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  • No need to give up on the "American Dream"

    I read an article today discussing whether or not the “American Dream” is dead. I think not.

    The article doesn’t actually define the “American Dream,” acknowledging that there isn’t one set definition. But it asserts that a key component is the idea that your children will have a better life than you do.

    And I think that’s where a lot of us went wrong.

    Our parents worked hard, and if yours were like mine, they gave you a pretty comfortable life.

    I have to admit that when I graduated from college and had to take care of myself for the first time, I had a hard time downgrading my lifestyle. No one had actually told me it would happen, so it didn’t seem obvious at first that I could no longer have what I wanted, when I wanted it. It’s not that I thought I should be able to afford a fancy apartment or car right off the bat, but I did want money to go out with my friends all the time.

    It wasn’t until after I’d graduated from law school that I learned that my situation was normal: Our standard of living is supposed to go down when we leave home.

    Fortunately, I’d been taught fairly well. Except for student loans and a car loan, I didn’t have any debt. Specifically, I didn’t have any credit card debt. I was level-headed enough not to borrow money to go on vacation with my friends and to not spend crazy amounts of money at night clubs. And my car loan was manageable.

    Looking back, I wish I’d known then what I know now. I could have graduated with just two-thirds of my student loan debt if I’d actually lived frugally instead of just barely within my means.

    But because I didn’t have credit card debt and because I had a good job after law school, it didn’t take me that long to build up to a comfortable lifestyle – with Marc, of course, since we’ve been partners since then.

    Part of the current economic crisis is the result of people my age, give or take ten years, who felt they were entitled to a certain lifestyle regardless of their income. They didn’t realize, or weren’t willing to accept, that their standard of living ought to be commensurate with the amount of money they brought in.

    It’s hard to lay blame on any one group, but it’s easy to start with parents. It’s our job to make sure our children understand responsibility of all kinds. And it’s never too early to start teaching financial responsibility.

    Mommy needs a thicker skin in order to feed her children properly

    One wonderful things about young kids is that they’re so honest.

    One terrible, horrible thing about young kids is that they’re so honest. They’re also picky.

    I made our favorite bolognese sauce the other night, with alphabet-shaped pasta from Trader Joe’s. I was excited to serve it to the kids because I knew they’d love it.

    I couldn’t have been more wrong.

    Both decided without even trying it that they didn’t like it. I could reason with/threaten almost-four-year-old Alex to at least take a bite, although of course that didn’t change his mind (it so rarely does – but occasionally, it works). Tyler wouldn’t even take a bite.

    I was crushed. I always am when I prepare a meal that I think is going to be well-received, only to have it rejected.

    This is why the kids’ meals end up being a rotation of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, pizza, and grilled cheese, and why Marc and I don’t eat much better than that.

    Because I can’t take the rejection.

    After a couple of weeks of nothing but the previously mentioned food groups, I start to feel guilty so I make more of an effort to vary everyone’s meals.

    But then everything gets rejected, so I get hurt and revert back to the trusty kid fare.

    The problem is, it’s not healthy. And I’m a foodie, so it’s important for me to raise kids who know good food and want to eat it, even if it’s something they’ve never had before.

    Every expert says that picky eaters need to be constantly offered new foods, and that rejected foods need to be offered over and over again. But it’s hard to handle that rejection. I obviously need a thicker skin. Am I the only one who feels this way?

    Parenting an only child

    There is a lovely guest post at Rocks in my Dryer about parenting an only child. I’m an only child myself, and I can’t help but wonder if my mom had these feelings. (Mom?)

    From my own perspective, as an only child who always wanted a sibling, I am very happy to have two kids of my own. (Although I must admit that I had a very privileged childhood because I was the only child.) But I am glad that my children will have someone who understands how horrible Mom and Dad are (I am so not looking forward to the teen years). And I’m especially grateful that they’ll always have each other – my greatest fear during my teens until I got married was that if something happened to my parents, I would be alone in the world.

    Still, as an only child, and as a woman who suffered two miscarriages before Alex was born, I’ve never had a negative feeling toward parents with only one child. My first inclination is to think that perhaps they couldn’t have a second child. And I have friends who’ve decided that one child completes their family, and it’s the right decision for them.

    What are your thoughts on “onlys”?

    Desperately Seeking . . . Witching Hour Advice

    I think most families have a “witching hour” during which the kids become rather unmanageable. And for most families, the witching hour seems to be before dinner, and much of the advice on the topic involves getting dinner on the table faster.

    In our case, however, the witching hour happens after dinner, when I’m cleaning the kitchen and the kids are bursting with energy. No matter what Marc does to engage them, we always seem to end up with two little boys who won’t follow a single instruction. Unfortunately, we live in a townhouse and don’t have a yard, otherwise it would probably be a simple matter of opening the back door and letting them loose.

    We have considered putting the dishes off until the boys are in bed, but that would mean that by the time I have washed the dishes, prepped food for the next day, and exercised, it would be after 9:00. I’d still have blogging-related work to do, and even the bare minimum takes 20 to 30 minutes. And since I like to shower at night, it would after 10:00 by the time I got in bed. The alarm goes off at 5:00, so this schedule leaves absolutely no couple time for Marc and me, which is unacceptable.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? I love my two little boys, but they more than a handful sometimes! Thanks!

    The hardest part is letting go . . . and my oldest is only three!

    I don’t know how I’m going to make it through to my kids’ adulthood when I’m already having trouble letting go. The first incident happened when we were out this weekend. Tyler tripped and bit into his bottom lip, resulting in a little bit of bleeding. He cried for a few minutes, and then was his usual cheery self. I, on the other hand, found myself reluctant to put him down. As I fought the urge to resist his efforts to climb out of my arms, I thought to myself, It’s not as if I can keep him from walking for the rest of his life! But for a brief moment there, I was tempted.

    The second incident happened today at Alex’s preschool, when I overheard another boy telling him he was a baby and Alex objected that he wasn’t. I had to stifle the impulse to tell the other boy in no uncertain terms not to call my son a baby. By the time I had finished what I was doing and walked over to Alex, the conversation had moved on.

    There is nothing I can do to stop my sons from growing up. Nor do I want to. My greatest desire for them is that they grow up to be independent, confident, content men who can take care of themselves. And that’ll never happen if Mommy is always interfering.

    But I am picturing a little nerve center in my brain that fires, however briefly, whenever something happens to my children. It sends out a signal that says, “Protect them at all costs!” And there’s no way for me to stop the signal from being sent, I can only decide whether I am going to obey and step in, or fight the urge until it passes.

    Does anybody else have the same little nerve center in their brain? Please tell me I’m not the only one!

    Sleep is a lot like cash – or at least, it should be

    When you think about it, sleep is a lot like cash – at least to parents. I was thinking about this last night at about 10:30, when Tyler was screaming in his crib. This is unusual for him, which is why I was up with him.

    And thinking about needing an emergency sleep fund.

    You see, before Alex was born, I thought I couldn’t possibly function on less than 8 hours of sleep every night. The knowledge that I would have to survive on less than that was one of the things that scared me most when I was pregnant with him. And yet, about a year after he was born, I found that I could comfortably live on 7 hours per night.

    And then we had Tyler. Sometime before Tyler’s first birthday, I started getting 6 to 6 1/2 hours of sleep every night. And you know what? It was actually okay. It turns out that I, who once thought I needed a solid 8 hours of sleep each night, can actually get by on 6 to 6 1/2. To put that in perspective, we’re talking 10 1/2 to 14 fewer hours of sleep each week, and more than 546 fewer hours of sleep each year. But I need that time to get things done (like writing this post!).

    And normally that’s fine. I get my 6 to 6 1/2 hours of sleep and I’m fully functional the next day.

    But if I don’t get my minimum 6 hours of sleep, I’m a mess. Today was awful, because I lost more than an hour last night patting Tyler and resting my hand on his back so that Alex could go back to sleep and Tyler would get some rest (it was one of those times when as soon as I moved my hand away, he started screaming again).

    And that’s why I need an emergency sleep fund. I want to be able to make a deposit here or there, let it build up, and then be able to make a withdrawal when I need it. Can someone start working on a sleep bank for me?