Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sexiest Young Man Alive?

If the science is true (and I have no reason to doubt it) that women find men who are interested in babies sexy, then our Charlie (12) should do pretty well with the ladies...eventually, after acne.  This year, he has added helping out in the toddler room to his church activities.  One Sunday a month, he reads over a prepared lesson and teaches the kids in the toddler Sunday School class.  He loves it and is so excited to be old enough to take on this duty.  A chidren's ministry employee told me recently that when it's Charlie's week, the paid caregivers in that room know they have easy duty because he will keep the kids' attention the entire time.  He devotes his whole self to it.

As evidence, I submit this image of his Google calendar (Yes.  He has a Google calendar.  What do you think he is?  A farmer?)  The left-hand appointment was created first and shows that it's his week to work in the toddler room.  He created the right-hand appointment later, presumably when he saw the original appointment.  It's just his private celebration of getting to spend time with the little tykes.  It's so sweet and captures his lack of self-consciousness, even in the crucible of the middle school years.

Charlie (4) holds Teddy in the first
month of brotherhood
We knew early on that Charlie loved babies.  He doted on his baby doll (Baby Russell) and was extremely affectionate and solicitous when a real baby joined him at home.  Little-boy affection for his younger brother didn't necessarily predict the current state, of course.  We feel lucky to parent this pre-teen who just loves babies and toddlers in a wholesome and caring way.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mashup: Parent Comment Rage and Beautiful Winter Images

I take guilty pleasure in reading the comments on my school district's Facebook announcements of delays and closures.  We've now had several of both this winter.  Parents go absolutely nuts, complaining about the administration.  One really fun facet: the comments cut both ways, of course.  If the district delays or cancels school, that's inconvenient and sends a bad message.  If the district holds a full day or only delays without cancelling, that gets its own round of second-guessing.

To share the joy, I've copied selected comments verbatim from these Facebook announcements and surprinted them on beautiful winter scenes.  Enjoy!

On the day of a delay

This from a snowy Saturday when the high school basketball championship games were not cancelled.  Linda Lane is the superintendent.  Bus drivers love to comment; not sure if they're parents of children in the district or not.

On a very cold morning when we'd had delays but as of then no school closures at all this year

On the day of a cancellation for cold (but not snow or ice)

When after-school activities were cancelled because the weather went south during the school day

Flickr Photo credits
1  blmiers2 - winter bird in the snow
2  Denis Colette - Route de l'Arc-en-ciel...!!!
3  SBA73 -  neu i vent a la mola
4  Let ideas compete - hot air in cold air
5  blmeiers2 - Frosty Footpath - Winter Snow

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Your Attention, Please

It's kind of a long story, but Charlie reads the announcements over the PA at his middle school.  When I took him in late this morning, the school secretary said "I was just about to look for you.  This is your job; I don't want to do it."  She had a pile of announcements in her hand.  We've heard about Charlie doing this task but had, of course, never witnessed it.  I whipped out my phone to capture the moment.  Caution: the video is a little loud.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Particle Roundup

Call it the Jeffington Post.  It's your occasional parenting article (particle) roundup.  I see particles linked all the time on social media, and I read some of the ones that I see.  Here are some recent ones with my quick take on them.

What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Taught me About Being a Stay-at-home Dad.
While there's nothing actually ground-breaking here, it's well-written and an interesting slice of the at-home dad world.  The best nugget from the justice: "You can’t have it all all at once."

The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports
This really targets parents who have bought into the hyper-competitive part of the youth sports spectrum.  It asks for changes from coaches and parents.  Unfortunately, it also lays out why change will be difficult to effect.  "The path is a race to nowhere, and it does not produce better athletes. It produces bitter athletes who get hurt, burnout, and quit sports altogether."

We're Ruining Our Kids with Minecraft; The Case for Unstructured Play
When I read this, I felt very validated about some of the choices we've made as parents: 
"If we want our kids to relearn how to play, we have to begin by exposing them to boredom.We send our kids to camp in the summer, but we also structure their summer specifically to create boredom in hopes that they will overcome it of their own initiative.  Articles like this are fueled by scary statistics; this one features a finding that kids 8 to 18 spend 6.5 hours on screens per day.  That sounds outrageously high to me across the board.  I have no doubt that it's true of some kids, but where are they finding that kind of time?

This is more of a marriage essay (messay?) than a particle, but I saw someone link to it on Facebook.  The title "I Wasn't Treating My Husband Fairly, and it Wasn't Fair" should alert you to the kind of rocket surgeon we're reading here.  It's pretty annoying in the middle, so either read the whole thing or don't read it at all.  She finally gets around to a point that doesn't make me really resent her or her husband.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Behavioral Diabetes

At the risk of upsetting those who have to manage (or love someone who has to manage) actual diabetes, I've labeled a pattern exhibited by my eight-year-old behavioral diabetes.  Perhaps you know a behavioral diabetic, too.  All his life, when he's gotten hungry and his blood sugar has dipped, he's melted down.  There are worse afflictions.  Particularly in a very young child, I'd take hangry over tired meltdowns any day.   I can help reduce hanger by feeding him.  Tired and riled seems only to escalate until explosion. 

This pattern makes being home when Teddy gets home from school feel  really important.  Four to six o'clock is Ted's witching hour.  In his toddler/pre-school years, I felt I wouldn't make it through this dark valley some nights.  By trial and error, I learned that he couldn't identify low blood sugar as his problem.  He saw everything as terrible and hopeless, but he couldn't say "Please feed me."  More than that, as we started to see the pattern and would diagnose a behavioral diabetes attack, we moved from asking him if he was hungry to telling him he needed to eat something.  Unable to identify hunger as the problem, he would fight back, adding resentment of our prodding him to eat to his already-dark outlook.

[Editor's note:  I was drafting this post in my notebook while Teddy and I waited for his brother to finish an event.  I stopped during the above paragraph because Teddy said "I'm hungry".  It was 4:05 pm.  We went out to the corner convenience store for a dose of pretzel-cillin.]

I've tried and failed to capture on video the whiplash transformation in his personality that as little as one bite of food can effect.  He can move from moaning to singing in one-fifth of a banana.  It blows our minds.

As much as I'm proud of us as parents for figuring out the problem and helping Teddy manage his behavior at moments like these, I do worry that feeding him when he's upset essentially lays the groundwork for an eating disorder.  On a recent episode of Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Jeff Garlin, who's had his troubles with food, said in a slick and winning way - "You know, I'll either feel some feelings or have a sandwich."  Likewise, Weight Watchers' current ad campaign enjoins "If you're happy and you know it, eat a snack...If you're sad and you know it eat a snack...if you're human, eat your feelings, eat a snack."

While it seems like there is some chemical, blood-sugar magic to Teddy getting a snack when he really needs one, I want him to learn to take care of himself, not equate any bad feelings with hunger and attempt to eat them away.  It's a delicate balance.  How do I say "Eat this banana now, but don't eat an entire pizza at 2 am when you're 24, and an awesome young lady has just broken up with you."?  Actually, that doesn't sound half bad.  I'm going to try it tomorrow at twenty after four.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

(Soon-to-be) Missing Person?

Our family made royal with Christmas cracker crowns
Our older son is twelve right now.  Those who know him would describe him as sweet and smart and funny and knowledgeable and really, really engaged with whatever he's doing.  From following sports teams to playing sports and games to school and church groups, he places himself right in the middle of everything.  With peers, he's game for adventure and doing what interests others.  With younger kids, he's like a junior counselor.  In adult conversation, he's like that precocious youngster calling in to a talk radio show.  He, of course, has called in to sports talk radio, voicing opinions about the Pirates and Steelers. 

Two of his cousins are roughly a year older.  We benefit greatly as parents by having them preview coming stages; we're grateful to our siblings for that.  Our niece and nephew are fun and interesting kids, but still, when I get to observe them right now, I get scared.  They're not rebellious or disrespectful. (Perhaps their parents will disagree in the comments).  On recent visits, though, they've made themselves so absent from the family.  That's what scares me.  

At a family reunion last fall, I would wonder where Riley was when the adults and younger cousins clustered together.  Nearly always, she was in a corner of the basement with headphones in.  My parents report that she was napping through much of their Christmas visit, awakening only to play Ticket to Ride.  She so dominates every game of Ticket to Ride, actually, that one time they let her sleep through a game so someone else could win.  

On our beach vacation last summer, Trevor slept in very impressively.  He committed to a long morning in a way that required poking him with a stick around 11:30 just, you know, to make sure....   I saw the same thing happen for several years with our only child neighbor boy across the street.  We have summer happy hours, and when they first started, he would come with his parents.  Bit by bit, he would come with them and leave early, or he would "be coming over in a minute" when they arrived.  Eventually, he just didn't come.

I don't fault these young people, and I'll try not to fault Charlie when and if he follows in their footsteps.  I remember it.  In growing up, we can feel awfully different from how we felt just a short time before.  We can feel awfully different from those around us; no longer quite so keen to hang out with smaller kids but also nowhere near at home among adults either.  We need space to figure ourselves out on our own.  While I'll try not to fault Charlie, that can't change the fact that I'll grieve his absence.  In addition to loving the boy, I really like him, and I like his contributions to groups and events.  I'm going to miss him.

In the end, the adolescent's eventual launch likely explains the hermit hours.  In order to flee the nest, he must create a little space within it that he gets to occupy by himself.  Although I might wish for myself that Charlie will go on relating to us the exact same way, I have no right to wish that for his sake

I always tell parents of younger children that each phase of parenting has become my favorite phase.  The teenage years likely break that pattern, and they're bearing down on us like a freight train.  I'm actively savoring Charlie's continued sweetness, relative innocence, affection and involvement.  It feels tenuous and precarious, poised to vanish at any moment.  I take some solace in believing that it won't vanish all at once but rather ebb away in fits and starts.  But still, I expect and fear that we'll look up one day and register that these qualities have vanished altogether.

When envisioning that dark moment, I think again of the neighbor boy.  Now absent for real, off at his freshman year of college on the west coast.  It's true that he's gone, but I saw something wonderful happen before he left.  He came back.  In his final summer at home after high school, he brought his polite and interesting high school girlfriend to happy hour on the street.  They engaged in conversation with people years and decades older than themselves on a different footing than before he'd disappeared from our community life as a young teen.  Young adults in the true sense of the phrase.  I wish Charlie the child didn't have to start disappearing - literally - from the scene, but that may be the only honest path.  That will allow him to come back and then, both sadly and happily, to truly leave.