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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

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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swear-wordThere’s a thin line between wanting your children to be safely quarantined against the harsh world and wanting them to be prepared to hold their own in a landscape that is shifting, and increasingly for the worse. Someone said “MF’er” in front of my children the other day, and I wanted to slap her 10 ways from Sunday.

How dare she expose my children to something so harsh, so incendiary, so soon! After all my time of saying “fudge biscuit,” “shnikey,” and “Jehosophat,” how could someone hand my children the very verbal weapons I was trying to keep from them at all costs?

But after holding my tongue, and thinking about it some more, I realized that it’s not such a bad thing for them to hear such words. It’s the context that those words are in that is important, because then it becomes a teachable moment instead of something full of chagrin.

Pretending that this woman didn’t say what she said would have been foolish because kids pick up things even if they don’t talk about them. The key is to talk about it in the moment. So, five minutes after the incident, I sat my oldest down and talked to her about bad words, about why people say them, and about how we shouldn’t say them. It turns out she had heard what the woman said earlier. She just hadn’t mentioned it.

That’s the glory of having children, honestly. They take in so much more than they let on, hording everything until such a moment when they deem it worthy to share. Most of the time the moments they choose are highly inappropriate. So why not take those times that fall into our lap, instead of wincing and hoping they didn’t hear, to educate them on the words we should use and the ones we should avoid?

My mother was all for leaving it alone, for pretending it never happened, and as I got older I faulted her for this. I knew the whole cadre of words, but I never said them. I held them all inside, until I became a teenager, and I got a few friends. That’s when they call came tumbling out, and at the worst times. That’s how I know it happens. I know what she thought, that she was shielding me from the harshness of the world, and I am grateful for her motives, but the world gets in anyway.

And maybe it’s just the world we live in nowadays too, the widespread belief that anyone should be able to say anything to anyone at any time without fear of reprisal. Perhaps it’s the me-first mentality that permeates our nation and our world. Or it could just be the parents who swear at their children every single day, who see nothing wrong with using that language. Whatever it is, though, our kids are exposed more than we were growing up, so there are more moments to be there for them, to explain why those words are wrong to say, to teach them how to stay on this side of that thin line.

Or we could simply go with our baser instincts and slap that woman 10 ways from Sunday. That’s still an appealing choice to me even though I know it’s wrong. I blame the world we live in.

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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screen480x480School vacations are always challenging, trying to find a way to fill the void of time that would normally be taken up by school and school activities. It’s a special kind of cabin fever, and I get it. The kids are used to being around their peers; they’re used to a routine that accounts for nearly every minute of the day, from 9:00 am until 3:30 pm, and frankly, so am I. Having so much time with their grandmother during this week has led to some bruised feelings, and I have to admit, a little more screen time than I’d like.

So I got home yesterday at 3:30 and both girls were on their iPads, Lexi engrossed in a youTube video all about Minecraft, and Madeline in what must have been her umpteenth episode of Inspector Gadget. I told them their screen time was up. And Lexi went ballistic…

Me: How much screen time have you had today?
Lexi: I don’t know.
Me: Well, when did you last do something that wasn’t screen related?
Lexi: Um, I don’t know.
Me: How long is this episode?
Lexi: Well, most of them are, like, 30 minutes.
Me: And how many episodes have you seen today?
Lexi: I don’t know. Like five of them.
Me: Don’t you think it’s time you turned it off? Five episodes is 2 1/2 hours.
Lexi: But I love it sooooo much! I don’t want to turn it off!
Me: Finish this episode and then turn it off. It doesn’t matter if you want to.

At which point my beautiful child’s face contorted into what I can only guess is what the devil’s face would look like. I fully expected snarling and spitting, not unlike from a rabid dog, at any moment. Eventually, though, she cooled down and we were able to talk again like normal human beings. It helped that by then she had turned her iPad off and it was sitting in the chair in the other room, charging for whenever it was going to be used next. She was hoping sooner, but I knew it would be later — much later.

Lexi: So what do I do now?
Me: You have a million things you could do. Find one.
Lexi: But I’m sooooo bored, and I don’t want to do anything.
Me: What if I told you you could have your iPad back again?
Lexi: Can I?!
Me: No. My point was that you aren’t too tired to stare at that screen so how could you be too tired to play with your toys or play with your sister?
Lexi: Daaaaaaaaad! You know what I mean.
Me: Yeah, I know that you’re completely obsessed with Minecraft and those videos, and you need to find time for other things in your life. Things that are real. Things that you can do with other people.
Lexi: Maddie can play Minecraft with me,as long as she doesn’t wreck my stuff. I spent a lot of time building everything in my world.
Me: That’s not what I meant, but it proves my point.

She proceeded to lay down on the couch and began humming some tune I can only imagine is prevalent in Minecraft.

Me: So you’d rather stare at the wall as if you’re watching paint dry than find something constructive to do with your free time?
Lexi: Why would anyone sit and watch paint dry?
Me: Again, you totally missed my point. Find something constructive to do.
Lexi: What do you mean by constructive?
Me: Anything. Like building a fort, or playing with your ponies, or helping your sister put together a puzzle, or reading a book. Anything!
Lexi: But I don’t want to do any of that.
Me: So you’d rather watch paint dry. Okay.
Lexi: I don’t care about paint drying! No one’s painting anyway.
Me: I’m sure someone’s painting somewhere.
Lexi: Daaaaaad.
Me: Seriously, though, Lex, you’re not getting your iPad back until you’ve done at least three creative or constructive activities as approved by me.
Lexi: I’ll just lie here then.
Me: I’m thinking I might just designate some days as iPad free days. And no, it doesn’t mean you an order whatever apps you want for free. It means you won’t have the iPad for the entire day. You’ll have to find something else to do with your free time.

And I meant it then. I mean it now. Sometimes I think that “with great technology comes even greater responsibility.” As a parent I need to make sure my child is a productive member of society, and having her nose in a screen all day long won’t help her get there. We’ve already limited her screen time to 2 hours a day, but instituting these iPad free days will make it even more of a focus, a focus on getting creative and constructive.

Lexi: You mean I’m going to have to come up with stuff to do?
Me: Yup. That’s exactly what I mean.
Lexi: Can you just wake me up when it’s the next day?

Sam

Chatting With Lexi Archives

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why_me_god“Oh my god,” she said, and to her it meant absolutely nothing. It was a placeholder, another way of saying “What?” in that sarcastic tone I know she means when she pretends to be innocent. But she knows what she’s doing and saying. She knows that I’m not pleased when I put my hands on my hips and say, “It has nothing to do with god.” Then she looks at me like I’ve grown a second head, rolls her eyes, and says, “You know what I meant.” And while I do, I don’t at the same time.

I wasn’t allowed to say “God” when I was growing up, because it was taking the Lord’s name in vain. There’s some scripture about it, about not taking the Lord’s name in vain, that there will be serious consequences, or something like that. And I took it seriously, but sometimes I got into saying “Geez,” and “Gosh,” and even “Golly.” But we all know what each one of those affectations really means, right? They’re just another way for saying God, and just another way to take the Lord’s name in vain.

But it never stopped me from saying it. It just stopped me from saying it in the presence of my mother. To this day I don’t think my mother has ever heard me swear, and to my mother the G-word was even worse to say than the F-word, at least that’s the way it seemed at the time. Then I grew up, and it was all around me, so it lost its cache. Everyone said “Oh my god,” and “Geez,” and “Gosh,” so I stopped saying all of them. Instead I began using the F-word, but never around my children. I’d like to try and keep them innocent for just a little while longer (he says, while writing about it on his blog).

Now it’s all come full circle, because my oldest is saying it… all the time. Every time I turn around she’s saying it again. It’s become her mantra, as if it’s the last phrase on earth and she’s using it up because she’s worried that it too will disappear forever any second. I’ve tried to explain to her like my mother explained to me, that we shouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain, but she asked me, “Who’s the Lord?” That’s when it hit me that I’m not my mother. I don’t have some kind of solid faith that keeps me grounded, or chained, whichever verb you prefer. What I have is a personal connection with some form of a god that hasn’t been introduced to my children.

So I don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to the phrase, because we don’t have any religious rules to follow in this house. It makes me realize, this grand battle, that we do need to start explaining to our children what our faith entails, and that it’s real even though we don’t go to church, that faith isn’t organized religion for us but that it can be for them. It’s time to start discussing those difficult subjects, because Alexa’s obviously ready, if just in the question she asked me as a response to my chastisement.

“Oh my god,” she told me when she got home from school today and dropped her bookbag down on the floor like it had been cutting into her shoulders. And I began to scold her, but I stopped myself instead, for a change. Because it’s not taking the Lord’s name in vain if she doesn’t even know who He is to her, and for her. There’s no frame of reference, so no wonder she is so miffed when I just say it’s wrong. It’s time for us both to work through the idea of religion together, under the shining lights of the Menorah.

Sam

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280500_origIt was always maddening, when I had what I felt was a legitimate question and my mother would say, “Because I Said So.” I would fuss and fume, knowing that what I wanted to know was something I should know, and she was stopping me from knowing it. The least she could do was give me a valid reason in return, right? I vowed then and there that I would always give my children a solid reason.

Then, the other day…

“Dad, how come I can’t have my iPad as long as I want?”

“Because too much screen time can be bad for you.”

“But how come?”

“Because there’s a lot of action on it.”

“But how come?”

“Because I said so… now put it away.”

That’s when I realized I had it all wrong those many years ago. My mother hadn’t been trying to avoid telling me what I needed to know. She had been exasperated because sometimes there just wasn’t ever going to be an answer that would have satisfied me. There would have been an endless loop with her saying something logical and me responding with “But how come?” as if she had never spoken. So eventually she realized what would finally knock me in the head when dealing with my own children: At some point it’s okay to give up.

Because giving up doesn’t have to mean giving in. It means utilizing your position as the authority figure to escape from the endless loop that kids will throw at you until both you and they are hoarse. Now, if I can just learn to say it from the start instead of letting the dialogue begin to get out of hand. One step at a time, Sam. One step at a time.

Sam

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to-be-creative-lose-the-fear-of-being-wrong-quote-1Okay, so she gets it honest. Lexi absolutely hates being wrong, at any time, in any way. In fact, she will try her best to convince you after the fact that she’s still right regardless of the evidence against that even remotely being true. She reminds me of myself when she gets obstinate like that, crafting entire scenarios to bolster her version of events, creating entirely new scientific evidence from thin air to support her claim. But in the end she’s not even really convincing herself, just really trying to distance herself from what she perceives as failure.

We’ve talked about it often, this inability to accept the truth when it skews differently from her opinion, and it bothers me because I see her growing up as this inflexible human being, like I still am at times. I guess it’s true that we want something more for our children than we’ve had, and in this case I don’t want her to have this portion of herself be like me. I want her to be open to the glory of being wrong. The following conversation happened while we were reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Me: So, Lexi, why do you think Harry is worried about this potion that Snape just gave to Professor Lupin?

Lexi: I don’t know.

Me: Well, think about it. Harry thinks Snape is evil, AND he knows that Snape wants Lupin’s job. Why would that worry him, Snape giving Lupin the potion?

Lexi: I don’t know what you want me to say!

Me: I don’t want you saying something just because. I want you to use some of your own reasoning skills and arrive at an educated guess.

Lexi: But I don’t know.

Me: Well, how do you think Snape could get Lupin’s job? And how might a potion have anything to do with that plan?

Lexi: Maybe the potion could give Snape Lupin’s job.

Me: How?

Lexi: Daaaaaad. I don’t want to guess anymore. (more…)

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