What Would/Did You Do?

We had just pulled into the parking spot of our family vacation destination, and had begun unloading our luggage into the room where we would stay for the next four days. It had taken us four hours of driving to get here.

My wife began removing clothes from the suitcases and laundry baskets (poor people luggage) and putting them into the dresser drawers provided in the resort room. We had already gotten past out usual argument about whether my clothes should be left in the suitcase or put into drawers like everyone else’s. A thought flashed through the back of my mind, not even a complete thought, more like the formations of what could turn into a thought. It involved not being able to recall seeing Natalie’s “Blanky” in the time since we had departed home.
Like nearly every parent knows, Blanky was a beat up, tattered child’s blanket that Natalie had held tight since she was an infant. Her grandma had sewed its remnants onto another piece of cloth to act as a backing. This due to the fact that the original Blanky had worn to a state where it was more “hole” than material. It reminded me of some precious historical relic, The Shroud of Turin or some flag that had endured many hard fought battles. 
“Where’s Blanky?” I whispered quietly to my wife.
She scanned around the room then paused for a moment thinking, and then looking back at me with shear terror in her eyes.
“We don’t have Blanky!!!” she answered in a slightly elevated whisper voice.
Just then, Natalie paused in the doorway of the room and looked at the two of us like she suspected something was going on. My wife and I froze . . . as if any movement or or sound would alert the child to the absence of Blanky.
Finally, Natalie went back to bouncing around like she had been.
The next minute or two involved an argument between my wife and myself using our whisper voices, and even whisper shouting. Statements were made such as “I thought you were going to …”, and “no, I was busy packing all the . . . ”
Once the whisper shoutings and blame assignments had concluded, it was on to the real problem . . . What to do about the absence of Blanky. 
What would you do? Or in some cases, what did you do? 
Opt for inconvenience and peace by driving home to get it? 
Endure the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would surely accompany a vacation without Blanky? 
Chance it with a substitute?

Second Child Syndrome.

“Dad, how come there aren’t any pictures of me?” my younger daughter asked as she sat on the living room floor looking through the family pictures.

“Of course we have pictures of you,” I replied and grabbed a box of pictures to prove my point.

As I began flipping through the photos, I was alarmed to find that there really were no photos of Natalie. I mean we had the normal burst of photos taken within the month or two after she was born, and a few school pictures, but then the Natalie photos seemed to just taper off to nothing. Frantically I searched three more boxes, but all I came up with was one photo of her tonsils that we took to compare with a picture of normal tonsils in a medical book, and a shot of the back of her head taken when she had apparently wandered into a picture I was taking of my lawn mower.

As for our firstborn, Hannah, there were pictures of nearly every event in her early years. There were pictures of her birth, her first week, her first month, and all the months following. There were pictures of her first solid food, her first steps, her first bloody nose, Christmas programs, and playing in the snow, rain, and sun. There was even a picture of her first poop on the potty…and not just one of her on the potty…I’m talking about a picture of the actual poop.

Embarrassed and not knowing what else to tell Natalie, I simply said I was sure there must be a whole box full of her pictures that had been misplaced somewhere. And although it seemed to satisfy her for the moment, I still felt terrible at our failure to photo document our second child’s existence.

It bothered me so much that I even spent a few late-night hours attempting to cut out Natalie’s face from some of her duplicate school pictures, and gluing them onto some of the abundant photos of Hannah that filled the boxes. But try as I might, I couldn’t get the perspective between the cutouts of Natalie’s head and photo bodies of Hannah to match up quite right. The resulting pictures looked like mutant alien children with freakishly large or too-small heads, so I was forced to abandon my efforts.

My wife and I didn’t intentionally decide not to take pictures of our second child, nor do we love her any less than the first. I think that we are just more relaxed as parents, having survived our first one. Maybe a little too relaxed.

As I thought about it, I realized that it applied to more than just picture taking. One time, Hannah got some dog food out of the dog’s dish and ate it. My wife and I panicked. We rushed her to the emergency room, convinced she would succumb to dog germs at any second. But after a few eye rolls, the doctor on duty assured us that she would pull through, and indeed she did.

So having been through a few incidents like that with Hannah, we were a little less uptight when Natalie came along. So less uptight that when Hannah came in the front door and informed us that Natalie was picking dead bugs out of the car radiator and eating them, my wife’s only reaction was to tell Hannah to make sure that Natalie brushed her teeth when she was finished so that she wouldn’t have dead-bug breath.

Likewise with the pictures, after trying so hard not to miss photographing a single moment with Hannah, we realized that you just end up with mounds of pictures that make you wonder why you took so many of them. So we were not as camera crazy when Natalie came along.

We love both of our daughters very much, but I guess we went from fretting too much with the first one, to being a little too relaxed with the second. I think if we would have had a third child, we might have actually been able to get it right.

 

What’s Wrong with this Camera?

Years ago when my wife and I purchased our first digital camera, I quickly began to notice a trend in our photos. Whenever a picture was taken of my daughter Natalie, she always seemed to have a distorted goofy expression on her face.

Being a new technology, I thought that maybe there was some sort of “goofy expression enhancer” setting. But no matter how much I searched, I could find no such setting. I was almost ready to return the camera and get my money back.

Several years and hundreds of goofy faced picures later, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with the camera . . . . There is something wrong with the goofy child.

The Path of Least Resistance.

I remember being so excited when I found out I was going to be a dad. My wife and I could hardly stand waiting the nine months it took for my first daughter to arrive.

But now when I think about it, it’s almost as is if that that after your children are born, you spend the rest of their lives trying to make it seem as if they didn’t exist.

If they cry, you stuff a pacifier in their mouth to silence them. If they are running around screaming and breaking things like idiots, you try to find some quieter, calmer activity that will occupy them. Or even send them to a “time out”, which not only quiets them but makes them disappear as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my children to death, but I can’t deny that I tend to react to them in whichever way I determine will make them quietly disappear the fastest. 

As they get a little older, this reaction is often what I call “the path of least resistance”. Sometimes I will try to disguise the path of least resistance by calling it “letting them learn from the consequences of their decisions”. At least then I can assign a methodology to my not wanting to engage in an arguments with my kids.

When a child wants something that might not be the best for them, I have to consider if the bad result of letting them have what they want is so awful that I want to endure the tantrum involved with telling them they can’t have it? Sometimes the answer is no.

I try hard not to give in to complete apathy as a parent. . . . . but I don’t always succeed. 

Six year old Hannah: “Can I have a gallon of gasoline?”

Me: “Wellllll, I guess. But take it to your room and play with it.”

A lot of times it is my wife who alerts me to just how far down the path of least resistance I have travelled.

Annoyed wife: “Why on earth would you give a gallon of gasoline to a six year old?”

Me, second guessing my decision as I answer: “Ugh. . . because she asked for one?”

Even more annoyed wife: “Well if she asked for a basket of hand grenades would you let her have that too?”

Me trying to sound logical: “No. Hand grenades are expensive and much louder than the whining I will get when I tell her no. 

Sometimes I will give them what they want to quiet them, but I will add “but just this once” to make myself feel like caving in isn’t a regular occurrance. 

Six year old Hannah: “can I have a gallon of gasoline?”

Me: “I guess, but just this once.”

Other times I will give in to the path of least resistance, but only with a compromise to their request. This way I feel like I still have some control.

Six year old Hannah: “Can I have a gallon gasoline?”

Me in control: “Hmmmmm, no but  you can have a quart of gasoline. A gallon would be just too dangerous.

The Behaviorizer.

What if I told you that there was a device that you could purchase, that when plugged in and turned on, it would emit and energy field that caused children to calm down. Not just calm down, but actually sit silently and trouble free for as long as you want.

Right now, many of you battle-weary parents are thinking, “That would be WONDERFUL!! If only there was such a device!!!”

Well, there is . . . . . . it’s called a television, I call it the BEHAVIORIZER!

Now I know that as parents, we are not supposed to let our children watch too much TV. Some of you may not even let your kids watch it at all.

Before my wife and I had our own children, we would make lofty decrees that our children would not be boob-tube zombies. Our children would entertain themselves playing outdoors, creating art, and doing things together as sisters.

I have since learned that playing outdoors, creating art, and doing things together as sisters involves large amounts of messes, destruction, arguing, fighting, and effort on the part of the parents to exercise some form of order and control.

This is where the Behaviorizer comes into play. It involves none of those things. It’s so effective that it’s hard not to take advantage of its bluish, hypnotic glow.  HOURS! . . .  They will sit for hours, maybe days, and not move a muscle . . . I’m not even sure if they blink. I always keep a spray bottle of water in the living room in case their little eyeballs dry out, and I have to give them a squirt to keep them from squeaking when they move.

I’ve read and heard all the bad things that television can do to children. I’ve even heard it said that TV can destroy parts of their developing brain. But sometimes I think that if it’s destroying the part of their brain that makes them run around like savages destroying everything in their path . . .  maybe that was a part of the brain that needed to be destroyed in the first place. I mean, I’m sure they never would have performed lobotomies on people if they didn’t have a positive outcome. . . . . Right?

There are many other positive sides to television as well. It has made me aware of several products that I need to buy. Some of these products I didn’t even know existed until TV showed them to me, and I realized that I couldn’t live without them.

And you can’t deny the benefit of being able to watch history unfold before your eyes either. In my life, I have been able to see live, in color, many landmark moments in time, such as Evil Knieviel jump over a couple dozen buses, the mysterious transformation of “Bewitched” husband Darren Stevens from one person to a completely different person with no explanation, and David Letterman drive around in a convertible with a back seat full of tacos.

And without TV, children couldn’t spend hours developing hand-eye coordination by playing video games or learn about the cruelty of video war, or alien invasions.

I know as a parent, that I should limit my children’s TV watching and video gaming, but once you’ve experienced the calm and quiet that it can produce as it slowly turns your child’s brain into oatmeal, it’s hard to go back. It’s like I’m Luke being lured over to the Dark Side.

The Dark Side has control.

The Dark Side has POWER!

Children are made in a Convenient Size.

When God was at his drafting table deciding how the universe would work, it was pretty clever of him to make children start out small and grow up to be larger. I can only imagine the challenges to a parent if children were born huge and then grew down to be small.

I mean, can you imagine trying to change an NFL lineman’s diaper if he didn’t want it changed? Or better yet, trying to enforce a “time out” on him? You’d be lucky to escape with all your limbs intact. And I imagine if that same NFL lineman wanted you to play dolls with him? You would not have much choice in the matter. Either play with dolls or have your shoulders dislocated and your ears ripped off.

And if children were big and we were small, it would be us adults who needed to be strapped into a car seat, and have to sit on a stack of telephone books during the family Christmas dinner, not the child.

But fortunately for us, children come in a small, convenient size, which makes them easier to manage. So when you tell a child “come here . . . come here . . . come here . . . come here . . . come here,” you can then provide them with some assistance in “coming here,” when words don’t seem to be working.

Due to their miniature size, a parent can assist children with lots of things like, “come here,” “stay there,” “sit down,” “stand up,” “stop hitting grandma with a wiffle ball bat,” and many other simple tasks that we need them to perform.

You can even assist them in cleaning their entire messy room by employing what I call “the chop stick method.” This method is where (after repeatedly telling them to clean their room, and the child repeatedly refusing) you grasp them by their little arms, and use them like chop sticks to pick up objects and put them away. I’m not sure that this method actually helps the child become any more obedient, but it seems to give the parent some satisfaction.

However, if you choose to use “the chop stick method,” you need to be careful that older siblings don’t see, and end up performing a perversion of it known as “Why are you hitting yourself? Stop hitting yourself.”

I guess if I had any complaints about the whole kids being small thing, it would be that I think they should remain small until they move out. My daughter Hannah is 17 now, and seems to be getting stronger and stronger. The age of 17 is a time in the raising of some children where it would be nice if they were still small . . . . really small . . . . . I’m talking ‘put them in a coffee can with holes poked in the lid’ small.

Situational Ownership Between Father and Daughter.

It’s my daughter’s cat until it’s time to change the litter box.

It’s my car when it needs gas.

It’s her pizza until the leftovers need to need to be put into the refrigerator.

It’s her laptop up until it needs a new hard drive.

It’s her phone charger ….. In fact, they are all her phone chargers, and mine is always the one that is lost, even though I have never actually unplugged and moved it from outlet nearest to my spot on the couch.