Tag Archives: parenting an only child

100 Goodbyes

9 Aug

I never saw reaction to a t-shirt like the one my friend Victor got in Lake Charles, Louisiana wearing a shirt featuring Redd Foxx’s face above his best-known phrase from Sanford and Son:

YOU BIG DUMMY

It caught the attention of strangers who stopped him just to share how much they liked the shirt. At times, I felt like they were just moments away from hugging him. Yes, the joy in their eyes was that apparent.

I thought about that shirt tonight as I put my daughter to bed. She would say “dummy” is a bad word, and she’s right. But the connection to Redd Foxx came from surveying her room once again. It could be mistaken for a carpeted junkyard. If the reference wasn’t lost on her, I would buy her that t-shirt in her size, or she could wear a larger size as a nightgown.

I kept those thoughts to myself, and I refrained from calling her room a “disaster” like I often do. With school starting less than two weeks away, I did mention the need to get her room cleaned and organized. It wasn’t a general mention; I got specific.

Me: We’re going to donate or throw out 100 items.

Aidan: That’s everything I have.

Me: Oh, that’s not even close. You won’t even notice the 100 items when they’re gone.

Aidan:  How about 21 items?

Me: No, 100.

Aidan: 21.

Me: If we rid this room of 100 items, you’ll have room for new things.

Aidan: How about 200 items?

Me: Okay, let’s not get overly ambitious.

I left the room as she and her puppy cuddled for a night of sleep. Of course, I’m up trying to devise a plan of attack. I could bring in a shovel and a wheelbarrow. But the idea is to remove only the items we want to donate or throw out so I’ll have to be more strategic.

Evaluating her wardrobe might be an easier way to start. Anything that she’s outgrown could get set in a paper grocery bag for easy drop-off to Goodwill. I bet we could easily find 30 items to give away.

Toys she no longer plays with or has outgrown might lead to another 30 items, to donate, as long as they’re in good condition. I suspect she has a lot more toys that will just go straight into the trash. I will face resistance from the girl who believes EVERYTHING can be glued back together.

Books may only provide a handful of additional items to donate, but the real opportunity may come from stuffed animals. Yes, those prized possessions of childhood are vulnerable here. She’s got so many stuffed animals, many of them spend their days jammed together in piles and containers. The view can’t be pretty. Thankfully, they don’t need air to breathe.

If we just focused on stuffed animals, saying 100 Goodbyes could happen in a few minutes. But there is no way she’s going to part with 100 stuffed animals all at once, even if she almost never plays with, looks at, or remembers they exist. I could suggest donating them to children who would be comforted by them. She would like that very much, but I suspect we wouldn’t get more than 10 donated.

Obviously I won’t wait for her to start selecting items. I’ll have to schedule a day for this massive undertaking. We’ll have pizza and ice cream and anything necessary to make the process a bit more tolerable. And I already have one item in mind that can go: the IKEA bed she no longer sleeps in. If I could convince her to donate every toy in the boxes that cover that bed, we would reach our goal 10 times over.

 

 

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What I Learned In Kindergarten

26 Apr

In the middle of the night I am remembering my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten. I wrote a note to her to mark the occasion and I read it to her before her mom and I drove her to school.

“Today marks the beginning of a new adventure for you. May you see the best of today and recognize all the opportunities that come your way. May your eagerness to learn be a trait that grows stronger from this day forward. May your respect for others and friendly nature help you develop good friendships and relationships with your classmates and your teacher.”

Clearly the focus was on preparing her for a year of learning and adventures: new teacher, new friends, new rules. Little did I realize how much I would learn in Kindergarten this time around. Also, consider the additional difficulty of  being the non-custodial parent who doesn’t have a set routine five days a week because my daughter lives with her mom, and you can understand how a school year already packed with challenges became even more challenging for me. With that in mind, here are the Big 8 lessons I’ve absorbed in the last 8 months.

8. Packing lunch at night saves time. On evenings I am with my daughter at the apartment she shares with her mom, I like to prepare her lunches. The results are more effective at 1o pm than they are if I go over at 6:30 am. I spend far less time searching the refrigerator for missing food and looking through cupboards for plastic containers. Plus, she notices if I forget to include a spoon for her yogurt. She’s forgiving, but she doesn’t hesitate to point out my mistake.

7. Signing any necessary paperwork right away means it’s less likely to get lost and forgotten. That includes report cards, tardy slips, permission slips and fundraiser forms. Speaking of paperwork, we’re overdue to either order or return her school pictures. I suspect we’ll be ordering everything sent home. Who doesn’t love kid pictures on magnets?  

6. Offering an incentive for a week of perfect behavior may be futile. Managing to go 5 days without a single mark must feel to a kid like buying a scratch off lottery ticket does to an adult. Even the best intentions don’t lead to the best results. It’s better to offer incentives one day at a time. Last week, I rewarded a day of good behavior at school by buying her ice cream at the park. But, earlier this year, my daughter managed to get earrings thanks to a sweet deal with her mom who rewarded her for a combination of a week of fairly good behavior at school and bravery at Tae Kwon Do class.

5. Being as patient as possible when she’s learning to read pays off forever. She’ll be stubborn at times and refuse to read, even though she absolutely loves books. It’s better to maintain a sense of humor (albeit a strained one) when she’s being difficult about using the reading skills she’s learned. Otherwise, I risk creating a negative association with reading altogether.

4. Walking her home on my shoulders is a great workout. This is especially true when it’s hot and humid. My legs feel like solid as a rock, and I’ve lost 25 pounds since she started school. If I walked her to and from school every day, I could be down to 160 pounds by June.

3. Filling out the form for the school’s required background check is a sensible thing to do in September. I waited several months to do it, and waiting a bit longer could have affected my ability to accompany my daughter—and every Kindergarten student—to the Fort Worth Zoo this week.  I imagine she will persuade me to get ice cream for her and her little friends, and I will be unable to say no. Sure, I want our little group to have more fun than any other group.

2. Remembering that the only job title I possess at her school is “Aidan’s Dad” is helpful. Nobody needs to know what I do for a living. She’s my priority and my only focus when I am taking her to school and picking her up. My daily activities of looking for acting and writing gigs become irrelevant in those moments, and how my daughter is doing is the most important thing I can discuss with anyone I encounter. 

1. Sleeping as much as I can whenever sleep is available is always a brilliant move. My girl may need some extra help on the mornings I’m helping to get her ready for school. She may wake up in the middle of the night due to growing pains at times she’s staying with me. She may fall asleep in the early evening on the way home from an activity only to wake up at 11 pm and not want to go back to sleep. She may have endless energy at 6 pm and want me to run all over the playground with her. Saying “Daddy is tired” doesn’t sound reasonable to my 5 year old. I need my energy to match hers as often as possible.

Okay, so I’m dropping the ball on #1 by staying up ridiculously late to write. But I’ve already promised to walk her to school in the morning so #4 is in play. That’s even better because it means we won’t have to deal with the lack of etiquette in the carpool lane.