Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Year Reflections and Resolutions

Whew. They're back at school (and in my wife's case, work). Now my holiday begins. Ha ha. Right. I now scramble madly to get back on top of home based stuff as well as dust off my computer and get back to writing tasks that took a serious back seat to family holiday stuff. I was joking with other parents that there were a lot of long faces in my house Sunday afternoon and Monday morning - except for mine. No. Really. Joking I was.

It WAS actually a great holiday for us this year and I can honestly say that I was less happy to have them all leave me yesterday morning than usual after a long school break. I told my wife this in a rare show of tenderness and sharing. Huh. Well, now I know why men don't share their tender thoughts and sharing much. It did not get the reaction I thought it would - AT ALL. What made it such a good holiday and start of a New Year? Below I outline some discoveries, reflections and resolutions.

I am even more upset by global warming because of the reminder this holiday about how awesome snow is and how someday we might not have it. Not only is it pretty and reflect the low light levels of our northern winters and provides important hydration and protection for plant life, it makes a great place to stick a kid. Nothing kills the holiday spirit like kids dragging themselves around the house moaning that they're bored and nagging me to play on the computer/Wii/watch TV etc. Toss them in their snow gear and even a normally lame city backyard presents endless amounts of entertainment. There is groaning and complaining while you push them out the door with a snow shovel but minutes later they are happily throwing snow at each other, themselves or a squirrel. They come back in pink cheeked, all their yayas worked out, in much better moods and they sleep well. Even better if you go out with them you can throw snowballs at them yourself and toss them into snowbanks all in the name of good clean fun and working out some of your own frustrations. RESOLUTIONS: Contribute to Environmental Advocacy groups, invest in snow making equipment and keep the kids outside as much as possible in all kinds of weather.

I think that once I'm done this dad gig I might hie myself over to the Mideast and sort those numbskulls out. We've have some very fierce negotiations around here - mostly about how much electronic "screen time" each is entitled to, and when, and on what device... essentially about the shared use of scarce resources or territory. I have to say we worked out some very successful strategies that were mutually acceptable. I am not one normally inclined to such an approach. I am more of the tactical strike type but, hat tip to my lovely wife and consigliere, who just happens to be the daughter of a diplomat, I have seen the benefits of the negotiated settlement. That said, a strategic "wardrobe malfunction" accidentally displaying my arsenal helps focus the minds of the disputants and speed a solution.

On the road again. Sedan packed to the roof with toboggans (sleds to my US friends), presents and a gross of homemade Christmas cookies, we did the annual (5 hour minimum) migration to Ottawa AKA "The Land of Ice and Snow and In-Laws". As my friend Jason recently dubbed it, we did a "Full Griswold". These trips can be fraught affairs, especially if you run into holiday traffic or snowstorms. They were something I used to dread and would make me crabby but, a couple of summers of multiple road trips have turned them into an important and (sometimes, mostly) enjoyable experience. One of the big benefits is my wife and I actually get to talk to each other for hours at a time - when the kids are asleep or watching a movie - which is something I enjoy but is rare these days.

These road trips also employ the standard dramatic device of putting a bunch of people in a confined space and forcing them to interact. The results obviously can be unpleasant but lately we've found a pretty good balance. Families only get stronger if they spend time and do things together. In the "regular season" parents and kids are often so busy they can't do this and often the kids do not even want to spend time with their siblings. The "boiler room" experience changes this.

Many parents' strategy is putting on the DVD as soon as they put the car in gear. We've done it but this results in extremely snappy and brain-shrunken children unable to deal with each other in any way other than violence and rudeness when the player is off. We hold the DVD player in reserve, dependant on good behaviour, which includes participation in old fashioned road trip games. These build the family relationships leading to various in-jokes that come up every time we go on the road trips. Even the eventual DVD watching can be relationship building as we insist the kids negotiate which shows they will watch and in what order. They then all watch the same show which results in them sharing other experiences and having other references and in-jokes. RESOLUTION: Watch more DVDs with the kid to understand what they are talking about and find ways to replicate this experience in the "regular season" i.e. family games night.

I am a prime offender at this. It's a slippery slope from terms of endearment and teasing and joking to nastier stuff. This was brought home during a game of Catchphrase with the in-laws after the kids went to bed when in one interaction I said, "This is what I call my kids" (meaning "Knuckleheads") when my wife chirped in, "Idiots?". Er. Hmm. Yeah. Knuckleheads to me sounds OK, like Nitwits, or Goofballs but once you start on that it doesn't end well. Part of this has to do with the fact I can never remember their actual names in moments of kid-induced crisis. Having a loving short-form nickname like Numbskull comes in handy.

Spending a lot of time together ultimately results in friction. But when the kids refer to each other in those insulting terms, how can I take the moral high ground when they do? And, believe me, I love the Moral High Ground. I might build a retirement home there; the view is fantastic. So we've instituted a new no name calling policy at our house for the kids or NC for short. This is grouped with a no Acts of Violence policy (AV), no Deliberate Provocation (DP), no Personal Remarks (PR) policy with a subgroup of that we call no Personal Insults (PI). I came up with that one after my youngest called me fat and my wife chided him saying that it was a PR. "Wait a minute," I said, "PR implies something that is true but mean to say and the real problem is he called me fat. Which I am not and so we need to have a subgroup called PI because I'm not fat. Right?" Everyone went very quiet after that which I am taking as agreement not an adoption of the PR policy.

Of course I've broken most of those rules myself already but I'm trying to improve. RESOLUTION: Call them by their proper names and stop eating Christmas cookies.

I really like my kids. And the holiday reminded me of this in many ways and we had a lot of fun. But I am glad they are back at school.


  1. I just burst out laughing at the "PR/PI" portion....

    1. I know, because it's just so hilarious that someone thinks I'm fat. Right? Right?!