Category: parenting

Spending Time with the Kids

I believe one of the best ways you can show someone you care about them is by spending time with them doing things they’d like to do. And on that theory, I’ve had a goal to spend time with each of my kids doing activities of their choosing.

This is a great goal on the surface for a number of obvious reasons, but I’ve found it’s also a very difficult goal to actually keep going. For one thing, I have three children and only one me. It’s true that Denisa also spends time with the kids doing a variety of things (skiing, taking them to practices, etc.), but for this goal, I really wanted it to be me spending personal time with them. In my head, this would be something I did every day, even though I recognize that getting this done every day is just not going to realistically happen. Take yesterday: I was out the door at 7:20, and when I came home at 4:20, the kids were all gone skiing with Denisa. I had a Stake Presidency meeting at 5:30 that ran straight into a Stake Council meeting at 7:00, and I wasn’t done until 8:45. The kids didn’t get back from skiing and youth activities until 8:00 or so, which means that I saw them all for a grand total of about 15 minutes the entire day.

But I still keep the goal at a “daily” level because I know from experience how goals tend to go for me. Look at it this way: by having the goal as a daily goal, if I miss once or twice, I still do things with my kids multiple times a week. If, on the other hand, I make it a “once a week” goal, and I miss once or twice, then suddenly I’m down to only having done something with them a couple of times that month. This is definitely one area where I feel it’s better to set an unattainable goal and still constantly strive to achieve it.

(Side note: I suppose I could add a “Spend time with Denisa” goal, but she and I spend time together every day out of sheer habit at this point. It’s very rare that we don’t both sit down to talk or watch a TV episode or part of a movie each night. It’s just the unspoken rule of how our house runs. So I suppose I have an unwritten goal to make sure that never changes, but in practice, it’s not a goal I feel like I have to expend any energy toward reaching. Spending time with the kids, on the other hand, seems to be trickier for me. Too many moving parts to keep track of, I suppose, so I need to have that goal there to remind me.)

In practice, what does this look like? It varies for each kid. MC is on a big Minecraft kick right now, so I sit down and play Minecraft with her for a half hour or so each day. More, if I have time. We happily go about digging for diamonds or building rooms in our survival mode world. (No monsters on as of yet, because MC isn’t a fan of blowing up by Creepers.) Tomas and I play a variety of games. Often it’s Magic, though recently we’ve been playing a lot of Gloomhaven. He’s much busier than MC, however, so I typically only get to play with him twice a week, give or take. On the other hand, it’s usually for a couple of hours at a stretch, so maybe that offsets it some.

For Daniela, it’s been trickier finding something for us to do together. We’ve done some drawing activities, and we’ve read books together, but it’s been hard to find something that’s easily replicable. Playing Minecraft is something I can do without really having to think too much, so I can do it even after a long day at work. Reading out loud, drawing, and the like are more mentally challenging for me, and so I’ve found we start off strong and then end up slipping off into doing nothing again. Our new goal at the moment is to watch all of X-Files together. I’ve wanted to revisit the series for quite some time, so we’ll see if that works well. (DC is getting busier, so this might be difficult.)

Anyway. This isn’t really intended as a bragging post. I’m far from perfect when it comes to this. But I share it more as a way to show something I’d like to do so that when my kids are grown, I can look back and remember the times we spent together and know that I put in a good effort to make time for them. Having a close family is something I’ve always enjoyed, and this is one way I’m trying to reach that bigger goal.

What do you do to find time for your family?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Daddy Daughter Dance: 2020 Edition

Another year, another Daddy Daughter Dance. This time around, MC was sick, so she was unable to come with Daniela and me. (She was pretty down about it until I reassured her that I’d take her out on a Daddy Daughter Date once she got better. That cheered her right up.)

Things have changed quite a bit since our first Daddy Daughter Dance back in . . . 2013. For one thing, Daniela is 5’9″ now, give or take. So when she and I were dancing, I didn’t have to look down hardly at all, which sounds great, until you remember the majority of the daughters at the dance were much, much shorter. Many of them were running around the floor as fast as they could, doing who-knew-what. I kept on forgetting to watch out for them, and there were some near misses several times. Thankfully, no one got trampled.

Daniela and I had a contest this time to see who recognized more songs. I was convinced from earlier years that they hardly played any songs I knew. Maybe it had been confirmation bias, though, because we ended this year tied 10-10. A lot of songs we both knew (What Does the Fox Say), some only I knew (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun), and some Daniela knew (I don’t know their names. Still.) We grabbed a glow stick for MC so that she didn’t feel too left out.

We went out to dinner with a group before, as is tradition. (Though the number of daddies has dwindled over the years as daughters grow up or they move away. We still had four of us this time, though, so it was a sizable group.) It was fun watching the others try to guess which grade Daniela was in. Most votes were for eighth grade, with some doubtful ninths and sevenths.

She’s in sixth.

We both ended up getting Mac and Cheese, which seemed somehow appropriate, since not too many years ago, Daniela would have been all over the mac and cheese. This time it was off the adult menu, however. Pretty tasty stuff. Daniela had hers with crunchy chicken, and I went with pulled pork.

I asked her if any of her friends were already dating. She said yes they were, though she didn’t understand why. “They’re only in sixth grade. Why bother?” A girl after my own heart.

Not sure how many more Daddy Daughter Dances I have in my future, but I would imagine quite a few. MC is only 6, after all. Maybe that gets me something like 8-10 to go? Though some of the older girls still like going for the pre-dinner, then cutting out before the dance. I can’t really blame them. The vast majority of the girls at the dance look like they’re under 10.

For now, I just enjoy having a tradition with my daughters to go do something fun. Even if the dance music was insanely loud. (Next year I might have to bring ear plugs . . . )

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Finally a Subject I’m Qualified to Tutor

There have been many different school projects and assignments I’ve been called upon to help teach over the years. I’ve helped make castles and collages. I’ve done more algebra than I ever thought I’d need to again. I’ve spent hours going over how to organize and prioritize. And each time I’ve done any of these things, I’ve done it willingly and cheerfully, often sitting down with the material a few minutes before I was called on to tutor the subject. If there’s one thing 13 years of grade school and 8 years of college have taught me, it’s how to consume information and give it back in a way that will fit the mold of what’s being asked.

But none of these assignments have ever really played to my strengths. Not my true strengths, at any rate. In many ways, I’ve felt like Inigo Montoya, fencing away with my left hand and doing a more than adequate job, but never really allowed to shine and put my full educational prowess to use.

Not until last week, at least.

Tomas is in 10th grade honors English now, and I discovered a bit late in the game that he had been assigned to write essentially a five paragraph essay on The Lord of the Flies. I read over what he had written, and as soon as I did, I broke out in a smile and switch my sword to the right hand.

Finally, all those years of learning and teaching and writing could be put to use! If you want to use something a bit more sinister than Princess Bride, it also felt kind of like the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, bragging about just what the Death Star was capable of.

Of course, it was on The Lord of the Flies, which was a hole in my educational upbringing. I’ve never read the book. (I know. I’m a terrible person.) But that just made things more exciting. I quickly brought myself up to speed on the main events of the novel. Enough so that I knew generally what we were dealing with and what questions to ask Tomas to turn him to the text looking for evidence to support his claims.

The biggest trick was to make sure I wasn’t just writing the paper. I already know I can write a solid five paragraph essay. The goal is to teach Tomas how to do the same thing. In this case, he’d already picked out the arguments he wanted to make and the examples he wanted to use. I just had to find a way to tie those arguments together into a concrete thesis statement and go over the importance of well-crafted topic sentences. That might not sound like fun to you, but compared to trying to wrack my brain to remember how to apply the quadratic formula the right way?

This was a walk in the park.

It felt even better when he got his grade back and had significantly improved it. A definite #parentingwin moment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

School Students Shouldn’t Be a Revenue Stream

I get it. There’s money to be made in high schools and grade schools. Between school pictures, sports pictures, yearbooks, and the like, I understand there are businesses that crop up surrounding our students, and I don’t (for the most part) begrudge them the chance to carry on their business, or at least make it available. But this year, something seems different to me.

It started with the early request to buy athlete pictures for Tomas and DC. No big deal. Seemed like a fine request, so we ordered a package for each of them. Then came the reminder for school pictures. I ignored that one, because Denisa and I decided to get private pictures done this year for all the kids. It was less expensive, and the end result was much better, so it was kind of a no-brainer for us.

I deleted the first reminder. The second reminder. The third reminder. I’ve got three kids, each of them in different schools. I didn’t pay too much attention to which school was reminding me about what. Except the reminders kept coming. And coming.

I just went through my email to check. I’ve received TWELVE reminders since August 25th. That’s four reminders per child. That’s . . . beyond excessive. And then that email search reminded me that I was asked to buy “spring portraits” last March. How many class pictures does one child need? And did I really need to be reminded I could buy those spring portraits nine times? Five of the emails this fall have been from my children’s actual schools. (Seven from the company taking the pictures.) Two of the nine reminders came from the schools in spring.

But it isn’t just pictures. Yesterday Tomas came home with a big packet advertising class rings (the cheapest of which starts at $200). Apparently in the middle of school, they were sat down for an ad pitch from the ring company, in which the company said, “All you’ll need to do is go home and even mention class rings to your parents, and you can watch as they run and get their class ring and start telling you all about it, and that’s when you should ask them for the $75 deposit so you can get yours.”

I never bought a class ring. I think they look gaudy and dated. Tomas has no interest in getting one, but I recognize they’re something that might be desirable to some. I get that my personal distaste for them might not be shared by all. If the company wants to send home a flyer about class rings, fine. If they want to send home a half-inch thick packer all about it, I might say that’s a wasteful use of resources, but it probably wouldn’t get me to “I need to write a blog post about this” territory.

But taking up my child’s school time (or even a break during school time) to pitch them on sales techniques to get their parents to buy them a $200+ piece of silver or gold? That went beyond the line for me. At that point, I have to assume the school district is getting a kickback on the rings. (They better be, for the sort of access they’re giving to my child.) Even then, I find it objectionable.

I don’t live in a wealthy area. The median household income in Franklin County is around $45,000. (The median for the US is about $59,000.) There are many, many families who can’t afford a $200+ ring. Why is our school district letting companies market directly to our students this way? Yes, I get that budgets are tight. And again, I realize some kids or parents might really want a ring. But still, send a flyer home. Let students opt-in to hear the ad spiel. Anything other than the approach that’s currently being used.

There are times I feel like the district has started seeing me more as a revenue source and less as a parent of a student.

Am I the only one noticing this?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Middle School Conundrum: The Land Before Time

We have another kid who just entered middle school, which means this is now my third time through it. (Once as a middle schooler myself, and now twice as a parent.) It never seems to get any easier, sadly, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.

Here’s a theory I came up with last night, and an analogy I came up with just now. A lot of the difficult comes down to Three Horns and Long Necks. In The Land Before Time, the animated movie I watched far too much of as a child, a group of dinosaur children have to team up to try to get to the Lost Valley, a place where dinosaurs will be safe from the destruction around them. One of the lines that we always repeated when I was a kid was “Three horns never play with long necks.”

And of course part of the point of the movie is the dinosaur kids (a triceratops, a stegosaurus, an apatosaurus, a saurolophus, and a pteranodon) learn to overcome their differences and all get along. It’s a great sentiment.

But what if one of the dinos had been a tyrannosaurus? A straight up meat eating hunter who would one day grow up to want to eat all his friends? (I guess that’s sort of in the vein of Disney’s Fox and the Hound, just much bloodier . . .)

When you’re in elementary school, no one really knows who they’re going to be yet. Yes, there are mean kids and nice kids, but a lot of the dynamics come down to who you were already friends with. When you reach middle school, that’s when people actually start figuring out who they want to be. What sort of a person they are. And unfortunately, sometimes the people you’re already friends with turn out not to be the people the person you want to be wants to be friends with. Or maybe it’s not a matter of want. Maybe it’s a matter of compatibility.

Now, I don’t mean by this that some people are born predators or prey or anything like that. Maybe the dinosaur analogy is the wrong thing to use for that reason. But when you’ve always tried your best to be a good friend, and then suddenly the people you’re friends with aren’t the people you thought they were, it’s a jarring feeling.

But people change and friendships morph all the time. As an adult, you recognize that, and you’ve dealt with it often enough to be able to handle it. I’ve had various very close friends over the years, some of whom I’m still close with today, and some I’m not. In some cases, we drifted apart. In some cases, life got in the way. But middle school is the time when suddenly it’s happening all around you, and you’re changing at the same time. No wonder it’s all bewildering.

I think it helps to have dealt with it before as a parent now. Denisa and I have experience handling it. But that doesn’t make it any easier on the kid in question. What can I say? Maybe sometimes, three horns really shouldn’t play with long necks . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

%d bloggers like this: