Why I don’t help My Son

That’s right. Fend for yourself, little monster!

Okay, that’s not true.

I help Zephy alot. Every day I help him countless times with all sorts of simple tasks. But I am careful about how and when I help him.

When he needs help with his shoes, I won’t intervene until he’s tried it himself.

When he struggles with putting a shirt on, I don’t help him if its a shirt he’s put on before. I may have him sit and breathe when he gets frustrated, but its his job to put the shirt on.

As I write this, he’s working on fixing a Lego spaceship that had a rough landing. He spent a few minutes asking me for help, I let him know that I was busy but could look at in in a bit, and now he is sitting, inventing a story, and trying to fix it himself.

When he does need help – and ultimately, he will, I want to be sure that I am not taking over the task. I want him to participate and learn how to overcome the obstacle. My goal as a parent revolves around guiding him and teaching skills beyond getting the task at hand done.

Dealing with frustration, problem solving, critical thinking, even knowing when to ask for help, are all things that I try to teach on a daily basis. Probably so much so that Zephy is at the point of extreme frustration with me often.

Having everything be a teachable moment sounds spectacular, and sounds like I really have my head in the game on this whole parenting thing. I should totally write a book full of wisdom for parents everywhere.

Okay. I tried to write all that above with a straight face. Lets try that again.

We’re late for an event and Zephy has his boots on his hands. And he’s wearing shorts. In winter. With underwear over a pull-up. And his face is smeared with a cocktail of yogurt, oatmeal, and wood chips. I don’t feed my son wood chips, folks. If I had a rational explanation, I would give it.

He just threw a Lego spaceship into the couch. Pieces everywhere. It was an excellent re-creation of a scene in his mind, I’m sure, but now its a catastrophe. One where my intervention isn’t optional.

And in moments like this, I wonder what happened. Five minutes ago we were having a bonding teachable moment over how to zip up a coat. And now we’re about to create a microcosm of the apocalypse in our house.

The bottom line, for me, is that parenting has become less about ideals and overreaching goals, and more about daily activity. Zephy knows the boundaries, and he knows what I want to teach him. But it’s my job to live and show the temperance and self-control I desperately want to instill him with. Words and lectures only go so far. I could talk till I’m blue in the face, but he learns from mimicry and observation more.

So, with a resigned sigh, I’m off to dig up pieces of Lego from the many cushions of our couch. The lesson? To show Zephy that this isn’t in any way a problem. Toys break. Lego’s can be rebuilt. Imagination can still fuel us, even in pick up.

Did I say I was picking Lego’s out of a couch? I meant that I was helping the survivors of a spaceship crash on Planet MX713 recover and salvage the pieces of their craft. There we go.

Space Commander Daddy Levi,

Signing out.

 

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Is it OK to use bleach NOW?

Note: the first draft of this story had the subject line: “Why I don’t like Orange Kool-aide.” It’s relevant. Read on!

Every parent has at least one moment in their parenting lives when they wonder if it’s okay to bleach their child.

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A picture with Ashley, who missed out on this great day. I imagine she is forever regretful.

Non-parents, please don’t laugh. I assure you. This is a real question. Maybe its after a particularly bad bout of the flu, or perhaps your kid went “fishing” in the toilet. Every parent at some point has the same question: Is now a good time to bleach my kid? Like, diluted, you know. Not full strength. We’re not monsters.

Invariably, the thought will cross your mind and it will lead to a ridiculous sounding Google search. The kind of search that will forever alter the advertisements you see on Facebook. You’ll start seeing links to sites dedicating to ensuring you raise healthy kids and don’t kill them with bleach. You’ll also get ads for bleach coupons at Albertson’s. I guess this means that Facebook knows you’re a bad parent, but won’t get in your way.

The answer, of course, is that no, you cannot bleach your child. Its a bad idea all around. It just happens to be rooted in the very real disgust and realization that children are crazy germ factories and don’t seem to have a build in “yuck” barometer.

For me, that day happened about a year ago.

We had made homemade play dough out of flour, salt, water, and Kool-aid. The Kool-aid for this particular batch was orange flavored. And orange colored. And orange scented. The fake orange junk, not anything resembling a real fruit.

ZM was sitting at the table playing with this stuff while I made lunch. I heard some lip smacking from our dog, and turned around to see ZM feeding Sass a full pound of play dough. Bear in mind, salt is what gives this stuff its consistency. There was about 2 cups of table salt in a pound of this junk. It’s edible, but barely. Certainly not in pound-sized portions.

I figured it was a matter of time before I would see the precious play dough again, albeit in a slightly altered form. However, I didn’t want to just throw the dog outside – that much salt meant that if he didn’t throw it up, we were going to the vet. Luckily(?) about 10 minutes later, my dining room floor was graced with an extremely large amount of orange colored dog vomit, resplendent with sizable chunks of orange play-dough and emanating a scent that will forever haunt my dreams. Dog stomach acid, salt, and orange Kool-aid combined in the most foul smelling and deadly cocktail I have ever sniffed.

It was so bad that I needed to retreat to another room and just contemplate my existence as a dog owner and parent for a few minutes. It turns out, that introspection, while important, was very ill-timed.

It turns out in my disgust that I forgot to tell ZM to come into the kitchen with me. Whilst

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This is Sassafras with a moth on his nose. It’s not relevant to the story at all.

fighting a gag reflex, wondering why I have a dog and a kid, and getting 3 rolls of paper towels, ZM was left in the dining room with – you guessed it – PLAY DOUGH!

I have watched ZM play with play dough before. He makes balls, he rolls out snakes. He likes to smoosh it then build it up again. He even tried to eat it once. But I have never…

not ever…

not even once…

seen ZM put play dough in his hair.

After this day, I confess, that I have seen that. I entered with my cleaning supplies to a horrific sight that will eternally haunt me. My son, my beautiful, smart, glorious son, sitting criss-cross next to a steaming pile of dog puke, humming “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, and smearing… smearing…  vomit soaked chunks of play-dough all over his face, ears, hair, and chest.

So for all of you people who are bothered by the title of this post, remember that two things happened to me this day:

I instantly decided Orange Kool-aid was never again for me.

And I googled “Can I Bleach my Child?”

-DaddyLevi

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Things I’ve Said This Week

I feel that no other explanation is needed here.

  1. “I don’t care if that’s not a normal verse in ‘Down by the Bay’. I’m singing it the way want to and you have to respect that”.
  2. “Zephy, for real. Human beings ARE alive. And eating them is cannibalism.”
  3. “Please put your pants back on. You don’t need to get fully undressed to use the toilet.”
  4. “Does pouty-face work in getting your way? No. No it does not. It never has.”
  5. “Please pick up your space puzzle.” 45 minutes later. “You are halfway done buddy. At this point you are averaging 1 of the 48 pieces every 2 minutes. Lets pick up the pace. We can’t go get hot cocoa until you put away your toys.”
  6. “Yes, I know Sassafras is just a dog, but it’s fun to make him talk.”

And Finally…

7. I understand that you are frustrated about having to get ready for bed when Auntie Meg is over, but peeling paint off of the wall is not a good way to express that!”

 

In other news, we’re going to be repainting the upstairs!

 

 

Enter Shadowfax

SSIF Science Operatives Log: Stardate OX1923FD3

It has been 593 lunar turns since my ship crashed into a wooden structure on this strange planet. Upon landing, my ship was utterly destroyed, and all my research equipment was vaporized.

I spend many days exploring this structure I was entrapped in, until a large, hairless, bipedal local alien entered into the building and spoke. Thanks to my surgically embedded catspeak language simulator, I was able to understand this strange alien within a few minutes of interaction. Unfortunately, my translator only works for me, and I cannot speak to these aliens with any form of accuracy.

Listening to these creatures is fascinating. They clearly have no idea of just how widely regarded in the galaxy I am. They view me as a “pet”. I have learned that I was found in a “barn”, and that they think I am a “cute, widdle, kitteh”. They refer to themselves as “hoomans”.

I at first flared my fur and tail, a universal constant in the galaxy to back off and leave me alone. Perhaps the size difference, or perhaps because I am a young cat, they simply laughed and rubbed my back. I didn’t want to let them know, but I liked it.

I decided to play along with the hoomans and become assimilated into their culture. As I require the basic necessities of life, I have come to depend on maintaining a relationship with them by showing affection. I have mirrored the hoomans forms of this as best  I can – laying upon their necks whilst they sleep to show a nurturing spirit, for instance.

I am afraid that these aliens, however, have a particularly addictive substance they call “tuna in a can”. It is so addictive that I am compelled to rush towards it whenever a can of it is opened. The sound of the can being opened occupies my thoughts day and night. I have become afraid that the hoomans may open cans of tuna when I am out of earshot.In this light, I went to work to solve this serious problem. I was able, with the unknowing help of the a local hardware store and several visits to a “computer center”, to fashion a short range teleporter queued to the sound of the tuna can’s lid being pierced. The teleporter has a range of 5234 pawpads and will instantly move me to the proximity of the can regardless of my current location. With this technology I am able to explore the environment of this planet without fear of missing out on a tuna feast.

The hoomans that have taken me also have a primitive creature that they refer to as “Sassafras”. Apparently he is a “Dog-beast” and is one of the most uncouth abominations I have ever studied. He is so deplorable that I have taken affection and sympathy towards him. I have attempted play with him, and it has occasionally worked well, but his brute strength and lack of self control usually end up with me being picked up in his maw and being squeezed until I emit a rather embarrassing noise akin to a “squeak”.

The hoomans have named me “Shadowfax”. This seems appropriate, as it means “Lord of Horses” in their culture. I am not a horse, but I did hold no small amount of royalty on my home planet of Catopia Prime. Even now, as I gaze into the starry night, I wonder how many search parties the council has released to search for my craft. I only hope my galactic locator sent off enough pings before incineration that they may someday find me and I may return to Catopia Prime with my findings.

It is my firm belief that this world is ripe for the conquering. We will simply infiltrate and appear as simple pets before we strike. Weaving between the hooman’s legs at the tops of stairs may eliminate them and appear accidental. Once their number are sufficiently diminished, we can enslave the rest and have a limitless, free, supply of tuna.

I’ll be transmitting this message nightly out of my hooman’s backyard porch, using vocal modulations only known to the SSIF. I hope that it falls upon cat ears that can get it into the right paws.

The hoomans have just brought a small structure home that seems to be made out of a delightful substance they call “cardboard”. I must investigate. Further reports to follow.

Agent #452, “Shadowfax”

Don’t Pinch Me! (Consent Matters)

“But dad, we don’t REALLY get pinched by leprechauns. That’s not kind and leprechauns are just a story we tell on Paddy’s Day”

“That’s right, monster. And in our house, we don’t follow that tradition. We don’t allow anyone to pinch or touch us against our will. The only time it’s okay for funny pinching to happen is if it is a game that you consented to.”

In a 4 year old’s mind, selling the pinching tradition as fun it is tempting. Laughter and
squeals are sure to abound. Thinking of little red-bearded leprechauns with pots of gold liftarn-Hat-and-shillelagh-colourand wry dispositions conjures hilarious imagery and sets the stage for some great storytelling. But, the core mechanic of the tradition doesn’t sit right with us.

Perhaps Ashley and I are overthinking it. Perhaps it it just a silly tradition, but chasing people down and pinching them for not wearing a specific color is rude at first look; and it’s a bit more sinister when you think harder about it.

Teaching the tradition quite literally teaches our son that it is OK to bully and pinch people based on what they wear – and that it is OK to do so without their consent.

I want that to sink in a bit. In our lives, consent is a big deal. We talk about it in all aspects:

shamrockIn play:“Zephy, if you want to play catch, can you first ask with your manners, please?”

With our pets: “Sassafras got in trouble because he didn’t ask the kitty if she wanted to be carried around by her head.”

With physical touch: “Do you want to give me a hug? No? Okay! I won’t hug you!”

Consent is so important to us that we assuredly annoy Zephy constantly by asking him to codify his requests in a respectful, asking manner. Over time, though, he’s learned how important it is. He knows when Dad or Mom says “No” to a request, there isn’t any grey area to change their minds. The beauty of teaching consent is that it is a two way street. He knows there are boundaries he can enforce as well.

Boundaries like: “I would like to put my coat on by myself, please don’t help me.”

Boundaries like: “Please don’t touch me.” or “I don’t want a kiss right now.”

And, boundaries like:“I don’t want to be pinched by you or anyone.”

 

-Daddy Levi

 

How does your family feel about pinching traditions? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

Day Care Acting

“I just don’t want go to day care, Dad! Some of the kids don’t play with me.”

I guess, in fairness, this is an improvement over last week:

“My tummy hurts mommy. We may need to stay home and have an Ashley and Zephy day instead!”

Right. Convenient how your stomach started hurting immediately after you remember that today was a day care day. Also, good on you, kid. Staying home with you DOES sound like quite a bit more fun than going to work – for either Ashley Face or Daddy Levi.

What I don’t get, though, is that every day he comes home from day care, he’s had a blast. A good 70% of the time when I go to pick him up, he is in full superhero garb – a Captain America costume one week, a transformer the next.

One time he didn’t want to leave because he wanted to show me how many foam balls he could stuff in his shirt. Last week he had put together 3 separate puzzles that I “absolutely had to come see!” before we could leave.

My question is then, why the disconnect? He only attends day care one day a week. What happens between leaving day care after a great day, and waiting a week to go back?

It’s probably because Ashley Face and I are so amazingly awesome to hang out with that he, as do most people we meet, simply wants to spend every waking moment with us. That MUST be it.

Or maybe it’s because when he’s with us, he is usually hanging out with just one of us parents, which means he has a big command of the attention. Being the center is easier for Zephy than being one of many.

Or maybe….

He actually IS a superhero, and those “costumes” at day care are not actually costumes. Maybe Zephy fakes not wanting to go so that his cover identity as a precocious young child won’t get blown. Maybe he’s the only reason our town hasn’t come apart at the hinges. Maybe we owe him for constantly being there, to protect and save us from all of the things that superheroes save people from.

It’s okay, little buddy. Your secret is safe with me. Well, me and my blog’s audience. Shhh, guys. Don’t blow his cover!

 

Parenting – Backstories

The reality of chronicling and sharing about my family on this blog means that sometimes it isn’t all laughter and nerd jokes. Sometimes things get tough. To better understand how and why things get tough, I’m going to provide you with some backstory.

To recap and set the stage, here’s a quick line-by-line big event breakdown of some tough stuff that happened when our family was formed:

  1. June 2011 BA (Before Ashley):

    I meet Zephy Monsters now-mother in a bar one weekend night. I’m single, drunk, and prone to risky choices at this juncture in my life. We have a 3 hour (or so) meeting. You can fill in the blanks here, I imagine.

  2. May 2011 – November 2011  KoA (Kind of Ashley):

    Me and Ashley begin hanging out on a slightly more-than-friends basis. She was on her way to Denver to grad school, I was still single and unwilling to admit that I was madly in love with her. Partially because she was moving away, and partially because I was dealing with some of my own insecurities.

  3. November 2011  BoA (Beginning of Ashley):

    Me and Ashley start dating. She was back from grad school specifically to visit me for two weeks.

  4. December 2011 DA (During Ashley):

    Zephy’s Mother calls me with news that rocks my world.

  5. December 2011-June 2014 ASA (Amazingly Still Ashley). 

    I give Ashley the option to leave. I did, after all, just get insane and life-changing news. This woman stayed with me through the most hallmark one-night stand that resulted in a pregnancy ever. Not only did she stay with me, but she became a rock of this family – before and after marriage.And let me tell you, that rock she became, it became weathered. Because…

  6. June 2014 ASAEALRGECAARYA (Amazingly Still Ashley Even After Levi Randomly Got Eye Cancer At A Ridiculously Young Age):

    This was an incredible gut punch. I have trauma memories of every step of this process. Diagnosis, surgery, treatment, parenting during it, living with chemo in my system, trying to maintain work and social connections during it, the list goes on and on. The hardest thing, however, during all of it, was seeing both Zephy and Ashley suffer with worry and grief while I was too sick to be able to help heal anyone but myself.

  7. August 2014 WWAETC (Wedding with Ashley Even Though Cancer):

    We decided that we were not going to let a silly thing like cancer get in the way of our wedding. Going through it was both the most beautiful and momentous day of our relationship, as well as the hardest. I almost collapsed from exhaustion multiple times, but I fell back onto age-old techniques of “faking it” from years of serving and restaurant experience. We did pretty much nothing but sleep after it was all said and done.

  8. April, 2015 AETIGSAWALCD (Ashley Even Thought I Got Sick Again With Another Life Changing Disease):

    This time, I got Celiac disease! Well, technically, I found out I had Celiac disease after thousands of dollars in every test imaginable and many, many doctors (including the wrong doctor once, but that’s a story for another day). I spent a long time feeling awful after I beat  cancer. At first, I thought it was just fallout from chemo, but it turns out I’m Celiac – and have been since birth, but after chemo and all that huge stress, the celiac disease became extremely potent. I’m at the point now where a bread crumb sends me to the bathroom for a day. Fun!

So, here we are…

We’re juggling trauma, split parenting, post-cancer fallout, celiac disease, among countless other normal stresses. But we are so much more than that. Sometimes it’s so easy to get sucked into that hole of retrospection and forget what we really are. A family that loves each other.  A family that smiles, loves, laughs, cries, jokes, hugs, tells stories, makes messes, and has meltdowns. A family that builds, not just with wooden blocks but with each other. Not so different from any other family. Each day Zephy wakes me up too early, my mind keeps me up too late, and sometimes my sicknesses make me forget some stuff in the middle, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Unless the three of us could be dragons. Then I would discuss terms.

 

Can you relate? Share a comment or reach out to me on Facebook. I would love to hear your thoughts.