Tag Archives: dodge

Giving Kids Freedom To Explore & Be Alone

9 Apr

silo1I grew up in what is now a well-know neighborhood on the east side of Wichita just outside of Andover, KS.  We moved there when I was 9 and back then, it was just a culdesac of houses out in the middle of some fields.  In time, the city grew around it as did other neighborhoods.  I remember when they dug the underpass for the highway.  I remember when the fields I used to play in became a gas station.  I remember when they knocked down the old silo we used to climb to build a housing development.  I remember when they built a bank next to the pond where I used to go to catch wild turkeys.  Everything changed.  The fields of prairie grass I used to run through as a boy on the outskirts of Wichita are now a laundromat, a hotel, condos, and the K-96/Kansas Turnpike Interchange.  It was inevitable…Wichita was (and is) a city rapidly expanding, searching for her borders.

sandpilesWhen I was 9 I would come home from school, grab my bike, and head out the door to the familiar tune of my mother’s voice saying, “Be back in time for dinner!”  That was it.  “Be back in time for dinner.”  Simple.  What was there to be worried about?  We were kids surrounded by fields with dirt bikes.  We were free.  Our parents didn’t hover over us, ask a million questions, and go play with us on a injury-proof playground.  They trusted us…like their parents had trusted them.  My sneaker-clad feet peddled as hard and fast as I could as my Huffy BMX dirt bike whisked me away to…well…the dirt.  That’s where dirt bikes go!  For us it was “The Sandpit.”  The Sandpit was a few acres of fields, trees, streams, thorn bushes, and giant 50 foot high piles of sand for the golf course that occupied the majority of the rural block my neighborhood was located in.  Later in life we’d race go-carts here, build airplanes from broken pallets and scrap wood, and rickety tree forts 30 feet above the ground.  We’d set off fireworks, catch frogs, have stick fights, have real fights, and just…be…kids.

That place doesn’t exist anymore.

When the brick walls of the new housing development sign went up and the fields were dug into deep pits for future ponds, it was the end of an era.  It was also the end of a certain way of parenting.  The dangers of life were catching up to us (or so we may say).  The Sandpit is now a winding row of mansions where the wealthiest of Wichita reside with golf course views, private ponds, water fountains, statues, and smooth sidewalks.  Parents ride bikes with their kids as SUVs slowly crawl along the street giving way to golf-carts.  There are no sticks to be found for stick fighting.  There is no dirt to play in, only manicured lawns.  No one has started a bonfire in the woods for over 2 decades…they’d be arrested!  It is Suburbia.

Dodge in the backyard

Dodge in the backyard

I was recently sitting in the backyard of my house with friends discussing how things have changed.  My boys played in the background as they climbed on their fort, kicked soccer balls, and pretended to be race cars.  The discussion was about how people (myself included at times) had become hover parents despite our efforts to not helicopter around.  I pride myself on not hovering, but circumstances simply don’t allow it (or so we may say).  We live in a neighborhood with city traffic, though our street is a quiet tree-lined family street, we are just 1 block off a major thoroughfare.  I have a fence and inside the confines of my yard…anything goes.  Outside?  “Max…stay close to Dada!  Dodge, take that out of your mouth!”  I am a hover parent.  Hover-ish.  I don’t lord over my kids at the playground and follow them around…but I do recognize dangerous potential and try to steer them away from it.  However, if I see one of them is going to fall and get hurt I tend to let it slide.  Not the kind of hurt where we go to the hospital but the kind of hurt where you skin a knee or bonk your head.  The kind of hurt you learn from.  I stop other parents from stopping my kid.  “Let them fall.”  I say.  Then they do.  Then they cry.  So I ask them, “What happened?”  They tell me, and by the time they are done explaining they are not in pain anymore.  I ask them, “Are you okay?”  They say they are.  I ask them if they want to keep playing and off they go.  Whatever hurt them before they are now naturally cautious of because they learned.  Sitting on the back porch Max trips and falls hands first and gives himself a stinger in the arm.  Dodge later walks without looking and bonks his head on the patio table.  My wife Kate and I brush it off and the kids do too.  Turns out the other couple sitting with us has just read the same article we have.  Their kids are all grown up so we have a perfect generational gap to discuss between their parents, my parents, their childhood, our childhood, their kids’ childhood, and our kids’ childhood.  It makes for fantastic conversation over beers and the first sunny day of Spring.  The discussion is spurred by 2 things:

  1. An article about an adventure playground in Wales called “The Land”
  2. Our visit to the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plain, KS that morning
Photo by Hanna rosin at "The Land"

Photo by Hanna Rosin at “The Land”

The article about “The Land” is one of my most favorite reads in recent history and I highly recommend it.  It is a long read so settle in.  However, it is an amazing recounting of how we got to become helicopter parents, what inspired it, and how places like “The Land” combat it.  It is called “The Overprotected Kid” in The Atlantic.  In it, the author (Hanna Rosin) tells the story of how the “tornado slide” and other unregulated playground equipment changed the scope of outdoor playtime for our children.  “The Land” is an outdoor space where kids can start fires, dig in the mud, and do what kids do…explore their surroundings.  After having read this amazing article I found myself at the Bartlett Arboretum for a private tour with a dozen other adults…and my two kids: Max (3) and Dodge (1).  Robin Macy, former founder of the Dixie Chicks and current steward of the Arboretum, gave the talk as we adults listened.  Max grew restless…he’s a kid…he could care less about the history of the place or the name of a tree…he just saw open space and wanted to explore.  “I’m going right here to this rock Dada.”  Max told me.  I replied, “Okay.”  I could tell he would soon be going much farther than that rock and was sad that I would miss Robin’s talk.  Then I thought of the article about “The Land” and a simple term Kate and I used to say when people asked why we moved to Kansas from New York:  “Good dirt.”  I remember the first time Max put a wad of Kansas dirt in his mouth and spat it out.  I wasn’t worried about him catching some disease or picking up a shard of glass from living in New York City…I just thought, “good dirt.”  I forgot about that somewhere along the line when Dodge was born and started trying to over manage these kids.  So, at the Bartlett Arboretum on a lovely Saturday morning I decided to see how far Max wanted to go…and man did he go!

Dodge in the pit

Dodge in the pit

At first he started testing me by going a few feet farther and farther away from where he said he would play.  I paid no mind and let him go.  Then he asked, “What’s that?”  Pointing at a garden about 100 feet away.  I explained that it was a garden with paths and if he wanted to stay on the path and take his little brother Dodge with him I didn’t mind if he went exploring.  Max took Dodge by the hand and the two of them explored.  Every now and then I glimpsed over and would catch sight of Max ushering Dodge away from something, playing a game, tossing rocks, and being…boys.  It was hard to not go join in (being a child at heart) but this was important for them.  Max needed to feel responsible for Dodge, and Dodge wanted to know that he had control over things in this tiny world.  When the tour moved into the garden where the boys were I was shocked to see there was a huge stone pit with big rock steps down to it.  My first reaction was not fear…but pride.  I was so proud of my son Max for keeping Dodge away from the pit.  That was what he was doing when he was ushering Dodge around.  He wasn’t playing a game or asserting control for no reason.  He was being a good big brother.  He was doing what brothers do – look out for each other.

Max at the Arboretum

Max at the Arboretum

That was the last I saw of Max for a while.  Dodge wanted to toddle around and Max wanted to run…so Max ran.  He crossed the bridge and headed for the meadow and for the first time in his life went someplace alone in nature.  There were no adults around, no other kids, nothing…just good dirt.  I don’t know where he went but he showed up about 5 minutes later by a grove of trees then took off running again while waving a stick around in the air like a sword.  Our paths intersected at the train depot and he took off running to touch the windmill out in the field by the wood pile.  I suspect he would have kept on going if a train hadn’t come along slowly blowing its whistle and scaring him to death.  It was impossible for him to get to the train as there was a creek, a fence, and a hillock between him and the tracks…but he didn’t know that and came running back to me.  We explored the path by the river together and talked about the trains.  Then we got back to the meadow and he was off again, running through the fields and over the bridges.  I helicoptered over Dodge who was dead set on falling in the creek that day and if it was a little warmer I would have let him just to learn a lesson…though at 1 the propensity for repeat trial and error is high.  Max had the day of his life and has asked about the Arboretum every day since.  It was his first time alone in nature…that is an amazing feeling!  We’ll be going back on a regular basis now.

No More Sandpit

No More Sandpit

The sun was setting on the back porch as we finished our beers and talked about the Arboretum and “The Land.”  We recounted the old days before The Sandpit was a housing development and the sledding hill was a highway.  I asked, “What’s the closest to death you think you came to when we were kids?”  All of us had to think for a long time, not because we had no answer…because we had so many.  For me it was when they dug those pits that would be ponds with fountains one day at The Sandpit.  They made the ponds and the roads first so buyers could see what their view would be like.  For us kids it was still our playground when the construction workers were done and we rode our bikes everywhere.  Winter came and dropped a few inches of ice on everything and blanketed Wichita in a thin veil of snow.  Clad in snow-pants we trudged through the crunchy ice/snow to get to our silo where we hid the treasures we found in the world like lunch pails, golf clubs, and money.  On our way back we took the usual route through The Sandpit we had for years…now directly over one of the ponds.  I remember the sound it made when the ice cracked and how it sounded deep below me like a spring in a tunnel.  It didn’t break at first and I was sure if I kept running I’d be fine.  Then it felt like I was being stabbed all over my body and everything was dark.  Even my eyes felt like they were being stabbed.  I was under the ice.  It was a pond so there was no current and I resurfaced almost immediately though it felt like I was underwater for an hour.  The ice I grabbed onto around the hole broke away and my snow-boots felt like lead weights pulling me down.  I kept grabbing at ice, it kept breaking, and my body went numb and everything slowed.  Then finally a bit of ice didn’t break and I eventually found myself crawling across the ice to the shore.  Terror was on my face as well as my best friend’s.  I almost died and the thought racing through my head was, “I am so grounded!”  I ran home, hid my clothes, took a hot shower, and never told my parents what happened that day.  As you are reading this I guarantee you my phone is ringing…its my mom reading this for the first time in horror.

Sorry Mom.

[UPDATE: My mom called 3 hours after this published]

Dodge by the Treehouse

Dodge by the Treehouse

I think dangerous situations come with exploring your surroundings.  With good dirt comes thin ice and fast trains.  I can tell you I’ve never gone out on the ice since with the exception of Lake George and only when I’m with people who know the ice.  I promise you Max won’t go near the train tracks because we’ve talked about those trains every day since.  Live and learn…that’s the expression right?  Somewhere between my kids having total freedom and me helicoptering is where I want to be as a parent.  I know that’s a broad spectrum but so is parenting.  I want Max to run, I want Dodge to eat worms, I want my kids to have secrets between them…but I want them to be safe.  There’s the operative word:  “Safe.”  I think for every parent they have to discern what “safe” means to them based on their surroundings, comfort level, and the kid’s ability to handle responsibility…but if we don’t give them responsibility how will they learn?  How will we know if they are responsible.  We build it up.  Right now Max can play in the back yard by himself and Dodge can if Max is with him.  There are things that they can hurt themselves with there…but they are learning to be responsible around them.  Eventually I hope they will be out the door and I will be calling after them saying, “Be back in time for dinner!”  I cherish my childhood and I have my parents to thank for it.  Nowadays, Kate’s parent’s motto is “If we don’t hear from you we assume things are great.”  That’s the message they sent their kids off to college with.  How cool!  Freedom to explore.

Bartlett Arboretum

Bartlett Arboretum

Yesterday I attended the memorial service of a friend.  One of the first of our motley crew to pass away.  33 years old.  It turns out we are not invincible, not everyone comes up through the hole in the ice, and some of us won’t be home for dinner.  This has presented me with the conundrum of wanting to let my kids roam free while holding them close so nothing bad ever happens to them.  That is parenting…right there.  Wanting better for your kids.  Maybe they don’t need better?  Maybe they need more of the same?  I’m alive…and I have my parents to thank for that, and myself.  Yeah…I fell through the ice one day when I was a kid…but I also called my parents to come pick me up from a high school party when my ride got drunk and I didn’t feel safe getting home.  I got busted drinking beers in the back yard and instead of threatening my life my dad let me drink with him so long as I was willing to stay in for the night and hang out with him.  By the time I graduated college I was a square…got it all out of my system in high school.  How?  My parents’ trust.  I don’t think they trusted me to always make the right decision, but they trusted me to figure out how to get out of a situation and ask for help when I needed it.  If they didn’t hear from me they assumed things were fine…and things were fine.  So I’m just going to keep parenting my kids the way my parents did and the way my wife’s parents did, and instill trust in my kids.

There are more dangers in life now (so they may say)…or are we just hyper aware of them because of the internet, regulations of playgrounds, and less sandpits surrounded by fields?  I think kids need time alone.  They need time alone in their rooms to play, pretend, and read.  They need time alone in nature where they can swing a stick and run like the wind!  They need their own shelf in the refrigerator where they can get their own snacks and drinks.  They need their own privacy when and where they don’t feel like they are being watched…and they know when they are being watched.  They behave differently when they aren’t being watched.  They need secrets.  We have secrets…why shouldn’t they?  So don’t be shocked if Kate and I move out to the country one day…we’re just continuing our search for good dirt and the life decisions (and possible hazards) that come with it.

Max running across the meadow from the sound of the train.

Max running across the meadow from the sound of the train.

The Bartlett Arboretum. Max is somewhere out there.

The Bartlett Arboretum. Max is somewhere out there.

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Dodge’s Birthday Weekend Of Firsts

4 Mar

20140303_175007This past weekend has been circled on my calendar for months.  I knew was going to be hectic…I just didn’t realize how hectic it would be.  Like the perfect storm of to-do lists…the launch party of our new nonprofit, the Wichita State Shockers final game of the season, my son Dodge’s first birthday, my in-laws, the Oscars, and a winter storm all collided within 72 hours for a strange (but awesome) weekend.  It was a weekend of firsts.

Kristyn Chapman Wins

Harvester Launch Party

Over two years ago my wife Kate and I started a program called *asterICT to bring visual arts to Wichita, KS via our digital nomadic business, CreativeRHINO.  Last year Kate turned the project into its own separate entity with her business partner Kristin and it evolved into Harvester Arts, a fiscally sponsored 501(c)3 under the umbrella of Fractured Atlas.  Friday was the launch party.  Months of planning, fund-raising, programming, paperwork, painting, etc. were all set to happen in our 5,000 square foot space and there was of course nervous energy.  We split the space in half, themed the party “Under Construction,” and through the AMAZING work of our volunteers threw a fantastic launch party.  I had told myself I would be happy if 100-200 people came…the weather report was very cold and there were hundreds of other things going on in Wichita for Final Friday.  Then it happened…over 300 people came in the first half hour.  Then we ran out of space.  Then over 500 people were there!  It was a HUGE success and everything from the tech, to the music, to the awards show, to the crowd went perfectly and I couldn’t have asked for a better night.  It was a great weight lifted off my shoulders!  I relaxed, drank a few beers, did my job of kissing hands and shaking babies (see what I did there?), and celebrated the night instead of stressing over working the night.  The local art paper F5 had given us an amazing write-up and it was clear…Harvester Arts was the place to be that night and hopefully the future of alternative visual arts in Wichita.

Friday?  Check!

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The whole family

Boom!  March 1st!  Where has the time gone?  Kate’s parents were in town for the launch party and our son Dodge’s first birthday…but a winter storm was blowing in making their planned Sunday return look impossible.  Many Saturday morning calls were made and the decision was made that for the sake of safety they would leave right away to try to get home before the storm hit and the roads closed.  We felt terrible.  They drove 8+ hours Thursday just to crash with my folks, run errands for us on Friday, party late on Friday night, and then drive 10+ hours back.  They were in town for less than 36 hours and on the road for about 20.  That’s some awesome grandparents right there.  For months Kate and I debated what to do for Dodge’s first birthday.  On one hand he’s just a 1-year old and will never remember the day nor comprehend it as it is happening.  However, we live in a digital era and his older brother Max got a petting zoo for his first birthday.  The bar had been set and Dodge needed to be able to look back at pictures and not feel like he got cheated.  Max liked animals so the petting zoo made sense.  Also, Max got a sunny spring-like day on January 26th, 2012.  Dodge got a winter storm warning with freezing fog and ice.  No petting zoo.  Also, when Kate and I asked each other what Dodge likes right now there was zero hesitation when we responded:  “Food.”  Dodge loves food.  If you have food…he’ll try to pilfer it from you and a simple “no” won’t deter him.  He is persistent.  He knows “more” in baby sign language and that’s what he signs 24/7.  “More!”  More!”  More!”  Then he points to his mouth.  “More food!”  It’s either that or books.  So Kate made a birthday cake that looked like a book, we got him tons of books, and we let him eat as much of whatever he wanted all weekend long.  No one was coming out in the ice so we took him with us (as planned) to the biggest party in town.  We took Dodge to see the Wichita State Shockers play the last game of the season.

Dodge1Shocks

Shock & Dodge!

If you don’t know about the Wichita State Shockers…you are living under a rock or don’t follow sports.  On Saturday they defeated the Missouri State Bears to go 31-0 on the season.  A perfect regular season sweep!  The first to do so in over a decade and the only team to have 31 wins in an undefeated regular season.  It is a record that belongs solely to the Shockers and Dodge got to be there for it!  He is forever a a part of history!  We brought (as always) ear protection for both boys and man they needed it on Saturday.  All 10,506 fans were on their feet screaming as loud as they could and Dodge loved it!  He smiled, he clapped, he gave high-fives, he pointed, he smiled more…he had a great birthday.  It tuckered the little man out and he passed out in the second half.  We woke him up after the game and took him into the locker room to see the team where he got high-fives from seniors Nick Wiggins, Cleanthony Early, Chadrack Lufile, and Kadeem Coleby as well as a hug from Coach Gregg Marshall.  I have a tiny shirt being autographed for him that he can keep forever as a keepsake as proof that he was there to witness history…albeit at the age of 1.

31-0 Shockers

130225170727-wichita-kansas-snow-horizontal-galleryBy the time we left the celebration and headed to the parking lot it was clear that Kate’s parents had made the right decision leaving early.  A fog had rolled in and frozen covering everything in ice…turning Wichita into an ice skating rink.  Kate and I thanked our lucky stars that the weather had held off long enough for us to have the Harvester Arts launch party.  I got the car de-iced enough to drive, and we poked our way home to put the kids to bed after a long dinner where Dodge happily gorged himself.  Kate’s parents watched as highway 30 was reduced to one lane plowed and the whiteout hit Iowa just as their car pulled into the driveway of their home.  Everyone survived Saturday.

Sunday was a hangover.  Flat out truth.  Hung…over.  Saturday had been a hangover too but Advil and some hair of the dog had pushed it aside so I could appreciate my baby boy’s birthday and the Shockers’ win.  Sunday however was a snow day and I couldn’t be happier.  Fat-pants ahoy!  We watched cartoons with the boys, Max and I made chocolate waffles, I did the dishes, Kate did laundry…it was awesome.  That night we were going to continue Dodge’s celebration at dinner with my folks and let him tear into his cake.  The snow turned to sleet, then back to snow, and the temperature dropped.  The boys played together at the train table together til the next first of the weekend happened.  It went like this:

MAX:  “No Dodge!  No!  Dodge!  Noooooo!

<Loud crashing sound>

DODGE:  <Screaming tears>

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Dodge’s Cake

Max (3) was playing with a train when Dodge reached over and grabbed the track.  Max didn’t want Dodge to touch the track he had built so he hit Dodge in the face…hard…and left a mark.  Happy birthday Dodge…you’ve just been cold-cocked!  This was a first.  Max often gets frustrated by Dodge or other kids, but had not retaliated using physicality until this moment.  Max was sent to his room.  This resulted in an epic temper tantrum including screaming, hitting the walls, slamming a door, and talking back to Kate and I.  His time out was escalated to being grounded.  This in turn escalated the tantrum.  This is a topic for another day but we let Max get all his screaming and yelling out then I had a long conversation with him about what had happened.  We got washed up and went to dinner, braving the weather, with my folks where Dodge got to eat to his little heart’s content, he got fun cards that made funny noises, new books, a bouncer toy, and the highlight of the weekend…a cake he attacked with two hands!  Fistfuls of cake and frosting went into his mouth as his sweet little pupils dilated with delight.  Sugar!  It was a first.  Max partook as well and a mini tantrum ensued when he found out it wasn’t his birthday and he kicked Dodge’s new toy…officially solidifying his entrance to the Terrible Threes.  the Oscars played in the background and I said, “Screw it…I’ve had enough events for one weekend.”

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Calm down Max

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Tell more about this “cake” you speak of…

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Best gift…talking card.

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Not too sure about this bouncy horse thing…

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Caaaaaake! Caaaaake! Cake! Cake! Caaaaake!

Once Sunday night rolled around it was just Kate and I.  We’d hosted in-laws, launched a nonprofit, thrown the biggest party in town, watched the Shockers go undefeated, survived an ice storm, parented our way through our boys’ first physical altercation, and of course…thrown our baby boy a fun first birthday complete with high-fives from the Shockers, new toys, cake smashing, and a sweet shiner from his brother.

20140302_203433

Getting taller!

Its hard to believe just 1 year ago I was holding Dodge in my arms for the first time wondering if I would be a good parent.  Wondering if I could handle being a father of two?  Wondering what life would be like with Dodge.  Now?  I can’t imagine life without him and wonder what life was like before he was born.  He greets me at the back door when I come home from work saying, “Dada! Dada!”  He is incredibly ticklish and if you don’t tickle him…he’ll show you where you should tickle him and say, “Tickletickletickle…!”  He’s too busy for hugs but loves to run up to you and say, “Hi!” in a very soft voice, then grin sheepishly, and toddle away.  His favorite game is playing peek-a-boo with the dish rags hanging from the dishwasher and he loved the train table til he got punched by Max…though it doesn’t seem to have deterred him.  He has a little squiggle on the tip of his nose just like me.  He looks like my wife.  He doesn’t understand the concept of riding on my shoulders and tries to sit on my head instead.  He likes to be held, he hates to sleep, and his eyes are soul-piercingly blue.  His hair smells like milk, his patience is astounding, and he is smart as a whip!  He plays nicely with the cat…but that tail is too hard to resist grabbing.  He has a sweet stiff arm he gives to his brother Max when Max is being too rough…needs to work on getting it out in self defense a little sooner.  He has a full-faced smile.  He’s stocky.  He loves books and no matter what is going on around him if you read to him…all is right in his world.  He loves his Mama.  He holds hands with Max when they ride in the car.  He snores when he sleeps and it lulls me to bed.  He is a wonderful little child and I’m proud to be his Dad.

Happy Birthday Dodge!  Next year you get to punch Max.

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The day you were born Dodge.

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Dodge Walks!

12 Feb

20140208_130501No, the title of this article is not a poster for a 1950′s science fiction movie or the name of my hipster bluegrass banjo album.  Dodge, my 11-month old, has started walking.  My wife Kate and I took our first ever vacation alone as parents to head back home to NYC for my sister’s wedding and Kate’s birthday.  We slept in for the first time in 3 years and Kate had a night of uninterrupted sleep in I don’t know how long.  On Saturday morning we ordered room service while lounging in bathrobes sipping coffee, watching ice float by on the Hudson, as SportsCenter rolled along in the background.  Each night we carefully stopped drinking early so as not to have a hangover in the morning or ruin the beauty of kid-free mornings in a Ritz-Carlton bed.  Kate’s mother Kathy took both boys for the weekend…4 whole days!  That’s one AWESOME grandma and if you are looking for a gift to give your adult kids…that is what we want!  It was heaven.  Kathy would send us pictures and texts throughout the weekend with updates about the kids – then we got this one:

“Twice today (Dodge) walked nine steps across the kitchen floor! We tried to get him to do it again so we could video it, and finally got one…but too large a file to send attached to email via my phone.”

So there we are enjoying the best weekend ever…EVER, and we miss Dodge’s first steps.  We’d seen him take 2-3 steps before we left so we didn’t feel terrible, but first thing when we got home late Monday night was enjoy this great video Kathy made of Dodge walking to Grandpa Frank:

Tuesday he walked more and this morning he walked into the dining room at breakfast and said, “Hi Dada.”  Little man is growing up.  Then he climbed 5 stairs and we pulled the reigns!  Time for a new gate on the stairs!

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The Day After Christmas

26 Dec
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Christmas Aftermath

Yesterday was a crazy, exhausting, insane day…and I cherished every minute of it!  After a late night dinner at my parent’s house the boys were exhausted and slept in till about 8 AM.  For Dodge (9 months) it was like any other day but slightly more activity while for Max (almost 3 years old) it was the best day of the year!  To say Max and Dodge were good boys this year would be the understatement of the century.  Sure Max has his tantrums and Dodge isn’t sleeping because he has a tooth coming in and he’s learned to stand…but that’s what kids do at this age.  Take away those things every kid does at their age and here is some of their nice list:

MAXWELL (Almost 3)

  • Listens very well
  • Say’s “Thank you” and “Please”
  • Has amazing reasoning capabilities
  • Very expressive and verbalizes himself
  • Socially outgoing and goes with the flow
  • Very affectionate
  • Give hugs and kisses when asked
  • Takes his dishes to the sink
  • Can take on/off his own shoes
  • Holds his brother’s hand in the car when Dodge cries
  • Points out when Dada uses foul language
  • Does not like or use foul language
  • Amazing imagination
  • Says “I love you Dada” every night at bedtime
  • Very protective of his brother
  • Shares well and plays well with others
  • Smiles and poses for pictures
  • Respects the word “No” if you explain why
  • Will do anything for fireworks
  • Respectful and nice to his sitters
  • No longer sits in a high chair
  • Amazing road trip traveler
  • LOVES Christmas lights (who doesn’t?)
  • Great use of forks and spoons when feeding himself
  • Has started singing…and is good
  • Memorized all his books and will “read” them to you
  • Has learned the alphabet and numbers
  • Almost fully potty trained
  • Has gracefully grown from a toddler to a boy

DODGE (Almost 10 months)

  • Very socially outgoing
  • Constant full-face smile
  • Learned to crawl and stand recently
  • Learned to say “hi” this week
  • Learned to say “bye-bye” on Christmas
  • Plays peek-a-boo at the dinner table
  • Happiest baby I have ever met
  • Plays well with Max and goes with the flow
  • Can rally for parties and stay up late if need be
  • Can melt your heart with his blue eyes
  • Sleeps in his car seat during road trips
  • Smart – understands how things work
  • Likes to point at people then smile
  • Very ticklish around the belly
  • Has 3 teeth…almost 4
  • Comfortable being passed around to family/friends
  • Not too rough on the cat
  • Can entertain himself
  • Can play with Max at train table
  • Captivated by Christmas lights and fans
  • Will eat anything – so easy to feed
  • Lays his head on your chest when sleepy
  • Takes a bath without tears and loves it
  • Learning baby sign language and using it
  • Genuine affection and social skills
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Stockings

Both kids are also stunningly gorgeous and I have no idea how that happened with me as their father…they are clearly 90% from their mom and the other 10% me.  They are so good to each other, though Max often tackles Dodge…out of excitement and not malice.  Max asked Santa for “a big red scooter” because he’d seen one in the book “The Sweet Smell of Christmas” and he got one…but his came from Kate’s folks and Santa took a more passive role in the gift-giving department and played more of a role as “Holiday Ambassador.”  Dodge got many gifts that Max was excited to play with as well and amazingly when Dodge tried to inspect Max’s toys, Max shared as well.  Kate’s parents got the boys an indoor climb-on toy with slide that was a HUGE success, and Max got “Dusty Crophopper” and some other characters from the movie “Planes” which he never relinquished from his tiny grasp.  However, the highlight of the holiday was on the drive home the night before Christmas when Max asked my wife Kate and me, “Can we get something for Santa?”  I explained that we’d put cookies and milk out for Santa but Max meant something more…he wanted to know what we should get for Santa, he wanted Santa to get a gift, he wanted to make sure Santa didn’t feel excluded.

Wrapping Paper!

Wrapping Paper!

I told Max that Santa likes making little boys and girls happy and the best gift we could give him would be to give gifts to other children in our community who don’t have the luxuries we have.  I explained that if we were to give gifts to other children it would also help lessen the load for Santa and this is how he is able to reach so many houses and children on Christmas:  Little boys and girls who help give on his behalf.  Max liked this idea and I did too.  So, post Christmas we are going to round up the toys we don’t play with any more and find them homes for kids in need and want.  As a kid, my family always sponsored a family in need and it was the best shopping you could do, giving a gift to someone who needs something…not just wants it.  However, as my wife pointed out, it is still just another action of shopping.  We both agreed that once Dodge was slightly older we’d dedicate time around the holidays to volunteer at shelters and community centers.  My mother reminded me of when my dad and I peeled potatoes for hours at the shelter when I was young and my whole family helped feed a community on Christmas.  I remembered how insignificant my toys felt after that and how Christmas became more about giving than receiving.

Christmas Dinner

Table Set For Family Dinner

Here’s the hard part…as a dad, I wanted to give my boys everything I could for Christmas to make it amazing.  However, the best part is being together as a family and giving something.  My 2-year-old son reminded me of that when he asked to give something to Santa.  I was reminded of it when he explained to me how the toys and roast beast didn’t make Christmas in Whoville when the Grinch stole them all.  Kids always see things for exactly what they are.  Like when Kate told Max she needed to jump in the shower – then he walked into the bathroom and asked her why she wasn’t jumping.  So this Christmas as Max posed proudly with his new scooter and Dodge played in the mountainous piles of wrapping paper, the best gift was having my wife, two boys, and parents sitting around our Dining Room Table telling stories and laughing together.  I love the presents I got and gave because they are tokens of our affection, but the gifts were (and are) time together.  Max’s number 1 request from Santa (even more than a scooter) was simply a silver bell…which Santa brought.  Max has never read “The Polar Express.”  He’s just a kid that understands the magic of the holidays better than us eager-to-please adults.  Max’s eyes lit up like the Christmas lights he adores so much when he saw his bell and promptly shook it while serenading us with the song “Jingle Bells.”  So, take a deep breath.  Put down the TV remove, walk away from the tablet, and turn on your imagination.  Babies become toddlers, toddlers become kids, kids become young adults, and young adults become adults.  It happens so fast.  This was Dodge’s first Christmas and it feels like Max’s was only yesterday.  I intend to spend my holiday hugging and kissing my boys, rocking Dodge to sleep, playing airplanes with Max, laughing with my family, and cuddling my wife Kate.  Thanks Santa, I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas:  My family.

A Christmas Classic! Max & His Scooter.

A Christmas Classic! Max & His Scooter.

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Merry Christmas!

25 Dec
Merry Christmas from Max, Dodge, Santa, and all of us at So Long Freedom!

Merry Christmas from Max, Dodge, Santa, and all of us at So Long Freedom!

Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at solongfreedom.wordpress.com. Thanks for reading!

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