Dear Carolyn • My wife and I have a son who is almost 8. He is sooo fun to be with a happy kid who loves mud holes, being barefoot, playing drums wildly and goofing around with his friends. He's always up for an adventure with us, his friends, or by himself. My question is this: He doesn't want to be in sports, or any kind of lessons, or theater nothing! He just wants to go at life freestyle. Are we (stinky) parents for not enrolling him in, like, anything extracurricular? We offer, but should we be pushing him to do more organized stuff? Are we following his bliss, or neglecting his needs?
Dear L. • I just felt several generations of former kids slap their foreheads. What you just described is an idyllic childhood. I realize it's nearly impossible not to peer over at how other families raise their kids. But the ones worth our voyeuristic admiration are the ones doing what their kids need not the ones doing what societies or other parents value. Most kids, if not all, need bare feet, toy drums and plenty of room for adventure and, beyond that, if a particular kid shows an interest in an organized activity, then by all means parents should feed it.
Dear Carolyn • I'm blessed with 10 grandchildren, each of whom I take clothes-shopping once or twice a year. My problem is that the eldest has developed expensive tastes. Naturally I've considered just handing her the sum I'd feel OK spending, but the fun part for me is the smiles upon finding items they like, and the expressions of appreciation that I get from her cousins when I take them shopping. On the other hand, while I've ceased to enjoy taking her shopping, how would it look if I simply didn't take her? I don't want to be "that grandparent" who plays favorites.
Dear Shopping Grandma • I'm more worried about "that grandparent" who won't use her standing to gently rein in a brat. "My budget is the same no matter where we shop, so if you want retail quality you get retail quantity, too. Your decision." Make clear what your limit is (in both senses of the word).
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.