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Archive for the ‘Growing up’ Category

Frankly, I don’t have any great words of wisdom to share as we prepare to emerge from the 2000s, or the “aughts,” as they’ve become known.

I do realize, though, that as parents, we tend to operate in the short term. Which practice is on the schedule tonight? When’s the Pinewood Derby car need to be done for Scouts? (soon, actually) Where’s the gear for the upcoming season, whether it be snow boots or swim trunks?

I took some time today to reflect on all the changes we’ve experienced, as a family, since the decade began. The big picture, as it were. What’s changed?

Everything.

Both of our kids were born in this decade. That’s change enough for anyone, with the routine of life turned upside down.

Other changes have been substantial, too: Settling into the house we had recently purchased in 1999, a new car bought in 2000 (the car we’re still driving, in fact). And that’s to say nothing of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, 9/11 and the myriad of world events that have been chronicled endless on the decade-retrospective lists.

But in our little corner of the world, it’s been the kids that have shaped our decade. We’ve gone from decorating a nursery to solving algebra equations. From bottle-feedings, to hospitalizations and surgeries, to the first successful bike-ride and the family traditions we’ve begun to establish.

What did we do with our time before we had kids? I know we were busy, but I can’t imagine we were busier than we are now. Sometimes it’s a little much, but we’re on the path now. No turning back.

At this point, nearly a decade into our parenting journey, I’m not sure we’d even know which direction to go.

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summertime

Image via PhotographyBlog.com

It’s been quite the unusual summer for our family.

First, because of changes in our job situations, the kiddoz were home all summer, rather than going to full-day child care. On balance, I think it was good for them, and I KNOW it was good for our bank accounts. Was it good for the parents? On balance, I think so, but a few breaks are always in order, if you know what I mean.

Second, it was just an odd summer. It feels more like summer now, today, than it did in July. Our vegetation is getting mixed signals on a massive scale. Wonder if hibernation is affected by the weird weather patterns?

And third, we hit a few more milestones this summer. Our 8-year-old is now an avid bike and scooter rider, as well as a deep end-tested swimmer. The 4-year-old is actively engaged in disassembling things around the house using tools, and comes into his second year of preschool this fall as an accomplished artist, reader and writer.

We’re now fully returned to the school routine, which gives us a bit of a daytime break and keeps those active brains (the kids’, not ours) engaged. And as I prepare for my third job change this year, it seems worthwhile to chronicle where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite books, “The Journey is the Destination,” taken from the journals of Reuters photographer Dan Eldon. Dan experienced more in his 22 years than many of us will experience in our lifetimes. Here’s hoping that we all will continue to experience all life has to offer on our journey — this summer (even as it winds down) and beyond.

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beesMy parenting revelation for the week (and it’s been a long time coming) …

The kids can actually be useful. They really can work around the house. And depending on the day, and the task, they might actually enjoy it.

It’s like chores, but even better, somehow.

Do they get paid? Sometimes, and certain amounts. Another topic for another day.

But I welcome this new chapter of dad-hood. Now, to avoid the perception of exploitation …

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puzzle1It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and I’ve had this on my mind for a while, so …

I was walking to work from one of our “satellite” parking lots recently, and started gazing around downtown Cedar Rapids. In my three-block walk alone, I passed a bar, a refrigeration equipment company, a credit union, a social services agency for women, a city park and a church. Had I taken a slightly different route to the office, I’d have passed some homes and a restaurant as well.

Here’s what struck me: All of these institutions came to be at different times in the history of the city. There was no “master plan” that resulted in the downtown we see today. (And of course, had there been a master plan, our catastrophic flooding last year has swept a great deal of that plan away.)

My point? Plans for our kids can’t be any more structured, or organized, than the plans for a city’s downtown. We have one kid who’s very cautious, another who’s unnervingly reckless. One will try almost any food, another is exremely picky. One loves math, the other is more of an artist.

And yet they both love to wrestle with their dad (when there’s time), watch SpongeBob and draw grand chalk designs on the sidewalk.

What pieces help assemble the puzzle that is our kids? I probably have a better idea now than I will in a few years. And while I’d like to think I can control it, deep inside — I know better.

And hey, that’s part of the fun, right? Seeing how the puzzle comes together?

I can only hope they don’t end up with missing pieces.

Here’s to the joy of 5,000.

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Books, books

Picked our 4-year-old son up from preschool today, as is my weekday routine, and he sighed wearily as he climbed into the car.

“I’m really beat today, Dad,” he said. “A lot of learning going on.”

Oh, for the days when education was the most demanding part of one’s day. I’d take that now, in a heartbeat.

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Enjoy it while you can

I was wrestling with the kids the other day — one of their favorite things to do with me — when I suddenly started getting worried.

It wasn’t that I thought they were ready to take their ol’ dad (though that’ll happen eventually), or that they would get hurt in any way. They’re still small enough (7 and 4) that injury isn’t a real issue. At least, I hope it’s not.

No, what worried me was the day that it won’t happen anymore.

We won’t wrestle the way we do now, because the kids won’t want to, or they’ll be too strong for me, or they just won’t have the time in their busy lives to goof around like that.

Seems like we’re already getting to that point, in some cases. Our 7-year-old already knows a LOT more about video games than I do, and he’ll soon be getting homework that’ll throw me for a loop.

It hasn’t happened yet. But it will. And so, I need to take advantage of every opportunity to wrestle, or admire a Lego project, or help with artwork, or build a sign for a JumpStart game.

Soon — far too soon — they’ll stop asking me about all that stuff. Especially if I say no a few too many times.

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Inadequacies

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately:

As my dad tenure lengthens, I grow more and more concerned about how I’ll handle the duties of my parental future.

It’s something every parent runs into at some point, but for some reason I just can’t get past it right now.

I hear about the issues kids face now in middle and high school, and they bear no resemblance to the stuff I had to handle at those ages. I was bullied by kids who called me names and tripped me in the hall. But I was never concerned that a kid would seriously injure me, much less shoot or stab me.

And drugs? The worst of that, seemingly, was the wine bottles behind the stands at the football game, or the “rough kids” who stood outside on the smoking patio with their cancer sticks. (Jeez, some of our teachers even stood out there with them.)

My point? I don’t know that I’ll have the answers if my kids ask questions about stuff like narcotics, or STDs, or whether they should carry guns to school. I mean, I can tell them they absolutely shouldn’t get involved with stuff like that, and even to stay away from the kids that are. But obviously, that might not be enough.

I’m doing the best I can. So is my wife. We’re trying to be good parents. But I fear I don’t have enough answers. Or, perhaps more to the point, that I have answers, but they’re not good enough and they won’t work.

I fear being a failure as a parent. If I am, it won’t be because I don’t care enough, or that I’m not smart enough. It’ll be because when my kids face those kind of decisions, I won’t have the life experiences to address them as convincingly as they’ll need.

That’s the question I’ve found myself asking: Will I know enough about what matters, when it matters?

Maybe I just gotta spend more time on Facebook. Those darn kids, anyway. 🙂

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