Dad’s Rules for Dressing Girls

Every family divides responsibilities differently.

Nearly every weekday morning, I get the kids dressed before heading to school.

Naturally, I HIGHLY value speed. Mornings are like assembly lines – things are programmed to the second, and any deviation causes, well, a disturbance in the Force.

Bug really doesn’t care what he wears; he’s easy. Sometimes he wants a different shirt than what I pick out. Easy peasy.

Beanie, on the other hand, is much more…opinionated. In everything. Especially what she wears. And she wants to select her outfit every morning. By herself. With no input. In fact, if I suggest an outfit, she usually disqualifies it from consideration.

To help expedite the process, I have created two rules to guide decision-making. (Hers and Mine)

  1. Is it seasonally appropriate? Does it cover all the parts that need to be covered that time of year? (Example: a wool sweater when it’s 90 degrees is a no-go.)
  2. Does it make her happy?

That’s it.

13516714_10154271890320148_6896755290109556117_nNaturally, the clothes that are in her closet and dresser have been vetted by me and The Best Mom. (Well…more like JUST by The Best Mom).

So nothing in there is offensive. Although picking an outfit a size or two too small could create some consternation.

But Rule #2 is the big one for me. If she likes what she’s wearing – it makes her FEEL good and confident. Even if the colors don’t match. Even if there is a little hole in her pants. Even if she wears some of the same outfits twice a week for a year. None of the arguments against doing that hold water for me.

Yes, we get some pretty amazing, Punky Brewster-style outfits. Beanie gets to express her creativity through her clothes safely and effectively.

And just two rules get it done.

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“I Wish I Didn’t Have A Daddy”

dad and daughter breakfast date
A Daddy-Daughter breakfast = all smiles.

Kids say things to push boundaries. To test word combinations. To see what causes a reaction.

They also struggle to moderate their emotions. Not much falls below the surface.

Especially for our Beanie.

One recent evening, The Best Mom made Beanie’s favorite dinner – ground turkey nachos with peas!

She devoured her first plate and dug into a second helping. Bug, who doesn’t normally love nachos, ate a solid portion. Must have been a great batch!

Within minutes, everything was gone. All the nachos. All the peas. All the ground turkey.

And then this happened:

Beanie: “Daddy, can I please have more nachos?”

Me: “Sweetie, we’re all out of nachos. How about a yogurt if you’re still hungry?”

Beanie: “I WISH I DIDN’T HAVE A DADDY!”

Well..that escalated quickly.

I calmly took her into another room, just the two of us, and had a conversation that
focused on the importance of parents. And that not every kid has two parents to love them and take care of them. And how lucky she is.

Then we discussed the fun things she and I have done together – going to a baseball game, eating ice cream, sneaking out for muffins…the things kids remember.

Beanie felt terrible.

She clearly didn’t mean it.

But she said it.

And it hurt.

A lot.

Like…a lot a lot.

It’s not like a tantrum at bed time. Or being mad that it was time to leave the playground.

“I wish I didn’t have a Daddy.”

She was just trying to get a reaction out of me. And she didn’t get one because I kept it inside.

I didn’t yell. Or get visibly angry. Or cry. I wanted to do all three.

Minutes later, Beanie was sitting in my lap, telling jokes in funny voices, as if nothing happened. We snuggled before bed that night and she told me how much she loved me. All smiles and hugs and kisses.

She had moved on.

 

And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“I wish I didn’t have a Daddy.”

You see, as a parent, you need to balance long-term and short-term memory. We need to remember everything about our kids. Every detail. Every activity. Every day. What they love. What they hate. And how those lists switch places every minute.

And then…you need to learn to push things like this out of your head forever.

A few hours passed and the raw emotion wore off. A few days passed and it was well in the rear-view mirror.

But I still remember that sting. And can only hope that she never uses those words at a time when she actually means it.

 

 

The Passive Aggressive Calendar

As parents, we take inventory of our kids’ favorite things.

Sure, it’s good to know what they like.

But the real reason is much more practical.

We give them things they like…and when they act poorly, we know exactly which things to take away.

It’s the evil part of parenting, but critical.

“If you don’t clean your room, we’ll take away toy X!” has zero impact if the kid doesn’t like top X, right?

Our daughter, Beanie, has a Disney Princess calendar that hangs on the door to to closet. Each night, she crosses off that day as part of her bedtime ritual.

One recent evening, she was acting horrible. Why? We had no idea. I’m guessing she was over-tired, with a teenage-size tantrum coming out of our four-year-old.

We tried to calm her down, but nothing worked. Not hugging. Not talking. Nothing.

So then we went for the jugular and threatened to take away her calendar.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Bingo. Or so we thought.

Instead of calming down at the prospect of losing her beloved calendar, it only perpetuated the tantrum.

Which left us one option: take the calendar.

So we did. And it wasn’t pretty. Even though we told her she could get it back tomorrow if she was good, the tantrum continued for 20 agonizing minutes before Beanie fell asleep.

In the morning, after a good night’s sleep, she was a different child. Happy. Loving. Not crying or screaming. And apologetic for her behavior the night before.

As I drove her to daycare, I thought about ways to give her calendar back to her that re-enforced the positive behavior.

“#ParentingWin,” I thought to myself.

That evening, when I picked her up, she could not have been more proud of herself.

“#EPICParentingWin!” I thought to myself.

Then she grabbed my wrist and excitedly dragged me over to her cubby.

With the biggest smile on her face, she showed me, with tremendous pride, her latest creation.

“You took my princess calendar away from me, so I made a new calendar all by myself!”

Hanging on the wall was a hand-drawn calendar that looked something like an Escher piece, but, overall, very calendar-ish.

calendar

Bean had created something to replace what we had taken from her. She had passively-aggressively shoved our punishment back in our face.

My instinct was to be REALLY mad. But I took a deep breath and then all I felt…pride.

Instead of crying about her situation, she did something productive and creative about it.

#EpicKidWin

Party of Five

IMG_7029There was a time when my wife and I could slip into a quiet restaurant on a Friday evening and enjoy a nice meal.

Put us on the waiting list! We’ll hang at the bar until our table is ready! Awesome!

Now, with three kids, we are a party of five. Without Neve Campbell and Matthew Fox.

Now, we require a minivan to go anywhere.

Now, we are a traveling tornado of loud.

And never was that more on display that a recent trip we took to Nando’s PERI-PERI, one of our favorite restaurants. Our local Nando’s is in a mall; they play loud music – all the signs of a kid-friendly experience.

At this location, the host assigns you to a numbered table, which is tied to your food order. [Remember this.]

It was no surprise when they put us, all five us plus Auntie Loo-Loo, in a big corner in the back of the restaurant. Right next to the bathrooms, which I greatly appreciated.

Sitting at the the table next to us was an elderly woman. Her dining companion was ordering food when we arrived – complete with baby asleep in the large red stroller, son dripping wet after swim lessons, daughter whining about….who knows what.

“Oh, heck no!” the woman said.

She then proceeded to get up, unfold her metal walker, and slowly cross the restaurant to get a new table, as far away from us as humanly possible. Table number, be damned!

An elderly woman who has trouble walking basically ran away from us. And ruined the restaurants seating system in the process.

Look – some people may be embarrassed by this.

Luckily, we aren’t those people.

I know what my family is right now. We’re loud. We fill up a room. We’re awesome.

We’re also not for everyone.

Ask Your Kids This Question Everyday

IMG_3529So many things in life go unsaid.

People fester in anger and shy away from authentic connections. It almost feels like human nature.

But as parents, we get to set the tone for how our kids interact with the world.

We ask them probing questions to understand what happened to them at school, how they are feeling, and what they are dreaming about. In order for us to guide them, nurture them, care for them, we need to have real talk with our kids.

“How was your day?” just doesn’t cut it. You have to ask them specific questions to get specific answers.

“What was the funniest thing that happened today?” “Who was your silliest friend today?” “If you could be anything when you grow up, what would it be?”

These engaging questions get kids, even young ones, to think analytically about their experiences, tell stories, and then build their future. These are conversation starters that are vital to understanding your kids.

Perhaps the biggest things that go unsaid are related to love.

The Best Mom and I decided that our kids would always know that we love them unconditionally. And, in our family, it would be frequently and explicitly stated.

Every single day, we ask them the same question, and they respond in turn:

“How much do Mommy and Daddy love you?”

“All the love!”

As vast an amount as they can imagine, we love them that much.

When we are proud of them, we love them all the love. When we are angry or frustrated with them, we love them all the love. At their highest high and lowest low, we love them all the love.

Everyday, we hug them, kiss them, LOVE THE SHIT OUT OF THEM. And take nothing for granted. We may THINK they know and understand how much we care for them, but we don’t really know.

Our goal is to create an environment of love and support in our family. A safe zone where they can grow and explore, knowing we will always have their back.

There will never be a day that goes by where our kids have any doubt how we feel about them. And they are part of it, just by answering one simple question.