Monday, December 28, 2009

Cross words with crosswords

I was delighted to have my father get to spend a bit of time with his new grandson over Christmas. On more than one occasion, my dad spent over an hour just holding my son and gazing at him lovingly. I daresay this is what my father has enjoyed most about parenting/grandparenting—just holding and loving.

At one point, somehow, we got on the topic of my father’s love of crossword puzzles. I was recounting to my wife how, when I was a kid, my dad used to walk in the door from work, immediately pick up the paper and spend the following 45 minutes doing the crossword puzzle. I then told of the time he came home and turned to the crossword page, only to find a giant hole where the puzzle should have been.  I had cut it out.

I kind of chuckled at my pre-teen cleverness for a second before realizing that my actions were more than an attempt at humor. As a boy who only saw his father part-time, I was pissed off that my father’s priority was to his crossword and not to his son, who had been awaiting his return since 8:30 in the morning.

To his credit, my dad recognized this as soon as I said it and apologized.

As a dad, I fully understand the need for “me” time. Every dad needs a little time to himself. In fact, I think it is essential to find some time in the day to do whatever recharges your battery—go to the gym, meditate, or hit a bucket of golf balls. My suggestion to you is this, however - don’t make your “me” time your main concern when you come in the door. It sends a message to both your spouse and your child that your quiet time is a bigger priority in your day than they are. Chances are your spouse has had just as exhausting a day as you have and it’s a sure bet your child will want to share their news of the day with you.

Greet your family like coming home to them is the best thing that has happened in your day. Chances are it is.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Monkey worship

Just before my second son was born, I was finishing up some “nesting” jobs, including installing a shelving unit in my son-to-be’s bedroom. As usual, my 3 year old was helping with his tools and tape measure. His every move seemed to mirror what I was doing. If I grabbed the tape, he grabbed the tape. If I reached for my drill, he picked up his.

At one point, I was in the back yard, cutting the clothing rod with a hack saw while he was working away at a Christmas paper roll with his little Black and Decker. It was starting to sprinkle, so as I finished my cut, I wiped the rod dry under my arm. Connor was studying me intently. Then, meticulously, he took his paper roll and wiped it under his arm.

It would be easy to fall into the “monkey-see, monkey-doo” sermon, here, but I wont. We all know that kids will imitate what they see—that’s how they learn. I think there is another valuable lesson here.

Your child worships you. (Unless he’s in puberty ;-)

We all question our parenting abilities from time to time. We all have days where we feel like if the authorities found out, we’d have our parenting license revoked for negligence or truancy. Whenever you are feeling a bit down on yourself, remember the fact that in the eyes of your child you are a god.

Now this doesn’t mean you get away with a lifetime of negligence and truancy and come away smelling like a rose. It also doesn’t mean that there can’t be great pressure in being a deity in the eyes of your child. What it does mean is that you are entitled to cut yourself some slack.

When I was in the early days of a fledgling acting career, I remember my greatest fear was that something unscripted would happen on stage. Someone would accidently knock over a glass or drop a book. We would then do this odd dance around the object pretending that nothing happened instead of just picking it up and moving on. Then one day a far more sage individual let me in on a little secret: when you forget a line or break a glass, don’t worry about it---the audience WANTS you to succeed.

Your child wants you to succeed, too. More than half the battle is already won the moment your child is born. She loves you just for being you. You don’t have to do anything or act a certain way. Allow yourself to revel in that comforting thought the next time you feel like kicking yourself.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Welcome Nathan!

A funny thing happened to me as my son Connor walked toward our hospital room to meet his newly born little brother.

He was no longer my baby—he was my big boy.

I couldn’t believe how instantaneous the change was. I saw him wander down the hall way with his Omi and he just looked so big and capable and sure of himself.

I have no words of wisdom to attempt to impart at the birth of my second son, save to say that the lyrics of that old song might be trite, but they still hold a great deal of truth.

“Where are you going my little one, little one?
where are you going my baby, my own?

Turn around and you’re two,
Turn around and you’re four.
Turn around and you’re a young boy
Going out of the door.”

They grow up so fast. Enjoy every precious moment.