Category Archives: Kids

Duplicating My Childhood

 

Most parents at some point realize that the “it’s just a phase” platitude loses it’s effectiveness when they realize that this particular phase is inevitably followed by one just as annoying. As true as this is, there are some some trade offs that really do make things easier, or at least easier to tolerate. One of the biggest milestones that I’ve come to appreciate is my daughter’s ability to amuse and feed herself for at least an extra hour or two in the mornings where we don’t have to be up for school. I never know exactly what I will find when I head downstairs, but more often than not it’s exactly what I would have been doing at her age.

Last Saturday I came downstairs to find her seated cross legged, much too close to the television, mouth agape.

“What are you watching?’

“I don’t know, but it’s awesome! Its about this guy called The Doctor and he travels through time and outer space fighting aliens and robots!”

“Oh, Doctor Who. Pretty cool stuff.”

“I don’t know his name, I don’t think they said.”

“No, his name is Doctor Who.”

“I just told you I don’t know his name!”

 

I gave up, made myself a coffee and sat down next to her, watching the next two episodes of the mini-marathon and enjoying our cereal. Too cold for me to go outside any more than necessary, we spent the afternoon playing with our “Barbies.” Before bed we read some more from the collection of Batman stories that Santa brought us this year.

 

passing it on

 

Also under our tree was a copy of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are”, my favorite book when I was her age. After opening her gifts the teenager and her Nirvana sweatshirt went back upstairs to watch either The Outsiders, Stand By Me or one of the other films from my DVD collection that she has now seen approximately seventy times each.

 

I had a very happy, very stable childhood, if somewhat on the nerdy side. It’s something that I now appreciate more than ever and I’ve tried everything in my power to ensure that my girls are able to look back and say the same. If sometimes I’m a bit too literal in my attempts to duplicate what I had, that’s an issue to think about another day. Right now we have a movie to watch.

Any guesses on which one?

 

passing it on

 

 

 

Wanting To Believe

 

This was an early start for me, but overall today was a pretty productive first attempt at  Christmas shopping. I was able to find a successful balance of toys that both myself and the youngest would want to play with and even bought a few things that I don’t think the teenager will hate. Left behind was the mostly illegible three page list for Santa that was scribbled sometime in the middle of October but I’m fairly certain that I deciphered enough to meet some of her requests. If anybody knows where I can find a spell book full of actionable magic I’ll pay ten copper pieces for the map.

To be honest, I was pretty happy with the stubbornness that she showed while insisting that this list be mailed north immediately, before the elves started working for the season. Last year’s skepticism, endless questions and my ridiculous answers seemingly replaced by acceptance and reminders to her friends about the locations of “Santa-Cams”, the jolly one’s surveillance network.

 

Holding onto belief
Hes always watching

 

Privacy concerns aside, it amazes me sometimes how easily she is able to mold facts into a way that fits with her narrative. She has learned fire safety in school, actually attends Girl Scout meetings in a firehouse, and knows that this is a smoke alarm. She knows what to do if it ever goes off and her mother isn’t cooking but has no problem also believing that it has another purpose, that anything remotely electronic looking that hangs from a ceiling or telephone pole is monitoring her behavior.

It amazes me, but it probably shouldn’t. Aren’t we all guilty of this to some extent, this ignoring of evidence and common sense, desperately clinging to ideas and hopes that we know to be misguided? The voice in our head that we silence because our hearts say different. The voice that we ignore because to listen invites pain, a challenge to the status quo that we refuse to acknowledge, repudiation of what we so desperately want to be true.

Sometimes this can be a good thing, the chasing of dreams and aspirations that come true despite naysayers and easier paths that could be taken. Leaps of faith and inspirational defiance of odds.

Other times it’s delusion, the flapping of arms to attempt flight as one careens over the edge.

 

wanting to believe
should have seen this coming

 

There is a balance to be found, as there is in most things. A middle ground somewhere between innocence and cynicism, optimism and fatalism.

I want my girls to believe. In Santa Claus, toy making elves, fairies and angels. To believe that people can change, that love conquers all, that stories can end with happily ever after.

I want them to believe, so I’ll continue to lie. To them and to myself.

 

 

 

 

Weight Concerns at Six?

 

weight concerns at 6?

 

One of the things that I admire the most about my youngest, that I’m sometimes a bit jealous of, is her self esteem. There are times when it can border on arrogance, cute at six years old, potentially problematic as she gets older, but better than the alternative. Multiple studies have shown that seven out of ten teenage girls have a negative view of themselves, believe that they don’t measure up to how they perceive that they should be. Once formed these feelings of inadequacy are difficult to dispel. Despite our best efforts it’s something that I know the teenager has struggled with at times, something that I had vowed to try and do a better job of identifying earlier if her sister ever felt the same.

What I hadn’t realized is at how young of an age I needed to start my vigilance.

Many times these self image problems revolve around weight. Not actual weight, but how the individual perceives his or her body image and shape versus what they believe it should be. When I was sixteen I hated taking my shirt off at the beach because my ribs showed, ten years ago I would have hesitated because of my massive beer belly. I’m thirty pounds lighter than I was then but last year my daughter still asked when she was going to grow boobs like I had. I think it’s a struggle that many of us can understand.

I can understand it, but I was still shocked and saddened last week when the six year old asked if she could go down into the basement and use the exercise equipment there. She wanted to exercise not because she wanted to wanted to jump around with a calisthenic routine on the Wii or practice her ninja moves on the heavy bag, but because she wanted to lose weight.

My daughter is not a small girl. She’s not fat, actually is very healthy. She plays sports, hikes, rides her bike. We try and encourage physical activity and healthy eating as much as possible. When two of her friends came over this weekend, I was very pleased that they spent three of the four play date hours outside.

We try, but the fact is that this kid loves to eat. She had rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and apple for dinner tonight, but the amount of each that she had was both concerning and somewhat impressive.

She doesn’t think that she is fat, is not yet burdened by insecurity or a desire to meet society’s standards. She wants to lose weight, but also to gain muscle mass in her arms, the better to carry her body weight across the monkey bars, one final playground challenge that she has yet to conquer.

She doesn’t think that, and it’s my job to try and keep it that way. My job to encourage exercise and smart food choices, but also self-acceptance and confidence.  It’s a job that starts much earlier than I realized it would.

 

 

 

A Silent Sideline

 

This Saturday was spent, as it feels like every Saturday has been for the past ten years, watching one of the kids participate in a youth sporting contest.

There was a different feel to this particular game, quieter, more subdued.  A certain usually boisterous father uncharacteristically keeping his big mouth somewhat shut for a change.

The reason for this silencing was an e-mail from the soccer league earlier in the week informing parents of a new “silent sideline” rule that had been implemented. Applause for good play was still allowed but other than that we were basically told to stand there and shut up.

The reasoning seemed valid. The stated goals being the development of player on field decision making without sideline intervention, improving the player’s communication with each other by reducing the outside noise level, and supporting and aiding in youth referee retention by eliminating dissension from spectators.

 

silent sideline

 

The reasons were valid but I hated it. Hated it and found myself unable to comply. I understand the need to let the coaches coach, try not to yell instructions at my kid during the game. I understand that these referees are all volunteers, feel that I do a pretty good job of not telling them about their mistakes. I’ve never mocked an opposing player for poor play or scolded one of ours.

I yell things like “nice job”, “nice try”, “nice pass!”  Sometimes I yell “get ready defense”, “spread out girls”, “you’re going the wrong way!”

 

silent sideline

 

Anybody that has spent any time at these games has come across the kinds of parents that these rules are intended to curtail. Jackasses that yell at their kids, that yell at the refs, that embarrass themselves and their children. Maybe I’ve just been fortunate, but I’ve found those situations to be very rare.

The e-mail stated that this change had come at the request of a player, leading me to believe that there was some parent at some level of competition that was acting like a fool. I’m fairly confident that it wasn’t me.

As uncomfortable a conversation that I would imagine that to be, I think that the coaches involved in that game should have taken that parent aside and talked to them. Further occurrences could lead to the removal of that child from the team, an unfortunate result that I would hope any reasonable parent would try their best to avoid.

I tried, I really did, and I think it was the quietest I’ve been as a spectator of any sporting contest that I’ve ever attended outside of a PGA golf tournament and even at that I went as nuts as anybody when Notah Begay dropped a twenty five foot birdie putt on the final hole to win.

My daughter is six, playing a sport she’s not very familiar with, and she’s busting her butt, hustling every play, getting better every week. All these girls are. I can give them high fives and words of praise at halftime and after the game but is that really all that fun for anybody, all that exciting to little girls that deserve to be cheered, need that encouragement?

I’ll bite my lip, do my best to tone it down a bit, try and honor the league’s wishes as best I can but if a “silent sideline” is really the result that is ultimately desired I’m probably going to need a muzzle.

 

 

 

A New Rule, The Kid Free Zone

 

A New Rule

 

A lot of parenting seems to revolve around setting rules. We decide on things that we think are appropriate, attempt to implement them and do our best at enforcement. These rules evolve as our children age, edicts against stuffing food up their noses turning to eating everything on their plate turning to washing dishes and after dinner clean up. For every expectation applied there seems to be a compensatory refusal to comply. It’s probably too late for most of you reading this, but if you don’t want to spend your life arguing with a smaller version of yourself about every aspect of their life, you might want to consider dog ownership as an alternative way to satisfy your need to nurture.

There has been a new rule decided on here, one that I have debated for a while and finally decided needed to be be made. Barring special circumstances, previously agreed on exceptions, or sleepwalking occurrences, after a certain time of night the downstairs has been declared an “adults only” zone.

That’s not to say that there are hedonistic, drug fueled orgies happening here. No “key parties” or naked parties in the sauna. We actually do have a sauna in our basement, it’s proven to be a great place to store Christmas decorations and hide presents. It’s been about eight years since it’s been used for it’s intended purpose and about the same amount of time since I’ve been nude outside of the bedroom.

Nowadays “adults only” means freedom to speak, to gossip, to talk about work and even the kids in ways that we might not do if they were sitting on the other side of the couch. It means wings that we might not feel like sharing, language that we don’t want them to think we use, alcoholic beverages and peeing with the door open. It means a few hours a week when we are a couple and not partners in parenting. Some nights it might even mean a bit of sexy time on the couch.

The six year old is in bed by 8:00, the teenager’s assumption that this rule is directed at her a correct one. If she’s reading this I’ll reiterate that it’s not personal. We still like you, still want you around.

Just not right now. You may be sick of hearing this, might think it’s an easy excuse, a cop out, but trust me on this, on all our apparently unfair and ridiculous rules that you’ve spent your whole life fighting: one day you’ll get it, you’ll understand.

If this isn’t persuasive enough, refer back to that bit about possible sexy time on the couch. Do you really want to see that?