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Know When To Fold 'Em

It was a surprise to receive a request to go to McDonald's for food when, in fact, we're pretty sure he's never seen a McDonald's commercial (yes, really), doesn't remember ever being in a place called McDonald's, and had either of the previous statements been true, would not want to go there to eat things.

But some kid wouldn't let him play with their Skylanders toy.

Puzzle solved.

So for dinner he requested the chicken nuggets of the clown variety and I, thinking to myself that I knew better, obliged, but with a few rules in tow. Water apparently plays a huge role in his efforts to down food he knows he does not want. Sip after sip, washing down bits of chicken delivered by an unsteady hand, he managed to get through an entire ten percent of one nugget. Honestly, folks, it was amazing. If you had filmed just his upper body when he wasn't eating and my face when he was, you might think it was a documentary about removing splinters. He shuddered and put his head in his hand, resting on the table.

While he did find a new love for their fries (and not many people do), we packed up his Skylanders toy which I refused to give him on account that he didn't actually eat anything. The conference drive home ended with him giving me all his LEGO money to pay for the toy. When I then refused to take $0.50 for my troubles and for having to down two hamburgers myself that weren't sitting two well at the time, I made him his real dinner. After having snuck a snack while I was away and then also not eating any of the real dinner, I'd had enough.

I then continued my original plans for the evening of packing up all his old Thomas toys to try to sell again. Having potential buyers made it even easier to let the past wash away and focus on something I'm very passionate about: throwing things away. My first mistake was to ask him if there were any that he wanted to hold onto as a memento of his favorite childhood toys. It wasn't until I was setting up the third playset back in his room that I realized that this entire evening wasn't going my way.

My second favorite passion of cleaning and organizing took over to make room for the new old stuff again. The last few bits of LEGOs were going into sandwich bags and I finally couldn't keep it locked up any more. I broke.

All the parental note comparisons and advice offerings, all the ideals and hopes and dreams of being a parent, and all the moulds I wanted to stuff him into for his well being were fracturing apart and falling into the ocean like a glacier's crevasses splitting apart while they swallowed me whole.

When you are a parent and your child tells you that he didn't mean to let you down and disappoint you because he had a potty accident during nap time at school again or didn't eat chicken nuggets or stole a granola bar when you weren't looking or got sentimental over his old toys, you really have to reevaluate yourself. The fun was completely zapped from the night. We hugged it out. We said our apologies. We promised each other to do better.

Then he said, while having his chocolate milk and Sprout channel before bed, "Daddy, you know what I really want? Ball Pets. Daddy? Daddy!?"

That was the commercial that was on.

I Walked Away

I love kids.

I enjoy everyone's kids.

My outlook on kids in public is almost like driving around the farms in the county and seeing newborn (and sometimes even being born!) baby animals. There all adorable. Their either doing cute things or doing bad things, which are still cute, because they are just thinking to themselves, "Hey, I'm doing this thing!"

I also know that kids can be dirty, undermining, devious little creatures, that use all their energy to focus their little one-track-minds on that one thing you don't want them to do. As a parent on the other side, I still think it's cute. But I've never wanted to step in and correct someone until today.

A small child kicked over someone's bottle of water and the mother rightly grabbed him away and told him to sit down. Then, the up-until-now, curious, chatty two-year-old blew up. Obvious to me, he was bored, looking for something to do while she waited on his older brother to finish what he was doing. Instead of engaging the now upset kid, she stood and waited and did things on her phone. He cried. He coughed and choked on his crying. He cried some more. Mom fussed with her even younger one. He sat and cried and reached and cried.

I finally had to walk away fifteen minutes later. After restraining myself from not engaging the kid on my own and possibly offending her, I decided that asking her to fix the situation because of the annoying sound her meat balloon was making might also offend her and I walked away instead.

Why?

If this was happening in an office or in a movie theater or a classroom or a waiting room, people would stare and judge and hopefully, silently, get their point across. Why didn't participate in the village raising the child and interrupt the "punishment" in order to keep my sanity?

I guess the world will never know.

Our Foray Into Sports

Up until now most of our activities our son has taken part in have been solo sort of affairs like swimming, dance classes, playing the bath tub; the kind of activities that you really always come out the winner (unless you splash water out of that tub, which is a total fail).

Soccer was the first activity that massaged the you've-got-that-and-I-want-it region of his brain. I took turns with him kicking the ball and playing goalie, whereas other kids his age all want to take turns at the same time. It was tough going at first, but since most of the games involved stealing "dragon eggs" from the coaches or telling the kids it's okay to knock over things with the ball, we didn't have too many problems with crying over spilled orange cones.

*Please remember, future coaches of children: the lessons you teach follow them home. Orange cones exist spiritually in every object in the house. But I digress.

After two seasons of mini-kickers camp, I asked him if wanted to play real soccer, a question I had asked many times before. This time, he assured me that since he wasn't three any more, he was okay getting the ball taken away from him. I tend to believe him when he phrases things like that, even though if the major condition is met, it's completely optional every day.

I couldn't have been more proud though, when he got to practice today and kept up his spirits up and down the field as the mass of spinning, kicking children averaged the ball toward one goal or another. He had a really good time, actually kicked a goal or two (I was too far away to confirm the second one), and, like his father before him, ran the ball all the way down the field, by himself, in the wrong direction.

One of my hang ups with team sports is the hatred of aggressive sports parents. I don't quite understand how you can stand on the side lines and yell at your kids unless they are cheating or eating a sandwich while the game is going on. I've seen parents jump out of their pants to yell at their kids (she literally couldn't keep her jeans up). While we've paid a decent amount of money for him to play with this organization that kids in other countries play with balled up clothes in dirt streets with no shoes, I would never yell at him for doing it badly while trying his best. I should probably spend some time and consider what my actions might be if I run into a parent like that. I imagine that, like one of my friends does, I'll just get up and walk away from the field.

The End of Day Care

My job has opened my eyes to the never ending bureaucratic, metric based nightmare that is the K-12 educational system. What I haven't come to terms with is that my son is going to enter into it in only another year.

Yesterday we had a nice little potluck at his day care to celebrate the end of the year and the kids moving on either to the last age group class or on to kindergarten. He has spent a total of one summer and a full year at this day care facility and we couldn't have been happier with the environment. From talking to the teachers and watching the kids pictures get posted on a private group on Facebook, I tend to want to call this a proper "school" instead of a daycare.

The kids have been on numerous field trips around town, had visits from local professionals and had all sorts of life experiences that I don't think a lot of kids get to have before kindergarten. They have a hedgehog as a classroom pet, a wooden stump with hammer to drive nails into, multiple sensory activities, art activities with a twist (like painting on the bottom of a desk like the Sistine Chapel). I don't know, but I don't think this is normal day care.

Last week he started taking interest in reading his own books to himself with a Leap Frog Tag reading system. He sits in his bed, with a newly installed reading light, crosses his legs and listens and taps away at the pages. It's replaced us reading books to him because it's what he wants to do. While he has tons of real book that will eventually get used (right?) we only ever read the same two or three to him, so we're fully embracing not only a change in reading material, but his self-motivation.

This has also given me a peek into the future where I'm not doing these intensive nightly routines with our son and opening back up our world of adult hood, just a little. A friend and I talk at work every few days about technology and things we really want to buy and almost always end up with ideas we could, with just a little elbow grease, do own our own and possibly make a living out of. Quit our jobs and create things full time. What a wonder! Grab a few of our friends out of the working world go on this great journey of entrepreneurship (damn, I spelled that right without spellcheck!).

It's amazing to think what our future is going to be like as we've given up these few years to our kids and now start to grow as a family. What directions will we all take and how will we continue to make ourselves happy and continue down our paths of life?

Midweek Notes

I heard an interview today on NPR about the business of American daycare. While I would love for one of us to be able to stay at home with our son, there is no way in hell I would do it. How's that? For starters, we'd both drive each other crazy. Secondly, I can only teach him so much. I believe in child care not only for both of us to be able to work, but for the benefits of being with other kids in a learning environment that is not a home. But, sadly, American day care is not a "system" and on paper is quite a mess. It's not like we all have other "mamas" for that kind of thing (Mama Congo blog). Luckily, we've found (and can afford) really good day care and I'm thankful for that everyday I pick him up from, what we really just call, school.

Link: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112892/hell-american-day-care

On my way to work today, I ran into a river of kids walking down the street from their school, protected by a half a dozen firetrucks and police cars. The middle school's yearly evacuation drill had them walking half a mile down the road to a community center and then splitting up and being bused to the high school another couple of miles down the road. I had things to do there, so I hung around and watched the spectacle. I didn't dare mention to anyone how dangerous of an idea I though THIS was.

I got into an interesting conversation with a local reporter and a local retiree heading into the center for a game of morning billiards. We discussed gun rights, Obama, black market bullets, mental health care, presidential vacation expenses and, I swear, shoes. What I came away with from that conversation is that I'm neither a republican or a democrat. I'm an open-to-other-people's-opinions. While I might not be able to say the same about retired billiards man, I think I was able to have a discussion with someone about politics without being political.

The reporter told me I should read Open Society and Its Enemies. Hmm. Maybe.