Saturday, November 27, 2010

Babies on Planes

I'm on a flight from Salt Lake City to Detroit, headed home to my family and willing the plane to fly faster and the jet stream to blow harder.  After over an hour of flight a baby across the aisle and one row up finally has quieted down, probably exhausted from crying and screaming on and off (more on than off) since I boarded the plane. 

Before I had children I was intolerant of the screams and frustrated to be stuck on in a small metal capsule thirty thousand feet up breathing the recirculated air people with who-knows-what strain of H1N1.  I would fume and turn my headphones as loud as I could bear so I wouldn't have to hear the child while I stewed and wondered why the parents didn't do more, including drugging the child.  I wondered why parents would even bring small children on planes.  Wasn't that what the proverbial family car trips were for?  That way the screaming would be confined to a much smaller metal capsule, zero feet in the air, and only the parents had to listen.

Now I am a parent and I have three small children.  I want them to know their grandparents and great grandmother in California so we fly across the country, carefully picking airline schedules to make the trip as manageable as possible (and paying for it).  I am fortunate that my boys travel well and we haven't had the infamous screaming child on a plane.  But I have been humbled by flying with my children as well.  I understand that there are reasons parents take their children on planes that are beyond going to the Happiest Place on Earth. I know how hard it is for parents, and having seen my own children cry from pain, I understand how difficult it is for everyone.  I no longer seethe, wondering why the parents don't do more.  I no longer wish the child would just shut up.  I feel bad for his pain, hoping his ear pressure isn't unbearable or he isn't so exhausted it physically hurts.  I cringe at my having wished parents would simply drug their children for my comfort. 

We don't make it easy for family to fly.  Airlines don't.  The TSA doesn't.  And fellow passengers don't.  I could write the equivalent of a short novella about our experiences flying and the generosity of others as well as others' inconsideration.  But this really isn't about me and my kids.  

The boy is still quiet and I am happy. 

For him.

Friday, November 26, 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, November 24, 2010

Splitting the Baby

I’m sitting in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for a flight to go home.  I use the term home carefully here because I have two.  I have one where I grew up, in which my parents have lived for 35 years.  My other home is in Flint, in a house I’ve lived in for 10 years that contains my partner and three small boys.  The bond there is unbreakable.  But I’m sitting in Salt Lake City, in neither home, and because of a mechanical delay, I nearly spent the night here. 

Since making my reservations to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, sister and grandmother, I’ve felt like Solomon splitting the baby, nearly ending up with neither. (I better be careful since I’m still in Salt Lake.)  Why, you may ask did I leave my Flint family for California?  That’s a question with a complicated answer I won’t bore you with.  Suffice it to say that Thanksgiving is very important to my parents and I really want to see my 103 year old grandmother. 

Next you might ask, why I didn’t bring my Flint family.  That, too, is a long answer, but the short answer is that I didn’t want to travel with the boys on the busiest flying day of the year so they could see their great-grandmother for 30-minutes in which they will barely interact.  Does that sound callous?  Maybe.  Having just made the family trip to San Diego in August for my parents’ 50th anniversary, I just couldn’t do it again – even though the boys are great travelers.  I know my partner didn’t want the adventure. 

So here I am, looking out a bank of windows onto darkening snow-covered hill wondering if by trying to please everyone a little, I’m pleasing no one.  I’m sure my California family wants to see my Flint family, and my Flint family wants me there with them.  Every small child I see, and there are lots of them, make me wish I were home, waking with Twin M breathing softly on my face.  There is no right answer for me.  I suspect no one will be completely happy.  I really want to see my grandmother.  Did I write that?  I won’t have many more chances to see her.  But at approximately 4 am this morning (EST), my youngest woke up wanting water and burning with a fever.  So for the next three hours, I slept and woke restlessly knowing that I was now not only leaving Superwoman with three small boys, but with one who has a serious fever. 

I still left.  I had to drag myself out the door, and when I realized I forgot to bring a shirt I wanted, I almost turned around and drove back for it – the 45 minutes back home.  When my plane was delayed out of Detroit, a part of me wished I wouldn’t be able to make it to California so the decision would be made for me.  But I made this decision and I’m living with it.  I’ll have many, many more Thanksgivings with my boys, but not as many with my grandmother.  Did I mention I wanted to see her?

So here I am in Salt Lake City trying to figure out how I got here. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Encouraging Our Children #7

Don't view mistakes as failures.

Sure, that seems like easy advice to follow.  I admit when I read that sentence, I really imagine that we should allow our children to learn from mistakes. That seems obvious, and one can extrapolate the the value of allowing children to learn from mistakes.  Alexander Fleming is one key example of learning from mistakes. But that isn't really what Alyson Schafer's advice is.  She tells us parents not to view mistakes as failures.  Schafer claims:
We need to take away the stigma of failure.  Failure usually indicates a lack of skill.  One's worth is not dependent on success.
So I admit to be struggling a bit with her distinction.  Is she arguing that a mistake is not failure because failure indicates a lack of skill? So a mistake is simply an error or something that didn't go as well as it could have gone.  I accidentally colored outside the lines.  That would be a mistake.  Failure would be my inability to stay within the lines because I lack the motor skill and I have the attention span of a goldfish?  Okay, I could work with that definition, though it could get a bit tricky. 

I'll also admit to using an online dictionary to see how language archivists define those words. (Note: I am typically no fan of dictionaries because of their limitations, but I occasionally use them anyway because they do serve some good purposes.)  Here is what I found for failure.  Here is what I found for mistake. I can see a difference in degree, but they seem like they are nearly synonyms.  In fact, when used as a verb, they are

Enough ambling about in this post.  Help me out here.  What do you think?  First, what are the differences between mistakes and failure in relation to what children do?  Second, how do avoid viewing our children's mistakes as failures?

Friday, November 19, 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

Now that's a leaf pile!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Living in the City

I have lots of views and reasons for wanting to live in a city, and more particular views about living in my city, Flint.  For this post, I'm motivated by Carla Saulter's essay on Grist about moving to the suburbs. In her short essay, she has lots of great reasons to consider living in a city.  I encourage you to read it.  She has one paragraph that I want to focus on here:
As more people are living in close proximity to each other, more resources can be shared. Neighborhood parks replace large backyards; coffee shops and community centers replace home offices and playrooms; public libraries replace extensive personal libraries; and nearby theaters replace media rooms. Other resources, like power and sewer lines, can also be delivered more efficiently to densely populated communities.
I often wish I had a larger house with a larger yard.  I grew up in a relatively banal, social-climbing suburb outside Los Angeles and I am comfortable with ranch houses, large yards, and privacy fences.  But I am reluctant to move because I love where we live.  I'm not ready to give that up, and here is where Saulter's paragraph strikes me.  I often say that because we love our neighbors and neighborhood so much our "yard" extends far beyond what the Flint and Michigan say it is.  Our neighborhood is like a public space.  This past summer, I think I spent more time pushing my kids on my neighbors' swings than in our own backyard.  We play tag in our front yard and into our neighbors', and because we are friends and they are generous, my front yard is now twice as big (and I only have to mow half).  We share from our garden with our neighbors and they share with us.  And now that winter is coming, I can look forward to taking a snow-blowing break to chat with a neighbor who is doing the same.  I could go on with examples, but you see where I'm going.

I've lived quite a few places as I've moved my way east, and one thing I've learned is that finding neighbors you like is unusual and a blessing.  I don't mean that I'm cordial with my neighbors.  I mean I'm friends with them. I like them. We have beers together.  We hang out in a backyard while kids swim in the pool.  Heck, one family even encourages us to use the pool when they're gone.  How many of you have neighbors that don't mind you on their swings when they get home from work or want you to use their pool when they're gone (or home for that matter).  And did I mention I like them; they're my friends. 

And because of this, I think I have the biggest backyard in Flint, and they do too.  Why would we leave this?  Why would I want my kids to grow up anywhere else?  When people ask my why I live in Flint, I sometimes wonder why they don't. 

Tell me your favorite neighborhood story.  What do you love about where you live?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Encouraging Children #6

Alyson Schafer's sixth piece of advice for encouraging children is one of my favorites: Show your trust.  And as she notes in the short entry that follows that advice, "Of course, that means you have to trust your children.  Do you?  Trust must come first."

Okay, I have to admit that it's hard for me to imagine trusting my children and not showing it.  How does that work?  But I digress.

If we want our children to grow up and be independent, confident, and secure in themselves, we must trust our children, and, according to Schafer, show it.   And I think as a society we don't trust our kids.  That's one piece of why I believe we have Velcro parents; parents want to manage the lives of their children into college and beyond.  I think the doting parents do over their children shows an inherent distrust that their children can't make the best decisions for themselves.  Who knows, maybe they can't.  I was at a meeting recently in which a biologist noted that 18 year-old students' frontal lobes aren't fully developed (here).  But how do our children learn to make decisions for themselves once their frontal lobed develop if they never have the chance, or the chance without the parental safety-net/iron maiden?  So how do we trust our children and how do we show it?

I don't claim to be a parenting expect.  In fact, I think I'd put myself pretty far down the scale of parenting know-how.  I don't whoop on my kids.  I figure that's a good start.  Trust, though, comes relatively easy for me with my children in many instances.  Maybe it's laziness or passivity, but I let my kids make lots of decisions for themselves. 

One way that I often share with others is clothing for the outdoors.  My partner and I really try to let our twins decide what they want to wear outside, though we do make suggestions and talk about the consequences of choices.  They decide if they want long sleeves or short, pants or shorts, or jackets, depending on the season.  We occasionally encourage them to go outside and feel the weather before deciding. They do and often change their minds.  Other times, they make a decision I don't agree with or think is down-right ridiculous.  Still, I will let them decide.  And you know what?  They're pretty good at regulating their own body temperature.  If they get cold, they go in the house or get a jacket.  If it's summer and hot, they douse themselves with the hose, strip naked and run around the backyard.  They even like to wallow in the mud like a farrow of piglets to keep cool -- or they just like to play in the mud.  Almost never do they put themselves in danger when regulating their own temperature.  The only time I've seen that problem is when Twin M doesn't want to get out of our neighbor's swimming pool and his lips are blue.  And even then Twin M decides on his own to get out most of the time. 

My point with this ramble about choosing clothing or rolling in mud is that I'm showing them trust to make decisions about their own bodies.  And they nearly always validate that trust.  I could give other examples, such as how much they eat -- we don't make them clean their plates --, how high they can climb a tree, or how fast they should run with sharp sticks (As long as they aren't going to hurt their siblings -- I'm not that trusting yet.).  I show them trust in these things and inevitably they validate that trust. 

Ultimately it's too early to tell the results of this practice, but it's promising.  I'll let you know how it turns out in another 25 years, when their frontal lobes are fully developed.

Friday, November 12, 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, November 11, 2010

Poppy Seeds are the Devil

Don't eat this bagel!

I'm going to jump on the bandwagon here and write about Elizabeth Mort and Alex Rodriguez having their newborn kidnapped because Mort ate an everything bagel the day before giving birth.  You can read about it all over the intertubes, such as here, or a less opinionated piece here or here.  The basic details are these: She ate a bagel and gave birth in a hospital that has mandatory drug testing.  She had a false positive test because of the poppy seeds.  I think conspiracy theorists got this one right.  Again, lots been spread on the internet about this one, so I want to think about it for some reasons other than avoiding a draconian hospital and county.

I vaguely understand why a hospital might want to test patients for drugs, though I disagree with the methods, particularly for expectant mothers.  What really goads me is that institutions, in this case a hospital and law enforcement agency, really fail to understand the larger picture of their actions.  As a father who wholeheartedly supports breast feeding and attachment parenting, and one who has come to learn a little about these through living in a house with a devoted breast-feeder and attachment parent, I know the importance of those first few moments and days after birth.  They can't be replaced.

What is it about the law that denies those entrusted to enforce the law with an understanding greater than the narrow scope of what the law does and says?  So in this case, why would removing the child from the mother be a better choice than simply detaining the mother with the child?  Do they think the everything bagel is some kind of drug-addled ruse?  As I write this rant, I realize she may have been drugged by the medical-industrial complex, but that's a rant for a different day and a Rikki Lake movie (which I can't recommend enough). 

I admit to having joked about people needing drivers licenses to drive but not parenting licenses to have kids.  But they've only been jokes (with a kernel of truth the size of Milwaukee ).  But I can't imagine going this far.  I can't imagine thinking that a newborn would be better off in the first moments, the first hours of life without her mother.  It makes the term Child Protective Services an oxymoron, with emphasis on the moron. 

Are drugs in Jameson county so prevalent that it's worth disrupting one of the most personal and loving acts humans undertake? Excuse me.  I know you are about to give birth, but can you pee in this cup so we can make sure that you're clean?  I just keep asking myself: what does it say about our culture that we feel the need to intrude in this particular way; in this particular, significant moment in a family's life; and with these kinds of drastic responses to a drug test result that according to the ACLU is well below the minimum requirement for people in a work place? 

Is this really the police state we want to be?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Traveling for Work and Kids

Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go,
But still had the feeling that you wanted to stay.
-- Jimmy Durante

I've been a bit quiet on the blog lately because I've been consumed with work and family of late.  I was out of town at a conference in Baltimore and have been trying to catch up with my family and my work since I've returned.  Since I left I've been trying to get my head around the emotional and psychological piece of leaving the family for a few days, and I'm not quite sure how to do it.  So let me ramble and see if I end up anywhere. 

I travel a few times a year for professional conferences.  They range from one night to three and take me anywhere in the country.  I admit I look forward to the trips; I've always enjoyed my profession's conferences.  I get to meet up with friends I only see a couple of times a year, I talk with colleagues who I enjoy, and I get to learn a lot of great ideas.  Now that I have kids, I am conflicted.  I love the conferences for the aforementioned reasons, but I hate to leave my family.  I really miss them.  So here is one of the odd psychological things I can't explain. 

How come I begin to miss my kids the minute they drop me off at the airport, but I don't miss them when I leave in the morning for work? Is it that I anticipate being away and not seeing them for a few days?  Is it their cute little faces saying goodbye and asking me to come home soon? Am I making a mountain out of a the proverbial molehill?

I wonder how others who travel a lot leave their kids.  I don't even want to contemplate how military families split up for a year or more.  That is a whole other topic I can't dream of.  Job-Mom wrote a bit about how to help kids adjust when one parent is gone, and she has one for the parent who stays at home.  She doesn't really address how the traveling parent can cope.  Should I feel guilty about leaving?  Should I leave the conference early to come home (as I learned I and many of my colleagues did at the conference in Baltimore)? 

Now that I'm home, I've been conflicted on catching up with my work and catching up with my kids.  It's a tough balance, and I am dissatisfied with how well I'm doing both.   I know that work and home life have ebbs and flows, but I have just been trying to get my head around that experience of wanting to actively participate in my profession and to be a home-body curled on the floor with kids draped over me. 

I guess this rambling comes down to two things.  From the intellectual side, I'm curious about the nature of missing loved ones and how one manages competing interests. From the personal standpoint, I want an easier way to manage my emotional unease of leaving and wanting to leave.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sneezy Wheezy

I want to introduce you do the twins latest super hero: Sneezy Wheezy.  This one deserves a bit of an introduction.  In one of the recent windstorms, a giant silver maple tree fell from our neighbor's house across the street.  It feel into our intersection, took out a massive limb from one of our trees, and became the playground de jour until the City took it away two days later.  The picture above doesn't really do the tree justice.  It was massive -- and apparently rotten inside.  Our next door neighbors, who are wonderful with our boys, were joking that the twins must have knocked the tree over with their sneezes.  Well that created a sneeze-storm of sorts every time the twins see those neighbors.  One of neighbors suggested the twins make up a super hero named Sneezy, or something similar, and Sneezy Wheezy was born.  So, with no further ramblings, let me introduce Sneezy Wheezy.

Sneezy Wheezy 
  • sneezes bad guys into jail
  • is really stretchy [Ed. note: imagine Mr. Fantastic or Elastigirl]
  • is very strong
  • used to live on a planet called Sneezy Wheezy -- that's how he got his name
  • when he was a baby he sneezed a lot and then Sneezy Wheezy, the planet, blew up
  • and he wasn't in his rocket in time and that is why he is so stretchy
[Ed. note: the last two bullets seem to have roots in Superman, and I think the rocket was similar to the one Superman took to earth, but obviously Superman got into his rocket in time, thus he isn't stretchy like Mr. Fantastic or Elastigirl.  I can finally get some sleep understanding why Superman isn't stretchy now.  Whew.]