As it grew darker last Tuesday, and the girls got their costumes ready, Ally asked if I believed in ghosts.
No, I do not believe in ghosts or spirits. But I do believe in memories.
I believe in the collective memory of all the people doing what human beings have always done before me. Being a parent, being a Dad, being a son, being a man. Getting it right sometimes. Screwing it up sometimes.
Whether spirits exist or not, we are never alone. Memories, for me, are a benign presence, not a haunting one. They exist to teach, advise, caution, and inspire with all that prior experience.
They protect us. They reassure us. They give us company.
Act accordingly. Continue Reading
We are just over a month into Ally and the trumpet. It’s noisy and not very good which is exactly how it should be right now. She’s loving it.
It’s also another thing that needs to be practiced.
As a parent, my job is to love and support the girls. To be their number one fan and help them find who they are supposed to be. But that doesn’t come without conditions or constraints. If she wanted to drop the trumpet tomorrow and pick up oil painting, that wouldn’t happen. At least not right away.
Conditions and constraints can be a good thing. They keep her accountable. They make her earn it—take the responsibility of her learning, her interests, and her potential seriously.
And maybe they can help Dads get over worries and doubts, too. Continue Reading
The school work is ramping up (even if it seems like they’ve yet to have a full week) and so is the homework. This often leads to some mild paralysis and procrastinating. Which in turn leads to some frayed parental nerves. Even if I can recognize what is happening. It’s the same thing that often plagues me when I need to get my own writing or exercising done.
Too much focus on the outcome makes the gap between now and being done seem much larger than it might be.
So we’ve talked to the girls about changing their focus from the outcome (being done and that yawning gap to get there) to what they can do right now. When you shrink it down to the next five minutes, doing what you know you need to do becomes much easier.
Don’t focus on writing a thousand words. Focus on writing the first five sentences.
Don’t focus on the entire packet of math problems, focus on the first one. When they focus on doing the first exercise, getting started is easier and action becomes inevitable. Continue Reading
Cecilia brought home a test recently where she did really well overall but struggled in one section. I asked about that section first. Cecilia got upset. And she was right. I assumed she knew I was proud that she did well on the other sections.
I sometimes get complacent as a Dad or just let the eye rolls wear me down. I shouldn’t assume. I shouldn’t wait. She gets plenty of instructions in school. And she’ll continue to get our help at home, of course, but I can’t forget to also be a cheerleader and their biggest fan, too.
You never know what moments are going to be formative or resonate with them, but I can guess it might not be the night of the big jazz performance, or after the dance recital. It might be a random afternoon when they need a boost and their Dad gave them a pat on the back.
Don’t wait and don’t assume. Continue Reading
Did you go a little overboard at the orchard? Is your fridge full of fall apples? This apple walnut date quick bread is simple and easy to make.
It comes together in about 15 minutes and will make your house smell like a late October afternoon hay ride. It might not even last as long as a typical hay ride. It’s that good.
Modern parenting often gets knocked for being too soft. We hover too much. We reach for the band-aids too quickly. We don’t let kids roam past the electronic surveillance we installed outside. Some of that may be true and kids don’t benefit from much of that. But my challenge has been to recognize that each child is different.
Cecilia is more like me and responds to challenges and toughness. She’d do fine at Catholic school. Ally? Wouldn’t last a week. She needs more of a feather duster approach. And that’s okay.
Tough doesn’t have to mean inflicting pain or declaring martial law over vowel sounds or ten-blocks. I don’t want them to be scared to ask me for help. Or worried that I’ll be disappointed in them. Tough really means resilient and tough means teaching them, in whatever way is necessary, to push past their limits.
I want to create challenges for them, but not be the challenge. Continue Reading
Sun is out. Feel like I’m coming out of a strange fugue state. Could be all the leaf blower fumes or it could be…you know. If I ever get this posted, it will represent perhaps my biggest accomplishment this week. There was a lot of vacuuming and anxiety baking but little else this week. We tried to balance keeping the kids informed about what was happening and keeping our own sanity. It was like trying to tap dance on a single piece of glitter. It was exhausting.
The kids had a lot of questions. We did our best to answer them and not just let Alexa do the parenting. She is great at pretending to be ignorant and deflecting. It was interesting to try to distill down an answer and a viewpoint on a complex topic to something that both kids could understand. I think the debates could have been a lot more useful if they were held in front of a cafeteria of elementary school kids and the candidates had to do the same thing.
Enough politics, on to the couch and transfer station news. Continue Reading