Raising a Manner

One of Meghan and my biggest priorities in raising Cash is that he have manners and respect for adults.

The pleases and thank yous and social graces that grease the wheels of a civilizations’ happiness and well being. And melts the hearts of adults

But we can talk a good game and tell him to do those things but if we don’t do it, it’s just chatter. Nonsense.

Parents have to embody and be an example of what they want their kids to be. I was given teaching advice in my early years in the profession, “Be who you want your students to be.” Makes sense for parents and coaches as well.

The opposite of “Do as I say, not as I do.” That’s the biggest line of BS I’ve ever heard and can’t believe we’ve allowed anyone to say that and get away with it.

My freshman biology teacher, Jim Stephenson, once said after handing out an assignment. “I wouldn’t ask you guys to do anything I wouldn’t do.”  I hadn’t heard that phrase before but obviously it’s stuck with me all these years and is a noble sentiment.

Also from a former coach of mine, current Waunakee High school head football coach Pat Rice said, “It’s really easy to talk about scoring 50 points, it’s a lot harder to DO that!” Simple but true.

I may be wandering off point here but we’ve lost emphasis on valuing class and moved into valuing trash.

Think I’m exaggerating? One word-Kardashians. Mrs. Kanye West has a net worth estimated at $145 million. Speaking of “class” acts, how about Mr. Kanye’s behavior? Classy? Good manners? Want your kid to act like him?

But, it’s not just limited to reality TV shows.

TV news’ long-time mantra “If it bleeds, It leads” promotes the idea that we focus on the bad behavior and what’s wrong without showing what’s right.

In entertainment, we look the other way and shrug our shoulders when athletes  and musicians father multiple children with multiple women.

We find bad behavior entertaining to watch on TV but our voyeurism is slipping into a weird sort of worship and reward and it seems to be blurring our sense of judgment.

It’s the parents role to be vigilant, step in and provide proper perspective amidst our current culture.

They say the best way to have polite kids, is to be polite. If you’re a jerk, your kid probably will be one too. So, if your kid doesn’t have manners it’s on you. Teach, reinforce, reteach, re-reinforce…for as long as it takes.

Humans are not born with manners–anyone who has watched a toddler eat at the table knows this–but rather, you learn them. And as parents, it is our duty to teach them.

Manners help our kids function in a society that will be have been made better by the those same manners.

Our kids look up to us…don’t let them lose sight on what’s important.

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Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Find a Repurpose in Life

The internet has spawned all sorts of unprecedented creativity and idea sharing. I’m especially interested in the “upcycling” items I’ve seen. I believe “upcycling” is a new word that has been spawned from the internet and refers to taking something old and refurbishing and repurposing it into something new.

I’m nowhere near a being a hoarder. I’m quick to get rid of no longer used, no longer worn items. But, I can get nostalgic and as I grow older, gain a deeper appreciation for well-made, interesting products of yesteryear.

So, this past Fall when I drove by a TV set sitting on the curb of an older home, something possessed me to pull over, back up and take a closer look.  The set reminded me of the TV sets my grandparents had in their homes when I was a child.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m a fan of today’s flat screen TVs, thin as an inch and highly defined-we have three in our house.

But, there is something about those old TV sets. The old consoles that were a piece of furniture in family rooms across the US. These were substantial enough to set your drink or dinner on if you had to. Try that on one of these paper thin sets of today!

Still, I drove off thinking, it’s “junk” leave it be and let it go peacefully off to TV heaven. But, a mile down the road, I was compelled to turn around and drive back to it…drawn to it like a magnet.

I parked next to the driveway, looked around a bit cautiously-feeling a little criminally-and quickly hoisted the beastly appliance into the back of my Jeep without “breaking” anything within the TV…or within my spine.

Once it was loaded in, I shut the back and trotted into the front seat and sped off. A check in the rearview mirror confirmed I was getting away, free and clear.

When I arrived home, I asked Meghan to lend me a hand to bring something in the house that “I’d picked up on the side of the road.” She gave me a skeptical look.

Luckily, Meghan is a sport when it comes to these things and has herself “upcycled” several items in her past, some of which are in our house now-our main dresser and TV console.

She agreed the TV set was a pretty cool find but left it up to me to find storage and a purpose?

With our large basement that wasn’t a problem, but I needed to find a use for it.  It, not surprisingly, was dead-which was fine considering I didn’t think it would supplant any of our current TVs for viewing.

A search on the internet revealed a few ideas, but not as many as I thought there might be. The main ones were removing the screen and tubing and replacing it with an aquarium. Cool, but we weren’t interested in having one or owning fish.

Another option was to make it a lighted bar. Seeing as we have a toddler, having a low set, accessible item with tons of glass and bottles, didn’t sound like a smart move.

One more had the screen and tubing replaced to create a cat bed. Uhh, no. Our cat, Emmitt, has too many places to sleep around our house already.

I decided I wanted our son Cash to interact with it. I liked the juxtaposition of old and young.

An original-at least as far as I know-idea surfaced in my brain–I’d paint the screen with magnetic paint and convert the set into a magnetic board on which Cash could use his colorful magnets!

I pitched the idea to Meghan. She was actually impressed and told me to go for it.

So, I bought the paint, had the brushes and tape and went to work.  The magnetic paint is cool but really thick, so I had to stir it with a one inch thick piece of scrap wood I had in the workshop.

So, over the course of a couple nights after work, I painted on layers, waiting for each one to dry, and reapplying.

After six coats, I decided to bring in a trial magnet…and it stuck easily and cleanly!

I ripped off the painting tape, scratched out few errant paint dots and I was on to my last step, insisted upon by my wife…to clean “the crap out of it!”

I scrubbed and sprayed and scrubbed and exactoknifed and buffed and wirecutted and pounded anything else that protruded…and finally, my upcycle was complete!

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But, the real test of my success would be if Cash would want to use it or not.

When you’re only halfway to success, you still succ!

I’m pretty sure that I just invented that phrase. Anyone know how I can start making and marketing T-shirts, coffee mugs and bumper stickers?!

Anyway, you may know from last week’s article https://wordpress.com/post/wisconsindadger.com/1715

how much Cash enjoys touch screens.  This was taking that to a different level!

I set it up in his baby cave and let him loose. He passed through the valley of his toy mountains and went straight to this newest playroom addition.

He sat up…and immediately started moving magnets off, on, and around the screen!

Success!

As I watch Cash play, I feel good that I gave this TV set a new purpose.

Just like my family has given me.

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Touchy Subject

Meghan and I were those pre-parents who make all sorts of delusional, unsubstantiated proclamations:

“Our kids won’t be watching TV!”

“Our kids won’t constantly have their noses in their cell phones!”

“Our kids will not be eating sweets!”

(Okay, Meghan said this last one and I nodded also knowing deep down I would not be the one enforcing this. Pretty sure she knew that too.)

But hey, don’t we all start out with ideals and goals and that more often than not have to amended or outright abolished?

Less than a year into Cash’s life we had broken the no TV rule. (See article https://wisconsindadger.com/2015/09/18/baby-first)

Not only does he watch a little TV but also kid-programming videos on Youtube. It’s especially nice to have him sitting contently and occupied while his food is prepped instead of him wandering into trouble in the kitchen while burners and stoves are running and cabinets are being shut and opened!

And soon thereafter, the sweets rule…turns out Cash loves ice cream, brownies, and peanut butter Clif bars.

And to complete the list, by his first birthday, Cash had become surprisingly adept and proficient using our Iphones and Ipad.

We’re left feeling torn about the violations of our preconceived proclamations.

TV screens, sweets, and cell phones are ubiquitous. We’ve resigned ourself to conciliatory notions of his inevitable exposure and interactions with them. None of them appear to be going away. Why delay or prevent?  It’s like trying to stop a hurricane with an umbrella.

I admit, we feel strained yet impressed with his device usages the most.

With his furrowed brow, intense stare and pointed index finger, Cash easily swipes through screens, pulls up stock reports and enters incorrect log-in codes which have caused both our phones to be locked a number of times.

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To boot, there are plenty of apps that provide entertainment and education.

Just this past weekend, I searched “Best apps for 14 month olds” and spent $.99 on our first app purchase for Cash-called Lunchbox. The app lets you identify and tap fruits on the screen…when successful, the fruit pops and disappears while a little monkey jumps up and celebrates.

I found the app a bit redundant and mildly educational…but to be fair, it’s not targeted at 532 month olds.

I’m kept busy enough monkeying with how to unlock my phone.

 

A Renaissance

“You’re a renaissance man!”

A high school teacher said after he heard I was simultaneously acting in the school play, running on the Track team serving on the student council.

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The term renaissance man sounded positive but I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. Definition: a person with many talents or areas of knowledge.

It was an ideal developed in the 15th century by Leon Battista Alberti who summed it up with “a man can do all things if he will.”  Alberti should know, he was an architect, painter, poet, scientist, mathematician and horseman. (I presume this means a good horserider?)

By the way, women can be a renaissance man…see “person” in definition.

Anyway, I certainly didn’t measure up to Alberti but my crossover into varied activities was rare.  Was I a jock or a drama nerd? A student government egghead? Others were-class clowns, band geeks, braniacs, druggies(stoners)?

I was proud to cause pause when it came to characterizing me.  I witnessed how flimsy and inaccurate labels can be…when none of them totally represented me. I was nothing special. I happened to like playing football, acting, debating issues, music, etc. Truth is, I enjoyed performing whether it was on stage or on the football field. It tripped the same triggers, in both, you planned, practiced then performed. And yes, I enjoyed applause, call me a narcissist.

The emphasis on focus, determination and teamwork was essential to it all. And I gained friends from different walks of life who often misunderstood one another.

I imagine, like Meghan and I, all parents wish for their kids to be well-rounded, unlimited, open to defining and re-defining who they are as they go through life.

It’s a great big world, shouldn’t we push the edges and explore it?  Isn’t it wasteful and depressing to not?

Labels aren’t evil but they can be. They can constrain, they can nullify, they can extinguish the human spirit.

This is why I’m so concerned the idea of the renaissance man is in danger in the midst of our emerging specialization society. It’s all-too-apparent in the raising of our youth the last decade or so.

With the prevalence of youth sports and club teams and private coaches, kids are being forced into choosing a particular sport or activity at younger and younger ages. Sports don’t change with the seasons like they did when I was a kid. Now, it’s one sport–all year round! Kids are not only discouraged but often flat out told they can’t participate in any other sport.

Kids are often spread too thin. More and more studies are showing that over-participation and hyper-specialization results in more and more serious overuse injuries in young athletes. On top of that, mentally and emotionally, kids are burning out by the time high school sports roll around.

The idea of the renaissance man is under attack. (Heck, even the 1994 film, Renaissance Man only has a 17% rating from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes!)

Broad-based training and knowledge isn’t fostered much. What ever happened to cross training? (Not to be confused with Crossfit.)

I took an informal poll this past spring of a group of my former Badgers teammates, many of whom were lamenting the specialization and the amount of time spent transporting their kids to sports practices and games. Of the 8 or so former Division 1 football players–a couple had played in the NFL, ALL of us played multiple sports all the way through high school.

So, when I hear parents say they HAVE to get their kids started early and specialized in one sport if they’re going to get a college scholarship or even play on their high school teams, I highly doubt that.

Why are parents, coaches, instructors, so heavily pre-determining the interests of our children?  Their under a misguided notion that it’s what best prepares their kids for future success. While well-intentioned, some adults are losing the forest for the trees in wanting the best for their kids.

Parents should expose their kids to a wide variety of interests-explore sports and music and art and science, etc…and see what takes.

Cash has already taken art and music classes and will be playing any and every sport once he’s old enough.

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We want to develop his skills and curiosity along the way. And meet different types of people. We want to prepare him for the world and help him find challenges, failures, success and enjoyment.

All the while learning more and more about who he is and ideally turns into a man who can “do all things he will.”

Isn’t that the success we wish for our kids?

 

 

 

WWF

WWF. You may know it as the World Wrestling Federation, now WWE, with pro wrestling stars like Andre the Giant, The Ultimate Warrior, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and Hulk Hogan…”What are you gonna do when HulkaMania runs wild on you?!”,

At least, they were stars in the 1980s when I, along with many guys my age, had an interest in the sporting entertainment empire.

A few of us in early high school, even attended a WWF show at the Coliseum, now, Alliant Energy Center, in Madison. We were not alone–the venue holds about 10,000 and it was full.

WWF to me now means the Wisconsin Wrestling Federation. As in, Cash and I’s latest bonding moments spent “wrestling” each other.

And while I may have him beat in the tales of the tape measurements= Me 5’11” 205lbs. Cash 2’7″ 20 lbs, Cash fights dirty.  His go-to move is the “Lip Rip,” a move where he plants his fingers on the inside of my lower lip, grabs tightly and pulls down hard. As I duck my head down to peel his fingers off my lip, he uses his other hand to pull my hair.

My main counter-move is to pick him up and fall with him to the bed, cushioning his fall on me–much sweeter version of Superfly Snuka’s turnbuckle soar onto his opponents.

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After my Superfly move, I then spin Cash off my chest onto the bed, flipping him from side to side and pinning him with nearby pillows.

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His giggles tell me my move causes him more enjoyment than pain.

Maybe our pasttime will lead to Cash’s future as a pro wrestler?  His current nickname, “Spanky” might even work into his persona.  “Spank the Tank?!  “The Lipper Ripper?!” Smash Cash?!

We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my chin up, lips tight and hair back. What else are you gonna do…when “Spankamania runs wild on you?!”

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Whine before it’s Time

Toddlers whine.

Not from pain or discomfort, though that’s a possibility.

Not from being pouty, though that’s a possibility.

Not from seeking attention, though that’s a possibility.

Toddlers whine mainly because they don’t know and can’t say many words to express themselves…so we are left with the grunts, shrieks and moans.

Whining is a typical stage we humans go through. A whine of passage.

For the most part, Meghan and I have to endure it rather than eliminate it, at least until “use your words” is something our toddler, Cash, can actually do.

In the meantime…we’ll try to minimize his discomfort. We’ll try not to make him sad.We’ll try to give him plenty of focused attention.

And we’ll try our best to teach him words to help him express himself.

We are already treated to–and immensely enjoy– observing his non-verbals-the smiles, the cries and the way tucks his head into the crook of our neck when he’s tired. He seems to develop a new mannerism every few days.

We’re already seeing him stand on his own two feet-soon, all-too-soon, he’ll running around, climbing up and down.

But, won’t it be most interesting to hear him say the thoughts that go through his little head? The vast mystery of the multi-directions of his mind, his thoughts, pronunciations and observations.  Life…according to Cash.

We’re anxious to hear how the world is sifting itself through his developing brain. How many thoughts of Meghan and mine get repeated?  What in the world impacts him? At his thigh-high point of view.

For now, we have to wait. We don’t like it but we have to set the example. We can’t…whine about it.

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Bedtime Story

I assume all kids and most adults have a bedtime routine.

Mine is purposefully (and perhaps overly?) simple.  I brush my teeth and lay down in bed.

Meghan’s is longer–more face washing, flossing and lotioning.

Cash’s bedtime routine is by far the longest…lasting about an hour from start to finish.

It begins with Meghan or I filling one third of our bathtub with water and dropping in the toys.

Then getting the wiggly boy out of his clothes, into his birthday suit and into the tub.

He enjoys  bubbles. Who doesn’t, right?

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Cash is pleasantly distracted by the bath toys. His favorite now is a little bucket that holds one bath toy at a time.

He also used to really like splashing the water with full swings of his arms, slapping the water like it owed him money.

That spirited splashing is now replaced by scooping water with his bucket onto the bathroom floor as if he’s keeping a boat from sinking.

For awhile there, he thought squirting the water out of the mini-baseball was the funniest prank on the planet.

After his bath, we wrap him in a towel and he is transported to his bedroom-which is a little extra warmed thanks to a space heater.

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There, his loving Momma gives him a light massage with massage oil-baby safe of course. With the essential oil diffuser, dimmed lighting and soft music playing, his room highly resembles a luxurious spa retreat.

I fear if this keeps up, he will want to have his 5th birthday party not at Chuck E. Cheese but at Sundara spa.

After his massage, Meghan usually reads to him from one of the many books on his shelf. Cash is more into the pictures than the plots, which is a good thing since most children’s books are absent of them…plots that is.

Meghan winds down the process by nursing him for a little and then laying him down in his crib.  Lastly, she gives him a kiss and turns on the white noise machine. Just writing this, I want to pass out and sleep for three days.

Believe it or not, Cash will still fuss a bit as Meghan tries to leave the room, sometimes pulling himself to his feet and screaming through the crib bars like a wronged prisoner.

We know he does this because I installed a Nest camera with night vision perched above his bed.

The bedtime fuss has become less and less and there are some times where he just lays down, snuggles up to his bunny and doesn’t make a peep.

After a half hour or so of his slumber, I quietly enter (and try not to trip over anything in the blacked out room) and drape a knit blanket over him.

Meghan and  use the next hour or two to clean up and catch up on anything we have to get done and/or watch a show, read a book, or sometimes silently stare at the wall in exhaustion.

It’s getting to be that time…bedtime.