Posts Tagged With: parenting

Killing Me

Here liesDad

The last two months have been tough. Going from one kid to two has its challenges. The baby has been easy: sleep, eat, poop, repeat. My wonderful wife has been great and for the most part is the one that has to focus on Cecilia (the baby). Most of my time and focus has been on Claire (the four year old). This started of really well, but it has quickly spiraled into chaos.

Everything is a struggle with Claire.

Waking up, getting dressed, eating, going to preschool, coming home, play time, snack time and definitely going to bed at night. There isn’t one thing that we do during the day that doesn’t have the potential to explode on my face, and it usually does. Claire and I will have a great time playing and eating a snack, when suddenly she will fight with me about getting a bath. Claire will be dead tired and fight getting into bed; she will then wake up at 3am, 4am and 5am because she “can’t sleep”. WHAT THE HELL!! There is no rhyme or reason to it (at least I can’t see one).

I realize that change for a four year old is difficult, and lets face it…she is only four years old. Regardless of this fact, I am exhausted. I literally feel dead and spent every single day and night. The nights where Claire decides to wake up at 3am because she’s hungry are the worst. It takes all that I have to not run off to Mexico and seek asylum.

The kid is killing me.

When I am able to see past my exhaustion I recognize that this is exactly what is suppose to happen.

I need to die.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve come to realize that it isn’t my daughters fighting, crankiness, random 3am wake ups that are killing me. Sure this is tough for any person, but the fact is that my comfort, my desire for control and order are being purged out of me. They are unbalanced and unrealistic.

I don’t want to be purged. I want comfort. I want control. I want order.

I have known that I am “particular” about things; I believe its one of the reasons why I am successful at work. However, I never would have consider myself so rigged that I would be stressed out the way I currently am. I guess its always different in the most sacred of inner sanctums like home.

Comfort is good to some extent, but there is no growth in it. Comfort doesn’t allow for testing and purging. Trying to control things and people isn’t freedom, its slavery for them and myself. Order has value, until it turns your wife and daughters into tasks, objects that must be taken care of.

The kid isn’t killing me, she is an instrument of Gods grace that is taking this overly comfortable, control freak, that values order way too much; and is slowly, painfully, yet beautifully changing me into something else. Something better.

Something worth dying for.

I never would have thought that I would have these things messing with me, but I do. My spiritual director and counselor tell me that I am in a beautiful place, a sweet spot of sorts that has exponential opportunities for growth and transformation. I see more and more through this crazy, beautiful gift of a four year old that discovering fatherhood is not just about what I can do to help my children become holy, loving and responsible adults. It is also a journey of discovering that this father has to become a holy, loving and responsible adult.

Man! Never a dull moment in this journey.

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Categories: being a man, best self, Catholic, dad and the kids, dads, death, dying to self, 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

S-p-e-l-l-I-t-O-u-t

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Me: “Hey hun, do you want some i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m after Claire goes down?”

Wife: “Sure. Do we have v-a-n-i-l-l-a or c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e?”

This has become the way we communicate in our household when we are referring to certain sensitive subjects that could cause our 3 year old to scream, fight taking a bath, or not go to bed. Sensitive subjects can be things such as, but not limited to: food, going outside, visiting grandparents, pizza, all forms of candy or what is perceived as candy, television, and Dora the Explorer.

By the way, I never realized how terrible of a speller I am.

I have experienced parents spelling words out in front of their kids before. I thought it was weird, but now I truly see how essential it is to home dynamics. For example: I can’t say the word, ‘grandma’ without Claire going nuts because she things were going to see one of them. “No sweetie, I just said her name. Grandma isn’t coming today.” This statement is usually followed by puzzled looks, an incoherent, frustrated sounding sentence and finally; capped off with angry screaming because I “took grandma away.” Needless to say the ‘G’ word is spelled out in our home.

I’m not sure what my daughter is thinking when she hears us spelling things out in front of her. Claire is a pretty smart kid and I think she is catching on. When I spell words out you can see her face look a bit more focused, almost as if she were visualizing the letters in her head and putting them in order. Since Claire has her mother’s brain I’m sure we only have another 4 months before spelling things out wont work anymore.

Say a prayer for us.

Categories: Catholic, children, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, language, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The TV Conundrum

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I usually get home around 6pm after picking up my daughter from preschool or the babysitters. Claire and I usually arrive home ravenous. Well…I am mostly ravenous. Claire gets a snack right before I pick her up. Lucky.

As soon as we walk into the house Claire clearly wants to chill out after being stimulated all day at school. I want to chill as well but I need to feed the dog, stupid cat and get dinner going before my beautiful bride gets home. In the craziness of this getting-home-transition I find that sitting Claire in front of the TV for an episode or two of Dora, Wonder Pets, or Caillou is absolutely essential to my sanity.

I really struggle with this.

Long before Claire came around I read that TV exposure at a young age wasn’t a good idea. “Make sure your child is older than 2” I heard from different sources as the “allowable” TV viewing age. Although Claire is 3 years old I still feel guilty for popping her in front of the TV for 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time. The worst part is watching Claire as she sits glued to the TV screen. Claire goes into this sort of coma/stupor that can only be broken by pausing the show, or standing directly in front of her. Its really creepy how sucked in she gets.

My wife and I have tried getting her to read, or go to her room and play with toys, but that usually last for 5 minutes and then she wants us to play with her or take her outside. I have tried getting her to help me with making dinner, which works for about 5 minutes, and then she complains that she wants to do something else. The only thing that I have found to keep her focus for at least 30 minutes is TV. I feel pretty selfish doing this but honestly I need that window of time to make those essential things like eating dinner a reality.

Claire watching TV has now become a daily routine and I don’t like it at all. Anyone have any suggestions that could get me those 30 – 45 minutes needed for dinner, etc? This dad could use all the help he can get.

Categories: children, dads, fatherhood, healthy living, home and family, kids and television, television, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Let Them See

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Claire watching me shovel our neighbors house

Snowmaggedon 2016 has come and gone and we have survived. We have shoveled our way out of 20+ inches of snow, which depending where you are in the world may be laughable. Here in the good ole state of Virginia, 5 inches is enough to shut us down for a while; 20+ inches set a new record and may possibly have us stuck in our neighborhoods for a week.

From Friday afternoon to right about at 2:30pm this afternoon we were buried in. Our back deck had snow coming up to the window. Our dog that loves to run in snow wouldn’t go out because he needed to take a running leap to clear the 20+inch wall of snow that had collected against the French doors. Apparently relieving your bowls isn’t really worth all that trouble.

My daughter was super exited to see snow. For whatever reason, she was also excited by the fact that “Papi” was going outside to shovel the snow. I went out to clear the snow off the porch and driveway when my neighbor yelled out, “Good morning. Want some help?” “Yes. Yes I do.” The words came out of my mouth before my neighbor could complete his sentence.

For the next several hours, my neighbor and I cleared each other’s driveways and vehicles, and 3 other neighbors’ driveways. Another neighbor joined us a few hours in. It was one of those great moments where neighbors unite and make life easier on each other.

While all this snow shoveling was going on, my daughter was watching. Claire saw her “Papi” and other neighbors going around helping each other out. At one point, as Claire was playing outside with my wife, they both came over to the neighbor’s house we were helping. These neighbors had a baby recently, so we wanted to make sure their house was extra clear. My wife grabbed a shovel and Claire helped out as well. Claire’s job was to help me put salt on their steps and walkway. Claire was so excited to help.

My pastor recently wrote in his weekly letter about how important it is to let kids see parents writing checks and placing money into the collection. He speaks of this action as necessary for kids to recognize its importance. My pastor, at one point, wrote, “We watched our parents write the check every week.” The witness of seeing this act of writing a check told my then pastor-to-be that it was important. He ended up giving his whole life to the Church by becoming a priest.

Our kids witness so much in this world. A lot of it is good. A lot of it is bad. What kids witness from their parents sticks most. Your influence on your child is greater than any other. If we want our kids to do good, let them see us doing good. If we want our kids to be holy, let them see holiness in us. My neighbors thanked me for helping them today, but letting my kid see my wife and I helping others is something that I thanked them for.

Let’s show our kids all the good that they can do.

Categories: being a good example, children, church, dad and the kids, fatherhood, holiness, home and family, Uncategorized, working together | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars VII and Fatherhood

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Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!

 
I recently saw the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie and it was pretty cool. This is not a review, but more of an observation on the theme of fatherhood that is deeply rooted in this movie. As stated above, I am going to share some info that will spoil the movie for you if you have not watched it.

You have been warned.

We are introduced to Kylo Ren, the new Sith character, who is the son of Hans Solo and Leia, and the grandson of Darth Vader. Right away, you see that Kylo has daddy issues. These issues seem to stem from Solo not being present in Kylo’s life and it is clear that Kylo’s daddy issues have encouraged his joining of the dark side. I wasn’t surprised to see this plot in the movie. There are so many young people I interact with that fall into a, sort of, “dark side” due to a broken or absent relationship with their father. What was interesting to see is how Hollywood portrayed the devastating consequences of a young man not having a positive relationship with his father. Not only did the consequences affect the individual, but the surrounding community as well.

Kylo has a moment in the movie where he interacts with Rey, the female protagonist, and Kylo senses that she has some kind of attachment to Solo. Kylo cynically says, “He’ll disappoint you.” In this interaction you see that Kylo is very emotional when he talks about his father. At one point, Kylo is conflicted between the light and dark side of the force. He even asks for guidance from his dead grandfather as he speaks to Darth Vader’s beaten helmet in a room. I believe this struggle is driven by Kylo’s desire to know his father, yet he is angry about being deserted.

Kylo’s anger has distorted his understanding of living a good moral life. This anger has also poured into Kylo’s interactions with the world in general. Kylo murders, orders people to be murdered, and eventually murders his father. The monstrous weapon— the Death Star on crack—destroys several planets all because of this deep anger and rage.

Kylo is a wounded young man. Maybe this is a stretch, but I believe this story can be seen as a metaphor for what can happen to young men when fathers are absent. Solo may be a stand up guy in the galaxy’s eyes, but not being present in Kylo’s life seems to have done some major damage. Maybe Kylo showed great promise to be a Jedi and he was sent away to train and that’s why Solo wasn’t around. Maybe, but clearly Kylo has daddy issues.

In my line of work, young men who don’t have fathers are more likely to be angry and have emotional issues that don’t always remain in their own hearts. Usually this anger pours into all they do and say, and onto those they interact with. I unfortunately have too many stories that constantly remind me of this reality. I’m not saying these young men will grow up to be like Kylo, but it definitely wounds them. There are many reasons why fathers can be absent in a young persons life. Therefore, I cannot make any judgments. Neither can I say that a fatherless child will automatically become a bad person. Individuals with very good, holy and present fathers make bad choices too.

As my wonderful wife pointed out a distinction needs to be made between a father that leaves their child out of selfishness, versus a father that needs to leave due to a deployment, or job that demands a prolonged physical absence. The latter are still present to their children, maybe not in a physical-corporal-right-in-front-of-you sort of way, but the relationship with their child is established. Relationships between fathers and children that have prolonged absences can still communicate via phone, Internet, mail, etc. and continue to nurture those relationships. I know of many young men and women whose fathers are away on business or deployments that have solid relationships with their fathers.

Maybe J.J. Abrams is using this movie to communicate the importance of a good relationship between a son and his father. Maybe he isn’t. Whatever the case may be, the need for fathers to be present, engaged, and attentive to their sons is very important and something that, not only affects the individual, but everyone they come into contact with.

There are many young men who grow up without fathers and turn out to be great people. However, studies (this is just one site out of dozens) show how difficult it is for children—especially boys—to grow up without fathers.

As we close this year and begin a new one, let all fathers be more attentive to our relationships with our sons and our daughters. There is no greater force than the impact you will have on them.

Categories: boys and girls, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fatherless kids, fathers, importance of fathers, star wars, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Make Eye Contact!

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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

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

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