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.
Allison’s close contact status disrupted a few birthday celebrations, her own and her friends. She was upset. A reasonable reaction from an excitable 8 year old but also an opportunity, not for flash cards, I couldn’t find a way to work those in, but for my Dad rhetoric.
The pandemic has taken so much but also provided a few less obvious things to be thankful for. Thanks for giving me hundreds of consecutive days at home with the kids. Thanks for helping me slow down. Thanks for helping me structure my day around the things that matter most.
Every situation has two handles. You can decide to grab onto frustration or appreciation. You can pick up the handle of resentment or gratitude. You can look at the obstacle or get a little closer and see the opportunity.
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
This is the story of a sweatshirt. A sweatshirt that lived on the floor just inside the front door for more than two days. Another day and it was probably going to ask for the wi-fi password.
It would have been very easy for me to pick up the sweatshirt. It was actually really hard not to pick it up. It also would have been easy for me to make them do it. I can make like a prison guard if I have to but both of those options miss the point.
I want them to learn to look after themselves with some pride. Cleaning up isn’t just a task to get an allowance. It’s an illustration of who they are. The lesson from the sweatshirt that I want them to learn is how we do anything is how we do everything. Leaving it on the floor isn’t just lazy and messy—it shows that they are a mess.
One of my key parenting tenets: I’m not trying to raise successful kids. I’m trying to raise successful adults.
It’s a long term investment. Short term returns are huffing, mumbling, and occasional stomping.
When the girls get sick, I get stressed. I will lie in bed and hear one of the girls coughing down the hall and I wonder why we can’t just have a simple, quiet night. Why do I always have to end the day worrying about fevers, coughs, math facts, reading comprehension, screen time, or how to navigate some new, twisted social scenario I never pondered as a kid.
The fact is that we have a lot of quiet nights. They just pile up and slip by unnoticed while Dash warms my feet and I fall asleep reading a book. This past week was a whole string of perfectly banal and quiet days. Math facts were tossed off. Vocab tests were aced. The brassy sound of Hot Cross Buns filled the air. The worst thing that happened was Ally being convinced, despite ample contrary evidence, that the number three really should be written backwards.
Too often I can get lost in the darker corners of the parenting maze. This week I’m celebrating mediocrity. Without the quiet, ordinary weeks, you can’t have the extraordinary ones. Continue Reading