Don’t Make Eye Contact!

File Aug 24, 4 17 55 PM

Every now and then our daughter will do things that we want her to do without having to tell her. I know it’s shocking to me too. Examples of such things range from eating all the food on her plate, to cleaning up after a coloring session, or simply sitting quietly while playing with her toys. Usually I am thrilled to see that Claire will do these things without us having to say anything. I will stare at her as she chomps away at her food. I will smile proudly as she cleans up her messes. I will gaze in wonder as I see my little girl’s imagination at work while she plays.

And that’s usually when it all goes down hill. When we make eye contact.

As I stare at my daughter from across the room she gets the sense that I am looking at her and if our eyes lock it causes her to snap out of her good-behavior-mode. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. Claire will go from well-behaved kid to insane toddler in a matter of seconds. I’m not really sure why my wife or I locking eyes with her can cause Claire to change what she is doing, but we have quickly realized that if we do not want to interrupt her calm, cool and collected moments we cannot make eye contact with her.

I recently read an article that says that the human mind can actually sense when someone is staring at you—it is quite fascinating. There is a “gaze detection system” in our brain that is responsible for recognizing when someone is staring at you. There are clear benefits to this but when it comes to our toddler we have realized that we do not want to be detected by the said system. When Claire’s “gaze detection system” gets her to lock eyes with us she will stop eating, recognize that she was cleaning up instead of making a mess, or realize that she has been quiet for more than a minute and therefore must do a lap around the house while screaming at the top of her lungs.

As with most things toddler, there is a balance with how you deal with them. Apparently locking eyes with them is also something that we need to find a sweet spot for. My wife and I will call each other out during dinner if we stare at Claire for too long. “Don’t make eye contact!” will come out of one of our mouths. Quickly we will stare at our plates hoping the “gaze detection system” was not alerted and Claire will continue to eat.

Never a dull moment with these little ones that is for sure!

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, home and family, kids challenging parents, kids wanting things their way, parent child relationship, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Palpable Difference

File Aug 05, 5 23 47 PMThe last few weeks I have noticed a significant change in my relationship with my daughter. I don’t really know how or when it happened but it is palpably different. Claire and I have been hanging out and doing stuff like normal but I find that I am able to interact with her on a deeper level. Maybe it’s the fact that she can communicate with more than the word “no”. Claire is talking so much these days. Her ability to construct full sentences, and express her thoughts and feelings has changed the dynamic between us. I love it.

I know it sounds weird but I feel like I have a relationship with her now. Obviously, my wife and I have been in relationship with Claire since the womb, but the majority of womb to two has been meeting her needs. At this stage we are still meeting her needs, but there is more to it.

We took Claire to an amusement park last week and it was a blast! We had her ride the kiddy rides and she loved them. At one point there was this kids rollercoaster that we got in line for. I was a little apprehensive about it because it jerked around quite a bit. I had decided that I would keep my arm around Claire’s neck for extra support and comfort just in case she freaked out when the coaster started. As we got our lap belts fastened I gave Claire a pep talk, “This is going to go fast baby. Don’t worry I will be here with you ok?” Claire was too excited to care about what I was saying. I positioned my hand around her and was ready for a frightened kid. We had our first drop and Claire had an ear-to-ear grin that was accompanied with a loud “weeeeeee” as her arms were raised in the air. It was awesome.

After we got off the roller coasted my wife and I asked Claire what she wanted to do next and she responded with, “ride again.” We went from ride to ride eventually ending the day at the water park. The whole time Claire and I were hanging out there was this palpable difference. Claire interacted and laughed with us; she would run up to stuff and say, “Papi look!” I would respond with, “Wow! That’s amazing.” My daughter and I are growing in our relationship together and I love every minute of it.

I guess all parents recognize that at some point we will do more than change diapers and feed our kids. The reality of it happening is so cool and moving. This little person that I have the blessing of raising is fun, full of personality and someone I really love spending time with.

Categories: amusement parks, daughters, fatherhood, growing up, parent child relationship, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Two-Year-Old Knows

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My daughter is two and she is totally milking it. There are moments when Claire will develop this strange case of selective hearing. Usually the selective hearing occurs when a command is given that requires her to do something, or to stop doing something. Strangely, mom or dad can be steps away from Claire and she wont be able to hear our commands. “Sweetie, pick up your toys. (Pause) Honey, pick them up. (Pause) Claire!” Huh, maybe she got a hearing problem.

There are times when Claire will become immobile when it is time for her to go to bed. It is curious how her legs will give away during this specific moment. “Hun, did Claire hurt her leg?” “No, why?” says my wife. I respond, “She’s holding it and saying it hurts.” Claire will grow to be a great soccer player some day.

The strangest of all is the sudden, inexplicable, ravenous hunger that manifests the moment she is climbing into bed for the night. “Papi I need to eat!” “You literally just ate sweetie.” Claire counters with, “Please! Papi. I wannit.” I have learned that this is a last resort tactic to staying up so I don’t fall for it anymore.

Some will say, “She’s two and doesn’t know any better.” The thing is I think she totally knows what she is doing. I know she’s two, and technically full reasoning isn’t there, she can’t control her emotions, yada, yada, but I’m telling you—she knows. Maybe not completely, but she knows enough.

The other day Claire was given a 30-minute slot of time to watch Thomas and Friends, when I started calling her to get ready for bath time she looked at me from the corner of her eye and gave this ever so slight sinister smile. I’ve grown accustomed to expect trouble when that smile comes out so I watched her carefully. Claire grabbed the TV remote and hid it under the cushion on the chair across from her and then sat back on the sofa as if nothing had happened.

She knows!

How about the time I told her if she finished her food we would go outside and play. Claire complained that she didn’t want to eat. I sternly told her she needed to eat some of the food, “Eat 4 nuggets and we will go out.” I turned around to wash some dishes in the sink and a minute or so later I turned to look at Claire’s progress. The 4 nuggets were gone. I look at Claire who stares back with a look of satisfaction. I think to myself, “there is no way she could have eaten 4 nuggets that fast.” I look over to the left of the dinning room table and Rocky (our dog) gives the plot away. Rocky’s head is hanging low in shame. Claire has figured out that Rocky will consume 4 nuggets in seconds and he is her way to getting outside fast.

She knows!

This two year old knows enough to try and get her way. I am convinced of it. When my daughter gets cranky, mean, or wants things her way she will figure out a way to try and make it work to her advantage. Maybe this is why she is trying to lock me out of the house all the time?

Maybe she knows that I know…

Categories: fatherhood, kids challenging parents, kids wanting things their way, Terrible Twos, toddlers | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

More Than Grass

grass

Having children makes you do weird things; things that you would never, ever do in normal circumstances. Fathers sell their priced muscle cars that they have worked on for half a decade to purchase a minivan with “stow-n-go” for the sake of more room. Mothers leave their careers that took them years to obtain to stay home and be pooped on, yelled at, and bossed around by little dictators. We will leave our beloved city life in order to move to a quieter suburban home because the school districts are better there, but the parties are lamer.

And sometimes we buy grass.

Yes that is an awkward sentence. It is one of the weirdest things I have ever done since having a child. My wife and I were fortunate enough to buy a home early on in our marriage. The house had everything we needed and it was move in ready. When Claire was born the back yard began to be an issue for me. I now saw it with “daddy eyes.” The ground was rocky and uneven. The grass, or to be more precise, the weeds, were not inviting. There was this awkward spot in a corner where we had a ton of pea gravel and glass. It literally looked like someone took a pickup truck full of pea gravel and dumped it there and then smashed bottles over it. Needless to say the yard was not inviting and was more of a hazard than a future playing area for my daughter.

As Claire began to crawl I took more notice of the yard. I finally got a landscape company to come out and tell me how much it would cost to fix the yard. We were given a great quote and so began this crazy process of redoing the yard. We put down some Zoisa grass because my wife’s family had grown up with it and it also requires less maintenance. We couldn’t afford to do the whole yard with Zoisa sod, so we had a big patch of it installed by the playground area and we seeded the rest with common seed. I figured the Zoisa grass should go where Claire would walk on the most. Zoisa is a thick type of grass that spreads. Eventually the Zoisa will take over the whole yard. The landscaper suggested I install the Zoisa in the middle of the yard since that would allow all four sides of it to spread at the same rate. It made sense. However, Claire’s playground was on the left corner of our yard and I wanted it there so that she could play on it. The landscaper said, “You realize that one side of the grass will be against those 6×6 beams enclosing the playground, the other will be against the fence separating your neighbors yard, the third stops at your deck, which leaves you with the right side as the only possible spot for the grass to continue to spread out?” Yes I understand. “Sir, you wont maximize on the Zoisas growth that way!?” I know, I said. The landscaper thought I was nuts and I was, but children make us do weird things like buying grass.

This spring we were able to really see the fruit of our landscaping endeavor. The yard is level. The grass is actually grass and not weeds. The playground now sits on top of the pea gravel and is buried by weed cloth and rubber mulch (another ridiculous expense that I would never, ever have made under normal circumstances). My daughter now runs, jumps and tumbles in the yard. I stand on my deck and watch Claire laugh and chase the dog. Claire falls on the grass as her and the neighbors play together. Endless laughter ensues. I smile and take it all in.

It’s more than just grass.

Categories: children, fatherhood, fathers, grass, home and family, home improvements, landscaping, playground, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bye, Bye Baby

Photo Jun 24, 8 43 05 AM

I walked into my home the other day greeted by the following words from my wife, “Claire is too big to stay in her crib. We need to move her to a toddler bed.” I was puzzled at first.

Baby too big? No crib? Toddler bed?

I responded with a simple, “ok.” My wife began to explain that she had caught our daughter after her nap with her leg over the crib rail and was getting enough momentum to make an escape. When my wife checked to see what the weight and height is for switching to a toddler bed Claire had reached those measurements a while ago.

After eating dinner we spent the next 45 minutes putting together a toddler bed that had been given to us. As I assembled the toddler bed, my wife disassembled the crib. There was that “awww, she’s a big girl!” sentiment, mixed with a “she’s a big…girl…?” feeling. It was really weird. It felt like we were burring someone while new life was springing up right next to it. Claire was super excited at the reality that she was getting a new bed. There was no mourning on her end. No hesitancy to see the comfort of those four walls disappear before her very eyes. Meanwhile I am holding on to an Allen wrench in the fetal position wondering to myself, ‘what is happening?’

They outgrow things: clothes, car seats, and shoes. I have seen Claire outgrow several of these items, but her crib was the last symbol of her “babyness”. It’s definitely a little sad. My baby isn’t a baby anymore. She’s a little girl. I guess I knew this was going to happen and I understand that it is an inevitable part of life, but its weird. Part of me wants Claire to stay a baby so I can hold her longer and experience her in this oh, so short and unique time of life. However, Claire doesn’t want to be held. “I walk!” she says as she squirms from my arms to get to the ground. “I try!” comes out of her mouth as she attempts to figure things out. I step back and let her do it.

This discovering fatherhood journey has so many twist and turns. One minute I think I’ve got it figured out and the next I feel like I’m starting over again. Being a father is awesome but it is painful. As simple and necessary as it is for Claire to transition to a toddler bed a piece of me hurts inside.

It’s part of the process I guess.

Categories: cribs, daughters, fatherhood, growing up, outgrowing a crib, toddler bed, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Awe, Wonder & Fear: Vacuuming at our Home.

Photo Jun 13, 6 08 29 PM

The vacuum cleaner starts and Claire goes on alert. Claire stands by watching to see where I am going to go next. There is healthy mix of fear, excitement, and wonder as the vacuum zooms by. As I pass Claire retreats with a concerned look and then closes in behind me to see the vacuum at a safe distance. There’s a little smile as she peaks around the corner of the room.

I love seeing my daughter’s reaction to scary things. The awe, wonder and fear that she experiences keeps her on her toes, but it doesn’t keep her away. Every time I watch this Claire vs. vacuum interaction I can’t help but wonder what’s going on in her mind. “Is it a monster? A beast that dad somehow has tamed? Both?”

It is inspiring.

Most of the time when I encounter something that is frightening I am not chasing after it and certainly I’m not in awe or wonder of it. I think many of us react this way. There is a level of practicality that makes us turn away from situations filled with fear and risk. Yet, I cant help but think how much more fun and unpredictable life would be if we chased after the “vacuum cleaners” in our lives. Would we discover that there really isn’t anything to fear after all? Would we see past the fear and find something better, something worth chasing?

At two years old there is still a lot of world to see and it can be scary. When Claire finds something that she hasn’t encountered before she pauses. I am reminded to pause as well and experience this new encounter with her. What I find in these moments is a new respect for life and recognition that things and people can be scary, but that there is a potential for something beyond fear.

Claire pauses as a frog passes by. She isn’t sure what to do. It jumps and she hides behind me. The frog continues to jump and Claire walks in front of me and begins to jump with the frog. I pause and look around. People stare. I begin to jump after Claire.

Categories: discovering, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fear, fear of household items, fully alive, living in the moment, new things | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Potty Problems

potty

My daughter has been potty training for what seems like an eternity. We started her slowly at around 18 months because we knew she was capable of grasping this. Claire is now a little over two years old and is able to pee in the potty with no problem and for the most part keeps her Pull-Up diapers pretty dry. Although we’ve got the pee thing down; the dirty, not so distant relative of the vowel movement family is not something she seems to understand. Pooping is so much harder. My wife tells me that some kids usually grasp one over the other and so pooping is the one Claire doesn’t grasp. Claire has pooped in the potty before, a handful of times I might add. However, this has been due to us seeing her face turn a shade of red and purple that we’ve come to recognize.

We have instilled a price system for going to the potty that has stickers and a chart. For every 4 pees she gets to pick anything out of a plastic container we have in the bathroom. Every time she poops she automatically gets a price. The stickers show her how many more bathroom visits until she gets a price. The prices consist of chocolate, stickers, pencils, coloring pads, etc. Claire understands how this system works very well, she will say to me, “two more Papi and I get a dulce (candy in Spanish).” I will praise her and say, yes two more. However, she won’t poop in the potty. I speak slowly to her and try to explain it and even though she gets it for peeing she is missing it for the other. “Instant price Claire. Instant! No waiting 4 times, you get it right away!” She will smile and say ok and then go poop in a corner.

There are several people telling us their own particular methods of how to teach them and we have finally realized that Claire is too content with the amount of comfort the diaper provides. The padding in diapers absorbs and allow for the discomfort of a kids vowel movements to not be noticed much. So today we swung by Target and got two pairs of those training underwear. The idea is that it has less absorption fabric to catch pee or poop, but because its not too padded like a diaper the kid will recognize that ‘this is not very comfortable’ and hopefully be more aware of when needing to use the potty.

We just got this training underwear so I’m not sure what to expect. I have this slight fear that I will find my daughter opening her said underwear and fling poop everywhere in defiance. I’m fine with cleaning poop, but to randomly find it one day at home as I go about my day creeps me out.

Somehow it always comes back to poop on this blog…

Claire has been great in most things. We really have been blessed with her ability to follow instructions and deal with change. I hope that this poop problem doesn’t “hit the fan”.

Categories: baby pooping on you, fatherhood, growing up, potty, potty training | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Blessed

Photo May 13, 7 17 21 AM

I was listening to the radio this morning and the weather folks were talking about how hot it’s supposed to get. High 80s they said. The radio announcers complained to the weather guy about so much heat. A week ago the same radio station and announcers complained that it was too chilly in the morning—high 50s. Three weeks ago it was in the 70s and felt fantastic. The radio announcer said, “this is great weather, but its not going to last.” It’s easy to denounce this announcer as a whiner, but in reality I, as well as many of us do the same thing. We tend to not be content with what we have before us.

We want more. Better. Newer. Now.

My wife and I recently acquired new-to-us couches from her brother. They are pretty great and we really enjoy them. Undoubtedly, when you change out a piece of furniture the rest doesn’t match anymore and so began a slight design renovation in our home. An accent chair here, a rug there, a piece of wall art and it is starting to have the country sheek look my wife likes. I like it too it’s got this rugged look to it. What I love most about our new living room is the piece of wall art (the header image above). The piece sits right above our new-to-us couch and it’s the first thing that catches your eye when you walk in. Written on the piece is the following statement: “We are truly BLESSED.” It is a simple statement, yet it is one I tend to forget.

We have had the “blessed” piece of wall art for a few weeks now and it is doing things to me I never expected. The piece of art has gone from country sheek décor to a constant reminder of how blessed I truly am. I walk into my home thinking about how I need to finish the basement renovations, redo the flower boxes, worrying about saving money, work, not having enough time, etc. and when my eyes turn to the wall art it stops me and reminds me of my wife, daughter, the fact that I have my own home, that I have a job, that I actually have a savings account with money in it, that I have food in abundance, neighbors that are amazing, that I and my family are healthy…I could go on.

Blessed. So blessed.

I definitely believe God guided my wife to pick this particular piece of wall art not only because it changes the look of our home, but more importantly because it is changing how I see and respond to the blessings before me. When we forget the blessings in our lives our hearts harden. We grow resentful and forget that all of it—life, the stuff, etc.—is a gift. A gift. I’m sure we could have more things, newer things, better things, but the “coulds” are not real. What we do have is.

Sometimes we are like the whinny radio announcer, not content with what is before us. Expecting it to be better and once it does get better we complain about how it will eventually get worse again. That’s no way to live.

What reminds you of your blessings? For me it is a piece of wall art. If you do not have a reminder, search for one. We all need reminders of the blessings in our lives.

Categories: being thankful, blessings, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Ways My Daughter Challenges Me

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My daughter is two years old and she has challenged me more so than many other humans on the planet. At least it feels that way. Here are six ways that my daughter challenges me on a daily basis:

1. Going Outside: I love the outdoors. Somehow in the last few years I have found myself staying indoors even when it’s gorgeous out. Maybe its because I’m tired from working, chores, etc. Maybe its because we have cable and all those DIY shows are so interesting. Whatever the case may be my daughter has no desire to follow daddy in this respect. Claire demands to be let out into the wilderness of our suburban .35 acres. I am falling in love with the outdoors once again.

2. Patience: Lets face it; we can all use more patience. I thought I was patient and then my daughter turned two. Claire is on 100% of the time and she has no desire to slow down or wait for me to catch up. Whether it’s her need for food every 30 minutes, or her ADD style of play I am constantly being pushed to grow in my patience.

3. Letting go: I am supper anal when it comes to order in our home. I want things put away immediately once they are no longer being used. Taking my time with chores, projects, etc. does not compute in my brain. I like to tackle things right away and be done with it. This is not possible in the toddler world. Claire is messy and she is unapologetic about it. My daughter’s creativity and toys are not limited to her bedroom or the living room for that matter and I realize more and more that this is ok…I think.

4. Being fearless: I am always amazed at how little fear my daughter has. Whether it’s diving off some platform at the park or saying, “hello” to the person in front of us at the grocery store she does things that many would never venture to do. I can’t tell you of how many great conversations I have had with strangers because my daughter was willing to engage them.

5. Being Healthier: I use to be in pretty decent shape. I got married and somehow the gym became a place I frequented less and less. Work and family life got more complicated and Chick-fil-a and Chinese food became a quick fix. My daughter helps me to realize that I need to be in good shape in order to run and play with her. Quick, unhealthy meals don’t help me and they definitely don’t set an example for my daughter. I want to live a long time and eating healthy is one way of achieving that.

6. Enjoying Moments: When I am patient with my daughter and I let go off my anal tendencies of order and control I find that I have a space to enjoy the moment at hand. My favorite moments with my daughter are the ones where we simply sit and do nothing. Moments where time seems to stand still and we are simply being father and daughter. This is one of the best things my daughter is doing to challenge me to be a better person.

 

Categories: fatherhood, healthy living, kids challenging parents, living in the moment, Parenting, toddlers | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man’s Strength

Complete-Shoulders

My wife and I recently started watching a very popular show because we heard so many great things about it. One of the things that I noticed right away about the show was the use of man’s strength. There are several male characters and for the most part all of them play the traditional role of strong males, mainly expressing strength via physical means. Big muscles, force, etc. are what you see played out. These guys push through to accomplish their goals even if they are tired, hungry or in pain, which is great and something men should do.

As a family man I have to be aware of when my “push through” attitude is too much. I personally may be able to push through a situation but my wife or daughter may not. There is a need for all men to understand when it is appropriate to take physical strength and express it through gentleness. Gentleness is too often associated with weakness. Yet, gentleness is far from being weak. Gentleness actually requires significant amounts of strength, but more importantly mastery over this strength. Maybe this image will help explain what I mean.

Think of a woodworker carving a piece of wood. His hand must be strong enough to use his tools to cut the bigger chunks off, but when he gets to the more fine detailed work his strength needs to be used in a different way. He can’t simply force the wood into fine detail: he must be gentle, intentional and precise. A gentle motion to perform fine woodwork requires the right amount of strength. Too much strength and the fine detail is forced and damaged. Too little strength and the wood can be misshaped and ruined because the pressure was off.

Misuse of strength leads to abuse or cowardice two things that are unacceptable in any man.

Physical abuse we see so often. Men choosing to force their strength as a means to accomplish their will and often damage those they are responsible for protecting. Cowardice we see when a man chooses to do the easy thing instead of the right thing because it isn’t as difficult, time consuming or will simply cost them less.

I am finding more and more that a strong man is one that can master the discipline of gentleness in all situations. Whether it’s telling a coworker that what they are doing is bad for the company, confronting someone that has wronged you or finding out that your daughter has been sneaking out to have sex with her boyfriend. In all these situations the way a man applies his strength in the precise measure that is required reveals his true strength.

As I raise my daughter I recognize that I must master gentleness. In order for my daughter to be a fine human being I must be precise and intentional with her. This is soooo difficult. Emotions get stirred so easily and our strength as men can too quickly become forceful, or too lenient. That sweet spot that is so precise requires mastery of self, which can only come from a man’s realization that he is called to apply his strength in the proper way, a powerful way, a gentle way.

Categories: being a man, fatherhood, gentleness, manhood, Parenting, strength | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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