Archives for January 2016

Daughterology

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As a father with four daughters, there are certain things I have experienced that are unique to my situation. Some of them were expected and simply come with the territory. Others came as quite a surprise. The following is a list of some of the more prominent revelations; I’ll leave you to decide which is which. Feel free to share your own experiences.

 

It is possible to wash more than one entire load of pink clothing.

 

A lot of toilet paper is used. I mean, a lot.

 

Hearing “Just wait until they’re teenagers” (coupled with “You’re going to need a shotgun”).

 

Don’t get me wrong: they like to watch a backhoe tearing up the pavement just like anyone else. But the princess thing cannot be avoided. There will be princesses.

 

Beard related kiss goodnight injuries (self-reported).

 

Bathroom time-sharing has not yet become an issue. But. I’m starting to imagine what it will be like, and I’m a little scared.

 

Explaining that, while it is not considered polite for little girls to burp in public, that was very impressive.

 

Not always knowing the difference between tights, leggings and pants.

 

Ponytails I can do. Braids are still in process.

 

Explaining that of course you can be President someday. But you have to be 40.

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How to Throw Like a Dad

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I’ve been thinking about what I’m passing along to my children. And what I’m not. There is some pride in the former and a fair bit of panic in the latter. I’ll explain.

My wife and I are big readers. We both started reading at an early age, and in recent years we have made concerted efforts to supplement our smartphone addictions (an affliction of life in the 21st Century) with the presence of real books. The girls have always been surrounded by books, and we make vigorous use of our Audible account; both car rides and afternoons at home are full of audiobooks. As a result, books are an important part of their lives. The eight and ten year-old have read the Narnia series several times through, and are currently both working their way through The Lord of the Rings (this especially impresses me because I know they’re tough going; I’ve never been able to get through them myself).

Another thing I know they have down is art. I’m pretty sure this mostly comes from my wife’s contribution of genes, as she can pick up seemingly any project in any medium and excel at it. We have never scrimped on art supplies, and we give them ample time and freedom to create. A coworker has remarked—jokingly, I hope—that I must display my childrens’ drawings at work in order to shame other parents.

So, there are things my girls love to do that we have encouraged and enabled, and at which they show great skill and talent. This is good, right?

Last year I took my three oldest girls, champion readers that they are, to the culminating event of the library’s Summer Reading program. There were a variety of activities here, including crafts, games, karaoke, and, outside on the lawn, games of physical skill. It was while we were outside that I witnessed my eight year-old attempt to throw a ball at a target. To put it mildly, I was…surprised at her lack of skill in throwing. It immediately struck me (the thought, not the ball, though it was a close call) that I had never taught her to throw or catch properly. Of course, it next occurred to me that I was obviously a bad father.

I should mention that (apart from a good stretch in track & field in first grade) I have never been athletic. I grew up both physically and socially awkward; I was a nervous child. Twitchy, and not terribly coordinated. I was teased for my lack of ability and was never a preferred pick for any team captain. Needless to say, I was never a team captain. I finally learned to dribble a basketball (and make a basket) when I worked at a psychiatric facility for children. I learned from the children. I was in my mid-thirties by this time.

As the days start to lengthen and the idea of Spring starts to take root, I feel increasing urgency to teach my girls about sports. They are vigorous and active, and they love to be outside. They run, jump, and like to hurl chunks of rock into the river. They all love to swim and have had regular lessons. But unlike with reading and art, they have never seen athletics modeled in their family. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, this has become an important issue for me.

So, going back to the idea of resolutions, I have decided it is time for me to buck up and start thinking in sports. I can’t wait to get a softball and glove, a basketball, a soccer ball, a Frisbee. Turns out that, once again, in thinking about what to teach my children they have something to teach me in return.

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Can you tell me how to get to Problem-Solving Mode?

This week’s post is by featured contributor Esther Schiedel. We hope that you find it useful and look forward to future posts by Esther.

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Knowing how to solve problems is a valuable, life-long skill. That may be the understatement of the year. Finding solutions to mechanical or physical problems is hard, but finding solutions to problems involving several people interacting and getting along with each other is really tough. That process is a major part of parenting, though.

Here are some suggested steps for problem-solving family life challenges.

(These are designed for school age and older children–and for adults!–but the process can be modified to use with younger children.)

Part 1 By Yourself

1.Acknowledge to yourself what is going on with you: What is your physical state? (hungry, sleep deprived, wound up, …) What are your feelings? (frustrated, worried, fearful, …) What are your fears? (I’m a terrible parent; My child will never be able to go to sleep without me, go to school, be self-supportive, . . .).

2. Ask yourself: How is this affecting me? Can I list specific, concrete ways that this is impacting my life? Is this blocking my ability to achieve my goals or meet my needs?

3. Respond to yourself empathetically—“I hear you” “It’s hard to deal with this. ” Help yourself calm down by deep breathing or physical exercise.

Part 2 With the Other(s) (spouse, child, etc.)

Establish a connection. Essentially this is saying or conveying without words “I’m available to listen—now or whenever you are ready to talk.”

4. Bring up the problem in a neutral way; for example, “We always seem to end up yelling at each other in the mornings. It’s upsetting to me and I think it bothers you, too. Can we talk about how we might be able to do things differently?”

5. Use empathetic listening. The goal is to listen for understanding, not weakness. Trust that the other person is not lying or trying to manipulate you, but being honest. You DO NOT need to agree with him/her, just to accept that this is his/her perception. Help the other person go through the process you just went through of identifying feelings and needs and calming down.

6. With the other person’s help (when possible), identify out loud (and in writing if desired): how s/he feels; his/her need(s); and what s/he would like to happen. It’s important that you are able to state these and have the other person say (or indicate) “Yes, that is what I feel, need, and want.”

6a. There may be lots of things. Pick only one to deal with right now. You can get back to the others later.

7. Now state your own feelings, needs, and what you would like to happen regarding the issue at hand. Do this as briefly as possible. Remember this is what you would like to happen, NOT what you insist upon happening. If appropriate, ask the other person to state your feelings, needs, and wants in a way that you agree is accurate.

8. Sit with this for a while together.

9. Brainstorm together—come up with a list of possible solutions (whacky and totally unrealistic ones encouraged to get the creative juices flowing) and write them down.

10. Evaluate those solutions. Consider any other relevant factors and realities: developmental stage, temperament, safety, affordability, time, health, fairness, family rules, laws, moral considerations, etc.

11. Select one(s) that meet both your needs. Be open to change. You both have veto power over any of the suggestions and you both need to agree on the solution.

12. Be as specific as possible about your agreed upon solution—when where what who.

13. Put it into practice for a specified amount of time. Then follow up with each other—how is it working out? How are you feeling now? Make adjustments as needed.

14. Problem Solved! Celebrate successes!

Repeat as often as necessary.

 

Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to three boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.

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A Panel of Experts

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Happy New Year, everybody. I’m not much with New Year’s resolutions, but I decided to ask for some guidance from my kids tonight.

I asked them, separately through the evening, what they thought it was most important for parents to do. I explained that I was going to write about their answers.

The eight year-old was first. She answered immediately and with much conviction:

“Love your children. Love each other. That’s it, really.” This was her final answer.

As I was putting the little ones to bed I asked my six year-old. She equivocated for a few minutes, arranging the various stuffed cats (wild and domestic) that lurk about her pillow and said, “Spend time with your children. You know, like sitting with them and snuggling and stuff.”

The four year-old was next. She was, characteristically, suspicious of the whole enterprise. “I don’t know what parents do! I’m a child. I only think about play.” I pointed out that when she plays she often pretends to be a mother. She thought about this. After a time she said, “Cook. Work. Take care of us.” Then, after a pause, “And pets.” Okay, then.

The ten year-old needed time to think about it. She has been looking and behaving an awful lot like a teenager lately, but now she lay on her back, rocking back and forth, holding her feet which were suspended in the air. She asked the eight year-old what she had told me, but she wasn’t going to share. “It’s private,” she said. Finally my eldest answered, “Love your kids and have special time with them. Hang out with them.”

It didn’t hit me until later how much they had given me to work with. What does “Love your children” mean? They understand love as an action rather than a feeling. In our family we say “I love you” with much frequency (a phrase with which I had never been comfortable until I became a parent). I don’t know what to do with that as a resolution other than to acknowledge that the act of loving your kids, which is in one sense automatic and, you know, of course, also entails to struggle to do it well, from day to day, from moment to moment.

So I thought, spending time with them. I can do that. I do that. I thought back through the day. I was at home, as work was canceled due to inclement weather. I spent much of the day washing their bedding, tidying their rooms, vacuuming, preparing meals, doing the dishes. To me, these tasks are acts of love and I approach them that way. But how much time did I spend with them? How brief were my check-ins with them? How much attention did I give to their drawings and projects and imaginative games?

Thanks for the reminder, girls. This is simple, but it’s not easy. There’s always work to be done.

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