Friday, June 09, 2006

Proud of you...

Madison and Ava both finished school this week. Ava wrapped up nursery school on Monday and Madison’s last day of pre-kindergarten was Tuesday. She ended her year with a live concert featuring other students in the Early Childhood program in her school auditorium followed by a short party in her classroom. She has taken ballet for the last couple of years and her school is heavy on performing arts, even at her age, so we’ve had numerous opportunities to watch her sing and dance in front of an audience.

I always make sure to find a quiet moment with Madison at these events to focus in and tell her that I’m proud of her. Might seem a minor point in the context of everything else going on, but I don’t think there can be too much of this kind of thing, as long as the messaging isn’t delivered so often that it becomes sickening – even to the recipient – and meaningless. I’m big on “you look beautiful… what an amazing outfit” reactions to the girls in the morning, encouragement and praise during our time together (we don’t get enough of that at the moment) and hugs and kisses and a chance to talk about the things that happened during the day before tucking them into bed.

Being a parent in 2006 is daunting, and with the girls just 5 and 3 we haven’t even gotten into any of the really tough stuff yet. Our girls watch Noggin, PBS Kids, some Disney Channel and assorted cooking shows – not MTV, FOX or Janet Jackson. Madison occasionally references Internet sites (she calls them “dotcoms”), but the eMac computer we put in the den so she and Ava can play educational games is not online and they haven’t noticed. They’re not building MySpace pages and displaying personal information to be scrutinized by Internet predators. (Can Chris Hansen of Dateline NBC be a little less busy, please?) They haven’t demanded cell phones to pump possibly harmful microwave radiation into their developing brains, or to cripple their young thumbs by banging out an endless string of e-mails and text messages. No boys, no dates, no drugs, no cars, none of the really big issues yet. As noted in an earlier post, a question like “what’s chicken made of,” is about as tough as it gets at the moment.

But those days are coming, and I guess the fundamental strategy that Gwen and I are trying to apply to raising these girls is that there’s a lot out there we’re not going to be able to control, challenges we can’t even see yet, but the best and most positive thing we can do is focus on organically building self-worth and self-esteem in Ava and Madison. I don’t mean to get preachy or heavy here, but this is supposed to be a parenting journal so it seems like some of this material should slip in alongside the quips and nods to the wonders of Apple and Insta-Lawn.

It’s a delicate dance. Reward them without over-indulging them. Encourage self-expression and independent will without prompting out-of-control temper tantrums when the request for candy at breakfast or the 3rd toy on a visit to the mall is rejected. Stress the importance of rules while introducing the idea that it’s sometimes OK to break them. This is all on our plate at the moment, and the central theme, the overriding message, is that the girls are special, they are loved, they amaze us and we never stop telling them these things. And, based on the confident and satisfied smiles we find on the other side of these messages, I think they are getting through.


Blogger Brandi said...

I love your blog! I read your entries almost religiously!
I read this one & felt like leaving a little comment,
I just wanted to say I am a teenager in todays society & I've seen everything that goes on. I've seen so many of my friends change from that sweet innocent kid in elementary school to the most rebellious kid on the block, the sad part is most parents with these kids are completely oblivious to all of it. I'm not trying to scare you, and I know your girls are still very young! & Frankly it sounds like you & you're wife are doing an amazing job so far! It's good to do things together. The closer a family is the better chance of a bright future for your kids! Anyways, so what I'm getting at is keep your girls close you to you and make sure they grow up knowing and wanting to share everything with you! If you ever have any questions don't be afraid to shoot me an e-mail! ( Sometimes the best advice comes from the ones who've experienced the same particular struggles. Advice is a form of nostalgia;
dispensing it is a way of wishing the past from the disposal--wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts, and
recycling it for more than it's worth.


5:28 PM  
Blogger Dad said...

Brandi - thanks so much for this thoughtful comment. I really appreciate it.

5:32 PM  

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