Sunday, June 24, 2007

Things I Learned at My Girl's Swim Lessons

So Little E. just completed her first week of Level 1 swim lessons at the local recreation center. One more week to go but here's what I learned so far...

1. Don't compare your kid to others. It was discouraging and disappointing seeing all the other children take to the water like paparazzi to Paris. In all fairness, E. was the smallest and youngest and perhaps had the least amount of pool experiences. Who knows?

2. This is just a preview of what's to come when E. enters the educational system. Such mass teaching with low teacher to high student ratios (here it was 2 staff:10 kids) can only go at one pace and it's geared toward the average. This means all kids on the either spectrum -- way above and way below average -- will be bored and/or left behind.

3. Each child is different and a parent needs to be involved to supplement the regular teaching. The instructor really doesn't have the time and doesn't know your kid as well as you to do to really teach effectively. (Kind of makes me think about home schooling again.)

4. Baby steps, baby steps. Rejoice the little successes and all progress. It wasn't until the second day that she realized her feet could touch the bottom of the shallow pool. The next day, she didn't banshee bawl if a little water got in the eyes. By the end of the week, she let go of the wall on her own and seemed to enjoy herself.

5. Don't forget the camera, the sunscreen or her underwear.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Choices, Choices...Do I Give My Girl Too Many?

Darn you, Alfie Kohn. I blame you for all this. Ever since I read Kohn's Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason, I've been trying to be the enlightened parent, giving my little toddler as many choices as possible. But have I lost my mind? Is this going too far? How much is too much?

In the morning, I have to get Little E. to answer (at least) nine questions before we can leave the house. Each question must be asked (at minimum three times) and half of them does involve some running and chasing around the house. The routine A.M. questions are:

1. Morning breakfast: toast, bagel or cereal?
2. Milk or juice?
3. Toothbrush: Barbie, Luke Skywalker, Woody Woodpecker or Yellow Box (aka Sponge Bob)?
4. Underwear: Pinkleberry (pink), blueberry (blue) or pineapple (yellow)?
5. Skirt or pants?
6. T-shirts?
7. Socks: mixy or matchy? (Guess which she always always chooses.)
8. Shoes: blue or pink Crocs or sneakers?
9. Is she bringing her stuffed toy MP to daycare or not?

Why am I noticing this now? Well, the Wife is out of town and she's not around to roll her eyes, yell, generally to play the Bad Cop (tough parent) to my Good Cop (soft touch, imperfect parent).

And to get any kind of cooperation, I do have to get creative, yes, even a little manipulative (but not by using rewards or punishments -- that's a whole another Kohn book). Because sometimes the question has to asked or presented in a FUN way, like:

a. "Does she want to walk or ride the moon rocket (piggyback ride) to the Toothbrushing Station?"
b. "Is she going to put her clothes on in the mountain (her bed) or in the deep deep ocean (floor)?"

Yes, it's tiring and takes energy, and wouldn't it be nice and less time-consuming if I could just lay out the clothes and the food and yelled and manhandled her to do what I wanted?

On the plus side, she has very few tantrums and meltdowns because she feels she's in control and has a say in what's going on. And maybe Kohn would say, they're really "pseudo-choices" because I don't give her a choice on whether to do something or not, only giving her choices on the how of something that's already be decided.

My response is: 1. Some choices are better than no choices. 2. I'm an imperfect parent and I'm okay with that.

More importantly, I just wonder if I'm giving her too many choices? Also, am I setting her for hardship later in life when her mundane choices are not all sugar-coated and presented in a crazy, fun way?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

On Fatherhood

Not because Father's Day is just around the bend, but I've been thinking about my father a lot.

Half of everything I know about being a parent I learned from him. There's many things I want to say to him, so many questions to ask him. He died at a young 55. And all I think about are all the things he didn't get to wedding, my little girl (his granddaughter)...

My little girl just cannot sleep with a blanket. So every night, in the middle of the night (when she's finally in a deep slumber), I sneak into her room to put a blanket over her. That simple act is one of many things I love about being a father.

For Father's Day, I do not want socks or ties or a barbeque grilling set. I just want to be able to put a blanket over my little girl. And to remember to send a silent thanks to my father.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Let's Just Say...

Let's just say the year I turned 40 was when I started this blog. It was also when I started reading the first of Richard Ford's trilogy of novels, starting with The Sportswriter, then Independence Day, and ending with The Lay of the Land.

The audience for these books are really mid-50s and older, but I was always a little precocious. Then again, look where precociousness gets you -- an early grave, I say.

The books are interesting but depressing. They tackle deep issues, of confronting and taking stock of your life. Interesting in that it's good writing and I could not stop reading it but couldn't for the life you remember all that much about it. Depressing in that it made me reflect on my own life and lack of meaning in it.

From this moment on, from the 40s onwards, it's no more about becoming, more about who you've become and it's slide downwards toward the big D... Death.

From 35 onwards, you make no more new friends. It seemed so easy when I was younger. I was a loner, but I had a few friends. I've moved around, lost touch with a few, made new ones. But now? With a wife and kid, how do I make new friends?

In the final book of the trilogy, The Lay of the Land, the central character, Frank Bascombe, 55, tries to make sense of it all. Asking himself, is this it? As am I.

Obvious, but...

Here's something you don't see that often. A Prius at the gas station. Obvious, but still needed to be said. Just like you never see a celebrity shopping at Costco. Just doesn't happen. Unless you're Sandra Tsing Loh looking for material.

Anyway, this Prius. Driven by a woman, late 30s, professional. I'm guessing realtor. On the back, an Obama '08 bumper sticker. Natch.