Adventures Of Fatherhood

In the end, Beckett couldn’t pull off his planned April Fools’ joke.

Our 5-year-old had been saying for some time he wanted to do something for April Fools’ Day. Actually he wanted to pull off several tricks throughout the day, but we decided he could focus on one prank.

I came up with the idea of him going into school on crutches. He was terribly excited about the prospects of that, offering several different stories as to what he was going to tell everyone at school how it happened. He was equally let down when I told him the crutches stashed away in the attic were simply too big for him.

It was off to “plan B” from there, and I reached out to a fellow co-worker to see if he could borrow her sling from a recent wrist injury. All was set to go on that front until Beckett backed out at the last minute.
I wasn’t home that morning, but Pam showed me a picture of him dressed with his Ace bandage on and arm in a sling. He looked the part, including the frown on his face.

For some reason, and I like to think it’s because he has a good heart, Beckett couldn’t go through with it. When I asked Pam why, she said he just kept saying, “It’s just too sad, it’s just too sad.”

Maybe next year he will be up for it.

Throughout this adventure that is parenthood, there are “aha” moments almost daily that remind me how much life has changed.

Tuesday evening was one of those moments, as I listened to a lecture by John Rosemond, a noted family psychologist, author and newspaper columnist. Worcester Preparatory School’s Parents Association brought Rosemond to the school for a free lecture, which was informative, hilarious and thought provoking.

Never could I have imagined I would be hanging on every single word the man said 21 years ago when I sat in the same building and received my high school diploma. I have heard dozens of speech in that building over the years and have even given a few myself, but never have I played closer attention than to this man because it was about family and the various relationships we have with our kids.

The crux of Rosemond’s talk was that parents today have made raising kids such a complex and involved process that they have lost sight of some critical parenting elements that our parents and grandparents utilized with much effectiveness years ago.

The following example from Rosemond’s syndicated column sums up well what his presentation was about on Tuesday night. He ended his presentation encouraging the parents in attendance to take control of their lives and their children by telling the children, “It’s over.” Both Carson and Beckett will surely have a good laugh over that.

Here’s a recent column from Rosemond that I found interesting.

A journalist recently asked, “What is the biggest mistake parents make?”

I had to think about that. Which parents? The biggest mistake made by some parents is they pay entirely too much attention to and do entirely too much for their children. These children usually, but not always, end up as spoiled brats. Why not always? Because some children, by mysterious means, manage to do well in spite of less-than-optimal parenting. The notion that one is produced by the manner in which one is raised is belied by many exceptions, including children who do well despite bad upbringings and children who do badly in spite of good upbringings.

On the other hand, some parents’ biggest mistake is that they pay entirely too little attention to their kids.

The biggest mistake made by still other parents is thinking the misbehavior of a toddler is cute, or rationalizing their failure to discipline at that critical state by saying such things as “He’s only 20 months old, after all” and “It’s just a stage … he’ll grow out of it.”

All of the big stuff begins as small stuff. Without early correction, tantrums grow into rages, disobedience grows into defiance, occasional disrespect grows into belligerence, and not picking up one’s toys grows into refusal to do one’s schoolwork.

The biggest mistake made by lots of parents is they combine wordy explanations with instructions, as in “Honey, a friend of mine is coming over and I’d like to serve coffee in this room, so I need you to pick up these toys and move them somewhere else, okay?”

Explanations invite push-back, as in “I was here first! Why can’t you and your friend use the kitchen?” These parents tell me their children are argumentative, which simply means that the parents combine explanations with instructions. Under those conditions, all children, being clever, will seize the opportunity to push back. In this example, the proper form is “I want you to pick up these toys and move them somewhere else, right now,” and the proper response to “Why?” is “Because I said so.”

And then, as in the above example, the biggest mistake made by some parents is attaching “okay?” to the end of what they think are instructions. I once had a parent count the number of times she did that in a day. She reported more than 50. “Okay?” is not an instruction. It is a namby-pamby request, a petition made to the resident prince or princess of petulance. It deserves to be ignored, which is what usually happens.”