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Ice Cubes

How fitting that our Midwest has just undergone the Arctic Blast of the decade and this post is all about ice cubes.  Ok, well for anyone who reads regularly, we all know my style - it's never THAT simple.

We recently entertained friends of ours, that my husband has maintained relationship with since grade school, that's right:  2nd grade they met, and 30 years later, we got together to celebrate not only Christmas, not only the New Year, but our growing families and the miracle that is this relationship surviving three decades.

Comparing grey hair, family size, turbulent teens, births, deaths and their own reckless past was so great for us all.  There were also contrasts as well, we should expect, different people, different strokes. Respecting their families rules as well as ours, differences emerged, and I caught a few strange looks and glances from the mother counterpart in my kitchen.

I couldn't quite put my finger on the exact reasons for her disturbance, her shocked face, her exaggerated expressions.......until we served the kids their drinks.  All her children (ages 3-12) requested pop to which we supplied happily, along with ice in cups, as the pop wasn't chilled.

We don't drink pop.  Like ever.  The adults in our house will occasionally, meaning once or twice a year.  And the kids aren't permitted, with the exception of our two oldest, ages 11 and 13, upon a class party or sleepover where pop is the only thing available (or a special occasion).  In our effort to limited sugar consumption and the 'full feeling' pop gives us all, I'd rather have them eat something than drink their meals.  

We do have pop on hand simply for entertaining purposes as we know and appreciate other's preferences.  When we host, we supply what you prefer.

Having said all that, this isn't a post on pop, or whether or not you should drink it.  Sometimes I drink it, to each his own, on this topic.

Now, on with the evening...

After supplying our young guests with ice in their cups, I offered pop to my two oldest (peer value and special occasion status) Sprite (at least no caffeine) to which they accepted.  However the rest of my kids rarely even enjoy the taste as they claim they don't like the bubbles on their tongue.  (Which is wonderful to me, as I don't even offer it to them, they aren't allowed.)  So I stated to the youngest three, milk or water, it's your choice.  The kids choose water and I supplied cups with ice to all my five.

My youngest Babe gasped and looked up at me with wide eyes, to check if I had made a mistake.  I told him then and there, "Oh, yes, ICE, you lucky, lucky duck."

So, let's cover a bit of background information:  I am not opposed to ice as a general rule.  If we are at a restaurant, everyone has ice in their water.  No biggie.  If we are at someone's house, and they are given ice in their water, again, No Biggie.  I am no ice Nazi.

But what I will say is that we have perfected over the years the intricacies of meal time.  With five kids, it's necessary to have a strategy, so all seven people may sit, enjoy each other and a meal, all at the same time.  (Something so rare and so valuable in our day and times, so guess what, I'll fight for it).  What hinders these little people from eating what's on their plate?  (Enter pop discussion and the 'full feeling').  In addition to the many details that assist in the good fight, is limiting distractions.

If the TV is on, forget it, no one will eat their dinner.  Think of the many, many distractions we have in our lives, the ipod, the ipad, the tablet, the kindle reader, the PHONE!  (Side note, if you call me on the house phone or cell phone, at dinner time, it will ring and ring. It's a distraction from our meal-time family bonding.  Sorry, you can wait.)

One such distraction is ice.  For little kids, ice is like bringing toys to the dinner table (well, at least for my kids it is).  Chomping ice instead of food and freezing a tiny tongue is the enemy of dinner time.  Scooting ice to and fro tabletop, or playing catch with this little melting play thing, or simply working vigorously to fit that huge ice cube into your petite little mouth, or slamming the cup against your mouth while simultaneously darting your tongue to reach that last bit of ice stuck to the bottom of your cup......well, do I have to say it?

All bonding is gone at this point.  No conversation, no eating a meal, or making progress in this en-devour.

So, here it is, yep, I am going to say it.  Ice at meal time is a treat.  Never thought I'd be a mother that would claim that.  But here I am, believing that ice is a true hindrance to family meal time bonding (at least at this stage in our family's life).  (Now if I, for some miracle, witness a self-control of any of my children in regards to ice, I do reserve the right to re-cant, and completely deny I wrote, claimed and posted this post in it's entirety.)

Back to our evening.  My mother counter part caught my comment to my five year old.... remember, 'lucky duck'?  She knew it was a treat.  The look she gave me was priceless.  She didn't comment, said nothing, nor asked about it.  (I would have been happy to explain, however I have the feeling I would have had to sum up quickly this 10 minute explanation, as she was only gonna give me 30 seconds.)

So now I've had time to reflect and see the whole event, the evening in it's totality and hind sight is 20/20.   Remember different strokes for different folks?  That's what we have here.  My mother counterpart commented many times the manners and polite children we have gained.  To which her husband, my HH's best friend, answered her quickly and decisively.

"Remember how hard my dad rode me?  Remember his temper?  It was rough.  He was so hard on me and my brothers.  And I just believe kids are kids for such a short amount of time, let them be kids, do what they want, let them come or go, less rules and less responsibilities.  They will grow up fast enough."

So, we let it lie.  That evening was not about debate and I agree to a certain extent.  Let kids be kids, adulthood is right around the corner. But what that means in my mind verses his mind, quite the disparity.  As his kids never asked for anything, but helped themselves to pounding on our piano, running up and down the stairs, carrying deserts all throughout the house, wasting whole cheeseburgers in favor of their Sprite can and many more instances that simply showed a lack of manners.

Perhaps my theory on ice cubes at meal time isn't really about distraction (though certainly the argument has been made on that).  Perhaps it is a difference of an overall philosophy, how we choose to raise our kids.

Ice cubes in the cup:  it's about making something that is really an ordinary thing, and making it extraordinary.  How many instances and opportunities do we have as parents to demonstrate to our kids, what is ordinary and what is extraordinary.  As parents we teach them what is the difference.  Do we gasp when we want them to see something as special?  Of course we do.  And why do we do this.

We are forming them.  One day my kids will not see ice as a privilege, but an expectation.  I know this.  It's fine.  But for now, to keep some things as special and can be used as a treat, is a very valuable tool for any mother working to find motivation for an expected behavior.   Of course we've used candy for treats in potty training, or a milk shake for raising that B grade to an A.

Again, we set up our own kids' expectations by what we decide is ordinary = not worth our attention and by what we decide is extraordinary = worth our attention/admiration/excitement/awe etc.

Am I raising my kids to have low expectations?  Not at all, though I can see an objective reader make that assumption.  What I have witnessed in raising these five little souls, is that they marvel and are inspired constantly.  Does that make sense?

If everything parents explained to the kids were on the same level, the same plane (either all ordinary or all extraordinary) what can you expect the results to be?

Let's play pretend.  Picture parents constantly in awe, gasping and explaining every single thing as extraordinary, the top of the hill! The summit!  The thrill of a lifetime and so on.  Can you imagine the kid seeing reality for what it is, once an adult and feeling betrayed?  Some things are ordinary, washing dishes, or working fast food and so on.  (I know we can find the extraordinary in the ordinary, as I am well versed by St. Therese, her little way, however see if you can follow my logic.)  Some things in life are tough, sad, lonely, mundane or play boring.  It's life for us to seek out God's will in those moments, which could really be a life lesson:  being able to see the grand and extraordinary when He decides to bless us with it!

Again, play pretend.  Our recent visitors have painted the picture for us - these were parents who explained everything as ordinary....therefore, not only are 'treats' like pop or ice seen as expectation, they rarely smiled, or were happy or excited about anything while visiting.  (I mentioned their level of manners, though at this point am assuming it's more about lax family rules.  But perhaps some correlation could be measured by level of discipline and level of appreciation?.... A post for another day!)

So much of this life, I believe I want to communicate to my kids, is a high level of gratitude.  I hope and pray that when they sit outside and by chance, a butterfly should land on their hand, they, even as an adult, would take the moment and be in awe and inspired by God's creation of this tiny insect.

It's a choice we as parents get to make.  Sure kids have their own personalities and maturity will assist in these types of things.  But when their minds are open to hopeful possibilities, the sky is the limit for them.  Giving kids an appreciation for privileges grows gratitude.  And that virtue, that ability to be humble and grateful will follow them in every Christmas gift given and received, every viewpoint on High School research papers, every job interview, every blessing of a new baby and so one and so forth.

The ability to know and respect ourselves, and others, our place in the world, our meekness and eternal value at the same time, keeping manners and discipline in tact....well, what more could I ask for them?  It's pieces of the gospel message in order to reach others.  Jesus never said it would be by extraordinary means - He was born in a stable!  It's by the way we love.  It's by accepting and loving ourselves, then we'll be free to love and accept others.


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