Tag Archive: parenting


V’s Fireside Chats 1

Given our daughter’s ever-growing ability to interact with the world, we’ve had some interesting conversations as of late.  As a sporadically-occurring subset of my “daddy blog,” I present the first installment of “V’s Fireside Chats.”

1. Setup: While on a weekender in Luray, VA, we stayed at a local hotel.  Having arrived late (from a Renaissance Fair), I turned the TV on to indulge in that vice we cannot do at home—channel surfing.  I came across Spiderman 2, and left it on for a bit.  V was fascinated and a bit nervous about the Sandman character, but we eventually decided it was too intense and turned it off. 

A week later the following conversation occurred:

Script:

(V): “Where did the sandperson go?”

(Me): “You mean the sandpeople from Star Wars?”

(Wifey): “She’s talking about the Sandman character from Spiderman!”

(Me): “V, you mean the guy that turned into sand from the movie?”

(V): “Yeah!”

(Me): “Do you want to see him again?”

(V): “No, he’s a little bit too scary for me right now.”

(Me): “That’s okay honey, we don’t even have the movie, so we can’t watch it.”

(V): “We need to get that movie!”

(Me): “Why? You don’t want to watch him.”

(V): “For when I get a lil bit older and then I can see it.”

(Me): “Oh, okay. Well, when you get a little bit older, we’ll get the movie.”

(V): “That sounds like a good plan!”

2. Setup: V has accompanied me to the local hobby/game store many times—she’s even stayed to help me roll dice for a few games.  She loves running around getting into glue and looking at the models on display that “are like daddy’s guys.” 

A few days ago in the line at Target, V made an interesting observation:

Script:

(V): [Pointing] “Those guys are like daddy’s guys.”

(Me): “Who honey? [Looks to where she’s pointing]. “Those guys on those shirts?” 

(V): “No, those guys from the game store.”

(Me): “Do you mean those two guys are from the game store?”

(V): “Yeah.”

(Me): “Oh lord.” [Realizing that she means the two gentlemen look like the stereotypical gamers (i.e. heavyset, hygienically-challenged, and wearing superhero t-shirts), and she has equated that look with the folks that frequent our local hobby shop].

[Author’s note: I mean no disrespect to my fellow gamers since I’m a gamer myself.  Of course, if you don’t bathe yourself, you should, and that’s not really an insult, but rather an appeal to having mercy on the olfactory senses of your neighbors stuck in an enclosed space next to you for several hours.]

Can’t wait to hear what she comes up with next!

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It has been awhile since I posted an update of my daughter V’s unique perspectives on life and her pithy sayings.   I hope you enjoy the following monthly roundup.

1. V and I are still doing daddy-daughter date nights.  Recently, I asked her what she wanted to do that night and she was very excited to “paint daddy’s guys” (wargame miniatures); she said she “loves painting daddy’s guys, and loves mommy and daddy, too.”  (At least she’s got her priorities straight!)

2. One morning when searching for something to eat, V looked at our last, very brown banana and said “that banana sad.”  (I couldn’t really argue with that!)

3. Later, when I threatened to tell mom that we weren’t going for a walk because she wasn’t doing a good job of listening, she said “go for it!”  (I thought the teen years were a ways away yet?)

4. And, when I was in the other room, my wife and V were trying to untie the bandages I wrapped around their arms when we were pretending to be doctors; when they had trouble, Pam told Val I tied it tight and Val said “daddy’s a silly old man.”  (Out of the mouth of babes, eh?)

5. On the couch today, V and I were discussing Rudolph’s tail, and she said it was a “little one.” I asked how big her tail was, and she answered “tiny.”  Then she graciously pointed out: “daddy has a big butt.” (And she cannot lie…)

Can’t wait to see what else she comes up with over the next few months!

 

"What can you do against such cuteness?"

Playing dolls…Star Wars style.

So my wife decorated a beautiful dollhouse for our daughter (V), and we have several types of dolls for her to play with.  Some are traditional, some, well, aren’t.  One day, V asked me to “play dollies” with her, so I opted for the Star Wars bunch (thanks grandma!).  After explaining the scenarios in each room, my wife wanted to take pictures and asked me to write a blog about the story I created.  What follows is, to the best of my recollection, the events that transpired that fun-filled evening. (Click on the images for a closer look…if you dare!)

First, the overview of the entire house.

When chromosomes collide.

Our first room shows what might have happened had Luke listened to Yoda and not rushed off to confront Vader and if Han Solo did not survive the carbonite freezing process.  Perhaps Luke and Leia might have realized their  unintentionally-taboo feelings for each other.  I’m sure both would be puzzled as to why their child looked like an Ewok, but here Leia consoles the whiny Luke as they bask in marital bliss. (Don’t worry, it was much more G-rated for my daughter).

 

 

The Imperial break room.

In the adjoining room, we have Vader and some of his troopers lounging around the kitchen table with some aliens hovering about.  The Death Star weapons operator, in-between jobs until the new one is built, finds an unbeknownst love for the kitchen, and serves his overlord a Jar-Jar Binks souffle.

 

 

 

Gonna need some Drano for that drain!

Below the kitchen, we see the Wookie, not normally known for cleanliness, being attended to by the mercenary droid IG-88 who, having lost a bet to Boba Fett, was forced into retirement after the latter (and much cooler) bounty hunter captured Han Solo.  A suit of battle armor from the old clone wars stands silently by, a reminder of what can happen to republics if you let an evil Sith Lord have the reins of power in a democracy.

 

 

 

Sure he can speak a million languages, but can he cook?

And in the last room, we see R2-D2 and C-3P0 captured by the Empire and forced to perform culinary duties alongside a fuming Ewok.  This secondary kitchen is much more hazardous than the other, hence the need for droids and disposable workers.  We imagine them cooking with dangerous and nasty ingredients such as Bantha Bladders and Tauntaun Testicles.  (Again, edited in the V-rated version).

 

 

 

"He who stands on toilet is high on pot."

Finally, waiting in the attic, are the last survivors of the Rebellion, getting ready to swoop down on the unsuspecting Imperial troops to wreak vengeance for all the abuses occurring in the house below.  But, Yoda, being 900 years old, can’t hold it like he used to, and is forced to make a quick pit stop before starting the rescue/revenge mission.  Undoubtedly, it will soon smell like a Dagobah swamp anyways, so the rest of his co-conspirators will be glad to get a move on.

 

 

And that, my friends, is what happens when you let a sci-fi geek with a slightly demented imagination play dollies.

“No daddy work-a-days!” -V

Every Monday brings this heart-breaking refrain from my daughter (V): “No daddy work-a-days!” (with a pout and sad eyes to pile on the emotional pressure).

She just got used to having me around for the weekend when she has to let me go again.  And of course, I can’t accommodate her wishes.

Sometimes, she even cries in the garage as I back out, and the loud screeching of the shutting door barely drowns her sadness out in real life, let alone in my head and heart.

In her more clam moments, she can talk about “work-a-days” and knows I’m at the office a lot–so much that, upon seeing a picture of my building, she asked “daddy live there?”

All of these moments come crashing down on me every time I have to leave her beautiful face.  My only solace is that she gets to stay home with an equally beautiful wife who will make sure our daughter learns, has fun, and grows up healthy.

Yet, even as I pour my heart out here, I know I’m missing precious time that I’ll never get back, and I can’t help but feel even emptier for having voiced these thoughts.

So hold on to your little one every chance you get; certainly not for my sake, but for that special bond only you can foster between parent and child.

 

Parenting, what the…?

So what happened to Parenting? (I’m talking about the magazine here, not the life-long occupation).  Until about 6 months ago (or so), it was a pretty good read with articles that didn’t insult my intelligence or attempt to pander to fads and commercialism.  Then something happened.  Maybe they turned to the Dark Side or had a collective brain fart.  Whatever the case is, they need to get back on track.  Allow me to pour my heart (well, rage) out with the following analysis.

What am I going on about?  Let’s take a look at March’s issue, specifically their headline articles.

1. Celebrity kid style for a lot less $ (Spring’s Best Dressed): there’s so much wrong with this that I barely know where to begin!

First, why would I style my child’s wardrobe after some entertainers’ kids? What exactly is the thought process there? I won’t be famous but maybe my kid can dress like one of their kids thereby allowing me to live vicariously through my child’s ephemeral clothes?  Their chosen celebrities: Jolie/Pitt, Kardashian (does it matter which one?), Garner/Affleck, Holmes/Cruise, Stefani/Rossdale.  Don’t even get me started on aping a Scientologist’s kid!  (Mollifying side note: “Kardashian” is not yet recognized by Microsoft Word as a word—apparently Bill Gates needs to catch up on his pop culture when he’s not busy trying to save kids in Africa and whatnot).

Second, what’s their idea of “a lot less $”? $180, $210, $193, $298 etc. PER OUTFIT.  What crack are these folks smoking that they think a couple hundred bucks for an outfit that will last a couple of months (and probably be ruined by, you know, the little kids wearing them) is a great buy?  And are we to believe that the celebrities pay more than this for their clothes?  Got news for ya Parenting, they probably get their crap for free being celebrities and all!

Third, why would you put your poor kid through the hell of mimicking someone else’s style? Are you that lost on how to dress them?  Here’s an idea if you’re struggling: let your child pick out some of their clothes—at least that way it’s their own style and not some hack actor’s (I’m looking at you Affleck).

2. Julie Bowen & Sofia Vergara teach us how to dress: whew! It all makes sense now; Parenting does indeed think we’re inept in the entire wardrobe department, not just our kids’.  We can ape the celebrities themselves (I’m sure they don’t have stylists for their public appearances after all).

The real kicker? Julie’s outfit ($140) costs less than her kid’s ($187)! Even Sofia’s outfit ($171) comes in under most of the kids’ ensembles above.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, your fashion choices are: Sexy (Sofia) or Classic (Julie); apparently they’re mutually exclusive and the latter is subtly derided since no “hot mamma” finds can be found in her wardrobe.

3. [Advertisement Aside] “The playground is my runway!” by baby phat: trying…to…suppress…brain aneurism.

First, my child will never where anything that has to do with the word “phat.” 

Secondly, the playground has apparently been relegated to a stage promoting: “look at my superficial crap and get all jealous.”  I’ll give you 3 guesses on the skirt lengths and the first 2 don’t count.  What happened to letting kids play on the PLAYground?  And why would we want our girls (no boys were pictured or harmed during the production of this ad) to emulate and idolize twiggy supermodels?

4. 74 bright ideas for cool kids’ rooms: so now that we’ve established you can’t dress yourself or your kid with any sort of arbitrarily-accepted fashion sense, we’re pretty sure you can’t decorate their room, either.

“Dream on girls” features a “soothing” environment for sisters—complete with a $400 elephant cube to sit on.  Yes daughters of the world, dream, but don’t be too active because that’s reserved for…

“Boys, oh boys!” No “ho-hum neutrals” here (that boring crap is for girls); here you can have a “thrilling” hangout that matches their adventures! Get out there and explore the world, it’s yours for the taking!  But in case you need help seeing where you’re going, buy a $300 lamp.

To be fair, they do offer some non-gendered, stereotypical décor. Instead, you can go with “graphic content,” complete with massive seizure-inducing stripes and chevron patterns with a smattering of brightly-colored fixtures that can be seen from space.

[Hang in there, only a few more to go!]

I'm more of a "don't move if you ain't gotta" dad.

5. Now that they’ve covered the most important stuff (fashion and décor), let’s get to the peripherals—parenting styles.  “Stop being a Micromanaging Mom” (whew, I’m off the hook being a dad and all); the infamous “helicopter parent” debacle.  The author cites some “studies” saying how bad your kid will turn out if you don’t let them fail or struggle.

While there is some truth to over-doing it, I gotta admit, I can be a hovering parent, mostly outside the house.  But you know why? It’s not because I don’t trust my daughter or don’t want her to struggle, it’s because of all the other negligent parents out there who don’t give a crap what their kids do in public.  My daughter is 27 months and weighs about as many pounds.  If some 80 lb. toddler obliviously goes charging through her, you bet your sweet arse I’m stepping in!  Signs in public places that state “children must be supervised by an adult at all times” are there for a reason, and it ain’t to encourage “helicopter parenting” for poops and giggles.

6. For the sake of brevity and our sanity, a quicker run down of other gems in the issue:

“My kid dresses better than I do!”– Um, yeah, especially if you follow the advice of this magazine you dolt! (“Her favorite black hair bow would make Lady Gaga jealous.”  Somehow I don’t think jealously registers on whatever plane Gaga is operating on; and I certainly have no need to compare my child to her).

“Favorite Daily Essential-Coobie Seamless bra”– I guarantee the model pictured ain’t had a kid—ever.

“Text: SLIM”– we all know every woman wants to “banish that ‘baby’ weight for good,” right?  Well 3 easy methods are presented to help you get slim.  Of course, the exerciser pictured is probably about 5 years into her program and a yoga yogi, but that’s just good incentive, yeah?

I think you get the point, but just to beat a dead horse one final time, the tallies are:

Fashion: 12

Parenting tips: 9 (Useful tips: 2)

Most annoying words used: fab, adorbs, hot-mamma, Faaaaabulous (yes, I counted the a’s), and so-cool cradle.

So a quick overview of this changed magazine would yield the following message:

“Moms, it’s important to be hip, thin, and faaabulous.  Don’t forget to have your kids emulate superficial things like fame, celebrities, and clothes.”

You know what you’ll get if you follow this new Parenting mantra?  This:

I look faaaabulous, right?

The not-so-terrible-twos.

My daughter (V) had a slightly early birthday party last week to coincide with her out-of-state grandparents’ visit.  We invited some of her friends to a pumpkin patch complete with pirate ship and train for the little tykes to clamber over.

Our little angel...and pirate!

My wife and I even baked a cake from scratch and decorated the thing.

Spooktacular!

 

It seemed that everyone had a great time (despite the hurricane winds that prevented much of our on-site decorations and some miscommunication with the orchard owner about entrance fees that we rectified).  During the whole day, V had a blast enjoying the sunshine, food, and friends.

And this got me thinking about how she’s getting older (yeah, I know she’s only 2), and how this time in her life is traditionally called the “terrible twos.”  I gotta tell you, I just don’t buy it.  Don’t get me wrong, she has massive tantrums, a strong will, and the occasional bite reflex when she’s really mad.  But those things are objectively far-and-few between (despite seeming otherwise).  I’m fascinated by watching her grow, discover new physical abilities (like brushing her teeth), and developing her language skills (speaking in complete sentences).

I’ve felt some particular heartache these past couple of days, and I think it’s because V is growing up and shedding the vestiges of babyhood as she runs into toddlerville.  That and as she gains independence, she’ll need us less and less.  I know that’s a good thing for her to function in the world, but I can’t help but feel some nostalgia for when she would lay quietly on our chests or fit in our baby Bjorn.  I am proud of her because she’s finding herself, her voice, and learning to move through life.

I can only hope that she’ll continue to let us be part of that journey down the road.

Jamming on the piano!

I just finished the book Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher.  Although a bit dated, it scared the crap out of me as a parent of a 2-year old daughter, and I’ll Pour My Heart Out here for a minute.

Yes, you, too can look like a celeb--with a crew of professionals and a healthy dose of Photoshop.

Pipher examines the enormous and contradictory tensions that adolescent girls face growing up in American culture (of the 1990s).  It seems to me that most of the trends she enumerates have only gotten more pronounced in the first decade of the new millennium.  Tensions like: be smart, but not too smart that you might threatened others (especially boys).  Be nice and fit in at the expense of your individuality.  They’re bombarded with ridiculous images of the unobtainable “ideal” woman by marketers and the media.  She argues that all of these conflicting messages undermine girls’ self-confidence and their attempts to discover their “true” selves at the very time they should be striving to do just that.  Worse yet, just at the time they could use help navigating the stormy seas of media and peer saturation, they’re told to pull away from their parents to become a true, independent adult.  And apparently it doesn’t matter much what type of parenting is involved (low-to-high affection and low-to-high control); though girls with parents high on both seem to do the “best.”

I found myself not only saddened by the struggles my daughter will inevitably go through, but even angrier at our culture than I normally am.  Why is it that even in the social sciences, there seems to be a sense that girls should adapt to the patriarchal culture?  Where are the books and theories that advocate bringing up boys so they don’t turn out to be such misogynistic d-bags? Where’s the talk about just raising your kids to treat others as humans trying to make it in the same tough world?  If it’s a realignment of our cultural values that’s needed, I say we better get on with it!

My one gripe about the book was Pipher’s comparisons of the pressures girls face to those that boys must deal with.  First she admits that she hasn’t worked with boys so she won’t comment on their challenges, but then she uses boys as the standard against which she measures the double standards that girls are put through.  And that part, if she would have left it at that, would have been fine.  But Pipher seems to imply that girls’ feelings and psyches are much more complicated then boys’, as are the challenges they face.  I’d argue that this is not only a misconception, but such a misconception is why we have trouble raising self-aware and emotionally-intelligent boys in the first place.  There are plenty of challenges and double standards that boys face, and they can be just as insidious as the ones girls have to overcome.  Indeed, if we acknowledged boys’ emotional complexity (and more importantly if we encouraged them to deal with those emotions rather than suppress those feelings that weren’t “manly”), I think society would be better off.  Instead, some of us don’t get around to that until after college (if at all).  That’s a bit late if you ask me.

In any case, I hope that we can raise our daughter to take any bullying or name-calling with a grain of salt, and hope that we can preserve our close relationship.  Of course I realize this is exactly most parents’ hopes that are often dashed upon the rocky shores of adolescence, but that doesn’t mean I have to give in to those pesky societal pressures!

This should not be our daughters' role model.

And this is not who our males should be emulating.

More from our “funneee” daughter.

Our daughter V is still melting our hearts with her wonderful and cute voice and actions; here’s the latest from her greatest hits:

Showing off after one of her "jooes"

“Squigge”- From her museum shapes book, this is how she says the “squiggle” shape (we haven’t decided if that’s real art yet though…)

“Hammie fly”- I had the “brilliant” idea of showing her the online computer game Flight of the Hamsters. She loves the music and the flying rodents (who wouldn’t?).

“Joooo”- Her word for “joke,” as in, everything is a joke and she tosses her head back with a hearty laugh.  Normally this revolves around bodily functions, but she’s expanding her repertoire.

“Ki ballbubbles”- One of her favorite past times is to kick balls outside and blow bubbles. I think they’ve melded into onefunfilledactivity in her mind.

“Parqueplayplace”- She also loves going to the park and the play place (when it rains) with much the same conflation as above.

One of her favorite things to do at the park: "riee"

One of my greatest joys is seeing my daughter’s language develop as she navigates the world around her.  I can’t wait to hear what she says next! (Er, usually…)

As I sit here at 4:11am, it’s fair to say that I’m reasonably frustrated with the sleeping (or lack thereof) habits of our child.

We decided 22 months ago to co-sleep for reasons which at the time seemed prudent.  Unfortunately, we seem to have missed the golden opportunity to transition our daughter (V) out of our bed and into her own.  Sure, we tried, but couldn’t stomach the though of her “crying it out,” a process that seems to fall under the definition of “cruel and unusual.”  I may have to revisit that assessment.

We had an amazing recent run there for 4 days or so where I was actually able to rock her back to sleep after we laid her down in her bed.  In fact, she had only got up once and didn’t even need to nurse (“we’re” still doing that as well).  I felt pretty proud of that, as my wife was finally able to get some decent sleep.  My vigilance kept me up more than normal since I would try and intercept her while she was still in a sleepy state and rock her back to dreamland.  But I figured the supposed 10-day re-training period would pay off bigger dividends in the end.

But then, 2 nights ago, an ill-fated and sleep-deprived decision set us back.  V walked over to our bed, and before I knew what I was doing, I had pulled her into bed with us.

And now we’re back to square one.

V will scream if she doesn’t get to nurse (again), and not only does that inevitably wake us up for the next couple of hours, but it sure makes me feel useless again as she won’t even let me hold her during one of these tantrums.  Or, worse yet, she wakes up screaming from night terrors. I mean, WTH does a toddler have running through her mind to put in her in a spastic state of utter fear?  (That’s just heartbreaking if you have a shred of humanity).

We’re read several books on the various methods of transitioning her out of our bed and into her own, and we know it’s not going to be a painless transition.  But for someone who was already an insomniac, I find myself running on fumes more often than not, and desperately looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Every child is different, and we’ve heard stories of success and continued challenges, but man, what I wouldn’t give for that elusive night’s sleep.

This past weekend I felt like a failure as a parent.  The week before zapped me of my energy (work and no sleep), and my normally short patience seemed to be non-existent.  Unfortunately this manifested itself several times with my daughter (V).

First, after several successive tirades of V willfully disobeying me and then throwing something I perceive as valuable on the floor, I came very close to spanking her.  This is something I’ve never done—willfully cause pain to my child.  Now there are lots of different views on “corporal punishment,” but my wife and I have decided that we would not engage in spanking (for good or ill). So I was equally surprised and dismayed when I realized how close I had come to doing that which I promised myself I would not do.  Luckily, I recognized I was in emotional-overload mode and walked away just as my wife entered the room to take over with V.

The other instance was on Sunday when my wife and I were simply exhausted after an all-day trip to DC.  Though V slept on the way home (a good 1 ½ hour nap), we had no such luck.  So she was rested and wanting to play in her energizer-bunny sort of way which we were just not up for.  We tried half-heartedly for a bit and did manage to do a few things, and then V asked to watch one of her DVDs.  Now I’ve been adamant about not wanting her to watch too much TV, especially since she tends to go from a bright-eyed bundle of energy to a lethargic zombie as she zones out watching all those images and sounds.  But I just didn’t have it in me to do anymore so I acquiesced to the TV gods and let V worship at their altar for a bit.  And I was glad for the break (shudders).  If I had had the energy, I would have showered to wash that filthy feeling off me for what I saw as a betrayal of my principals and, more importantly, my daughter’s development.

Now, in a slightly more lucid moment, I realize that these “failures” don’t really rank up there with, say, not knowing V has become a serial killer because we let her watch Dexter (we don’t, no worries).  But it did crack my idealistic image that I created for myself of the parent I strive to be.  And for someone with unrealistic (or so I’m told) expectations of himself and others, a fair amount of cognitive dissonance is caused whenever those expectations are not met.  As I’ve grown older, I hope I’ve grown wiser and I try to manage/adjust those expectations to something more realistic.  Of course, this usually happens after the fact and I could save myself a good deal of angst if I lowered my expectations from the start.  But as my wife knows all-too-well (she bears the brunt of my self-righteous tirades), that’s something I’ve never been able to do.

The second thing that happened was this weekend re-highlighted the enormous pressures, struggles, and work it takes a stay-at-home parent (like my wife) to maintain some sort of sanity and consistency in dealing with your child (especially a willful one!).  So to all you SAH parents, a sincere kudos to you! Keep up that tough (and, from what many express, the all-too-often unrecognized or invalidated) job.  Staying at home is often inordinately tough, and as long as your child is healthy, safe, and developing, tell anyone that gives you guff to try it for a week and see if they’re not reduced to a mewling, exhausted ball curled up in the corner at the end of it.

And to my wife, I love you, thank you for raising our daughter, and don’t ever feel bad about needing a break or not living up to our unrealistic ideals.  We’re only human after all, and we’re in this together like everything else we’ve done for the past 12 years.