This weekend my husband and I took our kids to west Texas for a family reunion. Each year, my dad’s extended family has a weekend long family reunion at a local church camp. The camp has a large dining hall with a commercial kitchen, cabins and RV hookups, swimming pool and playground. It is a wonderful place for a large group to meet up for several days.
The dining hall was the hub for the weekend’s family fun. Family members congregated before meals and lingered long after meals were eaten. Many conversations were had and games played around those tables.
There were approximately 50 people there over the course of the weekend and I probably knew less than half of them. I can’t actually remember the last time I went to one of the family reunions. It’s got to be at least over ten years!
It took Kora all of five seconds to make friends with the other kid cousins. She is two years younger than the youngest of the cousins. Most of the other kids were in the 8-11 year old range. Luckily, the age difference didn’t stop all the kids from playing together.
On Saturday morning, Kora and my mom found a baseball bat and a small wiffle ball and started to play a game of baseball. It didn’t take long before the big kids jumped in and started to play too. The big kids were very patient with Kora as she tried to hit the ball and then encouraged her as she ‘ran the bases’.
During the baseball game, Kora did something that completely baffled me. When it was her turn, she picked up the bat, that was nearly as long as she is, and tapped the ground like baseball players tap home plate. I couldn’t imagine where she had learned that behavior. We’re not big baseball fans, so we don’t go to games or watch baseball on TV. I asked her how she learned to do that and she simply replied, “George.”
Curious George! Of course she learned it from Curious George! Kora is a little sponge and she absorbs and remembers everything she sees and hears. It amazes me when she starts talking about something that happened months ago. One day I was talking to her about planets and I was trying to use the cartoon Ready Jet Go to help her make a connection to what I was explaining. She then starts talking about how “My dentist has Jet Propulsion.” Why does she remember that her dentist’s office had that cartoon on the TV during her appointment four months ago? That’s such a random thing to remember, but she recalled it as if it happened yesterday.
The other day as I was driving the girls to a playdate, Kora was playing with her toys in the backseat. I hear her talking about steam. She tells her toys that steam is just water. I ask her who taught her about steam. Her response? “Timon.” As in Timon, the meerkat, from Lion King. (Technically, Kora has never seen The Lion King. She watches The Lion King 1 & 1/2)
Seeing how much she absorbs makes me want to constantly surround her with new information and new experiences. It also makes me want to shield her from any and all inappropriate content that we might run across. I cringe when I hear something on a commercial that I feel a 3 year old doesn’t need to hear, hoping she doesn’t start repeating it. With Kora, she might not repeat it today; she might start repeating it in a couple of weeks.
I know it’s starting to sound like Kora spends all her time watching television, but that’s simply not true. She does love to watch cartoons, but we do limit her screen time. And we try to make sure that if she is going to watch cartoons, at least they have good teachers like George and Timon.
Think about your parents for a minute. Are there some phrases or things they said to you or your siblings repeatedly? When I think about my mom and dad, here are a few of the things that stand out to me:
“Dang, Tina!” – A cross between “Dang, Gina” from the sitcom Martin and Tina the llama from Napoleon Dynamite.
“You’re killing me, James” – my mom mistakenly quoting Sandlot
“I love a challenge” – my mom anytime my siblings or I said we weren’t doing something she told us to do.
Well, now thanks to my mom, Kora loves a challenge too. It all started a couple of weeks ago when we went to visit the grandparents. Kora and two of her cousins were playing in the yard with my mom. She started giving them challenges that they needed to complete:
- Run and touch three trees and come back
- Run and touch something red and come back
- Sit in two different chairs and come back
I was completely surprised by how much the kids enjoyed these challenges – they were begging for more. It’s always the simplest things that the kids seem to love most. (My mom always joked that as kids we would always compliment her more on her dinners of macaroni and cheese with BBQ hot dogs than on meals where she would slave away in the kitchen.)
The next day, while playing inside, Kora and her cousins asked for some more challenges. I will admit that some of the challenges were legitimate and some of the challenges were used to help clean up the toy area a little – ‘I challenge you to find three blue toys and put them on the shelf’. I did challenge the five year old to find a toy shaped like a triangle. He searched for a little while and then he found a toy fence that he shaped into a triangle – clever little guy!
Since our visit, Kora has continued to ask me for challenges. Anywhere we go, she wants a challenge. We went to a splash pad with some friends one day, and I think she got one of her friends hooked on challenges. They had so much fun filling a bucket and dumping it on their heads and getting splashed by three different sprayers.
We’ve done challenges at the park and challenges at the mall. Here’s Kora trying to make a tower of checkers:
Completing challenges is one of those activities that I absolutely love. It can be done anywhere, you just adapt the challenge to your environment. It can also be played with any number of people and any age range can be challenged. The challenges can also be used as a learning tool. The challenges can ask kids to find a certain number of items (counting) or to find certain shapes, colors, letters, etc. Outdoor challenges are a great way for kids to get exercise as well as improve coordination and balance.
I challenge you to use Challenges with your kid this week. But fair warning: they might get addicted! I’d love to hear how you used challenges with your family.
A couple of nights ago, I attended a lecture series given by the Department of Education of the town university. The evening consisted of twelve five minute speeches given by the university professors. Each professor gave an obviously brief summary of their research. The topics discussed included workplace incivility, the importance of nutrition in aging, girls in sports, and whether being a couch potato is genetic (turns out it is!).
The twelve talks were all quite different from each other, but I couldn’t help from chuckling at one similarity that I noticed. Each professor had his or her own way to say basically the same thing, “…so, what does all this research mean? Well, we’re not sure yet.” I found this simultaneously humorous and thought provoking.
Researchers can work decades on a project and still be years away from an end result. The thought of this was a little daunting to me. ” Who wants to spend the majority of their career on the same project,” I thought. Who wants to work years without know how you’re doing?
And then it hit me that I, in fact, had chosen to spend the majority of my ‘career’ on the same project. I became a parent. I don’t normally think of my children as projects, but I could. They are these tiny humans that need to be raised into big humans. It is my job to nurture them and keep them safe. It’s my job to raise them to be contributing members of society. And it is a job that takes years!
I work everyday to make sure that my little projects will grow up and one day become successful adults. I’m trying to teach them the skills they will need later in life. There are times that it would most certainly be easier (and faster) for me to do something I have tasked my toddler with. For example, I may have asked Kora to pick up her toys in her room. It would take me less than five minutes to go in there and do it myself. But what is that teaching her? That someone else will take care of her mess? So instead, we spend half an hour (or more) working on her room together. I like to think that I am teaching her organizational skills as well as being responsible for her belongings. I hope that I am teaching her to take pride in her personal space.
There are many times that Kora wants to “help” me do something. Let’s say she wants to help me make breakfast – she likes to crack the eggs and stir the pancake batter. I can crack an egg much faster and I can stir pancake batter without it flying out of the bowl and onto the counter, but I choose to utilize this teaching opportunity. I don’t expect my daughters to grow up to be chefs, but I would like them to feel comfortable cooking food. I think that kids that help cook their food are also more adventurous eaters. They take pride in their accomplishment and are more willing to eat food they might not try otherwise. Aside from learning how to crack an egg or flip a pancake, she’s also learning that it’s okay to make a mess (or mistake) and how to clean it up (of fix it).
I feel like parenting is a constant struggle between the “right now” solution and the “long term” solution. Perhaps my child is screaming that she wants a piece of candy for breakfast. The “right now” solution is to give that screaming kid as many pieces of candy as she wants so she will stop all the racket. She of course will be happy now, but what about in the future? I don’t want my child to have dentures before she graduates college. I don’t want her to learn that she can scream and throw a fit and get whatever she wants.
I try super hard to use the “long term” solution. I may have a headache from all the screaming and crying, but I stay strong and don’t give in to her. I want her to learn that no means no. I want her to learn healthful eating habits. I want her to learn that sometimes you don’t get what you want and to learn how to handle those upsetting situations.
The “long term” solution method is definitely not easy. It can be frustrating and loud and time consuming. It can make you want to pull your hair out. But it’s worth it. Or at least I hope it’s worth it…..I’m not sure yet. I’ll let you know in a few decades when my research is done….I mean, when my daughters are grown.
I’m trying to write today’s blog post, but I have zero ideas on what to write. As I sit here and think, my daughter sitting next to me is watching Wild Kratts, or as she likes to call it, The Kratt Brothers. She asks me what I’m doing and I tell her that I’m trying to write but my brain is blocked. I ask her what I should write and she rattled off a list of things to write about:
- Kratt Brothers
- more ice
She then proceeded to take my computer and start typing:
Not bad for her first blog post.
Kora is very familiar with listing items and expecting me to incorporate them all into one story. This is one of our naptime/bedtime rituals. After we read a story, she will give me a list of items and I will make up a story. Sometimes she expects me to draw the story on her back as I’m telling it. Spoiled, I know!
I love this ritual of ours for several reasons:
- Sometimes the items on Kora’s list can be difficult to string together, but it’s a fun challenge. It’s a mental exercise for me – puts my brain to work.
- Kora gets to be a participant in this creative process – she gets to decide what the story is about.
- I get to spend some quality time with my child – She’s all snuggled up in bed and wanting her story. This is as much a part of her bedtime routine as brushing her teeth. It’s important to her so it’s important to me.
So now without further ado I give you a little snippet of tonight’s bedtime story:
Once upon a time the Kratt Brothers were crawling on the forest floor searching for bugs. They found a baby ladybug and activated their creature powers. In their ladybug creature suits, the brothers flew around and around until their little wings were tired and they needed to stop to rest. They stopped on a leaf and quickly fell asleep. When they woke up the brothers discovered that it had started to snow. It was too cold on the leaf for the ladybugs so they flew to a nearby house to get warm. The house was very dark so the Kratt Brothers started looking for a lamp. Chris couldn’t find a lamp, but he found a tv. Martin couldn’t find a lamp, but he found a refrigerator. The brothers decided they wanted to watch a show and eat some yummy food. But when they opened the fridge, all they found was ice….and more ice. The Kratt Brothers didn’t want to eat ice, so they deactivated their ladybug suits, walked home to the Tortuga and ate some pizza.
As I’m sure you are aware (if you’re not, you must have been hiding under a rock), this past Friday we got a new president – Donald Trump took the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States of America. I’m not telling you if I voted for him or for Hillary. I’m not telling you if I am excited or terrified for what’s in store for our country. That’s not what this post is about. This post is about the need for respect in our country.
My two year old daughter and I watched the inauguration together. We didn’t watch it because I voted for Trump. We didn’t refuse to watch it because I voted for Hillary. We watched it because our President was being sworn in to office. Not to rip off lyrics from the Lee Greenwood song, but I am proud to be an American and as an American, I will respect my elected official. And I want to make sure that I am teaching my children to be respectful as well.
Until Friday, Kora had only had 1 president her whole life and she only knew him by name (she called him Broccoli Mama!). Because she’s only two, I didn’t talk to her about any of the candidates during the campaign, and I’m pretty sure she had never seen Trump on television until inauguration day. On Friday, as we were watching the day’s coverage, I explained to Kora that we were getting a new president today. She doesn’t understand what a president is, but when I pointed out Donald Trump on TV and told her that he was our new president, she got very excited. She was jumping around shouting, “My president, Donald Trump! With the red tie.”
As I watched the protesters and listened to the news coverage discuss the number of politicians and entertainers who are boycotting the inauguration, I started thinking a lot about the example I want to set for my children. There’s that old quote from Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” I think its perfectly acceptable to have different beliefs and views than other people, I just think there are acceptable ways to express your views.
The protesters during the parade were causing damage to buildings and were throwing rocks and bricks at police officers. What good does that do? What did the police officers do to the protesters? Do the protesters think that Trump is going to resign as President because some people are unhappy? The damage the protesters caused doesn’t hurt the president – it hurts the people who own those businesses and those that have to clean it up. It hurts the police officers who risk their lives everyday to keep everyone else safe.
You don’t have to agree or like everything (or anything) that Donald Trump says, but I do think it is important for our country that we respect the office of the President. I see people post “He’s not my president” on social media and I laugh because I think, “Yes he is.” The people of the United States elected him and he will be our president for the next four years. Like or not, its true.
I worry about the example that adults are setting for their children. Is it okay for students to say nasty things to their teachers because they don’t like them? “Not my teacher.”
There are too many people in this country for me to expect you to get along with every one of them. I know there are people out there that I am not going to like, but I hope that I can still be respectful. I want my children to witness me being kind to others. I want them to grow up with a heart full of love instead of hate.
Growing up, anytime my brothers and I weren’t getting along my mother would say, “Can’t we all just get along?”. That’s how I feel now. Can’t we all just get along. We don’t necessarily have to like each other, but I think we need to get along. Agree to disagree; work together to find a compromise; Be respectful.
Let’s all get along. I’m afraid of what will happen if we don’t.