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Parenting: Contents Under Pressure

21 May

“I am so happy when I just think about kid stuff!” The comment seem to dance around the living room by a little girl struggling lately with a range of different thoughts and emotions making her feel confused and worried.

WarningIt’s been an interesting (read challenging and stressful) few days for us. I couldn’t agree more with her exclamation. However, I sadly understand and pointed out to her that the other (less fun) stuff is indeed still “kid” stuff as well. Just growing up kid stuff.

From what I remember about puberty, it was different from all this business I’m hearing about from our oldest baby. Maybe because I blocked out the awkward? Maybe because I don’t remember such specific thoughts? Maybe because I wasn’t a parent on the other side?

I know one thing for sure – I certainly did not tell my parents everything Nia tells us. I’m sure I will miss her openness when she stops sharing her thoughts with me. I just think it would be better for all of us if she didn’t share quite so much. Some thoughts should stay private. I don’t even want people to know everything I think. I could be in big trouble if I told someone my thoughts when I thought them. I told her that so she knows she’s not the only one who thinks things she doesn’t want to or understand. I told her the thoughts are normal. It’s ok to have them. It’s the choosing not to act on them that matters. I stress to her that she’s a kind, caring little girl. She worries she has a “bad” part. Don’t we all?

It’s just tough to teach a child who wants so much to do the right thing that she doesn’t need to tattle on herself for every little hiccup of growing up. We’ve talked about it and talked about it (and talked about it some more) and I’m hoping we can find a way for her to best manage her feelings without feeling like she needs to confess or seek reassurance for all things. It’s a tricky thing to balance because I tell her I’m always here to talk about her concerns but then I say – we just don’t need to talk about all things. I’ve tried to tell her she’ll soon be able to distinguish between the harmless (although maybe a bit uneasy) thoughts that she’s a-ok to keep private and the thoughts/experiences she feels that could hurt her or others. Those are shareable.

Because I don’t want to mess this whole parenting thing up, I’m planning to get guidance on how I can best handle my responses and direct her feelings the safest way. I guess that’s what Nia does when she shares with me. From one confessing, worried soul to another, this situation is fragile.

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Who’s Your Superhero?

12 May
Love Their Heroes

Love Their Heroes

I am under no superhero code or secrecy so be careful what you email me. It might become a blog. The words below are Andrew’s in an email to me after I asked him which superhero he’d be if he could pick from any of them.

So, I put some thought into the which superhero question and I have expanded my answer.

Why Batman? Mostly, Batman had no super powers and yet is a super hero. Superman — is Superman. Spider-Man — Spidery characteristics. Green Lantern — has the ring and stuff.

Batman is just a guy with cool toys and training that works in his favor.

If I were to rank order though:

1. Batman

2. Iron Man (He has the powered suit and stuff but his real strengths are his brain and his character.)

3. Spider-Man (The boy-next-door hero is what I like most about him.)

4. Wolverine (Mostly his personality and the super healing is cool.)

5. Green Lantern (I blame Ryan Reynolds.)

With all that shared, I hope Andrew knows there are two kids and a lady who think he’s pretty super. Just as he is.

Sleepy Soldier Taking a Break

Sleepy Soldier Taking a Break

Daddy & Daughter Love

Daddy & Daughter Love

Rough-n-Tumble Boys

Rough-n-Tumble Boys

AthHalf

Daddy’s Biggest Fans

Catch More Than We Drop

11 May

I’m tired of the negative taking away from the positive. It seems no matter how many wonderful moments that happen on any given day, the one or two awful ones are the ones that get all the energy and determine whether it’s labeled a good or bad day. From now on, I will try to remember:

We catch more baseballs than we drop or miss.
This is something I tell Nate all the time when he gets discouraged for not making a catch or has a bad play (usually after a series of good plays). We were throwing the baseball one day and his attitude changed when a few popped out of his glove after he thought he made the catch. “I keep missing them,” he slumped. After that, I started counting his catches. “How about that one, buddy? Didn’t miss that one,” I reinforced. I got up to 24 before he missed or dropped one. Why should that one cancel out all the others? No way. Unacceptable.

Running at a slower pace than yesterday is still running.
Man, do I get down when I don’t cover as much distance as I did in a previous 30-minute run. Ridiculous. I’m out there, right? I’m not giving up. I’m running and doing something I never thought I’d do. Pushing myself and succeeding just by doing. The comparing comes from my competitive side. It is a strong spirit to reason with but I try. I feel being competitive with myself is a good thing. It keeps me trying to improve and limits my inclination to settle. When I feel the negativity creeping in, I focus on turning it to a positive (better time), instead of just realizing that just doing it is a positive. That deserves praise too.

Millions of correctly typed keys are greater than a few wrong ones.
I go along each day and do my job the right way. I fulfill requests and meet needs, often giving more than the person asked for. I get a ton of thank you emails and messages of praise. But then, I make a mistake. That’s it. All the days of performing as I should are wiped clean. Now, I beat myself up and essentially start over in the “days without a mistake” tally. Why? If your job is not life or death, like so many are not, this should not be mood-changer. I need to remember all the things I carried out without a typo or missed step. I’m not saying I shouldn’t care about the mistake, I just shouldn’t let it dictate how I feel about my contributions.

There are so many more moments that make us label a good day a bad one. Flat tire. Frustration with another person/work. Burned grilled cheese. Whatever. One moment in the day of many determines how we score the points. When I was staying at home with the kids, I used to speak in percentages when Andrew would ask me how the day was. It helped me keep things in perspective. “80 percent was great. 18 percent was a struggle. Two percent was wine time so that doesn’t count.” Whatever gets us through, trying to remember that we catch more than we drop.

Caution: Bridge May Ice in Winter

21 Apr

So many life lessons exist for the kids within the miles and hours spent in a cocoon on wheels with other people.

  • We need fuel to run. This can be taught by the amount of gas fill-ups needed or snack food fixes you’ll require. Even though we know they aren’t good for us, we will most often invite things we don’t eat on any other normal day – chips, beef jerky, Combos, giant pickles in bags and Swedish Fish – to be an additional travel companions.
  • Sleep happens.
  • Interstate billboards offer you plenty of knowledge nuggets about religion, sex, eating habits and laws we should follow to make society better and safer.

21 is the legal drinking age.

Litter is bad.

Speed limit is slower than you’re driving.

Seat belts even keep a picture of the state of Georgia safe.

  • Stretching is important.
  • Too much time trapped with the same people causes fits of laughter, whining, tested nerves and lunacy. Such are the emotions many of us go through on a given day.
  • The road trip games we play can offer quite a few lessons. For example, we enjoy the alphabet game. We play ours by finding words on signs, billboards and cars that go in alphabetical order. You can’t say the same word as another person unless it’s for Q, X and Z. (The toughest to find.) First person to find the Z word, wins. This most recent road trip showed me how this game wad teaching the kids:
    • Patience – sometimes you need to wait for 20 minutes and few signs before finding your word.
    • Things don’t always come easy – daddy was driving too fast by signs, some signs were blocked by other vehicles, one person would say a word faster, etc.
    • Make the best of a situation – when you are the only one still looking for a G word, sing a silly song about the letter G and how it is hiding from you. (Nia had a lot of original tunes.)
  • Be ready for the speed bumps. Traffic, accidents, car issues, items accidentally left on the roof, wrong or misread directions, a threatening wasp unexpectedly trapped in the small space with you, a spilled drink, and/or extra pit stops will attempt to throw you off course and shatter your spirit. How you handle these situations is a glimpse at how you’d handle problems at school, work or relationships. Proceed with caution.

Faces Among Us

19 Apr

You walked by children, women and men all gathered for a joyous event. You brushed by bright yellow balloons being held in the hands of a lady waiting to celebrate someone she loved. You almost touched one person as you made your way to the point in your plan.

I saw you standing next to a group of people. You spent time in their presence and likely heard their conversations. Did someone give you a smile? Did you make eye contact with anyone? Maybe even exchange a few friendly words we often share when we’re standing next to strangers momentarily connected because of the time and place? How could you stand among them – be so close – and still want to hurt them?

None of that would’ve been good enough to change what happened though, right? You were determined. You had a mission. The faces around you weren’t going to make you think twice. You were a robot. No. That would actually mean you wouldn’t feel emotion after what you did. But you did feel emotion, didn’t you? Is that when you were happy? Did you feel as though you accomplished something? Proud?

I don’t know why I’m trying to understand something that’s incomprehensible to me. With every heartbreaking act of violence, I try to grasp the why of it even when the why may not change the sadness caused. I look around at people I encounter on any given day and I wonder how many people are having insincere pleasantries with me. They make me think they must be ok because of that reciprocated smile or brief elevator conversation but in reality they may be hiding something dark.

No, our smiles or positive energy may not be enough to stop people from wanting to cause us harm. In some way, it may actually fuel their desire to hurt us. Some of the faces among us are a dangerous mystery but we can’t let them steal away the things that makes us different. Our consideration and compassion for others. Our heart. Spirit.

I will continue to smile at strangers and offer kind (and often awkward on my part) words to them. I have a hope it will do more good than harm.

Laugh Track Humor

24 Feb

funny“Why do they keep laughing at everything she says?”

It’s a valid question, Nate. Especially since 75% of what comes out of her scripted sitcom mouth is not funny. (Or is it?)

“It’s called a laugh track, buddy. Basically, the people who make the tv show have a sound that makes it seem like an audience is laughing. They use it so we know something was meant to be funny.” Even when it’s not.

That got me thinking about the whole chicken versus egg thing and questions started ping-ponging around in my brain.

How much do we learn about humor from the laugh track cues on sitcoms? (Are many of us are trained to laugh at things because of what we absorbed watching tv punchlines that producers led us to believe are hysterical because of an audience reaction?)

Why do you want to teach my children to laugh at the sassy little girl on your program? Do you know how hard I’m working to teach them not to sass? Sure, I know we don’t have to watch your show but I actually do find that sassy little girl comical – probably because of the early laugh track humor invasion established in my brain at an early age. Instead, I’ll just watch the show with them and when her line hits I’ll smirk in my head and then reinforce to the kids, “We shouldn’t talk to people that way.” I’m so conflicted and hypocritical over here.

How much of our humor comes naturally? Some are just born with a fabulous sense of humor? Maybe we learn it from the adults we had around us as we grew up? Funny friends? But where did they learn that someone tripping over a chair and into a pile of garbage is funny? Banana peel on a head and then a quirky line to cut to commercial? Bwa-ha-ha! (I only laugh at these scenes on special days.) What makes me laugh so hard at the zany things Amy Duncan does on Good Luck Charlie? I laugh at her daily and only feel a little ashamed about it. And why the heck do I think the drunk driving scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin is funny? It’s so wrong. So wrong. But it makes my laugh go silent and tears fill in my eyes because it strikes me as hilarious. Surely I can’t connect that demented sense of humor to laugh tracks?

Are emoticons the electronic equivalent to a televised laugh track, helping readers know when they are supposed to smile? How will we know when to chuckle or that someone is just kidding unless they give us a 🙂 or a ;)?

Of course, I am ridiculous and these are all just the inner-workings of my mind as I was doing the dishes one night. It does make me laugh when I think about it all though. Which makes me wonder …

Room to Grow

14 Dec

A few weeks ago, I started writing an unfinished blog about how it’s been tough for me to give my kids room to grow. I’ve been worried that I’m suffocating their free spirits by not letting them play outside by themselves more – or stay over more friends’ houses – or let them walk the block to the bus stop without supervision. I see children playing outside in our neighborhood with other kids, no adult in sight. It looks as though they run this place. Confident and carefree, growing into their own. My kids, meanwhile, are sheltered.

It’s not that I don’t trust my children. I don’t trust others and situations outside of my watch. It’s been like that even for sleepovers at friends’ houses. Nia just had her first “alone” sleepover at a friend’s this year and I was worried the whole time. I woke up in the middle of the night. I checked my phone. She was fine and I felt like a mess. What’s my problem? I played outside until the street lights came on or until I heard the yell from home base. I had sleepovers and adventures sans adults. It’s just so tough for me to let them walk barefoot in the grass because I feel like when I do, they get stung by a bee.

What I need to remember is that the bee is really out of my control. I didn’t see it there as I sat and read my book. The kids didn’t see it there as they giggled and chased each other. Moments of bliss, interrupted with pain and tears. Mom and dad are there to make it better though. Scoop them up with hugs and kisses – medicine and a bandage. Don’t forget the ice cream. Still, we are able to be the protectors. Always the protectors. But what happens when you can’t be there to protect or comfort?

The heartbreaking tragedy that happened in Connecticut today captures that fear for me. Each day, we send our children on their merry – or cranky (depending on their mood that morning) – way to school and we head off to work or to whatever routine we have on the schedule. “Love you! Have a great day!” Words of caring we exchange to each other as they walk toward the bus or building. “See you later.” Because that’s what’s supposed to happen. See you later.

Sometimes, the hurt that happens when they are away from us isn’t permanent like the violence of today. Hurt feelings or worry in their hearts because of bullies, a fight with a friend or boys saying rude and inappropriate things. (That last one happened to Nia today.) For the most part, that hurt can be healed with an end of the day hug and talk with mom and dad. They feel better. They have some options on how to handle things if it happens again. They know teachers will be there to help because mom and dad talked with them. But still, I couldn’t keep them protected at the moment of their pain and I need to absorb that I never will be able to do that. They are not hurt-proof. None of us are. Mere mortals. Breakable. Perishable. Fragile.

Thinking about what happened in Connecticut today, my heart hurts for all those facing “What now?” and it hoards fear about “What if?” I am telling myself to allow my children to savor more barefoot in the grass and sleepover moments – especially for all those innocent little ones who now cannot.

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