Category Archives: Parenting

Things You Should Never Tell Your Children

As I write this, my son (whom I shall refer to as Son) just informed me that he has decided to learn Spanish and is starting his quest by watching one of his movies on DVD in Spanish.

A few observations here:

  • He figured out how to change the language on the DVD player.
  • He’s only five years old (forgot that important point…).
  • He already speaks three languages reasonably well: English, German, and Polish.
  • I forgot to tell him that learning a foreign language is hard.

We do speak both English and Polish in our home because my wife is from Poland (and we both learned the other’s language). He does OK with German because he goes to the local German Kindergarten and plays with the neighborhood children a lot. So none of this is really surprising, and in a way, one more language probably isn’t a big deal for him (and I somehow suspect that French will be next, assuming we get enough movies with French language tracks).

But to him, learning a foreign language isn’t a big deal. He’s already the by-product of a dual language home and lives in a country that speaks a different language. But there’s one more important factor at play here:

I promised myself that I will NEVER tell him that something is too hard for him.

Did you ever hear statements like this?

“You’ll never make it to the Major Leagues as a pitcher / National Football League as a quarterback, so why try?”

I think differently. Right now, there are 30 Major League Baseball teams and each of them needs at least five starting pitchers, a couple of middle relievers, and a closer. Let’s say that’s nine pitchers per team. Multiply that times 30 and you have 270 pitchers.

Same thing in the NFL. Each team needs at least a starting and backup quarterback, so that’s at least 60 quarterbacks at any given time.

So instead of “don’t bother, it’s almost impossible”, I take a different approach. I tell my children, “Hey, somebody has to do it; why shouldn’t it be you?”.

And so what if he doesn’t make it to the NFL or never poses for the cover of a media guide for a baseball team? Just going out and doing his best, trying to excel, and applying discipline to a goal will serve him later in life. And eventually he will take these traits and apply them to an area where he does succeed.

But if he never learns how to be disciplined and work, I can almost guarantee failure.

So please; don’t discourage your children from doing something just because the odds seem almost impossible. Let them turn their childhood dreams into hard work that teaches them lifetime habits that can bring success to their lives.

And you never know; it could be your son (or even mine) who wins the Cy Young award 25 years from now. After all, somebody has to win it; why not Son?

Never say never.

Hasta luega,
Tom

Flushing, Brushing, And Pacifiers

A few of today’s challenges on the front lines of parenting:

* Teaching almost six year old son that you use the toilet brush AFTER you flush. At least he knows where it is…

* 2.75 year old daughter is being weaned from the pacifier. Just lots of gentle talking and encouraging, asking her to take the thing out of her mouth when she talks because Daddy doesn’t understand her… Things like that.

Of course, hiding the darn things works, too. She only remembers that she likes them when she sees them (well, she does remember at some other times but it’s rare), so out of sight, out of mind does seem to work here.

And lots of hugs and encouragement also works well.

Today’s blog post has been brought to you by the letter “G”, which is the letter that Son was working on in his Kindergarten lessons today.

Thanks,
Tom

Things Left Unsaid

My wife and I were talking in the car as we drove home today about something that we do as parents that her parents never did. It would make an excellent topic to talk about here on this blog and an upcoming post will include at least part of that observation.

But you won’t see it addressed as “something our parents didn’t do”. I don’t think that writing in such a style truly honors our parents and it isn’t something that pleases God and brings us closer to others.

Nevertheless, as I’ve grown up and grown older, I’ve been in several situations that I did not like. In almost every case, I promised myself that if I could do things differently some day that I would do it. Of course, in some cases, the wisdom of age (or other reasons) dictates that we DON’T do those things differently, but in many cases, doing things differently is definitely in our best interests.

And we are doing some things much differently than the way that my parents or my wife’s parents would have done. In fact, I personally am doing a lot of things differently than I did back when my adult daughters were the age of my small children. There’s nothing wrong with this; in fact, if I didn’t change some things, there are those who would (rightfully) accuse me of insanity (which is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results)!

But I’m not about to compare and contrast my parenting with that of my parents, my in-laws, or (almost) anybody else. While I do have a lot of experience to offer and share, it is my hope that you see the value in these articles without my having to compare it to somebody who is still gaining experience and wisdom. Making myself look good at the expense of somebody else — especially those who gave 100% to raise me and make me the person I am — is tasteless.

So while I’ll talk about a lot of things, you won’t always know all of the details. Sometimes, for various reasons (respect and love being a big one), it’s best to leave some things unsaid.

Thanks,
Tom

Facelift Coming

I own several blogs. Some of them are for business and some are for fun. This one (which I don’t update nearly often enough) is one of my favorites. I want to start posting more stories here based on the blessing I have every day as a father who has small children again after 25 years.

As a token of my commitment, I’m going to be updating this blog. I’ll start by putting up a new theme on this blog (this one is kind of plain and, uh, “boring”, isn’t it?), and then I’ll work on adding some additional pages. The bottom line is that I want this website to be an encouragement for you, and sometimes plain old black and white just doesn’t cut it.

And neither does a lack of material.

I do ask one favor in return; if you notice that something has changed and you don’t like it or if it breaks something, please leave a comment to this blog post. Or if I broke it really bad, please submit a ticket at my Help Desk (which you can reach by clicking here). I do appreciate your help.

Thanks again,
Tom

The Disco Generation Gap?

OK, I admit it. I didn’t exactly fall in love with disco music back in the 70s. I graduated from high school in 1976 and therefore consider myself an expert on the topic…

In fact, whenever I see a television show or movie that was filmed in the 70s, I wonder why in the world we ever allowed ourselves to be seen in public dressed like that!

Being a bit older now, I can appreciate the energy and talent that went into making disco music (and even like a few of ’em, like “A Fifth of Beethoven”) — but still fondly remember the “Disco Sucks!” movement.

Well, my five year old son has no memory of the 70s, much less disco — but he does have a copy of the “Robots” movie. One of the extra features is the “Robot Dance”, and one of the options is a “Disco Lights” dance.

He loves it and just now told me that “Disco is cool!”

Now how in the world am I supposed to teach a child about the important things in life when he already has a positive disco experience?

All this experience as a parent and I’m losing it…

–Tom

A Five Year Old Hero

Quite often, as we go about our everyday lives, we tend to overlook a lot and take things for granted. As the busy parents of children, we get wrapped up in the thousands of details that make up this thing called Life — and it’s easy to forget that our children have different perspectives. Yet taking a moment to look at things through their eyes can give us an entirely new perspective.

Take my five year old son, Sammy. He’s pretty typical: he likes his scooter, spends too much time in front of his Playstation (OK, it *WAS* mom’s Playstation at one point…), fusses when Mom gives him a meal that he doesn’t like (pretty much anything except macaroni and cheese), plays with his friends, is learning how to read, is conversant in three languages (English, German, and Polish… OK, maybe that last one isn’t typical, but it’s essential for him). In other words, from my perspective, he’s (thankfully) pretty normal (and special, of course).

Yesterday was a pleasantly warm day here, and as we were returning home in our car (which does not have air conditioning), Sammy’s little sister, lulled by the warm sun and warm air in the car, fell asleep in her car seat. Nothing unusual there. Once we got home, I unbuckled her from the car seat and carried her upstairs to put her in bed for the rest of her nap.

I’ve been working a mid shift and have an alarm clock set for 4:30 PM to make sure that I’m not late for work. As Sammy and I sat downstairs, trying to figure out the newest addition to his collection of Playstation games, the alarm clock went off.

And then we heard a sustained cry from Olivia’s room that was actually more of a shriek. For some reason, the alarm clock woke her up, and since she doesn’t like loud noises, she showed her displeasure and concern about this sudden noise that disturbed her sleep.

I ran upstairs to comfort her, followed by Sammy (that’s another thing he does pretty well; he looks after his little sister). I immediately asked Sammy to go to the other bedroom and turn off the alarm clock, which he did (side note: when children want to learn something, teach them. You never know when it’s going to come in handy).

Upon his return, Olivia said, “Clock loud. Sammy turn off clock!” But she didn’t just say it once; she kept on saying it all evening. And again today. All day today.

In other words, Sammy’s simple action made an impression on her. Sammy is her hero who saved her from the noise of the big, bad clock.

Olivia was upset. Sammy, her protector, took care of her. And forget the fact that Dad was the first on the scene — Sammy, not daddy, was the hero of the day.

It truly is amazing that children — who have not been on this planet for very long — are capable of learning fast and doing so much. Do take the time to teach your children the little things. Let them help. Encourage them to watch out for each other (and yes, Olivia does like to “lecture” Sammy when she thinks that he’s doing something he should not be doing!). While I can’t tell you exactly how the future will play out, I’m pretty confident that Sammy and Olivia will have a good, strong relationship for a long time to come. I’m glad that they chose to start working on it early in life.

Yes, Sammy, I love the way you take care of your little sister. You’re my hero, too!

Spiderman better watch out…

–Tom

Determination, Toddler Style

Like most German neighborhoods, there’s a playground not too far from our house. To get there, you have to walk down a hill with a very gradual downslope for about 200 yards / meters. No big deal, right?

Unless you’re barely two years old and are riding one of those “walking trikes”.

By a “walking trike”, I mean a tricycle that has no pedals. You make it go by using your feet. That’s currently one of Olivia’s favorite toys, and as usual, she wanted to take it with her to the playground yesterday. She also wanted to ride it the whole way.

All was well until we got to the hill. What is a gentle slope for us becomes a challenge for a two year old on a walking trike! Sure enough, she got going too fast, rolled to the left, fell off the trike — and the trike landed on her. She wasn’t hurt, thankfully, but it did scare her.

All of this happened in an instant, and all I could do was react. I bent down, picked her up, and braced my ear for the expected scream. Sure enough, it came — but as soon as I started to comfort her, she suddenly said:

“I’m OK. I want down!”

And she said that between screams! Yes, this little toddler was DETERMINED to get back on that walking trike and finish the trip — and that’s exactly what she did.

Where did she get that? For sure, her mother and I are not quitters, but that’s really uncommon in somebody her age. Sure, she can be stubborn — what two year old isn’t at times? — but that’s not her nature. Perhaps she gets some of it from her older brother?

At any rate, I’m glad to see that quality in my “baby” (she told me yesterday that I can still call her that). And sometimes there’s a lot we adults can learn from a determined toddler!

–Tom

They Grow Up Way Too Fast

Olivia, our “baby”, will be two years old in early June. Although I’ve seen it many times, I’m still amazed at how fast they grow up.

Tonight, just before bedtime, she sat on the couch, watching one of her favorite movies (I think she already has about 394 of them!), legs dangling off the edge of the couch, holding a plate while she ate a muffin — quite carefully, I might add…

Is this the same person who wasn’t even born just two short years ago?

The Holy Bible talks about life being like a vapor; it’s here one moment and gone the next. And as much as I’d like to burn every moment from every day permanently in my memory, I simply can’t. There are far too many “vapors” and far too many life events competing for my limited ability to capture and remember.

I can only hope that this particular moment, with my blond haired little girl, eyes wide open, singing along to the movie (I think it was “Baby MacDonald”)… may it always stay there in a special place in my memory. Soon she will move on to other things — school, friends, activities, trips, sleepovers, jobs, college, career choices, perhaps children of her own…

But for one night, she’s still my sweet little not-quite-two-year-old “baby”. And for tonight, that’s enough.

God Bless You, my baby. Daddy loves you.

–Tom

Big Brother Is Watching Her

Well, the baby is almost two years old now, so I guess she’s not really a baby any more, is she? I asked her the other day if she is still a baby; she said “Yes”, so I guess that’s the official word!

One of the main differences between my older two children and my younger two children is the age difference. There is less than 13 months difference between my older girls, but Sammy is more than three years older than Olivia. This has made a huge impact on Olivia’s development, in my opinion.

While there are certainly other factors that come into play, this three years’ difference has turned Sammy into a natural leader. Olivia is happy to follow him. As I write this, they are upstairs playing. Sammy is on a tricycle we purchased for Olivia, riding it from the living room to the kitchen, and Olivia is happily following him on a little bike you push with your feet — which she outgrew recently. And she does it because she is simply imitating her big brother.

This is another reason to NOT ignore a first-born child when the second child comes along! It’s not always easy to do so, but by continuing to pay lots of attention to the older child, they remain secure and happy. At least in our case, Sammy’s high sense of self worth and importance has enabled him to become a very good big brother which, in turn, has helped Olivia to develop more rapidly.

At least Sammy’s a better big brother than I ever was; right, Sue-Shoe? 🙂

–Tom

Sunshine And Magnifying Glasses

Let’s talk about experimentation and discovery — and the potential abuse of powerful tools. Even this old experienced parent almost got it wrong today.

Today was the first really sunny and really warm day here in our area, and it just so happened that we visited some friends for dinner. They also have a five year old boy, like we do, and we had a lot of fun.

We spent a lot of time on their terrace since it was so warm and the sun was so inviting. My son happened to take along a “toy” magnifying glass (I say “toy” because it’s made by a toy company and meets safety standards but is definitely a real magnifying glass), so we grabbed a piece of paper and I taught him how to focus the sun’s rays so that it would burn the paper. Thankfully it burned but didn’t ignite…

Yes, his daddy almost burned a house down once when he was about five years old, but his daddy was playing with matches… we’ll leave the rest of that story for some other day!

Anyway, we were taking a walk a bit later and the two boys started doing what five year old boys do — running, yelling, pushing each other around a bit, etc. At one point my son ran up to me, magnifying glass in hand, focused it on me, and said, “I’m going to burn you up!”

Oops.

Thankfully we can talk and he listens very well (much better than I do sometimes) and I explained to him that the magnifying glass was NEVER to be used to hurt somebody and that he shouldn’t even try to burn paper unless mommy or daddy said he could. He understood right away and there were no further problems.

I want to say something about the great responsibility that comes with great power, but I’m not sure if I’d be talking about the sun’s rays or the duties of a parent who forgot to talk about the potential consequences of setting stuff on fire. I most certainly don’t want him to learn the way I did!

–Tom