Thursday, April 26, 2012

How NOT to be a Parent 004

So I was seriously considering skipping this post this week. It is the opening day of our musical and I have so much going on it isn't funny. I was thinking I'd jump back on the Good Parent/NOT a Good Parent bandwagon next week, but last night spun me right into reality:

This week's post was going to happen. And it was going to be about me.

Last night we had a family affair. Olivia decided it would be advisable--nay, wonderful!--to cut Erilyn's hair. She snipped about two inches off the front, where the last little bit of her dark baby hair was holding on to her bangs. It was just long enough to pull back behind her ears before, now it is too short.

How NOT to be a Good Parent

The worst part? It was on my watch.

See, I thought I was being a GOOD parent. I've been gone so long for musical rehearsals, last night I got home around 7:00. Michelle was still out taking kids home on the church van, so I was going to watch the kids and cook dinner.

They were playing so well in the playroom. Yes, they were making a mess, but I really thought I was watching them. I even crept into the kitchen and peeked through the window into the playroom to watch when they got quiet. Because in my house, quiet means trouble. But there they were, sitting and playing Barbies. Being great sisters. Right?

Not really. Sometime between my spying and their playing Olivia found a moment to steal scissors and snip, snip, snip. We weren't able to be there for our Olivia's first haircut, and now we've missed Erilyn's too.

I couldn't even extract a good hair clipping from the floor, because, after striking Erilyn's do, Olivia lit in on all her Barbies.

So, Olivia is not allowed to be unsupervised any more. At all. I suppose this is a good rule, but it sure doesn't take back our sadness. Because not watching your children closely enough, and letting them rob you of wonderful memories, is a great way to NOT be a good parent.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Death and a Wedding: My Weekend in Notes

Some of you may have been wondering where I went toward the end of last week. I've been very habitual in the production of my How-to and How-Not-to Parent blogs, but I missed the Thursday edition last week.

I'd like to take a moment and explain why.

Thursday began as any day: I woke up, woke up Olivia, made coffee, woke up Olivia, made my breakfast, woke up Olivia, made Olivia's breakfast, woke up Olivia, took a shower, dressed myself, brushed Olivia's hair, pulled Olivia into the car, and dropped her off at school. Then, I headed to Furman University for the Upstate Consortium for a professional development seminar. The good news: I got to spend a couple of hours at home before coming back to school for musical rehearsal. The bad news: that was my only break for about three days.

After one of the most frustrating musical rehearsals of this year, Michelle and I packed the kids off to my parents' and went on a field trip to see Les Miserables at the Peace Center. We have about twenty students with us (and two other teachers), and despite a twelve minute technical error that stopped the show, IT WAS INCREDIBLE. Pardon my caps, but it was awesome. Then, because Jean Toole is awesome, she secured us a backstage tour by an electrician after the show.


To keep this as brief as is possible, I'd like to mention three interesting facts and move on: 1.) Over four miles of cabling are used in the show. 2.) There are over 5,000 costume pieces, including 80 wigs. 3.) They change the lightbulbs every 3-4 months. The total cost of LIGHTBULBS: $25,000.

That, and the fact that they had stopped the show for a technical difficulty every night at the Peace Center made me feel much better about Cinderella. However, as we were leaving the stage, texts began coming in that a fellow English teacher at my school had died of a horse accident earlier in the evening.

The bus ride back was not pleasant. All I am going to say on this note is that Pam Scott had some students that loved her on that bus. I also owed her a piece of chocolate for covering my class earlier in the week while I went to a doctor's appointment. It was with me on Thursday, but I never went to work to give it to her.

Pam Scott, Liberty High School English Teacher
Coworker, Friend
I hope she's enjoying something better than chocolate right now.

My life kept churning, though. And the next day landed me at the wedding of a beloved friend, Nathan George. As sad as the previous day was, and as tired as I was (we weren't home from Les Miz until almost 1:00 o'clock in the morning...that's late for this twenty-five going on forty father of two. What would Eric Cromer think?) the wedding was spectacular.

I have to spend the last few moments of this post recreating one of the most spectacular events I've seen at a wedding in years. The ceremony was beautiful and meaningful, filled with family blessings and prayers of support and the whole atmosphere screamed that the couple was already loved and in-love. The h'orderves were kickin'. (Whoever invented bacon-wrapped barbecued shrimp on a skewer: Thank you.) Seeing some of my old friends was special, how we've all moved on separate paths, but mostly connected along the lines of ministry and Wesleyanism. Some were married since I'd seen them last, some were pregnant, and somehow I was the old dad in the room. But I think I laid it down pretty fresh on the dance floor. Thanks, Michelle DeRossett, for turning away long enough for me to jive like it was 2007. You are my only love.

But the most spectacular event of the entire wedding came later, on the dance floor. A song came on, Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The dance floor lit up. Despite the fact that I did not, everyone else there seemed to know this song. And by the second chorus, I knew it too. Suddenly the wedding, spectacular up till then, seemed like something scripted from a Hollywood movie. I can't capture the emotion here, though I am going to try.

Thad, Nathan's younger brother, was there in his grey-vested groomsman suit, no jacket, with a shock of red hair shagging back around his neck, looking the picture of Thomas George (his older brother) from our freshman year together when he red shirted on the SWU soccer team. There was Thad, clapping and spinning around in a circle, everyone singing the words about home being "wherever I am with you," and Nathan and Lauren, his bride, looking the picture of love. Then, the magic happened. I asked them if it was planned and they all shrugged and said, "not at all." The song kicked into the last run of the chorus. Nathan and his brothers,and their wives--the close family--moved into a circle, arms locked around each other's shoulders, and began dancing in a clock-wise circle, legs kicking in and out. The groomsmen and outer-level of friends began dancing counter-clockwise in a circle around them, and the other guest stood around this circle, clapping and singing. When the last Ho-oo-me  came across the speakers and everyone lifted one finger and looked at their loves and smiled--that was real.

I know what it's like to get married: a blur of color that ends with two kids and a cardboard box of orphaned kittens. So I thought maybe Nathan would forget this moment (though I don't see how) and I wanted it committed to the written word. I think the most spectacular part was that some of the immediate family had not been dancing until it came time for the intimate family circle. It's like they knew they needed to be there and everyone else knew they did not. I feel like everyone connected, and I just couldn't imagine a better way to kick off your marriage, or a better way for me to end of heartbreaking, exhausting week.

Congratulations, Nathan and Lauren. I've got a feeling you're going to go far and be happy on the way.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to be a Good Parent 003

For this week's post, I am going to attempt to make up for my previous slams against my mother, Janet DeRossett. Occasionally, when I am feeling nostalgic, I write in a rambling Microsoft Word document labeled Memoir. I write down these snapshots of important moments in my life, the little mosaic pieces that are now the mural of who I am. I went back to that document and pulled a story from my childhood, which I will share with you below.

(It is what it is.)

My mother with my cousin Kellie in 1994

My relationship with my mother will always be a peculiar one, though it is now perhaps better than ever (grandchildren will do that, you know). But the following story is the summation of the relationship between the sensitive child I was in my youth and the mother who helped raise me to be a man, despite the fact that she often (to me) seemed determined to keep me a child forever:

We were in Wal*Mart in Easley, South Carolina. At the time, it was the only Wal*Mart around. I was perhaps six years old. I wanted a small toy truck. She told me she’d come back and get it later. I don’t know why. I shudder to think that we didn’t have the three dollars it cost locked away in our checking account, but I have no clue. Perhaps you assume that she told me she'd come back as a ploy just to shut me up, but it is not true. Because, sure enough, she went back to get it perhaps a week later.

The problem is, she brought home the wrong toy. And I can’t even remember what I originally wanted, now. I only remember what she brought me: a Cookie Monster concrete mixer that really tilted its dumper.

I was so angry at her for bringing me the wrong toy. I can remember shouting and yelling in the kitchen in our house. I can remember being so, so angry. This was, in my opinion, the first time I came face to face with a monster that would haunt me for years—even now as I write this it lurks warily in the back of my mind —that  quick temper that would one day cause me to shatter over half of my wedding dishes in one single blow, and would that day cause me to shout and shout at my mother right in the face of the nice thing she'd done for me.

Some weeks later, though, I can remember playing with that little dump truck in our old dirt driveway. I had a cup of water from the kitchen and was making concrete out of mud. I enjoyed the toy. All that anger, and I still enjoyed the toy. I loved the toy.

I did a Google search for that toy about a year ago. I can't find anything that looks like what I remember.

I think I wrote my mother an apology letter. If I never did, I’m writing it now. Because one sure-fire way to be a good parent is to love your kids and keep your promises and endure their evil tempers. And, because I lost that little dump truck.

And I’ve never forgiven myself for that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How NOT to be a Good Parent 003

Well, after a couple of weeks, fretting about screwing up something that I'd wind up posting on here, I found something the other day that I'd done without ever even trying. It's amazing how you can watch your step every day, trying to be a GOOD parent, and somewhere along the way, you just veer off the path whether you mean to or not.

So, here it is: this week's way to NOT be a good parent.

When you speak, do not enunciate your words. That way, your daughter will think that empty bed room down the hall is, in fact, a ghost room. Not, well, a guest room. 

So the other night Michelle had to go into work in the evening and I found myself alone with my girls. Balancing an adorable toddler on my hip, trying not to drop her in the sink, cleaning up from dinner while Olivia jimmer-jabbered about anything and everything, my phone rings, still in the pocket of my pants in the back bedroom. (I was wearing gym shorts, by the way.)

Heading back into the house, Olivia exclaims,

"Are you crazy? Don't go back there alone!"

"I'm not alone. Erilyn's on my hip, and you're right beside me."

"Of course, I'm not staying in the kitchen by myself. But do NOT go into the ghost room."

"The what?"

"The ghost room! Just let it go to voicemail and check it when Mama gets home. Don't leave us alone!"

The conversation went on like that for some time, me trying to figure out why she thought the room was haunted, her trying to convince me it was. But it wasn't until I was retelling the story to Michelle that we realized the similarity between guest and ghost. I supposed I shouldn't have misspoke.

However, the next day, when Michelle asked Olivia what the room across the hall from hers was called, Olivia said,

"The bedroom where Daddy keeps his clothes? Oh, the guest room."

The ghost room was never mentioned again.

So...maybe there is something weird about it after all? Either way, misguiding my children into fearing the room across the hallway is definitely how NOT to be a good parent.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to be a Good Parent 002

For this week's post, I thought about telling something nice about my mother to make up for last Thursday. But I can only keep coming back to one thing: to write about the best parent I have ever known.

Sorry, Mom. It's not you.

That woman is my beautiful wife Michelle. She is a natural parent, and despite all the time that she spends with our kids: she loves them still. She really, truly loves them. I suppose that's the only way to be a good parent, but in many more ways than one, my wife knocks this parenting thing out of the park.

She's an organizer. (PS: I'm not.) Over our spring break last week (10 days) we

1. Got Olivia's ears pierced
2. Went camping in Kentucky
3. Saw the largest waterfall in the southeast
4. Battled sinus and cold symptoms in both our kids
5. Went camping in our back yard
6. Plowed an entire garden, planted it, and set up an irrigation system from scratch
7. Repaired our old lawnmower (for now)
8. Celebrated Easter and Palm Sunday
9. Enjoyed a lovely breakfast at church which Michelle helped organize
10. Enjoyed an afternoon or two or three with both sets of grandparents
11. Had several movie nights
12. Had a "lake day"
13. Took Erilyn to Wiggles and Giggles at the library (and was interviewed by the Greenville News)
14. Went to the zoo
15. Loved our kids to death.

Now, while all of those may not seem like ways to love our kids, they were all intentionally planned by my wife to be bonding, family activities. She is the lover, cuddler, protector, comforter, helper, healer, and inspiration for my children. She may not know it, but she's all they talk about when she's not around. And tonight, Erilyn sat all through dinner blowing kisses to the picture of Michelle behind our table. (Michelle was at work.)

So here's to my wife, a woman who, among other things, will always hold the coveted title of "Good Parent" in my book.

I love you, Michelle. Thanks for inspiring me.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How NOT to be a Good Parent 002

Reflecting upon this last week, I would be willing to say that starting a how NOT to parent blog series is a great way to become a good parent. I've been so self-conscious, afraid I'd end up a victim of my own blog. And, despite what I told several families at my church, I will try to only post about my own experiences and not, oh, say yours. Or yours. Or that guy over there who let his children climb over the do not cross fences at the edge of the largest waterfall in the southeast.

So, today I am going to pull from my own experiences of being parented. Sorry Mom and Dad, but no one's perfect (although you did give it your best and I turned out ok...right?) It's taken me a while to come up with this post, but I think it's definitely the post for today.

1. Do not judo-chop your son when he comes to you in the night after waking up from a nightmare. 

Hmm...where do I begin with this one. Ah, with Walker, Texas Ranger. Growing up, that was my parents' favorite Saturday night tv show. They (and I) loved Walker. I can still hum the theme song and sing all the words (though not at the same time. It's very hard to hum and sing together.)

However, one Saturday night I, as a small child of at least six no more than eight, I approached my parents' bed after waking from a nightmare that was probably induced by the episode of Walker, Texas Ranger we'd been watching earlier. I stood in the blue-lit midnight darkness by my mother's bedside and called,

"Mama. Mama."

To which her reply was to judo-chop me across the bridge of my nose and send me sprawling backward onto the floor.

Looking back at this situation, I suppose this post could be entitled "Do Not Watch Walker Texas Ranger as a Family Unit." I will say that I recovered, and have since forgiven my mother, but judo-chopping your kids is a sure-fire way to NOT be a good parent.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to be a Good Parent Tuesdays 001

Because I'm an on-again, off-again blogger, I've decided to set a goal for myself of at least two posts a week, one on Tuesdays and one on Thursdays. Today, I want to kick off my "How to be a Good Parent Tuesdays" post series,a follow up to my "How NOT to be a Good Parent Thursdays" post. Since being a parent takes up every ounce of my energy these days, I suppose I should write about it, right? So, here goes. Some are taken from my own experience as a parent, and some from my own experience of being parented. Either way, here's How to be a Good Parent: 001.

1. Include your daughter in your school's first school-wide musical since the 1960s. 

Since directing the musical is a great way to NOT be a good parent, I suppose that including Olivia in the production (Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella)  is a tiny way to make up for all the time I'm missing at home. Olivia is playing "Little Girl" in the town scene and has the line: "And me I'm in the second grade" as her solo line, and several others sung in chorus with the five other little girls in the scene. She will also be guest-starring as a mouse in the magical transformation scene. 

Olivia is super excited about the play, and she wants to do very well in it. She looks darling in her little dress and (if I can be this bold) is absolutely adored by the cast. What a blessed father I am. 

While many have suggested that Erilyn would make an adorable mouse as well, I am not sure that she is up to the dancing quite yet. So far her dancing consists almost entirely of shaking and bouncing. At least she has rhythm! 

2. Painstakingly reteach your daughter the appropriate way to play with blocks. 

After the "Block Blockers" fiasco of last week's Wiggles and Giggles, I have worked carefully with Erilyn to teach her that "Block Blockers" is not the best game to play. While the look on her face is disheartening (Daddy...why is this wrong?) I believe that this will make her a better toddler as a whole. Coming from a father who has a deep passion for LEGO building blocks, I assumed she would pick up the creative building habits of blocks rather innately or through osmosis. So far she just seems confused, but Michelle has informed me that I am taking her to Wiggles and Giggles next week (during Spring Break), so I have about half a week before I have to rewire her way of playing blocks. 

3. Smile when the other parent in your home shows you "really interesting poop" that your baby just dropped in the toilet. 

Well, here's to learning and bettering yourself as a parent. Learn what not to do on Thursdays, and check back here next Tuesday as we painstakingly work together to be better parents and better spouses. Happy Easter!