Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: When the kids teach mom a lesson in positive thinking

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 3/14/2014

Diane Stark usually loved her kids’ days off from school, but this day she was hopelessly behind on household chores, there was no food in the kitchen, and the house was a mess. She also had two articles due. She couldn’t provide the day of fun and games her kids wanted.

It turned out Diane was not exactly right, as she explained in our positive thinking book in her story “It’s in the Little Things.” When her kids came down for breakfast, Diane scavenged for suitable food: There was no milk, no eggs, no frozen waffles. As she rummaged in the freezer, she found some frozen biscuits. They would have to do. She sprinkled cinnamon on them, threw them in the oven and hoped her kids wouldn’t complain.

Diane Stark usually loved her kids’ days off from school, but this day she was hopelessly behind on household chores, there was no food in the kitchen, and the house was a mess. She also had two articles due. She couldn’t provide the day of fun and games her kids wanted.

It turned out Diane was not exactly right, as she explained in our positive thinking book in her story “It’s in the Little Things.” When her kids came down for breakfast, Diane scavenged for suitable food: There was no milk, no eggs, no frozen waffles. As she rummaged in the freezer, she found some frozen biscuits. They would have to do. She sprinkled cinnamon on them, threw them in the oven and hoped her kids wouldn’t complain.

Later, when she was working on her articles, her daughter asked if she could play a game. Diane didn’t have time, but her daughter looked so disappointed she suggested they play “beauty shop,” one of her daughter’s favorites, while Diane continued working. “So I got my article done and my toenails painted at the same time,” Diane wrote.

Diane didn’t have time to make lunch, so her oldest son offered to cook for his siblings. Later she took all the kids grocery shopping. At the store they collected coupons, and back home they used them to “buy” all the groceries again.

When Diane’s husband got home, he asked everyone how the day off had been. Before Diane could explain that she’d had to work and do chores all day, her kids cut her off. “Daddy, did you see Mommy’s toenails?” her daughter asked. Austin, the oldest, chimed in: “We had the best breakfast today.” Diane’s two middle kids excitedly told their dad about the coupon game they’d made up.

Diane was stunned. She thought the day had been a dud. “You guys really had a good day?” she asked. “Life is only as fun as you make it, Mom,” Austin said. Diane simply nodded, in that way we sometimes do when our kids open our eyes to what should be obvious but sometimes isn’t.

•••

When I brought my baby daughter home from the hospital 25 years ago, my 2-year-old son Mike was thrilled. He had even integrated a toy baby doll into his stash of trucks, trains and blocks in preparation for this live one. He paid close attention to Ella for the first couple of years of her life, but then appeared to lose interest. One day, as I pointed out the hospital where she had been born as we drove past, Mike innocently asked, “Can we return her now?” When I pointed out that he would miss all the fun playtime they had together, he confidently explained that I would set up more play dates for him with his friends.

I was reminded of this story, which has become a part of our family lore, when I read Ritu Shannon’s story “Big Sister,” in our book on parenthood. In Ritu’s case, her older child didn’t want to return the baby. In fact, she was horrified at the thought of losing her little brother.

Shortly after giving birth to a boy, her second child, Ritu was on the phone with her mother. Her mother wanted to know if that was it. “Are you sure you are done having babies?” she asked, practically pleading for more grandchildren. “Yes, Mom. I think Keegan is it — I don’t want another baby.” At this, Ritu’s daughter snapped to attention, but Ritu didn’t think much of it. Her mother kept prying, and finally Ritu turned to her daughter and said: “Priya, would you like another baby brother or sister?”

“All of a sudden, her lip started to quiver and Priya began to cry,” Ritu wrote. “I don’t want another baby — I want to keep Keegan!” she wailed. Ritu and her mother erupted in laughter. So did I when I read this.

Mike and Ella are as close as can be now, but he certainly didn’t feel the same way as Priya when he was first forced to share his parents’ love and attention with a new invader. I still laugh when I tell the story about our drive past the hospital.

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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