Don’t Be Afraid of a Nibbled Doughnut

  We face it all the time as parents of little kids. A plate of food barely touched, a doughnut with the sprinkles and frosting eaten away but little else.
What to do? People are starving all over the world. Refugees are on the move fleeing war. And here’s this lightly nibbled pastry.

The answer? If you’re like me, it’s going to include figuring out how to repurpose that snack, dress it up (or just chop it up) to make it tasty-looking enough to gobble down.

This approach will serve you well not just with in-eaten food, but with weekend afternoons gone sideways, evenings where you have little control, generally dealing with things you didn’t expect when the kids are involved. 

The key is to not lose your cool, adjust, and make the best of it. And gobble down that doughnut. It’s still pretty tasty. 

#kidtime/1

We’ve been at it for a while. The oldest is nearly five years old, the middle one is three, the youngest will be two in a couple months.

With all the holiday (and usual weekend) prep activities today, coupled with a particularly needy son today, this mantra came to mind.  I’m going to use liberally.

“I am with you, will support you, and pick you up when you fall, but I am not going to carry you.”

Seems to me this could be useful with a every age person really, not just little people. I sure could have used this notice when I was a kid. Then again, maybe I got it, in so many words.

One thing’s for certain. I want my kids to be resilient, and still loving, as soon as possible. Not sure the measure, but the objective is clear.

Be ready to love, to give, to rally, and get up when you fall. You have a support group that’s with you, but you have to do the work on your own.

It’s the only way live.

Acceptance

Nylon Mesh Beach Tote with Detachable Zipper Pouch Orange

It was 6:19am Monday morning when I realized, “I forgot the orange bag!”   I’d been up about two hours at this point, felt good about getting some running into my morning exercise routine, was in the car with the kids five minutes earlier than usual.  Then things went sideways.

The “orange bag” is what we put the kids’ clothes in when we go to day care each morning.  Sending the clothes to daycare means the kids get dressed there. This approach is easier for everyone. It creates a smoother, early morning departure and that helps a lot.  The timing in the morning is pretty tight. If things go according to plan, I make it to work a little before my start time. No stress.

Unless we forget something. Like I did yesterday.

I didn’t realize it until I pulled up in front of the daycare lady’s house.  I moved quickly, taking the kids into the house with a brief greeting, and then jumped back in the car to race home to get the orange bag.  I was ten minutes behind schedule as I accelerated down the freeway to the office.  And then the second realization hit me:  Acceptance.

I just needed to accept the situation as it was, take a few deep breaths, consider the worst case, and try to improve it.  I drove quite a bit faster than normal, but I made it on time.  And along the way, a few other topics where “acceptance” would help came to mind.

Like a short, testy conversation I had at home over the weekend about my lack of organization of items stored in the attic and in the garage.  Acceptance.  I need to do better.  I have the ability to do better.  The answer? Prioritize getting more organized. Acceptance.

Like at the office, when I get frustrated that I can’t control the work flow and shifting priorities. Acceptance. Be ready to adjust, anticipate, and stay organized with tasks and open issues. It was challenging initially, but over time I’ve improved.  Don’t forget that.  Acceptance.

I’m reminded of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her seminal work, “On Death & Dying”.  The five stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, ACCEPTANCE.  Over the years the five stages have been found to apply not just to death and grief, but many experiences of loss.  Once you accept, you can move on.

I’m reminded of  Dale Carnegie too, and one of his many tidbits of advice on overcoming worry.  This process in particular is from Willis H. Carrier:  ” 1.  Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen if I can’t solve my problem?  2.  Prepare yourself mentally to ACCEPT the worst–if necessary. 3. Then calmly try to improve upon the worst–which you have already mentally agreed to ACCEPT.”

Now it’s time to teach my kids. Acceptance.  It’s the best way to move forward practically, productively, and positively.  The best way to reduce worry and be happier.  The best way to live your life.

And the silver lining to that little SNAFU the other day?

It ended up that the daycare needed milk for the kids (that we supply), so it was good I went back home anyway, since the daycare lady hadn’t sent a milk request/reminder as she typically does the night before. All’s well that ends well.  You just have to accept the outcome and move forward.

Welcome to the World, Baby Jude!

Sometimes the day starts off in a way you don’t expect, and it ends up being a timeless blessing.   Today was that sort of day.

I got a text message just after 7:00 AM this morning from my wife, letting me know a married couple we’re close with, who were expecting their first child any day, had gone to the hospital overnight when the woman’s labor began.  By the time I’d had my first cup of coffee, I learned that baby Jude had joined the human race, around 2:15 AM this morning.

The news disseminated a little slow obviously, vis a vis the actual progression of labor, but my joy sure wasn’t.

As I worked through morning emails and the task list for the day, I thought back to nearly four years ago when our first daughter was born.  The initial elation, wonder, uncertainty, and love that washed over me when I held that newly arrived baby in February of 2011 all came back to me.  Since then my wife and I have been blessed with two more children.  I experienced the same feelings when number two and three joined our family as well. And that’s really the central point in my view.

Children truly are a blessing, a gift from God, if you like.  Certainly all that they represent in our lives is from somewhere at least “beyond ourselves” (if you’re not a believer or otherwise a person of faith). The love and responsibility we are filled with when a child arrives into our lives is undeniable, and really like no other event we experience in life.

The sense of connection and immediate elevation of purpose are what parents need to focus on to be the best for their children.  Whether you have one or five it’s the same thing.  Pretty well everything that happens in a child’s life can be mediated and made better with a parent’s favorable involvement.

Regardless of the other areas in life where you might mentor, teach, guide, or manage other people, parenting is really the apex of opportunity to make a lasting, positive effect on another person’s life. So if you’re a parent, start each day with that motivation in mind and watch how perspective on everything else comes into focus.

Our children look to us for everything.  We have no higher purpose than to fill their lives with guidance, support, inspiration, love.  Welcome to the world, baby Jude, and feel the love wash over you!

Paraffins, Aflas®, Kalrez®, and Stomping Little Boys:  You Learn Something New Every Day

Truth be told, I should begin this post with one “stomping little boy”, since that was the learning opportunity I was faced with last night as soon as I got home.

Since that lesson carried over to this morning, I decided to add it to the list for today.

Before lunchtime today I’ve learned (and re-learned) about paraffins, Aflas®, and Kalrez®. Such is the glamour of working in my particular sector of capital lab equipment.

All three materials have properties that make them particularly useful for a variety of applications, especially where smooth running (lubrication) and being able to withstand very high temperatures are essential.

Come to think of it, those traits are not only useful in industrial applications, but also with respect to dealing successfully with stomping little boys.  One little dude in particular comes to mind.

My son just recently adopted this strategy for effectively communicating his displeasure, or at least frustration, with any given situation.  Since he can’t really talk yet, he resorts to the time-honored tradition of “body language”.

I usually react with a mix of humor and sympathy.  While it’s somewhat comical to see him react in such an immediate and extreme way,  I also feel bad that he’s feeling the frustrations he experiences that lead him to the stomp.

And so I try to empathize, respond with understanding and be even-keel along the way. At the same time, I also curse my own short-coming, when I’m unable to figure out what’s bothering him, help him find a solution and otherwise ease his angst.

So the underlying lessons?  Stay cool when things heat up, keep an open mind (and your sense of humor), be “smooth”, and stay after it – coping gets easier, and solutions present themselves eventually. Sometimes it just takes longer than you’d like.

Parenthood and the Nature of Rest

I was out of town with a couple of college buddies for a long weekend and returned home Sunday evening.

As we were making the return trip early on Sunday afternoon my wife called to give me the low-down on the state of things with our three little kids, so I would not be caught flat-footed when I walked in the door (a gesture I appreciated more as the conversation went on).

The two youngest kids (who share a room) had a particularly difficult night Saturday to Sunday, waking up every hour or so.  Thankfully my mother-in-law had been able to stay at the house to help take care of things while I was gone, but that only partially mediated the difficult night.  My wife was exhausted.

I knew when I got home I’d be walking into the chaos and so tried to prime myself before the plane landed.  I was very likely not going to get much sleep and needed to have a good attitude and make the most of whatever sleep I could get heading into Monday morning.

Sure enough, both of the younger kids did struggle throughout Sunday night, crying off and on.  My wife got up to attend our youngest daughter (the seven month old) around 2 AM.    She went back to sleep after a while, but then by 3 AM our son (the older of the two) was crying more loudly, agitated and awake.  I decided finally to get up and try to comfort him, change his diaper of need be, and take him to the family room couch, in effort to give everyone a better chance of getting more rest.

He and I dozed on the couch until half past  5 AM.  I reminded myself throughout the night that it was not only sleep which rejuvenates us for the next day, but also simply “resting”.  I made a point of keeping my eyes closed as I lay on the couch, even while I was half-awake, to give myself the best chance to rest.  I told my son over and over the same thing:  close your eyes, it’s still night-time, it’s still sleeping time.

I think maybe he got his best rest of the morning in his last hour and a half of slumber on the couch before we went to day care, and I then went on to work.

The main point of this little tale is, as parents we need to expand our perception of what a good night’s rest is, because often we just won’t get the 7-8 hours the health professionals say we should get.

Especially with little kids, we have to find alternate ways of maximizing the rest we do get, and even though we might be sleepy the next day, not let our attitude also suffer from the lack of conventional sleep.

Yawn.

And expect to be sleepy the next day.

Your Attitude: Choose Wisely

Early in his seminal work, The Road Less Traveled, Scott Peck used words linked to the Buddha’s Noble Truths:

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
This insight helped me greatly as a young adult, changed me permanently for the better in fact. With that perspective, I had a whole different and more helpful baseline from which to interpret things in my life that didn’t go my way.

This perspective also inspired one of my life objectives: to nurture, maintain, and share a positive attitude ALWAYS, or at least as nearly as always, as I could. 28 years later, I’m still working at it, now with three particular little people to focus this positive energy toward: my children.

Your attitude directly effects everyone (and I would suggest “everything” too) that is around you. This fact is especially true if you have kids.

Every day parents have the opportunity to help their children start the day off on the right foot, in the morning as the day begins. Parents have tremendous influence, modeling, teaching, encouraging their children to make a good start to the day and to have a good attitude.

Most every work morning at our house, here’s how it shakes down.

I get up very early on workdays. I’m the taxi service for the kids to daycare in the morning, and have to be in the office about 30 miles away by seven o’clock.

I attend to a couple quick morning chores and go through my “get-ready” routine. It takes about 35 minutes. I take the kids’ bag, my workbag, and my lunch out to the car.

My wife and I then team up to get the kids ready, which amounts to getting another layer of clothes on them (they’re still in their pajamas), so they can stay cozy during the pre-dawn car ride.

If we think we struggle with starting our day, most parents would agree I bet that kids have an even harder time. Here’s where I try to help them ease into the day, and shift their sleepy grumpiness to try and be positive.

I use quiet tones as I talk to them. I whisper positive, reassuring words to shore up their fragile morning mood, patting each little back as I carry them to the car and buckle them in. I try to use empathy and references to their having a good attitude and how it helps our shared mission of getting out of the house on-time.

I might mention the clouds, the stars, the streetlight, a morning dove singing in the tree in the front yard, or other nice parts of the day beginning, how these tidbits indicate there’s a good day ahead with fun to be had. My intent is to help them broaden their awareness of the day beginning to unfold, and give them a little hope.

And it’s hope that is the cornerstone of having and maintaining a positive attitude, and getting back to good space when we inevitably falter under the weight of the day to day.
Especially when your start your day before dawn, with little people, doing what you can to help them cultivate their own positive attitude that will serve them well over the course of their lives.

“Look at that honey, it’s the Milky Way. I bet it’s going to be a good day.”

Choose wisely. Choose to have a good attitude to start the day, especially for your kids. And watch the magic unfold.