Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Camp

Today is the first day of summer camp for our kids, and I have to admit that I have some anxiety about it. It's the first time for our son, and he's beside himself with excitement. I'm not sure what to expect for him, but I know I should just lighten up and let him have fun. It's not easy letting go and realizing that your kids will slowly push away from you. At least that's the way it should be. For A, she's practically a pro at this, but even still, it seems like a long day. I can't imagine what it will be like when she goes away to sleepover camp. Say it isn't so. I'm going to do my best to take a step back and let things evolve, because I want them to have fun and to get the most out of the experience.

The whole camp thing has gotten way out of hand, and I realize that much of it boils down to farming out your kids over the summer. I know how hard it can be once school lets out, what the heck are you supposed to do with the kids? It's a rough world out there for families, though a lot of it is self-inflicted. I know of so many parents that, given the choice, opt not to spend time at home with the kids. Our jobs, after all, give us such a sense of our identity and being a parent never really gets the respect it warrants, but that's the world we live in.

Our good friends down the road have a hard time and I wish I could help out more, but again, I think a lot of it is created by the creator. They are way too over-scheduled, enrolling their kid in every sport and after-school activity imaginable. Their kids were away for a week and the morning they were back their kids wanted to get away, and they let them. I think as a parent you need to slow things down and calm the kids down, otherwise they become intolerably distracted. Personally, if my kids were away for a week, I'd want to hold onto them for at least a day to make up for lost time, but that's just me.

One of the problems we seem to run into is that we live differently. We like to spend a lot of quiet time together, just our family, and I've found you really have to be selfish and fight for that time, because if you let down your guard your time no longer becomes your own. For R and I, the best times are just the four of us, alone at home, hanging out. It doesn't get any better. When kids come over that magical time is gone, and the kids have fun, but it does take more effort. I really think our kids are good at playing quietly by themselves, either at home or wherever we may be, and the presence of high maintenance kids definitely compromises that. When I say high maintenance, I mean the ones who either need to watch TV or need to be entertained. It ain't easy.

I'm not here to judge, well, at least not sort of, but I am struck by how difficult it can be. It boils down to taking the hard or easy way. When you're a parent, you can choose the easy path and fill your kids with activities or TV and the job is out of your hands, or you can take the hard way and make a concerted effort for the kids to be self-reliant and introspective. You might say this is a genetic issue, but I don't agree. I think even rambunctious kids benefit from time being in their own heads. If anything, it probably calms them down.

Either way, now that summer camp is here, the kids are thrilled, but I'm hoping it won't be too tiring and overwhelming for them. I just want them to have fun, and if anything, I should welcome the time off for good behavior, sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Family Time part 2-Defending It

We've found at times that our family time together, which we cherish, can sometimes be under assault, and we are not always sure how to defend and maintain it. There is always some social occasion in the woodworks that we always enjoy but compromises what we love best, which is to simply spend time together, alone, as a family. It's tough, because the kids want to play with other kids, it's just that everything changes once this occurs. I don't know what the answer is.

Our friend's daughter and A are good friends, but when she comes over we seem to notice that our kids become a bit more insolent and disorderly. They do things that they wouldn't normally do and question and challenge us more, all because of this friend. No question about it, she's just that way. Okay, fair enough, no kid is perfect, but it's hard to digest when on any other given day, our kids are mellower and more respectful. We find it hard to deal with at times. Coupled with the fact that said friend is a school kid who is prone to boredom and needs to be guided in activities, it changes everything.

Our weekends are precious to us, and we've discovered that we need to defend them. It's interesting how other parents operate. Our friends haven't seen their kids for a week because they are at grandma's house, and the morning of her first day back she's spending the day with us. If it were me, I'd put my foot down and say, "No way, you're hanging out with mom and dad." But things don't work that way in the world.

I've also noticed certain behavior patterns in kids who don't spend a lot of time with their parents, i.e., with grandparents or caretakers. This is a gross generalization so forgive me please, but these kids tend to be subtly manipulative, they know how to get what they want and are not afraid to cross the line in order to get it, challenging adults and skirting respect. They are needy and smart, it's a survival thing. The problem is, they get out kids to act accordingly and do things they don't normally do.

We went to a movie yesterday, Wall-E, our first one as a family and in retrospect we should have gone alone, but it's done. Either way, we found out kids not listening to us and running off ahead, which is treacherous in Hanover because of all the traffic. Normally our kids don't do that, but here they were. Also, the friend can't stop moving, there is a manic quality, again a sign of over-scheduled kids. They can't sit still and be in their own heads, and drag whomever is with them, with them.

What should have been a great family outing simply became a chore, and we've resolved that it's up to us to stand our grand and defend our family time. When you open the floodgates, you'll drown in other people's problems, namely their kids. Not for us, thank you.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Family Time-Variety

We can't stress how important family time is for us, and in a way, as parents we have to literally fight hard to maintain it, because we are under constant assault. I don't mean that in a bad way, people are friendly and social and we feel fortunate that they want our company, it's just that we value our time together as a family, and having even just one more person along disrupts that. For people who long for social contact, they probably can't understand this, but know a few families that can probably relate. An example, our friends declined to get together with another friend because the father was taking the day off and they had planned on having a family day together. What I admired about it was that they had the guts to say this outright and say it like it was.

With this in mind, we've been seeking balance in our lives, and mostly in the lives of our kids. That means a variety of experiences with a variety of kids doing a variety of things. Only time will tell if it's been fruitful, but at the very least, and most importantly, it's been fun and rewarding. I think our kids had a really focused period of hanging out with one child and they really enjoyed it, but came to see her as the only friend in the world. We don't in any way want to discourage this friendship, kids should have a best friend, but their lives shouldn't revolve around one person, especially at the tender ages of four and seven. So the impetus lay with us to provide a more varied set of experiences, while also maintaining our important daily routines. Not always so easy, especially with just one car, but we've managed to accomplish a few things.

Last week was actually a great week, and our kids have been diligent and inspired in their daily lives, doing things we wish for them to do without our prompting. Sure, there are several bumps along the way, but for the most part it's been going very well. We went swimming at the Hanover pool and though we had to contend with the uber-suburban crowd, we had fun within our own little group, and the kids had a blast. Plus, it was a scorcher of a day, so it was nice to get into the water. We could have stayed their all day, but everyone had places to be, so we swam for at least three hours.

Our kids reached some milestones, as well. N, for the first time, swam the entire day without his life vest. He didn't want it from the get-go, and he swam up a storm. I never left his side, and I think it really helped his confidence, not to mention his overall viewing pleasure. He did a great job. A made a big leap, both literally and figuratively. She worked up the courage and jumped off the diving board. Now on the surface this may not seem like a big deal, but for a cautious child who over thinks everything in life, it was huge, but just another example of how she can rationally think things through and eventually overcome her anxieties and accomplish things. I've seen it before. It helps to be with kids who are more brazen, they inspire her to some degree, but in the end it boils down to her desire to try something.

We met the Ms at the pool and besides being older, except for RM, they are all accomplished swimmers. We decided to have a picnic and brought along pizza and chips and drinks and it was a blast. We hit the pool and A sat back and watched the other kids jumping off the diving board. It was on her mind, I could tell, I asked her, but she wasn't ready. She had a great time swimming, but by the time came for us to leave, she didn't want to leave without trying it, so she asked if she could give it a go before we left, and of course I encouraged her.

She practiced jumping off the side of the pool before cautiously walking to the end of the diving board. Once she was there, there was no turning back because of the queue of kids behind her. I gave her a thumbs up, but she ignored me, being focused on the moment. Then she did a gentle bounce and jumped into the water. She surfaced, swam to the side, and was beaming. I think it was huge for her, and what really made it great was the Ms ran over and congratulated her. A did it several more times and they joined in, and unfortunately we all had to go.

But what a great day. I love days like that, when the kids do well. It makes everything worthwhile. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer Heat

The heat is starting to get brutal and ugly, just the way I loathe it. I still can't relate to people who love the heat, and yet spend all their time in the air conditioning. Live and let live. We went swimming at the Hanover swimming pool at Storrs pond and had a blast, mainly because we hung out with the M's. Their kids are so nice, and we have a lot of fun with them. N was swimming like a fish, his first time without his vest, so he's now an official swimmer. Great to see, for practical reasons, and also because it's yet another milestone for him. AND, he can have that much more fun, enjoying his time in the water that much more.

A had a big day, as well. She jumped off the diving board after pondering it for the entire day. You could see her mulling it over since her friends were all doing it, and yet she was pensive. Finally, right as we were about to leave, she decided she wanted to do it, and went for it. Then there was no stopping her. I'm proud of both of them for going for it, and making that transition. It's big for kids to feel the thrill of knowing they can do something, especially without mom or dad's help.

The pool is an interesting place to swim. Lots of intense suburban city folks there, or at least some facsimile thereof. It's all so suburban, such a scene. It reminds me so much of going to the pool in Providence, you go to the pool and hang out and socialize. Ditch your kids, get dolled up and see your friends. The kids, meanwhile, are left to their own devices. There are some parents who really want to engage their kids, but a lot can't get rid of them fast enough. Their minds are too wrapped up in some moment in the future that may never come.

Either way, if not for the Ms, we'd never go near the place. It's too angry and intense for us, and we don't drive a nice enough car. That's what it is, it's all so very clubby. Very reminiscent of the Quechee Club. We have several friends who have moved to Hanover and I'm curious to see how they will adjust to their new hip environment. The stuff that dreams were made of? Perhaps.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Same as it Ever Was

We had a huge series of dilemmas born out of social interactions over the past few weeks, and for the most part they ended up fine. Once again our reaction was greater than what was warranted, but somehow I can't seem to get away from being a neurotic parent. I know it's me but I can't help but feel this need to protect our kids from the jerks of the world. Unfortunately, in my eyes, everyone is less than stellar.

The hypocritical thing is that all children, including our own, are guilty of the same offense, it's just that you're less inclined to pick it up in your own kids. And that is not to say that your own kids might not be a bit more decent. I'm trying to be objective here.

The way around it is to just lighten up and let kids be kids. They're going to hurt each other and turn on one another, it's just the way of the world. The way of people, and you can't try to shelter your kids from it. It's a part of life and growing up. So I'm trying, and we'll see where this one goes.

I'm still getting the hang of this blogging thing, not sure where it's going to go, because I have so much to say and can't seem to say it.

Had a great 4th of July, still can't say enough about small town life, or at least our small town. I feel lucky to be here, and fortunate for so many things.

BTW, just found out my jerk brother is getting a divorce. I don't know the circumstances but feel like I should try to bridge the gap and re-connect.