Monday, March 28, 2005

How I talk to L

Here is an example of an IM conversation between L and myself today. How do you talk to your kids? How do you try to build their self esteem and self confidence?

[09:55] HOME: here is L
[09:55] DaddyWork: hey babe!
[09:57] HOME: daddy ilove you:-*
[09:57] DaddyWork: Thank you! I love you too. How are you feeling?
[09:58] HOME: good:-)
[09:58] DaddyWork: :-D
[09:58] DaddyWork: I am glad to hear that.
[09:59] DaddyWork: How about Mia?
[10:00] HOME: amidontno:-*
[10:01] DaddyWork: What are you doing with Momma? Are you playing games?
[10:02] HOME: no>:o
[10:02] DaddyWork: Are you helping in the office?
[10:02] HOME: yes:-)
[10:03] DaddyWork: very nice. Thanks for being such a great helper:)
[10:05] HOME: your welcome
[10:05] DaddyWork: Did you try any of Mia's pedialite orange drink?
[10:09] HOME: yes:-*
[10:09] DaddyWork: How was it?
[10:10] HOME: daddy ididnt
[10:10] DaddyWork: OK, if you have some later you can tell me about it.
[10:11] DaddyWork: Orange water, he he
[10:11] DaddyWork: Are you playing with Tom?
[10:11] HOME: no;-)
[10:12] DaddyWork: :-o
[10:16] HOME: daddyweydidyoudo that:-)
[10:17] DaddyWork: why did I make the surprise face? :-o Because I am surprised that you are not playing with the man.
[10:22] HOME: youarethe greatest daddy:-)
[10:23] DaddyWork: Thank you L. That makes me feel very good. You are an amazing girl! I am very proud of you:)
[10:24] HOME: thankyou:-)
[10:25] HOME: daddy iseeme:-P
[10:26] DaddyWork: I love that picture!
[10:26] DaddyWork: :)
[10:29] HOME: daddy do youseeyourself:-)
[10:30] DaddyWork: Nope. Mommy does not have my picture setup on her AOL instant messenger program. I set you up as my picture:)
[10:43] HOME: ireally want you to see your self:'(
[10:44] DaddyWork: I really love you. You are a great kid. I can see myself in all of the great pictures of you and I at my office.
[10:45] HOME: daddy:-)
[11:02] HOME: iloveyou:-*
[11:03] DaddyWork: I love you too. It has been nice writing with you today:)
[11:04] HOME: byby:-)
[11:04] DaddyWork: adios:)
[11:05] HOME: seeya:-*

Please share ideas about building self confidence in the kids

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Teaching empathy.

Tonight for T's bedtime story I decided that we would talk about A and T the superheros. "Superheros do good for their community, right T?" I asked.
"Your first task is to get Amanda's kitty Emily down from a high tree. How are you going to do that?"
T thought for only a moment, then his face light up: "We can fly!" He said.
"Great, you flew up there and got the kitty down, now what did she say?"
"Meow." Said Tom.
I laughed inside at Tom's correct grammatical interpretation of my question. "Great, and what did Amanda say?"
"She said thanks."
"Your next task is to help a little old lady across the street. How are you going to do it?"
"I can grab her arm and A can carry her walker."
"Awesome! And how did that make the woman feel?"
"Good. She said thanks too."
"Next you read a sign on a phone pole that there was a lost dog in the neighborhood."
"What's a phone pole?" T asked.
"It is a pole that holds up the wires that we use to talk on the telephone. Our voices travel over those wires to get to the other phone."
"You guy's have super hearing, you know?"
"Yeah, we can hear the dog!"
"Yes! You flew up and found the dog. Then you brought him home to his family."
"That's 3 good deeds. Good work, time for bed."
"One more Daddy!"
I was cooked, but one more good deed would be OK. I thought for a second.
"You flew by the park and saw some kids running away from another boy. You could tell the boy just wanted to be part of the fun, but the kids kept running away, calling him the monster. What did you and A do?"
This one was a reach. I was not sure what T would say. I was fishing for him to tell the kids to include the boy in their group. T came up with a better idea.
"We could play with him." was T's reply.
I was so proud of him. Another moment when my heart leapt in my throat.
"Yes Tom, that is an excellent idea."
I kissed my angel and turned out the lights. I stretched on his floor for 30 seconds until he started snoring like a chainsaw.

How do you teach values? Do you have any other times of day that are perfect times for this activity?

Weekend with the cousins.

Our cousins M and R were here this weekend. Their little boy played with L and T all weekend. It was truly adorable. After we got the kids down to bed we had a great night of talking about he kid, parenting, religion and patience. It was all that we talked about for 3 hours. Our dreams for our kids. Our fears about what we are doing right and wrong. What we want to do like our parents did and what we want to change.
My wife and I do this almost every night, but it was great to get some new ideas into the house and to hear perspectives from other great parents. It was much more fun than talking about the RedSox.
Do you get enough chances to talk about parenting in a social situation in which you are totally comfortable? How often?

Easter Egg hunts are the best!

When I quizzed my kids about the best part of the weekend tonight, they both agreed that the Easter egg hunt was king. They both also agreed that the spotted eggs that contained the hershey's kisses were also the best egg. I interrogated them in separate bed rooms, so one was simply not agreeing with the other.
We let the kids loose on the Easter Egg course around 11:00. L and T are slightly faster than their younger cousin, so they got to the eggs first. This caused a meltdown with little A. He tossed his basket and pieroetted to the ground in anguish. We all knew the feeling, but were not sure how best to continue. L had stopped hunting and was watching A, but T was still off hunting. A's mom was holding him and trying to calm him down. My wife suggested that we postpone the hunt and go inside for a few minutes and regroup. My kids were fine with that idea, so we stopped the hunt. I thought that was terrific thinking on her feet by my super wife.
While the kids played inside I went out and made some special egg hiding spots for L. I balanced an egg on a 7 foot high stick. I also balanced one on top of a bird house.
When they attacked the course again, A was fresh and we had coached our kids to try to help A find a few more eggs. L was fantastic in this regard. She dropped all of the blue eggs that she found into A's basket, because she claimed it was his favorite color.
When L got to the stick with the egg on top she leapt for it. I think my 5 year old believes that she can dunk a basketball. She jumped 2 more times and then turned to me in frustration and growled: "Dad, can you help me?"
"Try to think of another idea."
The moment that she knew I was not going to help her she wounded up her big pink boot and kicked out the stick. The egg landed on the ground and she scooped it up with a big smile. The bird house was even less of a challenge. I watched as L picked up a stick (The bird house was also quite high) and tipped the house so that the egg rolled down onto her feet.
Have I mentioned that I love to watch them succeed? It make my heart swell.
We let the kids have a couple of candies and then I quickly shuttled the rest of the jelly beans and hershey's kisses into the trash. I do the same thing on Halloween and the kids never miss them.
Later in the day L was complaining that she had not received an Easter card. I told her that she had received several over the past week and one that day. She continued to complain until she finally had to ask: "Daddy, will you make me an Easter card?"
I felt a little dim, having not picked up on this hint, but decided better late than never. I drew a picture of the tree with the stick propped up next to it with a green egg on top on the stick. There was a smiling girl next to the tree and I signed it Love Daddy.
She looked at the card and laughed and said: "Daddy, that egg was pink. But, that is OK."
I could tell she was pleased with the card.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Playing Ball with T

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids?

T and M were up at 6:30 this morning. As I changed M's horrific, gritty dump, T found the foam baseball bat under the couch.

"Have you seen the ball that goes with that?" I asked.
"It's downstairs, in the playroom." T replied.
"Do you want to go hit it?"
"Yeah!" T responded enthusiastically.

I threw T pitches for about 20 minutes. He ripped many of them. I watched him beam with pride on each connection. I also tried to pump him up on each miss.
"Just missed it T! You will rip the next one."
"You betcha!" T replied.

Watching any of the kids improve at anything is one of the highlights of parenting. When the ball flies towards T's bat I get butterflies in my stomach. When he hits it my heart leaps. If he whiffs my heart sinks.

What are some of the favorite things that you like to watch your child excel in?

Comforting T at night.

It was 10:30 and I was about to dig into my bowl of Chocolate Soy Dream. I heard cries from T's room. He was sobbing. He had complained about pains in his legs before bed, so I suspected that those pains were back.
I hustled up the stairs and lied down next to him in bed. He sensed me there and laid his head down on top of my chest. He continued to moan and hold his legs. I felt really helpless.
I began telling him stories about T and the beanstalk. Our version is that T crossbreeds some redwood seeds with peanuts to create a new super breed of tree. By spreading peanut butter over the seed he helps it grow all the way to the moon. As I told the story his whining stopped and he drifted back to sleep.
I stayed with him, rubbing his head and back. I felt a little trapped and was longing for my bowl of ice cream. I tried to slide out from under him, but he woke up again. I quickly resumed the story and this time he was back down for good.
At 11:00 I was back down in the kitchen with my bowl of soy dream.

I find it very hard to empathize with someone when I have other plans. It can cause me to get very frustrated if I was really looking forward to my plans. This was a minor example.

Please share any stories about how you put your own needs on hold while caring for your little one.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The bum walk

Yesterday L came out of the bathroom and said - "you know what? Tom went pee and left the toilet seat up and when I went to go I fell in to the toilet!"

I replied " did you fall in the pee?"
L - "yes, but don't worry I wiped my bum on the black rug"


Please share a classic story about your precious little quote machine!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Questions about Jesus on Easter

One of our friends asked us this question:
Have you talked about the meaning of Easter with L? Namely, Jesus dying on the cross? My daughter is asking questions and my husband and I have kind of put it off -- I guess we're wary of talking about death with her and haven't thought about a simple enough explanation to suit a child. If you have any thoughts to share on this, I'd love to hear them.

I think she is really smart and resourceful to go outside her family to ask such a question.

Here was my response:

I would open up the death conversation ASAP. Start talking about worms, butterflies, goldfish, grandparents ect...

We have had numerous occasions to discuss this with Lauren and it has prompted many brilliant questions from her.

Lauren has never asked about Jesus specifically, so we have stayed away from that topic. When she does ask I will tell her the story or Jesus. I am lucky, because I believe it is only a story and can emphasize that. For people who believe those events actually happened, and then it might get a little stickier, but not too much.

I would start with... Men were afraid of Jesus. They conspired to hurt him because they thought he could take their money and power away. So they killed him.

If she asked how he died, I would say something like: "back in history that they used to nail people to the cross when they had really bad behavior, but that is not done any more."

It seems like a good lesson to teach how fear and anger can lead people to do really mean things. Those people wrongly killed Jesus because they were angry with him and afraid of him. "How are you going to manage your fear and anger, young one?"

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Angry while Getting L ready for school.

We were running a little late for school this morning. I asked L to please sit down and eat her breakfast. She started to sit and remembered the trampoline that Nana had brought over last night. She hustled into the living room and began bouncing on the trampoline.
From the kitchen, in a louder than normal, but measured tone, I stated: "L, I am getting angry that you are not getting ready for school."
"Aaaaaarrrrrrggggggg” was L's response from the living room. It is difficult to do L's angry scream in words. She was really upset that I was raising my voice.
I went straight into the living room.
"I am sorry that I raised my voice. That behavior was not appropriate. But it is time to go to school. Please move to the kitchen. The trampoline will be going into the garage if you do not move to the kitchen."
L pouted for a few moments in the Living room, but then resumed her breakfast in the kitchen.
That argument could have easily exploded into a shouting match. I recognized that I was the one who escalated the argument in the first place and it was my place to apologize. I did so, without relinquishing my control as the adult in the relationship. Despite my mistake we still needed to get to school and we did so.

Please share some moments when anger got the best of you, or when you were able to let it go.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Driving Meditation with L

When I am driving, I try to comment to my daughter when I can help someone out in traffic. If we are at an intersection and we can let someone in another car out into traffic I say: "L, we just let that person out of their street. Doesn't that make you feel great?"
She often giggles and laughs when this happens. She will point it out to me if I do it subconsciously: "Good job letting that lady out from that Stop Sign Daddy!"
Reverse road rage. The gift that keeps on giving:) It even works when someone cuts you off!

What are your ideas about Paying it Forward?

Monday, March 14, 2005

My 5 year old is smarter than me.

I felt tonight that I am truly glad that my 5 year old will be smarter than me. We were going through our bedtime routine when we began to talk about our trip to Florida. She said she wanted to bring her Piglet toothbrush along for the trip. She also said that she accidentally threw it in the water when we were fishing.
"I need to catch the toothbrush!" L exclaimed.
"I'll pass you the net." I said.
"I got it!" L proclaimed.
"Is there anything else in the net?" I asked?
"Yeah, there's a huge crab! And he's got the toothbrush in his claw!"
"How are we going to get it out, I asked?"
L ran into the bathroom and got her toothbrush.
"Here dad, hold this. You are the crab and I will get the toothbrush."
I held the toothbrush in my left claw. I said:
"Watch out for the right claw..."
L slowly reached for the tooth brush and I nipped her with my right hand in a claw like motion. Lauren looked at me confused. I began to advise her on how to approach the situation:
"How can you get the toothbrush out of the crab's claw without him nipping you with..."
She ripped the toothbrush out of my left claw while I was lecturing. I never knew what was coming. I felt a quick rush of competitiveness where I felt bested. Then I realized that my child is brilliant and that is my real goal.
I looked her in the eyes. She looked triumphant and exhilarated. I burst into hysterics and L followed suit. We belly laughed for a solid 2 minutes.
After that we began to figure out other ways to get the toothbrush out of the crab's claw. "I could use this magazine to protect my hand!"
"Good. Let's try it."

Have you ever had a moment like this? Please share it.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Egg Timer at Night Time.

I recently incorporated an Egg Timer into the kid's nighttime routine. It has been helpful for setting time limits on kitchen cleanup and nighttime story hour. The kids have been whining slightly less now that they know that they are "On the clock".
But the timer has had an added benefit that has been much more helpful for me. It has acted as a ticker of mindfulness.
You can actually hear the seconds of your life ticking away as the egg timer makes it's decent towards the bell. This tool has helped me over the last few nights to realize how precious the few minutes before bedtime can be.
Bedtime can degrade into a routine of telling a few stories and shouting the kids into bed. With the timer I become more aware of how I am spending the time and try to tell the best stories that I can in the time allotted.
Last night the kids and I reflected back on the trip we took to the Portsmouth Children's museum. The museum has story hour and they told the Japanese story of the faithful dog Hachiko.
Hachiko book
The kids had a great time remembering the story and talking about the moral. They asked me the meaning of Loyalty.
"It is when you stay with someone no matter what." I said. "For Example: I will never leave the two of you."
"You leave for work." My oldest replied.
"Yes, but I come home."
"Mommy is more loyal, because she stays with us more." She replied again. "But you were very loyal on our vacation to Florida."
"Thanks." I replied.
I milked every second on the timer. We had a great dialogue and went right off to bed.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Flying a kite with my oldest.

I put the kite together and went to the other side of an open field to get some running room. The wind was not strong, so I knew we would have to run pretty fast. My daughter begged to be the first to try to get the kite in the air. I acquiesced and held the kite while L began firing her little legs across the field. I was amazed that she got the kite 20 feet in the air.
"L, you're doing it!" I exclaimed.
She looked up in the air and grinned.
My heart jumped up in my throat while watching her succeed in this project. Her face was beaming and I could sense that she felt as proud as I did. She neglected to let the line out, so the kite floundered and crashed to the ground. But we were both bolstered by our first flight. We ran back to the other side of the field and tried again. This time I explained how to let the string off of the spool.
The next flight was golden. L let out the string perfectly and the kite took off 50 feet in the air. She ran and ran until we ran out of field. We continued into the empty street and began walking with the kite. We talked about how pretty the kite was and well it was flying. Finally it got caught in a low branch and our flight was over. I retrieved the kite and wound up the string. We walked back to the house, commenting on all of the beautiful homes on the road.
That was a really special time with my daughter. Whenever we get time to run or play outside together it feels like it brings us closer together. She told me she loved me many times over the remainder of the afternoon. I believe that our kite flying had something to do with that loving feeling.

Flying with M

I was concerned that my 1 year old daughter would be a wild woman on our flight to Florida. We boarded the plane and I strapped her on to my chest in her baby Bjorn carrier. She sat quietly for a while taking in the other passengers. I fed her crackers and other snacks for a while. When I glanced to my right for a moment, M reached to the chair in front of us and grabbed a fist full of the woman's hair who was seated there. We apologized and began playing more interactive games with one another.
I started with find daddy's hat. M found it quickly. I moved to daddy's hair. That was tougher. I think M believes it sounds like ear, because she almost pulled my ear off. She easily identified my eyes (eye gouge) and nose (by pulling out my nose hair). She found me teeth and mouth, next. After that I showed M where all of those parts were on her face. After that, it was hide and seek under Daddy's hat. She was screaming with delight. After every peek a boo, M would giggle and giggle.
Finally I glanced at the seat back in front of me to see how far our flight had progressed. When I looked back at M, she had another fist full of hair in her hand. After I pried her hand loose she began to fuss a bit more. She wanted out of her seat. My wife offered to take her, but I knew if we went down that road we were in trouble. She would have bounced around on her siblings and things would have gone downhill from there. Instead I walked with her to the back of the plane. We played in the bathroom for awhile and enjoyed the mirror.
Then I walked her to the front of the plane and again to the back. That was enough to rock her off to sleep. I hugged her at the back of the plane for almost an hour while she snoozed on my chest. Another dad and I chatted with our little girls on our chests.
After M's nap we settled back into our seats and prepared for landing. My wife was excited that the flight had gone so well. I enjoyed our last few minutes of "name the body part" and then our flight was over. It turned out to be a magical ride. I was concerned before the flight about how M would be able to handle that amount of time in a confined space. We did terrific. I have no worries about the return flight and am totally looking forward to bonding time with my smallest baby.