Tag Archives: parenting

How LeVar Burton Avoids Getting Shot

The host of Reading Rainbow and star of Star Trek: The Next Generation, LeVar Burton, has a specific ritual to keep from getting shot by police:

We like to congratulate ourselves on our black president and pretend racism doesn’t exist in America.

LeVar Burton’s story says otherwise.

It’s insane. But it’s common sense for Burton. The way everyone else in the video responds is a good indication that Burton’s little ‘don’t get shot’ ritual is the norm.

It’s one of many things I’ll have to teach my son, the kinds of things I don’t normally have to think about because I’m white.

Props to Single Parents

Dragon MiloSometimes kids can be monsters. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we love ’em. But some days they drive you nuts. That’s why single parents need special props.

Last week Abby took a last minute, 6-day trip to Mississippi to help some friends. School had just ended, it was the start of summer and suddenly she was gone for nearly a week.

I instantly became a full-time single parent. Not fun.

And not because my kids were monsters. If anything, they were easy. We had enough stuff scheduled that nobody was bored (though I was run a little ragged) and that kept fights and whining to a minimum.

But the kids were still monsters, devouring any sense of freedom I had. The simple responsibility of being the sole provider and care taker meant I had no freedom to do so many simple things. Running to the library or the bank required bringing the kids with me. I couldn’t just run to the store after they went to bed. I had a babysitter one night for a vestry meeting (yeah, how ridiculous is that?) and I took off a little early so I could do some fun stuff, wander around a bookstore and grab a quiet meal by myself. I ended up running errands and eating at Subway.

Then every time I turned around nobody had cleaned the kitchen, folded the laundry or mowed the lawn. Oh yeah, that’s my job.

I don’t know how you single parents do it.

Raising kids is hard work. But doing it without backup? Always being on? Never being able to just go do something by yourself? That’s horrific. Single parents deserve a major pat on the back and day at the spa.

I only had to do it for six days.


Embracing Mistakes, Pain & Failure

Lexi BikingNobody likes to make mistakes, feel pain or experience failure. But that’s how we learn, grow and succeed. It’s something we’re losing today.

A 2004 article in Psychology Today explores this phenomena, and if anything it seems more relevant today. The article bemoans the way parents over-protect their children, keeping them from experiencing the mistakes, pain and failure that will teach them important life lessons. Kids are coached through play and never learn how to skin their knee and get back up again. Parents swoop in to resolve every playground conflict and kids never learn to handle their own disputes. Parents fight with teachers, trying to gain every advantage for their child. In the end, kids learn how to work the system instead of how to overcome challenges.

If allowed to, learning how to get along with others would actually make kids smarter: “Social engagement actually improves intellectual skills. It fosters decision-making, memory and thinking, speed of mental processing”

The article points to college as the time when the “emotional training wheels come off,” but now kids totter and crash. Relationship problems used to be the biggest issue for college students, a developmentally appropriate concern. But since 1996, anxiety has overtaken relationship woes. Now 15% of college students nationwide are depressed. Those relationship woes haven’t gone away, but worsened, with stalking on the rise. Anorexia and bulimia now effect 40% of women at some point in their college career. Binge drinking is a steadily growing problem.

Yikes. College students don’t know how to cope. And in some ways colleges have caved. At one point 94% of seniors at Harvard were graduating with honors. It reminds me of one of the conflicts in the Pixar super-hero film The Incredibles: If everyone is special, then no one is special.

It’s not just college students either. Adolescence has extended into the 30s.

“Kids need to feel badly sometimes,” says child psychologist David Elkind. “We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.”

Get Up Again
It’s a hard thing. Nobody wants to see their kids hurt.

I think about teaching Lexi how to ride her bike last summer. Failure seemed to shut her down. But more than failure, the fear was the most crippling. Fear of falling down, certainly, but also the fear of failure more than the failure itself. I realized more than anything I had to teach Lexi how to get up and try again. I let her “crash” into the grass at one point, proving that she could dust her self off and try again. She almost didn’t.

I’m hardly an over-protective parent. But even in a simple example like learning how to ride a bike I see these difficulties in coping with mistakes, pain and failure.

Somehow, we need to learn to embrace them. Only then can we rise above them.

Thank You Bruises
As Dallas Clayton says in An Awesome Book of Thanks, “Thank you to… those bumps and bruises that turn ‘couldn’ts’ to ‘coulds.’ Thank you to those for they make us all stronger. They make us all smarter. They make us last longer.”

“If you want to double your success rate you need to triple your failure rate.” That’s the mantra of an off-the-grid, quasi homeless character in Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema who learns to maximize his panhandling to the point that he does it to help the truly homeless and destitute rather than himself.

We can’t be so afraid of failure, because failure is what leads to success. You have to try, try and try again. As much as I hate to admit it, Yoda was wrong.

Finally, writer Neil Gaiman says it like this in his New Year’s wishes from last year:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Life Isn’t Always a New Baseball Stadium

Let’s blog about something that’s not my book, OK? Cool. (Wait, did I just ruin it?)

So there’s this guy I follow on Twitter, Karl Pearson-Cater. I know him as bigboxcar. I don’t know him personally and I don’t remember how or why I started following him. He was probably just one of the interesting local people that folks kept referencing or retweeting and eventually I just went to the source.

Anyway, last week Karl was making dinner with the family and boiling water spilled on his 2-year-old and 5-year-old sons. Major accident. 911 called. Ambulance. Screaming children. Second degree burns. Parent’s worst nightmare. This week the 5-year-old will need a skin graft. How do you explain that to a 5-year-old? Your feet hurt so now we’re going to cut your head to make it better.

Today this post came up and all I could think was “yeah!”:

“We gave my 5-year-old the choice to shave dad’s head to look like how his hair will look after surgery. Thusly, I am bald now.”

One of my favorite comments from Karl’s whole experience:

“If I could trade feet with my 5-year-old for 2 weeks, I would. Someone please research this and invent it.”

Maybe some of those scientists I know could get on that? Thanks.

Karl has reflected on how weird it is to tweet/blog about this mess (he’s usually funny quips and videos) and has apologized for it, but he finds it therapeutic. I think we all find it therapeutic. As someone else responded:

“No need to apologies. It is good people talk about things, and life isn’t always a new baseball stadium.”

Yes! Sometimes Facebook, Twitter and blogs are all funny stories, wonderful news and stadium openings, but life isn’t like that. Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes we need to commiserate. We’re not all superheroes. I think the more we can be honest in these online forums the more healthy and beneficial they can be.

I’m Not a Super Dad

The last day to pre-order Addition by Adoption is tomorrow. If you don’t order it by tomorrow, you’ll have to wait for the official launch on May 11. The book has received a lot of press in the past week—OK, “press” meaning friends and contacts blogging and tweeting about the book. But they’ve had a lot of nice things to say. It’s enough to make your head swell. So it’s time to pop that bubble: I’m not a super dad.

I’ve found that the biggest challenge of adoption and raising kids in general is just the day to day. There are day-to-day challenges and difficulties that you have to rise up and face every day. Those challenges can wear you down pretty quickly if you’re not careful.

For whatever reason I woke up on the wrong side of the bed Saturday and I had no patience. That wouldn’t be so awful, but Milo woke up on the wrong side of his crib and he’d been screaming all morning. Not a good combination.

Finding ways to deal with those kinds of frustrations is crucial. On Saturday Milo and I had to take a break from each other. My wife and I frequently have times where one of us needs to ‘run away,’ and I that’s what I needed Saturday.

It’s stuff like trying to get work done and your daughter won’t stop asking if Sesame Street is on. At first it’s cute, then it’s annoying and then it’s like poking a tiger with a stick at the zoo. The other day Lexi did that so often I told her if she asked me one more time she couldn’t watch it. So she asked if it was time for Milo to take a nap, which happens to be the same time Sesame Street is on. Sneaky. Very sneaky.

Adoption certainly has its own unique challenges and issues you need to recognize (and in some cases very serious issues), but it’s really just parenting. More complicated parenting, yeah, but it’s still parenting. And parenting is pretty complicated and hard and stressful and challenging. Did I mention I had no patience on Saturday?

That’s one thing I like about the book—it’s honest. The book includes these moments of frustration. Sometimes you need an afternoon of TV and snacks and no kids to regain some sanity (at least one review expressed relief at sharing that sentiment). Any parent who doesn’t get frustrated by their kids and need a break once and while is either lying or a saint. It’s not the kids’ fault, it’s not your fault, it’s just how life is.

Continue reading I’m Not a Super Dad

We’re All Adopted: Overcoming the Stigma

I came across this reflection on the stigma surrounding adoption. It’s pretty heart-breaking. The writer, an adoptee herself and an adoptive mother, talks to kids about adoption a lot.

Here’s what 10-year-old “Sam” said when she asked him what he thought it meant to be adopted:

“Well, being adopted is when the kids that nobody wants are put into an orphanage and then if the kid is really good, someone rich will pick them and buy them to have in their family.”


She writes about five themes that continually come up about adopted children:

  1. Adopted children are unwanted.
  2. Adopted children can become more desirable when they exhibit good behavior, i.e. being the perfect child.
  3. Adopted children are thought of as a commodity; they are a good that is exchanged in a transaction typically received by someone considered rich or well-to-do.
  4. Adopted children are disposable; their permanence in their adoptive family is always conditional.
  5. Adopted children deserve pity, because they are the kids who no one wants.

That’s even more heart-breaking. Help me in overcoming, shattering and in any way possible breaking these myths about adopted children. Kids (and all of us) need to hear the truth.

Continue reading We’re All Adopted: Overcoming the Stigma

Parenting is Not Always Awesome

I post a lot of funny stories, quotes and random slices of life with my kids on Twitter. From all that hilarity you might get the idea that being a parent is a cakewalk. You might think that being a work-at-home dad is full of laughs, play-doh and productivity. If you get that impression, you’re not reading close enough.

For all the funny things my kids do, there are just as many days when I want to throw my hands up in the air and take my union-sanctioned break. But I don’t get one of those. I’m not a work-at-home dad because I love kids so much. I work at home because it’s practical. We’re a family that needs two incomes and we’re a family that can’t afford daycare (sure, we could probably do some financial acrobatics and make things work one way or the other, but we don’t). To be honest, I don’t always have the patience for this job.

I like things organized, orderly and quiet. That doesn’t work with kids. So I learn to pick my battles. The daily chore of convincing my daughter to wear pants was just too much, so I settled for the rule that if she was going to go outside then she had to wear pants, but if she wanted to run around the house half-naked, I wasn’t going to fight it. These are the kinds of ridiculous compromises I find myself making. I’ll trade a little self-respect for sanity any day.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my kids. But they can still drive me crazy.

I think sometimes we act like parenting has to be this deeply rewarding experience and to ever complain about it makes you less of a person. But sometimes your kid throws up on your or they won’t stop screaming or you’ve taught them how to talk but not how to be quiet—and it’s all a bit much. It’s not your kids’ fault, they’re just being kids. But as parents I think we need a little slack to say this is hard.

Summer is Over

School started for teachers today, so my wife is back at work. Just like that, summer is over. I’m back to hanging with the kids full time during the day, relegating the paying work to the evenings and any time the children are sleeping (or completely distracted, like now).

I love that as a teacher my wife has summers off. It allows for amazing things like a 12-day vacation. But it also makes getting back into the swing of full time dad a little difficult (I’m struggling with the wording here—I don’t want to imply that during the summer I’m somehow not dad, or I’m a part time dad, or that what I do is childcare or babysitting—it’s not, it’s parenting. I just need some sort of non-implying-all-that-junk lingo to say that I’m going from having help all day to going solo all day and then working all night). These transitions are always a little weird.

But on the plus side, they do make me value my time. Try getting anything accomplished with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. Not easy. Some days I realize that “accomplishing” anything is a fool’s errand. Stop being productive and start coloring.

These times also make me reconsider what I’m doing. What’s important with my life? You’ve got to pay the bills, but I’ve also got kids to play with. Do I want to get work done and let lots of Sesame Street happen, or do I want to gird up my sanity and go do something crazy and fun? It’s a difficult balance to strike.

As for right now, I should probably go color.

Adoption and Abortion

If the practice of abortion ended the world would have to deal with 42 million unwanted children every year. How can anti-abortion advocates respond to that when there are already 148 million orphans in the world? How can we ask for more unwanted children when we’re not taking care of the already orphaned children in the world?

I ask this question not to defend abortion. I don’t like abortion. The numbers are staggering—42 million abortions worldwide every year? That’s nearly as high as the annual worldwide death rate (approximately 56 million people die ever year).

I ask this question because I don’t think anti-abortion advocates focus enough on solutions. Adoption is one solution, and while churches and Christians are very supportive of adoption (I should know), they’re not supportive enough (to the tune of 148 million children without families).

For many Christians, adoption is a “good thing.” It’s a good deed you did and we’ll applaud you for it, but it’s not a normal practice. It’s what you do when you can’t have kids. It’s what you do when you’ve already had a few kids “of your own.” But it’s rarely a first choice. It’s rarely promoted as something all families should consider (I was ecstatic to see Rick Warren talking about promoting adoption in his church).

I know adoption isn’t for everyone. There are inherent challenges and if you’re not prepared you have no business adopting. But it just seems inconsistent to me that Christians are so against abortion but don’t seem truly prepared to end abortion.

When a pregnant mother considers abortion, would you step forward to adopt her baby? And why would she believe that you’d adopt her baby when she sees the 148 million orphans we haven’t adopted?

Abortion is a difficult issue and I hate talking about it because it’s so divisive. But this question has been nagging at me for a while. Why isn’t adoption standard practice in the church? It’s definitely supported and encouraged when it happens, and I’d wager that it’s more widespread in the church, but it’s still far from the norm. If adoption were the norm it would change the abortion debate. For that matter if adoption were the norm it would change the world.

Surviving the First Week

Abby went back to work on Monday and we’ve now survived our first week back to “normal.”

In some ways it was great. I actually managed to accomplish some things. I kept up with the minimal amount of work I have right now (and actually had a few leads come in for more work). I even managed to do a little cleaning and reorganizing (with two kids I think we’re always going to be reorganizing something).

In some ways it was not so great. Like when Lexi peed on the bathroom rug while I was giving Milo a bath (if that wasn’t enough, the washing machine then ate the rug—I think it’s time to put the rug out of its misery). Or when Abby was late getting home from school and Milo had been screaming on and off for an hour and wouldn’t take a nap and Lexi started screaming and then Speak had a seizure (Speak’s OK, he’s had them before and there’s not much we can do about it—consequences of a small, pet store dog). Those moments were less than fun.

I keep trying to tell myself that I don’t have to actually accomplish anything during the day (keeping the kids alive and fed is an accomplishment in and of itself), but that doesn’t jive with my responsibility-driven nature. I also keep trying to summon patience I don’t naturally have. With a wailing 6-month-old and a 3-year-old who refuses to listen, I need a deep well of patience.

But overall we did manage to survive. So that’s good.