Struggles between hockey and lego

One thing I miss since the hockey passion has taken up all our head space around here is the children’s lego. We used to, when Ben was younger, sit on the floor and put together entire lego cities complete with fire stations and houses, construction scenes, and many little vehicles for his mini figures. We built buildings and connected streets leading to the police station.  I spent many a Sunday morning, in pjs with my cup of coffee, sorting and playing with him to a point where I considered it my own hobby, too. Then the kids got bigger, the house appeared smaller, and there was less room to spread the lego we built out in the basement rec room. Also the hockey gear needed a place to dry and air out…

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What’s wrong with playdates?

Whenever someone mentions wanting to have playdates at our house I feel

sorry for myself

But also

happy (not for me, for the kids)
elated (at the idea of having socially acceptable kids)
upbeat (at the idea of having socially acceptable kids)

And then

incredulous (at how much of the house can turn into a disaster scene in a mere couple of hours)
edgy (at how much of the noise can be interpreted as serious injury to one or all kids making the noise)
relieved (when everyone goes home and I can stick my two in the tub)

For the record, I grew up without a single playdate. I lived in Swizerland on the top floor of a small building and spent almost all of my childhood outside. We wandered around, visited the cows on the field beside the apartment, strolled up and down the quiet street toward the forest, entered the forest and climbed trees or took off our shoes and waded in the creek, visited friends, picked up friends, got locked into sheds by stupid boys, got unlocked out of the shed by friends who were looking for me, picked flowers for ugly women who hated children who made noise, rode other kids’ bikes up and down the sidewalk, skipped and threw sand at each other, exchanged clothes with girlfriends while hiding under the steps so stupid boys wouldn’t see our underwear, and in general, just hung around.

This does not happen now.

And in some ways, a whole entire side of childhood has eternally disappeared.

Are children today spoiled?

Sometimes I wonder if WE are breeding them to be this way…

He wanted a special type of candy called Sugus, brought back from Switzerland from my mom. They are candies I enjoyed as a child growing up in Switzerland. We have two bags of them and I consider them something special, to enjoy occasionally.

Today they were in camp. When they came home I told them I had a special surprise ready for them and served them, to their delight, a slice of blueberry cheesecake and some nice warm tea.

5 minutes later Ben wanted a Sugus. I said no.

The ensuing crisis was rather mind boggling. He got so upset, so angry at me, hurling accusations and stomping around, I have to wonder why not having one little candy is worth such drama. What would happen if something more substantial happened? I mean, sheesh…

He wanted to know why I always say no.

Huh? How many times a day do I say yes to their endless requests?

Was that cheesecake surprise not enough? (Stupid question, of course it isn’t. It’s never enough).

Were we not just spoiled for two weeks with incessant Christmas cheer?

This reminds me of the time when my mom returned from Switzerland with goodies and gifts for them. The entire coffee table was covered with all sorts of wonderful and unique things. After they inspected each item, and mom got ready to go home, they had asked me for something (what it was eludes me at the moment) to which I said no. A similar outburst occurred with all the usual you always say no! and you are so mean! cries and complaints. And I thought the same thoughts as I do now.

Are my children spoiled?
Are all middle-class children spoiled?
Is childhood spoiled?

It’s something to remember, and address during a quieter time, to help them understand. There is nothing wrong, in my humble opinion, of describing to them just how fortunate they are. There is nothing wrong with saying no occasionally. I should do it more often, frankly.

Because the over-indulgence is not over – today at the grocery store I saw, side by side on a shelf, Valentine’s Day chocolates and Easter Cream Eggs. On the third day of the new year.


Special treats in armoires

My grandmother had a wooden armoire in her downstairs sitting room that contained special treats. Chocolates, cookies, or nuts in fancy tins. This armoire was a source of wonder to me, and although it contained an old-fashioned key, it was never locked.
my grandmother's armoire looked a little like this
(this armoire reminds me of the one my grandmother had)
That little room is long gone. My aunt Barbara, who took over the house after my grandfather died, completely renovated it to accommodate her own family. The little sitting room became one big living room when they knocked down a wall. 
But the armoire didn’t vanish into an antique market. It was moved with my grandmother to a new apartment where she lives to this day (at 91, no less!).
As a child I spent much time at my grandparents’ house. My sister, my brother and I grew up in apartments, so having access to a house, with an attic (!) and a garden (!) and a garage (!) was a wonderful thing for us kids. There was a balcony, a tiny pond, flowers, and a small lawn-bowling alley (on a dirt path beside the house).
And there was the wooden armoire in the sitting room.
As a child growing up in Switzerland, I had access to good quality chocolate and baked goods all the time. These treats were enjoyed regularly, but not daily. No one in my family is obese or unhealthy. Treats were considered just that, treats, something to enjoy with an afternoon tea or coffee, at a birthday celebration, or occasionally when the mood strikes.
My grandmother’s armoire contained those treats, in painted tins and boxes. It was a source of wonder for a child of 6 or 7. I liked that armoire!
Today, I see my own child open my glass-doored Billy bookcase from Ikea with the same sort of wonder. Sure, it’s not an armoire, but he doesn’t know that. What he knows is that inside the bookcase, behind the glass doors, inside a special basket, are heart-shaped Swiss chocolates and special cookies which we sometimes enjoy with tea.
Benjamin knows very well that those treats aren’t for everyday consumption. And he is a trustworthy child; I doubt that he would go into the basket and consume the treats without asking me first. Sonja, on the other hand, can’t be trusted at all. At 16 months, she opens everything all the time and tries out anything she can get her hands on.
Billy bookcases don’t come with keys. But the handle on the glass door is too tall for her to reach, and a simple elastic band keeps the doors “locked”.
It’s amazing to me how such an ordinary thing, like a bookcase with a basket full of treats, can bring back a flood of memories from my own childhood.