Bike Riding

The boys are 7 and 8 years old and this past Christmas Santa decided it was time for them to learn how to ride bikes. About 2 years ago we purchased these attachments that would convert our bikes into tandem bikes. They were called co-pilots and would attach to our adult bikes so that the 4 of us could ride together. In the beginning it was cute but I quickly realized the co-pilot wasn’t teaching the boys to balance and in the end I was lugging an additional 80 pounds behind me whenever we rode. So, partly out of frustration and partly because it was time we started the process of teaching them to ride their own bikes.

Secretly, I was worried. I was worried because for one of my boys, nothing ever comes easy. He’s generally not well coordinated and has what I call low-dexterity. This makes the concept of peddling difficult for him to grasp. It also makes his writing messy, learning to play the violin tough, and leaves him quite uncoordinated when it comes to sports. I wanted this to be a success for him but secretly I worried it would be tough and he would shy away from it for good. 

My other son is generally the opposite….and I worried his success would leave his brother deflated. 

Boy am I glad I was wrong. The one I was worried about took to it quickly. Yes, he had to give himself some pep talks but he got it. He was committed to learning it. He got past his nerves and after about half hour he was able to do it. He’s still learning and can’t ride very far but he did it. For encouragement I would give him a thumbs up sign, comment to him on how much fun it is to ride and quietly tell him in his ear that I was proud to see him stick with it until he got it.

The other…the one I assumed it would come easy for…it didn’t. He cried and whined all the way through it. Can he ride a bit, yes, but it wasn’t the great time I assumed it would be for him. He had to work hard to get it and for a kid who grasps most things easily, this put him outside his comfort zone. I had to force him to keep at it. I had to ignore his whining and push him to do it. I had to caution him to not ruin what should be a fun experience. 

One week later, when asking the boys if they wanted to go practice riding their bikes again…guess which one was not interested!

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Reflection

On January 16, 2017, very early in the morning, I got a call from the hospital and was able to listen to my mother take her last breaths. It was a horrible experience. A feeling of helplessness I never before experienced. Yes, my world is not the same and in many ways, I am still searching for my way back from this devasting truth.

But that is not why I write.

I write because the one thing I remember most vividly was how my children took the news of their “Granny” dying and of how they were impacted by her death at her funeral.

First, I did try to keep them abreast of what was going on and why I was rushing back to NY to see about Granny. One child was stoic and the other emotional. 

After her death I did call them and talk to them directly about Granny dying. I answered all their questions. I told them I was really sad; so sad that I cried and that it was ok if they felt like crying too.

I also told them how Granny loved them and how we will always have photos and memories of Granny to look at, laugh about and talk about.

When they came to NY, I did shield them from the business and process of death. I just didn’t think they needed to be aware of all of that; but I did think it was important for them to be at her funeral and for them to be able to say goodbye the same as everyone else.

While most of that day, while organizing and planning the entire thing, I don’t really remember. However, the one thing that is burned in my memory was that I could offer them no words of comfort. 

What hurts me the most was that this pain, I could not make better for either one of them. My hugs, my kisses, my reassurances that all would be ok was not what they needed. 

And so with one in my lap and the other at my side, we felt the pain of saying goodbye together. We sat there and we cried together. 

Time will have to tell if that was enough.

Stress

You know, one of the good things about getting older is that you learn what you’re made of. Through life some of your journies will be treatrous and how you respond in those moments are learned lessons you should hold dear.

So it is with me now. I am in the storm of my life and I have come to realize a few new things about myself.

The first thing is that I am as cool as a cucumber during stressful times. The truth is that my silence is more likely because if I allow you to probe I might crack.

My weakness during stressful times is not food, drink or drugs. My weakness is TV. Mindless TV. Hours and hours of it. I am forever grateful for Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and movie channels. They have been my saving grace these past few days.

The worst thing I learned is that though I think I am shielding my kids from what’s going on, they know. It hurts my heart but I have been forcing myself to share with them what is happening. It is not good for them to be in the dark. They are a part of the family too and so I force myself and I struggle through finding the words to help them understand. It’s painful. More for me than for them But I try.  

They are stronger than I imagined. 

Desserts

Why do my children think they are entitled to a dessert after they eat dinner each night? So much so that they get very upset at the thought of not having one at the completion of dinner.  What ever happened to them being grateful to have a meal?

Don’t they know how many children across the world go hungry each day?

And yes I am one step closer to sounding like my mother but I don’t care.

My Christmas Lie

This year, for some reason, I have been noticing how much we lie to our children.  Lies…all in the name of fostering the joy of Christmas but lies all the same.  In the end, I do think it is harmless but like all lies…its extremely complicated to maintain.  Further, I realize that as my children get older and are better able to reason, I continue to complicate the lie in order to keep it going.

So for Christmas, Santa has to deliver the Christmas tree.  That means that at some point, a moment has to be created where both of the boys are out of the house for enough time for me to run out and purchase a Christmas tree.  Sometimes I do it while they are at school and it greets them when they get home, last year, I think they went to play in the park and just as they were returning, I was just able to get my coat off in time to tell them how Santa said he was so sorry to have missed them. I complicated the lie by asking…didn’t you just hear the bells jingling as you were walking up the block.  Oh man…go look and see if you can catch him at the stop sign! Its amazing, but like magic each year, they somehow manage to just miss Santa’s delivery. They are always a little disappointed but happy that the tree has finally arrived.

Then we have to decorate and light the tree.  Why?  Well that’s because Santa has to be able to find you to bring presents.  Technically though, if Santa delivered the tree…doesn’t he already know where we are. Why do we need to light the tree so that he can find us? Luckily they haven’t gotten to that place yet. They simply enjoy the process of being able to decorate the tree…but I suspect that question will come soon.

When their toy collection gets overwhelming, Santa will generally ask them to consider which of their toys they can donate to children less fortunate. The struggle is then they want to give away everything in hopes that Santa will bring them all new stuff. Things they’ve played with and enjoy..they suddenly no longer want.  But why I ask?  “Santa’s gonna bring us new stuff” is generally the thought. And so trying to teach them to be charitable during the holiday hasn’t really turned out the way I hoped. Now they give stuff away just because they want all new stuff!

When Christmas is all done, Santa has to come pick up the tree.  Sure I could just throw the tree out but Santa brought it to us…we can’t just throw it away.  So no..we aren’t throwing it out. We are returning it.  But why do we have to return it? He gave it to us! Well Santa is actually coming to pick up the tree so that he can have it re-planted in the forest. It’s important to Santa that we recycle things and that we don’t waste…and so in order to be environmental, they let the tree go each year.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

My choice or yours?

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For the past 24hrs, my mind has been flipping over and over.

You see, both of my boys are involved in gymnastics.  My younger son has been taking gymnastics since he was 2 years old. My older, has done it off and on for the past 4 years. My younger boy is a natural. I noticed it when I took him to our first daddy and me gym class when he was two.  My older son, I think he likes the sport, but he has to work harder at it. He’s not as strong physically and he’s not as coordinated. What is worrisome is that my older understands more of what it means to stick with it. He tries and tries until he gets it. My younger son, because it came to him so quickly, doesn’t understand what it means to have to work hard to get something. For him, its just fun and play. He has no work ethic.

At any rate, gymnastics and school fill our week.  They have multiple lessons and naturally, their lessons aren’t at the same time. Our only days off are Thursday and Sunday! While we try to not focus on gymnastics at home, I do see them practicing their splits and handstands etc. When they play in the back yard I do see them practicing their flips and such…so its just a part of their lives.

Last night we found out that next week, my youngest son will be assessed to determine if he can move up to a more advanced team. Right now, he is on the pre-competitive team. He practices about 6 hrs per week. The goal is for them to get the fundamentals, to build their strength and to start some elementary moves on all the equipment. If he is able to demonstrate that he is strong enough and has mastered the moves, he will go to the competitive team.

The competitive team practices a total of 16hrs per week. They continue to build strength, they work on more advanced moves, and with time he will be able to enter competitions. They are very clear that one should not join this team if they are not interested in being an all-around competitive gymnast. And this is where I am torn…

He is 6…is he able to decide whether he wants to be a competitive gymnast? As his dad, a part of me wants him to advance. If he is good enough, he should go for it. My logic with everything is that you do it to get better. You push yourself to be the best you can be…and it will work itself out. Further, why invest the money in the lessons if you aren’t going to see just how far you can go.

Another part of me doesn’t want him to progress because I feel like 16hrs a week of practice is a lot!  Do I want him to start comparing himself to the others, to start picking out the things he doesn’t do well or needs to improve upon, etc. We also heard that another child (he’s just four) who has already advanced, is struggling with the number of hours of practice each week. He’s always tired we heard his mother say. His dad pushes him to come…saying they are paying a lot for him to be on the team and so he doesn’t have a choice. Don’t get me wrong…at 4…the boys stands out.  Something is there…but in my mind…he’s just 4…and my son is just 6 and 16hrs of practice per week sounds like a lot!

I also asked my son what he wanted. I asked him whether he still liked gymnastics and whether he still wanted to do it.  He says he does. I asked him whether he wanted to be assessed and whether he thought he was good enough to advance. He says he thinks he’s good enough to do it. I finally asked whether he wanted me to come watch him be assessed and to cheer for him and he told me no!  He says I make him nervous because he knows I am watching him.  So I won’t go.

I also think about the cost associated with it and how I don’t want to make the investment only for him to come back and say its too hard or he’s too tired or whatever (remember, his work ethic concerns me) but then I think maybe seeing the other boys doing great things will encourage him and motivate him.

I just don’t know.  Maybe I won’t have to decide…maybe he won’t do well enough and can stay in the pre-competitive team. I want him to do well enough to advance…but does he really understand what going to school and then practicing each day for a total of 16hrs per week means?

Should I decide for him…or rather, should I decide what I think is best for him?

 

Quiet Storms

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My home has been recently experiencing some significant changes. Changes that are wonderful to see but that really represent what is to come. You see, my children are growing more and more independent and while it is what I hope for from them, the results of that independence means that I am no longer as needed by my children.

This past summer, my children began picking their own clothes each day. They are now able to get up and get themselves together each morning without my having to provide much guidance and/or direction. Sure this means that they are becoming more independent and that’s a good thing. It also means that I get to sleep a little longer each morning and I should be grateful for that but it hurts not being needed.

As school started we also started allowing them to fix themselves their own cereal in the morning. Each night, before going to bed, we set their bowls and spoons on the island but they are now able to get up, get dressed, go downstairs and fix their own breakfast all on their own. They have even learned and remember to take their vitamins each morning. This is great news. I get to sleep later but it really is the beginning of the end. My kids don’t need me as much as before.

Unofficially, my kids have chores. They are responsible for letting the dog out to use the bathroom and they are also responsible for picking up his poop from the back yard. To most, that is great news. I mean who wants to have to pick up poop. I like that they are able to do it and to help out. It gives me more time to focus on other things…but it also means they don’t need me to do it…and well, is that really what I am after?

Yes, we still have a sitter/nanny and she helps keep the larger items in the house together but the kids also have special chores like dusting, that are just for them to do. Before, dusting was something to keep them busy. To allow them to feel like they were helping out but they are getting so good at it. So much so that I needn’t go behind them and re-do it. This is great news right? Again, I get to sleep just a little longer or I get to watch the news uninterrupted (I am a news junkie) or I get to focus on some other chore but again, it illustrates how my children are growing and they don’t need me to guide and/or instruct them on as much as I used to.

My children also are finding their time watching TV and/or playing on their tablets more enjoyable than sitting, leaning on and talking to me. Sure I still restrict the amount of time they have with those things but previously, I was the center of their world. They are developing interests and things they would prefer to do such that they find not being able to watch cartoons and/or play on their tablet in order to sit with me painful! When did I become painful. I have become a cross to bear until they can go back to doing other, more enjoyable things.

Shouldn’t I be happy about this? My sister Maylyn would probably say its about time. That I have babied them for far too long and they need to be more independent (I can hear her asking me what is the problem)…but I liked being needed. I liked having to do things for them. I liked them waking me at 6am on the weekends with their morning breath whispering “Daddy, I’m hungry?” I liked being able to sit on the sofa with one on each side of me talking about their day and/or any other silly things. I liked being their source of entertainment.

So now I can sleep in just a little longer and my mornings are not as hectic as they used to be. Now I get time to do whatever I want to do instead of doing what I need to do for them…and well, its strange. I feel more me-focused and I guess I didn’t realize it would begin to happen this early. What’s the next couple of years going to be like. When will I officially become useless, uninformed and unintelligent to them?

Oh and BTW, their feet are growing like weeds!

 

School-time

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We start school on Tuesday, September 6. School for my boys start at 7:45am. I am excited for them to return.  They however, not so much.

In prep for school, I took my younger son to the psychiatrist to be assessed for ADD. Getting to this point took a lot.  First we talked about the constant struggle to get him to focus at school.  It was always odd how a highly intelligent child, just couldn’t sit through a 15 minute exercise.  I assumed it was because he figured it out and then the exercise got boring.

Later the nanny talked to me about his inability to sit through his summer exercises.  But I thought to myself…who would want to sit through reading and writing in the summer.

One day, I worked from home and I had an opportunity to witness it myself…and I could no longer deny that something was going on…so I took him to the doctor.

I was hesitant, I was resistant and I already had my defenses.  I am a highly intelligent, well researched parent.  I did my homework and I was ready to discuss options outside of drug therapy.

So when the doctor started in, I laid it all out…yes, his diet is organic, yes he takes vitamins, no he doesn’t have any problems sleeping, no he’s not depressed. Half hour of video games, half hour of TV, no problems making friends…blah blah blah.

He stopped his line of questioning and simply asked me what did I want to do…and I said honestly, I didn’t want to do anything but I felt it was my responsibility to investigate. He took me through the understanding of the different medications and I just listened. I was pretty confident I wasn’t going that route. Then he offered something to try…Cod Liver Oil. He admitted he doesn’t know why.  He acknowledged he doesn’t know how it works but that for some children, an old wives tale of taking a tablespoon of Cod Liver Oil every day seems to do the trick.

He advised that it would take about 30 days to see any change and he informed me to get the Carlson brand for it was high quality without things like mercury. He also recommended 1mg of folic acid every day. So that’s it.  We are trying Cod Liver Oil and Folic Acid.

I had to laugh because I remember my mom giving us Cod Liver Oil every day before school as a kid and to this day, I still take 1mg of folic acid daily…and it makes me think…sometime the best remedies are the things of old!

Remind me in a month to let you know if this has worked!

Which is right…I wonder

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It is my opinion that the Black Lives Matter movement is misguided. I don’t find them to be on message, I don’t find their tactics to be effective and I don’t think they have a credible voice. I believe all one needs to do is look to history to see what worked most effectively when advancing civil rights. For me, that was the Rosa Parks situation. What worked, was not that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat but the response afterwards. People simply refused to ride public transportation until the law was changed. Economically, Montgomery lost a lot of money because all the supporters simply stopped riding public transportation. They car pooled and they walked everywhere; and very quickly (about one year), the city reversed itself. Money drives most things.  Thus if the Black Lives Matter movement really wanted to be effective, they would organize people in different ways. I live in Chicago…do you know what would happen to this city if all the Black Lives Matter supporters decided to collectively take days off until things changed?  Think of all the places where you see black and brown faces working. What if we all systemically started taking days off? First all the people that work at the airport, then all the public transportation workers, then the restaurant workers, etc.  We would systematically bring the city to its knees day after day. The city could not afford to miss out on that revenue for days and weeks; they would have to respond quickly. Instead we have protests, some police still engage in questionable behavior, and the politicians get to drag their feet, while trying to convince us they are serious about change. Cut off the revenue and I believe the sense of urgency would soon develop.

But that’s my opinion. As a parent, I don’t get to be radical like that. I have 2 boys. Two brown boys who are growing up in a city, in a country, that is, generally speaking, hostile towards them. For their own safety, I don’t get to say what I am really thinking.

Instead, our conversations focus on how people are being treated unfairly and how that is not right.  We talk about how important it is to respect and to be kind to other people. We talk about how it is ok to be angry, but it is never ok to touch, hit, scream or throw things as others; that you entitled to your feelings but you have no right to be treat someone poorly because of them.

I tell them that I agree with the Black Lives Matter movement. That we need Black Lives Matter to help because I honestly believe people are being treated unfairly and that is wrong. When we see something that is not right, we should try to fix it. When they ask how come I am not a part of the protests, I tell them it is because I don’t think it is right that you should scream, threaten and throw things at other people because you don’t agree with them. I explain that breaking things, burning things and throwing things is not how we solve problems.

And then I sound preachy, so I shut up.