family, I continue to force home cooked meals on my children and occasional kid-pleasing meals on my husband. I sometimes wonder if it’s all worth it, and think that only a revival of TV dinners would solve my dilemma.

Got a hankering for beef, son? Well, here’s a Salisbury steak dinner just for you! You girls prefer poultry? Why not try this delicious fried chicken dinner or sliced turkey and gravy? And I’ve got something special for my “hungry man” too! From freezer to TV tray table in under 30 minutes and no dishes to wash. “Thanks, Mom!” they’d all enthusiastically exclaim.

But knowing my opinionated lot, I’d still get complaints. “Ew, the chicken comes with peas and carrots!” “The mashed potatoes have freezer burn.” “Gross, the gravy leaked onto the brownie!” “What’s this hard thing in the Salisbury steak?”

I guess I’ll have to give up on my dream of having the perfect dinner and just concentrate on getting something on the table. The rest is just gravy, and apparently, my kids don’t like that anyway.

Bracing for Bankruptcy

I’ve done just about anything you can think of while sitting in our orthodontist’s waiting room. I’ve balance my checkbook. I’ve applied concealer to the dark circles under my eyes. I’ve watched “Toy Story” eight times. I’ve torn recipes out of magazines when no one was watching. I’ve discovered an old cough drop in the bottom of my purse, picked the lint off it, and eaten it.

With three kids in braces, I spend half my life in the orthodontist’s waiting room, and unfortunately, half our combined income too.

You’d think the orthodontist would have the decency to pluck a few bills from his mountain of insane profits to provide me with a reclining lounge chair or neck pillow for my waiting room naps. Alternatively, a nice cappuccino bar and mini-fridge with ice cold cans of Diet Coke would provide me with caffeine, obviating the need for naps. A desk and free Wi-Fi would enable me to do more multi-tasking than cleaning out my purse and catching up on women’s magazines. I mean, that’s the least he could do, considering.

Considering that my kids’ teeth never really looked all that crooked to begin with, but somehow, they ALL need full orthodontic treatment to include preparatory extractions, palate expanders, bands, brackets, adjustments, headgear and retainers.

My intuition told me there was a wide-spread conspiracy between our dentist, oral surgeon, orthodontist and insurance company to swindle me out of as much money as possible. But they knew that all they had to do was use big words, show me some murky x-rays, and put the fear of God in me that my kids’ mouths would soon become veritable train wrecks of snaggleteeth. They knew I would cave, and that’s exactly what I did.

Has it always been this way? I don’t think so.

Today, braces are a fashion accessory, as cool as a cell phone in kid’s jeans pocket or a Vera Bradley lunchbox. Conversely, when I was a kid, the general attitude toward any additional hardware such as orthodontics, glasses, orthopedic shoes, and back braces, was that they were instant fodder for ruthless bullying, and as such, should be avoided if at all possible.

I had the unfortunate experience of having braces while in the 5th grade in 1978. My orthodontist didn’t have to use his powers of persuasion to convince my parents to pay. To the contrary, my parents were begging on bended knee to please, for the love of God, do something about my teeth, which were spread so far apart, my brother had started referring to me as “The Rake.”

Unlike today’s trendy braces with their inconspicuously glued brackets, colorful bands and thin sparkling wire, every tooth in my 11-year-old head was cemented with gun-metal grey steel bands welded with cumbersome brackets connected by thick wire. I went from looking like “The Rake” to resembling the villain “Jaws” from 007’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

And of course there was the dreaded headgear. I remember picking the red-bandana patterned neck strap from a bin at the orthodontist’s office, which was a wholly inadequate consolation prize for the utter humiliation I felt when wearing the slobber-producing device in public.

There was no question about it – the only reason I suffered the embarrassment of braces in the 1970s was because my teeth were seriously screwed up and my parents were only too happy to pay for someone to fix them.

Nowadays, not only are the professionals trying to sell you on the latest orthodontic procedure to correct the most minor flaws, even the kids pressure you to sign on the dotted line just so they can pick bands to match their school colors. They won’t listen to reason. You can’t convince them by pointing out that Jay Leno would be nowhere today without his characteristic under bite, and Jewel would be slinging burgers at McD’s if she didn’t have that fang poking straight out of her face.

So here I sit, in the orthodontist’s waiting room, picking stuff out from under my fingernails, while somewhere across town, money is automatically being withdrawn from our dwindling checking account to pad the overstuffed coffers of our orthodontist.

And as we careen ever so slowly toward financial ruin in the name of orthodontic perfection and middle school fashion sense, I comfort myself with the knowledge that, with all this waiting room time, my purse has never been more organized.

Coffee, Tea or Turbulence?

“Coffee? Tea?” the lanky flight attendant mouthed from above my seat. I pulled my complimentary headphones off to tell her “No thanks,” but regretted the decision a half hour later when I started feeling like I was in a fruit dehydrator and the flight attendant was way up in first class, most likely serving some businessman his second glass of champagne.

My three kids and I were halfway into a nine hour flight, on our way back to the United States after a military tour in Germany. My husband was already at our new duty station in Florida, and was planning to pick us up at the Jacksonville Airport later that evening.

The military travel agency neglected to arrange for us to be seated together, and Luftansa merely smirked when I asked to change our seat assignments. From my isle seat in 29B, I could only see the kids if I stood up on my tray table and used binoculars, and even then I could only see the tops of their heads. Lilly, age 10 was at 39D, surrounded on either side by college kids. Anna, age 13 was behind Lilly at 40D, and my 16-year-old, Hayden, was against a window at 43A.

With four hours down, and five to go, I said a little prayer that there were enough movies and snacks to keep them entertained all the way home.

From my isle seat against the bulkhead, I was just a few feet from the only restrooms in economy class. Not only did I see just about every passenger on my side of the plane pull when they should have pushed the bathroom doors, I heard scores of those characteristic sucking flushes that makes one wonder where it all goes. A line started building up past my seat (it was about 45 minutes after the coffee service after all,) requiring me to sit facing forward for fear that if I turned my head, the tip of my nose might brush against someone’s hip.

A little while later I heard the clank of the lunch cart, and started getting excited. No, I wasn’t hungry. I’m never hungry during airline travel, perhaps because my intestines sense that I will be sitting for hours on end, and go completely dormant. So every peanut, pretzel, stale roll with butter pat, mushy noodle, and fruit gelatin square I consume lays in my stomach for the entire flight, completely undigested.

The back up of undigested material actually makes the flight even more physically uncomfortable, if that is possible, yet I get eagerly accept the lousy morsels offered out of sheer boredom.

“Would you like the Asian chicken or vegetarian pasta?” the voice from above asked. I chose the former, envisioning something similar to the Szechuan dish I like to order from King’s Palace when I’m feeling hormonal. A tiny rectangular tray is placed before me with a roll, butter, cheese wedge, a square dish with a gelatinous fruit dessert, and a foil covered container.

Peeling back the foil, I discovered that the “Asian chicken” looked nothing like my beloved Szechuan dish. I ate it anyway, savoring every mediocre bite, just for the entertainment value.

As I hunched over the sections of my little rectangular tray, I wondered how the airline chefs sleep at night.

The Indian businessman beside me was also hunched over his vegetarian pasta. His elbows were tucked compactly at his sides, his hands hovered over his tray while his fingers tore at the little packages, shoving tiny bits into his mouth while his eyes darted. It occurred to me that just about everyone in economy class ate in this manner. It was as if we were all a bunch of squirrels nibbling at our acorns.

After the trays had been taken away, I went back to find the kids happily engrossed in their seat back televisions. I decided to use the opportunity to take a little catnap.

I always envision myself cradled comfortably against my travel pillow’s C-shaped contour, but I inevitably awaken with my head fallen forward so I look half dead, or worse, cocked back with my mouth wide open. No matter which way my head falls, my spine is always compressed into temporary scoliosis and my rear end goes completely numb. I can feel new spider veins bursting forth on my thighs.

For the next two hours, I dozed uncomfortably, contorting my body into every imaginable position, every one seemingly more painful than the next.

I finally gave up on rest, just when the snack cart appeared. This time I chose the vegetarian pizza, which was a rectangular slab of dough upon which was smeared some kind of cheeseless orange sauce, and embedded with tiny fragments of vegetable material, to include a German pizza topping favorite – corn.

Soon after snack service, the airplane began its gradual descent and we hit turbulence. It felt like the corn, Asian Chicken and fruit gelatin were playing lawn darts in my stomach. I closed my eyes and reached for the armrests, awkwardly caressing the Indian businessman’s hand which had beat me to it.

I heard a commotion and opened my eyes to see the flight attendant grabbing paper towels out of the restroom. My brain quickly calculated probabilities and reasonable inferences, coming to the surefire conclusion that my daughter Lilly must’ve thrown up.

I craned to look back to her seat, and saw a college girl pinching her nose shut. Everyone was looking into Lilly’s row with a grimace. I waved to the flight attendant and pointed at myself as if to say, “Hi! Remember me? I’m the one who asked to be seated with my kids and was refused!”

It all worked out in the end. The college boy who was seated right next to Lilly and who got hit by “friendly fire” was quite understanding. We were able to get Lilly some fresh clothes after retrieving our luggage. And, best of all, Daddy was there waiting at the Jacksonville Airport as promised. Our family is finally on solid ground again.

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Modern Inconveniences — Part III: I want my goodie bag

At age 6, I was married to a policeman and had twins. At age 8, I ruled over a complex society of acorn people who lived in a couple cinder blocks under my neighbor’s tree. At age 11, I was Sabrina Duncan of Charlie’s Angels, ready to follow Bosley’s instructions from my diamond transmitter ring.

A typical child of the 70’s, I used to spend hours immersed in elaborate pretend play and hair-brained schemes, usually clad in cut-off jean shorts, red-white-&-blue Converse and an awkward haircut. It was not unusual for me to be seen chopping earthworms into tiny segments on the stump outside our house on North 7th Street, because I believed that each segment regenerated into a new worm. (Years later in 10th-grade biology I developed a keen sense of remorse.) Or standing ankle deep in a large drainage pipe under Route 286 belting out Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” or Barry Manilow’s “I Write the Songs” because the tunnel’s acoustics were “neato.”

Or climbing my favorite tree, where I perched to watch the traffic and let my mind wander. My big brother knew this about me and reveled in spoiling my fun. One sunny summer day, I skipped down 7th Street toward my climbing tree after a PB&J lunch. Approaching the tree, I initiated the sequence of moves that always placed me on the sitting branch in one fell swoop. As I reached up to grip the spot that started the climb, I heard a shout from across the street, “NO! Don’t do it!” 

I looked over and saw my brother peeking nervously from behind a shrub. My initial alarm quickly turned to indignation and I whined back at him, “I can do whatever I wanna do!” 

“Well, then GO AHEAD!” he retorted. My hand deftly rose to the place where I could get the perfect amount of grip to pull my chunky little body up into the tree. As I fixed my hand into position, I felt an unfamiliar sensation. A warm squish I had never experienced here before. Pulling my hand back to inspect, I realized that my brother had tricked me. Dogs can’t poo in trees.

Thank goodness, today’s kids don’t have to resort to standing in drainage tunnels, playing with cinder blocks and hiding dog poo. With the advent of modern technology, parents today can keep their children occupied, educated and entertained with a vast array of private schools, franchise day care facilities, tutoring centers, sports, clubs, music lessons, computer games and amazing toys.

We are so lucky to have all of these modern conveniences to help us raise our kids today . . . or are we? Are having all these choices really better for our kids in the long run? Perhaps not.

On my 9th birthday, my prized gift was a new Barbie Camper. I played with that camper for hours with my two Barbies, one of which I had given a very bad haircut. Even after my brother ripped the tent off the side, I just adapted my pretend play scenarios (grizzly attack) to account for the alteration, and continued to play with the camper for years. A friend down the street got the Barbie Townhouse for Christmas, and I often went to her house so my Barbies could experience the high life. I never thought to ask for one myself; I already had the camper. 

For boys, the attitude toward toys was similar back then. Any kid with a couple Tonka Trucks and a sandbox was someone to befriend, especially if you had your own bargaining tool like a GI Joe with the Kung Fu Grip.

But today’s child does not have to negotiate with peers or resort to imagination. Why butter up the kid down the street or muster extra brainpower when you’ve got toys coming in from holidays, special events, and the birthday party circuit. Today’s children need toys to be entertained and they get them because they are cheap, plentiful and way cool. But when you consider the inevitable atrophy of our children’s creativity and resourcefulness, the cost is quite high.

As a kid, I remember being invited to the birthday party of a schoolmate. We gathered on the friend’s back porch. I wore a dress. We played pin the tail on the Donkey. We tossed beanbags into a target. We sang, ate cake and drank Kool-Aid. We went home happy. It was a TOTAL blast. 

Today’s kid would deem that party a “snoozer” and would see it as a total rip off that they didn’t get a free movie, theme park admission or bowling game out of the deal. It is simply unheard of these days to have a party without a substantial meal (usually pizza and unlimited sodas) in addition to the ice cream cake, and a goodie bag with trinkets and treats worth at least $10.50. 

When the toy box exceeds its capacity and there is a lull in the party circuit, parents entertain their kids with camps, sports, classes and hobbies. But will the extra enrichment of our children make up for the detriment to their self-reliance? I recall my own mother pulling the station wagon up to the community pool (she couldn’t get out of course because she had her rollers in) to drop me off. As she drove away, cigarette smoke trailing behind, I heard her yell, “See you at four-o-clock, dumpling!” I had an entire day to make friends, avoid drowning, figure out how much I could buy at the snack bar with $2, and be dressed and waiting out at the curb when four-o’clock rolled around. Talk about a learning experience!

So what am I saying? Are we completely screwing up our children today? Are they destined to be selfish, materialistic, over-indulgent, unimaginative little brats? Perhaps we can avoid this fate by not always availing ourselves of the modern conveniences designed to make parenting easier. Instead, we should teach the simple life lessons we learned as kids.

 Like how to get the nectar out of honeysuckle. That a priority-mailing envelope with holes cut out makes a fairly decent Imperial Stormtrooper helmet. That you can only keep a jar of tadpoles and creek water a couple days before it starts to stink up your room. And that a cardboard box has endless possibilities.

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