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The time has come to revisit a holiday favorite

Lazy, yes…functional yup

With each new child part of my nesting process seems to be looking back and reflecting on the experiences with our previous little ones.  As we are preparing to welcome baby number four, I have found myself reflecting on parenting.  And before I get to my point, allow me to say that if someone tells you they are about to have their fourth child, “On purpose?” is not the appropriate response. Neither is, “Don’t you know what causes that?”  Of course I do, and if I hear that again I may request that the person saying it perform the aforementioned act solo.  But I digress.

One of the things I have found myself reflecting on is the host of parenting advice that I have received over the years.  Some of it has been good and some of it I really could have lived without.  

As it turns out, tidbits of parental wisdom like, “Don’t say no often, but when you do make sure you mean it and don’t back down,” qualifies as good, but it’s the stuff I should have ignored that stands out the most these days.

For instance, one friend told me about the pressure point at the base of your neck.  This was useful he said because when you are in public and your children are misbehaving it hurts just enough to get their attention but not enough to constitute…say…abuse.  

The theory was sound, so I tried it on my oldest son once.  In application you would have thought I had stabbed my son in the shoulder with a fork.  He writhed and screamed like there was electricity pulsing through his body, causing more of a scene than the initial bad behavior.  Needless to say, I gave up on the pressure point strategy and instead adopted the less obvious, “If you don’t stop, I’ll drag your butt to the car,” tactic of my mother’s generation.  Seems to work pretty well.  

Another piece of counsel really seems kind of silly in hindsight.  Someone once told me that it is quite good to let your child run around naked for a while before his bath.  “Lets things air out and they learn to hold their potty sooner,” I was told.  I’m not quite sure why I thought this was feasible, but when we tried it all that happened was that my son peed in a fan and dry-humped the baby sitter. Both of which left a lasting impression, mainly on the babysitter.

I think the worst advice I ever received actually came in those first few days and weeks of parenting a newborn.  And not just any newborn…a firstborn newborn, which is definitely a period more prone to wacky advice than the second, third, or fourth-born.  

We all know the period when a newborn is nursing and the dad doesn’t quite feel equally bonded yet.  The advice I received at that time went something like this: “Take off your shirt and hold your child with much skin-to-skin contact. You’ll share body heat and bond that way.”  Sounded a little fishy, but what the heck, I tried it.  A couple of teachable moments resulted from that gem of an experience.

First, I should have made sure my wife had fed the baby before I attempted it.  The fact that I am not equipped to provide a meal did not stop him from trying to latch on and help himself.  The second lesson was that I should have paid attention to how to break the seal of a nursing baby — those little guys can really hold on.  It is probably needless to point out that these two lessons were followed by my squealing in pain.  

We’ll see what kind of lessons this kid brings.  

I treasure every award and nomination I have received.  My commendations from the military, my 3rd place trophy in the “Egg drop” category of the science olympics…ok that pretty much rounds out the list until now.

Enter the Daisy…

Sounds like an oddly effeminate Bruce Lee movie doesn’t it?

Well its not….

Special thanks to Elizabeth and her blog Aging Appropriately (http://agingappropriately.wordpress.com) for the nomination.  Her blog addresses real issues that women face in their 40’s…batwings, pole dancing classes, and the like.  I joke but her blog does address real things with grace and wit. Check it out sometime.

There a few rules that I must follow…in no particular order.

  • Thank the person who nominated you (check)
  • Tell you…the readers…7 unusual things about myself (getting to it)
  • And, nominate a worthy blogger (that’s easy)

Well, here go the 7 unusual things that I am certain will qualify as too much information.

1.  I grew up disturbingly close to the South Omaha Stockyards and as a result find the smell of cow manure oddly inviting.

2. I once contemplated becoming a priest.

3. I was immortalized in my High School yearbook for mooning more than 250 people in one evening…one incident involved cruise control…needless to say I did not date much.

4. Also in High School I knew how to say “let’s get naked” in eight languages…again, didn’t date much.

5. In 1998 I had a Scotch with Margaret Thatcher…I did not moon her.

6. While serving in the Marine Corps, I received a medal and a disciplinary action for the same thing.

7. Secretly I wish I were a cattle rancher…cattle tend to be easier to herd than kids, and they taste better.

Now for my final piece of the puzzle, my nomination.  I nominate The Littlest Warrior Spot (http://littlestwarriorspot.com/).  This is a blog about a normal family, the exception being that the littlest member has been battling melanoma.  I admire the author. She brings grace and humor to a difficult topic and has transformed her blog into a resource for others.

The Demon in the Box

There has been a lot of debate over the years about children and television.  How much is too much? What is the appropriate length of exposure?

For the majority of my life, I have viewed this debate with a skeptical eye.  “Surely these people have too much time on their hands or else they have something against Disney.”

But after three children I can definitively say this…yup, they are right to worry.

My oldest son is the case in point.  The following is a representation of his behavior as it relates to television exposure.

  • No TV time = a sweet boy, attentive to his brothers, curious, and very conversational.
  • Half-hour of TV = loses attention span, no longer able to self-entertain.
  • One hour of TV = hitting one or both brothers becomes vehicle of entertainment.
  • Two hours of TV = power of speech limited to, “You never get me anything special,” followed by whatever the toy industry has to offer during the commercial breaks.
  • Two hours plus = demonic possession, body levitates, head spins while vomiting.

Now, before you ask the logical question of “What in the world is that kid watching?” let me tell you…it doesn’t matter.  From Curious George to the local news, whether Wild Kratts or an informercial, they all turn my son into a raging a-hole.

And keep in mind that this is the child who the teachers love.  He is engaged, respectful, and sweet…until you wheel in the TV.

We have taken to calling periods with zero screen time as “detox periods”.   This term may sound extreme, but believe me it’s not. Once, after two days without any screen time, I caught him hiding in a closet with my iPad freebasing Sesame Street.

Our other children do not have a similar reaction to the box, but they get to  suffer the consequence of their brother’s problem.  We never set out to be “those parents”. You know the ones, those who only let
their kids have educational toys and allow them to eat only locally-grown, organic food.  Instead, we always took the mindset that our children need have fun while also handling most things in moderation. With TV, our oldest just isn’t there yet.

I have always been a fan of a quote by James Dobson about a parent’s job being to guide kids “from dependence to independence”. We ultimately want him to be able to make these choices on his own.  For now, though, we are weekend-only television viewers trying to impart lessons in moderation.

On the plus side we’ll know we are when successful when his damn head stops spinning.

They Call Me Gringo

Following my sudden and unexpected unemployment a few months ago, I wound up facing a choice. While I interviewed for new positions, a seemingly endless process, I could either sit around home waiting or take a temporary job in the meantime.

The presentation of this choice took a subtle form and went something like this:

Shelley: “So…planning on putting pants on today?”
Me: “Nope.”
Shelley: “I think you are.”
Kids: “Mom, why is daddy starting to smell funny?”
Me: “I need to work.”

Rather than accelerate what in my house we call a “marriage builder,” I took a job with a construction company building commercial grain bins.

Should have paid attentionThis seemed like a good idea for a few reasons. First, the pay wasn’t bad and the owner of the company was under no illusion that I would be maintaining my employment any longer than necessary. And second, I was a combat engineer in the Marine Corps. How hard could this be? (I was clearly neglecting to acknowledge the fact that fifteen years had passed and my physique is significantly more doughy than it once was.)

I had no idea this temporary job would turn into three-and-a-half months of hard lessons.

Not necessarily hard in the sense of the work, but hard in the sense of coworker relations. You see, only one of the twenty or so crew spoke any English, and he quit before I did. So much was the cultural difference that I was referred to as Gringo as opposed to, say, my name.

Through trial and error I discovered three very distinct universal languages.

The first was forklift signals. These are basic hand gestures that are the same in Nebraska as they are in Dubai. For example, a closed fist indicates “stop”. They satisfied the need for basic directional instructions.

The second universal language was swearing. Swearing satisfied the need for more emotional or urgent communications. For example:

D*mn! = “This 300 pound panel is crooked, and we are going to have to remove it to get it aligned.”
Sh*t!! = “I seem to have lacerated my finger. I think I might need medical attention.”
F*ck!!! = “Jose is dead.”

Until my English-speaking cohort quit, these first two languages were about the extent of our communicating as a group.

It wasn’t until after my friend quit, though, that the third universal language revealed itself. Much to my surprise, it was kids.

Once I was the only remaining native English speaker, I found that the other guys started feeling sorry for me and became more willing to attempt conversation. The most common opening personal question was, “You have kids?” I found it fascinating that these guys who had so few English skills would go to that question first.

“Yes,” I would respond. “Three boys, and you?”

“Santo vaca que está loco!” Translation: Holy cow you are crazy. “Yes, a son and daughter…no wonder you look tired.”

This exchange repeated itself a dozen or more times and had a couple of outcomes. We not only developed a familiarity with one another, since we were all working towards getting home to our kids, but we also finally became a team. I also had the closest thing to friends on the job that I’d had in a month or more. And since we were commonly working 14 hours a day, it was nice to have a few buddies around.

These men worked twice as hard as I did for less pay and patiently waited 4 hours for me in a McCook, NE, Emergency Room before driving my dehydrated and heat-exhausted ass 3 hours home in the middle of the night. Language barrier or no, these were good, hard-working men.

Our companionship became apparent not because we started hanging out after work or chatting about the latest ball game; rather, it revealed itself when they stopped calling me Gringo.

After three months of working with these men, I finally became Chris.
I’ve never been more proud to be called by that name.

Daddy Musings, where have you been?  

We’ll just say it’s been rough around here.  Just to summarize . . . lost my job, spent the summer working construction with some individuals of “questionable citizenship,” got another job, yada yada . . . more on that another time.

It was a trying time at la casa daddy.  Even though I’m one of those people who doesn’t get down when times are tough, I do lose my sense of humor.  And let’s face it, what’s a more entertaining read . . . me whining or me laughing?

Duh…

Funny has found it’s way home, so I’ll be back to regular weekly posts.  And what better way to return to the blogosphere than with a game I like to call “Children’s literature or nervous breakdown? You decide!”

It is like it sounds. I’m going to provide you with a quote that’s been rattling around in my head. It is either going to be from a children’s book or a schizophrenic episode, tell me which you think it is via the comments here or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Daddy-Musings-Adventures-In-Parenting/ for the more than 3,000 of you who have not yet liked it yet).

So here we go . . . 

Quote #1:
“and an oyster and clam aren’t real family…so I don’t want to live in the sea.”

Tough Love

So my oldest has apparently hit the age that brings on honest observation.  A sample of a recent conversation:

“Daddy…Rowan, Mommy and me all have hair and you and Corbin don’t.”

“That’s right son.” I responded, curious as to where this was headed.

“But Corbin will grow hair and you won’t.”

Somewhat surprised I responded, “That’s right son, daddy doesn’t have hair anymore.”

“And your beard has white in it.”

Ouch…

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