Archives for June 2015

Early Independence

My dear ones, you both know that I don’t like to be awakened before 7 AM. Of late, I said that if you woke me up early, there would be no screen-time that morning. That mostly worked. There are mornings when you’ll be making lots of noise outside my room, including yelling at each other to be quiet, but you at least try.

Now, with it being summer and near the longest day of the year, Lucas, you recently asked “How come 7:00 is getting farther and farther away?” But the real challenge is not earlier daylight, as much as the fact that you start to get hungry once you wake up. For a while, I left cereal out for you, and that worked. But your favorite breakfast food is a toasted waffle. I gave you the rule that only mom and I change the dial on the toaster, and for a while, that worked.

But on this fateful morning, my loves, you ventured into the cupboard with canned goods, none of which you could open. Well, except for the Mandarin oranges, which have pull-tops, and you both love those. My concern would be the sharp edge on the lid, but on 2 of the three cans you opened, you were successful. Well, except that I noticed that the kitchen floor was wet in places, and then also quite sticky. You see, that third can posed a bit of a challenge for you. You managed to pop the top enough to break the seal, but were not able to lift the tab enough to pry the top all they way off. In your attempts, you apparently spilled quite a bit of the juice.

However, I didn’t even KNOW about the third can… I just assumed that it was the juice from one of the open cans that you each had before you. So when I rhetorically asked about the spill on the floor, you told me that it came from the one still in the cabinet. I looked, and that’s when I found the partially open can with less than half of the juice still in there.

RaccoonAnd so, my loves, while I do indeed appreciate and value you growing early independence, I could not help but recall a story from my grandma about raccoon when she lived on Sanibel Island in Florida. You see, she loved to watch those little creatures, and there was a family of them that would walk across her porch each morning. She made the mistake of leaving some marshmallows out for them, and would delight in watching the family devour them in the early morning. That is, until one morning, after weeks of having done this, Grandma forgot to leave the marshmallows out when she was sleeping in. So she was not up up to see the raccoons searching in vein for the sweet treats that had now become an entitlement. In retaliation, they took everything that they were able to carry – shoes, flip-flops, a small planter or two, and summarily destroyed them. The plants they knocked over, the shoes they chewed on and left in the back yard for the alligators, and a handful of ceramic items they broke. I suppose it was the hearing the latter that alerted grandpa to their dissatisfaction.

Now while grandma was known to spoil Darron and me rotten, she was nowhere near as understanding with the raccoons. They had eaten their last marshmallow, and grandma set up a more defensible perimeter by bringing more of her stuff inside from the porch until the young family of bandits learned to move on.

So for you, my dear ones, I just added to the list that includes “no touching the toaster dial” that canned foods are off limits for breakfast until I’m awake. We’ll see how long that works.

Fiscal Policy for 6-year-olds

You two turn 6 years old in just 10 days. So Mom and I are trying to figure out how to set you up on an allowance, and there’s just so many ways to structure one, that we’re not sure what to do yet.

You see, right now, you already know that if you want money, you work for it… most often, that means helping Mom pull weeds (you get $1 per bucket). Lucas, you already seem to have a grasp of what money is, how to get it, and that you need more if you want better toys. Anna, you appear to operate from simply not having enough, and have not yet integrated that one needs to work to get more.

But even that notion – work for reward – I know to be primitive. What really happens is that one creates or delivers value to others that is equal to or greater than what they give as a reward. A week or so back, you both got a cup, and wanted to sell me a glass of water for $1. Anna, you even wrote out a nice chart – 1 glass = $1; 2 glasses = $2. But when I said that I would not buy one, and that any time I wanted water, I could just fill my own glass, you were both disappointed. I did not want to squash your entrepreneurial spirit, but nor was I going to pay for something I already own or can get for free.

So I made a new game… I told you that I would pay you each $0.25 for a glass of water AND a nice drawing. I told you that the drawing is what made the water more valuable, and I would pay for the greater value of what you created. Next, you both wanted a piece of paper. I thought for a moment here, and decided that I would “sell” you a piece of paper for $0.05 each. You said that you did not have a nickel, so I told you I would loan it to you, and what that meant – that I was giving you something now, that you would have to pay for later. I think you only got part of the idea, but that was OK.

So then you both went to work on your drawings, and when complete, I paid you both 2 dimes and a nickel for the drawing and water. I gave the water to the plants who looked more thirsty than I was, and kept the drawings. Then I asked you about paying for the paper. You had forgotten, so I reminded you that you both bought something from me that you had not paid for, and the concept made slightly more sense then, as evidenced by neither of you fussing about having to now give-back part of what you earned. Then we put your dimes into your piggy-bank.

But now back to allowance – my concern is that if you see you start getting money “just because” that it might subtract from knowing that you work for money. Of course we can and will show you that work will supplement what you can gain, but I don’t want allowance to detract from work-ethic.

So here’s our current thinking:
You’ll each get $2/week.
From that, it will go into three “jars” – one for giving, one for saving, and one for spending.

  • Giving – this is money that you give for the benefit of others. The church. Food drives. Rice-bowls. Books for others, etc. The expectation here is that 10-15% go in here, or $0.25 from your $2/week allowance (it’s 12.5% just because the quarter is easy). Our goal hear is to present that from our earnings, we help those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
  • Savings – This is yours too. You can spend it, but only after it reaches $5, and we have to agree on what you spend it on. The point here is that for savings, you have to have a conversation first before dipping into it. These are conversations about learning and values. We don’t know what will and won’t be OK here yet… just that we talk first. On $2/week, $0.75/week goes into savings.
  • Spending – yours to spend on whatever you want, except contraband material (nothing that could produce real injury.)
    This is just an allowance – you get it every week just for being you. It is NOT tied to chores or homework. And you are also free to earn money in other ways, such as when you help Mom pull weeds, or make other arrangements for doing something that other people value. However, even for money that you earn, those go into these three “jars” too. So for just $1, that would be 0.10 in “giving”, 0.40 in savings, and 0.50 in spending.

Lastly, in the case of gifts that you receive, you can put those into whatever jar you choose.

So it occurs to me writing all this out that I’m doing two things. First is my own attempts to be crystal clear, and to write down what Mom and I both agree will work. Second is that we are laying the groundwork for your future fiscal policy with life.

After we put the above in place, I did a bit of searching online, and it turns out something like the above has some external grounding that we can draw upon.

cf.: Kid’s Allowances: Your’re Doing It All Wrong

I Don’t Believe You

Anna, my dear, something apparently happened in your experience that rattled you quite a bit. Every day, multiple times, I Iet you both know that “I love you, and I will always love you, no matter what, I promise.” But this morning, you came into my room and asserted that you did not believe me. You were certain that I love Lucas more than you, and would hear nothing to the contrary.

First off, despite being completely untrue, you somehow got that it also meant that I did not love you at all anymore. So mostly, I just listened to where you were, and did my best to reassure you, but that seemed to matter little. Eventually, you came around to that I love you with HALF of my heart. Then you said only 1/4 – Mom, Lucas, and the dog got the other 3/4 in equal parts.

So I tired explaining that love is additive, not subtractive, though not using those words. Love is not like a pie, that when you give it away, there is less of it. It’s more like a hug… both people get a hug at the same time, and afterwards, there’s still more hugs left to share. I’m not sure if you got it or not, but you did seem to settle down over the next few days and sink back into your regular levels of cuddling and tenderness. Still, I wonder what it was that so triggered you.

Water Fight

Over the 4th of July, we went to aunt Megan and uncle Matt’s house. Other family and their friends were there, but most significant for the two of you was uncle George. Your cousin Liam had a little pool, similar to one we got for your birthdays. But the water was a bit gross, and rather than just dumping it out, somehow all of the little kids who were there managed to get into an all-out water fight with George. It lasted maybe 20 minutes, and you were all just laughing your little tails off until you started to get cold, despite it being in the 90’s

But today, after we got back from our morning adventures, Lucas, you took it upon yourself to start squirting me with a squirt-gun. At some point, I grabbed it from you and turned the tables by squirting you back. You found another, and the war had begun. Now, dear Anna, lest Lucas and I have all the fun, you took a far more subdued and dare I say thoughtful approach. You grabbed a small watering bucket and coyly filled it up to play, drawing no attention to yourself. That is, until Lucas and I submerged our pistols into the pool to refill them, whereupon you promptly DUMPED your bucket down my shorts!

For but a brief moment, I was incensed, but recognized that you just wanted to play too, whereupon things started escalating. Lucas, you wanted to fill up a bucket that was bigger than you could carry. Anna, you grabbed another smaller bucket, but dropped it when I started chasing you. So I took up a stronghold position near the pool with the bucket while the two of you pelted me with your meager squirt-guns. All of us where getting quite wet, but Lucas, you said it was not fair, despite it being two of you against one. You said that you wanted the hand bucket and asked to trade, so I did.

But now that you had larger armaments at your disposal, I had to upgrade as well. So I went for the hose. It didn’t have a nozzle on it, so I controlled it by chinking the hose near the end. If you kept your distance, I left you alone. But anytime either of you tried to dump your bucket on me, you got doused. Once again, dear Lucas, you said it was not fair, and you wanted to trade, so I did.

Except that right after handing you the howitzer-hose, I ran farther down the line and put a chink in there that cut off your supply. But for some reason, you didn’t fully grasp what was going on, and when you went to look down the barrel of your newly acquired weapon, I… I… OK, I’m not particularly proud of this part, but I let the chink go and you got it direct in your face and chest before I stopped the supply again. You laughed, but still failed to grasp what was going on, so you looked down the barrel a second time, whereupon the exercise repeated, maybe a few more times.

As I recall this afternoon’s events here in writing, I can’t help but think that water fights simply don’t bring out the best in me, for there was another experience many years back between my brother and I when we were young. It started with squirt-guns, maybe escalated to water balloons, and it too ended with a bucket and a hose. Except that in this case, I had climbed up the outside balcony to Mom & Dad’s room, which was directly OVER the spigot to the hose. Darron desperately wanted to get the hose and turn it on, but he knew that the moment he approached the spigot, I would dump the bucket on him. Eventually, he did the mental calculus to figure out that one bucket was hardly equivalent to the continuous fire-power of the hose when I would be trapped on the balcony, and ran for the spigot. Naturally, I DID dump the water on him, but no sooner did he get the hose turned on when I simply opened our parent’s sliding glass door and went inside.

So, like I said… maybe water fights don’t bring out the best in me. But I do know that we all had a really good time getting soaking wet on a really hot day. Both of you said it was the best part of your day at tuck-in.

Where to Start?

My dear ones, this fall you will both start school at St. Luke. Coming from a family with two moms, even choosing a Catholic school was no small task, at least for me. But we got reassurance from the principal, as well as another gay couple that it’s not an issue there.

The larger issue was over whether to have you two start Kindergarten, or 1st grade next year. Your current Montessori teacher has been insistent that you both have to start 1st grade, and that if you don’t, Lucas, you in particular are apt to be board and get into trouble. That was less a concern for you, Anna.
About 2 months back, we had you both “assessed” by somebody at the school, but the two Kindergarten teachers were not there at the time, so they did not get to see you themselves. Based largely on your manual writing, they thought it better you start Kindergarten, but again your Montessori teacher was insistent. So that left Mom and I with two different professionals, making different assessments, using different data, to different standards, and we were left confused as to what the best choice would really be. Mom valued the school’s assessment, and I valued that of your current teacher.

So this past week, we had you both go back again for another day in class, this time with the teachers. This afternoon, we went to meet with the teachers and principal for feedback. Unfortunately, their comments were that it was NOT a cut and dry choice. For both of you, there were areas where you were far advanced of the other entering Kindergarteners, but also many areas where you were quite behind what the entering 1st graders would be doing.

Mom was convinced K was the best and easiest choice. I needed far more convincing – not that K was better, but rather that it was really the best choice. And as i write, that is indeed where we will be starting you, but only after much anguish on my part. Are we essentially putting you in too easy a class, setting you behind by a year? Were we to put you in 1st grade, would we be setting you up for greater stress and struggle?

For my part, my loves, I know that it will all be just fine in the long run, and the major factors were that Anna, you are presently easily discouraged, and were you to struggle in 1st grade, it might set you up for struggle and feeling badly about yourself for a long journey. As a girl, your self-confidence is already under attack in society, so if this helps protect you just a bit more, then I support it for you. And Lucas, my love, you are still very much on the small side (5th percentile). And boys in particular can be cruel to the small or weak, and to have you go through all of school until puberty as the little-kid would not set you up for self-esteem or competitive advantage either. So by choosing to have you start in K, there’s a better chance that you’ll not be the smallest in class, and also that you’ll be in a better position to excel physically, which is so important to the boys.