Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Bug's Life

My youngest child who is five now, loves bugs. He has always loved bugs. He loves them so much that he has no reservations about touching or holding them. In the past my wife and I have had to tell him to put things down. When he was three, he came to us proudly holding a slimy slug. After he started placing the slug near his mouth, his mother and I had to institute a no slug policy. I want to teach him to think before he touches stuff, besides bugs are disgusting and I’m a bit of a germaphobe. He won’t go near spiders, thank goodness. He’s ok with that as he informed me the other day that spiders are not insects, they are infact arachnids which are much different. So, it isn’t uncommon to find my little guy coming the yard looking for unique and interesting insects. I must say he is getting pretty good at it.

To fuel my son’s interest in creepy crawlies, he made a bug catcher at preschool. It’s actually pretty cool. It’s nothing more than a small cage to put bugs in, but its construction was well done. After school that day the little guy wasted no time in procuring a small black beetle to inhabit the newly made cell. My son’s intention was to take good care of the beetle. He told me that the beetle was his good friend. Later I noticed that the beetles house had all sorts of grass furnishings to make it feel welcome. Days went by and he still had his friend. At times my son would take the beetle out of his cage to play with him. I would warn by telling my son that I didn't want a bug on the loose in the house. The bug tamer boy turned out to be quite responsible. The beetle was always placed in the cage and looked after. At night before I go to bed, I check on my sleeping children to make sure they are still tucked in. And every night my dedicated son always has the little bug catcher and its occupant next to him at the head of his bead.

A couple of weeks ago my little son and I were watching a speaker on TED talks. This speaker was demonstrating various kinds of bugs. As the presentation continued, the bug expert showed how insects should be used as food. He informed us on the bug’s excellent nutrition and vitamin content. He pointed out that bug sustainability surpases that of standard forms of food resourses. It was a very interesting presentation to which he concluded by eating a small sample of bugs. This presentation would have a surprising effect on both my son and me.

Yesterday, I was working on a project in my garage. This is a pretty common thing for me to do. So I naturally have my youngest with me. It was a nice day outside, so the large door was open to enjoy the sun and to let my guy out to play. He usually colors the driveway with chalk art and goes insect hunting. Pretty normal day.

Then I hear him say, “daddy, I found some ants!” At this point I’m only halfway listening, but there was no alarm in his statement. I just made the usual fatherly “uh huh” noise and kept working. Then he said something about “taste”. Again there was no alarm in his voice, and I was busy concentrating on something else. A minute later I hear him say something about “tasting good”. I had my hands full so I just responded with some kind of low acknowledgement. This went on for about twenty minutes. As my focus lessened on what my hands were trying to accomplish, my mind started to wonder about what adventure my very tactile son was involved with. “Hey little buddy” I exclaimed! “What are you doing?” I could see the blond hair of my son as he stood up from the driveway. He quickly skipped over to where I was standing, just inside the garage door. He said proudly, “I found some ants and I’m eating them!” I wasn’t sure if I should believe him or just go along with the joke. So I said, “oh ya, what do they taste like?” He then informed me that they tasted like broccoli. My curiosity grew steadily as the “joke” took another step forward into concern. So as any good father would do, I responded with the very juvenile but reliable playground ploy of, “why don’t you show me.” My son then turned excitedly and said, “ok daddy.” Now the joke was turning into some sick kind of dare.

My five year old son walked over to a crack in the cement where scores of tiny ants appeared to be running around. He then reached down grabbed an ant with his tweezer like fingers and placed the insect in his mouth and began chewing. I watched in unbelief as my boy began digesting this creature. I wasn’t sure how to feel. Should I be proud or concerned? Maybe I should freak out and wash my son’s mouth out with soap. A whole myriad of thoughts rushed over me as how I should act. I was at a definite intersection in how I could handle this.

Then I remembered the guy on TED talks. Maybe this could be a good learning tool. So, I told my son to catch another ant. As he began wrangling the insect, I walked over the the feeding ground and crouched down to watch. He soon found another victim and held it up to my face. At this time, the experience was not some kind of dare, although it could be categorized as sick. It was in actuality a special kind of moment between father and son. I opened my mouth trying not to think about what was going to happen. With quick fingers my little boy rolled the ant into my mouth. I could tell he had some experience doing this as he knew how to be fast enough as to keep the ant from escaping the jaws of death. I bit down fast to put the bug out of its misery and to begin mine.

First of all, ants do not taste like broccoli. I have found their taste to be a bit sour and mostly tart. The tiny bug was surprisingly crunchy. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. But mostly I enjoyed the moment between my son and me. I acted differently in this situation than I normally would have. It was definitely worth it. The look on my son’s face in this sharing moment was priceless.

-Brother Jared  

Friday, May 11, 2012


I'm no expert. When my oldest was still quite young we hired an expert to teach us some tools to help us raise her. It was a tremendous help to my wife and I and the lessons we learned from this expert have stuck with us through all these years. I thought I'd jot down some of these guidelines on how to handle your little ones. Perhaps you can benefit as we have.

1. Respect for you (the parents) as leaders of the family is key. If they don't see you as being in charge it leaves them confused and they will act out in trying to understand boundaries.

2. Fear is not respect.

3. Corrections in behavior need to happen immediately and consistently.

4. When correcting, it is not enough to point out what is bad/wrong; you have to show them what is correct.

5. Praise for good behavior works better than disciplining bad behaviors.

6. Never discipline good behaviors.

7. Never reward bad behaviors.

8. They are constantly learning state. Everything you do with them will be observed and will modify their behavior either directly or indirectly.

Now, most of you seasoned parents will regard this list as statement of the obvious. To me, however, they were tremendously helpful. By always having these guidelines in the back of my mind I've been able to deal with my children in much more consciously and in ways that I feel are much more healthy for my kids. Don't get me wrong. I am by no means the perfect parent, but I am getting better as I learn to implement these guidelines.

I guess I should tell you who this expert is. She is a dog trainer. Oh, and when I mentioned my "oldest", I was referring to my dog. Yes, these are guidelines for dog training. As we were being taught how to train our dog I had this moment when I realized that the basic rules would apply to children as well. It just might be crazy enough to work. So far, so good.

As time has passed, I've met couples who have had the most obedient and well trained dogs, but their kids were complete brats. I've always thought in those moments that their kids would be happier and more well adjusted if their parents would only use some of their training knowledge. Some of you may be incensed, thinking that I treat my kids like dogs. No, I don't swat them on the nose with a newspaper, nor do I have them crate trained (hey! there's an idea!). These are guidelines, not hard-fast rules. Don't think of it as treating your kids like dogs - think of it more like treating your dogs the way you should be treating your kids. But what do I know? I'm no expert. To be honest, though, I don't think there is such a thing.

-Brother Brett

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Crossing Eden

As my three children grow, I have to keep up with how I relate to them. It’s amazing the things my children will say. Sometimes they sound like they’re all grown up. I find this common now with my 7 year old daughter. Her grown up statements crack me up sometimes. Other times I don’t know how I should feel. It’s just kind of strange. It’s not just what she says, it’s how she says it. The tone, the emphasys, all sound as if she were 20. I hope others out there can relate to what i’m experiencing. You see, when this happens it’s almost as if I am able to see for a split second,  who my little daughter will grow to be.

The reason these small experiences stick in my mind, is that I do not want my situation to change with my daughter. I will always be there for her. And my job as a father is to be her teacher and protector. As she gets older I have to adjust how I manage those tasks. I know what you’re thinking, she’s only 7, don’t be silly! And you are probably correct in thinking this. The thing is, my daughter is way different than my two boys who are 5 and 9. I see her growing up much quicker than the other two. I’ve always heard that girls mature much faster than boys, and this seems true for my family. Now I have to treat the girl differently in some ways, than the boys.

I think in all families each child has their own sort of relationship with parents, especially when you cross gender lines. Having said that, in day to day life I am very accustomed to placing the children in one group and my wife and me in the other group. This makes things simple. And I love things that are simple. If something goes wrong, it's the fault of the parents or the children did something bad. Simple. My daughter on the other hand does not share my “simple” belief. It seems, at almost every turn these days, she uses her new found maturity to point this out. You see, I think she wants to be in her own group. I can appreciate the fact that she has always been a bit headstrong (she gets that from her mom), but now she is making my simple world much more complicated. My cute little daughter has now grown much more accustomed to challenge parental decisions even at her benefit. The word “brat” might come into your mind about now. But it’s not a brat thing. Brat I can handle. I know how to fix that. It’s something else of which I can’t put my finger on. Is this a normal behavioral benchmark along the way to adulthood? Or should I intervene in some way to prevent something bad for my daughter.

I have family members and friends who have had great challenge with their kids when they grew to be teenagers. I acknowledge that some of this is quite normal as teenie boppers seem to think they know everything, but some of it has also been extreme. Parents of these families have spoken to me with warnings and information on what to expect with teen aged children. Some of the stories that I hear scare the crap out of me to be honest. What will I do to keep my kids from going down that road? What can I do to help my daughter who is already striving for independence to stay on a path that will provide security. Maybe it’s an over protective dad thing to over worry about his daughter. There are different ways to look at it. However, i’m not sure being over protective or over concerned is always a bad thing.

For now I am going to be patient and show my little girl lots of love and encouragement. I will not support bad behavior or condone bratieness. I have no problem crossing my daughter to teach her respect. At the same time I will let her know that I will be there for her during any of life's stages, she may be going through. I just need to remember to stick to the basics and continue to be fair, firm, and consistent as I do with all my children. It seems that when I forget to focus on basic principles, my fatherly powers are at a much lower level. Children know when you aren’t being fair, firm or consistent and they will be quick to call you out on it. Especially the consistent part. Being consistent is the hard part when you have several children at home who seem to be growing up so fast. Something I was taught by my parents, is the importance of getting things right with children when they are young.

I remember learning that the young years of a child’s life will speak volumes when compared to their adult life. If children do not understand basic social morals such as respect and civility before they are 10 years old, it is much more difficult to handle them when they are teenagers. This can sometimes lead them into trouble after they become adults. I think about this all the time, especially now that my daughter seems to be branching out. So, I will be patient and stick to the basics. This will have to work for me for now. And besides I love simplicity. And who knows, with a little luck my daughter will turn out just fine. Ya, this whole rant is probably just an overprotective dad thing. Right? After all, she’s only 7.  

-Brother Jared