Friday, October 29, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Encouraging Children #5

#5 Build on Strengths, not Weaknesses

This piece of advice on encouragement by Alyson Schafer seems simple enough.  Sure, I can encourage my boys by highlighting their strengths.  As any parent can attest, children do amazing things and as our progeny, we marvel at their successes and learning.  I am still beaming over my twins question about how Wonder Woman can find her invisible plane. My youngest has better language skills than I did at 14, but that may be more a statement about me than him.  So highlighting strengths doesn't seem too much trouble.  I would argue it isn't, anyway.

But there are nuances to building on strengths that could use some reinforcing.  First, I like to brag about my kids and their successes, but it isn't always to them.  It it often to others at work, family gatherings, or the guy at the freeway off-ramp. I think this kind of bragging is good at some level.  It reinforces for the parent the worth of the child.  But the child needs that reinforcement more.  And so it is more important that the parent reinforce the strengths with the child. This can lead us back to #3 among Schafer's other suggestions. 

There is a hook here, too -- and that is to not build on weaknesses, a far more insidious action.  It's easy to label our children (See #4), particularly to discourage them. Parents may lovingly call their children "monster" or "terror" or, as in our house lately "Godzilla," and those labels can stick.  Though the terms can be used lovingly, they also have a negative underbelly.  They imply a kind of destruction, a lack of control or maturity that shouldn't be applied at their age.    Simply labeling one child as the "reader" and the other as the "athlete," seemingly innocuous or even positive labels can reinforce the negative, i.e one isn't a reader and the other isn't an athlete. 

Phrases such as, "Why do you always ________," also stress the negative.  Stopping children from climbing the monkey bars at the park points to a parent's fear that the child may be not coordinated or can't make decisions about safe and unsafe or when to ask for help. 

Parents often worry about the success of their children, wanting them to have the best, most successful lives they can, by whatever metric one might use.  And invariably, that results in concern about a child's weaknesses and occasionally the dark side of parental competition: "My child didn't know her ABC's until she was 3, she'll never get into Yale."  Non-language cues can focus on weakness as well, such as the exasperated sigh or the obsessive focus on potty training.  Children are exceptionally good at interpreting parents' actions, and parents, quite frankly, aren't that good at masking them. 

Oh, by the way, no one really cares that Einstein wasn't an ideal partner or parent.  People care about his strengths as a scientist.  (Okay maybe he is a bad example for a blog about parenting, but I hope you get the point.)

So focus on the strengths.  Really.  Focus on them.  Meditate on them.  See you child or the children around you for who they are and you will see tremendous strengths and potential.  You will all be happier in the end.

Now that you've thought about your children's strengths, post them in the comments below.  Let's see how great our kids really are. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

5 Years

The twins turn 5 today.  It was an amazing day.  When I wasn't helping opening gifts from family or playing with the boys, I grabbed moments to think about the day they were brought into the world.  It was both terrifying and awesome.  They were so small I could carry each one in a forearm.  Now?  Not so much.  Now they make up super heroes, camp in the living room, ask complex philosophical problems and do geometry intuitively.  They can color inside the lines, and they can choose not to.  They solve problems using experience and knowledge of this world and fantasy.  There still is no barrier for them to move between the worlds, and the glimpses they've given me of their superpowers has been inspiring. 

Though my life is very different now than it was before children, I am a much better and stronger person than I was.  I know that is a cliche, but I've really grown in all of the cliched ways people talk about parenting.  Some debate whether humans should bring more humans into the world, and the arguments I see focus on two areas, quantity and quality.  For quantity, the argument is that the earth cannot sustain more people, and all of the issues that grow out of that, lack of resources, destroying the planet, space.  These may be true.  The quality arguments often surround many of the same issues, as well as the argument about bringing kids into a world that is going to hell in a hand-basket,  2012 by some accounts.  Few arguments I hear are about how children improve the lives of those already living especially family.  I'm not sure I would be as conscious or conscientious if it weren't for my having kids.  I am more observant of flowers and the change in leaves. I am more patient with children, the elderly, and those I used to have no patience for.  I am more willing to forgive those who wrong me, and I am more willing to ask forgiveness of those I've wronged, even when those I've wronged are only 5 and don't know I have wronged them.  They are the best gift a father could ask for, and it isn't even my birthday.  So today, I want to thank my twins for helping me become a better human.

Happy birthday boys.  I hope today was all you had hoped for, and that your future is as bright as your eyes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mookie Minus

Here is the next super hero from my boys' creative minds.  Welcome Mookie Minus.

  • Mookie gets mad and turns pink.
  • His legs turn invisible, including his feet (emphasis added when they were concerned I didn't know legs included feet).
  • Mookie Minus makes minus numbers (e.g. 2-1) that are big and icky and sticky.
  • The bad guys stick to the big and icky and sticky numbers.
  • The numbers are made of bubble gum (I'm unclear if it is chewed or not, and since they haven't had chewing gum that I know of, I didn't want to broach that.
  • Mookie Minus is average size.

Who's your super hero?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Encouraging Children #4

#4 Separate the Deed from the Doer

For those of you coming late to this blog, I've been slowly (very slowly) moving through the 19 ways Alyson Schafer claims we can be more encouraging to our children in her book Honey, I Wrecked the Kids.  I want to explore what she advocates and think about the way it may or may not apply to me and our house.  #4 is much easier for me than some of the others.  Schafer essentially wants parents to describe the child's behavior using adverbs rather than adjectives, naming the action, not the child.  For example, don't say the child is mean, say she is acting meanly.  This divorces the action from the child's identity.  The child isn't mean, just acting that way at that moment. 

I've always known that parents shouldn't attach labels to their small children because they can stick.  I've never liked when parents say one child is the smart one and the other is the athletic one.  Worse than smart or athletic are other labels parents like to attach: wild, stubborn, "slow."  Children hear these labels and adopt them, or start to believe them.  You can read the wildly popular post by Single Dad Laughing on bullying and his take on the affect labels can have on people, especially children.

Now parents aren't bullies in the way described in Single Dad Laughing's post (though sadly some are), but repeating a label can be adopted by a child, especially when used by someone who has such influence on a child.  I'm not claiming to be totally innocent here.  I have had moments when I've called my children feral.  Sometimes I do think they act like they've been raised by a pack of wolves.  But I am fairly careful not to ascribe attributes to my boys.

It's awkward when others try to label the boys, especially when they aren't around our family enough to see the full range of the boys personalities.  Someone might say one twin is more outgoing or more serious, but the boys defy classification like that, as I suspect most children do.  It just depends on the day, the context, what they had for breakfast, what shirt they are wearing, if they're teething, sick, and if they believe they are a super hero or a fairy.  Labeling just isn't that easy.  But it would be easy to call names and label them.  We could ascribe roles that they may fulfill, but I'd rather they find themselves rather than grow into a label we have lazily applied.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Monsters Torment 7-year Old Girl with Huntington's Disease

Who torments who 7-year old girl with Huntington's disease, a disease that leads to coordination problems, mood swings, dementia and ultimately death?

I pilfered the Friday edition of the Detroit News while sitting in the Big Boy in Gaylord on my way to a conference in the UP.  The front page had the story of Trenton girl, Elizabeth, who was tormented by her neighbors because of her disease.  According to the story, it began as some bush-league-Hatfield-and-McCoy feud, with the Petkovs jealous that the Edwards family was getting too much attention because of their severly ill daughter.  Really?  I won't recap the entire story.  Essentially they teased her, including posting a picture of Elizabeth on Facebook above crossbones.  You can read the sad ordeal for yourself if you can stomach it.  I nearly wept right there into my lunch.

I know I'm coming to this story late, apparently it went viral on Facebook, but I felt I need to say something here on The Family Bed.  I just can't comprehend how cruel some people can be and how they fail to realize how fragile a 7-year old child can be.  It ranks right up there with taping your toddler to the wall because you think it's funny. Or teasing someone so much that they commit suicide.  Please forgive my rant, but I'm just outraged.  No one should be teased or bullied like those covered in the news recently.

There is a silver lining to Elizabeth's story.  First, good people were so moved by Elizabeth's story that they donated $20k by the toy store and $5k by the Huntington Disease Society Michigan Chapter.  Yes, that's $25,000 in a bad economy. I'm always impressed by people's generosity.  But it gets better.  Elizabeth only spent $2k of the money on her shopping spree, so the family donated the rest to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.  It's beautiful to see the generosity of people and one girl's ability to rise above the cesspool of life we sometimes find ourselves in.  It gives me hope.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go make a donation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

4-Year Old Super Heroes

Recently my twins have taken an interest in super heroes.  Since I was never an avid comic book fan, I didn't have the answers to all the questions a pair of 4-year olds could ask about Spiderman, Superman, Batman and any other super hero they could find out about.  First, I'd like to thank my friends who have graciously answered my boys questions via Facebook (I have a list of questions I'm supposed to ask.  I'll get to that later.).

Anyway, as 4-year olds are want to do, they found in their quest for super hero data inspiration for their own super heroes.  I'll present them over a series of posts.  I tried to get them to draw pictures of the heroes for posting, but they weren't interested.  I've tweaked and reordered their descriptions slightly for clarity.  So, with no further ado:

Super Candy
  • She shoots candy from her forarm/elbow area.
  • When bad people eat the candy, they tell the truth like Wonder Woman.
  • Super Candy got hit by radioactive candy.
  • Super Candy's house is 2 feet wide and has 100 rooms.
    • The house is made of sicky, icky suckers.
    • Only Super Candy and Spiderman can touch the house without getting stuck because they are radioactive.
  • Super Candy is very pink.
  • Super Candy is super fast and flies without a cape.
  • Super Candy has a lot of pets that help her; there are too many to count.
  • All her pets live in a cave deep underground like Batman
  • Super Candy takes a bit twirly, whirly slide to the cave.  Twin J: "It's [the slide] as fast as me."
  • "One More Thing": Sometime Super Candy Flies up and shoots candy at people; they eat it and tell the truth.

Next up: Mookie Minus

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back Off!

My 103 year old grandma said to tell you to back off and give me a break or she'll come and beat you with a stick. 

Really.  She said that.  I'm a bit shocked, but she really does rock. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Daddy Blogs

 Okay, now that I've posted about the dearth of father blogs, I'm finding them all over the place.  Single Dad Laughing is blowing up on the internet.  Backpacking Dad seems to have picked up the pace (though of late with lots of guest blogs).  Then an friend tipped me off to a blog, Rice Daddies, that had the following video.  I'm not a big fan of the "news" show in which talking heads sit around and make stupid small talk, especially when it's the mainstream media.  But since I whined publicly about it, I thought I should point out that there are lots of father blogs/websites out there.  I'm going to withhold a bit of judgment at this point on my recent discoveries since I opened my mouth prematurely a few days ago.  Here's the video if you care.  I'm not sure it's worth watching (how's that for an endorsement), but it is about fathers online.

As noted on Rice Daddies, there are a couple of interesting statistics that show up at the end.

p.s. Thanks kh. 

EDIT: Okay, as a means of procrastination I've looked at three of the websites of those interviewed in the CNN clip above.  I stand my my original claim.  On one of them, I clicked on a link of the "most commented" post.  19 comments.  Really?  On Soulemama there were 19 posts to her This Moment post in fewer than 12 minutes.  I'm not kidding.  As of this writing, there are 208 comments. The post below that, 236.  Single Dad Laughing does get a high number of comments, so people are reading and commenting there, at least.  It makes me question CNN's selection of bloggers. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.  -- via SouleMama


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Awesome and Inspiring

Read this story of father and son who sent a HD video camera 19,000 feet up to film outer space.  It's an awesome story and an amazing video.  It's also inspiring to me as a father who like to tinker and to teach.  I could blather on about the importance of parents working on projects with their kids (and not just school projects involving Popsicle sticks), but it's hard to compete with images from space.  I think I've got some work to do. 

Does anyone know where I can get a weather balloon?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Style

I've been tweaking the style a bit for this blog yesterday and today.  There are a number of reasons beyond aesthetics, but let me know what you think. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Blogging Father in a Mother's World

As I spend more time reading, studying, practicing, and blogging about trying to be a good parent, I'm constantly reminded that there aren't many men out there like me.  Sure there are lots of men working to be good parents, some writing about it in different venues.  Alfie Cohen is a good example as are a couple of the blogs I've listed in my blogroll.  But I find there are far, far few fathers writing blogs and sharing their experiences online than mothers. 

Some of the fathering blogs I check in on, though very heartwarming, insightful, and informative are infrequently updated. There are a couple of fathering websites I've found, but they seem a bit vacant to me.  For example, I visited and there seems to be some helpful information.  I visited the forums page, where fathers can gather and chat about just about anything.  It's practically dormant. is another example; the forum doesn't look like anyone's contributed in nearly two weeks. 

For a comparison, if you go to many sights by and for mothers, a forum post two weeks old is so buried in the forums it's hard to find.  On the Mothering website forum, numbers of posts are often measured in thousands; on the fathers', they would be lucky to be in the hundreds.  For this post, I decided to search the Mothering forum for "Fathering" and see what came up.  An early hit was for a woman looking for resources for her envious husband, last posted to in July.  There were a total of six posts in the thread, none listing specific resources.  They claimed an internet search found some interesting sites, but listed none.  Mothering Magazine recently listed a number of fathering websites, such as The Father Life Magazine, which is updated regularly, but the community is vastly smaller than that for mothers. 

Okay, I think I've belabored this point for a while.  Why the whine?  It's just an interesting observation, and I can only speculate why this is the case.  So here I go. 

Mothers are still the primary care givers in the home.  Yes, there are many exceptions to this, I know, but I still think moms rule the roost. Mothers are more interested in sharing their parenting experiences, and many, such as SouleMama, have used their skills to turn their websites into profitable businesses.  I know it isn't that men aren't interested in sharing experiences or turning their experiences into profitable businesses; I see it all the time on other forums, but less so for parenting. 

What does all this mean?  I'm not advocating for a secularized, digital version of  Promise Keepers rally.  I don't think dads should all come together and sing Kumbaya  It means I spend more time reading mother's blogs about family matters than father's.  That's mostly okay with me, though sometimes I feel like a stranger in a strange land.  And maybe my stranger metaphor is the reason so few men write about their experiences.  Maybe they are strangers in a strange land of parenting. I'll leave you with that, saving a discussion of fathers in the land of parenting for future posts.  But in the meantime, what are your thoughts?  Let's play armchair-sociologists.  Why do you think the disparity in online presence?

I hear little ones starting to stir upstairs and I'm on pancake duty this morning. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.  -- via SouleMama