Vacations have this mythology of being stress free and completely rejuvenating. When I was single and had no constraints, that was probably more true. I took months long trips through Europe and the US. Now, however, there are children to wrangle, logistics to arrange, and a partner with whom to partner. Before, I would not have gotten up pre dawn unless I was trying to catch the sunrise or I just stayed up all night. Now, the idea of staying up all night is funny and my wake-up is often dictated by my son who precedes the sun. This is all more work, but it is also very rewarding to see the joy and shared experiences that help form the core of family stories.
Category Archives: Communication
Sunday evening was a case study in the less constructive tone of voice issues that my children and I bring to the table. My son is experimenting with a forceful “No.” My daughter is experimenting with things she is getting at school. I add in an angry and frustrated tone when I reach my point of overwhelmed. Together, these tones mix to create a lot of hurt feelings. I really need to work on mine while helping the kids out of theirs. Hard work!
One of my biggest take aways from the faculty and parent meeting at my school was that it forced me to realize that my daughter would be entering school with students whose parents had not sheltered them much or at all from the recent events. As Friday unfolded, it was clear that my wife and I were preoccupied with the news. It was an amazing blessing to have my mom here to help during the day of lockdown that ensued. We spent the entire day inside as tweets and facebook posts kept us updated on the search and the status of friends in the area. When my son went down for a nap, my wife and I talked with our daughter about Monday and the events going on that were keeping us inside on a perfectly nice spring day. She listened and asked good questions, and she expressed her upsetness at someone making such bad choices and hurting people. As expected, she also had a lot of difficulty with the 8 year-old boy’s death. Friday’s conversation is, of course, only the beginning of helping her deal with this situation. She will process and react. One of the hardest conversations to date with my children. I did go through this with my homerooms during both 9/11 and the Haitian earthquake. This post is not too coherent, but that is a reflection of this last week’s events. I am thankful for the friends and family who have kept connected during this time. I am so thankful for my wife and that my mother is here in town. I am so thankful that my kids are awesome and wonderful and alive.
Friday, I got home from the crazy commute to and from work on a snowy day. I was in one piece, though a little ragged around the edges. As wearing as the day had been, I knew that my wife was probably at the end of her rope with the kids. Her school and my daughter’s school were both cancelled, so she was home all day with bouncy but too ill to play outside kids. Also, my wife had really hoped to get into her school to pick up some things. I knew I was probably walking into the crazy that would make my school day look like a calm picnic in the park.
And I did. My daughter was bouncing around the house, and my son was crying whenever my wife got out of range. We worked together to get through dinner and bed time. In these moments, as challenging as they are, we do get a peak into how our relationship is doing. When we are not doing well, these moments are absolute torture, but when we are doing better, we can support each other and make it through together. Friday was one of those instances. Neither of us wanted to deal, but together we made it work.
My workflow for this blog has been to write a post scheduled to post the next night. I do this from my desktop computer. Unfortunately my home network is flaking out. I’ll bust out the iPad if I can’t solve the problem tonight, but this is from my phone. Not sustainable.
My son has an emphatic, “No.” It starts high and moves down but maintains a full volume throughout. The effect is clearly, “What a crazy idea that you have just proposed, and thanks for never wasting my time with it or anything like it ever again.” He has worn that word out for everyone but, apparently, himself.
Just a few days ago, he finally figured out the yes word. His yes includes that hard to pronounce s. It is very clear and even a little elongated. Yess. Not a snake hissing or evil villain, but very clear. He will even correct my yeah to a yes. He genuinely seems to take pleasure in saying the word. It comes with a smile. I am not sure he could ever wear out this new-found word.
My daughter loves to talk. She talks to people, to things, and to a host of imaginary children and students. For all of that, communication is still a fledgling skill.
On Wednesday, there was some miscommunication between my wife, my daughter’s teacher, and my daughter. Being told that Mommy was picking her up at the end of the day by the teacher, my daughter was fairly upset to find that it was her regular carpool. With awesome support from the kids and adults in the car and some pretty hard work on her part, she managed to turn it around and inundate me with stories as we drove to pick up her ill brother.
I am confident that the immense volume of language pouring from my daughter’s mouth and her intense desire to direct it at others will transform over time into clear and balanced communication.
My wife is off again on a trip, but this time it will have minimal real impact on our schedule. I am usually with the kids all day on Thursday anyway, and the only difference is perhaps soloing on Friday as well.
The kids, however, don’t perceive it the same. My daughter got herself wound up on Wednesday night about it, and adding this to her already strong tendency recently to wind herself up at night made the evening one of working with her to moderate her emotions and energy.
What really is no big change becomes a big deal through my children’s response to it.
My son is entering the world of understandable verbal communication. The basics are down with “Mama” and “Dada” and their associated signs. Cheese was the first word and sign combo I remember, and on Monday he learned apple. The sign came out better than the word, but both were there.
As we took our adventure in the summeresque weather, he would repeatedly point at things as say, “See, see?” Sometimes that was accompanied by his version of car, at every car and truck, or “Doggie” which means any animal from ducks to squirrels to actual dogs. This is then followed by, “Bye, bye doggie,” or whatever object he is pointing out for my attention. When he strays from cars or doggies, things get even murkier. I try to follow his pointing finger which at times is just pointed at the clear sky. “See, see,” can also be followed by no descriptor or something that defies translation. Clearly he knows what he is sharing, and he even gets a bit frustrated at my clear slowness in understanding his obvious and fascinating shares.
Of course I have captured this on video. As soon as it is gone, it will probably get forgotten in the hectic race forward, but sometime I will come across a short video clip of him pointing at the sky saying, “See, see?”
There are so many things that probably would not happen if I didn’t have kids. I would have less of an excuse to buy all of the awesome toys “for my kids to play with.” I would spend a lot less time running through water features in playgrounds, and Saturday and Sunday I would not have spent time catching up with one of my former fourth grade students, her mom, and her brother.
I am in St. Louis visiting my parents and had need of babysitting on Sunday. Being the late planner that I am, I left finding babysitting until pretty late. After a few dead ends, I was directed to my former student who babysits for a former colleague of mine. There are many of my former students out there who I would love to see how they are doing. I used to be friends with them on Facebook, but since I had reached out to them, I decided to clear the decks of all but the few who communicated with me. I figure that if any of them are driven to reconnect with their former teacher, I am very findable.
That does not mean I don’t really want to know how they are doing. I bit of me leaves with every student, even the ones that I did not do a very good job being their teacher. I still care about their lives, and it gives me great joy to find out how they are growing as people.
Thus, the chance to catch up with this family and see how this former student, who was an awesome fourth grader, has become an awesome young adult is just thrilling, and it is even better that she got to spend time with my kids. If I didn’t have kids, that would not have happened.