Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wearing the elevate patch 24/7/364

I wanted to be an astronaut when I was child, not only because I loved science and science fiction (I was 12 when Star Wars hit the big screen - sigh), but also the leave the abusive volatility around me behind.

However, I struggled to pass to emotional centrifugal force test, instead withdrawing into non-confrontational vastness of my soul's uncharted space.

And for a kid that's one of the safest places to be. The inside space. Down deep.

Unfortunately as an adult a self-destructive cycle developed: extended non-confrontational withdrawal to explosive pique; all-or-nothing scenario.

That really sucked and not the way to sustain oneself or any relationships. Then 12 years ago I incrementally began to better my centrifugal force stamina, learning that being direct lessened my "hurl" factor, and being less reactive and more mindful really helped me to "elevate" in most situations.

To focus, assess and respond to any highly-charged situation swiftly yet methodically, appropriately and without excess emotion.

To rise above.

It takes a lot of friggin' focus and work, that's for sure.

Like the nicotine patches I remember wearing when quitting smoking for the nth time, I started imagining slapping on a "elevate" patch prior to personal or professional emotional confrontation of any kind.

Like the past few days when my mom was in the hospital hundreds of miles from home and I spoke with my sister to whom I haven't spoken with in over a year.

That was a three-patcher, but well worth throwing Mama and Bea in the car and driving down there to help my parents and spending time with my sister, niece and nephew. First time they've met Beatrice.

The 40-70 rule applies and it's time to work together on this one. I call it fixing a hero sandwich.

What's in the elevate patch you ask? Whatever helps you rise above; every prescription is unique to its user.

From now on I'm gonna wear the elevate patch 24/7/364.

C'mon, gimee one day off, would ya'?
(In space no one can hear you scream...)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Because it's been almost a full year and we didn't break her yet.

Beatrice turns 11 months old tonight at 7:00 p.m. I remember her birthday as if it was yesterday - or 11 years ago - or 11 centuries ago. Time is fluid that way, like the surf drudging sand and rock only to spill it back up on the shore over here, or over there.

Or everywhere; I like being covered with Bea. Happy 11 months Beatrice!

However, as of a week ago, Mama A and I weren't fully aligned on whether or not to have a big and formal 1st birthday party. It's a lot of work and money and Bea's not going to remember it anyway, right? Sure, it's great to have the pictures and videos - and Lord knows we've already done plenty of that in the first 11 months - our TotSpot and Facebook family and friends have seen 'em all.

There are families with rich cultural traditions with huge, sometimes lavish 1st birthday parties. Our own families always throw 1st birthday parties. It's a glorious celebration when your baby hits the first year mark!

But what about the cost? When you search online for the "cost of baby birthdays" you get quite a broad range - $50 to $38,000. Interesting expenditure stories online.

What the --?

Regardless of socioeconomic strata, cultural and/or religious beliefs, me and Mama finally compromised and decided to have a more casual birthday for Bea. We're not in a birthday competition so no wagering at home.

Actually it is a party for us, because it's been almost a full year and we didn't break her yet. Yep, still intact.

It's still Bea's 1st birthday party - for us - with family and friends and food, cake and fun. No bouncy houses, no ponies, no starship rides and definitely no scary clowns. That crap comes next year on birthday number 2. (Yes, I'll have to work on Mama for the starship rides.)

Don't worry, Bea will still have fun. Like I said, we'll take plenty of pictures for Beatrice to look at when she's older.

What about gifts you ask? Oh, Bea gifts are good. Very, very good.

It's her party after all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Separation anxiety and Bea's blood-curdling "where the frick is Mama" cry

Mama A always says that even though Beatrice is Mama's girl for now, she'll end up being Daddy's girl for the rest of her life.

That may be true, but right now she's definitely Mama's girl, hands down, and we've been experiencing separation anxiety full force.

It's not that we leave her alone much with others - her babysitter Elyse has had little problem with Bea missing Mama too much once a week, and my Friday Daddy-care day works out nicely with me and Bea bonding.

This weekend we've been at Mama's 20-year high school reunion and had events Friday and Saturday nights. Her family - mother, sister and niece - have watched her before and Beatrice really likes them all (including playing with her 2-year-old cousin Braxton).

However, last night was a tough one. We were hoping to make it past 10:00 p.m., which is an hour past our usual bedtime. Two calls later about Bea's blood-curdling "where the frick is Mama" cries - one at 8:30 and one at 9:30, and that was all she wrote.

No boogie shoes for Mama and me.

We got Beatrice to bed with fuzzy and thumb, and then realized we hadn't paid our bar tab at the reunion dinner. Whoops. Mama's mom drove her back down to the restaurant to take care of it.

Hey, at least she still got a dance in with her friends, but how much fun can you have with your mother? (wink)

When it comes to separation anxiety, quite a bit. At least between 6 months and 3 years old.

I found some great strategies at KidsHealth.org that can help ease kids and parents through this sometimes difficult period:
  • Timing is everything. Try not to start day care or child care with an unfamiliar person when your little one is between the ages of 8 months and 1 year, when separation anxiety is first likely to appear. Also, try not to leave when your child is likely to be tired, hungry, or restless. If at all possible, schedule your departures for after naps and mealtimes.
  • Practice. Practice being apart from each other, and introduce new people and places gradually. If you're planning to leave your child with a relative or a new babysitter, then invite that person over in advance so they can spend time together while you're in the room. If your child is starting at a new day care center or preschool, make a few visits there together before a full-time schedule begins. Practice leaving your child with a caregiver for short periods of time so that he or she can get used to being away from you.
  • Be calm and consistent. Create a exit ritual during which you say a pleasant, loving, and firm goodbye. Stay calm and show confidence in your child. Reassure him or her that you'll be back — and explain how long it will be until you return using concepts kids will understand (such as after lunch) because your child can't yet understand time. Give him or her your full attention when you say goodbye, and when you say you're leaving, mean it; coming back will only make things worse.
  • Follow through on promises. It's important to make sure that you return when you have promised to. This is critical — this is how your child will develop the confidence that he or she can make it through the time apart.
Wait, I think I hear a "where the frick is Mama" cry. Good-bye.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Family, Leadership and the Hot-Button Self-Check Coaching Train

I wrote recently about how there should be parenting leadership 101 classes. Seriously. So many things we're taught in K-12, and then in college, but personal responsibility, leading oneself, leading others, community and parenting aren't specifically part of the required curriculum.

Maybe there are examples out there today; it's been many moons since I've been in school and many more until Bea starts.

I hope there are. But what about hot-button self-check coaching? With the exception of therapy (sigh), I've never seen these classes in school.

My sister and I got very good pushing each others hot buttons growing up. Chasing each other around the house until we frothed at the mouth with butter knives and glass ashtrays in hand - that's the way we began each other's flash-temper reckoning day after day. Mother always wanted us to work it out, but if it escalated to semi-violent behavior, interventions intervened. That's good mama leadership.

But as adults, unchecked verbal or physical hot-button tantrums should be a thing of childhood past. What's that psych 101 self-check mantra again?

Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it?

Again, that doesn't matter much to raging siblings, but it should mean a lot to us as parents as leaders of our families, communities, companies and beyond.

I read a great blog post yesterday from the Leadership Now blog titled Taking Control of the Story: Four Helpful Questions to Ask.

When emotions run high we tend to throw everything we know out the window.

You don't have to tell me twice. Whether it be at home or at work, hot buttons abound. I was just meeting with my leadership development coach yesterday, talking about how we create virtual quicksand traps for ourselves, responding reactively instead of self-checking and responding thoughtfully and effectively. Hot buttons aren't usually based on fact and get us into some awfully painful pickles.

The above post (and book titled Crucial Conversations) suggests we ask ourselves four helpful questions to get ourselves into constructive dialogue and separate "stories" from "facts" when hot buttons are pushed:
  • Am I pretending not to notice my role in the problem?
  • Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person do this?
  • What do I really want?
  • What would I do right now if I really wanted these results?
I read another great related post this morning titled Leadership Development is Essential in the Family Unit that really solidifies where I'm coming to stand on families as the building blocks of true life leadership. Cultural differences aside, families pass on the positive and negative traits that both build and destroy community.

Can you imagine if everyone increased personal responsibility and family leadership by even 10% the impact that would have on domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and all kinds of violence in between?

Not everyone will be a leader of others beyond their families, but we're sure as hell responsible for leading ourselves first no matter what; get off the ground and tie your own shoes first.

Then get on the hot-button self-check coaching train and bring your kids along.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Baby B milestones: There are a million of them

Most new parents are thrilled and amazed at their babies' mental and physical development, particularly from six months on. Every little baby nuance of sound, smell, taste, touch and other motor movements can be as profound as heavenly miracles.

And that's what they are - aggregate miracles from heaven that culminate and morph into a mini-me and a mini-you.

We participate regularly with glee and reverence in the ascent of Beatrice.

She's 10 months, 16 days, 12 hours, 30 minutes and 45 seconds old. Every second is a milestone, isn't it?

She's a babbling brook of sound. Saying "ma-ma" and "da-da" and "a-ma" and "a-da" and "blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-walla-walla-washington". It's a beautiful, sometimes overwhelming sound, depending on her volume, which is getting louder.

She speaks in sign. A little. Mama A's been teaching her and she's retained milk (squeezing the cow udder) and blanket (pull shirt down or up or something like that). She also knows what the eating and drinking motions mean, although it's the babbling brook of sound that jumps to roaring rapids when she's hungry.

She reads books. Or more accurately enjoys being read to and loves looking at all the pages and flipping them herself.

Her face has blossomed into a rainbow of emotion - happy, hungry, angry and frownie brownie!

She has hair. No more Peanuts' cartoon head with pencil wisps of hair. Bea now has a fine layer of white-blond hair on her head and it comes in more everyday! (Okay, still looks like a Peanuts' cartoon head, but still.)

She has teeth. Well, 1.2 teeth and growing. One of her front incisors has risen from the gum depths causing her flashes of indescribable pain and her mouth to drool incessantly. The .2 will be one more soon and the other chompers aren't far behind.

She has an Ellen Barkin smile. And oh my is that gonna break hearts someday.

She feeds herself. And her lap. With her hands. No utensils yet.

She's point and waving. At people, wall pictures, ghosts, the TV, her toys, furniture and our 300-year-old cat.

She's eating dirt and sand. What childhood isn't complete without eating dirt and sand? Chock full of minerals, Bea enjoys supplementing her daily diet.

She's eating my MacBook laptop cord. Another delicious addition to her diet, my laptop cord found its way into her mouth recently and then wouldn't charge my battery until it dried out overnight.

She's cruising. No Al Pacino movies or teenage cat-call main drag driving here. We're talking shuffling on both feet while pulling herself along the couch, the coffee table and other pieces of furniture. Plus, she's walking around more and more aided at first with both our hands and now she's down to one-hand walking!

She's falling down. Beings that ascend must also fall down occassionally, and a lot when you're a baby. She's taking the butt and noggin bumps in stride, though.

And she walked unaided! Yes, earlier this week she got brave and took her first few steps on her own with no parental-handed aid! Amazing and thrilling. Her bravery has since waned though; she really wants our assistance. It's as if she has horizontal vertigo. No worries, we're her guides!

The ever-amazing-exponential-developmental Baby B.

You can do the proud papa dance with me if you want.