Archive for the ‘Friends and Family’ Category

One lucky kindergartner is going to shine in art class next week

September 14, 2013

HughDrawingHere we have the results of an hour-long anatomy drawing lesson, buckets of frustrated tears, a few animated pep talks, and the resolve of one determined five-year-old boy.

At his request, I left the room for 10 minutes while he made his final attempt. I came back to find this.

I told him Dad was super proud of his drawing – but “super-duper” proud that he didn’t give up.

Naturally, he was pretty super-duper proud of himself too.

Like magic, the screaming toddler is quelled

February 16, 2012

By Stacey Devlin

For more than 10 months, we fought with our three-year-old son, Tige.

Arguing, cajoling, pleading, screaming, reasoning, crying, everything –  and when all that failed, spanking. Nothing worked, and I started to think, is something wrong with me, or with him?

If you’ve ever heard of the book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, that sums up our relationship.

In fact, I got that book and tried to find the key to making things easy, but when the answer didn’t jump out at me in the first 30 pages, I put it aside. I have little time for reading with now two little guys running around, and my desperation for an answer has left me impatient with any lengthy books on child-rearing.

Tige is beautiful, spirited, loveable, but trying.

When his little brother was born, Tige’s behavior got worse, and I found myself throwing tantrums right alongside him. After many long nights, relentless battles over dinner, clothes and manners, and prolonged frustration, I lost my patience.

I felt like I was out of control, and I was spanking him knowing that it wasn’t teaching him anything.  Frustrated, I talked with other moms at our church. They too had “spirited” kids.

Even though I desperately wanted Tige to listen, and for his behavior to improve, I didn’t want to take that spirit out of him.

One mom from church told me that of the 50 plus parenting books she’d read, the only one she really ever needed was 1, 2, 3 Magic.

I immediately got it.

1, 2, 3 Magic, Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan revolves around the principle that children are not little adults. They can’t be reasoned with, they’re not going to see the light when you explain something time after time, and they can’t be reasonably expected to listen the first time you ask them to do something.

It’s all part of being a kid.

And so as we learn not to fight with them like they’re adults, we see that our job is to calmly help them understand that what they’re doing is wrong.

The great thing about this book is that it is quick to read. We covered it in about 45 minutes, and were soon resolved to be a 1,2,3 team.

So far, it’s been successful. When I see Tige complying with our requests using the 1,2,3 method, it makes me feel like a better parent. It’s tough not to get emotionally involved by forcing him to comply, but when I restrain myself – which is the underlying theme of the book – I feel calmer, and I see that he’s calmer too.

I’m hardly yelling anymore, and at the time of this writing, I haven’t spanked him in two weeks. I feel great and I can tell that he does too.

We move past one small obstacle at a time – but best of all, we’re happy as a mom and kid doing it together.

And what grade is Grade in?

January 17, 2012

When our youngest son Hugh started talking about his new friend Grade, I thought maybe his name was Gray, or Grey, and I didn’t think much about it.  Another pre-school friend with an interesting name and one who I would hear much about.

But as the stories became more frequent and detailed – Grade did this, Grade said that, Grade always does this, Grade’s mommy does this and his daddy does that, Grade has this toy and he has that toy – I started to suspect that maybe Hugh was exaggerating about Grade. As it turns out he was.

In fact Grade doesn’t exist at all.

My wife had figured this out long before I did, and so she wasn’t the least bit surprised when I finally whispered one night after dinner, “You know, I think Grade is Hugh’s imaginary friend.”

At first, as any parent might, I simply thought it was cute.  But as I considered all the possible reasons why children (mine especially) would develop an imaginary friend, my admiration turned to curiosity and finally to worry. I don’t know why really, but it worried me. I think part of it is that we work so hard at honesty in our home. I always expect the boys to be truthful with me, to the degree that I’ve told them if they come to me with anything, I promise not to get mad about it.

I suppose now, as Grade has become a part of daily conversation, usually at dinner time, I’m OK with it. I saw this article today, and it further helped me to accept Grade as a healthy part of Hugh’s development. After all, the more I think about it and reflect back to when I was little, the more Grade sounds to me like Tommy, my own imaginary friend.

I think we’ll be OK with Grade.

Christmas Eve mystery? I should think not

December 24, 2011

Precisely three minutes and 12 seconds after finally tucking the over-tired boys into bed, Philo got up and innocently announced from the top of the stairs, “Mommy, my loose tooth fell out!” And yet this, I suspect, was his diabolical plan all along: to wait until Christmas Eve, and there in the stillness of the top bunk, to endure the pain of ripping the incisor out prematurely only to nestle it (root and all) beneath his pillow, thereby effectively double working both Lady Tooth Fairy and St. Nicholas. I assure you this child is clever – clever, I say – but make no mistake about this: I. know. his. game.

PRESS RELEASE: Parties Agree to Unconditional Peace Treaty

November 13, 2011

*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***

PINNEO HOME, Va. (Nov. 13, 2011) – After months of amassing a razor-sharp army and a crushing armada, and in spite of recent weeks of boiling tensions between the Bounty Hunter/White Knight Coalition and the Maniacal Horde Forces of Terror, we are pleased to announce that tonight after dinner, diplomacy ruled the day upstairs in Lego Land.

Narrowly avoiding a catastrophic Lego war, in which many ships, planes, stations and Lego people would have surely been annihilated, all parties agreed to a full and swift disarmament after Captain Silver and General Nautilus of the coalition called upon the once-evil Lord Blockhead to join them in peace negotiations and proposed an unconditional peace treaty and weapons elimination.

Accepting the terms with open but different colored arms, Lord Blockhead returned to Terror Tower aboard an air cruiser and commanded his ogres, skeletons and “mixed-pieces” army to shed and dismantle every blaster and bomb in possession, and return the parts to the Lego Common Bin. The same was done aboard the Bounty Hunter’s ship, the Ezra, as well the White Knights’ flying fortress, where all missiles and “special technology” weaponry was manually taken apart by trained technicians and put back into the bin.

“Months ago, Lego Land was a peaceful land,” said Silver. “It was not until we started building and stockpiling weapons – simply because of our own misunderstandings of each other – did the whispers of war intensify,” he said. He said with Lego Common nearly exhausted in the months-long pre-war effort, rebuilding would be impossible if war broke out.

“This marks a pivotal moment in Lego history,” said Nautilus from the deck of the Ezra, where the three leaders met to forge the treaty. “We hope that this agreement is everlasting, and that each Lego from this day forth will be used for good – for engineering and R&D – and for expanding the minds of children everywhere,” he said.

When words end

October 28, 2011

Father/Son moment of insight tonight: There comes a time in every deep discussion between a father and son (read: heated argument) when words should simply cease, resolution notwithstanding – not because we give up on resolution, but because there comes a time when words should give way to silent reflection on what the other has said.

Neither father nor son, we can’t flow from the heart, when we’re spouting from the mouth.

(photo: Enokson@Flickr)

Relationships (all of them)

October 17, 2011

From the time my oldest son could understand, I began to teach him that all living things on Earth exist within three primary forms of symbiotic relationships.

I explained the ‘mutualistic,’ in which both organisms benefit from each each other. I explained ‘commensalism,’ where one benefits while the other does not but is not harmed.

Clownfish feed on small invertebrates that harm the sea anemone, while the fish are protected from predators by the anemone’s stinging cells, to which the clownfish is immune. Photo credit: richardminick (Flickr)

Finally I explained there are also ‘parasites,’ organisms that benefit while the other is harmed. Here I added, parasites break down further into two types; one that eventually kills its host, and one that relies on the host’s survival.



I taught him that with all living things on Earth, these are the three ways in which they relate to each other. This too, I told him, applies to man. Because modern man’s tendency is toward the parasitic, I taught him that we should always strive to cultivate mutualistic relationships with others – man and animals alike, and the whole of the earth, and live in a way that benefits ourselves as well as others, and avoid doing harm to either.



I suspect he, as well as all of us, will need to be reminded of this often, and I hope he teaches this to his children too.

Teaching my kids to speak the truth

September 29, 2011

UPDATE: So when he came home, I told him I shared our story with some of my online parent friends. He was not really happy about that at all. “What?!” he said. “I thought you said you weren’t going to tell anyone?! I thought that was just between us … you lied!” Ouch. He went on about it for about 2 minutes and finally concluded firmly, “Well … I forgive you Dad, one hundred percent.”

But in the end, he is right to be upset about it and I’ve concluded, it was a mistake to share this story with others online. I told him I would not, and I turned around and did. The value of sharing insight with other parents, even for the innocent sake of learning together, is not greater than the value of sharing a solid impenetrable trust between a father and son. My take away – our take away – is the reminder that as parents we are far from perfect and we are seldom if ever “right,” in what we do. And thus, between my 7-year-old and I, the playing field of truth and honesty is now level. I think this puts him at a powerful position.  I will explain this to him and I hope he hold the position honorably.

Today, my 7-year-old son lied.

It was a big lie.

He lied to his nurse, his teacher and both his mom and me, saying he was “super exhausted” and couldn’t finish out the day at school. But, he didn’t put on a very convincing act. After he got home, while still in the car, my wife and I interrogated him to no avail. No fever, no nausea, no headaches … nothing. Just “tired,” though he didn’t look it, and had no reason to be as tired as he claimed.

The only thing I knew for certain was that he was well enough to go back, and finish out the day. On the way back to school, just he and I, I told him I was giving him a chance to come clean, and I promised him – between him and me (it wouldn’t leave the car) – he could tell me the truth and I wouldn’t get mad. With that, and quivering lip, he opened right up, and the unfiltered truth spilled right out of him. Having just celebrated his 7th birthday yesterday, all he could think about at school was coming home and playing with all of his new toys – and so he fabricated the “exhausted” story to ditch second grade. I told him I wasn’t mad, and that in fact, I understood how he felt. I’ve been there.

I told him I thought it was a bad choice, and why, and I helped him understand what kind of a life he can expect for himself if making bad choices becomes habit. I told him once we got to school, he needed to come clean with them too, which, though a little apprehensive, he did honorably.

And I think he understands how silly his choice was, and that no one’s going to come unglued on him for it. I told him again, as I always have, that if he’s always honest with me, he won’t get in trouble – no matter what.

I’ve thought about this a lot – and I’ve definitively decided today, that from here forward, rather than grind down my kids for lying, instead, I’m going to give them an incentive to tell the truth. And I’m going to avoid getting angry about it. It’s thus far the most effective approach I’ve found to foster honesty.

Speak softly and carry a big heart

July 2, 2011

Six months and one day ago, as we rang in the New Year, my resolution was to refrain from raising my voice at my boys.

I gave it my best effort.

I had almost forgotten about it until two days ago when my oldest son asked me, “Dad, have you ever yelled at me?”

“Of course,” I said, trying remember the last time I actually had used volume to make a point, but I came up cold.

I really don’t remember the last time.

The resolution to speak softly has become a new habit and now, having broken the old habit of shouting, here’s what I’ve discovered.

Yelling discourages dialog. It says, “I’m louder. I’m superior. I win. The end.”

Not yelling encourages listening. Now when I speak in corrective terms, my kids listen carefully. If I tell them quietly but clearly, “if you don’t go up stairs right now and clean your room, I’m going to come up with a trash bag and clean it myself,” they know I mean it.

Yelling gives us a false assumption that we’ve actually punished. After spouting off an angry pitch at our kids, so often we take no further action toward correcting their behavior. When children are little, yelling is terrifying to them. It is enough to get them moving. But as they get older, they get desensitized to it. The problem is, we keep doing it thinking it is still effective.

Yelling is knee jerk. It’s from the place of anger, the place of irrational reaction.

Not yelling is controlled. It’s from the place of caring, the place of rational response.

Personally, I feel a lot less stress when I don’t yell. When the boys do something that would otherwise make my blood boil, I find myself thinking calmly in the gap between emotion and reaction, and asking “what is the most effective way to deal with this?”

And then I apply it.

If it doesn’t work, I try something else. But I don’t get irrational.

Yelling, I have discovered, is one of those psycho-somatic things … like smiling. If you do it, the corresponding emotion soon follows.  So even if I wasn’t mad, all it took was brief shouting session to get me there.

I know many parents who are semi-to-staunchly authoritarian. Some might think that my newer softer tone makes me a push over.

Some might even say it makes me a weak father figure.

But I would offer that any action born from anger is not controlled – and that in fact, it takes a great deal of strength to restrain our actions – especially when we are angry.

Comparatively, acting on impulse seems weak.

I’m happy I broke the yelling habit. In doing so, I’m setting a better example for my boys.

Over time, they too will understand what I now do: we don’t have to use a loud voice to make a strong point.

Reflections on the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster

March 22, 2011

A Mother’s Love
by Kumi Pinneo

– English translation from a Japan Sankei News article, March 21, 2011

[ … She doesn’t raise her voice to call his name anymore.

It has been nine days after the terrible disaster for a mother looking for her 9-year-old son, in a twisted place where his elementary school once stood.

“I know he is not alive, but he must be very cold in there – I just wanna hold him in my arms and take him out of the dark and cold place,” she said.

Her son was at school when the huge earthquake shook Japan. Few if any, especially that boy’s mother, expected a giant tsunami would eat the whole town only a few minutes later.

In those moments, all the students ran to high ground to escape. But the power of nature was bigger than any could imagine. The monster tsunami swallowed 108 students in one relentless bite.

Only 24 students survived. Many bodies are still under knots of rubble, splintered schools, homes, cars and trees. Many parents still today come to this place to look for their children’s bodies … ]

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi Pref., Japan - Small bags near the Ooakawa School, Mar. 18, 2011, where numerous children went missing after a tsunami engulfed the building. (Japan Sankei News)

As a mother of two boys, it just hurts my heart so much to read that.

How could I face the fact if I lost them? How could I face that fact if I couldn’t find their bodies in the wreckage, knowing they are in that dark and cold place? How could I control myself?

The mother above was not crying or screaming or going crazy.
She just looked and looked and looked for her beloved son.

As a mother, I strive to protect my sons from any danger and I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. But what if their safety is out of my control?  What if we cannot protect our children from injury or death?

What would I do?

What would I feel?

I have no idea. I can’t even imagine.

I feel for that mother in Japan so much. I really feel her – as if I was her. But I think that what I am feeling for her is not even one percent of what she is feeling.

Such as it is with earthquakes and tsunami, the power of nature is strong and often human beings have no power over it and it just happens. The Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster was no one’s fault. It just happened. It happened just as spring arrives in one’s town.

Can that mother blame someone or something? No, she can not.

What is she feeling right now? I pray that we will never know.

Let’s hug and kiss our children when they leave the house each day for school.
When they leave, let’s not forget to let them know – to make them feel – that they are so loved.
Sometimes they give us a hard time whining, fussing, ignoring us, yelling and distracting.

However we do not want to regret. We do not want to look back, at the moments that we didn’t give them hugs and kisses, and wish we had.

~ With love and respect to all the mothers in Japan who lost their children, but not their hope.