Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I like saying parenting is like curling. You know, that sport in the Winter Olympics where they push a big heavy polished stone across ice and then frantically sweep in front of it with brooms to try and guide its course and make it go as far and as straight as possible but they can't actually touch it? I think parenting is like that. We can try and clear the way, but mostly kids go the way they're gonna go.

Lately I've been wondering how well that analogy holds up. There have been a lot of pretty major changes at our house lately. Not counting babies being born, I'd say these are the biggest changes we've gone through as a family. Definitely the biggest Owen's seen besides his brother being born and changing schools. Here are some of the highlights.

  • I got laid off, which means I'm home almost all the time versus being at work 50+ hours a week.
  • Lisa has a break from work until October, so she's home, too.
  • We let our nanny go. She was here five days a week for about seven months, spent more waking hours with the kids than either of us, and we all loved her. She was amazing and we miss her.
  • Owen took three weeks off preschool then went back for summer school (at the same place). But some of his best friends aren't there, and some won't be coming back.
  • Michael Jackson died.
  • Nicholas turned one, and got serious about walking. He's a walking machine now.
  • Owen turned four, and has agreed to wipe his own butt for a whole month in exchange for the most coveted toy of his young life - Ahsoka's Starfighter Lego set.

The Michael Jackson thing was mostly to see if you were paying attention, but Owen did come home from school one day and said "Who died?! Michael Jackson died!" Seriously, no idea where that came from. 

But besides that pop quiz, the passing of MJ has been a blip compared to other recent milestones. It's a lot of change for kids to absorb, right? I mean, they're resilient and probably more durable than many of us when it comes to bouncing back from hard times, but they're also creatures of habit and routine, and changes like this don't go unnoticed.

Not surprisingly, Owen's reaction is the most noticeable. He's been much quicker to cry lately. When we ask him to do something, he ignores us about 80% of the time. He continues to refuse to try new foods, and completely loses his shit if we try to push him to do it. He's quicker to get frustrated with his little brother.

But I have to wonder - how much of this is because of what's going on with our family, and how much of it is just who he is at this moment in his ever evolving and developing life? The level of stress and uncertainty is unquestionably higher than usual. Most of this comes from me and being out of work. I try to keep my sharing of this mostly between Lisa and me (and my blog, of course), but sometimes I'm sure the kids get a taste of it. 

Like the day we had this fun family outing to the La Brea Tar Pits (which, by the way, is totally repetitive, since translated it means The The Tar Tar Pits) which stopped being fun when we returned to our car to find it had been towed away because I didn't pay attention to the "No Parking After 4pm" sign that apparently everyone in LA but me knows are all along Wilshire Blvd. But I'm not used to parking on Wilshire Blvd at 4pm on a weekday because I'M USUALLY AT WORK AT 4PM ON A WEEKDAY!!!! It was a stressful afternoon. I tried to keep my shit together as Owen peppered us with questions the entire way home, in traffic: "Why'd they take your car away?" "Why'd you park in the wrong place?" "Why didn't you read the sign?" "Why couldn't we take a taxi to get the car?" "Why couldn't I go with you to get the car?" "Why was there a man in the only stall in the Koo Koo Roo bathroom when I suddenly had to poop as if my life depended on it while Mommy was off finding us a ride to the impound lot so I crapped standing up while you attempted to catch it with a paper towel while imploring me to hold it just a little longer please?" (Ok, he didn't ask me that, but he could have, since it did happen.)

But there haven't been that many days like that. Mostly we've kept things pretty even keeled. So how much should we worry about what this is all doing to our kids? I don't think we're scarring them for life, but how can I be sure? The only thing I can think to do besides trying to keep my own cool is talk about what's going on openly and honestly with them. I don't think pretending nothing's changed is the answer, but I also don't want to make more of it than it is. I remember when my dad told me and my brothers he and mom were getting divorced. It wasn't long before I was like, "OK, that sucks, can I go play now?"

If my curling analogy is right, I'd say we've hit some rough ice, and the brooms might be showing a little wear and tear. Is this going to dramatically alter the course of our kids lives, or will they come through more or less unscathed? I suspect no one knows for sure, but I'd love to hear anything you care to share about how you've helped your kids navigate when the ice gets a little less smooth.



  1. I think every GOOD parent thinks that. That wer are fucking up our own children in some way... but like you said they turn out the way they want and we can only 'sweep' them in the right direction.

    I cuss sometimes. my two year old catches it sometimes and says uh oh. I drink then she goes to get her sippy cup and sits down next to me. I'm not going to hide stuff from her, ya know?

    Now I had no idea where I was going with this but I know was going somewhere so I will just stop here.

  2. Oh man, that paper towel poop-catching business just washes away all the pain of being up this late. Thank you for the belly laugh.

    I like the curling analogy. The frantic sweeping does indeed seem familiar. I think everything has an impact on kids, sure, and to some extent informs their actions later in life, but the most important thing is to make sure they *know* they are valued and deeply loved, and how to value and love others. I don't know anyone these days who's NOT operating at a high level of stress -- and while it's hard on everyone, we can still model for our kids what strength & integrity & compassion look like, even under duress.

  3. LOVE your analogy! As the parent of 4 (17,15 and 10yo twins) I can tell you it certainly fits the older they get!

    We parents can ask these questions and stress over the answers until we are blue in the face and dialing EMS. There are no answers. All you can do is the best you can do by sweeping at that ice.

  4. I second what "shriekhouse" said in his second paragraph. If kids know that they are loved no matter what and that the tensions and stresses from the outside world are not their fault, they can weather a whole lot. I think your analogy to curling is brilliant. Parenting is so like that. Guiding as best we can, and, being the example. No matter what we say, like it or not, they watch what we do.
    And you know you are a good dad if you are willing to do what you did for your son when he just had to poop. That's a new one for me. I think I would have tried to invade the ladies room if I could, and the ladies would have understood, I'm sure. Keep it in mind for next time.
    From what I've observed, you're doing a great job.

  5. I try to think of it as making their paths a little easier and hoping they go the right way (TOTALLY like curling)

    Either way, We've done the best we can do now we wait to see who's got the high score, I mean...see how they turn out. ;)

  6. Kids are amazingly resilient. They may not like change at first, but after a little while its as though they don't remember things being any other way. It's the adults that hang onto the way things wear. As long as parents do heir best to keep their kids healthy and happy, they rest is just stuff.

  7. Yup. Totally with you there, dude. I have held a 22oz QuicTrip cup for my 2yo daughter so she could pee in the back of our van when there were no close places on a trip. Ditto holding the car door open to shield my son going pee on the side of the interstate.
    They would scream about that now - as they are 14 and 17, respectively.
    These things we do for our kidz :)
    Oh and I LOVE the curling analogy. So true.
    I just wish I could sweep I little faster.

  8. This is so the truth. We try our hardest but eventually, they will make their own choices. I think your issue with Owen is a mix of all the changes and the age. For me, 3-5 were the hardest years with my son because he's figuring out who he wants to be, and its about the age he thinks he's very much in charge of himself. Raising kids is hard sometimes. Sigh.


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