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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Art of Parenthood #1: Redirecting Kids' Attention


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 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...


"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.