Parenting

A Weekend Unplugged

Just before the new school year began I took my boys on a trip that I had taken at their age with one of my uncles. We rented a canoe and travelled 15 miles of the Saco River in Maine over Labor Day Weekend.

The boys and I have been canoeing before, but only for sixty to ninety minutes at a time, and only locally, utilizing a rental facility on the Charles River in Cambridge.

This time, we were going all in and planning for two nights/three days of paddling and camping, just as I had done in my youth.

I was talking recently with someone and saying that I’m not necessarily an outdoorsman, per se. I like the outdoors, love to go to the beach and listen to the waves hit the shore. It sounds to me like the vast, powerful ocean is beckoning us, taunting us, and reminding us of its presence and could swallow us whole at any time. I enjoy walks in the woods (sounds like a disingenuous dating website profile line, I know) where the sounds of the cars and motorcycles and the hustle and bustle all disappear under the swell of nature’s symphony.  Certainly you can simulate those sounds with devices and apps if you don’t want to leave it behind completely, but I prefer the more pure variation where there’s little more than the waving branches of trees and the hum of summer insects. I like the soft ground under my feet and the tickle of the grass on my ankles, and the crunch and crackle of fallen leaves as I walk through them and over them. There’s nothing like it in any cityscape or urban setting that you can compare it to.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a sportsman. My exposure to sports in my childhood is limited to an ill-fated season with Little League baseball where I proudly thrust my glove up in the air in center field to catch a pop fly and it came down from the sky above and landed squarely in my face, after which I removed my glove, threw it on the ground and quit the team part-way into the season, never to return. I did attempt joining a basketball team as well, but that lasted even less time than my foray into baseball did. I don’t ski, I don’t golf, I don’t hunt (a.k.a. murdering wildlife), I don’t rock climb, snow shoe, practice archery, skeet shoot, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

That said; I love to canoe, love hiking, love camping, and would still climb a tree if the spirit moved me to do so. I am considering the purchase of a kayak for next year, to mix two of my loves together – being on the water and isolation. I am, for all the wonderful friends and acquaintances I have, a relatively solitary person. I crave time alone to reflect and recharge. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I so enjoy the woods when I am far removed from society. I occasionally indulge in reality shows where people are left to their own devices in remote locations and have to fend for themselves, only the ever-present camera crew is always a reminder that these folks are not truly ‘alone’ at any point in time.

A few months ago I pitched the idea to the boys of going canoeing, as we have for the past few summers, but to augment the experience and add camping to the mix as well – to make it a multi-day adventure. They eagerly agreed to the notion, even when I added the codicil that their ‘devices’, while they could bring them for the 2+ hour car ride to get to where I was thinking of taking them, would not be brought on the trip, because once the batteries died there was no way to recharge them in the woods. They shrugged their shoulders and said, ‘Who cares?’.

To interject here – both my boys are diagnosed with ADHD. Both my boys have challenges with focusing, and with staying on any one topic or activity, if it’s not of particular interest to them, for very long. They love t.v., they love video games (like most kids) and they need constant distracting and redirecting at times to navigate their days. This was, as I knew, going to be a true test for all of us – for their focus and for my patience (something I often find myself in short supply of when the boys are both running amok).

Nevertheless, after weeks of waiting, the weekend of our trip arrived. We packed up our camping gear, a change of clothes, some non-perishable food (shelf-stable milk included) and hit the road to Center Conway, New Hampshire – which, coincidentally, is where my mother lived in her childhood before moving to Maine. That was our put-in point, where the canoe rental facility would drive us and our gear and rented canoe to, where we would then travel fifteen miles to a bridge in Brownfield, Maine – which, coincidentally, was where my father lived in his childhood – where we would exit the river and place a call to the rental facility to pick us up two days later.

Truth be told, we were never all that far away from help and civilization if we needed it in an emergency, and the particular river we were going to is famed for being crowded on summer weekends with other similar enthusiasts, but it was just far enough to give the boys an outdoor experience like they had never had before.

On day one, after arriving at the rental facility and being transported to our starting point, we loaded up our gear and set forth on the river. The water can be a bit shallow in places (while deep enough for swimming in others) but we made our way into the meandering current of the Saco River, and began the first leg of our journey. On that day we travelled seven miles of the fifteen total, my reasoning being that the next day some rain was predicted in the afternoon. More on that later. As the light began to fade a bit at dusk, we selected a beach to camp upon, set up our tents, gathered some fire wood, and set up camp for the night. We feasted on warmed up canned ravioli and s’mores, and with full bellies and tired limbs we climbed into our sleeping bags for a good night’s sleep – only I replayed every Friday the 13th film synopsis in my head over and over and listened for the cracking of branches and treading of heavy feet to announce the impending arrival of a masked serial killer to my tent. That, of course, didn’t happen, but it did show me that I’ve seen WAY too many horror films in my time.

I did, eventually, nod off – serenaded by the night bugs and the occasional splash in the nearby river as they lulled me to sleep for the night.

Day two began with a light breakfast of oatmeal and fruit before we broke camp and got back on the river. One thing we had found in relatively short supply the night before was available firewood. I had opted to not purchase any to bring with us, reasoning that we were surrounded by firewood on both sides of the river – but for future reference, if you go late in the season the likelihood is that other campers will have snapped up the supply before you arrive on the scene. And so I kept an eye out as we paddled for a good stockpile of wood to take with us to our second camp, just in case. Lo and behold, about two miles into our trip we found a pile of cut firewood left behind on a beach by a departing camping party next to a still slightly smoking campfire. We beached the canoe and the boys each grabbed up two arms full of wood apiece and loaded it into the canoe. We sailed off down the river talking about how amazing our campfire that night was going to be, me keeping in the recesses of my mind that we’d need to keep it dry in the afternoon when the predicted rain fell, or there wouldn’t be a campfire that night. But (at least at that point) the sun was shining and the birds were singing, and we made our way another four and a half miles down the river until we found another unoccupied beach alongside the river, and decided to make camp there for the night, at roughly 12:30 in the afternoon, at which times the clouds had completely removed the sun from our view and I knew the predicted rain would soon begin to fall. We got our gear out of the canoe, flipped it over for the night on the sand, and set up our tents for the night.

Just in time for the downpour to start.

I quickly covered the wood as best I could, and we sequestered ourselves in our tent to wait out the rain for ‘a few hours’. I had consulted the weather forecast before we left, but out on the river for more than 24 hours since, with no access to the app on my phone (which I brought along to take photos and use as a clock if nothing else), I didn’t realize that this downpour was now predicted to last through the night.

There are two sayings that I’ve known for most of my life. Forewarned is forearmed (hence gathering and keeping dry wood for a campfire) and ignorance is bliss (had I realized it was going to rain all night I wouldn’t have kept holding out hope, during the afternoon, that it would stop ‘soon’ and we’d be good for the night).  In this process I learned several things:

  1. One of my tents didn’t have a rain fly to cover it with.
  2. Neither tent was particularly waterproof.
  3. Pre-packaged tuna salad (shelf stable) and dry cereal are a blessing when you have no means to cook anything because it’s pouring buckets outside.
  4. I don’t like the rain coming when I’m camping.

During the storm, because I have arthritis in one of my hips and needed to stretch my legs once in a while and get off the ground (fortunately we had an umbrella with us, though I can’t remember packing it) I stepped outside the tent a few times and stood in the rain, silently willing it to end ‘soon’, before the boys’ patience with it ran out and they deemed the trip ‘ruined’. On one leg-stretching I saw three canoes making haste for a take-out point and simultaneously mocked and envied them (silently) for leaving, for giving up, and for getting out. On another trip outside the tent, I saw one poor soul walking down the middle of the river (again, there are some very shallow points) in his underwear, carrying his clothes with him that were just as sopping wet as the rest of him. He looked over at me, standing on the shore under an umbrella, and loudly declared, ‘F*CK THIS, I’M GETING OUT OF HERE!!!’. I tipped my umbrella to him and said, ‘Good luck!’ before going back inside the tent to my increasingly waterlogged refuge with the boys.

Supper that night was a mixture of pre-packaged snacks, making sure to reserve enough to eat ‘something’ in the morning before we left – a morning that could not come soon enough for me. We all three were wet…cold….and not particularly in love with the woods or the river at that moment. We all three drifted in and out of sleep that night, trying to shift to a non-existent dry spot in the sleeping bag, sharing our own warmth with each other, and taking turns wondering, out loud, when the rain was going to stop. We had been away from the creature comforts of television and radio and video games and wifi connections for more than 24 hours. The boys had fared well, and I had, more than once, apologized for the rain being much more than I had realized it would be. There was, once only, a declaration of ‘I’m bored’, and yet it was more of a statement than a complaint. I was truly amazed at their stamina.

At roughly 1 in the morning we were all awake once again with the rain beating down on the tent roof. We lay there listening to the beating of the rain drops over our heads (some coming through the roof and dripping on our faces). One of the boys piped up in the darkness.

‘You know, Dad, this is a great trip, except for the rain that’s making us cold, wet, and miserable.’

The other boy added his two cents here.

‘Yeah, because at least we’re all cold, wet, and miserable TOGETHER!’

In the darkness I smiled, unseen, because while I awaited the breaking of the morning, and the welcomed light and warmth it would bring, something else ‘dawned’ on me. A realization that, despite their attention and focus challenges, despite their sometimes constant bickering and vying for attention, they ‘get it’. They get what we were doing, and why, and what the value and meaning of it was. Time to relax and refresh and stretch our minds and our abilities – time to learn things we didn’t know about ourselves and each other – and most importantly, time together. Eventually we all drifted off again, awaking at intervals through the remainder of the night. But from 1am on, the cold was a little less cold, the water a little less wet, the discomfort a bit less discomforting, at least for me.

Morning finally came and I managed a very modest fire – enough to warm us up a bit before we broke camp and headed out. The sun reappeared, the birds again chirped overhead, and the woods came alive for the day after the deluge of the night before. We folded up our wet, sandy gear – realized we had no dry clothes to change into (note to self – keep one change of clothes waterproofed…always) and we had roughly three miles to go before exiting the river. We set off, the water a little higher beneath us, the current a bit stronger, a final parting gift of the rains the night before. We easily glided downstream, only spotting two other parties who had toughed it out, waving to each other from canoe and from shore, no words spoken, a silent cry of ‘Solidarity!’ passing between us and no need to discuss what had passed the night before.

Eventually we reached the take out point at the Brownfield Bridge and pulled our boat from the river. I used the phone in the campground that abuts this spot on the river to call the canoe rental facility, and they said they’d be there shortly to pick us up. I then, aided by the boys, hauled all our gear and the canoe up to the edge of the parking lot to await our chariot. We were all dirty, still wet, and not particularly warmed up. We sat and waited for the van and the boys munched on a snack I had purchased at the camp store to, in a small way, thank them for the use of their phone. I awaited the commentary from the boys now that we were idle for the first time since getting up that morning.

‘Dad, can we do this again?’

‘Yeah, like next year? Can we make this an annual trip, please?’

They couldn’t have pleased me more if they given the trip two enthusiastic thumbs up, called it good fun family fare, and declared it to be better than the musical Cats.

‘Yes, we can. We can do this at least once a year if you like, until you no longer want to, or until I’m too old to lift a paddle, whichever comes first.’

I deemed the trip, rain and all, a complete success. We all worked together, we all ‘suffered’ together, and we all emerged unscathed and perhaps a bit stronger. We learned a lot that weekend, about ourselves and each other.

But the most important thing I learned from our weekend away from home is as described below.

There is a place inside every child that even the brightest, most colorful and action packed video game cannot penetrate to. There is a place inside every child that no television show can entertain and hold the attention of. It’s somewhere that defies and condemns pop music and sound bytes and text messages. It’s a place that some lose sight of and some struggle to find in vain day in and day out. There is a place that is so unplugged, so remote, so deeply embedded in a child’s heart that only one thing can possibly pervade. That thing is not expensive, not complicated, not unobtainable, not rare or delicate, nor ever really out of stock. It’s something that can be given time and time again. It’s something, no matter how they might resist it at times, no matter how they might not listen, might fight and complain, that children want….and crave…more than most anything in the world.

That thing is, quite simply, you.

 

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Miscellaneous, Parenting

The Daddy Box

Today is set aside to honor and to remember fathers. I tell my boys each year that on this day I don’t want them to make themselves scarce, or to wait on me hand and foot – I want to spend the day with them and do something we all want to do, and to enjoy being a dad. Where we go and what we do is up to them (within reason). This year they’ve opted for one of two choices – canoeing, which is something we do once or twice a summer; or if the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor fun going to see a movie we all want to see.

I hold no particular memories of Father’s Day with my dad. Certainly I gave him cards and the occasional gift and a phone call in the years when we were speaking – but none of these occupy any particular real estate in my mind and recollection. Dad and I had a very strained and even non-existent relationship for many years. Even after we reconciled, ten years prior to his death, things weren’t always smooth sailing. Dad even, while upset with me for not being able to visit him for more than a month, told me a story one day that ended with him saying he likely was not my biological father, and couldn’t possibly be. I look too much like him and other men in the family to truly believe that, and yet for some time I wondered if it might indeed be true. I never pursued it, but for a while I wondered. Ultimately, though, I resolved in my mind and heart that he was the only father I’d ever known – that I was a grown man, with a family of my own, and didn’t need to go in search of my identity. I knew who I was, and that was what was most important.

My father passed away two years ago. I think of him every day and miss him very much. When he died the assisted living facility that he called home for the last eight years of his life boxed up his belongings for my brother and myself. There wasn’t much, and like my recollections of Father’s Day in relation to my dad, his belongings didn’t occupy much real estate. The clothing Dad left behind was either donated or discarded – his few other meager items divided between myself and my brother, and a hat for each of my boys that Dad wanted them to have one day.

I keep a small decorative box in a drawer of my dresser of those things I chose to retain. It measures perhaps 10 inches by 10 inches. It is nowhere near full. A few photographs, his comb, a pen he kept in his pocket daily, a small notepad he wrote in, his wallet, and his watch. After 83 years of life Dad left very little behind. None of it is valuable to anyone but myself, and yet it is the only tangible link I have to my dad other than to look in a mirror. I don’t have a shirt I can put on to imagine it being a hug from dad now that he’s gone…I don’t have anything he ever made for me to hold in my hands, imagining his touch as he crafted the item. I have, for the most part, only memories – and not all of them good ones.

Several years ago now I realized a long-held dream and became a father myself. A wonderful little boy came along who still amazes me to this day with his kindness and compassion and ability to make me smile and laugh. Another boy, who I cared for as an infant and then had to love from afar but never considered any lesser than my adopted son is in my heart returned to my daily life where he remains to this day, filling me with awe at his strength, resiliency, and courage. Both boys call me ‘Daddy’. I didn’t ‘make’ either one of them, in the biological sense. Their looks, their physical traits, their DNA come from other places and other people. That does nothing to detract from my love of them and commitment to them. I didn’t give them life, I just get to share it with them. I do give them what I can – security, stability, caring, compassion, the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years, and a deeply rooted desire to be a better parent to them than I feel my dad was able to be to me in my childhood. What they give to me outweighs anything I ever do for them.

Earlier this year I had to give them difficult news – that being that my husband and I had decided to divorce. They took it with some difficulty, for their own reasons. People say, and have said, ‘children bounce back’ and ‘children are resilient’ – and yet I still spent many sleepless hours thinking about the fact that I didn’t ever want them to HAVE to bounce back from that if it were at all preventable. In the end, though, it became a necessity, for the good of everyone involved. The boys have questioned the ‘why’ and offered their own ‘what if’ in the process, and I’ve told them both they did nothing to cause it, and therefore there is nothing they can do, nor should they try, to fix it.

A few days ago one of the boys gave me a ‘gift’. It wasn’t wrapped, nor did it have a fancy bow on it. He didn’t have to shop or order it online. It had no price tag attached to it, and yet the value of it, to me, like the few tangible remembrances I have of my dad, is immeasurable. It’s a single sheet of paper, with pictures and words on both sides. The pictures on the front side of the paper, one labeled good and the other bad depict my soon to be ex and I on one side (the good) with the words ‘will you marry me’ and on the other side (the ‘bad’) saying ‘We’re getting a divorce’ with two boys flanking us. In the lower right corner of the paper are the words ‘next page’, instructing me to turn it over, where I found, just above two small drawn faces topped by curly hair, the following words:

‘Meaning we were sad and still are but whatever makes you happy makes us happy and what makes you sad makes me sad.’

In a different spot in my bedroom I have another decorative box, larger than the one housing the last effects of my father. It’s rectangular in shape, perhaps 15 inches by 30 inches, hinged like a suitcase with a clasp to hold it shut. Inside the box are construction paper Father’s Day cards, small rocks, art work, school projects, questionnaires they filled out about what I look like and what my likes and dislikes are, letters to Santa Claus, a couple of shirts, and several other items that the kids either gave to me or represent a special occasion we shared or something we worked on together. I call it the ‘Daddy Box’. It, to me, holds something beyond the memories we have thus far made, for which there is no box large enough to hold them all. It holds things we created together, things that we both touched and held; the tangible evidence of a fraction of the love I have for both of them that they can perhaps one day hold in their own hands and reflect upon the day we made this or that, or the times I helped them button up that shirt, or the day we walked on the beach together and they picked up a small rock and presented it to me as if it were a diamond.

Today I’ve added an item, the sheet of paper described above, to the ‘Daddy Box’ in the hopes that my son will know, one day when I’m gone, how precious this was to me and how much comfort it gave to me to know that one of the things he has, whether it’s through any influence of mine upon him or not, is the ability to see beyond his own needs and wants – to hold the happiness of another up before him and offer compassion and understanding to them, despite his own feelings. It’s gestures like this that give me an inkling of the man he will hopefully become, that both of them will hopefully become, and the fathers they may one day be to children of their own.

I hope they both create a ‘Daddy Box’ of their own. I hope they one day experience even a small portion of the joy and happiness with and from their own children as I do with and from them. I hope that their ‘Daddy Box’, as well as I’m sure my own will, becomes two boxes, then three, and on and on.

But more than that, I hope theirs are filled with as much love as mine is for both of them.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

 

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Parenting

Things I Plan To Do When My Kids Are Adults

I’ve often told my kids I’m ‘keeping track’ of things over the years.

They don’t really ask what for.

They likely should. :0)

I have a plan. True, I have to wait MANY years still before I can put it into motion, but it will be worth it.

This is a list of things I’m going to do when my kids are adults.

  1. When at their house, I will wait until they go into the bathroom and close the door, and then start a conversation with them from the other side.
  2. When asked over for dinner, I’ll sit down, look at the food, and say ‘I don’t like this…can I have peanut butter instead?’
  3. When in a store, I’ll demand that they buy me something and if they don’t, I’ll tell them they suck.
  4. I’ll stay at their house overnight and come out of my room fifteen to twenty times to ask them vital, critically important questions, like ‘How far away is Detroit?’
  5. When they aren’t looking, I’m going to sneak into their cupboards and eat their food.
  6. Every time they think I’m leaving I’ll just go outside and come back in again and complain about having to go outside.
  7. If we are together in public and they see someone they know, I’ll keep saying, ‘CAN WE GO NOW? WE’VE BEEN HERE FIFTEEN HOURS! I’M BORED!’ while they talk to that person for ten seconds.
  8. When at their house I will randomly drop things on their floor and pretend they aren’t there/I don’t see them.
  9. I’ll burp…or fart….a lot….and laugh.
  10. When they introduce me to their friends, I’ll say ‘the darndest things’; like, ‘Is that a wig?’ or ‘You smell funny.’ to them. Everyone appreciates that kind of ‘unfiltered honesty’….don’t they?

 

Well, not really. I’m not REALLY going to do this stuff….

Except maybe #5……and #1……

Okay, I’m TOTALLY going to do #1….

I’ve earned it.

:0)kids-teamwork-taping-parents-to-wall-working-together-tape-as-revenge-digitally-manipulated-35266438

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Parenting

‘Because I Love You’

I’m one of those parents who, when faced with the eternal question of ‘WHY?’, for a long time reverted back to the old standby of ‘Because I said so.’

It’s clear…it’s concise….it establishes boundaries and sets limits and supports the rules.

It’s also, many times, an unclear message to my kids. It’s not the real reason for the rule being enforced or the boundary being established or the limit being set. I don’t know everything. I don’t want them to feel the house is a dictatorship. I don’t want to lessen myself as an authority figure over them, but I also don’t want them to feel they never have a voice in the house, and their wants and needs are not important to me, because they are.

Sometimes, sure, it IS just because I said so. It’s because the explanation is far too lofty and sophisticated for a young mind to wrap itself around. Or it’s because I’m tired and don’t have it in me to listen to the argument, or it’s something they’ve asked and been given an answer for a dozen times already, and I don’t want to debate, nor argue, and to say ‘because I said so’, then that will, as they say, be ‘that’.

At other times, though, it’s for reasons other than the above. Sometimes it’s because I’m in charge of their safety and well-being and have lived through similar scenarios with less than favorable outcomes, and I want what is best for them. It’s because I watch them and listen to them, and do my best to remember every single day what’s important to them, or frightening to them, or apt to have a long-term effect they hadn’t counted on, and having lived five times as long as they have, I have wisdom and experience that they can’t possibly have garnered in nine years of life.

It’s because I love them.

Every single day brings a test to a limit. “Why can’t I stay up until 10 on a school night?” “Why can’t I have more candy?” “Why do I have to brush my teeth?” “Why can’t I play an M rated video game?”

The answer to these questions and many more isn’t ‘because I said so’, it’s ‘because I love you.’ It’s because they need a good night of sleep, and too much sugar isn’t good for them, and they shouldn’t develop cavities, and don’t need to view wanton death and destruction as a ‘game’.

It’s because I love them.

Yeah, I know, they still ask ‘why’. They still try to argue and bargain and debate at times. But unlike prior times when they got ‘because I said so’ as an answer, and it invited arguments of ‘you don’t know everything’ and ‘you don’t want me to have any fun’ and ‘you’re just mean’, it’s having a very different result. It’s still a work in progress, but when they ask the inevitable ‘why’ in terms of things that are decisions made in their best interest…and get the answer of ‘because I love you’….there isn’t an argument they’ve come up with yet that trumps it. They want my love. They want signs and reassurances of that love. I want to give them those things…to not only talk the talk but walk the walk as a parent. Anyone can say ‘I love you’, and that’s important, but showing it is equally as important.

They may not like the way they get those signs of my love for them if it conflicts with a burning desire to sit in front of a television all day long, or dine on nothing but Sour Patch Kids and Root Beer, but when confronted with my love for them as the reason for not being allowed to do that, they at least have a reminder that I don’t make all the decisions I do to inflict pain upon them. I make many of them, most of them, for a very good, very heart-felt, very caring reason.

It’s because I love them.

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Parenting

The Translator In The Ears Of Kids….

I often times think that children are all born with a translator somewhere in their ears…or they pick them up somewhere…because what you say and what they apparently hear are two very different things (which obviously is your own fault).

I’ve figured out a few of these things that they hear differently than you say (which obviously is your own fault), and for anyone new to parenting or considering parenting, this might help them avoid some frustration.

What you say:    ‘Go outside and play’
What they hear:  ‘Go outside for four seconds then come back in and complain for the next hour about the long, miserable, torturous eternity of four seconds that you’ve been away from your video games’

What you say:     ‘Time for bed’
What they hear:  ‘Time for you to run around the house like a lunatic and tell me what an awful person I am’

What you say:     ‘Take a bath/shower’
What they hear:   ‘Get naked and sit on the floor going through your trading card collection while water runs down the drain for the next twenty minutes.’

What you say:     ‘Please don’t come in and wake me unless it’s an emergency’
What they hear:  ‘Of course you can come in at 4am with your tablet and wake me to enter a password.’

What you say:     ‘Please don’t leave your clothes on the floor’
What they hear:  ‘Today no clothes on the floor…tomorrow the entire world is your underwear drawer once again.’

What you say:     ‘Goodnight’
What they hear:  If you’ve been saving up forty questions about the deeper, more intricate complexities of episodes of SpongeBob, NOW is the perfect time to discuss them!’

What you say:     ‘Please put your stuff away’
What they hear:  ‘
Please move that pile of stuff from one side of the table to the other side of the same table’

What you say:     ‘No, you may not have a snack it’s too close to dinner’  
What they hear:  
‘Go to the kitchen and sneak something…I’LL NEVER, EVER FIND OUT!!!!’

What you say:     ‘What are you doing?’
What they hear:  ‘Sound does not travel in this house so go ahead and say “nothing” because I really only asked to hear my own voice fearing I might have forgotten what I sound like in the forty-six seconds since I last asked you what you were doing when a strange noise sounded like something I should look into at which time you also offered the non-committal “nothing” as a response’

What you say:     ‘Time to turn off the t.v.’
What they hear:   ‘Go turn on the other t.v. that has your video games attached – I only meant THIS t.v.’

What you say:      ‘I want you to play outside today’   
What they hear:  
‘By play outside I really only mean the time it takes you to walk over to your friend’s house across the street and invite yourself in to play video games at THEIR house because that’s so much better than playing video games at our house’

What you say:      ‘I don’t think a cell phone is a good idea for you yet’
What they hear:   ‘Clearly I’m brain-dead and know nothing and of course you having a 500.00 cell-phone when you can’t even remember to pick up your underwear off the floor daily is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and you’d never misplace it nor destroy it however accidentally.’

These are really just the beginning, the ones I’ve become the most familiar with and feel it my solemn duty as a parent to pass this on to others.

You’re welcome.

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Parenting

Writing Prompts For Kids

If your kids are anything like mine, at age 8 and 9 when you ask them how their day was, you get a short and sweet answer.

‘Good’.

Kids this age aren’t terribly articulate unless you prompt them.

Either you can develop a list of questions to dig further such as:

  • What was good about it
  • Was anything bad about it
  • Did anything make you feel sad or disappointed
  • Did anything scare you
  • Did anyone hurt your feelings

One way to get kids a little more willing and able to express themselves and their feelings is to ask them to write about them. To sit them down with pencil and paper (two tools out of the stone age that we actually still use) or even with their tablet or pc, and give them a writing prompt.

There are several websites that have great writing prompts for kids. Topics range from ‘If I Were The President I Would….’ to ‘I Am Afraid Of……’

Or, if you have specific things you might like to have answered, you can choose your own writing prompt with nothing more than a piece of paper and a printer using a clever font and some clip art to disguise that it’s really just you asking the question. It might help kids talk more about a death in the family, incidents at school, how they feel about adoption, if any kids they know are using drugs, and just about anything else you might like to know. At a certain age they will get hip to it, of course, but it’s at least a way to get younger kids to express themselves and their feelings beyond the simple ‘good’ answer.

You can also prompt them to engage in creative (story) writing rather than expressive writing.

Some of the sites I’ve used to find some writing prompts for my more reluctant reader are below:

https://www.superteacherworksheets.com/journal-prompts.html

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters/

http://journalbuddies.com/creative-writing-2/creative-writing-prompts-for-kids/

And lastly for those parents of technology-inclined kids, there’s even an iTunes writing prompt app for iPads:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/writing-prompts-for-kids/id533233202?mt=8

Happy Writing!

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Parenting

My Most Firmly Held Belief

In the past few weeks both my boys have asked me questions about ‘God’.

I’m not surprised by their curiosity, whereas they have friends who attend church and are at an age for ‘Confirmations’ and such to be discussed amongst their peers.

One of the boys has asked me if I think there are people on other planets, and if God put them there.

The other boy has asked me what ‘religion’ he is.

When we were being interviewed for approval to adopt a child, we were asked our views on religion, and how we would ‘introduce it’ to a child should we be approved for adoption. I am not sure there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to this question, so I answered according to my feelings at the time. I’d wait until the child was old enough to have some grasp on religion, ‘expose’ them to it in some form, and then let them make up their own mind as to what they believe and what they wish to practice.

I still feel this way.

That said, I have to stay true to what I believe and try to present both sides of the coin to them. I consider myself to be more ‘spiritual’ than religious.

The second edition of ‘Spirituality For Dummies’ (By Sharon Janis) defines spirituality as follows:

“Spirituality says that even if you think you’re limited and small, it simply isn’t so. You’re greater and more powerful than you have ever imagined. A great and divine light exists inside of you. This same light is also in everyone you know and in everyone you will ever know in the future. You may think you’re limited to just your physical body and state of affairs — including your gender, race, family, job, and status in life — but spirituality comes in and says “there is more than this.”

I have also heard it quoted (and used this quote myself) as being ‘Religion is for people who are afraid of going to Hell…Spirituality is for those who have already been there.’ (Vine Deloria, Sioux)

I think that faith and spirituality are both very personal things. I don’t think that any one person should tell you what to believe just as they should not tell you what faith to follow. I think that’s up to the individual. I know, personally, people who have given up their faith and begun to follow another. I know people that seemingly have no faith at all, but don’t define themselves as spiritual either. I firmly believe that people should choose what feels right for them….be that faith, spirituality, something else, or nothing at all.

Spirituality calls upon people to find greater meaning and purpose in their own self and their own existence. It promotes the belief that you should have respect for everyone, not just God or the others who believe what you believe. Spirituality is about transformation and evolving…psychological awareness and growth. It says, to me, that we are not just what we have done, but what we can do…what we are capable of doing and being, exhibited and influenced by all that we have learned along the way in our lives. It says to me that we are on a constant journey of experiences and interactions, and what matters is not just the stops along the way, but the destination we arrive at at the end of that journey.

In answer to the question about life on other planets, I explained that ‘it all depends on what you believe’ – religion tells us that God created us in His own image…that He created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with people. Science would indicate that just as our planet revolves around the sun at a distance sufficient but not greater than to sustain human life, and therefore there must be other planets in the universe where the same is true. Either you accept that the view of religion is true, or…you wait and see if science is correct.

In answer to the ‘what religion am I’ question, I said, ‘I know that you’ve not been exposed to much religion thus far in your life. If you’d like to learn more about certain religions, we can explore those together, and then after some time you can decide for yourself what you’d like to believe. No one, not even I, can tell you what religion you are or ought to be. That’s up to you. Whatever you decide is up to you, and fine with me. Even if you decide that no religion is for you. I want you to feel and believe what you think is right for you.

As a parent, I always hope to have answers for my kids, or at least be able to point them in the right direction. When it comes to ‘what makes the sky blue’ and ‘why is the dog’s nose wet?’…I’m aces on that one. The subject of religion shows me two things…it shows me that my little boys aren’t so little any longer, and the questions are going to get tougher as they grow.

It also shows me that I need to hold firm to my beliefs in order to show them what a sense of conviction looks like and model ‘belief’ in something – and at the same time ‘let go’ of their beliefs. They will form their own opinions and views. They will develop their own moral code. They will decide what’s right for them. I can’t make those choices for them. That isn’t my job.

I have to simply hold on to my firmest belief of all – that the boys need to be whoever they are meant to be, and I just need to always love them no matter who that is.

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