If you can't make it better you can laugh at it. ~Erma Bombeck


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Damama's Use It or Lose It Advice: Family ties are built, not born.

"No I didn't. You're just a poopy head sore loser."
"MOOOOOOM!!!!!! He called me a poopy head!!!"
"He called me a cheater!"
"You ARE a cheater!!"
"Well you ARE a poopy head!!"

Sound familiar? When my boys were little that was how nearly every game between them ended. Being young and dumb, I attributed it to normal kid behavior that I could do nothing more about than to put up the game and make them go do something else. Separately. As hard as I tried, I could never really get them to play nicely together. Now, looking back, I realize that there was one key ingredient missing from their playtime: Me.

Don't get me wrong, my kids weren't neglected in either the legal or the moral sense of the word. They were clothed, fed, educated, disciplined, hugged up, smooched on, and told every day of their lives how very much I loved and cherished them. I just never knew that I really need to play with them, too. And that makes me sad - for them and for myself.

I think I've mentioned before that I was adopted at the age of 10. Prior to that, I'd pretty much raised a younger brother on my own because my biological mother was an alcoholic prostitute who usually only came home when she had “work” to do, or she needed to sleep off a bender. Having become a mommy at the tender age of about 3, I missed out on those very important early developmental stages of my childhood. I didn't experience the joy of having a mother to play with, so when I had children of my own I had nothing on which to base that part of their raising.

Until they were around 10 or 11, I really didn't know how to relate to them. By the time I finally started figuring it out, they didn't want to play with me. I was MOM, for cryin’ out loud – not somebody to have fun with! It hurt me deeply when they'd come home laughing about all the great times they'd had at so-and-so's house; how that person's mother was so fun and cool. The first time one of them referred to a friend's mother as "mom" it broke my heart. I just didn't understand why my house wasn't a fun place to bring their friends to play. I didn’t realize until years later that I hadn't set myself up as someone who was fun to play with, so they found more enjoyment in others.

And the saddest part of the whole saga is that by me not playing with them, they never learned to play with each other. I didn’t know how to help them be close because, again, thanks to my own upbringing, I’d never been close to a sibling as a playmate. I was adopted as an only child, so I didn’t have any brothers and sisters to play with. I never learned that lesson that larger sibling groups are taught: get along, play nice, or else. And because I didn’t know, I couldn’t teach.

My guys were very different types of boys from the get-go. Bug was the brainy kid. Twig was the brawny one. Bug wanted to be inside reading, doing puzzles, or playing computer games. Twig loved anything outdoors and could jack a ball off a t-ball stand over a two-story house by the time he was 5. My thought process revolved around allowing them to be their own person. After all, you can’t MAKE people like each other, even if they are brothers. And since they had nothing in common, I thought it was best to just let them do their own thing.

That’s a great idea for building strong, independent, self-sufficient men, but a rotten idea for building strong, connected, close-knit families. No, you can’t MAKE people like each other. But how will they know whether they actually like each other if they don’t ever truly get to KNOW each other? And the only way to really get to know someone is to spend time with them. And for kids, a big part of that has to be parent-involved play time.

Looking at life from the far side of Hill Five-O has given me a whole different perspective on things. I wish I’d spent more time thinking about how to build relationships and less time worrying about how to build wealth. I understand more about the need to slow down and make memories as well as hurrying up to making dinner.

How about you? When was the last time you had fun with your children? About now you may be thinking that that means stopping everything else and focusing 100% of your attention on them. Well, sometimes it does. And those times are important. But those day-to-day fun ops are so much more important. Those times when you have them together and can turn some everyday moments into Wow, whattaday! memories. For each family those opportunities are different. You have to be creative and attentive if you are going to find them. It could be something as simple as letting them fold their breakfast napkins into hats or as elaborate as a Super Bowl party that includes you throwing all the normal rules out the window and just having fun.

One of the coolest examples of these kinds of fun-teaching, memory-building, bond-strengthening games I’ve ever seen is the Dessert Game that Allison over at A Mom Thing has devised. In her words, they have used this game to teach their kids... “To share and help each other out. To have fun no matter what...And to realize that oftentimes the gamble just isn't worth it.”

I have a feeling that Allison’s kids will be close in a way that mine never will. Please don’t be like me and reach this stage in life with regrets born of ignorance. Now that you know, you must act like you know. SO GO PLAY!

Peace, Blessings, and Strong Bonds to all.


  1. HI! I'm putting this here because the heading is so long that it will cover up the first commment. Might as well be something stupid anyway! LOL! Thanks for popping in!

  2. Such good advice. I was way too hard on my eldest, and now, I don't think I'm hard enough on my youngest (15), but I sure do have fun with her.

    My eldest still loves me, but I do wish I had done more fun things with her.

    Somehow, my two girls are extremely close, even though they were 8 years apart.

    They used to do most everything together, even chores. Now, Aims spends almost all her summer vacation with my eldest. Isn't that cool. Well, no it isn't... I miss her so much when she's away. After about a month, I start missing her so much I cry. (At least the last 2 years have been that way.)

    So go on, let the kids have fun and have fun playing with them.

  3. Rosebud - finding that balance is so hard! Be glad your girls get along. I'm not sure my boys ever will. But at least I've become friends with both boys. Ahem.. men. The 16-1/2 yr old is another story, though! LOL! It will come.

    Now you get to sleep young lady! You can't heal properly without enough rest! ;o) TTFN

  4. Oh, your blog made me weep for you. Hopefully, with time, your boys will grow closer.

    Thank you for your wise words. I'm going to go and kiss my boys right now. And maybe play a game or two tomorrow.

    And see below? I'm using your code to link. Thanks D. Hugs to you.

    Just Because

  5. Your comment to keep a comment from getting covered cracked me up! Great idea!

    That's actually one of the things I worry about with Little Miss. She is so content to play by herself (that independent streak runs deep), that I know I don't play with her enough. I need to figure out how to get in there when she's talking to her babies.

  6. I just got yelled at for interrupting playtime. "Everybody's sleeping! Shhh! Go away!"

  7. HaHa! Yesterday, I played so many games of Tic-Tac-Toe and "Connect Four" with Puppy Dog that I don't even want to see the game played in a long, long while. He kept coming to me with his doodle board and I kept remembering my husband's advice that we needed to remember to have fun with the kids, too. Seems there is a theme going around.

    Have you ever tried to play "Connect Four" drawn on a doodle board with a five-year-old before? He actually remembered not to "suspend" his "checkers" most of the time. I think we're going to have to get a new Connect Four game. Our last one got torn up. and yes, the introduction of the "C.F." was to give me a break from the "T-T-T".

    Then Baby Bear brought his board ...

  8. You must have hit me with your brainwaves, since we just began implementing the Family Cohesion Strategic Plan! You're so wise, Damama; what would I do without you?

    My husband recently got some similarly amazing advice: "You have to court your children, woo them, make them want to spend their time with you instead of with their friends."

    All of these messages coming together at once. Coincidence? Hmm. I think not.

    I'm getting up from my computer and going to find a few of 'em RIGHT NOW.

  9. Jules - My fervent prayer is that it doesn't take my illness ... or worse... to get them together. And thank you for caring, but no need to weep for me. Thanks to Cheryl, it's all just a sad part of the history that made me who I am. And I kind of like me now. ;o)

    Glad the link code thing worked for you. Enjoy your day with your little guys.
    Burgh Mom - I don't think you need to worry so much since she's an only. She will be who she's going to be, for the most part. And lucky you, you will always be a special part of her life. But I have another post on growing up as an only that you may want to watch for. ;o)

    Regarding playtime with her - Try getting a "baby" of your own and ask if she will help you take care of it. She can be your daycare worker, and you can come and visit and take the baby "home," and ask advice about how to best care for it. I'm betting she'd get into that kind of thing.

    Let us know if you decide to try it.

    As always - Thanks, so much, for stopping by. With all your new-found popularity, I'm honored that you'd take the time. xoxoxo
    Brandi - Your kids play so well together that I don't thing you will ever have that problem. Mostly because you spend so much time doing things they enjoy with them. That reading thing y'all do is so cool. They are lucky kiddos, indeed.
    Kalynne - Isn't it amazing how God works. When He REALLY wants to get a message through, He can get real creative on how He bombards us with it! LOL! Good thing you were listening.

    If you have time, be sure to come back and let us know what kinds of games you find to play with them. I'm sure others could benefit.

    THANK YOU ALL FOR STOPPING BY. You honor me with your presence. TTFN!

  10. I have my share of regrets - there just never seemed to be enough TIME! - but they've worked out quite well. The big benefit of having five was that whoever had fallen out with whoever, there was almost always someone to share with. Anyone who felt left out in any way used to come and "help" me a lot. They weren't in school, even before we went to the island, so they had to learn to get on with eachother - and with me!

  11. LOVE your advice and agree with it whole heartedly. We try so hard to spend some time together as a family each and every night and to play or read or color or just sit around and talk. I am fortunate in that my 2 are very close in age and are very close to each other.

    Busy Boy and I are going to a swim birthday party next Sunday (heaven help me...me in a swim suit in public!) and I was telling Bug it would be just her and her dad. She immediately asked if a friend could come over because "even having an annoying brother around to play with is better than playing by myself!" So, they are close and have fun playing even if they do spend half a day fighting!

    Thanks for the reminder. I am going to re-read this one often.

  12. "Now that you know, you must act like you know."

    Sounds like very good motherly advice! (which you always seem to have and that's why I love coming here)

  13. "Now that you know, you must act like you know."

    Sounds like very good motherly advice! (which you always seem to have and that's why I love coming here)

  14. Dragonstar - I think having regrets comes with being a human parent person. The only people who have no regrets are those who have done nothing!

    I've wondered if this lack of bonding thing is something that happens more in smaller sibling groups than it does in large ones. It would be interesting to read some studies on it. May have to go searching for some.

    I still think that your familie's adventures on the island would make a wonderful book/movie! I know I'd sure buy it!
    Kelly - thanks! I'm so glad to see you back. It's been a while. And I'm sorry I've been missing your stuff, too. LIfe is crazy! I'll be over soon to catch up.
    AZ - It sounds like your family is building some really great bonds and memories. Keep up the good work, Mom!
    Michelle - Unfortunately, I can't take credit for that saying. I heard it somewhere, but for the life of me I can't remember where.

    I'm glad you love coming here. And if anything I say rings true for you, so much the better.

    I'll be over there to catch up soon.


    Love and gratitude to you all for taking time to visit.

  15. It's nice to be linked as a "Do" and not a "Do Not". A word of note - anyone who wants more info on the streaking part of our Superbowl party can clarify by reading the post I made immediately following the one about the Superbowl. There were too many questions about the streaking not to clarify.

    Thanks for sharing something so personal about your life, and giving us the chance to learn from it. I know I took it to heart.

  16. Great advice, thanks for the reminder!


  17. I am going outside to play basketball with my kids right now!! Thanks for the great advice and reminder! You are the best


  18. Heather - OF COURSE YOU ARE ON THE *DO* LIST! DUH! ;o) Silly girl.

    Regarding the personal stuff: I truly believe that God allows us to go through hard times so that we can help others survive them, too. Glad what I shared touched your heart.
    Kathy! Hey, sweets. How ya doin'?? And you're welcome. I'll be over to see what's happening soon.
    Christina - AWWWW!! You are so sweet. Let us know how the game went!

    Thank you, ladies. You're terrific!

  19. As my Mom said , That is great advise! Yesterday I played with G-Man all day , and had a blast, I love it when he laughs so hard that he snorts, and has to catch his breath.

    What My Mom did not say in her comment, was that I lived with my grandparents until I was 9 and was treated like the queen of the world at most times, and it was not untill I was maybe 11 or 12 that I started to get along well with my sister. For the fisrst few years we faught ALOT, I even slamed her fingers in the door of of house a few times. She was the Baby and got all of the attention that I was used to getting, but then like magic we started getting along, All of my parents nagging us could never do it, we just realised that we could have fun together. When we got to be the closeset though was after I moved out.

    I really hope that your sons can have the bond that I have with Aims. The world can be crumbling around me and I know I can call my little sister and she will chear me up.

  20. Great advice.....I need to play more with my kids, instead of frantically searching the internet reading up on every procedure that Rhett is going to be having, and learning all I can.

    We play alot in the summer, but the winter we all just kind of veg out and zone in on movies.

    I guess since Christmas we have logged in at least a zillion hours on gutiar hero. That accounts for something right?

    Daktoa and Hunter are total oppisites, and the hard thing for me, is that Andy and I share the same intrests as Hunter, the athletic stuff, and Dakota is the brainy one, so it's hard to do stuff with him when the things he talks about are way over my head.

    And quite frankly I get sick of the endless discussions of Star Wars. It's also hard, as his attention span, due to his disability is only like 15 min.

    We do read together though. Mostly The Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket books.

    Chloee is easy.....we play barbies, and dolls, and Rhett usually ends up beating up the dolls while they sleep...... ;)

    Anywyas, I guess I do play iwth my kids, but I still feel like I am not doing enough by them.

  21. Thanks for the reminder. Thanks for sharing some of your personal information. I am always amazed at what I learn about people and see what and how they have been shaped.

  22. Grace - you are one of the blessed ones who has been able to overcome past issues with your sister. And you are doing a wonderful job of helping her become the woman God intends her to be. Keep standing by her and encouraging her. You will both be blessed for it.
    Pam - HONEY! With all you have going on, the fact that you take time to log guitar hero hours is wonderful!

    I had the same problem with Bug that you have with Dakota. Except with Bug it was anyting sci-fi or RPG related. He still talks over my head most of the time, but we have some wonderful conversations, too.

    Surely there is something that you could do as a group that is neutral to everyone that both Dakota and Hunter could get into? (Does Dakota like the guitar hero thing? Could the just boys do a "concert" for you? Just throwing out nonsense here now! LOL!!)

    The reading is a great thing. And who wouldn't want to play barbies with Chloee!! Well, OK, so the boys wouldn't. But do they really count in the barbieverse anyway, now do they?? ;o) LOL!

    I know you feel like you spend a lot of time devoted to Rhett, and that's OK right now, because you obviously do your best to spend time with the others, too. It doesn't hurt them to have an understanding of the fact that sometimes they just have to deal. Yours is definitely not a normal family situation, by any stretch of the imagination. So cut yourself some slack. There are times when good enough has to be enough. And from all I can see, you are doing much better than just good enough. Love ya, my friend.
    Angel - You are welcome. And, as I said to Heather earlier, God's got a plan for it all. Sometimes part of the plan in allowing our pain is us helping others handle their own. And if anyting I share ever helps just one person, then how can I be anything but grateful?


  23. Damama T, I'm trying to find my message about the Hitler poem and I can't - I'm beginning to think I left it over at Squirrel Mama's by mistake. Help! My menopausal brain is going to explode.
    (Maybe you can just e-mail me at poetikat@myway.com - to let me know you got it.)

  24. Thanks for the wonderful advice as usual! The dessert game sounds like fun too.



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