We Are Both Right

Following a One Kid/One Room Formula

©veralu/stock.xchng

In Amanda's house, siblings do not share a bedroom. How about in yours? ©veralu/stock.xchng

I can pretty much guarantee that my husband and I won’t be adding a fourth child to our brood. And while I have plenty of physical, emotional and financial reasons to keep that promise, my grounds are really driven by aesthetics.

We have three kids. We have four bedrooms in our house. We have no desire to move for the moment. Ergo, we will not be having any more children.

I understand that siblings sharing a room is hardly the end of the word, that millions (billions) do it all the time and grow up to live normal, happy existences, but for me, giving my kids their own room — a space that they can call entirely their own — is really important.

Houses are a public space. Our house isn’t tremendous and unless no one else is home, it’s rare that you find yourself alone in any room in the house (not counting the bathroom). I feel like giving kids their own room is giving them a haven. A place where their stuff stays safe, away from the prying hands and eyes of siblings; a place where they can sit and read or listen to music or just in silence; a place where they can just be alone. More importantly, their own room is also a place where they can keep their own mess and their own bedtime.

The funny thing is, I don’t think either of my older children would mind sharing a room with their younger brother at all. In fact, I think they would welcome it. When I was pregnant, we didn’t know what we were having. My son and daughter would fight with each other on whose room the baby would sleep in. Never mind that they were eight and six years older than their soon-to-be-born sibling. For them, the thought of having the baby in their room was terrific. (The baby, a boy, wound up sleeping in mine and my husband’s room for a little over a year, then we did some room swapping where we lost our office.)

Now that their baby sibling is a little brother (and one going through the toddler years at that), they still say they want to share a room with him, but their pleas are a bit less enthusiastic.

How does it work in your house? Did you share a room with a sibling when you were growing up?

While Suzanne’s kids don’t share a room, she wouldn’t mind it if they needed to.

Originally published October 3, 2011

Fifty Shades of I’ll Read Something Else

Let’s start with a fun fact, shall we?

Did you know that Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy author E.L. James originally published the work as a piece of Twilight (don’t get me started) fanfiction under the name Snowqueens Icedragon?

Book. Cover. Judged.

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One afternoon about a month ago, I was sitting at my son’s batting practice reading a book on my Nook. My daughter and 3-year-old son were home with their dad, and since me offering my child hitting advice made about as much sense as cleaning the house while my preschooler walked around with a cup of grape juice, I suddenly found myself with an entire hour of interrupted reading time. It was heavenly.

Until it wasn’t.

50 Shades of Grey? Nah, Amanda prefers color. And books without mistakes. GiniMiniGi ©/stock.xchng

Fifty Shades of Grey? Nah, Amanda prefers color. And books without mistakes. GiniMiniGi ©/stock.xchng

“Whatcha reading there, Mrs. R.?,” one of the dads asked. (It should be noted this has always been a pet peeve of mine. I’m clearly reading. Not talking. Why are you interrupting me?) In the interest of social niceties, I looked up and started to answer, but I never had a chance.

“I bet it’s that Fifty Shades book all you women are going crazy for,” he said with a smirk. “Lucky for your husband,” he added.

I started to correct him (I was actually reading the thought-provoking Defending Jacob by William Landay) but he liked the material he had imagined and wasn’t going to let facts get in the way of it. He addressed the other parents (all dads) that were in the waiting area.

“Your wives read the Fifty Shades?” he asked. “Mine did,” he said proudly. “Oh, yeah,” he added as a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, fill-in-the-blanks afterthought. (Lucky girl!)

As the other men started comparing and congratulating (!?!?) each other on the reading habits of their significant others, my inner (ha) nerd had had enough of the locker room talk. She has been a passionate, thoughtful reader since the first time she picked up a book 30-something odd years ago and was not about to let her good, hard-earned reputation be sullied by a 20-something virginal, clumsy woman and her terrible life choices.

“Actually,” she (I) said. “I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey, nor will I ever. It’s a ridiculous, poorly-written book with a laughable plot line; incompetently developed, inane characters; and questionable grammar.” (Yes, my inner nerd speaks with semi colons. She didn’t get a lot of dates in high school.) I was about to add, “And I resent that a woman can’t read a book without it being assumed that it’s that tripe,” but the group had already moved on, undoubtedly feeling sorry for my husband and what he has to live with every day. (I think I lost them with my frowny face, furrowed brow and glasses which after that rant were clearly for use and not as a “sexy librarian” prop.)

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Actually, when all the hoopla started, I had considered giving the books a go. I knew of their reputation (subject matter and proclivity for mistakes and repetition) but figured all those people and Facebook feeds couldn’t be wrong. Right? A friend stopped me before I could download the first one. She had read all three and thought they were not bad, but knew “how I was” (whatever could she mean by that?) and said that I would wind up throwing it out the window and mailing a thesaurus and a copy of Garner’s Modern American Usage to the author. I think her exact words were, “It will make you stabby.”

So I stay away from Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I realize this makes me a social oddity and a snob (an an awesome poet apparently). That’s fine. I’ll keep on keeping on. You and your inner goddess sit over there and blush and bite your lip. Again. And again. Oh my! Holy cow! Don’t forget to bite your lip! I understand 26-year-old billionaire control freaks who are into BDSM also like that. A lot! (Oh my! I’m biting my lip again!)

(WE GET IT. HE IS TURNED ON WHEN YOU BITE YOUR LIP.)

(Holy cow!)

Please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that every book read has to be a thoughtful tome discussing Important Topics. Far from it. Reading should be fun and enjoyable. A way to escape. That’s what books have always been for me. But if we are going to collectively going to go crazy over something that appears on the written page, can it at least be something that doesn’t include the phrase, “He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor Popsicle.”?

Ladies, there are some very good fiction authors out there that have strong, smart women as the lead character. Want erotic fiction with a good story? Try Judy Blume (Summer Sisters and Wifey, not Superfudge) or Penny Vincenzi. Heck, read Joan Collins! (Did I just write that? I’m probably lightheaded from Christian’s rule about no snacking between meals. Who in their right mind would agree to that? My guess? A 21-year-old college student from Seattle who doesn’t own a computer.) Now in these books, you won’t find any Red Rooms of Pain, but you will find interesting plots, complex characters and no glaring typos! Or try something on this list (Wuthering Heights! Really!).

Sigh.

Have you read any part of the Fifty Shades trilogy? Did you become obsessed? Did anything about the books bother you? Suzanne not only read the trilogy, she liked it! (And I always say she’s my most sensible friend!)

Best Part About a Kindle? No Paper Cuts

Kindle Fire © Amazon.com

My two older children each got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. So far they have been reading on them. Sort of. © Amazon.com

The myself from five  years ago would be horrified with the myself from today. While I was never one to shy away from the latest gadgets and gizmos, there was one aspect of my life that I considered tech-free and let me tell you, it was sacred.

Books.

I swore (undoubtedly on one of my many piles of tomes) that would never (EVER) read a book on one of those newfangled devices. Books weren’t just about reading, I would passionately cry. Reading is a tactile experience — books were all about hearing the page turn, smelling the ink, tripping over the stacks that I had accumulated next to my bed and behind the couch and in the sunroom.

But then I started talking to people who had e-readers and they made a convincing argument. With an e-reader, you read more, they said, because a book was always at your fingertips. No more heading out to the bookstore or the library — if you needed something to read, just fire up the device and away you go. As someone who had lapsed on my reading a bit (rotten kids) for lack of free time and lack of opportunities to actually go and get books, an e-reader sounded like a promising solution.

So I soon found myself relenting, and three Christmases ago, my husband bought me a Sony Reader. Despite it’s limitations, I was sold — totally. So much so, that for my past birthday I got a Nook Color. And it’s true, I am reading more (I’m spending more too, but that’s a story for another day).

When it came time to have the big pow-wow with Santa about what to give the kids for Christmas this past year, we were all in agreement. Nook Colors, just like their mom. I was partial to the Nook simply because it allowed you to borrow library books and share books with friends electronically. And with three people suddenly in possession of e-readers, I figured my credit card could use a break. But then Amazon announced their new Kindle Fire. It did everything the Nook Color did (including library privileges and the ability to exchange books with others) and more for $50 less. Santa’s on a budget and not brand-loyal so Kindles it was.

The kids were thrilled with their gifts, and so am I. And they are reading more. Sort of. We’ve had to come to a compromise. See, when I first got my Nook Color, the first thing I wanted to do was see what a book looked like on it. When my children opened their Kindles, they wanted to see what Angry Birds looked like. Understandable, but I keep telling them that when they were originally conceived, Kindles were strictly for reading, not for shooting birds across a landscape at some rascally pigs (hence the name e-reader and not e-save-the-pride-of-some-annoyed-animated-birds).

I got a lot of blank stares in return, so to that end, we’ve come up with plan. They are allowed to play games and stream (approved) videos on their Kindles. But for every minute they do that, they have to spend a minute reading. It’s been working well so far. My daughter has read about five books so far and my son is about halfway through The Hunger Games (a copy he borrowed through the Kindle lending library). They certainly have played their fair share of apps, but they are also using their Kindles for good — my husband and I told them they could get a small pet like a hamster or guinea pig and they’ve been using the devices to research the best options.

Hmmm. I wonder if there is such a thing as an e-pet. Much less messy.

Suzanne’s house is e-reader free (although she did purchase her first apps for her phone recently!) so I think I’m going to take all of these piles of books and bring them to her house.

All I Wanted for Christmas

bicycle for christmas

This isn't the bike I got that Christmas, but I bet there is a kid out there who is wishing for it very much! ©Schwinn

“A big blue bike with a basket and a bell.” If you had asked me when I was seven years old what I wanted to Christmas, that is the response you would have gotten. Even now, some (gulp) thirty-odd years later I can still remember the mantra — the cadence, the intonation, my fervency of delivery.

“A big blue bike with a basket and a bell.”

And that Christmas morning (ahem, night) when I came down the stairs, there it was. A shiny, sparkly blue Schwinn with a banana seat (this was the mid-’80s remember), basket and bell, just like I had wanted. Oh, I was so proud and so happy. And when I got to take it outside and actually ride it? Woo hoo!

Why that particular present out of all the gifts I have received over the years sticks with me more than anything, I’m not sure. I certainly asked for enough things and was lucky and fortunate enough to receive them (who else got a Cabbage Patch Kid?), but it’s that bike that always springs to my mind first when I start to reminisce about special gifts given to me throughout the years.

I’ll be curious to see what it is that my kids remember most about their Christmases when they get older and which gifts will stand out in their minds the most. Santa’s no slouch when he visits our house, and despite my grumbling every year that everything costs way too much and they have too much junk and we need to simplify already, there always seems to be a huge pile under the tree every year. I worry that maybe by giving them so many things and nearly everything they ask for (sorry C., no Air Swimmer for you), it waters down the specialness of it all.

I wonder too, will it be the gifts they longed for that their brains will conjure up fond memories of receiving or the ones they were totally not expecting? Or will their most treasured gifts be something altogether different — the moments that made the holidays special? Like last year when Santa came Christmas Eve afternoon while we were out ice skating because Daddy had to leave early for work on Christmas Day, or the year the big guy in red tracked us down in a Miami hotel room on Christmas morning after we had spent the day before riding a bicycle built for four under palm trees?

Honestly? I hope it’s a mix of both.

What was your favorite Christmas gift given to you as a child?

Suzanne has a few fond memories of Christmas gifts and also wonders what her kids will look back on the most.

The Christmas Mornings That Weren’t

It should come to no surprise to anyone that when it comes to Christmas, there are certain (ahem) secrets that we parents keep. Aside from the big guy in red, there are presents to hide, special Santa wrapping paper to buy and other assorted tips and tricks we employ in order to ensure that our children have the happiest of Christmases and memories to look back on.

Growing up, my parents were so determined on making us have a wonderful and magical holiday season, they even dabbled in a little time travel.

christmas present MeiTeng ©/stock.xchng

The truth about Santa Claus wasn't the only secret my parents kept from me. MeiTeng ©/stock.xchng

Every Christmas Eve, it would go the same way. My maternal grandparents (Memaw and Bepaw) would come over; we’d eat; sometimes we would visit other relatives; my sister, brother and I would sing a few carols; we would call that 800 number where you could “talk” to Santa and the elves; and then it would be off to bed so the magic could happen.

And as hard as it was to fall asleep, in what seemed like no time at all (heh) I’d hear it: a booming “HO! HO! HO!” coming from the living room. We’d wipe the sleep from our eyes, race downstairs in the still-dark early morning and “wake up” our parents and grandparents (who had slept over the night before). The next few hours would go by in a blur — a riot of noise, wrapping paper, food and  of course, gifts.

Once everything had been opened, my parents would announce that it was time for a little nap and that we kids should go back into bed for a little while. Memaw and Bepaw would head home to freshen up and we’d wake a short time (heh) later, nice and refreshed for the rest of our Christmas Day.

Sounds like a lovely, typical celebration right?

It does and it was. But there was one important fact that I got completely and totally wrong. For years. And years. And when I found out the truth, boy was I traumatized (to this day, my sister still rants about it).

We actually weren’t waking up Christmas morning to open our gifts. It was still Christmas Eve night. My parents would send us to bed and then wake us up once everything was set and Santa had come to visit. Our “nap” was actually everyone going to bed and we’d wake the real Christmas morning some six- or seven-odd hours later.

Why? I’m not sure. My mom says it’s just how they did it then. That’s fine, but still, it was just a bit disconcerting to learn that the precious holiday memory that I had, wasn’t exactly what I thought it was. (Seriously, I’m 50 miles away from her and I can hear my sister starting to howl as she reads this.) Even so, the truth doesn’t change the important part of my cherished memories — that I can still hear perfectly Santa’s big voice waking us up and feeling those butterflies in my stomach as I saw the tree laden with gifts (I still get them to this day although my excitement is for my children).

These days Christmas Eve night is spent with my husband. After we finish our magic elf work, we turn off the house lights and leave on the tree ones. We pour two glasses of wine and simply sit quietly, side-by-side on our couch, reflecting on the year and our kids. The next morning will be filled with laughter and pandemonium, but in those moments I get to really focus on how lucky we are and how much love is all around us.

No matter what time we celebrate.

When do you open gifts with your children? Is there a part of your childhood Christmas memories that aren’t what you thought they were?

While we aren’t exactly disagreeing this time around, Suzanne’s most favorite holiday memory definitely happened when she thought it did.

An Apology to Emily Post on Behalf of My Children

I can assure you (although sometimes I don’t believe it myself), that my children were not raised in a barn.

You’d never know it, sitting at the dinner table with them. I don’t understand. I don’t chew with my mouth open. My husband doesn’t put his feet on the table. We sit straight in our chairs and say “please” and “thank you.” We don’t kick the person who is sitting across from us under the table. We don’t slurp our spaghetti, nor does half of our meal wind up on our plates. We don’t reach across one another to get to the dish that we need.

If the best way to teach children is by setting an example, I’d like to know exactly who it is that sneaking into my house every day and eating in the most unmannerly way possible in front of my kids.

 © mwookie/stock.xchng

© mwookie/stock.xchng

I don’t get it. No matter how much begging and pleading and whining and screaming we do, they still eat as if they’ve been handed a plate of lime jello and a trowel.

And certainly, we try our hardest to instill manners in them. We go over the rules, correct them if they make a mistake and then “punish” when appropriate. A.’s biggest offense is that she always sits improperly in her chair. After two warnings, we make her stand for the rest of the meal. C.? He often has to be reminded of how a knife works. And to stop kicking his mother under the table.

What worries me is not what happens so much when they are home, but when they go to other houses and I’m not there to keep them in line. C. has a friend J. who not only puts his napkin in his lap, but he asks to be excused. The first time J. came for dinner and said that, C. looked at him as if he had asked if  he could wash our windows for us. I want my kids to go to someone’s home and ask to be excused! I want someone to tell me how polite they are!

Luckily, S. seems to be on the right path. Sure, he makes a mess and he throws his food but at least he has good reason — he’s 18 months old. At least he always says “thank you” before he hurls his carton of yogurt across the room.

Look, I know they are kids, but at seven and 10 years old, I don’t think we are asking too much of them. I’m not giving them seven forks and asking for their proper usage, I just want them to remember to bring their plate to the sink when they are finished.

Manners are important. They need to be instilled now, before they go to their first White House dinner!

When did you expect your children to display table manners?

Originally published November, 2010

Thankful for a Thanksgiving Table with Room for Everyone

© We Are Both Right

© We Are Both Right

My 7-year-old self would have been very lonely at a kids’ table on Thanksgiving. Every year we celebrated at my maternal grandparent’s house (Memaw and Bepaw) and I was the only grandchild on that side of the family at that time (my sister is nine years younger than me, my brother 11).

But not only would my younger self been sitting by my her lonesome at a table, she probably would have been pretty annoyed too. My Memaw and Bepaw made a big fuss over Thanksgiving, always including me in the preparation process. I can remember spending many “Thanksgiving Eve’s” at their home helping to get everything ready. After a big slumber party, we’d all wake up early and put the turkey in the oven. I’d help snap string beans and set the table while we waited for the other guests to arrive. And when it was time to carve, I’d dutifully stand by my Bepaw’s side as he worked, happy to accept any samples he was willing to slip me (lots).

The Thanksgiving meal, and the buildup to it, was (and still is) always about family. If after spending all that wonderful time with my grandparents I had been relegated to sit away from all the grown-ups, I think I might have been a little hurt. Now obviously our situation was different as there was only at most on any given year, three children at our Thanksgiving table, but still, I liked being with the grownups. Being a part of the conversation. And the family.

And even if the house had been teaming with kids, I’m still not sure the idea of a kids’ table on Thanksgiving (or any holiday for that matter) would have been a good fit for us, then and now. I mean, in our family anyway, we make a big deal about eating dinner together every night. Why, on what is arguably the most special meal of the year, would I separate myself from the people I love the most?  (Wow, that came out a lot more heavy-handed and judge-y than it sounded in my head.)

It’s true though. For me, Thanksgiving is about family and three-fifths of my immediate one all happen to be under five feet tall (although my 10-year-old is closer and closer to negating that  by the second) and are too young to know what a VCR is. Does that automatically mean they should have to sit by themselves? (Only if they start making fun of us for having to fast-forward to get to the good parts.)

And from a practical standpoint, I think a kids’ table is actually more stressful for parents, especially if younger children are part of the dining entourage. I’m constantly being asked to cut up food, mop up milk, pour more milk — the closer the proximity to the children and their places, the faster I can put out fires and get back to my own meal (and if there are lots of other adults at the table, that means there are lots more hands to help).

In any case, for our family, this year there is no need to even question the need for a kids’ table. We have a lot going on later on in this holiday season so in the interest of maximizing our family time,  T. and I decided that the main part of the Thanksgiving meal will be spent at our home, just us five.

And when we are finished, we will head over to my sister’s house for dessert  – where the little ones will be happily dispersed amongst the grownups.

Where do your kids sit for the Thanksgiving meal?

Originally published November, 2010

Happy with My Choice to Be a Work-From-Home Mom

©hortongrou/stock.xchng

I used to commute to work via train every day. Now my pace is a bit slower. ©hortongrou/stock.xchng

When you are insecure about something, it’s always nice when you find out that there are other people worried about the same things.

I’ve been a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom for eleven years. You’d think by now I’d be confident about my station in life. Not even close. Because I think I’ll have it all under control — I will have met all my deadlines, I will have changed the sheets on the bed and prepare a decent meal (plus dessert) — and then something (somethings) will reel me back into earth (the story will change, the toddler will spill something on the bed, the stove won’t work and the soufflé will collapse) and I’ll go back to being convinced that sometime soon everyone will see me for the fraud I am — a woman with a dirty house and unkempt kids who can’t cook, nor diagram a sentence to save her life.

But as it turns out, I’m not alone. Not about the last part anyway (not that anyone would admit to it), but about feeling insecure. A recent study by Working Mother magazine reports that lots of moms — both working and stay-at-home — have some very real concerns about where they are in life and how to balance it all.

Most interesting to me? That nearly half of the over 3,700 moms polled (49 percent of working and 47 percent of stay-at-home) say they are their own toughest critics.

That’s a lot of intelligent, resourceful, supermoms doubting themselves. So I guess I’m in good company.

Interestingly enough, my decision to stay at home and not pursue a “high powered” career, is something I feel totally confident about. The only time I ever slightly wavered my choice to be a work-at-home mom came early on in my tenure. I was a new mom to a baby boy, working full-time from home, commuting to my office just once a week. The position directly above mine suddenly became free. It would have been a nice jump professionally (especially at my young age, 26), not to mention a huge salary bump.

It wasn’t a role I could do from home though, it was definitely an in-the-office job. Especially when you remember that it was over a decade ago when working from home was still an incredibly new concept (I was the first in my company to do it) and things that make telecommuting a natural, cost-saving measure like Wi-Fi and Skype were non-existent (I used a phone line to dial in to our computer network. Adorable!).

I quickly got over any pangs of regret I might have been feeling — being a work-at-home/stay-at-home mom suited me. In fact, I liked it so much that when my daughter was born two years later, I left that position as I was required to work 9 to 5 hours — difficult with a toddler and a newborn. Since then I’ve kept up a fairly decent freelance career with a nice mix of long-term and short-term writing and editing clients. And while sometimes I wish our financial situation was a little more stable, being able to stay at home with all three of my kids and watch them grow up and support them in every way is something I’m so happy I get the opportunity to do.

Even if I burn the chocolate chip cookies sometimes.

What “type” of mom are you? What do you question about yourself? Would you change any of your past decisions?

On days when I’m just happy I haven’t burned down the house, I think about Suzanne and how she really does it all. And I’m jealous. Because she always looks a lot less frantic than me when she does it.

Move Over Applesauce, Hello Halloween Candy!

In our house, my youngest child, 17-month-old S., is a big fan of “M-M-Ms.” (That’s “M&M’s” for those of you who don’t speak toddler.) He doesn’t get them very often, but when he does, it is cause for celebration, complete with dancing, hand clapping, waving arms and plenty of “RAY!”s.

© lusi/stock.xchng

© lusi/stock.xchng

It’s adorable. And yet somehow I feel guilty for enjoying his display of joy.

I know that we have an obesity epidemic in this country. And I realize that these sweet nuggets of chocolatey goodness probably aren’t the wisest of food choices for my little guy. But he likes them. And he’s a good boy. And sometimes I like to give him a treat.

Or bribe him.

After his first haircut, the barber gave S. a lollipop, admittedly, a type of candy that I’m not a fan of at all. (Every time I hear the candy bump up against my kids’ teeth I can practically see the sugar coating them.) And I’m terrified of choking. But after a traumatic experience like getting your hair trimmed for the very first time, is it really so bad to let a kid kick back with a “La-Pop!”?

I know after I’ve had a long day a little bit of chocolate always makes me feel better, so why would that be different for a toddler?

The key of course is moderation. When C. and A. were toddlers, they didn’t have any candy at all. Guess what? They still love it and would eat their weight in Nerds if I let them.

When S. does get candy — and so far it’s just been M&M’s and the one la-pop — he gets very little, maybe five or six pieces. Even still, that tiny amount of sugar and chocolate is enough, causing him to turn into a bit of a whirling dervish, spinning and shouting around the house, bouncing off the walls. Now I don’t know if he’s just deliriously happy or it really is the sweet stuff hitting his bloodstream, but it’s enough to give me (a little bit of) pause, limiting his treats to just once a week or so.

Still, this Halloween you can bet I’ll be letting S. not only do a little trick-or-treating, but reap the rewards too. To be sure he’ll get something he can have, I bought M-M-M’s as the candy we’ll be handing out.

If I can just convince him to give them to the trick-or-treaters.

Originally published in October, 2010

It’s Not Their Place in a 9 to 5 World

©shho/stock.xchng

When my kids are in high school, their job will be to hit the books, nothing more. ©shho/stock.xchng

Remember high school? I do. I remember it being an awful lot of work. Every year I took a full course load, not to mention the after-school activities I participated in. From junior year on, I also worked at a local restaurant. I worked as a waitress mostly, but did other things too.

Until I turned 17, I worked no more than four hours a day, 20 hours a week and no later than 10 p.m. Once I turned 17, right before my senior year, the rules changed quite a bit. I could work longer shifts and more of them. Vacations from school didn’t mean vacations from work and Friday and Saturday nights were filled — not with dates or outings with my friends but with order slips and cash register receipts.

It was a good job (I stayed at it until I graduated from college) and I made a lot of money. Money that helped me purchase my first car and pay for college and the prom and buy whatever it was I needed. I learned responsibility and gained some independence. For the most part, working as a teen was a great experience for me.

Still, when it comes time for my kids to work, I’m not sure I’ll be so fast in signing their working papers. My son is only 11 now, so maybe I’ll feel differently in a few years, but I think I’d rather him focus on school while he’s in high school — his studies, his extra-curricular activities and his (sigh) social life. I may change my mind once I have to start footing his sure-to-be-expensive teen-years bills, but I think that our kids have to grow up so fast as it is, why not give them a little more time to just be young.

Having said that, I don’t want my kids spending their time playing video games or surfing the ‘net or doing whatever it is that will be popular five years from now. If they aren’t working they should be studying or playing sports or doing something goal-oriented. Down time is OK, but I do expect them to be productive in some way. I don’t think that will be a problem, they are totally overscheduled right now, I can’t imagine that will change much. And to me, that’s how the younger years should be spent.

Let me be clear, I am not against my kids working entirely. I would welcome any of them to get a summer job or take on some odds and ends, here and there — babysitting, snow shoveling, lawn mowing and the like — just nothing that requires a regular commitment, nothing that might take away from their most important responsibility — being a teenager.

What do you think? Did you work an after-school job? Do your kids? Will your kids?

Suzanne says as soon as her kids are old enough, they will enter the workforce. I know where I’m going when I want a scoop of ice cream!