Archives for category: Education

I began reading at a very young age. My mom says that by 3, I had grasped quite a few words. My wife on the other hand, didn’t start reading until later. We both ended formal schooling with roughly the same level of education, and the only difference between us is that sometimes I have to speak slowly so Steph understands me. And in rare instances, I am forced to spell out words such as “N – O!” (That may have less to do with comprehension and more to do with stubbornness, but I don’t care…I’m just stating the facts!)

Naturally, I thought that Worm should have been reading at 3 just like his youthful, debonaire dad. I mean, if he’s MY son, he shouldn’t veer away from my clear path towards awesomeness. Over a year ago, night-time reading turned into a spelling exercise. That evolved into a word finding exercise. Then, we started moving into recognizing vowel and consonant sounds. I was eager. Worm started off in the same boat, but quickly jumped ship for the safer shore of “Ughs” and “Grunts”. (I jest, I jest…)

We both became increasingly frustrated. The bedtime story had turned into a nightmare. So, I dropped the opportunity to make a learning experience out of that part of the day and begrudgingly let it go.

Visions of Worm and I hashing out Dostoyevsky and Hemingway disappeared. My son was going to be illiterate for the rest of his life. His elementary schoolmates would render him a laughing-stock after his 1st grade teacher who’d asked him to write a certain sentence on the board, turned to find this instead:

“THE FART BOYS POTTIED WITH THE GIRLS FORM THE SORRY HOUSE ON CAMP US LAST FRYDAY.”

He would be doomed.

I haven’t since pushed for Worm to focus on reading. These days, I don’t really think about it. Though, he is starting to be curious about various letter combinations found around town. If he asks me what certain words are, sometimes I just make stuff up.

“Honeydaddy, what’s that blue sign on that door? What’s M-A-N say?”

“It says ‘Monsters inside’. You want to go in?”

I’ve finally taken the steering wheel back from my ego and accepted that even though Worm may not be reading right now, he is still learning. That is my key takeaway from all the prior frustration. I must say that I was reassured when I came across an article about illiterate Finnish children and how at an early age, the teachers and kindergartener don’t focus on reading, but on playing and exploring. Yet, by the age of 15, these children are testing on the same level or higher when compared to other children around the world, many of whom have forced reading curriculums during early education. (Ahem…United States.)

Children are sponges. They are wired for learning. But that learning, especially early on, must come from play activities where they get to engage and interact with objects, people, and TVs. (just checking to see if anyone was still reading…) Having a child try to drill and memorize stuff when they’re not interested is difficult at best. Hell, it’s difficult for adults to do!

Worm is almost 5 years old. Can he read? Hell no. But, am I afraid? Not anymore. We’ll try the Finnish approach and see what happens. There will be plenty of time for academia later in life. Right now, I’m not going to force him to unwillingly spell and recite words. If he’s interested, then I’ll engage him. But otherwise, I will save the effort for a few years later. For now, I’m going to enjoy the Worm’s playful curiosity…in whatever he wants to indulge in!

There’s a lot of interesting perspective in the article I read here: The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland. I encourage any parent of youngsters to read it. It was eye-opening for me and helped me to reevaluate my expectations for my child!

 

Even though he can't read, he knows how to work the system!

Even though he can’t read, he knows how to work the system!

Gavin – 40; Honeydaddy – 24 (In this parenting experience, I’m learning just as much as you, Worm!)

 

and the littlest one hasn’t quite bought into it.  Two months ago, our vivacious, athletic Smushie (with an impressive resumé of sports such as Slap Face, Dirty Diaper Sprinting, and Who Can Give the Meanest Stink Eye) performed countless hours of community service in the form of play vacuuming, Swiffering, and couch cushion fluffing, to try and lock in a spot at the nearby daycare.  Even with a 0.0 GPA, her physical pursuits capture the eyes of school administration and they had to have her.  A full ride scholarship was out of the question due to Smushie’s off-campus antics, but the school did offer us a multiple child discount for enrolling her!

This is the Closest I Could Get Them to Stand & Pose For a Picture...

This is the Closest I Could Get Them to Stand & Pose For a Picture…

Worm was going twice a week to daycare for half days until the spot opened up for the Mush Monster.  Steph and I had decided that once they both were in school, that they would stay there for the entire day, allowing the children time away from me to grow and prosper in ways that I just couldn’t provide.  (Translation:  I would get some free time to recover from the insanity of child rearing.)  We consulted Smush for acknowledgement or opposition to our plan and her response was to cram a handful of strawberries into her mouth.  We took that as an OK.

Smushie is still adjusting to life as a pre-pre-preschooler.  It’s been three weeks now.  (I know, I’m slow at keeping up with my blog!)  She has her good days and her bad days.  She wants to be held by the teachers often, which is out-of-character because at home, the Meatball is all over the place, not shy about anything, and slaps us if we try to hold her.

I’ve got mixed feelings about keeping her in school twice a week, but everyone I’ve talked to has insisted that the emotional scars of daycare will only last a few decades.  Worm was 2.5 years old when we put him in daycare.  Smushie is 1.5, a full year younger.  Is she too young to be away from me?  Should she only be at school for half days?  Does she feel abandoned?  Is she going to hate and resent me for this?

The deeper personal conflict is that I feel guilty for rushing her into daycare so soon.  But after 3 years of stay at home parenting, I need a break.  I’m burned out.  I’ve been noticing that activities with the kids in the past months have felt more like work than like fun.  Not all of them, but definitely more than I’d like.  And that’s no bueno.  I can’t give the kids 100% of myself right now and my performance is lackluster.  I don’t want them to think I don’t care, but I also don’t want to neglect my own needs, much of which I’ve been struggling to meet.  So this daycare thing is as much about me and my personal growth as it is about Mushie and hers.  I give myself a C+ in parenting 101 and have been for months.  I can only hope that this situation will improve as Mushie and I try to improve our lot…otherwise, we may both go crazy!

This is the First Day of Daycare Together! Someone's Weak in the Knees, Either From Fear or Excitement!

This is Their First Day Heading off to Daycare Together! Someone’s Weak in the Knees…Either From Fear or Excitement!

After rereading this blog, I must say that I have to give the Worm a point for this.  In the past 3 weeks, he’s been uber-helpful and has stepped up to the plate as a big brother to help Mushie get adjusted. 

Gavin – 33; Honeydaddy – 20 (I love you, boy! And I know Mushie loves you too!)

(Did the gripping title just force you to click through to find out more?  Huh?  Did it? Did it?)

I miss the fresh smell of warm poopie in the morning.  It feels like yesterday that I’d pull those diaper straps down and unfold a lovely brown (or blue, or green, or even mustard) pile of pure aromatic wonderment.  I miss the feel of a ripe turdling through the moist bum wipe cloth.  Oh, and the unanswered questions I’d have for myself after the changeup. “Where’s that smell coming from?  Did I miss a spot?  How did I get dirt under my fingernail when I haven’t been outside?”  Those experiences are almost gone between Worm and I.

As beautiful as it sounds, there is no joy in changing a diaper.  Until your kid is being potty trained.  Then you realize the convenience of that uber-absorbant miracle piece of ingenuity between your baby’s legs.

I was under the impression that potty training was the way to go.  Over two months ago, the wife and I started out by enticing the Worm to use the big toilet by trading toys for turds.  That worked for a few weeks and the novelty wore off.  We moved to the popular M&M method.  Two for pee pees, five for poopies, seven for anything over a foot long.  That also lasted a few weeks.  The training technique that worked for us ended up being the strong arm method.

“Listen up punk!  If you don’t go potty right now, I’m going to squeeze you and shake you until it all falls out.  Capeesh?”

It had a marked influence on Worm’s desire to use the toilet.  A Joe Pesci voice seemed to add additional scare-ability and was the proverbial icing on the cake.  (It gives us a whopping 87% compliance rate.)

Worm hasn’t had an accident for over a month now.

Yeah, he wears diapers at nap time and bed time just in case.  Though, they haven’t been necessary.  Also, Worm’s been so compliant with using the toiled at school, the teachers have recommended that he wear underwear instead of pull-ups.

Life’s good, eh?  Wrong.

We all know that performing (as if it’s like tightrope walking or juggling) number 1 or number 2 requires the body to be in a somewhat relaxed state.  Well, when is Worm relaxed?  Around nap and bed times.  So what does that translate to?

I get woken up at 6:30 am (sometimes earlier) to the pleasant shrill of “HONEYDADDY! I NEED TO GO PEE PEE AND POOPIE!”

Awesome.  There goes my beauty sleep.  The yelling also wakes up Mushie and the dogs.  Now everyone’s up and making noises.

I put Worm down for nap in the afternoon and ninety minutes later, when he should be asleep, I hear “HONEYDADDY!  I NEED TO GO PEE PEE AND POOPIE!”

Awesome.  And then we get to start the nap time routine all over again.

Bedtime comes at 8:30pm.  When he’s finally slowed down enough to lay down in his bed, he suddenly bolts upright from a turtle head poking out.  “HONEYDADDY!  I NEED TO GO PEE PEE AND POOPIE!”

Awesome.  Now he actually falls asleep somewhere between 9:30 and 10pm.  Hooray for potty training.

Right now, I’d trade a couple of diapers for the 3 hours of additional potty effort every day.  When do the benefits of it all start to kick in again?

Oh Glorious Mornings...

Oh Glorious Mornings…

Gavin – 31; Honeydaddy – 20 (The best way to drive one to insanity is to deprive them of sleep.  I’m halfway to the destination.  Thanks Worm!)

 

Whoa, wait a second. That doesn’t mean what I thought it meant.

For men, there are a few unwritten rules about doing ‘number one’.

  1. Eyes on your own pee pee.
  2. Hands on your own pee pee.
  3. Aim directly at the target (preferably a toilet).
  4. Laughing and giggling during the event will not be tolerated.  (Sure, peeing is fun.  You’ve got a water hose attached to your body.  But it’s really quite awkward when other people can hear you.  Trust me.  I know.)
  5. Don’t try advanced techniques unless you’re ready to clean up afterwards.

All 5 of the cardinal rules were violated in one fell swoop.  How do I know?  I was one of the violators.  It wasn’t my fault.  The Worm made me do it.

A few weeks ago, Worm came home telling me how his best friend at school showed him how to pee standing up.  Wondering how a toddler that recently learned to stand and chew simultaneously could be so insightful, I was game to find out more.

“Show me.” I said.

Worm ran over to the toilet.  I followed quickly after, eager not to miss any part of this new trick.

*SNAP*  *ZIP* Pants fell to his ankles.  Two quick yanks on the diaper tabs and it hit the floor.

Then, I watched in horror (violation of rule #1)  as Worm leaned against the toilet, put his hands on his hips (violation of rule #5) and just let it rip (violation of rule #3)!  All the internet stories of kids spraying themselves, the furniture and unwary bystanders flooded my mind.  In order to save myself and our bathroom from urinihilation, I did what any handsome red-blooded hero with catlike reflexes and chiseled muscles would do.  I lunged towards the little pistol.  I grabbed it (violation of rule #2) and turned it squarely at the toilet bowl.  It fired off round after round for what seemed like eternity.  The whole time, a squeaky little stream of “heh heh heh” (violation of rule #4) filled the air.

Thankfully, I was able to save us and the bathroom from catastrophe.

My takeaways from this were:

  • Worm’s friend may be missing a couple of key parts of his method.
  • Worm’s friend should probably get certified or something before he starts teaching.
  • Worm’s friend’s dad must be a “hands free” kind of guy.  (Kids don’t just pick this kind of stuff up without seeing someone else do it.)
  • This is the first of those “Honeydaddy, look what I learned at school today!” moments.  I need to be better prepared.
  • I don’t really like holding anyone else’s pee pee.  (I’m thinking I’ll use pliers in case this happens again.)
Practice. Practice.  Practice.  Sometimes, I Miss the Target!  And I've Been Doing This for Years!

Practice, Practice, Practice. Sometimes, I Miss the Target! And I’ve Been Doing This for Years!

Gavin – 30; Honeydaddy – 19 (I’m taking the point here.  Mainly because I saved us all from getting peed on.  I’ll probably be giving the point back when we are trying this in a dirty, public bathroom…)

 

 

 

I’m getting tired of doing this.  My hands are chapped from wipes.  My nose hairs are singed from the stench.  The joints in my old fingers ache as they struggle to clasp yet another clean diaper closed.  (Ok, it’s not that bad…but you get my drift.)

I change about 8 diapers a day now, down from a high of 12.  I estimate that since the Worm was born, I’ve changed 8000 diapers.  Some of them in under 20 seconds flat!  (Pat myself on the back.)

The Worm is pushing 3 years old.  It’s time for him to be potty trained.  The little man could have learned a year ago, if Steph and I were more diligent about it.  But we both thought that after Worm showed interest that he would gravitate towards the loo posthaste.  We were wrong.

Worm is sensitive.  He needs encouragement rather than scolding and the embarrassment that typically follows.  So my idea of putting Worm in underwear, taking him to a public location, letting him wet himself and then ridiculing him to the point that he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice didn’t get approval from the ‘Boss’.

So she came up with a better idea.  Get Worm to use the potty and give him a prize for his accomplishment!

It’s a potty for prizes game.  Steph’s first version:

Pee = One Sticker.  Poo = Two!  Collect Six to Win a Prize!

Pee = One Sticker. Poo = Two! Collect Six to Win a Prize!

It’s a piece of paper with animal stickers to the untrained eye, and a game to rival the likes of Monopoly to the keen.   We moved to version two when Steph realized that Worm would be using the potty more than six times in his life.  We swapped a whiteboard for paper and magnets for stickers.

The Six Golden Rules of the Game:

  1. Every pee pee on the potty = 1 box filled.
  2. Every poop on the potty = 2 boxes filled.
  3. Every six boxes that get filled = 1 small toy prize!
  4. Every hand that goes into the dirty toilet = 1 box taken away.
  5. Every poop nugget that gets fished out of the toilet = 2 boxes taken away.
  6. Every toilet paper roll that gets unraveled = early bedtime.

We like it so far!  It gives Worm incentive to use the toilet (since a wet, stinky butt isn’t motivation enough).  He gets something for his efforts and he helps keep one more diaper out of the trash bin!

Sometimes Two is Better Than One!

Sometimes Two is Better Than One!

Gavin – 30; Honeydaddy – 18 (I know it was Steph’s idea, but without me, her muse, she wouldn’t have been inspired to come up with it!  I’m taking the point!)

It’s right around one year of age.

No kidding.  If someone would have asked me that very question a couple of weeks ago, I would have guessed that kids don’t get it until sometime after high school graduation.  I vaguely remember our pediatrician mentioning to us at her 12-month appointment that we could start showing Smushie some boundaries.  (Of course, I nodded my head in agreement.  Sort of.  I was really nodding as an answer to my own thought, “Should I make a ham and cheese panini for lunch today?”)

There was no way in hell that a baby who’s self-feeding procedure of:

  1. Grab applesauce off plate
  2. Place applesauce gently on forehead
  3. Tilt head back slightly
  4. Catch food in mouth
  5. Clap hands
  6. Repeat

would understand that certain things were “off-limits” let alone the concept that her nose was more than a food slide.

Yes, I’m talking about the same Smush that tries to chew through power cords, lick the dog bowls,  dive off the changing table, and shoves everything into her mouth, edible or not.  Daily.  None of my parenting techniques on “house rules” seemed to matter until the other day.

It was a lovely morning, with the sunlight beginning to wash over the window sills as it burned off the dewy moisture from the glass.  I saw the Meatball in front of our TV entertainment center.  Again.  For the 50th time, she was pushing the on/off button on the A/V receiver.  (Why do manufacturers put lights on the damned things!  I don’t need it.  I’ll know if it’s on if I can HEAR and SEE the TV!  Or at least they could offer a childproof option that disables buttons on the front panel when little hands are dangling nearby.)

Before she could blow out the expensive piece of equipment, I walked over with my estoque and capote de brega to lead Smush away from her “toy”.  As I advanced nearer, she looked up at me wide-eyed and mouth agape.  Then, she dropped down on her butt, kicked her legs furiously and hauled herself away from me at full speed.

Now, there’s no disputing what occurred.  We both knew what we was going on.  Since I’m part neanderthal (given the slope of my forehead), I use more physical action than verbal expression when parenting.  But even my actions have meaning.  No actual words filled the air, but this was the conversation my little girl and I had, each in our own communication style.

Noise: *click* *clock* *click* *clock*…ad nauseum.

Me:  *stomp* *stomp* *stomp* “Meatball?  What are you doing?  This is not a toy for you!”

Smush:  “Red light!  No red light!  Red light!  No red light!  Wow, this is the most amazing toy EVER!”

Me:  “Alright, let’s move you to a safer part of the house.  How about I strap you into your restraints high chair?”

Smush:  (Looking up with surprise.)  “AH!  I know this looks bad, but this time it’s not what you think it is.  Besides, how could you sneak up on me like a Ninja!  I gotta split!  You can’t catch me with an empty diap….ohhhh nooo!” *pffft*

Me:  (Scooping her up with extremely well-muscled outstretched arms.) “Gotcha!  Hey, what’s that smell?”

And so a lesson had been learned.  If anyone needs to have boundaries, it’s the Smushter.  She’s just that type of baby.  Hence the baby gate, the wall outlet covers, the padded helmet, the muzzle, the straightjacket, etc…

I can’t think of anything more fun and joyous than disciplining a baby.  Maybe I’ll look into a citrus spray shock collar.

Smush, Everything You Say Will Be Held Against You in The Court of Honeydaddy...

Smush, Everything You Say Will Be Held Against You in The Court of Honeydaddy…

I feel like a stranger to my own blog!  It’s been way too long since I last posted.  Anyhow, imagine that I wrote this a couple weeks ago and it will give me a chance to catch up.

Smushie is now straightleggedly upright.  She’s standing!

And that would be a great thing, if she wouldn’t try grabbing all the new items within her reach…such as loose articles on the coffee tables, end tables, TV entertainment center, couch, book shelf bottoms, my desk drawers.  We are being forced to live above the 36″ line.

The girl is strong.  She does sit-ups while we change her diapers in the morning.  (No joke.)  She slaps her mom and I around when we aren’t paying attention to her.  When close enough, Smush rips our hair out for giggles.  So it wasn’t much of a surprise for her to power herself to vertical on her own so soon.  (The Worm didn’t walk until almost 18 months.)

There are two camps of parents.  The first group, praises their child’s accomplishments as soon as it happens the first time.  For example:

Parent:  “Son, can you count to 5 for me?”

2-year old Son: “Fee One Fuh One Fie Nine!”

Parent: “Oh my god!  He just calculated pi to the 5th significant digit!  We’ve got to send him to Harvard THIS YEAR”

Then there’s the second group of parents, that REALLY need to see the ‘first time’ a few more times to believe it really happened.

Parent:  “Ok sweetie, I’ve isolated any outside forces that may alter your chances of success at riding your bike.  There’s no wind today.  I checked that the pavement is perfectly level and the gravitational pull of the moon on your bicycle is negligible.  A bike that is coasting is not really riding, right?  Are you ready to try?”

2-year old daughter:  “Ahhhhhhhhh! I did it!”

Parent:  “I don’t know, sweetie.  Can you try that two more times?  The first time may have been a fluke!”

I fit squarely into the second camp.  Why?  Because if I falsely told family and friends that my Smushie-kins was standing before she was able to, it could place undue mental stress, anguish, and performance pressure onto her conscience.  I don’t know of any 10-month old that can withstand the anxiety!  (Though, I’m sure some pharmaceutical company already has drugs out to “fix” this infant psychosis…sorry, I digress.)

Since I couldn’t allow my child to bear the burden of my foolish fatherly pride, I drew a line in the sand for me her.  Made this milestone more concrete.  Tangible.

I, hereby, declare the 5-second standing rule.  Any baby not standing for a time equal or greater to five seconds is not considered standing, but probably being held up by wind, pole, starched clothing, snake oil, or other  artificial cause other than self-contained muscles.

And she did it!

To help other compulsive parents, I’ve decided to start standardizing all of the child development milestones and compile them into a book I’m writing “How to Know for Certain When Your Child is Making Progress – A Book For Neurotic Parents That Want to Quantify Everything and Leave Nothing to Chance, Luck, or Time”

I Think a Straightjacket is Easier Than Babyproofing the House from Smush.

I Think a Straightjacket is Easier Than Babyproofing our House for Smush.

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