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Archive for the ‘children’ Category

I want to preface this by saying: I love my children. I do. They’re wonderful little pieces of themselves most of the time, and the other times… well, I’ll just say that they’re still little pieces of themselves. They’re just sometimes very difficult to deal with when the dialogue changes, when they don’t get their way, or when something messes with their own opinion of how the world should work. Yes. They’re children. If I haven’t mentioned that already.

It would be so easy to just go with the flow, to allow them screen time whenever they want, to say “Yes!” to every single request they make, but that’s not giving them the best of me and my own experience. Because, see, I’ve been there. Sure, we had a lot less technology when I was their age. (Super Mario anyone?) But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Right?

My children tend to sound like broken records more often than not (“What’s a record, dad?). Here are the most repeated phrases they use these days…

“You’re mean.”

This often follows the word “No.” Can we have tacos tonight? No. You’re mean. Can we watch a show with dinner? No. You’re mean. Can we get out of going to Girl Scouts? No. You’re mean. Occasionally it will also pop up after we’ve taken something away and put it in time out. You’re mean. (more…)

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It’s nice to be a fly on the wall here sometimes, because I can hear the most interesting things. This morning, for example, the girls are getting ready for school, which is usually an individual experience, with one zigging while the other one zags. But this morning they were in the bathroom at the same time, having a conversation.

Maddie: Close door.
Lexi: You want to close the door?
Maddie: I want to close door.
Lexi: But I want it open.
Maddie: No. Close door.
Lexi: Can’t we compromise?
Maddie: Huh?
Lexi: Compromise. You know, when we both can get some of what we want.
Maddie: I want to close door.
Lexi: And I want to keep it open. Soooooo, we can keep it halfway open.
Maddie: Half way. [She eases the door halfway closed, measuring it like a pro.]
Lexi: Yes. Just like that. It’s called compromise. Can you say compromise?
Maddie: Com pise.
Lexi: That’s pretty good Maddie. Now say the middle. Com-pro-mise.
Maddie: Com-po-mise.
Lexi: Great Maddie! [The sisters hug.]
Maddie: Com-po-mise! [She begins to close the door more, giggling.]
Lexi: Nooooo, Maddie. When we are in our new house we will have our own rooms, and I will sometimes keep my door closed. You can keep your door closed too.
Maddie: Own room!
Lexi: Yes, and when it’s just your door, you can do anything you want with it.
Maddie: Anything I want.
Lexi: Anything! Well, except slam it and stuff. But you can’t come in my room without permission?
Maddie: Mission?
Lexi: Yes, Maddie. If my door is closed you have to knock first.
Maddie: Knock first?
Lexi: Yes, knock, Maddie. You knock, like this [She raps twice on the bathroom door]. And I will ask who it is.

[At this point, of course I am having flashbacks to that Cosby Show episode where Rudy and Vanessa are being taught a similar lesson by their parents. “You say who it is.” “Who it is.”]

Maddie: Who it is?
Lexi: Yes, I’ll ask who it is, and you tell me your name.
Maddie: Mad-uh-lynn.
Lexi: But louder. Scream it because I might not hear you through the door.
Maddie: MAD-UH-LYNN.
Lexi: Just like that. And if I say “come in,” it means you can open the door, come in, and nicely close it behind you. But if I say “not right now,” it means you turn around and nicely walk away.
Maddie: Nicely.
Lexi: Yes, nicely. We can still be nice to each other, even if I don’t want you in my room. That’s why we are going to have our own rooms. And in your room I’ll do the same thing.
Maddie: Knock first. [She knocks on the bathroom door.]
Lexi: Exactly! And you can let me in or tell me nicely to go away too. That’s what’s so cool about having our own rooms.
Maddie: I love new house!
Lexi: Me too! But always remember to knock first.
Maddie: Knock first.
Me: Yeah, it’s time to get ready for school.
Lexi: We’re good. Maddie gets it now.

Sam

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scales 10We were driving in the car tonight, on our way to the zoo, when, as often happens when she’s not using her iPad, Lexi asked me about where the animals go in winter. I thought about it, realized I had no answer, and basically said the zoo people know how to handle the situation. She was nonplussed, but moved on. Then she told me about how she had been there for a friend’s birthday a few weeks ago, which reminded me whose birthday it is today…

Me: Speaking of birthdays, did you know that it is Michael Jackson’s birthday today?
Lexi: He’s your favorite singer. Does he still have birthdays even though he’s dead?
Me: Well, it’s still the day he was born on, so I guess so. I remember it anyway.
Lexi: How old would he be today?
Me: Um… well, he died seven years ago so he would be fifty-seven today.
Lexi: Wow, and people still celebrate it?
Me: Yeah. Why not? He was very influential to a lot of people, just like he still is to me, even though he’s dead.
Lexi: Because there’s still a lot of music he put out that you can listen to.
Me: Exactly right.

So I decided to check my iPod for MJ songs so I could play a few in honor of his birthday, but my iPod is all screwy and somehow I only have five MJ songs on it at the moment. I set it to play all five songs, and the first one was “Remember the Time.”

Me: This one’s called “Remember the Time.” It’s from 1992, and the video was spectacular. All of his videos were spectacular.
Lexi: What was it about?
Me: Well, it was about Egypt. It had an Egyptian theme.
Lexi: I LOVE EGYPT!
Me: I know you do. And I do too, at least how it’s represented in the video for this song.
Lexi: What does the video show?
Me: Well, it’s set in ancient Egypt. Eddie Murphy is this Pharaoh, and Michael Jackson is a magician trying to win the favor of the Pharaoh…
Lexi: I know all about ancient Egypt. When they died, it’s real nasty, but they took out the organs and put them in these jars.
Me: Yes, canopic jars.
Lexi: Yeah, those. They put all the organs in them, but not the heart. The heart they left in the body.
Me: How come?
Lexi: Because after death they were supposed to go to the underworld and this god down there weighed the heart on these scales. There was like this feather of truth on the scales too, and if the heart weighed more than the feather some bird ate the heart and you couldn’t go to the afterlife.
Me: Whoa. Are you serious?
Lexi: Well, yeah, something like that. It was rough.
Me: Did you know that many mythologies deal with something like these scales you’re talking about?
Lexi: No. I only know about that because it was in this book I read about ancient Egypt.
Me: Would you be scared if they were going to take your heart to weigh it?
Lexi: No. I would be DEAD. I wouldn’t know anything.
Me: I know that, but if you were still aware of things…
Lexi: Um, that can’t happen, dad.
Me: Okay, okay. Whatever. My point is that even to get to the afterlife you have to take this serious test. It’s like school, except with scales.
Lexi: Um, yeah, it’s nothing like that.
Me: How would you know? Were you around back then?
Lexi: How did we even get on this topic anyway?
Me: Because I talked about Michael Jackson.
Lexi: Oh yeah. Can you turn up the volume on that?
Me: Sure, Lex. Sure.

Sam

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guess-how-much-i-love-you

When Lexi was a toddler, I remember reading her a mountain of books in rotation, but her favorite by far was Guess How Much I Love You. She liked it so much because I would stretch out my arms as far as they would go, and I’d ask her if that was enough. After squealing with laughter watching my fake strain, she would always shake her head and say, “Daddy, you love me a lot more than that!”

As she got older she realized the inadequacies of the book even more. “How can you say love is only as big as two arms stretched out?” she would ask me. That’s when I realized she needed a much more concrete understanding of love, of just what love for a child, what love for your family, should be about. But I honestly had no clue of what I could do to show it instead of just saying it’s abstract until this morning.

Poppy George was hiding behind a giant tree when we walked outside to wait for the school bus, but the girls didn’t know it. He made some strange moose sounds, and we jumped for a second before realizing it was him…

Lexi: I knew it was Poppy George the whole time!
Me: Then how come you jumped?
Lexi: I didn’t want to make you feel dumb.
Me: Ohhhhh. Kay.
Lexi: Really dad! He never scared me!
Me: But what if it had been, like, a grizzly bear or something?
Lexi: Then I would have run away.
Me: I wouldn’t run.
Lexi: Why not? Then the grizzly bear would eat you!
Me: I would do it to save you and your sister. I would tell you to run, and I would throw myself at the bear to give you time to make it to safety.
Lexi: But then it would eat you.
Me: Not if I’m crafty enough, but it wouldn’t matter either way to me.
Lexi: You wouldn’t care if you died?!
Me: Well, yeah, I would care if I died, but I would care a lot more if you died.
Lexi: How come?
Me: Because I love you more than I love myself. That’s how it’s supposed to be with parents and children. You are our children, and we want the world for you. We don’t want you to ever have to experience pain, and if we can save you by sacrificing ourselves we would. And your mother would do the same.
Lexi: But then I would grow up without a father.
Me: But you would grow up. Which is the point.
Lexi: I would stand right here with you.
Me: Then my sacrifice would be for nothing.
Lexi: I still don’t understand what you mean.
Me: It’s… instinct, I guess. The instinct of a parent to protect its offspring. I wouldn’t even think about it. I would yell at you two to run, I would hope you did run, and I would take on the grizzly.
Lexi: So if you love me enough to take on a grizzly bear, then that’s real love?
Me: That’s how much I love you.
Lexi: Ooh, like that book! Yeah, a grizzly bear is a bit bigger than your arms stretched out.
Me: Just a bit.
Lexi: I still don’t want you to die, but that’s amazing, how much you love me and Maddie like that.
Me: That’s how parents are supposed to love their children. Don’t get me wrong. I would do everything I could to distract the grizzly bear without getting eaten. I want to be around for you as you grow up too.
Lexi: Then we would run when you told us to, but you’d better be faster than that grizzly bear!
Maddie: That grizzly bear!
Me: I’ll work on my outrunning bear skills.
Lexi: That’s a thing?
Me: Well, now it is.

Sam

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Not Fair Concept.

The refrain of “NOT FAIR” can be heard pretty much every hour on the hour in our household, either by Lexi or by her sister, and Maddie only does it because she hears it a lot from the older one. I’ve tried explaining to Lexi how the things she feels aren’t fair don’t really fit into the category she tries to force them into, how they’re really just privileges she can’t have for a certain period of time, not rights.

We were on vacation for the past few days, and as you can guess, several of the rules are a bit relaxed, like the screen time limit, and the snack food manifesto. I’ve learned, though, that if you give an inch they expect you to give a yard. And if you don’t then it’s… NOT FAIR.

So, I’ve taken some quality time lately to explain, and explain again, exactly what constitutes being fair in life, and Lexi has taken a lot of time out of her busy schedule to break down for me what being fair means to a 10-year old.

Me: It’s time to do something with your sister.
Lexi: I don’t want to.
Me: I didn’t ask if you wanted to.
Lexi: NOT FAIR.
Me: What’s not fair?
Lexi: That you’re making me do something with Maddie.
Me: Seriously? You so much don’t want to do something with your sister that you’re going to pull out the “not fair” card?
Lexi: What is the “not fair” card?
Me: You know how when we play Monopoly and you have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?
Lexi: Yeah.
Me: Well, it’s the same type of thing. It’s like playing with your sister is being in jail to you. Do you know that there are tons of people who would trade with you in a heartbeat, who want a sister but who don’t have one?
Lexi: I didn’t say playing with Maddie was jail! I just said I didn’t want to play with her RIGHT NOW.
Me: So you’d rather lie on the couch and stare at your hand than play with your sister?
Lexi: [laughing] I’m not staring at my hand!
Me: Could’ve fooled me.

Later on that day…

Me: It’s time to help me with the laundry.
Lexi: NOT FAIR.
Me: Wait. Hold up one second. Do you wear clothes?
Lexi: [sighing] Yeah.
Me: Do you want to wear dirty clothes all the time?
Lexi: Uh, no.
Me: Then, uh, who do you think washes the clothes?
Lexi: You do.
Me: Good. We’re getting somewhere. So I do my part to help you wear nice, clean clothes. And you need to do your part too.
Lexi: Why? I’m a kid. It’s NOT FAIR.
Me: You’re 10-years old. I know of at least a few 10-year olds who wash and dry their own clothes. And guess what? They also put them away. I’m asking you to do only one of those tasks.
Lexi: Oh daaaaad. But I hate putting my clothes away.
Me: Guess what? Washing, drying, and folding your clothes is no picnic either. But do you hear me complaining?
Lexi: Noooooo, but you’re an adult. It’s your job.
Me: Um, my job? My job is to make sure you’re taken care of, not to put away your clothes. It wouldn’t be… what’s the word? … oh yeah, FAIR, for me to rob you of the chance to do a job I know you’re very capable of performing.
Lexi: Daaaaad.

And then, this morning…

Me: What do you mean when you say something’s not fair?
Lexi: I don’t know. It’s just not fair.
Me: Like what though? You use the phrase enough. You have to know what you mean by it.
Lexi: Well, it’s like, when I don’t get to do what I want.
Me: So in order for things to be fair then you always need to get your way?
Lexi: I guess so.
Me: Then I guess I’ll just have to get used to hearing it for a long time then, and you’ll have to get used to things not being “fair.”
Lexi: How come?
Me: Well, let me put it this way… What’s the most important thing in life?
Lexi: To have fun.
Me: No, it’s to be safe.
Lexi: But being safe is boring! I want to have fun.
Me: Life is about being responsible, so when you do have the fun it’s safe and you know everything else has been taken care of first.
Lexi: But I just want to have fun!
Me: See, Lexi, for you to be able to have all that fun someone has to be responsible, to make sure that you’re safe, to make sure that you can be responsible too someday. And sometimes in order to make sure of all those other things we can’t allow you to do what you want to do when you want to do it.
Lexi: But that’s NOT FAIR.
Me: From your perspective, yes, that’s not fair. But if you were the parent you would understand. I used to tell my mom the exact same thing, and now I tell her I get it. Someday I’m sure you’ll get it too, but until then I guess we’re just not going to be “fair” to you.
Lexi: How come you always curl your fingers like bunny ears when you say “fair”?
Me: Those are called air quotes. It means I’m being sarcastic.
Lexi: Um, okay. Can I get back to my show now?
Me: Well, that’s NOT FAIR. I wanted to spend time with you.
Lexi: Daaaaaad.

Sam

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Any guy can be a sperm donor, but it takes a real man to be a father.

When my sister found out she was pregnant, she told the “guy” all about it, and he decided he didn’t want to be a father. The job description wasn’t one he believed he could fill, so he cut bait and took off. Is that any different from my father-in-law who decided he was good with the job until I came along and he wanted nothing to do with me so he cut his daughter off as well? Or how about my own dad, who disappears for long stretches of time only to reach out in a half-assed sort of effort that falls way short? Are any of these approaches better than any others? Or are they all just more evidence that being a father is more than simply biology?

1229990_10202014995321582_2042883073_nI look at my own children and I wonder what they think of me, what they will think of me in 10 or 20 years time, what they will write about me in their own blogs. I wonder if all the time I spend with them will be remembered, if they will have appreciated my efforts to be the kind of father I just have never really seen before, not from personal experience anyway. I make it up as I go because I don’t have that blueprint, but it’s not that hard really. Spend time with them. Give them love and affection, even if sometimes it’s tough love. Be there for them.

It’s not hard, so why are so many guys content just to be sperm donors, to give nothing to their progeny except sometimes last names that honestly don’t mean shit? Why should a child take your last name if you’re not involved in the rearing of that child, when they wake up crying every night because you’re not there, because they don’t know you? I love that my sister gave my nephew her last name, because she’s the one who raised him, who was both mother and father to him and continues to be even though he’s in college now.

Because your kids never stop needing you. Both of you.

Sam

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“Dad, why do some people go to hell?”

“Uh, well, um… How did you even hear about that place?”

See what I did there? Instead of answering her question I turned it around and asked her one instead. It’s not great parenting, granted, but it did give me some time to think about what my real answer would be. You know those kinds of questions that kids ask, all innocent like, just because they WANT TO KNOW. She said that one of her friends asked that question during lunch one day, and no one had an answer, so she decided she would ask me.

Lucky me.

If that were the only awkward question my kid has asked me in her life, I would count myself lucky indeed. But I’m not anywhere near that lucky. These questions either come to her out of the blue, because of something she saw, or because of friends at school who just can’t keep their mouths shut about whatever queries they have. And leave it to my kid; she can never let something go.

Here are the Top 5 questions she has asked me that gave me pause…

5. “Is there a God?”

Now, we’ve read her the illustrated Bible stories, but we don’t go to church. We have never taken her to church, but we try to talk to her about these existential conundrums and about what real spirituality is. However, for the other kids at school you can only believe in God if you go to church, and you’re a good person if you believe in God, so if you don’t go to church then you don’t believe in God and you’re a bad person. Huh?

4. “Where do babies come from?”

Well, the easy answer is that she’s too young to hear about that right now, or you’d think that would be the easy answer. But as you should know by now, this kid doesn’t take the easy path, not if she can help it. I can hear the choruses of “Am I old enough yet?” on Monday, on Wednesday, on Friday, and so forth, until we are forced to answer her anyway. “They come from love, my dear. From love.” Oh, if it were only that simple.

3. “Why do people die?”

Death is this nebulous thing when you’re a kid. You know that people you used to see are no longer around, but they could just be hiding in closets somewhere, waiting to spring out at you when you least expect it. They see pets get old and disappear too, so why not people? But at some point the question comes up, and we all know that death is this great mystery. What happens after we die is up for all kinds of debate, and the question above is merely a gateway question for that one. Batter up.

2. “How are boys and girls different?”

Talk about a loaded question, and one that might be just a little bit easier if I were raising say boys rather than girls. And I wonder what they hear from their little friends at school on the subject, if it might be better to tell them the real differences instead of having them hear it from other kids, who may or may not be tactful in the delivery. 10 just seems a little too young to me right now.

1. “How come some years are Leap Years?”

When she first asked me this question I laughed out loud because the answer seemed so simple. I refused to look it up on Bing, but try as I might to answer the question, she just kept looking more and more confused. I mean, I knew why there were Leap Years, but I just couldn’t translate it into language she would understand. I even twisted myself up with my science and logic. It was an almighty debacle that eventually forced me to look it up. Then I felt stupid. Oh well.

And, by the way, if you were curious… There are 365.25 days in a regular year, so every four years that .25 adds up to a whole other day. I know. It blew my mind too.

Sam

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