When a village isn’t enough…

If you frequent Parenting blogs like I do (and I know you read mine regularly – wink, wink) you’ll notice that some of the most fiercely debated topics are usually around whether or not it is acceptable to reprimand someone else’s child. What’s stood out to me when reading these blogs and their comments is, that people tend to fall into one of two camps, which I call, The Confronters and The Villagers.

The Confronters are more likely to go to the perceived source of the misbehavior – the Parent, and reprimand them with usually a passive aggressive or sarcastic, “Wow, you let your child do anything, don’t you?” or, “You going to get your kid here?” The typical response from the offending Parent is one of defensiveness and sometimes the whole situation escalates into an argument On the other hand there are The Villagers. These folks subscribe to a more “we are all Parents” philosophy and they take it upon themselves to correct the child’s behavior directly. Perhaps 20-30 years ago this approach would be more widely accepted. But nowadays, trying the change the behavior of child that isn’t yours, can land you in some serious trouble if you do not choose the situation and your words very carefully.

Until recently, I was in the “The Villagers” camp except, I would be very mindful of what I was saying to a child as to not cross any line that may exist. It wasn’t until recently, after we experienced a situation at the Dentist office, that I found out about a third group, which I have affectionately called, The Shamers. The other day my daughter had an appointment for a routine dental exam and I decided that this time, I would be the one to take her. As most Pediatric Dentist offices go, they are essentially a playground with dental chairs – and our Dentist was no exception. In our Dentist’s office, he had a small walk space with a couple of chairs that serves as sort of a gateway into the larger waiting area which is full of toys. When we arrived, I noticed that there was a Mother, who was seated, and her son, who looked like he was about 7 or 8 years old, who was in the middle of the walkway, playing with some of the toys. When my daughter and I approached, the little boy said to us, “You can’t pass, I am playing here”! Thinking it was a joke and not wanting to be late for our appointment, I look at the boy and then at his Mother and with a smile I say, “oh, well excuse us but we need to get by”. Again the boy said to us, “no, you can’t pass, I am playing here”. Well now I had had enough of this little boy and it was clear to me that the Mother wasn’t going to do anything about the situation, so we pushed past the kid, stepping on some of the toys as we walked by, causing him to cry.

I rolled my eyes while checking in and as we proceeded to sit down in the waiting room, I decided we would sit directly across from this Mother and her child, for the express purpose of giving her my patented disapproving glare. While waiting and glaring, I decided to text my wife and tell her what had just transpired and that’s when she told me about this third group, “The Shamers”. You see The Shamers combine the best attributes of The Confronters and The Villagers, plus it provides valuable lessons for our kids. The Shamers confront the Parent in a more passive aggressive and indirect manner, while reprimanding the child indirectly and simultaneously helping our children understand that what they just experienced was not acceptable – the trifecta!

Feeling empowered and enlightened by this information, I decided to put it into action. While sitting there with my daughter and in a volume and tone that could be clearly heard throughout the waiting room, I began to explain to my daughter that the behavior she witnessed was unacceptable and it is not the way that neither her nor I (in the case of the Parent) should ever behave. I explained to her that it was “rude” and “selfish” for the boy to block the only walkway to the waiting area. And likewise, it was “disappointing” that his mommy didn’t do anything about it. I concluded our conversation by telling my daughter, that we are “polite” and “respectful of other people’s space and time” and we would “never behave like they did”. Well…the mom’s reaction was priceless! After being made a spectacle of in the waiting room, the Mom immediately told her son to get off the floor and sit still next to her. Although the kid still left his toys in the middle of the walkway causing others to walk around them, in that brief moment, she was embarrassed of her and her son’s behavior. But more importantly than that, my daughter got a real world lesson about life and how to effectively handle those types of situations. I have certainly jumped on the The Shamers bandwagon but I am curious to know what other tactics you have used to deal with these kinds of situations. Let me know!

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Kids Rock!

I often post about the innocence and brutal honesty of children and how we as Parents, learn some of the greatest life lessons from them. But there are also times, when something they say or do just knocks you off your game and you cannot help but think to yourself, wow, what a kid! I try to not do this too often, but since I am the one writing the blog, you’ll just have to indulge me a little bit while I tell you about how my little princess recently blew my mind.

My long standing joke about my daughter, whenever someone asks me how old she is, I am quick to say, “She’s 5 going on 16!”. I usually say this to convey several different messages about my daughter, without having to actually having to say it. She behaves more maturely than one would imagine and believe me, I recognize this could be a good or a bad thing. I tend to follow my joke up with examples of some of the crazy stuff she has either said or done. Of course I am not suggesting she is perfect – far from it but the purity of her logic suggest to me a maturity that exceeds that of even some adults.

Case in point, after picking her up from school the other day, we began our ritual of me trying to pull out information from her on how her day was. Eventually, we get into the drama of the day: who got time out, what so and so wore and so on. On this particular day she seemed a tad more somber than she usually does. She wasn’t coming out and saying what was bothering her. I began to think the worst – did something happen to her at school and who shall I give an earful to at the school for making my baby sad. But then she proceeds to tell me about her day – and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She explained to me that the boys in her class were taunting another boy, all because he happens to share the same name as a Disney character. And as you can imagine, the more upset the boy became, the more he was taunted. Seeing what was happening and seeing that the little boy was on the verge of crying, my daughter tells me, “I just went over there.” Wanting to know more, I ask her what happened next. She proceeds to tell me how she told the other boys to “stop it” and that “it wasn’t nice” and she would tell the teacher if they would not stop! And that the boys stopped what they were doing and went on to playing with something else. Who is this kid, right? Now, I wouldn’t sit here and try to convince you that we should receive some sort of Parent of the Year award for my daughter’s actions, but it warm my soul to no end, to see my daughter exercise her sense between right and wrong and stand up for others.

But if that wasn’t enough, the other morning as we are walking to her classroom, another Parent asks to speak with me. Fearing the unknown, I step aside to discuss whatever is on their mind. She says to me, “I just wanted you to know how special your little girl is. My daughter doesn’t really talk to the other kids but I always see your daughter go up to her and ask her to play – that’s a really great thing – thank you.” I melt right there into a puddle.

I was taught from an early age that integrity consisted of doing what was right when no one was watching. It seems to me that parenting is a lot like this: We can tell how good of a job we are doing by how well our children interact with society, when we are not around. And ultimately, shouldn’t that be our ultimate goal as Parents – that our children make the right choices? It goes without saying how precious our children are – sure they need to be disciplined, and sometimes they get on our nerves but sometimes they serve as the perfect reminder of what truly should matter when raising them.

I am convinced that our children are very aware of the world around them. They recognize what makes sense and question what doesn’t They see and experience the differences between right and wrong and justice and injustice – they are well in tuned. But least we forget that they are still impressionable children, who are more compliant with what we do rather than what we say. It all comes down to us to guide our children in understanding what they see and experience. For as smart as we think our children are or as mature as we think they behave, there is still a wealth of knowledge for them to absorb – and how well we do will eventually be reflected in how our little ones treat other – let’s not mess this up!

I want my children to be entitled – yeah, you read that right!

At my daughter’s school, they have a rather efficient way of ensuring that kids are dropped off for school in the quickest and safest way possible –all before the dreaded tardy bell rings. The drop off zone consists of three lanes that run alongside the school and there are also about 50 parking spaces available. The lane that is closest to the school is for temporary parking of no more than 15 minutes  and is reserved mostly for overprotective (although I choose to call it loving) parents who want to walk their kids to their classroom or participate in the morning flag activities. The second, or middle lane, is more of a traditional drop off lane where parents can come to a California stop before their kids jump out of the minivan, ala A-Team style. And the third lane is simply for thru-traffic. It’s clear this system was constructed in a way that provides order to a usually chaotic environment. So naturally, any small disruption, can have disastrous consequences – which is what my daughter and I witnessed the other day.

Parking in one of the available parking spaces and thereby avoiding the morning rush of the lanes – which, by the way, can be very intimidating to a Kindergartner and her Dad – I noticed that the traffic seemed to be backed up, which was odd for such a well-oiled operation. Looking for the most opportune time to cross the street, I see the cause of the disruption, a late model SUV who is parked in the middle lane – which is reserved for the rolling stop-push your kids out-and keep going, cars. What a violation of all that is holy when getting your kid to school! I remember thinking to myself, “oh no, I hope the car didn’t break down – what unfortunate timing!” But to my surprise and horror, we watched with shock and utter bewilderment as a Parent got out of the parked SUV and walked around to the passenger side to get his child out of the car – oh no he didn’t! You could feel the tension mounting as the scene was unfolding. Traffic is getting worse and confusion turns to anger and disgust when suddenly, one of Parents, who was stuck between the temporary parking and the thru-traffic lane, yells out their window, “What, did you take a class on Entitlement 101?!?” The stuck Parent was obviously making reference to the fact that the parked SUV had lots of stickers of a certain University located in Southern California, that shall remain nameless. But, without missing a beat, the offending Parent, looks over his shoulder and says, “Yeah and I got an A!”

After the angry mob of stressed out Parents subsided, I got to thinking about what I just witnessed. Normally, this would be the point where I hop on my soapbox and talk about how this Parent’s poor behavior is not only a detriment to his child but also to my child and how we as Parents need to strive to be better, and so on and so on – but I am not going to do that. Instead, what stuck in my mind was the word “entitled”. For most people, the word entitled has become somewhat of a four letter word and when used in conjunction with a child – whoa, avoid that kid! But then I thought, do I even know what the word actually means? I decided to consult the wise old oracle, Google, for her wisdom and guidance and she defines being entitled as, “[verb] give (someone) a legal right or just claim to receive or do something.” Nothing egregious here, so why do we use this word to convey such animosity about people’s behavior? Then it hit me, the Parent who parked their car and disrupted traffic for everyone else wasn’t acting entitled at all – he was just being a jerk! Admittedly, you can be an entitled-jerk but therein lies the distinction – how do I differentiate between being a jerk, being entitled and ensuring the two never combine?  This took me a little longer to contemplate, but then I finally had it!

My Parents sacrificed tremendously so that my siblings and I could have a childhood that they could only dream of; so am I entitled? I believe I am! My Parents worked 100+ hour weeks so that we could go to great schools and afford the things that made life comfortable and allowed us to thrive, without us doing a darn thing to deserve any of it – it was simply our right provided to us by our Parents. And what prevents me from becoming a jerk, or worse yet, an entitled-jerk? I believe the answer is humility. You see, my Parents made sure we were all aware of the cost (both figuratively and monetarily) of living the way we did and having the things we had. We understood that all of this was not just given to us and that we all bared some responsibility in making something of ourselves. Likewise, I want the same for my children – I want them to be ENTITLED. I want them to have the right to do whatever they want, but to also be humble and cognizant of the sacrifices that were made on their behalf. So there you have it, entitlement, in the absence of humility = a recipe for disaster. Who’s with me in raising children that are entitled, but in the right way?

The first year is on the books

One year ago, I embarked on a journey of self discovery and self-improvement – and what a journey it has been! The feedback, encouragement, engagement and advice I have received, has been nothing short of amazing. Thank you to everyone who has contributed their thoughts, opinions and counter-arguments – I truly believe that what we are doing is for the betterment of all our families out there!

As some of you may also know, this anniversary is bittersweet. It was a year ago that I lost my Father-in-law – the inspiration behind this blog. The emotions and sentiments are still very raw surrounding his passing but its through my writing and remembrance that I will eventually heal.

Speaking of remembrance, my daughter (bless her heart), decided she would like to release a special balloon for her Tata, so he could receive it in heaven! I am ever in awe of the way children think and the innocence and pureness of it all – it’s just heart warming. I plan on remembering my Father-in-law by continuing our thought-provoking conversations about Parenting and specifically what it means to be a Dad. We are going to hit some heavy topics in the near future, but I am confident that with your help, insight and input, we’ll all emerge more enlightened and better Parents!

Here’s to the first YEAR and many more to come!

Prayer for my son

When my daughter was in preschool, her school sponsored a Father and daughter “Prom”. This was an opportunity for Fathers and their daughters to have a wholesome evening together and it was a wonderful opportunity to show my daughter what it meant to be treated like a lady. It was ridiculously cute to see the dads and their daughters, all dressed to the 9’s. It was a magical evening and the look on my daughter’s precious little face as we took our “prom” pictures – priceless!

The most memorable moment of the evening was the unveiling of our “Prayers for our Daughters”. The Dads were asked to write an open and honest letter to their daughters about our hopes and dreams for their lives. We were supposed to read to our daughters that evening and then save it to read to them again when they turn 18 years old – a wonderful idea. Putting on paper my hopes and dreams and my commitments to my daughter was an amazing and powerful exercise – one I thought was a once in a lifetime experience.

But all that is about to change – I am proud to announce that my son was born recently and to say it was anything short than life changing-ly magnificent, would be the understatement of the century. I figured now is as good as time as any, to write my son a similar prayer – so if you will indulge me, here is an excerpt of the Prayer I wrote for my son.

My dearest son,

The moment you were born, through my joy and amazement at your arrival, I said the following prayer for you to express how much of a blessing you truly are.

I am ecstatic and deeply humbled that you chose me to be the one to teach you what it means to be a man. I hope that I am able to convey to you the wisdom that I have obtained so that you may live a prosperous and fulfilling life.

I pray that your spirituality will always guide you to take the road less traveled.

I pray that I live a life of integrity, loyalty and selflessness so that you may emulate the example I attempt to be for you.

I pray that you will find someone to spend that rest of your life with whom you can cherish and love, as much as I do your Mother. I pray that our relationship is one that you will strive to have when you find your soulmate.

My prince, you will come to learn that you come from a long line of men who have served their country, provided for their families, and preserved the entrepreneurial spirit that is so evident in our family.

I pray that I will be able to convey the meaning of your heritage. I will do all that I can to teach you to have pride in your family and where you come from. Although some may be confused or even express hate towards you, I pray that I will be able to show you the proper ways to combat their ignorance and perhaps enlighten those you encounter.

I pray that when your family, community or nation calls you to serve, in whatever capacity that might be, you not only heed that call but you run towards it with open arms.

I pray that I can teach you how to defend the defenseless, be a voice for those without, and look for opportunities to display courage in places and situations where there is none.

I know I have prayed for a lot but that’s the thing about prayer – there is no limit and there is no limit on what you can become and I look forward to guiding you all the way.

Above all, I simply pray that you will grow up to be the best man you can possibly be.

Love, your Papi

Father’s Day ain’t what it used to be…

Father’s Day, a day meant to celebrate Dad and show our appreciation for how hard he works to provide for us,or just to show him how much he is loved. As a Dad myself, I have always held the belief that a day like this should be earned, rather than expected – extreme, I know. You see, to me, there is a clear delineation between being called a Father or Dad versus being a Father or Dad. One is just a title whereas the other is a commitment; a way of life. So if you prescribe to my thesis, then Father’s Day has a completely different connotation. Father’s Day becomes more of a day that simply highlights how much family means to us – in other words, Father’s Day is more about giving to our families, rather than receiving gifts or accolades. Taking all of that into account, Father’s Day was amazing – for the most part. I got to spend quality time with the family, doing different activities and of course, taking the mandatory trip to Disneyland. My Father’s Day unfortunately hit a sour note, when I experienced a situation that reminded me that our Dad “culture” is in need of some serious tune up, especially on a day like this.

It all started off with what was supposed to be a light-hearted Father’s Day “Olympics” hosted by my daughter’s preschool. The “intent” of the day was to participate in several Olympic style events along with our children. I hate to say it like this but, as things typically do when you get a bunch of guys together in a competitive environment, the day quickly spiraled out of control as some Dads began to take the events way too seriously – which all culminated with the final event. The gold medal event was an obstacle course that consisted of several events: 25-yard dash while carrying your child, 10 jumping jacks, 15-second squat, jungle gym run thru, 10 yard skip, a hurdle and then a last 25-yard dash while holding your child – whew, it even tires me out just to write that! Well, I am proud to say that my daughter and I won our first heat! But, during the championship round, it was clear things had taken an ugly turn.

The first thing I noticed, as the winning Dads from each heat lined up for the championship round, the immediate and border-line inappropriate trash talking…in front of our children. As the apparent voice of reason, I quickly retorted, “c’mon now, this is about the kids, lets keep it classy” to which I received no reply. We were off! I fit in nicely in second place as we entered our second event, the 10 jumping jacks. As we got the station, the lead Dad accidentally skipped the station and was on to the third. Upon realizing his error, he quickly returned to the second station but by this time, the rest of us Dads were already on our 10th jumping jack. So what does this guy do? He rejoins our group and yells out “Ten” while doing one jumping jack – so now this guy is a trash talking cheater! As we proceed through the other stations, this guy and I are now neck in neck, tied for first place. As we approach the second to last event, the hurdle, let’s just say that I received a nudge which caused me to temporarily lose my balance – but I still was tied for first. We reach the final event, the dreaded 25-yard dash while carrying our little ones – I am completely out of gas. I muster whatever energy I have left and pick up my daughter and begin to head towards the finish line. At this point, I am solidly comfortable with my apparent second place finish as this guy now has a good 10 yard gain on me. But it’s what happens next that quite literally shocked me and stopped me in my tracks.

Now although I am a believer in what goes around – comes around, because this involved a child, I really hope in this instance, this wasn’t the case. About 10 yards from the finish line, this Dad turns around and gives me a look that I can only describe as a taunt, as if he were very pleased with himself and his first place finish. As soon as he turned back around to face the finish line – he totally eats it by tripping over his own foot and landing on top of his daughter! Seeing it again in my mind’s eye – only in slow motion – it was a very scary sight. My daughter and I immediately stop to pull the Dad off his screaming daughter. Dad is in a daze and the child has bumps and scrapes and is starting to bleed, I couldn’t help but looking at this whole situation from a 30,000 foot level. Was the trash talking, cheating and taunting worth this outcome? And worse yet, what type of example was he setting for his daughter. And just as worse, the damage control I now I have to do with my own daughter who has witnessed all of this!

You see, this Dad was completely blinded by the idea of winning, that he put the safety of his own daughter at risk. And, in a way, this incident is a metaphor for some of us Dads. We can be so consumed by our own goals, desires and needs, that the needs of our children and families often take a backseat. It’s only when we begin to the change the paradigm of what it means to be a Father, that we begin to realize that being one is much more than simply being called one. It’s about cherishing this wonderful and unique opportunity to positively affect the lives of those whom we truly love.

Sorry I have been away…

Apologies to all out there – there has been a lot going on and more to come – but all good and exciting stuff. I will be able to share more later but I request your patience in my positing.

That being said, I appreciate all the support!