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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Art of Parenthood #2: Being Needed by Your Children through Daddy-Daughter Dates

Daddy-daughter camping dates are the perfect way to bond.
 "Daddy?" my 3-year-old daughter's frightened, trembling, needy voice pleaded with me to be there for her all with one simple word. Her hand touched my shoulder and I came out from under my covers with my headlamp shining in her face.

All the worry, concern, tiredness - everything - drained out of her voice when she knew I was there and awake.

"Oh," she said nonchalantly. "Why is the headlamp still on?"

We were on our first-ever Daddy-daughter camping date in Grand Teton National Park on Jackson Lake. It was 3:30 a.m. and the full moon shone overhead so brightly that I had woken up an hour earlier thinking it was predawn light coming into the tent. I was so alert thinking of impending morning that insomnia set in in a big way when I checked my clock and found out it was 2:30 a.m. So I had finally turned on my headlamp and started to read a book I had brought for just such an occasion.

But when her little hand touched my shoulder and I heard that wavering, higher-pitched-than-normal voice, I felt needed in a way I don't think I ever have before. It felt... good. Insanely good. I felt loved, appreciated, and even depended on. I knew had I not been there immediately for her, she would have burst into hysterics instead of calmly laying back down and falling instantly to sleep, which is precisely what she did when I told her I was just reading, tucked her back in, and kissed her goodnight.

Daddy-daughter camping also helped her feel needed, as I was
able to let her help gather kindling for our fire. She loved it.


Being needed may be the greatest thanks a parent ever receives. Had she awoken during our Daddy-daughter date crying for Mommy I would have been heartbroken. But she wanted me. Needed me. That is all the validation I ever need as a parent. And she made me laugh with her abrupt mood change, which made it all the richer.

The Daddy-daughter date came about because we have been having discipline issues lately with our son, 4. He is testing boundaries and really pressing us to see if we can make child-shaped holes in the wall. He began voicing to his mother recently how he feels like his only interactions with me were for discipline, and I could feel distance mounting because of it, as could my wife. I scheduled a Daddy-son camping date with him just to let him know that I love him, like to be with him, do things with him, and most importantly can do more with him than discipline.

We had a great time. We got doughnuts and other snacks from the store, we headed into the mountains, set up the tent together and he fell asleep as I read to him from a children's chapter book. The event brought us closer together and I can honestly say I haven't needed to discipline him as much since, although there have been plenty of bumps in the road. We are also more liable to play together again, something that was beginning to lack in our relationship as he did so many naughty things that could make Curious George blush. I'm now more of a necessity in my son's life since I took him camping.

So the Daddy-daughter date was a continuation of that. And boy did it ever work. Leading up to the camping with her after hearing of our son's experience, she would pump her fist and say "YES!" every time I told her it was almost time for Daddy-daughter date. After the fact, I feel closer to both my children after spending the night with them in the mountains. We laugh more together, they are more open to teasing sessions with me, and just enjoy being with me more than they have in a while.

Daddy-son camping helped build a relationship that had been
struggling through major obedience/discipline issues.
Of course it's a two-way road. I also feel more apt to want to do things with them, knowing now that they will be happy about it. Heck, my daughter has even been thanking Heavenly Father in her personal prayers for her Daddy-daughter date. There may be no better way than establishing one-on-one ties like this with children to truly establish a need- and love-based relationship, especially if things are faltering in the slightest. Try it for yourself and see, even if you don't camp. Just take your child to a movie, or to the park and really play with him or her. Certain doors can only open in a child's personality if you know where to find them. For me, I found doors in the mountains and forests, alone with my precious children.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A magical hike to Jenny Lake and Hidden Falls with family in Grand Teton National Park

Getting family to Hidden Falls is more
difficult than going solo - by far. But it
is also a much more magical experience.

Our 3-year-old daughter was the first one to know we were lost. Luckily, she had a map: a large thimble-berry leaf rolled up and crinkled to look as authentic as possible. Glancing at her map and then looking up the trail and down, she gave the verdict.

"The map says we need to go that way," she stated with surety, pointing the exact direction we had been traveling along the much-used horse trail stringing between Jenny Lake and Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park.

Our 4-year-old voiced his concern about her map, collecting rocks that served as indicators of trouble - sort of tea leaves for the tiny.

"Mmm," he said. "My rocks say there is trouble that way."

It turned out he was right. We soon passed into a beautiful rock garden with view rivaling the much-more visited Inspiration Point above Hidden Falls. The garden was infested with goblins, trolls and ogres.

Inscribing on the already beat-up map with a twig, I assume
to make it more legible. Didn't work, whatever the case.
The map must have been hard to read at this point, because it tried to lead our daughter down the rocky slope infested with prickly raspberry bushes and the fore-mentioned magical creatures. A guiding hand from an almost invisible parent turned the tykes back to the path at hand.

We quietly passed through the beautiful rock graveyard so none of the trouble would know we were there. Our quiet warning whispers were occasionally punctuated by a gleeful scream from our uncontrollable and easily excitable 1-year old.

Luckily no trolls seemed to take special notice of her. Maybe they knew they couldn't eat anything so cute and friendly. The 15-month-old girl had been greeting most people we passed through the day on the busy lower trail with a wave, a grin and the word "Hi." And if you haven't seen her smile, you don't know what you were missing.

Our 4-year-old son enjoys the view from
the horse trail leading from Jenny Lake to
Hidden Falls in Grand Teton National Park.
We soon passed out of the dangerous goblin rocks into the fairy forest, where the little critters tried to play tricks on us as we drew magical marks on the trail to try to deflect their attention. Our astute son made sure he struck first, playing tricks on the fairies first. We had to teach him his idea of tricking the fairies by throwing them to the ground so they couldn't chase us anymore wasn't very nice.

In the forest, the map wielder made sure we were still on course.

"We just need to follow this trail right through to Salt Lake City," she said, probably stemming from conversations earlier in the day about a possible visit to the city for our son's birthday party at the dinosaur museum at Thanksgiving Point. Somehow, the Nauvoo Temple stood in Salt Lake City on a big green hill, and seemed to be a landmark we needed to pass on the way to the van at the edge of the lake. Hmmm...no idea where that came from at all. Who was doing this make-believe anyway?

The best part about all this is how much they loved it despite complaining about us going hiking again. We had just gone on a hiking trip for my work, and though they also loved it, they always think it will be torture going into another place like it. But once out, their fears usually dissolve amidst the playful atmosphere we foster on the trail, munching on any in-season huckleberries, raspberries, thimble berries or currants we can find.

A couple we passed commended us for hiking with our children, saying they wished they had tried harder to get their children out before they succumbed to foot-dragging. I told them my philosophy is that you usually only have to endure the pre-hike whine and the tired last bits. Everything in the middle can become magic, plain and simple.

They agreed with me, again voicing their wish they had done things differently with their kids. I hope to be a parent that never has that kind of regret with my children. I want my children to know and love the outdoors. To crave them like I do. And I think magical hikes like this one will cement fond memories of the forest and mountains, even if I do tend to jump out of the woods and make my son scream like a girl when he's dilly dallying too much. It even worked to scare an adult hiker on his own in the woods at one point. My son thought that was so funny he suggested me trying to just scare other people. I digressed.

Barely.

In the meantime, he told every hiker we passed about it.

"Hey," he said to a random man passing us. "I want to tell you something." He then launched into his story about how his daddy scared a random hiker and himself. It took a minute for the man to even register that my munchkin was talking to him, but when he finally did, he looked amused.

"Great story," the man said and continued walking on, smiling a little more than before.

I have to think differently when I hike with children. I have to constantly remind myself its not about the speed or even the destination. It's all about the experience. I don't have much to say about our time at Hidden Falls. It was little different from other times I've been there among hordes of excited tourists. But I will remember my daughter finding a tree that seemed the perfect hangout spot for a little girl, with defensive branches forming a fort-like structure just off the busy trail. I will remember the fairies, the ogres, the trolls, the maps, the tea leaves and all those things that made our day pure gold.

But most of all I will remember the family magic.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Perfect Moment: A Family Portrait

A camera wouldn't do it justice. A video camera would only be a shallow representation. The perfect moment cannot be captured in any place but your mind.

I had one tonight. It'll be there forever. I had no camera, no videos, and I don't care. It's better in the mind anyway.

I had taken my kids to the park to play while their mommy made dinner. They played, I watched with a smile. They brought in random strangers to be friends in their routines, both adults and children. They used the horseshoe pit at the park as a sandbox, driving toy tractors they had hauled from the house in my oldest daughter's pink bike bag over manufactured hills and valleys.

As I watched them play with a warm smile, my wife unexpectedly came to join us with a stroller used as a dinner cart. Had we been there so long already? She pulled out soup and biscuits and we sat on a blanket. My kids built an imaginary fire by collecting all the loose branches they could into a pile and pretending to strike between one and five matches. We then made s'mores on the fake fire, describing every gooey bit as we stacked them up for each other. When I needed a marshmallow for my stick, my oldest daughter ran to a random point along the fence 50 yards away, grabbed marshmallows, and trotted back, placing the invisible fluff on every minor point she could find on my roasting stick. My younger daughter wanted more substance to her food. She had been begging for service berries from behind the fence. She asked with points and grunts since she is only 14 months old. I was happy to oblige.

No matter how well I describe it, what picture I take, or how you envision it, the full feeling will not be clear to you. It was special because it was us. Mundane yet unique. Simple yet perfect. I was in the park for 3.5 hours and never wanted to leave. I only did because it was the kids' bedtime. Family love can make just about any moment perfect. And for me today, it was an unexpected picnic in the park with the people I couldn't live without surrounding me. There is an underlying power in family. Despite imperfections, moments like this speak of perfection more than any art masterpiece. Yes, despite flaws and problems, a family is a perfect unit.

I will do everything in my power to protect the one entrusted to me.

Walking in the backlit aspen woods with family in Grand Teton National PArk
Not much captures the feeling better than a photo like this, but it
is still a shallow comparison that lacks warmth and love,
especially for those outside my family.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

There's a baby in the Vaseline!

Me holding the naughtiest thing on the planet at
String Lake in Grand Teton National Park.
I'll never be able to figure out how my one-year-old daughter crams so much naughtiness into that tiny little body.

Take tonight's good news/bad news, for instance. I'll give you the bad news first: while I did a 30-second errand to a different part of the house, Cute Little Head, my daughter, had to see what trouble she could cause, obviously.

So when I returned from the brief errand, I found an open Vaseline jar repeatedly slipping out of her newly greased hands.

I didn't even know we had Vaseline. Where'd she get that? How'd she get it open?

Now when I say greased, I mean completely and helplessly at the mercy of a half-inch thick layer of petroleum. She could have picked up small rocks without using her opposable thumbs, which have probably gotten more workout than the chubby digits of any child her age because of her food-scrounging habits.

After the Vaseline jar clattered to the ground to spread grease in a bouncy smear across the wood floor - thankfully not the carpet -  I watched her flick her hands wildly to try and get rid of the slime. Tiny bits of Vaseline rocketed off her jiggy hands and attached to the wall like little slugs. That didn't do much to fix her situation, so I had to intervene. When I picked her up from the tornado-like circle she was turning to try and dislodge the Vaseline from her paws, I realized it was worse than I thought. Her chubby hands were barely visible through the thick layer of grease she had managed to get almost up to her elbows, jammies and all. A murky outline of round digits waved up through the pure petroleum. I spent the next half hour cleaning up after her.

When I got her to the sink, she desperately lunged for the spigot, dropping her little tushy into the sink to try and get the water running. Of course, since water is useless against the fiend that is Vaseline, all she really managed to do was soak her jammies from the waist down with cold water and make the circumference of the faucet handle a little bigger by adding a layer of petroleum.

I stripped her down to her diaper and started by using my hand as a squeegee to get as much of the sticky slime off her hands as possible. Since I had to be firm to maximize effectiveness, she looked at me like I was a villain and jutted her chin out at me so her two bottom teeth pointed at me accusingly.

After a long stay in the sink with a washcloth and jammies converted into a backup washcloth, her hands and arms looked sunburned from all the rubbing. Other than the glares, though, she took it pretty well. And now you could shine a fleet of cars with those two pieces of fabric.

Now the good news:
1. My hands feel softer than they ever have.
2. The wood underneath the disaster zone is uber shiny.
3. I could go swimming and a good portion of my body would come out dry with only a few beads of water left atop the film of Vaseline still hanging out there.
4. I'm pretty sure I could do the Tom Cruise underwear slide down the hall without wearing socks.
5. We're pretty much out of Vaseline.
6. No greased babies slipped from my hands during cleanup.
7. Mine and baby's fingerprints will be visible to the naked eye for the next week, making crime seem less tempting.
8. Baby is asleep as I write this.

You may think this is funny. If you do, stop laughing. Karma will make your kid do something even worse. I think I have to improve my zone defense.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's a small world after all: How the world expands as we age

The whole world in his hands
One of life's biggest paradoxes is that the world enlarges as we grow up. It's not that it physically expands, it's just that our perception of it does. Case in point: looking at a map of Australia, you think it's this tiny continent. Then you get there and try to drive from Sydney in southeast Australia to the Great Barrier Reef in northeast Australia. After several days of non-stop driving on the wrong side of the road without any sign of colorful little fishies and brilliant coral displays, you realize Australia is bigger than it's boomerang-shaped self looks to be on a map. This happened to me when I was 14. If I ever go back, I will fly to northeast Australia to experience the Great Barrier Reef since I never made it as a kid. We way underestimated the size of that world.

But that's nothing. We live in tiny Wilson, Wyoming. When I grew up, I remember the sign that read Wilson: population 100. Nowadays, it's a whopping 250 on that sign. The closest town to Wilson is Teton Village, basically a ski resort with a post office. The next closest town is Jackson, known by many as Jackson Hole, though that term technically encompasses the whole valley. We love to go to Teton Village on our bikes in the summer because 1) We have a bike path that leads there basically from our house and 2) They have a fountain/patio area with a stream running through it that our kids love to play at.

But Teton Village is something else entirely to our daughter: the edge of the world. We found this out today as we drove past the road leading to Teton Village.

"Look!" my 3-year-old daughter said excitedly. "I saw the way to Teton Village!"

I acknowledged her astuteness since she repeated the mantra until I did. When I did, it got cuter.

"I saw the way to Teton Village!" she said. "It's over there on the other side of the world!"

We laughed and she covered her adorable little face sheepishly. I didn't even bother to correct her, because to her, that's as far as we go in that direction, generally. So it's the edge of the world. That creek they love to play in at Teton Village might as well flow off a sharp edge and fall past a turtle holding the world on its back.

I don't know whether or not it's a good thing that I know a bit more than my daughter about how expansive the world is. On one hand, I have loads of amazing experiences getting to know the world I live in. On the other hand, the world no longer fits in the palm of my hands or revolves around me. If only I could remember what it's like to see the world as my daughter sees it - a small and friendly place where almost everyone loves me. How much would be different if everyone could see the world that way?

Go on. See the world like a child sees it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Modern Mormon Men: How To Preach Like A Four Year-Old

My newest post on MMM tells the funny story of my son sharing the gospel with our neighbors.

Modern Mormon Men: How To Preach Like A Four Year-Old: by  Apparent Parent  ( bio ) "Hey," my son told my neighbor, "you didn't watch general conference." My neighbor is not LDS and lives w...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Superhuman parenting: super speed

It was like one of those moments you hear about. You know the ones: Baby is about to leap off some precarious ledge and a mother covers a ludicrous distance in time to stop certain death for the child. Or there's the common story of the child (who has the propensity to sink faster than a man's heart when forced to watch "Twilight" with his wife) that ventures to the side of the pool only to be snatched out of the air by a father who just swam an Olympic-sized pool in under two seconds to avert the disaster.

I believe these moments are real - a moment where sheer parenting adrenaline flows so purely that a parent has super powers for a small snatch of time. I've heard enough of these stories from credible sources that I have to believe them. Every parent has one of these at least once, right?

So there I am in church, watching my three children while my wife played prelude music. One child I have given a tithing envelope to take to the bishop while the two girls, 3 and 10-months old, stick with me on the bench. I glance back and forth between my son, who I am watching with a proud smile as he delivers the envelope, and my 10-month old, who I know to be the tricksiest of tricksters.

One glance I spent a moment too long adoring my son, and when I returned my gaze to my daughter, she was falling upside down and backward off the bench. Time slowed down. It was like one of those movies where, you know, time slows down at a critical juncture. I watched as my baby fell, twisting into an upside-down awkwardness a few feet away. I felt those mighty parental juices flowing into my veins like pure injected Slushee. I knew I could catch her. Just as her head was about to bounce off the floor, I completely failed to snatch her out of the air. Yep. I did nothing. My parental juices spent way too long in the injection phase and forgot to move into action phase. My arm was still resting on the pew when impact occurred, despite all the slow-motion hubbub.

But luckily the juices flowed now. You have never seen a father snatch a baby off the floor and abandon his two older children to disappear from a chapel full of people wondering what caused the loud bump shortly before the baby started screaming. So while those things may happen to other parents, mine has a delayed kick in. It's like my brain had to have time to register the danger before my body would react. All systems were go, but I'm pretty sure I still wore the proud smile from watching my son with the tithing envelope when her noggin hit the floor.  Even my emergency system has to boot up first. So while I respect these stories when I hear them from others, so far they just don't happen to me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My daughter the Roomba

My kid is a Roomba. It's sad but true. Same tiny stature, same sucking noises, same erratic flight pattern, although these things are cute when my daughter does them.

In case you don't know, a Roomba is a pint-size vacuum that goes around eating things off the floor until it bumps into objects too large to swallow, when it turns around and makes a run for it to find more particulate edibility. This is the perfect description of any "oral phase" baby. And if you don't think this matches the description of a teething child, I'll just prove it to you by pulling out text from Roomba's advertising campaigns for comparison with my Baby Roomba.

Roomba: On-board scheduling allows you to preset up to seven times per week for Roomba to clean when it's most convenient for you.
Baby Roomba: Yep. It's called meal time, but my Roomba has a preset for 21 times per week, and it can't be switched off.

Roomba: Two Auto Virtual Walls create an invisible barrier that blocks Roomba from entering off-limit areas.
Baby Roomba: Who needs "virtual walls" when you can have real ones? We use a bench and a kitchen chair to keep baby confined to the living room/dining area so she can't climb up the stairs, eat Legos in the kids' bedroom or eat the grout leftover from tiling the bathroom.

Roomba: Compact Home Base for Roomba to dock and recharge when done vacuuming or the battery is low.
Baby Roomba: It's called a crib, Roomba, now go to sleep!

Roomba: Uses a three-stage cleaning system to vacuum 98% of dirt, dust and debris from floors.
Baby Roomba: I'm pretty sure Baby Roomba does better than 98%. I have seen her vacuum up particles I didn't think existed. My favorite is when one of the older kids spills spaghetti and her face goes to the floor to lap gratefully at the missing marinara.

Roomba: Cleaning head suspension system allows Roomba to automatically adjust between carpet, tile, hardwood and linoleum floors.
Baby Roomba: No problem. Whatever the surface, baby will find contraband to shove in her face. At least she's getting better about spitting it out when we go to sweep her mouth. Enough back of the throat prods and anyone learns to cough up.

Roomba: Counter-rotating bristle brush and beater brush work together like a dustpan and broom.
Baby Roomba: Forefinger and opposable thumb - on each hand!

Roomba: Fine vacuum filter traps dust, pollen and tiny particulates inside bin.
Baby Roomba: The mouth is kind of a staging area, but often those particulates make it to the inside bin, or tummy, as many parents call it.

Roomba: Cleans the whole floor, including the areas you see and those you can't.
Baby Roomba: Yup - easily slips under the table, under chairs, behind garbage, etc. leaving behind a spotless floor.

Roomba: Vacuums under and around furniture and along wall edges...
Baby Roomba: ...and between tiles! No loose grout is safe from Baby Roomba's disposal hole.

Roomba: Selects from dozens of robotic behaviors more than 60 times per second to optimize coverage.
Baby Roomba: You never know what she's going to do next - might eat the mouse ball. Might vault off the chair backwards to continue feeding. Might start eating feathers off the stairs. Often these changes come as fast as 60 per second.

Roomba: Has Light-Touch Bumper Technology which accurately discerns soft barriers from solid barriers, allowing Roomba to go under curtains, comforters, bed skirts and couch skirts.
Baby Roomba: "That's where the remote disappeared to!" you might say as you snatch a thoroughly dusty Baby Roomba out from under the bed. Also has the ability to run from authority figures at a fast crawl.

Roomba: Dirt Detect Technology uses an acoustic sensor to help find dirtier areas and spend more time cleaning them.
Baby Roomba: So that's what all that mumbling and buzzing is about when she's bouncing off things under the table and trying to form a meal out of our unintentional discards.

Roomba: Cliff Detection Sensors allow Roomba to avoid stairs and other drop-offs.
Baby Roomba: I think mine's defective. Cliffs seem awfully attractive to Baby Roomba for some reason.

Roomba: Anti-Tangle Technology keeps Roomba from getting stuck on cords, carpet fringe and tassels, helping Roomba to clean on its own without supervision.
Baby Roomba: Can only clean without supervision, thus avoiding tangles with her parents.

Roomba: Built-in handle makes for easy carrying.
Baby Roomba: Easy to pick up by the seat of her pants.

Roomba: Simple operation – just press the Clean button and Roomba does the rest.
Baby Roomba: There's a button?

Roomba: Comes with one extra filter.
Baby Roomba: Didn't come with any, but we go through like 150 per month.

Roomba price:
$349.99-$599.99


Baby Roomba price:
Started with $12,000 in hospital/doctor bills and the price keeps adding up, but totally worth every penny and more.

Roomba Specifications:
Package Dimensions: 17 x 18 x 5 inches
Robot Weight: 8.3 lbs.


Is it any coincidence these are almost Baby Roomba's exact specs at birth? I don't think so. So I think it's obvious and conclusive. My wife gave birth to a Roomba less than a year ago.

Friday, April 13, 2012

March another record for visitation to Apparent Parent

Starting a new job in March, blogging has been hard to get to. My last post happened a month ago. Enough said. And that post was simply to announce record visitation for the blog in the month of February. Well, despite not writing a word on this blog since then, March surpassed February's numbers, which were until that point a record by 40 percent. And March beat that by a significant 27 percent.

Who knew?

That means that even though I may not be doing my work over here, you have been. Thank you for sharing the word about this blog. It means a lot to me. Become a member, tell your friends, like the blog on FaceBook, find me on Twitter: @MarkDWilcox, however you want to keep up. And the more support I receive, the more I'll blog. Promise.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Record visitation to Apparent Parent

February was a record month for visitation to Apparent Parent by more than 40 percent! Thank you for all who come and take the time to read, comment and enjoy my blog. I especially appreciate those of you who go out of your way to spread the good word. Keep on telling others about my blog so I feel more motivated to keep writing here.

Thank you again!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Household magnetism: Attraction and repulsion between family members

I never know what to expect when I get home. Some days I am a chick magnet, with my wife and two girls racing to be the first one to hug me, then cling to me no matter what I do for a good portion of the night. Meanwhile, my son ignores me in favor of Hot Wheels. Other days, I get home to three kids that zip to me while my wife glares and gets as far from me as possible. As far as I know, I've done nothing to contribute to a negative mood. I'm just happy to be home with a (mostly) loving family. This got me thinking about magnetism within the family. Each person must have a north and south pole setting, and the settings constantly flip flop or even neutralize in these human magnets. Below is a list of potential familial magnetic settings, and the things that can happen to change the north and south poles to make opposites attract within the family.

North pole: Daddy
South pole: Everyone else
Mommy has had an excellent day with the kids. Everyone played well together and behaved themselves. Daddy comes home to a blissful feeling in the air and a total of four clingons that just won't let go. Daddy walks around with kids hanging on his legs for most of the night or asking to get on his shoulders. Mommy gives lots of hugs and kisses. Daddy has good chances once kids go down to bed, though bedtime will take a long time since minor magnets won't let go of his legs as he tries to walk away.

North pole: Daddy
South pole: Kids, Mommy
This setting happens when children misbehave and fight constantly, or when Mommy gets an annoying phone call just before daddy arrives home. South poles open the door and run into the snow without shoes because they need the north pole so badly. Kids cannot get far enough away from their fellow south pole and her accompanying mood. Their north pole is viewed as sanctuary, and you can feel the repulsion between the poles. This is an interesting setting though, because Daddy's north pole only attracts the kids' south pole. Somehow the mommy south pole only works for the sake of repulsion. While Daddy is still fully attracted to Mommy, Mommy imitates a north pole with all its frigidity and runs off to hide from the family with a long book which she reads in one night.

North pole: Baby sister
South pole: Older sister, a futile baby sister (toward older sister only), Daddy
This one is pretty much a constant if no other magnets have been switched on. No amount of fatherly swatting can dissuade the 3-year-old sister from pouncing with great alacrity and insistence on baby sister, who so wants to share a pole with her older and heavier sister. Baby sister starts to resemble a wailing pancake as the overwhelming magnetic forces plaster her to the ground. Baby sister crawls as hard as her miniscule body will work toward Daddy, who is simultaneously repelling the older sister, who is attempting to maul said baby. Baby clings with futility to Daddy, who is preoccupied fending off the frenzied south pole.

North pole: 3-year-old daughter
South pole: 4-year-old son
This is one of the daddy's favorite settings, though he must remain magnetically neutral if he hopes to observe it. Either that or open an east-west pole between him and Mommy. The children play pretend, using actual toys that substitute for the pretend toys they would like to be playing with. They love and cling to each other as they zip around the house with toys. No fighting erupts, and the poles can stay aligned like this for hours, inducing the east-west poles to try to figure out how they can somehow attract the same kind of love they are seeing between siblings.

North pole: Baby sister, Daddy
South pole: Mommy (i.e. milk truck)
At eight months old, it amazes Daddy how fast baby can crawl to reach the milk truck at meal time. As she beelines it for the free meal, she often buzzes the word, "Mmmmmmaa-ma," holding the first "M" to show her appreciation for the anticipated meal. This can be a dangerous magnetic setting, since if Daddy holds baby on his shoulders or in his arms, baby will relentlessly dive toward its opposite polar coordinate, leading to some close calls which the Daddy with zero magnetic pull would prefer to forget.

North pole: Daddy
South pole: Mommy
With such a variety of settings possible, this one, so well known as newlyweds, is hard to align with three children present. Usually Daddy has to bring flowers, purposefully lose a game of Scrabble, or do a laundry list of chores around the house without being told. And doing it without being told is increasingly hard since the Mommy is quick to point out her "Honey-dos." This leads to a situation where the Daddy no longer gets correctly polarized while doing the chores. He only appeases the Mommy enough to keep her in a neutral mood. He also doesn't enjoy the chores in this scenario, since he sees the polarities reversing as she speaks the words he had intended to accomplish without hearing them first.

With only two poles, it's difficult to find the right balance within a family to maintain magnets that attract each other. Luckily, or unluckily as the case may be, no magnetic setting lasts forever. Even the earth's poles have supposedly reversed themselves during the course of history. If the earth were my family, the poles would be as mercurial and inconstant as the familial settings I've described above. As constantly as the poles shift, though, I have never seen a situation so bad in our family where there wasn't at least one north pole and one south pole. Love is a strong thing, far more magnetic than magnets could dream to be. The ultimate goal of every family should be to make every family member have both a north pole and a south pole which help the family fall into a neat line of perfectly aligned magnets.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kill the laptop, not the teenager. Resentful father shoots his daughter's laptop with a .45 after nasty Facebook posts.

Every parent fantasizes about punishment that truly fits the crime sometimes. Not every parent is gutsy enough to pull it off. But when this man found expletive-laced posts from his teenaged daughter about her parents making her do chores on some little-known forum of friends called "Facebook," he shot down her nasty behavior. Pun fully intended. Watch the cleaned-up, shortened version below.

Do I think this guy's a great father? No. His example alone leaves much to be desired. On the full clip, he is smoking a cigarette before unloading his clip into the offending laptop. Do I commend him for rocking that HP's digital world? Yes.

If a child goes against established rules and uses technology in a way that demeans the entire family on a forum as open and widespread as Facebook, punishment ought to be exacted. Was it extreme? Probably. But in an awesome, back-country hillbilly way. Not only that, but I like that he then used the same social media she was using to call out the problem. It was reciprocal and spread far beyond what her original nastiness could have covered. One of many versions I found has already been viewed more than 21,000,000 times on youtube.com.

Now this would have led to digital mud slinging had he not shot the laptop, but since it's a buried brick now, father gets the last word. More than 21 million times. Would I recommend this behavior to anyone? Nope. But neither would I put up with my child bad-mouthing me on the Internet. Let's just be glad this clip wasn't of him unloading the clip into the offending daughter, instead.

This stands as proof that family issues should be solved within the family. Face to face. No social media interactions, texting, or e-mailing will substitute for that. The substitutes make the offense far more public than it ought to be. Period. Besides, you can forget you love someone when writing a text or reading one. Face-to-face interactions will always go better than those carried out digitally. Reading body language, tone and more just can't be done on a computer or phone. You bet this girl will think real hard about ever getting on Facebook again, much less to shake her parents down. And the father probably has his own regrets about posting his response to youtube. Let's keep family in the family. To kids: don't demean anyone publicly. Especially parents. To parents: By all means shoot the laptop, but keep that between you and your kid. 21,000,000 voyeurs just don't need to know about your discipline issues.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Baby Roundhouse Kick: Sleeping with baby, AKA Chuck Norris Jr.


If you don't get this hilarious illustration from howtobeadad.com, you haven't been a parent very long. Maybe not at all. You probably don't even have parents.

You orphan you.

I laughed so hard when I saw this I almost turned into a puddle of tears. But that's just because it's true. So true, in fact, that I woke up last night to exactly this scenario. The Web site I pulled this from referred to it as akin to sleeping with Chuck Norris. Only tinier. Now I can't get the visual out of my head.

Of course, this is not the only crazy sleep position children achieve. I have awoken to my daughter draped entirely over my face, lying on her stomach. I have awoken to realize I was the fifth person in my bed, and each of the other four had more room than me. I have had feet in my back, in my mouth, between my legs, and more other places than Lever 2000 can keep track of.

But dang are they cute feet.

What's the zaniest position you've seen when sharing your bed with a child?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Apparent Parent around the Web

Below is my most recent article for Modern Mormon Men. It ventures out on a hefty limb to imagine government intervention for restaurateurs. 

http://www.modernmormonmen.com/2012/01/foodicare.html

Also got a hefty mention on Deseret News' bloggernacle column. This marks one of the blog's first major callouts, which I completely didn't expect. Thank you Deseret News for the readership spike!

www.deseretnews.com/blog/33/10012934/Perspectives-on-the-news-Mitt-Romney-hates-the-poor-Careful-Newt.html

HELP! My baby's crawling up the stairs!

 "Your baby probably will start trying to climb stairs soon after she learns to walk. This often happens about 12 months old, but she may take her first steps anytime between 10 and 18 months."

-babycenter.com

Dang you and your inaccurate information, babycenter.com. My baby girl turned 8 months old all of 7 days ago, and I caught her climbing the stairs all the way to mommy and daddy's room today. That's a full HALF of her life off, babycenter. So there.

Better average out your research with my family next time you post something like that as fact. All three of my kids took their first steps between 6 and 7 months old. And the first two were proficient walkers by 9 months.

Our baby started crawling about 3 weeks ago and only recently has figured out that this trick can do more than get her from Toy A to Toy B, sitting only feet apart from one another. Now she follows us around like a miniaturized, 3-dimensional shadow that likes to use our pant legs to stand up. Plus our shadow is cuter than us, and balder than my wife, at least. Now we find her in the kid's bedroom. We find her in the kitchen. We rarely find her where we left her like we might have - ohhhh - three weeks ago.

This makes for some world-class double takes. Today, she was shadowing me into the kitchen when the stairs caught her eye. She peeled off my ankles and started using the broad landing stair to stand up. I thought nothing of it because she often uses anything she can get her hands on to stand up. (By the way, she took her first steps two and a half weeks ago, while still 7 months old.) She seems liberated by the revelation of locomotion. She's happier than she's ever been.

Anyway, I went to check on something in the kitchen and then glanced back to where my shadow had lost me.

I had lost my shadow. It was not in view. The pieces of the puzzle came together in my head: "Baby's crawling up the stairs!" I told my wife urgently and zipped over to confirm my solid hunch. Sure enough, she had already ascended two stairs, happily cooing as she worked on the third. Her major problem was posed by her slippery footy jammies. On our wood stairs, she kept slipping as she tried to kneel on the stair below to attain the stair above.

"If I weren't so dang proud of you," I told my 8-month old, "I'd swat your bottom."

"Vvvvbbbblllllbbnnmm," she hummed at me, crinkling her eyes with glee. I'm glad I caught her when I did. Instead of being a 100% responsible father, I decided on 90% responsible and let her continue up the stairs with me as a spotter, hovering inches away in case of an emergency. On about step number 6, she relinquished her handhold on the steps and stood, unsupported, waving her arms in circular triumph. The longest I've seen her stand without holding anything is about 30 seconds, but with slippery footies on polished wood stairs, I don't trust her as far as she can fall down, ummm...the stairs, I guess. She righted herself and kept on going up the stairs, despite my concern.

The worst incident actually came when she stopped to rest. Since she had been hugging the wall, when she turned to flop on to her bum and take a breather, said bum encountered said wall and she flopped forward onto unsaid face. Unsaid face began to cry. From the kitchen, unsaid Mommy threatened unsaid Daddy's life, assuming he could have done something to prevent it.

In the end she all but summited the staircase. And if she'd been wearing the getup of the child in the picture above, she would have made it look a heck of a lot easier than climbing a 1,000 foot sand dune. Many parents would be chagrined to find such a young'un scaling a staircase. In fact, I know many parents who go out of their way to ensure their babies don't walk until they're two. It would be easier that way, I think. But I love to see such short little legs taking such long strides. The thrill just wouldn't be the same if she were doing this half her life later. Besides, she's just prepping herself for the great outdoorsy life we have planned for her.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Waking up with Pineapple Head


When I came home from work today, my son was sporting a mohawk. I thought it was just one of his more notable bedheads and I ruffled the crazy hair with my hand as I greeted him.

"You got a mohawk, buddy!" I said enthusiastically.

"No, it's pineapple head!" he said with equal and opposite enthusiasm. It took a minute for this to sink in. Wait...this was done on purpose? His mother assured me that he was, indeed, supposed to look like a pineapple.

Hmmm...

It made me wonder why he wanted to self identify with one of nature's funniest-looking fruits. I digress. But I had to agree: he looked a little like a pineapple with big blue eyes and blond fronds sprouting.  We had recently gotten a pineapple, and when he and his mother looked at how to tame his whacked-out hair in the mirror this morning, he made the connection himself and ran with it.

"I look like a pineapple!" he told his mom. "Can you make it in a big wave so I look more like a pineapple?"

And the mother of my children acquiesced to his nutty request, thus making him the fruitiest child in the family. Now I'm OK with dress-up-as-a-pineapple day, but let's just hope this doesn't become habitual. Something that's uber cute once can kind of look different when done 200 days straight. But I'm just glad I got to see the *ahem* fruit of his mom's labors today. It was a day-brightening experience to come home to pineapple head.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Art of Parenthood #1: Redirecting Kids' Attention


art

1.
the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
 
Working in an art gallery for many years, it surprised me to find this is the first definition for art on dictionary.com. I assumed it would be the third or fourth definition. But the "collective fine arts" is actually in that spot. That may show the relative importance. While art applied to a canvas or sculpture can be beautiful and can enliven a home, office or any other space, art applied to life can make every day more meaningful and worth living.
 
I discovered this principle last night. I recently read an article by Thomas S. Monson called "Living the Abundant Life." Actually I read it once and then have been reminded of it by other people three times until it has become cemented in my scattered brain. In it he lists the ABCs of an abundant life.
 
A=Attitude. Not the kind you cop when you're mouthing off.
B=Believe. Believe in yourself and the goodness in others.
C=Courage. Courage to do what is right despite the costs.
 
He said it much better than that summary, of course. But I'd like to focus on the principle of attitude. After having this pounded into my head, I realized my attitude has been lacking in regards to family of late. Every bedtime has been drudgery I couldn't wait to be finished with. My attitude had sunk like a certain cruise ship of late, though my ship had fewer survivors. So two nights ago I decided to make bedtime special again. It wasn't an easy thing to do, I literally had to shift my paradigm to see it as a privilege to tell "make-up" stories to my children. 
 
I went in with my renewed attitude, where my daughter gave me the wrong kind of attitude after a nonexistent offense on my part. I struggled to keep a positive attitude. After a brief timeout on her own bed, I allowed her to join the fun resulting from my story, which looked a lot like this Calvin and Hobbes, but with two kids:
 
 

I soon fell asleep on my son's bed having depleted my own energy reserves. Nestled in each arm I had a tiny, loving child, though one was still awake and squirmy as all get out. Had I gone in with my recent normal attitude, I would have grudgingly made up a story and skedaddled as fast as I could. But instead I spent a solid hour or two just loving my children. Then my wife woke me up, demanding she be the one cuddled in bed without saying a word. I left my kids a happy man. My son politely asked me to move his sleeping sister to her own bed now that I was no longer there to act as a buffer zone. I politely declined because of some injuries I sustained in the fall which still have me down and out.

The next night when I got home, I discovered, or rather honed, the skill and art of redirecting attention. My daughter has been a jagged little pill of late. She's three, and makes sure you know how big 3 year olds are. This leads to some hugely negative attitudes from her. Anyway, she has a habit of loving her 7-month-old sister like a dump truck loves trash, i.e. with persistent crushing force. This can be problematic, as you might imagine. After stepping up to the parental plate to bat her away from her vulnerable sister umpteen times, I finally decided I had to be more forceful or sneaky in getting her away from the baby. But because of my attitude change, I chose the latter. 

"If you go onto your brother's bed with me, I'll let you tackle me!" I said like it'd be better than chocolate chip cotton candy. She dropped all pretense of attacking her sister and ran into the bedroom, where she and I spent a half hour wrestling, her giggling and delighted the whole time. It was another sublime parental experience I would have missed had I continued to bat her away from her sister like a 1.000 hitter in a batting cage.

I guess the lesson is that the best way to take something away from a child is to give them something even better. And if that thing happens to be love and attention, both the parent and the child win.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Newt Gingrich attacks Mitt Romney for..."seeming perfect"? Hmmm...

From nymag.com:

"So far, voters in the party of "traditional family values" don't seem to really mind that Newt Gingrich is a thrice-married, two-time adulterer. In an interview with CBN's David Brody today, Gingrich suggested that it's because most people have had "very sad" moments in their own lives, which they "wish wouldn’t have occurred." Then, he took a very unsubtle and seemingly gratuitous shot at squeaky-clean Mitt Romney:
"So, I think in that sense, it may make me more normal than somebody who wanders around seeming perfect and maybe not understanding the human condition and the challenges of life for normal people."
- End quote

What was that Newt? Did you really just try to underhandedly attack Mitt Romney for not cheating on his sick wife? Twice? Geez, that paints Mitt Romney in a completely different light now. Time to jump on the Newt Gingrich bandwagon. Nothing better than bringing in a president who has already admitted his infidelity. After all, people had issues with Clinton's scandals only because he perjured himself. Not because people thought the most powerful man in the world should have the scruples and faithfulness not to abuse his power by jumping in bed with interns that were decidedly not his wife. No, we do not expect the U.S. president to have morals. That would be a terrible situation. After all, how can a politician lead the country astray if...*GASP*...that politician strives to do the right thing all the time! Only someone who has tasted forbidden fruit knows just how good it tastes, right? And Americans do like stuff that tastes good. Am I right?

I hope you could tell I was laying the sarcasm on thick there. As disgusting as I thought Gingrich was before, this blows me away. This is "calling evil good and good evil." I don't know where that is in the scriptures off the top of my head, but boy is it in there. And it's definitely not one of the ten commandments, (i.e. "Thou shalt call evil good and good evil." That surely didn't come down on a stone tablet from Mt. Sinai.)

And about those "sad moments" because of personal indiscretion: maybe it would be better to elect someone whose "sad moments" come not because of their transgressions but in spite of their faithfulness. If there is anyone out there who has not experienced "very sad moments," that person is surely incapable of reading this blog. Those people are all of 8 hours old, after all.

If normalcy means cheating on two sick wives, call me an outlying lunatic. I want no passage on that boat. And this is the guy that has a [really really distant] shot at becoming the most powerful man in the world. Considering his track record with only moderate power, imagine what he would do with more. We need to run away from Newt Gingrich. I mean, look at the guy:


As a family man, I find it despicable that a politician has done his best to cast people who are committed to family as "not understanding the human condition." Besides, anyone who has been a stake president has seen enough of the human condition to know they don't need to touch the forbidden fruit. On that note, I don't think Romney's perfect. I disagree with him on some points. I'm at issue with him over what I see as his political maneuvering to become governor in Massachusetts, an incredibly liberal state. But I think he is a man of integrity for the most part. And that is something seldom seen in politics. And considering the current state of D.C., that can only be a good thing.