Sunday, March 17, 2013

Where Being Cheap meets Birthday Dreams

Trying to decide whether or not to buy Linden an American Girl doll for her upcoming birthday.  Her best friend/neighbor has one, and her cousin has one.  My nieces had them, fifteen years or more ago.  It's hard to see paying over a hundred bucks for a doll.  We looked on Craigslist, but a) it's also hard to see paying eighty bucks for a doll, and b) if you ARE going to pay an outrageous amount of money for a doll, you may as well splurge and get your little girl her own brand new doll. 

Or not.  They come with all this additional pressure to spend ridiculous amounts of money.  Our niece took hers to Seattle, and got her hair done.  For fifty dollars.  I pay $15 for a haircut; there is no way in HELL I am paying more for a doll's hairstyle.  The neighbor girl is taking hers to Seattle over spring break to get her ears pierced.  ($40).  I was tempted to say, "Just stick a straight pin into her head, like I did when I was a kid," but her dad was standing right there.  You're probably not supposed to stick pins into hundred dollar dolls.  (Not to mention the whole trip-to-Seattle thing.  It's a driveable distance for us, obvoiusly, but we'd have to get a hotel, eat out, etc.  This becomes a lot of money to spend on glamorizing a doll.) 

From my tone, you'd think the decision would be obvious.  But I loved my dolls when I was a girl.  And my parents bought me three Madame Alexander dolls over the years, which were the 1970's expensive doll.  So there's part of me that just as a mom wants to get her this special treat.  Add into that this nagging feeling of knowing how much she's missed out on in her childhood.  There are so many things her friend and her cousin take for granted that she didn't get. Most are not things, of course, but I can't escape the (irrational) feeling that if I can get her this one special thing, it will--not make it up, but at least give her one less thing to feel the lack of. 

It doesn't help that Oak is totally consumed with consumption.  He wants to buy, buy, buy, all the time, and he has no recognition of how that momentary buyer's high never lasts.  We give them a small allowance, divided into save, spend, and share money.  Every week he takes his $2 spending money and blows it at the Dollar Store, on two pieces of plastic crap.  A few items wind up being actually played with over time, but most wind up scattered under his bed, traded away on the schoolbus, or broken, if not actually defective upon opening.  It makes me feel like the splurges or carefully thought out gifts aren't seen as significant, because it all gets lost in a blur of "Okay, NOW I want to get THIS!"  Linden isn't quite as caught up as he is--she tags along and blows her allowance too, but unlike Oak, she doesn't pine for items that aren't directly in front of her face.  The American Girl doll is one of the few things she's talked about repeatedly, which makes me lean towards getting it for her.

Then again, she's talked about plans for her birthday party for the last six months, and her ideas include a skating party, a Barbie cake, a pinata, balloons, and I don't remember what all else.  This is not in the "We could do this, or we could do that" frame of mind, either.  She is hoping for ALL these things.  Again, as a child of the '70s who hasn't had to attend many modern children's parties, I say have a couple of friends over, serve homemade cake, play tag in the back yard, open some gifts, and send everyone home.  I thought it was cool if my mom let me pick out matching paper plates and napkins.  And this birthday, the first kids' birthday our family has had, will set the tone.  While I may well be willing to take kids skating, or hiking, or even have a slumber party ON OCCASION, I don't want the expectation to be the kind of highly organized, highly expensive, "rent a pony and a clown" kind of event that Linden is not-so-secretly hoping for.  I have taken to telling her, when she starts talking American Girl Doll (or American Doll Girl, as she says), that IF we are able to afford that kind of doll, it will limit the kind of party she can have.  Maybe I need to sit her down and say--skating party and small gift?  Or AGD and have some friends over to play at our house? 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Damned if you do...

It is so hard for me when people assume that the kids have been home for 8 months now, and they look awfully darn cute, and their English has really come along, so we must all be adjusted and just enjoying ourselves so much.  It makes me want to tell them about how often we get calls and emails from the school about Oak's behavior, and about how irrationally angry I get at Linden over really weird things, and about how concerned I remain about FAS spectrum issues, and how many times a week some combination of us visits our therapist, and how the only reason I'm not on medication is because I'm too ashamed to tell my doctor how enraged I get, and how we just passed the two year anniversary of their sister's death and...

Then there are the people who say, "Oh, that is so KIND of you, you guys are so WONDERFUL for doing this for those poor kids," and I snap back something about how lucky we are to have them, how they created our family for us.

The other night I got something about how sometimes misfortune turns into good fortune.  I was so creeped out by the notion that the happiness (yes, despite the truth of the first paragraph, there is much joy) of having these kids in our family is worth the misery that they and their first family went through that I just drifted away from the person talking before they were done.  It was a large party. I don't think it was all that obvoius.  Actually, I don't really care.

Basically, I don't want anyone to say anything about it.  But if you act like the parenting we're doing is exactly the same as the parenting you do for your bio kids, that annoys me too.

I think these are the things people have said that felt right:

My mother-in-law, whom the kids mooned and threw apples at the first time they met, said, "I've been thinking a lot, and I think my job is just to love all of you without worrying about trying to change anything."

My sister, who has talked a lot to my other sister, who dropped out of our family for a decade after adopting a domestic sibling group, said, "Parenting is the hardest job anyone does, and you are doing it under especially difficult circumstances.  Stop judging yourself.  You're doing fine."

My third sister called me the day after Christmas and said, "It seemed like you were kind of stressed about the kids yesterday.  They were delightful.  I just want you to know that we all see how great they are, even though we know you guys have a lot to deal with."

I guess if you're not family, you're best off just hitting "like" on our facebook photos and leaving it at that.