January 31, 2010

Double Trouble

It’s a Saturday.  Saturday is a day of frozen waffles, fresh brewed coffee, the morning paper, the Disney Channel and… Gymnastics.

Gymnastics is pink leotards, bare feet, nervous kids, summersaults, dancing and lunch at McDonalds.

Normally, we go as a family – our morning ritual of family time and lunch.  This particular Saturday, however, Mommy has a cold so I am tasked with taking the kids on my own.  This isn’t a problem and I hustle to get the kids ready to go.  It is during this time that Swee’Pea announces she doesn’t want to go to gymnastics.

Now, Swee’Pea is a someone who fights her shyness whenever she’s in a public setting.  Lately, I’ve been very proud of the fact that she seems to be beating that shyness more than losing to it.  We have talked a lot about being brave and trying even when you’re scared and she often takes those talks to heart.  It’s been so heartening to see that growth.

But that growth didn’t manifest itself on this Saturday.  Her early grumbling about not wanting to go to gymnastics lasted the entire drive and continued as we took off shoes and got ready for class to start.  TheMonk, who at this point has been going along just fine, sees an opportunity and begins to whine about not wanting to go to gymnastics too.  Suddenly, I’m outnumbered.

Class begins and they become shy and begin clutching my legs.  The 15 other boys and girls make their way to the room and mine continue to clutch me out in the hall.  I explain to them that I’m not going to play this game and that if they don’t want to participate then we will go home.  No summersaults. No dancing. No McDonalds.

I can tell that TheMonk could be persuaded by this argument and he starts to head into the room.  Until he noticed that his sister wasn’t budging.  Then, he dug his heels in too.  Neither of them would budge even after several attempts and warnings that we would go home.  So at this point, I called their bluff.  Or maybe they had called mine.  I’m not sure.  Either way, I was done.  I started to head over to the cubbies to get their shoes and announced that we were leaving.  That’s when the screaming commenced.

TheMonk, realizing that his Happy Meal was now slipping from his grasp began a full-scale tantrum.  Swee’Pea began crying.  She let me put her shoes on but she knew that I wasn’t happy.  I couldn’t get TheMonk’s shoes on with all the kicking so I grabbed his shoes in one hand and I grabbed TheMonk with my other hand and threw him up over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes as he kicked and screamed.  Swee’Pea followed at my side, tears streaming down her face as we made our way into the car where I strapped two crying four year olds into their car seat and started the drive home.

Upon arriving at home about 8 minutes later, I took them upstairs and sent them to their room where they continued to cry for another five minutes.  It wasn’t until after they stopped crying that I made my way inside.  I asked them to join me on the floor and we sat facing each other.  I calmly explained that what they did today is not okay.  That if they are feeling scared or unsure of something that they have to use their words and not their tears.  I told them that their behavior was very disappointing.  I was disappointed in them because of their behavior.  Upon hearing this news, both of their heads dropped and I could tell that what I was saying was making an impact.  We ended the discussion with promises to try harder and apologies to me for their behavior.

Apology accepted.

January 25, 2010

How Fast Does That Car Go, Daddy?

Last month my brother chronicled my nephew’s desire to know everything, calling him the smartest person he knows.  My little guy likes to ask questions too. Lots of them.  Unfortunately, they are almost always about cars (and Taylor Swift, but that’s another post).

The boy is obsessed with cars.  He can’t read but he can look at the logo of just about any car on the road and tell you who the manufacturer is.  Ford, Nissan, Chevy, Toyota.  BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Porsche.  It is not uncommon for us to be cruising down the road and TheMonk is giving me a play-by-play of all the cars we pass.  “Look, Daddy! There’s a BMW! It’s a convertible!  Look, Daddy! That’s a Ford, just like your car!”

His obsession with cars took on a whole new level when, a few weeks ago, we attended the San Diego Auto Show.  He got to see, up close and personal, every car he ever wanted to see (except Porsche and Nissan, they weren’t there).  He even went to the show determined to answer this question: Which is faster, the BMW or the Porsche?  And, considering Porsche wasn’t there and the BMW women thought he was the cutest thing since Bambi, we were persuaded that BMW is faster. (Porsche, prove ‘em wrong. I will gladly test drive one for TheMonk.)

I drive a Ford Edge so TheMonk was especially excited to see the Ford cars at the auto show.  I even tweeted a photo of TheMonk and a Ford Fusion to Scott Monty, Social Media Guru for Ford, who responded that TheMonk has good taste. Which he does.

TheMonk’s fascination doesn’t end with just the type of car.  A few months ago I was forced to sit down and explain the machinations of the internal combustion engine.  This would be fine if I actually knew the machinations of the internal combustion engine.  Let’s just say that I spent an evening looking for YouTube videos about engines so I could show TheMonk how the pistons work. I can now tell you how the spark plug, gasoline, fuel injectors and pistons make one hell of an explosion. And so can TheMonk.

And finally, like any hot blooded American boy, he is fascinated with cars that go fast.  Every car has to be compared to other cars in relation to their speed.  “Daddy, how fast does a Nissan go?” or “Daddy, how fast does your car go?” “Daddy, which is faster, a Porsche or Santa’s sleigh?”

And, unlike my very well-grounded nephew, he will gladly accept that the magic of Santa’s sleigh can kick Porsche’s butt.  (Again, Porsche, prove me wrong. I will gladly test drive one. For several years. Call me.)

January 10, 2010

Fear Can Suck It

I hear her cry out late at night. She should be sleeping as bed time was at least three hours prior. I rush to her room, like a masculine Ms. Clavelle and as I open the door I see her tear-stained face clutching her stuffed kitty as she cries.

I quickly approach and begin to stroke her sweaty, matted hair. I ask her what’s wrong, expecting her to tell me she had a bad dream. Or maybe she has to go to the bathroom. Instead, through her sobs, she exlaims, “I don’t wanna go to school!”

And there it is.

Ever since we began talking about preschool – a real preschool and not the in-home preschool/daycare they go to now, I sensed that Swee’Pea has been scared about going. She is a worrier, that little one. She turns things over in her head and thinks about it until there’s nothing left to do but cry in the night.

I comfort her with soft caresses and I whisper, “It’s okay to be a little scared, Swee’Pea. It’s normal to feel scared about trying something new. But you know what? When you try it anyway, you feel so much better.”

A few more words of comfort and some gentle goodnight kisses is enough to send her back to sleep. And the next day we talk about how we want her to talk to Mommy and Daddy whenever she’s scared because using our words to talk about what scares us makes us feel better so we don’t cry in the middle of the night.

Swee’Pea agreed to talk to us but ever since I haven’t been able to get my own words out of my mind. When you confront things that scare you, it makes everything better. And then I think of all the fearful things that reside in the pit of my stomach that keep me from reaching my full potential. And my words suddenly felt hollow.

How can I look my daughter in the eye, encourage her to confront things that scare the bejeezus out of her, and not do the same myself? I have always promised myself that not only would I never lie to my children but I will always try to be the best role model I can be. So it has to start with me.

Since it’s fairly close to the new year, I’m going to call this a resolution. I resolve to look fear in the eyes and kick it’s ass in 2010. No longer will that nervous pit in my stomach overrule what I know needs to be done. No longer will I procrastinate because the idea of doing something makes me sweat. No longer will fear hold me back and keep me from realizing all that I can be. And no longer will I feel like a hypocrite when I look into my daughter’s eyes and tell her that trying will help the fear go away.

Fear can suck it.


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