Tuesday, July 21, 2009

curling

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.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

OK, break's over.

Today I embarked upon my search for a job. This is not within my comfort zone. Many people, likely many of you, have changed jobs many times. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not. I have been at the same company for 12 years, and fully believed I'd have the option to be there for my entire career. As those who read this blog know, this was not to be, and not by my choosing. So, I set out in search of the next thing. 

(Remember that show In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy? It was Twilight Zone meets Nova meets The X Files. It has nothing to do with this post, but that was a trippy show, man.)

Throughout my time at my former company, at least once I accepted it was more than just a day job, I always said if I left it would be to do something completely different. Not to find a similar job at another company, but something truly new, something I was really passionate about. Though I didn't choose to leave, the fact is I've left, so why not look for the job I really want as opposed to the thing that might be easy to get but not that exciting? As I start looking for the next thing, I've been advised to search for a job I will love. A job I'll have fun doing. Because such a job will give energy instead of sapping it. It will be fun, and won't feel like work. I'll be better at it and happier doing it because I'll really want to be there.

Sounds good, right?

But what is that job? And what if that job doesn't pay the mortgage? What if that job doesn't allow us to send our kids to the schools or camps or classes we want to send them to, or to go on vacations or do the things we want to be able to do? For all that I've never been exactly passionate about the work I've done these 12 years, I've worked hard, I'm good at it, and I've done pretty well. And I've grown accustomed to the things that's allowed us to have and do. We aren't so well off we can have everything we want, but we certainly have everything we need, and a lot of what we want. How much can we give up and still be comfortable? Still be happy?

I know if I can find a job that truly connects to who I am I will be happier doing it, vs. doing something I may be good at but don't really enjoy. In theory my family will be happier if I'm happier. I'll be more fun to be around, more engaged in everything I do. But if that means we have to live in a smaller place or scale down to one car or take fewer trips, will we really be happier? I want to believe the answer is yes, but who knows? 

I've been told to search for a job I truly want for as long as reasonably possible. Then, if that doesn't materialize, shift gears and look for something to just pay the bills. And if I do settle for a job that is basically more of the same simply to make ends meet, I should keep looking for my ideal job. Sounds logical. Sounds good. It also sounds like a lot of work. 

How many people really love what they do? How many have turned away from the safe thing to embrace that which was less certain but held great promise, great hope? And how many of them have succeeded in doing it? I have so often been a victim of inertia. And now it us up to me to create my own energy and venture out into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory to find that which is truly right for me. This is a true opportunity, one I may not have again. 

I hope I have the strength.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

could there be a cuter evil laugh?

For Father's Day I did an interview with Tatiana over at It Was A Very Good Year. One of her questions was what badass things my kids have learned from me. Here's one.


video

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

fighting nature

I see myself in my kids. This can be good and this can be bad. Something I'm seeing now in Owen, who will be four in a couple of weeks (and again, where the hell did four years go?), is my tendency to sit around like a lump. Watching TV, playing video games, generally avoiding physical activity. Like right now, as I sit here, writing at my computer. When it's gorgeous outside. (But, baby Nicholas is napping, and Lisa and Owen are out running errands, so I can't really leave. So gimme a break). Once we actually get him out of the house he's happy to run and climb and jump and play. But ask him what he wants to do? The answer will almost always be Lego Star Wars. 


This is my fault on several levels. First, there are my genes. He's his father's son and his father is at his core a sedentary being. When I was a kid it was books, and also TV. Now it's the computer, iPhone, TV, Twitter, my blog, other people's blogs. And occasionally still books. Second, there are the things I've introduced him to. TV, movies, video games. I didn't have to buy them. I didn't have to let him use them. But I did, because I like them, and thought he would to. And boy, does he.

When Owen was a baby Lisa and I talked about making sure he saw us doing physically active things for fun - walking, hiking, sports - going outside and moving around. These things don't really come naturally to me, and I already see my son developing what I can only describe as a serious video game addiction. Luckily, so far, he doesn't have his father's tendency to eat constantly while sitting around not moving. This gives me hope that in some ways he'll be better off. And it's not that I think he should never play video games again, or watch TV or movies, or, eventually, read books! These are things I enjoy and sometimes ya gotta do stuff inside. But when it's a beautiful sunny day and all the kid wants to do is play video games? It just feels all too familiar. 

So again, here before you all, I commit to going outside more. We'll go for more walks. We'll go to the park. We'll hang out in the backyard instead of the living room. And I will stop fighting my wife's desire to take the family camping. As long as there is indoor plumbing nearby. And WiFi.

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