Posts Tagged ‘parenting

12
Aug
12

I Murdered the Tooth Fairy

I sit here now, glittery sparkling blood on my hands as I type. I can’t wash it off, any more than Lady Macbeth’s incessant hand washing could remove the memory of what horrors she had unleashed and sins she had committed. *Sigh* Where do I begin? I suppose with a simple fact. A simple statement.

This afternoon, I killed the Tooth Fairy.

Granted, I wasn’t trying to. I wanted to save her. I wanted to preserve her. But her death is now laid at my feet.

Such a sudden thing it was, too. I took my darling daughter, who just a couple weeks ago turned 7, to the children’s museum in Portland, Maine, so that our favorite grown woman (her mother, my wife) could have brunch with some people she had wanted to meet for a while. We had barely finished paying for admission and then walking to the first room in the museum when Little Girl Blue said, calmly and without preamble, “Daddy, is the Tooth Fairy real, or do you and Mommy put the money under my pillow? Please be totally honest.”

In that moment, I realized I had been asked a question only slightly less distressing to parents than “What is sex?” or “Can I get a belly button piercing?” I did not pause, but simply led her to a small bench somewhat away from the other kids, sat down with her, and asked, “Do you really want to know?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re sure you want to ask this question, even though the answer may change things in your life?”

“Yes. Please be honest.”

Twice now she had stressed honesty, and so there was no other path. Before, when a Kindergartner in her first year of school had told her the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real, Mrs. Blue simply asked, “What do you believe? What do you want to think? That’s all that matters.” My wife’s words (and clever ploy) were enough then, and they were true words, and Little Girl Blue continued to believe. Now, though, she was pressing me to be honest. I’m not sure why I drew this short straw, but I don’t think it would have been any different had my wife been the one with her at that moment; Little Girl Blue knows we’ll speak truth when asked, and most other times as well.

“Well, Honey, before I answer your question, let me ask you this: If it turns out Mommy and Daddy are the ones giving you the money, and I confirm that, do you think that there will still be money under your pillow in the future?” She was still young enough not to realize that I had essentially admitted the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real, but I was banking on that childish naivete so that she could still have an out if she wanted it.

She muddled over that for a few moments, then said, “Yes! …um, maybe not. I guess no. But I want to know.”

“I’m going to ask you one more time: Are you sure?” I queried, quietly but intently. “Sometimes, getting an honest answer to things changes things in ways you might not like. Do you still want me to answer?”

“Yes. I do.”

I put my arm around her and leaned in close, and said in almost a whisper, “No, Honey. The Tooth Fairy isn’t real. That’s Mommy and Daddy.”

“OK, Daddy,” she said after a short pause to let that sink in. “Thanks for telling me.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, and then played my last card to let magic be in her world a bit longer. “Frankly, I don’t know if any fairies are assigned any tooth-related duties. And they sure wouldn’t be carrying human money around, now would they?”

“No, they wouldn’t. I still believe in fairies, Daddy. Just not the Tooth Fairy.”

“That’s good, Honey. There are all kinds of strange and wonderful things in the world, even if they haven’t been proven they exist and even if we’ve never seen them.” Then I lowered my voice even more, and looked at the other kids in the room in a way that she couldn’t help but notice. “Don’t tell other kids, honey. Kids have told you the Tooth Fairy isn’t real, when you would have figured it out yourself someday. And you found out earlier than you probably needed to. But don’t ruin it for another kid. Let them ask the question when they’re ready to ask their parents. Some parents and kids don’t think about that; some purposely want to end that belief for other people because they think it’s stupid. So please don’t do it to anyone.”

“I won’t, Daddy.”

I thought I was done until later in our children’s museum visit, when we were sitting down to a snack and she asked, “Are there any other magical things in my life that you and Mommy have told me about that aren’t real?”

Shit. So soon? The dominoes all ready to fall, all at once, on the same day?

“Do you have a specific question?”

“Are any other magical things in my life that aren’t real?”

“No, do you have a question about some specific thing?”

“I can’t think of one right now. But are there any other things?”

I paused only a moment, torn about what I should do, and then said, “I’m not going to answer that question. It’s too broad. Honey, we’ve had to tell you about horrible things sometimes, like people who hurt kids and people who kill people for no good reason. We’ve had to let you know about some bad things in life, and I think you should have as much magic as you can in life. For as long as you can. If you have a question about a specific thing, you can ask Mommy or me about it, and we’ll be truthful. But I won’t answer the question you just asked. But you can ask the questions about each thing as you want to. When you want to.”

“OK, Daddy. Thank you for being honest.”

And so, Santa Claus, the Birthday Fairy (Akimahs), the Leprechaun and the Easter Bunny have a reprieve. Not sure how long, but for a little while, at least.

It may seem weird, but I do feel guilty about the Tooth Fairy’s demise. My honesty killed her, and no matter how much that honesty was needed then, I still feel bad. That bit of magic is fun for the parents and the kids. The loss of that magic is a sign of my daughter’s maturity, and that’s a good thing; it warms my heart. But at the same time, it’s bittersweet. It makes me mourn for her childhood already, knowing that it is fast receding the closer she gets to tween and teen years.

But she still believes in fairies; that’s good. Mrs. Blue does, too, more or less. And we all believe in angels, because we’ve known at times when they’ve moved in our lives. So, it’s not all bad.

But Santa, Leprechaun, Easter Bunny and Akimahs: Draw up your wills and settle any unfinished business now.

You may not be long for Little Girl Blue’s world.

23
Jan
12

There Is a Tablecloth On My Battlefield

If there is one thing that might make me snap as a parent, causing me to fly through the house punching holes through walls and tearing down wallpaper with my fingernails, it will be my daughter’s eating habits.

My 6-year-old wonderful, artistically gifted, verbally advanced, sensitive darling who is the pickiest damned eater I have ever had the misfortune to live with and be unable to employ threats of violence against.

If she had her way, her diet would consist of the following, and probably only the following:

  • Milk, chocolate milk and orange juice
  • Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries
  • Bacon and hot dogs (occasionally supplemented with chicken or steak)
  • Green apples, grapes, mandarin oranges and the occasional banana
  • Annie’s Shells & Cheese
  • Tootsie Roll lollipops and gummy anything
  • Ranch Dressing
  • Processed cheese sticks and extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • Hot fudge sundaes
  • Yogurt
  • Corn, but only sweet summer corn and only on the cob, heavily salted
  • Gravy (mashed potatoes are considered an inefficient delivery device that merely impedes her ability to drink the gravy)
  • French fries
  • Salt or soy sauce, with or without food that requires it, and preferably deposited thickly enough that you cannot see the food beneath it

Now, of course, I give her credit for eating fruit. More power to her. But she’d still rather eat her weight in bacon instead (with the exception of fresh summer strawberries). Also, she occasionally has good taste in cheese and likes yogurt. But as you might notice, the emphasis is on grease/salt/sweets and there is nary a vegetable to be found except for the corn, which is available for only a month or two during the year.

I get that kids can be picky and might eschew veggies. But this is a child into whom we must struggle even to get “normal” kid foods sometimes.

She eats hot dogs, but without any bun or condiments. She will grudgingly eat a hamburger, but just the patty. She hates spaghetti.

This is a girl who recently dipped her French fries into her chocolate milk and declared it delicious, yet won’t eat pork cooked in a sweet mandarin orange sauce even though she likes both of those foods, too, individually.

We can’t get tacos in her. Or sandwiches (except for the occasional jelly sandwich). A banana chocolate chip muffin is acceptable, but rarely is blueberry, and never is a cinnamon-crusted one, much less anything that trends toward pretending to be healthy. She professes to like scrambled eggs but I suspect that’s just an excuse to have something on which to pour salt so that she can hasten her arrival at gross hypertension before she reaches college, because she always picks at them and dawdles when eating them. She’ll eat pancakes, but mostly to get the maple syrup, which she will try to scoop up as often as possible while avoiding the pancakes.

This is a girl so stubborn about eating that if you give her a meal she doesn’t want to eat, she will feign being full or ill and go to bed starving rather than eat a single bite.

It’s maddening.

And to top it all off, if you give her food she adores, she’ll beg to eat it in the living room while watching TV rather than sit with her family.

So many parents wish their kids wouldn’t eat them out of house and home.

Me?

I’d give my left nut for her to make us go broke buying her organic zucchini, Brussels spouts, mixed greens, broccoli and green beans.

But for now I’ll settle for her eating her hotdog with a bun or shoving some spaghetti in her craw.

25
Jun
10

Father Knows Squat

So, it’s been almost a week since Father’s Day, and I still find myself conflicted on how good a father I really am…well, to Little Girl Blue, anyway. Son of Blue was a pretty mellow kid, and we’ve never really had any troubles to speak of.

It’s not that I think I’m a bad father. That would be foolish. I provide for my little girl. I give her love and recognition of accomplishments. I make sure her meals are mostly nutritious and healthy and I try to take all the boo-boos seriously, even the ones I know are mostly imaginary.

But I often feel like I don’t have the patience that I should. I fear that I get upset more quickly than I should. I am a mellow guy who likes to be able to talk, with a daughter who is the antithesis of mellow and who will routinely challenge my calm requests and directions until I feel I am forced into needing the (metaphorical) rod with which to discipline her or get her back on track.

And this is where I feel a disconnect between the daddy I want to be and the daddy I end up being. Sometimes I’m pretty sure that even when I don’t like what I do, I do it because it’s necessary, but at times I wonder if it’s just a bad reaction.

I was on a trip recently, with some people from our church, one of whom is a librarian at our local library. She was commenting to my wife how great she and the other librarians think I am with Little Girl Blue whenever we visit to get some books or DVDs.

Yet I often feel like I’m an ogre who’s always telling her “slow down” or “stop that” or “open those listening ears.” I feel like controlling jerk, and I also worry that she’s driving everyone up a wall.

And yet here I’m getting praise for my fathering, and everyone sees Little Girl Blue as a charming and wonderful child (which she is, despite the fact that her energy levels sometimes cause problems and stresses for me).

So it makes me wonder about my own assumptions. Am I a really good dad, instead of merely the (mostly) competent one I see myself as? Am I raising my daughter to function well in society and balance the needs of others with her frenetic approach to life?

I suppose in the end, it’s better that I question myself and sometimes beat up on myself. I suppose it’s better that when I discipline her, I try to analyze whether it was the right thing to do, and feel pain at having to deprive her of something she enjoys or otherwise make her life uncomfortable.

In the end, though, will I ever celebrate a Father’s Day without wondering whether I really deserve any special rewards for my efforts?

No matter what people tell your about parenting, these are among the things they don’t mention. You know you’ll wring your hands over your daughter dating but no one tells you how heart-wrenching it will be to tuck her in having wanted sweetness and kisses, but realizing that to get her under the sheets, you just had to take away some privilege or threaten to put a toy in the “black bag.”

I love being a father, but at the same time, I feel like I’m always in uncharted territory now. And I wonder whether that will ever change.

20
Jun
09

Pre-Father’s Day

So, tomorrow is Father’s Day. If my little girl wasn’t frequently mentioning that she and Mommy need to work on my secret gift, I’d probably not even realize it was coming.

That isn’t to say that I don’t think it’s a fine day. It’s a good excuse to call my own Dad, since he isn’t the most talkative sort and weekly or even once a month phone calls would probably be stretching our conversational material. Much better to interact with him in person, where long silences can be comfortable instead of awkward. I mean, silences on the phone have got to be the most awkward of all.

Also, it isn’t that I don’t like being appreciated myself as a father. I really do.

But I guess I just feel a little weird, and even guilty, at having a whole day that is supposed to be about me, simply because I have highly motile sperm (with the rapidity of which Mrs. Blue has conceived on the couple occasions we went off the birth control options, I could have myself a very old-school Catholic-sized family apparently…apparently, fertility is not one of the problems we face.)

I mean, I love when my wife recognizes me for good fathering (she also has been known to lambast me about some things, too, so don’t go sending me a “perfect father” trophy). I adore when Little Girl Blue tells me I’m a great daddy or when Son of Blue gives me his honest and loving admiration and respect, just because he feels moved to do so. Those things warm my heart. They are honest and can move me almost to tears sometimes.

But at the same time, I don’t feel like a fantastic provider right now because, frankly, I’m not. Career changes and economy have not been kind. So, when I think about all the things I couldn’t do for my wife on Mother’s Day…or her birthday…or Valentine’s Day…or our anniversary, I feel a strong sense of guilt that Mrs. Blue and Little Girl Blue are working so hard to give me things and bake me things and cook me things. (Son of Blue is away at a political science-style camp, so he’s not involved in all this.)

In the tradtion of Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World,” I just want to shout, “I’m not worthy!” Maybe I am, but I don’t feel like it. Not worthy enough for a day to be devoted to me.

Maybe that’s my own Dad in me. He never really cared that much to celebrate his birthday or Father’s Day or anything. He’s a humble guy, and that’s probably rubbed off on me.

Anyway, Happy Fathers’ Day, a day in advance, for all my fellow dads out there.

10
May
09

Happy Dia de Madres by Miz Pink

little-girl-pink-dressApologies a-plenty to any Spanish speakers if I went and mangled the lingo up above there. Anyhoo I want to mark this special day with a “Happy Happy” to all the mothers out there.

I also want to point out…since I see all too often women complaining on mothering boards about their mothers and moms-in-laws (oh, she wants to get my child a PLASTIC toy and I’m all about wooden toys…she keeps trying to give me advice from HER generation…etc.)…I just want to say give it a rest.

Unless your mother or mother in law is some raging harpy that never lets you know a moment’s peace in life…appreciate her. I still have my mom and even though she can drive me crazy it’s important for me as a mom to have her around as a grandma and also as her child to still have her as someone to sound off on. I have lot of friends who don’t have their moms anymore and it’s especially hard for the women. And even harder for those who have kids who never knew what it was like to have a grandma or who have had the experience taken from them too early in life.

PinkroseMothers aint perfect but I’d say most of them mean well enough and put in enough hard work being moms that they deserve plenty of love and respect not just today but most days.

For those who are mothers, Happy Mothers Day. To those who still have their moms, show them some love. To those who no longer have moms around, be strong, and remember the love you still hold in your hearts for them.

Miz Pink, signing off now to give her own mommy a call and to continue to enjoy some of that Mom’s Day love from the kids and Sir Pink myself.

02
Dec
08

Two-fer Tuesday: Kids by Deacon Blue

colors-of-the-worldSince Miz Pink went and got all sappy with her kid story on Saturday (actually, it was a cute story), let’s make our Two-fer Tuesday topic “Kids.” I’ll start.

No, not going to talk about sparing the rod and spoiling the child.

Not going to go over that stuff about honoring our mothers and fathers.

Already talked about Jesus telling us to “suffer the little children.”

OK, Bible down. I have no doubt I could expound upon spiritual stuff related to kids. Instead, let me give you some real advice, and this is mostly aimed at people who don’t yet have kids, or are about to have kids for the first time soon. But I’m sure even existing parents can get a tickle out of this, too.

Checklist

  • Before you have a child, think really, really hard about how hard you think raising a child will be.
  • Double that.
  • Then add on the stress of working for the world’s most demanding and least flexible boss (for at least four years).
  • To that, add the idea of serving in an extended sleep-deprivation experiment (for at least a year, possibly two).
  • Now imagine being denied regular access to the forms of entertainment you have come to rely on (movies, sex, clubbing, etc.) for roughly five years, give or take.
  • If you are having your first child and you are in your late 30s to mid-40s, increase that total amount by 50%, because you are already getting set in your ways even if you don’t think so.
  • Finally, if you are having your first ever child at the age of 55 or older, and you are doing this on purpose, please check into a mental health facility now.

All that being said, children are a joy, and the first time you get an honest “I love you” or a wet sloppy kiss on the cheek, your world will change forever, and for the better. There are few, if any, jobs more rewarding than being a good parent—at least trying to be a good one.

But oh, do those kids work the nerves sometimes. 😉

02
Dec
08

Two-fer Tuesday: Kids by Miz Pink

pink-cat-childI love my kids. Sometimes I’m not so sure about other people’s kids.

Okay, I’m usually not sure of other peoples kids. Its easier to get annoyed at them but still I often smile when I see a strange baby or some other person’s toddler or preschooler galavanting around.

But as nice as kids are to have, the more important thing is being able to raise them right and the problem is that a lot of people have kids and don’t consider that.

They don’t consider whether they have the resources or patience or skill or support or anything else to put the kid on a good path.

Too many people have kids for reasons like this:

  • Hold on to a man they are afraid of losing/pin down a woman at home that man is afraid of losing
  • Because kids are so cute (or worse yet, “my kids are too big to cuddle now and I want something new to play with while I make them fend for themselves”)
  • Because I can
  • Because I don’t care to be responsible enought to bother with birth control.
  • Because if I can’t afford it, the state will pay/I can give it away/the other parent will take care of it while I split.

Having kids and raising them is a huge responsibility. I see some Christian brothers and sisters online who seem to think that the problem with today’s youth is that they don’t marry soon enough. These folks think that if kids got married and had kids earlier they’d be more responsible. I shudder to think of that. I think of big families in my extended family tree where they started young and what happened was a lot of bad parenting because there wasn’t enough maturity, or time for the kids…and then older kids are placed into parental or baby sitting roles that they aren’t ready for. I’m all for pitching in, but there were folks in my family in recent generations that basically handed the babies off to the older kids and didn’t do crap themselves half the time.

God entrusts us with these new lives and he expects us to take care of them and to take the job seriously. To do anything less is an affront and an insult.

29
Nov
08

Cracking the Code by Miz Pink

little-girl-in-pinkAs I’m nursing Mini Pink Model 3 and talking to Sir Pink about stuff to do with the family unit this weekend, I decide to put forth the idea that we might take the brood out to Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant for crappy pizza and loud noises and kids running all around…you know, the kind of stuff our children will like (well, Mini Pink Model 1 he’ll tolerate it for the pizza and endless sodas and a couple of the video games there…and the fact he can fart around with little sis).

Not wanting to get the hopes of Mini Pink Model 2 up (she loves Chuck E. Cheese’s), I decide to speak in code, in what I thought was a pretty creatively entertaining and preschool child impregnable code.

“Honey, what if we went to Charles Edward Fromage this weekend?”

(Fromage, for you uncultured sorts, is French for cheese.) 😉

Without skipping a beat, and before Sir Pink can even answer, little preschool girl Mini Pink Model 2 brightens up and says, “We’re going to Chuckie Cheese?”

I’m not one to assume that my kids are geniuses just because they use more words than other kids in their class or potty trained early or whatever and I won’t start now but I think I may have to look at educational options for Mini Pink Model 2 a lot more closely. There’s no way she should have been able to figure that out.

Not that any of you are going to learn anythning from that. I just thought it was cool to share one of those moments of breakthrough/milestone stuff where you realize with both sadness (I’ve lost another way to keep “need to know only” info out of my child’s head) and joy (gosh, she’s smarter than even my optimistic self expected) that your child is growing up fast. And here I am holding another one that’s going to run me down that path once again and for one last time.

(Just for the record, my preschool kid is even cuter than the one in the picture.)

21
Nov
08

Can’t Win For Losing

offended-angryMaybe it’s the lack of sleep over the past few days and I’m feeling a little touchy.

But can someone tell me what I said, in my first comment to this blog post, if anything, to invite a thorough critique of the idea of raising my children with my religion?

I thought it was nice and simple. In my first (and what I intended to be my only) comment, I sympathized with the author’s opinion, noted that I thought it was impractical to think a parent wouldn’t raise children with dearly-held values and beliefs, and then added that I thought it would be shitty to shut that child out later on if they reject those values and views.

And then I get a comment saying, this post was about “religion” not “values,” thus prompting what I felt was a need to clarify my position and the fact it didn’t matter what term you used, which prompted at least two comments that are aimed at me and (a) the supposed ridiculousness of adding religion to the pile of things I pass down to my kid and (b) suggesting that I said people without religion have no values or weaker values.

All too often, Christians get panned for being “holy rollers” and getting all judgmental. I defend the drive to pass down religion and focus on the need to love and embrace your child even if they reject those values, and I still catch shit.

If anyone non-Christian out there wonders why sometimes Christians feel a bit persecuted even though this is still a largely Christian nation, that is why. It gets tiresome to gently mention my faith and be supportive of dissenting beliefs and encourage that we love everyone, and still get painted as being closed-minded and shallow and supersitious.

Yes, I’m ranting. And if you see this, Votar, I still love you, man (in the platonic, I-only-know-you-online-anyway kind of way). But shit, I wasn’t aiming to debate religion, just encourage acceptance of different parenting styles with regard to religion and urging that we cannot reject our kids if they do choose to reject our values.

13
Nov
08

Page 123…Ignoring the Child

book-cover-children-of-godWas passing through the Caffeinated Thoughts blog and saw this post, titled “Page 123 Meme.” Even though I wasn’t tagged as part of this meme, and thus under no pressure to follow it or to tag anyone I knew, I was intrigued.

The idea is to pick the book nearest to you that has at least 123 pages, go to the 123rd page, find the fifth sentence, and then post the next three sentences after that.

Out of curiosity, I grabbed the closest book, the science fiction novel Children of God by Mary Doria Russell, and flipped to page 123 (by the way, this book is a sequel to Russell’s The Sparrow, that previous book being far superior…but Children of God is damn good, too). I worked with the assumption that in finding the fifth sentence, I should only count complete sentences and not the partial one that starts off the page.

What I came up with was:

“Her parents ignored her. Best thing that could have happened! They were so busy fighting over Carlo, they never got around to making a mess of their daughter.”

And I thought, “What the hell? Might as well make that the kicking off point for a blog post…” And, as it happens, it actually fits into a new position my wife has just taken on.

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jesus-child-and-holy-spiritSometimes, perhaps, it is better when a bad parent simply ignores a child. I’m not offering that up as advice, mind you. I think that bad parents should strive to be better ones. I think that parents who choose to ignore any of their children should wake the hell up and start paying attention. We should all seek after love and aim to give love to our kids.

But having said that, some parents can only hurt their children. And if a parent is abusive, or emotionally toxic, or a hopeless addict, or in some other way only fit to screw up a child, maybe it’s better for the child to not get much from that parent.

The problem is that the child is ill-equipped to raise himself or herself. There are exceptions of course, but by and large a child left to his or her own devices and denied the love and support of at least one parent will end up screwed up anyway. Whether more or less screwed up than the effed-up parent(s) would have made them, who knows?

For this reason, it is critical that we be there for those kinds of children.

Mrs. Blue just started work for a Christian-based organization that provides a place for at-risk preteens and teens to hang out for a few hours each day, get a snack, be safe and get some positive reinforcement from people who do care. As my wife has discovered, many of these kids have parents who really don’t give a shit about them.

But we cannot rely simply on organizations like that to do that work. If you know a relative who is a physically or emotionally absent parent, and the other parental partner isn’t any better, step up and be a role model or a supporter of that relative’s kid or kids. At least try.

If you are in a position to interact with kids in the neighborhood and not be mistaken for a child molester, keep any eye out for those who seem to want or need a connection with a sane adult and who don’t already have one at home.

Volunteer for organizations that help at-risk kids. Be a mentor or Big Brother or Big Sister.

Not all of us can do these things. But all of us should look to see if we can, and we should be open to the possiblity of doing so if the opportunity arises. Everyone who does step up is one more person who might be able to save one more kid from a destructive path.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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Jeff Bouley

To find out more about me professionally, click here. To find out more about me generally, click here.

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You can reach Deacon Blue/Jeff Bouley at deaconbluemail@gmail.com.

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