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Speak Gently to Your Kids

(c) 2004 by Cheryl Williams Levey,

I write this just after my kids crashed from their sugar high after trick or treating on Halloween, but the points raised here apply to any time of year, particularly the holiday season, when stores are crowded and stress levels are high.

I have to admit that before I had kids, Halloween wasn't a big deal - it usually meant a night out at a club watching bands play and some of the more fun-loving of us would dress up : ) Yes, yours truly has dressed up as everything from a leopard (oh the days when I could wear spandex in public!) to Peg Bundy (yeah, I wore a lot of spandex!)

Nowadays, the week before Halloween has become a wonderful time of decorating the house, letting the kids try on their costumes, making treats and carving pumpkins. Life is so cool.

I have to mention one thing, though. See, I do almost all of my shopping at home on the computer. I have never cared much for shopping (just ask my mom!) and I LOVE being able to shop around online, compare prices and options, and even find great stuff I'd never even think of and have absolutely no prayer of finding locally. With some things, I'll find it online and then go look at it "in person," but for most things, I feel pretty comfortable just ordering online. I love having everything delivered right to me - usually within just a few days. It's really pretty sweet. For me, the cost of shipping is way less than the cost of the gas I'd spend trying to find the right things. Not to mention the time I lose that I could be spending on other stuff like playing with my kids. Oh, and I also save a LOT of money by not taking my kids to do any shopping! (Yes, I'm a big softie when they want stuff - but I'll usually only get something little, like a new plastic ball or something, but it does add up!)

I do try to order stuff early just in case I need to return anything, but I honestly have never had to return anything. Once in a great while, something will take longer to arrive and if I complain, the company will usually do something nice in order to keep my business.

Anyway, there is a reason I bring all of that up and I'll get to it!

We got out all our Halloween stuff - including the new stuff I had ordered online : ) - and decorated the house. My son wanted some additional fake tombstones to put in our front yard, so after school one day, we headed over to our local party store.

Now, it was only a few days before Halloween, and it was a tad crazy there, to put it mildly! What we wanted they didn't even have, but we picked out a couple of other things since we were there anyway. It was extremely crowded with excited kids and short-tempered parents who had waited until the last minute to think about Halloween.

Four times, four different parents yelled at their kids to get out of the way of my cart, and four times I told the kid - and angry parent - that it was ok, I understand that they don't see me yet. I was thinking to myself that the parents need to lighten up on their kids! I mean, these kids are all excited trying to pick out their costumes and the parents are all ticked off because the kid (of course) doesn't want to just grab the first thing and get out of there. And they are all looking at me like I'm insane because I'm actually having fun with my kids and laughing at some of the decorations and props, not to mention the antics of my sons. (They are so funny, trying on hats and masks and trying to scare each other!)

Now, I have gotten irritated with my kids in stores at times, but two of those parents were so nasty to their kids I could hardly believe my ears. Makes you wonder what goes on at home behind closed doors, you know?

But then, I'm pretty insulated from stuff like that because I try to avoid those kinds of stressful situations by shopping from home ahead of time!

I bring this trip to the party store up for two reasons - one worth mentioning, one important.

The "worth mentioning" one is that preparing ahead can really lower the stress level. Around October 1, I gave my older son a catalog of costumes and asked him to pick the one he wanted. (My other son is still too little to care.) For two weeks, he wanted to be something different every day. He pored over that catalog - which had more to choose from than any local store - and studied every page over and over. It was pretty funny. He even took it in the car with him to look at when we drove places!

About the middle of the month, I told him that today was the day I was ordering, so what was his final decision? He went back and forth a few more times and finally decided on a Power Rangers costume. I ordered it, a few days later it arrived along with his brother's costume (Scooby Doo), and they were both ecstatic - they just love getting stuff in the mail (an added benefit to shopping from home).

And all of it was totally stress free while also allowing my son however much time he needed to know his options and choose wisely.

The other reason - the important reason - I brought the party store experience up is the kids who were yelled at. I know I'm not perfect and there are moments when I probably sound a little mean to my kids - but not like what I heard in that store.

Is our society so stressed out that we are angry at having to do little things like take our kids to get a costume? Are we in such a frenzy in our lives that anything extra to do is a source of stress and tension? Is doing this for our kids really that hard?

I hope all parents (including me) can remember to think before we speak and can talk to our kids gently - both showing our love for them and also showing them the right way to act themselves.


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