Monthly Archives: March 2006

Playground Bullies

I am posting this article in honor of the current Cancun summit between 3 of the western world’s most Conservative political leaders.

A new report from the University of California-Berkeley (the very heart of rabid liberalism, according to the article) says that:

Whiny, insecure brats who cowered with fear of being bullied on the playground grow up to be conservatives, while smooth self-confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grow up to be liberals.

Road Trip

Warning! Gross bodily function details ahead!

When did I suddenly become my father? When did I suddenly develop the need to lock my family in a 10 x 8 foot steel box and drive for hours searching for endless shortcuts and back routes to get places? My Dad used to study road maps like doctors study x-rays, looking for the slightest hairline fracture of a road to haul us down. Somehow, I ended up with that gene.

We took the girl had her first extended road trip this weekend – a 6 hour drive through the rugged Pacific Northwest Mountains to a beautiful fishing village cum weekend hideaway. This place is remote; so remote that, for an hour and a half, you get absolutely no radio reception.

Things were going well on the 6 hour trip. We got up early and were out the door relatively on time. We had a happy girl in the back seat; thanks to some new Miffy books we had bought before the trip (nothing like some new stuff to bribe a kid into submission). Heck, we even managed to find gas for 8 cents a liter cheaper than in the city when we needed a refill.

Then the last 30 kilometers came. A treacherous, hanging off the side of a cliff drive on roads that haven’t been maintained since 1956. Endless up and down, sway back and forth upanddown….you can see where this is going and it ain’t pretty.

30 minutes from our destination, on a stretch of road with cliff on one side and 100 foot frop to ocean on the other, the girl lost her lunch. Poor thing. She was spewing. And here we are – we can’t pull over – the road is too narrow and dangerous. So we have to keep on going, girl wailing and throwing up in the back seat.

Finally we come to a pullout and, since we are in the middle of mountain wilderness, there is a (OHMYGODTHATSCOLD) mountain stream running beside the road. We take the sobbing soaking girl out of the car and proceed to wash down the girl, car and car seat as best we can.

A short time later, the girl calms down, the mess gets cleaned up and we’re all strapped back in the car and on our way. A few minutes later we arrive at our destination – friends we haven’t seen much of since they moved to this remote fishing village almost 2 years ago. Our girl gets out of the car, grinning ear to ear. Her first words to our hosts?

“I barf!”

And so begins a fantastic weekend.

Being More Than a Present Dad

Yet another study shows that it isn’t enough for us Dads to be present in our kids lives, we must take an active part.

This recent study from the University of Texas focuses on the corelation between a girl’s first sexual encounter and her relationship with her Father. The study basically says that the more present a Father is in his daughters life, the longer she will wait to engage in sexual behaviors.

“This shows us that it is not enough for dads to be merely present,” says (Dr. Mark) Regnerus, an assistant professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. “They need to be active in their daughters’ lives. There are hints here that girls who have poor relationships with their dads tend to seek attention from other males at earlier ages and often this will involve a sexual relationship.”

Fabrics – ARRRGHHHH!

Is it just me, or does it seem that little people require an unbelievable amount of fabric in their lives?

Fabric is causing me stress these days. It seems that we are becoming overrun with fabric. It’s natural state in our house? Not nicely folded and put away in a closet or dresser, but rather in little piles that seem to gather overnight in corners of the house. A pile of clothes over there, an errant sock here, diapers drying on a rack, a sweater on the stairs, dishtowel on the kitchen floor, hand towel full of paint on the playroom floor. Everywhere I look I see fabrics, disheveled and strewn askew.

They are impossible to control, preferring to spread out around the house. Oh look, there is a scarf and a pair of mittens on the kitchen table. A blanket for ClipClop the horse draped over the plant in the corner, and another one for Ty Bear hanging on the hall banister.

Is that a wet towel lying on the bathroom floor? A sunhat on my desk? Where does this stuff come from? Why can’t I control it? Whose devilish plot is this to drive me insane?


Tune In and Drop Out

This week the Time magazine cover story asks are kids too plugged in?

Quoting research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the article says that even though our kids are not spending more time with electronics (already at 6.5 hours a day), they are becoming so adept at multitasking that they now pack in 8.5 hours of media exposure into that 6.5 hours.

What does that mean? According to many of the sources quoted in the Time article, this means that kids are becoming more physically distant from other people. As Sudbury, Massachusetts, psychiatrist and author Edward Hallowell says

“you are not having family dinner, you are not having conversations, you are not debating whether to go out with a boy who wants to have sex on the first date, you are not going on a family ski trip or taking time just to veg. It’s not so much that the video game is going to rot your brain, it’s what you are not doing that’s going to rot your life.”

I have to admit, there have been occasions where I’ve been working away on my laptop downstairs only to receive an email from my wife in the office upstairs. At first, it was quite funny and we used to joke about it, but I can see it becoming more common in our house as our kids get older. And I don’t think instant communication or mediated communication is such a bad thing when used correctly. A phone call from my wife in the driveway asking me to come out and help her bring in the groceries doesn’t seem unreasonable.

I think the bigger point of the article is that we tend to overschedule not only our lives, but also our kids lives. We have somehow collectively lost our ability to do nothing – to sit in silence and think. We somehow believe that, unless we are doing a dozen things at once we are not being productive. I know I am very guilty of this. I always have more to do in my head than there are hours in the day and, as a result, I tend to feel stressed about everything that is not getting done. It is not a good example to set for my girl.

I know that, with a 2 year old toddler bouncing around, it has become harder and harder for me to do nothing with her and be at peace with it. I somehow think that, unless she is doing something, she isn’t being stimulated and I am somehow stunting her development. But maybe it’s okay for her to do nothing. Maybe it’s okay for her just to wander around the house by herself for awhile without me directing her to try this puzzle or sing this song.

I think tomorrow I’ll just let her wander on her own and lead the day. And if we get bored, maybe we’ll sit in the backyard and see if we can find some early spring ladybugs in the garden. Maybe tomorrow we’ll just skip that playgroup and see what the day brings.

The Blogfathers

I’ve been away from the blogsphere for awhile and, in my absence, a great new Dad blog has started up. Actually, it’s more of a compendium of Dad blogs called The BlogFathers (what a fantastic name). A daily daddy blogging fix in one sweet spot. Nice work guys.

Toddler (Sem)antics

I am continually amazed at how quickly we human beings grasp language. In 2 short years the girl has gone from cries and squeals to being able to form sentences and carry on simple conversations. Our capacity as a species to communicate fascinates me to no end.

While I am amazed at the girl’s ability to understand and comprehend language, I am occasionally brought back to reality by the fact that a common, yet abstract turn of a phrase can throw the girl for a loop.

Case in point. Last weekend her Mom and I had a particularly productive day around the house.  While I was busy unpacking and organizing the basement, Mom blasted through a dozen household tasks upstairs. When I came up to see how things were going, Mom and the girl were sitting in the living room folding laundry.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Great,” replied Mom. “I did the dishes, vacuumed, did three loads of laundry, repotted 2 plants, and made us lunch.”

“Wow,” I said to the girl. “Your Mom is on fire.”

It took a few seconds for the words to sink in.  I didn’t even realize what I said until I saw a little brow furrow in curious confusion.

“Mom okay?” she asked, anxiously looking at Mom. “Mom on fire?”

Uh-oh. Cue frantic backpedaling. “No, Mom isn’t really on fire. It’s an expression. It means that she got a lot done in a short amount of time.” Great. Here I am with an upset 2 year old on my hands, trying to explain not only the the concept of expressions and figures of speeches to her, but also time. I’m not expecting much.

Fortunately, she didn’t get too upset, and she quickly brushed it off with a “Mom’s on fire? That’s crazy.” But it did teach me a lesson in toddler semantics and to pay a bit more attention to what I say.

Tooth Brushing Hint

Amazing how much easier things go with a toddler when you turn everyday chores into a game. Recently the chore that has been “game-ified” at our house is brushing teeth, only it’s name has been changed from brushing teeth to hunting sugar bugs.

I’m not sure where this came from (I think my wife’s dentist first put the thought of sugar bugs in our heads), or even if it is original, but I do know that the game has been a favorite with the girl. We sit down and pretend to catch sugar bugs in her mouth. Whenever we catch one in the toothbrush, we make a big deal of pinching it off the brush, throwing the imaginary critter to the floor and stepping on it – the bigger the stomp the better. The girl squeals whenever we pull one of these little critters out of her mouth, and gleefully stomps on it to stop the sugar bug.

Not only does the girl look forward to brushing her teeth, she’s becoming a real ham, using her imagination and catching invisible sugar bugs. Great fun.

MMMMMinti Good

A peer-to-peer advice site for parents called Minti is up and running. Articles and advice are contributed by parents, giving the whole site a very nice community feeling, free of the spin (corporate, religious, ideological, political, what have you) of most parent advice sites. And users can rank the advice.

Minti – Powered by Parents – parent to parent advice-opedia