Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


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What Does This Season Mean for Your Family?

holiday-magic

Every family has their own idea of what traditions the holiday season should hold. After having children, my wife and I have discussed traditions and the societal influence of the holiday season. Imagine if the only thing that you knew about Christmas was what you saw on television or in the movies. You might imagine a snowman, elves, and jolly man in a red suit with white beard racing on a polar express train to get to Kevin who is home alone before a green grumpy Grinch steals all of this year’s most popular toys, only to be saved by a red-nosed reindeer.

My wife and I come from different backgrounds. She grew up with a vision of a commercial Christmas with Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents and special foods. I have a Christian connection to Christmas with a baby being born, along with fitting in some of those same traditions of a tree and presents. How do we as a family unit celebrate and teach our children about the holidays? How do we learn about the holidays, specifically Christmas, for our family?

Working together and having open communication has been extremely important. We have chosen a traditional approach that focuses on our religious beliefs while embracing some of the popular cultural practices. We put up a tree together as a family and have pictures taken with Santa Claus. We spend time visiting a live nativity depicting the birth of Jesus. We will attend our church for a night of music and performance that is very family-friendly. We will be making Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes with grandma. We will exchange presents with family and friends, but we focus on the people and not the gifts. (Although the box was the largest, best toy last year and I’m sure it will be again this year.) We have begun to do random acts of kindness for some people we know and others that we don’t. We will read the story of the first Christmas in the Bible and talk about the blessings we have to be thankful for. We have also begun to plan a trip to have a new experience and memory to celebrate.

We don’t have everything figured out as parents, but we are doing our best to provide as many positive experiences that our children will remember. That is what a tradition for the holiday has become for our family. My son already says Merry Christmas and we greet others with a smile.

We realize that everyone has their traditions, including not celebrating the holidays at all. We want our children to grow up and respect that this season is different for different families, and when they have their own families they can even make their own traditions! I hope that you and your family have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday season, or Delightful December.


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Nature: The Original Classroom

natures-journeyNature has a wonderful basic quality that has so many opportunities for learning. I believe that many of the things that we learn can be explored in nature. We learn nurturing and responsibility as we care for our parks, yards, feed birds, and plant gardens and flowers. We learn in the rain, in the water as we jump in puddles. We learn about feeling when we fall or when we have to come inside.

Nature is so valuable. The earth provides an amazing opportunity for learning and the potential from the excitement from being outdoors is electric. We see the value of nature as a way to create calm in our emotions. We spend a lot of time outside simply experimenting with the environment and investigating everything. We learn in the backyard, we learn at the park, we learn while on a hike, we learn everywhere.

The outdoors has provided a fantastic classroom for me and my children. We generally take at least one hike every week at a local park or in our neighborhood. Our son walks during most of the journey and explores everywhere. Exploring and being prepared for the journey is very important. I usually have a small bag with snacks, water, and wipes. We occasionally get off the trail and really find some interesting things. Recently we went on a hike a day after a rain and the creek trail was so muddy and full of puddles. I was prepared with clean clothes and towels in the car. What a wonderful opportunity to explore. He stomped through every puddle large and small as we were on our walk. Then it happened. His feet got wet enough that he didn’t want to walk any more. I had a few choices but I chose to put him up on my shoulders as we finished our hike. It was cold and messy but messy is fun.

About a week later we were on the same trail and it was rather dry but we found a wet space for him to learn and play with the water. I was interested in what would happen if he got muddy again. He was slow at first, but gradually got more and more wet. I got down in the mud near him and painted my face with a little mud. The best part was when he looked up at me and smiled and was inquisitive whether he could have some mud paint too. He lifted his face up with excitement and let me share some art on his face. We walked down the trail where my wife and daughter were waiting and my wife was surprised with our choice of organic facial material but it was such a wonderful memory. Yes, it will get hot or cold, rain or snow, and there will be scrapes, and the bugs will bite, but it is all worth the journey of learning outdoors.


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Honoring the Memory of My Grandparents

grandparentThere are so many things that remind me of the past. Music, food, people, sounds, smells and experiences often have a connection to our ancestors. As a child I was blessed to know three of my great-grandmothers and both sides of grandparents.

  • My grandfather (mom’s dad) was a very charismatic, outgoing, jovial man. From an early age, he taught me how to cook and shared his love of food through traveling during summers, cooking at festivals all over Ohio. He also helped me through many stages of my Eagle Scout project which is still an important accomplishment for me.
  • One great-grandmother (dad’s grandmother) was the wife of a preacher, keeper of the family bible, and was very instrumental in the faith and belief of God throughout our large family tree.
  • My granny (mom’s grandmother) was a selfless volunteer who loved the outdoors and had a creative mind. We would often go out to the Masonic Home to help and visit with people. She taught my mom to sew, who in turn taught me.

I have many fond memories of doing things with my grandparents; they were so supportive in whatever I attempted. All showed me love beyond measure, respect and empathy for others, and made a huge impact on the man that I became. They spoiled me in the best of ways—especially with time.

I want my children to have similar memories and experiences with grandparents, family and close friends. Experiences lead to adventures and real life learning. We have some worry however, because our family is very spread out. My father passed long ago and our children’s other grandfather lives halfway around the world. It is very difficult to travel with two young children—especially when it’s far away. My mom visits her grandchildren regularly. They explore the outdoors, listen, talk and read together. Their aunt Deb (very close friend) dotes on both of our children, especially our son. She has made so much effort to be part of their lives. My son’s first sleep over was at her house. She sends cards, surprises and visits when she can. We realize that our children are young, but these early memories in their childhood last a lifetime.

There are many different perspectives of raising children, but we feel it takes a village to raise a child. We look for surrogate relationships that will make those memories and experiences for our children. As we look back to our past, we want to plant the seeds for our children’s past in the present. “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” We are our children’s first teachers and will have to fill their lives with memories of our parents and grandparents. I can think of nothing better to honor my late family members than to pass down the lessons that I learned from them.


Give Your Kids a Piece of Yourself

dad son time

In this guest post, 4C Parent Services Specialist Dan Scheiman shares a reflection on fatherhood.

“Noble fathers have noble children.” -Euripides

When it comes to fatherhood, the above quote seems to say it all.

Be noble. Be honest. Be kind. And, maybe most of all, be present in your child’s life.

The first few on the list are actually easy. Treat your kids the way you want to be treated and in the way you want your kids to be treated by everyone they encounter. Be the measure that your children hold everyone they know up to and then be the one they feel safe enough to come to when things get tough and their heads fill with questions.

Being present is the tricky one. Things like work can get in the way. Life in general can get in the way and, something I can relate to, divorce can get in the way. So, at some point, every dad and every parent for that matter, has looked at their watch or even a calendar and wondered if they’ve made enough time for their kids.

But, here’s where that whole being noble, kind and honest thing comes in. For those times when despite your best efforts, you can’t physically be there, give your kids a big piece of yourself to carry with them and the confidence in you to know that you’re never too far away.

My dad passed away a few weeks ago so he is no longer physically present in my life and, while I could look to the things he didn’t do, the things he missed or left to my mom, I’d rather celebrate how he taught me to be honest, to be kind, and how to treat others, which by the way, had a lot to do with how he treated my mom. Those lessons became a guide for me through my life and through my divorce. 

I can’t count the number of times I have tormented my now nineteen-year-old son with “You’re…umm…ok after the stuff with your mom and I…yeah…umm…I mean the divorce?” The first few times were, to say the least, awkward, but we talked a lot and, after talking a lot, his responses have become, “Dad, geez, I’m fine. I talked to mom the other day; she’s good and says hi. Can we grab some Chipotle?”

My son has been home but will be heading back to college soon and, while I’ll miss him and worry from time to time, I know he has that piece of me with him. So, even with him hundreds of miles away, he knows I’m there which, regardless of the distance, always makes me present in his life.

All of this can be downright scary, believe me, I know, so here’s another quote to inspire you.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parenting is a mighty high staircase to climb. Do it one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your kids to do what’s right.


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My 5-Year-Old Wants to Be a YouTube Star

youtube

When Schmee was 2 ½ we received an iPad from my parents (ugh) and he has not been “the same” since. Oh, we let him indulge for awhile keeping to a specific regimen of Shaun the Sheep and a free Curious George game but obviously we couldn’t keep the lid shut for long. Over time Schmee developed great skill at navigating websites and apps and would stay at it for hours—probably days, if we would’ve let him. From time to time, especially when it was convenient for us, we may have let him stay on there for longer than we normally would’ve liked. Who knew that the iPad would be a savior for ridding his head of lice (kept him from squirming and complaining)? But it also led him to a dark place.

After watching what we felt was enough he would get a reminder that his time was almost up and he would seem to agree, nodding and saying, “Uh huh.” When that time came though, he wasn’t cooperative; he was rather combative. It’s almost like you could see the evil swell up inside him and the aura around him would grow black like something out of a Stephen King book.

His fascination with Wild Kratts turned to toy reviews. Oh my! Who knew that toy reviews could be so entertaining? If it’s a toy and someone reviewed it you can bet he’s watching it—regardless of gender, age range, or reviewer. It seems that he has toys on his mind 24/7—I don’t know how many hundreds of hours he’s watched, and it certainly doesn’t help that he gets up in the middle of the night and finds the iPad to continue watching. He acts out reviews in his play. He’s using the same language used by reviewers. You can tell when he channels certain reviewers because the language changes, the emphases change. In short—he’s obsessed.

He asked mom to play with him the other day but that didn’t work out so well. Why? Because she didn’t “do it” right. Schmee wanted to call the guy from YouTube and have him come over to play (cute, but in a that-hurts-Mom’s-feelings kind of way).

So what do you do? He found out that he can make videos and put them online so now he wants to shoot videos and post them. We figured that might be a good way to channel this energy. So now the conversation is about how we need to buy toys so he can review them! Or—I sort of like this— in his words we could, “sell my old toys, but only to my friends so I could still play with them sometimes, and we could use that money to buy new toys to review.” Apparently children make a lot of money doing this toy review thing and I’m all for supporting his interest, but at what expense? This has complications written all over it, don’t you think?


Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

steps forward

It’s been a few weeks since Schmee started kindergarten and in that time I have seen a lot of behavior changes from him that I wasn’t expecting. As it turns out, we are all trying to deal with new environments, schedules and routines in different ways.

Schmee is what I call “slow-to-warm.” When he is put in a situation that he is unfamiliar with, his tendency is to stay back and observe. My wife calls him “cerebral” which is probably an apt description. He prefers to keep a low profile and soak in his surroundings, and any attention given to him during this time sparks some “strange” (by others definition) behaviors like glaring with his eyes wide and sometimes even roaring like a dinosaur. These behaviors are his coping mechanisms and I know that it’s important for him to take the time to figure out how he feels. I know this is a selfish expectation, but I feel as though I am responsible for his behavior and should somehow control or influence how he reacts to situations. It also feels embarrassing to be the one with the “strange” kid. I am sure other parents don’t notice as much as I feel like they do, but that is the story in my head. The other kids at school seem to really like Schmee. When we arrive at the gates of the playground for drop off they run outside the fence to greet him. I think they really like him and want him to join in their play. And he will. On his terms.

Sweet Pea has also displayed changes in her behavior, which have manifested in a completely different way than Schmee’s coping mechanisms. She appears to know that Schmee no longer attends the same school because every morning she walks in the direction of his old preschool room and looks confused about why we aren’t going that way anymore. She has also begun to be very clingy to her mother. At the same time, she only recently started in her toddler room and is already showing signs of successful toilet training (YAY!), so that is a positive change!

What’s driving us (mom and dad) crazy is that now we have two children going through intense changes. We tried as best as we could to prepare our children for these changes, and yet we are still facing all types of behaviors that we either have not seen in a long time or have never, ever seen. These behavior changes are difficult to understand as parents, partly because we’ve been through some of them before and thought they were dealt with. It’s like a forever loop of constant battles and frustration. But having been through these challenges before, we are prepared to meet them, and better prepared for new challenges that will pop up in the future. I only hope we make it through sooner rather than later.


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Feels Like Yesterday

“They grow up so fast, don’t they?!”

I don’t like that phrase. It may have something to do with the fact that, in my mind, we grow everyday, which means no one day different than any other. Some days seem to go by more quickly than others, and sometimes weeks seem to go by so quickly that I wonder where the time went, what I did and maybe even ask myself if I did enough.

What would I’d like to consider instead?

“Have I remembered enough of my time with them?”

Time does not stop and nor should the memories.

I remember the drive with my mom when I first left for college: we talked about all of the things she was concerned about, how much she was going to miss me, and how she reminded me that she’d packed enough peanut butter crackers to feed a small army and should I run out she could send more… it feels like yesterday.

I remember when Schmee Wee was born and holding him, cooing and smiling as he yawned that new born yawn – you know, the one that makes you melt with pure joy. I remember his first successful steps on his own, how he stumbled at first rising up on the ball and tiptoes of his right foot, hands splayed in the air, planting his left foot firmly on the floor, smiling a five-toothed smile… that feels like yesterday, too.

I remember Sweet Pea smiling as I tickled her chin within her first few weeks of life, reflexive, perhaps, but so joyful and darn cute! The time she spoke her first recognizable word couldn’t have made her big brother happier as she pointed to him while saying his name… you guessed it, yesterday.

They don’t grow up fast. I just don’t count the minutes waiting for something to happen because something will always happen and things will never be dull for long. I hope to continue to be so busy that I don’t remember the boring parts. When that time comes, maybe I’ll agree that they grow up so fast.