How to Talk to Your Kids

May 19, 2016

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
You can’t really take my word too seriously on this topic because I seem to have lost my ability to talk to my kids. People always warned me from the moment my daughter was born that the teen years would be hell, and when the second one came along people found it amusing to point out just how much trouble I was in for. Hearing comments like that were laughable, and over time they angered me because I felt it was pretty obvious that I had a great relationship with my girls. To me, those people were flat out wrong. At least it were wrong at the time. That is until around the age of 8 (or thereabouts), for both of them. I once read that 8 years old is when girls start to diverge from their parents’ way of thinking – when they begin flexing their individuality, and that held true in my house. They began to really express their individual personalities at that time, and that was hard to deal with. I’ll admit that I didn’t deal with it very well, because I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t equipped to deal with it. I was also out of the country for five months around this time, and custody was split 50/50. Enough complications? Ugh.

I have found that the harder I try to hang onto what we once had the worse it becomes. That relationship is gone. Those little girls are gone. They’re young women now and they don’t have the same wants and needs anymore, so for me –the same guy, mostly– to continue on with them as though they’re still 8 (or younger) is a disservice to them. And to me. I have to adapt as they mature.

I read a book called “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish that I found very helpful. I ran into an article on yourtango.com today that reminded me of that book, and inspired me to write this post. If you don’t have time for the book, the article summarizes many of the principles very well. If I could condense it even further, I’d say this:

Shut up and LISTEN to what your kids have to say.
While you’re listening the only thing you should be thinking about is how what they’re telling you is –aside from paying attention, obviously– this question, “How does this make her feel?

Kids are new – they don’t know until their taught. If you can identify how they’re feeling, say it as a sympathetic statement, or ask directly. If you translate their feelings into words they are now more equipped to express and eventually process (deal with) those feelings.

One of the challenges for the adult mind to deal with in these situations is to shut up. For us the problems kids deal with are simple, easy to solve or avoid, and largely inconsequential. We could easily deal with them in their shoes, but only if we had our adult brain and lifetime of experience. They don’t have those, so remember that. What they feel is real, regardless of your perception of it. To them, their feelings are their world; don’t deny them.

Mother’s Day

May 10, 2016

One Day Is Not Enough

Almost 3 years have passed since my beautiful wife delivered her first child (my third). a sweet little boy. In that short time he has grown into the happiest little guy I’ve ever seen. He is affectionate, sensitive, very bright, observant, strangely obedient, and of course he has more energy than the sun!

Thinking about how he is developing so well really strikes me and I find myself in awe, daily. Clearly it is not my doing! There are certain circumstances required for a child to reach his potential, such as being guided through life by someone who shows him love, affection and kindness all day, every day. He needs someone to give him firm boundaries, to read to him (in two languages, no less), to explore his world with him, to teach him manners and right from wrong. Someone who places more importance on his well-being than their own personal interests. Someone with the patience to hold him while he cries for hours on end, for seemingly no reason.

That person isn’t me, even though this is my 3rd time around the block. The only person who fits this description is Mamá. She does this without enough sleep, without any experience, and without complaint. One day isn’t enough.

¡Feliz día de las Madres!

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Is Hate a Virtue?

April 12, 2016

is-hate-a-virtue

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I Want to be an Air Cadet, too!

April 8, 2016
Royal Canadian Air Force Rank Badges

Royal Canadian Air Force Rank Badges

RANT:

MAN I’m jealous of my kids in that that I cannot be an Air Cadet, too!

Seriously. Look what they can do that I cannot:

I can’t get a free (and nice) uniform that instantly commands respect.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in musical band.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in drill routines.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in marksmanship (rifles).
I can’t take part in free weekly training in aerospace technology.
I can’t take part in free weekly training in Meteorology.
I can’t take part in free powered and non-powered glider training.
I can’t get my pilot’s licence for free (high achievers get this sponsored).
I can’t go flying for free, twice per year.
I can’t go to free summer courses that PAY ME to learn new skills.
I can’t decorate that uniform with pins that signify my membership in a world class respected organization.
I can’t decorate that uniform with patches for completing challenging courses.
I can’t decorate that uniform with rank badges that signify my hard work and dedication.
I can’t do all these things during my (long gone) teen years earning me tremendous respect from my family and community, leveraging the opportunities that this generates into a fulfilling future.

No, I can’t. They can.

What I could do is join the armed forces —giving up my ability to earn money — to enter training, be away from my family until that’s completed, then move away to a new city to complete mandatory placements. Someone has a better deal here and you’re damned right I’m jealous about it. I didn’t learn anything important until it was too late. The Cadet program would have made me so much better, so much sooner.

The good news is that my girls will not follow my poorly chosen footsteps.

UPDATE, 2016-05-02: I learned from a trusted source that there is a way for me to do quite a few of those things that I complain so maturely about, above. So interesting to see how this unfolds now…

 

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Being Cared For

March 22, 2016

Lunch

Each morning I quietly sneak into the kitchen and grab my lunch bag, trying not to wake the little one. In that lunch bag I find breakfast ready to go, with a heart carefully drawn on the ziplock bag. Sometimes there’s a more direct message of “I love you” written on tin foil, depending on what breakfast is that morning. In fact, most of the wrappings have something written on them, and even the plastic containers have been marked with little messages.

Later in the day when I’m sitting at my desk, hungry, I reach for my lunch bag and find that it also contains a variety of containers all prepared the night before. Sometimes there’s a salad, with things like nuts, peppers, tomatoes, and things I don’t even understand, added in. Inside the salad container there is always a salad dressing waiting in its own little container. Other times I find things like alll of the ingredients needed for real Mexican tacos, including sliced limes, diced onions and cilantro – everything individually packaged so that nothing gets soggy or mixed too soon. Sometimes the tortillas are home-made! That’s not all – I’ve even found baked salmon with rice and green olives waiting for me!

Snacks are always included: sometimes it’s the traditional chocolate chip cookies, or a healthier choice of mixed nuts & berries, or a quick apple or banana. When I am really lucky there are M&Ms, straight from the freezer (because I like them frozen)!

When it is up to me things are very different. My choices are a quick and dirty toast with butter for breakfast and peanut butter & jam sandwiches for lunch. And the cookies – I don’t deny myself the cookies! So, to be treated to this level of consideration and careful preparation is more than I could hope to ask for. And I don’t ask for it – it just happens. The only other time I’ve been so cared for was when my loving mother was taking care of me as an incompetent, unaware, (and possibly thankless) little kid.

This is what my wife does for me each day. I’ve thought about it for some time and I cannot find that point in our marriage where I did something that deserved me such a selfless and loving woman at my side. When I find out what it is I am going to be obligated to write a book about it so that others can experience a relationship as awesome as this one is. But, until then, I will settle for showing her my sincere appreciation, and bragging to everyone at work how awesome my lunches are.

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Effective Speaking

February 27, 2016

Effective Speaking

It’s over.

I literally FORCED my daughters to join the Effective Speaking program in their Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. One of them was easier to force than the other, and one of them was more persistent about getting out of it, once in. –Nah, I’m not gonna say which one that was. Despite the challenges they brought to me, and that they faced, I am proud to say that I’m impressed with their performances.

My eldest urged everyone in the room to become the best version of themselves with a motivational speech about her first time piloting a plane at 12 years old, which was another thing I forced her to do, lol. Her younger sister brought a pair of tears to my eye with her heart-penetrating speech about the importance of becoming an organ donor, finishing it off with an affirmation that she has already decided to become one herself.

They pushed themselves way outside of their comfort zones, and made two very passionate speeches in front of 11 cadets (2 of whom are Warrant Officers, 2nd Class), 2 Officers (one of whom is a Captain and an actual pilot), the SSC’s treasurer, and a single set of parents. At the end of it all the speakers received feedback from the Captain and their Squadran WOII, making it a great experience for me, and likely the cadets, too, whether they realize it or not.

Today I learned, yet again, that there is always –always– so much more to everyone we meet than what we think. These 7 kids prepared and delivered 14 great speeches, revealing insights into how their minds work,, how they perceive the world they live in, and demonstrating the time and effort they put into them. Despite public speaking being one of the biggest fears for most people, these kids all wanted to win. They all wanted to do well. They all wanted each other to do well, too, which I was really impressed by.

The cadets running the event were not paid to be there. The SSC’s treasurer was not paid to be there. And none of the officers were paid to be there. How many kids, adults, accountants or professional pilots do you think would give up their Saturday to operate a speaking competition and give their sincere advice – for free? These are the kinds of people I want my kids to associate with. These are the kinds of people I want my kids to be inspired by. This selflessness in community service is what the Air Cadets brings to our lives, and I am grateful for them.

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What to do if Refugees Relocate into Your Neighborhood

November 25, 2015

Greet them, learn their names, teach their children English, give them a tour of our great land – show them why Canada is so great and why canadians are loved all over the world.  You have a choice to demonstrate what it means to be human, rather than be part of the cycle of hatred the media pushes.

Greet them, learn their names, teach their children English, give them a tour of our great land – show them why Canada is so great and why canadians are loved all over the world.

You have a choice to demonstrate what it means to be human, rather than be part of the cycle of hatred the media pushes.

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How to Calm Down

November 23, 2015

How to Calm Down

I saw this poster on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing, but as I prepared to re-post it I thought that I’d put my spin on it, because maybe I have some OK enough ideas.

  1. Go outside and kick sometime – preferably a ball so you don’t break anything important, like your foot, or anything else that would mean you need to calm down all over again.
  2. Go outside and run somewhere – best to a place where you can actually return from (instead of a dangerous area). Also, only if you can actually run.
  3. Go into your room and punch your pillow. Close the door first so no one sees you as they may not understand. Also, ensure your pillow isn’t close to anything harder than your fists or you’ll need to calm down all over again when your tiny hand bones crack against the bed frame.
  4. Listen to music that you already know relaxes you, rather than music that gets you pumped up. That means, no angry music, or sad music either. Keep the volume decent because excessive loudness is likely to have the opposite effect.
  5. Close your eyes and imagine a calm place. Try to image the smells, sounds, feelings, tastes as well as how it looks. The more senses you put on it the more effective the visualization will be.
  6. Draw a picture of what’s bothering you, but draw it quickly and with limited effort. Once you’ve done that, crumple it up and throw it away. Then draw something that is not part of what is bothering you. Put more effort into this one, and then show it to someone whom you know will appreciate it. If you go to the wrong person you will probably have a new reason to need calming.
  7. Write a letter to your future self. Tell your future self all the reasons you’re upset right now, and how you got there. When you’re done with that, tell your future self something funny, or silly because later, when your future self (you) reads it they’re going to appreciate your younger self’s humor.
  8. Read a book that you’re into. If you’re not into a book at the moment, read a book that you think you’d like. If you can’t do either, try something else on this list.
  9. Talk to someone whom you know cares about you. Before you start, tell them that you are just letting your feelings out (venting) and that you’re not looking for advice this time. This will prepare them, letting them know how to handle the situation. It’s relieving to be able to let it all out without fear of judgement or correction.
  10. Ask someone whom you know cares about you for a hug. Sometimes the best way to do that is to say, “I need a hug,” and then open your arms to them. It takes a special kind of mean to refuse a hug to someone in need.

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With Paris on my Mind

November 16, 2015

Paris

Each of my kids are chatter-boxes, but they’re each completely different in how they chatter and what they chatter about. I like hearing what they have to say about the world around them, and how they perceive it, so I often engage with them about world events. Sometimes I get literally nothing out of them, and other times I get more than I bargained for when they tell me something that I wouldn’t agree with or didn’t see coming. Then there are times when it becomes abundantly clear that they’re listening and processing in those moments of silence.

Over this weekend I had trapped one of them in the car with me as I running her around town. As always, when there is no sibling competing for attention –or air time– the chattering starts up. This is always the best time to jump in and see what kind of thoughts are bouncing around their minds. This time I had Paris on my mind and I wanted to get her take on it.

Of course this event was not on her world news radar as this particular kid is more into gaming than social media, so she had no idea what I was talking about. I simply said that terrorists attacked Paris, in multiple locations, killing more than 100 people. There was some silence after than, in what I thought was a lack of interest, but she started to ask a few questions about who the attackers were and why would they do that. I provided the limited answers that I could, and after a while she started to make more sense than most people in any government.

For the sake of simplicity, and because I am not one known for a perfect memory, I’ll paraphrase what my 12 year old had to say about war:

“I think it’s stupid for people to be so one-side about war. The people they’re killing aren’t the bad guys – they’re just people who have families too. And THOSE people think WE are the bad guys, too. It’s just a point of view – we are all just people. They think we are bad, we think they are bad, but none of that matters. It’s just killing and it’s stupid.”

I should point out that she added angry emphasis her use of the word “stupid,” as she is known to do when things are stupid (in her point of view).

This didn’t really strike me at the time. I was proud of her for thinking like that and I told her that she is absolutely correct. I pointed out that so many people haven’t reached that level of thinking yet. But, since it was just so like her to say that, I didn’t come back to it until I drank a cup of my Facebook news feed this morning.

A friend of mine wrote, “If you feel so strongly about sending people over to other countries to kill people, just go yourself.” Yea, he is right, and after reading that I was reminded of my daughter’s point of view, and so I posted it there as a comment, just to add some strength to the sentiment, and as the day went on I realized that she had a point strong enough to warrant repeating.

To be honest, I’ve had the same train of thought before as I pondered American patriotism vs Canadian patriotism. I’m not a fan of the Canadian military just because I’m Canadian, which I’ve felt is the default American point of view. I’m not a fan of a war just because Canada has sent its military there, either. What would you say war is, if a little kid asked you?

How do you avoid telling the kid that war is when two or more countries can’t agree on something so strongly that they start a big fight where the purpose to destroy their land and kill as many people as needed to make them stop defending themselves? That’s what happens: mass killing and destruction, then total submission. After the submission, then what?

She’s right, it’s just killing and it’s stupid.

Praying for Humanity isn’t going to do a thing. What we need to do is think and act more like lives actually matter.

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NSFW & NSFK – Astonishing Parenting Fails

November 13, 2015

I thought this was going to be a cute video full of silly parenting mistakes. I was so wrong. This video shows some of the worst parenting moves out there. Don’t watch it at work, nor in front of kids.

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