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.
I’ve learned that being a parent only gives you the slightest illusion of control. We don’t control much of what they do, or what they feel, or their heavy glitter pour, or strange distaste for vegetables.
But we do get to control how we look and react to things.
I’ve mentioned before the constant mental wrestling match with the state of our basement. Does messy mean they are slobs? Or does messy mean they are using the room as intended? How should I react?
I’m now having the same struggle with a teenager’s bedroom, the one I look at every time I climb the stairs. The one littered with clothes and other “important”… junk that can’t be moved. Is it worth fighting over? Or is it part of how they figure things out?
If she sees me make my bed every day, or clean up the kitchen after meals, or pick up a random sock, will that practice eventually sink in? Maybe. Better to model the behavior than rail against it. We choose what we see. That’s what we can control.
This sounds like an almost unsolvable riddle. How do you get a kid to understand that the more effort they put in, the more chances there are for something remarkable to happen?
It doesn’t have to be sweat and blood. Ally often sits at the piano and just noodles along playing chords and singing (mostly) nonsense. I go out of my way to praise that sort of lazy type of effort.
Lazy, is probably the wrong word, maybe meandering or exploratory, as this is the type of effort that I find better than setting a timer and stopping mid-song when the chime goes off.
Some days I feel like I’m parenting a phalanx of budding lawyers where they do everything to the letter and no more. To just satisfy the ask with the least amount of work is rarely a road worth taking.
For me, paying attention to details and taking the long way instead of seeking a shortcut is the best chance to do something that creates a little big of magic in the world. Now, how do I explain that to a middle-schooler and avoid an eye roll?
While I’ll admit I’m still figuring out this parenting thing, I have been around for awhile. I’ve seen a few things. Maybe learned a few, too. I typically crush Alexa’s question of the day at dinner. So when the girls have questions, I’m usually pretty quick with the answers unless it deals with show tunes, classic Saved by the Bell episodes, or carpentry. Then I tell them to ask their mother.
But what if this font of knowledge built on flash cards and rote learning was actually a bad habit?
Cecilia finally made it to long division this week and I couldn’t have been happier. It was like slipping into a warm bath with a good book. Or a pit of vipers. She hated it. She liked her old (i.e., new) way of doing it. I wanted to tell her she was nuts. One hundred years and countless nuns could not teach math any better. This new math was a touchy-feely fad. Trust me, I’ve been around.
I didn’t say that. Instead, I had her teach me the new way again. I didn’t find it better or worse. Just different. And we discovered that together. If you always have the answer, you aren’t learning.
So just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, it actually has me rethinking new math. Clearly, the glitter is going to my head. Continue Reading
So Cecilia won’t be graded in sixth grade and this makes me… slightly itchy. I actually think it will be very good for her but as someone that was schooled in the 80s and 90s and was pretty good at tests and rule-following it is a very different middle school experience. Add remote learning on top of that and I sometimes find myself a bit adrift as a Dad.
I find myself stuck between chastising and cheering. Yes, they need to do the assignments but if they wander off and get interested in something else along the way? If they try to figure out how to make a quick bread rise with the right leavening ratios? If they do their assignment while pretending to be filmed for their YouTube channel? It’s all good. In fact, maybe it’s better. Maybe this weird school year will let the kids roam and not crush the curiosity out of them.
I’m not one that loves the gore and guts of the horror genre but I do quite like a book that can disturb and unsettle without always resorting to blood. The type of book that lingers long after you finish. The type of book that doesn’t neatly fit into one genre but brings all sort of story elements to bear to make you cringe and shiver.
These are some of my favorite genre-bending books for the encroaching dark nights of fall. Continue Reading
One of Ally’s after school program teachers pulled me aside at pickup recently and told me how nice and helpful Ally is with her friends. I smiled and nodded. That’s always nice to hear as a parent. But she persisted. This wasn’t a one-off thing or making conversation while we waited. She really wanted me to know that Ally genuinely looked out for and cared about her friends. More warm glow…but gotta get home and make dinner.
That comment actually sunk in three days later as we labored over more reading. Ally is now starting to run up against some concepts that are hard or more difficult than kindergarten. She gets frustrated. Sometimes I get…frustrated.
Maybe I could learn something from Ally. The reading will come. Base 10 understanding will come. The capital of West Virginia…well, you can always Google that. What matters more in the long run is whether we care about and think about other people, or if the only thoughts in our heads are about ourselves. That’s hard to teach but thankfully Ally seems to have that covered.Continue Reading