Parenting

Four

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A couple of days ago I was outside doing chores. My daughter Claire was out back playing on her playground and running back and forth entertaining her self. At the end of the day before bedtime Claire asked, “I want someone to play with me.” Regardless of how long we play with her, Claire will always want more play time. After Claire went to bed my wife and I reflected on the day and I couldn’t help but hear Claire’s words: “I want someone to play with me.”

Claire turned four a few days ago and it has caused me to pause and reflect on these last four years. What does my daughter see within these four years? Does she see a dad whose engaged, present, kind, forgiving, gentle, calm? I’m not quite sure. I’m those things described above: hopefully most of the time. Still the words, “I want someone to play with me.” echo in my mind and heart. Do I play enough with my daughter? Have I spent the quality time that Claire needs? Am I busy doing things for our life while Claire entertains herself?

Lots of questions now that she is four.

Claire will have a little sister soon. Cecilia. Will Cecilia ask the same question? Will I look back when she is four and wonder; did I play enough with her?

Maybe it’s the realization that my baby isn’t a baby but a little girl. Maybe those thoughts, emotions, etc. are getting the best of me. Maybe I’m doing as best as most dads. Maybe the statement, “I want someone to play with me” is a challenge. Something God is letting rattle in my head. Maybe I need to be pushed to become more, to do less, and play.

Lots of questions now that she is four.

 

Categories: being too busy, best self, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Strong-Willed Child

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My sweet little Claire is wonderful. Claire is kind, loving, intelligent, and as stubborn as a mule. At three years old, Claire is showing that she is her own person and will do what she wants, when she wants. This would be fine if Claire was 25 years old and living in her own place. However, at 3 years old and in my house, this isn’t going to fly.

It is quite amazing to see how strong-willed this little girl is. No matter if it’s what clothes she wants to wear, when she wants to eat, or whether playtime is over, Claire lets you know her desires without any hesitation. I find myself, at moments, wondering where the line should be drawn between letting her be this strong-willed, little person and needing to “break her in”.

I’ve been reading about strong-willed kids and the positive side is that, while early on they can be tough, they will grow to become great teenagers, capable of holding on to their integrity and not easily peer-pressured. This comes as great news to this father.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered so far about parenting a strong-willed child:

  1. Choices are essential: Early on I learned that asking Claire what she wanted was the wrong question to ask. Strong-willed kids want to be in charge of their choices, so if you ask them what they want, they will tell you without hesitation. The problem comes when their response isn’t an option you are willing to accept. I now word my questions like so: “Claire, which of these three outfits do you want to wear?” I have preselected the three outfits so I can live with whatever choice she makes. It is a win-win for both of us. This has been huge in dealing with food, clothes, and activities.
  2. “I wanna do it myself!”: This comes out of my daughter’s mouth anytime there is anything to be learned, experienced, or explored. Claire is not okay with mom or dad telling her that getting too close to the fireplace could burn her. Claire wants to feel the heat on her skin and see why she shouldn’t get that close. I’ve realized that Claire learns better when she can experience what we are talking about. I guess this can be applied to most people; however, there is a clear need for Claire to understand things by “doing it her self.” As long as there is a safe way for this to happen, it is worth doing.
  3. Raising my voice is pointless: This is really hard for me. My personality is pessimistic by nature, so when my daughter does something I disapprove of, it shows. I naturally raise my voice to confront Claire when she is doing something wrong and this causes her to become defensive. My wife constantly reminds me that a calm, cool voice will go a long way when disciplining. When I am able to listen to my wife’s wisdom, Claire is willing to listen as well.
  4. Strong, yet gentle leadership: We hear from counselors, psychologists, and all kinds of experts that children need discipline and guidance. Yet, the strong-willed child wants to be the master of his or her own destiny. As parents, we need to have just the right balance of strength and gentleness when leading these kids. I wrote a post a while ago about the strength of men. I think this post explains that balance well.
  5. Expect it to be challenging: Parenting in general is hard. When my daughter asserts her strong will it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I know that my daughter is going to want to do it her way. I know my daughter will want to question or challenge what I say. Therefore, I’ve learned we must be preemptive with strong-willed children. Think about what your child might do or say when you tell them it’s time to eat, or take a bath, or put toys away. When I expect my daughter to do it “my way” and it doesn’t work out I have myself to blame.

So, there you go. This is just some of what I have observed/learned so far. Nothing terribly complicated, but it’s so much easier said than done. Maybe our next kid will be willing to accept a simple, “because I said so.”

Categories: children, dads, daughters, fatherhood, Parenting, Strong-willed kids, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Pretty Flowers

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This year the outdoor project our family wanted to tackle was rebuilding the flowerbeds we inherited when we bought the house 3 years ago. These flowerbeds were pretty terrible. Weeds reigned without consequences. The landscape beams that were supposed to contain the flowers were rotted out. Needless to say, the flowerbeds were an eyesore.

A few weeks ago I was able to rebuild the flowerbeds and weed the one up against the front of the house. I planted some new flowers to spruce up the curb appeal. Since doing this I have been able to better distinguish between weeds and other flowers. Some weeds have pretty flowers on them, which is probably confusing for most people. It is for me.

I have told my daughter that there are some pretty yellow and orange flowers that will be coming soon. Claire is very excited for pretty flowers to come. As Claire and I walk by the flowerbeds when we leave the house I look to see how the flowers are doing. Claire will excitedly look as well to see if her pretty flowers are ready. “Are they ready Papi?” Claire asks excitedly. “No baby, not yet.”

On one particular occasion I noticed a few dandelions. I must have made some irritated gestures and sounds because Claire could tell I wasn’t pleased. I walked over to the dandelions and ripped them out of the ground and threw them against the fence. Claire was confused and said, “Papi, no! Those are pretty flowers you made for me!” I looked at the dandelions and back at Claire. “No baby, those are weeds, not flowers.” Claire was not pleased with my response and began to lecture me with a stern voice: “You no do that papi, ok! Those are my pretty flowers!” I wanted to laugh out loud, but thought that it would only make her more upset. Claire went towards the fence and picked up the beaten dandelions. As she straightened up my little girls’ sweet and gentle voice returned, “See Papi they are pretty flowers.”

I wish I could see the world the way my daughter does. What a difference it would make.

 

 

 

Categories: children, children's perspective, daughters, fatherhood, fathers, home improvements, landscaping, Parenting, perspective, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The To-Do List

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Claire: “Papi you wanna play wit me?”

Me: “Not right now baby. We have to go to the grocery store, Costco, get gas, and pick up     mommy’s medicine. Not to mention finish the laundry.”

Claire: “Just 2 minutes Papi?”

Me: “Maybe later. If we have time.”
I find that the above interaction with my daughter is becoming more than just an occasional exchange. One day its groceries, another is picking up my gun from the gunsmith, another day it’s a Home Depot trip for lumber and a saw blade. There is always something going on that needs doing. Our family is busy, but so is every other family. As I re-read the conversation above it makes me angry, angry that I would dare say to my daughter that I don’t have 2 minutes for her. I spend more time updating my calorie counter app.

Claire turns 3 on Easter Sunday and I am finding that my little girl is growing up too fast. In the whirlwind of our busy lives there is this glorious gift we call Claire that repeatedly calls me to step outside of the business. To be childlike and enjoy these precious moments that are so quickly passing us by.

“2 minutes Papi.” But there is so much to do. “2 minutes papi.” I haven’t made dinner yet. “2 minutes papi.” I’m too tired baby. “2 minutes papi.” Baby, it has to get done.

It does have to get done. I am tired. Dinner needs to be made. There is so much to do. But my daughter is growing so fast…

I find that days go by and items are checked off my to-do list, yet the reason why I do those things (my family) seems to get the back burner. The to-do list gets things done so that my family is happier, yet it is keeping me from experiencing that happiness with them. The moments when I am playing with Claire I find that in the back of my mind the to-do list pops its head in, telling me there are things that need to be done for the family.

I don’t know if anyone else feels this way.

Maybe I’m ridiculous in my expectations. Maybe this is the way it is and I have to deal with it. Yet, Claire’s voice calls out to me. To enjoy the moments while they are still available.

“2 minutes Papi”.

Categories: being too busy, blessings, Catholic, distractions, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, home and family, living in the moment, Parenting, time management, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Twirling

fatherdaughterdanceA couple of weeks ago my wife told me about this “Daddy-Daughter-Dance” that our local YMCA was putting together. It was going to be a two-hour event where we would dress up, get our picture taken, make crafts, eat snacks, dance and get an ice cream Sunday. I signed up for it and told my daughter about it. Claire was very excited. It is really interesting seeing how Claire was able to recognize that this was going to be a special event just for her and I. Leading up to the dance Claire would talk about going and how it would be fun.

About a week before the dance Claire got a package in the mail from her aunt. Auntie had heard that Claire was going to a dance and bought her a slick pair of black dress shoes. The shoes solidified for Claire that this dance was a big deal. Apparently a woman’s DNA is wired to respond to shoes in a way that I simply cannot quite wrap my mind around. Shoes = big deal. I guess this is a universal norm.

The day of the dance Claire was talking about it and I was busy working on the closet shelving system I was installing. As I finished my project I jumped into the shower and quickly dressed. My wife was busy getting Claire ready. At one point I walked by Claire’s room and saw her in her dress and she said, “No Papi. Not yet. I not ready.” I complied and walked away. Once my wife was done getting our daughter ready, Claire walked out with a big smile and a look that clearly sought my approval. I told Claire how beautiful she was and it was obvious that she was eating up my words, smiles and hugs.

She was stunning.

The rest of the night was great. I twirled my daughter around on the dance floor, told her how beautiful, strong and smart she was. We made a ladybug craft and ate too much ice cream. Our picture was terrible (the “picture people” were not pros) but the overall night was fantastic. Claire recognized that she captivated me; that her father genuinely desired to spend this time with her. The other fathers at the dance were equally captivated by their daughters—it was really cool to see. We all had these looks of awe and wonder as we saw these glorious little beings twirl around the room.

As Claire and I drove home I realized that these two hours had been a powerful exchange between her and I. My daughter genuinely felt love from me in the form of this Daddy-Daughter-Dance. Some of my friends have taken their daughters to dances like this in the last few weeks and I have seen social media filled with pictures of little girls twirling with their dads. It’s pretty awesome!

My favorite moment at the dance was not with my own daughter; it came about when I saw one of the other dads with his daughter and another little girl who wasn’t his child. In the exchange that the girls had with the man you could tell they were not sisters. Who knows what that one girls situation is and why her daddy wasn’t there. The beautiful thing was that someone else was “daddy” in that moment, and was twirling her. This little girl was loved and more importantly, she knew that she captivated this daddy.

Categories: Catholic, christianity, daddy date, daddy daughter dance, dads, daughters, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 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: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Telling the Story

I posted this last year on Christmas day and no one really read it, which is a great sign that everyone was offline and enjoying family. I am reposting it and hope you all enjoy it.

Discovering Fatherhood

IMG_0603I love telling stories. I’m going to be that old grandfather who tells stories over and over again, while the grandkids say, “Grandpa! You just told us that one!”

There is something about a good story that really can work a person’s imagination, help process through difficulty, or just leave us with a smile on our face. Stories are powerful.

I am very thankful for the “Little People” that Fisher Price puts out—especially the biblical ones. My father-in-law recently got my daughter Claire the Little People Nativity Set and she loves it. I can tell because they all are covered in baby slobber half the time. Baby Jesus is currently in a cocoon of solidified saliva.

Fisher Price has done a good job of creating these cute, little people. The facial features, outfits, and color design—they all do a great job at setting the scene. Yet, the toys in and…

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Categories: christmas, fatherhood, fisher price, God, Jesus, Parenting, teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Diapers

diapers

My daughter is 19 months old but she is the size of a 3 year old. Claire is tall, slender and yet a very solid baby. Since Claire was an infant we have struggled with trying to get the best diapers for her. We have used several brands, disposable and reusable. Prior to Claire being born, in what I can only deduce was a moment of sheer stupidity mixed with no experience and a dash of romanticism, my wife and I decided to buy reusable diapers. It seemed like a responsible, earth-friendly decision but I want to kick myself in the junk every time Claire poops in one of them. I wrote about this last year.

When Claire was born we used Huggies brand at first because advertizing works, and when I think of diapers I think Huggies. We liked the Huggies because it had that convenient racing stripe down the middle of it that told you the baby had urinated. It went from yellow to blue and you knew the baby had taken care of business—very necessary for new dads. After a few months with these diapers we noticed Claire got a bad diaper rash and so we switched to Pampers, but they didn’t really do a whole lot in regards to preventing the rash. We tried the Toys R’ Us brand because someone gave us a pack of them and it was just stupid. We used 2 diapers and threw the rest away. Stick to making toys!

When Claire was 3 months old and the meconium had cleared her system and more importantly wasn’t going to the bathroom every 3 minutes we started using the reusable diapers from Bum Genius. They are a one-size-fits all diaper and they do, but we found out very quickly that they do not hold urine or poop in as well as disposable diapers do. They were kind of hit or miss most of the time. We followed instructions, used the inserts and flap the way they said we should, but it still wouldn’t always work. Maybe its because Claire is so big, but who knows.

As Claire continued to grow we found that diapers didn’t always fit well or hold her large bowel movements—the reusable diapers leaked like a pasta colander. Maybe someday I will blog about the Olive Garden diaper incident…dear…God! Anyways, after much diaper shopping, unnecessary blowouts and traumatizing grandma at the Olive Garden we have found a diaper that has been tried and tested for over a year. Some may be surprised at the brand of diaper that has triumphed and some of you will shake your heads ever so slightly in agreement with this news. The best diaper that we have found to fit our tall, slender yet solid child is Target brand diaper.

What can Target not do well?

I was very skeptical about buying Target brand diapers—especially after the Toy’s R Us fiasco—but they are awesome. My daughter sleeps a full 12 hours a night and when she wakes up her diaper is the size of a small comet, but there are no leaks. The monster poops that she has, caused mostly by mangos and chik-fil-a are kept in the Target diaper. It is impressive.

We still use the reusable diapers around the house, because we spent so much money on them (we have 20 of them in total…) and we still secretly hope that they will not leak. Sometimes they don’t and it makes us happy, but most of the time they do and I want to hurt myself for buying them. When we go outside the house the Target brand is all we use. It also fixed her rash issue, because Target brand doesn’t use any dyes (the racing stripe has dye in case you didn’t know).

Discovering the right type of diaper for your kid can be a daunting task, especially when they are so expensive. I hope that this blog post helps those beginning the diaper search.

Categories: diapers, fatherhood, Parenting, types of diapers | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Us. Together.

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A few days ago I was cleaning the house. The floor needed cleaning so I grabbed the broom and began to sweep. Claire has a toy broom and dust pan that her grandma bought her that she keeps by her toy kitchen. As soon as Claire saw me sweeping in the hall she ran over to her kitchen and grabbed her own broom. I saw her do this and thought to myself, “if only I could train her to cut the grass.”

Claire came over to the hall where I was and she began to sweep with me. At first it was cute, but then Claire began to get in the way. The pile of dirt, dog/cat hair I had collected was being knocked around. I guided Claire so that she could use her broom and collect the dirt. For the most part she understood and moved the dirt towards the direction I was sweeping. It wasn’t perfect, orderly or neat but she did it. After a few seconds of this she would inevitably kick the dirt pile or drop the broom and make a mess.

The neat freak in me wanted to pick my daughter up and move her to another part of the house so that I could finish sweeping. However, I recognized that efficiency was not the important thing here. My child collaborating in my work was.

Us. Together.

We had to stop, go back, re-sweep, and re-sweep again. By the time we finished sweeping it had taken 10 times longer than usual. Even then you could still see some of the places we had missed.

What would happen if God decided to do everything on His own? If instead of letting us collaborate with Him, He picked us up and moved us to another room? Sure it would all get done in half the time, it would be perfect, but something would be missing…us.

As my daughter got in front of me and knocked around my carefully collected pile of dirt I recognized that God is constantly inviting us to collaborate with Him—to join Him in His work. If He wanted to, God could do the work on His own. We usually get in the way of His plans and knock things around, etc. Yet I think He prefers it this way—us, together. I don’t think He prefers the messiness of it, or the fact that we can really screw things up. I do think however that the messiness and those screw-ups, etc. are tolerable because it is done together. As I stare at my daughter joining me in the work of our home I cant help but want her there; to serve with me; to create with me; even if it isn’t perfect.

Us. Together.

 

Categories: children, chores, collaboration, fatherhood, God, Parenting, working together | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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