Monday, 29 March 2010

Big Britches.

Yesterday I got told off, I've been getting told off a lot lately. We were talking back to the car after a quick shopping trip when Jack noticed that I was walking a little bit faster than he and Helen were.
Quick Mommy, before Daddy gets away. He's getting away Mommy!

I subsequently ran to the car and tried to make a getaway.
It was all good fun and giggles until we got into the car where Jack informed me of the dangers of my running off alone. He looked me stern faced right in the eye, his tone was low and he was leaning inward. He looked like a three foot tall court judge.

You shouldn't run off without people. The people that are with you should always be with you and you shouldn't be running off by yourself.
You might get lost, or squashed by a car.

It's a funny thing really. All the little things we tell Jack are starting to come up on a daily basis. He'll tell me to sit up, or look at my empty plate at dinner time and say, You've done really well Daddy. You've eaten all your dinner. Even when he was only a year and a half old he used to tell me off for tapping food particles into the bin, Daddy don't pound things!

It makes you extremely aware of your own actions. I'm a big believer in leading by example but it's a difficult teaching method in general. With children, especially your own, even more so because kids really do see everything. I try to show him honesty, bravery, integrity and the other principles that I want to instill in him but it's a lot of pressure. On the other hand it's a real insight into one's self. I'm find myself constantly considering what Jack would think of my actions, I find I monitor myself in what I say, do or even think, even when he's not around. I worry that Jack may pick up some of my less people friendly manners, my temper, or any other weaknesses. No doubt genetics will play the biggest role in most of it so I guess I'm just hoping that he'll pick up most of our better stock. I'm dreading the day when Jack uses my set example to justify his actions.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Happy 70th Dad.

Dad, your 70th birthday is coming up. I'll be in Scotland at the time and I'm worried that I might not get the time to post this on your actual birthday so I'm posting it now. Hopefully you'll get a chance to read it.

You were the best part about school breaks. I always looked forward to your visits. I remember waiting for the horn to honk when Jeff, Kari and I would run out and jump into your car. We'd go down to Hearts for a drink and candy bar and Jeff and I would always try to talk you into getting us the refillable mugs because we'd lost the ones you'd bought us on the previous trip. We'd get our drink and then we'd drive away somewhere and talk about current events.

I remember you working in California, telling me that it was so hot that you had to work at night, I always pictured you sitting in an office somewhere in the middle of the night, doing all the work and errands that people normally did during the day. For years I thought at everyone in California was nocturnal.

I remember earlier when we used to go to your (possibly Dave's I was never quite sure) apartment with the pool, Dave was always on his way out to play tennis. I nearly drowned once in that pool after swearing to you that I'd learned to swim, you jumped in to pull me out. While it was a fairly shallow pool and we were surrounded by people and it's not likely that I would have actually drowned I know that we could have been anywhere and you would still have jumped in without even thinking. I've always remembered that as the day you saved my life.

I remember coming to stay with you for a week in Pennsylvania. I was a teenager spinning out of control and you did your best to talk some sense into me. We spent the week seeing what PA had to offer but what I remember most was going to work with you. I never told you just how impressed I was by you at work. Everyone kept telling me how hard you worked, how much everyone depended on you and how you always seemed to do the impossible. You may not have quite got through the message you intended, you still reached me in a way that I still carry with me today.

I always looked up to you, I wanted to be just like you when I grew up and I'm not ashamed to say that in many ways I am. I'm proud to call you Dad.

So happy birthday Dad, I'm sorry I'll miss it. I'll be out there to see you in a couple more months when I can tell you all this in person.

I've had Jack record a message for you.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Facing fears

Last night Jack had his bath. The end of the bath is always a bit of a battle when it comes to washing his hair. Jack hates having his hair washed because it involves pouring water over his head. Jack hates having water on his face. He always has, any amount for any amount of time makes him very nervous and eventually leads to anger. So for the last couple years Jack's baths have always ended the same way, we wash his hair while he shouts and cries before eventually he demands to get out of the bath. Up until that point bath time is a blast.

Helen and I tried all sorts of things to help ease the process. We tried having him lie down, which just lead to him having a panic attack as soon as he started leaning back. We tried using the shower head. We bought a special pouring bucket designed specially not to get water or soap in the child's eyes. I've even tried making it more fun by dangling him by his ankles and dipping the top of his head in the water but he changed his mind on that one pretty quickly. We settled on having him hold a cloth over his face, it seemed to work the best, but he still wasn't happy about it.

Two weeks ago Jack decided that he didn't want the cloth anymore, he just sat there tight eyed until it was over. We obviously expressed how proud we were that he was braving the water and since then washing his hair has been much easier. Yesterday when that time came around he said I'm a big brave boy, I'll do it myself. Not entirely sure what he meant we carried on filling the bucket as normal. Jack promptly grabbed the bucket out of Helen's hands and poured it over his head. He clearly wasn't happy about it, but he endured, even enough to fill it up and do it again. See I'm a brave boy. Helen and I were quite stunned, we shampooed his hair and then he poured the water over his face again and again. Each time he scrunched his eyes closed as tight as they would go and grumbled, but each time he came out on the other side calm and almost boastful.

Later in the evening Helen and I talked about the change that we'd realized we'd noticed in Jack over the last couple of weeks. He hadn't been asking for the light to be turned up after bed time, movies didn't seem to scare him anymore, he wasn't jumping through the ceiling every time someone activated a hand dryer in a bathroom. While vacuuming the house a few days ago Jack, rather than covering his ears and hiding under a blanket as he normally would, he followed me around the house, he even helped.

He's mentioned the 'Big Brave Boy' status a number of times recently, always whenever he's about to do something that he wouldn't normally do. Thinking back over the last couple weeks Jack, it seems, has been on a mission to face his fears.

Last week Jack spent the day with his nanny at a wacky warehouse. When Helen picked him up Jack proudly announced I went on the biiig slide, and it went all the way down and I wasn't scared because I'm a big brave boy. Over the previous week there had been two separate occasions where Jack has been too scared to go down the biggest tube-slides because they were too dark inside. His nanny reported that he apparently just went for it, all on his own.

Outside of the realm of monsters there are a few things that really scare Jack; loud noises, darkness, water on his face. He, like most kids his age, is pretty easily frightened, I only have to insist that I'm a monster beyond an initial declaration and he starts to get uneasy. Lately even the games have been a little different, my being a monster doesn't seem to bother him so much anymore, no matter how convincing my performance may be. In fact when we we get on the subject of monsters, my being one or not, it usually ends with Jack threatening to punch or kick them in the face.

I don't know what's brought this on, I'm loathed to think it might related to a favored Ben10 episode about Ben facing his fear of clowns but I can't think of any other explanation. As a parent you try to teach what lessons you can but circumstances set the curriculum. Jack's fears have never been anything that couldn't be resolved by a nightlight. When it comes to Jack's fears I do what all other parents do and start talking about being brave. I remember hating that word when I was a kid, I found it very patronizing and had generally associated it with imminent suffering.

I don't remember how old I was when I started actively facing my fears, probably closer to thirteen than three, and while I just did it so I would look like a wimp to my friends Jack is apparently doing it for himself. I have to say, I'm genuinely impressed.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

No doubt he's my child.

What have we done?

Entertaining Jack can be a challenge. He's got a short attention span and get's bored easily, but he is only 3. Both Helen an I pretty actively try to play games with him and keep him from relying solely on the TV for entertainment. We've got a few games that he likes to play, and as he's getting older its getting easier to find new things for him to do. We wrestle, sing, dance, chase and hide as often as we can.

Today however, aside from a hour dog-walking in the forest we've spent most of the day in front of the TV, mostly due to an array of visitors this morning. Jack was quite content watching Scooby-Doo 2 and Ben10 but it was clear that he was bored. One trick that Nanny has resorted to in the past is to let him help her play puzzle games on her Nintendo DS, so Helen got her's out and brought up the same game. After a few minutes of playing Jack asked for a different game. I don't like this game, it's just... Boring. So Helen scanned through her library of games and found one that he could play.

This has been Jack for the last twenty minutes... He hasn't made a sound, hasn't moved an inch. At the minute he's playing Crystal Balls, which is a mix between Tetris and Connect Four. If you ask him a question he answers with, if he answers at all, a mumbled, yes or no, or just uhn... But at least we have something in common.