Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shower Time

Due to the impending holiday season (Xmas shopping starts before Halloween now, according to stores, it seems), travel and the timing of our due date, my wife thought it best to have her shower the other weekend. Instead of having a suggested "co-ed" shower with the men around, we decided an even more fun (funner?) idea might be to have a Boy's BBQ at a separate location. So while the women gathered to do the girlie thing, the guys came around (after dutifully dropping of the S.O.'s first, natch) for some beer, BBQ and camaraderie.

Both events had a great turnout -- over 20 attendees at each plus some kids. The men had a bounty of appetizers to choose from, as well as three different kinds of burgers to nosh on (beef, turkey and elk!). The women enjoyed a really nice cake that was decorated perfectly for the event with all sorts of baby related pieces on top of the frosting. For both meals there was a lot of homemade food and a ton of effort put in by all sorts of people, all of which we cannot thank enough. The hosts of the parties took great pains to make it all memorable and we are really appreciative.

The guys' gathering had a pool going on a big calendar where they could pay $5 to choose a date of when the baby will arrive. My father-in-law came up with the idea; I suggested it to my wife when she was creating the calendar, but she shot it down. When I got to the host house the decision was changed to make it "more interesting," and how could I say no? Half of the winnings would go to the person who chose correctly and the other half to the baby's college fund. A lot of the guys got involved, making it a great conversation piece. There was also a guessing game to figure out how many peanut M&M's were in a baby bottle, as well as little cards where the guys could write messages to the baby-to-be. I believe the women had similar games going, but didn't take the plunge to "enrich" the due-date pool.

After eating it was trivia time, with a list of questions the wife and her sister came up with, all involving the baby and its inception. We haven't told anyone the name yet (and it's still not 100% agreed upon anyway) but we have given out the middle name, so that was one question. Most of the men got it wrong, not to mention a lot of the women (including family, haha). Other questions included how I was told of the pregnancy (the "positive" pee stick being tossed in my lap) and how many cousins our kid will have (four). My father-in-law, with the help of insider information, I'm sure, was the winner of a Starbucks gift card for getting nine answers correct, out of about 14.

When my wife got home, she arrived with two other cars full of gifts. Apparently it took about two hours, with an intermission to catch her breath, to open all the gifts. There were a few duplicates (and a triplicate) of gifts but it was all sorts of stuff we needed. The nice comfy nursery we had created was literally filled with bags and boxes in minutes. If there was a baby in the room it surely would have been lost or tossed out with the recycling (or returned if there was a gift receipt, har har). The generosity of our friends and family was pretty overwhelming and beyond our wildest expectations. You'd think people were REALLY waiting for this to happen!

Again, we both had such a great time at our respective "showers" that we simply cannot thank everyone enough. I highly recommend doing the double party, as it gives everyone a chance to be involved in the pregnancy/birth that little bit more. Thank you!

Friday, November 14, 2008

No Labels Please

I'm reading a parenting book called ScreamFree Parenting by Hal Edward Runkel, LMFT. The subtitle is "The Revolutionary Approach to Raising You Kids by Keeping Your Cool." It's a book with a startling premise (among other ideas): Your life does NOT revolve around your children. It helps us keep a space (figuratively) between us and our kids to help them become more independent and self-sufficient while learning to deal with challenges before parents swoop in and "save the day." Also, the book purports to help parents "learn to calm your emotional reactions and focus on your own behavior more than your kids' behavior...for their benefit." I know, crazy stuff, right?

There are methods in the book to help turn around certain situations that arise and put the responsibility back to the child to get them to try and deal with it, making it more of a learning experience. For instance, when a child says the cliche' "Are we there yet?" we may start to get angry or retort anxiously with a "We just left!!" or "There are still two hours to go" which invariably leads to the response, "Two more hours?!?! Oh noooo!" This response would lead to more anxiety and more back and forth that gets you nowhere. A ScreamFree response, according to Runkel, might be the following: "Wow, you're already asking that question? You must really not want to be in the car today." (Empathy) "Come to think of it, I don't want to be in the car either. And I really don't want to be in the car for a whole two hours more either. I think I want to be out of the car more than you do! What do you think?" By joining with your child, you can commiserate together (and actually have a fun time doing it).

Interactions like this lead to mutual respect between you and the child. If you can create an environment of mutual respect, your child is more likely to want to approach you with problems or other issues. If your child feels you will only react negatively or anxiously when they come to you with an issue, they are surely less like to do so and instead hide things from you or let the situation fester (and possibly get worse). Lording over our children (or hovering), trying to get them to make us feel good about ourselves by "behaving" will only create a great actor, not a dutiful child. We want our children to behave because THEY want to, not just because they know we will leave them alone if they do. That's just a robot.

The part of the book that I've gone over most recently deals with labeling the children. Most labels seem harmless or even sound beneficial (gifted, funny, skinny, the star, athletic), while others produce a negative connotation (a little slow, big-boned, the black sheep). Putting a child into one or more of these "categories" can lead to disappointment if the child doesn't "live up" to the high expectations. Conversely, a child with a "negative" label may leave an impression of the child that could stick for years, even if the label proves correct in some way. So when granny says "I knew he would grow up to be a troublemaker" or Aunt Mable says "he has a temper like his father," they must be prophets. Like Runkel says in the book, the scientific community has yet to determine whether there are genetic determinants on whether our children carry behaviors in their DNA (so the behaviors are learned from people, not born into them). So how can our family know this?

What if our child doesn't want to be funny because everyone says "she's so funny"? Or your son fails a test though "he's the smart one"? Then what? Because of this box the child is put in there will be this pressure to perform, or even under-perform. We are forgetting that children change all the time and have moods just like adults. A troublemaker today does not necessarily make one in 10 years, just like the athletic kid now will not change his mind about sports and get into music, for instance.

Also, when we say our child is "always" something or "never" does this or that, we put unnecessary pressure on him/her. They may be being dramatic discussing how unfair chores are, but telling them "you're always so dramatic" is harsh and most likely untrue. Runkel suggests changing our vocabulary to "can be" which is a lot more forgiving. Try saying "You can be really dramatic at times, but I remember how it was when I was twelve, so I know how you must feel." This empathy shows your child that you acknowledge their feelings, but you are not upset about it. You and everyone will be able to look at your child in a much more positive way, and your child is not pegged into yet another category. Try it!

My wife likes to think our son will be a "momma's boy" which now frightens me (I'm half joking). While I hope he loves her to no end, the connotation of the label de-masculinizes him (is that a word?) or makes him less of an individual. Again, we see these labels as harmless because they've been bandied about for so long. What adult do you know that's still called a "momma's boy" and you see it as a good thing?

Wasn't Norman Bates, from the Psycho films, a momma's boy? I'm just sayin'...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Three Ell Bees

Yesterday my wife went to a check-up at her doctor's office to make sure all was well with her and the incubating boy inside. All is going according to plan, but while I don't think there's a concrete way to measure, the doctor said our boy is about THREE POUNDS. The wife is almost at 27 weeks now, but the doctor still said our boy was "above average" haha. I told him (through the tummy) that he can still put on a few more pounds, but that I hoped his head wouldn't get too overly big since he has to squeeze out of mommy somewhat comfortably. He is going to be pissed off enough getting squeezed out of his comfy warm environment, so if he gets TOO big he'll have to be (literally) sucked out of there. Then he gets the cone-head and will look silly in all the initial photos, and who wants that?

Kidding about the last part... ;)

Charitable Kids

Here's a great story about teaching children, even from an early age, the benefits of charity and giving. During the election campaign season I saw a couple stories involving children raising money for one of the presidential candidates (prompted or not by the parents, who knows). The usual idea is a lemonade stand but I think I saw one of a little girl who sold cookies, too.

I don't remember how charitable my parents were when I was growing up. If they gave, it was to our church during the "offering" or the thousands of hours both my parents gave in service to the Boy Scouts for me and my brothers. As far as other philanthropy, I'm not sure.

Out of guilt or the unnerving ability to say "No" I have given to a few charities over the years, as well as a few presidential campaigns. My wife and I also support the arts by being members of an art gallery or two. Our names aren't on any buildings or walls, but it's nice to help these organizations get support to survive (and reap a benefit or two ourselves). But I have yet to figuratively "put my money where my mouth is" and give more of my time to causes I see as just. For instance, I find the injustice of poverty compelling and quickly joined John Edwards' Half in Ten campaign (pre-infidelity news, haha).

Thing is, I've never been to a soup kitchen or any group that is helping stamp out poverty, or any cause, for that matter. I've never gone to talk to the elderly or volunteered at a food bank. So, while I feel for certain causes I have yet to really CONTRIBUTE to a worthy cause. Reading the kid's charity story got me thinking, however, that it is never too late to get into the game, as well as teaching our youth how important it is to realize there are people all over the country and the world who have it much harder than us. I hope to use the birth of our son to get involved together and help those in need and foster a culture of giving.

With this week's major event in our country (a new and progressive President), not to mention the conditions our faltering economy are creating, now is a great and much-needed time to give.