Archive for Being Different

Don’t Worry Yourself ’bout that Elf on the Shelf

I don’t spend a lot of time reading blogs, but, attempting to be a blogger myself, I do try to keep up on trends and read them as I have a chance. Many of you have probably read opposing opinions on the whole Elf on the Shelf phenomenon that has swept the nation the last few years. The marketing behind it is genius—I’ll give ‘em that! I hate to add to the steady dose of blog posts about it, yet I can’t seem to resist sharing my perspective. So here goes.

My kids were introduced to the Elf on the Shelf two Christmas-times ago in kindergarten. They excitedly told me where the elf was found each day in their classroom and how it was watching over them to see if they were being naughty or nice. {It then flies back to the North Pole to report its observations to Santa, in case you are unfamiliar with the story.} There was the occasional statement made by my daughter of how she wished we had an elf at home. I told her to enjoy the elf at school.

Earlier this month, Ella came home from school with tales of all the fascinating things that the other kids’ elves were doing at their homes and each day she would look at me longingly and say, “Oooooh, I wish we had an elf.”

Then their teacher got a classroom elf {I think she was pressured into it}, and frankly, I was happy, because once again I could say, “just enjoy your elf at school.” I actually elaborated and told my kids that we would not have an elf at home because we celebrated Christmas in other ways at home and that I didn’t have time to keep up after an elf every day because my “real” elves kept me busy enough. I told them to enjoy what their classroom elf did and to tell me about it each day if they wanted to. I reminded them that we don’t do things just because everyone else does them and that we have a lot of family fun in other ways that keep us busy. After all, we’re the Grohs and we do things differently, right?

{SPOILER ALERT—Don’t let your young children read my blog after this point} We have since spoken often of how it’s fun to pretend about magical things when you’re young, but my kids both know that it’s their teacher or moms and dads who are moving the elf around. Then we talked about how God really does watch over us and knows how we are behaving and that we need to honor Him with the words that we say and the things that we do, all year long.

As it turns out, my kids used their imaginations to create their own elves.

Ella's Elf on Her Shelf

Ella’s Elf on Her Shelf

I try to remember to move them from place to place in their rooms each day, but often, the thought doesn’t enter my mind until they’re home from school. Then I find myself doing silly things like telling them I’m going to hang up my coat while they’re unloading their backpacks and I race upstairs to do some quick rearranging and then quickly bound back downstairs to hang up my coat and calmly linger into the room where they are, trying to keep the smile off my face as I think about how funny my actions would have looked had they been caught on camera.

Nickolas' Elf on His Shelf

Nickolas’ Elf on His Shelf

There is a little paper elf in our tree that one of the kids colored a couple of years ago. I now move it to a different branch every once in a while and oh, the squeals of delight when it is discovered. Simple way to create some fun.

Elf in the tree

So all of this to say, if you have an Elf on the Shelf and you are making it do wonderfully creative and magical things for your child(ren) each day, great! Enjoy it! Have fun! I’m sure your kids are eating it up. I smile when I see pictures of some of the clever scenes that parents pull together with these little guys. I also smile when I realize that I don’t have to do that every day. I don’t have to create and then clean up the messes, or set a timer to remind myself that it’s time to move the elf. But if you’re into that and it’s not stressing you out to the point of ruining your marriage or losing sleep, or your job, then have at it! I don’t hate you. I admire your energy and creativity.

And if you don’t have an ounce of desire to create magical elfin moments on a daily basis, then don’t. I won’t call you unloving or lazy. It’s not a competition people! You are the parents your kids love, elf or no elf. My advice: Enjoy the Christmas season and make it special for your family, however works best with your schedule and energy level. Tell your kids the true meaning of Christmas, read some Christmas stories before bedtime, or enjoy some hot chocolate and laughs together. Make your own family memories and create your own traditions. Your kids will love it. Don’t worry about what’s happening on {or off} the shelves inside the four walls of someone else’s house.

Presidential Discussions

Last night the subject of US Presidents came up around the dinner table. The kids had been talking about them at school since it was just recently Presidents’ Day. They said that they were able to vote for classmates for President and divulged to us for whom they had voted. We laughed and talked about how their friends would make good presidents.

Then came the serious look from Ken and we both knew what the other was thinking. I didn’t know if we should broach the subject now or wait, but Ken took the initiative and explained to the kids how they would never actually be able to be President of the United States. It was one of those unique situations that international adoption poses and a reminder that, as I mentioned in one of my first posts, our family is different.  As our kids grow up, we know they will be exposed to situations that may confuse them and undermine their significance. We don’t want to discourage them with hard truths, but we also want to be the ones to introduce them to these things so that we can discuss them and make sure they are getting a correct and healthy perspective.

Ken stated basically, that because they were not born in the United States, they were not eligible to be President. Then, to our surprise and amusement, our son announced, “Well Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and he’s President.” We chuckled at the irony of what he said and asked why he said it. He said it was because President Obama was African American. That allowed us to explain what that meant and to inform him that the President was born in Hawaii, which is part of the United States of America.

Then I noticed tears in my son’s eyes and my daughter’s head was down and she had a big frown on her face.  Our boy quickly recovered and the conversation continued as we talked about how there had been no women Presidents yet, but that there might be someday. We talked about how they could be Senators or do a number of other great things. But our poor little girl was heartbroken. She just sat with a frown and a blank stare.  My heart ached for her, but at the same time, I was so encouraged that she {and her brother} are so confident that they don’t see the Presidency as being out of their reach.

Seeing how distraught she was, we continued to name great people whom they could inspire to emulate, and her spirits lifted. I can only pray that their confidence continues to grow and that we can guide them appropriately so they can indeed go on to achieve great things in this world and for eternity.

We’re the Grohs, and we do things differently.

We’re all different. No doubt about that. Sometimes we want people to sit up and notice our differences, how special we are, and other times we want to blend in with everyone else and just be “normal.”

My husband is about 6’ 4”. That’s different, and sometimes he stands out in a crowd.

I’m {a little bit} older than him. That’s different and sometimes I catch myself wondering if people notice. If they do, at this point in my life, I don’t think I care THAT much, but on occasion, it bothers me.

I have strawberry-blond hair. That has always been different, and as a child I couldn’t stand being called a redhead. It wasn’t until I was nearing 30 that I began to love and appreciate the color of my hair. I think it was because my hairdresser repeatedly told me that I’d be rich if I could bottle my color and sell it to everyone who paid big money to turn their hair the color that mine was naturally. Now that I finally embrace my strawberry-blondness, it’s becoming, ah-hem, “highlighted” shall we say, with a lot of white hair and I’m clinging to my natural color more than ever before, not ready to let go of it. How come I didn’t learn to love it sooner?

Both of our kids are adopted. My son was born in Russia and my daughter was born in China. That’s different. I volunteer in their first grade classroom and children have approached me to ask if my kids are adopted. I say yes, and when they inquire further I suggest they ask my kids about it so they can divulge whatever details they feel comfortable sharing. Sometimes these questions embarrass my son.  My husband and I LOVE the way that we built our family, but it’s different. And sometimes that hurts, especially when we already see our kids being pointed out by their peers as being different in their most vulnerable of areas—their identity, the very core of who they are and where they come from.

But different can be good.  We have a saying that we are using more and more with our kids. It was a take-away from my cousin Dennis’ memorial service. If his kids wanted to do something that others were doing, but would not represent God well, Dennis would say, “we’re the Pratts, and we do things differently” and that was the final answer. I loved that, as did Ken, and we began implementing it with our kids almost immediately–both as a way to honor the memory of my cousin who left this world much sooner than we ever thought he would, and as a family statement that the kids can cling to and repeat to their friends as an explanation of why they’re not going along with the crowd. We would love for it to be a tool that our kids can use as a way out when needed, and we pray that they can feel confident in knowing that it’s ok to be different, because sometimes that is what we are called to be. Plain and simple.

Sometimes being different isn’t an option. It just is. And sometimes being different is a choice that we need to make. Lord, grant us the courage to be different.