No Shenanigins on my watch

 

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I’m a pretty big fan of Tulamore Dew Irish Whiskey and I’ll drop a bomb into a pint of Guinness whenever somebody’s buying.  I’ve got a Flogging Mollys CD and five or six by The Dropkick Murphys, who I’ve seen twice in concert.  I enjoy a nice Irish pub, specially late in the evening when everybody gets rowdy and starts singing.  The rendition of “Wild Rover” myself, my wife, and our friends Chris and Kathleen performed from atop a bar in Florida a few years back was legendary.

 

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But I have no use for St Patrick’s Day.  Today we celebrate the life of a guy who converted the Irish pagans to Christianity in the early 1700s.  Apparently he used a four leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity, but I confess this makes little mathematical sense to me.  People of actual Irish origin use the day to celebrate their heritage.  Lots of others use it as an excuse to wear green clothes and get loaded.

Obviously, an anti-drinking post on a blog titled “Musings of a Thirsty Daddy” is going to come across somewhat hypocritical.

I have no problems with drinking itself.  There are many things that are just simply better with beer.  Watching football, playing pool, mowing the lawn.  I enjoy sipping on a nice bourbon and sprite or three after the kids go to bed.

What I rarely do anymore is get drunk, which is something completely different.  Getting drunk is what I used to do.  This is when “stupid shit” gets done, of which I’ve had my share. There are bar fights, arguments, “watch this” moments when you tell somebody to “hold my beer” and carry the scars twenty years later.

Luckily I was pretty successful at avoiding the stupidest, which is driving when drunk.  For a teenage boy there is no faster way to ruin the rest of your, or somebody else’s, life.

Kayla is not a teenage boy.  Statistics vary, but the general idea is that in at least 50% of sexual assaults, the victim is intoxicated. The numbers coming out of college campuses these days makes me wonder how any father allows his daughter to go.

Right now she has a very negative attitude towards alcohol, as do some of her closer friends, for a variety of reasons. To my knowledge she’s never experimented with alcohol and I hope this continues for as long as possible.  She’s not currently allowed to ride in cars with other teenagers and in six years or so when that policy changes they will be subjected to random breathalyzer testing.  She’ll be staying home on St Patrick’s Day and New Years Eve.

Tonight I’m only working at the hospital until 9:00, so chances are I’ll miss most of the drunken revelers that will surely be telling each other to “hold my beer” and making their way to the Emergency Room.  When I get home chances are good that I’ll raise a pint to Lucky the Leprechaun or whoever the hell this day is for.

But my fifteen year old daughter will be staying home.

 

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Sneakers and Wings

I work mainly nights and alternating weekends, so quality time with the teenager can be hard to come by. When I got a text yesterday asking if we could go out to lunch, I was happy to oblige. There was a catch, however.  First we had to go shopping.  For me.

She accepted readily enough that I don’t think she thought I was serious. I don’t ever “go shopping” for myself, unless the supermarket or liquor store counts. The only clothes I’ve bought for myself in the last twenty years are socks, underwear, and items with sports logos. Sometimes socks and underwear with sports logos.

If you’ve even been talked into taking a teenage girl to the mall, you know what torture it can be.  After a few pieces of pizza and an hour or so browsing for music and videogames, you rendezvous to find that they are only a quarter of the way through their targeted stores. Don’t plan on doing anything else that afternoon. If there is a game on TV you want to watch, set your DVR and avoid checking your phone.

So I dragged it out a little.  All I actually needed was a new pair of sneakers, but I went to a few different places. I checked out the new gear at Olympia Sports and looked at some shirts in Kohls that I wouldn’t be caught dead in, asking her opinion often.  By the third stop she asked if she could stay in the car. I didn’t let her.

Eventually I got tired of the game, ( OK, I got hungry ) and settled on a pair of blue Reeboks.  Somehow she ended up with a new sweater. We had a nice lunch, devoid of her attention draining little sister. Phones were left in pockets, conversation was had.

Not a bad way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon in March.

 

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Cartoons

 

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I may have lost control over virtually everything else in my life, but the one thing I still hold onto is the remote control. Not necessarily what is on the TV, but the remote itself. Alaina can turn the TV on and off, but still hasn’t been able to figure out how to change the channel. Yes, she can get very grumpy when “her shows” aren’t on, but WHICH cartoons is still completely up to me.

Between PBS, Discovery JR, three Nickelodeon channels and four Disneys, I usually have plenty of options. I know most of the schedules and plan accordingly. Peppa Pig sometimes amuses me, Olivia the Pig does not. No Barney or Thomas the Train are tolerated, but Dinosaur Train and Chuggington are OK.  Anything with even the smallest educational qualities are  top choices.

Sick of the silliness and emboldened by my recent successes moving towards toys that I want to play with, I’ve begun searching for cartoons with more “adult” sensibilities.  The Star Wars Rebels cartoon is really good, as are the Spider Man and Avengers shows.  So far, so good. She doesn’t always understand what is going on, but with some tutoring is beginning to figure out which are the good and bad guys.  The Emperors’s takeover of Parliament during the Clone Wars as allegory for increased executive powers in the United States seems an easier concept for her that the idea that there are now child AND teenage Doras, depending on the time of day.

I may be biased by nostalgia, but it seems like there were much better cartoons growing up in the 80s. There were the ones everybody knows, like GI Joe and the Transformers, memories ruined now by terrible live action movies.  Superhero shows like Spider Man and The Superfriends, space adventures with  Voltron and Battle of the Planets, fantasies with Dragons Lair and Dungeons and Dragons.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I recently ordered Thundarr the Barbarian, the Complete Series from Amazon. I probably should be, but I’m not.

Most of the time, Alaina isn’t even watching the TV, she just likes to prove she’s the boss.  She spends a lot of her time playing and is great about helping out around the house. With NFL free agency starting, she’s been forced to endure a lot more Sportcenter.

The Hulk is still difficult to explain, but she knows for sure that Darrelle Revis is one of the “bad guys.”

 

 

 

Play With Me!

There are many different methods that women use to get what they want, but in the end they are all ultimately successful.  The teenager’s plan of attack seems to be to wait until her mother and I are frustrated or otherwise preoccupied with her little sister. More often than we would like to admit, its easier to agree to something than to have two kid’s attitudes to deal with at once. I’m not sure where she keeps it, but I’m convinced there is a secret handbook that my wife references often to get me to do what she wants. When things go the way I want them to around here, it is usually either purely accidental or furthering somebody’s else’s cause.

The pre-schooler has developed a few of her own strategies beyond the standard temper tantrum. Her newest is to add “if you loved me” to the end of a request. “I know its 7:00 in the morning, but if you loved me, we’d drive to McDonalds for a smoothie.”  This is amusing, but ineffective.

She is somewhat more successful with this face, but is unable to hold it for long. She knows exactly what she is doing.

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What works best for her is the same thing that has been working for millennia. Good old fashioned nagging.

“Daddy will you play with me?” “How about now?” “Daddy, will you play with me soon?” An endless repetition that makes it impossible to focus on any other task.

So I spend a lot of time playing.

I really don’t mind most of the time. The dollhouses and Barbie cars are slowly being replaced by castles and pirate ships. We’ve got a ton of blocks and a pretty cool railroad set. She’s pretty good about letting me play with Batman and Optimus Prime, but I’m a little embarrassed about how often we fight over the Stormtrooper.

I reduced my work hours in order to spend this time with her. She’s growing absurdly fast and I know these days will be gone before I am ready.

And she’s just going to ask again in five minutes anyway.

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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.

 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms