Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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 Duke 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 gifts!

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 on 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 not 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 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 Duke 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!


mamah (hannah) said...

A few thoughts that I feel compelled to share:

1) Sofie is not greedy b/c she was in an orphanage and had nothing (or if that is why *she* is that way, it matters not, as she would be that way anyway). Our Sophie is greedy too and she's been raised in spoiled surroundings since the minute she was born. Now, it could be, though, that the spoiling is the problem. But I think it's just human nature to be kind of greedy - like your id is just saying ME ME ME - and you have to unlearn it or at least learn to balance it. My twins were fighting over STUFF from the time they were maybe 9 months old, and wanting more and more, and always wanting what the other one had, even if it was the same f-ing thing! (I like to tell the story of the fights over the identical sippie cups, it's like a Biblical parable or something, the moral of which is that you always want what you don't have, even if you have it! Or that you always think what someone else has is better than what you've got). Anyway, for years I have had Sophie go to Target w/$10 that she must spend on a Toy for Tots. She likes it and does not get greedy, but if I tried to take something away that someone else had given her, I believe she would balk.

2. (As in second thought) - those Duke students need to be slapped. What a stupid "service" project, especially for Morehead, which is not one of the poorest schools in Durham by a long shot - certainly the kids would get more out of having the students come and hang out w/them or something, but isn't it telling that they would rather buy stuff? It is so bad on so many levels. I would be pissed too, although not necessarily if they were doing it at Sophie's school, where 85% of the kids are free lunch, but even then I would think it was lame. But really, if you want to give toys to poor kids, hello, it's called Toys for Tots! Service project my big white ass. Okay. I admit it, I voted for Nifong just b/c of my anti-Duke bias. I am going to get off your blog now w/my craziness. But I hope that Sofie had a cathartic session with her therapist and you, you keep up the good work, it's not easy being an evil mama.

Jamie said...

Hannah, you made me laugh out loud several times. I enjoyed your "craziness"...makes me look sane. :-)

I asked Sofie if she told her therapist about my evil plan to give away her toys..."No, I didn't," she smirked!! Evil kid learns from evil mama.

Shannon said...

What a hoot! I don't have kids but I have two precocious god daughters in this age range and more is always better to them. I I must admit that while Dave and I are striving to live with less and more simply, it didn't even occur to me to go without x-mas presents for them ... I love seeing their eye light up like the lights on the tree. I'll have to ponder this one, but after x-mas as I have already bought their gifts! much love, Shannon