Playing With Your Kids

I took my kids to one of those indoor play places last week and they had a blast. My oldest, who is almost four, took off as soon as we got inside; he was climbing and jumping and running all over everything. He immediately made some new friends and they chased one another up ramps and down slides for an hour. My daughter, who’s 18 months old, had a more difficult time with the big-kid equipment but played on some of the smaller stuff with my wife or just generally wandered around the place.

There were also signs posted that said parents were encouraged to play on the equipment with their kids. So, after watching my son play with his new friends and encouraging them to climb higher or run around faster, I helped my daughter climb up onto the big-kid equipment, helped her go down the big slides, and sat with her in a “tree house” at the very top while she waved to my wife down at the bottom.

When my son saw that I could play on the equipment, he wanted me to play with him too. So, my daughter and I chased him across some bridges and up some ramps, and raced him down the various slides. His new friends came along too.

All of this seemed pretty normal to me. I’m usually running around with my kids and a bunch of other people’s kids usually join in because it looks to them like my kids and I are having fun.

But here’s the part that was weird:

After 20 minutes, or however long, I took a break, climbed down, and went to get a drink of water. As I passed the snack area where most of the parents were sitting, many on their cell phones and one on a laptop, a mother said to me, “Thanks for playing with my son too!”

"You’re welcome" or "Of course!" or something like that is what I said to her. But I also wondered why these other people weren’t playing with their kids. There were two or three others jumping and running around up there; it wasn’t just me. But the vast majority were typing, texting, and talking rather than playing.

I can’t figure out why so many people react to their children like they’re some sort of miserable job they’re being forced to do in the hours when they’re stuck with them. I like my kids; I think they’re nice people; and I like playing with them. And, when they’re playing nicely with me and my kids, I like your kids too.

# daddy blogging # kids

On Nannies and Keeping Kosher

We hired a nanny a little over a month ago, both because we wanted our daughter to have some one-on-one care before she becomes a middle child and because we don’t see a lot of benefit in putting an infant in full-time daycare.

The whole thing is working out really, really well. The woman we hired is fantastic; she takes our daughter to the park or to the library and, when she’s taking care of both kids (our son goes to daycare three mornings a week to hang out with his friends), she takes them to a museum or to the zoo. The kids took to her immediately and all the behavior issues that crop up whenever there’s a big change were quick to dissipate. They’re napping much better at home than they ever did at daycare and, as a result, we get to spend more time (and more quality time) with them after work.

Interestingly, the biggest challenge to having an entirely new person spending a great many hours in our house is trying to explain the notion of keeping kosher. The simplest part is showing her the different sets of dishes and silverware, and explaining which is used for which type of food. Then there’s a basic list of commonly-eaten kosher and non-kosher animals. From there, it gets trickier: “Also, don’t mix milk and meat. And, for some reason, chicken counts as meat but fish does not.” And then, “We have to read all the packaging of everything before we buy it because, for example, a lot of the cheese you might find in a grocery store is made with animal products and is, thus, not kosher.”

But all of that is ultimately just a memorization game. The hard part, as expected, is explaining why. Keeping kosher is something we do; it’s part of our tradition and part of who we are. But it’s not the easiest thing to explain. I mean, it’s easy enough to say, “There are a bunch of passages in the Torah that are all about dietary restrictions and Jews have stuck with those for an awfully long time.” But it takes a good deal more than that to explain why those dietary restrictions are ones that we — in this house in this time and place — still find meaningful and worth following, especially since we don’t read the Torah literally and we don’t take to heart all of the rules-and-regulations passages from right alongside the passages about keeping kosher. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor to try to explain oneself to others … despite, or perhaps because of, the difficulty that often attends making sense of one’s beliefs and actions.

# kids # daddy blogging # nanny # Judaism # food # religion

This has been a parenting observation.

This has been a parenting observation.

# daddy blogging # kids

Hi! I’m a baby brother!

Hi! I’m a baby brother!

# ultrasound # kids # baby # daddy blogging

Took my son to the gym this morning to play a little basketball run around for an hour and — let me tell you — my ½ inch vertical has not exactly improved with age.

I don’t know how this could have happened.

But, on the plus side, here are two pictures of my progeny during and after his workout. His assessment of our morning: “My hair got really sweaty.”

# basketball # sports # daddy blogging # kids # Judah

We’re taking the kids to Sesame Street Live this weekend and this is the description of the show:

No matter where you’re from or where you’ve been, everyone is special – so join in! Elmo, Grover, Abby Cadabby, and their Sesame Street friends welcome Chamki, Grover’s friend from India, to Sesame Street. Together, they explore the universal fun of friendship and celebrate cultural similarities, from singing and dancing, to sharing cookies!

Given that it reads like something out of Rush Limbaugh’s nightmares, I’m pretty seriously considering live-tweeting the show using the hashtag #rightwingsesamenightmare
The only way it would be better liberal propaganda is if everything was exactly the same except Chamki was secretly from Pakistan or turned out to be in the country illegally in order to gobble up some of those sweet, sweet American entitlements (and cookies).

We’re taking the kids to Sesame Street Live this weekend and this is the description of the show:

No matter where you’re from or where you’ve been, everyone is special – so join in! Elmo, Grover, Abby Cadabby, and their Sesame Street friends welcome Chamki, Grover’s friend from India, to Sesame Street. Together, they explore the universal fun of friendship and celebrate cultural similarities, from singing and dancing, to sharing cookies!

Given that it reads like something out of Rush Limbaugh’s nightmares, I’m pretty seriously considering live-tweeting the show using the hashtag #rightwingsesamenightmare

The only way it would be better liberal propaganda is if everything was exactly the same except Chamki was secretly from Pakistan or turned out to be in the country illegally in order to gobble up some of those sweet, sweet American entitlements (and cookies).

(Source: sesamestreetlive.com)

# comedy # Twitter # internet # daddy blogging # kids # politics # Sesame Street

Black Magic

A question for scientists who study the erratic behavior of children:

How is it that my kids manage to sleep until 6am on the days when my wife has to wake up at 5am to get ready for work, but then wake up before 5:30am on the days when we don’t have to wake up early?

# kids # daddy blogging # yawn

A Good Day

Today is my birthday and it’s been a good, low-key one.

I took my son to Omaha’s Durham Museum, which is a beautiful old train station now filled with trains (as well as other exhibits about Omaha’s (and Nebraska’s and the American West’s) relatively recent past). He watched the model trains on their tracks, walked through a bunch of retired train cars, ate a snack at the fully operational soda fountain, and played with a hands-on exhibit about how steam engines work.

After, we stopped for lunch at our local bagel place and he chatted with a girl from day care (out with her grandparents), the father of another of his friends, and a group of six grandmotherly women who sat at the table next to ours. Halfway through his lunch, he said (without any fanfare or even looking up from his plate), “This is yummy. I love you, Daddy.”

Hard to beat that.

# daddy blogging # raison d'être

How do you set boundaries between your academic and family life?
Anonymous

On the one hand, I go to work like anyone else and, like a great many people, my kids go to day care. That said, my schedule tends to be a whole lot more flexible than that of a lot of people.

I’m only teaching classes two or three days a week, depending on the semester, and even on my teaching days it’s not like I’m in a classroom all day long. The temptation to pick up my kids at 2pm rather than 5pm can be pretty intense, especially on those days when I’m working from my home office rather than my office on campus.

But I don’t. When I’m on campus, I’m on campus all day. I teach, I hold office, and I attend various meetings. And when I’m working from home, I’m reading and/or writing all day; unsurprisingly, I get a lot more of my own work done on the days I’m at home.

I like spending time with my kids and I like my work … so, basically, I keep family life from bleeding into my work by keeping my kids in day care during the week.

It’s actually much more difficult to keep my work from bleeding into my family life. Because so much of my work involves thinking about stuff, I’m pretty much always doing it. It can be pretty difficult to put down a book I’m reading or step away from my computer when I’ve got an idea I want to get onto the page.

When I was younger and didn’t have a family, I’d stay up until 3am if I had an idea and wanted to write it up. Now, I’m in bed by 10pm … because I know I have to get up at 5am and also that I’m likely to be quieting a screaming child at least once during the night. In the past, students would turn in an essay and I’d spend the weekend grading. Now I work during traditional business hours and I try to limit the work I do when my family is home (though I usually work while my kids are napping on the weekend).

The separation of work from family life is easier with regard to my research; if it’s 4:30pm, I’m not going to start writing something new because it’s nearly time to get the kids and make dinner. It’s not so easy with my teaching or administrative responsibilities; students and colleagues will email me at all hours and I’ll generally try to get a response to them as quickly as possible. I find myself answering email messages before 6am and after 5pm pretty much every day of the week, and on Sundays as well. I could do a better job of simply saving those messages for the next morning at 8am; it’s something I’m consciously trying to change but it’s difficult for me to let an email sit, especially if I know I can tap out a quick reply on my phone while I’m playing trains with my son.

I’d like to put up a hard barrier so that work doesn’t flow over into the time I spend with my family, but I suspect that’s a fight with myself that I’m going to have a tough time winning.

# education # teaching # questions # daddy blogging

I had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time this past weekend with David Rendall, the author of The Freak Factor and The Freak Factor for Kids.
Rendall has been a guest on the Hero Report podcast and he’s got a short video of the Freak Factor concept on YouTube … but I wanted to promote his book — especially his book for kids — for a minute because I think it makes an incredibly valuable contribution.
Rendall’s central argument looks like this:

1. There is nothing wrong with you. Weaknesses are important clues to your strengths.2. You find success when you find the right fit. You need to match your unique characteristics to situations that reward those qualities.3. Your weaknesses make you different. They make you a freak and it’s good to be a freak.

This is an important message for all of us, to be sure, but it’s a potentially life-altering message for children who are struggling to fit in or who are always being told to sit still, be quiet, and do what they’re told.
Having children of my own was enough to convince me of the virtue of maximizing kids’ unique abilities rather than constantly urging them to conform, but spending a couple of days talking with Rendall was enough to convince me to pass his message along to others too.

I had the good fortune to spend a fair amount of time this past weekend with David Rendall, the author of The Freak Factor and The Freak Factor for Kids.

Rendall has been a guest on the Hero Report podcast and he’s got a short video of the Freak Factor concept on YouTube … but I wanted to promote his book — especially his book for kids — for a minute because I think it makes an incredibly valuable contribution.

Rendall’s central argument looks like this:

1. There is nothing wrong with you. Weaknesses are important clues to your strengths.
2. You find success when you find the right fit. You need to match your unique characteristics to situations that reward those qualities.
3. Your weaknesses make you different. They make you a freak and it’s good to be a freak.

This is an important message for all of us, to be sure, but it’s a potentially life-altering message for children who are struggling to fit in or who are always being told to sit still, be quiet, and do what they’re told.

Having children of my own was enough to convince me of the virtue of maximizing kids’ unique abilities rather than constantly urging them to conform, but spending a couple of days talking with Rendall was enough to convince me to pass his message along to others too.

# kids # daddy blogging # education # teaching

This is the second time this week that a brand has responded to a tweet about my kids … and it’s only Wednesday.
Am I on some kind of list now?
#nojoke

This is the second time this week that a brand has responded to a tweet about my kids … and it’s only Wednesday.

Am I on some kind of list now?

#nojoke

# Twitter # corporations # daddy blogging # education # kids # food # advertising

Well played, Lipton.
About five and a half hours late … but, still, well played.
At no point this morning did it occur to me that tea would make a difference … but, since the first five cups of coffee haven’t done the trick, maybe I’ll drop you a line.

Well played, Lipton.

About five and a half hours late … but, still, well played.

At no point this morning did it occur to me that tea would make a difference … but, since the first five cups of coffee haven’t done the trick, maybe I’ll drop you a line.

# food # Twitter # internet # daddy blogging # corporations

What Are You Going To Be For Halloween?

I’m dressing up as a dad who’s going to eat a ridiculous amount of his kids’ candy when they go to sleep …

# holidays # Halloween # comedy # daddy blogging

A very satisfying afternoon yesterday of building and playing on the Island of Sodor with my son; he was especially pleased by my creation out of Magna-Tiles of Tidmouth Sheds to house his engines … but that might be because he doesn’t know about the $100 version of Tidmouth Sheds that can be — but hasn’t been — purchased.

A very satisfying afternoon yesterday of building and playing on the Island of Sodor with my son; he was especially pleased by my creation out of Magna-Tiles of Tidmouth Sheds to house his engines … but that might be because he doesn’t know about the $100 version of Tidmouth Sheds that can be — but hasn’t been — purchased.

# kids # daddy blogging # toys # Thomas

It’s a rainy morning and, since we’ve been up since 5am, I asked my son if he wanted to curl up with me and take a nap in my bed. He was very excited and said that he did, as long as he could bring Cookie Monster.

We brought several more stuffed animals, for good measure, then we pulled up the covers. Immediately he started thrashing around, talking to the stuff animals in a stage whisper, and then — the pièce de résistance — he began to recite Are You My Mother? from memory, using Cookie Monster, Ernie, and Big Bird to represent the various characters.

It was as if I was a spectator in my own distant past, as this was almost exactly the sort of thing I would do to my grandfather on Saturday afternoons, after he’d returned home from synagogue, we’d eaten lunch together, and he’d offered to let me settle in for a nap with him.

# daddy blogging # memory # kids # Judah

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