The big fourth grade project is a report on Canada. This includes research, a typed presentation, and an artifact. One of the things I like most about Cecilia’s teacher is how she gives the kids the time and space to do things on their own. For better and for worse. Sorry, for better and for learning opportunities.
Watching Cecilia ‘type’ her slides was almost viscerally painful. Until she discovered dictation! We thought about stepping in but if we are going to let them figure things out why can’t she use all the tools on her Chromebook.
The toughest part for me to witness has been the design of the slides. I worked for almost 8 year as a consultant. I spent a lot time using PowerPoint. A lot. I would sometimes dream in PowerPoint. People would open their mouths and a perfectly formatted slide would pop out with their dialogue.
Cecilia’s slide dialogue would have been…difficult to read. She enjoyed different fonts. Explored different font sizes. Discovered rainbow fonts. She discovered Comic Sans. We had to have a chat.
As a designer, I will not let my child submit a report using Comic Sans. Time and space has its limits.
I get my 10 year parenting chip next month. Being a parent is not simple. Ok, the core of it might be. Show up. Love your kid no matter what. It’s in the margins where things can often go sideways.
I think the biggest thing that has changed since Ce was a baby is that I can’t plan it all anymore. And I love to plan. I think about what to make for dinner while drinking my morning coffee. I love making to-do lists. I never met a calendar app I didn’t like. I also tend to invest a lot of energy in hoping all those plans go smoothly. If they don’t, I tend to get a little cranky and stressed out. Stressed out parents make terrible decisions. It’s a vicious circle.
Ten years in and I’m now trying to learn from my kids and be better at reacting to life as it happens. Sound too simple? Maybe it is. But it does works. With a little practice.
We might learn things quickly, but we often forget things at the same rate.
It was my birthday last week. Not a big one. Just another year passing. I’m getting older. Not unhappily. Not ungratefully. I hope.
So it wasn’t a big milestone, but almost 10 years ago I was on the cusp of becoming a Dad. I think looking backwards too much is only good for one thing: learning. The things I wish I had known. Like building a better wine cellar for starters. Or the wisdom of buying an extra freezer just for the bags of chicken nuggets. Many of these are obvious, maybe cliches, but I like cliches because they are true and few people live up to them.
Here are the 10 cliches I would have told my younger self to be sure to bore his kids with on a daily basis.
There are some conversations you are just never ready to have as a parent. It all might seem easy or straightforward when you are reading those child advice books, but actually having the conversation on a Wednesday night when your six year old is crying? Not so simple. You just muddle through, try to tell the truth, and do the best you can.
A family friend passed away suddenly this week and, while the girls have had a few family members and pets die before, this was the first time that Ally was old enough to have a framework to better understand and ask the tough questions. Like I said, we muddled through. We finally were able to get her to stop crying and go to sleep by agreeing to a verbal contract to take care of her two “lovies” if anything ever happened to her.
It’s been on my mind, maybe with my own birthday clicking off another year soon, for the rest of the week. If she’d sent me an Outlook invite that she’d start asking life’s ultimate questions on Wednesday night at 8, here’s what I might have said with a little forethought:
We always live with death by our side so don’t take anything for granted and try to appreciate each moment. Life is always changing. So often we live our lives like we’ll live forever but as soon as we remember that life is fleeting we find ourselves letting go of the distractions and being more present for one another. Try to find peace with the impermanence. If we can remember this and carry it with us, it won’t be morbid or sad, it will bring a lightness and ease and comfort.
Or the 6 year old version of that. Maybe the stuffed animal contract was the right way to go…
Ambitious goal #37 for 2019: trying to crack the code of self-awareness with a nine year old.
Me: Everything we experience in our lives involves us somehow.
Cecilia: Duh. Do I really have to do this math problem?
Me: Yes. Now, just because you experience something, just because something causes you to feel a certain way, just because you care about something, doesn’t mean it’s about you.
Cecilia: [blank look]
Turns out this is a hard concept for kids. Making everything about them is sort of their speciality and, let’s face it feels pretty good most of the time.
When things are good, you are the golden child who deserves to be recognized and applauded at every turn. When things are bad, you are the self-righteous victim, who has been wronged and deserves better.
One benefit of having to walk a dog twice a day is that you get through a lot of audiobooks. I finished listening to Charles Duhigg’s Better Stronger Faster this week and really enjoyed it. It’s one of those Gladwell-esque pop-science books that gives you a 10,000 foot view of a subject mostly through vignettes.
This particular book explored 8 scientific concepts for better productivity. One section was dedicated to focus and illustrated the dangers of cognitive tunneling through some harrowing airline stories. Cognitive tunneling occurs when you become intently focused on something directly in front of you. This tunnel actually reduces your ability to focus and you end up working on the easiest and most obvious task. Common sense goes out the window.
I’m not a pilot, but being a parent these days often feels like flying a jumbo jet blindfolded. Common sense and a wider perspective can sometimes get lost. Making sure Cecilia understands the logic and can solve a multi-step word problem at 7:30 on a Wednesday night can suddenly seem like a very critical thing. Emotions might get heightened.
So much of modern parenting feels like it’s focused solely on raising high achievers to earn high salaries. Is that really the raison d’etre for having children? One of my Dad goals for 2019 is to not get crazy tunnel vision on hyper achievement. Yes, of course, school is really important. But achievement alone doesn’t guarantee happiness. That’s on thing reality TV can teach us. I want to make sure the girls understand there are many ways to define success and many ways to have a meaningful life.
I’m sure there’s a Netflix show out there to explain all this to them…
One of the things I remember most about our trip to Sicily is the pace of life. Things are open. Things are closed. Schedules seem to have little importance. Maybe it’s the history leeching into their blood, or maybe it’s just the all the red wine, but life feels slower, almost contemplative over there.
A little bit of that Sicilian lifestyle survives today in Boston’s North End. It’s being chipped away by time and real estate prices (there’s currently a big fight about a Starbucks moving in), but it still exists in pockets. We went into the city on Saturday and tried to time a lot of our activities around lunch and getting pizza and arancinis from Galleria Umberto. Easier said than done.
Our favorite, unassuming pizza, James Beard award-winning hole in the wall is open around 10:45 – 2:30 (Tues – Sat and they take July off). And that closing time is only a suggestion given that they sell out of most items usually well before that time.
Not a bad way to make a living.