Posts Tagged ‘figgy’

Two Faces

26 April 2011

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Dear J-

The big social obligation is over: as both my brother and I are visiting my parents wanted to host a party and while the turnout wasn’t huge it was respectable and most of all figgy got a chance to run around with her cousins. Typically when we meet up with family it’s in a restaurant where the norm is decorous ingestion of food, not screaming and jumping as four-year-olds are capable of for hours on end. The contrast was especially marked in comparison with the morning, when we went to the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. We picked a day that coincided with a couple of field trips and so she spent the morning getting jostled by bigger kids and pushed out of the way. The quiet figgy we saw was nothing like the bossy (let’s be charitable and say leader) kid we saw this afternoon, commanding fiercely.

I love that about her: the unerring ability to seize a comfortable relationship and twist it for her own ends, though it’s often hard to appreciate when I’m the one getting bossed around. It’s therefore hard to see her in the unfamiliar not wanting to take charge, though that’s no doubt because no one feels comfortable in awkward social situations (they wouldn’t be awkward if you felt comfortable, after all). We are just passengers on the ride some days, and we are in awe of how fast she has picked up the basics of manipulation and reasoning, trying to make us pawns without much success yet. We bribe her to get through the day (if this, then reward) and little tasks so I wonder how the rest of the childhood gets any easier.

We are getting older. Colds seem a bit more severe with every new virus and I know it’s not just because the bugs keep getting stronger. Our metabolism has definitely slowed down and the burgers stick around so much longer. There will come a time — and no doubt soon — when the charismatic lies she tells us will be indistinguishable from what we see to be the truth. The longer we keep guiding her though the better off we are in the long run and we just need to remind her who gets hurt in these situations. We’re getting older, and she has a long road to run.

Mike

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Patient Zero

13 April 2011

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Dear J-

If you read some of these medical drama-type novels where the antagonist is not some terrorist or ideologically-opposed character but a faceless disease — think hantavirus or dysentery — they like to trace the origins back to some hapless Patient Zero who serves the same cannon-fodder role as the anonymous Security redshirt on Star Trek. Imagine the agent’s call: good news, you’ve got the part, but unfortunately you perish in a matter of moments*. Likewise in our family we note with some dismay the emergence of symptoms that only mean sickness is coming our way sooner or later. Invisibly, though, we’ve come to resemble one another in subtle ways both flattering and not.

One of my most terrible character traits is a lack of patience: if there’s something I want I seem to find a way to wheedle until it’s mine, sooner or later. Well, it’s not so much wheedle as make everyone’s life miserable until I get my way, whether it’s as simple as badgering people to stop what they’re doing and help me with this or looking for something I’ve lost and getting the rest of the family involved looking. For what it’s worth I feel immediate shame and remorse but it’s a hardwired response: everyone stop, we’re not doing anything until I get this done. In the end you find it eventually but it’s the asking everyone else to help because of my impatience that drives me nuts sometimes.

At the same time like some kind of mental disease I see myself reflected in figgy’s demands: as crazy as I deem her she has learned** the lack of patience from me. From the abrupt silences to plosive exhalations and final dramatic declarations (“Fine! I’m NOT going to be your friend any more!”) all the tricks of dear old dad are on display. I don’t remember my parents acting that way so I suppose that makes me zero patience Patient Zero. The mirror is sharp and painful even when it’s only a truthful image of myself. As much as I do want to teach the next generation I’m always crippled with paralyzing fears that the lessons I give are poor quality and off message to boot. So if I’m Patient Zero I’ll embrace it and instead become the change I want to see.

Mike

* There are times when I think that as part of the break in this tradition that The Next Generation afforded, along with the swap of Command gold and Security red, they installed Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) as a charismatic, major-character Security chief. Of course they went and killed her off later that first season so that puts that to bed somewhat.

** Things she has also learned from me:
– how to curse at cars on the freeway
– how boys pee
– obsessive collection habits
– immersing yourself in technology to the exclusion of others
– poor sitting posture
– knee to the groin

Cheese Challenge

3 April 2011

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Dear J-

After breakfast this morning we brought the kids inside, Calcifer peacefully lulled to slumber through the magic of the two-ton rolling pacifier and figgy slightly hopped up on carbohydrates and syrup (Swedish pancakes and French toast: very Continental of her). So of course she pounces on him and shakes him awake despite us trying to pry them apart and she got a timeout early on today as a result. We’re learning that the threat of deprivation is effective only when cooupled with the ability to follow through: we can say that we’re going to cancel her birthday party to ensure compliance, for instance, but it’s not something we can really do.

After we got to our afternoon destination — we’d left ridiculously early which was then eaten up by inexplicable traffic through Camp Pendleton — we joined the chaos in progress at Chuck E Cheese. The setup reminded me of another party we had attended a few months ago — and she had tremendous fun there as she did today as well — but it was a place where the kids got to play not with each other but hitting up machines for tickets like the youngest Lotto players on earth. It’s still fun but I dunno, there’s a kind of convenience that doesn’t seem worth it. The kids kept coalescing and dispersing like ink in water; together to eat and sing a happy birthday then back out amongst the machines to harvest tickets.

We’ve been to more than a few birthday parties now and without fail it’s the ones where the parents spend more effort that hit the most highlights in my mind. Now that we’re faced with the prospect of hosting our first real social event since the time we got married I’m a little scared that we’re maybe not doing enough. It should be fine. Lord knows that the ultimate arbiters of taste — the kids — aren’t going to be too judgmental about the shindig so long as there’s activities, pizza, and cake. And if the excited screams usually terminating in a semi-slurred “ChuggaCheese” coming from her room are any indication it really doesn’t matter if she plays with friends or by herself. There’s more than enough time to be alone though and plays well with others is definitely a skill to be cultivated.

Mike

Three Status

21 March 2011

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Dear J-

There’s a short list of things I’ve learned not to get too comfortable around: sharks, killer whales, elephants, ostriches, running cars, and high-velocity games. Add to that children, television watching, and sugar. The weekend offers so many lessons that it’s hard to know where to start. For those of you who can’t wait until your kids are old enough tp come run and join you in bed on the weekends you must have well_behaved kids who nestle quietly in the warm spot between you for some well-deserved cuddle time. On the other hand there’s figgy and the pro-wrestling moves she adopts to get us going iln the mornings.

When she is sleepy she grows properly lethargic, but when she’s really sleepy she gets hyper — that’s our sign that a proper impending crash is coming, and we’d do well to let it run its destructive course, picking up the pieces later is much easier. The truth is that sometimes I’m at a loss to explain the force of nature she becomes, hurricane figgy, prone to destruction and benevolence, often in the space of a few sentences. Then again she is nigh-four and that accounts for a lot of it. You know how they talk about the terrible twos? For us it’s been a little more like threes as well, though not so much terrible as let’s say outspoken and confident. But what charms at two wears by five, so of course things can’t continue this way forever.

She has her own way of handling things. We hear our own words of frustration creeping out in her voice when there’s something we haven’t done to her satisfaction. Any real boss would be laughed out given the demands her Imperial Majesty gives but we do it with good humor because she has us laughing helplessly the next minute, something impossibly precocious (she has started singing pop songs using her curreny vocabulary, and has somehow figured out the big dog isn’t coming back soon) or misunderstood (I can take my brother out for a walk, right?) making all the difference in the day. She is crazy, as all three-not-quite-four year olds are and I love her.

Mike

P.S. I came home today and theVet told me she’d earned two timeouts today, one for not listening, and one for painting the chair with cheese. Apparently she was not as hungry as advertised.

Social Day

19 March 2011

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Dear J-

We have a tendency to collect authors after reading a book or two — thanks to The Hunger Games we picked up a few more books from Suzanne Collins from the library today. Whether or not they turn out to be as engrossing as that hugely popular series (we seem to be on the trailing edge of all popular trends because we don’t subscribe to the trendy magazines telling us what to watch/read/own. It’s also like how I pick new artists: listen to enough movie soundtracks and you’ll find an album or two you need to buy.

This afternoon we went to an open house at Project Wildlife because of a posting theVet saw on facebook. Between the fun promised (face-painting!) and animals to be seen (babies and raccoons!) we couldn’t stay away. It was a relatively impulsive decision and the timing could have been better (it’s hard to keep kid attention at the best of times and over lunch is nearly impossible, especially when you aren’t even eating lunch) but we got enough use out of the day and the opportunities it presented. So it wasn’t a case where we could sample before going all in, but if you trust your friends and their recommendations then it’s not much of a risk.

We did eventually get to lunch — late enough that you might have called it, accurately, an early dinner. Today we ate at familiar places (McDonald’s and Curry House) so that was easy enough. At this point figgy is really calling the shots on where we eat. She’s not a horribly picky eater but she does have definite preferences that will not wait. Sometimes I think that she likes places in a rotational routine but that’s almost how we are too, so we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves to see how we pass on behaviors to the next generation. I only hope that no one’s got ny mild case of hoarding too.

Mike

Readjustment Period

12 March 2011

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Dear J-

It’s been less than twenty-four hours since I got home and I’ve already fallen back into the typical bad habits of the past like falling asleep at the drop of a hat and failing to get up in the night to help theVet with Calcifer. She has had to deal with them — alone — for a week and no doubt the slightest hint of help would win innumerable points. One of the engineers I met in Massachusetts was a fairly new dad of two as well — he has one at two years and another at six months. His confession to me was that he ended up taking care of the older one as that was ended up working for them and I’m starting to see the truth in that.

Weekends start with figgy getting into bed with us, extend to me getting her dressed and groomed shortly afterward, then either offering her snacks and TV while we try to put things right and move forward in the day. After that it passes in a blur of piggyback rides and carry-mes until we all take a mutually agreed-upon break that generally consists of a movie, a snack, and a nap. Not all of the participants agree on the right combination of two from the three but everyone finds something to like.

The more time I get to spend at home it feels like I get less patient with the shenanigans and little half-truths that have become part of her usual standard operation. At this point it’s still charming enough that I’m willing to overlook it but theVet corrects that misapprehension quickly. If you don’t quash the tantrums with removing privileges then you’re tacitly condoning them as an effective way of getting your way. It’s not something new this week but definitely something too easily forgotten in the wake of dealing only with adults for too long.

Mike

Saturday Motivation

5 March 2011

Dear J-

Well, I’m as prepared for the trip as I can be. Oh, not that normal stuff, like packing (done in ten minutes with a minimum of thought: I try not to challenge my limited sartorial skills more than necessary) or getting tech stuff ready (I have a lot of chargers to pack now, although the advent of smartphones also means smaller power bricks). Nope, I’m ready because we crammed a weekend into a day. I got to cook breakfast this morning and the other normal Saturday chore of vacuuming while figgy whiled the time away with PBS Kids. Afterwards we went to LEGOland (the discount tickets I get from work have a second day included free) and walked around until she said her feet hurt at which point we called it a day and headed back, some sights unseen, some rides not taken.

Because it was such a spectacular day (shorts and t-shirt weather for sure) I’m going to have a hard time adjusting to a place where I can’t wear sandals near year-round. Never mind. There’s so much that went right with today I’m willing to let that slide in favor of holding on to today in my head until next Friday when I come back. I hope your weekend has been good but I’m willing to bet I had more grins today than the whole week prior. That’s fuel for the soul, mind motivating body to keep moving forward.

Mike

Three Fold

25 February 2011

Dear J-

Lately I’ve been playing a good deal of LEGO Harry Potter, which is emblematic of my life I think: ersatz reinterpretation in a mute form of expression. Between TV and library books I really have all the entertainment bases covered so games end up being a way to eat up sleep time I don’t have room to give up. Smart, right? I think this is why I got sick and theVet didn’t — your immune system doesn’t work so good on little sleep. Let that be a Friday lesson to the wise. The game itself is filled with little in-jokes that, for as expressive as the minifigs get, would be nearly incomprehensible to non-fans of the series. Aside from that and the occasional help I got early on (hey, it’s been a long time since I played a game to completion) it’s been an entertaining romp through that world, and true to the movies.

The van is full this morning and I’m back in the third row again after having ridden shotgun yesterday. I don’t mind, honestly; there’s almost more footspace back here. I get to lean my head on a corner of the van which, come to think of it in crash terms is a terrible design, and there’s no one behind me I have to concentrate on keeping happy. Six people fit in lazy comfort, a seventh squeezed between the two of us, small as we are, would be intolerable for all three back here. Hard to think that the already-large van could stand to be a little bigger, huh? Personal space is the new luxury, no more station wagons plying their way down the highway filled with kids atop kids and luggage, no more “he’s touching me” games. If they’d had a minivan like this thirty years ago folks would have been amazed.

figgy provides her own interpretation on songs we sing to her and lately “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as well as “Teenage Dream” are in heavy rotation. “Rudolph” gets an extra chorus of “HOW RUDE!” following the line about reindeer games and there’s a heavy emphasis on DIE (“We can dance … until we DIE”) in the Katy Perry cover. It never fails to crack me up, some of the things she comes up with and considers important. What it’s really telling me is that between the way she listens and she talks we not only have to be careful about what we say, our actions are getting questioned now too (“Oh, you’re not LISTENING” is a current favorite if we don’t snap to her commands crisply) so it’s impossible to not be hyperaware of everything we do. We are better people for it but so exhausted from being wary.

Mike

Double Feature

12 February 2011

Dear J-

figgy has been sick the past few days so I’ve come home to see her sacked out in front of a movie — it seems as though for as many animated movies that have come out in the past ten years we have a good portion of them — and that’s okay. I’m well aware that lots of folks use their online presence to broadcast how wonderfully perfect their lives are (and probably just as many are as proud of how imperfect they are) but it’s nice to see a relative sense of normal descend on the house for once. When I was little and got sick I would demand outrageous treatment: pajamas all day, in bed, warmed liquids and carry carry carry all over the place.

figgy has learned from me. I don’t know how but she’s gotten a time machine, hopped in, and taken lessons from the master of whinging complaints. I suspect that just as there are new parent classes for childbirth and delivery so are there new grandparent classes: strategies for I-told-you-sos and ways to not-look-like-you’re-enjoying-the-taste-of-your-child’s-own-medicine. I wonder sometimes if we keep our distance from parents to prove that we can do it ourselves or to hide the damning shameful evidence of what we’re doing wrong. It’s strange that I feel a greater kinship with my folks knowing how difficult it was for them — new country, strange customs, and two kids keeping them on their toes. We are the lucky ones.

Mike

Lesson Plan

10 February 2011

Dear J-

We are separated from our parents geographically and linguistically (theVet’s parents are an hour north and in their retirement have pretty much adopted Korean exclusively, while mine are in San Jose and similarly chat in Mandarin for the most part when they call). For parenting advice we’ve turned like they did to books. My parents are proud for the most part that they raised us as Spock* babies but I think it’s funny that the times we have asked how they dealt with issue X or problem Y they can’t remember. It’s funny because I can see the same things happening with us later, especially since we already can’t remember the lessons of figgy except in bits and pieces of vague tales. For instance we aren’t too afraid of giving Calcifer a pacifier given that figgy gave it up over the course of a couple of days without too much fighting, but we also reason that if he doesn’t start he won’t have to deal with the withdrawl later so no pacifier so far, and so far so good.

I don’t know why every generation has to reinvent things for themselves — this is like denying that your folks ever had sex, as that’s something you discover on your own — but parenting advice seems like one of those things that people can’t wait to share amongst peers but not across generations. Well, you think, that was thirty years ago! Surely things have changed by now, right? Sure, corporal punishment is right and strollers have gotten way cooler, but those are just the accessories. We keep publishing studies that seem to underscore common sense** truths that we’ve already learned, as a species, in millenia past. It just so happens that some folks have written this stuff down and the real question is how to decide what works best.

There is a baseline for good and those who fail that — witness the young wife from South Carolina who claims amnesia regarding giving birth at the circus and abandoning the newborn — are widely condmened without knowing details: how could you or what’s wrong with you, right? But addressing things like letting figgy continue to be rude to adults is a subtler point. How do you deal with the subtle social niceties at three? Or do you refuse to use age as an excuse? You shold know better, we can say, but does she? I sometimes forget how old she is, as we’ve come so far in the last two years, speaking and interacting. I forget that though she is a little person the permissions we set and things we excuse teach her just as much as things we acively do together. And though a part of me remains horrified at the thought of an IMPOLITE KID another part of me is secretly cheering — take that, meek Asian stereotype — and still another part of me wants to coddle and excuse, trying to take that hurt away.

Mike

* Dr. Benjamin Spock, not the Vlucan from Star Trek, but how cool would that have been?

** Breastfeeding is best! Children crave contact! C’mon, I hope serious research money wasn’t spent finding this stuff out.