Saturday, September 24, 2005

Asking for help.

After a full day with the kids I felt my patience slipping. I had just put M down. I had gotten L and T's teeth brushed. Now all I needed was some quiet time for T so that he could get to sleep. T was demanding a story, and I was looking forward to telling that story and listening to him drift off to sleep.
The monkey in the wrench was L. She was jumping and tickling T until he started kicking her. I knew I was going to have to physically remove L or coax her to leave the room. I felt my blood pressure rising and breath shortening.
I really wanted to give my wife the whole night off, but I was cooked. I took a deep breath, left the room, calmly walked downstairs and called in the reinforcements.
"J, can I get a hand upstairs. I just need you to take L for a minute while I put T down. Once he is out I will take over with L."
"Sure." She replied.
The story with T was a riot. He had shown up at this mornings soccer game with his buddy J. They were both dressed in full Power Rangers costumes. They headed padded muscles, swords and helmets. It was adorable. So tonight, the Power Rangers T and J traveled in their space craft to the planet TJ. On that planet there were many dinosaurs. T and J flew berries up to the Brontosaurus'. They also helped to keep the T-Rex's away by spinning them around by their tails and throwing them in the river!
T thought that was hilarious and asked me to tell it over and over.
I finished the story and did some sit ups while T drifted off to sleep. L was sleeping when I emerged from the room. The kids were all set.
I was happy that I recognized that I was losing my patience and that I went for help. In the past I would have tried to handle that myself and would have picked up L in anger and moved her into her room by force. I always feel deep regret when I do that. Or worse, I would have yelled at her and admonished her for her lack of cooperation. That is not very realistic or empathic towards her state of mind at that time of night. That was a huge win to finish off an all star day. I feel lucky to have my wife around.

10 kids in the yard.

Today was a dream day. L scored her goal in the morning at her organized game. This afternoon we had tons of neighborhood kids in the yard and our cousins A and P.
I thought it was a perfect time to get a pickup soccer game going. We only played for about a half and hour, but it was really fun. I played and passed with the girls. I think it was great for L and T to see some older kids play the game. They saw some good passing and dribbling and hopefully got some ideas for their games.
I loved having all of the kids around the house. My theory is that if neighborhood kids love to hang out at our house, then so will our kids. We we all be relaxed and hopefully can talk about anything as we play soccer of whiffle ball or whatever.
I also love mentoring A and P. A taught me how to do some gymnastics moves. She helped me do a walkover with a little help from M's baby slide. I walked up with my feet on the ladder while doing a bridge with my hands on the grass. Then I pushed off on the ladder and went up into a handstand and over onto my feet.
Later, A, P and my family went apple picking. P (11 years old) pondered how many apples were in the orchard.
"How could you find out?" I asked.
"I could count them." Replied P.
"How long would that take?"
"About 10 years." She replied.
"Could you estimate?"
"I could count the apples on one tree. Then I could find out how many trees are in the orchard and I could multiply."
I was blown away. That seems pretty brilliant for an 11 year old.
"Fantastic. How are you going to find out how many trees there are?"
"I can ask somebody in the barn."
"Great idea."

L scores a goal.

This morning's soccer game was fantastic. I led the kids through warm ups with the other coaches and then we started to play.
L plays in the under 6 league. The orange team kicked off and swarmed down the field. L played some super defense. I watched her anticipate where the ball was going and position herself correctly, without ever getting guidance from an adult.
I cheered for L and all of the other girls on the yellow team when they made great plays. I also gently reminded them not to use their hands, ect..
The orange team scored a couple of goals. Their coach whispered to me that their star player was a champion ice skater. Pretty cool.
Late in the second half, C on our team had a throw in. I was carrying M around the field as I coached the other girls. I called to C and told her that L was open in the middle of the field. C is an excellent athlete and hurled the ball toward L. L settled the ball like a pro and turned it up field. She split two defenders and had a wide open breakaway.
The butterflies started once she broke clear and for 3 seconds the only thought that ran through my mind was: "Please God, let this go in!" I said it at least 5 times as she dribbled toward the goal. She unleashed a powerful shot in the lower left corner and made the twine sing.
I watched her toss her hands in the air and run back through her teammates. They all hugged her. Then she spotted me and sprinted over and jumped up into my arms.
No more goals were scored during the rest of the game, but our yellow team had some great chances. The girls were a little down about losing. I tried to pump them up by reminding them of their fantastic play:
"K, you had 2 great shots on goal."
"A, you had 3 amazing saves."
"Ka, you hit the post on one of your shots."
"We can't control how many goals each team scores. All we can do is our best, and the goals will come."
The girls really perked up as I mentioned each of their accomplishments and I believe that they forgot about the final score. It was not mentioned again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I do anything to keep the kids around.

I just put M down for her nap and my super wife had just headed out for a beauty day. L asked if she could play on the computer.
"Not now love. I have a better idea."
"See the wood pile out back, under the clear tarp?"
"We are going to chop up all that wood and stack it in the garage."
No response.
"You guys get to do whatever part of the project that you want. You can start by bringing down the blue wheelbarrow. I will get the maul axe."
"Yeah! The big wheelbarrel!" Shouted T.
"Can I push one side, T?" Asked L.
"Sure." responded T.
They pushed the wheelbarrow across the yard. I laid down the biggest log to use for a base and was about to place another log on top to split. T grabbed the axe when I was not looking.
"I can split this one dad!"
He lifted the 8 pound axe and thumped it into the log. It made a much bigger dent than I ever would have thought he could at 4 years old.
"Wow, T! You almost split that log!"
He kept hitting it. Then L wanted a turn. I kept busy stacking some of the pieces that I had already split. Then I started shooting them into the wheelbarrow.
"Hey! Let me do that!" Called L.
She began filling the wheelbarrow with the split pieces of wood.
"T, can I take a swing now?"
"Sure, Dad."
I balanced a smaller piece of wood on the piece that T had been pounding. I asked the kids to stand way back because the pieces can fly. I easily whipped the axe through the air and split the wood with a direct hit. The 2 pieces went about 8 feet in opposite directions.
"Wow Dad, you were right. Those pieces do go far!"
I split a few more and then L and T wanted their turns splitting. I gathered up the wood while they diligently tried to split that piece of wood.
We moved 3 barrels full of wood into the garage. On the final piece I told the kids that they had really helped on that one.
"Guys, you got this piece started for me. It would have been much harder to split without all of your hard work."
The kids beamed. We all high fived and carried the last pieces of wood into the garage. T helped me stack while L rode her bike for a while.
"I love having you help me around the house, T."
"You are welcome, Dad."

The splitting may have taken a little longer with the kids, but it was so much more fun than doing it productively, but alone. We bonded, talked about the birds and the leaves and the cat and poop and whatever else came into our heads. I do whatever I can to keep them engaged in a project that I am working on. It is really a special time.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Choosing bed over the movies.

L was getting ready for bed when she realized that K's stuffed dog was in her bed.
"I need to bring this to K!" L exclaimed.
"Sure." I replied.
K and her siblings were downstairs. We were sitting for them while their parents enjoyed a well earned night out together. I forgot that my wife had put their kids in front of a movie until their parents got home.
L dropped off the dog and stared at the TV screen.
"I want to watch the movie."
I gently scooped her up and brought her back to her room.
"But I want to watch the movie daddy!" L protested.
"L, those kids aren't even interacting. The are sitting in front of a TV screen. You decide whether you want to feel rested for church tomorrow, or whether you want to waste your sleep time in front of the TV."
L did not mention the TV again. I was so proud of her as I watched her drift off to sleep. At 5 and a half she consciously made the investment in her coming day instead of wasting her time infront of a movie.
There were many a night that I wasted up late watching the Sox or some other irrelevant trash. I am glad L is learning to make these decisions consciously now.

I love you more than Mommy, Daddy.

L issued this statment the other night:
"I love you a little bit more than mommy." Whispered L before bedtime.
"Why?" I asked wondering where in the world this was going.
"Mommy gets angrier more than you."
I let that one go, but noted that my anger management and patience exercises may be paying off. My wife is an all-world parent and to have my patience placed in higher regard than hers was a nice compliment.
My parenting thought of the week has to be: "Their problems are their problems in the end." I can coach, I can coax, I can help as much as I want, but in the end their problems are theirs.
Nighttimes have become so much easier now that I stay out of the kid's fights. I also no longer micro-manage their bed-times. At 8 they are simply in their rooms and they can wind down as they please.
Another great parenting thought has been ignoring their yelling. At least not taking to heart like I used to. I used to feel entitled to a calm atmosphere in the home. I thought my eardrums deserved not to be split every night. But instead of getting angry when my ears are molested by a screech, I try to suck it up and breathe through it. I also remember that the cause of the scream is not my problem. I can try to help solve it, but in the end, I do not own it. The little human at the other end of the hurricane needs to resolve their issue with help from me. That is a critical difference.