Let the Kids Help

My biggest shortcoming as a Naval officer is definitely my ability (or lack thereof) to delegate. I would much rather just do the job myself and make sure it’s done correctly than take the time to train someone else and then check their work afterwards. This is something that I try to work on, but (as with anything worth doing), it’s not easy. As I gain rank and responsibility, however, it’s going to become critical for my sanity.

I sincerely wished that this fault only extended towards my career. Unfortunately, it seems to apply to the kids as well. If I can get the dishes done in 15 minutes, why should I let the kids help when I usually end up redoing their work and it takes me twice as long? If I’m cleaning up the back yard, do you realize how much time I will have to spend cleaning them afterwards? When they help vacuum, they inevitably get in the way or run over the dog. It just seems to be more trouble than it’s actually worth. Of course, it seems that way because I don’t actually realize what that worth is. There are three great reasons to let the kids help out around the house.

The first reason is that they actually want to help. How refreshing is that? They want to help you unload the washing machine and put together the new bookcase. I have to imagine that this particular attitude isn’t going to last forever. It’s probably a good idea to take advantage of it while we can.

The second reason is that it does teach them how to do things. Maybe loading the dishwasher isn’t necessarily the most crucial life skill, but it’s certainly something that will come in handy. It’s much better to teach them these things when they actually want to learn.

The third reason is that if they’re helping you, they’re not doing something that they shouldn’t. They are right there beside you the entire time. If they’re helping you get the cord out of the vacuum because they managed to run it over for the third time, they’re definitely not trying to break into your medicine chest.

I’ll use the one instance where I actually succeed with this subject as an example. The favorite meal in our house is when I make chicken fried steaks. Since we don’t eat red meat, I use pork cutlets, and everyone loves it. This is the meal that our daughter actually requests for her birthday. Making the meal has turned into a family affair where both kids get to help.

There’s three stages to the breading process. First, the cutlet is coated with flour. Then, it’s dropped in an egg wash. Finally, it is coated with a flour/corn meal/seasoning mixture. We set up a sort of assembly line process. Our son (2 y/o) will take the meat and put it in the flour, flipping it to make sure that both sides are coated. He’ll then drop it in the egg wash. From there, our daughter (5 y/o) will take the pork and coat it in the final mixture. I’ll then take it and start cooking it up.

Does this process take about twice as long as it would if I did it by myself? Absolutely. You have to be pretty watchful since there’s raw pork and eggs involved, and cleaning 18 layers of flour, corn meal, and paprika of their hands is always a challenge. It’s worth it though. The kids have a great time. They are helping out, and they’re learning a little bit about cooking. Best of all, they are exactly where I can see them, and they’re not doing something crazy like trying to complete the perfect bunk bed swan dive. It’s a lot of fun, and as an added bonus, they actually like dinner more because they helped to make it.

If only I could make myself be this patient and understanding with everything else.

Tobogganing For Dads: Hill Repeats

If you’ve got kinds under 5, you know that messing around with them is a great workout.

You’re running, you’re stretching, you’re lifting 40 pound squirming dumbbells. It doesn’t do much to mold and sculpt your body (Dads have beer guts. It’s from how we hold our kids, we can’t help it.) but at least it’s some physical activity that is challenging different muscle groups.

Go ahead, chase a 3 year old around a playground and try to tell me that’s not a P90X level challenge.

With the playground covered in white and the temps near freezing, your usual workout needs to be modified.

Here’s a way you can try to trim it down this winter, with another DadCAMP Workout: Hill Repeats.

It’s simple:

Find a toboggan hill. Push the kid down the hill. Listen to him scream. Beg him to climb back up the hill. Run down the hill to get your kid. Pull him in the sled back up the hill. Repeat for 45 minutes or until one of the kids has to go potty.

Posted by DadCamp

Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em

As a father there are times when I just want to freeze time and not let my girls get any older. I want to capture their innocence and bottle it up so that they will always know what it was like to be free of inhibition, doubt, and the other cares of the world.

As a father there are times when I just want to freeze time and not let my girls get any older. I want to capture their innocence and bottle it up so that they will always know what it was like to be free of inhibition, doubt, and the other cares of the world. In speaking to other parents, I know that they feel similar, and as you child gets ready to go to school for the first time, the reality hits you that this innocence could be shattered at the slightest word, action or thought that someone else may interject and there is nothing that you can do about it besides try and help your child to be ready and willing to stand up for themselves on their own two feet.

The question that continues to ring through my brain is how to best do this, and how best to slowly let go of the reigns that I have to allow for my daughters independence and personalities to develop and flourish on their own.

As Diva-J has gotten older J-Mom and I have continually played the game of give and take and as she starts to become more responsible in some areas, we tend to give a bit more in regards to autonomy, which I think is the nature of parenting. On the other hand, as I said earlier, it is s nice to have your little child, and it is difficult to let that go as they get older.

Many of the resources I found when thinking about this topic talk about the letting go process parents go through within the College years. I am thinking of something different as you might have guessed. I am truly thinking about the process of shedding my presumptions and allowing my children to become the people that they will become. This is not to say that J-Mom and I will not do my best to mold and instill in them the things that we believe deeply as is our responsibility as parents, because we will. Instead, I continue to find that I need to step back and allow her to make mistakes. I need to allow her to fail (which is not easy). I need to let her learn lessons that are not always going to be easy to learn.

In thinking about this, I came across a few interesting links that I thought I would share with all of you:

Today think about your own children and write down your thoughts on when you feel that you MUST hold them, when you MUST fold them, when you MUST walk away and when you MUST run i. Once you come up with this list share it with us… would love to hear your thoughts!

Fabulous Film Fathers

With the snow and cold weather out, my boys and I have been taking advantage of Netflix and our local library to watch some movies.  I’ve noticed a couple that showed some good examples of fatherhood.  Just a warning: Spoilers Be Ahead.  If you haven’t seen Despicable me or Shrek Forever After yet, you might want to bookmark this article and come back later.  Otherwise, dive on in.

Despicable Me

The main character, Gru, is a villain.  He’s first introduced noticing a little boy crying over a dropped ice cream cone.  He cheers up the boy by crafting a balloon animal… and then shows his true colors as he pops it making the boy sadder than he was to begin with.  Not quite your ideal father figure, right?  Especially when his motive for adopting three girls is to gain access to another villains lair so he can steal a shrink ray that he plans on using to steal the Moon.

In flashbacks, we are shown Gru constantly trying to please his mother to no avail.  He says he’d like to go to the Moon.  She responds by telling him they stopped sending up monkeys.  He shows a spaceship design, she dismisses it.  Even a working model fails to impress her.  He hasn’t exactly grown up learning how to be a loving parent.

As his plans for stealing the Moon progress, the girls pry open Gru’s cold heart.  He supports them against a carnival worker who tries to cheat them out of a prize.  (In typical villain fashion, he trades the baseball to be thrown with a giant plasma cannon.)  He finds the girls becoming less of a chore and annoyance that get in the way of what he really wants (stealing the Moon) and more of an experience that he looks forward to.  The movie leaves open the question as to whether he has turned completely from his villainous ways and become a hero.  In any event, he is definitely a good father in the end, gladly giving up his stolen prize to save his girls and then risking his life to save them.

This movie shows how parents often find themselves at conflict between what they wanted to do before having children and what they want to do after having kids.  Your priorities shift and things that previously seemed like the most important things in the world fall to the wayside.  Other activities that would previously make you want to run away screaming turn out to be the happiest times of your life.

Shrek Forever After

Shrek has definitely undergone a lot of changes in the four movies he has appeared in.  In the first movie, he fell in love.  In the second, he learns to love himself.  In the third, he comes to grips with his impending fatherhood.  In the fourth film, Shrek is shown to be living the hectic life of a parent.  And a famous one no less.  Every day is the same routine over and over and over again.  Every quiet moment he gets to himself is interrupted by someone or something.  He can’t even go to the bathroom in peace without a local tour group pointing out his potty activities.

By the time the triplet’s’ first birthday party rolls around, he is a raw bundle of nerves.  (Not so good for any parent, even worse for an ogre parent.)  He blows up at the party and storms away.  At this moment, Rumpelstiltskin steps in.  He offers Shrek one day of freedom.  Just one day where he doesn’t need to worry about being a husband and father.  He can go back to his old life for 24 hours.  The offer sounds glorious but, even in his at-wit’s-end state, Shrek senses a catch.  The catch is that Rumpelstiltskin will take one day from Shrek’s past.  A day from his childhood that he wouldn’t even remember.  Shrek signs the contract.

Suddenly, his world is turned upside down.  Shrek finds himself a feared, single ogre again.  He’s able to terrify villagers and do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.  But his happy romp takes a terrifying turn when he sees his home deserted (in fact, it looks like it was never occupied at all) and he is captured.  Donkey doesn’t remember him at all.  It turns out that Rumpelstiltskin’s taken day was the day Shrek was born.  This means he never existed, never rescued Fiona and never became a father.  Once his 24 hours of freedom are up, Shrek will fade away and this topsy-turvy world (where Rumpelstiltskin rules instead of being a vagabond) will be cemented in place.  This only chance to get out of the contract is to find Fiona and share True Love’s Kiss before his time runs out.

What follows is a series of desperate attempts by Shrek to find Fiona and get her to fall in love with him.  At one point, she even kisses Shrek but it has no effect.  Shrek realizes that, in this reality, she never fell in love with him.  Simply being there isn’t enough.  He needs to take an interest in her and support her to get her to love him once more.

The lesson here is twofold.  First off, being a parent can be stressful.  Any parent who tells you that they never feel any stress at all as they raise their kids is lying.  There will be times when you wish that you could just run off for a day and forget about being married with children.  But even in these darkest times, a parent will still love their kids.  They might want some time for themselves, but they would never truly wish for their kids to vanish completely.

The key is small doses of “kid freedom.”  Go on a date night with your spouse while the kids are with a trusted friend/relative/babysitter.  Have your spouse watch the kids while you run some errands alone.  Or have your spouse run the errands while you stay home alone and enjoy some solitude.  These little breaks will help keep you from an ogre-sized blow up.

The second lesson here doesn’t involve the kids as much as it involves the parents.  You can’t simply just “show up” and expect that your spouse will stay in love with you because you are you.  You need to constantly work on making your spouse fall in love with you all over again.  This can be with a previously mentioned date night or kid-break-period.  It could also be simply listening to your spouse when they are talking about something that interests them even if your couldn’t care less.  The little things can build up and help to strengthen a marriage.  And a healthy, happy marriage can lead to healthy, happy parenting.

Commercial Interruption

For the longest time, NHL’s television watching habits were blissfully commercial free.  He would watch DVDs, kids channels (where the only commercials were for their own shows) or DVRed shows (commercials quickly skipped by).  As he’s gotten older, though, he’s come to notice those little bits of advertisement.  I’d like to announce that my savvy son has realized that these are just crass attempts to sell him things he doesn’t need.  I’d like to say that.  Really, I would.  Sadly, I can’t.

Of course, NHL is only 7 years old, so his naiveté can be forgiven when it comes to this subject.  Still, it is both amusing and frustrating to hear a commercial come on the television only to be followed by cries of “Can we get that?”, “Can we go to that?”, “Can we watch that?”  Of course, since his little brother is such a copy-cat, those cries get echoed by JSL as well.

If an “As Seen On TV” product spot airs that shows kids gluing bits of paper together to make something that vaguely resembles a dog, suddenly the boys will want this item.  It is all they’ve ever wanted in their lives and they must possess it!

If the boys see a commercial for a fast food chain, they are overcome with a hunger for burgers and chicken nuggets.  And a toy.  Don’t forget the toy that comes with the meal!  (We used to let the boys have the rare trip to McDonalds until we realized that JSL was playing with the toys and refusing to eat anything but french fries.)

If NHL spies a spot for a new television show that will be airing, suddenly he develops a desire to see this show.  The DVR must be set immediately even if the show is a month away.  Never mind that the DVR can only go a week out.  This show is going to be the greatest thing EVER and they can’t wait to see it.

I’ve sat down with NHL and explained that he doesn’t need everything he sees in commercials.  I’ve told him that they are designed to sell him things.  Still, I know that come the next commercial interruption, he’ll be asking for something new that he just has to have.

How about you? Have your kids noticed and asked for items from commercials?

travel tips for the family from the expert Amy Tara Koch

I had the great pleasure of doing a quick interview with Amy Tara Koch, the author of Bump It Up, trend reporter to NBC, contributer to SELF, New York Times, People’s Mom and Baby, Travel & Leisure, and many others – yah she’s totally an expert on all things style and travel.

Admittedly the first line about I’m following you is awkward but its about Twitter – lol…

We went over some basics of traveling with expecting a baby, traveling with kids of all ages, and tips for what to bring on the plane.

Of course the age old question how do you defuse the angry mob on the plane when your baby/kid just wont stop crying.

Well I could write out all the questions and answers but that would take all the fun out of watching the video.

Friendship Fears: Out From Under My Wings

The wonderment of the human development, the ability to adapt and move forward, it is truly a sight to behold. Standing in awe of my son. The first of the brood moving on to bigger and better things. This little guy is not scared of anything, so why should Dad be? I believe it is just part of being “Daddy”. Fears come, and fears go, and in the end, all is well.

Two weeks ago, my son started his first year at preschool. I was so proud of him. Walking off from the apartment, stepping into a new adventure in life with a gigantic smile and open arms. His winning personality and welcoming aura precedes him as he walks off into unknown territory. I was sad I could not be there on his very first day but the duty of being the provider called, and work had to be done.

Since then I have been home several mornings to watch him walk down to school. The preschool Caleb goes to is just down the sidewalk from my apartment. He doesn’t like us taking him down anymore, he would rather walk down with the rest of his new found friends. My little man is growing up so fast, and it is happening right in front of my eyes everyday. He is stepping up, becoming more of an independent being, and forever changing with an amazement that captivates me at the core of my heart.

However, with the pride I have in my growing little man, there were some fears, no doubt. Until he started preschool, Caleb did not have much play time with other kids. A few play dates, but never time away from mommy and daddy, with more than 3 kids around. I had sometimes wondered if we had messed up somewhere along the way. Perhaps having him by our sides all the time had somehow disabled the abilities to interact well and know how to respond to the strange new world, and new people around him.

Then just today, I had the pleasure of watching him on the playground. I watched as he rode on a tricycle that was 4 sizes too big for him (considering he is small for his age it was quite the hilarious sight), watched as him and another little boy played on the swing set and slide, and I stood in awe. All my fears had been laid to rest about how he would interact with new people. I watched as that welcoming aura, winning personality, and that gigantic grin, catapulted him to “best friend” status with a child he had never met until starting school.

The wonderment of the human development, the ability to adapt and move forward, it is truly a sight to behold. Standing in awe of my son. The first of the brood moving on to bigger and better things. This little guy is not scared of anything, so why should Dad be? I believe it is just part of being “Daddy”. Fears come, and fears go, and in the end, all is well.

Growing up Google

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An interesting question was posed recently: What are we losing as our kids are growing up on google? There’s an overarching thought to this which is much broader than what I’m going to deal with here on Dad Revolution. I will however answer the broader implications on my own blog. The reason for taking a narrow focus in this post is because I want to drill down to what it means for fathers. I mean, that’s why you’re here reading right? It’s all about dad and family.

I’m going to broaden the question a little, “zoom out,” if you will. What are we loosing as our kids are growing up digital? I believe that is the heart of the question. The answer: a lot. It doesn’t have to be that way, though for far too many children, I fear they will get away with far more than I did when I was a tween/teen and it will be to their detriment. We already see the symptoms of what they’re getting away with in the news. So much more to get into and leave parents in the dark about when you can send a text message via your cellphone or an email/tweet/poke via whichever computer or mobile device your child finds themselves on. Then, so many parents are ill prepared because they feel they don’t have to begin educating themselves when their children are in elementary but they don’t realize that by then it’s too late. Our children are exposed to so much by their peers before we’ve even had a chance to educate and do some pre-emptive explaining, if we’re not careful. And when they themselves hit the digital world, they don’t do it in stops and starts! Often, it’s zero to sixty and they don’t look back. It will level off eventually but it will be a few years before that happens generally. Sorry, I’m waxing tangential here but “rant” is in my veins. Continue reading “Growing up Google”