What Your Kids Are Thinking…

I won’t claim that I am psychic and I have the ability to read the mind of every child on the planet.  I will claim that after observing my children, I have spent countless hours pondering the question, “What were they thinking?”  After much debate, consulting mental health professionals, “real” psychics, other parents, and lots of time in my “quiet place” (a small closet under the stairs), I believe I have an answer to some of what is going on in those tiny, developing minds of theirs.

You know, Dad just spent the last two hours cleaning the kitchen, cooking dinner, and folding all of my laundry.  I know!  I will wait until he gets upstairs, sits down to his computer, and gets real involved in a project, and then I’ll ask for a glass of water!  After all he got one for my brother and now I want one purely for that reason!”

“I really wish my brother would quit singing that song.  I’m the only one who should be singing that song.   When he does it it’s just annoying.  I have a solution to this problem.  I’ll punch him.”

 “This room is sooo drab!  I have to do something about this right away.  These walls are stifling my artistic and creative development.  Now where did Mommy put her nail polish…”

“Dad just doesn’t understand!  I have to get this picture colored right away!  It has to be colored and then lost under my bed for the next three months, while I forget that it ever existed, so that when he comes in and tells me to clean my room I can find it again and realize that it is the most important picture I have ever colored!!”

“Mommy has been working so hard today.  I’m going to go find a spider to give to her.”

“I really don’t have time to fold all these cloths.  Thomas the Train has been complaining that I am always canceling on him, and Beary and I have not had some good one-on-one time in a long while.  Wait!  There’s an empty backpack hanging on the door!  I know what I’ll do…”

“There’s still cake on the counter from last night!  Rats!  I can’t quite reach it.  Hello!  Here’s a large incredibly sharp knife in the sink…problem solved.”

“He sure has a lot of toys.  I wish I had that many toys.  I know just what to do…I’ll punch him.”

“Bedtime.  I can’t think of a better time to have a philosophical debate on whether or not Power Rangers is fiction.”

“I’m in the car…there are five other humans in here with me…I suddenly have a violent urge to swing my teddy bear in wide wild arcs and probably hit someone in the eye…this is going to be fun”

“Okay, so far I have asked for a snack 27 times…I’m pretty sure the 28th time will do the trick.”

“How high was that water bill?  Oh we can do better than that.  Tonight I will recite the entire script to the Lego Movie while in the shower.  That should push us over the $200 mark!”

“Oh she just did something that Dad told her not to do.  Okay, I have a choice here:  I can handle this myself or I can get Dad.  Choice made, I’ll punch her.”

“Uh oh.  I have to go potty.  But if I go potty then my sister will get the toy I’m playing with.  Hmmm.  You know what, I’ve been wearing these cloths all day and they are already dirty…Yep, I’m a problem solver.”

“I am supposed to be reading until 3:00.  I bet if I ask if it’s 3:00 every 30 seconds that will make 3:00 come around faster!”

Now this is by no means and exhaustive list of what could be rattling around in their brains.  There just isn’t enough digital space on the planet for that.  But this does give you an idea of how they view their universe and how they can impact that universe.

When you purposefully and consciously make the choice to have children you are openly admitting that you secretly have always wanted a voluntary career in construction, nursing, education, therapy, mechanics, mediation, engineering, decorating, catering… (the list just goes). 

You have been warned.

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Many Mini Misadventures

Many Mini Misadventures

In the two and a half years I have been a parent I have been witness to a myriad of moments that no parenting expert would be able to prepare you for. For that reason I would like to share some of the best ones I can think of.

Music:

I have always known that music can have a powerful impact on people…I was not prepared for what it would do to my kids

For the most part my kids like to sing along to the radio when we are in the car.  Often though, they don’t get the lyrics right.  That was never more evident than when I took our oldest grocery shopping and for no apparent reason, and in no discernable key, he begins to belt out his version of “Just Give Me a Reason” by Pink in the middle of Sam’s Club.  Soon a crowd of confused shoppers had gathered, attracted by the lilting tones of my son singing “Justin Bieber reason, just some little bits of love….”  All I could do was wait until he was done.  I couldn’t really be mad, or ask him to stop; all I could do was watch and wait.  When he got it all out I asked, “Feel better?”  He replied, “Yep,” and we concluded out shopping…everyone else had a cute story to take home to their families.

We had been having a horrible time trying to get our youngest to sleep at night.  I noticed though, that his day care did not have this issue when it came nap time.  I also noticed that they played soft instrumental music during nap time.  I thought, “I have tons of soft instrumental music at home.  I could play that at night and he will go to sleep!  Eureka!!”  That night, as planned, I put on one of my favorite Celtic Folk CDs.  It seemed to be working!  The baby was quiet in his bed and almost asleep.  However when I went into the living room, I found our oldest in the fetal position on the couch, sobbing uncontrollably.  I rushed over to console him and discover what had brought on such an extreme emotional response.  Between sobs he was able to choke out, “It…it…it’s just *sniff* just so… *sob* beautiful….*sniff*.”  Lesson learned?  Celtic harps are dangerous and can emotionally scar your child.

You don’t have to be able to play an instrument with any kind of proficiency.  All you need is a few notes or chords and you have the makings of an impromptu dance party.  One of those moments when you weren’t planning anything, but something wonderful happened.  I have been trying to teach myself guitar for a while now.  On one particular day I was learning a new song in the living room.  I was facing my computer and had my back to the rest of the room.  Unbeknownst to me the children had been listening and had come into the room to observe my progress.  Oblivious to my surroundings (learning a new chord progression tends to make my fingers stupid and they forget the chords they have been playing for the last six months… so it takes a lot of concentration), my wife walks up behind me and whispers in my ear, “Don’t stop playing.”  These are words she has never uttered to me in her life.  Normally the opposite is true.  I turn to see my four kids gyrating wildly to my strumming.  Very few have ever appreciated my musical ineptitude.  So for the next couple of hours I played the same three tunes I know and watched them have a blast.

Religion:

I am by no means a theologian.  I do not feel I am anywhere qualified to teach my children about our religious beliefs and how to act on them.  I offer the following as examples of this.

On a car ride home from Grandma’s house our oldest calls from the back seat, “Josh, did a lot of kings die in “The Book of Death?”  My response, “Yes, a lot of kings did die, but it’s not called “The Book of Death”…it’s called the Bible.

Prayer time (I will do my best to emulate my four year old…this is his nightly prayer)

“Dear Heaven of Father, please help me not say bad words…(at this point he lists off the “bad” words he is not supposed to say… just to be sure God doesn’t forget them, I’m sure) like “shut up”, “stupid”, “what the heck”, “poo poo,” and “pee pee” (some nights the list is longer or shorter) and Jesus died on a cross and no one revived him, and God revived Jesus, and I don’t like Mommy to make vegetables, and Brother is really mean, but he lets me play with his crocodile, and Josh is broken so we can’t have a tickle fight, and sometimes I poop in my underwear, but we haven’t gotten to go to Toys R Us yet and Jesus’ prays Amen.”

My daughter asked me one day, “Does God curse people?”  *blink* *blink*  To this day I don’t have a response.  If you read the book of Job, then the answer is “Yes”, but that is not the vision you want to give to your children.  I want to be honest and say, “Well He did in the Bible, but I don’t think he does any more.”  But the truth is no one knows the mind of God.  My response has been so far, “Let me ask our Pastor…”, But I have yet to pose that particular question to him.

Your child’s perception of God might be a bit skewed: 

My youngest:  God and Jesus are in Heaven

Me:  Yep, and they are all around us

My youngest:  Yeah…they are Sneaky Ninjas

Me: …

Fear:

There is no anticipating what your child will be afraid of.  There are the classics though, ghosts, zombies, My Little Pony….

Every Friday night we try to have a movie night.  This is the one chance the kids get to pick a movie and we all watch together.  On one such night though, we had a bit of an issue.  We allowed our daughter to pick the flick…and she chose My Little Pony.  After the movie and the kids had been put to bed, I stayed up late to work on a project.  Now we have done everything we can to limit what they watch in terms of “scary”.  We don’t watch Scooby-Doo for that reason.  On this particular night I was in the living room when I hear our middle son start to cry.  Nightmares are normal in our household so I didn’t think anything unusual was going on.  I went into his room and scooped him up and asked, “Bubba, what’s wrong?”  His reply left me speechless, “Sunset Shimmer just set Twilight Sparkle on FIRE!!!”  How am I…as a father…supposed to respond to that?

There is nothing like the fear of misplacing a child…  Last winter my wife declared one of her infamous “PJ days”.  This is a day when no one has to change into regular cloths and everyone just “chills” for the day.  That afternoon I realized I hadn’t seen our youngest in several hours.  Not a big deal, we had a small house and he should be easy to find.  However he was not easy to find.  I searched the house three times before asking my wife where he was.  She said, “He should be in his room playing.”  I had checked his room three times and had not found him.  I went back in and stood very still.  Only then did I hear snoring.  It took a minute but I did pinpoint the noise and found him asleep…under his bed…with two dinosaur toys in each hand…apparently the Cretaceous period was quiet exhausting.

Laurel & Hardy:

This is a conversation that my wife had with our middle son…I had to intervene

Son:  Mom, what does W-H-A-T spell?

Mom:  What

Son:  what does W-H-A-T spell!?

Mom:  What

Son:  No Mama!  What does W-H-A-T spell?!!?

Mom:  WHAT!!!

Me:  SON!!  W-H-A-T spells the word WHAT!!!!!!

Son:  OOOhhhhh….

The lesson:  Kids are the keel that keeps us going strait. In an ocean of uncertainty they keep us level.  They are learning the world through us.  Even if we have no idea of what we are doing.

Being a Father vs. a Dad

Father vs. Dad

First off I am not Dr. Spock.  I do not have any kind of degree in child rearing.  This entire post is based purely on my own personal opinion and my observations as a child, a parent, and an observer of the human condition.  Secondly I believe this could also apply to the terms Mother vs. Mom.  With that said…Happy Reading!!

More often than not we view the words Father and Dad as being interchangeable.  I am of the mind though that these titles have very different meanings, and as parental figures we should be aware of them and when we perform these roles.

Think about Father, what do you picture?  The actual visual will undoubtedly be different for everyone that reads this, but everyone will have that picture.  For me, when I picture the word I think of my own Father, but not my Dad.  My Father has an insane work ethic, he does unpleasant things because they need to be done, and he holds those he cares for accountable to their actions.  He is that bigger than life character in my life that taught me the meaning of character.  He was there to dole out punishment when I strayed and there to teach me key lessons when I stumbled.  Like I said, your picture may be very different than the one I paint now, but before you complete that picture, let’s talk about Dad.

To me Dad means something else.  Not completely different from what I describe above, rather another aspect of the same individual.  Think about your Dad.  The guy that played catch with you when you were in little league, or let you cover him in makeup and have tea parties when you were six.  The guy that got on the floor and wrestled around with you on some random Tuesday evening.  The man that held you close when some boy broke your heart or had your back when trying to deal with a bully.  This is the guy that taught you practical stuff like changing your oil or writing a resume.  He smiled a lot and laughed as often as he could.

But here’s the thing.  Since becoming a parent myself I have found that distinguishing between the two is very important.  There is a time to be a Father and a time to be a Dad.  You cannot be one or the other, exclusively, and raise a child to any measurable degree of success.  Let me give you an example if I can.

If you are only a Father, and show up at the critical “life lesson” moments, one of two things will happen.  Either you’re going to be that man in their life that is quick to correct behavior but slow to give hugs.  The whole “Wait until your Father gets home” scenario.  Or you’ll be like me.  You hear from across the house “No! I don’t want to!”, and you spring into action (please read in a super hero voice of your choosing, I prefer Batman for this particular situation).  “This looks like a job for Fatherman!”  You come bounding into the room taking over the situation and completely invalidate your spouse’s efforts to raise your mutual child.  Your kids will spend the rest of their lives trying to prove their worthiness in your eyes, and asking Mommy why you don’t like them.

If you are exclusively a Dad then you are little more than a buddy.  You’re a lot of fun to have around, but no one is really going to take you seriously.  I have seen this sadly.  I watched an interaction in which a dad and son were working together on a project and listened to this son repeated tell his dad how stupid he was and had no idea what he was talking about, in language that would have left me waking  up in the ICU if I had said anything like that to my Father.  The Dad was in his late thirties while his son was a mere 15 years old.  I could only stomach that for so long before I had to excuse myself.  Your children should have a certain level of respect for you as a parent.  If for no other reason than you have a history that far surpasses their own and by default have experiences and lessons-learned that they do not.  They can at least learn from your mistakes.  If your kids feel they have nothing to learn from you, then you have already failed.  I’m sorry…I don’t make the rules…I just call it like I see it.

From my own experience I remember being little and how easy it was for my own Father/Dad to be a Dad.  I was little, and therefor, I was fun…most of the time.  I see that in my own children.  It is so much easier to get into a tickle fight with my youngest son than it is with my oldest.  Also in my experience I recall how, as I got older my Father/Dad tended to be more of a Father than a Dad.  Not to say that is bad in and of itself, just that the balance had shifted as I aged.  I find the same thing with myself.  I want to teach life lessons to my older kids rather than just interact.  Again, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but there is a key word here, balance.

For myself, looking objectively at the situation, I can see how being a Dad more frequently to my older two could greatly improve my relationship with them.  I find myself giving them the “stink-eye” every time they get a little too loud or I hear an inappropriate tract of dialogue, instead of carving out a piece of my day to participate in something they are interested in.  I love reading the books my oldest son writes and illustrates about dinosaurs, but I don’t think I have ever sat down and helped him write one.  On the flip side of that, I find it much easier to lay on the floor and let the younger two beat me to a bloody pulp than it is to get them to take a shower on time.  The tantrums can be pretty epic and I have become a drywall expert purely by accident.

So my argument comes down to balance.  As parents we have to recognize when, how, and how often we are acting as either a Father or a Dad and to whom.  I agree that all people are different and need to be treated as such given particular situations.  However, that does not mean that I have to be a Father to my sons, and a Dad to my daughter or the reverse.  I should strive to be both to them all in their own particular fashions.  That feels like a daunting task, and it is.  But as I’ve said before, our children should turn out just a little bit better that we have at the very least.  Only then can we call our parenting a success.

So the next time you interact with your child ask yourself if you are a Father right now or a Dad, and then find a way to be the other aspect later that same day.

As I said at the start of this post I am by no means an expert, but if you have a differing opinion or just want to add to my rabblings, by all means please leave a comment.  We can all benefit from shared experience and ideas.  Our kids at least deserve it.

Update:  This is probably the best example I could see of balancing Father vs. Dad.  Credit:  Benji Jenna Cowart via YouTube