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First Day Of School

19 Aug

Today is the first day of school for both Max (3) and Dodge (1).  I say School…but it is Preschool.  Maybe Dodge is in Day Care?  I don’t know…all I know is they are not in the house and my wife Kate is back teaching the fall semester at Wichita State.  Yay!  Sanity shall return to the daytime of our household!  This is Max’s second year and he was very upset to learn that his best friend is in a different classroom this year.  His best friend stopped taking naps over the summer and Max still zonks out for a few hours in the afternoon…which I’m all for.  Max didn’t seem to mind once he saw all the other kids and the toys in the new room.  “Bye Dada!”  Zoom!  He was off and playing.  Dodge was the same way.  Last I saw he was playing with a seesaw blue dog and saying, “bye.”  That was it…no fanfare.  Max is back and Dodge is in.

Kate and I tried to take one of those pictures all our friends have of their kids at the front door but Max wouldn’t stop making monster faces and Dodge kept standing up to look and see what I was taking a picture of…so these blurry pictures are what we got:

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I think the second one on the steps would be a sweet album cover for them if they released a single.  They did start a band over the summer called Spaceship Monkey.  Max plays the triangle and Dodge plays the tambourine.  We’re still working out the sound, and genre, and practice schedule.  It’ll come together.

Like her mother leaving after a visit, Kate cried in the parking lot after saying goodbye to the boys.  I quietly celebrated inside and consoled her as I imagined what things might be like when they go to school 5 days a week in the years to come.  Kate was fully aware of how good this is for them developmentally, socially, and how Kate would get her days back to actually work…but as she put it, her “Mom emotions” kicked in.  I think I danced…my “Dad emotions” kicking in…kicking my heels together in the air as I leap for joy.

So Long Summer!

Spaceship Monkey Album Cover

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Roughhousing Brothers

16 Aug

GatesBoysAwhile back I wrote about the importance of dads roughhousing with their kids and the developmental skills it helps develop in children.  I took the advice of a friend and started roughhousing with Max, who was 2 at the time, before bed and the results were awesome…he slept through the night and we developed a special bond.  Now Max is 3 and he has a little brother Dodge who is 1.  Dodge is the toughest most stubborn person I have ever met other than that ugly dude I see in the mirror every day.  Max likes to play “tackle” which involves running as fast as he can from the kitchen, down the hall, and into the family room where he them plows through me as hard as he can…then he gives me a few piledrivers for good measure…then repeats.  This was too rough for Dodge so we lightened the game up.  Dodge would ever so cautiously and gently push me with his tiny hands and I would pretend to fall over like a large tree (I’m 6’4″) while in the process scooping him up.  We would crash to the ground in pretend slow motion as I said, “Bwah!  Bwah!  Bwah!  Bwah…”  Dodge loved this and the game became known as “Bwah. Bwah, Bwah.”  We play it every night before bed.  Max loves it too.  Dodge gets gentle bwahs while Max gets more intense bwahs.

We are learning to set our boundaries.

Now Dodge is 17 months old and he has started tossing piledrivers like his big brother.  I’m getting the crap beat out of me.  The other day Dodge gave a piledriver to the tenders, confirming there would be no baby sister in his future, while Max sat on my face and farted.  Sorry…tooted.  They’re back in school and you can’t say fart…or booty.  Seriously?  Booty?  Another discussion.  The point is, the little buggers are ganging up on me.

They have become a unified Bwah, Bwah, Bwah front!

hoganlegdropFor the past 17 months Kate and I have done everything in our power to keep Max from hurting Dodge.  Now?  One look into Dodge’s steel blue eyes during Bwah, Bwah. Bwah and it is clear to see its only a matter of time before Dodge is the big kahuna round the Gates house.  So…I stopped separating the boys and started letting them roughhouse.  Guess what?  The 1-year old can beat up the 3-year old.  It will be more evenly matched soon and eventually one of these roughhousing bouts will escalate into a fight as they always do, that’s what boys do.  Its inevitable.  Til then, here is the adorableness of Max and Dodge roughhousing before bed where the loser gets tickled and the winner…also gets tickled.

Immediately following this video Max head-butted Dodge.  Dodge cried out, “Owie!”  Dodge then head-butted Max sqare in the nose.  Max cried.  Dodge laughed hysterically.  I feared for my life.

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My Boys’ First Movie Theater

14 Aug

1982I have racked my brain to try to remember the first movie I ever saw in a theater and I don’t know.  I can remember my sitter, Mrs. Riordan, taking me to see Fantasia when I was very little but I’m sure my parents took me to something before that.  Its hard remembering back that far and it seems 1984 is kind of the cutoff point for my memory.  The Black Cauldron, American Tale, Goonies, Howard The Duck, The Muppets Take Manhattan and so on.  I can remember Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981) and E.T. (1982) but it is hard to say if they were my first or if I saw them after they were first released in theaters.  Maybe my folks know but both my boys were baptized into the light of the projector on the same day.  Sunday, August 10 2014 my wife Kate, her mother Kathy (Nan), and I took Max and Dodge to see what they had been asking for:  Planes: Fire & Rescue!

Max (3) is afraid of the dark and hates loud noises so I was prepared to leave early if need be.  To date the only theater experience he’d had was the dolphin show at the Atlanta Aquarium which was a disaster resulting in months of nightmares.  Dodge (1) is pretty much down for whatever so long as there is juice and food there.  I (30-something) am an over-controlling grownup with anxiety being around large groups.  Fun!

warreneastI prepared Max by telling him exactly what was going to happen.  I explained that the lights would dim, there would be previews which are like commercials for other movies, and then the movie would start…and the movie was going to be like watching a TV the size of our house.  Max had many questions about the dimming of the lights and if we could leave the lights on.  I explained I didn’t control the lights and unlike TV we could not pause it so any bathroom breaks would have to take place prior to the movie.  The theater we were in did not have a cry room and that ended up being fine because everyone there was either a kid or a parent.  Almost every parent uttered the same thing to each other in the minutes leading up to the movie, “Mine gets scared before but settles down once the movie starts.”  The room seemed to swell with nervous kids…one would start to sniffle, then another, then tears from the back row, then cries from the front, then a wave of crying followed by the returning tide of “shhhhhh” from the parents.  Max and Dodge looked around and took it all in.  I snuck off and grabbed a bucket of popcorn, a large water, and a box of Goobers.  Then the lights went down and the curtain opened.  Showtime!

Planes-Fire-and-Rescue-PosterMax was pretty scared of the THX sound demo and covered his ears.  Dodge was enthralled.  The previews got Max relaxed and laughing and he scooched closer to me in his seat till he was hugged right up next to our shared armrest.  He clutched his toy planes in his hands, Skipper and El Chu, as the opening credits rolled and the boys’ eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.  Planes!  Lots of planes!  On a giant screen!  I think Max forgot to breathe and then caught himself before he blacked out.  Dodge was like a moth to the flame, sitting in Kate’s lap with his mouth agape.  I pulled the giant popcorn bucket from under my seat and Max hugged it as if it were his most cherished stuffed animal as he and Dodge devoured the contents.  Occasionally, Dodge would shout over to me for more popcorn or juice which we all shared.  Max stayed quiet the entire time and only once burst out shouting with a question for me before remembering we were in a theater.  Time flew by…flew…eh?  See what I did there?  Cause the movie was Planes.  Fire & Rescue.  Okay moving on.

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When the closing credits rolled Max would not leave until his eyes and brain had soaked up every last bit of the film.  We watched every credit and listened to every song.  He was a fan.  To my surprise Dodge had stayed awake and engaged for the entire film!  He had occasionally found the kids sitting behind us more interesting and of course there was the popcorn…but he sat still(ish) for almost 2 hours!  It…was…lovely.  Max and I had put a good dent on the Goobers when the lights came up and he stood for the first time.  We all asked if he liked it and he jumped for joy while shouting, “Yeah!”  Then he took off running down the long hallway of the theater with his arms out like wings.  Dodge took off after him, wings spread wide.

20140810_175911I cannot wait to take them to the movies again.  It was the first movie I have seen in a theater in almost 4 years!  …and I loved it!  Sure, the boys aren’t going to go see Dawn of the Planet of The Apes with me…but maybe Guardians of the Galaxy?  Definitely a sitter for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.  Mad Max: Fury Road is coming out soon…just saying.  Sure, I can’t take them to the action shoot-em-ups I like but I can happily go see things like Big Hero 6 if it means we can go as a family.  It’s like a whole new thing we can do when the weather sucks!

I need to talk to my folks and figure out what my first movie in a theater was.  Max and Dodge?

6172036511438You boys were sitting at the 13th Street Warren Theater in Wichita, KS on Sunday, August 10th for the 4:30 PM showing of Planes: Fire & Rescue…and you both loved it.  Max, you got a Fire & Rescue Dusty toy plane a few days later for good behavior and having to give blood which scared you, and you were a champ.  Dodge, you got a light up toy microphone because you loved the music in the movie and were dancing the entire time…you’ve been shouting into it since.  You both hugged Nan extra hard that night (she bought your tickets) and you cried when she had to leave Tuesday morning.  Max, you bawled in the front door waving bye-bye.  You both love your Nan very much.  She cried too.  It was a special weekend and I don’t know if you will remember it when you are 30-something, but I will.  I’ll never forget it.  I love you both.  -Dada.

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Kids Biting Kids

3 Jun

Having 2 boys a mere 2 years apart means there is going to be a lot of wrestling, roughhousing, and fighting in our house over the next few decades.  Max is 3 and Dodge is 1.  Max is overly aggressive with Dodge and often knocks him over, grabs him by the face, and is generally unaware that he is too rough with him.  In return Dodge has mastered an NFL-ready stiff arm, a two-handed defensive shove, and total mastery of the word “no.”  This morning Dodge was not going to put up with any of Max’s antics.  Who knows what happened prior to the incident.  Maybe Max tackled him at one point or maybe nothing happened at all.  Whatever happened…Dodge left his mark on Max today, literally.  At about 8:40 AM Max gave Dodge a very nice brotherly hug.  It wasn’t too rough, it wasn’t an apology, it wasn’t anything other than a sign of affection.  During this hug Dodge turned his head and bit Max’s face as hard as he good causing Max to let loose a blood-curdling scream.  It sucks that Dodge did this during a moment of affection because I’d love to be able to say to Max, “You were too rough with Dodge and so he bit you.”  Instead, we are just saying, “Dodge doesn’t have words yet and this was his way of saying he didn’t want to be touched.”  Truth be told, its probably karma for that time Max bit a kid in the face at daycare.  What’s up with my kids biting other kids in the face?  Is this a kid thing or just my kids?  Seriously…biting…in the face?  Either way, Max has some sweet teeth marks on his left cheek to remind him not to mess with Dodge.  I guess we’re supposed to scold Dodge and teach Max to turn the other cheek?

Dodge (1) bit Max (3) the left cheek.

Dodge (1) bit Max (3) the left cheek.

UPDATE: 3 hours after publishing this post Dodge struck again!  this time he bit Max’s back.  Kate has dubbed him “Sir Chomps-A-Lot.”  Hopefully Max will steer clear of Dodge during this phase.

Dodge bit Max on his back this time!

Dodge bit Max on his back this time!

Perhaps Dodge is a piranha?

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How To Handle The Terrible Three’s

5 May

20140504_194251My wife and I have a 3-year-old (Max) which is like living with a little tyrant.  Mood swings, tantrums, sweetness, good behavior, bad behavior, hitting, kissing, yelling, hugging, and everything in between.  Last week he had some seriously bad behavior when he started yelling “no!” and throwing his toys at the sitter when she told him it was time to go to bed.  In response to this act I took away all the toys he threw and made a deal with him that he could earn them back one by one by having “good behavior days.”  It’s basically the same system we had before but now with more consequence.  Behave nicely?  Get a toy back.  Behave poorly?  No toy and risk losing another toy.  The result was Max strung together a full week of good behavior days and was a joy to be around.  He was clearly sucking up in the end on Sunday afternoon when he was hugging me over and over again saying, “I love you Daddy.”  Now…I’ll take the affection and believe me, I was loving it.  However, I knew it came at a price.  Max wanted ice cream.  I obliged.

We walked to the DQ, had a lovely chocolate sundae together, he shared with his little brother, and we walked home.  He was a little argumentative going to bed but that was to be expected after a long weekend and a belly full of ice cream.  He went to bed and all was right with the world.

This morning Godzilla arose from his bedroom.  The whining, the yelling, the back-talking to my wife, and throwing all came surging back and I began questioning everything.  Did we teach him anything last week?  Was it all just an elaborate bribe…and once it was over we were back to square zero?  Should I go back to rewarding good behavior?  Should we only punish bad behavior?  Should we just buckle in and survive this phase?  Should we sell him on Craigslist?  I know it is some balance of everything and every kid is different…but I wanted to hear from my readers and poll your thoughts:

Please take the poll (above) and comment on this post with your thoughts.  I’d love to hear from other parents out there with kids in the throes of the Terrible Three’s and what has worked for them.

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