9/28/2012

US: Winken, Blinken and Nod



[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

I have never been a fan of taking a nap. Part of the reason is I don’t judge the length very well and end up sleeping too long. Then I wake up feeling like I was run over by a truck and it takes me an hour to adjust; it has never seemed worth it. Hope, on the other hand, feels that naps are a gift from God and it would be sinful to ignore that gift. And to her credit, she handles a nap well, waking up refreshed and happy. Of course, I am referring to adult naps and, as riveting as it may be to read about our nap habits, the point of this blog series is to share about how we chose to handle our children in this area. Let it be known the Queen of Naps ruled with an iron fist.

Every mom knows the importance of naps. When you have an infant, it is an opportunity to catch your breath and, possibly, catch up on your sleep. As the kids get older, the length of the naps may decrease but their importance actually increases. And this fact was never lost on Hope. She was a nap fanatic, establishing rules and consistency that the military would have deemed responsible. When they were still infants and sleeping in the crib, they would take a morning and afternoon nap. The morning nap would gradually start later and later until it went away entirely, melding into a two hour (plus) afternoon nap. If they woke up or started stirring around, she left them alone and, more often than not, they would fall back asleep for another hour.

The logic behind her insistence on naps was solid—she needed the time as much as they needed the rest. When they were two, they slept during naptime, a needed break between busyness and constant motion. As they got older, they began to balk at the naps so Hope adjusted her rules. She didn’t require them to sleep but they still had to stay in their bed, no games or toys, only books allowed. Of course, this generally led to the boys falling asleep, no matter how hard they tried to fight it. And just as sure as the boys would eventually pass out, it was equally sure that Laura would not. But the time was sacred. The day’s activities were planned around naptime and it was a rare event that superseded those couple of hours of rest.

As we have stated previously, Laura did not require as much sleep as the boys so naps were not her favorite time of day. But, to her credit, she made the most of it. She sang, read books to her dolls and acted out skits with her stuffed animals. Basically, she did the same thing during naptime that she would have done in the living room. But she logged in her required hour, just like the sleeping boys.

Even after they started spending the morning at preschool, Hope still required an hour of rest time every afternoon. Same rules and with little expectation of sleep. She used the time to finish laundry, start dinner or get the house picked up before the evening arrived because, once nap time ended, it was non-stop activity until bath and bed time. But Hope’s fondest memories about the nap times were not what she accomplished during, but what occurred after. As they slowly waddled out of their rooms, needing a few minutes to get their bearings, she loved the time snuggling with each of them on the sofa. Her babies stretched out, head in her lap and her rubbing an arm or lightly brushing their hair from their eyes, helping coax them into consciousness. And she is hoping those few minutes will be replicated with grandchildren one day. Odds are, by then, I will probably be taking naps with them. 

9/26/2012

We pause now for this commercial interruption...


Occasionally I will let you all know that I have a few stories available for purchase through Amazon. They are listed below along with descriptions and links so, if you are interested, check them out and let me know what you think. 

Thanks for your interest and continued support of my little acreage in the digital plains. Now, go read! And come back on Friday when I continue the US Series and we talk about naps...

Note: When you purchase one of the stories, you can download and read it on the Kindle app on your computer or phone; you don’t have to own a physical Kindle. 

Back, Again
Length:  215 pages 
“Back, Again” is the story of a man who spent his life doing right and, at 45, finds the results wanting. He makes a radical decision in response to his disillusionment and turns his back on his life-long faith, shirking Christianity and denying the existence of God. This isn’t brought on by tragedy or some earth-shattering event; it’s a sober decision based on doubts and disappointments. On the surface, the story deals with the ramifications of his decision and the toll it takes on long-established relationships, mainly with his wife, children and parents. It also works on deeper levels. It’s a love story between Earl and Ellen. It’s a story of a man in search of himself and it’s a story of redemption.

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0046A9SXA

Two Short Stories
Length: 20 pages
“Two Short Stories” is … well, two short stories. Truth in advertising is alive and well. The first story, “Save Me, Black Jesus,” is a sober look at the prospect of dying told through the eyes of a patient in a hospital. The second story, “Oh, Tanner Baum,” is a humorous look at selecting a Christmas tree told through the eyes of a young boy. The stories are so far apart in tone and concept that they cannot see each other even if they use binoculars. Which is why it makes perfect sense to bundle them together. Seriously. Stop staring at me…

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0046H9I9C

Adam Mahoney, You Just Won!
Length: 106 pages
Adam Mahoney enjoyed a normal existence in a normal town, minding his normal business, okay with being normal. He wakes one morning to discover his new normal is a life that has never been lived, much less successfully navigated. Everything he has known and is comfortable with is taken away. Faced with unlimited possibilities, what will he choose? How will he respond when he knows that no one else could possibly be affected by any action he takes? Can any choice be labelled selfish when he's the last man standing on the face of the earth?

Store: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007V2SEXA

9/24/2012

US: Name It and Claim It


The original William and Laura Colle

[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

It is easy to joke about what you might name your children before you actually bring them into existence. Once you are faced with the reality of adding another soul to the planet, the name game takes a serious turn. There are three ways to approach the task. One is to comb through baby naming books and cross reference names that sound good with names that have a deeper meaning, finally resting on the perfect moniker for your child based on star alignment and whatever the publisher could come up with for the 2012 edition. The other is to throw caution to the wind and go with a name that just feels right. The third option is to continue a family name and hope that the progeny doesn’t end up doing anything wacky and ruining 100 years of good deeds and impeccable character.

Hope and I started with the third option and eventually shifted to a hybrid of the second and third with Jordan (I guess that means there are four options). Since our children were born in the dark ages before weekly sonograms, we had no idea the gender of any of our children before they took their first breath. Not knowing added drama to the birth day but it also made for pretty generic interior designs for the nursery. Primary colors were dominant. My full name is William Jacob Colle III. My father is William Jacob Colle II. His father is not William Jacob Colle because the naming skipped a generation. My dad’s grandfather held that crown. Hope and I agreed early on that, if we had a boy, we would follow tradition and name him William Jacob Colle IV. I admit, when it gets past the third, the numbering gets into some strange territory. One of my cousins is a third and they call him Trace so my uncle asked if we were going to call our son Quattro. Although we never seriously considered that it did make us decide what we would call him, trying not to leave it to chance. My dad goes by Bill and I go by Jay so, to avoid any junior references, we decided to call our son William.

If we happened to have a girl for our first child, we were seriously considering calling her Kansas. This fell directly in the middle of option two because there was no reason whatsoever to do this other than it sounded cool. (We even had a middle name picked out based entirely on flow and cadence. Kansas Rochelle Colle. I still like it.) What doesn’t make sense is, by the time we were coming up with names for our second child, Kansas didn’t even make the cut. We decided to go with family names again and landed on Laura Jean if it happened to be a girl. The original Laura was married to William Jacob Colle the first and I have strong memories of visiting her house as a kid, not fully appreciating the opportunity to know my great grandmother (she lived to be 96), but now relishing the things I do remember about her. Jean is homage to Hope’s father, Gene Davis, which gave us a two-fer in the naming game. I think Hope was starting to sense a “Colle Naming Tsunami” and rushed in to get the Davis family in the mix. I also liked that I could call her LJ as a nickname, which, in reality, never really stuck outside of convenience in texting.

When it was time to name our third child, we were tired. Fortunately, we had a unique resource to pull from that helped spur us to a great solution. When we were expecting our first child, I ran a tongue-in-cheek contest in our Christmas card asking for people to help us name our baby. I included a loose paper ballot in our card with a form explaining the rules and a blank to submit a name. It was a joke so I was surprised when over 50 people mailed the form back to me with suggestions. Granted, 75% of them were ridiculous (and funny) but scattered throughout were some legitimate recommendations. One of them ended up being the name of our third child and it had the added bonus of being gender neutral. Whether a boy or a girl, our newest family member would be named Jordan Davis Colle. This is a complete hybrid of options two and three because the name Jordan is void of any historical precedence in our family and Davis is Hope’s maiden name. It may be difficult for any of you who know Jordan today to picture him as a girl, but there was a 50/50 chance it could have been. (Commence skinny jean jokes… now!)

9/21/2012

Us: Perchance to Dream...



[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

Before we had children, Hope and I assumed our children would be awesome. What parent doesn’t? But thinking about raising a kid and actually engaging in the day-to-day tasks involved are never the same and reality tends to cause you to lower your expectations. Or at least massage the meaning of the word awesome. There are so many variables and areas that never occurred to us until they were staring us in the face. In that, we were like every other parent on the planet. One aspect that we assumed would be simple was putting the kids to bed. Yes, early on, it was easy because they would usually fall asleep in one of our laps and then you would lay them down in the crib, shut the door and wait for the next feeding. But when they got mobile and more aware was when things got interesting.

One thing Hope and I established early, which was different than a lot of our friends with children, was a set bedtime. This was important for a couple reasons, one being that they needed the sleep and were tired at eight p.m. and the other was that Hope and I were tired and needed them to be in bed by eight p.m. It allowed us to recharge our batteries and have an hour or two together. We also felt it was important to keep the kids to a schedule, our assumption being they felt some comfort in knowing that certain events happened at certain times. What we didn’t anticipate was the evolving routine of preparing for sleep.

As is common, the ebb and flow was dictated by the nature and personality of each child. William was a good soldier and was satisfied with one story, quick prayers, a hug, a kiss and an “I love you.” In fact, it was not uncommon for him to fall asleep during the story, which, hopefully, didn’t stunt his future prayer life. Laura, on the other hand, was a whirl of activity and processes. Between lining up baby dolls, getting the covers “just right” and agonizing over which story to read, she could wear us out. Add the fervent prayer time and it was a potential half hour of bed prep. Part of that was she was never sleepy, a constitution she absorbed from my DNA, and the other was she loved the attention. But we were strict and made her keep to the schedule. Since she and William are only 22 months apart, their bedtime was always the same so we had to take care of William first lest he be passed out before we were done with Laura’s rituals.

Jordan was also easy. As long as he had his thumb, he was content with a simple routine. The only issue with him was that he had to go to bed 30 minutes earlier than his brother and sister and that would annoy him. But it annoyed William and Laura even more when he got to stay up with them for one reason or the other, allowing Hope and I to do our part to continue the legacy of the privileged last child in the minds of the older siblings. And, honestly, it tends to be true, although I wouldn’t call it bestowing privileges on him so much as the parents are tired and, by the time you are wrangling full-time jobs and three kids, sometimes it is just easier to let things slide that you would never have done with the first (or even the second) child. I imagine there is enough information packed in that last sentence for its own blog post—duly noted.

Laura was also the queen of delaying going to sleep. She could not shut her brain off and relax so she would always make several trips out to the living room under the guise of needing to ask us a question. A typical conversation with her went like this:
Laura: “Can I ask you something?”
Us: “Sure, what do you need?”
Laura: (blank stare)
Us: “Go back to bed.”

My favorite response was one I learned from a comedian. Whenever any of the kids would wander out after being put to bed and inform us that they could not go to sleep, I would always respond with, “Yes, you can, I have seen you do it before,” to which there is no response and they would return to their room. I do not always recommend parenting via Def Comedy Jam but at least this one time, it worked for me.

9/17/2012

Us: Laura’s Two Dads



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There are truisms in this life that cannot be argued against, regardless of race, nationality or creed. One of those truisms is there are major differences between raising girls and boys. I have been blessed to have been given the charge of two boys and one girl, with Laura landing in the middle of the pack. We did not know the sex of any of our children before they were born so when Laura arrived, we were thrilled, satisfied our little family was now wrapped in a tidy bow with one child of each gender. And since they were only 22 months apart, we were still fresh off William’s infancy and were confident about adding another kid to the mix. Yes, we were na├»ve and silly, but we did not know that. Yet.

The first thing I did was start praying a very specific prayer, one I began during our first pregnancy just in case God blessed us with a girl. I asked God to make her confident and secure and that she would lack nothing emotionally, deriving everything she needed from her two dads—the heavenly and earthly ones. That she would be so sure of who she was in Jesus that not just any guy could sweep her off her feet, but he would have to be special and make the earthly transition from me to him easy and fun. And God answered. She grew up bold and confident and never had a date until after college. (I am sure there were days she regretted I ever prayed that prayer.) Alas, getting from that birthing room to today has been quite a journey.

When she was young, we did the typical dad and daughter activities—tea parties with stuffed animals, dancing to 70's music and listening to her tell me about any and everything. I have vivid memories of picking her up from a birthday party and asking the simple question, “Did you have fun?” and spending the entire ride home listening to every minute detail of the party, non-stop, until we pulled into the garage at home. Several times I stopped to get gas and she insisted I roll the window down so she could continue to talk to me while I stood outside at the pump. I know that comes as a shock to anyone who knows her today (insert sarcastic eye roll here).

But it was when she entered middle school that our relationship took on a different air. In general, middle school is evil. The colliding of hormones and insecurities has the ability to cause a lot of damage and I was determined to do all I could to prepare her for battle. She was comfortable enough with me to ask questions as she crawled through the minefield that is sixth through eighth grade and I was determined to be honest and talk straight with her. If she was aggravated that certain girls were getting attention and she wasn't, I would dig a little deeper and find out that those girls tended to dress a bit different than Laura. I would then explain what the guys paying attention to them were actually thinking when looking at those girls (or any girl for that matter).  I am not sure she believed me at first, but it didn't take long for her to become convinced. It was also at this time that I came up with one of my more memorable bits of advice: Bottom line, you will stay out of a whole lot of trouble if you just keep your pants on. Yes, it was initially greeted with an embarrassed, “Daddy!” but it has lived in infamy ever since. And it worked.

We continued to have good conversations throughout high school, battling all the usual demons of body issues, motivation, mean girls and school. And all the while we talked about Jesus and church and life. And as she got older, a great thing happened: the spiritual talks began to dominate and the topics got deeper. After high school she traveled the world and we continued our conversations via instant chat messages, talking our way through questions and experiences, giving me opportunities to share my heart and to learn about hers.

Yes, we are a lot alike, but I don't think that is the only reason we are close. Women are a mystery created by a mysterious God but He does create a special bond between daughters and dads. I embraced that gift and, even though there has been a lot of work mixed in with the joy, I am honored to be a representative of God in her life and I can assure you I have received more from our relationship than her. 

9/14/2012

Us: Shift to Neutral



[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

One year into our marriage, Hope and I bought a brand new Datsun pick up. Actually, it was the first year they were called Nissan, which was really weird at the time but also a small way of looking like I was on the cusp of some new movement. The truck cost $6000 and we financed it at 5.5% interest for a whopping monthly payment of $150 per month. And I drove it for 18 years and a little under 200,000 miles. To the kids, it was “dad's truck” and, even though it only sat three across a bench seat, they enjoyed riding with me, running errands or getting picked up and dropped off at events.

I was driving with William one afternoon and he started quizzing me about shifting gears and why I did it when I did it. The truck was a four speed, the gearshift centered on the floorboard, right in front of the radio and air vents. As I tried to explain to him about acceleration and shifting the gears at certain speeds, I got an idea. When we stopped, I grabbed a small notebook of blank paper out of the glove compartment and drew the pattern of the gears with a Sharpie using lines, letters and numbers. The original illustration had long been rubbed off the top of the gearshift so I wanted him to get a visual of what I was doing. Eventually I took it a step further. I strapped him into the center of the bench seat and let him hold the knob on top of the gearshift and “help me” as I pulled and pushed, driving through town. He was thrilled and it helped him understand the process better.

After a few trips “helping me drive,” I decided it was time to let him take things into his own hands. I began calling out what gear to switch to and, using the hand drawn reference in the small notebook, he would pull and push and shift the gears to their correct spots. At first he was nervous but he soon gained the confidence of experience and we had a lot of fun tooling around town, driving together.

Then Laura discovered our game and insisted on getting involved. I held her off for a while, trying to let William enjoy his older brother privilege before having little sister crash the party, but she eventually got her chance. I made her go through the same learning process, holding her hand before cutting her loose to shift alone. Laura was not as calm and methodical as William, not even close, and she tended to show her excitement at the thrill of “driving” by laughing hysterically whenever she got the shift correct the first time. I have no recollection of Jordan sitting next to me, shifting and grinning, but that is probably because, by the time he was old enough to handle it, the air had broken in the truck and no one wanted to ride with me anymore. Even back then the kids had standards.

9/12/2012

On the occasion of her birthday…


Jul, Hope and Laura—The Colle Women

Hope and I began praying for our children’s future spouses a long time ago. At first it seems a bit strange to look at your two year old and entertain the thought of who they may marry but we did. What solidified the virtues of doing this for me was, of all things, a song by Wayne Watson that was very popular during this time in our life. The song is “Somewhere in the World” and the lyrics struck home:

Somewhere in the world today
A little girl will go out to play
All dressed up in mama's clothes
At least the way that I suppose it goes

Somewhere in the world tonight
Before she reaches to turn out the light
She'll be prayin' from a tender heart
A simple prayer that's a work of art

And I don't even know her name
But I'm prayin' for her just the same
That the Lord will write his name upon her heart
Cause somewhere in the course of this life
A little boy will need a Godly wife
So hold on to Jesus, baby, wherever you are

Somewhere in the world out there
That little girl's learnin' how to care
She's pickin' up her mamas charms
Or maybe, swingin' around in her daddy's arms

Somewhere in the world to be
Through the future's not real clear to me
Theirs could be a tender love
Grounded in eternal love above

And I don't even know her name
But I'm prayin' for her just the same
That the Lord will write his name upon her heart
Cause somewhere in the course of this life
A little boy will need a Godly wife
So hold on to Jesus, baby, wherever you are

© Wayne Watson

So we prayed and today we celebrate the fruits of those prayers. Our oldest son’s wife, Jul, has a birthday today. She is perfect for him and him for her, an answered prayer in every sense. Legally she is my daughter-in-law but she has never been anything short of my second daughter and I wish her a glorious day. She deserves credit for being the first person to break into our family circle and even more credit for keeping the sphere seamless. Happy birthday, Jul…

9/10/2012

US: Who You Going To Be?


[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

One of my favorite quotes from Corrie ten Boom is “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” That is a lot of truth in one sentence but it rings especially true when raising your children. As our kids were growing up, it was fun to watch them and try to pick out aspects of their personalities and guess a potential occupation when they grew up. William’s analytical mind and understanding of math might have led to a career as an engineer or architect. Laura was outgoing and confident so she could possibly excel in public relations. Jordan was athletic and social and we feared that combination’s final destination, but knew God could mold that into something worthwhile. And, even though it is fun to play that guessing game, there are no guarantees on what will finally pique their interest enough to motivate them to pursue a career.

What we never wanted to do was put any of our aspirations on to them in the area of livelihood. We knew what was even more important than how they eventually made a living was how they approached life spiritually. We figured that if we spent more time on their hearts and got them focused on their core spiritual life, whatever came out of that in regards to career would be God-centered and right. We took every chance we could to let them know this was a 24/7 lifestyle and that our expectations for them began and ended with wanting them to be persuasive examples of Jesus and to make an impact on the people around them. To be Godly and spiritually mature and to be able to effectively communicate what they believe in a loving way. And then trust God to bless our efforts and handle the results.

Just like every other aspect of parenting, this toil looked different depending on the child. William was always more reserved, very thoughtful and others-oriented by default. And, being our first child, he was subjected to the fumbling, yet earnest, efforts of Hope and I as we tried to put into action what we wanted to accomplish. To augment our efforts, God brought us help in the form of Roshad, the youth leader at our church, and he was very instrumental in shaping William’s spiritual walk, beginning when he was 12 years old. (FYI: There is a full blog post about our relationship with Roshad coming up in the future. Stay tuned.)

We joke that Laura was born saved. She bought in to Jesus early on and was always looking for ways to share and encourage people to join her. I have vivid memories of her marching over to our neighbor’s house on Sunday morning and asking them if they had gone to church and what did they learn. She was four. And she has been a spiritual locomotive ever since.

With that kind of legacy in front of him, it was not a surprise that Jordan was less enthusiastic when he reached an age of thinking for himself. The expectations were great and assumptions were set in stone. His hesitation was at times frustrating and forced Hope and I to do some adjusting on our own. We tried to stay consistent in our approach but a lot of the phrases and platitudes we used on his older siblings were not as effective with him. And that was not a bad thing. I will not downplay the tears, anger and hurt that occurred, but I will not state that it wasn’t necessary to bring him to the place he needed to reach. And throughout the years of his searching, we chose to love and encourage him as well as discipline and let him know when he had crossed the line. It was hard, especially not knowing if and when he would change. There are no guarantees and there were times I lost hope, briefly, and it is a scary thing to sense that all you have done may never be enough. You realize that you are just a conduit with very little power to force change. And you lose your temper and have to apologize and you pray you aren’t screwing things up even worse by getting in the way. And then God gives you another dash of grace and you dive back in and renew your efforts at loving him. And always praying.

Eventually God answered those prayers but, ironically, it was after he left our house and moved on to another environment. And that was okay with us because, even though the journey is an essential part of the story, the end result is the most important when it pertains to your kids. Obviously, all three are still having their stories written and will be for the duration of their lives, but I am grateful and never take for granted that God brought them to a place where they believed in that essential core and have chosen to nourish it. And the most incredible thing is the lives that have blossomed from that core are all very different, even though they come from the same source.

9/07/2012

Us: Respect


[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

Our family is from the south. Both Hope and I have deep roots to this area of the United States and a lot of things we do and say reflect that. One of the requirements in our house was that everyone had to use the terms “ma’am” and “sir” as well as “please” and “thank you,” especially when addressing an adult. In our minds, this was strictly a show of respect to whomever you were talking to and, since it didn’t cause Hope and I any irreparable damage growing up, we assumed it would not hurt our children either. And it didn’t. There was some push back, even within our circle of friends—not everyone agreed it was necessary—but we felt it was important and insisted the kids comply. Besides, “yes, ma’am” trumps “yeah” in every situation I can imagine.

Speaking of respect, like all good Christian parents in the 90’s, we read Growing Kids God’s Way and even led discussion groups at our church with other parents about the book. Regardless of the fallout of the author’s methods in other books (namely Babywise) that practically cratered their ministry, we gleaned several procedures that we installed into our parenting arsenal that worked wonderfully. One was the concept of “the preciousness of others,” which is a fancy way of saying it is a good idea to try to think about other people occasionally and how what you are doing may affect those around you. Their favorite example in the book involves shopping carts and parking lots. According to them, the act of leaving your shopping cart in the middle of a parking spot and not returning it to either the store or a designated holding area is a highly visible act of selfishness. It tells the world that your time is more valuable than anyone else and you don’t care about any inconvenience you may have caused. Talking about this with the kids made it easy to transition to picking up after themselves at home and was our early attempt at providing logic to a request before resorting to the classic, “Because I said so!” To this day I still park near one of the buggy corrals in the grocery store parking lot, a habit formed when all the kids were in car seats and returning the empty cart was a potential parenting liability.

The other practical tip we gleaned from the book was the “interrupt rule.” The steps were simple: If mom or dad is speaking to someone and you, the child, want to ask us something, gently place your hand on my arm and quietly wait. This gave Hope and I a signal that we were needed and it gave us a chance to finish the sentence or thought we were engaged in before politely asking for a moment to tend to our child. This beat the option of one of the kids running up to us, repeatedly saying our name until we look at them, ignoring the fact that we may be involved in our own conversation with another adult. Of course, this put pressure on Hope and I to actually find a break in our conversation and tend to their need and not leave them hanging for ten minutes. When their palm got sweaty it was a sure signal that we may have waited too long.

The bottom line to all of this was we wanted to instill in our children some respect for other people. To help them realize that their actions affect others and sometimes in a negative way. And it is an attitude we have to work on to this day, with them and especially with ourselves. Let’s admit, being selfish is an unconquerable issue that will be in our way until we die. All we wanted to do was get them started thinking about it early and understand it is not a pretty character trait.

9/03/2012

Us: Bicycle Built for Three


[This series will run every Monday and Friday for as long as I can remember the stories within 79% accuracy. Check back often or, better yet, use the RSS (Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)and sign up for automatic reminders whenever there is a new post.]

One of the earliest rights of passage for a child is learning to ride a bike. The decision to take off the training wheels is not to be taken lightly because what follows is usually full of drama and fear. My three kids could not have been more different in this area and their personalities are reflected clearly in each of their tales.

William, the content one, decided to become training wheel independent because his friends were doing it. I can imagine his logic (and with William there was always logic involved) was, “Well, all my friends are doing it, they seem to be okay, guess I will give it a try.” So we took off the training wheels and began the process of learning to ride a bike. It was a slow process, William was cautious and needed quite a bit of encouragement as I held up the bike and he learned his center of gravity and balance points. But the progress was steady and his determination to join his friends eventually led to him successfully navigating the cul de sac and and becoming a full time member of his bike riding pack of friends.

Jordan was a different story entirely. He came up to me one day, requested the training wheels be taken off and, after a few “Are you sure?” questions from me, we headed to the road to begin the process. And it lasted all of ten seconds. I began behind him, hand on the seat, and started slowly pushing him forward and, next thing I know, he has taken off and left me behind. I waved and shouted, “Be careful” and headed back to the house.

Then there is Laura. I have not made a mistake in the order I am presenting this because she was third. Laura was content to ride her bike with training wheels and had no interest in taking them off, regardless of peer pressure or the occasional suggestion from us. I can still see her riding around in a circle, singing, laughing and ignoring the two extra wheels on her bike. But the day Jordan made his move to two wheels, something changed. She has written about this from her perspective here, but from my parental seat, it made me laugh. Once she saw her little brother jetting around the cul de sac for a few days, she decided it was time. I barely got out of the car one evening after work when she approached me and quietly asked if I would take off the training wheels on her bike. I looked at her and tried not to smile, and asked her why now? She said it was time and she “really, really wanted to learn this time.” So I unbolted the extra wheels and we walked to the end of the driveway to begin our first lesson.

Where William had calm fear, Laura's was palpable. She was very nervous and repeated over and over that I was not to let her go under any circumstances. I assured her that I was committed and would do all I could to keep her on the bike. We made several loops in front of the house, her consistently chiding me to not let go and me always assuring her I was there. Eventually, I sensed she was ready so I stopped and she kept going. Although she was unaware that I was no longer there, made evident by her continuing to tell me to not let go, she rode the bike alone. Sure, she was unsteady and when I finally shouted to her that she was actually riding the bike without me, the “really?” that escaped from her was a mix of fear and accomplishment. By this time we had an audience, kids and parents from the houses around us, and everyone applauded and encouraged her. She was so excited that she misjudged her circumference in a turn and was on a beeline to a large, brick mailbox. In a mild panic, she couldn't decide whether to try to steer away from it or to stop so she took the third option and ran into it. Her shouts of “I'm okay, daddy” and her willingness to get back on let me know, yes, she would be okay. And there was much rejoicing at Gettysburg Court.