Category Archives: Kids

The Pics Not Posted

 

Other than a few sports guys, I never was a blog reader before starting my own. To be honest, even then I didn’t realize that what I was reading was a sports blog. I’d heard the term, knew that’s what Cameron Diaz’s character did in the movie “Sex Tape” and remembered Doogie Howzer ending each episode typing into his computer, but that was about the extent of my knowledge.

Now I probably read anywhere between twenty to thirty a day. Lots of dads, some moms, politics, sports, travel and humor.  A few people that just sit down and write whatever comes to mind.  Different experiences, perspectives and opinions. Different voices.

The majority would be considered “parenting blogs”, the niche that encompasses most of what I have to say. ( The topics that I should stick to, according to some. )  One of the things I’ve noticed that all these disparate writers, from all walks of life and corners of the world, have in common is that at some point they begin to question the degree to which they are sharing their lives and the lives of their children with the world. Questions about appropriateness, consent, and even safety.

It’s something that I’ve always tried to be cognizant of without driving myself crazy. Many aspects of the teenager’s life wouldn’t even be considered as shareable, stories that simply aren’t mine to tell.  I will tell you that her final prom was this past weekend, that she had fun, and that she looked beautiful.

 

on line sharing concerns
Beautiful girl

 

It’s harder with the little, consent not so easy to obtain.  I write a lot about her triumphs and idiosyncrasies, but don’t feel that I’ve shared anything that would be considered embarrassing to her in the future. I can only hope that she one day agrees with that assessment.

It was a picture of her that led me down this avenue of thought, one that I was about to post on Instagram…and then didn’t. It’s one that I did post to my private Facebook, one many of you may have seen, a picture taken prior to her latest dance recital. She looks absolutely adorable. She also looks very grown up, her hair done and performance makeup applied.

My Instagram is public, a supplement to this space. It’s accessible to all, including those that may be searching the Internet for pictures of little girls dressed up and looking pretty in fancy dresses and makeup. It was probably a silly thing to think about but I did. I did, and once thought it became an uncomfortable enough idea that the picture remains seen only on the channels that I have control over.

 

When solicited, my advice to other bloggers is simple: use common sense, trust your instincts, and hope for the best. A story about a seven month old peeing in your eye may be funny, one about a seven year old peeing the bed probably better left unwritten. I never share any vacation pictures until I’m back home.

Is that enough? I don’t know.  All of us are living our lives in an increasingly public manner, for better and for worse. Bullying and stalking have never been easier, but neither has keeping contact with those that might otherwise fade from our lives. We all have to decide what level of sharing with the world we feel comfortable with.

 

I’ll leave you with this picture, another one of my daughter looking adorable. It’s not the best one that I’ve taken since she started playing softball, it’s just the best one I’ve taken that doesn’t show the name of our town on the front of her shirt.

 

online sharing
ready position

 

First Crushes

 

There are a lot of romantic “firsts” that are always remembered. First date, kiss, lay. They may not always be pleasant memories, but these are defining moments in our lives.

Less often discussed and often much more embarrassing are our first inappropriate crushes. Often years before we begin to notice others in our age group there is somebody older, a teacher, babysitter, lead singer in a boy band, that gives us those first awkward tingles, those butterflies in our stomachs that we don’t quite understand.

For my wife it was John Stamos, dreamy bad boy Uncle Jessie on Full House and probably a common answer among women her age. The teenager doesn’t like to be reminded of this, but when I first met her at five years old she had a really bad case of Beiber Fever.

For me that person was Olivia Newton John, the advent of music videos coinciding with her transition from country to pop music with 1981’s “Physical” album. The videos for the title track, “Make a Move on Me” and “Tied Up” enough to make a seven year old boy want to move to Australia.

“Grease” remains one of the most overrated movies of all time, it’s songs only suitable for drunken girl night karaoke, but 1983’s “Two of a Kind”, also co-starring John Travolta, is one of the greatest campy guilty pleasures of the 80’s. It’s theme song “Twist of Fate” one of the decade’s first synth-pop masterpieces.

 

First Crushes
20th Century Fox

 

It’s too soon to say for sure who my youngest will one day look back and blush about.  After receiving a rose from the dashing Red Knight at Medieval Times she turned several shades of red herself and I can’t remember another time that she’s been rendered speechless since uttering her first words. She cried about not being able to give him a present in return and cried again upon realizing that their paths nevermore shall pass. She solemnly declared that from that moment forward she wanted to wear only red clothes, her new favorite color.

 

first crushes
our handsome hero

 

She was over it by the time we were back home but it was a sobering reminder of what’s to come. So far her older sister’s romantic endeavors have been disastrous dramatic nightmares. Judging by how fast the past six years have gone by, our next tour of duty will begin long before I’m prepared to rejoin the fray.

 

All thoughts for another day. I’m not a handsome Greek in a leather jacket but tonight our Full House is empty. My wife may not be a blond Australian songstress but I can still visit the land Down Under.

Sometimes it’s not your first crush that really matters but your last.

 

 

 

Conquering the Chore Chart

 

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was a freshman in high school I spent a weekend at The united States Military Academy in West Point, New York.  It was a trip organized by the Boy Scouts, with a camp out, a running of the obstacle course, and orienteering lessons. For me the trip served a secondary purpose, a chance to look around and talk to some Cadets. A chance to determine whether or not I should seriously pursue my ideas about applying there.

It was an eye opening experience, quickly convincing me that I probably didn’t possess the drive and self discipline that would be required.  One of the things that helped me come to this conclusion was hearing from some of the students that they slept every night on the floor next to their bunks rather than in them.  The standard for how their beds were prepared every morning was so strict that it simply wasn’t worth going through the process every day.

It’s a story that I was reminded of last night, shortly before my daughter’s bed time. She had gone upstairs to clean her room before brushing her teeth and settling down and as I headed in to check her progress I instead found her at the hallway closet, removing a spare pillow and sheet set.  She was so proud of the job that she had done making her bed that morning that she was insistent that she be allowed to sleep in a small tent set up in the corner of her room so that she wouldn’t mess it up.

The only way that she finally became agreeable to getting under her covers was if I agreed to take a picture of the bed so that she would know how to replicate her hard work the following day.

 

chore chart conundrum
too perfect to sleep in

 

Both the room cleaning and bed making are new daily jobs, two of the five that she must now complete every day in order to be in compliance with the chore chart that she helped put together at Daisy Scouts.

 

almost done for the day

 

On the surface this seems like a great idea, a way to start encouraging responsibility and introducing her to the idea of expectations regarding the sharing of household duties. Habits formed now that hopefully will continue in the future. An avoidance of the endless nagging that seems necessary to get her older sister to perform even the simplest of tasks.

Instead what we have is a new obsession, an extra half hour added on to our morning routine and the potential for a stern scolding if I get caught filling up the dog’s bowl.  The nearby chart offers no room for discussion regarding who’s job that now is.  I’m fairly certain that she is now purposely throwing her dirty clothes on the floor next to her hamper so that she will have something to clean up after her shower,  a way to clean a room that otherwise may not have needed cleaning that particular day.

Fortunately there doesn’t seem to be any real anxiety involved, something that her competitive nature always has me nervous about.  To her this is just another challenge that once accepted, must be completed. Every day.  No matter how late it makes us for school.

I still think a chore chart is a great idea. Still admire her drive, her willingness to help around the house, and the ferocity with which she attacks anything new.  A slight decrease in intensity once in a while would probably be OK though.

 

chore chart conundrum
Another day on the job

 

 

Holding Her Hand, Picking Her Up

 

I was surprised this  weekend to realize that it had already been three weeks since my daughter’s ugly fall on the balance beam of our favorite park and playground.  The stitches are out, blood washed from our shirts and the future scar barely visible, but what really surprised me was that it had been that long in between visits. Softball practices, a few days out of town and untimely rain conspiring to keep us away.

Today we went back. We went back and within minutes she had found some friends to chase, a game of tag at full speed with no hesitation at any obstacle that needed to be hurdled, climbed or slid down. It didn’t take long before she decided it was time for a few walks across the beam, gingerly at first, but slowly regaining some of her pre-fall confidence.  She didn’t ask but I was there to hold her hand when it was extended.

 

getting back up
always climbing something

 

Upon returning home she decided that it was time to practice her “two wheel bicycle” riding, her term for her bike since demanding that the stabilizers be removed.

It was a productive session, each time I let go her peddling taking her further down the gravel road that passes by our home. Ten, fifteen feet at a time before her balance failed or nerves forced her feet back onto solid ground. Frustration turning to pride as it seemed that a corner had finally been turned.

Unfortunately, we all know what cometh after pride.

Determined to show mommy how well she was doing, we moved to the backyard where my wife was occupied with spring yard work.  A back yard that features a long, gradual decrease in elevation before culminating in a line of trees separating our property from the neighbors.  A long, gradual decrease that she of course was able to transverse like she had been riding a bike for years, a distance I was unable to cover on foot before the inevitable ass over teakettle ending to her ride. It was a nasty spill but fortunately resulted in nothing that required medical attention this time.  A few more scratches and bruises added to her collection.

 

Getting back up
rough rider

 

A lot has been made of the “bubble wrapping” of today’s children. The idea that we are too protective, too risk adverse.  I don’t think its a coincidence that the rise of “helicopter parenting” coincided with the explosion of the internet and the ease at which armchair quarterbacks can second guess every decision made. The judgement of the masses forcing us to justify every bump and bruise.

A popular lament is  that when we were kids we did all sorts of dangerous things all the time and turned out just fine. It’s a valid point, even if there is a tendency to forget about all the kids who didn’t turn out quite as fine. I’d never advocate for the return of rusty metal slides, riding in the back of pick up trucks or playing lawn darts at our next birthday party, but kids need to be outside. They need to run, to climb, and occasionally to fall down.  They need to know that a skinned knee or a bloody lip doesn’t have to slow them down.

I wonder now what percentage of our parental duties should be spent trying to keep them from falling, whether it’s sometimes better to simply be there to pick them back up.  Maybe the most important thing we can do is to make sure they know we are there to hold their hand when they need it.

 

 

 

Run Jump Scrap!

Playing The Guilt Game

 

Pretty much right from their first breath, children are experimenting with different ways to get us to do what they want.  Different timbres and pitch rejected or filed away for further use based on the effectiveness of each individual scream and cry.  Later on it becomes tantrums and hissy fits, the more public the better. Incessant, ear bleeding, aneurysm inducing whining. Two of my daughter’s preferred techniques were either to simply continue asking over and over until all will to resist was ground down and washed away or to use some variation of “pretty please” followed by a combination of various treats to go “on top.”

Amateur inveiglements now set aside for the most effective form of psychological manipulation that one person can inflict upon another – the  guilt trip.

When she started kindergarten, I talked about what that was going to mean for our time together.  I don’t get home from work until after bed time most nights of the week, so there are several days when the morning routine is our only time together.  I talked about the teenager’s sharp words about time spent with her and how deeply they cut.  I talked about my guilt.

Attempts to maximize this time that we do have together have led to a pretty full schedule of fun whenever I’m not working.  Wednesday afternoons at the park, wings and movies with the teen, roller skating just about every weekend.  It’s also led to expectations that I can’t always meet and opportunities for the little to try out her new means of persuasion.

She has less than adequate comprehension about things like money and bone weary exhaustion on a Sunday morning.  What she knows is that she wants to do something, that there will be several days past before I’m able to bring her someplace again, and that by reminding me of this, there’s a pretty good chance that we are going to go.

 

the power of guilt
trying to look sweet and innocent

 

So where did she learn such Machiavellian machinations?  How to harness the power of guilt for her own purposes?

The same way that all children do eventually.  They learn it from us. It’s the basis for almost all behavioral modification, whether consciously or not.  When a child does something good we shower them with words of praise and approval.  When they are bad we take away that approval and show disappointment.  Punishments and the learning of consequence of action are part of the process, but I’m starting to believe that when a child chooses not to repeat an act that they had previously been punished or reprimanded for, avoidance of that feeling of guilt, of having that approval taken away from them based on their actions, is just as much a reason for the change in behavior as any other.

 

This morning I woke up in a pretty foul mood.  I didn’t feel well, my back hurt, and it was too damned early for any reasonable person to be awake.  My daughter naturally decided that this meant it was the perfect day to practice jumping from one section of the couch to the other, over and over, and blatantly ignore my increasingly loud demands for her to stop.

I soon snapped and she immediately fled up the stairs in tears, scared by an outburst that was uncharacteristically incensed.  I stayed downstairs, morosely clinging to my moral superiority until she returned, head hung low, and promised to behave if it meant we could spend some more time together before I left for the day.

Some time playing something a little more fun than the game of guilt tag that I think that she had already won.