Friday, November 2, 2018

Halloween and the True Meaning of Chrismas

Halloween is my favorite holiday because, to me, it captures the true meaning of Christmas.

Wait, what?

Christmas is supposed to be all about peace and goodwill towards men, generosity, and joy. I don't know what your Christmas is like, but for most people I know, it's about ruinous spending on gifts people don't even want, stress, rush, and bother.

The Koalid prepares to knock on strangers'
doors so they can give her compliments
and gifts of candy.
Halloween, on the other hand, is a holiday about people going out and spending money to decorate their homes and buy gifts of candy that they will then give to every stranger who knocks on their door.

While Christmas is supposed to be a time when we have a sense of peace and see our world as one community, we rarely see that in practice. It has gotten worse lately with the "Culture Wars" and "War on Christmas," as some people militantly declare that Christmas is too much religion for them while others equally militantly declare that Christmas is not religious enough.

Halloween on the other hand is embraced by most people. At least there is no public debate about it. People buy candy and invite anyone to come by. Total strangers knock on the door, say "Trick or Treat," and are given a smile, a complement on their costume, and a gift of candy.

It is the only holiday where we truly give to others with no expectation of reciprocity.

So, if you are looking for the true meaning of Christmas, look a couple months earlier in the calendar, and I believe you'll find it there.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


I love the Koalid more than anything in the world, but sometimes she can be exhausting.

Actually, it's not fair to say that she is exhausting. Were I otherwise well rested, happy, and healthy, it would probably be cute. But that is rarely the case. So it's not.

She is most exhausting when she needs a nap herself.
I don't think that what she does is different from what other kids her age do. Impulsively asking for things. Not understanding why she can't have what she wants right now. Failing to grasp why she can't have my attention when I'm talking to someone.

She's actually probably better behaved than many kids. She does understand the concept of being out of line, which is pretty good for a four year old. I always make a point to explain what I tell her to do, so I think she has a greater understanding of why she can't watch certain programs or do certain things. By and large, I don't have to worry about her getting into the trouble that many other kids her age do.

So that's good.

The fact remains that people need quiet time, focused time, me time, in order to maintain mental equilibrium, and it is very difficult to achieve this with a child constantly demanding attention.

Of course, one solution would be to inform her, in no uncertain terms, that I am an adult, she must listen to me, and she should leave me alone. "A child should be seen and not heard," I could say.

When she's good, she's quite good, and she
loves to ham it up for the camera.
That is definitely not the right answer. That leaves the Koalid feeling alienated and discouraged. It teaches her not to advocate for herself or even to speak up. Since one of the most important things in her upbringing is to raise a child into an adult who will speak up for herself and know her worth, and one of the most important things in my life is her proper upbringing, that solution would not serve.

Doing nothing, on the other hand, leaves me without mental and spiritual centering and grounding. It leaves me testy, impatient, and irritable. Not traits that serve me well in trying to lead the Koalid into maturity.

So, like most things in life, the answer is probably somewhere delicately in between. Carving out moments of quiet, time to work and write and think, but also allowing the Koalid to interrupt here and there. If I do this well, she will grow into a child who will understand the right times to interrupt and the times to wait quietly. This offers the great dividend that, not only can I find time to center myself, but that I will have a relationship with the Koalid that will allow us to grow together.

That's the goal at least.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Why I Will Not Go Back to Applebees Anytime Soon

This is an example of what happens when decisions are made
at the corporate level without local feedback.
My family had a particularly unpleasant night at Applebees the tonight. Going out to dinner with a three year old is always an interesting experience, but we can generally manage things and keep The Koalid entertained. This particular trip, that was impossible.

We are trying, with limited success, to limit her screen time, and if we are having dinner together at the table, either at home or at a restaurant, there's no screens. We'll bring toys, crayons, books, anything interactive that we can think of. We are both very busy, and she ends up in front of a screen far too often when we have something we need to do. We're not going to let her spend what little time we do have to spend with her in front of a screen.

Think you can just remove the tablet? Think again! They're
everywhere, and they're staring at you.
This seems like a pretty reasonable policy, we think. Normally, it is relatively simple to enforce, but it becomes more difficult when we walk into a restaurant and there is a bright, shiny, idiot box on every table, facing us as we walk in.

We tried to be clever and stash the tablet before she saw it as we were sitting down, but we were thwarted. Every other table has a table as well, including the kids at the table behind us who were playing with it.

So, our dinner of uninspired, generic and overpriced corporate impressions of Latin and Asian inspired food was punctuated with a constant and unremitting litany of "They're playing games. I want to play games. Why can't I play games? It's not fair."

One might argue that, perhaps this is a problem for us, but for many kids, these devices are helpful to keep them busy when otherwise they'd be unmanageable. I disagree there as well. The table behind us has three kids and one tablet. Care to surmise what we heard before we left? That's right. "It's my turn! I want to play! Let me play!" The whining from the table where they were letting the kids play the games were as loud as they were at ours where we forbade it.

I mentioned it to the waitress, and she agreed that the tablets cause more problems than they solve, but corporate mandates it, so they have to do it.

So, to Applebee's Corporate out in Kansas City, Missouri, you have lost a customer for a long as these devices clutter the tables of your restaurants.

In the spirit of good cheer, I'll be eating somewhere else tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On Speaking Up

The other day, the Koalid was playing with an older boy. They seemed to be getting along well. As she was running over to me to leave, she tripped and hurt herself. Nothing serious, but enough to make her quite upset.

In her distress, she told me that she didn't like the boy she'd been playing with. I asked her why and she said that he was scary.

Apparently, the boy was playing teacher and, in the role of teacher, pretended to be angry and yelled at her. I guess he also put her in jail. Maybe that's a thing teachers do. I don't know.

But it was quite upsetting to the Koalid. I asked the Koalid if she had told him that what he was doing was upsetting her, and she said that she hadn't. I asked why she hadn't said anything, since she's certainly not shy about telling me if I do something she doesn't like, but she didn't really know.

I had seen her, on other occasions, tell him that she didn't like something, and he had stopped immediately, so it's likely he would have stopped this behavior as well, but, for whatever reason, she endured it rather than objecting.

The boy in question was 8, and, as far as I can tell, he wasn't doing anything too terrible, since I was watching from about 50 feet away, but he did raise his voice, and I'm sure that the Koalid was quite upset by it.

This raises interesting questions. There's no way that this kid could have known that he was upsetting the Koalid, especially since she did not tell him or respond in any way.

As a father, it made me wonder, why didn't she say anything? And more importantly, how can I teach her to stand up for herself and assert her discomfort in the future. Because when she's older, the thing that a boy is doing to make her uncomfortable may be a little more serious than role playing an angry teacher.

Fathers of daughters often think back to how they were with the girls they cavorted with. Fortunately, I was not so much of a cad as others, but I had my situations where I made someone uncomfortable and did not know it. Had they told me, I certainly would have backed off immediately, but for whatever reason they did not think they could.

So, that gives me some years to figure out how to teach the Koalid to stand up for herself.