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

Preventing Child Abuse

Although I’ve traveled over much of the world and currently live an ocean away from where I grew up, I’m able to stay in touch with the news in my home town (Canton, Ohio) thanks to the Internet. I like to check out the home town newspaper (The Canton Repository) whenever I get a few spare moments.

I came across an extremely disturbing article there today about how some of the smallest children in Stark County (the county in which Canton sits) are being horribly abused and sometimes even killed by abuse. A one year old child who was placed on a dresser, then hit hard in the head and pushed off the dresser (he died). A two year old with a skull fracture so severe that surgeons had to remove skull fragments from her brain.

Why?

Click here to read the story about child abuse.

The Stark County Department of Children’s Services has placed over 1,000 pinwheels at a prominent location in Canton (the Market Avenue location is almost in the middle of the downtown area, if my memory serves me correctly). Each pinwheel represents a neglected or abused child. It’s a strong graphic image of the effect of child neglect and abuse and is hopefully serving as a reminder of something that needs to change.

Will you do me a favor RIGHT NOW while things are calm in your house? I’ll assume that you’re a parent (or thinking about becoming one) if you’re reading this blog. Take a moment to look in the government listings of your phone book for the listing for Family Advocacy, Children’s Services, or something similar. Write down the phone number and put that card on your refrigerator.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are so “whatever” that you think you might do something to hurt your child, CALL THAT NUMBER. Get help. Or if you’re in such a position and don’t have that card, call the police. Get help.

Speaking as the father of a precious toddler (22 months old as I write this), I can’t imagine hurting her. She’s bright, curious, and pure joy as far as I’m concerned. Putting an end to her childhood innocence by abuse or neglect is the last thing I’d want to do to that child. Nevertheless, I carry the number for the Family Advocacy program at our local military base (as well as the phone number for the Military Police detachment) in my wallet, just in case.

And if you know of a child who is being neglected, please make the call. Childhood is precious, and having a healthy environment while growing up is crucial to a child’s proper development. So make the call if abuse or neglect is evident. Please get involved.

Thanks for listening,
Tom

P.S. — I also have the phone number for our local Poison Control Center handy, just in case. And keep half a tank of gas in your car at all times in case you need to make that midnight run to the emergency room!

Three Syllable Words

(NOTE: This post was originally drafted back in mid-February 2008. I simply forgot to finish and publish it! — Tom)

Today Olivia said a three syllable word. She’s about 20.5 months old.

It kind of surprised me.

I’ve never claimed to be a child development expert or anything, and it may just be the proud parent in me at work, but I think that my little girl is exceptionally bright!

A lot of that is due to her big brother, Sammy (who is almost five years old now). He spends a lot of time with his little sister, and little sister wants to do everything that Sammy does. And yes, he does tend to talk a lot…

But that’s OK. We are the proud parents of a toddler who works really hard to communicate with us and who is content when she does get her point across. Life is much better that way.

Thanks for listening,
Tom

Five Years Old

Yesterday (April 12, 2008) was my son’s fifth birthday party. He officially turns five years old tomorrow, but it’s simply easier to let him think that his party day is his birthday!

Lots of things have happened during those five years. It simply amazes me how quickly children learn and grow during their childhood.

One of his gifts was a Brio builder set. It came with a bunch of wooden pieces, plastic connectors, and instructions on how to use the parts to build a fire truck and fire station. Other than a couple of times when he couldn’t quite get a piece lined up and pushed into place, he put it together himself by simply following the instructions.

This is the same child who was totally helpless just five short years ago?

Thankfully he’s also a very loving and very obedient boy. At the same time, he does have his own opinions about a lot of things, but he also knows that mom and dad are going to listen to him and give him the opportunity to have his say (this helps tremendously). He’s also an excellent big brother and really does have a sense of nurturing and protection.

So Happy Birthday to my big little boy. Or is it my little big boy (who just climbed up in my chair to give me a big kiss and a big hug…!).

–Tom

Am I Stuck In The Mud?

Sometimes I feel as if I have to have something of incredible value to share before I post to this blog. You know, some incredible parenting insight that I’ve gleaned from my 25+ years of parenting.

Oh, yuck. While I do have experience and like to blog, I don’t think that I’m an expert or anything.

So I’m going to just start writing about whatever comes to mind… Some good posts can come out of those random ramblings!


We’re getting closer and closer to Easter. My son’s local kindergarten is having an Easter celebration today, so my wife baked cupcakes and decorated them real nice. She also took some Easter candy to school so that my son could share it with his classmates.

Apparently it went over quite well (or so my wife reports). The teachers were extremely happy that Iveta went to the extra effort to make the day extra special for the children.

One of the teachers commented that it is quite difficult to get parents to do stuff like this any more. In a way, that doesn’t surprise me; after all, life is extremely busy nowadays. Finances are tight for most people, and between both spouses working and taking care of children, there simply isn’t much time left to do anything else.

We are fortunate that Iveta can be a full-time mother (as well as being a full-time wife, full-time cook, full-time house cleaner…). It gives her time to do things like this and to make life a bit more special for our children.

If I may, I’d like to encourage you to take a few moments out of your busy schedule to make these special occasions for your child just a bit more “special”. These are once in a lifetime opportunities to do something that will last a lifetime. While they may forget the cupcakes you made for their kindergarten class today, this consistent building of memories can help strengthen the bond between you and your child.

Think of it this way: Every thing you do for your young child — every moment spent with them, every memory built — will make your job all that much easier as they grow older and begin seeking their independence. While life with my older children was never 100% smooth during their teen years, I think that we went through them quite smoothly, and a large part of that was due to time spent with them in their childhood and the memories we built. And things do get better once the teen years are successfully navigated!

I left home for basic training (Army) when I was 18 years old. When I returned home on leave two months later, it seemed as if my father had taken some sort of pills to make himself smarter during those two months! Of course, getting out into the world on my own and being responsible for myself was the real reason, and those lessons made me appreciate my father all that much more. He had built a solid foundation through the years that turned into an excellent relationship once I was in a position to appreciate it.

Don’t ever give up.

–Tom