Saturday, September 13, 2014

An Overdue Update

It’s been too long and I won’t bore you with my excuses.  Let’s just jump right in.  I’m ranting because too many weeks of unfinished drafts have passed.  So here goes. 

Greta is in kindergarten.  Gus is back at pre-K.  Tilly is pumped to have the house to herself.  Pause.  This is where my head is at on all three of my little people.

Gigi.  I can see how one may be dismissive about a child’s depth.  Can you really discuss philosophy, religion, politics, or fiscal responsibility with a five year old?  A conversation regarding a “high brow” topic might go like this:

ME: Greta, do you think NATO should get involved with the Ukraine-Russia crisis?  Where do you stand?  Should the U.S intervene?

G: What?  Where do you stand in a crane? 

ME: No, Ukraine.  It’s a country in Europe.  Remember, we looked at different countries on the globe?

G: Uh, we live on Gawaine Road.  Not in a crane - Dad.

On the other hand, here is an example of how Greta has matured to the point where her thinking already fascinates me. 

Weeks ago or maybe even months ago, Greta asked what it meant to be dead.  I pulled the classic stall tactic of answering the question with a question.  Why do you ask?  She said her friend’s daddy was in heaven and she was unsure what that meant.  Sizing up her brain with my fatherly x-ray vision, I was struggling with how to explain my spiritual beliefs and thoughts about morality while juxtaposed against my distrust of institutional religion.  After collaborating with THE WIFE, we settled on an explanation about how all of us leave this world one day and we believe they continue to exist in some way where they can watch over the people they love.  (Not exactly my theory but acceptable enough as a translation for the now.)  THE WIFE and Greta then started talking about angels with wings and I can’t help but think Greta was imagining some kind of metamorphosis upon death into a Tinker Bell fairy.  Greta then asked if our old cat Wally was in heaven and the conversation steered into whether we’ll ever get another pet.

A night or two later, Greta was crying in bed so I went in to check on her.  She explained how she was sad because she didn’t know how an angel could wear clothes with wings on their back.  I said something lame about how you get special shirts or something with holes in them, which made Greta feel worse because she wanted to know who cut the holes and then her concern transitioned into a downward spiral about her celestial wardrobe.  Long story short, I was amazed about how my little girl was suddenly capable of considering the very deep concept – if not the deepest – of life and death.  And she was thinking about it independently without provocation long after our initial discussion. 

This isn’t a “my kid is better than your kid” kind of statement because I’m sure most parents out there have encountered similar scenarios with their children.  This is just one of the reasons why I continue to love my daughter with all my heart.  Her manner of thinking and her thoughtfulness are already blowing me away.

Over the last five years, Greta has morphed from a shy and almost bashful personality into a more mature, outgoing, and confident individual.  She seems to have this amazingly inner happiness where she is able to find joy in the simplest of pleasures.  I love sitting at a table with her as she colors a picture and I can hear her humming happy hums.  I am so proud when I see Greta interact with other kids without holding back so much anymore, laughing and playing and pretending.  Just being a kid.  She is honest to the point where she confesses to transgressions before we even discovered the crime.  Best of all, she is kind, thoughtful, and sweet.

And now comes kindergarten.  On one hand, I am so excited for her.  She loves to learn.  She needs to be stimulated by her peers and out of our house, away from the chaos of her younger siblings and the distractions of television or iPads.  She yearns for art and recess and friends and music and reading.  Greta is so ready to take the leap to the next level. 

On the other hand, I am so scared that this is when I begin to lose her.  I’m so reluctant to accept that her development is officially traveling to a destination far away from me where my influence will gradually diminish into hardly anything at all.  I’m scared to death of the negative forces and peer pressure that she will obviously encounter in life, but hopeful that she is already savvy enough to make the right decisions.  I suppose this reality is precisely what every parent must endure when the school process begins because we can’t be there for our kids all of the time.  Still, the realization of this inevitability I’m experiencing as a dad is daunting because it is suddenly here and now.
For now, I’ll relish that Greta still cuddles with me on the couch and tells me she loves me.  Yep, I’m gonna be a sobbing mess on her wedding day.

G-man.  What can I say that you probably don’t already know about my little man already?  No doubt, Gus is a people person.  This kid has an unquestionably positive influence on almost anyone who crosses paths with him.  It’s kinda crazy.  You can see it in the eyes of those who truly know him.  He just has an uncanny way of reeling people into his energy.

Adults from any of our circles call Gus by name.  They may not know anyone else’s name in the family but they definitely know his.  Even some strangers go out of their way to say hello if he and I are out and about at a store or something. 

Since Gus began attending Parkview (Manch peeps, I call this place Parkside all the time) last year, I noticed how there are random little kids who nonchalantly say “Hey Gus” as we’re walking by at the ice cream joint or the playground or the tee ball field.  Some of them even come up and high five or hug.  It warms my heart because it makes me feel a little more secure that a growing alliance of “safe” peers are out there who might look out for him in the future when we’re not around to watch. 
Still, I remind you, Gus is not without a devilish side.  Many a time, Greta or Tilly come running out of a room crying after some kind of altercation with their brother.  And his new go-to saying that utters after he’s convinced to do something that he was previously resisting is this “Okay, fiiiine” saying that makes me laugh even though he’s kinda being a little punk.  Even better, he’s started asking “Why?” after any of my commands.  As soon as I answer, he just says “Why?” again.  It drives me nuts.  Moral of the story, don’t let him off the hook because of the charm and cute grin.

As for the barometer of where Gus is at developmentally, my assessment changes daily.  I’ve been buggin out lately when it comes to dressing and undressing.  At two and a half years old, Tilly will disappear for a few minutes at any given time in the day, then re-emerge from her bedroom dressed in some outrageous combination of snow pants and a tank top, or a cocktail dress at six in the morning, or nude for dinner, etc.  Meanwhile, at four years old, Gus still struggles to get a shirt over his head by himself. 

Situations like that make me feel like I’m doing a disservice to Gus.  Am I working hard enough to challenge him?  Am I perpetuating a delay because I’m choosing to do something for him that he should be doing himself?  Even though it’s faster and easier to just throw the pajamas on after a bath, I have to remind myself – wait.  Try to make Gus put those pants on.  Don’t let him coast by putting on the clothes for him.  Take the extra five minutes and work with him to practice.  It sounds easy on paper, but when I’m just dying to get the kids to bed so I can finally clean up from dinner and eventually sit down to chill out, the path of least resistance is to just jam Gus into his PJ’s and move on.   

Meanwhile, it seems like every time I suspect an area of Gus’ skill set has plateaued or stalled, a situation arises the next day when he contradicts my concern and reassures me that everything is headed in the right direction.  Something as simple as announcing that he has to poop makes me smile and run to the bathroom with him.  After dinner the other night, the girls were dancing and singing as our live entertainment for the evening.  Kitchen utensils were microphones.  Forward rolls and spontaneous ballet kicks were aplenty.  Next thing you know, Gus goes running up there for his own turn to sing.  He immediately demanded that we clap at the end of the performance, then marched triumphantly back to his seat.  Granted he smashed Tilly on the head with a wooden spoon on his way back from the stage, but it wasn’t on purpose.  Of course, if it was on purpose that would just be typical brotherly love anyway.

I can’t brag about this kid enough.  He warms my heart and makes me proud.  What else can you ask for?

The Tills.  One may have friends and enemies.  Or besties and frenemies.  Or a nemesis.  Tilly is my bestfrenemesis. 

Tilly is kinda like a chocolate covered pretzel.  Or a pickle with ice cream.  Or cornbread and hot wings.  Equal parts sweet and salty.  My yin and yang. 

When I get home from work, Tilly goes into a full sprint and barrels into me.  If I don’t position myself defensively, her head is a missile into my (snipped) nuts.

At dinner, Tilly is likely to ask “How is ya day Daddy?” in her ever expanding Mass. accent.  I’ll rattle off anything that might be interesting to her and the kids.  Maybe, “I saw the key-tar Bear today.”  Or “Uncle Tom and I had a coffee.”  Distracted, I’ll miss that Tilly is stealing the first sip out of my drink leaving some floaties behind as the cup goes back on the table.  If I do catch her in the act, I might stop and look at her sideways like “Yo dude, what’s up with that?”  But she just continues with her follow-up questions while jamming pink finger tips into my salad to steal some feta cheese or a mushroom.  She’s a thief that smiles while she’s stealing from you.

The fiery temper, however, is still within a lightning fast reach.  Our wake up call every morning typically arises with Tilly hammering away at her locked bedroom door (yes, I installed the knob back into the door but backwards so we can lock her in) demanding that she be released.  If I’m careless when getting the kids into the car, she almost always goes for anyone’s seat other than her own.  When I try to cajole her into her car seat, the back arching and protesting ensues until she’s finally wrestled into her straight jacket – I mean, the belts of her seat.  Let your guard down in the kitchen and I guarantee you’ll find her in the pantry like a raccoon in a garbage can aggressively trying to tear open some prepackaged food product intended for a lunch box. 

But just when my buttons have been pushed and my RPMs are approaching the red zone, Tilly will disarm me with one of her go-to comments: “Are you happy Daddy?”  The question always make me check myself and take a breather.  She can see it in my face that I’m struggling to maintain composure.  She is so damn good at reading body language or the temperature of a room, it makes me wonder if she’ll be some kind of undercover cop or a diplomat or a teacher.

With every passing week, I feel my bond strengthening incrementally more with Tilly.  She can drive me absolutely insane in one second yet in the next moment, she has won me over with a kiss or a bear hug.  I just get her better now.  I wouldn’t want her any other way. 


So that’s where it’s at over here in our neck of the woods.  To be continued, to say the least.