Posted by: Harry | May 3, 2010

Amelie and My Final Post

One of my favorite moments in film takes place during a montage in Amelie. In the scene(s), where the narrator depicts the causal connections taking place all around Amelie’s neighborhood (and life), a grandfather takes his grandson to the market every weekend, returning with a chicken which they roast together and carefully carve. The emphasis being on the most tender morsels of the entire chicken; two small globes of flesh below the breast.

The scene is tremendous for its cultural connections between food and family and savoring the simplest pleasures. But it also signifies something perhaps more intimate: the guidance between elder and youth, the active engagement that teaches far better than lecture.

I am experiencing many moments like this now with Simone–both of the small and grand variety. And to be honest, I don’t want to write about them. When I first started this blog, I wanted it to be a journal–not without commentary or bias–intended for her to learn a bit about the early years she would otherwise forget. It worked…for awhile. In retrospect, I think I fell into the typical trappings of being a parent. Some posts too didactic, some working too hard to find something “other” in a particular moment.

Regardless, I don’t think there’s much left for me to say in a public forum. All else is best left for conversations with her mother or the family and friends who visit and fall prey. Selfish, yes. But I don’t want to have great or terrible moments with Simone that are immediately translated into a context I can write about. Something gets lost in that translation. Maybe everything.

So, on this final post, I will say to you, Simone, that you are brilliant and defiant and rakish with your hunger for the world. My love for you is as immense as it is uncertain. I hope that never changes and it is my distinct pleasure (pain, sometimes too) to bear witness and care for you as you grow.

Thanks for reading.

Posted by: Harry | March 5, 2010

Anxiety

Simone has started seeking out other kids on the playground to play with, often inquiring if they’ll be her friends. Sometimes it’s a simple “Will you be my best friend?” and then the awkward wait for a response. Other times she finds the other girls playing and stands next to them, waiting for them to acknowledge her. She’ll run when they run, stop when they stop.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more protective or anxious about anything in my entire life.

Usually it works out fine–especially if the other girls are a little older and want to dote on a younger pseudo-sibling. Every once¬† in a while, Simone might not get a response, so she’ll stand for a bit before coming back to me. It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to point out I’m not nearly as entertaining. But I’d pay good money to know what she’s thinking in those moments. Whether it’s a matter of “hmm, I’ll just find someone else to play with” or if she feels worry that people don’t like her.

My anxiety, I think, stems from several areas. My own experiences as a kid, I’m sure. Good and bad. How different the world feels to me than what I remember growing up. Also, the way I see Simone–the way she seems to love so much–all offset by the potential for her to encounter a kid of the “cruel” variety. Someone who reacts to her in a hurtful way. As much of a reality as it is–and perhaps arguably necessary–I want to protect her from that sort of bullshit. Especially at a young age when she’s still working on her own personality. It requires physical restraint on my part to not interfere when she’s around other kids.

The other side is how lovely it is when she finds a group of kids to race around with for a while. If a child can experience pure joy–and they are certainly more likely to do so than an adult–then I believe I catch glimpses of it at these times. The way she watches what other kids do, sometimes acting in mimicry, but always her eyes full of delight. I almost don’t like writing about it, as I feel I’m reducing her experiences to precious sentiment.

A friend mentioned how she started teaching her daughter about introducing herself to other kids, maybe commenting on their shirt or hair, the ol’ “ice breaker” if you will. A good idea in my mind, and I’ve started encouraging Simone in that direction as well. Her voice is so small when she speaks to strangers, though–kids included. I’m not even sure what she’s saying to them yet.

The real rub is how as an adult, I am hyper-sensitive about what anxieties I project onto my daughter. I don’t do well in crowds, can count my close friends on one hand, and generally over-analyze everything another person says to me–trying to read their motivations etc. The irony is not lost on me when I watch Simone’s response to others, the immediacy of each moment–and how fleeting it is too. Her life right now, plotted out in increments of time and minute experiences. The bigger picture wholly unnecessary. Perhaps it is envy then.

Posted by: Harry | February 23, 2010

Holidays

There was a moment at the resort in San Diego, where Simone was tearing it up on the kiddie water slide–fearless in her mimicry of bigger kids sliding backwards or head-first. One of those “oh shit” moments that makes the world slow down like those terrible movies with Nicholas Cage.

Earlier on in the afternoon an older girl, Steffie, had taken Simone under her wing. She helped her with the concrete steps leading to the slide (even though it wasn’t needed), she made sure the older boys didn’t budge in front and leave Simone standing nervously waiting for her turn. It was all rather lovely–Simone constantly telling us that Steffie was her “good friend” and trying to hold her hand at every turn.

At the base of the slide, a host of parents jostled into position to catch their toddlers when their turns were up. A bit of a gong show, but funny. Amidst the shuffle, conversation and comparisons. Cursory questions of age, of ability, compliments. Casual conversation. I noted that Simone was third in line and the kid at the front was having second thoughts.

Turning to the side for a moment, I chatted with another Dad about something trivial–something I cannot remember. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Simone half way down the slide, arms wide, and before I could spin and catch her she was in the pool, arms wheeling under the water which churned opaque from the water pouring off the slide. Then everything got really slow. I reached madly underneath it all, trying to find a limb. My hand found something; an arm. I hoisted up and Simone came out like a breach baby, spluttering and looking wild.

No crying from her. But those wild eyes were surprised, confused even. The strangeness of being under the water for so long, the innate knowledge of having to hold her breath and wait. Crazy stuff.

She’s made no mention of it since, and I doubt it had any lasting effect. But what a moment. The way the heart hammers.

Posted by: Harry | January 24, 2010

On The Subject of No

This is how it works in our family: when I read, I focus on literature and writing and all the crap entailed within. Sandra, who is better-read than most people I know, tackles the books on parenting. Even though I’m the at-home parent, she reads the parenting books and funnels the information to me via conversation.

Why? Because it works this way. Because every time I try to crack a book open about raising children I want to peel my eyelids off like grape-skins and dry them on the window ledge in the afternoon sun. Okay, not really. But I don’t do well with books of a teacherly nature. At least not about parenting.

Sandra’s latest reading–Unconditional Parentinghas led us to some interesting conversations about using the word no around Simone. Just the other day, while at our local YMCA for open-gym, Simone was ripping around the great concrete foyer like an errant demon when she stopped and asked me for a particular over-sized chocolate cookie she saw behind a barista’s glass counter. Instead of saying no, I explained (read: convinced) to her that we had a whole whack of snacks in her trundle bag that were likely just as tasty.

Worked like a charm, I thought. But a mother next to me–and thank dear, baby Jesus for all the condescending mothers who find it unfathomable that a daughter has to spend so much time with her father–leaned over and said you know, it’s important that they learn the word “no”. She then proceeded to tell me about her own kids and their foibles and how, by cracky, they learned to know the boundaries of the home and so forth. I lost interest and began stacking imaginary Jenga pieces in my mind. But she was on about something. And I did nod politely and say quite right.

But here’s the thing–and this is what Sandra and her readings have prompted her and I to discuss more–when we use no with our kids, what is our motivation? Is it really to instruct them about the harsh realities of our world and that they better learn they can’t get their own way? Or is it more a matter of convenience for the parent–a quick, easy response for the sake of brevity that tempers their patience? And what impact does no have on kids when they hear it so often?

The biggest question my dear wife raised was how we perceive our kids. We’ve all heard the comments don’t give in to them. Or, let them know who’s in charge. They were likely the staples of our own upbringing. But is that really what’s going on with our child, some malevolent competition of wills? What if we start with the base premise that our kids are good, that they are loving and full of interests and sometimes their passions need direction, but for the most part they love to please. Why? Because they love. If my base perception of Simone changes, so does how I interact with her.

It requires more effort and time to sit and talk things through with Simone. But so far it seems to be paying off. She listens better, responds to my requests happily–even ones that require the damnable task of cleaning up her toys. It’s not a hundred percent, don’t get me wrong. And there are times when the no really is the only option. Considering how mischievous she is, I’m sure she’ll start to push for her wants more and raise a little hell.

But not using the word no so much isn’t a matter of giving in to some unseen pressure. It’s more about treating her with a dignity that I can live with, a way of giving proper room to her personality but maintaining guidance. I’d rather she grow up understanding choices and not seeing the world as a series of closing doors.

Famous last words, Harry.

Posted by: Harry | January 12, 2010

A Day For Honesty

A short conversation after Simone’s personality manifested in a day-long whirlwind of minor domestic catastrophes. After…

  • looking me square in the eyes and slowly pouring her milk onto the kitchen table, sending me into a small fit of frustration;
  • finding the cacao in the pantry, upending it onto her play table and carefully molding it into volcanoes;
  • deciding a bowl of ice cream was best eaten from her miniature toy tea-pot;
  • singing a Barney song over and over–pausing only to trumpet out a fart that foreshadowed more ominous things to come;
  • removing a bag of frozen spinach cubes from the freezer and displacing its contents to various hidden sectors of the main floor;
  • making her Papa walk around the kitchen island 300 times in an impromptu journey to visit Oma and Opa;
  • eating raw oatmeal from a frog dish with a toy strainer;
  • trying to demolish computer keyboards with frantic poundings;
  • unrolling an entire tube of toilet paper from her perch on the potty;
  • laughing hysterically when Papa wiped out in his stocking feet and nearly ended his career as a ballerina

After all this, the following:

Papa – You’re not really into listening today are you?

Simone – Nope.

Her response said with the inflection sounding up, the way a child would agree with a flourish to a game of seeing how many lollipops could be crammed into their mouth in thirty-seconds. Now, if only I would have asked the question sooner.

Posted by: Harry | January 4, 2010

Day…I’ve Lost Count…It’s A New Year

With the arrival of 2010, it’s always worthwhile to sit back and examine the changes in the household over the past year. No surprise Simone has changed dramatically, as all toddlers are prone to do. I often chuckle at the almost mirrored stories coming from friends with children the same age. Erratic sleep patterns, toy-hoarding, stubbornness, discovery of the word “no”, fascination with using the potty, discovering their own sense of humor. A mix of joy and frustration and affirmation that one child is all we want.

Self-discovery is a huge component of parenting–at least for me. Yes, in part I refer to understanding one’s own character in different situations; learning how to curb the temper, keep a civil tongue, recognize your own weaknesses. In another sense, self-discovery via parenting can be simply observing a process you otherwise would never get to witness–one that you too must have gone through. It’s not like any of us carry experiences form early childhood with any real clarity. I have a few early memories: using my dog’s outdoor water-dish as a toilet and waving at the cars going past (would be nice to forget that one). Or, peeking under the deck to see a litter of puppies nestled in amongst unused lumber. My wife has a memory of being in a crib and seeing light on the window curtains. That blows me away. But none of these are a proper chronology of change.

When I watch Simone, I see a constant forward motion. I see eruptions of both myself and Sandra in her speech, her movements, even in her sleep. There’s also a fierce individuality that is actually a little startling…intimidating even. She doesn’t flit in and out of shadows the way our memories do, but tears up the earth, absorbing new information either to archive for later or use immediately.

Case in point: she watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time two days ago. This morning she woke up wanting to see it again. As it was playing she started singing the words to If I Only Had a Brain (not sure if that was supposed to be a hint). No complete sentences, just the last word of certain lines. Then she went on to announce the upcoming scene of Toto barking to me while I cleaned the kitchen. This from a singular experience a few days ago? Of course, this isn’t a pure example, but it makes me wonder what she will remember of this when she’s older. What of her toddler-hood will carry weight. Will it be me losing my tempter or giving her chin-whisker rash when we rough-house?

Should I start playing The Return to Oz, as well?

Where was I going with this? Right, it’s 2010. Change is afoot. No more counting the days for each post. Now we will work with stranger moments. This is a journal for Simone, after all. Someone has to keep track of her behaviors. Future leverage. An interesting document for the “father of the bride speech” down the road.

And I’ve got a lot of it on video too.

Posted by: Harry | November 29, 2009

Day 513: What Does it Mean When Simone…

  • Leaves the table during dinner with friends, heads upstairs to their daughters’ bedrooms to play with their toys–and returns with her pants gone, her diaper removed, and a pair of someone else’s underwear on backwards?
  • Picks her nose in her sleep while we drive home from a visit?
  • Finds a torn-out page of a book with a photo of an elephant on it, determines the elephant is crying and hugs the single page to her chest to soothe it?
  • Hurries to the full-length mirror in Mama and Papa’s bedroom to watch the tears in her own eyes when she’s crying?
  • Takes all her Cabbage Patch dolls upstairs to her bedroom and proceeds to chastise them for not staying in bed, threatening to close the door?
  • Sings every song she knows, or makes up, to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?
  • Recognizes McDonald’s Golden Arches from great distances and inquires about getting some french fries?
  • Grabs the phone and tries to order a pink pizza from Oma and/or Opa?
  • Asks if Papa is tired whenever we pass a Starbucks?
Posted by: Harry | November 16, 2009

Day 500: Anthropomorphic Tendencies

After a year and a quarter of trying to avoid certain “mom-conversations” at playgrounds or blogging extensively about Simone’s bowel movements or how happy she is to skip around the house singing old Irish pub songs, I realize I have made no advancements in being an avant-garde Mr. Mom.

True, I won’t take the bait when a parent starts to bitch about how a particular clothing chain no longer carries those perfect $50 shoes for her precious so-and-so who will undoubtedly suffer from collapsed arches before he/she turns 12. And I refuse to line up at the YMCA, at 3 am, every new year in hopes of winning the annual lottery to get a place on the waiting list for pre-school. But that’s not really avant-garde. Just a healthy dose of well-aged cynicism–a mechanism I use to avoid being solely defined by parenthood.

In spite of this, being an at-home parent has messed with my brain. Good or bad, the jury is still out. But I am prone to some peculiar behaviour–enough to make me shake my head in bewilderment when I’ve taken stock.

An example:

The other day, Simone wanted to have a tea-part. Terrific, I thought, I love tea parties. What 34-year-old male doesn’t love tea parties? I mean, what more splendid way to spend the morning than lining up stuffies, laying out miniature versions of cutlery, cookware, and food, and feeding punkin’ pie to each little bastard one by one? This particular day, the festivities were taking place upstairs in ‘Monie’s room. We laid out picnic blankets, arranged an infernal amount of Beanie-Baby bears–each aptly named for their appearance: pink bear, brown bear, slack-jawed bear, stupid-grin-penis-shaped-nose bear…etc–and set out the plastic plates. Simone turned her back to “prepare” the food on her plastic stove top.

While I waited, I checked the positions of all the guests and without even realizing it began re-adjusting them to make sure each had an equal share of the picnic blanket. Next, I went downstairs to fetch a couple of bears I knew were under the couch lest they felt left out. I made sure they could share plates as there weren’t enough to go around. I put down extra blankets for the outcasts, searched the closets for a few stragglers who may be hungry too. A moronic sense of fairness and care displayed for the inanimate. All the while Simone yammered away about the waffles she’s trying to cook and how they were very hot and one needed to blow on them first before eating.

Then I stopped. All the bears in perfect equidistance from one another. The floor of the bedroom now an amphitheater for those damned to never shut their eyes nor open their mouths. It hit me. Ho-ly Sheee-it. This was not something knew. I must do this all the time.¬† Simone hadn’t looked at me strange once. In fact, she acted like I was supposed to do this–it was expected. The bears were real for her, a part of her social circle. And for a moment, however brief or perverse, they were for me too.

This does not bode well for me next time we’re at Toy Traders.

Posted by: Harry | November 10, 2009

Introducing Kiri Kids – Ethically Made Clothes.

Simone and Kiri KidsA quick post touting a new line of West Coast clothing for kids. Kiri Kids is a sweatshop-free, ethically run, 100% Canadian company. Unique designs are inspired by nature, aquariums, zoos, parks, and just about from anywhere and anything. Thanks in part to designs from my dear wife and her capable hands, the clothes are boutique-level and high quality.

Check the site out and order your Christmas gifts for sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grand-kids galore.

Kiri Kids Website

The clothing model may look familiar too…

 

Posted by: Harry | October 27, 2009

A Sleepy Follow-Up

Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Baby by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. is the book we decided to roll with in getting Simone on a proper sleep schedule. A fairly succinct method that’s presented in step-by-step fashion. You establish a night-time routine (which we already have), but when it’s time for bed and the lights are off, no more interaction. The parent on duty remains in the room (or doorway, or whatever) and only moves to place the child back in bed. A couple of example in the book mentioned the first few nights being close to sleepless and being prepared for numerous “jack in the box” moments.

Since Simone is now sleeping on a mattress on the floor, the crib long-since dismantled, we figured we’d be in for trouble and opted to alternate nights. Here’s how the progress went:

  • Night One: 180 trips back to bed, 3 wake-ups during the night (also trips back to her bed).
  • Night Two: 90 trips back to bed, 2 wake-ups during the night.
  • Night Three: 30 trips back to bed, 3 wake-ups during the night.

And the pattern is reasonable consistent this way. As it stands, Simone gets up roughly 20 times before finally settling down to sleep. The process works better when Papa Harry is at the help, as for some reason she pushes the boundaries even harder when Mommy is on duty.

I’m not sure if this is a huge success, as the book claims to have a healthy pattern within 4-5 days. We’re a bit past that and I’m still having to get up 3 times during the night as Simone has conditioned herself to waking completely out of her sleep cycle and booking it to our room to try and sleep in our bed.

Part of the problem is, I think, because our pattern has always been to let her into our bed around 6 a.m. so we can snooze for one final hour or so. Now that she’s out of the crib and mobile, she most likely assumes she can hit us up for some warmth whenever she pleases. It looks like we’re going to have to get stern about even the 6 o’clock visit, which sucks because a little family bonding has always been kind of nice. But two nights ago, when I had to stay outside Simone’s door from 3:30-5:30 a.m. I knew all things must come to an end. The world for a good night’s sleep.

But enough of all this. We’ve still got some work ahead and then off to boarding school for her. Get thee to a nunnery. Or something. Nah.

More humorous anecdotes to come.

 

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