Self Esteem

The Toddler has absolutely no issues with her self-esteem. She will tell anybody that will listen that she is the cutest, the smartest, even the strongest person there is. She sometimes claims to be the oldest and tallest, but I’m pretty sure that she’s joking. She also thinks she is the funniest.  It must be great to be three.

She can be pretty good at putting a dent in other’s self-esteem though. When a co-worker asked if she liked the home-made pickles he had graciously made for us, she replied that she did not. Because they “were stinky.” “Like him.”  A particularly hirsute friend of ours was asked if he was “some kind of werewolf or something?” Last week she asked a poor acne riddled teenage cashier “how come she had so many mosquito bites?”

This last episode embarrassed me the most, as I’m sure she was particularly sensitive . Everybody who is raising a teenager, especially a teenage girl, knows the importance of managing self-esteem issues. We’ve all seen the studies about academic efforts, relationship conflict, drug and alcohol dependency and teen pregnancy rates relating to low self-worth. It’s something to be paid attention to.

On the surface, it sometimes can appear that The Teenager  has issues with this.  She often talks negatively about herself and her appearance, unfavorably comparing herself to others. She had a high sensitivity to criticism, is excessively preoccupied with imagined personal problems, and generally mopes around a lot.  In other words, she’s a teenager.

She’s also assertive about expressing her opinions. She’s able to laugh at herself when appropriate. Last year she joined the school gymnastic team with no experience in gymnastics since she was eight years old. In a few months she will perform with her dance team in front of hundreds of people.  She’s stronger than she realizes.

 

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So we try to care but not coddle. Both kids will always be accepted for who they are and encouraged to be themselves.  They will be made to appreciate themselves, but not by completely getting rid of criticism. The highest praise will be reserved for high effort, not for personal qualities that offer them achievement.

I recently saw a study that said that 7 out of 10 high school girls had low self-esteem. I’m not sure how they came up with this number, but I think its probably wrong.  School counselors and other outside opinions are important and can provide a valuable service, but nobody knows a kid like their parents. These are the opinions that should always hold the most importance.  I think the real number is that 10 out of 10 high school girls are complicated.  I don’t need any studies to tell me that.

I also saw a study that implied that a girl’s self-esteem doesn’t peak until nine years old.  I found that one WAY more disturbing.

 

A Little Obsessive

Besides some childhood hyperactivity,  Alaina also seems to have inherited from me some mild obsessive  tendencies . I’m OK with stepping on cracks in the pavement and don’t spend all day counting things, ( not all day ) but whenever possible I prefer to do things in the correct order and have always been slightly more organized than is probably healthy.  If someone were to go upstairs, open my closet, and quiz me, I could say with a high degree of accuracy each shirt hanging from left to right.  I have a sizable CD collection that is alphabetized and sorted by genre. If Kayla watches a movie and replaces it on the shelf in the improper location, I know within minutes of entering the room.

One of the things my mother and grandmother liked to do together  was to go shopping. This was in the days before child abduction became every parent’s nightmare, so what they would do is to drop me off in the toy section, do their shopping, then return to collect me. I’d spend that time organizing. The good guys would all be placed with the other good guys, the bad with the bad. DC superheroes would no longer be mixed in with Marvel superheroes. Things would make sense.

Last night I got home and did the same things I always do.  Shoes off, coat and backpack hung, bunny fed, and my book listing the things I was to do the following day placed on the counter. All doors were checked twice to ensure they were locked.

And of course, I changed the clocks. I was exhausted after a long day. At six AM I was awoken by calls from the bathroom announcing that Alaina was “all done.” She does a great job with hygiene after #1, but assistance is still required for #2. It was now 1:30 AM, but I would not have been able to sleep with incorrect clocks.

You’d end up jailed nowadays, but the same shopping trick would very easily work with Alaina.

The first time our house was decorated for a holiday she had identified every new feature in the house within minutes. She couldn’t verbalize her consternation, but as her head constantly swiveled from one changed thing to the next, it was obvious what she was looking at.

Opening Christmas presents, she calmly opened each present, showed proper excitement and gratitude, and then proceeded to place the gift in its proper pile. There was a clothes pile, a toy pile, another pile for “project” type things like coloring books and Play Doh. The candy from her stocking was in perfect little lines, separated by shape and color.

End of day clean up is quick and efficient. There is a box for little people, another for animals. Blocks and railroad tracks have their own boxes, cars and trucks parked in reserved spots. The initial organization came from me, but the zeal she exhibits following these protocols is all her. Nights that my wife and I both work inevitably end with Grammy being scolded for putting something away incorrectly.  By a three year old.

There is no excessive hand washing or finger counting, so for now we aren’t concerned. I can be somewhat difficult to live with, ( for a multitude of reasons ) but I don’t expect my housemates to meet my level of organization. As long as MY stuff is where it belongs, I’m generally OK. Hopefully she will be the same.

I’m sure over the years there are going to be plenty of things we fight with Alaina about. At least picking up her room shouldn’t be one of them.

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House Arrest

 

According to multiple sources, I was a very difficult child.  My mother still tells stories of me running full speed into hallway walls, careening around the house like a drunken roadrunner. I have confirmed reports of her tearfully calling my grandmother, breaking down in anticipation of the end of the school day. In today’s world I would have been a textbook candidate for pharmaceutical behavior modification, but in those days you were just called “hyperactive” or a “pain in the ass”, and shoved outside to play.

Eventually I calmed down and neither myself or my mother was ever institutionalized. Depending on caffeine consumption, my energy levels now vary somewhere between manatee and three-toed sloth.

Alaina’s genome appears to have been influenced very heavily by her father.  Her “terrible twos” will be remembered not for tantrums but for solar flare level energy eruptions. Every attempt was made to wear her out. We went for long “adventures” in the woods and were at the park several days a week. Sometimes she would just run circles around the pool.

Thankfully, she had slowed down considerably over the past six months.  Occasionally she will even sit on the couch and watch an entire movie from start to finish. Some of the reason for this comes from starting school and the phasing out of nap-time, a trade that I wish came with more chronological benefit. The Law of Conservation of Energy probably also applies. It’s scientifically impossible for any child to keep up that kind of pace.

This winter has been absolutely brutal for the Northeast, a seemingly endless few months of snowfall and below normal temperatures.  If I see one more of my friends from warmer climes complaining on Facebook about temperatures in the 40s and the need to wear “coats”, I’m going to be forced to fly down and give them a piece of my mind. For a month.

There has been very little opportunity to go outside and play. There were a few snowmen built early in the season, great disappointment when they didn’t start talking. There has been no sledding, no snowball fights, no forts made.  The swingset/guardpost  is completely inaccessible, reduced to half a slide and a few ladder rungs. Any approaching Imperial AT-ATs will go unnoticed.

 

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The few times she has been bundled up and taken outside , Alaina has been given a child sized shovel and put to work. Life is hard here on the frozen tundra.

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Its been a challenge keeping her occupied and everybody’s sanity intact. We go to Target more often than is probably necessary. Endless hours have been spent at PetCo looking at fish and gerbils.  The cashiers at Stop and Shop know Alaina by name and wonder why we don’t do all our grocery shopping at once. I’ve now seen Frozen more times than Top Gun and Tombstone combined.

This weekend temperatures are supposed to hit the balmy 40s and there is no snow in the forecast. Spring training is underway and The Masters is next month. I’m cautiously optimistic that the worst is over and that I will eventually see my lawn.

I’m also unbelievably grateful that this didn’t happen last year.

 

 

Shilling vrs the Trolls

The definition of a Troll per Urban Dictionary: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

 

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For those that aren’t aware of it, there is a social networking site called Ask.fm.com where users anonymously ask and answer questions from each other.   What it is actually used for is cyber bullying and has been linked to at least 7 suicides.  It is a cesspool of negativity that baffles me with its popularity.  Its on the banned list for most schools with laptop programs and any known attempt by Kayla to try and re-access the site will immediately provoke the dreaded “nuclear option”.  Complete loss of internet privileges indefinitely.  We feel that strongly about it.

What I imagine makes this site so appealing for cyber bullies is the complete anonymity of its users.  The concept of “computer courage” isn’t a new one.  Its much easier to type something on a keyboard than to say it in person.  This entire site is testament to that.

Gone are the days when my television is constantly turned to ESPN, but as a sports fan, and a fan of the Red Sox in particular, I followed with interest the new story about Curt Shilling over the past few days. I don’t always  (OK, rarely) agree with Shilling’s opinions, but I do admire the fact that he has never been afraid to voice them.  The fact that we won two World Series titles during his time with the team certainly helps.  He and his wife also do great work in the fight against ALS.

If you haven’t heard the story, last week Curt Shilling, retired major league pitcher, tweeted out a congratulatory message to his daughter for being accepted into college and pitching for the Salve Regina softball team.  Soon after he found his Twitter feed filled with hateful messages directed toward his daughter.  There were graphic threats of rape and dismemberment.  The messages grew increasing violent and perverse as a group of internet douchebags tried to one up each other.

I’m sure this happens to celebrities all the time.  Anybody with a Twitter account can send a message to anybody they follow. Sometimes they respond to overly obnoxious people, but the accepted response is to ignore the provocation and block the person, rendering them unable to send further messages.

That’s not what Curt Shilling did.

After a few hours of reading this filth, he wrote on his personal blog, 38 pitches, that these people would be unable to hide behind their computers and that he could find them if he wished.  Within four hours he was was able to release names, locations, occupations.  One kid was subsequently suspended from his college.  A guy who worked as a ticket seller for the Yankees was fired.

I think this is fantastic.  Its a great lesson for kids  to see that there can be real life consequences to what you do and say online.  We’ve dealt with the terrible things teenage girls say to each other online before.  My knowledge of Ask.fm is from experience and I recommend everybody make sure their kids aren’t on it.

Nice job Mr Shilling.

You don’t fuck with a man’s daughter.

Church

 

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Growing up, my parents tried hard to keep me involved in “positive” activities. Options were limited in such a small town, but I played Little League and stayed in the Boy Scouts until my mid-teenage years.

On most Sundays we attended a small Congregationalist church where 2/3 of the time was spent shaking hands and greeting neighbors. The other 1/3 was spent singing. If I spent Saturday night at my friend Steve’s house, ( RIP brother ) I’d accompany his family to the local Catholic church where I would spend the seemingly endless hours mouthing along to the responses and refrains, pretending to know what I was doing.

I went to Youth Group, including a couple of weekend retreats. I saw Amy Grant in concert. I’ve read The Bible cover to cover multiple times. I didn’t grow up to be an overly pious adult, but I like to think I’ve stuck with the basic “Do unto others” principle more often than not.

The teen has always been what most people would describe as a “good kid”, but like all of us, she hasn’t always chosen wisely in those WWJD moments.

So a few years ago we started going to church. I found another small Congregationalist church relatively close to home, with an elderly pastor we both liked. I figured that even if she didn’t buy into the spiritual side of the sermons, she would enjoy the hymns and no harm could come from another voice telling her to be good.

We lasted a few months. Kayla eventually got tired of being dragged out of bed on Sunday mornings and I decided not to push her. Would I have tried harder had it not been football season? Hard to say for certain.

It came as something of a surprise when Kayla then later joined a different church’s youth group. She started attending every Sunday service, sometimes staying at her grandmother’s Saturday nights so that it would be easier to get there.  Other than that it was of a Protestant denomination I didn’t know much, but we gave her the standard warnings about Kool Aid, kept our ears open for excessive references to the Book of Revelations, and tried to be supportive.

Things became clearer this past weekend when she came home from a retreat upset about a boy. I had forgotten one of the most basic tenets of understanding teenage female behaviors.  Its ALWAYS about a boy.

I’m assuming she plans to go back this weekend, and will be encouraged to do so. The more “positive” activities she involves herself in, the better.

I just wish there didn’t always have to be a boy.

 

 

 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms