Category Archives: Kids

I Don’t Want To Share

 

We all know that the single greatest influence of our children’s behaviors , at least in the early years, is ourselves. They are constantly watching our every move, listening to every word, mimicking both consciously and unconsciously. It’s a huge responsibility, the molding of a personality.

Some days we do a better job at being role models than others. For the past few weeks I have been a terrible example for one of the very first traits that we try and instill in them as future members of society. I have been a horrible sharer.

It’s not toys that I have been hoarding, not a secret stash of snacks that I have been hiding from the kids or an expensive bottle of scotch that I only drink when my wife isn’t home.

I’ve been bad at sharing my daughter.

Seemingly every day there has been a request for her presence. Texts, phone calls, e-mails from parents of her friends wanting to know what we are doing, when we can schedule play dates and sleepovers. I’ve been ignoring them all.

There have been some legitimate reasons. My wife and I both worked the holiday and will be on again this weekend. She spent some time with my parents, went to a few parties with her other grammie.  The Connecticut Tigers  have begun their minor league baseball season and have been gracious enough to schedule a lot of home games on nights that I haven’t been working. I can’t say enough times how much of a great way this is to spend a summer evening.

 

Selfish with my kid
best smile I could get

 

Mainly though, I’ve just been selfish. I’ve had a few extra days off and I’ve been enjoying them, enjoying the extra time with the kids.  Lazy days reading by the pool, music pumping. Cannonballs, water gun fights, underwater races. After getting the television stuck and spending a morning watching woman’s college volleyball Alaina has invented her own version of the game, though I’m not sure about her score keeping. Yesterday she claimed to have beaten me 120-14.

 

a bad sharer
playing “volleyball”

 

Sooner than I’m ready, these days will pass. The fall will not only bring an end to our water sports but a return to school and the dramatic decrease in our time that my job imposes, a situation not likely to change soon.

So to anybody reading this that is among the snubbed, know that it isn’t personal. I’m sure that it won’t be long before I join your ranks, desperate for somebody else to amuse her for a few hours. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t appreciate the few breaks that I’ve had, the blessed silence that is so unobtainable when she’s around.

Just don’t call me, I’ll call you.

 

 

 

 

Two Tiny Hands

Leaving Her Home Alone?

 

My daughter was very angry at me this morning, quite cross. This in itself isn’t surprising, she’s often angry at me in the morning, usually because I won’t let her wear mittens as shoes or order Chinese take out for breakfast, things of that nature proving how completely unreasonable I can be as a parent. Obviously I just enjoy being mean.

The source of her discontent this morning was easier to understand. She simply didn’t want to get up and get out of bed, a feeling that I am very familiar with. Truth be told, I really didn’t want to be up and about yet either. I had several hours before I needed to be anywhere, nobody was poking me in the forehead to tell me they wanted breakfast, and a wiser man than me would have been in bed earlier than I was the night before.

There was nothing that could be done, however. The teenager needed driving to summer school, my wife was already gone for the day, and even though it was only a twenty minute round trip, six years old was still too young to be left alone.

 

home alone?
practicing her “teenager face”

 

Or was it?

According to her argument, she would have been fine.  She’d watched me check the smoke and CO2 detectors the previous week, her room is uniquely positioned to have two different points of exit, and she’d learned in Girl Scouts all about handling different emergency situations. She told me all about how she’d check the door handle for heat before opening it if the alarm was sounding, how she’d dial 911 to ask for help, and the two houses she’d go to in order to ask to use the phone if it became necessary. She said that she promised to wait for “the chief” to show up and that she’d do whatever he said to stay safe until I got back.

She made a convincing argument and I’ll admit to being more than a little impressed. I also didn’t leave her, so if there is a gathering mob of internet do-gooders, you can all put down your pitchforks and torches and go home.  I simply told her that it was against the law for me to leave her home alone at her age and that I didn’t want to get in trouble. This was logic that she couldn’t argue with. I’m not sure exactly who she thinks “the chief” is, but she doesn’t want me on his bad side. She started using the term after the brush fire behind our house several summers ago but whoever it first described seems to have evolved into a Judge Dredd type enforcer of law and order.

 

home alone?
I Am The Law!

 

Curious, I did a bit of research and found that this can be added to the long list of lies that I’ve told her. It turns out that in New Mexico it is illegal to leave a child under ten alone, but every other state just has “suggestions” and ages that could potentially trigger investigations if complaints are filed. The Connecticut Attorney General’s office states that “A child’s maturity should be considered. Also a child’s ability to handle urgent situations should be reviewed. A parent should also take into account the environment in which the child will be alone and the child’s feelings about being alone.”

I found this surprising, multiple stories of small children found alone and neglected immediately coming to mind. Tragedies and near misses leading to prosecuted parents. A tendency towards over reaction and regulation, particularly if there seems to be child welfare issues involved. The trials and tribulations of eight year old Kevin McCallister still resonate over two decades later.

 

home alone
narrowly averted disaster

 

The truth is that every child is different, the stories we hear only the ones when things go terribly wrong. Its estimated that over three million children under the age of fifteen are left alone for up to several hours at a time at least once a week in this country, often by single parents unable to afford to pay for care while they are at work.

Common sense needs to be used, but it can’t be regulated. I don’t remember what age I was when first left unsupervised indoors, but was roaming the neighborhood on bicycle much younger than my daughter will be allowed to. To be honest, I don’t even remember when we first started leaving the teenager by herself, though I’d guess it was older than she would have liked, just like it will be for her little sister.

I don’t want to get in trouble with “the chief.”

 

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

JENerally Informed

 

Birthdays, Graduations And Mixed Emotions

 

There are few times that can trigger such contradictory emotions in a parent as birthdays and graduation ceremonies. They are proud, happy moments, celebrations of accomplishments and another year passed that we have managed to keep them alive. They can also be pensive times, reminders of the rapidity of time’s passing and future inevitabilities.

This past month we celebrated the little’s sixth birthday, a number that makes her little only in comparison to her older sister. Every one of these early birthdays seems a big deal, the changes to them so pronounced since their last, but for some reason six seems a bigger deal than the transition from three to four or four to five. She’s now closer to double digits than she is to birth, a realization that I didn’t much care to make.

 

birthdays
Turning six

 

Another big day was graduation from kindergarten, an achievement that I’ll admit I may not have placed as much importance on as some of the other parents in attendance who came bearing signs and flowers.

In retrospect I guess I should have. Full days and no nap times make kindergarten a lot different than when I was a kid, but there is still a lot of time spent singing and making arts and crafts. I’m impressed with the math that she’s learned, amazed by her reading  progress, but cognizant that next year things will be different. I’ve heard good things about her new teacher but first grade will mark the beginning of school as a place not for play but for learning.

 

graduations
officially a 1st grader

 

We had another graduation to attend this week, one that I wish we could have celebrated more.  After four tumultuous years the teenage is now officially…almost done, several papers on British Literature still needing to be finished to meet the requirements necessary for receiving her diploma.

It was a disappointing ending to her high school years, an anticlimactic mailing of certificate sometime this summer, but in the end the desired outcome will be reached. The truth is that the past four years have been hard, hard for her and for us. As much as I would have liked more than twenty minutes notice that she had changed her mind about attending, I’m glad that in the end she decided to attend the ceremony. Goodbyes were said to classmates and teachers, tears were shed, and even if her ledger is temporarily still open, there was at least some measure of closure obtained.

 

mixed emotions
almost there…

 

Where she goes from here remains to be seen. In a few short months she will be eighteen, recognized by the law and society as an adult, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that conveys.

One of those responsibilities is employment, a search that starts with an interview tomorrow. Finishing off her last remaining graduation requirements will be the emphasis of the next month but stagnation will not be an option. Change is a part of life, something that we all will be dealing with a lot over the coming year. Being able to deal with these changes, to adapt and to overcome, to continue down the path to personal success and happiness is one of the most important lessons that a person needs to learn on the journey to adulthood. It isn’t one that is always learned in school.

 

 

 

The Joys of Reading

 

One of the earliest arguments that I can remember having with my parents was over a play date. A new family had moved into town, our community small enough at that time for this to be noteworthy, and after meeting the new family at the general store, ( yes, I grew up in Mayberry ) my mother had offered an invitation to bring their young son by the house. It was summer, he would be joining the fifteen or sixteen other kids in my grade that fall, and it seemed the “neighborly ” thing to do.

Thirty five years blurs a lot of the details but I didn’t want to play with the new kid in town. I wanted to sit on the back porch and read. The Hardy Boys were close to solving a mystery damn it, and I wanted to know what happened.

Eventually I put the book down. If memory serves we spent the next hour throwing acorns at each other.

There hasn’t been a time since when I didn’t have a book that I was reading. My grandmother  was a reader, as were both my parents.  Sure, we watched plenty of television also, but reading was always considered just as entertaining a way to spend time. More often than not she can be found with her nose in her phone, but I’ve been happy to see our teenager develop the same love of books over the years.

 

joys of reading
in her natural habitat

 

As the kindergarten  year comes to an end, one of the things that has amazed me is the rapid progression of Alaina’s reading skills over the past several months. She’s been getting bedtime stories since she was born and part of her homework every night has been memorizing “sight words” but the recent leap has been impressive. As with potty training, swimming and most other challenges it seems that as soon as she sets her mind to getting serious about something, she learns it. It can be frustrating stimulating that motivation, I’d like her to be able to tie her own shoes one of these days, but impressive regardless.

 

Love of reading
can”t wait to compare notes

 

There is a downside, as there always seems to be with kids. She’s now determined to read everything herself, from signs at the park to the descriptions of television shows on the channel guide. I find it hard to believe that she needs to read a synopsis of today’s Spongebob episode before she decides that it’s worthy of her time, but I’m not going to discourage her. I love listening to her sound out words, constantly proud and surprised by  how many she correctly identifies, but our bedtime routine has added an extra half hour as it’s no longer acceptable for us to do the reading.

She also needs to read her own menus now, words that she is less familiar with but that are usually accompanied by pictures. Beverages are a bit trickier however, particularly the word Coke. There are a lot of things that I may have forgotten over the years but I will always remember the look of pure horror on the face of the young man who once had a five year old tell him that she “would like a large cock please.”

 

 

Playing Hard, Kicking Tail

 

We had our last softball game of the season this past weekend, Alaina’s inaugural attempts at the sport an overall success. Having bypassed T-ball for coach-pitch she still needs some work on her swing and gets confused about where to throw the ball after fielding it, but she’s shown a cannon for an arm and no longer thinks that the goal of the game is to out race her teammates to every ball that is put in play.

 

our love of sports

 

There were no participation trophies given out, but had there been I would have let her keep hers and she would have displayed it proudly. Contrary to the recent statements from Washington Nationals star Bryce Howard, one of the best players in the game and presumably not somebody that came in second place very often, I’m not worried  that six and seven year year olds will never be motivated to succeed if they know that their efforts will be praised regardless of outcome.

I would have told her that she got the trophy because of her hustle. That even thought the third baseman doesn’t need to retrieve foul balls near the visitor’s dugout, she was running hard. I would have commended her sportsmanship, reminding her that while running the bases we don’t pick up a ball hit by a teammate and hand it to the opposing players. I would have told her how proud I was of her hard work, all the hours spent in the backyard practicing, the innings spent at catcher after she determined that would be the best way to improve that aspect of her game, the dramatic improvement shown in a relatively short time.

I told her all those things anyway. We didn’t keep score in any of her games and she never asked for one. Teaching was the goal, not winning.  She learned a lot.

 

love of the games

 

Also in the last week was “field day”, the town’s kindergartners and first graders massing on the athletic fields for various “stations” of outdoor recreation. There were no “three legged” or “potato sack” races, very little in the way of competition actually, with no ribbons awarded. The only activity with winners and losers was a wet sponge relay race that embarrassingly ended in a shoving match between my kid and a little boy from the winning team that she felt was gloating a bit too enthusiastically to some of her slower teammates. She was reprimanded and reminded to keep her hands to herself but I’ll admit to having to hide a small smile of pride while doing so.

How successful I was is uncertain but I made no such attempt at the next station, an un-timed obstacle course set up for them to traverse at their own pace. There weren’t meant to be winners or losers but Alaina and that same kid treated the course as if Olympic gold medals were at stake. They both were convinced that they were able to get through it the fastest but this was indeterminable and there was no repeat scuffle.

 

school field day

 

For now her cleats and glove will be packed away, not too deep in case one of our nights at the minor league park inspires us to some backyard batting practice or I talk her into a game of catch. In the fall another set of gear will be dug out, soccer registration mailed in just as her big sister is about to hang up her own cleats.

She went out with a bang. This past season has seen Kayla’s playing time dramatically decreased, a several year hiatus and accompanying conditioning loss relegating her to defensive back-up status.

That hasn’t stop her from making the most of her time out there though, her hustle and effort impressing.  Last weekend her squad participated in a full day, four game tournament that meant a lot of extra time on the pitch, conditioning tested for both players and spectators alike.  I didn’t last the entire day but did return in time for one of her prouder moments in a long time. She didn’t score a goal or prevent one, didn’t do anything that anybody else watching would have thought significant. She just knocked a dude on his ass.

The kid was one of the better players on the other team, looked about twenty five and brought it on himself. Streaking up the field he had a teammate wide open for the cross and instead chose to challenge the girl coming up to defend. Perhaps thinking that he was going to run right by her and continue on to glory, the look of surprise on his face as he looked up at the clouds was matched only by the smile on hers.

 

love of sports

 

Competitiveness is an important quality, one that should be encouraged to prepare our children for future success. Just as important though, sports foster a desire for self-improvement, a mindset of always striving to do better then YOU did before, not just being better than the other players. Sometimes they will win, other times lose. There may be first place trophies, participation trophies or no trophies at all.  As long as they are working hard and striving to be better, I think that the real lessons of youth sports are being learned.