My nine year-old softball plpDSP1-14739929p275wayer of a daughter needs a fielding mask because it is required for pitchers and she is dying to take the mound, but I find that part of me resists. For two years I avoided buying a facemask as they were not required, and there were enough expenses to go around with the buying of bats and gloves and batting helmets. Finally it looks as if I’ll have to warm up to the idea of her wearing a mask and prowling the infield with a plastic cage strapped over her eyes, nose and mouth. Growing up I never wore a mask playing baseball, and when I glance at the boys playing on an adjacent field, I notice that not a one of them are wearing masks either.

I’m honestly not sure she really needs the mask but what bothers me more is the openly chauvinist practice playing out across baseball diamonds where girls are required to wear masks and boys are not. Whereas no one has suggested boys wear these masks, mass e-mails have been sent out by our local and national little league concerning girls’ safety and the risk of injury from softballs striking them in the face. Money was pooled to get masks at a cheaper rate. These masks are not helmets and do not protect the entire head from injury, only the face. Why not just have them trot out there in batting helmets if they truly want to protect them? But aren’t boys exposed to the same risks? My son plays baseball in the same league and it has never been suggested that he wear a mask for fielding. The curious silence regarding masks for boys highlights our different societal conceptions of male and female. While it is okay for boys to be exposed to the risks of facial injury, the faces of girls are evidently a more highly prized commodity. The message is that a girl’s future is more dependent on her looks than a boys and it is pretty obvious that society does value a woman’s looks more than a man’s. It is also generally thought that a girl’s appearance is more important to her than a boy’s appearance is for him, although my own experience tells me there is a wide range of vanity amongst men and women. I do know boys and men who have shown me their scars as emblems of battle or personal history, whereas only a few women I’ve ever known have flaunted their scars in the same way. It is also interesting to note that while a man with a scar on his face connotes toughness, a woman with a scar is just ugly. No one wants their daughter to be that woman, if at all avoidable. I don’t want to be the guy whose daughter gets her face smashed in because he refused to buy a facemask. Consequently, later today I’ll be at a cash register ponying up for a mask for my girl.

All things being equal, I should buy one for my son to protect his cute mug too. He’d be the first to wear one on his team, maybe he’d start a trend, or more likely he’d be cajoled into ditching it like everyone else and take his chances. He has a glove after all, I tell him, just catch the ball and you won’t get hit – I’ll still tell my daughter that too, it’s not like she’s going to toss the ball around the backyard with that thing strapped on her face – is she?

It is 10:23 AM and my 11 year-old son is sleeping upstairs, that good sleep, his mouth agog, his conscious mind resistant to any barging through the door, stomping through the room, opening the curtains to the world parent intrusions, his limbs growing by the minute as he restfully whiles away the summer morning hours in tweener dormancy.  It is summer and his camp does not begin until 12:30 so he has plenty of time, but the real issue is that he has trouble going to sleep at night, especially when he sleeps so late in the morning, he can go to 11 or 12 if I let him sometimes.  His serene slumbering pose is in direct contrast to the tossing, turning, and frustrated tears at 1 AM in the morning when he cannot get to sleep and he shows up at our bedroom door asking what he should do.   Last night he turned on his light an hour or so after laying down and read books until midnight when he turned off his reading lamp again.  I said goodnight to him at 1, and he seemed tired.  I know I am tired of staying up because I feel bad leaving him up by himself and now my lack of sleep is catching up to me as my day starts at 8.  7 hours last night is pretty good compared to most of this week, but then again he was still awake when I went to sleep which always leaves me a little unsettled.  Remembering this I regret that I did not wake him earlier, but when I went in the room he looked so peaceful that I could not get myself beyond some mild rousing that I knew would probably not work.  His doctor says he is a night person, that we shouldn’t worry about his lifelong problems going to sleep.  Or waking up problems, depending on how you look at it.  A boy needs his sleep, that much seems clear to me as I return downstairs and let him lie… but tonight I will probably regret it, any advice out there?   Would you wake him up?

What did your parents do?  I remember my own mom yelling at me from downstairs at regular loud intervals of maybe three or four minutes.  I hated her in those moments as I resisted re-entering the world at her prodding.

He woke up himself at 10:35, hooray! I am off the hook for today… 10:35, still a little late but his doctor would be happy as he always says the correct time a child should sleep is until they wake up on their own.  Fat chance during the schoolyear, but he got his beauty sleep on this July day!

There is nothing better than Friday afternoon and we can watch TV or play computer games all we want when we get home from school. You would think one of my kids said this, but it could have just as well been me. The reason is the TV is an excellent baby sitter when I need or want time to myself in the house. On other days of the week and more family oriented weekends we don’t allow them to watch TV much at all so these spans of screen time freedom have become even more precious for me and my kids. A time when I can write an entry into the digital sphere, or put the laundry away, or just lay flat down on the ground on my back and listen to my spine going supine, cracking and releasing. My kids sit together quietly enraptured and needing nothing else from the world and most importantly, me.
TV is a very seducing crutch for us parents and I make sure I consciously avoid it as much as possible or at least keep track of whether I may be abusing it to avoid doing the job of raising my kids. I think most parents would be surprised how much screen time their kids are getting if they consciously monitored it and wrote down all the hours. I often have to catch myself from letting them watch too much. It’s a secret we keep from even ourselves. And I’m not even opposed to TV, but I see that it eliminates the possibility of other more enriching or socializing activities or interaction with me. There’s only so much time in a day and so many days to make a life. So, yes, when I turn off the TV It usually means that my life may be more of a pain in the ass, but that’s what I’m here to do, and the least I can do is ‘be there’ and not let the TV serve as a substitute. But today I can because it’s Friday, it’s afterschool, and we ain’t got nothing else to do…

Are we going to die from eating canned goods?  Though BPA free, are these cans any better?  There surely must be something wrong with them they will discover 20 years hence.  How come I’m not already dead from all the canned mix fruit my mother shoveled down my throat, complete with that awesomely zingy high fructose corn syrup sauce? For the most part now we avoid canned goods, but today I broke down and bought organic diced tomatoes.  I figured the organic would counter- balance the canned aspect in my wife’s eyes.  Let’s see… I hate buying expensive organic tomatoes at the grocery store and I also hate dicing, so there you go…  Who can feed my wife’s paranoia about the danger of canned goods?  What bad things do you know?  Or am I A-OK?… I’d rather die from something, rather than nothing anyway, right-o!

OK, it’s corny, but sometimes I feel this love for my kids so much, like our hearts are attached by strings and the strings jiggle and jostle my insides when I think about them. During the school year it probably doesn’t help that I can see their elementary school outside my kitchen window and I have an opportunity to daydream about them when I’m sick of my own life.  Most days I am happy to have the respite from child rearing when they are at school, but occasionally I am eager and anxious for them to come home.

A recent study found that the most important times for a parent to be there for their child is when they wake up, when they go to sleep, and when they get out of school. Unlike many working parents trying to make enough money to put food on the table, we are blessed to have me working as a stay at home dad so I can be there when the kids get out of school. This is one of the pleasures of working at home. All the parents gather at a nearby corner and wait for the neighborhood children to emerge once the school buses leave. The kids walk out all at once in a slow moving conglomerate of youth and my two boys always seem to end up at the rear of the pack. A few children run out of the noisy mob, older kids racing each other, and a few younger kids racing toward the waiting arms of their parents. My 8 year olddaughter, Adelina, is one of these runners that streaks away from the crowd. Most of the day she has been cooped up in a classroom and no doubt her body exalts in the freedom of dashing down the grassy embankment with her giant backpack bouncing along for the ride. She is the most restless of my three kids and I imagine the constrictions of a desk and a chair must be difficult for her. I can remember how excited I was as a kid when that last school bell rang for dismissal. She’s fast, usually she is the first kid to reach the knot of parents and the gritty determination on her face breaks into a wonderful smile when she crashes into my stomach for a hug. In our embrace my heartstrings slacken and the warmth of fatherhood spreads from the inside out. That is one of the greatest feelings in the world, the feeling I try to remember and recapture during other times when life as a parent is not so rosy.

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My children’s school has a total of five ‘safety drills’ that they practice monthly.  Whereas the fire drill has been a staple of schools in America for decades, other drills to practice safety measures in times of emergency have come and gone with the times.  Some may remember the ‘duck and cover’ drills of the 1950’s and 1960’s instituted in public education in the United States.  While that drill has faded from the scene as the realization that hiding under your desk with your hands over your head was not going to save you from nuclear annihilation, other drills have come into practice that reflect the fears of society today.  In my children’s school they are preparing for a variety of calamities.

First and foremost there is the old fire drill.  This is the oldest drill in existence and reflects the most common reason you would need to evacuate a large amount of people from a building.  Children practice quietly filing out of the school in an orderly fashion on the off chance that a fire is raging through the building.  Unfortunately there is always the penchant amidst kids for one of them to pull the fire alarm without good reason and with the amount of drills and false alarms that take place at schools, I’m not sure anyone would ever believe there was ever a real fire.  Nevertheless, this seems like a reasonable precaution to practice.

Another drill that my kids’ school has is the hurricane drill.  We are 100 miles inland from the Atlantic but category 3 and higher hurricanes are still scary once they get here and I can understand why they would want to prepare for this.  During this drill my kids are taught to go under their desk and take protection from falling debris in a calm quiet way so they can be ready to hear any more further instruction.  I would think that the kids would probably have the day off from school if a category 3,4, or 5 Hurricane was headed our way, but I suppose that’s beside the point.

Another drill they practice at our school is the tornado drill.  This differs from the hurricane drill in that most classes move into the hallway in order to protect themselves from the large windows blowing glass out all over the place.  I’m not sure why a hurricane does not warrant needing protection from plate glass windows, but that’s how it goes. 

The other two drills that have been put into practice this year are ones that I never heard of before but reflect our 21st century fears for our children’s safety.  Luckily for the children’s memory these drills are carried out in the same way so that they carry out the same actions for either a ‘gas drill’ or a ‘lock-down’ drill.  The lock-down drill is definitely a response to the terrible school shootings that have occurred more and more lately, especially the one in Connecticut a couple years ago.  In this drill students are told to go hide in the coat closet and stay very, very still and quiet.  This drill elicits the most emotional response from me as I imagine the kids standing there in the dark silence with all of their fears growing out of control.

Another drill they perform on a monthly basis is the “gas drill” which also requires them to go into the coat closet, although perhaps there is not as much emphasis on being quiet and still.  I am not sure how effective going into a closet is going to have against nerve gas or mustard gas or some such thing, but I suppose it is good to be able to think that there may be something you could do.  Maybe they are also preparing them for a tear gas attack by police if a crazed gunman was holding a school under siege.

I was totally freaking out when I heard about all these drills and what kind of nightmares they were giving my children, but not surprisingly my kids don’t think much of it.  It’s just something they do.  I realized this quickly when I started talking about it with them and I realized I better not infect them with all of my fears and terrors for their lives.  The school has succeeded in some measure by reducing these great potential fears to something my kids can handle by performing this drill.  In my kids’ minds this solves the problem of what to do when calamity strikes.  They won’t be freaking out, they have been schooled to carry out appropriate actions to the situation.  And really, what more can you do than that?  Even if the ‘duck and cover’ scenario seems ludicrous to us now, it was still a way to feel like you could survive such an attack if you just followed directions.  In many ways it is irrelevant whether these safety measures will work or not, the more important things is whether we believe they will work, thus mitigating our fears of these situations.  In any event, my kids are pretty much prepared for anything, and I can’t fault the school for that.   

 

 

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OK parents of young children, it is that time of the year again when we have our annual opportunity to get our kids back on their regular sleep schedule.  By the end of the summer our family’s bedtimes are wildly out of control, strict bedtimes have relaxed, kids are up to all hours of the night wandering the corridors of the house asking for crackers and peanuts because they know we won’t give them sweets past dark.  Then school starts and things are messy, kids are staying up too late, getting up too early and by the end of October everybody is tired, harried and pretty much insane.  But here is our chance, here is our opportunity to recoup all those lost hours of sleep and wrench my children back into an appropriate schedule.  The solution?  The time change from daylight savings time back to standard time.

It is the end of daylight savings time again, one of the strangest times of the year when we in the United States of America decide to do a collective time warp and ‘fall back’ one hour.  I have always thought we should make this a National Holiday as it is a day that affects all of us deeply and in equal measure.  We should get a day off to recover from the collective jet lag that must ensue for the few days following this agreed upon time shift.

Now for the children, it is my contention that they should not know anything about this time changing.  Not only will this shield them from the unsettling knowledge that time is arbitrary and malleable, it is also an opportunity to put them to bed an hour earlier than usual.   The most important thing to enact this change is not to tell the children about daylight savings time at all under any circumstances.  Do not set any of the clocks back an hour so that that the kids can see what the real new time it is.  Then when it is time to go to bed you can kiss them goodnight an hour earlier than they are used to without them knowing it or even feeling it in their bones. After a week or so of putting them to bed this way the family schedule should settle in to a more amenable one where kids go to sleep at a reasonable hour and parents have time to act like husband and wife for a few hours a night instead of 24/7 care-giving partners.  Note of caution: Putting kids to sleep an hour earlier will result in most children waking up an hour earlier and the consequences that ensue.  I suppose every family should pick their poison in this respect.

If you are dealing with an infant who is on their own space time continuum, this time change will not affect their schedule or yours in the least, it only means the world will be off kilter for a week or two before your baby slowly adjusts to a new schedule of worldly events like pick up and drop off times at the babysitter’s house.  As for my own kids I am hoping once again this year that the time change will quash that lingering summertime habit of staying up too late and return this family to normalcy, whatever that looks like.