Thursday, September 1, 2011

Walking home from the Old North School

When I was in elementary school, I often walked home for lunch. Sometimes my dad accompanied me because he was a teacher at my school. When I was alone I usually read a book as I walked. It is a wonder I didn't kill myself tripping over something. I always stopped reading at intersections and I had one eye on the book and one on my surroundings, supposedly. I repeated this exercise after school but there was much more company on the sidewalks after school.

One day, while walking home after school, I realized that I had to go to the bathroom so bad that I couldn't make it all the way home. I decided to stop at a neighbor's house. Beth Moulton quickly answered her door (thank goodness). She was dressed in paint covered clothes and wore a scarf covering her hair. She was holding a paint brush. Panicked, I asked her if she was painting her bathroom. She laughed and said, "No, I'm painting my basement."
I sighed with relief and said, "Good! I'll never make it home to my bathroom. Can I use yours?"
She opened the door and let me run inside. I could hear her chuckling heartily as I sprinted past her. There was never a time that I saw Beth in the last few years of her life without her recalling that day and laughing once again at the memory.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Walter Seiter was one of my first church leaders growing up. He had 10 children who were good kids. My mother asked him once how you get children to learn to share with other children. He answered confidently that you just have more children. He didn't elaborate, he just said it matter-of-factly. I've heard lots of theories about family dynamics and the part birth-order plays in a child's life. But, each child gains coping skills unique to themselves that helps them in differing ways to adapt to society.

Whitney is my oldest child. She has a keen mind and reasons well. She had only about 16 months of being an only child. She didn't have time to develop too much selfishness before Cassie came along to share my time and Whitney's toys.

Speaking of toys, we came from an era where toys were not widely available in the stores except at Christmas time. There were five and dime stores that had little toys like cars, bouncy balls, rubber snakes, rubber punch balls, toy soldiers, slinkys, etc. But, baby dolls, barbies, tonka trucks, etc. came out about Thanksgiving time. We loved getting the Sears Christmas Wish Book catalog. What fun it was to choose the toys you wanted for Christmas. So, we rarely bought toys for our kids anytime but Christmas.

The fun part about that is that we got the kids each a toy or two of their own and then the rest of the toys were basically designed to be shared. If we knew the toy wasn't shareable, we made sure each child had something very comparable so they wouldn't fight. One year we got Cassie a little bald baby doll and Whitney got a pretty little baby doll with black hair. Tragedy struck when Whitney liked Cassie's doll better. Whitney enjoyed the other toys but blatantly ignored her baby. No amount of praise for the doll swayed her disdain for the doll.

The neighbor girl, Dena Groff, came down to see what the kids had received from Santa and took one look at Whitney's doll and fell in love. She couldn't figure out why Whitney didn't love it. Dena said, "I've got a doll like Cassie's except she has a blue dress." Cassie's was pink. I said, "Dena, do you like Whitney's doll well enough that you'd like to trade your blue doll for Whitney's doll." She was aghast at the suggestion. She said enthusiastically, "Of course!" Whitney's doll was a much more expensive doll. Off she went to bring her old doll over to the house. Whitney grabbed the bald little doll and hugged it and hugged it and never even looked back as Dena carried her new baby off to her house feeling like she won the lottery. I learned then that you can never go wrong if you buy the exact thing for two close-in-age children.

One year, I found two Cabbage patch kids that looked alike to me. When Cassie found that hers had a tuft of hair under the bonnet, she was deflated. Whitney's was bald. So, she slipped into the bathroom one day and shaved it off. She wasn't delighted with the result but she was happier knowing that it was closer to perfection. Babies in our family didn't have hair! Anyone knows that!

Whitney and Cassie played pretty well together. The oldest child has the advantage over the younger for a little while because of age until the second child learns how to deal with the advantage. The second one learns to refuse to do the thing the older one wants to do (even if he/she really would like to play). That causes the older child to have to bargain with the younger one and the playing field gets evened out.

Whitney and Cassie played school. Whitney was always the teacher and Cassie was always the student with no authority. Cassie refused to play, choosing to make Whitney teach her dolls. This brought on tears for Whitney. Cassie got this smug little look on her face that said, "I won!" Mom was brought into the picture and I assessed the situation by asking lots of questions from each child without showing any bias. Then I tried to get each one to see the other's point of view and a compromise was struck by allowing Cassie to be the teacher first and then Whitney would get to be the teacher next. Both were mostly happy but sharing occurred. In most cases tears were my signal to intervene. If the mother doesn't intervene...often the second child begins to take over control by tormenting the older child; refusing to cooperate in ANY activity and teasing incessantly.