June 12, 2012

They Say It’s Your Birthday

Seven years.

I can’t believe it’s been seven years.  It seems like I’ve always known you.  The sound of your laughs, the way you speak, the smell of your skin during a goodnight kiss.  All of this is you and before there was you doesn’t even resonate with me anymore.

I am incredibly proud of both of you.  Swee’Pea, you really hit your stride this year in school.  You read at almost a sixth grade level and, socially, you blossomed into someone who makes good friends.  Monk, you loved first grade.  Your teacher was the perfect teacher for you and you soaked up school.  Your math and analytical skills are amazing and your love of Junie B. Jones is unmatched.

But I can’t believe it’s been seven years.  Just yesterday, you were snuggling in my arms.  Just yesterday, I was watching you take your first steps.  Just yesterday, you were clinging to my legs on your first day of preschool.  Just yesterday, you weren’t seven.

And now you are.  You are the most wonderful seven-year-olds the world has ever seen. You radiate joy and revel in the world around you.  You believe in magic.  You believe in fairies and Santa and the Easter bunny too.  I hope, in some way, you will always continue to believe what precocious little seven-year-olds believe.

But I also hope that you’ll slow this ride down just a bit.  Seven years.  It seems like yesterday.

Seven Years Old
Happy Birthday to my beautiful kids

May 20, 2012

She’s got his back

Swee’Pea and TheMonk get to buy lunch at the school cafeteria one time a week.  It’s our favorite day of the week because they get to choose what they want at the cafeteria and I don’t have to make lunches.  It’s a win-win.

A little more than week ago, on a Friday, Swee’Pea and TheMonk came home from school and I asked them what they had for lunch that day.  Swee’Pea excitedly rattled off her choice of pizza, salad, orange slices and, for dessert, a frozen orange juice fruit bar.  This last item is considered a dessert and all other items must be eaten before eating the fruit bar.  This rule, I imagine, is rarely enforced because the kids self-report that they ate everything to get their juice bar.  With this in mind, I asked TheMonk what he ate.  With a dejected look on his little face, he explained that he chose pizza, carrots and spicy pickles.  “But the pickles were too spicy so I didn’t eat them and I couldn’t get my fruit bar.”

Fast forward a few days later and I ask Swee’Pea and TheMonk which day they want to buy lunch.  Swee’Pea votes for Wednesday.  TheMonk votes for Friday.  I tell them, “I’m not going to make one lunch so you two need to talk it out.  Explain your reasoning on why you want the day you want.”

Swee’Pea goes first.  “I want to buy lunch on Wednesday because it’s “brunch for lunch” and we get pancakes.”  This is a compelling argument and I expect TheMonk to readily agree with his sister.  Who would turn down pancakes?!

TheMonk, however, isn’t swayed.  He looks up at both his sister and I and he simply says, “I want my popsicle.”

Swee’Pea, bless her heart, without missing a beat, says.  “Okay.  Friday.”

May 1, 2012

Potty Mouth, Katy Perry

TheMonk is in his usual spot on the couch. It’s the spot that has a power strip hanging over the side that he has his iPod plugged into. The iPod, on this day, is plugged into travel speakers and he listens to his music while singing along.

TheMonk mimics his current favorite, Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel, perfectly hitting the high notes with his young, prepubescent voice. I am not paying too close attention as he sings but I am aware that he is, as ever, ensconced in the music.

I vaguely sense that the song has changed and before a few moments have passed, I recognize Katy Perry’s voice singing on the iPod. TheMonk and I make eye contact and he looks at me with the seriousness of a straight and narrow six-year-old and says, “Daddy. Katy Perry says a bad word in this song.”

Immediately my mind races to the catalog of Katy Perry songs that I have indexed in my brain. Last Friday Night jumps to the front and I begin to race through the lyrics in my head looking for the bad word that that hussy Katy Perry surely uttered.

But TheMonk beat me to it. “She says, Daddy, SHUT UP.”

The seriousness and somber tone that TheMonk delivers this sad news is difficult to replicate in the written word but suffice it to say that we had to pause for a moment of reflection and silence. When I make eye contact again I realize that the boy is expecting me to say something.

“Oh, right. ‘Shut up’ is very rude to say, isn’t it?” I ask, hoping that the reverent tone in my voice adequately matches the expectations of TheMonk. It seems to as he solemnly nods and turns back to his music. By this time, the music has changed again.

Ah, Taylor Swift, where have you been?

October 17, 2011

The Tooth Fairy Giveth…

Tonight, unexpectedly, TheMonk lost a tooth while being a little too aggressive while brushing his teeth. His jubilation was such that the blood spewing from his mouth did not seem to faze him one bit. Why was he psyched? The frickin’ Tooth Fairy, of course.

Now I’ve come a long way since the early days of Tooth Fairy visits. I learned to stock up on trinkets and little candies and, for some reason, I had a large collection of Sacagawea dollars that seem to be the perfect Tooth Fairy gift. I was ready for a barrage of lost teeth and Swee’Pea and TheMonk were only too happy to oblige. They have lost 12-14 teeth (including TheMonk’s phantom tooth) in the past year and I knew I was running low on supplies – especially those damn Sacagawea dollars.

So this tooth caught me off guard.

And what does a guy Tooth Fairy do when he’s unexpectedly called to duty and has no shiny coin (nor a crisp dollar bill) in sight? He does what you would do if you were in this situation. You’d sneak a Sacagawea dollar out of his sister’s piggy bank when she wasn’t looking.

Yes you would. Don’t deny it.

September 22, 2011

Conquering the Industrial Complex

This week we had our parent-teacher conference with both teachers for Swee’Pea and TheMonk. It was one big love-fest with lots of compliments and gushing and anecdotal stories mixed with concrete evidence at how incredibly smart and gifted our children are when it comes to reading, writing and arithmetic.

I must admit that my wife and I walked out of school a little taller that afternoon. After all, it’s nice to hear from someone who isn’t related to you, just how wonderful your kids are. It was validation of all the time we have spent reading and coaching and encouraging the kidlets in all things school.

But I must admit, I’m a bit conflicted. On one hand, I’m happy that my children are learning and doing well in school. On the other hand, I’m bothered by the fact that we spent so much time discussing punctuation, ways to count to 100 and the finer points of Junie B. Jones that we never talked about how we are going to encourage Swee’Pea and TheMonk to be artists.

And I’m not talking about the arts, although Swee’Pea’s drawing ability and TheMonk’s musical abilities are certainly noteworthy, but I’m talking about how to excel in life. How are we teaching them to be confident enough to follow through on dreams when everyone else is telling them they cannot do it? How are we teaching them to question authority? How are we teaching them to blaze new paths rather than follow tired, worn out paths that lead to mediocrity and subservience?

How is coloring inside the lines, raising your hand when you have something to share, and fearing the thought of failure going to prepare my children to be the super stars that our next generation is going to need? While my kids have wonderful teachers that are doing a great job challenging my kids in the areas of standardized testing, when will they be taught the skills to succeed and even excel, in a world that now rewards those who stand up and challenge the status quo rather than those who blindly accept it as the best we can do?

It’s not the school’s or teacher’s fault, of course. They’re only doing what is mandated to them in trying to uphold a century-old institution that was created to provide an endless supply of subservient workers for factories during the industrial revolution that made our country great. But now… our country doesn’t need subservient workers, it needs leaders and artists and people who aren’t afraid to take chances in order to be great.

Right now, my children are artists. We all were at that age. We painted masterpieces because no one told us we couldn’t. But somewhere along the way, people told us only other people are artists. Only the truly gifted can be artists. And the worst part of it is that we believed it.

The more I think about this parenting gig, the more I realize how challenging it is – especially when you want your children to succeed in a world that wants them to be average, at best. My only hope is to help my children realize, as they grow, that they CAN do anything they want. That what other people think should not be the deciding factor that guides who you are and where you want to go. Follow your heart. Have the courage to stand up to mundane expectations and be the artist you want to be.

Being good at school is one thing. Being good at life is quite another.


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