Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Message in a bottle for my daughter...

J Bean,

If I could choose the delivery date for this one to reach you, it would probably be around 10 years from now (you are 4 and a very important half right now). I know you've taken an interest in other people that feels different than anything you've ever experienced before as of late. I know you are feeling a great upheaval in emotions and physical changes. Hopefully, your mother or I or both of us have discussed this with you in many awkward conversations by now... if not, go ask me about that right away and kick me in the shin for being late (as usual). Anyway, this isn't one of "those" talks in written form; this is just a reminder about what I hope for you, how I love you and how special you are.

I hope you realize already that you are beautiful, but I hope even more that you realize that has little to do with those dazzling blue eyes and cute smile. Your beauty is inside and at 4 it is amazing to see every day. It's like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon in timelapse. Everyday that has preceded this one has revealed a new facet of your personality, your humor, your kindness and your capacity for love (as I write this, you are nuzzled up on my side watching Sid the Science Kid). I hope I didn't "write" too much when you wanted a playmate, but I hope I wrote enough for you to realize that even in the face of the most wonderful companion a person could have (like you) that we all need a little time to ourselves and a hobby that doesn't necessarily include those we love (my hobby happens to be writing about you and your brother, but that's beside the point).

I hope you never mistake popularity for happiness. If you start thinking that way then just pick up a book view an E-book in your heads up display and read about the most famous person you can think of. You will find they have their own problems (and often, worse ones). Neither money nor popularity can buy fulfillment.

You are probably well into the "My Dad is sooo embarrassing and such a huge dork" phase by now and I'm not sure how well I'll take it, honestly. Hopefully, I'll do OK because I've learned through many lessons not to judge myself by what others think (even you). Just know this, no matter what type of disagreements we have, no matter how many times I yell at you (or vice versa) that I will still hold overwhelming love, awe and a desire to protect you in my heart. If we aren't getting along (and I hope we are), let's try not to burn the bridge (it's indestructible anyway... totally a waste of time) and I guarantee you that we'll both come back around to "friends" again. Time has a way of doing that. Even as I write this I'm more than twice the age you are, but still young enough to remember the topsy-turvy teen years. I hope I'm not harshing your mellow too much or whatever you guys say these days with language like "topsy turvy." I'm actually interested to know if people in 2023 still talk or if everything is just beamed into our retinal computer display. Are you even paying attention to what you read here or are you playing Candy Crush while you read this? If so, cut it out! This next bit is important.

Keep your head up, this world is right where you want it and your life is totally moldable to your desires. Make a plan (I know, it's against my nature too) and focus on your goals then go for them! When the darkest days are upon you, when some other person has made you feel 2 inches tall or ripped your heart out please just reach out to me (or someone, if it can't be me). Troubles will pass and the crises of today will become the faint memories of tomorrow, I pinky swear. Live in the now, but don't forget about tomorrow because you'll enjoy those future "nows" a lot more if you play it smart in this one.

I said all that to say this... By now you are feeling "love" for other people in the way only a teen can. Loud, blinding, overwhelming, shockingly fierce love is the kind we feel at your age. Yep, you're not the first one and certainly won't be the last though it will definitely feel that way. Whoever you have decided to spend your time with and give your best too should be someone who appreciates what you bring to the table. I've hit on some of those things, but many of my now favorite things about you probably haven't even revealed themselves to me at the time I wrote this (remember that whole beautiful transformation business I eluded to earlier?). If you want to know what those things are then go ask me when you're done with this. If life (or death) has conspired to prevent your ability to do that, then ask your Mom or yourself... afterall my favorite things about you are your favorite things about you. You are amazing and if you decide you want a person to share your amazing life with then you need to make sure that you are always free to be yourself around them. Your Self is spectacular and the love of your life will recognize that from the start and forever. Love and respect yourself and find someone (if you are so inclined) who does the same for themselves and for you. The rest will fall into place.

Lastly, sorry about those times I was a jerk. I mean well, but I don't always deliver. I hope I'm better when I'm older. I'm still trying... you help.

Love Always and Forever,

P.S. You're going to learn how to drive soon; even if you don't have a wreck, I will be one. Please don't keep me waiting for a promised phone call, text message or retinal thought beam, I don't need that kind of stress. Also, tell the person you love (or will love) what I said. If they don't respect you then I will be angry, and they won't like me when I'm angry.

How much for the seasonal stomach flu? 22 Bucks? Sounds good.

It was a rainy day and I decided we should find something closer to home than the Children's Museum, so we went to a little playpen/coffee cafe places. I don't know if these are everywhere or just the "big city," but if you don't have one near you then you should open one tomorrow (you'll make a mint!). As a Dad, I was certainly the minority of the clientele; glad I shaved or I might have been run off. Forgot socks for myself and had to buy a pair; not sure they were designed for Dad feet, but they did the job and got me in the play area.  Plenty of things to do and tons of fun for the tyrants. Honestly, I think I could have found a way to contract our next round of stomach virus or plague for far less money; however, the sandwich was good and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dad in the Limelight?

I was interviewed by Chris over at Dads of Divas earlier this year and they held it until now (I assume for the supermoon). Head on over if you would like to learn a little more about this Dad Blogger. The interview is here. 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rewards, Punishment, & Discipline, Oh My...

Recently we discussed jokingly, my approach to parenting and I mentioned that I choose not to spank my children. Before I even get into this, just let me say that I was spanked as a child  and I wrestled with the idea of corporal punishment myself, so I'm not trying to fault anyone who makes a different decision. I'm only saying It has now become apparent that nonviolent parenting is possible. Whether or not we, as parents, decide knowing that information to use spanking is each parent's prerogative and I certainly don't intend to judge or tell anyone how they "should" parent. I love my parents and I am not a violent adult; though I think that is in spite of spankings, not due to them. I'm certainly not saying spanking your kids makes them violent or criminal nor that spanking is less preferable as a form of discipline than an alternative of no discipline whatsoever. Discipline is absolutely crucial and non-violent parenting can (and should, in my opinion) include it. Parents of children who are now full grown, responsible, non-whiny, unpampered, "good" adults exist who never laid a hand on their children. The approach may not be for everyone in every situation, but having known some nonviolent parents in my formative years I knew it was for me. 

I aspire to be a non-violent parent. On the spanking front, I have been successful. On the not threatening, yelling or intimidating part... not so much, but I want to be better. There are methods of addressing behavioral issues which allow us to avoid unhappy and even damaging confrontations. Many people think this can't be done or will try a few times and scoff at the ineffectiveness of it. The truth is, if we start from the beginning with these types of approaches it is second nature it is effective and it will improve our communication and decrease frustrations with both parents and children. If parents are already in the midst of a behavioral problems and have been using a different approach then it will take some time and some consistency to get there, but it can absolutely be done do don't lose hope or throw up your hands and say "that can never work for me and my child(ren)."

Any parent who wants to make a change to the approach with our children needs to talk with them about it and set up a clear and understandable structure for them about what is going on and what to expect. We also have to prepare ourselves for the kids to challenge and test the new waters. If we say, "I think we have enough hitting (or yelling, or whatever you are trying to get away from) in the world and I want us to work on avoiding it here in our home." Then we are making the child part of the solution and privy to the goals. It is crucial that we make a commitment to them about what we are going to do. Afterall, we are the adults and most capable of controlling our emotions and reactions. "I'm going to do my best not to spank (yell, scream, whatever you are changing) anymore. I need you to do your part not to hit others (yell/scream etc...) as well."

As parents trying to make a change we need to set up a clear expectation with them about what will happen with the make good choices (have good behavior) and what will happen when they make bad choices. By taking a new approach, we are not swearing off discipline just a certain type of discipline. Take some time to identify (involve the child if old enough to talk) what they like and what they dislike. Is the child over the moon at the thought of a trip to the park and unhappy when he/she doesn't get to watch TV? Does my kid like stickers, trinkets, particular foods and abhor cleaning their room, missing out on a bedtime story or losing a favorite toy? Those things are the leverage. They differ with different children and families of course, but there are things our children care about, things they don't want to lose, and rewards they would love to receive (with the possible exception of some brain or personality disorders. If you suspect a disorder is affecting your child's behavior or reactions to you then please seek medical advice to determine what is best for them.)

In our house, we are trying to use a positive reinforcement model known as the Token Economy and we only move into punishment/punitive measures when our kids have had extremely bad behavior or have lost all of their opportunities for rewards for the day (many proponents of non-violent parenting believe that all "punishment" is the basis for violence and shy away from it. I respect that opinion, but disagree.)

We set up a rewards jar in the kitchen and every morning during breakfast we put three things in. Examples: small candy, collector's cards, small trinkets and toys the sort you can buy bags full of for a few dollars or pickup at a yard sale, and cards to be used as vouchers for TV, riding the bike, playing with bubbles, bubble bath for play only- no washing required, trip to a pool, backyard sprinkler time... all the stuff we would probably do anyway, but we tie it in with behavior. J Bean is 4 and we have another level to the system where she can earn stars on a board we keep on the wall for "meta-prizes" (backyard camping, trips to museum, fairs, etc...). She only gets a star on the board if she keeps all three rewards for a day and she needs 15 stars for a big prize. It keeps us engaged on choices as she picks out her rewards in the morning and receives them after supper. It's a handy threat when things start going awry. There have been days where she lost everything and continued on the spiral of bad behavior and at that point I start taking away things (TV privileges, toys, and/or threatening early bedtime or extra naps).

Even with our system, we still (just like any other parent) have to deal with a completely unreasonable and out of control kid at times. This is the part where I sometimes fail at my goals and get frustrated and react badly, but I'm working on it and getting better all the time. When I realize J Bean has stepped into the alternate world of "Mad." the first thing I do is give us both a break (or timeout) as some people call it. I'm not looking for her to put her nose in a circle on the wall or sit quietly in one spot so much as just get out of the situation and cool down a bit. I make her do that in her room. I used to try to tell her where and how to sit and not to touch toys, but then I'd end up having more confrontation with her instead of giving her the chance and space to cool her jets. Now I just send her to her room (and sure, there is sometimes resistance to that, but I never relent on that order even if I have to carry her in and hold the door closed afterward). We can't get past the tantrum and address the behavior and events leading to it until they calm down. They can't hear or be reasoned with if they are blowing their gaskets. Many people disagree with this part and will point toward how yelling or spanking at this juncture can bring about obedience. I agree that perhaps it will bring about silence and an end to the tantrum, but it will not resolve the problem long term and will not foster trust and open communication with your child. We don't need to establish dominance, this is a person, not a pet, and we are many times larger than them in most cases (plus we have the access to the TV and the snacks). As parents we are obviously the alpha dogs) in the situation. If we let our need to assert total and absolute control then we are not creating a healthy environment. It may be efficient and it may be easier than other approaches, but it is not the goal for non-violent parents.

If we are able to stick with our commitments and hold our children accountable consistently for their end of the bargain then anyone can move to this approach. It takes patience, self-control and time to get where we want to be, but it pays off in dividends of good behavior and a less aggressive child over time. Finally, I am certainly not the expert or the "go to guy" on this topic and I struggle with my own approach on occasion, but I can vouch for the fact it works and that I have well-behaved children. Sure they can still tyrants, they are children, but I hope that I am leading them down a path to becoming reasonable adults capable of  solving conflict without hitting or yelling. Adults who are aware of  their emotions and able to communicate effectively their problems, fears and concerns. I may not get it right, but if I can get it right enough that they build on and grow my model of parenting then I know my grandchildren will benefit from it and that if we all take similar approaches the whole world can benefit from it. If instead, I chose to continue with methods of parenting that lean on yelling and spanking as the cornerstones then I can look for my children to most likely continue that cycle as well. It's a personal decision we all have to make, I can't tell you what direction to go but I can say with full confidence there are many effective alternatives to "old school" child rearing.

Good luck!

Below are a few more pages/resources to help with your approach and keep positive in your parenting!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Parenting Truth #74: Punishment

My parents used to say when they spanked my behind, "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you," which always felt like bullshit when my ass was feeling the sting. In retrospect, I understand the sentiment even if I don't agree with the approach. I've decided that I'd rather not feel conflicted on that front and can avoid the dilemma of feeling bad about spanking by not doing it. I empathize with the situation for my parents though as they were raised in an environment where the idea of not spanking was unheard of and would have been considered a sure-fire way to ruin a child.

I never expected the words would hold true for other forms of punishment, though. I admit, I feel the heart strings tugged when I take away a favored toy or cancel an anticipated activity due to behavioral issues. I know I have to discipline at times, but I abhor bringing tears to those little faces. I have also learned that the holy grail of threats and punishments for a preschooler revolve around the giant screen hanging on the wall. "That's it you just lost TV for a day," I'll hear myself say and immediately regret or I'll cringe when I hear Vv threaten, "If you don't stop pushing your brother there will be no TV for 3 days."

It's not that we watch an abundance of TV, we go days without watching it and try to keep it below 60-90 minutes total at the most, but the boob tube is certainly handy when you need to get something done or need a little breather from the little ones. So as I pull the plug on the television, I can feel myself wanting to say "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."

What can you do in half a minute?

Things Link can do in 30 seconds or less:

Eat an entire banana or avocado.

Pull off an entire roll of toilet paper and put it in toilet.

Empty an entire pack of wipes.

Throw all of the food on his tray onto the floor and walls.

Climb to the top of the dining room table in preparation for a high dive.

Make a mural in crayon on the wall.

Take every piece of clothing out of a 6 drawer dresser.

Tear every page out of J Bean's favorite book.

Move from the happiest kid on the planet to the apparent victim of waterboarding.

Smile at me and move me from a grumpy old man to a happy Dad.

Dust It Off

I saw a comic strip today which laid out the generalizations of how Dads and Moms approach injury. It was off base in many ways, but it made me think about the issue which has been fresh in my mind since J Bean's wails after a small injury in a public place recently.

I think more boys were probably raised with this philosophy, therefore more of us use it in our own parenting styles but I'm not sure it's a product of gender so much as our upbringing. I've met plenty of guys who dote over the smallest injury and plenty of Moms who believe in the tough love approach. In our home, we go with, "Dust if off, you're alright" approach to minor falls, knocks bruises. With that said, J Bean scraped her knee the other day at the park and went ballistic like she was being tortured as I mentioned on these here pages.

I lost my patience and the wife did too. In retrospect, I felt bad about it. I feel like it is our job to comfort her under distress like that even if it was overdramatized (in our eyes). Does it really matter that we think a scraped knee is no big deal? To her it was pain she's unfamiliar with and she was bleeding (a very rare occurrence) and I feel like I let the pressure of the moment and the banshee call/alarm/scream she put out affect my reaction. After all, an inconsolable child is the equivalent of a scarlet letter for a bad parent when your in public (or so it seems). I've since talked with her about our reactions and apologized and we discussed the need for her to temper her reactions so I know if I'm running to her for a skint knee versus a vicious attack by a sasquatch, but I hope I can handle it better next time. In other words, I am disappointed in her apparent overreaction, but I'm more disappointed in my failure to hold and comfort her when she couldn't (or wouldn't) calm down. What are your thoughts and how do you handle these situations with your wee ones?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Like Arguing With A Wall (or myself).

Yesterday, J. Bean wanted to debate with me about what day of the week it was...

Look, I have a smart phone it says Monday right here! Oh yeah, you don't read two syllable words so well yet. Also, you simultaneously believe that Summer began 3 months ago and that Christmas is next Saturday. You once told me that people say "your arms are bare because bears don't wear shirts." Nothing about that strikes you as a problem with logic, not that this fact keeps you from arguing every point of reality with me. I can't wait until you actually know stuff, it's going to be a real barrel of monkeys. ("Not monkey's Dad... Chimpanzees")

Men at Work.

Every year, we see a piece on the hours worked caring for children and a house for at-home and working Moms and Dads and every year it comes out indicating Moms report a lot more working then Dads. Now, I do the same job as most SAHM's (plus I blog, which is hard yo) so I'm just wondering why this discrepancy exists. Well, I wasn't wondering about it until my friend over at The Daddy Files brought it up and wrote a piece at the source, Salary.com. 

Now I don't know that I would go so far as to say Mom's aren't being honest or that men are more up front about it. I just think it's differing perceptions and maybe different ways of tallying up the work.  Maybe it's because men are so humble. (HAHAHAHA!) If not that, then it may be just in the way we perceive work. If you count the hours you are "on call" then your work week is through the roof as an SAHD. If you count only the hours you are doing something that is productive and requires the use of energy then I probably work about 1.5 hours per week. Maybe, I just work fast? 

In all seriousness, there is definitely something to "letting things slide" for a bit and then taking care of it all at once that may come into play here. It takes the same amount of time to vacuum the house when the carpet is a little dirty as when it looks like the debris field from a crash between a train carrying Cheerios and a truck of bananas. If you do floors 3 times a week and I'm OK with once a week that's a big difference in time invested. If the male psyche allows me to be OK with the fact another parent might come over and see a pile of laundry in the corner or a few crumbs on my carpet, then I'm glad. Some might say I'm lazy. Others might see that it allows me an extra hour a day to play with the kids (or write on the internets about how hard I work).

All at home parents (and working parents, well except for those who think a paid job is all they have to do) spend a ridiculous amount of time "on the clock" I just think it's weird/funny what a big reporting difference there is between the sexes. I mean, I'm an SAHD of two and I keep a fairly clean house, so even if some mop and clean more frequently than me that doesn't account for nearly a 40 hour a week discrepancy  Some people might be clean freaks, but if anyone is working more than 30 hours a week more taking care of their kids and home than I am then I don't know where they are picking up that time. There are only so many hours during the day and when we (at home parents) get a break to read, write and comment on things like this I don't think we can really count this hour as a whole work hour, would you? At home parents have a tough job and it's time consuming, but I don't count my work hours as all the time the children are under my care or I'm doing anything for the house, because sometimes I'm reading/playing chess while I do laundry, blogging while the kids are busy or sleeping, watching TV while I cook dinner, dancing with Pandora while doing the dishes and I certainly can't count building a lego spaceship, playing in a fort, or snuggling with my daughter while watching Monster's Inc as "working."

What do you think? I look forward to the conversation. Gotta run, time to get back to work.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Parenting Truth #484: Messy Meals

Parenting Truth #484: This IS a clean meal. You don't want to see "dirty"... but you will. Oh, how you will.

I took this picture and was proud of how, while plenty messy, Link had kept his debris field to the bib, his face, his hands and his tray. I was happy that none was on the floor or the walls. 3 seconds after this picture he threw the little bowl on the floor splattering food on the cabinets and a chair in the process. Oh well, at least he wasn't wearing white. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013


This morning, as Vv was preparing a check for deposit she wrote "For Deposit Only" below the line warning not to do so. She showed me and laughed out loud (love her). She's a rebel without a cause! I hope the financial institution doesn't send out the bank police to take away our birthday. Her shenanigans inspired me, so here you go:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Are They Here Yet?

While waiting for some extra tyrants to show up for a playdate/baby-sitting adventure the other day, I realized a big difference between children and adults and how we react to company: 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hide and Seek

Parenting Truth #117: If there is a spot on the playground where you cannot see your child from your vantage point, they will play there the entire time. This of course, will give you a feeling of terror and "I lost my child!" every 2-3 minutes until you move to a place you can see them better. At that point, the child(ren) will migrate to a new location in your new blind-spot. Can I get a drone over here?!

Photo by Terrence Hatch. From www.publicdomainpictures.net