Friday, December 27, 2013

After This Christmas, My Kids May Need The Affluenza Vaccine

I thought we were going to cut back a little this year. Looking at the ginormous stack of presents threatening to engulf the tree on Christmas morning, it was clear that we “overdid it” again on gifts for the kids.

“Where’d all these gifts come from?” I asked my wife, in merry bewilderment.

“We may have overdone it,” she confessed.

In the twenty-four hours before Christmas, the presents multiplied like Gremlins under a broken sprinkler, overtaking our tree and the surrounding available floor space. That was even before the packages from my wife’s parents showed up, which happened shortly after they arrived on Christmas Eve. I’d thought they were planning to cut back this year, too -- a fact hard to discern as they hauled in giant trash bags full of wrapped kid presents.  

And let’s not forget the marque gifts from Santa, dropped off on his late-night visit, including a bike for the boy, a big chair with her name on it for one of the girls, and an American Girl "Bitty Baby" doll, which must have cost the elves a fortune to replicate.

It can certainly be said that on Christmas, at least, our kids are spoiled.

Kids take a rest during Sibling Secret Santa
Shopping Day.  This was before the family
rumble at the mall's pretzel joint.
It’s not like they get everything on their wish list. Our family still doesn’t own an iPad – or even a Kindle, for that matter – which they’ve wanted the past two Christmases.

Most of the wrapped presents are, in the words of the five-year-old after unwrapping yet another box, “more clothes!”

They get clothes – lots of clothes – as well as books, a handful of electronic gadgets, family board games and plenty of toys.

It’s not like we're wealthy; Far from it. In fact, we may have to sell some of the loot to pay the bills next month. (Just kidding. We’ll sell other stuff).  In reality, we don’t even spend all that much, relatively speaking. That’s partly because my wife’s an excellent shopper. She’s always finding deals, and always buying stuff at greatly-reduced prices. If I had a nickel for every nickel she saved on discounts … well, she’d probably buy even more stuff at greatly-reduced prices.

Still, I often worry what the overabundance of gifts teaches our kids. Are we teaching them to be generous, and kind, and giving – like we think we’re being? Or are we teaching them to want stuff, to make lists for stuff, and to get stuff.

I mean, what if one of my kids comes down with a case of affluenza? Admittedly hard to do on our budget; But still, it could happen.

We really try not to spoil them 364 days a year. And we try to let them know how fortunate we are to have a roof, warm beds and shoes to wear. We try to teach them to be concerned about less fortunate families, to care about others in general, and to find ways to make the world better. We gather cans for the food pantry, give our old clothes to the Rescue Mission, and try to teach them to be concerned and charitable.

But are those lessons getting through? Or is all that lost under an avalanche of gifts on Christmas day?

This year, trying to show them again that it’s more fun to give gifts than to receive, we had them exchange names, picking from a hat and each buying a gift for one of their siblings. We even had a specific day that we all went out shopping for our Secret Santa gifts.

The highlight of the trip came when the four of them fought to the death over the single Icee bought at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Over-priced Icee Emporium. They never seem to mind sharing a pair of giant cinnamon-sugar pretzels. But stick four straws in one Icee and all hell breaks loose. I think 3-year-old Drew actually landed a roundhouse kick to his 5-year-old sister's head.

As other holiday shoppers stared and shook their heads at the melee, I thought to myself, “Yet another parenting lesson gone terribly awry.”

Still, when it came time on Christmas Eve to exchange the sibling Secret Santa gifts (the only gift opened on Christmas Eve), it was clear they all loved getting a gift for someone else. Was giving for them more fun than receiving? Heck no. They’re kids. But they enjoyed it. A small victory.

But what finally rest my mind at ease this season of plenty came two days later. On Boxing Day, after all the gifts were unwrapped and evidence of our excess absorbed into our existing belongings, we went as a family to the outdoor skating rink nestled amongst the buildings of downtown Syracuse, next to the city’s giant holiday tree. It’s like Rockefeller Center without the lines, the crowds, or the expense. It only cost 2 bucks per kids, 3 bucks per parent. Total family cost: $14. Skating there is something of a Christmas Break tradition.

Skating by the tree at Clinton Square. 
For the kids, as memorable as any gift.
As always, the kids all loved it: slipping, sliding, falling, learning, and skating hand-in-hand with their parents and grandparents. 

As we waited for the Zamboni to clean the ice during one break in the action, I overheard the kids talking about skating at the same rink on Boxing Day last year. I saw an opening.

“Do any of you remember what you got for Christmas last year?” I asked.

“Not really,” replied 7-year-old Chloe. The others shook their heads.

“But you remember skating here?” I asked in my faux-incredulous voice.

That’s when 10-year-old Maisie laid it on me, “Dad, that’s because doing stuff together is better than getting stuff."

Maybe spoiling them with gifts one day per year isn’t so bad. Though, the next time we get pretzels at the mall, there will be no Icees.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

First of all, on the 1st Amendment...

I don’t watch Duck Dynasty, nor do I care what some random guy on a strange reality show thinks. But I do care about our collective understanding of the First Amendment and what it means. The First Amendment protects our individual right to say what we want without intervention or recourse from the government. This is a fundamental right in our nation, and sets us apart from many countries and cultures that would imprison someone for their words, or censor them before they say it.

The guy from Duck Dynasty said what he said. He exercised his right. He was not prevented from saying it, nor does he face any sanctions from our government for his words or his thoughts. He is free to say it again.
However, everyone should understand -- especially former vice presidential candidates -- that the First Amendment does not protect you from all the negative consequences of your words, no matter how public those consequences may be. You are free to say it, but the public is equally free to react.

If you chose to say something stupid, or bigoted, or idiotic, or even just something others disagree with – even if it’s something you strongly believe -- other free people have the right to disagree, to publicly condemn you, to boycott you, and to stop listening to you. Private companies often have the right to fire you. Commercial sponsors have the right to drop your show. And, television networks have the right to cancel your program. That’s our freedom, no matter what it is you believe.

So, whatever you think about Duck-gate, what has happened in reaction is not a trampling of First Amendment rights. In fact, it’s an expression of that freedom as everyone else exercises their rights, too. Isn’t freedom great.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Most Important Lesson To Teach Our Kids

I’m not big on bashing posts by other writers. But I read an article the other day that struck me as a bit off. The main message was that the sooner we teach our kids to be competitive the better -- the real world being winner-take-all, and such.

Among other things, the writer took a shot at coaches who try to play all kids equally, and who give out so-called “participation medals.” He writes how nobody ever displays participation medals, and that we’re teaching kids to be losers. And so on and so on.

Reading the blog, you’d think the world is neatly divided into winners and losers, like the start of a bad after-school special.

That I’m still thinking about this article days later tells me it warrants a response. (It had some good points too, like the value of hard work. But the overt focus on training kids to be competitive didn't sit well).

Participation Medal proudly displayed
in my daughter's room. ... Wait!
Am I raising losers! I hate losers!
First, briefly on coaching: There’s certainly an age after which better players will be rewarded with more playing time. That’s the nature of sport. But to say participation medals and equalized playing time hurts kids is just wrong. If you’re coaching anyone age 10 or under, you should do your best to make sure all kids get to play – no matter how much skill they bring to the game. It’s not anti-competition, or making them soft. It’s called teaching them the sport.

Kids that age have a lot of developing and growing to do, which they’ll keep doing through High School. Stick a 10 year old on the bench because you’ve decided they’re too small or too slow, and two years down the road they could gain the physical ability needed, yet lack the experience because of some coach's boneheaded, overly-competitive focus on winning two years prior.

Worse, that kid may have given up the sport already because of a bad experience with a jerk coach who thought he was mentoring in the Hunger Games rather than teaching kids how to field a sharply-hit grounder. Knowing all that sports can teach kids about teamwork, and hard work, and life, we want them to keep playing – all of them.

Are Competitive People Happier?

The truth is, we don’t really have to teach kids to be competitive.  Most enter the world with a bit of competitiveness in them already. Think of a two year old who won’t let anyone touch his toy. Or consider when you ask a five year old to do something for you. All you have to do is follow it with the words, “I’ll time you,” and you’ll see them hurry. We are natural competitors.

In all aspect of their young lives, kids are bombarded with messages that have competition at the core. On the playground, in class, and even in reading groups; kids are ranked, measured and tested.

Around them, constantly, are life lessons about the spoils of winning and being the best. Star athletes make millions. Celebrities deified. Whoever gets the most votes becomes president (usually).

Our culture forces the thought of winners and losers on us at every turn, from the Super Bowl champs and Dancing with the Stars, to the differences in the kinds of cars we drive and the sizes of homes people own. Should we really add to that by making competitiveness a central focus of our parenting?

And, a bigger question, are competitive people happier? Maybe in the moment of winning they are -- for that moment. Maybe the chronic winners among us get more stuff, find security, and attain a higher level of consciousness. But I know lots of overly-competitive people who are -- to put it gently -- a bit hard to be around. Putting it less gently, they're kind of a-holes. Does the world really need more of those?

Maybe rather than competitiveness, we should teach our kids things they might not otherwise learn in this often-hostile and overly-competitive world; things that will enable them to find a happiness they can’t get from simply winning or conquering or buying.

Lets Teach Boys to be Kind, Girls to be Confident

I believe there are two things we need to teach our children that will benefit them far more than just teaching them to be more competitive. The first is to be kind; the second is to be confident. All kids should be taught both, but one, I believe, is the primary lesson we should teach to little boys; the other the primary lesson we should teach little girls.

Before anyone gets angry about that seeming sexist division, I think it’s obvious to all of us with both sons and daughters that they do come out of the womb a little different. And once out here, they are certainly exposed to different messages, pushing them in different ways.

These two lessons are meant to counteract the nature and nurture happening already.

Boys should be taught to be kind above all else. They’ll learn to be competitive, that they should be strong, and that they need to work hard to be successful in life (or network hard). They get taught this from everything else thrust upon them in their young lives, from every direction. They’ll race their friends, have snowball fights, and arm wrestle. They’ll be given fake guns to shoot and footballs to chuck, and they'll be told not to cry. 

The world around will mold them into all those things that we use to define a “man,” and conspire to judge them accordingly.

But, if not taught, they may never learn to be kind to others. Anyone who’s seen a two year old squeeze his sister’s arm or heard how teenage boys talk to each other or been to college knows kindness is something that has to be drilled into boys for it to stick.

As for our girls, parents most need to teach them to be confident. They’ll need that confidence to survive this world, which has the propensity to tear them down, piece by piece. 

Consider the type of competition often forced upon young women, all of it focused on their bodies, on acceptance by peers, or on winning the affection of men, and all of it potentially destructive. If not taught to be confident in who they are, this competitive world can be an extremely dangerous place for a young woman.

Parents must teach them that it is okay to be strong, to be independent, to be smart, no matter what others would have them believe. And that, above all else, they should believe in themselves.

Certainly, all kids – boys and girls -- need to be taught to be both kind and confident. But, there's no doubt how emphasizing these specific lessons for boys and girls will help them become better men and women.

When you think how much better these lessons prepare our kids to be happy and productive adults than the lesson of competitiveness, suddenly equalized playing time and participation medals start to make sense. We're not teaching them to be good losers, we're teaching them to be good humans.

With these skills, they’ll be able to survive this competitive world without being completely consumed by winning or utterly defeated by losing. They'll also know that the world isn't divided into winners who work harder and losers who are just lazy. Rather, time and chance and opportunity plays a part in all our lives.

If they learn these things, maybe they’ll chose to measure their own success differently than how so much of society tells them it should be measured. And maybe they’ll put value in things other than just winning the game, or owning the biggest house, or having the highest paying job, or earning the most medals -- participation or otherwise.

Those who do, I believe, are more likely to find happiness. And isn’t that the ultimate competition?

Like the article? Know others who may enjoy reading it? Please share it using the buttons below or to the left. Thank you.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dad, Can We Go to the Holiday Storefront Window Dancing thing every year?

Looking up past the giant pine adorned with lights, I could just make out the stars through a thin veil of clouds, as remnants of a passing snow shower drifted down, mingling with the steam from my breath as it drifted up.  It seemed a peaceful dance. 

Looking down, however, I was reminded of the wailing, heart-broken five-year-old little girl who had just collapsed in a snow-suited heap at my feet, yelling incredulously, “We missed it!? We Missed it!?”

We had missed it, and I didn’t know how.  It was supposed to be at 7 p.m., I thought.  Yet, somehow it happened half an hour sooner.  And, despite my considerable powers as a dad, I had no way to reverse time. 

Memory acts as a powerful editor, though -- and thank goodness.  Just consider the thoughts of some annual event your family attends.  If we remembered the way things actually occurred, complete with the emotional angst, mounting tension and complaining kids, we’d never repeat our errors by attending that particular festival, or this annual party, or even the regular vacation destination, ever, ever again.
The tears cleared up just long
enough to ask for a kitten.

Yet the brain has a way of cleaning all that muck up and leaving behind a memory better than the actual event, which in turn draws us back the next year and helps create what become annual family traditions – a huge thing, often, in the mind of a child, or even that of a former child.
This time, it will take considerable work if there’s any hope of making this memory as it was intended to be, with a tree, and lights, and falling snow.  

Yet, I know they will remember it.
For the past few years, we – the wife, four kids and I – have spent the first Friday evening in December attending the annual Christmas tree lighting in Cazenovia, N.Y., a cool and quaint village about 15 minutes from our home, with its own lake, a small college, and a main street that serves a picturesque setting for this true community gathering.   Cazenovia also happens to be home to my brother and his family.
The whole town comes out for this annual event, descending on a large pine tree just a block away from the slew of shops, restaurants, bars and an art gallery or two.  Santa always shows up at the tree lighting, too, delivered on a fire truck, to flip the switch.  And, then he shuttles off to another location among the shops to take pictures with the kids and hear their wishes.
Attending the tree lighting and hanging with the Caz cousins has become something of a tradition for our family.  That we’re often scrambling to get there on-time (Friday evenings are tough for us); that we’re usually freezing our butts off waiting for the tree to light; and that we’re always starving and in desperate need of finding a bathroom throughout the event, and many other negative thoughts, all seem to fade in our memories after each annual event, and the kids and us just hold onto how fun it always is.
And each year, we go back to see the tree get lit.  Next year, I doubt that will be enough of a draw.
To keep perspective, nothing really bad happened, and we had a fine time with my brother’s family and some other friends.  But the marque aspects of the event – like, say, the lighting of the actual tree – will not be a part of this year’s memory highlight reel.  To be honest, nor will the meeting with Santa.  No offense to the big guy in red (Though, I hear it was just one of his helpers).

Here’s what happened in 100 words or less: 
Arrived early, ate pizza.  Extra time to kill.  Husbands walked streets with kids; wives kept warm in restaurant/bar.  Got distracted.  Santa zoomed by.  We hurried for the tree.  Fought crowds mysteriously walking other direction.  Got separated from two older kids.  Fine ... with brother/cousins.  Wife still missing.  Arrived at tree, it was already lit.  Child collapsed in tears.  I stared at stars.  Gathered thoughts, two remaining kids; found wife; headed for Santa.  Fought crowds.  Youngest wouldn’t walk, placed on shoulders.  Older kids beat us to Santa.  Done and gone.  Waited 40 minutes.  Toddler overtired, refused Santa’s lap.  Five-year-old asked for kitty.
The ordeal ended when we found our older kids with my brother and their cousins, dancing along main street in front of a particular store.
The kid in the middle is just about
to bust a move ... I swear.
For whatever reason, the store owners were letting all the kids take turns dancing to Christmas music in their storefront window, like a live display in the window at Saks Fifth Avenue.  As odd as it was, that store served as the only saving grace of the evening – other than the pleasant company, of course.  All the parents gathered around sipping coffees and chatting about how the tree was lit a half hour earlier than expected, as children took turns dancing earnestly in the store window.  It was certainly an odd scene, but also a little fun.
And as our brains begin to edit, all the tears and frustrations of the night will likely disappear.  All the lesson will be learned, and the fun remembered.
When next December approaches, I don't imagine anyone will be begging us to go to Caz again for the annual tree lighting or to see Santa.  
Rather, they'll likely ask for another chance to dance in the store window with their cousins.  For that's how new traditions are born – a huge thing, often, in the mind of a child.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

10 Bits of Advice on the Transition to Dadhood

A few guys I know are about to become fathers for the first time. Since I’ve had my share of kids, and ample time to ponder my successes and errors, I wanted to pass on some advice to fathers-to-be on the ever-challenging transition to dadhood---not the big picture philosophical stuff or the woe-is-me feelings of leaving your youthful freedom behind, but the everyday decisions you'll face. 

This lists focuses on the final weeks of pregnancy and the first few months of having a freshly-minted person in your home. It's just to get you started. So here goes.

1. First and most obvious, Get some sleep while you still can. Every list like this is required to start with sleep, and you'll hear this advice from all new parents. There’s a reason. You might never sleep again after that little being currently making your significant other uncomfortable comes out into this world. At the very least, your days of getting a solid-night’s sleep on a regular basis are done for sure. By the way, it only gets better (which, in parent speak, means it gets worse). 

Sure, you might luck out and get a baby who sleeps through the night within the first six months. Our first born did that---once. Or maybe you’ll get a truly great sleeper, and you’ll all have normal sleeping patterns within the year. It’s possible, but not likely. Even if they do sleep well, eventually they’ll learn to scale the walls of their crib. Then, maybe you’ll have other kids, and every night from now on, one of those kids will be scared, hungry, or sick, or come up with some other B.S. reason to wake you up, crawl into your bed, put their feet in your face and ruin your night’s sleep.

We had our first child a decade ago. I can count on one hand the number of undisturbed sleeps we’ve had since. Most were at hotels.  So enjoy these final restful hours. 

More information than you could ever want. 
In "What to Expect," focus on Ch. 15 for labor and
delivery, and Ch. 19 just for expectant fathers.
2. Read Whatever She Reads. If you're lucky, your partner isn't a big reader of pregnancy books. If she is, try keeping up with what she reads.  Even if you just flip through and look at the pictures. Scratch that; don’t just look at the pictures. It’ll freak you out. Read what you can. Though feel free to skip to the chapters on delivery, since that’s where you’re needed---again. 

My wife was a big reader of how-to books. I remember her still reading What To Expect When Expecting when she was three centimeters dilated (Look it up, if you don’t know what that means). I thought it was a total waste of time. And it may have been. But, there’s a lot to know about birth, and a reason those books are so thick. As a guy, you’re already starting the process with less inherent understanding and a predilection to baby-bearing ignorance. If she reads and you don’t, game over.

That said, don’t watch any birthing movies if you can avoid it. It’ll only frighten you both. For some reason, they show these films in birthing class, with the screaming and the blood and nary a boiling pot of water to be found. The time to show this movie was on that drunken date-night half a year ago. Watching a birth movie at this point only causes undue stress. Besides, the book is better.

3. Know when to keep your mouth closed, and when to speak up. Sure, she let you choose the tuxedos for the wedding, and you have a full vote on the baby’s name. You may even get a say on the paint color of the nursery. But at some point there may be a disagreement about how exactly to get this baby out of its mother’s belly. Trust me: keep your opinion to yourself and support what she decides. Whatever she decides. Especially when it comes to the so-called “Birth Plan.” Mouth closed time.

But if you're in the hospital and some medical student doing their maternity ward rotation comes along and tells your wife to take a sedative, or morphine, or something else not in the plan, support your wife. Stand up for her. When her actual doctor says it's time for the Pitocin or a C-section, that's a different story. But talk about this stuff before it's sprung on you in the hospital. Know her plan and do everything you can to support her.

I made the mistake once of letting the fog of war---and the grogginess of night---get the better of me in the midst of a labor. A young resident came in and told us the labor wasn't progressing. My wife was dumbfounded. I just nodded. The resident wanted to send us home. Luckily, my wife's actual OB showed up and told us to stay put. The baby was born within the hour. We would've been on the highway headed home if we'd listened to the other doctor.

On a related note, do your best to remember everything about the experience. There will be a quiz later---possibly years later.

4. Be there. Sounds obvious, right? But trust me. From the last few birthing classes, to the delivery, to the trip home, and thereafter, just be there. I made the mistake of working on a political campaign during the final months of pregnancy for our third kid. I was there for the actual birth, at least physically, but that’s about all. It happened five years ago, and my wife is still a little mad. Understandably. 

Do what you can to be there for everything. Short of serving overseas, there aren't too many good excuses for missing this.
You may even think you’re free to go when a whole family of experienced mothers, grandmothers and aunts descends on the homestead to show every trick. Lots of men have the urge to get out of Dodge, going back to work early, or to the gym, or to the bar. Don’t. Stick around as much as possible. Start a house project if you need to. At some point all the pros will leave, and it will by just you, the baby and the baby’s mother. The only way you’re going to learn is by being there.

Now do you understand?
5. Invest in baby wipes. Baby wipes are the duct tape of parenting.

Not only can you use them to efficiently wipe poop off your newborn’s bottom and spit-up off a sport coat, these little wonders can also clean off the grocery cart’s kiddie bar so your toddler doesn’t get sick; wipe dried boogers off the lip of a preschooler; polish hand-me-down soccer cleats; and remove make-up from the cheek of a tweener who’s dressed like she’s going to a fashion shoot on the first day of middle school. 

Our youngest left diapers behind months ago and we still have baby wipe containers in all our vehicles, and neatly stowed throughout the house for any emergency wiping needs. I just wish I’d bought stock in a baby wipe company back when I still had two nickels to rub together.

6.  Ignore the parenting bullies.  You are entering a world with many questions and even more opinions. Some people are going to tell you they have all the answers. And they'll be passionate that their way of taking care of a baby is gospel truth. They'll tell you that a baby must be breastfed for four years; or that you should only use this type of diaper, this food, or that pacifier; or that you should let a baby "cry it out" in the crib so they learn to be independent.  Do you really want an independent toddler? Strong opinions exist on everything having to do with babies you can imagine---and some of the strongest opinions are attached to very judgmental parenting know-it-alls.

Practice nodding your head and saying, "Thanks for the advice."

The real answer is that there isn't one answer. You have to figure out how the two of you want to do this, and ignore all the a--holes who will judge you for not doing it their way. Read up on everything, and talk to people you know. But don't let the parenting bullies get to you, and do your best not to become one of them.

7.  Get to know your kid. Here’s a big secret: most of parenting is trial and error. While those books can give you a foundation, and you’ll learn a ton from other parents, most of this you’ll have to figure out on your own, with your kid. Because every kids is different. We have four kids, and each one had a different set of challenges and solutions.  

Take something simple, like how to get a baby to stop crying. (It’s not simple, just to let you in on the joke). Some kids like to be sung to with specific songs. Some kids like to bounce. Some only cry when they're wet or hungry. Some just need to be burped. Some babies will cry because they want to go outside. I swear. Our youngest, the boy, would stop crying the second we walked him outdoors---it started when he was two weeks old. Luckily he was born in July and not December. But each kid is a riddle, and all the books and all the advice can’t replace figuring out your own kid.

8. Repeat after me, it's just poop. Before having a baby, you likely avoided direct contact with pee, poop, and the like. Good choice. But now, you're a parent. Soon, you will get used to your new and rather close proximity to all these things thus far avoided.  It starts with spit-up, which may gross you out the first time it lands on your bare shoulder. But, within days, it will be nothing. Then your aversion to tinkle and poop, too, will ease. Before you know it, you'll be on your hands and knees cleaning up vomit with an old t-shirt, muttering things like, "I'm going to need a shower one of these days." Welcome to parenthood.

9. Know your place, and like it. Being a dad is pretty cool---once you get past the overwhelmed and anxious phase---but it’s not the same as being a mother. Babies love their mothers. Accept it. They’ll love you too, just probably not as much. Maybe someday it will even out, when it’s time to play catch in the yard or to learn how to drive stick. But a mother is a mother.

Unless, of course, you get a baby that's a daddy's girl or daddy's boy right out of the gate. If so, enjoy your new number one fan ... but try not to flaunt it. More than likely, you're newborn will prefer its mother, being a source of sustenance and all. Don’t be jealous, just enjoy the proximity, and be the father. It’s a good place, and an important job.

10. Make time to hold your new child. With all the visitors clamoring to hold, burp, and sing to your baby, and the newborn’s incessant need to be held by mom---especially if nursing---the dad can get lost in the shuffle. Find your time. It may be late at night.  Maybe even really late. Find it. I still remember lying on our bed ten years ago with my new three-day-old baby girl on my chest late one night, the rest of the house asleep, just holding her and talking to her and being the only one in her world for a moment. It feels like yesterday. Trust me, they don’t stay small for long. Hold your child and cherish the moment.

That should be enough to get you safely through the birth and into the first few months of being a parent. Except the baby wipe thing; that’ll help until they go away to college.

There's much more advice to be had, so just ask another dad. And remember, it only gets better.

Like the article?  Here's others you may enjoy. Learning Lessons from a Little Boy, Tip of the Hat to Single Parents, and Thanks to My Backup, and New Year, Few Expectations

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Actual Conversations with Kids: Need Versus Want

From the Kids Say the Darndest Things file:  During a recent bedtime at the In-laws over Thanksgiving weekend, 3-year-old Drew and 5-year-old Sadie were snuggled into the middle of the guest room bed being read their bedtime stories.

When the second book was finished, Drew voiced his desire for a third bedtime book by stating, “I need another book.”

It just so happens that Sadie has been learning recently about the difference between “need” and “want.”  We try to teach it at home, and apparently they’ve been discussing it in Kindergarten as well.

With these lessons fresh in her mind, Sadie saw a teaching moment for Drew.

“Drew,” she began rather kindly for someone about to impart such an important lesson. “You don’t need another book.  You want another book.  All you need is water and food … and someone to love you.”

Needs include food, water and ... a baby walker?
She must’ve added that last one herself – or picked it up at school.  When I give the old “need v. want” lecture, I never quite remember the “someone to love you” part.
I was happy to witness the exchange, and content that my five year old actually does listen to what we say. Heck, she even understands it. 
But Sadie wasn’t done.  As Drew put an arm behind his head and looked up at the ceiling to ponder this lesson, his sister took her time thinking and carefully adding to the list.

“You also need a home…  (pause)

And a bed … (another pause)

And someone to take care of you when you’re sick.  Like a parent, or an aunt, or a grandmother … or an older cousin who’s like a teenager. … (pause)

I guess that’s kind of like someone who loves you.”

She quieted down for almost a minute, and I mistook the silence for the two of them possibly falling asleep.  Then she started anew.

“You also need a pet, like a dog or a kitten. (pause)

… And if you’re a baby, you need a walker, so you can learn how to walk. Though, I guess you could learn to walk without a walker.  It would be hard...(pause)

… You also need toys, to play with.”

Drew thought he was understanding how it all worked, and offered up his own.

“Do you need candy?”

Sadie drew the line there.  “No, you don’t need candy.  You want candy.”

Drew disagreed, “I need candy.”

“You both need to go to bed,” I said, sadly ending this important life lesson by a five year old.  Clearly, we all needed some sleep.